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151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And now, your moment of zen on: February 12, 2015, 12:57:48 PM
152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 12, 2015, 12:26:21 PM
Let's keep this on the "Strategy" thread.
153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 12, 2015, 12:25:03 PM
Though US media, including FOX, have not really covered it, Iran HAS been busy ingratiating itself with the Kurds -- which is a distinct change from previous policy-- and of course the Govt. of Baghdad which underlines what Iran's Suleimani says in CCP's post.  If/when ISIS falls, who is going to get the credit?  Iran is playing for it to get the credit.

I sure hope someone will be able to find that Stratfor post on the geopolitical logic of a pivot to Iran.
154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Britain: Woman sentenced to six months for scamming with burkha on: February 12, 2015, 11:13:43 AM
155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Rand Paul on: February 12, 2015, 11:01:13 AM
Rand most certainly, and quite correctly, said that to war or not should be brought to the Congress.

My first impression is that what Obama is looking to do here is to have the Reps sign on to his incompetent dithering.   My first impression is that the Reps should give him far more than he asks so that he cannot later stain them with his not doing what needs to be done to win.  Also, front and center is the matter of Iran's nukes and what to do about them (e.g. hardcore sanctions).    Reps and Dems alike are letting ISIS distract them from this-- and in the big picture in the long term I suspect that this is more important.   Rand seems quite willing to try to evade this issue..
156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Corruption (and Treason) on: February 12, 2015, 10:56:49 AM
Quite right; I remember she got $350,000 a year for one year in a job that was created for her and when she left no one replaced her in the position.

There also is the matter of her school buddies scoring a HUGE Obamacare website contract (I want to say well over $100M  shocked shocked shocked ) on the website that never worked.
157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sharia courts begin in Texas 2.0 on: February 12, 2015, 02:05:41 AM
158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michelle my belle on: February 12, 2015, 02:00:36 AM
Columnist Michelle Malkin: "Before the nation’s Food Nanny guilt-trips you into ditching boxed dinners on a frazzled night, know this: The first lady profited from cheese dust before she was against it. ... In June 2005, a few months after her husband was elected to the U.S. Senate, Mrs. Obama snagged a seat on the corporate board of directors of TreeHouse Foods Inc. Currying favor, the food-processing company put her on its audit and nominating and corporate governance committees despite her complete lack of experience or expertise. For her on-the-job training and the privilege of putting her name and face on their literature, the company forked over $45,000 in 2005 and $51,200 in 2006 to Mrs. Obama – as well as 7,500 TreeHouse stock options worth more than $72,000 for each year. Mrs. Obama raked in that easy money thanks to the worldwide conglomerate’s popular product line of powdered non-dairy creamers and sweeteners, hot and cold cereals, evil macaroni and cheese, skillet dinners, powdered gravy and sauce mixes, powdered drink mixes, powdered soup, and puddings. She certainly didn’t look down her nose at milk dust, cheese dust, juice dust, oatmeal dust or broth dust when it came mixed with a healthy paycheck.."
159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Warren and Goldman Sachs team up on: February 12, 2015, 01:32:01 AM
Regulation Is Good for Goldman
Lloyd Blankfein and Elizabeth Warren find common ground.
Feb. 11, 2015 7:27 p.m. ET

Liberals like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) are treating the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law as holy writ because she says it punishes the big banks. But then why is Lloyd Blankfein so content? On Tuesday at an investor conference, the Goldman Sachs CEO explained how higher regulatory costs are crushing the competition.

“More intense regulatory and technology requirements have raised the barriers to entry higher than at any other time in modern history,” said Mr. Blankfein. “This is an expensive business to be in, if you don’t have the market share in scale. Consider the numerous business exits that have been announced by our peers as they reassessed their competitive positioning and relative returns.”
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs ENLARGE
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Photo: Bloomberg

Longer term, Mr. Blankfein sees more opportunities for global giants like Goldman to grab even more market share, as “only a handful of players” will likely be able “to effectively compete on a global basis.”

While the Goldman boss wasn’t endorsing all of the added directives from Washington, he said his bank is “prepared to have this relationship with our regulators”—and the regulators are prepared to have a deep relationship with Goldman—“for a long time.”

None of this will surprise our readers, who understand that one goal of Dodd-Frank was to turn big banks into the equivalent of financial utilities. But it is unusual to see a financial CEO like Mr. Blankfein state the effect so candidly. Goldman can afford to hire battalions of lawyers and lobbyists to commune with regulators, and no doubt some of Wall Street’s campaign contributions from its regulation-aided profits will even make it to the likes of Ms. Warren. As ever, powerful government mainly helps the powerful.
160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Jihad that led to the Crusades on: February 11, 2015, 11:25:01 PM
Second post
161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq's request for AUMF on: February 11, 2015, 11:11:32 PM
The War Irresolution
Obama wants Congress to endorse his hesitant anti-ISIS strategy.
President Obama announces he has sent Congress an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS. ENLARGE
President Obama announces he has sent Congress an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS. Photo: Getty Images
Feb. 11, 2015 7:26 p.m. ET

Napoleon famously said that in warfare if you vow to take Vienna—take Vienna. President Obama ’s version of that aphorism might be—on the way to Vienna stop to summer in Salzburg, only use air power, and if the fighting isn’t over in a couple of years call the whole thing off.

How else to interpret the amazing draft of a resolution that Mr. Obama sent to Congress Wednesday requesting an authorization to use military force against Islamic State? The language would so restrict the President’s war-fighting discretion that it deserves to be called the President Gulliver resolution. Tie me down, Congress, please. Instead of inviting broad political support for defeating ISIS, the language would codify the President’s war-fighting ambivalence.

The draft is especially notable for its disconnect between military ends and means. The preamble contains a long and accurate parade of horribles about the “grave threat” posed by Islamic State. These include “horrific acts of violence” against women and girls, the murder “of innocent United States citizens,” and its intention “to conduct terrorist attacks internationally, including against the United States, its citizens, and interests.” Really bad guys.

But then the resolution proceeds to inform these killers about the limits of what the U.S. will do to defeat them. Mr. Obama wants Congress to put into statutory language that it “does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations”; and that “the use of military force shall terminate” in three years “unless reauthorized.”

The time limit alone is reason to oppose the resolution, as we’ve seen in Afghanistan. Mr. Obama’s deadline on U.S. operations there has given the Taliban confidence to wait us out. A time limit also tells our coalition allies that the U.S. commitment against ISIS could end no matter the state of war at the time. Mr. Obama has said himself that degrading and destroying ISIS may take years, yet his draft would force the next President to seek a new authorization in 2018.

As for ground troops, Mr. Obama is asking Congress to endorse a military strategy that his own generals have said may be deficient. In a letter to Congress elaborating on the draft authorization, Mr. Obama says his draft “would provide the flexibility to conduct ground operations” in “limited circumstances, such as rescue operations” or “the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership.” He says the resolution would only bar “long-term, large-scale ground combat operations” as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But then get ready to parse the meaning of “enduring” and “offensive” ground operations. Is enduring more or less than a year? Or a month? We’d guess that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders takes the under.

“Offensive” is even more subject to interpretation. Does that mean ground troops are acceptable as long as they shoot in self-defense? Or that they can do everything but take territory? Winning a war is hard enough without such legal complications.

Mr. Obama’s draft language fairly describes his current war strategy. But a flawed military strategy that is ambiguous is better than a flawed strategy written into law. Mr. Obama’s strategy can be changed by the next President—unless it is codified by a flawed authorization.

Mr. Obama’s language could also get worse as it moves through Congress. Many Democrats and GOP libertarians want even more specific limits on ground troops, a shorter time limit, and a geographic limit on where the U.S. can fight.

Yet the flaws in this half-hearted war strategy are already clear. ISIS continues to hold nearly all of the territory it did when Mr. Obama announced his plans in September. One exception is the town of Kobane in Syria, where Kurdish troops drove out the jihadists with U.S. bombing help. But Kobane now resembles Dresden after World War II—a bombed out, empty shell.

Many ISIS commanders have been killed, and they have been forced to move more furtively. But they were still able to stage an attack on the Kurdish oil city of Kirkuk in the last month. And they are conducting widespread assassinations against Sunni tribal leaders who resist them and ought to be allies of the U.S.-led coalition.

ISIS is also using its staying power against U.S. bombing to burnish its credentials as the jihadist vanguard. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that U.S. intelligence officials now say foreign fighters are joining Islamic State “in unprecedented numbers,” including 3,400 from Western nations out of 20,000 from around the world.

Rather than put shackles on his generals, Mr. Obama should be urging them to mount a campaign to roll back ISIS as rapidly as possible from the territory it holds. That would be a genuine defeat—and the world would see it as one. It would also be a demonstration to potential ISIS recruits that if you join the jihad, you are likely to die, and soon.

Many Republicans will be tempted to vote for some resolution as a show of anti-ISIS resolve, and we’d support one without restrictions. But Mr. Obama already has the power to fight this conflict from the 2001 al Qaeda and 2002 Iraq resolutions and as Commander in Chief under the Constitution. He says so himself. What he really wants from this new authorization is political cover for his military strategy. Better no new authorization than one that makes victory more difficult.

The adults in Comgress should propose a resolution that actually works for the military to win. Then, let the the man-child veto it or his alternative reality Democrats defeat it on the record.

162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Memex on: February 11, 2015, 11:04:27 PM

n the run-up to Super Bowl XLIX, a team of social workers in Glendale, Ariz. spent two weeks combing through local classified ads sites. They were looking for listings posted by sex traffickers.

Criminal networks that exploit women often advertise on local sites around events that draw large numbers of transient visitors. “It’s like a flood,” said Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, who headed the Glendale effort.

Dr. Roe-Sepowitz is director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research at Arizona State University. She has worked for five years with authorities in Houston, Las Vegas and Phoenix to find and hunt down traffickers.

In the past, she painstakingly copied and pasted suspicious URLs into a document and looked for patterns that suggested a trafficking ring. This year, she analyzed criminal networks using visual displays from a powerful data-mining tool, one whose capabilities hint at the future of investigations into online criminal networks.

The program, a tool called Memex developed by the U.S. military’s research and development arm, is a search engine on steroids. Rather than endless pages of Web links, it returns sophisticated infographics that represent the relationships between Web pages, including many that a Google search would miss.

For instance, searching the name and phone number that appear in a suspicious ad would result in a diagram that showed separate constellations of dots, representing links to ads that contain the name, the phone number, or both. Such results could suggest a ring in which the same phone number was associated with different women. Clicking on a dot can reveal the physical location of the device that posted the ad and the time it was posted. Another click, and it shows a map of the locations from which the ads were posted. Capabilities like this make it possible to identify criminal networks and understand their operations in powerful new ways.

Unlike a Google search, Memex can search not only for text but also for images and latitude/longitude coordinates encoded in photos. It can decipher numbers that are part of an image, including handwritten numbers in a photo, a technique traffickers often use to mask their contact information. It also recognizes photo backgrounds independently of their subjects, so it can identify pictures of different women that share the same backdrop, such as a hotel room—a telltale sign of sex trafficking, experts say.

Also unlike Google, it can look into, and spot relationships among, not only run-of-the-mill Web pages but online databases such as those offered by government agencies and within online forums (the so-called deep Web) and networks like Tor, whose server addresses are obscured (the so-called dark Web).

Since its release a year ago, Memex has had notable successes in sex-trafficking investigations. New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Memex has generated leads in 20 investigations and has been used in eight trials prosecuted by the county’s sex-trafficking division. In a case last June, Mr. Vance said, Memex’s ability to search the posting times of ads that had been taken down helped in a case that resulted in the sentencing of a trafficker to 50 years to life in prison.

The creator of Memex is Christopher White, a Harvard-trained electrical engineer who runs big-data projects for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa. The Defense Department’s center of forward-looking research and development, Darpa put between $10 million and $20 million into building Memex. (The precise amount isn’t disclosed.) Although the tool can be used in any Web-based investigation, Dr. White started with the sex trade because the Defense Department believed its proceeds finance other illegal activities.

Memex is part of a wave of software tools that visualize and organize the rising tide of online information. Unlike many other tools, though, it is free of charge for those who want to download, distribute and modify. Dr. White said he wanted Memex to be free “because taxpayers are paying for it.” Federal agencies have more money to spend, but local law-enforcement agencies often can’t afford the most sophisticated tools, even as more criminal activity moves online.

Among tools used by law-enforcement agencies, Memex would compete with software from Giant Oak, Decision Lens and Centrifuge Systems. The leader in the field is Palantir Technologies, whose software costs $10 million to $100 million per installation and draws from the user’s proprietary databases rather than from the Web. Palantir didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

Advertisements posted by sex traffickers amount to between $90,000 and $500,000 daily in total revenue to a variety of outlets, according to Darpa.

Memex and similar tools raise serious questions about privacy. Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., said, that when law-enforcement authorities start using powerful data-mining software, “the question that moves in the background is how much of this is actually lawful.” Data-visualization tools like Memex enable enforcers to combine vast amounts of public and private information, but the implications haven’t been fully examined, he said.

Dr. White said he drew a “bright line” around online privacy, designing Memex to index only publicly available information. In anonymous networks like Tor, which hosts many sex ads, Memex finds only the public pages. But since the tool isn't technically controlled by Darpa, independent developers could add capabilities that would make it more invasive, he acknowledged.

Another big question is whether sex traffickers and other malefactors will thwart Memex by changing their tactics. For example, they might blur out photo backgrounds if they knew law enforcement officials were searching for them. For this reason, law-enforcement users will withhold some of the proprietary data they developed while using Memex. “We want it to be free,” said Dr. White. “But there’s always this tension between knowing what people are doing…and alerting them to that fact so they change their behavior.”

Dr. White is starting to test other uses for Memex with law enforcement and government partners, he said, including recognizing connections between shell companies, following the chains of recruitment for foreign fighters drawn to the terrorist group ISIS, mapping the spread of epidemics, and following ads for labor and goods to understand supply chains involved in money laundering.

Write to Elizabeth Dwoskin at
163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Rand Paul on: February 11, 2015, 10:51:45 PM
It will be interesting to see how Rand plays Baraq's request for AUMF.
164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Islamophilia of His Glibness on: February 11, 2015, 10:50:35 PM
BO's Blinding Islamophilia
The REAL National Security Threat
By Mark Alexander • February 11, 2015     
"There is a rank due to the United States, among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war." --George Washington (1793)

Islamophile: One who is so enchanted by Islam as to be under the influence of its tenets.

In 2009, I noted that Barack Hussein Obama's remarkably brief White House bio began with this fallacious assertion: "His story is the American story -- values from the heartland, a middle-class upbringing in a strong family..." And you can make up the rest.

Amazingly, his BIG Lie bio page has not been altered since then.

So, in an effort to better understand who Obama really is, and where his religious alliances fall, let's briefly review.

Barack was conceived to unwed parents, Ann Dunham and his Kenyan father, BHO senior, both atheists. They were later married and then divorced. When Obama was four, his mother remarried, this time to an Indonesian Muslim, Lolo Soetoro. In his 1995 memoir "Dreams from My Father," Obama wrote that Soetoro subscribed to "a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths."

At the age of 10, Obama returned to Hawaii to live with his grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, who might best be described as agnostic. There, he would fall under the spell of an avowed Marxist, Frank Marshall Davis.

As a young adult and budding "community organizer," Obama was taken under wing by a radical black supremacist pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who married Barack and his wife, Michelle, baptized their children and stewarded BO's "faith" for 20 years. For those two decades, Obama also developed close associations with many other leftist radicals, including Michael Pfleger, William Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Khalid al-Mansour, Rashid Khalidi, Bob Creamer, Edward Said, Roberto Unger and others.

That is the real Barack Obama bio, and those are his "values from the heartland." Further, while he self-identifies as "Christian" rather than Muslim, that claim may be as deceptive as his bio.

With that in mind, in this seventh year of Obama's seemingly limitless foreign and domestic policy failures, despite the ominous and impending threats from resurgent al-Qa'ida terrorist networks, the Islamic State, and clear evidence that Islamist Jihadis are targeting the USA, Obama never mentioned al-Qa'ida or Islam in his 2015 SOTU address three weeks ago.

Nor did Obama mention Islam when referencing the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in early January, except to insist again that Islam is the "Religion of Peace."

British journalist Douglas Kear Murray, an expert on Islam, asserts that many Muslims today subscribe to "a creed of Islamic fascism -- a malignant fundamentalism, woken from the dark ages to assault us here and now." He notes, "The claim that Islam is a religion of peace is a nicety invented by Western politicians so as either not to offend their Muslim populations or simply lie to themselves that everything might yet turn out fine. In fact, since its beginning Islam has been pretty violent."

More recently, Obama dismissed the subsequent slaughter of Jews in Paris as an act committed by "a bunch of violent vicious zealots who ... randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli." Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest demonstrated a heroic display of verbal contortionism in endeavoring to explain Obama's assertion that the attack was random. Those "violent vicious zealots" were Islamists, and there was nothing "random" about terrorists targeting a kosher Jewish deli.

Last week, Obama used a Christian forum, the National Prayer Breakfast, to sanctimoniously denigrate Christians. The theme for this year's event was "Remembering the Armenian Genocide of 1915," when more than a million Christians were murdered by Muslims. That notwithstanding, he claimed Christians and Muslims are equal partners in murder and mayhem: "Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place -- remember that the Crusades and the Inquisition committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ." He added, "Slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ."

Really? For the record, Obama has ordered drone strikes against Islamic targets that have killed more Muslims in six years than were killed during three centuries of the Spanish Inquisition. (Look it up!) And the Crusades were, arguably, undertaken in the name of "the church," not Jesus Christ. As Islamic scholar and historian Bernard Lewis notes, "The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad -- a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war."

Clearly, there is nothing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that advocates or could even be loosely construed to advocate violence against non-Christians. However, there is plenty in the Quran and the Hadith (the teachings of Muhammad) advocating death to infidels. As Franklin Graham reminds us, "Jesus taught peace, love and forgiveness. He came to give his life for the sins of mankind, not to take life."

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the child in Indian immigrants, rebutted Obama's assertion, saying, "It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast. Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam. ... The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today."


As to Obama's reference to slavery, the abolitionist movement to end chattel slavery in the United States 150 years ago was led by white and black Christian men and women, as was the movement to end segregation 50 years ago. Christians of yore were at the forefront of these sweeping changes, while Muslims today are at the forefront of murderous global Jihad.

This metastasizing Islamic threat advocates for a "master race," much as did Adolf Hitler prior to World War II. However, rather than a world dominated by Aryans, Islamists seek a worldwide caliphate of Islamists, or "Jihadistan." And on the subject of percentages, some have suggested that because only 10 percent of Muslims are extremists we need not worry. However, in 1940 only seven percent of Germans belonged to the National Socialist German Workers Party. How did that work out?

Notably, the 2014 Global Slavery Index reports that of the more than 29 million humans held today in captive slavery -- defined as "the possession and control of a person in such a way as to significantly deprive that person of his or her individual liberty, with the intent of exploiting that person through their use, management, profit, transfer or disposal" -- more than 18 million are being held in Islamic countries, primarily (and ironically) in Africa.

Indeed, ISIL has institutionalized slavery in the Middle East.

In an interview this week, Obama delusionally insisted that concern about [Islamic] terrorism is simply media-driven hype: "If it bleeds it leads, right? ... It's all about ratings."
When asked why Obama would posit such a ludicrous assertion, my favorite psychiatrist, Charles Krauthammer, said flatly, "Because he believes it. ... If he was just being cynical as a way to dismiss this because of the failure of his policies, that would be one thing. I think he believes this. ... This is what is so terrifying about the man who is commander in chief of a country, essentially a civilization, under attack."

Krauthammer added, "For the last six years Obama has acted as if the biggest threat American security [in the Middle East] is the Israeli government."
Curiously, at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama asserted, "We are summoned to push back against those who would distort our religion for their nihilistic ends." Whose religion was he referencing?

Perhaps the answer is found in Obama's many words of praise for Islam since 2009:

"I will stand with [Muslims] should the political winds shift in an ugly direction. ... The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. ... We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world -- including in my own country. ... As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. ... Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. ... Islam has always been part of America. ... We will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. ... These [Ramadan] rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings. ... America and Islam ... share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings. ... America is not and will never be at war with Islam. ... Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism -- it is an important part of promoting peace. ... So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. ... In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education. ... Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. ... That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. ... Islam has always been a part of America’s story."

So, why does Obama refuse to mention Islam in connection with worldwide Islamic Jihad that is at our doorstep?

I believe it is because he is, first and foremost, an Islamophile, and thus he has what is almost a pathological blindness to the threat posed by Jihad.
On the other hand, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former Defense Intelligence Agency director, has been very clear in his assessment of our enemy: "You cannot defeat an enemy you do not admit exists. ... There are many sincere people in our government who frankly are paralyzed by this complexity. ... [They] accept a defensive posture, reasoning that passivity is less likely to provoke our enemies. ... A strong defense is the best deterrent. ... The dangers to the U.S. do not arise from the arrogance of American power, but from unpreparedness or an excessive unwillingness to fight when fighting is necessary. I think there is confusion about what it is that we are facing. It's not just what has been defined as 40,000 fighters in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, it's also a large [radicalized segment of Muslims] who or threatening our very way of life. ... We really don't have an effective strategy that is coherent, that actually addresses the wider problem. ... I think what the American public is looking for is ... moral and intellectual courage and clarity, and not a sense of passivity and confusion."

Flynn's assessment follows that of the Director of National Intelligence, Lt. Gen. James Clapper, who, in testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said a year ago, "Al-Qa'ida is morphing and franchising itself ... in Yemen, Somalia, in North Africa, in Syria ... and what’s going on there … is very, very worrisome. ... Looking back over my more than half a century in intelligence, I have not experienced a time when we’ve been beset by more crises and threats around the globe.”
Even one of the Democratic Party's most liberal members, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, insisted, "The presence of terrorist groups including those formerly affiliated with al-Qa'ida and others, has spread over the past year. In fact terrorism is at an all-time high worldwide."

And this week, Congress provided the Army an end-run around Obama's classifying Nidal Hasan’s murderous attack at Fort Hood as “workplace violence.” Instead, it is now classified as an act of terrorism and Hasan’s victims will now receive Purple Hearts.

But Obama can't bring himself to call it what it is.

In fact, he insisted this week that climate change is a far greater threat, but noted it's "happening [on] such a broad scale and [is] such a complex system, it’s a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis."

Fact is, bloody Islamist attacks are also "happening on a broad scale" and on a "day-to-day basis" -- and are getting closer to home every day. The murder of American relief worker Kayla Mueller, as confirmed yesterday, is yet another example of the evil we are confronting.

So, let me script this one for Obama so at his next stump speech he gets it right: "We are at war with radical Islamic terrorists. Violent global jihad poses an immense existential threat to the civilized world, particularly since Iran is, or already has, the capacity to hand its asymmetric surrogates a nuclear weapon."

Pro Deo et Constitutione -- Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis
165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Marines gave up their guns?!? on: February 11, 2015, 10:33:51 PM

 tongue tongue tongue angry angry angry
166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NBC knew on: February 11, 2015, 06:17:31 PM
167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Yemen on: February 11, 2015, 05:50:44 PM
 Yemen Enters a More Chaotic Time
February 11, 2015 | 22:05 GMT
Text Size
Al-Houthi fighters ride in the back of a vehicle in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Feb. 11. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa closed Feb. 11 after the few remaining staff members and the company of U.S. Marines guarding the embassy compound traveled to the airport to leave the country. The withdrawal of the U.S. diplomatic presence comes after the al-Houthi militia dissolved parliament Feb. 6 and announced the establishment of a five-member presidential council and a 551-member transitional national council to replace the government. The diplomatic decision also comes as the factions fighting for control of the country are threatening to become more violent than in past Yemeni conflicts.

Though the U.S. government's explanation for the embassy closure listed uncertainty of the security situation, the embassy has stayed open in times when security in Sanaa was far worse, such as in 2011 when the military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh were fighting military units loyal to defected Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar for control of the capital. This fact, and a careful reading of the U.S. government statement, makes it clear that the decision to withdraw was more politically driven than security driven. The U.S. government does not recognize the al-Houthis as the legitimate government of Yemen and therefore does not have an entity with which to conduct diplomacy. Such a move is clearly intended to pressure the al-Houthis to back down, and now that the U.S. Embassy has withdrawn, we can anticipate European embassies to follow, as the British and the French have done.

The road ahead for Yemen is unclear. While U.N. and international efforts to find an inclusive solution for Yemen's political problems continue, it does not appear that such a solution can be reached without a military imposition of unity — essentially conquering the various factions and forcing them to join the process. The al-Houthis have made some significant military headway in Bayda province in recent days, and they appear to be preparing a major military offensive to expand their control in Marib province and take control of the energy fields there.

Meanwhile, the secessionist Southern Movement and many factions of the reformist al-Islah coalition have rejected the al-Houthi announcement. A coalition of tribal leaders in Marib has also pledged to oppose the al-Houthis, even floating the idea of declaring independence from the rest of Yemen. There are also reports that the Saudis are supporting the conservative tribes in Marib. These tribes are closely linked to jihadists in Yemen, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). They fought alongside Saleh's government in several past wars against the al-Houthis, and Saleh used these tribal militias and jihadists against the Southern Movement in the Yemeni civil war.

It appears, however, that there may be a conflict between U.S. and Saudi interests in Yemen. Saudi support for the conservative tribes conflicts with the United States' view that AQAP is the primary threat in Yemen. While the United States is not supporting the al-Houthis, a strong and rapid al-Houthi military push that would weaken the conservative tribes will also weaken the jihadist group. Conversely, a prolonged period of conflict between the tribes and the al-Houthis could again permit AQAP to strengthen, as it did amid the chaos of 2011. However, a nascent challenge to AQAP by the Islamic State is dividing, and may weaken, the jihadists if it is able to grow. Indeed, reports came out Feb. 11 that a group of AQAP militants renounced its loyalty to leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and pledged its support to the Islamic State.

Yemen has long been a troubled country wracked by violence, civil war and political infighting. But these developments may be taking the county from the normal level of chaos it has experienced over the past few years and pushing it toward an even more violent and chaotic time.
168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mark Steyn: The Sound of Silence on: February 11, 2015, 05:27:35 PM
The Sound of Silence

by Mark Steyn

February 9, 2015

Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University is nobody's idea of a right-winger. He voted for Obama, and supports almost all of his policy goals (if not his extra-constitutional methods). But, unlike most of the left, he's still prepared to defend free speech against what he calls Charlie's False Friends:

For civil libertarians, it is clear that when leaders insist that they "Stand with Charlie" it does not mean actually standing with free speech. To the contrary, the greatest threat facing free speech today is found in Western governments, which have increasingly criminalized and prosecuted speech, particularly anti-religious speech. Once the defining right of Western Civilization, free speech is dying in the West and few world leaders truly mourn its passing.

Around the world, speech is under attack under an array of hate speech and anti-discrimination laws... The result is a growing, if not insatiable, appetite for speech regulation that only increases after violent responses to controversial publications.

The most recent tragedy in France follows an all too familiar pattern from publication to prosecution. Consider what happened in 2005 with the publication of the Danish cartoons and the global riots leading to the murder of non-Muslims and burning of churches and homes. The West rallied around the right of free speech, but then quietly ramped up prosecutions of speech. It happened again in 2012 when a low-budget trailer of a low-grade movie was put on YouTube. The "Innocence of Muslims" trailer was deemed insulting to Mohammad and Islam and led to another global spasm of murder and arson by irate Muslims. Again, Western leaders professed support for free speech while cracking down further on anti-religious speech. Even in the United States, President Obama insisted that the filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula had every right to make the film. However, the next image that the world saw after that speech was filmmaker being thrown into a police car in handcuffs for technical violations of a probation on unrelated charges...

Professor Turley then lists a round-up of state assaults on freedom of expression from around the so-called free world, including my own difficulties in Canada. I doubt Turley agrees with a single one of these hatespeechers (including me) on the merits, but he recognizes that the point of free speech is for the speech you hate. If you don't believe in free speech for those you hate, you don't believe in free speech at all. And then he adds:

These cases represent more than a lack of support for free speech. They represent a comprehensive assault on free speech. Indeed, one of the world leaders proudly proclaiming support for free speech in Paris has banned the publication of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan called the use of the prophet's image on the magazine an act of "sedition and provocation."

Well, Turkey is hardly anyone's idea of a crucible of liberty. But what are we to make of England, mother of the free? The other day Wiltshire Police went to a local newsagent and demanded that, in the interests of "community cohesion", he hand over the names of every customer who bought a copy of Charlie Hebdo:

Mrs Keat, a self-confessed news junkie, ordered the magazine from a local newsagent in Corsham, Wiltshire, a week after the 7 January attacks in Paris. Two days after she bought her magazine, she learned that an officer had been back to ask for the names of the buyers.

The names and addresses of the buyers were added to an intelligence note and fed into a police crime and intelligence system, police confirmed. The force deleted the note after details of the visit came to light in a letter that Mrs Keat wrote to The Guardian and warned of the potential ramifications after seeing an advert for Je Suis Charlie badges...

What really is the difference between Charlie Hebdo's killers and Wiltshire Police? The anti-Charlie crowd made it clear years ago that they knew where the offending cartoonists were and one day they would get them. The Wiltshire Police are not so subtly telling Charlie's English readers that they know where you are - just in case one day they need to get you:

"Wiltshire Police would like to apologise to the members of public who may be affected by this. Information relating to this specific incident has been permanently and securely disposed of," it said... "Wiltshire Police are confident that the police officer's intention was purely around enhancing public safety and ensuring that the newsagent was advised appropriately."

You can get away with anything when you smother it in blather about "enhancing" public safety and "advising appropriately". But the fact remains that, a few days after the hideous opportunist Cameron was marching under the #JeSuisCharlie banner in Paris, his coppers were ordering newsagents to cough up the names of anyone who bought the magazine. This is Mother England in 2015: You can still read samizdat literature, but your name will be entered in a state database.

Equally disturbing was a recent English court judgment re the Home Office ban denying Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller entry into the United Kingdom. Their Lordships' appalling decision essentially extends the heckler's veto to Her Britannic Majesty's immigration policy:

A British Court of Appeal handed down its judgment dismissing our appeal challenging our ban from entering the United Kingdom. The key element of its decision is its emphasis on the fact that "this was a public order case where the police had advised that significant public disorder and serious violence might ensue from the proposed visit." In writing that judgment, Lord Justice Tomlinson (with whom Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Floyd agree) has only made it clear that the British government has decided to set aside established law and the freedom of speech in order to appease violent Muslims.

No serious person thinks Spencer and Geller are any threat to "public order". They speak without incident all over not only the United States but also the Dominion of Canada, and without unduly stressing the Queen's Peace. So, if they can't speak without incident in the United Kingdom, that is a reflection not on them but on Britain. What Lord Justice Tomlinson means by the prospect of "serious violence" is that, if you're booked to give a speech in Oxford and some Islamic grievance-mongers threaten to go bananas over it, your speech has to be forbidden in deference to the crazies. The decision thus incentivizes those who threaten violence. As Laura Rosen Cohen likes to say, "security concerns" are the new "shut up".

And, if you think David Cameron's ministry has grown far too comfortable with using state power to restrain the opinions of a free party, wait till the other fellows take over:

The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, will on Monday unveil a strategy to tackle the UK's soaring rise in antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and abuse of people with disabilities. The package includes making homophobic and disability hate crimes an aggravated criminal offence, ensuring that police treat such offences in the same way as racist hate crimes.

Cooper will outline changes to the criminal records framework whereby such offences will be clearly marked on the criminal records of perpetrators. Currently, records checks do not highlight homophobia, disability or transgender identity as a motivating factor in a conviction, and do not automatically appear in police data used for vetting applicants in sensitive vocations, such as those working with vulnerable people, including the disabled.

Labour's move comes as a new breakdown of police figures reveals an escalation in hate crimes since 2012, with a steep rise in abuse reported by the transgender community alongside the well-documented rises in antisemitism and Islamophobia.

As that grab-bag suggests, right now the leftie sexual identity groups are happy to make common cause with the Islamocrazies because they're both about shutting people up. For example, the feminist comedienne Kate Smurthwaite is already in Britain so, unlike Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, she can't be turned back at Heathrow. But she apparently holds insufficiently "respectful" attitudes to "sex workers", so she had her speech at Goldsmiths College canceled because of - what else? - "security concerns". The topic of her talk was, of course, free speech.

Professor Jonathan Turley says:

Western leaders have increasingly spoken out against the dangers of free speech. For politicians, free speech is an abstraction, the consequences of free speech tend to be more tangible in the form of riots and murders.

You don't have to be a politician to think "free speech is an abstraction". Robert Spencer might want to give speeches about Islam, and Mrs Keat might want to read Charlie Hebdo, but most people don't want to give any speeches at all and are content to read Hello! or People or whatever's filling the rack where Charlie Hebdo used to be. In some ways, it's the easiest right to surrender, particularly to regimes that smother the expansion of state regulatory power in soothing twaddle about "enhancing public safety" to protect "vulnerable people".

Speaking of "vulnerable people", how about this headline from The Daily Mirror?

Child sex abuse gangs could have assaulted ONE MILLION youngsters in the UK

That's according to Rotherham Labour MP Sarah Champion. Who knows if it's true? On the one hand, Britain is so alert to "paedos" that, if some cheesy old Radio One disc-jockey is alleged to have grabbed the passing breast of a 15-year-old teenybopper on "Top Of The Pops" in 1973, he'll be dragged through the courts and publicly ruined. But vast, systemic, industrial-scale 21st-century paedophilia by Muslim grooming gangs aided and abetted by law enforcement and local government will be ignored and hushed up - essentially in the interests of (what was that expression again?) "community cohesion". It turns out free speech isn't that "abstract". When you so hedge in free expression with political correctness, you make it impossible even to raise certain subjects, and thereby facilitate real, non-abstract evil. The loss of free speech brings other losses, too.

Yet, looking at the ease with which governments of some of the oldest, freest societies on earth are shackling and restraining the right to speak, to read, to think, the obvious question to ask is what rights will they go after next? After all, if 300 years of free speech can be rolled back in the interest of "enhancing public safety", why not property rights, due process, freedom of association, freedom of religion or even (gasp!) sexual liberty? Why think that statist restraints on core liberties will confine themselves to just one right?
169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 11, 2015, 02:32:41 PM
Difficult question.

Are all of the bills the Reps should be passing devoid of sufficient Dem votes to override the filibuster?

170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fed court rules against residency requirements on: February 11, 2015, 02:30:00 PM
171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 50 years later: Losing Ground, Sen. Daniel Moynihan was right. on: February 11, 2015, 02:13:45 PM

Still Right on the Black Family After All These Years
The warnings that Daniel Patrick Moynihan sounded 50 years ago have come true. Will liberals ever forgive him?
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, President Nixon’s assistant for urban affairs in 1969. ENLARGE
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, President Nixon’s assistant for urban affairs in 1969. Photo: Corbis Images
Jason L. Riley
Feb. 10, 2015 2:13 p.m. ET

Will liberals ever forgive Daniel Patrick Moynihan for being right?

Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the future senator’s report on the black family, the controversial document issued while he served as an assistant secretary in President Lyndon Johnson’s Labor Department. Moynihan highlighted troubling cultural trends among inner-city blacks, with a special focus on the increasing number of fatherless homes.

“The fundamental problem is that of family structure,” wrote Moynihan, who had a doctorate in sociology. “The evidence—not final but powerfully persuasive—is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling.”

For his troubles, Moynihan was denounced as a victim-blaming racist bent on undermining the civil-rights movement. Even worse, writes Harvard’s Paul Peterson in the current issue of the journal Education Next, Moynihan’s “findings were totally ignored by those who designed public policies at the time.” The Great Society architects would go on to expand old programs or formulate new ones that exacerbated the problems Moynihan identified. Marriage was penalized and single parenting was subsidized. In effect, the government paid mothers to keep fathers out of the home—and paid them well.

“Economists and policy analysts of the day worried about the negative incentives that had been created,” writes Mr. Peterson. “Analysts estimated that in 1975 a household head would have to earn $20,000”—or an inflation-adjusted $88,000 today—“to have more resources than what could be obtained from Great Society programs.”

History has proved that Moynihan was onto something. When the report was released, about 25% of black children and 5% of white children lived in a household headed by a single mother. During the next 20 years the black percentage would double and the racial gap would widen. Today more than 70% of all black births are to unmarried women, twice the white percentage.

For decades research has shown that the likelihood of teen pregnancy, drug abuse, dropping out of school and many other social problems grew dramatically when fathers were absent. One of the most comprehensive studies ever done on juvenile delinquency—by William Comanor and Llad Phillips of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2002—concluded that “the most critical factor affecting the prospect that a male youth will encounter the criminal justice system is the presence of his father in the home.”

Ultimately, the Moynihan report was an attempt to have an honest conversation about family breakdown and black pathology, one that most liberals still refuse to join. Faulting ghetto culture for ghetto outcomes remains largely taboo among those who have turned bad behavior into a symbol of racial authenticity. Moynihan noted that his goal was to better define a problem that many thought—mistakenly, in his view—was no big deal and would solve itself in the wake of civil-rights gains. The author’s skepticism was warranted.

Later this year the nation also will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which some consider the most significant achievement of the modern-day civil-rights movement. With a twice-elected black man now occupying the White House, it might be difficult for younger Americans to appreciate this milestone. However, in 1964, three years after Barack Obama was born, black voter registration in Mississippi was less than 7%, the lowest in the South. By 1966 it had grown to 60%, the highest in the South.

Today black voter-registration rates in the South, where most blacks still live, are higher than in other regions of the country, and for the first time on record the black voter-turnout rate in 2012 exceeded white turnout.

Rarely does a government action achieve its objective with such speed and precision. Racial restrictions to ballot access were removed and black political power increased dramatically. Since 1970 the number of black elected officials in the U.S. has grown to more than 9,000 from fewer than 1,500 and has included big-city mayors, governors, senators and of course a president.

But even as we note this progress, the political gains have not redounded to the black underclass, which by several important measures—including income, academic achievement and employment—has stagnated or lost ground over the past half-century. And while the civil-rights establishment and black political leaders continue to deny it, family structure offers a much more plausible explanation of these outcomes than does residual white racism.

In 2012 the poverty rate for all blacks was more than 28%, but for married black couples it was 8.4% and has been in the single digits for two decades. Just 8% of children raised by married couples live in poverty, compared with 40% of children raised by single mothers.

One important lesson of the past half-century is that counterproductive cultural traits can hurt a group more than political clout can help it. Moynihan was right about that, too.

Mr. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Journal contributor, is the author of “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” (Encounter Books, 2014).
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172  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WSJ: Atheist shoots three Muslims, on: February 11, 2015, 01:47:25 PM
video at

Valerie Bauerlein
Updated Feb. 11, 2015 2:14 p.m. ET

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—A 46-year-old man was charged with three counts of murder in the shooting of three Muslims—a husband, wife and her sister. The alleged killings were quickly condemned as hate crimes by the victim’s family and some Muslim groups, but a prosecutor in the case said it was too early to determine whether the violence was motivated by religion.

Craig Stephen Hicks was charged with the killing Tuesday of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, of Chapel Hill, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh. Each was found shot in the head and pronounced dead at the scene, a quiet condominium complex near the University of North Carolina campus. The young couple lived in the complex, and Mr. Hicks also lived there for about six years, according to police, public records and a family member.

Mr. Hicks turned himself in late Tuesday at a neighboring sheriff’s office in Chatham County, according to Chapel Hill police. Police said he was cooperating with investigators.
Craig Stephen Hicks was arrested on three counts of murder early Wednesday. ENLARGE
Craig Stephen Hicks was arrested on three counts of murder early Wednesday. Photo: Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer/Reuters

On Wednesday, he appeared briefly in a courtroom on the first floor of the Durham County Detention Facility. Mr. Hicks wore an orange jumpsuit and kept his back to the small courtroom crowd. He is being held without bond and was told a public defender would be appointed to represent him.

Chapel Hill police said Wednesday the crime was motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking. But relatives and some Muslim groups said they believed the shootings were motivated by religion.

Mohammad Abu-Salha, father of the two sisters, said his older daughter Yusor had told him that they had a neighbor who was harassing them because of their faith. Both of his daughters were faithful Muslims who wore traditional headscarves, Dr. Abu-Salha said.

“Our daughter on more than two occasions said this man was hateful. He was picking fights, knocking on their door,” said Dr. Abu-Salha, who practices psychiatry in Clayton, N.C. “She said, ‘Daddy, this man hates us for who we are.’ ”

Mr. Hicks’s lawyer couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols said in an interview after the hearing that it was “premature” to say whether additional hate-crime enhancements might be added to the murder charges. He said it was too soon to say what role religion played, if any. “We’ll see where the investigation takes us after reviewing the findings,” Mr. Echols said. “I haven’t ruled out anything or ruled in anything.”

On what appeared to be Mr. Hicks’s personal Facebook page, numerous statements were posted attacking religion in general, and he identified himself as an atheist.

One post says, “Given the enormous harm that your religion has done in this world. I’d say I have not only a right, but a duty, to insult it.” The post doesn’t mention any specific religion.

One photograph simply is a handgun in its holster. The added comment reads: “Yes, that is 1 pound 5.1 ounces for my loaded 38 revolver, its holster, and five extra rounds in a speedloader.”

Chief Chris Blue, of the Chapel Hill Police Department, said, “We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate motivated. We will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.”

Mr. Barakat was a second-year student in the UNC School of Dentistry, and his wife had planned to begin her dental studies in the fall, according to UNC. Her sister was a sophomore at N.C. State University, majoring in environmental design in architecture, according to UNC.

Dr. Abu-Salha said his younger daughter Razan was living at home and had gone over to her sister’s to have fun. “She went to her death,” he said.

Dr. Abu-Salha and his wife moved to the U.S. in 1994 from Jordan, and both of his daughters were born in the U.S., he said. His son-in-law was the American-born son of Syrian immigrants, he said.

“We had more love and acceptance in America than hate,” Dr. Abu-Salha said. “We lived the American dream, and we were happy.”

Social media erupted Wednesday with expressions of sympathy for the slain young people and questions about whether the homicides were hate crimes.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil-liberties group based in Washington, D.C., called on authorities to move quickly to address public concerns.

“We urge state and federal law-enforcement authorities to quickly address speculation of a possible bias motive in this case,” executive director Nihad Awad said in a statement.

The crime-scene tape had already been removed on Wednesday afternoon in the small parking lot outside the brick, brown-shingle-roofed condominium building where the shooter and victims lived. Three small pots of pink flowers had been placed on the corner beside the unit where the couple lived.

—Cameron McWhirter contributed to this article.

Write to Valerie Bauerlein at
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173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 10, 2015, 08:29:16 PM

174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 10, 2015, 07:17:10 PM
Of course Obama won't sign these bills-- but that is not the point.  The point is to put Obama and the Dems on the record and to show how Reps would govern -- so as to win the presidency.
175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 10, 2015, 11:39:59 AM
Reps should be in full-throated "Charge!" mode right now, dumping bill after bill on Obama's desk.

 cry cry cry
176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UAE back in the air on: February 10, 2015, 10:54:41 AM
Middle East: The United Arab Emirates restarted its air campaign against the Islamic State, launching airstrikes from a base in Jordan Tuesday morning. American officials said that the UAE -- one of the most prominent members of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State -- had halted strikes in December. The successful resumption of strikes was announced by the Emirates' state news agency, though it did not specify whether the airstrikes occurred in Iraq or Syria.
The deployment of Emirati F-16s to Jordan was announced over the weekend, in a show of solidarity after the brutal execution of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh. The UAE had suspended its air campaign after Kasasbeh's plane was shot down, though it continued to provide logistical support. American search-and-rescue aircraft have since been moved closer to the battlefield to alleviate allies concerns about the safety of their pilots.
The decision to send aircraft to Jordan was motivated by "deep belief in the need for Arab collective cooperation to eliminate terrorism," according to UAE state media. Jordan announced that it carried out 56 airstrikes against the Islamic State between Thursday and Sunday, as part of the "earth-shattering" response it vowed after the murder of Kasasbeh.
177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: February 09, 2015, 08:03:54 PM
178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Calpers gets schooled on: February 09, 2015, 03:11:00 PM
Calpers Gets Schooled
A judge says public pensions can be impaired as part of bankruptcy.
Feb. 8, 2015 6:43 p.m. ET

Federal judges tend to be impatient with bullies. Behold judge Christopher Klein ’s opinion last week confirming the city of Stockton’s bankruptcy exit plan, which is as incisive in its rebuke of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) as it is instructive about U.S. bankruptcy law.
Stockton, California's City Hall ENLARGE
Stockton, California's City Hall Photo: Reuters

Stockton declared Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2012, and it has since rewritten labor contracts and asked creditors for writedowns. Yet after being browbeaten by Calpers, the giant public-pension fund, the city held pensions harmless. Calpers argued that the California constitution’s guarantee of contracts shielded pensions from cuts in bankruptcy. The fund also asserted sovereign immunity and police powers as an “arm of the state,” including a lien on municipal assets.

Judge Klein upheld Stockton’s bankruptcy plan but not before effectively throwing Calpers out of court. “It is doubtful that CalPERS even has standing,” he writes. “It does not bear financial risk from reductions by the City in its funding payments because state law requires CalPERS to pass along the reductions to pensioners in the form of reduced pensions.”

As the judge explains, “CalPERS has bullied its way about in this case with an iron fist.” Calpers’s arguments are “constitutionally infirm in the face of the exclusive power of Congress to enact uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcy under Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution—the essence of which laws is the impairment of contracts—and of the Supremacy Clause.”

The Supremacy Clause holds federal law superior to state statutes as long as the feds don’t violate state powers under the Constitution. The judge notes that states act merely as “gatekeepers” to Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Once states authorize municipalities to file for bankruptcy, they hand over custody to federal courts. Thus, as “a matter of law, the City’s pension administration contract with CalPERS, as well as the City-sponsored pensions themselves, may be adjusted as part of a chapter 9 plan.”

What all this means is that Calpers can’t stop cities from modifying pensions in bankruptcy. This has ramifications across the U.S. because unions are trying to make public pension benefits inviolable as a matter of constitutional law. If that view prevails, then politicians can make irresponsible deals to get elected that no future politicians can rescind even if they become unaffordable. Illinois is currently ground zero in this showdown.

Judge Klein also noted that California’s Supreme Court has recognized an “unusually inflexible ‘vested right’ in public employee pension benefits” that stands in contrast to the U.S. Supreme Court’s “less rigid view of the extent of a ‘vested right’ in retiree benefits,” as delivered in last month’s M&G Polymers v. Tackett ruling. Judge Klein adds that California courts’ interpretation of vested rights “encourages dysfunctional strategies to circumvent limitation and peculiarities in California public finance.”

You can say that again. The judge seems to be inviting a legal challenge to California’s vested-rights doctrine, and someone should take him up on it. Meantime, Calpers would do better by raising its investment returns rather than going to court to raid taxpayers.
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179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Calpers gets schooled on: February 09, 2015, 03:10:15 PM
Calpers Gets Schooled
A judge says public pensions can be impaired as part of bankruptcy.
Feb. 8, 2015 6:43 p.m. ET

Federal judges tend to be impatient with bullies. Behold judge Christopher Klein ’s opinion last week confirming the city of Stockton’s bankruptcy exit plan, which is as incisive in its rebuke of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (Calpers) as it is instructive about U.S. bankruptcy law.
Stockton, California's City Hall ENLARGE
Stockton, California's City Hall Photo: Reuters

Stockton declared Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2012, and it has since rewritten labor contracts and asked creditors for writedowns. Yet after being browbeaten by Calpers, the giant public-pension fund, the city held pensions harmless. Calpers argued that the California constitution’s guarantee of contracts shielded pensions from cuts in bankruptcy. The fund also asserted sovereign immunity and police powers as an “arm of the state,” including a lien on municipal assets.

Judge Klein upheld Stockton’s bankruptcy plan but not before effectively throwing Calpers out of court. “It is doubtful that CalPERS even has standing,” he writes. “It does not bear financial risk from reductions by the City in its funding payments because state law requires CalPERS to pass along the reductions to pensioners in the form of reduced pensions.”

As the judge explains, “CalPERS has bullied its way about in this case with an iron fist.” Calpers’s arguments are “constitutionally infirm in the face of the exclusive power of Congress to enact uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcy under Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution—the essence of which laws is the impairment of contracts—and of the Supremacy Clause.”

The Supremacy Clause holds federal law superior to state statutes as long as the feds don’t violate state powers under the Constitution. The judge notes that states act merely as “gatekeepers” to Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Once states authorize municipalities to file for bankruptcy, they hand over custody to federal courts. Thus, as “a matter of law, the City’s pension administration contract with CalPERS, as well as the City-sponsored pensions themselves, may be adjusted as part of a chapter 9 plan.”

What all this means is that Calpers can’t stop cities from modifying pensions in bankruptcy. This has ramifications across the U.S. because unions are trying to make public pension benefits inviolable as a matter of constitutional law. If that view prevails, then politicians can make irresponsible deals to get elected that no future politicians can rescind even if they become unaffordable. Illinois is currently ground zero in this showdown.

Judge Klein also noted that California’s Supreme Court has recognized an “unusually inflexible ‘vested right’ in public employee pension benefits” that stands in contrast to the U.S. Supreme Court’s “less rigid view of the extent of a ‘vested right’ in retiree benefits,” as delivered in last month’s M&G Polymers v. Tackett ruling. Judge Klein adds that California courts’ interpretation of vested rights “encourages dysfunctional strategies to circumvent limitation and peculiarities in California public finance.”

You can say that again. The judge seems to be inviting a legal challenge to California’s vested-rights doctrine, and someone should take him up on it. Meantime, Calpers would do better by raising its investment returns rather than going to court to raid taxpayers.
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180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Money, the Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver on: February 09, 2015, 02:47:34 PM
Monday Morning Outlook
Dual Mandate Achieved: Rate Hikes Coming To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 2/9/2015

From 45,000 feet, it certainly looks like the Federal Reserve has achieved, or is very close to achieving, its Dual Mandate of price stability and full employment.
What this means is that the Fed can declare victory. After all the grief it has taken, this must feel pretty darn good. However, it also suggests the Fed has some major decisions to make. According to Keynesian models when the economy hits “full employment,” inflationary pressures start to build and the Fed must cut those off before they start.

This is especially important when monetary policy is very accommodative and interest rates are near zero. We think this is why the Fed is still on track to hike interest rates this year.

It’s true that overall consumer prices are likely to plummet by around 1% in January and the CPI will be down from a year ago. Some call this “deflation,” but we all know it’s driven by huge declines in gas prices. “Core” inflation – which excludes food and energy – is up 1.6% from a year ago as of December, and has remained very stable the past few years. We have always thought the term “price stability” should mean zero inflation, but many Keynesians say it should be about 2%. So, if we go with their definition, the US is very close to price stability.

Some argue this means the Fed should hold rates steady – until it sees a true increase in inflation. But the Fed doesn’t have that luxury. It must cut off inflation before it starts. The Fed worries about inflation expectations and its models suspect wages are a driving force.

Given the strength of recent employment reports, those models have to be moving future inflation forecasts upward.

Nonfarm payrolls are up more than one million in the past three months, the largest gain for any three-month period in either the current expansion or the one under President Bush in the prior decade. You’d have to go back all the way to late-1990s to find the kind of job growth we’re getting now.

Also, the current recovery in jobs has been broad-based. A diffusion index shows that 66.2% of industries have increased employment in the past year, the highest since 1998.  More labor competition is pushing up wages. In January, average hourly earnings rose 0.5% in spite of what everyone expects will be a huge decline in the consumer price index. The Employment Cost Index has also accelerated, while the “quit rate” – those feeling confident enough about the job market to quit their jobs – is up to 9.5%, the highest level since 2008. To top it off, the labor force is up 1.4 million from a year ago.

Some argue the job market is not healthy and we have some sympathy for this view. Full-time workers were 52.3% of the civilian non-institutional population (16+) before the recession started. Now they’re only 48.3%. But that doesn’t mean it’s not up since the recession ended. The low was 46.6% in late 2010 and it’s been trending up the past four years. Moreover, it was 48% on average in the 1970s, back before the mass entry of women into the workforce.

One reason job growth and the labor force were slow to mend in the current recovery is that redistribution is on the rise. Social Security Disability rolls have doubled in a decade and that means many can retire even earlier than they would normally. Student aid (loans, grants and subsidies) are also booming, pulling many younger people from the labor force.

These forces may not be “good,” but they are “real” and with unemployment under 6% of the labor force, the US is close to “full employment.” That’s why the labor force and wages are starting to grow more rapidly. This is the Fed’s conundrum. Policy has been extremely loose for a very long time and moving to normalize it at this point has minimal risk.

On top of all this, the Fed doesn’t know for sure whether it can actually push rates up when the banking system has record levels of excess reserves. It must find this out sooner or later.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen is set to testify to Congress on monetary policy in two weeks. Look for her to put extra emphasis on improvements in the labor market and downplay recent inflation readings as “statistical noise.” The coming rate hike cycle is likely to be gradual, but it’s coming, sooner than many think.
181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Dr. Ben Carson on: February 09, 2015, 02:40:09 PM
182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fascinating 13 minute clip on internet security on: February 09, 2015, 02:24:09 PM
183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Lie that "Bush Lied" on: February 09, 2015, 02:08:47 PM

The Dangerous Lie That ‘Bush Lied’
Some journalists still peddle this canard as if it were fact. This is defamatory and could end up hurting the country.
By Laurence H. Silberman
Feb. 8, 2015 6:25 p.m. ET

In recent weeks, I have heard former Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier on Fox News twice asserting, quite offhandedly, that President George W. Bush “lied us into war in Iraq.”

I found this shocking. I took a leave of absence from the bench in 2004-05 to serve as co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction—a bipartisan body, sometimes referred to as the Robb-Silberman Commission. It was directed in 2004 to evaluate the intelligence community’s determination that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD—I am, therefore, keenly aware of both the intelligence provided to President Bush and his reliance on that intelligence as his primary casus belli. It is astonishing to see the “Bush lied” allegation evolve from antiwar slogan to journalistic fact.

The intelligence community’s 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stated, in a formal presentation to President Bush and to Congress, its view that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction—a belief in which the NIE said it held a 90% level of confidence. That is about as certain as the intelligence community gets on any subject.

Recall that the head of the intelligence community, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet, famously told the president that the proposition that Iraq possessed WMD was “a slam dunk.” Our WMD commission carefully examined the interrelationships between the Bush administration and the intelligence community and found no indication that anyone in the administration sought to pressure the intelligence community into its findings. As our commission reported, presidential daily briefs from the CIA dating back to the Clinton administration were, if anything, more alarmist about Iraq’s WMD than the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.

Saddam had manifested sharp hostility toward America, including firing at U.S. planes patrolling the no-fly zone set up by the armistice agreement ending the first Iraq war. Saddam had also attempted to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush —a car-bombing plot was foiled—during Mr. Bush’s visit to Kuwait in 1993. But President George W. Bush based his decision to go to war on information about Saddam’s WMD. Accordingly, when Secretary of State Colin Powell formally presented the U.S. case to the United Nations, Mr. Powell relied entirely on that aspect of the threat from Iraq.

Our WMD commission ultimately determined that the intelligence community was “dead wrong” about Saddam’s weapons. But as I recall, no one in Washington political circles offered significant disagreement with the intelligence community before the invasion. The National Intelligence Estimate was persuasive—to the president, to Congress and to the media.

Granted, there were those who disagreed with waging war against Saddam even if he did possess WMD. Some in Congress joined Brent Scowcroft, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and former national security adviser, in publicly doubting the wisdom of invading Iraq. It is worth noting, however, that when Saddam was captured and interrogated, he told his interrogators that he had intended to seek revenge on Kuwait for its cooperation with the U.S. by invading again at a propitious time. This leads me to speculate that if the Bush administration had not gone to war in 2003 and Saddam had remained in power, the U.S. might have felt compelled to do so once Iraq again invaded Kuwait.

In any event, it is one thing to assert, then or now, that the Iraq war was ill-advised. It is quite another to make the horrendous charge that President Bush lied to or deceived the American people about the threat from Saddam.

I recently wrote to Ron Fournier protesting his accusation. His response, in an email, was to reiterate that “an objective reading of the events leads to only one conclusion: the administration . . . misinterpreted, distorted and in some cases lied about intelligence.” Although Mr. Fournier referred to “evidence” supporting his view, he did not cite any—and I do not believe there is any.

He did say correctly that “intelligence is never dispositive; it requires analysis and judgment, with the final call and responsibility resting with the president.” It is thus certainly possible to criticize President Bush for having believed what the CIA told him, although it seems to me that any president would have credited such confident assertions by the intelligence community. But to accuse the president of lying us into war must be seen as not only false, but as dangerously defamatory.

The charge is dangerous because it can take on the air of historical fact—with potentially dire consequences. I am reminded of a similarly baseless accusation that helped the Nazis come to power in Germany: that the German army had not really lost World War I, that the soldiers instead had been “stabbed in the back” by politicians.

Sometime in the future, perhaps long after most of us are gone, an American president may need to rely publicly on intelligence reports to support military action. It would be tragic if, at such a critical moment, the president’s credibility were undermined by memories of a false charge peddled by the likes of Ron Fournier.

Mr. Silberman, a senior federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.
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184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wonder how much will go to Hezbollah? on: February 09, 2015, 01:03:27 PM
The Lebanese army received on Sunday a shipment of heavy weaponry and ammunition from the United States. According to a report in the An-Nahar Lebanese daily, a ship carrying more than 70 American-made heavy guns docked at the port of Beirut. The weapons are reportedly intended to help the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) fight Islamist organizations who are attempting to infiltrate Lebanese territory from Syria. There is little doubt that many of these weapons will eventually end up in the hands of Hezbollah, a terrorist organization threatening Israel with destruction. A separate report on the IHS Jane's news site said the LAF has already received a shipment of M109 155 mm/37 caliber howitzers, which would provide it with a significant boost to its artillery capabilities. "The Lebanese military received 72 M198 power supply (howitzers), and more than 25 million rounds of artillery, mortar and rifle ammunition," the official said on condition of anonymity. The LAF "received about a dozen M109s supplied by Jordan via a third party transfer," the US embassy in Beirut told IHS Jane's. The howitzers were delivered in late January. An AFP photographer at the Beirut port also saw several Humvees, howitzers, ammunition containers and other military vehicles arriving.

In a statement, the US embassy said the aid is worth $25 million, adding that the 26 million rounds of ammunition included small, medium and heavy artillery rounds. "Support for the (Lebanese military) remains a top priority for the United States. Recent attacks against Lebanon's army only strengthen America's resolve to stand in solidarity with the people of Lebanon to confront these threats," said the embassy. It added: "The United States is providing top of the line weapons to the (Lebanese army) to help Lebanon's brave soldiers in their confrontation with the terrorists." The deal comes as Beirut faces a growing jihadist threat on its border with Syria. More than a million refugees have fled the war in Syria by escaping to Lebanon, according to figures from the United Nations. In September, France and Saudi Arabia signed a $3 billion arms deal for Lebanon, the Elysee Palace said following talks between President Francois Hollande and the Saudi crown prince. "We have come together, Saudi Arabia and France, to help Lebanon on the condition that it also helps itself, for its own security," Hollande added, without commenting directly on the joint contract. The French weapons are scheduled to arrive in Lebanon in early April, the French foreign minister's office said.
185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: February 09, 2015, 12:51:21 PM
U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Stop Same-Sex Marriages in Alabama
The United States Supreme Court said early Monday that it would not stop same-sex marriages in Alabama, as gay couples gathered outside courthouses across the state.
Justices on Monday morning denied a request by the Alabama attorney general to extend a hold on a judge’s ruling overturning the state’s ban on gay marriage. The attorney general, Luther Strange, had asked the Supreme Court to halt the weddings until the justices settle the issue nationwide when they take it up this year.
Judge Callie V. S. Granade of Federal District Court ruled in January that the Alabama ban was unconstitutional, but she put a hold on her order until Monday to give the state time to appeal. Gay couples are lining up at courthouses seeking marriage licenses.
But in a dramatic show of defiance toward the federal judiciary, Chief Justice Roy S. Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court on Sunday night ordered the state’s probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to gay couples on Monday.
According to reports early Monday, probate judges in Birmingham and Montgomery had defied Chief Justice Moore and were issuing licenses.

186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 09, 2015, 12:43:02 PM
Agreed on Baker's antipathy to Israel.

Somethings to remember here:

1)  Having Iran as the bulwark of our geopolitical interests in the Middle East was a key building block of Sec. State and Director of the National Security Council Henry Kissinger.  Not a few belief that Kissinger aided and abetted the creation of OPEC as a way for the Shah of Iran to have the money to buy the necessary arms.   James Baker was around at the time and it is plausible that he picked up this thought at that time.

2) The fall of the Shah to the Khomeni Revolution under Carter changed all of this.   Obama appears not to have noticed!

3) It is worth noting that what Obama is pursuing here is quite similar to what Stratfor has predicted i.e. that the same geopolitical considerations that led Kissinger to his strategy remain and that Iran's nuke program was a bargaining chip for a deal with the US to establish Iran as regional hegemon.  I posted here a Strafor piece about all of this either in the US foreign policy thread, this thread, or the FUBAR thread, about all of this several months/one year ago.  I'm in a busy morning-- perhaps someone can find it and post its URL and post # here?

187  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 09, 2015, 12:21:27 PM
And grateful that you started it!  As can be seen by the number of reads, this is one of our most popular threads and its meme has spread to the DBMA Ass'n fourm as well.  Thank you for your post here this morning-- it reminds me to post here as well as on the thread on the Ass'n's forum.

Amongst many things, I am grateful for another beautiful day in LA.   From the feel of the morning I would say that it looks like we are headed to another 80 degree day today.
188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A long and serious read: Obama's Secret Iran Strategy on: February 08, 2015, 12:36:22 PM
189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / White House & POTH misled about Netanyahu invitation? on: February 08, 2015, 12:23:00 PM
190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CO pot tax revenues on: February 08, 2015, 09:26:39 AM
191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: February 08, 2015, 09:03:15 AM
With Internet freedom safe for now, let’s embrace the values that make the Web work so well.
L. Gordon Crovitz
Feb. 1, 2015 6:08 p.m. ET

Congress did the world’s three billion Internet users a favor by blocking President Obama’s plan to end U.S. protection of the open Internet. Now it is time to embrace the American exceptionalism that made today’s Internet possible.

In March 2014, the Obama administration said it would give up the U.S. contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, when the current term expires in September. The plan ran into a buzz saw of criticism, including from Bill Clinton, whose administration built American protection of freedom into the core workings of the Internet when it opened for commercial use in the 1990s.

American oversight protects the engineers and network operators who manage the Internet from political interference. China, Russia and Iran can block access only in their own countries. The Obama plan would have enabled them to get control over root-zone names and addresses so they could censor or remove websites in other countries.

The Commerce Department official charged with carrying out the plan to give up U.S. stewardship, Lawrence Strickling, last week gave the administration’s first reaction to the omnibus budget bill, which Mr. Obama signed into law late last year. It effectively vetoed the Obama plan by prohibiting any expenditures by the Commerce Department to end the U.S. contract overseeing Icann.

Mr. Strickling acknowledged that the law bars the administration from giving up control over the Internet as it had planned. He told last week’s annual meeting of the Congressional Internet Caucus: “The act does restrict [Commerce] from using appropriated dollars to relinquish our stewardship during fiscal year 2015 with respect to Internet domain name system functions. We take that seriously. Accordingly, we will not use appropriated funds to terminate the . . . contract with Icann prior to the contract’s current expiration date of Sept. 30, 2015.”
Photo: Getty Images

What he didn’t make explicit is that under the clear terms of the Icann contract, U.S. control over the Internet must be renewed for a further two years, through September 2017—past the end of the Obama presidency. That means it will be up to the next president whether to pursue the Obama plan, which seems unlikely. Why would any candidate from either party run on a platform of giving up U.S. protection for the open Internet?

Instead of making clear that there will be no change during the Obama presidency, Mr. Strickling encouraged other governments and Icann to act as if U.S. oversight will still end soon. He asked them to keep trying to overcome the key stumbling block of keeping Icann accountable in the absence of a U.S. contract. Even before Congress made the point moot, Icann said it wouldn’t have found any alternative to continued U.S. oversight by the deadline set under the Obama plan.

The Obama administration needs to roll back expectations it set but won’t meet for changing Internet governance. Washington should instead embrace the American exceptionalism that created the Internet as a haven for free speech and permissionless innovation. People everywhere benefit from the absence of Internet censorship and international regulation of websites or apps.

If Mr. Obama believed that, he wouldn’t have proposed giving up American protection in the first place. So it is up to Congress to make the case for not fixing what ain’t broke. The new chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, South Dakota’s John Thune, last week announced hearings on Internet governance. He said that without an effective alternative to U.S. oversight, the U.S. should renew its oversight of Icann indefinitely.

As the Obama administration was trying to give up protection for the open Internet, authoritarian regimes were redoubling their efforts to assert control. China recently cut off the virtual private networks that Chinese citizens relied on to gain access to the world’s websites and evade the Great Firewall. One Chinese historian said that without access to Google Scholar, which links to scholarly research around the world, “it’s like we’re living in the Middle Ages.” The world’s autocrats prefer the top-down Middle Ages to Internet-driven democratization of information and communication.

The U.S. oversees an Internet built in its own image, with the result that people around the world increasingly expect free speech and open innovation. All presidential candidates should embrace this enormous accomplishment and pledge never to abandon the open Internet.
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192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Drones/UAV/UAS/Bots on: February 08, 2015, 09:02:17 AM
Some important things to reflect upon in that article.
193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Senate and Iran's Bomb on: February 07, 2015, 03:38:08 PM

The Senate and Iran’s Bomb
Obama rejects a role for Congress that it has long played on arms control.
Feb. 6, 2015 6:47 p.m. ET

The ghost of Scoop Jackson is hovering over the Obama Administration’s troubles with the Senate and its nuclear negotiations with Iran. Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, a respected national-security Democrat from Washington state, was often a thorn in the side of Presidents who were negotiating arms-control agreements with the Soviet Union in the 1970s. President Obama wishes Senate critics such as Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Bob Corker would simply get their noses out of the deal. This President needs a history lesson: Senate involvement in arms-control agreements goes back at least 50 years.

Threatening vetoes of anything the Senate sends him on Iran, President Obama seems to think his job is to negotiate nuclear arms agreements unilaterally, while the Senate’s job is to keep its mouth shut.

It was never thus.

The idea of nuclear-arms agreements negotiated by an Administration with little or no input from Congress is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Clinton Administration unilaterally negotiated the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea to stop its construction of nuclear reactors. The George W. Bush Administration followed, producing five sets of Six-Party Talks with North Korea. They all fell apart because the North Koreans cheated by continuing to test nuclear devices and develop missiles capable of delivering a bomb.

The Obama negotiation with Iran is called P5+1, which asks everyone to believe that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, can be trusted to put Iran’s nuclear genie to sleep. That arms-control model may appeal to the Nobel Peace Prize committee, but it should not impress U.S. Senators.

The Senate’s experience with nuclear-arms control dates at least to the Kennedy Presidency in 1963 and the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which emerged after eight years of negotiations with the Soviet Union. Like virtually all Soviet-era arms agreements, that deal was a formal treaty and subject to the Constitution’s treaty-making process: The President may commit the U.S. to a treaty with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. The Senate ratified the Kennedy test ban 80-19.

With a few exceptions, that public process was followed for decades. The agreements were openly debated by Senators with input, pro and con, by national-security specialists from inside and outside the government.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was negotiated during the Johnson Presidency and ratified under Richard Nixon in 1969. Nixon then undertook negotiations for the first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I). That produced the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the Senate ratified 88-2. SALT I never became a formal, permanent treaty. It was a temporary deal, lasting five years, and Nixon submitted it to Congress for approval by votes in both the Senate and House.

President Obama’s Iran deal sounds like Nixon’s temporary interim SALT accord. But while Nixon understood the need to get Congress’s formal approval, the Obama White House refuses to note even the existence of Mr. Corker’s proposed up-or-down vote on an Iran deal.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and amid the Iranian hostage crisis, President Carter withdrew the SALT II treaty with the Soviets, knowing the Senate would never ratify it. During the Reagan years, Senators were preoccupied with nuclear verification and compliance. How, the Senators asked, would we know if the Soviets were cheating, and what would we do about it if they did cheat?

As the Reagan team pressed in 1987 for ratification of the INF treaty on medium-range nuclear weapons, Senator Sam Nunn, then the Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said, “We are going to have a major debate on verification, in the context of both this agreement and the next one.” Leading national-security figures testified in hearings, all of it covered and debated in major newspapers and television. It was a valuable exercise in American governance. The Senate ratified INF in May 1988, 93-5.

George H.W. Bush concluded the START treaty on longer-range nuclear weapons in 1991, which the Senate also ratified, as it did START II in 1996 under Bill Clinton.

Barack Obama’s Iran project is the outlier in the history of arms control. His insistence that no one may interfere in his negotiations has only increased misgivings in Congress about the details. If Mr. Obama were pursuing the traditional route to gain approval of an Iran agreement, exposing it to formal public debate and a vote, there would have been no need for Speaker John Boehner to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress.

Details matter. The Defense Intelligence Agency in its annual threat assessment last February said, “In addition to its growing missile and rocket inventories, Iran is seeking to enhance lethality and effectiveness of existing systems with improvements in accuracy and warhead designs.”

Missile delivery systems and warhead design were make-or-break issues during arms agreements with the Soviet Union. In Mr. Obama’s negotiations with Iran, they are virtually non-subjects.

Senators Menendez, Corker and Mark Kirk have led the effort for more accountability on an Iranian arms deal. President Obama’s response is a threat to veto any advice or consent the Senate may enact that doesn’t simply assent to whatever he signs. What an irony that his unilateral point man is former Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry .

This new Senate needs to re-establish its traditional role in letting the American people know what is in—and what is not in—these deals with the next generation of nations seeking nuclear bombs.
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194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The View from NATO's Russian Front on: February 07, 2015, 03:29:56 PM
The View From NATO’s Russian Front
The Army commander in Europe on Putin’s new way of war, Russia’s growing arsenal, and coping with U.S. military budget cuts.
Frederick B. Hodges ENLARGE
Frederick B. Hodges Photo: Zina Saunders
By Sohrab Ahmari
Feb. 6, 2015 6:45 p.m. ET

Wiesbaden, Germany

‘I believe the Russians are mobilizing right now for a war that they think is going to happen in five or six years—not that they’re going to start a war in five or six years, but I think they are anticipating that things are going to happen, and that they will be in a war of some sort, of some scale, with somebody within the next five or six years.”

So says Lt. Gen. Frederick “Ben” Hodges, commander of U.S. Army Europe. It’s Monday evening at the Army’s Lucius D. Clay garrison near Wiesbaden, a small town in southwest Germany. The air outside is freezing, the ground coated by a thin layer of snow. Moscow lies 1,500 miles east, but Russia comes up almost immediately as I sit down to dinner with Gen. Hodges and one of his aides in a cozy dining room at the base.

“Strong Europe!” reads a sign on one of the walls. Next to it is the U.S. Army Europe insignia, a burning sword set against a blue shield. The two signs represent the strategic framework the three-star general has introduced—building on America’s decades-long role on the Continent—since taking command last year of the 30,000 or so U.S. soldiers stationed in Europe.

The U.S. military presence in Europe is more vital at this moment than it has been in many years. American engagement is essential if the West is to deter a revanchist Russia that has set out to “redraw the boundaries of Europe,” Gen. Hodges says with a native Floridian’s drawl.

He points to the recent increase in violence in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Kremlin forces in January assaulted the Black Sea port of Mariupol, killing 30 civilians, and are now consolidating their gains.

“What’s happening in eastern Ukraine is very serious,” the 56-year-old West Point alumnus says. “When they fired into Mariupol that got my attention. Mariupol is an important place, city of 500,000 on the Black Sea. Russia has to resupply Crimea by sea or air, and that is very expensive, so obviously they would like to do it overland. Mariupol sits right in the way. They would really like to drive right through there.”

What Russian President Vladimir Putin “has done in Ukraine,” he says, “is a manifestation of a strategic view of the world. So when you look at the amount of equipment that has been provided, and the quality and sophistication of the equipment that has been provided to what I would call his proxies . . . they clearly have no intention of leaving there.”

The new weapons Mr. Putin has supplied to these proxies include “some of the latest air-defense systems,” says Gen. Hodges. “They also have brought in some of the latest, most-effective jamming, what we would call electronic-warfare, systems.” This level of assistance suggests Ukraine “is not a foray, not a demonstration. They are deploying capabilities way above and beyond anything that any militia or rebel organization could ever come up with.”

The fact that the political class in the West is still splitting hairs about the nature of the insurgency in Ukraine is testament to the success of the Kremlin’s strategy of waging war without admitting it. “When you saw video of the Spetsnaz [Russian special forces], the so-called little green men” in eastern Ukraine, the general says, “unless you absolutely know nothing about military stuff, how they carry themselves, the fact that they were all perfectly in uniform, that’s hard to do. It’s hard to get soldiers to stay in uniform and everybody carrying their weapon the right way all the time. That’s how you tell the difference between a militia, or rebels who have a variety of uniforms, and this group who are all perfectly in uniform.”

Gen. Hodges then strips his own Ranger badge from a Velcro patch on his uniform sleeve, just as those well-organized soldiers aiding the Ukrainian insurgents are badgeless. “I can take my patch off my uniform and say I’m not in the Army anymore,” he chuckles. “So there’s a reluctance to acknowledge it. I can understand that. This has huge implications. But that’s what so-called hybrid warfare is all about. It’s about creating ambiguity, giving people who don’t want to believe it an excuse to not believe. Or to create enough uncertainty so that the responses are slow, delayed, hesitant.”

Such hesitation has already worked for Mr. Putin, and contrasting Russia’s military buildup with anemic military spending in the West gives the general further reason for concern.

The Russians have “got some forces in Transnistria,” he says of the state that broke away from Moldova in the 1990s. “They’ve got forces in Georgia. And I think they view China as their existential threat, so they’ve got a lot of capacity out there.” The Russian military is thus already somewhat stretched, and Moscow had to carve out from existing units the battalion task groups currently arrayed near eastern Ukraine. Yet “they are clearly on a path to develop, to increase, their capacity,” Gen. Hodges says. Add to this expansion that “they’ve got very good equipment, extremely good communications equipment, their [electronic-warfare] capability, T-80 tanks.” How long will it take for Russia to reach its desired military strength? “I think within another two or three years they will have that capacity,” he says.

Gen. Hodges notes that the Russians already have an advantage in the information battleground: “They’re not burdened with the responsibility to tell the truth. So they just hammer away, and whenever somebody in the West puts out a blog or a tweet, there’s an immediate counterattack by these trolls.”

Russia Today, the Kremlin’s foreign-language television service, is estimated to be within reach of 600 million viewers world-wide. Russia Today’s YouTube channel has received a billion views, making it one of the most-watched channels on the online-video platform.

Then there is the Kremlin’s sheer aggressiveness, not least on the nuclear front. The Pentagon last year announced that it is removing missiles from 50 of America’s underground silos, converting B-52 long-range bombers to conventional use and disabling 56 submarine-based nuclear-launch tubes—all well ahead of the 2018 New Start treaty deadline. Moscow, by contrast, has been simulating nuclear strikes on Western capitals as part of annual exercises.

Gen. Hodges won’t comment on the U.S. strategic-force posture in Europe other than to say he is “confident in that process.” But he adds that the fact that the Russians rehearse nuclear-strike scenarios “shows that they’re not worried about conveying a stark message like that. You know, frankly, you hear this often from many people in the West, ‘Oh, we don’t want to provoke the Russians.’ I think concern about provoking the Russians is probably misplaced. You can’t provoke them. They’re already on a path to do what they want to do.”

Fear of provoking Russia has been part of the recent debate over providing lethal aid to Kiev. As a member of the military, Gen Hodges won’t weigh in directly in the Washington policy debate. “What’s more important is this,” he says. “We have to have a strategy. Just military aid is not a strategy.” Western leaders should first determine what outcome they’d like to see emerge in the region, he says, and then apply a “whole-of-government” approach, including a military dimension, to achieve it.

Before being posted here, and in between multiple post-9/11 deployments to the Middle East, Gen. Hodges served as an Army congressional liaison in Washington. What he learned was that lawmakers’ “interests will tend to be domestic,” he says.

“If you’re the delegation from North Carolina that cares about Fort Bragg, you’re going to want to see as much capability as possible and money spent in North Carolina. Same thing at Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Lewis, Washington,” he says. “But there is no congressman for Wiesbaden, no senator for Bavaria.”

Many Americans and their representatives are tempted to regard Crimea as a distant geographical abstraction—and to say that it’s about time Europeans met their own defense needs instead of financing bloated welfare states. “It’s a fair question,” Gen. Hodges says. “Why won’t the Germans do more? Why won’t the Brits do more? You’ll get that from people in the States. I’ve never been bashful about telling allies, ‘Hey, you have a responsibility here, too. You all agreed to spend 2% of your GDP on defense. Right now only four countries are doing it.’”

Yet the failure of many of European leaders to live up to their defense commitments “doesn’t change our interest,” Gen. Hodges says. “And the U.S. economic link to Europe, to the EU, dwarfs any other economic link in the world, anywhere in the Pacific, China, India, you name it. So if for no other reason it’s in our interest that Europe be stable, that people make money so they can buy U.S. products. . . . We provide capability assurance here by being present here.”

Gen. Hodges says there is also a huge payoff in U.S. security from U.S.-European cooperation. The main lesson of the post-9/11 wars is that “we are not going to do anything by ourselves militarily,” he notes. The U.S. “needs the capacity that other countries can bring.” These benefits come “from a relatively small investment—I mean, U.S. Army Europe is 2% of the Army’s budget and about 5% of the Army’s manpower. . . . You can’t sit back in Virginia, Texas or Oregon and build relationships with people here.” He quotes his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell: “You can’t surge trust.”

Nor can the U.S. project national power world-wide, as it has since the end of World War II, with an overstretched Army. “There are 10 division headquarters in the Army,” he says. “Nine of them are committed right now. I’ve never seen that. I don’t think at the height of Iraq and Afghanistan you had nine out of 10 division headquarters committed against some requirement.” That leaves little in reserve if another conflict breaks out.

To a commander like Gen. Hodges, the strain on the Army caused by budget sequestration is palpable. “With the possibility of sequestration hanging over our head, the Army will have to go to 420,000” personnel, he says. “That’s about another 80,000 below where we are now. . . . The strength of the Army at the height of the buildup was about 560,000.”

What Gen. Hodges fears is a “hollow” Army, in which commanders will have to forego a capable and sufficiently large personnel, readiness or modernization to meet budget requirements. To serve its purpose, however, an Army needs a depth of resources at its disposal.

“We’re not a business,” he says. “If you run a Napa [auto parts] franchise, the last thing you want is anything on the shelf. You basically want it coming out of the delivery truck to the customer, so you don’t have money tied up in inventory. In the military, that’s exactly what you want. You want stuff on the shelf, because you can’t possibly know how many customers you might have.”

In the Army, “customers” are global crises. “What are the three biggest things that have been on the news this past year?” Gen. Hodges asks. “Russia in Ukraine. Ebola. ISIL. A year ago, who had that on their list of things that are going to go wrong? Not all the geniuses in the think tanks and in all the agencies. I certainly didn’t.”

Even with supplies on the U.S. military’s shelves thinning, there is no bigger deterrent to Vladimir Putin and other bad actors than the knowledge that men like Gen. Hodges and the forces he commands are working in customer service.

Mr. Ahmari is a Journal editorial-page writer based in London.
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