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151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: August 02, 2014, 11:30:24 AM
Question BD:


a) Obama refused to enforce certain provision of Obamacare because to have done so would have revealed the flaws of the law right before the elections.  What remedy?

b) Obama "rewrote" various (24 I have heard) provisions of the law.  What remedy?
152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bait & Switch on: August 02, 2014, 11:22:48 AM
I'd be real interested in everyone's take on this:

http://thefederalist.com/2014/04/09/bait-and-switch-how-same-sex-marriage-ends-marriage-and-family-autonomy/#.U9P1aFnrwY0.facebook

153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Hamas' tunnel tactics giving Israel a hard time on: August 02, 2014, 11:05:51 AM
In Tunnel War, Israeli Playbook Offers Few Ideas
NYT
By ISABEL KERSHNERAUG. 1, 2014

JERUSALEM — Israel entered its latest conflict with Hamas armed with a high-tech arsenal, real-time battlefield intelligence and strong domestic support for dealing a heavy blow to Hamas.

But again on Friday, Israeli forces were taken by surprise, this time with two soldiers killed and one taken prisoner when militants once again attacked from a tunnel in Gaza.

As frustration grows in Israel over the military’s limited success so far in trying to neutralize Hamas, the militant Islamic group that governs Gaza, some military experts say it is increasingly evident that the Israel Defense Forces have been operating from an old playbook and are not fully prepared for a more sophisticated, battle-ready adversary. The issue is not specifically the tunnels — which Israel knew about — but the way Hamas fighters trained to use them to create what experts in Israel are calling a “360-degree front.”

 

“Hamas has changed its doctrine and is using the tunnels as a main method of operation,” said Israel Ziv, a retired general who headed the military’s Gaza division and its operations directorate. “This is something we learned amid the fighting.”


An underground look at Hamas’s tunnels into Israel.
Video Credit By Carrie Halperin and Sofia Perpetua on Publish Date July 22, 2014. Image CreditJim Hollander/European Pressphoto Agency

Of the 32 fortified tunnels that the Israeli military has exposed so far, at least 11 run deep beneath the border into Israeli territory. Others are part of an underground labyrinth inside Gaza connecting buildings, weapons stores and concealed rocket launchers.

Israeli troops in Gaza described Hamas gunmen who vanished from one house, like magicians, and suddenly popped up to fire at them from another. And while Hamas fighters are able to use the tunnels to surprise the forces from behind and to attack those in the rear, Israeli soldiers find themselves having to improvise.

In the Gaza war that began in late 2008, 10 Israeli soldiers were killed, four of them from friendly fire. This time, 63 soldiers have been killed, mostly in combat, and one is now a prisoner.

“The military has been playing it by ear,” said Amos Harel, a military affairs analyst for the newspaper Haaretz, who added that despite the Israeli military’s knowledge of the tunnels, its planners did not draft a new doctrine for prosecuting a land invasion. “But it is pretty good at doing that, and has done it many times.”

In this latest asymmetrical war with Hamas, the third in five years, Israel thought it was prepared. It had built up an integrated communications systems able to transfer intelligence in real time to air and ground forces, an advancement that military officials called a “force multiplier.”

Precision-guided missiles have destroyed up to a third of Hamas’s rocket stocks, according to Israeli officials, as well as hundreds of houses or apartments that the military described as militant command-and-control centers and many other weapons production sites and stores. In 24 days of intense bombing, 4,300 targets have been hit.
Photo
Israeli soldiers prepare to enter Gaza. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

Hamas still has up to 4,000 rockets, beyond the more than 3,000 that it has fired into Israel. More than 1,600 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians, according to Gaza officials, stirring international outrage and raising demands for a cease-fire.
Continue reading the main story

And while Israel says it has killed hundreds of militants and arrested scores more, Hamas’s senior military command and political leadership remain intact.

“The leadership hides underground, like under Shifa Hospital,” said Eado Hecht, a military analyst who teaches at the Israeli military’s Command and General Staff College and at Bar-Ilan and Haifa Universities.

What Israel was apparently less ready for was Hamas fighters who are willing to engage and are trained to use tunnels, a tool of war whose roots go back to antiquity. During Israel’s last ground incursion in the winter of 2008-9, Hamas fighters largely avoided clashes, melting into the crowded urban landscape. This time, they were prepared for combat.

“What surprised me was the operational plans they built,” said Atai Shelach, a former commander of the military’s combat engineering unit.

The tunnels themselves, while well known, have also presented a challenge. After years of research there is still no technological solution for detecting and destroying them from afar, officials said. The shafts leading to Hamas’s labyrinth are “inside houses, so we won’t see them from the air,” said Mr. Hecht, the military analyst.
Continue reading the main story
Graphic
In Gaza, a Pattern of Conflict

Similarities and differences in the last three major conflicts between Israel and Hamas.
OPEN Graphic

“You have to go house to house and check,” he added.

On Thursday, the military distributed video footage of two tunnel shafts discovered under a prayer room in a mosque.

As Israel’s forces have slowly advanced, they have pummeled neighborhoods with heavy artillery, which analysts said was militarily necessary to safeguard soldiers. Those tactics have also drawn international condemnation for devastating civilian homes and infrastructure, and taking so many lives. “In a dense urban environment, you need to use aggressive force to save soldiers’ lives,” Mr. Harel, the military affairs analyst, said.

Special forces are equipped with portable Israeli-made Spike antitank guided missiles with ranges of 1.5 to 15 miles. Yiftah Shapir, a weapons expert at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, said they could be used for almost anything, and were so accurate that they could pinpoint a window on a building.

Hamas has also upgraded its weaponry. Aside from its rockets, some of which can reach almost to the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, its arsenal includes antiaircraft and antitank missiles.

The number of Palestinian casualties in Gaza is comparable to that in the 2008-9 conflict, when about 1,400 were killed, according to Palestinian figures. Israel put the figure at closer to 1,120.
Photo
Tanks near the border. Frustration is growing in Israel over the military’s limited success so far in trying to neutralize Hamas. Credit Uriel Sinai for The New York Times

Still, a decisive Israeli victory over Hamas remains elusive.

“The question is not military; the question is what does Israel want,” said Yaakov Amidror, a retired general who served as Israel’s national security adviser until November. To bring complete quiet to Gaza would require a takeover and occupation of the territory for six months to a year, he said. Israel, which unilaterally withdrew its forces and settlements from the Gaza Strip in 2005, has little appetite to return.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story

What is left, military officials say, is to create deterrence. In recent years, Israeli strategists have spoken of the “Dahiya doctrine,” referring to Israel’s flattening of the Dahiya district in Beirut, a Shiite neighborhood that housed the command-and-control headquarters of Hezbollah, during its 34-day war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. The idea was to inflict such damage that the other side would decide confrontation was not worthwhile.

While many Israelis deemed that war a failure, it has restored quiet to Israel’s northern border for the last eight years.

But experts say the Dahiya doctrine does not apply to Gaza. The Hamas command is not concentrated in one area, and the leader of the movement, Khaled Meshal, lives in exile, “in a five-star hotel in Qatar,” as Mr. Amidror put it, where the impact of the destruction is less immediate.

Gabi Siboni, who runs the military and strategic affairs program at the Institute for National Security Studies, said another reason was that Hamas “is not accountable, not to the world and not to its citizens.” By embedding its forces and fighting from within the population centers, he said, Hamas has raised its willingness “to sacrifice” its civilians “to an art form.”

Hamas has said it is fighting to lift the economic blockade from Gaza and wants an opening of the passages controlled by Israel and Egypt, among other things — demands that would be addressed if substantive cease-fire talks were to take place in Cairo. Israel wants blocks on Hamas’s ability to rearm and, eventually, to see Gaza demilitarized.
154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Typical CNN on: August 02, 2014, 10:55:04 AM


http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/08/01/you-are-a-bunch-of-liars-cnn-slammed-online-for-publishing-this-tweet-after-gaza-cease-fire-crumbled/
155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: August 02, 2014, 10:52:59 AM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/08/02/obama-administration-is-not-to-ever-second-guess-me-again-israeli-prime-minister-lashes-out/

156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Green Energy for Dead Vets on: August 02, 2014, 10:22:50 AM

This was published in the Canada Free Press and some  blogs. [And not in the US press?  Surprise surprise. ]
 

 
 
Green Energy for Dead Vets
Daniel Greenfield
Three years before Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki would be forced out of his job because of the veterans who had died under him, he visited the Massachusetts National Cemetery . He wasn't there to see the men and women who had died because of him.
 
While vets were dying, Obama and Shinseki had turned their attention to something truly important; seeing to it that all the cemeteries where they were being buried had wind or solar power.
 
The Massachusetts National Cemetery was getting a wind turbine so that the dead veterans would have all the sustainable energy they needed.
 
A VA press release about the cemetery turbine boasted that "under the leadership of Secretary Eric K. Shinseki... VA is transitioning into a 21st century organization that better serves America ’s Veterans."
 
Shinseki arrived in person at the dedication ceremony to flip the switch on the cemetery wind turbine.
 
“Nationally, VA continues to expand its investment in renewable sources of energy to promote our Nation’s energy independence, save taxpayer dollars, and improve care for our Veterans and their families,” he said.
 
The cemetery turbine had cost $533,000. Veterans were dying to save the VA a few hundred dollars. Shinseki had made his order of priorities clear. Green energy boondoggles came first. Improving veteran care came last.
 
Acting Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Steve Muro told the crowd, "With one of VA’s first wind turbine projects, the Massachusetts National Cemetery is leading the way in the use of renewable energy while providing the burial benefits that New England Veterans and their families have earned."
 
Muro had made the entire macabre spectacle worthy of a Joseph Heller novel. Obama's people had not only killed veterans, they had killed satire.
 
When the VA wasn't installing a wind turbine at a cemetery, it was installing solar panels at cemeteries to better serve the dead veterans that it was killing.
 
The Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery’s solar panels cost $787,308. According to the press release, the solar panels in the cemetery would "reduce greenhouse gas emissions".
 
$742,034 worth of solar panels was put in at the Calverton National Cemetery .  The San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery got an $800,000 solar panel setup. The Riverside National Cemetery got a $1.3 million solar system.
 
“We are investing in clean energy and renewable energy projects at our national cemeteries to reduce our environmental footprint,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki declared. ”The transition toward these renewable energy sources helps VA continue to be a leading example of going green in the federal government.”
 
Vets might be dying at VA facilities, but they would have solar panels and wind turbines over their graves so that Shineski could provide Obama with a leading example of “greenness”.
 
The cemeteries may have been where the VA's scandal of shorting care for vets ended, under the shade of solar panels and wind turbines, but it was not where it began.
 
The VA scandal began at the Phoenix VA Health Care System where administrators earned promotions and bonuses by shunting patients who needed treatment into fake waiting lists.
 
 
As many as 40 veterans had died while waiting for care and 1,715 veterans in the Phoenix VA Health Care System had waited more than 90 days for an appointment. A retired Navy serviceman died of bladder cancer after being put on a 7-month waiting list after blood was found in his urine. He finally received an appointment a week after his death.
 
But each and every year, from 2009 to 2011, the Phoenix VA Health Care System put in solar panels. The solar panels at the Carl T. Hayden VA in Phoenix cost $20 million.
 
That $20 million could have saved the lives of dying veterans.
 
In 2009, Obama had signed a Green Energy executive order. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki had announced that "in order to continue providing Veterans with the best health care and benefit services, VA must adapt to climate change."
 
Not only did Global Warming have nothing to do with serving veterans, but it got in the way of the VA's central mission. While Shinseki was focused on building solar panels so the sky wouldn't fall, veterans were waiting months to see a doctor.
 
At some South Texas facilities vets had to wait 85 days for a primary care appointment and 55 days for a mental health appointment with  "a worst-in-the-nation, 145-day average wait for new patients seeking specialist care".
 
One of the vets waiting for a mental health appointment, who suffered from waiting list cheating, committed suicide.
 
Meanwhile the South Texas Veterans Health Care System installed a 1.7 MW solar PV system.
 
The Amarillo VA Health Care System had the third longest wait times for mental health appointments in the country. Its Thomas E. Creek office complained of a lack of resources. Meanwhile $10 million was spent on solar panels.
 
Hawaii has the longest waiting list for veterans with an average of 145 days for an appointment at the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center.
 
Meanwhile it was spending between $1 and $2 million on a 119 KW Solar PV System.
 
Veterans at Kansas VAs had to wait more than 90 days. 977 never had appointments scheduled. There were 104 vets on the waiting list at the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center in Wichita .
 
But while the Dole Center may not have had time for vets, it did have time to set up solar panels.
 
Three mental health administrators at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville , Florida were suspended for keeping a waiting list for over 200 vets. Meanwhile the facility had blown between$5 and $10 million on a solar panel system.
 
The Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center put 3,000 vets on a phantom waiting list to see a doctor who doesn't see patients.
 
Unfortunately its $20.3 million solar setup was all too real.
 
The average wait time for new patients at the Carl Vinson VA Medical Center was about 57 days to see a primary care doctor.  But that just gave vets more time to admire its new $1.1 million solar setup.
 
The Bay Pines VA Health Care System didn't schedule appointments for 1,000 vets. But it did find the time and money to put in solar panels. The Cheyenne VA Medical Center, which was caught removing vets from the waiting list, had not one, but two, million dollar solar setups.
 
The Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center , which was one of three flagged facilities, was part of a $50 million VA solar panel contract.
 
Vets couldn't get appointments, but every VA facility was getting solar power, whether it needed it or not.
 
The Buffalo VA Medical Center in upstate New York , where winter is the best 8 months of the year, got solar. So did the VA center in the Bronx in New York City . The New York VA solar contracts were part of $7.8 million in solar contracts awarded to one company.
 
Meanwhile in Southeast Texas, the former associate chief of staff at the VA said that a cost-cutting policy had been implemented under which colonoscopies would only be approved if the patient tested positive in three successive screenings for bloody stools.
 
“By the time that you do the colonoscopies on these patients, you went from a stage 1 to a stage 4, which is basically inoperable,” Dr. Richard Krugman said. "That was done because of dollars and cents. For the VA, they have to be bleeding out of their rectum before they would authorize a colonoscopy."
 
Everyone has their priorities. Benghazi and the VA scandal happened because the men who died were a low priority compared to solar panels and buying bad art for embassies. The State Department spent millions on art for embassies and mansion renovations, but begrudged the security that would have saved four American lives. Fortunes were spent on solar panels and wind turbines for VA facilities, but veterans died of cancer to save money on a colonoscopy.
 
The corrupt obsession with Green Energy doesn't just waste money, it costs lives. The fanaticism of the Global Warmists in the White House led them to disregard the lives of vets because they thought that saving the world with solar panels and wind turbines was more important.
 
The VA's Green Management Program Office claimed that it would "keep our promises to Veterans through sustainability." Instead it focused on "Environmental Justice" and "Green Purchasing" at the expense of veterans. Solar panels went up and veterans went down.
 
While they were putting in wind and solar at VA facilities and cemeteries, they forgot about the veterans who had served their country and deserved better than to be sacrificed for a solar panel.
157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What the Russians are thinking on: August 02, 2014, 01:36:36 AM
With conflict continuing in Ukraine, Russian forces massed on the Ukrainian border and the Russian economy in trouble, now is as good a time as ever to check up on what the average Russian is thinking. Reliable polls are hard to come by in Russia's spin-filled media, but Levada, which released a new round of polls Thursday, is considered by Westerners and Russians alike to be fairly unbiased, making the polls worthy of a deeper look.
 

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

The polls, which were mostly taken on July 21 (four days after Malaysian Airlines flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine), show Russians' views on a number of topics, including Russia's involvement in Ukraine, culpability for the crash and Western sanctions against Russia.
Russia Poll - Ukraine
Click to Enlarge

In the first set of polls, it is clear that most of the Russian population does not support direct military intervention in Ukraine, and only half support technical military assistance (such as consultations between militaries). This sentiment is critical when analyzing the buildup of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin could have a contingent military plan for Ukraine, but carrying out that plan likely would generate significant domestic backlash.
Russia Poll - Territory
Click to Enlarge

Russians are thinking about Moscow's influence not only in Ukraine, but also in Russia's entire neighborhood. Russians are very aware of their country's geopolitical imperative to maintain buffer space (such as Ukraine) along its borderlands.

One of the primary reasons Russia has cited when threatening to intervene in its neighbors' territories is to protect ethnic Russians residing in those countries. This reason became part of Russia's National Security Doctrine in 2010, something Russia's neighbors -- ranging from the Baltics to Kazakhstan -- have all been wary of. A recent poll shows that the Russian population's support for protecting ethnic Russians abroad has dropped significantly -- 15 percent since March. This is an important shift in sentiment because it decreases support for Russian interventions further outside its borders. Of course, Russians make an exception for Moscow's annexation of Crimea because most Russians feel the territory has always been Russia's.
Russia Poll - Crash
Click to Enlarge

Another poll just released shows that the bulk of the Russian population believes that Ukraine is responsible for the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17. In the past two weeks, Russian media has actively diverted attention from the West's assertion that the Kremlin is supporting the separatists who are reportedly responsible for the crash. Such domestic perceptions will be key to Putin's ability to maintain support at home amid growing international admonitions and if new evidence is revealed proving the Kremlin's involvement with the separatists reportedly at fault.
Russia Poll - Sanctions
Click to Enlarge

In addition to Russian media shifting the domestic focus to Ukraine, Russian politicians continually have downplayed -- and at times laughed off -- Western sanctions on Russia. Already, the top concern for Russians is the declining state of the Russian economy, but most of the recent sanctions on Russia do not appear to be a factor in this concern. Most Russians believe that the sanctions will not affect them, only Russian elites.

There are visible splits among Putin's loyalists over the effects of the sanctions on Russia, while the official line from the Kremlin has been that the sanctions will not seriously affect the country. The Kremlin is attempting to prevent domestic sentiment from shifting to panic over the economy. Its strategy appears to be successful thus far, but as the effects of economic stagnation start to trickle down more, the Kremlin will have difficulty maintaining a sense of positivity.

Read more: What the Russians Are Thinking | Stratfor

158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Charge: Clintons turned State Dept. into a racket on: August 02, 2014, 01:30:03 AM


http://washingtonexaminer.com/charge-clintons-turned-the-state-department-into-a-racket-to-line-their-own-pockets/article/2551448



Bill and Hillary Clinton are coming under fire today after State Department documents showed that officials rubber-stamped the former president’s expansive and sometimes high-priced overseas speaking engagements while his wife was in charge of foreign policy with many of those nations.

“These documents are a bombshell and show how the Clintons turned the State Department into a racket to line their own pockets,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. Judicial Watch and the Washington Examiner teamed to seek and publish those documents today.

“How the Obama State Department waived hundreds of ethical conflicts that allowed the Clintons and their businesses to accept money from foreign entities and corporations seeking influence boggles the mind,” said Fitton, adding, “That former President Clinton trotted the globe collecting huge speaking fees while his wife presided over U.S. foreign policy is an outrage."

The Examiner reported that the former president gave 215 speeches and earned $48 million while Hillary Clinton was at State.

The joint investigation also found Foggy Bottom didn’t object to a single proposed speech.

The duo’s income has become an issue in her burgeoning presidential campaign. They have a net worth of an estimated $80 million, with much of their bank account built on speech fees collected by Bill Clinton from venues around the world.

Said Judicial Watch:

    Mr. Clinton’s speeches included appearances in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Central America, Europe, Turkey, Thailand, Taiwan, India and the Cayman Islands. Sponsors of the speeches included some of the world’s largest financial institutions — Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, American Express and others — as well as major players in technology, energy, health care and media. Other speech sponsors included a car dealership, casino groups, hotel operators, retailers, real estate brokers, a Panamanian air cargo company and a sushi restaurant.

Editor's note: Judicial Watch is representing the Washington Examiner in the newspaper's federal lawsuit seeking access to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau records under FOIA.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.
159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIS opens the world's bigtgest bazaar of violence on: August 02, 2014, 01:12:58 AM
Many interesting implications in BD's post, and in the one that follows too:
================================


ISIS Opens The World's Biggest Bazaar of Violence
Posted: 01 Aug 2014 03:32 PM PDT
ISIS isn't a state and it's not your typicaly insurgency. It's much more interesting than that. ISIS is a marketplace -- a freewheeling bazaar of violence -- and it is rapidly expanding.  

So far, it's been very successful:

   it operates freely in an area bigger than most countries (and it has lots of oil),
   it's been attracting the participation of a growing number of organizations and individuals, and
   it's financially successful and self-funding (it's already made billions of $$ from oil, crime, bank robberies, and more).

This success is due to the fact that ISIS isn't trying to build a "state."  It's not a government.

It's a bazaar in an autonomous zone.  It operates outside of the global system.  It doesn't want to be a state (which would make it vulnerable).  
This bazaar was built for one purpose:  perpetual expansion and continuous warfare.

To keep things running, ISIS offers a minimalist, decentralized governance.  Day-to-day life is governed by a simple, decentralized rule set: Sharia Law.
Participation is open to everyone willing to live under Sharia and able to expand the bazaar to new areas.

The strategies and tactics ISIS uses are open sourced.  Any group or individual can advance them, as long as they can demonstrate they work.  
Weapons and other technologies needed for war are developed, shared and sold between participants and the pace of development (based on previous expamples is very quick).

Making money through criminal activity is highly encouraged.  Mercenary work is encouraged.  

All of these attributes (and more) make ISIS hard to fight (something similar to this fought US forces to a standstill for four years in a much less advanced state until Petraeus started using a strategy similar to this).

 It's also a good demonstration that global guerrillas are the cockroaches of warfare.  Once they become established, they are nearly impossible to get rid of.
160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / California outlaws best weapons from being sold. on: August 01, 2014, 05:11:19 PM


http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/california-democrats-outlaw-best-weapons-from-being-sold-in-state/
161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paine, 1776, the mercy of the enemy on: August 01, 2014, 04:37:54 PM
"It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf." --Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 1, 1776
162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama and War on: August 01, 2014, 04:34:09 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/eliot-cohen-obama-does-not-accept-war-for-what-it-is/2014/07/31/8f27346e-1830-11e4-9e3b-7f2f110c6265_story.html
163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gowdy starts warming up on: August 01, 2014, 04:28:45 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/07/31/trey-gowdy-interrogates-democrat-invited-law-prof-on-irs-scandal-watch-what-happens-when-the-witness-doesnt-answer-his-questions/
164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Dr. Ben Carson on: August 01, 2014, 03:06:32 PM
Fun question.  Let's take it to the 2016 campaign thread.
165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Dr. Ben Carson on: August 01, 2014, 11:44:56 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/1/ben-carson-takes-major-step-toward-presidential-ca/
166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Botageddon on: August 01, 2014, 01:10:21 AM
Global Guerrillas

________________________________________
Botageddon
Posted: 31 Jul 2014 01:23 PM PDT
I've been digging deeply into the future of bots and warfare for a booklet I'm putting out. 

The more I dig, the more I believe that bots are more dangerous than  terrorist attacks and global climate change, by a country mile.
 
I'm calling it botageddon. 

It's a conflict that's both potentially devastating to the human race and less than thirty years out. 

Less than thirty years?  Yes.  That's the point when the number of bots on the planet outnumber us 1,000 to one (or more, much more).
The way things are going right now, a conflict where bots take the central stage will happen so fast, nobody will be prepared for it or stop it. 
Shoot, we've already put increasingly autonomous bots at the top of the violence food chain. 

My advice: get ready folks. 

The last generation had the cold war and the one before that had WW2.  The botageddon is the confrontation everyone under 50 living today, was born to fight. 

BTW:  In this fight, a shotgun won't be of much use, despite what this ad suggests.
 


167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: August 01, 2014, 12:43:36 AM
As a Separation of Powers issue of profound C'l importance, that discussion belongs in that thread on the CSH forum.
168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Couirt says Obama-Holder must turn over OFF documents on: July 31, 2014, 09:25:20 PM


http://www.tpnn.com/2014/07/31/breaking-court-says-obama-admin-must-turn-over-fast-and-furious-documents/
169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taiwan expands South China Sea Facilities on: July 31, 2014, 09:23:15 PM

Share
Taiwan Expands South China Sea Facilities but Remains Constrained
Analysis
July 31, 2014 | 0415 Print Text Size
Taiwan Expands South China Sea Facilities but Remains Constrained

A Taiwanese navy frigate takes part in an exercise in waters off the southern naval base of Tsoying on July 21. (Mandy Cheng/AFP/Getty Images)

Summary

Shifting maritime security architecture in the South and East China seas is slowly pushing Taipei to expand its defense priorities. Increasingly, regional maritime disputes are taking on a military dimension, threatening the legitimacy of Taiwan's own claims as well as its ability to safeguard the islands it controls against mainland China, Vietnam and the Philippines. As a result, Taiwan appears to be considering a remilitarization of the Taiwan-administered Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba, one of the largest of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. As with the other nations fortifying nearby claims in the South China Sea, however, Taiwan will be constricted in its ability to defend Taiping were conflict to erupt.

Analysis

As tensions continue to escalate in the disputed South China Sea, claimant countries are accelerating construction activities in the islands that they control. Mainland China has recently initiated a land reclamation project to expand reefs, atolls and islets under its purview, and the Philippines and Vietnam plan to expand installations on their own claims. With this in mind, Taiwan has abandoned its less confrontational strategy and moved to improve its facilities on Taiping Island. This reflects Taipei's growing concern about the activities of rival claimants in the sea and, more important, an ability to increase focus on defense at the time of relaxed military tension with Beijing.

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Taiping Island is located more than 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) from the southern tip of Taiwan. With an area of 0.46 square kilometers (0.18 square miles), it is one of the largest of the Spratly Islands and one of the few in the group with its own freshwater supply. Taiwan's claims go back to 1946, when the government on the mainland claimed the island. After its defeat by the Chinese communists, the government in Taiwan retained control of the island, beginning formal military occupation in the 1950s. In 1999, as part of a more pragmatic approach to rival claimants in Southeast Asia, Taipei handed over the defense of the island to the coast guard in order to focus military capabilities on the emerging naval and missile threat from Beijing.

Growing competition around the disputed islands in recent years has forced Taipei to review its policies in the South China Sea. Expanding facilities on Taiping Island is central to this shift. Ongoing construction projects suggest that Taiwan is considering permanent troop deployments. By November, workers will complete a 320-meter (1,050-foot) pier capable of accommodating 3,000-ton naval frigates and coast guard cutters. The project will also include a 210-meter access road, a 350-meter extension to a 1,150-meter airstrip built in 2008 and new navigation guidance and auxiliary facilities. The expanded airstrip would likely accommodate P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft operated by the navy, boosting Taipei's anti-submarine surveillance and mobilizing capability in the South China Sea.

But Taiwan's ability to defend Taiping Island is limited. Taiwan does in fact possess coast guard and naval capabilities superior to those of the Philippines and, in some ways, Vietnam. Even in peacetime, however, maintaining regular supplies over the 1,400-kilometer distance to Taiping is difficult. To date, the island has no refueling facilities, relying instead on C-130 transport plane shipments every two months. Taiwan has only two replenishment ships in active service: the Wuyi fast combat support ship, or AOE-530, and Panshih fast combat support ship launched in 2013. It has no aerial refueling capacity and is therefore unable to support long-range, long-term deployment of naval vessels and aircraft over the distance between Taiwan and the Spratly archipelago.

Taiwan's competitors share most of these limitations, especially in their attempts to occupy the tinier islets, often little more than circles of rocks or artificial islands that need constant maintenance to avoid sinking. Most of the manned facilities in the South China Sea are hostage to the circumstances of water and weather, overshadowing their usefulness as forward operating positions and potential threats to competitors. In the long run, these facilities may provide support in monitoring the area, but primarily only in times of peace. 

Ultimately, these islands are quite different from the Pacific islands that underpinned the U.S.-Japanese confrontation in World War II, which served as forward operating bases to establish regional dominance. The islands of the South China Sea, in contrast, have served primarily as political outposts or placeholders that block rivals from exercising jurisdiction under international law. Trying to dislodge a neighboring claimant would risk a larger war -- a possibility most would rather avoid. Instead, they choose to strengthen their positions and occupy remaining empty reefs to prevent others from doing so first.

In spite of its distinction as the first country to establish a military presence in the South China Sea and its ambitious claim, virtually identical to mainland China's, Taiwan was one of the last to catch up with the region's changing dynamics. Now that it has done so, its expansions will give Taipei a forward base to operate its surveillance and anti-submarine aircraft and stake its claim to the island. Taiwan's moves, however, do not fundamentally alter its strategic position in the Spratlys or grant control over the area. For its part, Beijing may view Taiwan's claim as politically useful because it will keep Taiwan distant from the Philippines and Vietnam. At the same time, however, Beijing may also feel the need to bolster its own presence as a counterbalance, a development not necessarily favorable to Taipei.

Read more: Taiwan Expands South China Sea Facilities but Remains Constrained | Stratfor
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170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 31, 2014, 09:18:34 PM
Mmm , , , is that really "Media Issues" or "Green something" or "politics"?
171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: July 31, 2014, 09:15:50 PM
Great minds think alike grin
172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamic militias declare control of Benghazi on: July 31, 2014, 09:11:25 PM
Islamic Militias Declare Control of Benghazi
City's Streets Empty as Residents Stay Indoors
Associated Press
July 31, 2014 1:02 p.m. ET

CAIRO—Islamic hard-line militias claimed to have taken control of Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, after defeating army units, taking over military barracks and seizing tanks, rockets and hundreds of boxes of ammunition.

The extent of the militias' control of the city was not clear. On Thursday, the city's streets were nearly empty, with residents staying indoors and shops closed—but with also no sign of checkpoints by either militiamen or security forces. The main police headquarters was still smoldering after it was hit by militia shelling a day earlier, and smoke rose from the barracks of the Special Forces, once the strongest security body in the city until it was overrun by militiamen.

The militia victories in the city are part of a powerful backlash by Islamist forces in Libya after setbacks earlier this year. The militiamen's sweep through Benghazi was also a heavy reversal for Gen. Khalifa Hifter, a renegade general who for months had led army units and other fighters in a self-declared campaign aimed at stamping out armed Islamic militant groups. After forces loyal to him lost their bases inside Benghazi the past days, his loyalists now appeared to only hold the airport on the city's edges.

The armed groups that overran the city belong to a newly-formed umbrella group called Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, made up of multiple armed factions led by Islamic extremist commanders. Among the factions is Ansar al-Shariah, the group accused by the United States of leading a Sept. 11, 2012 attack on a diplomatic facility in the city that killed the ambassador and three other Americans.

"We are the only force on the ground in Benghazi," a commander of one of the coalition's factions told The Associated Press on Thursday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press. He said the coalition's fighters had driven all army forces and fighters loyal to Hifter out the city.

In a video put out by Thursday by Ansar al-Shariah, its commander Mohammed al-Zahawi congratulates his followers on "this victory and conquest." He was shown standing in front of a tank inside the base of the Special Forces. Another militia commander, Wissam bin Hamid, was also shown in the camp in the video, proclaiming in front of his masked fighters, "We will not stop until we establish the rule of God."
173  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA Shot Put Training Method downloads coming soon on: July 31, 2014, 07:06:50 PM
Woof All:

As many/most of you know, Pekiti Tirisa Kali has been a fertile source of Dog Brothers, is one of the five main FMA systems influencing Inosanto Blend Kali, and is one of the three main FMA systems influencing Dog Brothers Martial Arts.   I am a member of the PTK family/tribe and have trained with GT Gaje various times, including at his home in Bacolod.

As some of you may know, GT Gaje has an ingenious method of training with shot puts to develop heavy hands and I wish to acknowledge the training I had with him in this regard.  The training is outstanding and is for him to share or not as he sees fit.

It is precisely this training that gave me the idea of working with shot puts as part of my rehab of my separated shoulder, but in a very different way.   As I began playing with them some ideas new to me revealed themselves in a way that has excited me tremendously.   In particular the method has developed my fluidity and power in DBMA's "Time Machine Game" both for sticks and Kali Tudo.

One of my good gym buddies is the recently retired MMA fighter Tony Fryklund.  Tony is a great guy and was a world class fighter who remains in elite shape.  He is very much a thinking fighter and I often run my "Kali Tudo" ideas by him as a reality check reference point.

He saw me working with the shot puts the last few months and one day asked me to show him some things.  Great athlete and martial artist that he is he naturally started coming up with some things that intrigued  the both of us greatly so he asked me to guest instruct at his MMA Wrestling class.  In point of fact he did the teaching as he went on a virtual creative rampage for the whole class exploring the shot puts as a training method.

This morning we shot the first of a series of Training Downloads involving the DBMA method of training with shot puts.  His training partner was "Jace", Tony Stratham's stunt man.   Today's shoot focused on some particulars for MMA grappling.  Jace was quite stoked and swore to order his own as soon as he got home.

The Adventure continues!
Marc/Guro Crafty
174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Dickinson, 1776: Natural Rights 2.0 on: July 31, 2014, 11:37:49 AM


"[Rights] are not annexed to us by parchments and seals. They are created in us by the decrees of Providence, which establish the laws of our nature. They are born with us; exist with us; and cannot be taken from us by any human power, without taking our lives. In short, they are founded on the immutable maxims of reason and justice." --John Dickinson, A Warning to the Colonies (Of the Right to Freedom; and of Traitors), 1766
175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kashkari shows some promising flair on: July 31, 2014, 11:03:38 AM
Brother, Can You Spare a Job?
I spent a week as a homeless person, looking for work.The 'California Comeback' has a long way to go.
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Neel Kashkari
July 31, 2014 12:00 a.m. ET

'California Comeback!" is the favorite slogan of Gov. Jerry Brown and other Sacramento politicians cheering a temporary budget surplus provided by a roaring stock market. But California also has the highest poverty rate in America at 24%. Is California really back?

I wanted to see firsthand what that comeback looks like for many Californians. So, on the morning of July 21 I took a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Fresno. With only $40 in my pocket (and no credit cards), a backpack, a change of clothes and a toothbrush, I planned to find a job and earn enough money to get by. I am an able-bodied 41-year-old. Surely I could find some work.

Over the next seven days, I walked mile after mile in 100-degree heat searching for a job. I offered to do anything: wash dishes, sweep floors, pack boxes, cook meals, anything. I went to dozens of businesses in search of work but wasn't able to get any. In seven days, I didn't see a single "Help Wanted" sign, but I did see plenty of signs that fast-food outlets now accept food stamps.
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I was committed to finding a job. It was my top priority, but halfway through the week my priority was forced to change: I barely had any money left and needed to find food. Fortunately, kindhearted homeless residents in Fresno pointed me to a shelter, Poverello House, which provides services to the homeless. I had no choice but to join the hundreds of men, women and families who go to the shelter for food. As the shelter did not have any beds for me I slept on the streets all six nights. I had only one shower during that time.

The meals at Poverello House were a Godsend. But they introduced a new challenge: I now needed to stay within a short walk of the shelter so I could be back in time for my next meal. I had only enough money left to take the city bus once, so my job-search area shrank. The odds of me finding a job were getting smaller by the day.

Since I had little money, a motel was out of the question. I tried to sleep on park benches or in parking lots. Anywhere I wouldn't be chased out. Night after night, however, I was woken up and told to move along by security guards or the police.

The people I met during my week in Fresno are proud. They don't want to be homeless. They don't want to be poor. They don't want to depend on a shelter or the state. Most want jobs but simply cannot find one.

But this poor job market doesn't just affect people seeking minimum-wage jobs; it also affects people up the education ladder. An educated, professionally trained photographer told me that when the economy faltered, his photography work dried up. Now he is grateful to have a job serving coffee. Unfortunately, stories similar to his are playing out in many cities across California.

The Fresno Community Food Bank is doing a record business these days, serving food to 220,000 residents, including 90,000 children, each month, up 340% from a few years ago, according to the food bank. Fresno is in the heart of California's agriculture economy. With a third year of record drought, farmers don't have enough water for their almond, cantaloupe and other crops. The rising cost of water had forced farmers to idle about 500,000 acres of land. One young woman in line at the food bank said it simply: "There's not enough water. Crops can't be grown. My family works in the fields and they can't get work every day . . . sometimes just on weekends."

I walked for hours and hours in search of a job, giving me a lot of time to think. Five days into my search, hungry, tired and hot, I asked myself: What would solve my problems? Food stamps? Welfare? An increased minimum wage?

No. I needed a job. Period. Like others, I have often said the best social program in the world is a good job. Even though my homeless trek was only for a week, with a defined endpoint, that statement became much more real for me. A job was the one thing that could have solved my food, housing and transportation problems.

California's record poverty is man-made: over-regulation and over-taxation that drive jobs out of state, failing schools that don't prepare students for the skilled work force and misguided water policies that prevent us from saving surplus water in wet years to prepare for our inevitable droughts. We have the power to tackle poverty if we implement smart, pro-growth economic policies, as many other states have done.

While the politicians who run California pat themselves on the back and claim a "California Comeback," they willfully ignore millions of our neighbors who are living in poverty. California's most vulnerable citizens deserve leaders who will fight for them. It's a fight that Republicans should lead. We have the policy ideas—improving education and reducing regulations to help create jobs—to rebuild the middle class and give every Californian, and every American, real economic opportunity.

Mr. Kashkari is the Republican nominee for governor of California. A video documenting his week of homelessness can be found at www.neelkashkari.com/poverty.
176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Henninger: Winds of War Again on: July 31, 2014, 10:38:18 AM
Winds of War, Again
One wishes Barack Obama and John Kerry more luck in Ukraine and the Middle East than Neville Chamberlain had in Munich.
By Daniel Henninger

July 30, 2014 6:56 p.m. ET

If it's true that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, then maybe we're in luck. Many people in this unhappy year are reading histories of World War I, such as Margaret MacMillan's "The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914." That long-ago catastrophe began 100 years ago this week. The revisiting of this dark history may be why so many people today are asking if our own world—tense or aflame in so many places—resembles 1914, or 1938.

Whatever the answer, it is the remembering of past mistakes that matters, if the point is to avoid the high price of re-making those mistakes. A less hopeful view, in an era whose history comes and goes like pixels, would be that Santayana understated the problem. Even remembering the past may not be enough to protect a world poorly led. To understate: Leading from behind has never ended well.

In a recent essay for the Journal, Margaret MacMillan summarized the after-effects of World War I. Two resonate now. Political extremism gained traction, because so many people lost confidence in the existing political order or in the abilities of its leadership. That bred the isolationism of the 1920s and '30s. Isolationism was a refusal to see the whole world clearly. Self-interest, then and now, has its limits.

Which brings our new readings into the learning curves of history up to 1938. But not quite. First a revealing stop in the years just before Munich, when in 1935 Benito Mussolini's Italy invaded Ethiopia.

A woman in the Sudetenland, as Germany's troops arrive, 1939. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Before the invasion, Ethiopia's emperor, Haile Selassie, did what the civilized world expected one to do in the post-World War I world: He appealed for help to the League of Nations. The League imposed on Italy limited sanctions, which were ineffectual.

One might say this was one of history's earlier "red lines." Mussolini blew by it, invading Ethiopia and using mustard gas on its army, as Bashar Assad has done to Syria's rebel population. Mussolini merged Ethiopia with Italy's colonies in east Africa. The League condemned Italy—and dropped its sanctions.

In defeat, Haile Selassie delivered a famous speech to the League in Geneva. He knew they wouldn't help. As he stepped from the podium, he remarked: "It is us today. Tomorrow it will be you."

In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, not unlike John Kerry today, shuttled tirelessly between London and wherever Adolf Hitler consented to meet him to discuss a nonviolent solution to Hitler's intention to annex the Sudetenland, the part of Czechoslovakia inhabited by ethnic Germans. Hitler earlier in the year had annexed Austria, with nary a peep from the world "community." Many said the forced absorption of Austria was perfectly understandable.

One may hope Mr. Kerry and President Obama have more success with their stop-the-violence missions to Vladimir Putin, Kiev, Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Tehran, Afghanistan and the South China Sea than Neville Chamberlain had with Hitler, who pocketed eastern Ukraine—excuse me, the Sudetenland—and then swallowed the rest of Czechoslovakia, which ceased to exist.

But here's the forgotten part. After signing the Munich Agreement on Sept. 29, 1938—an event now reduced to one vile word, appeasement—Chamberlain returned to England in triumph. Many, recalling 1914-18, feared war. Londoners lined the streets to cheer Chamberlain's deal with Hitler. He was feted by King George VI. At 10 Downing Street, Chamberlain said the words for which history remembers him: "I believe it is peace for our time."

Winston Churchill, in a speech to the House of Commons, dissented: "This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup." Hitler, as sometimes happens in history, had negotiated in total bad faith, with no interest in anyone's desire for peace. When World War II ended in 1945, it had consumed more than 50 million people.

The U.S.'s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though fought by a dedicated professional military, are said to have turned America in on itself, as two big wars did to Europe. The idea is that Americans are tired of their world role now. But tireless men like Hitler always finds advantage in other nations' fatigue.

Some note the current paradox of the public's low approval for Mr. Obama's handling of everything from Iraq to Ukraine to Gaza, while the same polls show a reluctance to involve the country in those problems.

But there is no contradiction. The U.S. public's resistance reflects coldblooded logic: Why get involved if the available evidence makes clear that America's president won't stay the course, no matter how worthy the cause?

After returning from Munich, Neville Chamberlain told the British to "go home, and sleep quietly in your beds." After 1914 and 1938, one wishes it could be so now. Wars, in their causes and timing, are unpredictable. What is not impossible is recognizing the winds of war. Doing less than enough, we should have learned, allows these destructive winds to gain strength.

Write to henninger@wsj.com
177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: July 31, 2014, 09:08:31 AM
Fighting between Islamic State forces and Syrian Kurds in the northern Aleppo province has killed at least 49 people. Fighters from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) reportedly seized several Islamic State positions in Ain al-Arab, near the border with Turkey. Meanwhile, Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a U.S. citizen who carried out a suicide truck bombing at a restaurant in northern Syria in May, returned to the United States for several months before the attack.



•   Hezbollah commander Ibrahim al-Haq has been killed during a mission in Iraq, suggesting the group, which is involved in fighting in Syria, is also participating in Iraq's conflict.
178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bret Stephens: Palestine makes you dumb on: July 31, 2014, 08:40:58 AM
Palestine Makes You Dumb
To argue the Palestinian side, in the Gaza war, is to make the case for barbarism.
By Bret Stephens

July 28, 2014 7:29 p.m. ET

Of all the inane things that have been said about the war between Israel and Hamas, surely one dishonorable mention belongs to comments made over the weekend by Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Interviewed by CNN's Candy Crowley, Mr. Rhodes offered the now-standard administration line that Israel has a right to defend itself but needs to do more to avoid civilian casualties. Ms. Crowley interjected that, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jewish state was already doing everything it could to avoid such casualties.

"I think you can always do more," Mr. Rhodes replied. "The U.S. military does that in Afghanistan."

How inapt is this comparison? The list of Afghan civilians accidentally killed by U.S. or NATO strikes is not short. Little of the fighting in Afghanistan took place in the dense urban environments that make the current warfare in Gaza so difficult. The last time the U.S. fought a Gaza-style battle—in Fallujah in 2004—some 800 civilians perished and at least 9,000 homes were destroyed. This is not an indictment of U.S. conduct in Fallujah but an acknowledgment of the grim reality of city combat.

Oh, and by the way, American towns and cities were not being rocketed from above or tunneled under from below as the Fallujah campaign was under way.
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Ben Rhodes, a White House victim of the Palestine Effect. mandel ngan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Maybe Mr. Rhodes knows all this and was merely caught out mouthing the sorts of platitudes that are considered diplomatically de rigueur when it comes to the Palestinians. Or maybe he was just another victim of what I call the Palestine Effect: The abrupt and often total collapse of logical reasoning, skeptical intelligence and ordinary moral judgment whenever the subject of Palestinian suffering arises.

Consider the media obsession with the body count. According to a daily tally in the New York Times, NYT +0.63% as of July 27 the war in Gaza had claimed 1,023 Palestinian lives as against 46 Israelis. How does the Times keep such an accurate count of Palestinian deaths? A footnote discloses "Palestinian death tallies are provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs."

OK. So who runs the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza? Hamas does. As for the U.N., it gets its data mainly from two Palestinian agitprop NGOs, one of which, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, offers the remarkably precise statistic that, as of July 27, exactly 82% of deaths in Gaza have been civilians. Curiously, during the 2008-09 Gaza war, the center also reported an 82% civilian casualty rate.

When minutely exact statistics are provided in chaotic circumstances, it suggests the statistics are garbage. When a news organization relies—without clarification—on data provided by a bureaucratic organ of a terrorist organization, there's something wrong there, too.

But let's assume for argument's sake that the numbers are accurate. Does this mean the Palestinians are the chief victims, and Israelis the main victimizers, in the conflict? By this dull logic we might want to rethink the moral equities of World War II, in which over one million German civilians perished at Allied hands compared with just 67,000 British and 12,000 American civilians.

The real utility of the body count is that it offers reporters and commentators who cite it the chance to ascribe implicit blame to Israel while evading questions about ultimate responsibility for the killing. Questions such as: Why is Hamas hiding rockets in U.N.-run schools, as acknowledged by the U.N. itself? What does it mean that Hamas has turned Gaza's central hospital into "a de facto headquarters," as reported by the Washington Post? And why does Hamas keep rejecting, or violating, cease-fires agreed to by Israel?

A reasonable person might conclude from this that Hamas, which started the war, wants it to continue, and that it relies on Israel's moral scruples not to destroy civilian sites that it cynically uses for military purposes. But then there is the Palestine Effect. By this reasoning, Hamas only initiated the fighting because Israel refused to countenance the creation of a Palestinian coalition that included Hamas, and because Israel further objected to helping pay the salaries of Hamas's civil servants in Gaza.

Let's get this one straight. Israel is culpable because (a) it won't accept a Palestinian government that includes a terrorist organization sworn to the Jewish state's destruction; (b) it won't help that organization out of its financial jam; and (c) it won't ease a quasi-blockade—jointly imposed with Egypt—on a territory whose central economic activity appears to be building rocket factories and pouring imported concrete into terrorist tunnels.

This is either bald moral idiocy or thinly veiled bigotry. It mistakes effect for cause, treats self-respect as arrogance and self-defense as aggression, and makes demands of the Jewish state that would be dismissed out of hand anywhere else. To argue the Palestinian side, in this war, is to make the case for barbarism. It is to erase, in the name of humanitarianism, the moral distinctions from which the concept of humanity arises.

Typically, the Obama administration is hedging its bets. The Palestine Effect claims another victim

==========================

The Israeli military announced it has called up 16,000 reservists and Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to complete the destruction of Hamas's tunnel network in Gaza. Netanyahu said, "We are determined to continue to complete this mission with or without a cease-fire." The military reported it has uncovered 32 tunnels, and that it would take "a few more days" to destroy that tunnels it has located. Additionally, a U.S. defense official said the United States has allowed Israel access to a weapons stockpile for a resupply of grenades and mortar rounds. In 24-days of fighting, an estimated 1,372 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, as well as 56 Israeli soldiers and three civilians. An Israeli strike on a busy market near Gaza City killed an estimated 17 people on Wednesday. Palestinians believed there was a temporary cease-fire in place, however Israel said that the area was a combat zone. The United Nations has accused Israel of violating international law for shelling a U.N. school on Wednesday that was being used to shelter refugees. U.N. officials said 20 people were killed and dozens were wounded in the attack. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has also accused Hamas militants of committing war crimes.
179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Rivkind & Foley: The Case for Suing the President on: July 30, 2014, 08:07:37 PM
The Case for Suing the President
Rewriting ObamaCare laws on the fly is a violation of the constitutionally mandated separation of powers.
by David B. Rivkin Jr. and Elizabeth Price Foley
July 30, 2014 7:06 p.m. ET

'So sue me" is President Obama's message to Congress. And on Wednesday the House of Representatives took up his taunt, authorizing a lawsuit to challenge the president's failure to faithfully execute provisions of the Affordable Care Act as passed by Congress. The House lawsuit is no "stunt," as Mr. Obama has characterized it. The lawsuit is necessary to protect the Constitution's separation of powers, a core means of protecting individual liberty. Without a judicial check on unbounded executive power to suspend the law, this president and all who follow him will have a powerful new weapon to destroy political accountability and democracy itself.

Article I of the Constitution vests all legislative power in Congress. Article II imposes a duty on the president to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." When a law is unambiguous, the president cannot rewrite it to suit his own preferences. "The power of executing the laws," as the Supreme Court emphasized in June in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, "does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice." If a law has defects, fixing them is Congress's business.

These barriers between the branches are not formalities—they were designed to prevent the accumulation of excessive power in one branch. As the Supreme Court explained in New York v. United States (1992), the "Constitution protects us from our own best intentions: It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day."

The barriers also reflect the Framers' belief that some powers are better suited for a particular branch of government because of its institutional characteristics.


Congress has the exclusive authority to make law because lawmaking requires pluralism, debate and compromise, the essence of representative government. If Congress cannot achieve consensus, that doesn't mean Congress is "broken." A divided Congress reflects a divided people. Until there is a compromise acceptable to the majority, the status quo is the only correct path. An impasse emphatically does not warrant a president's bypassing Congress with a pen and phone, as Mr. Obama claimed the power to do early this year.

The separation of powers also guarantees political accountability. When Congress makes a law and the president executes it as written, citizens will know whom to reward or punish at the next election.

A president who unilaterally rewrites a bad or unworkable law, however, prevents the American people from knowing whether Congress should be praised or condemned for passing it. Such unconstitutional actions can be used to avert electoral pain for the president and his allies.

If Mr. Obama can get away with this, his successors will be tempted to follow suit. A Republican president, for example, might unilaterally get the Internal Revenue Service to waive collection of the capital-gains tax. Congress will be bypassed, rendering it increasingly irrelevant, and disfranchising the American people.

Over time, the Supreme Court has come to recognize that preserving the constitutional separation of powers between the branches of government at the federal level, and between the states and the federal government, is among the judiciary's highest duties.

In Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority(1985), the court was asked whether the wage and hour provisions of federal labor law could be imposed on states as employers. The justices refused to examine the substance of the states' claim, declaring that the so-called vertical separation of powers—federalism—was "more properly protected by procedural safeguards inherent in the structure of the federal system than by judicially created limitations on federal power." Because members of Congress are elected on a state-by-state basis, the court thought the national political process itself was the more proper way to protect states' rights against federal encroachment. It was a mistake the court would quickly regret.

Seven years later, in New York v. United States (1992), the Supreme Court did an about-face, acknowledging that the political-remedies process alone could not safeguard the separation of powers, and invalidated a federal law that forced states to "take title" to low-levelradioactive waste. The court abandoned the "hands off" position of Garcia because if it did not do so, the federal government could coerce states to do the federal government's bidding—a power that could have severely undermined the federalist structure of the Constitution, and hence, political accountability.

Litigation in federal court is an indispensable way to protect all branches of government against encroachment on their authority. States have successfully sued to stop federal intrusions into their constitutionally reserved powers. State legislators have also successfully sued to protect their institutional authority when state executives nullified their legislative power.

The executive branch is no different. President Obama has repeatedly resorted to litigation to vindicate the executive branch's constitutional prerogatives. His administration has routinely sued states for violating federal laws, in cases such as Arizona v. United States (2012), involving the constitutionality of a state law dealing with illegal immigration.

And the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional portions of congressional statutes that encroached on the federal judiciary's power. In Northern Pipeline Construction Company v. Marathon Pipe Line Company (1982), the court invalidated a transfer of judicial power to "judges" in bankruptcy cases who were not part of the regular federal judiciary and were exercising powers conferred by Congress, rather than by the Constitution.

Congress is not an institutional orphan. Like the president and the states, it can rightfully expect courts to enforce its institutional authority. Any other result would establish an anomalous loophole preventing Congress, and Congress alone, from vindicating its constitutional prerogatives. Courts would not countenance such a lapse in the constitutional architecture, with the potential to inflict enormous damage to the separation of powers, political accountability and individual liberty.

The problem will be cured once the judiciary declares unconstitutional the president's unilateral suspension of Affordable Care Act provisions and vacates the executive branch measures through which these suspensions were effected.

Mr. Rivkin, a partner at the firm Baker Hostetler LLP, served in the Justice Department and the White House Counsel's Office in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Ms. Foley is a constitutional law professor at Florida International University College of Law.
180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 30, 2014, 08:02:42 PM
That is one reason; dislike of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas is another.  
181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Money, the Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver on: July 30, 2014, 07:14:52 PM
Improving Economy, Weaker Guideposts To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/30/2014

Apparently, an improving labor market and higher inflation are not enough to get any signal from the Federal Reserve that short-term interest rates should be higher or QE should end faster than they thought before.

The Fed did what almost everyone expected, leaving short-term rates unchanged and continuing to taper by $10 billion per meeting. As a result, the Fed will buy $25 billion in bonds in August and remains on a path to end quantitative easing at the end of October.

The Fed did make some important changes to the wording of its statement. On the labor market, it removed language saying the jobless rate “remains elevated.” It’s about time considering how consistently the unemployment rate has been dropping faster than the Fed has anticipated.

But the Fed also added important new language, saying “a range of labor market indicators suggests that there remains significant underutilization of labor resources.” So, despite the jobless rate approaching the Fed’s long-term objective, the Fed isn’t going to provide any firm guideposts on how changes in the labor market are going to influence monetary policy. This is very opaque – the opposite of transparency.

Meanwhile, the Fed acknowledged inflation is approaching its long-term target of 2% and removed language about how inflation running persistently below 2% could hurt the economy. However, it’s important to note that what matters most to the Fed isn’t actual inflation but its own forecast of future inflation. And the Fed has yet to issue a forecast that shows inflation higher than 2%.

Unlike the last meeting in June, there was one dissent from a Hawk. Philadelphia Fed bank President Charles Plosser, who thought the Fed shouldn’t pre-commit to leaving rates low for a “considerable period” after QE ends. After his editorial in the Wall Street Journal, we thought Richard Fisher, President of the Dallas Fed would dissent, but surprise, surprise, he voted with the majority. We assume he was mollified by the minor changes in language to the Fed statement.

Overall, today’s statement is consistent with our view that the Fed is already behind the curve and will end up accepting higher inflation in the longer-run than its current 2% target. Fed policy is easy, the Fed is making a commitment to keep its balance sheet larger for longer, and it sees no real urgency to raise rates. All of this will create a boost for equity markets and the economy over the next 12-24 months. And we still think the bond market does not appreciate the danger it faces.
182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Q2 GDP on: July 30, 2014, 06:03:40 PM
The First Estimate for Q2 Real GDP Growth 4.0% at an Annual Rate To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 7/30/2014

The first estimate for Q2 real GDP growth is 4.0% at an annual rate, easily beating the 3.0% rate expected by the consensus. Real GDP is up 2.4% from a year ago.
The largest positive contributions to real GDP growth in Q2 were from consumer spending and inventories. The largest drag was net exports.
Personal consumption, business investment, and home building were all positive in Q2, growing at a combined rate of 3.1% annualized. Combined, they are up 2.8% in the past year.

The GDP price index increased at a 2.0% annual rate in Q2. Nominal GDP (real GDP plus inflation) rose at a 6.0% rate in Q2, is up 4.1% from a year ago and up at a 3.7% annual rate from two years ago.

Implications: What a difference one report makes. Real GDP came in higher than the consensus expected for Q2, growing at a 4% annual rate. The rebound more than offset the weather-related hit in Q1, when real GDP fell at a (revised) 2.1% annual rate. Today’s report includes revisions to the GDP data going back several years and shows an economy that was a little weaker in 2010-12, but stronger than originally reported in 2013. New figures show real GDP grew 3.1% in 2013 versus a prior estimate of 2.6%. The one drawback in today’s data was that much of the growth in Q2 came from faster inventory accumulation, which will be tough to duplicate for the rest of the year. We still expect growth between 2% and 3%, but wouldn’t be surprised if it continued to come in at the lower end of that range. Nominal GDP grew at a 6% annual rate in Q2, is up 4.1% versus a year ago and is up at a 3.7% annual rate in the past two years. Nominal GDP is a good proxy for the level of interest rates over time and suggests that the Fed is falling behind the curve. Even though we think they should move faster, the Fed will stick to ending QE by Halloween and then start lifting rates in the first half of 2015. The BEA also released its first estimate of GDO - Gross Domestic Output for Q1 last Friday. GDO attempts to measure “all” economic activity. In other words it includes more business-to-business sales along the value-added chain of production. GDO shows that rather than steeply declining in Q1, the economy was roughly flat. This is not surprising given brutal winter weather and it suggests that the drop in Q1 real GDP was not as sinister as many wanted to believe. In other news today, the ADP index says private payrolls increased 218,000 in July. Plugging this into our models suggests the official Labor report (released Friday) will show a nonfarm gain of 220,000. On the housing front, the Case-Shiller index, which measures home prices in 20 key metro areas, dipped 0.3% in May, the first decline in 28 months, although prices are still up 9.3% from a year ago. The dip in May was led by Atlanta, Chicago, and Detroit. Look for price gains in the year ahead, but not as fast as in the past couple of years. Pending home sales, which are contracts on existing homes, declined 1.1% in June after rising 6% in May. Combined, these figures suggest a 2.4% gain in existing home sales in July. After all that, it’s still the Plow Horse.
183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: July 30, 2014, 05:44:29 PM
Woof BD:

Not sure why you would think the piece would not be well-received in these quarters. indeed we might even joke it reads as if by a reader of these forums.  wink
184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 30, 2014, 05:36:56 PM
Hamas has problems too.  Egypt and SA are rooting for Israel.
185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sadara Fluke runs for office on: July 30, 2014, 05:35:45 PM
But can she afford birth control?
Sandra Fluke is trying desperately to carve political career out of being the face of "millennials who want free stuff," so she's running for California's state Senate. It isn't going well. Despite being the most easily recognizable candidate, Fluke floundered in June's open primary, where she carried just 19.4% of the vote in a turnout described as "embarrassingly low."  That was enough to give her a weak second place finish.  Unfortunately for her, it was probably not enough to bring substantial donors to the table.
Ms. Fluke is now the single largest contributor to her own Senate campaign.
From the Washington Examiner:
Fluke donated $12,000 to her campaign and $4,826.27 in non-monetary contributions. While $16,826.27 may not sound like a lot, Fluke also loaned her campaign $100,000.
Where does a 2012 law school grad working as a social justice attorney get a loan that size? Her campaign never responded to a Washington Examiner inquiry, so we’re left to speculate.
Perhaps the loan was in part secured by the family of Fluke’s husband, Adam Mutterperl. In 2012, Fluke married Mutterperl, an amateur stand-up comic and son of big-time Democratic donor William Mutterperl.
This is not a good sign.  It could be an indicator that external support is less than stellar and, combined with Fluke's poor performance in the primaries, could portend trouble in the general election.
Also troubling? It looks like her family is propping up the numbers in order to keep up appearances....
As a family, the Mutterperls have given Fluke $20,500. Fluke’s own family has donated $9,600 to her campaign (her mother gave one donation as Betty and one as Elizabeth).
In total, Fluke has raised $416,185.28, according to disclosure forms. With one-third of that total coming from her family, it appears the campaign is trying to pump up its donation totals to appear stronger than it actually is.
Now, a family donating to a campaign is not surprising or unusual but the percentage of overall funds coming from Fluke's inner circle should raise red flags.
Currently, Fluke's campaign has raised more cash than Ben Allen, but Allen may still still be in a stronger position. First of all, he's considered a potent candidate with deepconnections in the district. He's given his campaign a $50,000 loan, and his parents have each donated $4,100. If you remove his family and his loan from the equation, he's raised $330,141 - slightly more than Fluke, who stands at $278,859.
And according to the Associated Press, the Examiner's numbers represent a "rosy" estimate.  In reality, things are probably a bit worse:
“Allen has raised at least $443,388, including more than $50,000 from his law firm, Richardson & Patel LLP, while Fluke has raised about $500,000, including $175,000 from her own loans and contributions, according to campaign finance reports."
That would mean that Allen has funded just over 10% of his campaign, while Fluke is footing the bill to the tune of about 35%.
That's bad news for a campaign, but it's great news for someone who - just a few years ago - was claiming that $15 a month for birth control was  a bridge too far....
186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran to arm West Bank with missiles on: July 30, 2014, 11:44:59 AM


video at http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/in-case-anyone-still-thinks-the-two-state-solution-is-a-good-idea?omhide=true&utm_source=MadMimi&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Israel+Breaking+News+Video%3A+Iran+Vows+to+Arm+Arabs+in+Judea+and+Samaria&utm_campaign=20140730_m121531978_7%2F30+Israel+Breaking+News+Video%3A+Iran+Vows+to+Arm+Arabs+in+Judea+and+Samaria&utm_term=Iranian+official_3A+We_E2_80_99ll+arm+Arabs+in+_27West+Bank_27+with+missiles


In case anyone still thinks the two-state solution is a good idea... Former adviser to Iran’s defense minister said this week that Tehran would seek to arm Palestinians in the West Bank with “strategic weapons” including missiles to target Tel Aviv and Haifa. Iranian researcher Amir Mousavi told Lebanon’s Mayadeen TV channel that “a major reshuffle awaits the region” as “new and significant fronts will be opened all of a sudden, to support the Palestinian cause in the West Bank and Gaza.” “A new front must be opened from the West Bank, after it has been armed, especially with missiles,” Mousavi said in comments relayed by the Middle East Media Research Institute, “because we know very well that the distance between the West Bank and Tel Aviv, Haifa, and other areas is much shorter than the distance from Gaza. Therefore, simple means are required. There is no need for long-range missiles. Short-range missiles can change the entire picture in the occupied lands.”

Watch Here

Mousavi added that Gaza would also receive increased military support from Iran. As for the Palestinian Authority which controls the West Bank and has in recent years cooperated closely with Israel on security issues, Mousavi remarked: “We hope that the brothers in the Palestinian Authority will help rather than impede this.” On Tuesday Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the Islamic world to arm Palestinians to allow them to counter what he called Israel’s “genocide” in the Gaza Strip. In a speech marking the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, Khamenei said Israel was acting like a “rabid dog” and “a wild wolf,” causing a human catastrophe that must be resisted. “The US president issued a fatwa that the resistance is disarmed so that they cannot respond to all those crimes (committed by Israel),” the supreme leader said, referring to Barack Obama’s call for the “disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza.” “We say the opposite. The world and especially the Islamic world should arm… the Palestinian people.”
187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on how and to whom to give charity 1823 on: July 30, 2014, 11:30:25 AM
"It is a duty certainly to give our sparings to those who want; but to see also that they are faithfully distributed, and duly apportioned to the respective wants of those receivers. And why give through agents whom we know not, to persons whom we know not, and in countries from which we get no account, where we can do it at short hand, to objects under our eye, through agents we know, and to supply wants we see?" --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Michael Megear, 1823
188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Raising money through kidnapping on: July 30, 2014, 11:11:11 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/30/world/africa/militant-kidnapping-video.html?emc=edit_th_20140730&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Religious Scholars a double edged sword on: July 30, 2014, 10:52:37 AM
 Saudi Arabia's Religious Scholars Are a Double-Edged Sword
Analysis
July 30, 2014 | 0419 Print Text Size
Saudi Arabia's Ulema Represent a Double-Edged Sword
Saudi policemen stand guard in front of the Al-Rajhi mosque in central Riyadh in 2011. (FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary

There are signs that imams of influential mosques in Saudi Arabia are re-creating distance between themselves and the Saudi government. For instance, imams recently resisted the government's call to condemn an attack on Saudi soil by Yemen-based al Qaeda fighters. Although it is an early indicator, this bodes ill for Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism strategy. Riyadh's dilemma is that the group of religious scholars and preachers, a group known as the ulema, whose ideas have given way to jihadism is also the antidote to violent extremism. Without the robust support of the ulema class, the Saudis cannot combat the jihadism that threatens the kingdom on its northern and southern borders.   
Analysis

The identity of the Saudi kingdom is a religious one based on the Salafist ideology of its founding theoretician, Muhammad bin Abdulwahab, a puritanical scholar from the Nejd region of the Arabian Peninsula. His pact with the patriarch of the royal family, Muhammad bin Saud, led to the founding of the first Saudi state in 1744 and the establishment of a monarchy. The legitimacy of the monarchy has been based on religion and manifested by the support of the ulema, which have grown into a massive power center over the centuries.
The Ulema as Tools for Containment

This ultra-conservative establishment of religious scholars has been an important tool that the House of Saud has used to prevent the rise of opposition groups. The Saudis have had great success with this strategy, whether the opponents were left-wing secular Arab nationalists, Islamists or even Salafists and jihadists who see the royal family and its supporters as having deviated from the founders' intent. The religious scholars' adherence to the Koranic verse "Obey Allah and obey his Messenger (Mohammed) and those in authority among you" has proved extremely helpful in maintaining a consensus against more extreme and radical elements.

The utility of the ulema has been seen on a number of occasions throughout the modern Saudi state's history, most recently in the kingdom established in the aftermath of WWI. Its founder, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrehman, with the backing of the ulema in 1929, obliterated the Ikhwan, a religious and tribal militia that had gone rogue after helping Abdulaziz seize most of the areas that form the modern kingdom. Abdulaziz's son, King Faisal, used the ulema's support in 1963 to move against religious extremists opposed to introducing television in the kingdom. In 1979, his successor, King Khalid, was able to get the ulema to support his decision to allow French commandos to deploy and help regain control of the Holy Mosque in Mecca from a group of renegade Salafist militants under the leadership of Juhayman al-Otaibi.

In 1994, King Fahd had to deal with opposition from within the community of religious scholars. Some of the members rose up -- albeit peacefully and through sermons -- calling for reforms and better adherence to Islamic principles while voicing opposition to the stationing of U.S. forces in the kingdom. The latest and perhaps most significant example of the monarchy's use of the ulema was under King Abdullah's administration, when Riyadh defeated the kingdom's branch of al Qaeda, with critical assistance from the religious scholars, in 2005-2006.
Changes Within the Ulema

Riyadh's continued success in rallying the religious establishment notwithstanding, the ulema class has gone through a great deal of change and internal fragmentation. There are significant factions that are uncomfortable -- to say the least -- with the monarchy's policies, especially those involving reforms. More important, there is considerable overlap between the ideas of the ulema and of transnational jihadists. The jihadists have used this common ground to maintain pockets of latent influence within the kingdom. Moreover, there is sympathy for the jihadists among the ulema ranks.

An undersecretary at the Islamic Affairs Ministry told the kingdom's English daily Arab News on July 19 that authorities were investigating imams of 17 mosques in the capital who, in their Friday sermons, refused to condemn a jihadist attack on the kingdom's border with Yemen. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants based in Yemen conducted the cross-border raid on the al-Wadia border post near the small Saudi frontier town of Sharurah. It left four border guards and another Saudi citizen dead. Another report in the daily al-Watan quoted the Islamic Affairs Ministry as saying that some 100 imams ignored the call to condemn the incident.
Saudi Arabia and the Regional Jihadist Threat
Click to Enlarge

Under new management, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula re-established itself in Yemen in 2009 and has remained more or less contained there. The ouster of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime during the Arab Spring has aggravated divisions in Yemen, where a variety of forces are tearing the state apart. The resulting anarchy in Yemen has enabled the al Qaeda branch to expand in the country and use it as a base to strike Saudi Arabia.

While the Saudis are trying to deal with al Qaeda on their southern flank, another far more powerful transnational jihadist group has appeared to the north. The Islamic State, which declared the re-establishment of the caliphate in its controlled areas in Syria and Iraq, has emerged as a major threat to the kingdom. In order to protect itself, the kingdom deployed 30,000 soldiers to its border with Iraq after Iraqi soldiers reportedly abandoned posts on their side of the boundary in the wake of the Islamic State offensive. On July 18, Saudi security forces raised the threat level in light of intelligence about an Islamic State plot to attack critical infrastructure, particularly desalination plants, in the country.

Under these conditions, it makes sense for the Saudis to target the belligerent ulema. What is surprising, though, is that the authorities revealed their investigations via Saudi media. Normally such matters would be dealt with quietly, and more senior ulema would be involved in an effort to persuade the defiant imams to obey their rulers' orders. That did not happen, however, and the government decided to leak the investigations to the media. This suggests that the problem is not with a few of the ulema but is more widespread. It also suggests that the government is trying to create a national consensus against the dissidents. The disobedient imams appear to be a small group within the wider body of the ulema, but the number of such religious figures could grow.
Jihadists' Strengthening Position

In the past, the jihadists were a small movement and, despite the ambiguity within religious circles, there was not much support for them. But now that jihadists are gaining strength in the region, they are better positioned to parlay latent feelings of sympathy into more substantive support. The quandary for the Saudis is that the ulema class is an incubator for the ideas that promote jihadism as well as the means by which to fight Islamist militancy. Taken into account the country's youths -- increasingly educated, socially and politically aware, unemployed and inspired by the Arab Spring -- and the allure of resurgent jihadist fervor is an even more dangerous threat for Riyadh.

The jihadists are in a position to more effectively challenge the monopoly of influence that the monarchy has long enjoyed over the kingdom's religious scholars. To a great degree, this has to do with overlapping jihadist and Saudi interests, especially those related to fighting the Shia and Iran. Saudi efforts to enact social reforms also create space for the jihadists to exploit. Riyadh has been stretched thin as it deals with the fallout of the Arab Spring in the region, a fact that works to the jihadists' advantage as well. Finally, there is the matter of transitioning leadership from the second- to third-generation of princes.

Most of all, the perception that the monarchy is weak and ineffective in foreign policy matters, contrasted with a jihadist movement that is gaining support, could influence many in the ulema's ranks to quietly support both sides. Thus, the thing to watch for is whether the Saudis -- who have proved extremely resilient for nearly three centuries -- can deal with a much larger jihadist challenge than they have faced before and continue to use the ulema to wage jihad against jihadism.   

Read more: Saudi Arabia's Religious Scholars Are a Double-Edged Sword | Stratfor
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190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH thinks sanctions beginning to exert pressure on: July 30, 2014, 10:46:31 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/30/world/europe/as-sanctions-pile-up-russians-alarm-grows-over-putin-tactics.html?emc=edit_th_20140730&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0
191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yemen: Rebel Advance could topple regime on: July 30, 2014, 10:35:00 AM

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In Yemen, a Rebel Advance Could Topple the Regime
Analysis
July 29, 2014 | 0407 Print Text Size
Yemen's Escalating Houthi Conflict
Shia loyal to the al-Houthi movement ride past Yemeni soldiers near Yaz, Yemen, in May. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary

The success of a rebel campaign in northern Yemen is threatening to destabilize the already weak and overwhelmed government in Sanaa. After capturing the city of Amran, a mere 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the capital, in early July, the rebels from the al-Houthi tribe are in their strongest position yet. The Yemeni government is developing plans to divide the country into six federal regions, and the rebels believe this is their chance to claim territory for the future bargaining.

The central government is nearly powerless to fend off the rebels; its forces are already stretched thin. Neighboring Saudi Arabia has intervened in Yemen before and still supports Sunni tribes in the north, but the risk of inciting a Shiite backlash or creating space for jihadists to move in could deter another intervention.
Analysis

Followers of Zaidi Islam, a branch of Shiism, ruled northern Yemen intermittently for centuries before the Yemen Arab Republic was created after a coup in 1962. The Sunni-led government in Sanaa has since marginalized and repressed the Zaidis, who account for 40 percent of Yemen's population. The Zaidis were left to administer their rugged and resource-poor redoubt in northwestern Yemen's Saada province.

In 2004, the al-Houthi tribe, a member of the Zaidi order, rallied Yemen's Shia to reverse decades of subjugation. The tribe led an insurgency from its mountainous territory in the north against Saudi-backed Wahhabi and Salafist tribesmen and the Yemeni military, both of which the al-Houthis believed were encroaching on historically Zaidi territory. Five more bouts of fighting over six years failed to produce any changes on the ground. 

Over time, the al-Houthi rebels became an effective insurgent force of more than 10,000 fighters. By the time Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was deposed in 2011, the al-Houthis were strong enough to exploit the ensuing power vacuum. They captured Saada city, installed a governor and began collecting taxes and directing the local government. They also began to openly contest tribal control of adjacent territory in al-Jawf, Hajja and Amran provinces.

Conflict Zones
Click to Enlarge

Al-Houthi Advance

The latest round of violence began in October, when al-Houthi and Salafist fighters clashed in Dammaj in northern Yemen. Many groups and tribes had targeted the al-Houthis over the years, viewing them as a threat to their influence or territory in the north.

The al-Houthis launched a major offensive after Yemen's January National Dialogue Conference, which designated a year to draft a new constitution and proposed dividing the country into six regions. The offensive was intended to pressure Sanaa into bending on important territorial disputes during the constitution-writing process.

The tribe is displeased with the demarcation of its region, Azal, which has no access to the Red Sea, a large population and little in terms of water or natural resources. The al-Houthis claim rights to coastal Hajja province, including the valuable al-Midi port to the north, and al-Jawf province, which is within reach of Yemen's central oil fields. They have also rejected the Azal region's connection to the overcrowded and distant Dhamar province.
Proposed Regions of Yemen
Click to Enlarge

Over the course of a month the al-Houthi rebels gained territory in Hajja and al-Jawf, took the town of Kitaf near the Saudi border and forced the Salafists of Dammaj to retreat south to Sanaa. The focus of the offensive was Amran province, which the Ahmar clan (leaders of Yemen's most powerful tribe, the Hashid tribe) has historically dominated and through which the region's largest highway runs to the capital. By early February, the al-Houthis held most of northern Amran province and had expelled the Ahmars from their home district, Khamir. Notably, anti-Ahmar and anti-government tribes, reportedly including supporters of former president Saleh, joined the rebels' military campaign.

The Yemeni government has been unable to divert forces from other regions to reinforce Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar's 310th Brigade, which has been battling the al-Houthi rebels for more than a decade. The Yemeni armed forces are busy containing al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula activities, which are spreading from the country's southeast. Meanwhile, southern secessionists are threatening the country's unity, and tribal militants are threatening its infrastructure.

Despite several short-lived government-brokered cease-fires, heavy fighting continues in Amran, and the al-Houthis have been able to acquire large stockpiles of heavy weaponry and armaments left by withdrawing military forces and tribesmen. With rebels closing in on the capital in early June, President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi approved airstrikes against al-Houthi positions in Amran for the first time since the fighting resumed in October. By July 10, however, the al-Houthi rebels had taken Amran city itself, including the 310th Brigade's headquarters and armaments within the city.

Hadi announced July 23 that an agreement had been reached to return Amran to state control, but the al-Houthis will remain on the outskirts and will ensure that no threatening forces are allowed to move back into the city. Moreover, their advance, which the Iranians quietly encouraged, has raised concern in Saudi Arabia.

The Sectarian Divide in Northern Yemen
Click to Enlarge

A Proxy War

For Iran, Yemen's Shiite insurgency is an opportunity to distract its rivals in Saudi Arabia and eat up their resources, keeping them from focusing on regional theaters in which Tehran has bigger interests. Tehran can use its support for the Shia in Yemen as leverage during exchanges with Riyadh over sectarian competition in Syria, Bahrain, Lebanon and Iraq. Over the years, Iran has provided the al-Houthi rebels with limited materiel and financial support and has reportedly directed Hezbollah operatives and potentially Quds Force commanders to help train and direct the rebels.

The Saudis are concerned that the violence, or the al-Houthis' ambitions of autonomy, may spill over into Saudi territory. Saudi Arabia is home to a small Shiite population in its mountainous territories in the southwest, and a far larger Shiite population in its oil-rich Eastern province. In fact, when al-Houthi rebels in 2009 showed signs of overwhelming Yemeni forces and carried out small-scale operations in Saudi territory, Riyadh massed troops on the border and initiated serious airstrikes against rebel positions in northern Yemen until the al-Houthis capitulated.

As in the past, Saudi Arabia's ability to contain the al-Houthis depends on its ties to northern Yemen's conservative tribes, which Riyadh has historically supported financially to oppose the Shia. Nevertheless, the Saudis' influence over the tribes has waned, especially since Riyadh denounced the Muslim Brotherhood, effectively alienating the powerful al-Islah opposition group -- whose inner circle is dominated by the Ahmar family -- and its affiliated tribesmen.

There is also the fear that Saudi aid may find its way into the hands of jihadists in the north, particularly with the Islamic State expanding its influence in the region and threatening to strike in Saudi Arabia. If recent developments are any indication, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's decision to create a unit tasked to combat the al-Houthi rebels and the July 4 jihadist attack on the Wadia border post, Riyadh's fears are well-founded.

With Yemen largely unable to contain the rebel threat and the al-Houthis sitting on the outskirts of the capital, the Saudis could consider a military incursion similar to the one they conducted in 2009. There have been several recent high-level Yemeni-Saudi talks, including a July 8 meeting between Hadi and King Abdullah in Riyadh and a July 23 unannounced visit by Yemeni Defense Minister Muhammad Nasir Ahmad to the kingdom. Riyadh is likely providing selective assistance to the more moderate Salafist fighters in northern Yemen -- as it has in the past -- to strike back against al-Houthi territorial gains. Nevertheless, the Saudis must take care not to incite the Shia, particularly in Saudi Arabia's own southern territory, or to allow al Qaeda or Islamic State jihadists to fill the security vacuum in northern Yemen that would follow an intervention.
A Fragile Regime

The al-Houthis are unlikely to advance into Sanaa. They recognize the risk of reprisal from the Saudi military, are wary of triggering a nationalist response that unites northern tribesmen against them and are trying not to spread their forces too thin. The al-Houthis will also probably limit the expansion of their operations northward for fear of repeating the mistakes of 2009, when fighting spread too close to the Saudi border.

Nevertheless, the rebels will work to consolidate control in the territory they have captured and to undermine the support of their Sunni rivals, particularly the Ahmar family. The al-Houthis will also work to strengthen their defensive lines in anticipation of limited counterattacks by Yemeni armed forces and of growing jihadist activity. Yemen's leaders may be flexible on some of the al-Houthi rebels' demands regarding border demarcation and autonomy, but they are unlikely to concede on the al-Houthis' overarching desire for greater autonomy.

More important, the al-Houthi offensive comes at an inopportune time for the Yemeni regime. A large share of Sanaa's military forces have been busy combating al Qaeda elements in Shabwa and Abyan provinces since April. The Hadi regime is also struggling to contain secessionist activity in the south after one of the secessionist movement's most prominent leaders escaped from house arrest and vowed to renew the struggle. Within the government and military, supporters of Saleh are increasingly challenging Hadi; coup rumors came out twice in June. Finally, frequent militant attacks on energy infrastructure have hurt oil and natural gas production, and protests have grown over water, fuel and electricity shortages.

Despite Saudi assistance, Yemen's internal pressures have put Hadi's regime in its most fragile state since the 2011 uprising. The regime could be at risk of breaking down in the near future.

Read more: In Yemen, a Rebel Advance Could Topple the Regime | Stratfor

192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Well, this is not going to play out well for us , , , on: July 30, 2014, 10:14:05 AM


http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/07/29/cop-loses-robber-after-good-guy-with-gun-tries-to-help-shoots-wildly-towards-him/
193  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty's momentary ruminations on: July 29, 2014, 09:19:48 PM
Before my Sistema class today Rigan walked in with John Lewis (UFC fighter of note from the mid-90s) John gave me a really nice compliment back at the 1996 BJJ Pan Am Games and we laughed a moment about that. Rigan started talking about his new "secret" game, then demoed it on me-- my first movement on the mat since my shoulder separation in December and I have Rigan "the Anaconda" Machado on top of me playing a pressure game! (He was very nice and gentle-- thank God!)

Then Guro Inosanto had a conflicting commitment, so I got a private with Martin Wheeler.

After class I got together with Rigan and John. Good conversation. Then we walked by a pizza joint with Andrew Dice Clay sitting in front.

A man could go further and have a worse day, , ,
194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: July 29, 2014, 08:57:07 PM
Scott G. was kind enough to share his thoughts with me on the Hussman analysis:

First, let me say that Hussman's credentials as a connoisseur of valuations is somewhat suspect. His Strategic Growth Fund (HSGFX) has managed the unenviable record of delivering a -21% total return since early March 2009, while the S&P 500 has enjoyed a total return of 224%. If he has provided a service to mankind, it is in demonstrating just how badly a market timing investment strategy can perform.

But eventually, of course, he will be right and the market will suffer a correction, and perhaps a serious one. It's all a matter of timing, something he unfortunately appears to lack in addition to not being able to recognize valuations over multi-year periods.

Be that as it may, I don't agree with the valuations he cites today.

The standard PE ratio of the S&P 500 is 18, as compared to its long-term average of 16. That is not particularly stretched, in my view, especially in light of the fact that corporate profits are close to record levels relative to GDP and long-term interest rates are exceptionally low.

If I use after-tax corporate profits from the NIPA tables as the "E" and the S&P 500 index as the "P" then I find that PE ratios are almost exactly equal to their average since 1960.

I don't give much credence to Shiller's CAPE ratio, since I think that the level of profits 10 years ago has almost zero bearing on the valuation of equities today. Corporate profits relative to GDP are much higher today not because they are unsustainably high, but because of globalization, which has allowed successful firms here to address markets that are exponentially larger than they could have addressed just a few decades ago.

While he worries that the market is hugely over-leveraged, I note that various measures of leverage in the household sector are as low as they have been for many decades. And the fact that banks have accumulated over $2.6 trillion in excess reserves while only moderately expanding their lending activities suggests to me that banks, as well as households, have been very risk averse and continue to be.

He insists on believing that the Fed's QE policies have directly distorted valuations and interest rates. In contrast, I think most of what the Fed has done has been to accommodate the market's extraordinary demand for safe assets. I believe that if the Fed had really been pumping money into the economy and distorting all manner of things, that we would have seen quite a bit more inflation than we have to date.

Nevertheless, I do wish they would accelerate their timetable for higher short-term rates and for the unwinding of their balance sheet.
195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Prager: From Greatness to Whiteness on: July 29, 2014, 07:36:11 PM
http://www.dennisprager.com/greatness-whiteness/
196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: The spirit of resistance 1787 on: July 29, 2014, 11:52:19 AM
"What country can preserve its liberties, if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms." --Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Stephens Smith, 1787
197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia on: July 28, 2014, 10:07:02 PM
Not clear to me that this is a bad thing; indeed haven't we been mocking His Glibness for his flaccid reactions so far?
198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: July 28, 2014, 09:53:57 PM
Notice that we strive for "thread coherency" i.e. look to use existing threads.   Take a few minutes to scroll through some pages of subject headings and you will begin to get an idea.   Notice that many threads are many years old.  Notice the number of reads that various threads get and the ratio of reads to threads.   Having things organized this way makes this forum a very valuable research tool in my opinion.  Also, make good use of the Subject line-- this facilitates search commands.
199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lurch POs everyone on: July 28, 2014, 09:44:00 PM


Emerson to Kerry-Obama: Its Terrorism, Stupid
by Steven Emerson
IPT News
July 28, 2014
http://www.investigativeproject.org/4482/kerry-takes-us-diplomacy-off-the-rails

 Secretary of State John Kerry's push for a ceasefire in Gaza last week was so flawed it managed to unite Israel's fractious political leadership in opposition while simultaneously being lambasted by the Palestinian Authority.

The proposal called for negotiations on Hamas demands, including opening border crossings into Gaza and relaxed boating restrictions off the Gaza coast. In addition, its language reportedly upgraded Hamas – a designated terrorist organization – to an equal plane with Israel. Then, President Obama called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday to make "clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement."

In other words, Obama demanded that Israel institute an immediate unilateral ceasefire even while Hamas continues its terrorist operations against Israel. True to form, Hamas escalated its attacks on Monday.

A mortar attack on the community of Eshkol near the Gaza border killed four Israeli civilians and wounded nine others, five of whom were in critical condition. At the same time, a squad of heavily-armed Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel near Kibbutz Nahal Oz in an attempt to carry out a mass murder attack. The Israeli military killed one terrorist and is searching for the others.

The U.S. response? In addition to more demands that Israel stop trying to root out the Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza, administration officials Monday expressed anger that the Israelis would leak details of the proposed ceasefire and criticize Kerry.

This overlooks an important fact – Kerry's proposal also angered the Palestinian Authority – with a senior official telling London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that "Kerry wanted to create a framework that would be an alternative to the Egyptian initiative and to our concept regarding it, in order to please Qatar and Turkey." The move would strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood's stature, the PA official said, "because the Americans think – and will be proven wrong – that that moderate political Islam represented by the Muslim Brotherhood can combat radical Islam..."

In their haste to bring about an end to the hostilities, U.S. officials have lost perspective about the conflict and how to prevent the next flare-up. Israel has acknowledged that the depth and sophistication of the Hamas tunnel network greatly surpassed previous assessments. Reports indicate that Hamas was planning to use the tunnels to wage a massive attack involving 200 terrorists against communities neighboring Gaza during the Jewish high holiday Rosh Hashanah.

Yet U.S. officials continue to pressure Israel has accepted five ceasefires. All of them were broken by Hamas.

Reports out of Israel say Kerry's proposal did nothing to help identify and dismantle Hamas tunnels or strip it of its remaining rocket arsenal. Israel's security cabinet quickly and unanimously rejected it.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, considered the most dovish in the cabinet, blasted the proposal as "completely unacceptable" and one that "would strengthen extremists in the region."

While its specifics have attracted scant attention in American media, it left Israeli commentators dumbstruck. The result "is clearly a major crisis in Israel-US ties at a time when Israel finds itself in the midst of a complex and costly war," Times of Israel editor David Horovitz wrote Sunday in a commentary headlined "John Kerry: The betrayal."
An unnamed senior U.S. official briefed Israeli reporters Sunday night, claiming the proposal is being misrepresented. "There was no Kerry plan," the official said. "There was a concept based on the Egyptian cease-fire plans that Israel had signed off on."

No one else in the arena seems to agree. The proposal was based on Kerry's consultations with Qatar and Turkey – Hamas' two leading patrons – a move which angered Palestinian Authority officials and other Arab states for empowering a terrorist group and excluding them.

"Those who want Qatar or Turkey to represent them should leave and go live there," PA President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah group said in a statement that Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh wrote was "directed against Hamas."

Kerry's disastrous idea, giving Hamas a clear diplomatic win at a time it had nothing to show but devastation for a fight it started, drew perverse praise.

"It takes a certain artistry to irritate and annoy not only the Israeli left and the Israeli right at the same time, but also both Jerusalem and Ramallah," the Jerusalem Post's Herb Keinon noted wryly.

"This provided Hamas with a badly needed tailwind," Keinon wrote. "Sure, they were getting clobbered, their human shields were dying, but they were getting what they wanted. The world was talking to them, recognizing their standing in Gaza, presenting their demands. Why stop, things were going their way. And, indeed, they didn't stop, and violated three different cease fires Saturday night and Sunday, including one that they themselves declared."

As I noted previously, it was under the terms of the 2012 ceasefire Obama and Kerry are pushing to restore that Hamas diverted money meant to improve life for people in Gaza to building its tunnel network and built an arsenal of 10,000 rockets – each one earmarked for firing on Israeli civilians.

If there are suggestions for a better way for Israel to unearth the tunnels and to stop the rocket fire emanating from crammed neighborhoods surrounded by civilians, by all means, offer them up.

It's safe to assume that, in the course of invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq, American forces killed many more civilians than the last three Gaza conflicts combined. It's a product of war. The difference is there were not network cameras poised to show the carnage from a drone strike or other inadvertent killing.

But let's not pretend that this conflict can be resolved by giving Hamas what it wants. Its officials may talk about economic suffering among Palestinians in Gaza. But if the past month has proven anything, it is that the Hamas leadership cares more about creating Israeli suffering than alleviating the pain and devastation its actions have brought upon the Palestinians. The millions of dollars diverted to building tunnels, to importing or manufacturing rockets, could have done wonders to create infrastructure and jobs in Gaza. And none of that activity would have generated Israeli military strikes. But those facts seem to be lost on the mainstream media which Hamas has handily manipulated to show images of Palestinian casualties rather than show the civilian hiding places—like schools, hospitals, mosques, kindergartens, UN centers—where Hamas has brazenly stored weapons and from where it has also thousands of launched rockets and missiles at Israel.

Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal made clear what Hamas ultimately desires during an interview with CBS' Charlie Rose that was aired on "Face the Nation" Sunday. Rose tried to pin Meshaal down on Hamas' willingness to accept a two-state solution and coexist peacefully next to a Jewish state.

"Do you want to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?" Rose asked.

"No," Meshaal said. After a long pause, he added, "I said I do not want to live with a state of occupiers." To Hamas, as its charter makes clear, all of Israel is occupied Palestinian land. There can be no peace until Hamas either gives up on its founding principle to destroy Israel or until it is removed from power and influence.
Pushing a ceasefire that accentuates Hamas demands could not be more counterproductive.

Kerry may be feeling some of the sting from all the criticism. In new remarks Monday, he emphasized the need to disarm Hamas.
But he has lost tremendous credibility with those elements who stand opposed to Hamas and its benefactors in Qatar and Turkey. "Jerusalem," writes Horovitz, "now regards him as duplicitous and dangerous."

If he really cares about generating a lasting peace, his next, best move might be resignation. As for President Obama, he might start to educate himself about Hamas' horrific murderous actions and agenda before approving a plan that allows this al-Qaida clone to resurrect itself after being seriously wounded by defensive Israeli actions.
Steven Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) (www.investigativeproject.org), an international counter terrorist institute focusing on the worldwide threat of radical Islam. He is also the author of six books on terrorism and national security, and producer of two documentaries on terrorism, the latest being an expose of the covert Muslim Brotherhood infrastructure in the US entitled, "Jihad in America: the Grand Deception" (www.granddeception.com) available at Amazon.com
200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on Fed's huge power grab on: July 28, 2014, 09:12:40 PM


The Fed’s Massive Power Grab

Take your pick of these two jobs. You get to manage a $4+ trillion bond portfolio and have omnipotent control over banks and other financial institutions. Or, you can manage an $800 billion portfolio, control the level of the federal funds rate and manage some regulatory issues. Is this really a hard choice? Well, it certainly doesn’t seem to be for the Federal Reserve.

The Fed has seamlessly morphed from an institution that occasionally intervened in financial markets to a monster that apparently wants to control a great deal of the US financial system. Federal Reserve Board Chair, Janet Yellen, and her fellow central bankers, with virtually no pushback from Congress, are in the process of adopting an entirely new economic management technique called “macroprudential regulation.”

The definition of macroprudential regulation is hard to pin down. In short, it means managing systemic risks. This is done by regulating specific financial system behavior in an attempt to avoid cascading economic problems. The idea is that the Fed can reduce the risks of financial instability for the economy as a whole by regulating certain behaviors.

In practice, what this really means is that the Fed wants to run a monetary policy that it believes is appropriate for the economy as a whole – to keep unemployment low. But, if this overall monetary policy causes too much financial risk, the Fed wants to micro-manage that risk by deeming it a macro-risk. At its root, this is hypocritical.

Everyone knows that when the Fed holds rates too low, this encourages some investors to leverage up more than they would otherwise. For example, in 2004-05, the Fed held the federal funds rate at 1% which helped cause a bubble in housing. But, rather than raising rates at that point, the Fed wants to have the right to regulate home lending activity. It could do this in any number of ways, by raising the capital required by banks to make home loans or possibly putting a limit directly on certain types of loans. That’s macroprudential regulation.

In effect – and the Fed has argued this – the Fed blames banks for bubbles, not its strategy of holding interest rates artificially low. This is central planning to the second degree. The Fed wants to set rates first and then police the impact of those rates as if these decisions are not related.

This is a very dangerous precedent and it moves the US away from the free market while continuing to concentrate the power in the hands of the Fed. In a true free market, monetary policy should not be used to manage the economy. Rather, monetary policy should have one goal – to keep the value of the currency stable.

Unfortunately, as is true with all government institutions, the Fed is always looking to expand its influence and power. Remember when Rahm Emmanuel said, “never let a crisis go to waste.”? The Fed has taken this to heart. In the thirty years, between 1977 and 2007, its balance sheet (the monetary base) averaged 5.4% of US GDP. Today, it’s 22.4%.  (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)  Never, in the history of the United States, outside of the military in World War II, has one government institution been so dominant.

And, under Janet Yellen, the Fed is making a steady, insistent and disciplined argument that growing the Fed’s power is necessary for economic stability. The Fed wants to keep its balance sheet large, hold interest rates low, and regulate banking activities. From a distance this behavior looks awfully like that of the Bank of China.

The alternative would be for the Fed to shrink its balance sheet, hold interest rates where economic fundamentals and the Taylor Rule suggest they should be, and have faith that the free market will police excessively risky behavior. But, the US has entered a new era of doubt about free markets.
This was pre-ordained when Congress passed the Troubled Asset Relief Plan (TARP) in October 2008 – a $700 billion slush fund for the government that was sold as a way to save the world from Wall Street. As President Bush later said, “[We] abandoned free market principles to save the free market system.”

But, by violating free market principles, politicians created conditions which allowed the Fed to justify regulation of the economy in new and broadly expansive ways. Republicans were always the defenders of free markets, but TARP signaled a new era. Now, because the GOP won’t say TARP was a mistake, it has no effective argument against the Fed grabbing more power.

What this means for the economy is that flawed economic models, combined with the very visible hand of regulation, are distorting economic activity and leading the US toward more politicized control of financial markets. What could keep the Fed from lowering capital requirements on clean energy and raising them on fossil fuels? After all, many argue that fossil fuels are destabilizing.

But even more dangerous is that the Fed will hold rates down at artificially low levels for long periods of time in order to bring unemployment back down, all the while believing it can control the risks of easy money by using macroprudential regulation tools.

There are many reasons to disagree with this policy, but the most important is that artificially low rates distort decision making. High-return businesses will lever up unnecessarily and probably show up as bubbles. But some low-return enterprises will wrongly assume that borrowing to expand is still profitable. If resources flow too heavily to low return businesses, the economy will be less efficient and have more danger of inflation.

When rates eventually rise, both these behaviors will be tested and perhaps crack. Rather than trying to figure out where dangerous leverage is being employed, the Fed should put rates at the correct level and keep the whole boom-bust process from happening in the first place.

Congress needs to push back hard against macroprudential regulation, but it’s highly doubtful they will because they don’t understand it. The Fed is expanding its mandate in massive and unprecedented ways. Who is going to stand up and say stop?

Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
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