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151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / lab grown penises coming? on: October 05, 2014, 05:48:52 PM 
152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The coming of ghost guns on: October 05, 2014, 05:40:35 PM
153  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Once again the call to destroy Israel on: October 05, 2014, 04:23:09 PM
154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel company to build towers on US-Mex border on: October 05, 2014, 04:21:36 PM
third post
155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIL plots for Iranian nukes on: October 05, 2014, 04:18:10 PM
second post

A manifesto purportedly written by one of the Islamic State’s senior military commanders details an unlikely plan that would see the brutal Sunni Islamist group gain Iran’s nuclear secrets with Russia’s help, London’s Sunday Times reported. The document, which has been attributed to Abdullah Ahmed al-Meshedani, said to be a member of IS’s “war cabinet,” was captured by Iraqi commandos during a raid in March, Sunday’s report (paywall) said. The report said that the manifesto, which Western security officials have deemed authentic, proposed offering Moscow access to an IS-held gas field in Iraq in exchange for “Iran and its nuclear program.” Russia, a close ally of the Islamic Republic, built and helps operate the nuclear power plant at Bushehr in Iran. It is also already in possession of the largest proven gas reserves in the world. The proposal also reportedly stated that in order to gain access to the gas field, located in Anbar province, the Kremlin would have to start backing the Sunni Gulf states against Shiite Iran and another Kremlin ally: the embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Islamic State document was also said to discuss a series of additional steps, including “Nazi-style eugenics,” and an intelligence gathering operation that monitors the organization’s political leaders as well as outside targets. IS’s ultimate goal was to strip Iran of “all its power,” the document said, killing Iranian teachers, diplomats and businessmen and even destroying the Iranian caviar industry and “exterminating” its famed carpet industry by flooding the market with Afghan rugs. Al-Meshedani, the author of the manifesto, also called on Islamic State warriors to kill Shiite Iraqi officials — Shiite Muslims are a majority in Iraq — military leaders and members of Iranian-backed militias.

Watch Here

In all, the Islamic State document listed 70 proposals, many of them outlandish and seemingly unrealistic, in its plan to consolidate IS’s power base in the Middle East, the report said. Iran has warned that it will attack Islamic State jihadists inside Iraq if they advance near its border. “If the terrorist group (IS) comes near our borders, we will attack deep into Iraqi territory and we will not allow it to approach our border,” Iranian ground forces commander General Ahmad Reza Pourdestana said on September 27. The Sunni extremists of IS control a large territory north of Baghdad, including in Diyala province, which borders Iran. The US, which has been leading an international airstrike campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has held discussions with Iran about counteracting the Sunni extremists, although the two countries, long at odds, deny direct cooperation. In a sign of the overlap of Iranian and US interests, Iran said in late September that one of the Islamic Republic’s most senior generals and 70 Iranian soldiers helped Kurdish fighters defend Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq that has been a focus of the American military. The city is home to a US consulate and offices of numerous Western companies, and the approach of Islamic State militants to its outskirts prompted American airstrikes in August. On Saturday, the Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning, the fourth such video showing the killing of American and British hostages in two months.

Source: Times of Israel
156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: October 05, 2014, 04:03:21 PM

157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Traitors amongst us? on: October 05, 2014, 03:59:44 PM

Second post
158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIL plots Ebola for US on: October 05, 2014, 03:55:28 PM
159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / ISIL plots Ebola for US on: October 05, 2014, 03:54:47 PM
160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paul Revere on: October 05, 2014, 03:09:32 PM 
161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Camille Paglia on: October 05, 2014, 03:07:56 PM
162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: Iraq was then, Syria is now; McCarthy: Khorosan is AQ on: October 05, 2014, 09:51:01 AM
Many inconvenient truths herein.
163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris on AG Holder and plugs his new book. on: October 05, 2014, 09:41:58 AM
164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Morris: AG Corruption (Holder and others) on: October 05, 2014, 09:39:21 AM
165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: October 05, 2014, 09:26:31 AM
"From the guy touted as having no political "axe to grind" though if you ask me he is clearly setting up Hillary to look courageous and insightful while lobbying for a job with her after she wins 2016 this is so self serving." 


I've seen the two of them interviewed together-- quite the mutual admiration society.

166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reality and German Solar on: October 05, 2014, 09:14:55 AM
167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cobalt enabling breathing underwater?!? on: October 04, 2014, 08:29:09 PM
168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reza Aslan on CNN on: October 04, 2014, 08:25:12 PM
More than a little glibness herein, but some really interesting things to think about too.  Is he right about FGM?
169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security, Border Protection, and American Freedom on: October 04, 2014, 12:10:17 PM
I have not had a chance to read this thoroughly and reflect upon each point, but it seems to me to be a conversation that is needed.
170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Al Gore, Al Jazeera, and Qatar on: October 04, 2014, 11:56:03 AM
171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 04, 2014, 09:52:50 AM
I see this thread has hit over 200,000 reads.

Good work gentlemen!
172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Some people think Medi-Cal is free on: October 03, 2014, 05:03:14 PM 
173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Questions for AG nominee on: October 03, 2014, 04:05:12 PM
174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sec Def Panetta: Baraq lost Iraq on: October 03, 2014, 11:30:13 AM
Who Really Lost Iraq?
Leon Panetta says the White House wanted all U.S. troops out in 2011.
Oct. 2, 2014 7:28 p.m. ET

Leon Panetta was one of the Obama Administration's adults, providing good counsel as CIA director and later Secretary of Defense. President Obama could use him now. So Mr. Panetta's account in his forthcoming memoir about how the White House bungled negotiations over keeping U.S. troops in Iraq past 2011 is a bombshell that explains the real reason Americans must fight again in that country.

Mr. Obama has repeatedly claimed that he wanted to leave U.S. forces in Iraq but that Iraq's government wouldn't agree to reasonable terms. For example, on June 19 the President told CNN's Jim Acosta :

"Keep in mind, that wasn't a decision made by me. That was a decision made by the Iraqi government. We offered a modest residual force to help continue to train and advise Iraqi security forces. We had a core requirement which we require in any situation where we have U.S. troops overseas, and that is that they are provided immunity . . . The Iraqi government and Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki declined to provide us that immunity."

In an excerpt from his memoir published this week on the Time magazine website, Mr. Panetta tells a different story. He relates that "privately, the various leadership factions in Iraq all confided that they wanted some U.S. forces to remain as a bulwark against sectarian violence. But none was willing to take that position publicly, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki concluded that any Status of Forces Agreement, which would give legal protection to those forces, would have to be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for approval."

That made negotiations harder, but as Mr. Panetta relates "we had leverage," such as withdrawing reconstruction aid. The White House refused to use it: "My fear, as I voiced to the President and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we'd seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S. Iraq's stability was not only in Iraq's interest but also in ours. I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq's military."

Mr. Panetta says he and his deputies pressed this argument, "but the President's team at the White House pushed back, and the differences occasionally became heated. . . . [T]hose on our side viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.

"We debated with al-Maliki even as we debated among ourselves, with time running out. . . . To my frustration, the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them" and "without the President's active advocacy, al-Maliki was allowed to slip away."

Mr. Panetta adds that, "To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda's resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country."

All of this comports with our own reporting from 2011, but it is nonetheless distressing to have confirmed how much Mr. Obama and his munchkin Metternichs in the White House put their political desire to withdraw from Iraq above the U.S. national interest.
175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: The New Bureaucratic Brazeness on: October 03, 2014, 11:25:48 AM
The New Bureaucratic Brazenness
Official arrogance is the source of public cynicism.
By Peggy Noonan
Oct. 2, 2014 6:22 p.m. ET

We're all used to a certain amount of doublespeak and bureaucratese in government hearings. That's as old as forever. But in the past year of listening to testimony from government officials, there is something different about the boredom and indifference with which government testifiers skirt, dodge and withhold the truth. They don't seem furtive or defensive; they are not in the least afraid. They speak always with a certain carefulness—they are lawyered up—but they have no evident fear of looking evasive. They really don't care what you think of them. They're running the show and if you don't like it, too bad.

And all this is a new bureaucratic style on the national level. During Watergate those hauled in and grilled by Congress were nervous. In Iran-Contra, Olllie North was in turn stoic, defiant and unafraid to make an appeal to the public. But commissioners and department heads now—they really think they're in charge. They don't bother to fake anxiety about public opinion. They care only about personal legal exposure. They do not fear public wrath.

All this became apparent in the past year's IRS hearings, and was pronounced in Tuesday's Secret Service hearings.

Julia Pierson, the director, did not seem at all preoccupied with what you thought of her. She was impassive, generally unresponsive and unforthcoming. She didn't bother to show spirit or fiery commitment. She was the lifeless expression of consultant-guided anti-truth.

No question was answered straight and simple. Everything was convoluted and involved extraneous data, so that listeners couldn't follow the answer and by the end couldn't remember the question. I am certain government witnesses do this deliberately—the rounded words, long sentences that collapse, the bureaucratic drone—so reporters will fall asleep and fail to file. An hour in Tuesday I expected the TV camera to slowly slide toward the ceiling, with the screen covered in a cameraman's drool. "Mistakes were made." "Our security plan was not property executed." Yes, you could say that of a story in which a nut with a knife burst into the White House and ran around the ceremonial rooms. Ms. Pierson neglected to mention in her testimony the story that would break shortly after she finished: Secret Service agents in Atlanta a few weeks before had allowed on to an elevator carrying the president a private security man, who reportedly jumped around taking pictures and was later found to be carrying a gun.

Ms. Pierson resigned after bad reviews of her performance. That's a tragedy in the sense it's tragic she wasn't fired.

But does anybody in the government feel it is necessary to be truthful about anything anymore? Does anyone in the federal government ever think about concepts like "taxpayers" and "citizens" and their "right to know"?

Everything sounds like propaganda. That will happen when government becomes too huge, too present and all-encompassing. Everything almost every level of government says now has the terrible, insincere, lying sound of The Official Line, which no one on the inside, or outside, believes. The other day, during the big Centers for Disease Control news conference on the Dallas Ebola case, a man from one of the health agencies insisted in burly (and somehow self-satisfied) tones that the nation's health is his group's No. 1 priority. And I thought, just like a normal person, "No, your No. 1 priority is to forestall a sense of panic. To do that you'll say what you need to say. Your second priority, connected to the first, is to assert the excellence and competence of the agency with which you are associated. Your third priority is to keep the public safe."

Everyone who spoke was very smooth. "I think 'handful' is the right characterization," said the CDC director to a Wall Street Journal reporter who asked if the sick man had contact with others before he was hospitalized. (That became "up to 100" the next day.) The officials were relentlessly modern-bureaucratic in their language. They have involved all "stakeholders."

Was the sick man an American or a foreign national? "The individual was here to visit family." Oh. The speaker's tone implied he'll tell us more down the road if he decides we can handle it.

What about those who traveled on the same plane as the man, and which flight was it? "Ebola is a virus. It's easy to kill if you wash your hands," said CDC chief Thomas Frieden . You are only infectious once you are sick, not before.

Ebola will not, all agreed, produce a full-fledged American epidemic. "We are stopping it in its tracks in this country," Dr. Frieden said.

That may be true. But nobody thinks it because government doctors and professionals said it. Americans do not have confidence in what The Officials tell them anymore.

This is not only because we live in a cynical age. In this case it's because people know the truth always contains uncomfortable elements, and in the CDC news conference very few uncomfortable elements were allowed.

They say the only thing you have to fear is personal contact, but they shy away from clearly defining personal contact. They suggest it has to do with bodily fluids, so you immediately think of the man sneezing next to you on the train. They do not want to discuss the man sneezing next to you on the train.

They did not want to discuss who the sick man was, his nationality, exactly what flight he came in on. They are good to their global masters! Sorry, just reacting like a normal person. There was a persistent sense the professionals had agreed to be chary with information that might alarm America's peasants and make them violent.

We are locked in some loop where the public figure knows what he must pronounce to achieve his agenda, and the public knows what he must pronounce to achieve his agenda, and we all accept what is being said while at the same time everyone sees right through it. The public figure literally says, "Prepare my talking points," and the public says, "He's just reading talking points." It leaves everyone feeling compromised. Public officials gripe they can't break through the cynicism. They cause the cynicism.

The only people who seem to tell the truth now are the people inside the agencies who become whistleblowers. They call a news organization, get on the phone with a congressman's staff. That's basically how the Veterans Affairs and Secret Service scandals broke: Desperate people who couldn't take the corruption dropped a dime. What does it say about a great nation when its most reliable truth tellers are desperate people?

Sometimes it looks as if everyone in public life is in showbiz, only showbiz with impermeable employee protections. Lois Lerner of IRS fame planted the question, told the lie, took the Fifth, lost the emails and stonewalled. Her punishment for all this was a $100,000-a-year pension for the rest of her life. Imagine how frightened she was. I wonder what the Secret Service head's pension will be?

A nation can't continue to be vibrant and healthy when the government controls more and more, and yet no one trusts a thing the government says. It's hard to keep going that way.
176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russian Demographics on: October 03, 2014, 11:17:06 AM
177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: October 03, 2014, 11:13:47 AM
248,000 Jobs Added in September

The U.S. economy added 248,000 jobs in September, and the headline unemployment rate fell to 5.9%. The real story is that 315,000 people left the workforce, and labor force participation ticked down again to 62.7%, remaining at levels not seen since the Carter-era recession. That's why the unemployment rate is falling. The U-6 unemployment rate, a better measure, sits at 11.8%. That said, the report contains some good news: The August report was revised up from 142,000 jobs created to 180,000, and CNBC notes, "The job creation [in September] was tilted heavily towards full-time positions, which surged by 671,000. Part-time jobs actually fell by 384,000." Furthermore, writes National Review's Patrick Brennan, "248,000 jobs in September is still not as fast as we’d like a recovery to be, but it’s noticeably more jobs than need to be created to keep up with population growth, and the past eight months have been a faster average period of job creation than any comparable time during this recovery." The American economy is resilient enough even to face the headwinds of Barack Obama's "recovery."
Are We Better Off Than Six Years Ago?

"t is indisputable that our economy is stronger today than it was when I took office," Barack Obama said in a speech Thursday, echoing his comments in his "60 Minutes" interview last weekend. Of course, that's an awfully low bar, isn't it? And, as the American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis notes, we haven't exactly been going gangbusters. "But consider," says Pethokoukis, "(a) the economy has been unable to consistently grow at more than 2% throughout this expansion; (b) trend GDP remains below its prerecession path; (c) the share of adults with any kind of job remains well below pre-recession levels; (d) there are just 1.2 million more private jobs today than January 2008 despite 15.6 million more adults; (e) wage growth remains weak; (f) the megabanks are even bigger, (g) the pace of startups is lackluster; (h) median household income, as measured by the Census Bureau, was 8 percent lower last year than in 2007." A few more stats: The poverty rate is up, even though government subsistence is at a record high, and homeownership is down almost 3%. Consumer confidence took a steep drop from 93.4% in August to 86% in September. Obama admitted the American people "don't yet feel enough of the benefits." No kidding. His solution? To raise the minimum wage (which will kill more jobs) and to spend more on infrastructure. Where have we heard that before? Finally, Obama noted, "Make no mistake: [My] policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them." He got that right.
178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison 1823 on: October 03, 2014, 10:51:50 AM
"The people of the U.S. owe their Independence & their liberty, to the wisdom of descrying in the minute tax of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprized in the precedent. Let them exert the same wisdom, in watching agst every evil lurking under plausible disguises, and growing up from small beginnings." --James Madison, Detached Memoranda, 1823
179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Read: Qatar on: October 03, 2014, 01:59:03 AM*Editors%20Picks&utm_campaign=2014_EditorsPicks09%2F30RS 

I found this read quite interesting.
180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Five Lessons learned on: October 02, 2014, 07:39:17 PM
181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Neal Stephenson: Innovation Starvation on: October 02, 2014, 06:23:51 PM

Neal Stephenson

MY LIFE SPAN ENCOMPASSES the era when the United States of America was capable of launching human beings into space. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on a braided rug before a hulking black-and-white television, watching the early Gemini missions. In the summer of 2011, at the age of fifty-one—not even old—I watched on a flatscreen as the last space shuttle lifted off the pad. I have followed the dwindling of the space program with sadness, even bitterness. Where’s my donut-shaped space station? Where’s my ticket to Mars? Until recently, though, I have kept my feelings to myself. Space exploration has always had its detractors. To complain about its demise is to expose oneself to attack from those who have no sympathy that an affluent, middle-aged white American has not lived to see his boyhood fantasies fulfilled.
Still, I worry that our inability to match the achievements of the 1960s space program might be symptomatic of a general failure of our society to get big things done. My parents and grandparents witnessed the creation of the automobile, the airplane, nuclear energy, and the computer, to name only a few. Scientists and engineers who came of age during the first half of the twentieth century could look forward to building things that would solve age-old problems, transform the landscape, build the economy, and provide jobs for the burgeoning middle class that was the basis for our stable democracy.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 crystallized my feeling that we have lost our ability to get important things done. The OPEC oil shock was in 1973—almost forty years earlier. It was obvious then that it was crazy for the United States to let itself be held economic hostage to the kinds of countries where oil was being produced. It led to Jimmy Carter’s proposal for the development of an enormous synthetic fuels industry on American soil. Whatever one might think of the merits of the Carter presidency or of this particular proposal, it was, at least, a serious effort to come to grips with the problem.

Little has been heard in that vein since. We've been talking about wind farms, tidal power, and solar power for decades. Some progress has been made in those areas, but energy is still all about oil. In my city, Seattle, a thirty-five-year-old plan to run a light rail line across Lake Washington is now being blocked by a citizen initiative. Thwarted or endlessly delayed in its efforts to build things, the city plods ahead with a project to paint bicycle lanes on the pavement of thoroughfares.

In early 2011, I participated in a conference called Future Tense, where I lamented the decline of the manned space program, then pivoted to energy, indicating that the real issue isn’t about rockets. It’s our far broader inability as a society to execute on the big stuff. I had, through some kind of blind luck, struck a nerve. The audience at Future Tense was more confident than I that science fiction (SF) had relevance—even utility—in addressing the problem. I heard two theories as to why:

1. The Inspiration Theory. SF inspires people to choose science and engineering as careers. This much is undoubtedly true, and somewhat obvious.

2. The Hieroglyph Theory. Good SF supplies a plausible, fully thought-out picture of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place. A good SF universe has a coherence and internal logic that makes sense to scientists and engineers. Examples include Isaac Asimov’s robots, Robert Heinlein’s rocket ships, and William Gibson’s cyberspace. As Jim Karkanias of Microsoft Research puts it, such icons serve as hieroglyphs—simple, recognizable symbols on whose significance everyone agrees.

Researchers and engineers have found themselves concentrating on more and more narrowly focused topics as science and technology have become more complex. A large technology company or lab might employ hundreds or thousands of persons, each of whom can address only a thin slice of the overall problem. Communication among them can become a mare’s nest of e-mail threads and PowerPoints. The fondness that many such people have for SF reflects, in part, the usefulness of an overarching narrative that supplies them and their colleagues with a shared vision. Coordinating their efforts through a command-and-control management system is a little like trying to run a modern economy out of a politburo. Letting them work toward an agreed-on goal is something more like a free and largely self-coordinated market of ideas.


SF has changed over the span of time I am talking about—from the 1950s (the era of the development of nuclear power, jet airplanes, the space race, and the computer) to now. Speaking broadly, the techno-optimism of the Golden Age of SF has given way to fiction written in a generally darker, more skeptical, and ambiguous tone. I myself have tended to write a lot about hackers—trickster archetypes who exploit the arcane capabilities of complex systems devised by faceless others.

Believing we have all the technology we’ll ever need, we seek to draw attention to its destructive side effects. This seems foolish now that we find ourselves saddled with technologies like Japan’s ramshackle 1960s-vintage reactors at Fukushima when we have the possibility of clean nuclear fusion on the horizon. The imperative to develop new technologies and implement them on a heroic scale no longer seems like the childish preoccupation of a few nerds with slide rules. It’s the only way for the human race to escape from its current predicaments. Too bad we’ve forgotten how to do it.

“You’re the ones who’ve been slacking off!” proclaims Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University (and one of the other speakers at Future Tense). He refers, of course, to SF writers. The scientists and engineers, he seems to be saying, are ready and looking for things to do. Time for the SF writers to start pulling their weight and supplying big visions that make sense. Hence the Hieroglyph project, an effort to produce an anthology of new SF that will be in some ways a conscious throwback to the practical techno-optimism of the Golden Age.


China is frequently cited as a country now executing the big stuff, and there’s no doubt they are constructing dams, high-speed rail systems, and rockets at an extraordinary clip. But those are not fundamentally innovative. Their space program, like all other countries’ (including our own), is just parroting work that was done fifty years ago by the Soviets and the Americans. A truly innovative program would involve taking risks (and accepting failures) to pioneer some of the alternative space launch technologies that have been advanced by researchers all over the world during the decades dominated by rockets.

Imagine a factory mass-producing small vehicles, about as big and complicated as refrigerators, which roll off the end of an assembly line, are loaded with space-bound cargo and topped off with nonpolluting liquid hydrogen fuel, then are exposed to intense concentrated heat from an array of ground-based lasers or microwave antennas. Heated to temperatures beyond what can be achieved through a chemical reaction, the hydrogen erupts from a nozzle on the base of the device and sends it rocketing into the air. Tracked through its flight by the lasers or microwaves, the vehicle soars into orbit, carrying a larger payload for its size than a chemical rocket could ever manage, but the complexity, expense, and jobs remain grounded. For decades, this has been the vision of such researchers as physicists Jordin Kare and Kevin Parkin. A similar idea, using a pulsed ground-based laser to blast propellant from the backside of a space vehicle, was being talked about by Arthur Kantrowitz, Freeman Dyson, and other eminent physicists in the early 1960s.

If that sounds too complicated, then consider the 2003 proposal of Geoff Landis and Vincent Denis to construct a twenty-kilometer-high tower using simple steel trusses. Conventional rockets launched from its top would be able to carry twice as much payload as comparable ones launched from ground level. There is even abundant research, dating all the way back to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the father of astronautics beginning in the late nineteenth century, to show that a simple tether—a long rope, tumbling end over end while orbiting Earth—could be used to scoop payloads out of the upper atmosphere and haul them up into orbit without the need for engines of any kind. Energy would be pumped into the system using an electrodynamic process with no moving parts.

All are promising ideas—just the sort that used to get an earlier generation of scientists and engineers fired up about actually building something.

But to grasp just how far our current mind-set is from being able to attempt innovation on such a scale, consider the fate of the space shuttle’s external tanks (ETs). Dwarfing the vehicle itself, the ET was the largest and most prominent feature of the space shuttle as it stood on the pad. It remained attached to the shuttle—or perhaps it makes as much sense to say that the shuttle remained attached to it—long after the two strap-on boosters had fallen away. The ET and the shuttle remained connected all the way out of the atmosphere and into space. Only after the system had attained orbital velocity was the tank jettisoned and allowed to fall into the atmosphere, where it was destroyed on reentry.

At a modest marginal cost, the ETs could have been kept in orbit indefinitely. The mass of the ET at separation, including residual propellants, was about twice that of the largest possible shuttle payload. Not destroying them would have roughly tripled the total mass launched into orbit by the shuttle. ETs could have been connected to build units that would have humbled today’s International Space Station. The residual oxygen and hydrogen sloshing around in them could have been combined to generate electricity and produce tons of water, a commodity that is vastly expensive and desirable in space. But in spite of hard work and passionate advocacy by space experts who wished to see the tanks put to use, NASA—for reasons both technical and political—sent each of them to fiery destruction in the atmosphere. Viewed as a parable, it has much to tell us about the difficulties of innovating in other spheres.


Innovation can’t happen without accepting the risk that it might fail. The vast and radical innovations of the mid-twentieth century took place in a world that, in retrospect, looks insanely dangerous and unstable. Possible outcomes that the modern mind identifies as serious risks might not have been taken seriously—supposing they were noticed at all—by people habituated to the Depression, the World Wars, and the Cold War, in times when seat belts, antibiotics, and many vaccines did not exist. Competition between the Western democracies and the communist powers obliged the former to push their scientists and engineers to the limits of what they could imagine and supplied a sort of safety net in the event that their initial efforts did not pay off. A grizzled NASA veteran once told me that the Apollo moon landings were communism’s greatest achievement.

In his book Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure, Tim Harford outlines Charles Darwin’s discovery of a vast array of distinct species in the Galapagos Islands—a state of affairs that contrasts with the picture seen on large continents, where evolutionary experiments tend to get pulled back toward a sort of ecological consensus by interbreeding. “Galapagan isolation” versus the “nervous corporate hierarchy” is the contrast staked out by Harford in assessing the ability of an organization to innovate.
Most people who work in corporations or academia have witnessed something like the following: A number of engineers are sitting together in a room, bouncing ideas off one another. Out of the discussion emerges a new concept that seems promising. Then some laptop-wielding person in the corner, having performed a quick Google search, announces that this “new” idea is, in fact, an old one—or at least vaguely similar—and has already been tried. Either it failed, or it succeeded. If it failed, then no manager who wants to keep his or her job will approve spending money trying to revive it. If it succeeded, then it’s patented and entry to the market is presumed to be unattainable, since the first people who thought of it will have “first-mover advantage” and will have created “barriers to entry.” The number of seemingly promising ideas that have been crushed in this way must be in the millions.

What if that person in the corner hadn’t been able to do a Google search? It might have required weeks of library research to uncover evidence that the idea wasn’t entirely new—and after a long and toilsome slog through many books, tracking down many references, some relevant, some not. When the precedent was finally unearthed, it might not have seemed like such a direct precedent after all. There might be reasons why it would be worth taking a second crack at the idea, perhaps hybridizing it with innovations from other fields. Hence the virtues of Galapagan isolation.

The counterpart to Galapagan isolation is the struggle for survival on a large continent, where firmly established ecosystems tend to blur and swamp new adaptations. Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist, composer, visual artist, and author of the book You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, has some insights about the unintended consequences of the Internet—the informational equivalent of a large continent—on our ability to take risks. In the pre-Net era, managers were forced to make decisions based on what they knew to be limited information. Today, by contrast, data flows to managers in real time from countless sources that could not even be imagined a couple of generations ago, and powerful computers process, organize, and display the data in ways that are as far beyond the hand-drawn graph-paper plots of my youth as modern video games are to tic-tac-toe. In a world where decision makers are so close to being omniscient, it’s easy to see risk as a quaint artifact of a primitive and dangerous past.

The illusion of eliminating uncertainty from corporate decision making is not merely a question of management style or personal preference. In the legal environment that has developed around publicly traded corporations, managers are strongly discouraged from shouldering any risks that they know about—or, in the opinion of some future jury, should have known about—even if they have a hunch that the gamble might pay off in the long run. There is no such thing as “long run” in industries driven by the next quarterly report. The possibility of some innovation making money is just that—a mere possibility that will not have time to materialize before the subpoenas from minority shareholder lawsuits begin to roll in.

Today’s belief in ineluctable certainty is the true innovation killer of our age. In this environment, the best an audacious manager can do is to develop small improvements to existing systems—climbing the hill, as it were, toward a local maximum, trimming fat, eking out the occasional tiny innovation—like city planners painting bicycle lanes on the streets as a gesture toward solving our energy problems. Any strategy that involves crossing a valley—accepting short-term losses to reach a higher hill in the distance—will soon be brought to a halt by the demands of a system that celebrates short-term gains and tolerates stagnation, but condemns anything else as failure. In short, a world where big stuff can never get done.
182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Divisions could weaken US Coaltion on: October 02, 2014, 06:14:43 PM
Third post


Over the past week, the U.S.-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria has expanded to include several new members. This has enhanced its overall combat power and spread the burden more equitably. The British parliament voted Sept. 26 to join the group and has already commenced airstrikes over Iraq. Denmark and Belgium also decided to participate in direct combat operations. These new partners join two European peers, France and the Netherlands, as well as Australia. Notably, these six countries have chosen to restrict their combat roles to Iraq. This contrasts with the role of the United States' five Arab partners -- Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates -- which have been carrying out airstrikes with the United States in Syria since operations expanded there Sept. 23.

This odd division of labor does not operate in the interest of efficiency but is instead an artifact of the complicated and juxtaposed reality on the ground and in the political arena. The battleground against the Islamic State is ostensibly divided between the sovereign states of Iraq and Syria. In reality, however, it is a single space spread over what has become an imaginary border. The divided coalition reflects the members' divergent political views on how to manage the respective situations of Iraq and Syria. Ultimately, the arrangement artificially separates what should be treated as a single battlefield and a single enemy. This weakens the coalition, confuses desired outcomes and often limits operations to what will appease all members.

The coalition's division of the battle space into two parts has already led to differences in target selection. Since earlier limited U.S. operations in Iraq expanded into Syria, the United States and Arab coalition members have focused on critical infrastructure in Syria that supports Islamic State operations in Syria and Iraq. This has included command centers, finance operations, supply depots and, most recently, oil refineries. The coalition's strategy in Syria has been to degrade the Islamic State's military capabilities through destruction or disruption of the critical assets that support it.
Military Assets and Airstrikes Against the Islamic State as of Sept. 29
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The strategy in Iraq, however, has been quite different. There, the focus of air campaigns has been to buttress ground operations. This has translated into close air support for Kurdish peshmerga and national government forces, as well as strikes aimed at destroying Islamic State military supplies, vehicles and heavy weapons used in operations against those forces. This divergence stems in part from the different tactical situations in each country: In Iraq the coalition is operating in direct coordination with local forces, whereas in Syria efforts to facilitate anti-Islamic State ground attacks are in the early stages, with only the first steps having been taken to train Syrian anti-regime rebels in Saudi Arabia.

But these disparate tactical realities are only part of the picture. The primary differences between these operations are explained by the imperatives of the partners operating in Iraq and in Syria. The United States' Sunni Arab partners have an interest in participating in the operations against the Islamic State in Syria. Degrading the Islamic State's capabilities there takes pressure off of anti-regime rebels currently fighting Damascus and Islamic State forces simultaneously. The United States' reliance on support from these Sunni Arab countries, however, presents the risk that the core mission in Syria will be stretched in two different directions. The United States aims to cripple the Islamic State without directly targeting Syrian President Bashar al Assad. The Sunni Arab states, though, want to dislodge al Assad's Iran-friendly regime and weaken the position of Lebanese-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which is assisting the Syrian government.
Risks to Cohesion
Conversation: U.S.-Led Bombing Raid Commences in Syria

For their part, Australia and the coalition's European members have a different set of interests from their Arab partners. Because a large number of Islamic State foreign fighters originated in Europe, these governments fear that the militants could at some point return home and threaten national security. The Islamic State has also taken European hostages and continues to be a source for radicalization inside Europe. This means that these states have compelling reasons for carrying out strikes against the Islamic State regardless of its area of operation. All six of these powers, however, have chosen not to operate over Syria without a clear mandate from the United Nations. In European countries especially, military intervention is a touchy political subject; approval for any type of direct involvement typically requires the support of parliament, putting tight electoral constraints on such operations. These limits are less severe in the case of Iraq, where the coalition is delivering assistance to a host nation requesting help rather than conducting a military intervention in a country without coordinating with its government.

The division of the coalition into two separate areas does not necessarily limit its military capabilities, but it does pose serious risks to its cohesion and, by extension, its ability to sustain effective operations over Syria in particular. Because of the Arab states' direct interest in the outcome of the Syrian civil war, they may try to push the United States toward extending air operations to targets of the al Assad regime. This is something the United States is unwilling to do, in part because it would carry a much higher logistical cost. But if such a disagreement were to threaten operations over Syria, the Europeans' reluctance to extend their own activities into Syria would seriously limit the coalition. The United States would also risk being perceived as the sole actor on the Syrian side of the battle, rather than part of an international coalition, and this could result in significant blowback on the ground. At the same time, disagreements on the scope of operations in Syria could also constrain the effectiveness of strikes by limiting the target set to the bare minimum to which all parties can agree.

As it stands, the U.S.-led coalition is fragile. When something is this delicate and complicated, it is hard to take the decisive action required to degrade and contain a dynamic opponent such as the Islamic State.

Read more: Divisions Could Weaken U.S.-Led Coalition in Iraq and Syria | Stratfor
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183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GCC Air Power on: October 02, 2014, 06:09:43 PM
second post

 Gulf Cooperation Council Members Continue to Build Air Force Capabilities
September 30, 2014 | 0400 Print Text Size
GCC air force
A Saudi air force demonstration squad flies in formation at a 2010 air show in Manama, Bahrain. (ADAM JAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries have long been saddled with particular military weaknesses stemming from geographical and demographic constraints. As a result, these countries have generally sought close alliances with the United States as the ultimate guarantor of their security. At the same time, council members such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have increasingly sought to build up their individual capabilities over the past two decades. This heavy investment -- particularly in their air forces -- has begun to pay dividends as the council members seek to protect themselves from the fallout of a U.S. rapprochement with Iran and endeavor to project their own power abroad.

During the first Gulf War, the Saudi air force by all accounts underperformed in combat, while other GCC member air forces, including those of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, maintained very mediocre capabilities. Since then, essentially all the member countries have prioritized the development of their air forces. This made sense for a number of reasons: It provided these countries with the flexibility to rapidly engage targets across vast distances. Air power is less personnel-intensive for the manpower-challenged Gulf countries, making air forces easier to staff with loyal personnel. This development also carried a significant element of prestige.

Developing capable air power has not been easy, and all the council member air forces continue to struggle with significant weaknesses. But each country has leveraged time, funds and alliances to gradually enhance its air capabilities. Today, the Saudi, Qatari and Emirati air forces are far more capable than they were during the first Gulf War. As can be seen with UAE strikes in Libya, Saudi operations over Yemen and coalition strikes in Syria, the council members are also increasingly willing to use their air power.

Gulf Cooperation Council Countries
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Over the past two decades, perhaps the strongest advantage in air power development has been close alliances with major air powers such as the United States, France and the United Kingdom. Gulf countries have leveraged these partnerships to acquire equipment, design training programs and develop doctrines for their air forces. Though largely lacking in combat experience, council member air forces have benefited from sustained participation in premier joint air force drills such as the U.S.-run Red Flag and Green Flag exercises, as well as training with European air forces through deployments to countries like the United Kingdom and Spain. Emirati pilots have been particularly impressive at these exercises. The United Arab Emirates is even referred to as "Little Sparta" in certain U.S. defense circles due to its outsized capabilities.

Meanwhile, after investing hundreds of billions of dollars in their air forces over the past two decades, GCC states now operate some of the most sophisticated aircraft exported by the United States and Europe. These include Saudi Arabia's Eurofighter Typhoon and the Emirati F-16E/F Desert Falcon, which are even more capable than U.S.-operated F-16s. Indeed, most of the council members' combat aircraft are generations ahead of the aircraft operated by regional rivals such as Iran and Syria.

The council members have also sought to develop other key capabilities. For example, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have acquired significant strategic airlift capacity, and the Saudis and Emiratis have continued to develop airborne early-warning systems. Efforts are ongoing to improve air defense suppression capabilities through training, while Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have acquired anti-radar missiles from the United States.
Persistent Weaknesses

Despite considerable progress, key problems continue to weaken GCC member air forces and intensify their dependence on the United States when carrying out elaborate air campaigns. Some of the biggest obstacles involve logistics and aircraft maintenance. Saudi Arabia is particularly dependent on foreign contractor support and depot maintenance to run its large arsenal of highly sophisticated aircraft. While the Saudis have demonstrated a basic capability in ground crew operations, they cannot maintain a high readiness level for long durations. To a lesser degree, this issue continues to affect the other Gulf air forces as well.

Another key weakness is the council's lack of strategic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. This is crucial in providing early warning and in target selection, as well as assessing battlefield damage after strikes have been carried out. Persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities are also critical when targets shift from large stationary marks to fleeting battlefield ones, such as when searching for vehicles, enemy fighting positions or even single fighters escaping on foot. While the United States can call on a plethora of assets ranging from manned and unmanned systems to satellites, the monitoring capabilities of council members remain largely limited to a few manned and unmanned systems operated by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, none of which can match sophisticated systems like the U-2, Global Hawk and RQ-170 aircraft operated by the United States.

Finally, though council members, especially the Saudis and the Emiratis, have invested in aerial refueling capabilities, their capacity for supporting strike aircraft at long ranges is very limited. Recent satellite pictures of Al Udeid air base in Qatar, for instance, aptly highlight the issue. The United States deploys more than two dozen KC-135 aerial refueling tankers there, more than twice the number of strategic tankers available to all GCC member air forces combined. Given that tactical aircraft are highly dependent on aerial refueling tankers for long-range deep strike missions, council members will remain dependent on U.S. tankers for sustained operations -- in Syria for instance -- unless they stage from closer airfields in Jordan or Turkey.

Despite these limitations, Gulf air forces have clearly come a long way over the past two decades. Intensified and persistent collaboration with the United States and Europe, massive investments in and acquisitions of highly advanced aircraft and technologies, and an increasing determination by regional governments to develop indigenous capabilities as Washington moves closer to Tehran have fueled this progress. And as GCC confidence in its air capabilities rises, it will become increasingly willing to use its offensive firepower in missions like those seen recently in Yemen, Libya and Syria.

Read more: Gulf Cooperation Council Members Continue to Build Air Force Capabilities | Stratfor
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184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Zaidis re-emerger on the scene on: October 02, 2014, 06:01:36 PM
 Zaidis Re-Emerge on Yemen's Political Scene

October 2, 2014 | 0415 Print Text Size
The Re-Emergence of the Zaidis on Yemen's Political Scene
Yemeni Zaidis shout slogans during a protest outside the headquarters of Yemen's national security service in Sanaa on June 10, 2013. (MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)


For the first time since the fall of its imamate in 1962, northern Yemen's Zaidi community, which follows a branch of Shiite Islam, is poised to play a defining role in the country's political transition. Led by the charismatic Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and his tribesmen, the northern Zaidis have emerged as the best-organized and most effective fighting force in Yemen and have strong-armed the weak and divided regime in Sanaa into conceding to several key demands. With the regime's traditional backers in Riyadh lacking options and state security forces spread thin on multiple fronts, the al-Houthis will try to capitalize on recent victories to ensure a greater Zaidi political stake in Sanaa, as well as greater autonomy for their own mountainous region in the north. In due time, the re-emergence of the al-Houthis will provide Iran with a key point of leverage in negotiations with its Saudi adversary, but it could also lead to security and political vacuums that groups such as the Southern Secessionist Movement and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula could exploit.


Following weeks of demonstrations in Sanaa by thousands of Zaidis — many of whom were armed — that did not result in the Sunni-dominated government's capitulation, the al-Houthis adopted more aggressive measures. During clashes that left more than 150 dead between Sept. 18 and 20, al-Houthi militants besieged and occupied key government buildings, including the Defense Ministry, an army command center, the parliament building, the central bank and the state television compound. In part because local troops and security forces offered little resistance to the al-Houthis, Yemeni President Abd Rabboh Mansour Hadi's government had little choice but to sign a U.N.-brokered deal with the Shiite rebels Sept. 21.
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Under the terms of the agreement, Prime Minister Mohammed Salim Basindawa would step down and be replaced by a neutral candidate within three days. Though Basindawa did step down, his replacement has yet to be named. Unpopular cuts to fuel subsidies, which had provided the initial impetus for al-Houthi demonstrations, were rolled back by around 25 percent, and Hadi is now required to take on a presidential adviser from both the al-Houthi and southern secessionist camps. More important, according to the agreement, a national unity government guided by a new constitution is to be formed within the month, with the al-Houthis reportedly set to take over several key Cabinet positions. In exchange, Abdul-Malik agreed to remove his supporters' camps from Sanaa's outskirts and to return occupied buildings to state control. Both sides have yet to follow through on many of their commitments, however, and heavy fighting between al-Houthis and their tribal and Islamist rivals continues in al-Jawf province, northeast of the capital.

The Saudi Factor

Saudi Arabia, which initiated an air campaign against the al-Houthis in 2009 when the group's military strength threatened to overwhelm Yemeni security forces, has remained strangely quiet over the past few weeks. Part of this may reflect the diminished influence the Saudis have had with their traditional partners in northern Yemen since the country's 2011 uprising. The Saudi policy of confronting regional Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations has alienated two of Riyadh's most important allies in Yemen: the powerful al-Ahmar tribal clan and former commander of the First Armored Division Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar (no relation), both powerful players within Yemen's Muslim Brotherhood branch, the al-Islah party. Stratfor sources in Sanaa have highlighted Riyadh's deteriorating ties within northern Yemen's tribal landscape, which is increasingly identifying with Islamist and jihadist ideologies that pose immediate threats to the kingdom's interests.

More important, Riyadh is reluctant to intervene in northern Yemen because it is preoccupied with its involvement in Syria and fears Islamic State activity could spread to Saudi Arabia. Now a formal participant in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State in eastern Syria, Saudi Arabia cannot afford to be tied down militarily on two fronts and does not want to risk upsetting its own restive Shiite minority, which may sympathize with the al-Houthis, particularly those in southwestern Saudi Arabia. Riyadh also has an immediate stake in the future of Iraq's Sunni community, leaving the kingdom with little reserve bandwidth to deal with developments toward its southwestern border. In many ways, a resurgent Zaidi powerbroker in Yemen could satisfy Riyadh's short-term interests by ensuring some form of stability in historically restive northern Yemen and by keeping al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's activities focused on the Shia as opposed to the Saudis. At the moment, the al-Houthis may represent the lesser of two evils from the Saudi perspective, a concept supported by our Yemeni sources.

Another actor who has remained quiet throughout Yemen's crisis is former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, of Zaidi descent himself, who is rumored to retain clandestine ties with some al-Houthi elements and who has actively sought to counter Hadi's control of the state. As a result of his 22 years in power, Saleh reportedly enjoys a substantial patronage network within Yemen's armed forces despite Hadi's attempts over the past few years to replace senior commanders with his own cadre of supporters. However, the relative ease with which the al-Houthis managed to occupy a city of 2 million and the lack of direct confrontation between security forces and al-Houthi militants remains suspicious. Indeed, most reports indicate that there were instances where the military and police units simply handed over institutions and districts. In some cases, authorities reportedly ordered security personnel to avoid antagonizing the rebels. Hadi himself has described the developments as part of a well-planned coup, and Foreign Minister Jamal al-Salal alleged during his speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 29 that the al-Houthis had received political and logistical support from the former regime. Stratfor will be closely monitoring Saleh's activities over the coming weeks in the event the former president attempts to capitalize on Hadi's current predicament.
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At the moment, there is no other cohesive force that could effectively challenge al-Houthi military might in northern Yemen. The Yemeni armed forces are spread thin on multiple fronts, carrying out campaigns against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — particularly in Shabwa, Abyan and, most recently, Hadramawt provinces — while containing secessionists in the south and rebellious tribes in Marib. Brigades operating in northern Yemen who fall under the sixth military district have suffered humiliating and repeated defeats at the hands of the al-Houthis, and many remain fractured and scattered. Tribesmen loyal to al-Islah and the al-Ahmars have been pushed out of much of their traditional territory in the north by the al-Houthis and have struggled to contain al-Houthi offensives in al-Jawf province. It remains to be seen whether al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula can pose an effective challenge to the Zaidi rebels of northern Yemen.
Central Authority Erodes

The al-Houthis will work to take advantage of the existing security vacuum, and Saudi Arabia's lack of options will likely pressure Hadi into additional political concessions in the near future. To achieve this end, Abdel-Malik will use his ability to incite a new round of violence in the capital to his advantage and will continue military offensives in al-Jawf. When the new Cabinet is eventually announced, the al-Houthis will likely acquire several key ministerial positions. As Sanaa continues its constitutional drafting process, the al-Houthis will look to redefine the boundaries of their proposed federal region to include Hajja province, which will offer the group formal access to the Red Sea, and al-Jawf province, which is strategically located near central Yemen's large Marib oil fields. By expanding territory beyond their traditional capital-intensive, mountainous enclave of Saada and by forging a greater role in Yemen's political process, the Zaidis could ensure a degree of autonomy for themselves not seen since the times of the imamate.

For Iran, a country long suspected of providing funding, armaments and training to the Shiite al-Houthis, the rise of the Zaidis is a strategic victory in its proxy war against Riyadh. As Iran and Saudi Arabia vie for influence in states such as Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, the al-Houthi role in Yemen will be an increasingly important bargaining chip. In many ways, by combining a political stake in Sanaa with a powerful militia outside state control in the northern mountains, the al-Houthis are poised to play a role akin to Lebanon's Hezbollah. The al-Houthi's relationship with Iran, however, is far less overt and substantial than Hezbollah's, diminishing Tehran's ultimate sway within the group, at least in the short term.

Power is increasingly devolving away from Sanaa, carrying important consequences for the broader state and region. Regional movements such as the southern secessionists and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which see a weakened government that is preoccupied with events back in Sanaa and the collapse of security forces in the face of al-Houthi aggression, will be emboldened to reassert control in their own respective regions. In fact, according to independent newspaper al-Wasat, days after the al-Houthi occupation of Sanaa, the Southern Mobility Movement announced the establishment of a Southern Military Council for the purpose of seizing control of southern provinces and laying the foundations for the region's independence. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also reportedly seized on paralysis in the capital to carry out a number of attacks on al-Houthi and state security forces in recent weeks. Regardless of how the fragmented Yemeni landscape becomes, it is clear the al-Houthi movement has catapulted itself into the national mainstream and is no longer just a regional sectarian rebel movement.

Read more: Zaidis Re-Emerge on Yemen's Political Scene | Stratfor
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185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck: Jihadi Ebola on: October 02, 2014, 05:08:36 PM
186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cong. Tom McClintock's ballot recommendations on: October 02, 2014, 04:58:43 PM
As a state legislator, TMcC had my respect for the right values and clear headed analysis.  I am glad that even though he is now a Congressman, he continues to put out his CA ballot recommendations.

McClintock November Ballot Recommendations

Prop 1 – Water Bond: YES.  This is a long way from a perfect measure, but it’s as good as it gets in California these days: a $7.5 billion water bond that spends $2.7 billion for new water storage.  If that sounds breathtakingly underwhelming, remember that’s $2.7 billion more than the multi-billions of dollars of water bonds that we’ve spent in recent years. Sadly, it doesn’t overhaul the environmental laws that vastly inflate costs and it squanders a great deal more that won’t be used for storage, but it is a step away from the lunacy of the green left (that adamantly opposes it) and this alone merits support.       

Prop 2 - Stop Us Before We Screw Up Again: YES.  This repeals Prop 58, a vat of Schwarzenegger snake-oil sold to voters as the panacea to the state’s budget woes.  It wasn’t.  (My I-told-you-so moment).  Prop 58 promised an iron-clad reserve, but in reality, the governor could suspend it any time he wanted.  He did. (Oops, I did it again).  What I like most about Prop 2 is that to raid the required budget reserve, both the governor AND the legislature must agree and then, only for a specifically declared emergency.  In a nutshell, it requires the legislature and governor to do what they did voluntarily during the Deukmejian era.  Still plenty of loopholes, but better than what we have today.

Prop 45 – If You Thought Obamacare Was Bad: NO. This is a trial lawyers measure that give the state insurance commissioner the power to set health care rates.  Sound good?  Doctors and other health care providers are already opting out of Obamacare because of artificially low rates; this compounds the problem for California.  The good news it you’ll have cheap health insurance.  The bad news is you won’t have a lot of providers accepting it.

Prop 46 – If You Thought Prop 45 Was Bad: NO. Another trial lawyers measure that quadruples the amount they can get for pain and suffering awards.  Prop. 45 means lower provider reimbursements and Prop. 46 means higher provider costs.  It also requires drug testing for doctors, which is a stupid idea but I appreciate the poetic justice in making THEM pee into little cups for a change.  Anyway, it won’t matter because your doctor will be out of state.

Prop 47 – Rose Bird’s Revenge: NO. We’ve gone overboard on some drug-related offenses, but this Proposition can only be described as a drug-induced hallucination.  It reduces many grand-theft crimes to misdemeanors and would release an estimated 10,000 incarcerated criminals back on the streets.  Basically, it is a burglar’s get-out-of-jail free card.  Good news for alarm companies and the handful of 60’s radicals nostalgic for Rose Bird – bad news for the rest of us.  Hide the silver.

Prop 48 – Freedom Works: YES.  This ratifies Indian Gaming compacts for two tribes in economically depressed regions of the state that will be an economic boon to the struggling local communities there.  It also cuts through environmental red tape that would otherwise delay these projects for years.
187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIS one mile from Baghdad?; Sex Slaves on: October 02, 2014, 02:56:53 PM*Editors%20Picks&utm_campaign=2014_EditorsPicks10%2F02RS
188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / First "accidental" Ebola case in US on: October 02, 2014, 02:45:07 PM
189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Fourth Branch of Government on: October 02, 2014, 02:39:40 PM|a1273ad3-9cbf-4db5-b513-672aecee09f2&utm_campaign=Imprimis&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-81maHb_Aa2ZclxHsMWFMpxU-CyhixURUFnK94JSArKjqddCZZ39lBZ355x425jIxuY5lH2TwioBk9f_C3u8LY1Wuv7Ow&utm_content=14325273&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=14325273

A good starting point for discussing this extremely important issue, but IMHO quite lacking in that it fails to discuss the SCOTUS jurisprudence justifying bureaucratic action, be it quasi-legislative or quasi-judicial.

190  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / My friend Maija on: October 02, 2014, 10:04:53 AM
191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: Bomb, or Occcupy, , , , or neither on: October 02, 2014, 08:04:47 AM

Wars usually end only when the defeated aggressor believes it would be futile to resume the conflict. Lasting peace follows if the loser is then forced to change its political system into something other than what it was.

Republican Rome learned that bitter lesson through three conflicts with Carthage before ensuring that there was not going to be a fourth Punic War.

Germany fought three aggressive wars before it was finally defeated, occupied and reinvented.

America defeated Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, inflicting such damage that they were all unable to continue their resistance. And then, unlike its quick retreat home after World War I, America occupied -- and still has bases in -- all three.

Does anyone believe that Japan, Italy and Germany would now be allies of the U.S. had the Truman administration removed all American military bases from those countries by 1948?

The controversial Korean War succeeded in saving a non-communist South Korea. The U.S. military inflicted terrible punishment on communist Korean and Chinese aggressors. Then, America occupied South Korea to prevent another attack from the North. The world of Samsung and Kia eventually followed.

There are still American peacekeepers in the Balkans following the 1999 defeat of Slobodan Milosevic and his removal from the Serbian government. Does anyone think that we can now pull all NATO troops out of the Balkans and expect Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Slavs, Croats and other assorted nationalities and religions to live peacefully and not involve the world again in their brutal ancient rivalries?

In contrast, examine what has happened when the United States pounded an enemy, then just up and left.

By 1974, South Vietnam was viable. A peace treaty with the North Vietnam was still holding. But after Watergate, the destruction of the Richard Nixon presidency, serial cutoffs of U.S. aid and the removal of all U.S. peacekeeping troops, the North Vietnamese easily walked in and enslaved the south.

It was easy to bomb Moammar Gadhafi out of power -- and easier still for President Obama to boast that he would never send in ground troops to sort out the ensuing mess in Libya. What followed was a Congo-like miasma, leading to the Benghazi attacks on our consulate and the killing of four U.S. personnel.

We can brag that U.S. ground troops did not follow our bombs and missiles into Libya. But the country is now more a terrorist haven than it was under Gadhafi -- and may come back to haunt us still more.

When Obama entered office, Iraq was largely quiet. Six prior years of American blood and treasure had finally led to the end of the genocidal Saddam Hussein regime and the establishment of a constitutional system that was working under the close supervision of American peacekeepers.

Then, for the price of a re-election talking point -- "I ended the war in Iraq" -- Obama pulled out every American peacekeeper. The result is now the chaos of a growing Islamic State.

Apparently, Obama himself recognizes his error. When our troops were still monitoring the Iraqi peace, he and Vice President Joe Biden proclaimed Iraq to be "stable" and their likely "greatest" achievement. But when the country imploded after they had bragged about pulling out troops, Obama blamed the decision on someone else.

The unpopular, costly occupations of both Afghanistan and Iraq were not, as charged, neoconservative fantasies about utopian democracy-building. Instead, they were desperate, no-win reactions to past failed policies.

After we armed Islamists to force the Soviets out of Afghanistan in 1989, we forgot about the chaotic country. The Clinton administration periodically blew up things with cruise missiles there on rumors of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. An al-Qaeda base for the 9/11 attacks followed.

After expelling Saddam Hussein's forces from Kuwait and leaving Iraq in 1991, no-fly-zones, a resurgent and conniving Saddam, and Operation Desert Fox followed. The aim of the second Iraq war of 2003 was to end the conflict for good by replacing Saddam with something better than what we had left after the first war.

It is popular to think that America's threats can be neutralized by occasional use of missiles, bombs and drones without much cost. But blowing apart a problem for a while is different than ending it for good. The latter aim requires just the sort of unpopular occupations that calmed the Balkans, and had done the same in Iraq by 2011.

Obama now promises to destroy the Islamic State in Syria, solely through air power. And he assures that he will safely pull nearly all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan at the end of the year.

More likely, Syria will remain a dangerous mess like Libya, and Afghanistan will end up like Vietnam or Iraq.

Victory on the ground and occupations can end a problem but are unpopular and costly.

Bombing is easy, forgettable, and ends up mostly as a temporary Band-Aid.

If we cannot or will not solve the problem on the ground, end an enemy power, and then reconstitute its government, then it is probably better to steer clear altogether than to blow up lots of people and things -- and simply go home.
192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: October 01, 2014, 09:08:15 PM
That it can be, and is, often used disingenuously does not mean that it is without merit.  Wisely selected immigrants can bring much benefit to America.
193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Free People, Free Markets on: October 01, 2014, 04:38:24 PM

Free People, Free Markets
The lessons from 125 years show how to revive American prosperity.
Updated July 7, 2014 9:32 p.m. ET

Surveying a century and a quarter of journalism is a bracing exercise—at intervals depressing and inspiring. Depressing because bad ideas never die. But inspiring because a free society can rescue itself from periods of decline and despond not unlike the current moment. This is one lesson of 125 years of Journal editorials that promote free people and free markets.

It won't surprise our long-time readers that the debates over principle have changed little over the decades even as events have. We opposed high tariffs when they were the patent medicine of the Republican Party in the 1920s as much as when they are now the resort of labor Democrats. We endorsed cuts in marginal tax rates when Andrew Mellon and Calvin Coolidge proposed them in the 1920s, when Walter Heller and JFK did the same in the 1960s, and when Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan did it again in the 1980s. Each tax cut was followed by renewed growth.
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A look back at the role of Opinion over the past 125 years and the lasting effects the editorials have had on The Wall Street Journal and the world.

There have been mistakes along the way, notably the endorsement of Hoover, whose austerity program turned recession into Depression. We would also not repeat the too-easy counsel of retreat from Vietnam we offered in 1968. The lesson we draw from that conflict and those in Iraq and Afghanistan is not to start wars you don't intend to fight vigorously enough to win.

Another lesson is how the political pendulum swings between freedom and equality, those competing poles of Western political thought. These columns emphasize liberty, but on occasion those who prize equality can provide a necessary corrective. The best example is the civil-rights movement, which used federal power to break the government-enforced tyranny of Jim Crow.

Yet those who promote freedom typically do better by equality than the progressives who elevate equality do by freedom. The progressive project invariably descends into subsidy and mandate to coerce men and women who resist the commands of those in power. See ObamaCare.

And what of the current moment? Seen through 125 years of setbacks but generally forward progress, it looks all too familiar. The bubble and bust of the last decade gave progressives a renewed chance to govern, this time with a rare supermajority. President Obama and Nancy Pelosi turned to the old nostrums that government spending can conjure growth, that regulation can productively steer investment, and that equality should be the main goal of economic policy.

The results have been predictable: An historically slow recovery now going on five years, declines in real household income except for the rich, the slowest pace of startups in decades, and a barnacled leviathan state that botches a website in the era of Amazon and lies about its waiting lists for veterans.

Perhaps worst of all has been the impact of these failures on American comity and confidence. Gridlock is built into the American Constitution, but the current rancor and paralysis reflect a deeper anxiety about U.S. governance. The public has begun to believe that the country's best days are past and the future belongs to others—perhaps China.

This pessimism contributes to a zero-sum politics that on the right becomes a hostility to immigrants, and on the left a disparaging of the successful. Both impulses lead to policies—income redistribution, rejection of human talent—that compound economic decline. And decline in turn leads to an inward-looking mood that pretends that if America ignores the world's disorders they will somehow leave America alone.

One particular challenge today that wasn't evident a half century ago is the entitlement burden—fiscal in its demand for ever-higher taxes, but also psychological in sapping the incentive to work and succeed. The Reagan restoration saved us from Europe's welfare fate for a time but Mr. Obama's progressive reversal has revived the danger of an entitlement state that is too big to afford but also too big to reform.

Yet for all our current ill temper, the lesson of 125 years is that the national direction can turn, and quickly. Experts said the aftermath of World Wars I and II would be depression, but government shrank and America boomed. In the 1970s the successive failures of Vietnam, Watergate, the energy crisis and inflation led many American elites to wonder if democracy was capable of defeating Communism. A decade later, amid the Reagan boom that added a Germany to U.S. GDP, those anxieties had washed away and the Soviet empire had disintegrated.

The answer to our current slow growth and self-doubt isn't a set of magical "new ideas" or some unknown orator from the provinces. The answer is to rediscover the eternal truths that have helped America escape malaise and turmoil in the past.

These lessons include that markets—the mind of free millions—allocate scarce resources more efficiently and fairly than do committees in Congress; that the collusion of government with either big business or big labor stifles competition and leads to political cynicism; that government will be respected more when it does a few things well rather than too many poorly; and that innovation and human progress spring not from bureaucratic elites but from the genius of individuals.

Above all, the lesson of 125 years is that whatever our periodic blunders Americans have always used the blessings of liberty to restore prosperity and national confidence. A free people have their fate in their own hands.
194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prediction: This will irk our Pat on: October 01, 2014, 04:36:15 PM
195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fresh Footage on: October 01, 2014, 03:43:00 PM
196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 12 Tribes on: October 01, 2014, 11:19:14 AM
Masked Arab youth threw stones and fired fireworks at a complex housing a preschool Tuesday afternoon in the Mount of Olives neighborhood in a continuation of increasing incidents of violence in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem in particular. In a video filmed by a nearby civilian, the group of arabs can be seen throwing a continued volley of rocks at a playground, causing the children to hide in a protected structure until police arrived on the scene. Batyah Harush, a caretaker at the preschool, said, "We were in the yard and suddenly 10 masked men arrived in the area and starting throwing rocks and firing fireworks in the direction of our yard. The noise really frightened the children and they saw the masked men and panicked. So we went into a shelter and I immediately called the police."

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The youth fled upon the arrival of the police. According to residents of the area, the last two months have been saturated by violence and other dangerous activity from the young Arab men who have thrown rocks, fired fireworks, and hurled Molotov Cocktails at Israeli vehicles and security forces. However, the incident at the Mount of Olives was not the only one of its kind Tuesday. In another Jerusalem neighborhood, Armon HaNatziv, an 18-year-old arab threw a rock at a residence. A glass pane was shattered in the attack. Police forces arrested the suspect.
197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AG Holder's cranial rectal interface viz profiling on: October 01, 2014, 11:08:27 AM
198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 60 Minutes Report on: October 01, 2014, 10:31:52 AM
Is this new or is it the one for which CBS apologized last year?

199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Wildlife numbers drop by half since 1970 on: October 01, 2014, 07:58:54 AM
I have a notion that one of the messages of Genesis is that we have been handed a Garden of Eden, and that our challenge is to prevent, and reverse, its destruction by our "Knowledge".  Looks like we a losing, badly.  cry cry cry


Wildlife Numbers Drop by Half Since 1970, Report Says
Analysis by WWF and Others Was Based on Thousands of Species in Rivers, on Land and at Sea
By Gautam Naik
Updated Sept. 30, 2014 2:21 p.m. ET

A new, comprehensive study of the world's wildlife population has drastically reduced its 2012 estimate. Why? WSJ's Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.

Earth lost half its wildlife in the past four decades, according to the most comprehensive study of animal populations to date, a far larger decline than previously reported.

The new study was conducted by scientists at the wildlife group WWF, the Zoological Society of London and other organizations. Based on an analysis of thousands of vertebrate species, it concludes that overall animal populations fell 52% between 1970 and 2010.

The decline was seen everywhere—in rivers, on land and in the seas—and is mainly the result of increased habitat destruction, commercial fishing and hunting, the report said. Climate change also is believed to be a factor, though its consequences are harder to measure.

The previous WWF report analyzing animal populations, published in 2012, suggested a decline of 28% over a similar period. The latest report uses 15% more data than the previous one, is more representative of tropical species and applies an improved methodology.

"We were surprised by the extent of the decline. It means we are not effectively reducing biodiversity loss," said Robin Freeman, a researcher at the Zoological Society of London, which compiled the population database on which the study was based.

The fastest declines were seen in rivers and other freshwaters systems, where populations fell 76% since 1970. By comparison, terrestrial and marine populations each fell 39%. While biodiversity continues to decline in both temperate and tropical parts of the world, the downward trend is greater in the tropics.

The most dramatic decline was in Latin America, where overall populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish fell 83%. Asia-Pacific wasn't far behind.

The findings are calculated using the WWF's Living Planet Index, a measure of biodiversity based on trends in 10,000 populations of about 3,000 animal species.

The WWF has been compiling its index since 1998. It tracks animal populations just as a stock-market index tracks the value of a group of stocks. In some cases—such as the tiger population—it is possible to get a fairly accurate fix on animal numbers. For other species, such as birds, the scientists rely on proxies, such as the number of nests or breeding pairs.

A pink river dolphin, also called an Amazon river dolphin, in Brazil. Barcroft Media/Getty Images

The approach has limitations. For example, an analysis of 3,000 species may provide only a rough approximation of population levels for the thousands of species that inhabit Earth and weren't included in the number crunching. "It leaves room for improvement," said Dr. Freeman, adding that the index would include more species in the future to increase its power.

Another pitfall is bias. Researchers may have included more data from declining species simply because the figures are easier to obtain. That problem may have been averted in this study. Of the 3,000 species included, several had stable populations. Of the remainder, half showed declines and half showed increases—but the declines were vastly greater than the increases.

The WWF report also tries to measure the state of humanity's ability to live in a sustainable way. With the planet's population expected to swell by 2.4 billion people by 2050, the challenge of providing enough food, water and energy will be difficult.

The report calculates a global "ecological footprint," which measures the area required to supply the ecological goods and services humans use. It concludes that humanity currently needs the regenerative capacity of 1.5 Earths to supply these goods and services each year.

An elephant in the Central African Republic Getty Images

"This 'overshoot' is possible because—for now—we can cut trees faster than they mature, harvest more fish than the oceans can replenish, or emit more carbon into the atmosphere than the forests and oceans can absorb," the report said. Since the 1990s, humans have reached that overshoot by the ninth month of each year, it adds.

"It's a very loud wake-up call," said Carter Roberts, chief executive officer of WWF U.S., in an interview. "As we lose natural capital, people lose the ability to feed themselves and to provide for their families—it increases instability exponentially. When that happens, it ceases to be a local problem and becomes a global one."
200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison against central planning 1789 on: September 30, 2014, 12:10:50 PM
"f industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out." --James Madison, speech to Congress, 1789
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