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151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Japanese exchnage student on: June 12, 2015, 07:05:03 PM


    First Day In School With Exchange Student

    The teacher said, "Let's begin by reviewing some American History. Who said 'Give me Liberty , or give me Death’?" She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Little Hodakio, a bright foreign exchange student from Japan, who had his hand up: "Patrick Henry, 1775," he said.
    "Very good!
    Who said, ‘Government of the People, by the People, for the People, shall not perish from the Earth.’ Again, no response except from Little Hodakio: "Abraham Lincoln, 1863.”
    "Excellent!" said the teacher continuing, "Let's try one a bit more difficult. Who said, 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’?" Once again, Hodakio's was the only hand in the air and he said: "John F. Kennedy, 1961.”
    The teacher snapped at the class, "Class, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Little Hodakio isn't from this country and he knows more about our history than you do.”
    She heard a loud whisper:”F_ _ k the Japs."
    "Who said that? I want to know right now!? she angrily demanded.
    Little Hodakio put his hand up, “General MacArthur, 1945.”
    At that point, a student in the back said, "I'm gonna puke.'
    The teacher glares around and asks, 'All right! Now who said that?”
    Again, Little Hodakio says, “George Bush to the Japanese Prime Minister, 1991.”
    Now furious, another student yells, "Oh yeah? Suck this!"
    Little Hodakio jumps out of his chair waving his hand and shouts to the teacher, "Bill Clinton, to Monica Lewinsky, 1997!”
    Now with almost mob hysteria someone said, "You little sh*t! If you say anything else, I'll kill you!”
    Little Hodakio frantically yells at the top of his voice, "Michael Jackson to the children testifying against him, 2004.”
    The teacher fainted.
    As the class gathered around the teacher on the floor, someone said, "Oh sh*t, we're screwed!" Little Hodakio said quietly, “The American people, November 4, 2008."

152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Clinton accused by CIA Director George Tenet on: June 12, 2015, 05:47:28 PM
153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Debating Bible Verse on Homosexuality on: June 12, 2015, 05:36:01 PM
Debating Bible Verses on Homosexuality

Two evangelical authors offer conflicting interpretations about well-known passages on homosexuality. JUNE 8, 2015 Related Article

The debate over gay marriage is not just taking place in the nation’s courts – it is also a subject of intense discussion in the nation’s churches.

Matthew Vines, an openly gay, evangelical Christian and the author of “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships,” has been actively encouraging conservative Christians to re-evaluate their beliefs about homosexuality. He has engaged them in private conversations, in public talks and through the organization he founded, the Reformation Project.

He was recently invited by the Rev. Caleb Kaltenbach, lead pastor of Discovery Church in Simi Valley, Calif,, to talk privately with a small group of evangelical leaders to discuss what the Bible says about gay relationships. Mr. Kaltenbach is the author of the forthcoming book “Messy Grace,” which is about how he reconciles his conservative Christian convictions with his experience as the child of gay parents.

After the session, they were each asked to interpret some of the most cited verses relating to homosexuality in the Bible. (Text from the New International Version, 1984 edition.)

    Romans 1:26-27

    Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
    Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
    Caleb Kaltenbach
    Lead pastor of Discovery Church in Simi Valley, Calif.

    In this passage, Paul, who was quite familiar with biblical and secular views of sexual orientation, says that having sex with someone of the same gender is a sin. Some interpret this passage as a reference to heterosexuals who exchanged their natural sexual orientation for that which was not natural to them. The word that Paul uses for “natural” is not referring to what is natural to a specific person, but rather what is natural in light of God's intent for the sexual design of humanity. Ultimately, the passage serves as an introduction to verses 28-32, where Paul lists many other general sins that ultimately show our need for the Gospel.
    Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
    Matthew Vines
    Author of “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.”

    Paul is explicit that the same-sex behavior in this passage is motivated by lust. His description is similar to the common ancient idea that people “exchange” opposite-sex for same-sex relations because they are driven by out-of-control desire, not because they have a different sexual orientation. And while Paul labels same-sex behavior “unnatural,” he uses the same word to criticize long hair in men in 1 Corinthians 11:14, which most Christians read as a synonym for “unconventional.” Christians should continue to affirm with Paul that we shouldn’t engage in sexual behavior out of self-seeking lustfulness. But that’s very different than same-sex marriages that are based on self-giving love, and we shouldn’t conflate the two in how we interpret this text today.
    Leviticus 18:22

    Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.
    Caleb Kaltenbach

    God’s prohibition always has positive intentions. While no longer under the Law, Christians see the Law as a moral compass with principles for holy living. The Bible doesn’t have middle ground on same-sex relationships, monogamous or not. God reserves sex for marriage between a man and woman, because sex is a unique foundation of intimacy. Imagine all the evils, struggles and pain that could be avoided in relationships if we really followed God’s principles. When sex is only seen as a benefit for individuals rather than a foundation of social structures, it becomes selfish and manipulative.
    Matthew Vines

    Christ fulfilled the Old Testament law, and the New Testament teaches that Christians should live under the new covenant rather than the old one. Consequently, this verse has never applied to Christians. For a man to lie with a man “as with a woman” violated the patriarchal gender norms of the ancient world, which is likely why Leviticus prohibited it. But the New Testament casts a vision of God’s kingdom in which the hierarchy between men and women is overcome in Christ. So not only is Leviticus’s prohibition inapplicable to Christians on its own, the rationale behind it doesn’t extend to Christians, either.
    Matthew 19:3-6

    Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

    “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?' So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
    Caleb Kaltenbach

    Jesus says that marriage is between a man and a woman by quoting Genesis 1:27. He affirms that God created sexual distinction between man and woman and this distinction serves as part of the foundation for marriage (helping to make Adam and Eve suitable partners). Spiritually, this distinction ultimately points to Jesus and the cross, where Jesus (the bridegroom) would pledge his love for his church (the bride) on the cross. As Jesus' words are binding for today, remember that there was no individual in the Bible called to be celibate that was not honored by God, including Paul, John the Baptist and Jesus himself.
    Matthew Vines

    Jesus responds to a question about divorce by emphasizing the permanence of the marriage bond. He was asked about a man and his wife, and he responds accordingly, by referring to male and female. Same-sex marriage wasn’t on the radar screen in the biblical world, so it’s not surprising that neither Jesus nor any of the biblical writers addresses it. Therefore, Christians today have to ask whether gay relationships can fulfill the core principles of Scripture’s teachings about marriage. Based on Jesus’ teaching here and other texts like Ephesians 5, the essence of Christian marriage involves keeping covenant with one's spouse in order to reflect God’s covenant with us through Christ. That’s something same-sex couples can and do live out today.
    1 Corinthians 6:9-10

    Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
    Caleb Kaltenbach

    These words are found in the Greek translation of Leviticus 18 (which is what Paul would've used as a source when writing this letter). His phrase “men who have sex with men” is the Greek word arsenokoitai. It's a compound: arseno means “a male,” and koitai means “bed.” The word means “male bed”—or homosexuality. Though what Paul says might be offensive, he never intended to impose these values on non-Christians. In the current debate of same-sex marriage, there's an imposition of a meta-narrative being imposed from non-Christians to Christians. Should we violate our conscience and teachings of Scripture because of an agenda that labels us narrow-minded? That seems like an unfair expectation to me.

    Matthew Vines

    In this text, Paul uses two Greek words—malakoi and arsenokoitai—that likely refer to some forms of male same-sex behavior, but not the modern concept of homosexuality. The predominant forms of same-sex behavior in the ancient world were sex between masters and slaves, sex between adult men and adolescent boys, and prostitution. In all those cases, men used sex to express power, dominance and lustfulness, not self-giving love and mutuality. Committed same-sex unions between social equals represent very different values than the types of same-sex behavior Paul would have had in view in 1 Corinthians 6.
154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty/International Law on: June 12, 2015, 04:39:03 PM
Morris wrote this based upon a mistaken report that the bill had passed.

The Disgraceful Trade Vote
Published on on June 12, 2015
All but 54 courageous Republicans sided with President Obama to approve giving this president fast track authority to OK trade deals.

As a result, trade pacts will require only a majority vote in each house rather than the two-thirds specified for treaties in the Constitution. (I did not realize this!!!) And no amendments will be allowed.  Debate will be limited and no filibusters permitted.

The spectacle of Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, fighting to give this president more power -- and Congress less -- is revolting.

And there is nothing to stop him from inserting anything he wants in the trade pacts.  He can use them to advance his climate change agenda or to allow unrestricted immigration (free flow of labor).  Obama promises not to do so, but what are his commitments worth?

So now don't trust Speaker John Boehner or Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Ryan when they protest Obama's executive power grabs.  They handed him this one.

And it isn't about trade.  75% of the trade covered is with Canada and Mexico.  We already have NAFTA guaranteeing free trade with them.  This is about permitting a treaty to override the ability of state legislatures and Congress to govern such areas as genetic modification, intellectual property, and the like.  It is a fraud and the Republicans who voted for it all deserve primary fights!
155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WEsbury: Inflation is coming, and will arrive sooner and bigger than expected on: June 12, 2015, 02:33:38 PM
The Producer Price Index Rose 0.5% in May To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 6/12/2015

The Producer Price Index (PPI) rose 0.5% in May, coming in above the consensus expected gain of 0.4%. Producer prices are down 1.0% versus a year ago.
Energy prices rose 5.9% in May while food prices increased 0.8%. Producer prices excluding food and energy were up 0.1%.

In the past year, prices for services are up 0.6%, while prices for goods are down 4.1%. Private capital equipment prices declined 0.1% in May and were unchanged in the past year.

Prices for intermediate processed goods increased 1.0% in May, and are down 6.8% versus a year ago. Prices for intermediate unprocessed goods increased 3.3% in May, but are down 23.4% versus a year ago.

Implications: If the Fed was looking for reassurance that “transitory factors” holding down inflation may be starting to give way, they got it just in time for next week’s meeting. Energy prices, which have been the key driver pushing prices lower since mid-2014, were up 5.9% in May and are up 18.7% at an annual rate over the past three months. As a result, overall prices have been moving higher as well. The 0.5% increase in overall producer prices in May was the largest gain for any month since 2012. Since March, producer prices are up at a 1.5% annual rate. Prices outside the volatile food and energy sectors have been relatively quiet over the past year. Service prices have increased 0.6% while “core” goods, which exclude food and energy, are up 0.5%. However, given the extended period of loose monetary policy and the recent (partial) rebound in oil prices, we expect inflation to pick up in the year ahead and to do so more quickly than most investors expect. The Fed can see this too, and it is their expectations for future inflation, more than the rearview mirror, that guide their decisions. If they believe inflation is starting to turn higher, a June rate hike could certainly be on the table. Other factors may play a role in their decision as well. For example, May saw price declines in trade, transportation and warehousing, which may still be hangover from the West Coast port strikes. These effects won’t last, though, and when they fade inflation will move higher. In turn, this likely means higher bond yields and a more aggressive Fed than is right now priced into market expectations.
156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: June 11, 2015, 11:48:40 PM
You are right, that is NOT the link I thought I was posting. cheesy cheesy cheesy
157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Diane Rehm of NPR on: June 11, 2015, 11:46:57 PM
158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Carly Fiorina on: June 11, 2015, 11:39:39 PM
You steal my thunder, I came here to post this!

PS: She was quite impressive today on Brett Baier's Special Report.
159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / TPP seeks to backdoor immigration powers to Obama on: June 11, 2015, 07:19:35 PM
This is from a Tea Party site of uneven reliability:

Obamatrade Will Give Free Rein To Obama Regarding Amnesty

June 10, 2015 By Colleen Conley

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 3.07.38 PMTucked inside the secretive Obamatrade agreement about which Congress has been debating are broad new powers giving the President free rein over matters of illegal immigration.

A recent Wikileaks document dump on the dubious deal, described by some as more of a “treaty akin to the European Union” has prompted much commentary in the mainstream media, but little has been mentioned about the immigration chapter contained within.

Until now.

Fortunately, Breitbart looked deep within the documents and uncovered that the president’s “Trade in Services Act (TiSA) documents, one of the three different close-to-completely-negotiated deals that would be fast-tracked making up the president’s trade agreement, show Obamatrade in fact unilaterally alters current U.S. immigration law. TiSA, like TPP or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) deals, are international trade agreements that President Obama is trying to force through to final approval. The way he can do so is by getting Congress to give him fast-track authority through TPA.”

Disturbingly, TiSA is even more secretive than TPP. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill can review the text of TPP in a secret, secured room inside the Capitol—and in some cases can bring staffers who have high enough security clearances—but with TiSA, no such draft text is available.

Voting for TPA, of course, would essentially ensure the final passage of each TPP, T-TIP, and TiSA by Congress, since in the history of fast-track any deal that’s ever started on fast-track has been approved.

Roughly 10 pages of this TiSA agreement document leak are specifically about immigration.

“The existence of these ten pages on immigration in the Trade and Services Agreement make it absolutely clear in my mind that the administration is negotiating immigration – and for them to say they are not – they have a lot of explaining to do based on the actual text in this agreement,” Rosemary Jenks, the Director of Government Relations at Numbers USA, told Breitbart News following her review of these documents.

Obama will be able to finalize all three of the Obamatrade deals, without any Congressional input, if Congress grants him fast-track authority by passing TPA.

It is up to the House to put the brakes on Obama’s unilateral power, as the Senate passed the TPA last month. The House could vote as early as Friday on fast-track, but may head into next week. By all counts, it’s going to be a very tight vote—and may not pass. It remains to be seen what will happen in light of leaks about things like the immigration provisions of TiSA—which deals with 24 separate parties, mostly different nations but also the European Union.

In 2003, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution that said no immigration provision should be in trade agreements – and in fact, former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) voted for this resolution.

Obama has told members of Congress very specifically the U.S. is not negotiating immigration – or at least is not negotiating any immigration provisions that would require us to change our laws.  Of course, this is yet another lie by an Administration that does so with impunity.

Obama is once again attempting to circumvent the Constitution, this time with the express consent of a Republican majority Congress.  Our representatives need to be told NOW that any legislation relinquishing such powers to the executive branch is unconscionable, and a violation of their constituents’ trust.  Sign The Tea Party petition now to STOP OBAMATRADE!

160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lou Ddobbs shows testicular fortitude on: June 11, 2015, 10:35:07 AM
161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on Separation of Powers, 1788 on: June 11, 2015, 10:30:47 AM
"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." —James Madison, Federalist No. 47, 1788
162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: June 11, 2015, 12:36:39 AM
163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor Assessment in The Middle East on: June 10, 2015, 06:46:44 PM
 A Net Assessment of the Middle East
Geopolitical Weekly
June 9, 2015 | 07:59 GMT
Text Size

By George Friedman

The term "Middle East" has become enormously elastic. The name originated with the British Foreign Office in the 19th century. The British divided the region into the Near East, the area closest to the United Kingdom and most of North Africa; the Far East, which was east of British India; and the Middle East, which was between British India and the Near East. It was a useful model for organizing the British Foreign Office and important for the region as well, since the British — and to a lesser extent the French — defined not only the names of the region but also the states that emerged in the Near and Far East.

Today, the term Middle East, to the extent that it means anything, refers to the Muslim-dominated countries west of Afghanistan and along the North African shore. With the exception of Turkey and Iran, the region is predominantly Arab and predominantly Muslim. Within this region, the British created political entities that were modeled on European nation-states. The British shaped the Arabian Peninsula, which had been inhabited by tribes forming complex coalitions, into Saudi Arabia, a state based on one of these tribes, the Sauds. The British also created Iraq and crafted Egypt into a united monarchy. Quite independent of the British, Turkey and Iran shaped themselves into secular nation-states.

This defined the two fault lines of the Middle East. The first was between European secularism and Islam. The Cold War, when the Soviets involved themselves deeply in the region, accelerated the formation of this fault line. One part of the region was secular, socialist and built around the military. Another part, particularly focused on the Arabian Peninsula, was Islamist, traditionalist and royalist. The latter was pro-Western in general, and the former — particularly the Arab parts — was pro-Soviet. It was more complex than this, of course, but this distinction gives us a reasonable framework.

The second fault line was between the states that had been created and the underlying reality of the region. The states in Europe generally conformed to the definition of nations in the 20th century. The states created by the Europeans in the Middle East did not. There was something at a lower level and at a higher level. At the lower level were the tribes, clans and ethnic groups that not only made up the invented states but also were divided by the borders. The higher level was broad religious loyalties to Islam and to the major movements of Islam, Shiism and Suniism that laid a transnational claim on loyalty. Add to this the pan-Arab movement initiated by former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who argued that the Arab states should be united into a single Arab nation.

Any understanding of the Middle East must therefore begin with the creation of a new political geography after World War I that was superimposed on very different social and political realities and was an attempt to limit the authority of broader regional and ethnic groups. The solution that many states followed was to embrace secularism or traditionalism and use them as tools to manage both the subnational groupings and the claims of the broader religiosity. One unifying point was Israel, which all opposed. But even here it was more illusion than reality. The secular socialist states, such as Egypt and Syria, actively opposed Israel. The traditional royalist states, which were threatened by the secular socialists, saw an ally in Israel.
Aftershocks From the Soviet Collapse

Following the fall of the Soviet Union and the resulting collapse of support for the secular socialist states, the power of the traditional royalties surged. This was not simply a question of money, although these states did have money. It was also a question of values. The socialist secularist movement lost its backing and its credibility. Movements such as Fatah, based on socialist secularism — and Soviet support — lost power relative to emerging groups that embraced the only ideology left: Islam. There were tremendous cross currents in this process, but one of the things to remember was that many of the socialist secular states that had begun with great promise continued to survive, albeit without the power of a promise of a new world. Rulers like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, Syria's Bashar al Assad and Iraq's Saddam Hussein remained in place. Where the movement had once held promise even if its leaders were corrupt, after the Soviet Union fell, the movement was simply corrupt.

The collapse of the Soviet Union energized Islam, both because the mujahideen defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan and because the alternative to Islam was left in tatters. Moreover, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait took place in parallel with the last days of the Soviet Union. Both countries are remnants of British diplomacy. The United States, having inherited the British role in the region, intervened to protect another British invention — Saudi Arabia — and to liberate Kuwait from Iraq. From the Western standpoint, this was necessary to stabilize the region. If a regional hegemon emerged and went unchallenged, the consequences could pyramid. Desert Storm appeared to be a simple and logical operation combining the anti-Soviet coalition with Arab countries.

The experience of defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan and the secular regimes' loss of legitimacy opened the door to two processes. In one, the subnational groupings in the region came to see the existing regimes as powerful but illegitimate. In the other, the events in Afghanistan brought the idea of a pan-Islamic resurrection back to the fore. And in the Sunni world, which won the war in Afghanistan, the dynamism of Shiite Iran — which had usurped the position of politico-military spokesman for radical Islam — made the impetus for action clear.

There were three problems. First, the radicals needed to cast pan-Islamism in a historical context. The context was the transnational caliphate, a single political entity that would abolish existing states and align political reality with Islam. The radicals reached back to the Christian Crusades for historical context, and the United States — seen as the major Christian power after its crusade in Kuwait — became the target. Second, the pan-Islamists needed to demonstrate that the United States was both vulnerable and the enemy of Islam. Third, they had to use the subnational groups in various countries to build coalitions to overthrow what were seen as corrupt Muslim regimes, in both the secular and the traditionalist worlds.

The result was al Qaeda and its campaign to force the United States to launch a crusade in the Islamic world. Al Qaeda wanted to do this by carrying out actions that demonstrated American vulnerability and compelled U.S. action. If the United States did not act, it would enhance the image of American weakness; if it did act, it would demonstrate it was a crusader hostile to Islam. U.S. action would, in turn, spark uprisings against corrupt and hypocritical Muslim states, sweep aside European-imposed borders and set the stage for uprisings. The key was to demonstrate the weakness of the regimes and their complicity with the Americans.

This led to 9/11. In the short run, it appeared that the operation had failed. The United States reacted massively to the attacks, but no uprising occurred in the region, no regimes were toppled, and many Muslim regimes collaborated with the Americans. During this time, the Americans were able to wage an aggressive war against al Qaeda and its Taliban allies. In this first phase, the United States succeeded. But in the second phase, the United States, in its desire to reshape Iraq and Afghanistan — and other countries — internally, became caught up in the subnational conflicts. The Americans got involved in creating tactical solutions rather than confronting the strategic problem, which was that waging the war was causing national institutions in the region to collapse.

In destroying al Qaeda, the Americans created a bigger problem in three parts: First, they unleashed the subnational groups. Second, where they fought they created a vacuum that they couldn't fill. Finally, in weakening the governments and empowering the subnational groups, they made a compelling argument for the caliphate as the only institution that could govern the Muslim world effectively and the only basis for resisting the United States and its allies. In other words, where al Qaeda failed to trigger a rising against corrupt governments, the United States managed to destroy or compromise a range of the same governments, opening the door to transnational Islam.

The Arab Spring was mistaken for a liberal democratic rising like 1989 in Eastern Europe. More than anything else, it was a rising by a pan-Islamic movement that largely failed to topple regimes and embroiled one, Syria, in a prolonged civil war. That conflict has a subnational component — various factions divided against each other that give the al Qaeda-derived Islamic State room to maneuver. It also provided a second impetus to the ideal of a caliphate. Not only were the pan-Islamists struggling against the American crusader, but they were fighting Shiite heretics — in service of the Sunni caliphate — as well. The Islamic State put into place the outcome that al Qaeda wanted in 2001, nearly 15 years later and, in addition to Syria and Iraq, with movements capable of sustained combat in other Islamic countries.
A New U.S. Strategy and Its Repercussions

Around this time, the United States was forced to change strategy. The Americans were capable of disrupting al Qaeda and destroying the Iraqi army. But the U.S. ability to occupy and pacify Iraq or Afghanistan was limited. The very factionalism that made it possible to achieve the first two goals made pacification impossible. Working with one group alienated another in an ongoing balancing act that left U.S. forces vulnerable to some faction motivated to wage war because of U.S. support for another. In Syria, where the secular government was confronting a range of secular and religious but not extremist forces, along with an emerging Islamic State, the Americans were unable to meld the factionalized non-Islamic State forces into a strategically effective force. Moreover, the United States could not make its peace with the al Assad government because of its repressive policies, and it was unable to confront the Islamic State with the forces available.

In a way, the center of the Middle East had been hollowed out and turned into a whirlpool of competing forces. Between the Lebanese and Iranian borders, the region had uncovered two things: First, it showed that the subnational forces were the actual reality of the region. Second, in obliterating the Syria-Iraq border, these forces and particularly the Islamic State had created a core element of the caliphate — a transnational power or, more precisely, one that transcended borders.

The American strategy became an infinitely more complex variation of President Ronald Reagan's policy in the 1980s: Allow the warring forces to war. The Islamic State turned the fight into a war on Shiite heresy and on established nation states. The region is surrounded by four major powers: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey. Each has approached the situation differently. Each of these nations has internal factions, but each state has been able to act in spite of that. Put differently, three of them are non-Arab powers, and the one Arab power, Saudi Arabia, is perhaps the most concerned about internal threats.

For Iran, the danger of the Islamic State is that it would recreate an effective government in Baghdad that could threaten Iran again. Thus, Tehran has maintained support for the Iraqi Shiites and for the al Assad government, while trying to limit al Assad's power.

For Saudi Arabia, which has aligned with Sunni radical forces in the past, the Islamic State represents an existential threat. Its call for a transnational Islamic movement has the potential to resonate with Saudis from the Wahhabi tradition. The Saudis, along with some other Gulf Cooperation Council members and Jordan, are afraid of Islamic State transnationalism but also of Shiite power in Iraq and Syria. Riyadh needs to contain the Islamic State without conceding the ground to the Shiites.

For the Israelis, the situation has been simultaneously outstanding and terrifying. It has been outstanding because it has pitted Israel's enemies against each other. Al Assad's government has in the past supported Hezbollah against Israel. The Islamic State represents a long-term threat to Israel. So long as they fought, Israel's security would be enhanced. The problem is that in the end someone will win in Syria, and that force might be more dangerous than anything before it, particularly if the Islamic State ideology spreads to Palestine. Ultimately, al Assad is less dangerous than the Islamic State, which shows how bad the Israeli choice is in the long run.

It is the Turks — or at least the Turkish government that suffered a setback in the recently concluded parliamentary elections — who are the most difficult to understand. They are hostile to the al Assad government — so much so that they see the Islamic State as less of a threat. There are two ways to explain their view: One is that they expect the Islamic State to be defeated by the United States in the end and that involvement in Syria would stress the Turkish political system. The other is that they might be less averse than others in the region to the Islamic State's winning. While the Turkish government has vigorously denied such charges, rumors of support to at least some factions of the Islamic State have persisted, suspicions in Western capitals linger, and alleged shipments of weaponry to unknown parties in Syria by the Turkish intelligence organization were a dominant theme in Turkey's elections. This is incomprehensible, unless the Turks see the Islamic State as a movement that they can control in the end and that is paving the way for Turkish power in the region — or unless the Turks believe that a direct confrontation would lead to a backlash from the Islamic State in Turkey itself.
The Islamic State's Role in the Region

The Islamic State represents a logical continuation of al Qaeda, which triggered both a sense of Islamic power and shaped the United States into a threat to Islam. The Islamic State created a military and political framework to exploit the situation al Qaeda created. Its military operations have been impressive, ranging from the seizure of Mosul to the taking of Ramadi and Palmyra. Islamic State fighters' flexibility on the battlefield and ability to supply large numbers of forces in combat raises the question of where they got the resources and the training.

However, the bulk of Islamic State fighters are still trapped within their cauldron, surrounded by three hostile powers and an enigma. The hostile powers collaborate, but they also compete. The Israelis and the Saudis are talking. This is not new, but for both sides there is an urgency that wasn't there in the past. The Iranian nuclear program is less important to the Americans than collaboration with Iran against the Islamic State. And the Saudis and other Gulf countries have forged an air capability used in Yemen that might be used elsewhere if needed.

It is likely that the cauldron will hold, so long as the Saudis are able to sustain their internal political stability. But the Islamic State has already spread beyond the cauldron — operating in Libya, for example. Many assume that these forces are Islamic State in name only — franchises, if you will. But the Islamic State does not behave like al Qaeda. It explicitly wants to create a caliphate, and that wish should not be dismissed. At the very least, it is operating with the kind of centralized command and control, on the strategic level, that makes it far more effective than other non-state forces we have seen.

Secularism in the Muslim world appears to be in terminal retreat. The two levels of struggle within that world are, at the top, Sunni versus Shiite, and at the base, complex and interacting factions. The Western world accepted domination of the region from the Ottomans and exercised it for almost a century. Now, the leading Western power lacks the force to pacify the Islamic world. Pacifying a billion people is beyond anyone's capability. The Islamic State has taken al Qaeda's ideology and is attempting to institutionalize it. The surrounding nations have limited options and a limited desire to collaborate. The global power lacks the resources to both defeat the Islamic State and control the insurgency that would follow. Other nations, such as Russia, are alarmed by the Islamic State's spread among their own Muslim populations.

It is interesting to note that the fall of the Soviet Union set in motion the events we are seeing here. It is also interesting to note that the apparent defeat of al Qaeda opened the door for its logical successor, the Islamic State. The question at hand, then, is whether the four regional powers can and want to control the Islamic State. And at the heart of that question is the mystery of what Turkey has in mind, particularly as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's power appears to be declining.
164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Incipient Japan-Philippines alliance? on: June 10, 2015, 02:24:36 PM
A busy day on this thread!

On Tuesday, the Philippine military announced that it would hold joint naval drills with Japan on June 22-26. Just four days before the announcement, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III concluded a state visit to Japan. In addition to signing a deal to buy 10 Japanese patrol boats and other Japanese defense equipment, Aquino announced that the Philippines and Japan were ready to begin talks on a visiting forces agreement. Under the proposed agreement, the Japan Self-Defense Forces would be allowed to refuel ships and aircraft in the Philippines, and Japanese military personnel would be able to use Philippine bases on a rotational basis. If signed, the visiting forces agreement would mark the second time that Japan has been able to secure basing rights abroad since the end of World War II (the first time being the small Japan Self-Defense Forces outpost in Djibouti that opened in 2011).

The final terms of the potential visiting forces agreement are not yet clear. However, the Philippines' efforts to augment a similar agreement with the United States give clues about its intent with the Japanese pact, if not necessarily the specifics. In April 2014, as China was pressuring the Philippines at the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, the Philippines signed an agreement with Washington allowing the United States to station forces rotationally in Philippine bases and stockpile supplies at these facilities. The Philippines-Japan visiting forces agreement, driven by these same tensions, could include similar terms.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

The initiation of defense talks between Japan and the Philippines is significant but not unexpected, given their convergence of interests. With its weak external defense capabilities, the Philippines is eager to bring in as many outside parties as possible to bolster its position in its territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. A visiting forces agreement with Japan could give the Philippines improved access to training from Japan's world-class maritime forces, repair services desperately needed by the Philippine navy and coast guard, and maritime reconnaissance data. This support would become all the more crucial as the Philippines begins to take more deliveries of Japanese equipment.

The Japanese, for their part, are happy to oblige. In recent years, Japan has taken greater action to secure its interests far from its shores. The expansion of Chinese activity in the South China Sea threatens the sea-lanes that are the lifeblood of the Japanese economy. This is a major factor in Japan's remilitarization. In recent months, Japan has moved to strengthen engagement with South China Sea claimants, signing a defense pact with Indonesia in March, conducting joint naval exercises with Vietnam in April and signing a defense technology transfer deal with Malaysia in late May. Japanese activities in the South China Sea are likely to intensify if the Japanese legislature passes measures in July expanding the scope of Japan Self-Defense Forces activity. The Philippines' location makes it a natural partner for Japan as Tokyo seeks footholds for its forces in the South China Sea.

If the Philippines-Japan visiting forces agreement is signed, it could take some time to overcome domestic barriers. Domestically, the implementation of the enhanced Philippines-United States agreement has been sensitive since some are wary of welcoming back a former colonizer; the agreement is awaiting a ruling by the Philippine Supreme Court. A comparable pact with Japan could face similar opposition. However, Aquino's decision to announce and move forward on an agreement with Japan despite likely opposition shows Manila's recognition of the basic fact that the Philippines will not be able to secure its maritime interests without outside help. Manila's relations with Beijing are likely to grow strained as ties with Japan deepen, which could harm economic ties between the Philippines and China, but Aquino appears to have calculated that the Sino-Philippine relationship is at the point where it will make no difference (as evidenced by his comments likening Chinese activities in the South China Sea to aggression by Nazi Germany). Moreover, additional aid from Japan — perhaps as part of the $110 billion infrastructure aid package Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced in May — will make up for the potential loss of Chinese investment.

This is a data point in another trend that Stratfor has been following: the United States' attempts to shift some of the burden of regional security to its allies. This plan has led to the slow reconfiguration of the U.S. alliance system in Asia, still largely based on a Cold War alliance structure called the hub-and-spoke system. This was a series of bilateral alliances between the United States and its Asian treaty partners featuring strong ties between each of the allies and Washington but limited collaboration among the Asian states themselves. The hub-and-spoke system enabled the United States to both check its adversaries and dominate aggressive allies such as South Korea and Taiwan, preventing them from dragging the United States into unwanted conflicts in an era of nuclear hair triggers. The United States quashed allies' attempts to independently build regional alliances among themselves. In return, the Americans shouldered the main burden of defending their partners, stationing large garrisons in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Times have changed. The U.S. alliance system is no longer made up of weak but militarily adventurous regimes, reducing the need to maintain a tight grip on relations between allies. Some U.S. allies, such as Japan and South Korea, are rich and boast significant militaries, yet nearly 80,000 U.S. soldiers are garrisoned in these two countries in the name of providing regional security. These garrisons, plus the U.S. operations to secure the region's sea-lanes, are extremely costly and tie down significant American resources.

Therefore, the United States wants capable partners such as Japan to pick up some of the slack in supporting weaker allies such as the Philippines. Washington has pushed its allies to build their own bilateral security ties, which had been lacking during the Cold War. Although the effort has so far yielded some modest successes, a Philippines-Japan visiting forces agreement could be a landmark as the United States reconfigures its alliance structure in Asia, potentially leading to similar arrangements between other American allies in the future.
Send us your thoughts on this report.
165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Our Flag on: June 10, 2015, 02:21:31 PM
Flag Day — What Do You See?
The Banner of Liberty
By Mark Alexander • June 10, 2015     
"Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." —Second Continental Congress (June 14, 1777)

What do you think of when you see an American flag? Consider, for a moment, its origin, and let me tell you the images it evokes for me.
Perhaps the most iconic flag associated with the heritage of American Liberty is that attributed in 1876, the centennial of the Declaration of Independence signing, to the hand of Betsy Ross. It featured 13 stars arranged in a circle within a blue union field, and with 13 red and white stripes. That flag, however, was most likely produced late into the Revolutionary War, and not by Betsy Ross.
Some of the earliest examples of Revolutionary-era flags are those depicted by painter John Trumbull. He was an officer at the Battle of Bunker Hill, was appointed in 1776 as Second Personal Aide to General George Washington, and later Deputy Adjutant-General to General Horatio Gates. He is most noted for his 1792 portrait of Washington before the Battle of Trenton and his 1817 "Declaration of Independence," a painting of the Signers depicted at the convention.
The flags in Trumbull's 18th-century paintings of the Battle of Princeton (1777), the Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga (1777) and the Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown (1781) all depict 12 stars within the blue field, 12 arranged in a square with the 13th in the center.
But the earliest flag widely associated with the Revolution was the 1775 Gadsden, with its yellow field depicting a coiled rattlesnake ready to strike and the words "DONT TREAD ON ME" beneath the serpent. Of course, that's also the flag that today embodies the Second Tea Party Revolt, which, in 2010, launched a great awakening of pride in our American heritage and a revitalized devotion to American Liberty. This flag has its origin with Continental Colonel Christopher Gadsden, and it flew over the earliest actions by the Continental Navy and Marines — and inspired the Navy Jack still flown in the fleet today.

Gadsden's flag was likely inspired by a plate published by Benjamin Franklin in 1754 featuring an image of a snake cut into sections representing the Colonies, over the words "JOIN, or DIE," an appeal for unity during the French and Indian War.
The Second Continental Congress passed its flag resolution on June 14, 1777, the same date it authorized the first riflemen for the Continental Army. It also appointed George Washington to lead that Army the next day. The flag most likely referenced in that resolution was that designed by Declaration signer Francis Hopkinson, featuring six-pointed stars arranged in rows. It flew first over the battle of Fort Schuyler on August 3, 1777.
Until victory in 1783, under that flag and similar banners, the first American Patriots would defend the young nation against what seemed to be insurmountable odds.
It was during a second conflict with the British, the War of 1812, that our national flag, flying over Fort McHenry above Baltimore harbor, inspired Francis Scott Key to pen what is now our National Anthem.
In 1814, James Madison authorized Key and John Stuart Skinner to seek an agreement with the British to secure an exchange of prisoners. Under a flag of truce, Key and Skinner met with Major General Robert Ross and Vice Admiral Alexander Cochrane aboard the HMS Tonnant. However, while onboard, Key and Skinner learned of British plans to attack Baltimore and thus were held captive.
From his vantage point onboard, Key was able to observe at the end of the first day of that campaign that Fort McHenry’s “storm flag” was still flying into the night. He didn’t know if his fellow Patriots had withstood the assault until, by the dawn’s early light, he saw that a much larger American flag (made of fine English wool) had been raised victoriously over the fort.

On that day, Key, an amateur poet, penned “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” later put to music as “The Star-Spangled Banner” and formally recognized in 1931 as our National Anthem.
While the first verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is familiar to most Americans, it is the fourth and final verse that speaks most directly to the humbling legacy of American Patriots, who have stood in harm’s way since the earliest skirmishes of the American Revolution:
O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
“In God is our trust” was shortened to “In God We Trust” and first appeared on U.S. coins in 1964. In 1956 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law as our National Motto. Seven years earlier, President Harry Truman signed the National Flag Day law.
Today, patriotic Americans recognize "In God We Trust" as the keystone of our Liberty and the Unalienable Rights of Man as endowed by our Creator.
So, what awakens in me today when I see an American flag?
I recall the hundreds of thousands of flags at headstones in Arlington National Cemetery and others around the nation — and at numerous memorial sites in Europe at the final resting places of American liberators of WWI and WWII. I think of flags at half mast to honor a Patriot; the raising of our flag over bloody Iwo Jima by U.S. Marines in 1945; of American flags held atop Mt. Everest and planted beneath the Pacific Ocean in the Marianas Trench; of the flag placed in 1969 on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin; of the flags over the White House and the U.S. Capitol during Ronald Reagan's presidency and other U.S.-loving commanders in chief; of the flag raised above Ground Zero by New York firefighters on 9/11; and I think of the flags on the shoulders of our young warriors in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But I also think of how Col. Leo K. Thorsness (USAF Ret.), a POW in Vietnam (1967-73) and recipient of the Medal of Honor, answered that question:
"Let me tell you what I think when I see our flag. As a fighter pilot on my 93rd mission over North Vietnam, my F-105 was hit by an air-to-air missile and my Electronic Warfare Officer Harold Johnson and I were forced to eject. After unsuccessful rescue attempts, we were captured by enemy forces and imprisoned in the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ for the next six years.
"One day in our sixth year of imprisonment, a young Navy pilot named Mike Campbell found a piece of cloth in a gutter. After we collected some other small rags, he worked secretly at night to piece them together into a flag. He made red from ground-up roof tiles and blue from tiny amounts of ink, then used rice glue to paste the colors onto the rags. Using thread from his blanket and a homemade bamboo needle, he sewed the pieces together, adding white fragments for stars.
"One morning he whispered from the back of our cell, ‘Hey gang, look here,’ and proudly held up that tattered American flag, waving it as if in a breeze. We all snapped to attention and saluted — with tears in our eyes.
"A week later, the guards were searching our cells and found Mike’s flag. That night they pulled him out of the cell and, for his simple gesture of patriotism, they tortured him. At daylight they pushed what was left of Mike back through the cell door.
"Today, whenever I see our flag, I think of Mike and the morning he first waved that tattered emblem of our great nation. It was then, thousands of miles from home, imprisoned by a brutal enemy, that he courageously demonstrated the liberty it represents, and that is what I see in every American flag today.”
(Recently, our Essential Liberty Project sponsored a children's book, "I'm Your Flag," and Col. Thorsness noted, "It is a fitting tribute to our national banner, and a great resource for young Americans.")
Regrettably, I also think of those American flags desecrated by enemies foreign and domestic. I have mixed opinions about a Flag Desecration Amendment as proposed after the Supreme Court struck down the Flag Protection Act passed by Congress in 1968 and, by extension, all such proscriptions enacted by the states.
The Patriot Post is clearly afforded legal protection under the First Amendment's assurance that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." But only activist judges in the "despotic branch," as Thomas Jefferson warned, would twist those words in such a contorted manner as to suggest that flag desecration is "protected speech." Thus, any proposed Amendment would fall to similar "interpretation."
The only solution to the reckless disregard for our Constitution, and the countless ways the contempt for its plain language has undermined Liberty, is the restoration of Constitutional Rule of Law. But I digress...
Notably, I have no mixed opinions about those who desecrate our flag, and my disdain for those who undertake such defilement is equal to the blood that has been spilled to sustain the Liberty it represents.
The tragic irony, of course, is that such desecration, as errantly interpreted by the Supreme Court, is guaranteed by generations of Patriots who have honored their solemn oaths "to Support and Defend" our Constitution, and have sacrificed all on our behalf.
June 14 is Flag Day. If you are not yet proudly displaying our flag at your home, place of business, on your car, etc., I ask that you join me in honoring our heritage of Liberty by displaying its most appropriate symbol.
(Note: Flag Day is also my annual reminder to replace worn flags with new flags. And, I invite you to consider this patriotic defense of our nation's flag in one of the best Major League plays of all time!)
166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Missing link to the origin of Life may have been found? on: June 10, 2015, 02:14:23 PM
167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: A new diplomacy to stem Chinese expansion on: June 10, 2015, 11:10:08 AM
second post


A New Diplomacy to Stem Chinese Expansion
The time for choosing sides in Southeast Asia has come.
Daniel Blumenthal And
Michael Mazza
June 10, 2015 12:01 p.m. ET

China’s aggression is pushing the South China Sea to a boiling point. Beijing’s massive island-building project is militarizing the territorial disputes, changing the territorial status quo and shifting the region’s balance of power. The U.S. response has been reactive, rhetorical and confused.

To stop and reverse Chinese expansion, the U.S. needs a bold and comprehensive strategy. So far, Washington’s approach has consisted of strong remonstrations that call upon China to respect “norms,” exercises of military power in the South China Sea to protect these norms, and the shoring up of alliances and partnerships in Asia.

Missing is a clear explanation of U.S. interests and a diplomatic approach that defends them. Washington doesn’t just have an interest in maintaining respect for abstract norms. It has a vital interest in keeping the South China Sea an open maritime commons free of Chinese coercion, as well as in stopping Beijing’s changes to the territorial status quo.

To date Washington has played a behind-the-scenes diplomatic role, encouraging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to take the lead in managing maritime tensions.

This approach has outlived its usefulness. For one thing, only five of Asean’s 10 states are parties to the disputes (Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam all make claims to physical features; Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone overlaps with China’s “nine-dash line”). Asean also has had little success in recent years acting in a united manner: Members still argue among themselves over maritime territory; meanwhile China actively sows divisions within the institution. And Washington has no assurance that Asean’s efforts will result in a solution that is in line with U.S. interests.

Thus the U.S. needs to play a far more active role in addressing the territorial disputes. A new diplomacy should have three prongs.

First, the U.S., in coordination with allied maritime powers such as Australia, Japan and the Philippines, should delineate what features in the South China Sea it considers to be islands warranting 12-nautical-mile territorial zones, and what features cannot legitimately be claimed as sovereign territory. The allies should make clear what areas of the sea they consider to be high seas, regardless of who ultimately controls the territories, and their militaries should regularly operate in those waters.

Second, the U.S. should lead a new diplomatic process to secure an agreement on the peaceful use of resources in disputed waters and develop clear rules guiding the conduct of claimants in disputed waters, including regulations on land-reclamation construction activities, ultimately leading to a resolution of territorial disputes.

At present, China is the primary obstacle to such a process. It has slow-rolled negotiations with Asean over a code of conduct and insists on bilateral rather than multilateral negotiations over territorial claims.

A new U.S.-led diplomatic process should encourage Chinese engagement, but should not depend on Chinese participation. If China chooses to boycott talks, the U.S. should lead an effort by its Southeast claimant partners to decide on territorial delineation and the proper use of resources in the seas.

This diplomacy would imbue with a political purpose the displays of U.S. and allied force. U.S. military power should be used to enhance Southeast Asian capabilities, to keep the South China Sea an international waterway, to counter Chinese territorial encroachment and to give allies and friends the security and space to develop economically and politically.

This strategy may not reverse China’s already completed land reclamation, but it will render those new Chinese islets indefensible and Chinese sovereignty over them unrecognized internationally. Beijing can choose to enter into a negotiating process over territorial disposition or see disputes resolved without its input. Either way, the U.S. will work with its East Asian friends and allies to demarcate territorial boundaries and gain agreement on how the seas will be used. It will use its power in support of these agreements.

This course of action is not without risk. Beijing will be angered by U.S. “meddling.” It could opt for confrontation, but bullies rarely pick fights they can’t win.

For their part, Southeast Asians prefer a nonconfrontational approach and may be initially discomfited by the U.S. adopting a leading role in finding solutions to territorial disputes. But Beijing has already upended the status quo in the South China Sea. Without action, Washington’s Asian friends will see their territorial holdings eroded and the broader balance of power shift in China’s favor.

Received wisdom is that Southeast Asians do not want to choose sides between China and the U.S. That may have once been true, but China is forcing its neighbors’ hands. The time for choosing has come.

The U.S. can present the Southeast Asians with an alternative to Chinese hegemony. It must do so before yet another regional competitor threatens the peaceful order Washington and its allies have built with blood and treasure.

Mr. Blumenthal is the director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where Mr. Mazza is a research fellow.
168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Unemployment NOT higher on: June 10, 2015, 11:03:16 AM,-liar,-unemployment-not-higher
169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Malaysia wakes up to China on: June 10, 2015, 10:55:40 AM

June 9, 2015 7:32 p.m. ET

The Journal got the scoop Monday that the Malaysian government will loudly protest the Chinese coast guard’s incursions into its exclusive economic zone. National Security Minister Shahidan Kassim said in an interview that Prime Minister Najib Razak will raise the issue personally with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Malaysians are upset that a Chinese coast-guard ship is anchored in the waters around the Luconia Shoals within their exclusive economic zone. The state-owned company Petronas has active gas wells nearby.

Kuala Lumpur played down such provocations in the past; Chinese ships have frequented the area for at least two years, and Malaysia made pro forma protests. The Chinese disrupted oil survey work nearby in August 2012 and January 2013. Yet Malaysia took a low-key approach when Beijing’s ally Cambodia shut down discussion of the South China Sea disputes at regional summits in 2012.

Malaysia has changed its attitude over the past year as China started reclaiming land for military bases on the disputed shoals and rocks it controls. Last year Kuala Lumpur offered to let the U.S. fly P-8 surveillance planes from Borneo airbases. At the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference in Singapore at the end of May, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein warned that the dispute could “escalate into one of the deadliest conflicts of our time.” Two weeks ago Mr. Najib was in Tokyo to discuss maritime defense-technology transfer with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Malaysians used to chastise Vietnam and the Philippines for being too confrontational toward China and called for diplomatic solutions. But it didn’t do them much good. The Chinese military is using the same tactics of creeping assertiveness in the Luconia Shoals that it employed in 2012 to take Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. Beijing’s aggressive behavior has created such fear among Southeast Asian nations that a new unity may be emerging.
170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Mass shootings NOT up on: June 10, 2015, 10:52:10 AM

Jason L. Riley
June 9, 2015 7:28 p.m. ET

Last September the Obama administration produced an FBI report that said mass shooting attacks and deaths were up sharply—by an average annual rate of about 16% between 2000 and 2013. Moreover, the problem was worsening. “The findings establish an increasing frequency of incidents,” said the authors. “During the first 7 years included in the study, an average of 6.4 incidents occurred annually. In the last 7 years of the study, that average increased to 16.4 incidents annually.”

The White House could not possibly have been more pleased with the media reaction to these findings, which were prominently featured by the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, the Washington Post and other major outlets. The FBI report landed six weeks before the midterm elections, and the administration was hoping that the gun-control issue would help drive Democratic turnout.
Opinion Journal Video
Crime Prevention Research Center President John Lott says there is no evidence that crime is rising or that arrests are down nationwide. Photo credit: Getty Images.

But late last week, J. Pete Blair and M. Hunter Martaindale, two academics at Texas State University who co-authored the FBI report, acknowledged that “our data is imperfect.” They said that the news media “got it wrong” last year when they “mistakenly reported mass shootings were on the rise.”

Mind you, the authors did not issue this mea culpa in the major news outlets that supposedly misreported the original findings. Instead, the authors published it in ACJS Today, an academic journal published by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. “Because official data did not contain the information we needed, we had to develop our own,” wrote Messrs. Blair and Martaindale. “This required choices between various options with various strengths and weaknesses.” You don’t say.

John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center—who has studied FBI crime data for three decades—told me in an interview that the FBI report is better understood as a political document than as a work of serious social science. For example, the authors chose the year 2000 as their starting point “even though anyone who has studied these trends knows that 2000 and 2001 were unusually quiet and had few mass shootings.” Data going back to the mid-1970s is readily available but was ignored. How come? Over the past 40 years, there has been no statistically significant increase in mass shootings in the U.S.

Another problem with the study: The data used seemed selectively chosen to achieve certain results. The researchers somehow “missed 20 mass-shooting cases,” Mr. Lott said. “There’s one case where nine people were murdered. You just don’t miss that.” Also, the omissions helped create an “upward trend, because they were primarily missed at the beginning of the period.” This, he said, “is disturbing.”

Mr. Lott told me that he had reached out repeatedly to the FBI and to the authors for an explanation after the original report came out, but none was forthcoming until last week. The Journal recently described Mr. Obama’s tenure as the “least transparent administration in history,” and the White House seems to have no interest in proving its critics wrong.

Following the high-profile mass shootings in 2012 at a cinema in Aurora, Colo., and an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the White House pushed hard for more gun-control legislation. Congress, which at the time included a Democratic-controlled Senate, refused to act. This surprised no one, including an administration well aware that additional gun controls wouldn’t pass muster with enough members of the president’s own party, let alone Republicans.

But the administration also knew that the issue could potentially excite Democratic base voters in a year when the party was worried about turnout. Hence President Obama’s vow in his 2014 State of the Union address “to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.”

Ironically, this scare-mongering likely inspired more gun purchases. The Washington Times reported last year that record checks for gun sales hit a new high in 2013: “More than 21 million applications were run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System last year, marking nearly an 8% increase and the 11th straight year that the number has risen.”

Since liberals like to link violent crime to the proliferation of guns, it is worth noting that, according to the Justice Department, the violent-crime rate in 2013 fell by 4.4% from 2012 and was 14.5% below the 2004 level.

Mr. Riley is a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Journal contributor.
171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIS in Mosul on: June 10, 2015, 10:47:56 AM
Iraqi City of Mosul Transformed a Year After Islamic State Capture
Beneath a veneer of order, residents live in fear
Nour Malas
Updated June 9, 2015 7:49 p.m. ET

BAGHDAD—In Islamic State’s stronghold of Mosul, the extremist group is working day and night to repair roads, manicure gardens and refurbish hotels. Iraq’s second-largest city has never looked so good thanks to strict laws enforced by the Sunni militants.

But beneath that veneer, the group metes out deadly punishments to those who don’t comply with a long list of prohibitions imposed over the year since it took control of Mosul on June 10, 2014, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former city residents, refugees and Iraqi officials.

Gone are the illegal kiosks that crowded sidewalks and the tangled web of electrical wires once connecting rooftops. New lamps light up streets unusually clear of cigarette butts.

“I have not in 30 years seen Mosul this clean, its streets and markets this orderly,” said Omar, a resident. He said Islamic State has shown an unusual focus on civil works in recent weeks, which he and others described as part of efforts to win popular support.

A luxury hotel stamped with Islamic State logos. Rifle-wielding fighters chaperoning kids at an amusement park. Such is life through the lens of ISIS propaganda in the besieged Iraqi city of Mosul.

Mosul and its population are changed in other ways, too. Gone are the iconic shrines and mosques that towered over the city center. The radical fighters blew many of them up because they believe the veneration of shrines is unholy.

Ancient churches host garage sales where Islamic State members sell war booty or display wares available to members only. The native Christian population, a minority in the Sunni-majority city once peppered with other religious and ethnic groups, was driven out last year under threat of death.

When women step outside, they are fully cloaked with their faces covered. Men have grown mandatory beards.

Islamic State has gone unchallenged because residents from Iraq’s aggrieved Sunni minority are too scared of a military campaign that could bring massive destruction and an uncertain future under the Shiite-led government and allied forces who would retake the city, said current and former residents.  Such is the dissonance of life for the more than one million people in the most populous city controlled by Islamic State across the territories it holds in Iraq and Syria.  In the past year, the group has tightened its grip on Mosul mostly uncontested, building out its administrative and security apparatus. It has cut the city off from the rest of Iraq and the world beyond by shutting off cellphone towers and the Internet.  A year after Mosul fell, Islamic State’s grip on the city stands as its biggest strategic and symbolic victory.

The campaign to retake Mosul is a linchpin of the U.S.-led coalition’s military strategy against Islamic State. But plans for the counteroffensive have been delayed—something the militants appear to be capitalizing on to persuade the population they are better off under the group’s control.

“Islamic State is doing everything to keep Mosul. It’s the capital of their caliphate here,” said Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to the president of the semiautonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq, which borders Mosul. “It will be a disaster if it stays in their hands.”

Airstrikes have hammered areas around the northern city since a U.S.-led air campaign began in August. This year, Kurdish forces backed by the U.S.-led air attacks cut off a key Islamic State supply line from Syria into the city and now surround it from the east, west and north.  The plans for a counteroffensive have been put off because Iraq and the U.S. have shifted their priority to driving Islamic State out of Anbar province and its capital Ramadi, which are closer to the capital Baghdad.  Mosul is still almost fully inhabited—a contrast to cities where Iraqi and coalition forces have pushed Islamic State out. U.S. officials say it has about a million residents. Iraqi officials say the population is closer to 1.5 million, including people displaced from Tikrit and Beiji.

“Every prisoner in this oppressed city wants salvation from Daesh and a return to normal life,” said Omar, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “But everyone agrees if liberation happens like in Tikrit and Anbar, with destruction and barrel bombs, random shelling and looting, we do not want that kind of liberation.”

Another Mosul resident echoed that sentiment, showing how reports of looting and abuses by Shiite militias in Tikrit weigh heavily in the minds of residents, even though many of those accounts were exaggerated.  The second resident said even Iraqi soldiers may be still unwelcome in an offensive.

“The best way to get rid of Daesh is to negotiate with them to leave to Syria,” he said. That seemingly unrealistic proposition reflects a desperation to find a local solution amid deep suspicions and fear of the Iraqi army and its Shiite militia allies.

In the early months of Islamic State rule, some Mosul residents said they thought the new regime was one they could live with, current and former residents said.
“Daesh managed in a short time to create a strong security organization similar, if not stronger, in order and harshness to that of the Saddam Hussein regime,” said Omar. “It governs people and runs life well like this.”

Food staples became more plentiful and cheaper because Islamic State flooded the market with their own products grown in Syria, though the cost of fuel and diesel—monopolized by the group—shot up.

Many stores shut down and local trade came to a halt. As Islamic State filled the ranks of a new security and police force and nearly all other public jobs with its members, thousands of people were left unemployed and idle. Islamic courts and a system of punishments became increasingly severe.

Doctors, judges, and professors who defied or questioned Islamic State laws have been executed, sometimes by public stoning or crucifixion. Prisons are filled with people awaiting their sentences from the Islamic court.

“Nearly no one gets out alive,” one of the residents said.

Then came the attacks on minorities.

“There are many things we do not consider Islamic at all, like the way Christians were treated,” said a female doctor from Mosul who is pious and veiled. “All of Mosul does not accept what has happened to the Christians,” said the woman, who now lives in the northern city of Kirkuk. The group’s attack on minorities “was a major mistake that cost them our support,” she added.

At the markets, lists of prohibited items and imports began to grow.  Within months, restrictions that were a simple annoyance became hallmarks of Islamic State’s excessive and extreme rule.  A 52-year old woman displaced from Mosul, now living on the outskirts of Baghdad, recalled getting a puzzled call from her daughter in Mosul late last year. The daughter complained that frozen chicken was banned because of possible additives that are prohibited.

“The cigarette ban was absolutely the biggest problem,” a current resident said. The ban has spurred an expensive underground trade in tobacco.

In November, Islamic State instituted an exit law from Mosul barring travel outside the city except in the case of a medical emergency, or to claim retirement benefits in Baghdad. In both cases, the request must be approved by a special court and requires a security deposit—including handing over a car—to ensure the person returns. Last month, fighters dug a deep trench around the city, adding to the feeling of many Mosul residents that they are trapped.

—Ali A. Nabhan and Ghassan Adnan contributed to this article.
Write to Nour Malas at
172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Isarael hacks nuke talks with Iran on: June 10, 2015, 10:41:09 AM
Spy Virus Linked to Israel Targeted Hotels Used for Iran Nuclear Talks
Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab finds three hotels that hosted Iran talks were targeted by a virus believed used by Israeli spies

Members of the media await the arrival of Iranian and other nations’ delegates at the Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland in March 2014. The hotel is one of several that served as a site for nuclear talks. A Beau-Rivage spokeswoman said the hotel was unaware of being hacked. Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/PRESS POOL
Adam Entous And
Danny Yadron
June 10, 2015 8:00 a.m. ET

When a leading cybersecurity firm discovered it had been hacked last year by a virus widely believed to be used by Israeli spies, it wanted to know who else was on the hit list. It checked millions of computers world-wide and three luxury European hotels popped up. The other hotels the firm tested—thousands in all—were clean.
Researchers at the firm, Kaspersky Lab ZAO, weren’t sure what to make of the results. Then they realized what the three hotels had in common. Each was targeted before hosting high-stakes negotiations between Iran and world powers over curtailing Tehran’s nuclear program.

The spyware, the firm has now concluded, was an improved version of Duqu, a virus first identified by cybersecurity experts in 2011, according to a Kaspersky report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and outside security experts. Current and former U.S. officials and many cybersecurity experts believe Duqu was designed to carry out Israel’s most sensitive intelligence-collection operations.

Senior U.S. officials learned Israel was spying on the nuclear talks in 2014, a finding first reported by The Wall Street Journal in March. Officials at the time offered few details about Israel’s tactics.

Kaspersky’s findings, which the Moscow-based company is expected to disclose publicly Wednesday, shed new light on the use of a stealthy virus in the spying efforts. The revelations also could provide what may be the first concrete evidence that the nuclear negotiations were targeted and by whom.

No intelligence-collection effort is a higher priority for Israel’s spy agencies than Iran, including the closed-door talks which have entered a final stage. Israeli leaders say the emerging deal could allow Iran to continue working toward building nuclear weapons, a goal Iran has denied having.

Kaspersky, in keeping with its policy, doesn’t identify Israel by name as the country responsible for the hacks. But researchers at the company indicate that they suspect an Israeli connection in subtle ways. For example, the company’s report is titled “The Duqu Bet.” Bet is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Researchers at the company acknowledge that many questions remain unanswered about how the virus was used and what information may have been stolen. Among the possibilities, the researchers say, the intruders might have been able to eavesdrop on conversations and steal electronic files by commandeering the hotel systems that connect to computers, phones, elevators and alarms, allowing them to turn them on and off at will to collect information.

Israeli officials have denied spying on the U.S. or Israel’s other allies, although they acknowledge conducting close surveillance on Iranians generally. Israeli officials declined to comment specifically on the allegations relating to the Duqu virus and the hotel intrusions.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the Kaspersky analysis and hasn’t independently confirmed the firm’s conclusions, according to people familiar with the discussions. U.S. officials, though, said they weren’t surprised to learn about the reported intrusions at the hotels used for the nuclear talks.

A senior congressional aide briefed on the matter said Kaspersky’s findings were credible. “We take this seriously,” the aide said.

Kaspersky, which protects hundreds of millions of computers from intruders, didn’t realize its own computers were compromised for more than six months after the 2014 breach. Hackers and intelligence agencies have long targeted security companies, given the valuable information they can learn about the Internet’s defenses.  Costin Raiu, director of the global research and analysis team at Kaspersky, said the attackers first targeted a Kaspersky employee in a satellite office in the Asia Pacific region, likely through email that contained an attachment in which the virus was hidden.

By opening the attachment, the employee inadvertently would have allowed the virus to infect his computer through what Kaspersky believes was a hacking tool called a “zero day exploit.” Such tools take advantage of previously unknown security holes—giving software companies no opportunity to prevent hackers from sneaking in through them. Kaspersky says the hackers used up to two more “zero day exploits” to work further into Kaspersky’s system.

That alone, Kaspersky and outside experts say, offers evidence of the hackers’ sophistication. These kinds of tools are expensive to create and are guaranteed to work only the first time they are used. After that, companies can build up digital antibodies through software patches.

Security researchers such as Kaspersky’s Mr. Raiu often strive not just to find hackers, but also to find links between breaches through digital detective work. It is a mix of computer science, instinct and luck. In this case, Mr. Raiu saw links between this new virus and Duqu.

U.S. intelligence agencies view Duqu infections as Israeli spy operations, former U.S. officials said. While the new virus bore no overt links to Israel, it was so complex and borrowed so heavily from Duqu that it “could not have been created by anyone without access to the original Duqu source code,” Kaspersky writes in its report.
To check his conclusions, Mr. Raiu a few weeks ago emailed his findings to a friend, Boldizsár Bencsáth, a researcher at Budapest University of Technology and Economics’ Laboratory of Cryptography and System Security. Mr. Bencsáth in 2011 helped discover the original Duqu virus.

“They look extremely similar,” Mr. Bencsáth said in an interview Tuesday. He estimated a team of 10 people would take more than two years to build such a clean copycat, unless they were the original author.

In the early spring, Kaspersky found itself on the other side of the countless digital intrusions it investigates.

A Kaspersky employee in Moscow discovered the virus while testing a new security program on a company computer he assumed was bug-free. Rather than try to kick the hackers out, the company set up a special team to monitor the virus in action to figure out how it worked and what it was designed to do.

The way the virus operated took the team by surprise. It jumped from one system to another, slowly attacking an increasing number of computers. The virus sought to cover its tracks, abandoning machines the attackers deemed of no additional interest, while leaving a small file that would allow them to return later.

Mr. Raiu said the company had been bracing for cyberintrusions but didn’t expect anything this sophisticated. The attackers moved slowly through Kaspersky’s systems to avoid attracting attention. Mr. Raiu concluded that they probably valued stealth more than anything else. The company dubbed the new-and-improved virus Duqu 2.0.
In a written statement with the report that was reviewed by the Journal, Kaspersky said it didn’t expect the incident to make customers more vulnerable to hackers. “Kaspersky Lab is confident that its clients and partners are safe and that there is no impact on the company’s products, technologies and services,” it said.

The company ran tests to determine if any of its 270,000 corporate clients world-wide had been infected. Kaspersky’s list of corporate clients includes big energy companies, European banks and thousands of hotels.

It found infections on a limited number of clients in Western Europe, Asia and the Middle East. None of Kaspersky’s clients in the U.S. were targeted. A targeted cyberattack against a hotel struck researchers as unusual but not unprecedented.

The first hotel with Duqu 2.0 on its computers piqued Mr. Raiu’s interest right away, in light of the revelations he read in the Journal about Israeli spying efforts, he said. The hotel, he said, was a well-known venue for the nuclear negotiations. But he wasn’t sure if it was an isolated case.

Soon thereafter, Kaspersky found the same virus at a second luxury hotel. Initially, Mr. Raiu didn’t see a connection between the hotel and the nuclear talks. Then, a couple of weeks after the discovery of the second hotel, he learned that the nuclear negotiations would take place there. His team was “shocked,” Mr. Raiu recalled. In both cases, the hotels were infected about two to three weeks before the negotiators convened.

Kaspersky provided information about Duqu 2.0 to one of its partners, which did its own round of tests. That search turned up a third infected hotel which hosted the nuclear talks. Mr. Raiu said the third hotel was discovered last but appeared to have been infected first, sometime in 2014.

Kaspersky declined to identify the three hotels.

Hotels that served as venues for the talks include: the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Intercontinental in Geneva, the Palais Coburg in Vienna, the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich and Royal Plaza Montreux in Montreux, Switzerland.

A Beau-Rivage spokeswoman said the hotel was unaware of being hacked. A manager on duty at the Intercontinental said he also was unaware of such an incident. The management team at the Royal Plaza said, “Our internal policy doesn’t allow us to deliver any information.”

The others didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In addition to the three hotels reported to have been hacked, the virus was found in computers at a site used to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Some world leaders had attended events there.

A former U.S. intelligence official said it was common for Israel and other countries to target such international gatherings. “The only thing that’s unusual now is you hear about it,” the official said.

Mr. Raiu said Kaspersky doesn’t know what was stolen from the three hotels or from the other venues. He said the virus was packed with more than 100 discrete “modules” that would have enabled the attackers to commandeer infected computers.

One module was designed to compress video feeds, possibly from hotel surveillance cameras. Other modules targeted communications, from phones to Wi-Fi networks. The attackers would know who was connected to the infected systems, allowing them to eavesdrop on conversations and steal electronic files. The virus could also enable them to operate two-way microphones in hotel elevators, computers and alarm systems.

In addition, the hackers appeared to penetrate front-desk computers. That could have allowed them to figure out the room numbers of specific delegation members.
The virus also automatically deposited smaller reconnaissance files on the computers it passed through, ensuring the attackers can monitor them and exploit the contents of those computers at a later date.

Write to Adam Entous at and Danny Yadron at
173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Consitutionality of hetero marriage on: June 10, 2015, 09:32:14 AM
The 14th Amendment is no mandate for same-sex marriage
comment | print |

Within the month, the nation will receive the opinion of the US Supreme Court as to whether the US Constitution requires all of the states to jettison their domestic laws and sanction same-sex marriage. Numerous federal judges have so ruled, and most states have simply yielded to those federal court decisions. In a few cases, beginning with Vermont and Massachusetts, state courts ruled for same sex marriage, and state officials have accepted passively those decisions as well.

Generally, courts have ruled for same-sex marriage using either the “due process clause” or the “equal protection clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment, or both. That raises a simple question: is it really possible that when the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868 the framers intended that it sanction same-sex marriage?

Of course not.

The US Constitution says nothing about same-sex marriage. Then, how could the Constitution be manipulated to support a decision in favor of same-sex marriage? Well, it has not been easy. The constitutional case for same-sex marriage is pathetically weak — unless you adopt the notion of an “evolving” Constitution — which is, of course, the polar opposite of the notion of our “written” Constitution.

There are actually four cases, all from the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which have been consolidated for decision in the US Supreme Court — Obergefell, DeBoer, Tanco, and Bourke.

(If you would like to know more about how this case developed, a great deal of information, and links to all documents, is available on SCOTUS blog. The amicus curiae brief which we filed in the Sixth Circuit in support of traditional marriage is available, as is the amicus curiae brief which we filed in the US Supreme Court.)

The opinion by Judge Sutton of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit — upholding traditional marriage against five challenges in four states — begins with a remarkable observation that should have resolved the case in that once sentence, but did not. Judge Sutton points out that “[n]obody in this case ... argues that the people who adopted the Fourteenth Amendment understood it to require the States to change the definition of marriage.” DeBoer v. Snyder, 772 F.3d 388, 403 (6th Cir. 2014) (emphasis added).

Laymen logically deduce that if the Fourteenth Amendment as written had nothing to do with same-sex marriage, that’s the end of the matter. After all, Justice Douglas succinctly described the Amendment in his autobiography: “The Fourteenth Amendment was passed to give blacks first-class citizenship.”

But for those lawyers who want unelected judges to set the public policy of our nation, it simply doesn’t matter what the Framers intended. And neither does it matter to many judges who are all too willing to give effect to their own political views. Discovering the “authorial intent” of the Framers is only a small part of their concern — a step they sometimes skip over entirely.

Recently, Justice Alito observed that “ame-sex marriage presents a highly emotional ... question ... but not a difficult question of constitutional law.” [United States v. Windsor, 570 US, 133 S.Ct. 2675, 2714 (2013) (Alito, J., dissenting)]:

    The Constitution does not guarantee the right to enter into a same-sex marriage. Indeed, no provision of the Constitution speaks to the issue. It is beyond dispute that the right to same-sex marriage is not deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition. [Id. at 2714-15.]

Therefore, Justice Alito explained that challengers to traditional marriage:

    seek ... not the protection of a deeply rooted right but the recognition of a very new right, and they seek this innovation not from a legislative body elected by the people, but from unelected judges. [Id. at 2715.]

If we are now considering a new right, one could legitimately ask when and where did this new right come from. Indeed, during oral argument in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, Justice Scalia asked this very question to same-sex marriage champion lawyer Ted Olson:

    Justice Scalia: "When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit gays from marrying?... Was it always unconstitutional?"

    Ted Olson: "It was [un]constitutional when we -- as a culture determined that sexual orientation is a characteristic of individuals that they cannot control..."

    Justice Scalia: "I see. When did that happen?..."

    Ted Olson: "There's no specific date in time. This is an evolutionary cycle."

Of course, a written constitution that is subject to evolutionary change is no longer a written constitution. A constitution that is always evolving provides no fixed guarantees for the rights of the people. If the “Due Process Clause” of the Fourteenth Amendment can morph into a mandate for homosexual marriage, then the “right to keep and bear arms” can become a right to call the police when attacked. Once we abandon the author’s meaning of a text, we are left treating the US Constitution as poetry, asking “what does the Constitution mean to me?”

Unable to ground their challenge in the Fourteenth Amendment as written, the advocates of same-sex marriage have used an assemblage of fabrications, purportedly derived from this Court’s precedents, but without any support in fact or law.

One of the briefs in the Supreme Court asserted that the High Court has already established that “[t]he right to marry the person of one’s choice is a fundamental freedom.” The claim is patently false.

To the contrary, the Supreme Court has always assumed that marriage law was originally governed by the common law which required consummation between one male and one female. [See Maynard v. Hill, 125 US 190, 213 (1888). See also 1 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 424 (Univ. Of Chi. Facsimile ed.: 1765).]

The Court in Maynard explained: “though formed by contract ... the relation of husband and wife, deriv[ed] both its rights and duties from a source higher than any contract of which the parties are capable, and, as to these, uncontrollable by any contract which they can make.” And “[w]hen formed,” the Court continued, the relation between husband and wife was “no more a contract than ‘fatherhood’ or ‘sonship’ is a contract.” Instead, marriage “partakes more of the character of an institution regulated and controlled by public authority, upon principles of public policy, for the benefit of the community.” Thus, it is just pretense to claim that the Supreme Court previously established the right “to marry the person of one’s choice.”

Any such claim is a total fabrication designed to hide the fact that at the time the nation was founded not only was same-sex marriage not legally sanctioned, but sexual relations between men constituted, as Sir William Blackstone declared, “the infamous crime against nature[,] a disgrace to human nature,” and punishable by death. [4 Blackstone’s Commentaries at 215-16.]

In addition to this condemnation of “unnatural” sexual coupling, the English common law of marriage exclusively adopted the Biblical matrimonial order. First, the common law limited the relationship to one between “husband and wife,” that is, “baron and feme.” [I Blackstone’s Commentaries at 421.] And second, the common law made “voidable” any union between a man and a woman under the “canonical disabilities” of “consanguinity, or relation by blood; and affinity, or relation by marriage.” [Id. at 422.] Thus, it is wildly false for Petitioners to presume, as they have, that there is a well-established right to marry any person of one’s choice.

The same-sex marriage proponents now ask the Supreme Court to take the nation one step further away from our written constitution, by fundamentally changing the meaning of its text based on the will of a bare majority of five lawyers serving on this Court, rather than complying with the exclusive process for amending the Constitution, as set out in its Article V. Freed from textual constraint, Professor Lino Graglia has observed that:

  • ver the past half-century the justices have chosen to make themselves the final lawmakers on most basic issues of domestic social policy in American society. These include issues literally of life and death ... and issues of public morality.... In essence, the Court now performs in the American system of government a role similar to that performed by the Grand Council of Ayatollahs in the Iranian system.... (2)

Nearly two decades ago, Justice Scalia warned:

    [t]his Court has no business imposing upon all Americans the resolution favored by the elite class from which the Members of this institution are selected, pronouncing that “animosity” toward homosexuality ... is evil. [Romer v. Evans, 517 US 620, 636 (1996) (Scalia, J., dissenting).]

And, exactly as Justice Scalia predicted in Romer, the American people have seen a flurry of judicial opinions with “no foundation in American constitutional law” overturning laws which were “designed to prevent piecemeal deterioration of the sexual morality” desired by the People. These court opinions together constitute what he described as “acts, not of judicial judgment, but of political will.” [Id. at 653.]

As such, they are not just “bad law,” but as Blackstone stated, they are “not law” at all.

Herbert W. Titus taught Constitutional Law for 26 years, and concluded his academic career as the Founding Dean of Regent Law School. William J. Olson served in three positions in the Reagan Administration. Together they have filed over 80 briefs in the US Supreme Court, and dozens more in lower courts, addressing important public policy issues. They now practice law together at William J. Olson, P.C. They can be reached at or This article is part of a series on “Building Resistance to Same-Sex Marriage.”


(1)  William O. Douglas, The Court Years, p. 154 (Random House: 1980).

(2)  L. Graglia, “Constitutional Law Without the Constitution: The Supreme Court’s Remaking of America,” in “A Country I Do Not Recognize” (R. Bork ed., Hoover Press 2005).
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174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ trying new strategy on: June 10, 2015, 09:14:28 AM
BEIRUT, Lebanon — After they routed the army in southern Yemen, fighters from Al Qaeda stormed into the city of Al Mukalla, seizing government buildings, releasing jihadists from prison and stealing millions of dollars from the central bank.

Then they surprised everyone. Instead of raising their flags and imposing Islamic law, they passed control to a civilian council and gave it a budget to pay salaries, import fuel and hire teams to clean up garbage. The fighters receded into the background, maintaining only a single police station to arbitrate disputes.

Al Qaeda’s takeover of Yemen’s fifth-largest city in April was the most direct indication yet that the group’s most potent regional affiliates are evolving after years of American drone strikes killing their leaders and changing to meet the challenge posed by the Islamic State’s competing and land-grabbing model of jihad.

While the image of Al Qaeda has long been one of shadowy operatives plotting international attacks from remote hide-outs, its branches in Yemen and Syria are now increasingly making common cause with local groups on the battlefield.

In doing so, they are distancing themselves from one of Osama bin Laden’s central precepts: That fighters should focus on the “far enemy” in the West and not get bogged down in local insurgencies.

In recent weeks, the Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has allied with armed tribes to fight Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, putting that alliance on the same side of the country’s civil war as the United States and Saudi Arabia. In Syria, Qaeda-allied fighters are important members of a rebel coalition against President Bashar al-Assad that includes groups supported by the West.

This strategy has clear benefits for a group that has long been near the top of the United States’s list of enemies by allowing it to build local support while providing some cover against the threat of foreign military action.

But despite Al Qaeda’s increased involvement in local battles, American officials say the group remains committed to attacking the West, a goal that could be easier to plot from sanctuaries where it enjoys local support.

Cooperating with others could also give Al Qaeda a long-term advantage in its competition with the extremists of the Islamic State, analysts said.

Since its public break with Al Qaeda last year, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has stolen the jihadist limelight by seizing cities in Syria and Iraq and declaring a caliphate in the territory it controls. This has won it the allegiances of other militant cells from Libya to Afghanistan.

The Islamic State has insisted that other groups join it or be considered enemies, a tactic that has alienated many in areas it controls. And its public celebration of violence, including the beheading of Western hostages, helped spur the formation of a United States-led military coalition that is bombing the group.

Al Qaeda’s branches in Syria and Yemen have taken a different route, building ties with local groups and refraining from the strict application of Shariah, the legal code of Islam, when faced with local resistance, according to residents of areas where Al Qaeda holds sway.

When Al Qaeda took over Al Mukalla in April, it seized government buildings and used trucks to cart off more than $120 million from the central bank, according to the bank’s director, Abdul-Qader Foulihan. That sum could not be independently verified.

But it soon passed control to a civilian council, giving it a budget of more than $4 million to provide services, an arrangement that made sense to local officials seeking to serve their people during wartime.

“We are not Qaeda stooges,” said Abdul-Hakeem bin Mahfood, the council’s secretary general, in a telephone interview. “We formed the council to avoid the destruction of the city.”

While the council pays salaries and distributes fuel, Al Qaeda maintains a police station to settle disputes, residents said. It has so far made no effort to ban smoking or regulate how women dress.

Nor has it called itself Al Qaeda, instead using the name the Sons of Hadhramaut to emphasize its ties to the surrounding province.

One self-described Qaeda member said that the choice of name was deliberate, recalling that after the group seized territory in southern Yemen in 2011, the country’s military had mobilized to push it out with support from the United States.

“We were in control for a year and six months, we applied God’s law, we created a small state and the whole world saw it, but they did not leave us alone,” the man said in an interview with a Yemeni television station. “So we came here with the name the Sons of Hadhramaut, but the people here know who we are.”

American officials have long considered the terrorist group’s Yemeni branch, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most dangerous to the West. It has sought to carry out attacks against the United States, and it retains sophisticated bomb-making expertise.

Now, Yemen’s civil war has given the group an opportunity to expand, analysts said.

After Houthi rebels seized the Yemeni capital and forced the president into exile, Saudi Arabia began leading a bombing campaign aimed at pushing the Houthis back. With all that going on, no one has tried to dislodge Al Qaeda from Al Mukalla, although American drone strikes have killed top Qaeda leaders nearby.

April Longley Alley, a Yemen analyst with the International Crisis Group, said there was reason to worry that the close ties between Qaeda fighters and other armed elements meant that any foreign military support given to fight the Houthis could eventually end up in Al Qaeda’s hands.

“It is very likely that if the war continues, we’ll see a dynamic like we have seen in other parts of the region, where money and arms given to an opposition movement bleed out to other groups,” she said.

An American intelligence official said that Al Qaeda’s senior leadership had suffered losses in recent years, diminishing its importance and giving greater autonomy to the affiliates, some of which still pursue attacks on the United States and its allies.

While Qaeda networks in South Asia and North Africa have struggled to recover from the losses of leaders, resources and territory, Yemeni and Syrian branches have “gained momentum and, in some cases, more resources due to ongoing instability,” the official said, on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

Syria’s Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front, has made itself an essential component of the rebel forces seeking to oust Mr. Assad. It recently joined a rebel coalition called the Army of Conquest, putting itself in the same trenches as groups that receive support from the West.

“They are Muslims, no different from us,” said Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, the Nusra Front’s leader, in a recent interview with Al Jazeera.

He also said his group had been ordered by Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda’s global leader, not to carry out foreign attacks that could disrupt the fight against Mr. Assad.

American officials called that propaganda, and the United States has bombed Nusra bases, saying it is targeting operatives focused on attacking the West. But the strikes have been criticized by other rebels, reflecting the Nusra Front’s importance to the rebel cause.

The group has worked to strengthen those ties to bolster its might against the government and the Islamic State, according to a Nusra Front coordinator based in northern Syria.

Such cooperation also allows the group to benefit from arms given to other rebels.

“The mujahedeen need sophisticated weapons, and the West provides these weapons to whomever it thinks is able to carry out its agenda,” said the coordinator, who goes by the name Abu Omar al-Muhajir and was interviewed via text message.

Civilians living in Nusra Front areas, too, say the group has built local support, refraining from imposing Shariah when residents resisted.

Meanwhile, its fighters have distributed food and fixed plumbing systems. In the village of Binnish, it recently fielded a team in a friendly soccer match against another rebel group. Nusra’s team wore fatigues in line with Islamic modesty, and it lost against players wearing shorts.

“Nusra are not extremists,” said an activist who attended the game and gave only his first name, Najid. “They distribute leaflets at checkpoints and call people to the religion.”

Others worry that the group is merely laying the groundwork to eventually impose its will.

“I am worried that after all the gains the Nusra Front has made in the past four months and the notable increase in popular support, locals will tolerate and accept the Nusra Front’s way of governing the liberated areas,” said Hasan al-Ahmed, an activist in the town of Kafr Nubul.
175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pamela Geller scores for Freedom on: June 10, 2015, 01:24:59 AM
176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gov. Jeb Bush on single moms in 1995 on: June 10, 2015, 01:21:56 AM
177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / DOJ says "Nevermind what SCOTUS said , , ," on: June 09, 2015, 08:07:26 PM
178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Deaths in WW2 on: June 09, 2015, 08:02:57 PM
A lot of the info here surprised me.
179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muslim Asst. Police Chief refuses to salute the flag on: June 09, 2015, 07:50:07 PM
180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interview on: June 09, 2015, 05:41:26 PM
181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Whoops with wood chips in the UK on: June 09, 2015, 09:59:14 AM
182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Wolf, the Lion, and the Fox on: June 09, 2015, 09:57:06 AM
Accidental Talmudist

A Jewish merchant in 19th century Ukraine had reached an understanding with a wealthy, non-Jewish landowner to buy a section of his forest for lumbering.

No contract was written, and when the price of lumber fell, the merchant wished to renegotiate the deal, claiming that he was not legally bound by the verbal agreement.

The landowner knew that according to civil law, the merchant was right, so he suggested instead that they take their dispute to the famous Rebbe of Tolna for a decision according to Jewish Law.

The Rebbe listened to both sides, then ruled that although there was no legal contract, the Talmud pronounces a severe curse upon one who breaks a verbal agreement, and that certainly the merchant would not wish to subject himself to this.

The Rebbe therefore found in favor of the landowner.

The landowner was pleased with the decision, but he had a question. ''In our courts there is a much longer process, and if a litigant is displeased with the court's decision, he can appeal to a higher court. And there are several levels of appeals beyond that. Suppose the merchant wished to appeal your decision. What recourse does he have?''

The Rebbe smiled and said, ''One time a wolf attacked a flock of sheep, and the animals dispersed. The wolf pursued one of them, but before he had a chance to seize it, a lion emerged and pounced on the sheep. The wolf protested that the prey was his, because he had caused the sheep to leave the flock, but the lion said that he had as much right to the sheep as the wolf, since neither had paid for it. They agreed to take their dispute before the fox, who was the wisest of all the animals.

"The fox ruled that the sheep should be divided equally between the two, and proceeded to cut the sheep in half. He noted, however, that one portion was larger than the other, so he nibbled away a bit. Then, seeing that the new portion was smaller, he nibbled away a bit of the other. This 'equalization' process continued until the fox had left nothing but the bones for the wolf and lion.

''In your courts,'' the Rebbe continued, ''there are indeed many appeals, with the result that the lawyers on each side nibble on the disputed assets. By the time a final decision is reached, all that is left for the litigants are the bones. We may not have an appeals process, but both litigants are likely to benefit from our judgment.''

Adapted from the wonderful book, Not Just Stories: The Chassidic Spirit Through Its Classic Stories by Rabbi Abraham Twerski M.D. (see
183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nazism and Socialism on: June 09, 2015, 08:36:59 AM
The greatest cultural victory of the Left has been to disregard the Nazi-Soviet Pact

By Daniel Hannan Politics Last updated: September 17th, 2014

1084 Comments Comment on this article

Seventy-five years ago today, Red Army troops smashed into Poland. Masters of deception and propaganda, they encouraged locals to believe that they were coming to join the battle against Hitler, who had invaded two weeks’ earlier. But, within a day, the true nature of the Nazi-Soviet collaboration was exposed.

The two armies met at the town of Brest, where the 1918 peace treaty between the Kaiser’s government and Lenin’s revolutionary state had been signed. Soldiers fraternised, exchanging food and tobacco – pre-rolled German cigarettes contrasting favourably against rough Russian papirosi. A joint military parade was staged, the Wehrmacht’s field grey uniforms alongside the olive green of the shoddier Soviets. The two generals, Guderian and Krivoshein, had a slap-up lunch and, as they bade each other farewell, the Soviet commander invited German reporters to visit him in Moscow “after the victory over capitalist Albion”.

These events are keenly remembered in the nations that were victims of the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty: Romania, Finland and, most of all, Poland and the Baltic States. But they don’t occupy anything like the place in our collective memory of the war that they deserve.

Almost everyone in Britain knows that the Second World War started when Hitler sent his panzers into Poland. Stalin’s mirror invasion 16 days later, while not exactly forgotten, is not nearly so central in our narrative.

Which is, if you think about it, very odd. The Nazi-Soviet Pact lasted for 22 months – a third of the duration of the entire conflict. We remember, with pride, that we stood alone against Hitler. But in reality, our fathers’ isolation – and commensurate heroism – was even greater than this suggests. I can think of no braver moment in the war than when, having already declared war on Hitler, we prepared to open a new front against Stalin, too. British commandos were on the verge of being deployed to defend Finland, while the Cabinet toyed with various schemes to seize the USSR’s oil supplies in the Caucasus.

In the event, such plans were overtaken by developments. Still, for sheer, bloody-minded gallantry, it was an unbeatable moment, beautifully captured in the reaction of Evelyn Waugh’s fictional hero, Guy Crouchback: “The enemy at last was plain in view, huge and hateful, all disguise cast off. It was the Modern Age in arms.”

Why do we downplay that memory? Largely because it doesn’t fit with what happened later. When Hitler attacked the USSR – to the utter astonishment of Stalin, who initially ordered his soldiers not to shoot back – it was in everyone’s interest to forget the earlier phase of the war. Western Communists, who had performed extraordinary acrobatics to justify their entente with fascism, now carried out another somersault and claimed that the Nazi-Soviet Pact had only ever been a tactical pause, a moment when Stalin brilliantly stalled while building up his military capacity. Even today, the historiographical imprint of that propaganda lingers.

To the modern reader, George Orwell’s depiction of how enmity alternates between Eurasia and Eastasia seems far-fetched; but when he published his great novel in 1948, such things were a recent memory. It suited Western Leftists, during and after the War, to argue that Hitler had been uniquely evil, certainly wickeder than Stalin. It was thus necessary to forget the enthusiasm with which the two tyrants had collaborated.

The full extent of their conspiracy is exposed in The Devils’ Alliance, a brilliant new history by Roger Moorhouse. Moorhouse is a sober and serious historian, writing with no obvious political agenda. Calmly, he tells the story of the Pact: its genesis, its operation and the reasons for its violent end. When recounting such a monstrous tale, it is proper to be calm: great events need no embroidery. What he reveals is a diabolical compact which, if it stopped just short of being an alliance, can in no way be thought of as a hiccup or anomaly.

The two totalitarian systems traded in all the necessary commodities of war: not just oil and vital chemicals, but arms and ships. They exhibited each other’s cultural achievements, performed each other’s music and films, stressed their joint hostility to Western capitalism.

The idea that there was an unbridgeable gap between Soviet Communism and National Socialism, which is nowadays so widespread, would have seemed curious at the time. To be sure, there were some in Moscow, and a few more in Berlin, who believed that there must eventually come a reckoning with their “real” enemy. But theirs were minority voices. Many more gladly went along with the idea that the two socialist systems were joined in battle against “decadent Anglo-Saxon liberalism”.

The coincidence in doctrine between the Nazis and the Soviets was obvious to the “decadent” Anglo-Saxons, too. The day after the Soviet invasion of Poland, a Times editorial observed that “Only those can be disappointed who clung to the ingenuous belief that Russia was to be distinguished from her Nazi neighbour, despite the identity of their institutions and political idiom, by her foreign policy”.

Nor was it only the “decadent liberals” in the Anglo-Saxon world who took this view. The first Briton to be tried for espionage was a Newcastle communist named George Armstrong, who had supplied German agents in Boston with information on the Atlantic convoys. He had been motivated by Molotov’s appeal to Leftists serving in Allied navies to desert as soon as they reached a neutral port.

Why, then, have we, if not exactly denied the episode, crammed it into a corner of our minds? In his Sword of Honour trilogy, Evelyn Waugh, largely through gentle subtext, told the story of how Soviet sympathisers in the West used the alliance with the USSR to rehabilitate its doctrines. Hayek, writing in 1944, devoted the greater part of his Road to Serfdom to refuting the idea that Nazism and Communism were opposed ideologies, well aware of how fervently this idea was being promoted.

He was right; but he made little impact. If you want to see how successful the propagandists of the time were, look at the reaction you get today when – as I did recently – you recite a few unadorned facts that point to the socialist nature of fascism.

Why did the Molotov-Ribbentrop carve-up come to an end? Not, as you might think, because of any doctrinal incompatibility between the two participants but, as Moorhouse demonstrates beyond doubt, for strategic reasons. Hitler had hoped that Stalin could be encouraged to turn his energies southward, falling on India “to co-operate with us in the great liquidation of the British Empire”. But Russia, then as now, was focused on her western rather than her southern neighbours. It was Stalin’s hunger for Bulgaria that Hitler found intolerable and that led to Operation Barbarossa.

Does any of this still matter? Yes, it matters immensely. First, and most obviously, it matters to the countries that were the victims of the carve-up. It was protests on the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that led to the ultimate independence of the Baltic States. It is important, too, to understand the shameful consequences of the pretence that Stalin was somehow not in the same league as Hitler. As late as the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, governments around the world, including in the West, were using a mealy-mouthed formula to regret the deaths of the Polish officers murdered at Katyn without directly blaming the Soviets.

Even today, we are so fixated on Hitler that we miss what was happening elsewhere at the time. How many journalists have lazily compared Putin’s annexations in Georgia and Ukraine to those of the Nazi leader? Putin is attacking neighbouring states, this is bad, so he must be like Hitler, right?

Except that there is a far, far better parallel. When Hitler seized his half of Poland, he didn’t pretend to be other than a conqueror. Part of his zone was incorporated into the Reich, the rest placed under military occupation. But Stalin? Here the story becomes eerily apt to our present age. Stalin claimed to be acting to protect the Ukrainian and Byelorussian minorities in Eastern Poland. Having seized his portion of land, he organised rigged elections, which produced new parliaments, which promptly petitioned to be allowed to join the USSR. Sound familiar?

It’s this lop-sidedness in our folk memory that we need to address. While Nazism is well understood as the monstrosity it was, there is often a lingering sense that Communism was well-intentioned, even though it went wrong. The merest connection with fascism bars a politician from office; yet those who actively supported the USSR are allowed to become ministers and European Commissioners. Wearing a Che Guevara tee-shirt is not regarded in the same light as wearing an Adolf Hitler tee-shirt; but it should be.

Don’t get me wrong. Every atrocity is unique in its own terrible way. The Nazi Holocaust haunts us for good reasons. Years after I saw it, I still find this image rising, unbidden, in my mind. Happily, though, no one, beyond a deranged fringe, denies the nature of Nazism. The same is not true of the Soviet tyranny.

Even now, Russia refuses to accept that its annexation of the Baltics was an “invasion”. Forty-seven per cent of Russians have “a positive view of Stalin” (just imagine how we would react if 47 per cent of Germans had “a positive view of Hitler”). To deny the magnitude of the Nazi genocide is, in several countries, a criminal offence; but to signal, with your idiotic Che tee-shirt, that you are all for breaking a few eggs to make an omelette, is radical chic. Germany has come to terms with its past and become a valued ally. But Russia?

Tags: Hitler, Milotov-Ribbentrop pact, Roger Moorhouse, socialist roots of fascism, Stalin, The Devils' Alliance

184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: June 09, 2015, 12:53:27 AM
A Tale of Two Crooks and the IRS
By Robin Smith

With her roots in Roman mythology, Lady Justice represents morality and virtue through three symbols. First, she holds a set of scales in her left hand, to weigh evidence with reason and in light of the law. Second, she wields a double-edged sword in her right hand, representing the remedy impartially provided after the facts are laid bare before her. And third, she wears a blindfold, signifying that the law must be applied with objectivity and equality.
Yet too often politicians seek to lift this blindfold, wanting to redefine justice based on the year’s election cycle or to subvert it through delays, denials and tactics that advance their agenda.
Let’s examine two cases in which the Internal Revenue Service has been used as a tool for political revenge and harassment, and how they reflect an assault on justice that should offend all.
Consider the identical approaches of Richard Nixon and Barack Obama. One a Republican and the other a Democrat, both illustrate power’s ability to corrupt to the extreme, instituting a false democracy where disagreement and disloyalty are silenced by heavy-handed tactics.
Nixon’s legacy as the 37th president is often defined by his impeachment. Posterity's view of Obama is still being penned, but both will be remembered for their unconstitutional misuse of government and for the tenured bureaucrats who willingly complied.
In the Articles of Impeachment adopted by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 1974, most remember Article I, which declared Nixon “impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors” committed surrounding the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel on June 17, 1972.
The charges leveled by Congress state, “Subsequent thereto, Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.”
The break-in and burglary were indeed illegal and brought disgrace to the office of the president. But the obstruction, delays and attempts to conceal the covert activities all demonstrated an egregiously deliberate abuse of the power afforded the president of the United States.
Yet those same Articles of Impeachment issue a second damning charge, accusing Nixon of “using the powers of the office of President of the United States … in violation of his constitutional oath.” Nixon “repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies."
Specifically, Nixon, “acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service” information of citizens he had on his “enemies list” who he deemed politically dangerous to his ambitions.
Today’s ongoing IRS scandal involves conservative political groups whose applications for tax-exempt status were deliberately slowed. This similar flagrant abuse of authority commenced during Obama’s first term, helping him win a second, and it features the Nixonian ingredients of willing participants who delay, obstruct and lie to protect the crimes against innocent citizens.
Last week, Mary Howard, the head Freedom of Information Act officer at the IRS, testified to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the agency set up a secret “special project team” comprised of “hundreds of attorneys,” including the IRS Chief Counsel (one of only two politically appointed positions at the IRS by the president himself). She said her “understanding was that it started soon after the request came from Congress and other investigators asking for documents around this whole issue,” which she surmised meant around spring 2013.
Not only were law-abiding citizens targeted by an agency of the U.S. government for their political and religious views, but Obama's henchmen implemented a plan to cover up this activity and delay information from getting into the hands of investigators. Key to this malfeasance is IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins — appointed by Obama — whose office has been directly connected in this harassment and abuse, which includes illegal requests and access to donor information.
Ironically, this unquestionable presidential corruption — the same as the misuse of power that ended in impeachment for Nixon — now leaves Republicans in fear of the political consequences for seeking justice. Democrats simply protect themselves through vindictive attacks and accusations of racism.
There was a day when the law was equally applied regardless of partisan stripe. And history has shown that both Republicans and Democrats can pursue justice for the honor and sake of our nation and Constitution. It's only a matter of time before future generations declare Obama and his administration as lawless, dishonorable deceivers of the American public, corrupt for the sake of ambition and political power.
Justice may be blind, but she’s not stupid.
185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rumbo Rumfield turns on Bush on: June 08, 2015, 10:06:01 PM
Hard to think of anyone more responsible for the foul ups than Rumbo.

186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bad SCOTUS decision on San Fran regs on: June 08, 2015, 05:06:01 PM
third post
187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Scalia a Creationist? on: June 08, 2015, 05:02:29 PM
188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury throws down the gauntlet to the DBMA forum on: June 08, 2015, 04:57:04 PM
Monday Morning Outlook
Don't Deny The Jobs Recovery To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein - Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 6/8/2015

Don’t Deny The Jobs Recovery
You would think that after 63 straight months of growth in private sector payrolls, the longest streak since the 1930s, everyone would agree that the job-market recovery is for real.  But, that ain’t the case.  A quick Google search still uncovers a whole bunch of pessimistic appraisals of jobs and the economy.
Analyzing these pessimists shows they have four major complaints about any supposed strength in the job market.
The first complaint is that the job growth is all or mostly part-time.  The numbers on part-timers come from the civilian employment survey, which is very useful over longer periods of time (like a year) but very volatile from month to month.
What does this report show?  That in the past year, part-time employment is up 196,000, while overall jobs are up about 3 million.  So, guess what?  The share of the workforce in part-time jobs has continued to fall – not rise.
Remember, these monthly numbers can be very volatile.  So, at least a couple of times per year, the numbers will show that “all” of the jobs in some certain month were part-time.  This brings the pessimists out of the woodwork.  Rush Limbaugh will talk all day about part-time jobs and Obamacare.  But, then, the data go back to normal and we don’t hear from the pessimists again (on this issue) until it happens again.  Meanwhile, they ignore the opposite trend month after month, while finding something else to complain about.
The second misleading story is that the number of adults not in the labor force (neither working nor looking for work) is at or near a record high.  The problem with this claim is that it’s both 100% true and 100% irrelevant.  The reason it’s irrelevant is that because of population growth, the number of non-working adults is usually rising whether we’re in recession of not.  For example, it grew by more than six million during the economic expansion from 1991 to 2001.
The third misleading pessimistic story about the job market is that the “true” unemployment rate is 10.8%, not the 5.5% the government says.  There are multiple problems with this claim.  First, what’s called the “true” unemployment rate is reported by the government in its monthly jobs data, so it’s not like the Labor Department is trying to hide anything.
This more expansive “true” unemployment rate (called the U-6) includes all those counted as unemployed by the regular jobless rate as well as people working part-time who say they’d prefer to work full-time, plus “discouraged” and “marginally-attached” workers.  In other words, it is always higher than the regular unemployment rate.  Traditionally, in good times or bad, it’s about 80% higher.  (So when the regular jobless rate was 4.4% back in March 2007, the so called “true” or U-6 unemployment rate was actually 8.0%.)
Today, the “true” unemployment rate is 10.8%, while the regular unemployment rate is 5.5%.  This is slightly above the normal relationship between the two measures, but back in 2009, the “true” unemployment rate was 17.1% - so both measures are lower than they were – the labor market is better no matter what data you use.
The last misleading story, which is still widespread, is that there might be more jobs but wages aren’t rising. Average hourly earnings are up only 2.3% from a year ago.  But with lower energy prices, overall consumer prices are barely higher than a year ago, which means “real” (inflation--adjusted) wages are up about 2% per hour since last year.  That easily beats the trend over the past several decades.
The pessimists would be more believable if they said, the economy and jobs would be better with a more free-market set of policies.  Lower tax rates, less regulation, and less government spending (particularly on entitlements) would all spur faster growth.  But to say things are “awful” is misleading.  Investors need to be wary of narratives that use the data to try to trick them into thinking the recovery isn’t there at all.  It’s important for investors to separate politics from economics.
189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Crafty Dog Health Progam on: June 08, 2015, 04:47:26 PM
"2.  'Isn't medical malpractice/liability a matter of state law?'  By their standard, nothing is a state matter.  This affects interstate commerce, right?"

But this is supposed to be OUR offering!!!

Anyway, what to do, what to do , , ,

As I have stated here previously, the sound bite gist of it is this:

"Insurance is for unexpected and potentially catastrophic events-- flood, fire, earthquake, tornado, big accidents, serious disease.   Insurance is NOT for overflowing toilets, burnt bacon in the kitchen, a lamp falling over during a tremor, or the boo boos and sniffles that you may have.   If insurance is used in that way, then everyone is spending the insurance company's money and not their own and the discipline of the market on prices is vitiated. 

Therefore day to day stuff is out of pocket.   Towards that end, PRICES MUST BE KNOWN; THEY MUST BE READILY AVAILABLE TO ALL POTENTIAL PATIENTS.

This approach will dramatically lower premium costs and restore market driven price behaviors to the health care market.

190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on the proposed regs on: June 08, 2015, 02:19:25 PM

second post
191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 08, 2015, 01:50:44 PM
Supreme Court Backs White House on Jerusalem Passport Dispute

In an important separation-of-powers decision, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Congress may not require the State Department to indicate in passports that Jerusalem is part of Israel.

The vote was 6 to 3, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissenting.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for five justices, said the question of the status of Jerusalem is “a delicate subject.” But he said the Constitution conferred exclusive authority on the president to recognize foreign governments.


192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: June 08, 2015, 12:38:08 PM
Well Charles blowhard is like that  cheesy

Posted so we can see how the other side thinks.
193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Charles Blow blows hard on: June 08, 2015, 04:06:37 AM
Black Dads Are Doing Best of All

JUNE 8, 2015

One of the most persistent statistical bludgeons of people who want to blame black people for any injustice or inequity they encounter is this: According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.), in 2013 in nearly 72 percent of births to non-Hispanic black women, the mothers were unmarried.

It has always seemed to me that embedded in the “If only black men would marry the women they have babies with…” rhetoric was a more insidious suggestion: that there is something fundamental, and intrinsic about black men that is flawed, that black fathers are pathologically prone to desertion of their offspring and therefore largely responsible for black community “dysfunction.”

There is an astounding amount of mythology loaded into this stereotype, one that echoes a history of efforts to rob black masculinity of honor and fidelity.

Josh Levs points this out in his new book, “All In,” in a chapter titled “How Black Dads Are Doing Best of All (But There’s Still a Crisis).” One fact that Levs quickly establishes is that most black fathers in America live with their children: “There are about 2.5 million black fathers living with their children and about 1.7 million living apart from them.”

“So then,” you may ask, “how is it that 72 percent of black children are born to single mothers? How can both be true?”

Good question.

Here are two things to consider:

First, there are a growing number of people who live together but don’t marry. Those mothers are still single, even though the child’s father may be in the home. And, as The Washington Post reported last year:

“The share of unmarried couples who opted to have ‘shotgun cohabitations’ — moving in together after a pregnancy — surpassed ‘shotgun marriages’ for the first time during the last decade, according to a forthcoming paper from the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Furthermore, a 2013 C.D.C. report found that black and Hispanic women are far more likely to experience a pregnancy during the first year of cohabitation than white and Asian women.

Second, some of these men have children by more than one woman, but they can only live in one home at a time. This phenomenon means that a father can live with some but not all of his children. Levs calls these men “serial impregnators,” but I think something more than promiscuity and irresponsibility are at play here.

As Forbes reported on Ferguson, Mo.:

“An important but unreported indicator of Ferguson’s dilemma is that half of young African-American men are missing from the community. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, while there are 1,182 African-American women between the ages of 25 and 34 living in Ferguson, there are only 577 African-American men in this age group. In other words there are more than two young black women for each young black man in Ferguson.”

In April, The New York Times extended this line of reporting, pointing out that nationally, there are 1.5 million missing black men. As the paper put it: “Incarceration and early deaths are the overwhelming drivers of the gap. Of the 1.5 million missing black men from 25 to 54 — which demographers call the prime-age years — higher imprisonment rates account for almost 600,000. Almost one in 12 black men in this age group are behind bars, compared with one in 60 nonblack men in the age group, one in 200 black women and one in 500 nonblack women.” For context, there are about eight million African-American men in that age group overall.

Mass incarceration has disproportionately ensnared young black men, sucking hundreds of thousands of marriage-age men out of the community.

Another thing to consider is something that The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out in 2013: “The drop in the birthrate for unmarried black women is mirrored by an even steeper drop among married black women. Indeed, whereas at one point married black women were having more kids than married white women, they are now having less.” This means that births to unmarried black women are disproportionately represented in the statistics.

Now to the mythology of the black male dereliction as dads: While it is true that black parents are less likely to marry before a child is born, it is not true that black fathers suffer a pathology of neglect. In fact, a C.D.C. report issued in December 2013 found that black fathers were the most involved with their children daily, on a number of measures, of any other group of fathers — and in many cases, that was among fathers who didn’t live with their children, as well as those who did.

There is no doubt that the 72 percent statistic is real and may even be worrisome, but it represents more than choice. It exists in a social context, one at odds with the corrosive mythology about black fathers.☐
194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Report on Egypt on: June 08, 2015, 04:02:31 AM
CAIRO — Egypt is moving away from democracy, stifling freedom of expression, arresting thousands for political dissent and failing to hold the security forces accountable for “arbitrary or unlawful killings,” the Obama administration has determined in a formal report to Congress.

The administration concludes in the same report that Egypt is nevertheless too important to national security to end the roughly $1.5 billion a year it receives in American aid, most of it military. But after making that conclusion, the report proceeds to recite a discordant litany of the Egyptian government’s abuses and failings, apparently seeking to stop just short of the kind of embrace Washington once gave the strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Quietly submitted to Congress on May 12 without public announcement, the report captures the awkwardness of Washington’s rapidly shifting views of Egypt: first backing President Mubarak, then the 2011 revolt that ousted him, and now rebuilding ties with a new strongman, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Western diplomats are increasingly seeking to make the best of their relationship with Mr. Sisi, the former general who led a military takeover here two years ago, deposing the elected president, even amid reports that his government is tightening its crackdown on dissent.

“America is making the same mistake it did when they were supporting Hosni Mubarak,” said Mohamed Lotfy, a human rights advocate who was stopped last week at Cairo’s airport to prevent him from traveling to Germany during a visit there by Mr. Sisi.

By crushing hopes for peaceful and democratic political change, “Sisi is creating a new generation of terrorists, and exporting them to Syria and Iraq,” Mr. Lotfy said, while the United States has damaged its credibility in the region by “contradicting its values — or at least the values that it tries to export in speeches.”

Activists suggest that the Egyptian government may be cracking down now in anticipation of a call for a general strike by one of the activist groups that kicked off the revolt against Mr. Mubarak in 2011. It may also be preparing for potential protests at the end of the month, on the second anniversary of Mr. Sisi’s ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

In recent weeks, the Egyptian police have detained at least three leaders of the left-leaning April 6 group, which has tried to call for the general strike on Thursday, and rights groups say several other activists have been rounded up or disappeared as well.

Mr. Lotfy said his group, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, was tracking the disappearances of 10 people, and Mona Seif, another activist, said she had confirmed 17.

Magdy Ashour, an Islamist activist who was featured in a documentary about the 2011 uprising called “The Square,” has also been detained, according to news reports.

Negad el-Borai, a prominent human rights lawyer, said he expected to be arrested as well, having been called in three times in recent weeks for interrogation about his opposition to torture and his previous work for human rights groups.

“Because of my past activities, I think they want revenge,” Mr. Borai said in an interview. “It will be a very hard summer.”

A talk show host, Reem Magued, was recently removed from the airwaves, and she said in an interview on another television program that her network, OnTV, had canceled her show because of government pressure. Its executives told her “there are pressures from a ‘sovereign institution’ ” — an intelligence agency, she said.

There have been efforts to suppress labor actions as well. On Sunday, a new video emerged showing soldiers firing into a crowd of workers at a military-owned cement factory in Sinai, apparently in an attempt to squelch a possible demonstration.

Two workers present, speaking on the condition of anonymity for their safety, said in separate telephone interviews that a group of workers had been approaching the administration office to request an ambulance for an injured colleague when the soldiers began shooting, killing at least one and wounding at least two others.

Spokesmen for the military, the Interior Ministry and the Foreign Ministry did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch, accused the Obama administration of shrugging off such rights violations even though “the government’s own memo acknowledges a laundry list of the worst human rights abuses.”

But Amy Hawthorne, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former State Department official, noted that the administration could have kept the report vague or even classified but chose to lay out at least some of the criticism.

“They are not doing as the U.S. did with the Mubarak regime — attempting to praise the regime for cosmetic steps at reform or downplay serious rights abuses,” she said.

The administration’s report credits Egypt with beginning to overhaul its economy by cutting subsidies, increasing taxes and improving the business climate, “including for U.S. businesses.” Because Egypt is the most populous Arab state and a bellwether in the region, its “success or failure impacts the prospects of peace, stability, democracy and economic growth across the Middle East,” it says.

But “the overall trajectory for rights and democracy has been negative,” the report continues. “A series of executive initiatives, new laws and judicial actions severely restrict freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and due process, and they undermine prospects for democratic governance.”

It noted that four American-Egyptian dual citizens were in Egyptian jails for cases with “potentially political overtones”; one of the four, Mohamed Soltan, was recently released and deported.

“Government forces have committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the dispersal of demonstrators, of persons in custody, and during military operations in the Northern Sinai Peninsula,” the report says, adding that Egyptian security forces killed “at least 1,000” in one day when they cleared two Islamist sit-ins on Aug. 14, 2013.

“The government has not held accountable any individual or government entities for violence associated with the clearing operations,” the report continues, adding, “Impunity remains a serious problem.”

Merna Thomas contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on June 8, 2015, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline:
195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gov. Rick Perry on Dodd-Frank, Wall Street,etc. on: June 08, 2015, 03:55:58 AM
196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / State Dept proposes regs to control internet speech on: June 08, 2015, 03:54:15 AM
197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: June 08, 2015, 12:40:27 AM
No, President Obama has decided that there are no consequences for these actions.   cry cry cry
198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: June 07, 2015, 05:07:34 PM
Turkey’s Ruling Party Loses Parliamentary Majority
Turkish voters delivered a rebuke on Sunday to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as his party lost its majority in Parliament in a historic election that ended, for now, his ambition to rewrite the Constitution and expand his powers as president.
It was also a significant victory to the cadre of Kurds, liberals and secular Turks who found their voice of opposition to Mr. Erdogan during sweeping antigovernment protests two years ago.

199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: June 07, 2015, 02:39:09 PM

"allowing Americans to purchase policies across state lines"

I've pushed this one here for a while now.  This is the only one I see that is likely to gather positive notice.

"reforming medical liability laws"

Good idea but not a particularly potent idea.  Question-- Isn't this a matter of State laws?

"removing any subsidy assistance"

Politically this will be a BIG negative.   Something potent will be needed to offset this and then some.

"increasing tax benefits"

In that the rich are the ones paying taxes, this will be portrayed as subsidizing the rich while ending subsidies for the poor.

"expanding federal funding for state “high-risk pools,”"

probably a good idea to answer the pre-existing condition issue.

"and investing in research for the most common causes of death in the United States.”

Pork to placate; I doubt it will serve that function very well.
200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: June 07, 2015, 02:13:41 PM
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