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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SP launches a channel on: Today at 12:07:34 AM
2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Smart power, smart diplomacy with Lurch on: July 27, 2014, 07:19:03 PM
Even if you knew nothing else about our Secretary of State except this:

"Kerry had a cumulative average of 76 and got four Ds his freshman year - in geology, two history courses and political science, The Boston Globe reported Tuesday."

then THIS would not come as too much of a surprise:

"Leaked comments from unnamed senior government sources to Army Radio, Channel 2 and other Hebrew outlets have described the secretary as amateurish, incompetent, incapable of understanding the material he is dealing with — in short, a blithering fool."
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That is a lot of virgins and servant girls! on: July 27, 2014, 06:09:41 PM

but they may not be what you expect
4  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SElective outrage on: July 27, 2014, 05:59:04 PM
Some pithy zingers in this one:

5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Erin Burnett put in place by Israeli diplomat on: July 27, 2014, 05:16:49 PM
6  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Happy New Year from Hamas! on: July 27, 2014, 02:48:40 PM
7  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Replacing the American voter on: July 27, 2014, 02:26:13 PM
8  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: California on: July 27, 2014, 09:48:57 AM
Yes, I have.

Unfortunately he is pro-amnesty, pro-abortion, and pro-gay marriage.

In that in California a major part of why the Reps are on the verge of irrelevant is because of the successful passage (and reversal by Fed courts) of Prop 187, which led Latinos to conclude that Reps are anti-Latino, I cannot say that a pro-amnesty position is not necessary to have a chance of winning.

In that in California, the vote is overwhelmingly pro-abortion, so here too I cannot fault the logic.

In that in California the Fed courts struck down TWO initiatives for traditional marriage what a politician says has been made irrelevant, so again here too , , ,

I very much like his insight to define the Rep Party as the "Party of Work".  This is pithy, profound, and precisely on point.  It speaks well of the man's political instincts, as does his strategy of focusing on Brown's support of the disastrous bullet train.
9  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / More on Dago Dog on: July 27, 2014, 01:10:38 AM
 From when there was still hope :


Were celebrated this morning in Merate, in the parish church of Sant'Ambrogio, the funeral of Jacopo Nardi, a sports physician, holder blue and Italian vice-champion of savate and brown belt in brazilian jiu jitsu. In the family chapel, originally from Merate, was composed of the athlete's body, also the author of several publications of success, always in the field of sports medicine. He was 58 years old and was known in Italy as well as in Switzerland, where it had been between 1982 and 1983, one of the founders of Seagulls Lugano, first place team football. By lovers of this sport was known as "yesteryear" and "Samurai" for her competitive experience in martial arts. His profession took him to exercise at high levels, the national Italian boxing, kick-boxing, hockey. Despite all the commitments, he could carve out of parentheses to devote to volunteering, especially with the work of St. Francis of Milan. In the video report of the company Minimal Jacopo Nardi talks about "his" boys how did your passion for the sport and the martial arts in particular, by the mystery of the disease that had struck him and that he hoped to defeat.

This morning in the church of Sant'Ambrogio in many, relatives, friends, teammates and ring, they wanted to give him a final farewell.
10  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 26, 2014, 11:19:38 PM
11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another one on Palmer vs. DC on: July 26, 2014, 10:13:43 PM
12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A few minutes that might change some minds on: July 26, 2014, 03:01:35 PM
second post
13  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WW1 on: July 26, 2014, 02:53:00 PM

The War That Broke a Century
A king, a kaiser, a czar—all were undone as they realized what they had unleashed with World War I.
By Peggy Noonan
Updated July 25, 2014 6:52 p.m. ET

Next week marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. It was the great disaster of the 20th century, the one that summoned or forced the disasters that would follow, from Lenin and Hitler to World War II and the Cold War. It is still, a century later, almost impossible to believe that one event, even a war, could cause such destruction, such an ending of worlds.

History still isn't sure and can never be certain of the exact number of casualties. Christopher Clark, in "The Sleepwalkers" (2013), puts it at 20 million military and civilian deaths and 21 million wounded. The war unleashed Bolshevism, which brought communism, which in time would kill tens of millions more throughout the world. (In 1997, "The Black Book of Communism," written by European academics, put the total number at a staggering 94 million.)

Thrones were toppled, empires undone. Western Europe lost a generation of its most educated and patriotic, its future leaders from all classes—aristocrats and tradesmen, teachers, carpenters and poets. No nation can lose a generation of such men without effect. Their loss left Europe, among other things, dumber.

Reading World War I histories, I have been startled to realize the extent to which the leaders or putative leaders of the belligerent nations personally suffered. A number of them fell apart, staggering under the pressure, as if at some point in the day-to-day they realized the true size and implications of the endeavor in which they were immersed. They seemed to come to understand, after the early hurrahs, that they were involved in the central catastrophe of the 20th century, and it was too big, too consequential, too history-making to be borne. Some would spend the years after the war insisting, sometimes at odd moments, that it wasn't their fault.
Enlarge Image

Illustration of King George V visiting a soldier's grave on the Western Front during World War 1. Getty Images

As Miranda Carter shows in " George, Nicholas and Wilhelm " (2010), the king of England, the czar of Russia and the kaiser of Germany were all in different ways wrecked by the war.

Kaiser Wilhelm, whose bombast, peculiarities of personality and lack of wisdom did so much to bring the conflict, folded almost from the start. Two years in, he was described by those around him as a "broken man"—depressed, lethargic, ill. An aide wrote of him as "violent and unpredictable."

Barbara Tuchman, in the classic "The Guns of August" (1962), notes how in the early days of the war Wilhelm's margin notes on telegrams became "more agitated." ("Rot!" "He lies!" "False dog!") In time, top brass shunted him aside and viewed him as irrelevant. The kaiser rarely referred to the sufferings of his people. Ms. Carter writes: "Wilhelm had always had difficulty in empathizing with others' difficulties." When his country collapsed, he fled to Holland, where in conversation he referred to his countrymen as "pigs" and insisted that the war was the fault of others. He died at age 81 in 1941, two years into World War II.

King George V did have empathy, and it almost killed him. Touring the Western Front, he suffered at the sights—once-rich fields now charred craters, villages blasted away, piles of dead bodies. He aged overnight, his beard turning almost white. Ms. Carter writes that he now surveyed the world with a "dogged, melancholic, unsmiling stare." A year into the war, a horse he was riding on a visit to the front got frightened, reared, and fell on him. The king never fully recovered from the injuries. Years later, he was haunted by what he called "that horrible and unnecessary war." In 1935, war clouds gathering once again, he met up with his wartime prime minister. The king, wrote Lloyd George, "broke out vehemently, 'And I will not have another war, I will not.' " He also said that the Great War had not been his fault. He died the following year.

Czar Nicholas II of Russia, of course, would lose everything—his throne and his life, as his family would lose theirs. But from the early days of the war he too was buckling. His former chief minister, Vladimir Kokovtsov, called Nicholas's faded eyes "lifeless." In the middle of conversations, the czar lost the thread, and a simple question would reduce him to "a perfectly incomprehensible state of helplessness."

Two years in, Kokovtsov thought Nicholas on the verge of nervous breakdown. So did the French ambassador, who wrote in the summer of 1916: "Despondency, apathy and resignation can be seen in his actions, appearance, attitudes and all the manifestations of the inner man." The czar wore a constant, vacant smile, but glanced about nervously. Friendly warnings that the war was not being won and revolution could follow were ignored. For him, in Ms. Carter's words, "Contradiction now constituted betrayal." At the end, those close to Nicholas wondered if he failed to move to save his throne because he preferred a crisis that might force his abdication—and the lifting of burdens he now crushingly understood he could not sustain.

Then there is Woodrow Wilson at his second Versailles peace conference, in the spring of 1919. Negotiations were draining, occasionally volatile. The victors postured, schemed and turned on each other for gain. They had literally argued about whether windows should be opened, and about what language should be the official one of the talks. (They settled on three.) President Wilson developed insomnia and a twitch on the left side of his face. He was constantly tired, occasionally paranoid. After a trying meeting with France's finance minister, Louis Klotz, Wilson joked with a friend of his weariness: "I have Klotz on the brain."

He may have. Weeks earlier, weak and feverish, he had physically collapsed. It was a flu, a cold, possibly encephalitis. He rallied and returned to work but sometimes appeared impatient, euphoric or energized to the point of manic.

On the afternoon of May 1 at the peace conference, Wilson suddenly announced in his office, to his wife and his doctor, Adm. Cary Grayson, "I don't like the way the colors of this furniture fight each other." As biographer A. Scott Berg notes in "Wilson," published last year, the president continued, saying: "The greens and the reds are all mixed up here and there is no harmony. Here is a big purpose, high-backed covered chair, which is like the Purple Cow, strayed off to itself, and it is placed where the light shines on it too brightly. If you will give me a lift, we will move this next to the wall where the light from the window will give it a subdued effect. And here are two chairs, one green and the other red. This will never do. Let's put the greens all together and the reds together."

Mr. Berg : "Wilson's bizarre comments did not end there. He described the Council of Four meetings, how each delegation walked like schoolchildren each day to its respective corners. Now, with the furniture regrouped, he said each country would sit according to color"—the reds in the American corner, the greens in the British.

Grayson didn't know what to think. Perhaps it was nervous exhaustion, perhaps a sign of something more serious. After returning to the U.S., Wilson launched a grueling campaign for America to join the League of Nations. That fall, in the White House, he would suffer the stroke or strokes that would leave him disabled the rest of his life.

So what are we saying? Nothing beyond what I suppose has long been a theme, which may be a nice word for preoccupation, in this space: History is human.

And sometimes it turns bigger than humans can bear.

(Correction: Czar Nicholas II was married to a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. He was not himself Victoria's grandchild, as an earlier version of this column stated.)
14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pocket drones on: July 26, 2014, 01:59:59 PM
Good for our troops, , ,  but likely to become a tool against American freedom
15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIS eliminates Tomb of Jonah and other sites of cultural heritage on: July 26, 2014, 01:55:48 PM

Jihadists in Iraq Erase Cultural Heritage
By Nour Malas
July 25, 2014 2:41 p.m. ET

Raw footage shows the Shrine of Yunus (Tomb of Jonah) mosque in Mosul being blown up by Islamic State militants. Courtesy: YouTube

BAGHDAD—A campaign by Sunni insurgents to establish an Islamic caliphate across Iraq and Syria and expel other Muslim sects and religions is taking a sharp toll on the countries' cultural heritage.

The latest casualty was a shrine in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul said to contain the tomb of Jonah, who is revered as a prophet by Jews, Christians and Muslims—who call him Younes. The Nabi Younes Mosque, a towering structure that housed the shrine, was also destroyed in Thursday's blast.

Militants from Islamic State, the al Qaeda spinoff that seized Mosul on June 10, wired the periphery of the mosque with explosives and then detonated them, residents said, erasing a revered piece of Iraqi heritage. It collapsed in a massive explosion that sent clouds of sand and dust tumbling into the air.

"They turned it to sand, along with all other tombs and shrines," said Omar Ibrahim, a dentist in Mosul. "But Prophet Younes is something different. It was a symbol of Mosul," said Mr. Ibrahim, a Sunni. "We cried for it with our blood."

Though its population is predominantly Sunni, Mosul was a symbol of religious intermingling and tolerance in Iraq. Nineveh, the wider province, is a Assyrian Christian center dating back thousands of years. That Jonah's shrine was in a mosque was a proud reflection of that coexistence.

Visitors used to stream from across Iraq to pray at the mosque, unique in the country for its grand ascending stairs and alabaster floors. Its large prayer rooms had arched entrances inscribed elaborately with Quranic verses.

The Nabi Younes Mosque, which housed Jonah's tomb, was left in rubble on Friday, a day after extremists detonated explosives around it. Reuters

The site was a monastery centuries ago before it was turned into a mosque, said Emil Nona, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul. "Nabi Younes was famous in the city of Mosul, the most famous mosque in the area," Archbishop Nona said. "I'm very sorry to see this place destroyed."

Islamic State and other groups following ultraconservative Sunni ideology believe the veneration of shrines or tombs is unholy. Many also denounce the veneration of any prophet besides Muhammad, believed by Muslims to be God's messenger.

The group has announced by decree its plan to destroy graves and shrines, a strategy it has already followed in neighboring Syria, where the militants have thrived in parts of the north and east.

Iraqis inspect the wreckage of the Nebi Younes mosque in Mosul on Thursday. European Pressphoto Agency

In Mosul, they have already destroyed at least two dozen shrines, as well as Shiite places of worship, and raided the Mosul Museum, officials said.

"This most recent outrage is yet another demonstration of the terrorist group's intention to shatter Iraq's shared heritage and identity," said Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations secretary-general's special representative for Iraq, on Friday.

Iraqi officials at the tourism ministry and religious officials in Mosul confirmed the shrine as destroyed in a militant attack on Thursday. The attack is captured in amateur video footage shot by locals and posted online. In one, a thick plume of brown smoke rises in the air, presumably over the mosque as it collapsed, as the narrator says: "No, no, no. There goes the Prophet Younes."

The shrine held particular significance for Iraqis because Jonah—who in stories in both the Bible and Quran is swallowed by a whale—"was a prophet for all," said Fawziya al-Maliky, director of heritage at the tourism ministry. "We don't know what these backward militants are thinking, what kind of Islam they are pursuing," she said. "They are pursuing the end of civilization."

The attack was another blow to the country's Christian community. The Islamic State has been pursuing a deliberate anti-Christian campaign in Iraq.

The Muslim shrine, seen above on July 19, was destroyed on Thursday by militants who overran the city in June and are imposing their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Associated Press

Thousands of Christians fled Mosul last week after Islamic State posed an ultimatum: convert to Islam, pay a tax, flee or face death. Christian residents said they were terrorized and humiliated in their own city as militants singled out their homes.

Candida Moss, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, called it "part of the irreversible eradication of Christian history and culture in Iraq."

—Ali A. Nabhan
16  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US evacuates embassy on: July 26, 2014, 01:50:30 PM
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: July 26, 2014, 01:35:23 PM
Hat tip to CCS:

American "intrusion" is both welcome and not welcome, depending on what it is and depending on who minds and who does not mind.  In any case, The US is losing LatAm with Obama's extreme "flexibility."

One day's Yahoo Latin-America headlines:

Japanese PM opens LatAm tour with Mexico energy deals

Chinese president ends regional tour in cradle of Cuban Revolution

Chinese leader signs accords, wraps up Cuba visit

Chinese president backs Cuba's economic reforms

China, Venezuela deepen economic ties during visit

Cuba hopes for more investment as Chinese president arrives

China, Russia leaders seek South American inroads

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals

Brazil, China sign several trade, business deals

Russia set to reopen Soviet-era spy post on Cuba: source

China seeks to build railways in Brazil to ship out commodities

BRICS meet South American leaders after bank deal

Putin, Kirchner seek 'multipolarity' in Argentina visit

China's leader Xi departs for South America tour

Putin signs nuclear energy deal with Argentina

Putin in Argentina, building Russian ties

Putin in Cuba, Nicaragua to rekindle Latin America ties

BRICS to launch bank, tighten Latin America ties

Putin kicks off Latin America tour with Cuba stop

Putin pledges to help Cuba explore for offshore oil

Putin in Cuba to rekindle Latin America ties
18  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: Lessons to learn from Romney's nomination on: July 26, 2014, 01:30:16 PM
19  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / R.I.P. Dago Dog on: July 25, 2014, 06:53:23 PM
A Sad Howl:

R.I.P. My friend and honorary Dog Brother Dr. Jacopo "Dago Dog" Nardi of Milan, Italy. Brain cancer.

"The wood is consumed but the fire burns on."
20  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Honduran trial balloon likely to become a zeppelin on: July 25, 2014, 06:06:39 PM
21  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obamacare architect on state and federal exchanges and subsidies on: July 25, 2014, 06:02:45 PM
22  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NY Court sets aside "gravity knife" prosecution on: July 25, 2014, 04:14:24 PM

The Volokh Conspiracy
New York court sets aside “gravity knife” prosecution


By Eugene Volokh July 25 at 11:31 AM

From People v. Trowells (N.Y. trial ct. July 11, 2014, published in the N.Y.L.J. today) (some paragraph breaks added):

    Defendant, Anthony Trowells, is charged, inter alia, with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree (PL §265.02[1]) [elevated to a felony because of a prior conviction for Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree -EV] ….

    It is alleged that on or about June 12, 2013 at approximately 10:05 a.m., the defendant was walking in the vicinity of the Major Deegan Expressway and Jerome Avenue in Bronx County, when he was observed by Detective Keith Ames of the Bronx Narcotics Squad to have a gravity knife clipped to his belt. The People claim the knife was in plain view.

    The defendant claims that Det. Ames attempted to engage him in a drug-related conversation, and when he refused to respond and attempted to walk away from him, Det. Ames then physically stopped the defendant, conducted a search of defendant’s person and recovered the gravity knife….

    [New York Civil Criminal Procedure Law] §210.40 permits dismissal of an indictment where, for a variety of reasons, the merits are not at issue and the interest of justice would be served by the termination of prosecution. In determine whether granting or denying the motion to dismiss would serve justice, the Court may consider the existence of any compelling circumstance…. In evaluating whether there exists a compelling basis for dismissal, CPL §210.40[1] sets out ten factors a court may consider. The ten factors are as follows:

        (a) the seriousness of the crime;
        (b) the extent of harm caused by the offense;
        (c) the evidence of guilt, whether admissible or inadmissible at trial;
        (d) the history, character and condition of the defendant;
        (e) any exceptionally serious misconduct of law enforcement personnel in the investigation, arrest and prosecution of the defendant;
        (f) the purpose and effect of imposing upon the defendant a sentence authorized for the offense;
        (g) the impact on the public interest of a dismissal of the indictment;
        (h) the impact of a dismissal on the safety or welfare of the community;
        (i) where the court deems it appropriate, the attitude of the complainant or victim with respect to the motion;
        (j) any other relevant fact indicating that a judgment of conviction would serve no useful purpose.

    … Courts have made it clear that no one of these ten factors is dispositive, however, taken as a whole, they serve to balance the interests between the individual and the state. Thus, this Court must balance all the factors, as well as any other relevant factors in deciding defendant’s motion. In so doing, defendant’s motion to dismiss is granted….

    In 1958, the Legislature enacted Penal Law §265.01[1] criminalizing the mere possession of a gravity knife, i.e., deeming it a “per se” weapon. The statute was in response to what was then characterized as great public concern over the rampant criminal use of gravity knives by New York City juveniles. Penal Law §265.00[5] defines a gravity knife as “any knife which has a blade which is released from the handle or sheath thereof by the force of gravity or the application of centrifugal force which, when released, is locked in place by means of a button, lever, spring or other device.” Centrifugal force is not defined in the Penal Law, however, it is well-settled law that releasing the blade from the handle of the knife by flicking the wrist constitutes centrifugal force.

    Notwithstanding their illegality, gravity knives are widely manufactured and sold across the country in hardware and outdoor stores under brand names such as Clip-it, Husky Utility Folding Knives and other brands. They are sold for and are used for purely legitimate purposes. Despite “locking” safety features, many can be “flicked” open with the appropriate amount of force. Thus, these knives are routinely carried by many New Yorkers for legitimate purposes ignorant of the fact that they may be in violation of the law and face a potential automatic one-year jail sentence.

    The law has been criticized by many as resulting in the prosecution of many law-abiding New York City citizens and visitors including artists, construction workers, electricians and others who carry gravity knives for work and other lawful endeavors (see David B. Kopel et al., Knives and the Second Amendment, 47 U Mich JL Reform 167, 210-211 [2013]; Ian Weinstein, Note, Adjudication of Minor Offenses In New York City, 31 Fordham Urb LJ 1157, 1167 [2004]). For example in 2011, New York police arrested John Copeland, a painter, for carrying a Benchmade three-inch folding knife in his pocket. The knife was alleged to be a gravity knife. The charges against Copeland were ultimately dismissed after a showing was made that Copeland was an artist and legitimately used the knife to cut canvas for his artwork.

    In 2012, Clayton Baltzer was on a field trip to New York City with his fine-arts classmates from Pennsylvania’s Baptist Bible College & Seminary. While riding the subway, a police officer observed what he believed to be a gravity knife clipped to Baltzer’s belt. After many failed attempts to flick open the knife, the officer was finally able to open it and placed Baltzer under arrest for the possession of the gravity knife. Baltzer was convicted of the misdemeanor possession of the gravity knife and was sentenced to pay a fine in the amount of $125 fine and to complete two (2) days of community service.

    These and other cases have led to various proposed amendments of the statute. While apparently recognizing the societal shift from rampant criminal use of gravity knives of the 1950s to the widespread, legitimate possession of gravity knives of today, in 2011, the New York Assembly passed Bill 2259A. It called for the amendment of PL §265.01 to the extent that an individual would be guilty of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree when he or she “possesses a gravity knife with the intent to use the same unlawfully against another.” Similarly, in 2013, Senate Bill 5650 proposed to amend PL §265.15 to create an affirmative defense for criminal possession of a gravity knife. The affirmative defense would be that the possessor did not intend to use it unlawfully. Clearly, the Legislature is addressing the need to delineate the criminal possession versus the lawful possession of gravity knives.

    While this Court is in no way minimizing the defendant’s actions, it notes that the defendant was not using the gravity knife unlawfully against another, nor was he threatening its use. Rather the gravity knife was found in his possession following a search of his person by law enforcement.

    The stop and subsequent search of the defendant’s person is also at issue. It is unclear as to the basis for defendant’s stop as well as subsequent search of his person. The People assert that the gravity knife was in plain view, clipped to defendant’s belt. The defendant asserts that he refused to respond to questions posed to him by the narcotics detective regarding drug activity in the area, and that he attempted to walk away from the detective. This behavior allegedly prompted the physical stop and search by Det. Ames. While this would not rise to serious misconduct on the part of law enforcement, it certainly calls into question the legality of the stop and admissibility of the gravity knife.

    Finally, while certainly cognizant of the defendant’s criminal background — nineteen (19) misdemeanor convictions and one (1) felony conviction, the aforementioned and last conviction for Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree for which he received a sentence of probation — this Court does not believe that dismissal of the indictment would result in any negative impact on the confidence of the public in the system, or that dismissal of the indictment would have any impact on the safety and welfare of the community.

    Based on the aforesaid, defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment in the furtherance of justice is granted.

Note that the judge here is just applying the specific New York statute — New York Civil Criminal Procedure Law §210.40 — and not saying the prosecution is unconstitutional.

Thanks to Keith Kaplan for the pointer.
Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy. Before coming to UCLA, he clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court and for Judge Alex Kozinski on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Volokh is the author of the textbooks The First Amendment and Related Statutes (4th ed. 2011), The Religion Clauses and Related Statutes (2005), and Academic Legal Writing (4th ed. 2010), as well as over 70 law review articles. Volokh is also an Academic Affiliate for the Mayer Brown LLP law firm.
23  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pressure builds on France to not proceed with warships sale to Russia on: July 25, 2014, 12:32:53 PM

Check out the picture of one of the ships.

I'm calling BS on the parity of our sales to Egypt.
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama plans to bring Hondurans here directly on: July 25, 2014, 12:13:49 PM
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel's destruction: Good thing we have SecState Kerry negotiating w this guy , on: July 25, 2014, 11:01:33 AM
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: July 25, 2014, 11:00:19 AM
Excellent find!
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics at the State & Municipal level on: July 25, 2014, 12:51:18 AM
Well, I'm not down with the amnesty, but that is a federal issue , , , and the federal courts have taken gay marriage away from the vote so I suppose he doesn't hurt on those two issues.

Good message that the Reps are the party of work, etc.

Let's see.

28  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Energizer on: July 24, 2014, 04:46:31 PM
29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Umm , , , well , , , ummm , , , maybe they were not vaporized after all , , , on: July 24, 2014, 03:17:50 PM
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Winston Churchhill arrested , , , on: July 24, 2014, 02:54:06 PM
31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 800,000 pairs of shoes on: July 24, 2014, 02:46:52 PM
32  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jewish births trending up? on: July 24, 2014, 02:45:33 PM
33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maliki on way out? on: July 24, 2014, 02:44:01 PM
second post-- be sure to see first one


Nouri al-Maliki, the only prime minister Baghdad has known since the United States invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein, may soon lose his job as his country struggles to form a government. Like al-Maliki, Iraq's next head of state will almost certainly be beholden to Tehran, even as he manages an insurgency that threatens to tear the country apart.

Al-Maliki owes his tenure largely to his ability to placate U.S. and Iranian interests. For eight years he was able to keep his Shiite coalition intact, but his tactics alienated Iraq's once-dominant Sunnis and the Kurds, who were once allied with the Shia. In some ways, his exclusion of the country's minority populations explains why the country is fraying.
Government Formation

There are several factors in Iraq's struggle to form a government. The Kurds have sought more autonomy by assuming control over oil-rich areas. More important, the ongoing Sunni rebellion, led by the Islamic State, has overrun large swaths of Syria and central Iraq, and rebels have captured parts of Mosul and Tikrit.

It is under these circumstances that Iran is trying to forge a new power-sharing agreement among al-Maliki's erstwhile allies. While replacing the prime minister with someone likewise friendly to Iran will be difficult, it appears Tehran has narrowed down its choices to four candidates: Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, National Alliance chair Ibrahim al-Jaafari, al-Maliki's former chief of staff and close adviser Tariq Najm, and Ahmed Chalabi, the onetime darling of the George W. Bush administration.

The international community has clamored for al-Maliki's departure ever since the Islamic State began its campaign of violence, which is brutal even by Iraq's standards. But the momentum really turned on the prime minister July 21, when Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said his country did not support al-Maliki. Specifically, Zarif said in a CNN interview that Tehran would support whomever the Iraqi people elected. Zarif's statement comes after Iranian national security chief Ali Shamkhani traveled to Iraq to meet with al-Maliki, Iraq's top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and several other Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders.
Iraqi Parliamentary Elections Results
Click to Enlarge

The problem for Iran is that al-Maliki, his party (Hizb al-Dawah) and the State of Law coalition constitute Iraq's political establishment, which Tehran has no interest in dislodging. Baghdad's ruling coalition is based on a delicate balance of power within the Shiite community and, more broadly, Iraq's three main population groups. In fact, the outcome of the April 30 elections, which gave the State of Law coalition a majority in parliament, validated Iran's strategy. And even though there were rising calls for al-Maliki's ouster, Iran was unprepared to replace him because it was dealing with an even bigger crisis: Syria.

But the Islamic State offensive has forced Iran to reconsider its strategy. Not only has the jihadist assault emboldened Kurdish separatists, it has also forced Iran to work with its Shiite allies to elect Salim al-Jubouri, a prominent Sunni politician, as parliamentary speaker. (Tehran needs as many Sunni partners as possible so that it can help manage the Islamic State-led uprising.) By Aug. 15, Iraqis should also select the president and his vice president, though internal rivalries among the Kurds, who typically occupy the presidency, could delay this process.
Iran's Endorsement

But these posts are not nearly as important as the premiership, a fact that Iraq's minorities understand well. In this context, determining the next prime minister is no longer a purely internal matter among the Shia; they will have to consider the Kurds and the Sunnis. Already there have been signs of discord between rival Shiite parties. A member of Hizb al-Dawah, Heidar al-Abadi, recently was elected as one of the country's two deputy parliamentary speakers (one post always goes to a Shi'i). The move may be part of a compromise whereby al-Maliki surrenders the premiership. Bayan Jabr Solagh, a former interior and finance minister and a senior leader of the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, went so far as to say that since al-Maliki's party got the deputy speaker post, it should not be given the premiership.
Potential Iraqi Prime Ministers
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Meanwhile, Chalabi reappeared to submit his own candidacy for the deputy speaker's position. Interestingly, Chalabi took 107 votes -- 42 fewer than al-Abadi -- which was enough to force a run-off. After Chalabi agreed to withdraw his candidacy, al-Abadi won the second round with 188 votes. Chalabi's move showed that he may not have enough votes to win the premiership, but he does have the numbers to block al-Maliki from retaining his post.

Chalabi's maneuvering has fueled speculation that he is staging his political comeback. Already he has the support of the two main rivals of al-Maliki's party, the movement of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which enabled him to be elected as a lawmaker. Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq chief Ammar al-Hakim has even said Chalabi is one of his top candidates for prime minister. Chalabi has considerable support from the Kurds, and with his secular credentials, he also has influence among the Sunnis.

However, there are some obstacles to Chalabi's election. Al-Maliki's bloc has 92 seats while Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Sadrists combined have 63. Legally, the largest parliamentary bloc is entitled to the premiership. This is why other Shiite stalwarts such as Abdul-Mahdi and Solagh, who are Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq members, are not strong contenders for the job. If al-Maliki is replaced, the premiership is still likely to stay with Hizb al-Dawah. That leaves Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Affairs Hussain al-Shahristani, an independent politician in the State of Law, on the outside -- unlikely to succeed al-Maliki despite being one of his top lieutenants. 

There are several members in Hizb al-Dawah that are suitable for the premiership. These include national security adviser Falah al-Fayadh, al-Maliki's closest adviser, Najm, and Ali al-Adeeb, who is seen as the second-in-command in the party. Ultimately, the premiership will be determined according to an internal power-sharing agreement that all the main stakeholders endorse.

In geopolitics, personalities matter more in the short term than in the long term. This is particularly true in Iraq, where a functional three-way power-sharing arrangement has yet to take hold. According to a July 22 report by the Kurdish news website Khandan, Shamkhani told the leaders of the National Alliance that Tehran approved of the list of four candidates. All these candidates are close to Iran, and though the Sunni insurrection has weakened Iraq, the state remains firmly under Iranian influence, even if al-Maliki's successor is untested.

Read more: Iraq's Prime Minister May Be Replaced | Stratfor

34  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oil Export Deal on: July 24, 2014, 02:41:52 PM


News of an impending deal to bring oil exports back online is likely to create more problems for Libya's embattled central government rather than solve them. After the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's regime, Tripoli has found that such deals usually trigger a larger competition between various armed groups demanding often-competing concessions, further destabilizing the country. As long as Libya depends on cooperation from the various armed groups within its borders to maintain stability, its reliance on negotiating and granting concessions (rather than using force) to end protests and fighting will perpetuate the very pattern of extortion and violence by militias that Tripoli is trying to end.


Libyan media outlets are reporting that members of the government-funded Petroleum Facilities Guards and Tripoli have reached an initial deal allowing for a temporary resumption of exports at the 90,000 barrels-per-day Marsa el Brega loading facility in eastern Libya. The deal, brokered by tribal elders from Marsa el Brega, is provisional. The guards whose protests closed the facility last week are demanding pay increases and, more controversially, the reinstatement of Brig. Idris Bukhamada, the former commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guards. The protestors are giving the government 20 days to meet their demands, though this process likely will be complicated by the impending dissolution of the outgoing General National Congress in favor of a new transitional political body, the House of Representatives, expected to take place in early August.

Bukhamada was removed in deals between the General National Congress and a group of renegade Petroleum Facilities Guards in April and earlier this month. Ibrahim Jathran, a former regional commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guards and leader of the breakaway group that has kept much of Libya's eastern oil exports offline for nearly a year, demanded that his forces be reincorporated into the larger body of the guards. Leveraging his control over the majority of eastern Libyan export capacity, Jathran also pushed the government to appoint new leadership for the force, effectively ousting Bukhamada, his professional and regional rival. The replacement was Ali al-Arash, a man seen as closer to Jathran than to the government and whose leadership has been contested and ultimately rejected by the Bukhamada loyalists within the Petroleum Facilities Guards.
Libya's Urban and Rural Power Centers
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The episode underscores the difficulty in reaching lasting arrangements in Libya's increasingly fragmented political and social order. Stratfor has long noted the temporary nature of agreements reached by the weak central government and the highly competitive tribal, militia and ethnic groups that have dominated post-Gadhafi Libya. It is nearly impossible to make concessions to one group without angering its competitors, and nearly all of the rival groups are able to control and take critical infrastructure -- including airports, pumping stations, oil refineries and export terminals -- offline.

The outgoing government and its successor body now must choose to either acquiesce to the demands of Bukhamada's supporters at Marsa el Brega and bring the terminal and its airstrip back online, or placate Jathran, whose forces still guard the bulk of eastern Libya's export capacity. While Jathran is present at more ports, Bukhamada's cousin, Col. Wanis Bukhamada, is head of Bengahzi's Sawaiq special forces currently fighting alongside retired Gen. Khalifa Hifter's anti-Islamist forces in the east.

The embattled central government's considerations go beyond pay scales and leadership structures of embittered petroleum guards into broader issues of renegade national forces, anti-incumbency movements and a risk of larger-scale fighting between the country's many competing armed groups. The central government will have a difficult time reaching a deal with one group of Petroleum Facilities Guards that does not violate the terms of its deal with the other, and risks angering both -- resulting in cutoffs of all or some of Libya's eastern oil terminals. Those on strike are unlikely to modify or lessen their respective demands, making a limited restart followed by a partial shutoff or delay from either Marsa el Brega or other eastern terminals the most realistic outcome. Such an outcome would occur within weeks rather than months

This unpredictability and the government's lack of enforcement capabilities is causing other larger, structural issues for a government keen to export what oil it can while some fields and terminals are still open. Buyers are demanding discounts -- rumored to be between $1-2 per barrel for now -- for spot purchases, making it more difficult for the National Oil Company to sign months-long supply contracts to traders who are wary of Libya's ability to guarantee stable, ongoing supply deals. After nearly a year of halted exports, Libyan crude supplies have become largely displaced in international markets. Buyers are also hesitant to buy Libyan crude blends of volatile and unknown quality at current prices, especially since the central government has been prevented from testing crude flows into coastal storage tanks and monitoring the additional processing necessary to refine crude blends.

Tripoli now has to deal with a national force tasked with protecting its oil fields and infrastructure that effectively is split into two camps: Jathran supporters and Bukhamada supporters, with both possessing questionable loyalty at best to the national government. Regional militias and tribal and ethnic groups continue to maintain a disjointed system of local fiefdoms, largely preventing the national government from controlling their oil resources and critical infrastructure. This scenario makes it quite probable that either Marsa el Brega or other eastern terminals, such as Ras Lanuf and As Sidra, will start cutting off oil exports again in the near future as Libya destabilizes rapidly beyond the point of political reconciliation.

Read more: Oil Export Deal Could Further Destabilize Libya | Stratfor
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35  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / East Africa Rising on: July 24, 2014, 02:32:30 PM
 East Africa Rising
Global Affairs
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - 03:04 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan

By Robert D. Kaplan and Mark Schroeder

The Greater Indian Ocean is the maritime organizing principle of geopolitics, uniting the entire arc of Islam (including the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf), East Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. But while economic dynamism has focused more on the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia over the past quarter-century, lately the most intriguing success story has been East Africa. So while the situations look dire in Ukraine and Gaza this week, take a moment to look at a part of the world -- once deemed hopeless -- that is quietly experiencing a regeneration.

From Mozambique northward to the confines of Somalia even, there has been sustained progress and renewed hope. Over the past ten years, annual GDP growth rates have averaged 8 percent in Mozambique, 7 percent in Tanzania, 5 percent in Kenya and 10 percent in Ethiopia. Tens of billions of dollars are in the process of being poured into Mozambique and Tanzania to tap into vast offshore deposits of natural gas intended to feed growing demand in both South and East Asia, at the other end of the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, hydrocarbon exploration is occurring in northwestern Kenya and off of Kenya's coast, as well as in the interior reaches of East Africa, particularly in the Great Rift Valley basin stretching through parts of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.

East Africa and Neighboring Countries
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Exploring for energy is not the only development in East Africa. A growing middle class with an attendant consumer sector -- along with increased economic and political integration -- is contributing to significant foreign interest in building road, harbor, rail and power projects that will connect these Indian Ocean countries with Africa's interior. Such projects will also make these countries a maritime and energy center on which the Indian subcontinent and Asia partly depend.

Even Somalia, long isolated because of its civil war and Islamist insurgency, is no longer quite as cut off from global economic interests as it once was. The radical al Shabaab group is still a guerrilla threat, but it has lost substantially the capability of defeating and replacing the Somali government. A multiyear effort by African Union peacekeepers, with extensive Western security and economic backing, has led to the group's degradation. And thanks to counterpiracy operations from a host of world navies, Somali piracy is just not the threat it once was. As Somalia slowly and tenuously moves in the direction of stabilization, there is interest from foreign companies in exploring for minerals in the country's interior and for hydrocarbons off the Somali coast -- for the rich offshore natural gas fields of Somalia's southern neighbors may extend farther north.

Even the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo -- to the west of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda -- may be on the long march to greater stability as peacekeepers from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi have been making some headway against Rwandan-backed guerrillas there. If this trend continues, there is sure to be more foreign interest in the region's vast yet underdeveloped mining sector, even as Uganda becomes a hub for a cross-border trade in hydrocarbons and consumer goods for central-east Africa. Rwanda, too, has attracted investment in its agriculture and light manufacturing sectors -- the fruit of greater stability there also.

Of course, nearby South Sudan has been going in the opposite direction, toward greater dissolution. The Western-encouraged breakup of Sudan in 2011 has thus far tragically backfired, with tribal animosities inflamed by an internal battle over the hydrocarbon spoils of the new nation in the south. Unity in South Sudan existed only as long as there was a common threat in Khartoum. That threat now absent, distrust has spiraled into a seemingly irreconcilable armed conflict between the once brothers-in-arms.

The overall trend in this vast region is dominated by increasing foreign investment in the pursuit of natural resources, but this level of investment would simply not be possible without greater political and economic stabilization itself. Governments here and elsewhere in Africa are no longer driven by the same statist ideas of the sort that once dominated the continent, especially during the Cold War when socialism was the philosophical avatar of too many African leaders. While little may have changed in terms of who rules over these African states (with often the same political parties in control as during the Cold War), the difference has come in the reward of capital now within reach for the resources over which these governments hold sovereignty. Put another way, the opportunity cost of not developing a country's resources is a political calculation leaders in East Africa are no longer willing to wager.

Certainly the defeat of the Soviet Union had a positive effect on Africa, albeit delayed and indirect, but it has not been Western liberalism that has succeeded in Africa so much as pragmatism. For it is the institution of the ruling party that affirms political continuity across much of the East Africa region, even as countries in East Africa have achieved consistent and strong economic growth. After all, Ethiopia's government is by no means a democratic regime; neither is Rwanda's. Yet Ethiopia has averaged a 10 percent annual growth in GDP and Rwanda 8 percent over the past decade or so. Thus, to say that Western-style democracy has succeeded in Africa is a narrow version of the truth. More truthful is the fact that what is transpiring constitutes Asian-like pragmatism with African characteristics. Further encouraging this is the large-scale presence of the Chinese nearly everywhere in Africa, scouring for minerals, metals and hydrocarbons, and building transportation infrastructure as a consequence. For the Africans, the Chinese are, in part, symbols of economic dynamism without the stern moral lectures about democracy that they get from the West.

Examples of Asian-like pragmatism are in evidence throughout the continent. Banished are political leaders in countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania, willing to oppose the development of vast reaches of their countries -- and the economic potential therein -- for the sake of internal political control. Others, such as the political leadership of Uganda and Rwanda, will embrace economic liberalism, as long as political freedoms do not challenge the ruler's interests. East Africa has the edge over regions elsewhere in the continent because of its geographical links to Asia and the Indian subcontinent by way of the Indian Ocean.

The real test will come as the wealth from natural resources continues to accumulate. Will that money be stolen by new elites or will it diffuse throughout societies, so that the result is more modern middle classes that can, in turn, stabilize and expand effective institutions and a culture of civility and human rights? The risk of another descent into rampant corruption and misrule is real, since hydrocarbon and mineral wealth are of the kind whose profits can be concentrated into relatively few hands. The bottom-line question is this: Will the presidency control the hydrocarbons, such as is the case in Angola or Nigeria, or will the institutions of the state and the private sector be empowered to develop and adjudicate the pursuit of Africa's emerging resources?

One thing is clear: Economic change is so ever-present and vibrant throughout East Africa that the region's geographical orientation itself may be changing. Rather than be part of a once-lost and anarchic continent, the area from Mozambique north to Ethiopia may be in the process of becoming a critical nodal point of the dynamic Indian Ocean world.

Read more: East Africa Rising | Stratfor
36  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mark Levin lawsuit against EPA claims emails destroyed on: July 24, 2014, 02:27:45 PM
37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury , , , ummm , , , uhh , , , look over here , , , on: July 24, 2014, 02:00:16 PM
New Single-Family Home Sales Declined 8.1% in June To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/24/2014

New single-family home sales declined 8.1% in June to a 406,000 annual rate, coming in well below the consensus expected pace of 475,000. Sales are down 11.5% from a year ago.

Sales declined in all major areas of the country.

The months’ supply of new homes (how long it would take to sell the homes in inventory) rose to 5.8 in June from 5.2 in May. The increase in the months’ supply was due to a slower sales pace along with an increase in inventories.

The median price of new homes sold was $273,500 in June, up 5.3% from a year ago. The average price of new homes sold was $331,400, up 8.3% versus last year.

Implications: Forget about new home sales for a minute. New claims for unemployment insurance dropped 19,000 last week to 284,000, the lowest since February 2006, which was at the peak of the housing boom. The Labor Department said there was nothing unusual about last week’s reports from the states, but noted the data are often volatile this time of year due to summer-related auto plant shutdowns. This suggests there were fewer shutdowns than normal last week. Continuing unemployment claims declined 8,000 to 2.50 million. Plugging these figures into our payroll models, which are rated #1 by Bloomberg for the past two years, suggests nonfarm payrolls increased 218,000 in July, while private payrolls grew 216,000. These forecasts will likely change next week as we get data from ADP and Intuit, as well as one more week of unemployment claims. On the housing front, new single-family home sales dropped steeply in June and were revised substantially lower in May. Today’s report came in well below even the most pessimistic forecast for sales in June. This does not mean we are back in a housing recession; home construction remains in an upward trend and new homes sales have been hovering in the same range for the past two years. There are a few key reasons why new home sales remain so low. First, the homeownership rate remains depressed as a larger share of the population is deciding to rent rather than own. Second, buyers have shifted slightly from single-family homes, which are counted in the new home sales data, to multi-family homes (think condos in cities), which are not counted in the report. Third, financing is still more difficult than it has been in the past. The inventory of new homes rose in June, but still remains very low and most of the inventory gains are for homes not started, instead of homes completed. Homebuilders still have plenty of room to increase both construction and inventories. Once again, the housing recovery remains intact, despite the fits and starts which are to be expected when the overall economy is a Plow Horse, not a Race Horse.
38  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Religion of Peace drives Christians out of Mosul on: July 24, 2014, 12:51:40 PM
39  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The lingering, hidden costs of the bank bailout on: July 24, 2014, 12:48:42 PM
The Lingering, Hidden Costs of the Bank Bailout
Why is growth so anemic? New economic activity has been discouraged. Here are some ways to change that.
By Vernon L. Smith
July 23, 2014 8:01 p.m. ET

The rescue of incumbent investors in the government bailout of the largest U.S. banks in the autumn of 2008 has been widely viewed as unfair, as indeed it was in applying different rules to different players. The bailout through the Troubled Asset Relief Program has been justified by the Federal Reserve and Treasury as preventing a financial collapse of the economy.

The rescue, however, had a hidden cost for the economy that is difficult to quantify but can be crippling. New economic activity is hobbled if it is not freed from the burden of sharing its return with investors who bore risks that failed. The demand for new economic activity is enlarged when its return does not have to be shared with former claimants protected from the consequences of their risk-taking. This is the function of bankruptcy in an economic system organized on loss as well as profit principles of motivation.

Financial failure and the restructuring of assets and liabilities motivates new capital to flow directly into new enterprise activity at the cutting edge of technology—the source of new products, output and employment which in turn provide new growth and recovery. Requiring new investment to share its return with failed predecessors is tantamount to having required Henry Ford to share the return from investment in his new horseless carriage with the carriage makers, livery stables and horse-breeding farms that his innovation would render obsolete.

This burden on new investment helps explain the historically weak recovery since the "Great Recession" officially ended in June 2009, and the recent downturn in gross-domestic-product growth. The GDP growth rate for all of 2013 was just 1.9%, and in the first quarter of 2014 it declined at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.9%.
Enlarge Image

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With only two balance-sheet crises in the U.S. in the past 80 years, 1929-33 and 2007-09, we have little experience against which to test alternative policies and economic responses. Japan and Sweden are examples of economies that followed distinct pathways after crises in the early 1990s. In Japan the economy floundered in slow growth for over two decades; Sweden recovered much more quickly. The difference can be attributed to following different policies in the treatment of severe bank distress.

Japan's real-estate market suffered a major decline in the early 1990s. Home prices peaked in the fall of 1990 and fell by 25% in two years. By 2004 they had fallen 65%. Meanwhile, nonperforming loans continued to escalate throughout this 14-year period.

Japanese policy permitted banks to carry mortgage loans at book value regardless of their accumulating loss. Loans were expanded to existing borrowers to enable them to continue to meet their mortgage payments. This response could be rationalized as "smoothing out the bump." Bank investors were protected from failure by stretching out any ultimate return on their investment, relying on a presumed recovery from new growth that never materialized. This accounting cover-up was coupled with government deficit spending—tax revenues declined and expenditures rose—as a means of stimulating economic growth that was delayed into the future.

From the beginning Japan was caught in the black hole of too much negative equity. The banks, burdened with large inventories of bad loans, geared down into debt reduction mode, reluctant to incur more debt, much as their household mortgage customers were mired in underwater mortgages and reluctant to spend. The result was a decade of lost growth that stretched into and absorbed a second decade of dismal performance. The policy cure—save the banks and their incumbent investors—created the sink that exceeded the pull of recovery forces.

Sweden's response to deep recession in the early 1990s was the opposite of Japan's: Bank shareholders were required to absorb loan losses, although the government financed enough of the bank losses on bad assets to protect bank bondholders from default. This was a mistake: Bondholders assumed the risk of default, and a bank's failure should have required bondholder "haircuts" if needed. Nevertheless, the result was recovery from a severe downturn. By 1994 Sweden's loan losses had bottomed out and lending began a slow recovery that accelerated after 1999.

The political process will always favor prominent incumbent investors. They are visible; they contribute to election campaigns; they assist in the choice of secretaries of Treasury and advisers and they suffer badly from balance-sheet crises like the Great Recession and the Great Depression. Invisible are the investors whose capital will flow into the new economic activity that constitutes the recovery.

Growth in both employment and output depends vitally on new and young companies. Unfortunately, U.S. firms face exceptionally high corporate income-tax rates, the highest in the developed world at 35%, which hobbles growth and investment. Now the Obama administration is going after firms that reincorporate overseas for tax purposes. Last week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew wrote a letter to the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee urging Congress to "enact legislation immediately . . . to shut down this abuse of our tax system."

This is precisely the opposite of what U.S. policy makers should be doing. To encourage investment, the U.S. needs to lower its corporate rates by at least 10 percentage points and reduce the incentive to escape the out-of-line and unreasonably high corporate tax rate. Ideally, since young firms generally reinvest their profits in production and jobs, such taxes should fall only on business income after it is paid out to individuals. As long as business income is being reinvested it is growing new income for all.

There are no quick fixes. What we can do is reduce bureaucratic and tax barriers to the emergence and growth of new economic enterprises, which hold the keys to a real economic recovery.

Mr. Smith, a recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics, is a professor at Chapman University and the author, along with Steven D. Gjerstad, of the new book "Rethinking Housing Bubbles" (Cambridge University Press).
40  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton on lasting tranquility, Fed 34, 1788 on: July 24, 2014, 12:14:37 PM

"To model our political system upon speculations of lasting tranquility, is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, 1788
41  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gun prosecutions down under Obama on: July 24, 2014, 10:52:28 AM
42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Rand Paul goes after black vote on: July 24, 2014, 10:31:22 AM
Disappointed he includes voter ID in this , , , rolleyes but I do like that he is thinking outside the box.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s resistance to military intervention abroad is likely to be viewed as his biggest break from Republican tradition if he seeks his party’s nomination in 2016.

But Mr. Paul is also challenging his own party by increasingly embracing issues dear to the African-American voters who have overwhelmingly rejected the GOP for decades.

Mr. Paul is championing the restoration of voting rights to felons, wants to ease sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders and says he disagrees with Republican-led efforts in several states to curtail early voting and require voters to show photo ID at the polls.

On Friday, Mr. Paul is scheduled to speak to the National Urban League conference in Cincinnati, a mostly African American audience that’s often bypassed by potential Republican presidential candidates.

“I want to be known as a Republican who got more people to vote, not less,” Mr. Paul said in an interview.

Mr. Paul is sponsoring a bill that would allow non-violent felons to regain their voting rights after serving time. Mr. Paul also wants to downgrade some non-violent drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors to make it easier for those offenders to get jobs when they get out of jail. Minorities, he said, are disproportionately charged with drug crimes.

“The biggest impediment to both voting and getting a job is having a criminal record,” Mr. Paul said. “I’ve always felt like the war on drugs had gotten out of control, and as I’ve met different people in our cities I’ve become more aware there’s a racial element to the war on drugs.”

At a Senate hearing earlier this week on his bill, Mr. Paul said some drug offenders “are people who just made youthful mistakes.”

Some African American leaders say they welcome Mr. Paul’s outreach and ideas. But they also point to significant hurdles faced by a Republican, particularly a leader in the tea party movement, which has vigorously opposed President Barack Obama.

“It’s fascinating that on some issues like felon re-enfranchisement and criminal justice reform that his libertarian philosophy has brought him to some policies in common with the thinking of civil rights organizations,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. “Certainly some of the rhetoric associated with the tea party is anathema to many of us in the civil rights community, but I don’t like to paint with a broad brush.”

Mr. Paul’s plans to headline an Aug. 4 fundraiser for Rep. Steve King, an Iowa congressman backed by the tea party, illustrate the challenges.

Mr. King recently said of Mr. Obama: “His vision of America isn’t like our version of America. That we know. Now I don’t assert where he was born, I will just tell you that we are all certain that he was not raised with an American experience. So these things that beat in our hearts when we hear the National Anthem and when we say the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t beat the same for him.”

Mr. Paul declined to say whether he disagreed with Mr. King. “I’d like to be judged on what I do and say and not what everybody else does,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a fair standard.”

A policy issue that could also divide Mr. Paul from black voters is the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, aimed at protecting minorities from discrimination. The Supreme Court struck down parts of the law last year.

“I’m a supporter of the Voting Rights Act and trying to figure out a way it can be done that is constitutional and in a fashion that only goes after perpetrators of discrimination, but not so much that the federal government is always involved in state elections,” Mr. Paul said.

Even if Mr. Paul is unsuccessful in garnering much support in the African American community, he may win over other Republican voters and even Democrats who approve of his outreach at a time when the electorate is become increasingly diverse.

“People will be paying attention who think the Republican Party needs to grow and evolve and speak to a broader audience, and if you can’t do that you can’t be a leader of a national party,” said Doug Stafford, Mr. Paul’s top political adviser. “He’s one of the few Republicans who can go in [to the black community] and say that some of their main issues are things he is a sponsor of. Not a whole lot of Republicans can have that conversation.”

Some of Mr. Paul’s potential rivals in 2016, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, have also talked about easing sentences on drug offenders and emphasizing treatment programs. But on the issues of allowing felons to vote again and requiring voters to show ID at the polls, Mr. Paul has little company among potential 2016 candidates. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have both defended the state’s rules stripping felons of their right to vote without a pardon from the governor, while Govs. Perry and Scott Walker of Wisconsin have backed voter ID laws.

Correction: Mr. Paul is sponsoring a bill that would allow non-violent felons to regain their voting rights after serving time. The initial version of this post incorrectly said Democratic Sen. Cory Booker was also a sponsor.

43  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US increases surveillance and advisors in Iraq on: July 24, 2014, 10:26:50 AM
second post

U.S. Increases Surveillance, Military Advisers in Iraq
Total U.S. Military Personnel in Iraq Now at 825
By Felicia Schwartz
Updated July 23, 2014 5:16 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The U.S. has increased surveillance efforts and has sent additional military advisers to Iraq to better aid national forces and understand the expanding extremist insurgency there, officials told Congress on Wednesday.

Since extremists seized control of Mosul in June, U.S. surveillance flights over Iraq have increased to nearly 50 a day, up from one flight a month, said Brett McGurk, the deputy assistant defense secretary for Iraq and Iran, in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Pentagon said 20 additional military advisers recently arrived in Iraq, bringing total U.S. military personnel there to 825. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said there are now 90 advisers working with Iraqi military forces, assessing their capabilities, and 160 Americans are assigned to joint operation centers in Baghdad and Erbil.

Mr. McGurk and Elissa Slotkin, a Pentagon policy official, emphasized the continued threat that the extremist group Islamic State poses to the U.S. and its allies. Mr. McGurk spent the past seven weeks in Iraq and described the group as a "full-blown army," not just a terrorist organization, and said it was worse than al Qaeda.

Lawmakers from both parties expressed frustration that the U.S. didn't do more to help Iraqi forces and Syrian groups fighting extremists sooner.

Lukman Faily, Iraq's ambassador to the U.S., said the U.S. was sending mixed signals to Baghdad about its intentions regarding military support. "If Iraqis don't believe that meaningful U.S. assistance is forthcoming, then they will not have enough incentive to adopt the political reforms that America is urging," he said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), chairman of the committee, said the Obama administration denied repeated requests for drone strikes from the Iraqi government, which he said Iraqi leaders had made since last August. Mr. McGurk said the U.S. received a formal request for support from Iraq in May.

Mr. McGurk said the U.S. has continued to study the possibility of drone strikes in Iraq. When asked about assessments of Iraqi forces on the ground, Ms. Slotkin said there are some "very capable units" that could assist the U.S. with airstrikes, should President Barack Obama pursue that option.

However, both Mr. McGurk and Ms. Slotkin said military support alone wouldn't sufficiently address instability in Iraq, and that the formation of a new Iraqi government would be key to lessening the Islamic State's strength.

Ms. Slotkin said a "strong, capable" federal government in Baghdad would be the best defense against threats from the Islamic State and strong Iranian influence in the region.

U.S. officials have been pushingfor the formation of a new government that can convincingly move away from exclusionist policies that Washington believes have been in effect under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Of the U.S. troops sent to Iraq, 475 are providing security for the American Embassy in Baghdad.

The Obama administration's priorities in Iraq are improving U.S. intelligence, supporting the formation of a new government and aiding Iraqi forces in repulsing the Islamic State, which has taken control of much of Iraq, Mr. McGurk said in the hearing Wednesday.
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Deportations give illegals cold feet on: July 24, 2014, 10:13:07 AM
Deportations Give Migrants (Marc: a.k.a. "illegal aliens")  Cold Feet
Fewer Minors Are Apprehended at Border; Obama to Meet With Central American Leaders
By Laurence Iliff and Laura Meckler
July 23, 2014 7:55 p.m. ET

U.S. agents take undocumented immigrants (MARC: a.k.a. "illegal aliens")  into custody on Tuesday near Falfurrias, Texas. Since October, a wave of unaccompanied minors has surged across the Rio Grande. Getty Images

ARRIAGA, Mexico—Esther Vasquez arrived in this dusty town in southern Mexico on a recent day to jump a freight train with her young son in hopes of eventually making it into the U.S. She said she hadn't been deterred by dangers, even after she and her 10-year-old son Oscar were briefly kidnapped by a Central American gang.

But now, Ms. Vazquez isn't sure the journey is worthwhile, thanks to the rapid spread of news that the U.S. is speedily deporting undocumented Central American families. A rise in deportations in the past two weeks anchor a broader international effort to stem the flood of child migrants across the Rio Grande that has spawned a humanitarian crisis and a U.S. political brawl over immigration.

"People are now telling me that things have changed," Ms. Vasquez said, leaving her uncertain whether to press ahead or return home to La Ceiba on Honduras's Atlantic coast.

Her cold feet come as the number of unaccompanied minors apprehended at the Rio Grande Valley, the most popular crossing point, has dropped sharply in recent weeks, U.S. officials say. In mid-June, an average of about 300 children were apprehended daily. Last week, fewer than 100 migrant minors were detained a day, the Department of Homeland Security said. Administration officials said it wasn't clear whether the trend would continue, and that factors such as weather could be at play.

President Barack Obama is meeting with the presidents of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala on Friday to discuss ways to stem the crisis, including the thorny question of how to repatriate tens of thousands of youngsters to their violence-torn countries without putting them in harm's way back home.

Meanwhile, House Republicans on Wednesday recommended changing a 2008 anti-human-trafficking law that limits deportations of minors, while saying they would back some of the $3.7 billion in emergency funding requested by the White House to deal with the child migrants. But Senate Democrats are opposed to changing the law. The standoff shows no sign of abating, putting the spending request in jeopardy.

For months, the administration has struggled to get on top of the crisis, which has seen more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors flooding in the U.S. since last October, possibly lured by a 2008 law that gives certain migrant children more legal rights than adults.

Children are typically reunited with relatives already in the U.S. while they await a ruling on their status, which can take years.

Smugglers, including drug gangs that run migrant routes through Central America and Mexico, have drummed up business by highlighting that leniency, according to migrants, aid groups and some Central American officials. Many suspect that has contributed to the surge in crossings.

Now, the U.S. government is busy sending the opposite message, including an ad campaign in Central America that warns would-be migrants of the dangers of their journey toward the American dream.

"We want to make sure that they understand and communicate to their citizenry that parents in their country should not entrust their children in the hands of criminals to make the dangerous journey to the border" with the U.S., White House press secretary Josh Earnest said this week. "The reason for that is quite simple…even if those children survive that long, dangerous journey, they will not be welcomed into this country with open arms."

Despite the very recent drop in the flow of migrants, there are still daunting issues to be tackled. The expedited deportations that began last week so far have been limited to children who arrived with adults. Congress would have to change the 2008 law, or significantly increase court resources, to speed deportations of Central American unaccompanied minors.

The White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans say they are reluctant to send children back to unsafe conditions at home, and they want assurances from the Central American countries that they will improve their repatriation processes.

"If we're going to return them, we want to be sure it's done humanely, that we're not just dropping them off at the border," said Rep. Kay Granger (R., Texas), who heads a GOP working group on the crisis. On a recent congressional visit to the region, she said she was impressed by a repatriation center in Honduras, but worried that it wasn't big enough to handle the expected volume of children.

Last month, the Obama administration funneled $9.6 million to the region to improve repatriation in all three countries, including expanding centers and providing the returned migrants with expanded services, and the White House has requested additional funding from Congress.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández told Time magazine this week that he has been warned by U.S. officials to expect a big wave of deportations. "They have said they want to send them on a massive scale," Mr. Hernández is quoted as saying.

For its part, Honduras is expanding the capacity of its reception centers in San Pedro Sula, where most Hondurans are now being repatriated, and developing programs to monitor the minors once they return to their hometowns. The government also is planning to send money to local mayors to monitor the progress and well-being of returned children, and boost their long-term prospects.

The leaders of all three countries agreed last week to develop a regional strategy to ensure the returned minors' safety and to find educational and jobs strategies to keep them at home. But that is a far cry from tackling the difficult conditions the children will return to, including violence and scant economic opportunity.

"The returnees will face the same vulnerability as we all do," said Isis Miranda, who directs a Roman Catholic Church-linked community center and high school in Chamelecon, a San Pedro Sula suburb that is one of Honduras's most dangerous communities.

For now, a crackdown north of the U.S.-Mexico border seems to have bought officials some time. Word about stepped-up U.S. deportations has spread like wildfire along the migrant routes. Jose Rogelio Umaña, 27, who arrived in Arriaga from El Salvador late last week, said human smugglers had persuaded desperate parents to send their children away from gang violence and poverty on the premise that the Americans would give them special treatment.

Now, the risk of putting their children in harm's way from the journey only to have them sent back is just too much for many parents. "When they deported those children, the number leaving fell sharply," he said.

But Carlos Bartolo Solis, who runs the Catholic shelter for migrants in Arriaga, said he thought any decline in children leaving Central America would be temporary. "Until the conditions change in their countries, they will continue to leave. The alternative is to stay and be killed or recruited by a gang." On Tuesday, he said, the freight train known as "The Beast" headed north with around 400 migrants hanging on to boxcars, including young children and adolescents.

A Central American migrant with a young wife and an infant, who said he was too scared to give his name, said they planned to hop "The Beast," even though gang members had already tried to steal his child. "Am I scared? Very scared."

—Dudley Althaus and Dassaev Aguilar contributed to this article.

Write to Laurence Iliff at and Laura Meckler at
45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Ryan proposes consolidation, more discretion for the States on: July 24, 2014, 10:09:17 AM
Paul Ryan to Propose Sweeping Consolidation in Antipoverty Pitch
Plan Will Include New Work Requirements, More Accountability and Efficiency, Congressman Says
By Damian Paletta
Updated July 24, 2014 9:09 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is proposing to consolidate up to 11 federal antipoverty programs into a single funding stream for states, a plan he says will include new work requirements and create more accountability and efficiency in assisting low-income Americans.

Food stamps, housing assistance, child-care aid and cash welfare would be among the funding streams pooled into the program, potentially redirecting more than $100 billion in federal support each year.

While many Republicans and President Barack Obama have offered anti-poverty proposals recently, Mr. Ryan's status as budget committee chairman and a leading architect of GOP fiscal plans mean that his ideas are likely to become central to the Republican policy discussion. His plan to consolidate antipoverty efforts is the main element of a sweeping set of proposals that he is unveiling Thursday to address incarceration, education aid, the Earned-Income Tax Credit and many other federal programs.

Mr. Ryan believes the current set of federal antipoverty programs creates a disincentive for people to work, as families fear they will lose benefits if their income rises above certain thresholds. Many of his ideas would transfer federal decision-making to state leaders, who he believes are best equipped to tailor programs to help residents.

    Ryan's 73-page proposal
    GOP 2016 Hopefuls Stake Out Anti-Poverty Positions
    Rand Paul Veers Off Party Line
    2014 Polls: Senate, Governors, More
    Sign Up: Get Capital Journal Daybreak

The plan, outlined in a 73-page proposal called "Expanding Opportunity in America," would challenge decades of federal antipoverty strategy. Many anti-poverty programs, such as food stamps, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, exist as hybrid designs that require cooperation and administrative involvement from states and the federal government.

Mr. Ryan would, in a number of these programs, require the federal government to offer more responsibility to state leaders and change the federal role to focus more on oversight.

"The idea would be to let states try different ways of providing aid and then to test the results—in short, more flexibility in exchange for more accountability," Mr. Ryan wrote in an opinion piece that ran Thursday in USA Today.

In anticipation of Mr. Ryan's proposals, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), the top Democrat on the Budget committee, said, "Democrats welcome any ideas that lift more Americans out of poverty and create pathways into the middle class. But we will oppose any plan that uses the sunny language of 'reform' as a guise to cut vital safety-net programs."

Liberal groups are likely to describe Mr. Ryan's proposal as a way of transforming federal assistance into "block grants'' to states, something they have long resisted. Many say states are less capable than the federal government of ensuring the delivery of benefits to low-income families. They have said these services should not depend on the political decisions of governors, some of whom rejected an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Ryan would consolidate 11 anti-poverty programs into one funding stream, which he calls an "Opportunity Grant,'' for states that volunteered to participate. States would have to submit a plan to the federal government describing how the money would be allocated.
Related Video

In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) will outline his plan for a conservative response to help Americans in poverty. WSJ's Jerry Seib describes four themes Ryan will discuss in an attempt to reignite the idea of compassionate conservatism. Photo: AP

    Ryan's 73-page proposal
    GOP 2016 Hopefuls Stake Out Anti-Poverty Positions
    2014 Polls: Senate, Governors, More
    Sign Up: Get Capital Journal Daybreak

Several conditions would determine whether states qualify for the program, Mr. Ryan wrote. Funds would have to go to people "in need." States would have to incorporate work requirements and limit the duration that recipients could participate. States would have to allow multiple providers to offer services under the program.

"All this time, a neutral third party would keep tabs on each provider and its success rate, looking at key metrics: How many people are finding jobs? How many people are getting off assistance? How many people are moving out of poverty?" Mr. Ryan said. "Any provider who came up short could no longer participate. And at the end of the program, we would pool the results and go from there."

States participating in the new program would have to ensure that low-income disabled and elderly Americans do not lose access to benefits. If their state participates in the Opportunity Grant program, they would either retain their existing benefits or receive similar benefits in a new program, Mr. Ryan said.

Mr. Ryan will lay out details in a speech Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. Democrats plan a conference call immediately afterward to counter his proposals, reflecting how they believe his ideas could quickly influence much of the GOP's economic strategy across the country.

Democrats have long accused Republicans, and particularly Mr. Ryan, of looking to balance the federal budget primarily by cutting spending on programs for low-income Americans. Mr. Ryan said his plan would be deficit-neutral—neither adding to or reducing the deficit—suggesting it would not cut government spending but change how current money is allocated.

Mr. Ryan's proposal is the latest in a series of plans offered by Republicans as part of an effort to rethink how conservatives approach antipoverty programs.

President Barack Obama has made economic inequality a major theme of his second term, calling for a higher minimum wage and expanded work-related tax credits. Many in the GOP are eager to fashion proposals that reflect their own approach to inequality and poverty.

Mr. Ryan previously has proposed deep cuts in federal spending on programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, and he has said that federal assistance creates a culture of "dependency" among the poor that makes it harder for people to climb the economic ladder. Mr. Ryan does not offer new proposals for Medicaid in his plan.

Mr. Ryan's proposal is similar to a plan recently outlined by Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), who has called for consolidating all antipoverty programs into a single funding stream for states and allowing states to allocate the money based on federal guidelines. A major difference is that Mr. Ryan's proposal, as described, would be voluntary for states.

Both lawmakers are considered potential presidential candidates in 2016. The new antipoverty platform likely would make up a key plank in either man's economic plan, should he run for the White House.

Mr. Ryan, who was the Republican Party's vice-presidential candidate in 2012, has spent months visiting low-income neighborhoods and meeting with community activists trying to find ways to offer conservative-principled proposals that would apply to issues poor families want to address.

The "Opportunity Grant" is part of a broad set of proposals that Mr. Ryan is unveiling Thursday. Other parts of the plan include:

    Expanding the earned-income tax credit for childless workers. The White House has offered a similar proposal. Mr. Ryan differs on this point from Mr. Rubio, who has called for scrapping the EITC and replacing it with an income supplement.

    Streamlining federal grant, loan and work-study programs. Mr. Ryan says federal involvement in student loans has "stoked" tuition inflation. He would also expand accreditation in an attempt to spur more access to technical careers, an idea that has drawn active interest from both parties in Congress.

    Revising mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for nonviolent offenders, to prevent prisons from becoming overcrowded and making it easier for people to reenter society. He would also expand rehabilitative programs in prisons.

Mr. Ryan is likely to become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in January, which would give him control over a panel that oversees taxes and entitlement programs, such as Social Security.
46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: July 24, 2014, 10:03:18 AM
Egypt: Deaths in policy custody, once a spark for revolt, now met by shrugs' (Louisa Loveluck, The Christian Science Monitor)

"With little public outcry, more than 80 people have died in custody over the past year, according to independent monitor Wikithawra. In June 2010, photos of the shattered face of Khaled Said, a young man killed in police custody, laid the groundwork for mass protests in Egypt against longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak. His downfall in February 2011 was a landmark in the so-called Arab Spring, which still has aftershocks roiling the region. 

Last July, Egypt's military ousted the country's first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and launched an aggressive crackdown against dissidents. Egypt's police are back to the most brutal practices of the Mubarak era, and deaths in custody have surged once again. But this time popular anger is muted, as many swing behind a repressive security state as a bulwark against the chaos and sectarianism that came in Mubarak's wake, particularly after police retreated from the streets."
47  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: July 24, 2014, 10:02:08 AM
'Hamas's struggle has receded as a priority in the new Arab world' (Roula Khalaf, Financial Times)

"It is not that the Palestinian cause is no longer an emotive issue for Arabs. But the turmoil spreading across the region has lessened the shock of a soaring Palestinian death toll while stripping Islamist groups, including Hamas - which controls the Gaza Strip - of an automatic claim on public sympathy. Few in the region are rushing to Hamas's rescue. State-backed media in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are blaming not only Israel but the Islamist group, too, for the violence.

The shift in Arab attitude has not gone unnoticed in Israel, which has expanded its campaign by launching a ground offensive. While it plays to Israel's advantage in the short term, though, it also complicates the search for a way out of the crisis that Israel will eventually need.

'The circumstances of the region are different this time. There are problems no less important than Gaza - whether in Syria, Iraq or Libya,' says Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian official who now teaches at Birzeit University near the West Bank town of Ramallah."
48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 24, 2014, 10:01:17 AM
Defeating the Islamic State: Crafting a Regional Approach' (Douglas A. Ollivant and Terrence Kelly, War on the Rocks)

"It is important not to overstate ISIL's connection with the current dysfunction in Iraqi politics. It is not 'an al-Qaeda army marching across Iraq' as some news commentators have claimed. It has succeeded in Iraq through a partnership with local Sunni forces. While it is true that current sectarian tensions have led Iraqi Sunnis to support ISIL to oust the Shi'a dominated government, this has happened before during the Iraqi resistance in 2004-2007. Moreover, this alliance need not be permanent; Iraq's Sunnis, with U.S. help, decimated ISIL's predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, in 2007 and 2008 because of the threat it posed to local Iraqi leaders and their way of life through their imposition of a strict version of Sharia law and other social changes they sought to impose on the local communities (e.g., forced marriages into important tribal families). Further, it will be interesting to see how Iraq's more nationalist Sunnis, including the outlawed Ba'ath Party, react to the Caliphate announcement and similar threats to local leaders, which will no doubt occur. It is likely that these groups will turn on ISIL again once they have realized their true goal of getting Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki out of power."
49  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: July 23, 2014, 10:09:24 PM
Obama’s Attack on Israel

"The success of Hamas in closing Israeli airspace is a great victory for the resistance, and is the crown of Israel’s failure,” a Hamas spokesman said today.
When Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, the United States became the first country in the world to recognize the Jewish state, just 11 minutes later. That recognition, however, came after one of the greatest foreign policy disputes in American history—a fight in which Secretary of State George C. Marshall told President Truman that “if the President were to [recognize Israel] and if in the elections I were to vote, I would vote against the President.”
This was an astonishing rebuke coming from any cabinet officer, and more so coming from Marshall—a popular figure who as Chief of Staff of the Army during World War II had helped win the war—and directed at Truman, one of the least popular presidents in recent history. But Truman was still the president, and he had the wisdom to forge with Israel what has become one of our country’s closest friendships.

Later, when Syria and Egypt invaded Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, President Nixon airlifted heavy arms and supplies to help Israel defend itself.
Contrast those strong actions with President Obama’s response to the current crisis threatening our ally.

The President’s FAA-imposed ban on flights into Ben Gurion International Airport is the most hostile step any American president has taken toward Israel in its entire existence. The restriction deals a major psychological blow to our friends, prevents Israelis across the world from returning home, stops tourists and others from leaving, and creates a major disruption to the country’s economy its tourism industry especially.

Even worse, it hands an extraordinary victory to Hamas, a terrorist organization that also happens to be the government in Gaza.

The decision can only be interpreted as a willful attack by the United States and one of its closest allies at a time of great crisis. It was clearly deliberate. If the restriction had been an accident—an unfortunate mistake by some bumbling bureaucrat at the FAA— the President could simply have reversed it when he found out about it.

Given the circumstances, it is impossible to believe the cessation of flights was not a deliberate act on the part of the Obama administration to undermine Israel and bully it into accepting the “ceasefire” President Obama and Secretary Kerry desperately want.

The Israelis maintain that their airport is safe. Their own airline, El Al, continues to fly. They have demonstrated with impressive accuracy the ability of their Iron Dome missile defense shield to protect Tel Aviv from Hamas rockets. Except for a single rocket discovered about a mile from the airport, there is no evidence to support the FAA’s decision.

That’s the same FAA that allows flights into Baghdad. That allows flights into Kabul. Into Peshawar and Kandahar. It allows flights, for that matter, into Kiev. These are all places where the FAA might apply the same logic as it did in Tel Aviv—there are bad people in the neighborhood who sometimes do bad things.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood bravely against the administration’s bullying tactics when he released a statement last night announcing:

“This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel. Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely. The flight restrictions are a mistake that hands Hamas an undeserved victory and should be lifted immediately I strongly urge the FAA to reverse course and permit US airlines to fly to Israel.”

Mike Bloomberg is exactly right about the effects of the administration’s decision, which is even more damaging in the context of the American government’s latest pronouncements. All week Secretary Kerry and President Obama have been pressuring Israel to accept a ceasefire against an enemy that is actively trying to kill Israelis. They warn Israel that the United States is “deeply concerned” about civilian casualties in Gaza.

Indeed, everyone is worried about civilian casualties. Everyone except Hamas.

Have Obama and Kerry forgotten how the current violence started?

It started with Palestinian terrorists firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians.

It continued with the discovery of hidden tunnels—dozens of them—which Hamas has dug into Israel with the intention, apparently, of launching an invasion of terrorists into Israel to kidnap Israelis and drag them back through the tunnels into Gaza.

A few militants who made it through the tunnels were found to be carrying tranquilizers and handcuffs. Today Israel discovered a tunnel filled with a trove of Israeli Defense Force uniforms in which the terrorists were evidently planning to disguise themselves.

This is the stuff of nightmares. And in the middle of Israel’s campaign to stop such atrocities, Obama and Kerry are criticizing Israel for causing civilian casualties? They’re handing a victory, with the flight cancellations, to Hamas, which hides its weapons and its militants in civilian homes to use women and children as human shields. It is an act of enormous cowardice.

President Obama should immediately reverse the FAA’s ban on flights into Ben Gurion International Airport and should apologize to Israel for the mistake. And Congress should hold hearings on the decision process to determine for certain if this was a deliberate political attack by the Obama White House on America’s ally.

Your Friend,
50  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Karambit Vs. straight blades on: July 23, 2014, 07:00:49 PM
TTT due to this thread being referenced on our FB page.
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