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151  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ISIS/ISIL documentary by embedded journalist on: September 12, 2014, 02:48:27 PM
Greg:

Good post, but allow me to point out to you as a new member that around here we strive for "thread coherency" i.e. putting posts into existing threads where possible.

For example, your documentary here would belong well in the Middle East thread (SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR)

TIA,
Marc
152  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bill MAher vs. Charlie Rose on: September 12, 2014, 02:42:47 PM
http://nation.foxnews.com/2014/09/11/bill-maher-absolutely-crushes-charlie-rose-comparing-islam-christianity  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjInNxIwfRw
153  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 9/21/2014 Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack on: September 12, 2014, 10:43:55 AM
If anyone has any nominations to or within the Tribe please get them up right away on the Tribal forum!
154  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A fired up Sen.Ted Cruz takes on 49 Dem Senate's attack on the First Amendment on: September 12, 2014, 04:22:05 AM


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXAYFzhNhQg
155  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A fired up Sen.Ted Cruz takes on the Dem Senate's attack on the First Amendment on: September 12, 2014, 04:20:22 AM


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXAYFzhNhQg 
156  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / KS senate race up for grabs on: September 12, 2014, 04:11:03 AM
http://online.wsj.com/articles/political-diary-republican-trouble-in-kansas-1410467172
157  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muslims and Jews in Germany on: September 12, 2014, 04:00:17 AM


Germany Sees Rising Anti-Semitism Among Muslims
Merkel to Address Weekend Rally, German Jews Worry About Lack of Plan
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By
Bertrand Benoit
Sept. 11, 2014 10:01 p.m. ET

Windows at a newspaper office in Spremberg, Germany, were sprayed with anti-Semitic grafitti this month, reading 'Jews' and 'We'll catch you all.' Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

BERLIN—On a recent Monday morning, two police officers stood guard outside the Lauder Nitzan Kindergarten, a white, three-story house marked by a discreet nameplate. Shortly after 9 a.m., a dozen children walked out and headed for the playground, minded by a nervous-looking civilian with a pistol protruding from a belt holster.

Most Jewish institutions in Germany have long had 24-hour police protection. Many, like the kindergarten, also employ private security. But such vigilance, usually intended to stave off neo-Nazis, has taken on fresh urgency amid an upsurge in anti-Semitic acts this year that some authorities and Jewish community leaders blame on Muslims.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will address a rally against anti-Semitismin Berlin on Sunday, underlining the government's concern. But many Jews in Germany are worried their country doesn't have a clear plan.

This summer, protesters against Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip unleashed a barrage of abuse, calling Jews "cowardly pigs," "child murderers" and fodder for the gas chambers, according to witnesses and Jewish organizations. On the sidelines, a mob hounded a Jewish couple in Berlin and Jews were beaten in Hamburg and Frankfurt.

Similar incidents were taking place elsewhere in Europe, but in the country that masterminded the Holocaust, they evoked particularly painful memories.

"We haven't heard these things on German streets for 50, 60 years," said Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews, sitting in his office on a Frankfurt side street. "The fact that people on German streets are saying Jews should burn, Jews should be slaughtered, Jews should be gassed. It hits a particular nerve for us."

Through education and prevention, but also repression, successive German governments largely succeeded in banning anti-Semitic speech from the public domain. Yet these efforts focused on the far-right; anti-Semitism in Muslim communities was left unchecked, according to community activists and government officials.

"The protests got a lot of attention, but 'Jew' has been used as an insult by young Muslims in schoolyards, on sports grounds, for years," said Ahmad Mansour, an Israeli Arab who has led initiatives against prejudice and radicalization among Muslims in Germany since 2007. "There is a group of people that Germany's fight against anti-Semitism passed by."

Aiman Mazyek, president of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said that Islam forbids anti-Semitism, but that some Muslims blur the border between criticism of Israel and hate speech.

"It must be addressed, but community leaders can't do this on their own," he said. "The state must step in, too, as it has done against right-wing anti-Semitism."

In a radio interview two weeks ago, Hans-Georg Maassen, president of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, said "we've always associated anti-Semitism with national socialism [Nazis], the extreme right. We are now realizing that many immigrants who came to Germany harbor anti-Semitic prejudice."

Long-term studies by Bielefeld and Leipzig universities show anti-Semitic prejudice in Germany is less widespread today than it was 10 years ago. Police records of anti-Semitic acts show the same trend.

But starting in 2002, the year of the second intifada,, bouts of violence in the Middle East have coincided with spikes of anti-Semitism here, according to police, fanning fear among Jews.

"If you look back over 30 years, the statistics haven't changed that much," said Daniel Alter, a Berlin rabbi who survived a vicious attack in 2012 and now works with imams on outreach programs. "But anti-Semitism has become more visible, more accepted."

Mr. Alter now wears a cap over his yarmulke. "There are too many places in Berlin where it would be irresponsible to advertise yourself as a Jew," he said.

Esther Mizrahi, director of the Lauder Nitzan Kindergarten in central Berlin, said she doesn't feel comfortable taking her children to the kosher store. A 31-year-old woman from an Orthodox household said Lebanese boys threw a stone through her window last month after arguing with her children over the Gaza conflict.

One obstacle to combating anti-Semitism among Muslims has been reluctance among politicians and the police to stigmatize a community that faces racism itself. Last week, a study by the government's antidiscrimination watchdog showed far more antipathy in Germany against Gypsies and Muslims than against Jews. A mosque was burned in Berlin last month in a suspected arson attack.

Immigration from the former Soviet Union after the Berlin Wall fell saw Germany's Jewish community grow to about 130,000 from 30,000 in the late 1980s. That doesn't count an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Israelis living here.

The spread of anti-Semitic speech, from online forums to schoolyards, risks sending the community retreating in its shell, said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee Berlin Office.

"Frictions with Muslims mean more and more Jewish families are deciding to send their children to Jewish schools," she said. "There's a tendency to seclude. If you can't send your child to the local school, it's a daunting challenge for society."

A year ago, Ms. Merkel said she was ashamed that Jewish institutions still required police protection. Mr. Graumann thinks it will be a long time before the guards become superfluous.

"I wish we no longer needed them," he said. "But that may have to wait until the Messiah comes."
158  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The man with the red bandana on: September 12, 2014, 03:57:05 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlRTyt6dALM
159  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 12, 2014, 03:45:32 AM


Economists See Overseas Risks as Growth Wild Card
WSJ Survey Shows Optimism on U.S. Economy, but Not So Much for Rest of World
By Nick Timiraos
WSJ
Sept. 11, 2014 12:08 p.m. ET

After an uneven first half of the year, most economists are relatively sanguine about the U.S. economy's growth outlook. It's the rest of the world that's a concern, according to The Wall Street Journal's monthly forecasting survey.

More than 90% of the 48 surveyed economists—not all of whom answered every question—said they expect the U.S. economy to improve relative to the first half of 2014. None see the economic outlook deteriorating. The survey was conducted after last Friday's weaker-than-expected August jobs report.

The brighter outlook for the U.S., coming as the Federal Reserve gets set to end its bond-buying stimulus program next month and amid generally improving economic data, stands in contrast to economists' views toward other large economies.

Just one-third said their outlook for the eurozone had improved, roughly balanced with the share seeing a worse outlook for the currency union. One-quarter of economists said their outlook for China improved, while almost 40% said it had deteriorated slightly. About 40% said their outlook for Japan had improved, compared with 12% that said it had deteriorated.

"The U.S. cycle is well ahead" of Europe and Japan, said Joseph Carson, an economist at Alliance Bernstein. "We've taken the hits and restructured. The household sector has deleveraged, and the financial sector has re-liquefied. You've seen little progress in Europe."

The U.S. is also better off because of increasing domestic oil production and the potential for new industries to grow on the back of that cheaper energy supply, Mr. Carson said.

Indeed, a majority of economists don't believe global oil prices will change over the next six months as a result of turmoil in the Middle East. One-third said the instability might lead to a slight increase in oil prices.

Economists cited the situation in Ukraine as the largest threat to global growth, followed by monetary missteps by central bankers and structurally high unemployment.

James F. Smith, chief economist at Parsec Financial, is pessimistic about the threat of economic warfare between Russia and Europe over the unrest in Ukraine, including the prospect of a European banking crisis from a Russian debt default. He also worries about the implications of Japan's growing trade deficit.  Still, compared with the August survey, the latest consensus outlook for economic growth, unemployment and inflation for 2014 and 2015 was little changed.

The economists see gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, advancing at a 3% annual pace this quarter and next. Just three economists expected growth to exceed 3.7% in the third or fourth quarters, and only two see growth falling below 2%.  The economy expanded at a 4.2% pace in the second quarter after contracting 2.1% in the first quarter, according to the Commerce Department.  Forecasters in the Journal survey expect the U.S. economy to grow at a 2.8% annual pace in 2015, down slightly from last month's forecast of 2.9% annual growth.

Economists saying there is more upside to their near-term forecast outnumber those who say there is more downside by nearly 2 to 1. Economists cited stronger consumer spending and faster capital investment by businesses as their top upside surprises, while they flagged geopolitical risks, Europe's economy, and the soft U.S. housing market as their biggest concerns.

Nearly half of economists believe that the 10-year Treasury yield will end the year at or under 2.76%, compared with the median forecast of 3% in the August survey.
Most economists don't expect the Fed to raise short-term interest rates from near zero before June 2015, and the number of economists who believe the Fed will move early next year declined since the August survey.

Messrs. Carson and Smith say they believe better hiring and growth in the U.S. could force the Fed to raise rates during the first quarter of 2015. Despite the turmoil abroad, the U.S. has seen little impact so far, Mr. Carson said. Stock prices and durable-goods orders have advanced, while oil prices have declined.

Others believe overseas risks will provide further reasons for policy makers to tread carefully. "If the Fed moves too quickly to raise rates, we risk leveling the forest rather than just trimming the overgrowth," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial. The turmoil abroad only makes the central bank's task "much more precarious," she said.

The Fed would rather move too slowly than too quickly, "given the lack of safety nets if we were to stumble into a recession," Ms. Swonk said.
160  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Just revealed Yahoo faced big US fines over user data demands from NSA in 2008 on: September 12, 2014, 03:19:34 AM
Yahoo Faced Big U.S. Fines Over User Data
Government Wanted to Charge Internet Firm $250,000 a Day Fine If It Didn't Comply With NSA Request
By Danny Yadron
WSJ
Updated Sept. 11, 2014 8:52 p.m. ET

The government wanted to charge Yahoo $250,000 a day if it didn't comply. Getty Images

A secret legal battle between the U.S. government and Yahoo Inc. YHOO +0.29% over requests for customer data became so acrimonious in 2008 that the government wanted to charge the Internet company $250,000 a day if it didn't comply.

Yahoo made the threat public Thursday after a special federal court unsealed 1,500 pages of legal documents from a once-classified court battle over the scope of National Security Agency surveillance programs. The documents shed new light on tensions between American technology companies and the intelligence community long before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began leaking in 2013.

The requests, and the long battles that can follow at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, traditionally are secret. Until last summer, Yahoo wasn't allowed to say that it had challenged government surveillance efforts—even without adding any other details. Google Inc. GOOGL -0.39% and Microsoft Corp. MSFT +0.34% have also challenged government records requests in court.

"The issues at stake in this litigation are the most serious issues that this nation faces today—to what extent must the privacy rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution yield to protect our national security," Marc Zwillinger, an outside counsel for Yahoo wrote in a legal brief in May 2008.

Court documents don't reveal exactly what the government wanted from Yahoo. In one brief, Yahoo states the main issue of the case is whether the Constitution protects the communications of U.S. citizens or legal residents believed to be outside the U.S.

Even after the documents were unsealed, portions were redacted, including the number of requests the government made of Yahoo.

The bulk collection of Internet records from U.S. companies can lead to the collection of data on people in the U.S.

In its legal response, the Justice Department said the government "employs extensive procedures to ensure that the surveillance is appropriately targeted."

Beginning in November 2007, the government began requesting "warrantless surveillance" of certain Yahoo customers, according to court records. Yahoo objected and asked the surveillance court to block the government request. A judge refused, and threatened Yahoo with a fine. The Justice Department had asked for at least $250,000 a day, though the judge was less specific. Yahoo complied with the order in May 2008.

"We refused to comply with what we viewed as unconstitutional and overbroad surveillance and challenged the U.S. Government's authority," Ron Bell, Yahoo's general counsel, said in a written statement. "Our challenge, and a later appeal in the case, did not succeed."

The dispute revolved around the Protect America Act, a 2007 law that allowed the government to eavesdrop, without a warrant, on people believed to be connected to terrorist groups. The law expired in 2008, but was replaced by other laws that grant the government essentially the same powers.

In a joint blog post, the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National intelligence said the court found that the government "has sufficient procedures in place to ensure that the Fourth Amendment rights of targeted U.S. persons are adequately protected" and that the requests were "reasonable."

The disclosure comes as some intelligence officials are pushing to declassify more of the legal reasoning for controversial surveillance programs. That doesn't mean the government has backed down in the use of such programs.

From January to June 2013, the most recent period for which Yahoo has released the data, the company previously said it fielded between zero and 999 foreign intelligence requests for user content covering between 30,000 and 30,999 accounts. It is unclear how many of those requests Yahoo fulfilled.

Yahoo and other tech firms have pushed to make public more information about government requests for user data.

Privacy advocates have long engaged in similar legal debates with the government. Until Mr. Snowden's leaks revealed details of government surveillance efforts, those debates were largely theoretical.

As Reggie Walton, an FISC judge, noted after his threat of a fine to Yahoo in 2008, "This order is sealed and shall not be disclosed by either party."

—Douglas MacMillan contributed to this article.
161  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good reasons not to intervene on: September 11, 2014, 09:20:06 PM

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External Powers Have Good Reason Not to Intervene in Libya
Analysis
September 10, 2014 | 1108 Print Text Size
External Powers Have Good Reason Not to Intervene in Libya
A Libyan flag flutters under a bridge near Tripoli on Sept. 9. (MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Summary
France continues to focus attention on Libya. Most recently, on Sept. 9 the Elysee issued a call for joint international action in the North African country. While France stopped short of discussing military intervention, Stratfor sources say that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have approached Paris about just such an option, and they may also approach the United States.
 
Countries wanting to intervene in Libya face considerable constraints, and the objectives that could be attained are unclear. Regional actors will probably continue to be those most involved in direct and indirect interventions in Libya.
Analysis
Egypt and the Emiratis have been the most overt supporters of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives that was elected in June and of retired Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who leads a coalition of Libyan troops, loyalists to former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi and a special operations forces unit against Islamist militias in eastern Libya. Saudi Arabia has also supported Hifter, but less visibly. Egypt wants to remove the Islamist threat on its western border, or at the very least ensure that Libya's Islamist actors only play a minimal role in the government. Cairo is wary of militancy spreading across its borders, and Egypt has propped up actors such as Hifter's Operation Dignity forces and the democratically elected House in an attempt to establish a buffer in eastern Libya. Egypt has a limited capacity to address Libyan unrest due to insecurity at home and a dire financial situation, so Cairo has come to depend on the Emiratis and Saudis to back its interests in Libya.
 
By backing Egypt in Libya, the United Arab Emirates is seizing an opportunity to prevent rival Qatar from regaining leverage in North Africa. Having solidified their influence in Cairo, the Emiratis would rather not see this undermined by instability generated by Islamists in neighboring Libya. Abu Dhabi has a tense relationship with its own domestic Muslim Brotherhood movement, al Islah, and would like to see Qatar's leverage with Islamist communities held to a minimum. The United Arab Emirates has also joined Egypt in limited airstrikes over Libya, deploying aircraft from Egyptian air bases. These airstrikes have had at best a minimal effect on the situation on the ground.
 
Striving to turn the security situation around in Libya, Abu Dhabi and Egypt have purportedly turned to Paris for help. France has notable interests in the region -- energy, military basing and arms trade -- and Cairo and Abu Dhabi are hoping the French are willing to consider a serious intervention. France has repeatedly pushed the issue before the U.N. Security Council, but so far France has stopped far short of anything that suggests a full-scale intervention. Paris did announce Sept. 9 that it could deploy forces based in countries bordering Libya in an attempt to shore up border security, but that would not be a substantial commitment.
 
 
France also has the ability to mount a wider air campaign over Libya, but the effects of this would likely be minimal and France would probably avoid carrying the full weight of such an intervention. Other Western allies, such as the United States, have announced support for the Libyan government but have been reluctant to match that support with direct military efforts -- anything beyond training elements of the Libyan armed forces. Even Italy -- which sits close to Libya, has direct energy interests there and is vulnerable to streams of immigrants seeking refuge on European shores -- doesn’t want to overcommit. During the air campaign in 2011, Rome only dedicated a portion of its full capabilities to operations in Libya.
Regional Actors' Limitations
Qatar has been active in Libya but has sought to support anyone who is not pro-Hifter or supportive of the elected House. Doha was the leading Arab force in toppling the Gadhafi regime in 2011, going so far as to deploy its highly trained special operations forces. Qatar's currency reserves have allowed Doha to funnel cash and weapons to militias in Libya.
 
The distance between Qatar and Libya limits Doha's involvement; there are no nearby friendly bases from which it could stage operations. Turkey has offered Qatar some limited backing because Ankara saw Egypt's deposed President Mohammed Morsi as a key ally and would prefer not to see Egypt dislodge another entrenched Islamist polity, this time in Libya. Access to cheap energy and potential infrastructure bids for the firms that support Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party have also compelled Turkish involvement, but Libya simply is not high enough of a Turkish priority to justify a level of engagement similar to that of Qatar.
 
Doha has also likely worked through Sudan to deliver arms to Libya, which puts it in direct competition with Egyptian and Saudi interests for influence in Khartoum. The Sudanese military industrial complex is useful in directing secondhand support of armed groups, but Sudan depends on investments and loans from both Qatar and Saudi Arabia to keep its economy going. Conflicting influences could therefore limit Sudan's usefulness in this particular situation.
 
Even if the actors backing Tobruk and Hifter's forces want to increase their active support, they would have to act cautiously because their assistance would undermine the credibility of the supported militias in Libya itself. Further, the effect of an air campaign would be fairly limited. Only a few Islamist groups would be targeted so as not to antagonize the Libyan population at large. While this could ease the pressure on Hifter's forces, targeting groups such as Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi would only have temporary benefits. The targeted militias could simply deploy forces that are being held back right now because they are not necessary. Any air campaign over Libya would thus be mostly a token intervention with little real chance of stabilizing Libya.
 
An airstrikes offensive against Islamist militias in cities such as Tripoli and Benghazi would be difficult, and to have a lasting effect it would need to be followed by intense state-building operations that would require a level of commitment nobody is willing to offer. External actors will remain reluctant to move forward with such a campaign.

Read more: External Powers Have Good Reason Not to Intervene in Libya | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
162  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China takes a new Approach to India and South Asia on: September 11, 2014, 09:18:22 PM

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Beijing Takes a New Approach to South Asia
Geopolitical Diary
Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 18:07 Text Size Print

China is beginning to view South Asia in a different light as the region becomes more economically and strategically valuable to Beijing. From Sept. 14 to Sept. 19, Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India after a stop in Tajikistan. This will make Xi the first Chinese president to visit the two island nations in nearly 30 years. Moreover, Xi's visit to India will be the first official visit between the two continental giants since Narendra Modi's government took office in May.
Interpreting China in South Asia

To some extent, the implications of China's presence in South Asia have often been outweighed by discussions of China's strategic intent, particularly regarding India. Geopolitical principles provided the explanation for these concerns, given the historical, economic and political proximity of South Asia's smaller nations to India, and given the rivalry between India and China, from disputes over their 4,000-kilometer (about 2,500 miles) land border and maritime boundaries to their competition over resources and energy. There is also Beijing's "iron" political and military relationship with Islamabad and New Delhi's ongoing search for bilateral and multilateral defense and strategic alignment with Japan, Vietnam and others, with an eye on China.

India's relative geographic isolation -- ringed by oceans and the Himalayas -- and its decadeslong foreign policy focus on its South Asian neighbors enabled China to continue to expand in its periphery, from Central Asia to Southeast Asia, with little meaningful interference from New Delhi. Despite India's allowances, however, China's South Asia strategy often lacked integral focus and remained a low priority.

Stretching along China's most restive areas, South Asia hosts the largest number of China's land neighbors and numerous important emerging economies. Yet, perhaps with the exception of Pakistan, high-level diplomatic exchanges have been rare in recent decades. Aside from a few eye-catching infrastructure projects -- especially the deep-water port facilities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and some transport construction in individual countries -- China's investments in South Asia are far smaller than its investment portfolios in North America, Southeast Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa.

The reasons for this are manifold. Before India began projecting power outside the region, South Asia was little more than the space between the Middle East's rich energy assets and the economic and manufacturing powers in East Asia. The region was constantly marred by political instability and internal chaos, and its limited strategic importance kept it low on China's priority list. Without substantial amounts of energy and resources -- two key priorities in China's strategy to fuel its export powerhouse -- the region is more of a long-term, gradual strategic matter than one of immediate significance. Additionally, more coherent relations with South Asian nations were often complicated by the distrust and rivalry between Beijing and New Delhi.
China's Strategic Needs

India's increasing economic heft, along with the integration of peripheral states such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka into the global manufacturing supply chain, could change China's assessment of the region. This change comes alongside Beijing's domestic economic and strategic recalculations and the shifting perception of its global position.

In recent years, Beijing has been attempting to chip away at the low-end exports economic model and move toward higher value-added manufacturing. It has pushed aggressively to expand China's global market share in strategic industries such as automobiles, electronics and telecommunications. It has provided options for cash-strapped South Asian states seeking alternative sources of capital, trade and technology while adding to their new manufacturing base.

Xi's visit to India will bring $7 billion of investment into two industrial parks in Maharashtra and Gujarat focusing on automobiles and electricity, in addition to trade and investment agreements for pharmaceuticals and information technology services, among others. New Delhi hoped that the investment would offset its trade deficit and help India emulate its neighbor's success as a manufacturing powerhouse. Likewise, China will finalize a free trade agreement with Sri Lanka, giving Colombo free access to China's vast market. The deal will help Sri Lanka capitalize on its shift to low-end manufacturing, especially in its garment industry. The Maldives and China will sign a series of cooperation agreements ranging from tourism to trade and infrastructure construction. In short, while the South Asian nations still have a way to go to show they are viable investment destinations, and although they remain a relatively low priority for China, the region's sizable and expanding consumer market is something that Chinese investors could not neglect.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Amid Beijing's global push, China increasingly perceives South Asia as an important component of its more comprehensive, integrated overland corridor across the Eurasian land mass that will include roads, expressways and potentially railway projects. Thus, South Asia will become more important as China pays more attention to its own underdeveloped interior regions and as Beijing's need to hedge against security risks and supply disruptions off its coast grows.

Beijing has begun shifting from its focus on individual countries in South Asia and is starting to view the region as a more integrated economic and strategic entity. A series of initiatives has been launched accordingly, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, subcomponents of Beijing's envisioned Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road.

The centerpiece of Beijing's strategy is a more cordial relationship with New Delhi. Xi's visit will include a few landmark agreements that will allow China to assist with India's outdated railway system and potentially allow for an overland connection in the region. On many other fronts, although their competition endures, Beijing and New Delhi have appeared ready to move beyond decades of icy relations.

Notably, Xi's visit to South Asia followed a last-minute postponement of a trip to Pakistan, where domestic instability could delay $34 billion in much-needed investment deals for coal power, railways and road infrastructure. This is not to suggest that Sino-Pakistani relations are facing any challenges. Beijing simply seems to be signaling that its strong relationship with Islamabad will no longer override its desire to pursue more balanced connections in South Asia.

Read more: Beijing Takes a New Approach to South Asia | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
163  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: September 11, 2014, 07:32:42 PM
Note that in his interview with Chris Wallace, Romney laid the black hole that Libya has become at her feet-- and correctly so.  While Baraq went on vacation to Brazil, Hillary, Susan Powers, and Samantha Wuzhername crafted the "Lead from behind strategy" for Libya.  Presumably the  presumed gun running operation in Benghazi supplying Syrian rebels was her idea too.  Now Libya is an anarchic wasteland of Islamo-fascism-- just what we went to Afpakia to prevent.

164  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: A New Threat Grows Amid Shades of 911 on: September 11, 2014, 01:58:01 PM
A New Threat Grows Amid Shades of 9/11
The nation remains largely unaware of the potential for disaster from cyberattacks.
By Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton
Sept. 10, 2014 7:03 p.m. ET

Ten years ago, the 9/11 Commission Report triggered the most significant reorganization of the U.S. intelligence community since 1947. Two months ago, the former members of the commission—we are among them—issued a new report assessing where national security stands, 13 years after the most devastating attacks on America's homeland.

Most of the new report's observations focused on counterterrorism, the central focus of the 9/11 Commission. But in speaking with many of the nation's most senior national-security leaders, we were struck that every one of these experts expressed concern about another issue: daily cyberattacks against the country's most sensitive public and private computer networks.

A growing chorus of national-security experts describes the cyber realm as the battlefield of the future. American life is becoming evermore dependent on the Internet. At the same time, government and private computer networks in the U.S. are under relentless cyberattack. This is more than an academic concern—attacks in the digital world can inflict serious damage in the physical world. Hackers can threaten the control systems of critical facilities like dams, water-treatment plants and the power grid. A hacker able to remotely control a dam, pumping station or oil pipeline could unleash large-scale devastation. As terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State grow and become more sophisticated, the threat of cyberattack increases as well.
Enlarge Image

Getty Images

On a smaller scale, but equally unsettling, ordinary building systems like electronic door locks, elevators and video-surveillance cameras (today, present in many homes) are also vulnerable to penetration by hackers. Even life-sustaining medical devices, many of which contain embedded computer systems connected to the Internet, could be disabled by cyberattacks.

Others steal Americans' sensitive personal information and sell it to organized crime rings. The theft of credit- and debit-card numbers from tens of millions of Target customers last year is the most prominent example, but this happens every day. Home Depot HD -0.25% confirmed on Monday that it had been hit by a massive data breach.

Meanwhile, state-sponsored cyber intruders have stolen the plans to top-secret U.S. weapons systems, reducing America's technological advantage and putting military personnel and the homeland at risk. For example, Chinese hackers have used cyber infiltration to gain access to plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Global Hawk surveillance drone and other advanced systems. State-sponsored hackers have also made off with reams of American companies' intellectual property—business secrets worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Keith Alexander, the former National Security Agency director and retired Air Forcegeneral, has described the continued ransacking of American companies as "the greatest transfer of wealth in history."

We are at war in the digital world. And yet, because this war lacks attention-grabbing explosions and body bags, the American people remain largely unaware of the danger. That needs to change. Only public attention can create the political momentum for needed reform.

There are a number of cyber-related legislative initiatives pending in Congress. One of the most promising is legislation in the House and Senate that would encourage companies to share information about cyberattacks with the government, so that national-security agencies can analyze the attacks and respond to them. The former 9/11 commissioners' recent report endorsed such legislation, and it is an important first step. Given the dimension of the problem, however, a larger-scale effort is needed to elevate public awareness and get out in front of this rapidly changing threat. Simply put, the country needs a national cyber strategy, covering all aspects of the problem. This could be accomplished by taking two essential steps.

First, Congress should pass legislation creating a National Cyber Commission. The commission should be empowered to evaluate the cyber threat to the U.S., both to the government and private entities. It should also assess the capabilities that national-security agencies and the private sector possess today, and measure those capabilities against what will be needed as the threat grows. The commission should conduct its work as transparently as possible and should deliver unclassified findings and recommendations to Congress and the American people. The commission should be nonpartisan and should include experts in technology, law and national security.

Second, Congress should create a National Cyber Center, which would bring together government and private experts to ensure unity of effort on this crosscutting problem. The National Counterterrorism Center, created 10 years ago in response to a 9/11 Commission recommendation, is working well. At the NCTC, counterterrorism experts from federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies sit side-by-side, share terrorism-threat information and coordinate responses. There is no counterpart to this proven model for information-sharing in the cyber realm—a major gap in America's cyber defenses.

In recent months, we have heard time and again from leading experts that the cyber threat is serious—and that the government is not doing enough. One lesson of the 9/11 story is that, as a nation, we didn't awaken to the gravity of the terrorist threat until it was too late. We must not repeat that mistake in the cyber realm.

Messrs. Kean and Hamilton served as chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, respectively. They are co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Homeland Security Project.
165  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen.Ted Cruz on: September 11, 2014, 09:56:03 AM
Good for him!

BTW I see that he has proposed legislation for taking away the passports (and citizenship?) of those who go to fight for ISIL.
166  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Humbling of His Glibness on: September 11, 2014, 09:51:54 AM
The Humbling of a President
In the war with ISIS, the U.S. needs genuine presidential leadership, not a utility infielder playing everyone else's position.
By Daniel Henninger
Sept. 10, 2014 7:12 p.m. ET

Let us note briefly the commanding irony of Barack Obama delivering—hours before 9/11—the anti-terrorism speech that history required of his predecessor after September 11, 2001. There is one thing to say: If we are lucky, President Obama will hand off to his successor a terrorist enemy as diminished as the one George Bush, David Petraeus and many others left him.

If we're lucky.

There is a story about Mr. Obama relevant to the war, battle or whatever he declared Wednesday evening against the Islamic State, aka ISIS. It is found in his former campaign manager David Plouffe's account of the 2008 election, "The Audacity to Win."

Mr. Plouffe writes that during an earlier election race, Mr. Obama had a "hard time allowing his campaign staff to take more responsibility." To which Barack Obama answered: "I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I'll hire to do it." Audacity indeed.

In a 2008 New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza, Mr. Obama is quoted telling another aide: "I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors." Also, "I think I'm a better speechwriter than my speechwriters."

And here we are.

In the days before Mr. Obama's ISIS address to the nation, news accounts cataloged his now-embarrassing statements about terrorism's decline on his watch—the terrorists are JV teams, the tide of war is receding and all that.

Set aside that Mr. Obama outputted this viewpoint even as Nigeria's homicidal Boko Haram kidnapped 275 schoolgirls, an act that appalled and galvanized the world into "Bring Back Our Girls." No matter. Boko Haram slaughtered on, unabated.

Some of these gaffes came in offhand comments, but others were embedded in formal speeches from the presidential pen, such as the definitive Obama statement on terrorism last May at the National Defense University: "So that's the current threat—lethal yet less-capable al Qaeda affiliates." A year later, ISIS seized one-third of Iraq inside a week.

Worse than misstatements have been the misdecisions on policy: the erased red line in Syria, the unattainable reset with Vladimir Putin's brainwashed Russia, the nuclear deal with the ruling shadows in Iran. The first two bad calls have pitched significant regions of the world into crises of virtually unmanageable complexity.

What we now know is that Mr. Obama is not even close to being his own best Secretary of State, his own best Secretary of Defense, his own best national security adviser or his own best CIA director.

The question is: Does he know it?

Can a humbling experience of such startling proportions have sunk in? It had better. What the U.S. needs if it is to prevail in the battle Mr. Obama put forth Wednesday is the genuine article of presidential leadership. What the U.S. does not need in the Oval Office is a utility infielder playing everyone else's position. We are competing against global terrorism's heaviest hitters, who have established state seizure as a strategic goal.

If Mr. Obama still thinks he's better than Susan Rice, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and John Brennan, then he and the nation supporting his anti-ISIS effort are being poorly served. He should fire them all and bring in people who know more about fighting terrorists than he does. Barack Obama admires Abraham Lincoln. Act like him. Appoint the best people and let them win it.

Winning would also require a president willing to confront the political correctness that has undermined the U.S.'s battle against terror.

No more sophistry about whether a Benghazi qualifies as terrorism. After the videotaped beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, is anyone still lying awake at night worrying that their iPhone number is among millions of others in the National Security Agency's data mines?

Closing Gitmo goes on the backburner. "Boots on the ground"—kill that too. It has become code for boots going nowhere, as Mr. Obama's airpower-only campaign made clear Wednesday evening.

It has taken 13 years to this day, September 11, for the reality of global Islamic terrorism to finally sink in—here in the U.S. and everywhere else, including the ever-equivocal capitals of the Middle East.

In the years after 9/11 came London, Madrid, the Boston Marathon, multiple failed attempts to bomb New York City, Mumbai, Kenya, Boko Haram, the re-rocketing of Tel Aviv, Christian holy places destroyed, thousands of Arabs blown up in the act of daily life. That's the short list. ISIS is just the tip of the world's unstable iceberg. We're all living on the Titanic.

Now a reluctant progressive president goes to war without admitting it is war. It's even money at best that he or the Left will stay the course if the going gets tough beyond Iraq's borders.

A final irony. In that National Defense speech, Mr. Obama defended the drone killing in Yemen of the American-born jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki: "His citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a SWAT team."

If Barack Obama would put a plaque with those words on his Oval Office desk, the world's innocents may have a shot at defeating the world's snipers. A long shot.
167  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Japanese deflation? on: September 11, 2014, 09:30:10 AM
Interesting questions presented here:

http://online.wsj.com/articles/alternative-index-shows-japan-price-fall-1410298206
168  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Read: The Virtue of Subtlety on: September 10, 2014, 12:52:12 PM
The virtue of subtlety: a U.S. strategy against the Islamic State
The American strategy in the Middle East is fixed: allow powers in the region to balance against each other. When that fails, intervene.
George Friedman | 10 September 2014
comment | print |

balance of power

 

U.S. President Barack Obama said recently that he had no strategy as yet toward the Islamic State but that he would present a plan on Wednesday. It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted. A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it.

This is particularly true because, in a certain sense, Obama has a strategy, though it is not necessarily one he likes. Strategy is something that emerges from reality, while tactics might be chosen. Given the situation, the United States has an unavoidable strategy. There are options and uncertainties for employing it. Let us consider some of the things that Obama does know.

The Formation of National Strategy

There are serious crises on the northern and southern edges of the Black Sea Basin. There is no crisis in the Black Sea itself, but it is surrounded by crises. The United States has been concerned about the status of Russia ever since U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905. The United States has been concerned about the Middle East since U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower forced the British to retreat from Suez in 1956. As a result, the United States inherited -- or seized -- the British position.

A national strategy emerges over the decades and centuries. It becomes a set of national interests into which a great deal has been invested, upon which a great deal depends and upon which many are counting. Presidents inherit national strategies, and they can modify them to some extent. But the idea that a president has the power to craft a new national strategy both overstates his power and understates the power of realities crafted by all those who came before him. We are all trapped in circumstances into which we were born and choices that were made for us. The United States has an inherent interest in Ukraine and in Syria-Iraq. Whether we should have that interest is an interesting philosophical question for a late-night discussion, followed by a sunrise when we return to reality. These places reflexively matter to the United States.

The American strategy is fixed: Allow powers in the region to compete and balance against each other. When that fails, intervene with as little force and risk as possible. For example, the conflict between Iran and Iraq canceled out two rising powers until the war ended. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to overturn the balance of power in the region. The result was Desert Storm.

This strategy provides a model. In the Syria-Iraq region, the initial strategy is to allow the regional powers to balance each other, while providing as little support as possible to maintain the balance of power. It is crucial to understand the balance of power in detail, and to understand what might undermine it, so that any force can be applied effectively. This is the tactical part, and it is the tactical part that can go wrong. The strategy has a logic of its own. Understanding what that strategy demands is the hard part. Some nations have lost their sovereignty by not understanding what strategy demands. France in 1940 comes to mind. For the United States, there is no threat to sovereignty, but that makes the process harder: Great powers can tend to be casual because the situation is not existential. This increases the cost of doing what is necessary.

The ground where we are talking about applying this model is Syria and Iraq. Both of these central governments have lost control of the country as a whole, but each remains a force. Both countries are divided by religion, and the religions are divided internally as well. In a sense the nations have ceased to exist, and the fragments they consisted of are now smaller but more complex entities.

The issue is whether the United States can live with this situation or whether it must reshape it. The immediate question is whether the United States has the power to reshape it and to what extent. The American interest turns on its ability to balance local forces. If that exists, the question is whether there is any other shape that can be achieved through American power that would be superior. From my point of view, there are many different shapes that can be imagined, but few that can be achieved. The American experience in Iraq highlighted the problems with counterinsurgency or being caught in a local civil war. The idea of major intervention assumes that this time it will be different. This fits one famous definition of insanity.

The Islamic State's Role

There is then the special case of the Islamic State. It is special because its emergence triggered the current crisis. It is special because the brutal murder of two prisoners on video showed a particular cruelty. And it is different because its ideology is similar to that of al Qaeda, which attacked the United States. It has excited particular American passions.

To counter this, I would argue that the uprising by Iraq's Sunni community was inevitable, with its marginalization by Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite regime in Baghdad. That it took this particularly virulent form is because the more conservative elements of the Sunni community were unable or unwilling to challenge al-Maliki. But the fragmentation of Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions was well underway before the Islamic State, and jihadism was deeply embedded in the Sunni community a long time ago.

Moreover, although the Islamic State is brutal, its cruelty is not unique in the region. Syrian President Bashar al Assad and others may not have killed Americans or uploaded killings to YouTube, but their history of ghastly acts is comparable. Finally, the Islamic State -- engaged in war with everyone around it -- is much less dangerous to the United States than a small group with time on its hands, planning an attack. In any event, if the Islamic State did not exist, the threat to the United States from jihadist groups in Yemen or Libya or somewhere inside the United States would remain.

Because the Islamic State operates to some extent as a conventional military force, it is vulnerable to U.S. air power. The use of air power against conventional forces that lack anti-aircraft missiles is a useful gambit. It shows that the United States is doing something, while taking little risk, assuming that the Islamic State really does not have anti-aircraft missiles. But it accomplishes little. The Islamic State will disperse its forces, denying conventional aircraft a target. Attempting to defeat the Islamic State by distinguishing its supporters from other Sunni groups and killing them will founder at the first step. The problem of counterinsurgency is identifying the insurgent.

There is no reason not to bomb the Islamic State's forces and leaders. They certainly deserve it. But there should be no illusion that bombing them will force them to capitulate or mend their ways. They are now part of the fabric of the Sunni community, and only the Sunni community can root them out. Identifying Sunnis who are anti-Islamic State and supplying them with weapons is a much better idea. It is the balance-of-power strategy that the United States follows, but this approach doesn't have the dramatic satisfaction of blowing up the enemy. That satisfaction is not trivial, and the United States can certainly blow something up and call it the enemy, but it does not address the strategic problem.

In the first place, is it really a problem for the United States? The American interest is not stability but the existence of a dynamic balance of power in which all players are effectively paralyzed so that no one who would threaten the United States emerges. The Islamic State had real successes at first, but the balance of power with the Kurds and Shia has limited its expansion, and tensions within the Sunni community diverted its attention. Certainly there is the danger of intercontinental terrorism, and U.S. intelligence should be active in identifying and destroying these threats. But the re-occupation of Iraq, or Iraq plus Syria, makes no sense. The United States does not have the force needed to occupy Iraq and Syria at the same time. The demographic imbalance between available forces and the local population makes that impossible.

The danger is that other Islamic State franchises might emerge in other countries. But the United States would not be able to block these threats as well as the other countries in the region. Saudi Arabia must cope with any internal threat it faces not because the United States is indifferent, but because the Saudis are much better at dealing with such threats. In the end, the same can be said for the Iranians.

Most important, it can also be said for the Turks. The Turks are emerging as a regional power. Their economy has grown dramatically in the past decade, their military is the largest in the region, and they are part of the Islamic world. Their government is Islamist but in no way similar to the Islamic State, which concerns Ankara. This is partly because of Ankara's fear that the jihadist group might spread to Turkey, but more so because its impact on Iraqi Kurdistan could affect Turkey's long-term energy plans.

Forming a New Balance in the Region

The United States cannot win the game of small mosaic tiles that is emerging in Syria and Iraq. An American intervention at this microscopic level can only fail. But the principle of balance of power does not mean that balance must be maintained directly. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia have far more at stake in this than the United States. So long as they believe that the United States will attempt to control the situation, it is perfectly rational for them to back off and watch, or act in the margins, or even hinder the Americans.

The United States must turn this from a balance of power between Syria and Iraq to a balance of power among this trio of regional powers. They have far more at stake and, absent the United States, they have no choice but to involve themselves. They cannot stand by and watch a chaos that could spread to them.

It is impossible to forecast how the game is played out. What is important is that the game begins. The Turks do not trust the Iranians, and neither is comfortable with the Saudis. They will cooperate, compete, manipulate and betray, just as the United States or any country might do in such a circumstance. The point is that there is a tactic that will fail: American re-involvement. There is a tactic that will succeed: the United States making it clear that while it might aid the pacification in some way, the responsibility is on regional powers. The inevitable outcome will be a regional competition that the United States can manage far better than the current chaos.

Obama has sought volunteers from NATO for a coalition to fight the Islamic State. It is not clear why he thinks those NATO countries -- with the exception of Turkey -- will spend their national treasures and lives to contain the Islamic State, or why the Islamic State alone is the issue. The coalition that must form is not a coalition of the symbolic, but a coalition of the urgently involved. That coalition does not have to be recruited. In a real coalition, its members have no choice but to join. And whether they act together or in competition, they will have to act. And not acting will simply increase the risk to them.

U.S. strategy is sound. It is to allow the balance of power to play out, to come in only when it absolutely must -- with overwhelming force, as in Kuwait -- and to avoid intervention where it cannot succeed. The tactical application of strategy is the problem. In this case the tactic is not direct intervention by the United States, save as a satisfying gesture to avenge murdered Americans. But the solution rests in doing as little as possible and forcing regional powers into the fray, then in maintaining the balance of power in this coalition.

Such an American strategy is not an avoidance of responsibility. It is the use of U.S. power to force a regional solution. Sometimes the best use of American power is to go to war. Far more often, the best use of U.S. power is to withhold it. The United States cannot evade responsibility in the region. But it is enormously unimaginative to assume that carrying out that responsibility is best achieved by direct intervention. Indirect intervention is frequently more efficient and more effective.

The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State is republished with permission of Stratfor.
- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the_virtue_of_subtlety_a_u.s._strategy_against_the_islamic_state#sthash.uJtIKJ0z.dpuf
169  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Read: The Virtue of Subtlety on: September 10, 2014, 12:39:38 PM
Considerable overlap with my proffered strategy  wink

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



The virtue of subtlety: a U.S. strategy against the Islamic State
The American strategy in the Middle East is fixed: allow powers in the region to balance against each other. When that fails, intervene.
George Friedman | 10 September 2014
comment | print |

balance of power

 

U.S. President Barack Obama said recently that he had no strategy as yet toward the Islamic State but that he would present a plan on Wednesday. It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted. A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it.

This is particularly true because, in a certain sense, Obama has a strategy, though it is not necessarily one he likes. Strategy is something that emerges from reality, while tactics might be chosen. Given the situation, the United States has an unavoidable strategy. There are options and uncertainties for employing it. Let us consider some of the things that Obama does know.

The Formation of National Strategy

There are serious crises on the northern and southern edges of the Black Sea Basin. There is no crisis in the Black Sea itself, but it is surrounded by crises. The United States has been concerned about the status of Russia ever since U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905. The United States has been concerned about the Middle East since U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower forced the British to retreat from Suez in 1956. As a result, the United States inherited -- or seized -- the British position.

A national strategy emerges over the decades and centuries. It becomes a set of national interests into which a great deal has been invested, upon which a great deal depends and upon which many are counting. Presidents inherit national strategies, and they can modify them to some extent. But the idea that a president has the power to craft a new national strategy both overstates his power and understates the power of realities crafted by all those who came before him. We are all trapped in circumstances into which we were born and choices that were made for us. The United States has an inherent interest in Ukraine and in Syria-Iraq. Whether we should have that interest is an interesting philosophical question for a late-night discussion, followed by a sunrise when we return to reality. These places reflexively matter to the United States.

The American strategy is fixed: Allow powers in the region to compete and balance against each other. When that fails, intervene with as little force and risk as possible. For example, the conflict between Iran and Iraq canceled out two rising powers until the war ended. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to overturn the balance of power in the region. The result was Desert Storm.

This strategy provides a model. In the Syria-Iraq region, the initial strategy is to allow the regional powers to balance each other, while providing as little support as possible to maintain the balance of power. It is crucial to understand the balance of power in detail, and to understand what might undermine it, so that any force can be applied effectively. This is the tactical part, and it is the tactical part that can go wrong. The strategy has a logic of its own. Understanding what that strategy demands is the hard part. Some nations have lost their sovereignty by not understanding what strategy demands. France in 1940 comes to mind. For the United States, there is no threat to sovereignty, but that makes the process harder: Great powers can tend to be casual because the situation is not existential. This increases the cost of doing what is necessary.

The ground where we are talking about applying this model is Syria and Iraq. Both of these central governments have lost control of the country as a whole, but each remains a force. Both countries are divided by religion, and the religions are divided internally as well. In a sense the nations have ceased to exist, and the fragments they consisted of are now smaller but more complex entities.

The issue is whether the United States can live with this situation or whether it must reshape it. The immediate question is whether the United States has the power to reshape it and to what extent. The American interest turns on its ability to balance local forces. If that exists, the question is whether there is any other shape that can be achieved through American power that would be superior. From my point of view, there are many different shapes that can be imagined, but few that can be achieved. The American experience in Iraq highlighted the problems with counterinsurgency or being caught in a local civil war. The idea of major intervention assumes that this time it will be different. This fits one famous definition of insanity.

The Islamic State's Role

There is then the special case of the Islamic State. It is special because its emergence triggered the current crisis. It is special because the brutal murder of two prisoners on video showed a particular cruelty. And it is different because its ideology is similar to that of al Qaeda, which attacked the United States. It has excited particular American passions.

To counter this, I would argue that the uprising by Iraq's Sunni community was inevitable, with its marginalization by Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite regime in Baghdad. That it took this particularly virulent form is because the more conservative elements of the Sunni community were unable or unwilling to challenge al-Maliki. But the fragmentation of Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions was well underway before the Islamic State, and jihadism was deeply embedded in the Sunni community a long time ago.

Moreover, although the Islamic State is brutal, its cruelty is not unique in the region. Syrian President Bashar al Assad and others may not have killed Americans or uploaded killings to YouTube, but their history of ghastly acts is comparable. Finally, the Islamic State -- engaged in war with everyone around it -- is much less dangerous to the United States than a small group with time on its hands, planning an attack. In any event, if the Islamic State did not exist, the threat to the United States from jihadist groups in Yemen or Libya or somewhere inside the United States would remain.

Because the Islamic State operates to some extent as a conventional military force, it is vulnerable to U.S. air power. The use of air power against conventional forces that lack anti-aircraft missiles is a useful gambit. It shows that the United States is doing something, while taking little risk, assuming that the Islamic State really does not have anti-aircraft missiles. But it accomplishes little. The Islamic State will disperse its forces, denying conventional aircraft a target. Attempting to defeat the Islamic State by distinguishing its supporters from other Sunni groups and killing them will founder at the first step. The problem of counterinsurgency is identifying the insurgent.

There is no reason not to bomb the Islamic State's forces and leaders. They certainly deserve it. But there should be no illusion that bombing them will force them to capitulate or mend their ways. They are now part of the fabric of the Sunni community, and only the Sunni community can root them out. Identifying Sunnis who are anti-Islamic State and supplying them with weapons is a much better idea. It is the balance-of-power strategy that the United States follows, but this approach doesn't have the dramatic satisfaction of blowing up the enemy. That satisfaction is not trivial, and the United States can certainly blow something up and call it the enemy, but it does not address the strategic problem.

In the first place, is it really a problem for the United States? The American interest is not stability but the existence of a dynamic balance of power in which all players are effectively paralyzed so that no one who would threaten the United States emerges. The Islamic State had real successes at first, but the balance of power with the Kurds and Shia has limited its expansion, and tensions within the Sunni community diverted its attention. Certainly there is the danger of intercontinental terrorism, and U.S. intelligence should be active in identifying and destroying these threats. But the re-occupation of Iraq, or Iraq plus Syria, makes no sense. The United States does not have the force needed to occupy Iraq and Syria at the same time. The demographic imbalance between available forces and the local population makes that impossible.

The danger is that other Islamic State franchises might emerge in other countries. But the United States would not be able to block these threats as well as the other countries in the region. Saudi Arabia must cope with any internal threat it faces not because the United States is indifferent, but because the Saudis are much better at dealing with such threats. In the end, the same can be said for the Iranians.

Most important, it can also be said for the Turks. The Turks are emerging as a regional power. Their economy has grown dramatically in the past decade, their military is the largest in the region, and they are part of the Islamic world. Their government is Islamist but in no way similar to the Islamic State, which concerns Ankara. This is partly because of Ankara's fear that the jihadist group might spread to Turkey, but more so because its impact on Iraqi Kurdistan could affect Turkey's long-term energy plans.

Forming a New Balance in the Region

The United States cannot win the game of small mosaic tiles that is emerging in Syria and Iraq. An American intervention at this microscopic level can only fail. But the principle of balance of power does not mean that balance must be maintained directly. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia have far more at stake in this than the United States. So long as they believe that the United States will attempt to control the situation, it is perfectly rational for them to back off and watch, or act in the margins, or even hinder the Americans.

The United States must turn this from a balance of power between Syria and Iraq to a balance of power among this trio of regional powers. They have far more at stake and, absent the United States, they have no choice but to involve themselves. They cannot stand by and watch a chaos that could spread to them.

It is impossible to forecast how the game is played out. What is important is that the game begins. The Turks do not trust the Iranians, and neither is comfortable with the Saudis. They will cooperate, compete, manipulate and betray, just as the United States or any country might do in such a circumstance. The point is that there is a tactic that will fail: American re-involvement. There is a tactic that will succeed: the United States making it clear that while it might aid the pacification in some way, the responsibility is on regional powers. The inevitable outcome will be a regional competition that the United States can manage far better than the current chaos.

Obama has sought volunteers from NATO for a coalition to fight the Islamic State. It is not clear why he thinks those NATO countries -- with the exception of Turkey -- will spend their national treasures and lives to contain the Islamic State, or why the Islamic State alone is the issue. The coalition that must form is not a coalition of the symbolic, but a coalition of the urgently involved. That coalition does not have to be recruited. In a real coalition, its members have no choice but to join. And whether they act together or in competition, they will have to act. And not acting will simply increase the risk to them.

U.S. strategy is sound. It is to allow the balance of power to play out, to come in only when it absolutely must -- with overwhelming force, as in Kuwait -- and to avoid intervention where it cannot succeed. The tactical application of strategy is the problem. In this case the tactic is not direct intervention by the United States, save as a satisfying gesture to avenge murdered Americans. But the solution rests in doing as little as possible and forcing regional powers into the fray, then in maintaining the balance of power in this coalition.

Such an American strategy is not an avoidance of responsibility. It is the use of U.S. power to force a regional solution. Sometimes the best use of American power is to go to war. Far more often, the best use of U.S. power is to withhold it. The United States cannot evade responsibility in the region. But it is enormously unimaginative to assume that carrying out that responsibility is best achieved by direct intervention. Indirect intervention is frequently more efficient and more effective.

The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State is republished with permission of Stratfor.
- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the_virtue_of_subtlety_a_u.s._strategy_against_the_islamic_state#sthash.uJtIKJ0z.dpuf
170  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 911 on: September 10, 2014, 12:33:59 PM
Our 911 front page is up.
171  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: September 10, 2014, 11:21:19 AM
"When divorces can be summoned to the aid of levity, of vanity, or of avarice, a state of marriage frequently becomes a state of war or strategem." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791
172  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Michael Cook: A deeply amoral defense of same-sex marriage on: September 10, 2014, 11:03:47 AM
http://www.mercatornet.com/conjugality/view/14767

A deeply amoral defence of same-sex marriage
BY MICHAEL COOK
comment | print |

Last week the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a district-court ruling that had struck down same-sex marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. Judge Richard Posner wrote the decision, a brilliant piece of rhetoric which was studded with sparkling one-liners and dripping with sarcasm. “Hero Federal Appeals Judge Burns Down the Case Against Gay Marriage” was the headline in Gawker, a widely-read website. “A masterpiece of wit and logic,” was the verdict of Slate’s columnist.

Since the 75-year-old Posner is the most-cited legal scholar of the 20th Century and one of America’s leading public intellectuals, his views are bound to be influential as same-sex marriage heads for the Supreme Court.

But stripped of their sequinned garments Posner’s views are not as muscle-bound as they first appear.

His strength is identifying absurd inconsistencies in arguments and using them to pry open the door for new interpretations. For instance, he points out that Indiana bans marriages of first cousins until they are well past the age of procreation at 65. “Elderly first cousins are permitted to marry because they can’t produce children; homosexuals are forbidden to marry because they can’t produce children,” he writes.

Gotcha!

There are many entertaining Gotcha moments in his decision, too many, in fact, for they distract readers from his weakness on the fundamentals. His case rests on three legs, all heavily reliant on social science scholarship.

First, he argues that homosexual orientation is genetic, an immutable and innate characteristic rather than a choice. To support this he cites a 2008 brochure from the American Psychological Association – not exactly the summit of genetic scholarship, although admittedly, it is the APA’s official view. However, no genetic cause has yet been identified; homosexuality’s origin is still an open question.

Besides, if homosexuality is genetic, it should have disappeared according to evolutionary theory, as homosexuals do not produce offspring. Posner acknowledges that this is a problem, but says that the “kin selection  hypothesis” shows that homosexuality is compatible with evolutionary theory. What he doesn’t say is that the kin selection hypothesis is so controversial that it has been criticized by the Harvard evolutionary biologist who popularized it in the first place, Edward O. Wilson. Whether this is true or false is a matter for the scientists to work out. But the genetic origin of homosexuality is unsettled and contestable. It is hardly a firm plank on which to base a revolution in US marriage law.

Second, he argues that same-sex marriage does no harm to the institution of marriage or to society at large. This is a claim which is impossible to prove in less than two generations. The precedents are not promising. The last revolution in marriage, no fault divorce, was described as a blessing in the 1960s. But after a half-century experiment, it has led to huge changes in family structure, legions of single mothers, violence against spouses, child welfare, a declining marriage rate and so on.

Posner seems quite impressed by a recent study which analysed whether marriage rates fell after Massachusetts permitted same-sex marriage. “Allowing same-sex  marriage has no  effect on the heterosexual marriage rate,” he concludes. So what? An snapshot of Massachusetts marriages from 2004 to 2010 says almost nothing about damage to the institution.

Third, Posner says that the welfare of children should be front and centre of arguments about marriage. Since marriage is the best place to raise children, he argues, it is discriminatory to deny homosexual couples the right to raise their children within the framework of marriage.

But he only considers the material benefits of a hefty household income. The real question is whether a marriage with a mother and a father is the best place to raise children. Posner ignores almost completely the psychological effects on children of growing up in a heterosexual marriage, focused as he is on the rights of adults.

How could such a brilliant scholar offer such conventional arguments about social morality based on such weak evidence? The answer is that Posner does not believe in morality.

I am not exaggerating. This is a plain statement of fact.

In 1997 Posner gave the Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures at Harvard Law School, an honour given to outstanding legal scholars. “The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory” is an amazing document in which Posner defends his view of the relationship between morality and law. He calls himself a “moral subjectivist”, arguing that “an individual acts immorally only when he acts contrary to whatever morality he has adopted for himself. I am sympathetic to this position.”

The consequence of this stand lead Posner into some eyebrow-raising assertions. Here are some of them.

It is impossible even to say that a practice like female genital mutilation is wrong, although it may be abhorrent in our society.

    “Defenders of the practice claim that it is indispensable to maintaining the integrity of the family in those communities. The claim is arguable, though I do not know whether it is correct. If it is correct, the moral critic is disarmed, for there is no lever for exalting individual choice or sexual pleasure over family values.”

There are no actions which are always everywhere wrong, even infanticide:

    “A person who murders an infant is acting immorally in our society; a person who sincerely claimed, with or without supporting arguments, that it is right to kill infants would be asserting a private moral position. I might consider him a lunatic, a monster, or a fool, as well as a violator of the prevailing moral code. But I would hesitate to call him immoral.”

And – amazingly – even genocide can only be condemned because it runs across the laws of evolution. 

    “One reason for the widespread condemnation of the Nazi and Cambodian genocides is that we can see in retrospect that they were not adaptive to any plausible or widely accepted need of the societies in question.”

And the Nazis cannot be condemned in any objective way. In the light of the moral standards of the countries which won World War II their actions were appalling crimes. But these were just the feelings of the victors.

    “It was right to try the Nazi leaders rather than to shoot them out of hand in a paroxysm of disgust. But it was politically right… it was not right because a trial could produce proof that the Nazis really were immoralists; they were, but according to our lights, not theirs…

    “Had Hitler or Stalin succeeded in their projects, our moral beliefs would probably be different (we would go around saying things like ‘You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs’); and they failed not because the projects were immoral, but because the projects were unsound.”

And democracy itself is not sacrosanct. Why shouldn’t an elite govern the proletariat? Only because the proletariat has the power to resist. But an autocracy would not be wrong.

    “There is nothing in theory to refute a Nietzschean project of maximizing the power of an elite; it just is not in the cards in an age in which the growth and diffusion of wealth have made ‘ordinary’ people self-confident and assertive.”

Slate praised Posner’s opinion as “deeply moral”. This is a mistake. His slap-down of arguments in support of traditional marriage is deeply amoral. It is typical of Posner’s Nietschean scepticism of the possibility of any objective ethical standards. Morality is about identifying what actions are consistent with human flourishing. If Posner professes ignorance on this score, how can he possibly be a guide for what will make children, families, and society flourish? 

In 1974 he floated the idea of buying and selling babies in a now-famous article. He contended that a market in babies would solve the problem of a shortage of babies for adoption caused by the legalisation of abortion. A mind for which baby trafficking confers substantial public benefits was never going to see problems with placing babies in the care of married same-sex partners.

A profile of Posner in the academic magazine Lingua Franca sums him up well: “a gifted but wayward mind, given to reductive, simple minded analysis of the variegated human experience, seduced by a cynical narrative of power and survival; a dogmatic, heartless, calculating machine in pursuit of cold-blooded efficiency”.

What harm can same-sex marriage possibly do? All attention has been focused on the harm to traditional marriage as an institution. More should be focused on the harm to our most deeply felt and dearly purchased notions of morality, democracy and law. If, thanks to Richard Posner’s corrosive reasoning, same-sex marriage is legalised, they are at risk as well.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.
- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/conjugality/view/14767#sthash.b78tjYdQ.dpuf
173  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chlorine used repeatedly in Syria on: September 10, 2014, 10:52:50 AM
http://online.wsj.com/articles/watchdog-says-chlorine-gas-used-as-a-chemical-weapon-in-syria-1410362440
174  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ashkenazi origins on: September 10, 2014, 10:44:06 AM

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-ashkenazi-jews-dna-diseases-20140909-story.html
 
175  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: September 10, 2014, 10:39:06 AM
Excellent find.

Please post here as well:  http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1673.0
176  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 10, 2014, 10:36:32 AM
The Islamic Jihad claims that it has already started rebuilding tunnels in Gaza, taking an Al-Jazeera reporter on a tour of one of its new underground constructions in a video translated by MEMRI. An Islamic Jihad operative told the Qatar-owned network that it began rebuilding tunnels "the day the war ended in Gaza." It could not be verified if the tunnel in the Al-Jazeera clip is indeed new, however, the Islamic Jihad claim gives backing to comments made by a senior Israeli diplomatic source on Sunday. The source told reporters that, just two weeks after Operation Protective Edge ended with an Egyptian-brokered truce, Hamas is already working to restore the terrorist tunnels in Gaza, as well as to build up its rocket manufacturing capabilities. The discovery of attack tunnels leading from Gaza into communities in southern Israel was a main impetus behind Israel's decision to launch a ground incursion into the Strip in July. The IDF destroyed more than 30 tunnels during the operation.

Watch Here

The source told reporters that, just two weeks after Operation Protective Edge ended with an Egyptian-brokered truce, Hamas is already working to restore the terrorist tunnels in Gaza, as well as to build up its rocket manufacturing capabilities. The discovery of attack tunnels leading from Gaza into communities in southern Israel was a main impetus behind Israel's decision to launch a ground incursion into the Strip in July. The IDF destroyed more than 30 tunnels during the operation.
177  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ridley replies to critics on: September 10, 2014, 10:13:31 AM
Matt Ridley Replies to His Climate-Change Critics
Jeffrey Sachs blows a gasket, and our contributor cleans up the intellectual mess.
Sept. 9, 2014 9:56 a.m. ET

Editor's note: Matt Ridley's Sept. 4 op-ed, "Whatever Happened to Global Warming?," stirred a strong response, not least among the enforcers of climate-change orthodoxy. Here is Mr. Ridley's reply to his critics, adapted from his blog:

Post-script. After the article was published, an astonishing tweet was sent by the prominent economist Jeffrey Sachs saying:

"Ridley climate ignorance in WSJ today is part of compulsive lying of Murdoch media gang. Ridley totally misrepresents the science."

Curious to know how I had lied or "totally misrepresented" the science, I asked Sachs to explain. There was a deafening silence.

There then appeared at the Huffington Post an article under Sachs's name. Its style was quite unlike that of Sachs. The piece purported to—in a spin doctor's words—expose:

"The Wall Street Journal Parade of Climate Lies - ‪@JeffDSachs destroys daft ‪@mattwridley article in@WSJ"

However, it does nothing of the sort. It's all bluster and careful misdirection, and contradicts nothing in my article, let alone producing evidence of lies. The sheer inaccuracy of the riposte in its descriptions of what I said or what I think are breathtaking, as are its failure to address any of the issues I raise, let alone contradict them. I had respect for Jeffrey Sachs as a scholar before reading this. Here are some key passages:

"Ridley's "smoking gun" is a paper last week in Science Magazine by two scientists Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung . . ."

Notice the quote marks around "smoking gun," implying that I used the phrase. I did not. In any case, the Chen and Tung paper was only one of the pieces of evidence I cited.

". . . which Ridley somehow believes refutes all previous climate science."

I said nothing of the sort and I believe nothing of the sort. Chen and Tung is about currents in the Atlantic, not about "all climate science"!

"The Wall Street Journal editors don't give a hoot about the nonsense they publish if it serves their cause of fighting measures to limit human-induced climate change. If they had simply gone online to read the actual paper, they would have found that the paper's conclusions are the very opposite of Ridley's."

In his writing the real Mr. Sachs does not often use phrases like "don't give a hoot."

In any case, he's plain wrong about the contradiction. The quote I gave from the press release is accurate. And I have read the paper and can assure Mr. "Sachs" that its conclusions are not the opposite of what I have said. As further confirmation, how about asking the paper's lead author himself? This is what he wrote to Prof. Judith Curry in response to her questions:

"Dear Judy,

The argument on the roughly 50-50 attribution of the forced vs unforced warming for the last two and half decades of the 20th century is actually quite simple. If one is blaming internal variability for canceling out the anthropogenically forced warming during the current hiatus, one must admit that the former is not negligible compared to the latter, and the two are probably roughly of the same magnitude. Then when the internal cycle is of the different sign in the latter part of the 20th century, it must have added to the forced response. Assuming the rate of forced warming has not changed during the period concerned, then the two combined must be roughly twice the forced warming during the last two and half decades of the 20th century."

In other words, as I said, the warming of 1975-2000 was only half caused by man-made emissions and half by natural causes, according to their conclusions, and natural causes were enough to cancel man-made forcing in the years after 2000.

To continue with the "Sachs" article:

"First, the paper makes perfectly clear that the Earth is warming in line with standard climate science, and that the Earth's warming is unabated in recent years. In the scientific lingo of the paper (it's very first line, so Ridley didn't have far to read!), "Increasing anthropogenic greenhouse-gas-emissions perturb Earth's radiative equilibrium, leading to a persistent imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) despite some long-wave radiative adjustment." In short, we humans are filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel use, and we are warming the planet."

Mr. "Sachs" did not have far to read in my own article to find this is in complete agreement with what I wrote also:

"I've long thought that man-made carbon-dioxide emissions will raise global temperatures, but that this effect will not be amplified much by feedbacks from extra water vapor and clouds, so the world will probably be only a bit more than one degree Celsius warmer in 2100 than today."

Instead of using words like "unabated" why not give numbers? I did.

The warming during 1975-2000, even if you cherry-pick the end points, was about 0.4 degrees C if you average the five main global data sets, and if half of that was natural, then man-made forcing was going at the rate of less than 1 degree per century, rather less than what I said.

"Second, the total warming is distributed between the land and ocean surface on the one hand and the ocean deep water on the other. The total rise of ocean heat content has continued unabated, while the proportion of heat absorbed at the surface and in the deeper ocean varies over time. Again, in the scientific lingo of the paper, "[T]his forced total OHC [ocean heat content] should be increasing monotonically over longer periods even through the current period of slowed warming. In fact, that expectation is verified by observation . . . " In other words, the ocean has continued to warm in line with predictions of just such a phenomenon seen in climate models."

This is highly misleading. The quote from the paper does not contradict me at all. In any case, remember, the data on ocean heat content is highly ambiguous. As Judith Curry summarized it recently:

"The main issue of interest is to what extent can ocean heat sequestration explain the hiatus since 1998. The only data set that appears to provide support for ocean sequestration is the ocean reanalysis, with the Palmer and Domingues 0-700 m OHC climatology providing support for continued warming in the upper ocean.

All in all, I don't see a very convincing case for deep ocean sequestration of heat. And even if the heat from surface heating of the ocean did make it into the deep ocean, presumably the only way for this to happen involves mixing (rather than adiabatic processes), so it is very difficult to imagine how this heat could reappear at the surface in light of the 2nd law of thermodynamics."

Back to the "Sachs" article:

"Third, it is the 'vertical distribution' of the warming, between the surface and deep water, which affects the warming observed on land and at the sea surface. The point of the paper is that the allocation of the warming vertically varies over time, sometimes warming the surface rapidly, other times warming the deeper ocean to a great extent and the surface water less rapidly. According to the paper, the period of the late 20th century was a period in which the surface was warmed relative to the deeper ocean. The period since 2000 is the opposite, with more warming of the deeper ocean. How do the scientists know? They measure the ocean temperature at varying depths with a sophisticated system of 'Argo profiling floats,' which periodically dive into the ocean depths to take temperature readings and resurface to transmit them to the data centers."

I have no problem with this paragraph, which merely reiterates what I said about the Chen and Tung paper, with a bit more detail about the Argo floats, etc. It finds no evidence of my misrepresentation, let alone total misrepresentation.

"So, what is Ridley's 'smoking gun' when you strip away his absurd version of the paper? It goes like this. The Earth is continuing to warm just as greenhouse gas theory holds."

Check, I agree—over the long term and slowly, just as greenhouse gas theory holds. But the atmosphere is not continuing to warm right now.

"The warming heats the land and the ocean. The ocean distributes some of the warming to the surface waters and some to the deeper waters, depending on the complex circulation of ocean waters."

Check. Could not have said it better myself, though remember this is still speculation and was not predicted.

"The shares of warming of the surface and deeper ocean vary over time, in fluctuations that can last a few years or a few decades."

Check.

Where's the contradiction with what I wrote? There is none. If Mr. "Sachs" had bothered to read my article properly, he would find that his description of what is happening is pretty well exactly the same as mine. Except that he gives no numbers. What I did was to show that if Chen and Tung are right, and half the warming in the last part of the last century was natural, then the "rapid" warming of those three decades was still too slow for the predictions made by the models. It will if it resumes give us a not very alarming future. And if it does not resume for some time, as Chen and Tung speculate that it might not, then the future is even less alarming.

And no, again, I did not use the phrase "smoking gun." I used several other arguments, all of which Mr. "Sachs" fails to address at all, so presumably he agrees that there has been a "pause," that it was denied for many years by the climate establishment, that there was general agreement among them that a pause of more than 15 years would invalidate their models, and so on.

He goes on:

"If the surface warming is somewhat less in recent years than in the last part of the 20th century, is that reason for complacency? Hardly. The warming is continuing, and the consequences of our current trajectory will be devastating unless greenhouse gas emissions (mainly carbon dioxide) are stopped during this century. As Chen and Tung conclude in their Science paper, 'When the internal variability [of the ocean] that is responsible for the current hiatus [in warming] switches sign, as it inevitably will, another episode of accelerated global warming should ensue.' "

I hardly think it was complacent of me to ask world leaders to address the much more urgent issues of war, terror, disease, poverty, habitat loss and the 1.3 billion people with no electricity.

The only disagreement is whether future warming will be "devastating," and that is a prediction not an empirical fact. I cannot yet be "wrong" about it.

When will Mr. "Sachs" get around to including a number? He surely cannot be under the impression that lukewarmers like me think there is no greenhouse effect? He surely knows that the argument is not about whether there is warming, but how fast.

And where did I lie, or misrepresent? Where did he "destroy" me, pray? He did not.

Mr. "Sachs," who is usually a careful academic, has published a lot of wild accusations against me and "totally" (his word) failed to stand them up. How did this come about? Perhaps, being a busy man, he asked somebody else to ghost-write much of the piece for him and did not check it very thoroughly. Perhaps he wrote it himself. Either way, no problem, a quick tweet apologising to me and admitting that nothing in his article contradicts anything in mine, that we merely disagree on the predictions of dangerous warming, and I will consider the matter closed.

I published most of this riposte to Mr. Sachs's article on my blog post on Sunday and drew his attention to it on Twitter.

He ignored it but posted a single tweet as follows:

"WSJ ignores science conclusion that another episode of accelerated warming should ensue as ocean variability 'inevitably' switches sign."

Actually, the word the scientists use is "rapid" warming and they use it also to describe the warming of the 1980s and 1990s, which as I showed was not nearly as rapid as predicted by the models. So, even when the Atlantic currents are boosting the man-made warming, it is not as fast as the models predict.

Clearly Mr. Sachs and I disagree about how dangerous man-made global warming is likely to be in the future. I think all the explanations for the pause, including the Chen and Tung one, only make my case stronger that man-made warming is not being enhanced by feedbacks and is proceeding according to the greenhouse effect of CO2 alone. I may of course be wrong. But it is ludicrous, nasty and false to accuse me of lying or "totally misrepresenting the science." I have asked Mr. Sachs to withdraw the charges more than once now on Twitter. He has refused to do so, though he has been tweeting freely during the time.

Soon after my article was published, another peer-reviewed paper appeared in the Journal Nature Climate Change, about as mainstream a climate science publication as you can find. It is entitled: "Climate model simulations of the observed early-2000s hiatus of global warming." The respected commentator and academic Roger Pielke Jr. tweeted:

"Can't wait to see ‪@JeffDSachs eviscerate this paper, no doubt by more of Murdoch's lying henchmen"
178  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Obama's student loan blow out on: September 10, 2014, 08:35:16 AM
http://online.wsj.com/articles/obamas-student-loan-blowout-1410305233?mod=Opinion_newsreel_5
179  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mob of teens gets shot by CCW holder on: September 10, 2014, 12:35:37 AM
http://defund.com/mob-of-teens-try-to-violently-rob-concealed-carry-holder-get-shot/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook
180  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: September 09, 2014, 11:11:07 PM


http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/obama-illegal-immigrants-should-not-have-to-look-over-their-shoulder/
181  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Secret IRS research project on: September 09, 2014, 11:05:49 PM


http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-new-irs-documents-show-lerner-need-conservative-group-donor-lists-emails-mention-secret-research-project-top-irs-official/
182  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cheney was right on: September 09, 2014, 11:02:44 PM


Dick Cheney Is Still Right
Obama's return to Iraq reveals how wrong he has been about the world.
Sept. 9, 2014 7:24 p.m. ET

President Obama will lay out his plan to counter the Islamic State on Wednesday night, and we'll judge the strategy on its merits. But the mere fact that Mr. Obama feels obliged to send Americans to fight again in Iraq acknowledges the failure of his foreign policy. He is tacitly admitting that the liberal critique of the Bush Administration's approach to Islamic terrorism was wrong.

Recall that Mr. Obama won the Presidency by arguing that the U.S. had alienated the world and Muslims by recklessly using force abroad. We had betrayed our values by interrogating terrorists too harshly and wiretapping too much. Our enemies hated us not because they hated our values or our influence but because we had provoked them with our interventions.

If we withdrew from the Middle East, especially from Iraq; if we avoided new entanglements, such as in Syria; and if we engaged with our adversaries, such as Iran and Russia, the anti-American furies would subside and the world would be safer. We should nation-build at home, not overseas, and slash the defense budget accordingly.
***

Mr. Obama pursued this vision starting with his Inaugural Address and throughout his first term. He tried to "reset" relations with Russia by dismantling a missile-defense deal with Poland and the Czech Republic. He muted support for the democratic uprising in Iran in 2009 lest it upset the mullahs he needed for a nuclear weapons deal.


When the Syrian revolt erupted in 2011, Mr. Obama called for Bashar Assad to go but did nothing to aid the moderate opposition. In the process he overruled Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, CIA director David Petraeus, and his ambassador to Damascus Robert Ford.

The U.S. absence left Syria's battleground to the Russians and Iranians, who helped Assad hang on, and to the Qataris, who have funded Islamic State and the al Qaeda affiliated al-Nusrah. But Mr. Obama was unrepentant, saying as recently as August that it had "always been a fantasy" to think that arming the moderate Syrians would make a difference.

Above all Mr. Obama sought to end the U.S. presence in Iraq. He made a token effort to strike a status of forces agreement past 2011, offering so few troops that the Iraqis thought it wasn't worth the domestic political trouble. Mr. Obama then sold his total withdrawal as a political success, claiming Iraq was "stable" and "self-reliant" and making a centerpiece of his 2012 campaign that "the tide of war is receding." He ridiculed Mitt Romney for warning about Mr. Putin's designs.

Mr. Obama doubled down on his peace-through-withdrawal strategy in the second term, speeding up the U.S. departure from Afghanistan. On May 23, 2013, he summed up his vision and strategy in a sort of victory speech at National Defense University:

"Today, Osama bin Laden is dead, and so are most of his top lieutenants. There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States, and our homeland is more secure. Fewer of our troops are in harm's way, and over the next 19 months they will continue to come home. Our alliances are strong, and so is our standing in the world. In sum, we are safer because of our efforts."

Then in January his friends at the New Yorker quoted him as comparing Islamic State to the "jayvee team," and this summer he said Mr. Putin is doomed to fail because countries don't invade others in "the 21st century."
***

So where are we less than a year later? Iran's mullahs continue to resist Mr. Obama's nuclear entreaties, while Mr. Putin carves up Ukraine and threatens NATO. China is breaking the rule of law in Hong Kong, pressing its air-identification zone in the Pacific, and buzzing U.S. aircraft.

Syria is now a terrorist sanctuary from which the Islamic State has conquered a third of Iraq, the first time since 9/11 that jihadists control territory from which they can plan attacks. Al Qaeda's affiliates have expanded across the Middle East and Africa, attacking a mall in Kenya and kidnapping schoolgirls in Nigeria.

Mr. Obama can blame this rising tide of disorder on George W. Bush, but the polls show the American public doesn't believe it. They know from experience that it takes time for bad policy to reveal itself in new global turmoil. They saw how the early mistakes in Iraq led to chaos until the 2007 surge saved the day and left Mr. Obama with an opportunity he squandered. And they can see now that Mr. Obama's strategy has produced terrorist victories and more danger for America.

Mr. Obama's intellectual and media defenders were complicit in all of this, cheering on his flight from world leadership as prudent management of U.S. decline. Even now some of his most devoted acolytes write that Mr. Obama's "caution" has Islamic State's jihadists right where he wants them. It is hard to admit that your worldview has been exposed as out-of-this-world.

We hope tonight's speech shows a more realistic President determined to defeat Islamic State, but whatever he says will have to overcome the doubts about American resolve that he has spread around the world for nearly six years. One way to start undoing the damage would be to concede that Dick Cheney was right all along.
183  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UAE Ambassador: The moderate middle east must act on: September 09, 2014, 10:59:54 PM
Third post of the day

The Moderate Middle East Must Act
How the U.A.E. and others in the region can aid the international fight against the Islamic state.
By Yousef al Otaiba
Sept. 9, 2014 7:15 p.m. ET

Over the past few weeks the international community has been stirred to action against the rising threat of extremism—the most destabilizing and dangerous global force since fascism. From Libya to the Levant and from Iraq to Yemen, violent Islamic extremists are overwhelming the broader popular will and menacing those committed to moderation and tolerance. It may not yet be a new world war, but it is already a raging war of competing world views.

In Iraq, Yazidi girls become war prizes to be sold as wives to fighters of the Islamic State, sometimes known as ISIS. In Syria, "infidels" are beheaded in the streets. In Egypt, rampaging jihadists massacre police recruits. In Libya, extremist groups launch the country toward anarchy. In Nigeria, Boko Haram kidnaps 200 schoolgirls. In the United Kingdom, college students are recruited online to take up jihad.

Islamic extremism has long been a Middle East problem but it is now the world's problem too. It is a transnational cancer that has already metastasized into sub-Saharan Africa. Radicalized fighters returning home present a security threat to every country from the Americas to Asia.

At the NATO summit and again this week, President Obama and other Western leaders have described their interests in this struggle. But no one has more at stake than the United Arab Emirates and other moderate countries in the region that have rejected the regressive Islamist creed and embraced a different, forward-looking path.

Now is the time to act. The international community needs an urgent, coordinated and sustained international effort to confront a threat that will, if unchecked, have global ramifications for decades to come.

Any action must first begin with a clear assessment of the enemy. The Islamic State may be the most obvious and dominant threat at present, but it is far from the only one. An international response must confront dangerous Islamist extremists of all stripes across the region. This includes many groups already designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. government: Al Nusra Front in Syria, Ansar al Shariah in Libya and Tunisia, Ansar Bayt al Maqdis in Egypt, AQAP in Yemen and AQIM in North Africa.

Second, there must be a clear plan for direct intervention. It must include strengthening local forces on the ground that already are directly engaging the extremists. This means training, weapons, logistics and communications. It also means supplementing local forces with assets like air support, surveillance and special forces. It is a role the U.A.E. has consistently taken on before in international counterterrorism and peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Somalia.

Third, the coalition must confront not just the fighters but the support networks too. A successful campaign to defeat Islamist extremism in the long term must confront the transnational networks and organizations that breed and support hatred and violence in the name of religion.

Backing these support networks and organizations is a sophisticated ideological, financial and communications complex that includes countries, charities, companies and individuals. It uses social media, religious centers, banks and false fronts. It must be choked off through an organized program of better intelligence, more-aggressive law enforcement and tougher sanctions.

Fourth, if we have learned anything from the recent transitions in the region, it is that proselytizing ideology is no substitute for creating opportunity. Young people need hope and jobs, but stagnant economies, high unemployment and poverty fuel radicalization. Extremist groups prey on these vulnerabilities.

Finally, and perhaps most important, radical Islam is an existential threat to those of us who believe in the true nature of Islam as a religion of peace. We must do more to promote the voices of compassion and respect over the shouts of hatred and fanaticism.

In this spirit, the U.A.E. has built a model of tolerance and moderation in a region of extremes. Over the last generation the U.A.E. has undergone massive change without violence or radicalism, establishing itself as a haven in a very tough neighborhood. It is a way of life and a set of values we will fight to protect.

Noting the rapid rise of ISIS, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that "extremists are defeated only when responsible nations and their peoples unite to oppose them." We agree and are ready to join a coordinated international response. But to be effective, the fight must be against more than ISIS. And it must be waged not only on the battlefield but also against the entire militant ideological and financial complex that is the lifeblood of extremism.

Mr. Otaiba is the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States.
184  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Separation of Powers 1821 on: September 09, 2014, 10:55:04 PM
 "t is not by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected. Were not this great country already divided into states, that division must be made, that each might do for itself what concerns itself directly, and what it can so much better do than a distant authority." --Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, 1821
185  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: The myth of Obamacare's Affordability on: September 09, 2014, 10:00:51 PM
The Myth of ObamaCare's Affordability
The law's perverse incentives will have the nation working fewer hours, and working those hours less productively.
By Casey B. Mulligan
Sept. 8, 2014 7:20 p.m. ET

Whether the Affordable Care Act lives up to its name depends on how, or whether, you consider its consequences for the wider economy.

Millions of people pay a significant portion of their income for health insurance so they and their families can get good health care when they need it. The magnitude of their sacrifices demonstrates the importance that people ascribe to health care.

The Affordable Care Act attempts to help low- and middle-income families avoid some of the tough sacrifices that would be necessary to purchase health insurance without assistance. But no program can change the fundamental reality that society itself has to make sacrifices in order to deliver health care to more people. Workers and therefore production have to be taken away from other industries to beef up health care, or the workforce itself has to get bigger, or somehow people have to work more productively.

Although the ACA helps specific populations by giving them a bigger slice of the economic pie, the law diminishes the pie itself. It reduces the amount that Americans work, and it makes their work less productive. This slows growth in both personal income and gross domestic product.

In further expanding the frontiers of redistribution, the ACA reduces the benefits of employment for both employers and employees. Employers that don't provide health insurance are either subject to large penalties based on the number and types of employees that they have, or are threatened with enormous penalties when they get the opportunity to expand their business. About a quarter of the nation's employees, more than 35 million men and women, currently work for employers that don't offer health insurance. These tend to be small and midsize businesses with employees who already make less than the average American worker. The result of penalizing businesses for hiring and expanding is going to be less hiring and expanding.


Another sixth of the nation's employees—almost 25 million people—are in a full-time position that makes them ineligible for the law's new and generous assistance with health-insurance premiums and cost sharing. They are ineligible for subsidies simply because they are working full time and thereby eligible for their employers' coverage. Because the only ways for them to get the new assistance is to move to part-time status, find an employer that doesn't offer coverage, or stop working, we can expect millions of workers to make one or more of those adjustments.

Most people wouldn't give up working merely to qualify for a few thousand dollars in assistance. But it is a mistake to assume that nobody is affected by subsidies, because there are people who aren't particularly happy with working, planning to leave their job anyway, or otherwise on the fence between working and not working. A new subsidy is enough to push them over the edge or to get them to stop working sooner than they would have otherwise.

The law has effects that extend well beyond the employment rate and the average length of the workweek. People, businesses and entire sectors will jockey to reduce their new tax burdens or enhance their subsidies. Their adjustments to the new incentives will make our economy less productive and stifle wage growth, even among workers who have no direct contact with the law's penalties and subsidies.

The "29er" phenomenon is a good example of how the law harms productivity. Because ACA's "employer mandate" requires firms with 50 or more full-time workers to offer health plans to employees who work more than 30 hours a week, many employers and employees have adopted 29-hour work schedules. This is not the most productive way to arrange the workplace, but it allows employers to avoid the mandate and its penalties and helps the employees qualify for individual assistance.
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Editorial Board Member Joe Rago deflates liberal celebration over falling premiums on healthcare exchanges. Photo credit: Associated Press.

All of this, and much more, exacerbates the societal problem that the economy cannot expand its health sector without giving up something else of value. A complex law like the ACA has a few provisions that encourage work, such as counting unemployment income against eligibility for health assistance. But the bulk of the law overwhelms them. The ACA as a whole will have the nation working fewer hours, and working those hours less productively.

I estimate that the ACA's long-term impact will include about 3% less weekly employment, 3% fewer aggregate work hours, 2% less GDP and 2% less labor income. These effects will be visible and obvious by 2017, if not before. The employment and hours estimates are based on the combined amount of the law's new taxes and disincentives and on historical research on the aggregate effects of each dollar of taxation. The GDP and income estimates reflect lower amounts of labor as well as the law's effects on the productivity of each hour of labor.

By the end of this decade, nearly 20 million additional Americans will have health insurance as a consequence of the law. But the ultimate economywide cost of their enrollments will be at least double what it would have been if these people had enrolled without government carrots and sticks; that is, if they had decided it was worth spending their own money on health insurance. In effect, people who aren't receiving assistance through the ACA are paying twice for the law: once as the total economic pie gets smaller and again as they receive a smaller piece.

The Affordable Care Act is weakening the economy. And for the large number of families and individuals who continue to pay for their own health care, health care is now less affordable.

Mr. Mulligan is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the author of the new e-book "Side Effects: The Economic Consequences of the Health Reform" (JMJ Economics, 2014).
186  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A river went out from Eden to Water the Garden on: September 09, 2014, 09:58:40 PM
A river went out from Eden to water the garden.

Genesis 2:10
There is Eden, and there is the garden.
Eden is a place of delight, far beyond the garden, beyond all created things. Yet its river nurtures all that grows in that garden.
The garden is wisdom, understanding, knowing—where all of creation begins.
Adam is placed in the garden, to work with his mind, and to discover the transcendent Eden flowing within.
So too, that is the objective of all man’s toil in this world: To reach beyond his own mind. Not to a place where the mind is ignored, but rather, to its essence, to the inner sense of beauty and wonder that guides it. To Eden.
187  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israel's ABM systems on: September 09, 2014, 09:55:17 PM


Israel and the US Missile Defense Agency tested an improved Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile at an Israeli test range over the Mediterranean Sea Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. “An Arrow 2 missile was launched and performed its flight sequence as planned. The results are being analyzed by program engineers,” the statement read. Defense Ministry spokesperson Jonathan Mosery said that the Arrow 2 system, which has been operational for years and is intended for use against long-range threats, “like Iron Dome, undergoes ongoing improvements” to software and hardware and other components. Israel is in the process of developing a five-tiered system of air defense, offering protection against projectiles ranging from mortars to ballistic weapons.

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Of the two operational systems, only Iron Dome has been used in combat. Defending against short-to-mid-range rockets, it intercepted roughly 90 percent of its targeted projectiles during Operation Protective Edge, according to figures released by the army. The other three systems – Iron Beam, David’s Sling, and Arrow 3 – are expected to become operational within the coming two years. The Arrow 2 was rolled out in March 2000. “This is a great day for the Air Defense Forces, for the Air Force, the defense establishment and, I would say, for the State of Israel,” Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben Eliyahu said at the time. He called the Arrow 2 “the only weapon system of its kind in the entire world,” adding that Israel is the first country to “succeed in developing, building and operating a defense system against ballistic missiles.” Tuesday’s test, the Defense Ministry said, has no bearing “on the Israeli operational systems’ capability to cope with the existing threats in the region” and is merely “intended to counter future threats.” The Arrow 3, still incomplete, is designed to intercept missiles at a higher altitude, in space and above the earth’s atmosphere, minimizing the threat of fallout from weapons of mass destruction and increasing the likelihood of a successful interception of incoming missiles.
188  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: September 09, 2014, 09:38:02 PM
Click here to watch: ISIS Flaunts Captured Jets, Drones and Artillery

Israel has provided the US with intelligence and satellite images on Islamic State positions, as well as information on Westerners joining its ranks, to assist Washington in its ongoing operation against the Islamic State, Reuters reported Monday, citing an unnamed Western official. Israeli spy satellites were said to have greater access to the region, allowing the US to “fill out its information and get a better battle damage assessment” in the aftermath of its airstrikes, the diplomat said, according to the report. The news came as a State Department spokeswoman said that more than 40 countries have already indicated a willingness to help out in some way against the militants, who have seized a swath of Syria and northern Iraq. “What the goal of the coalition is is to coordinate on the threat that ISIL poses,” Jen Psaki said, adding that the allies would have differing roles and that not all would offer Iraq direct military support. “There are obviously a range of capabilities or capacities that different countries have,” she said, adding that the coalition would seek to cut off IS from funding, foreign reinforcements and ideological support.

Watch Here

The US has already begun to form alliances in battling IS, though officials have had to walk a tightrope between long-held regional alliances and sensitivities in the Middle East. Reuters reported Washington handed over the Israeli satellite evidence to Turkey and other Arab countries, but only once it was cleared of any information that could link it to Israel. The intelligence arrived “with the Hebrew and other markings scrubbed out” to avoid conflict with the other IS-opposed countries that may be bothered by Israel’s role in combating the jihadists, according to the diplomat cited by Reuters. The diplomat indicated Israel had also helped identify potential Western collaborators with the terror group. “The Israelis are very good with passenger data and with analyzing social media in Arabic to get a better idea of who these people are,” the source said. The Defense Ministry refused to comment on the report to Reuters. Secretary of State John Kerry is to set off Tuesday on a trip to Jordan and Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to build an international coalition to counter the jihadists of the Islamic State. “Secretary Kerry will also consult with key partners and allies on how to further support the security and stability of the Iraqi government, combat the threat posed by ISIL, and confront Middle East security challenges,” according to a State Department statement.
189  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Romney on: September 09, 2014, 12:50:01 PM
"without making it at all about himself."

Class act I thought.

"He did a nice job in this interview of making the case of administration failure and what our policies should be"

I go a bit more enthusiastic than that-- I think he did an outstanding job of making the case in a way that can rally the American people.
 
190  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ambassador Crocker on what we should do. on: September 09, 2014, 11:33:02 AM
Good one Mike.  BTW, please use the Subject line (I have filled it in for you in this case).

Here's a major one from a major player:

Islamic State Is Getting Stronger, and It's Targeting America
U.S. air strikes in Syria are essential to defeating IS, but we should not cooperate with Iran or its militias.
By Ryan Crocker
Sept. 8, 2014 7:21 p.m. ET

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday that an international coalition is forming to confront the terrorists of the Islamic State. President Obama plans to address the nation Wednesday night, as he said over the weekend, to get "the American people to understand the nature of the threat and how we're going to deal with it." His strategy is expected to involve an emphasis on a U.S.-led coalition and a reliance on airstrikes in a campaign that could take years, not months. Less clear is whether the president will commit to strikes inside Syria and substantially expanded special-forces deployments to Iraq and as soon as possible to Syria. We will not win unless he does.

There is no time left to argue, dither and wonder what should be done about those who are butchering Americans— and anyone else they care to—across a growing portion of the Middle East.

The enemy has no such doubts. They are not going away. They are getting stronger. The war, ladies and gentlemen, is truly on. We're just not a meaningful part of it yet.

A name can say a great deal about the intentions of our enemy today. The group on the march in the Middle East began calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Then it chose the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the latter term including Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Syria. Now it's simply the Islamic State, geography unspecified. They already are a state, in that they carry out government functions in occupied territory. You can bet that their aspirations include Saudi Arabia and its holy cities of Mecca and Medina. With their gains in Iraq, nothing but sand separates them from the Saudi border.

It is hard to overstate the threat that this organization poses. I call it al Qaeda Version 6.0. The Islamic State is far better organized, equipped and funded than the original. They are more experienced and more numerous. Several thousand carry Western passports, including American ones. All the terrorists have to do is get on a plane and head west. But perhaps the most important asset they possess is territory. For the first time since 9/11, a determined and capable enemy has the space and security to plan complex, longer-range operations. If we don't think we are on that list, we are deluding ourselves.

So how do we deal with a looming regional and international disaster? First, we must understand that we are facing an army that will have to be confronted militarily. The pace of airstrikes in Iraq needs to be increased dramatically. Our actions thus far are not extensive enough to change the balance.


Second, we need to move immediately to strike Islamic State targets in Syria. These terrorists cannot be allowed a haven anywhere. Third, we need to increase special-forces advisers with loyal Iraqi units, with the Kurds and with Iraqi Sunni tribes who have been fighting the Islamic State for months. As we proceed with an air campaign in Syria, we need to look at possibilities for similar deployments with moderate opposition forces there.

Finally, we have to understand that military force is necessary but not sufficient. We will need to continue an intensive, high-level political effort to help the Iraqis form an inclusive government that will bring Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds into a unified front to confront a common enemy. We will have to ensure that they have the weapons to prosecute a successful campaign.

(MARC:  AS I have already written, I have considerable doubts about the feasibility of this.)

There are several things that we should not do. We should avoid any appearance of cooperation with Iran and the extremist militias they support. Otherwise, we would further alienate Iraq's Sunnis, already disaffected by the sectarian policies of the government of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It also would estrange key regional allies such as Saudi Arabia. Similarly, we must also avoid giving the impression that military action in Syria is intended to support the regime of Bashar Assad.

The Islamic State has arguably done more damage to other elements of the Sunni opposition in Syria than to Assad. And there are many Syrians who stand with him not out of loyalty but fear of the alternative: an ascendant Islamic State. Degrading the forces of radical Islam may change the political dynamics among the different factions in a way that may make it possible to begin a political process: Moderate Sunni forces should be strengthened—and with a lessened threat from the Islamic State, those around Assad may be persuaded that it is time for him to go.

Neither in Iraq nor in Syria can stability come through military force alone. But military force may create conditions that enable political deals.

Just as the Islamic State is a threat to the region and the world, it must be met by the region and the world. The decision at the NATO Summit in Wales last week to form a Western coalition against the Islamic State is encouraging. The planned visit of Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel to the region is equally important. Our partners there face the most immediate threat from the Islamic State, and they must be in this fight too. Among other reasons, it is crucial to show that this is not a Muslim-Christian confrontation. Instead, show that it is a fight with a truly evil entity against which the forces of moderation and order, both Muslim and Christian, will stand.

But all of this—military action, political engagement, effective coalition-building—will require something that has been in short supply in this growing crisis: American leadership. This country, and the president personally, must step forward and show the world that we can and will move decisively, collectively and immediately.

Mr. Crocker is dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. He is a former ambassador to Iraq and Syria.
191  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: September 09, 2014, 10:35:25 AM
Mike:

I had not put together the missing airliners and the UAE/Egypt attack. Good attention to detail.

Marc (with a "c")
192  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US working with Kurds on: September 09, 2014, 10:31:49 AM
Glad to see us working with the Kurds, bummed we are imposing upon them support of Baghdad.  IMHO it will likely prove to be an error to pretend that Iraq still exists.

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

Before U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani warned U.S. officials of jihadists approaching Erbil. Reuters

ERBIL, Iraq—The anti-Islamic State strategy the U.S. is developing first began to take shape a month ago after a series of increasingly urgent phone calls from this Kurdish city.

In one, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani told Vice President Joe Biden the jihadists were within 25 miles of Erbil, which is both the capital of the Kurdish region and home to U.S. military, intelligence, diplomatic and corporate offices. The message: Unless the U.S. stepped in, Erbil could fall in days.

"Something in Barzani's voice made [Mr. Biden] think, 'We need to do something here,' " said a U.S. official describing the call, which Kurdish officials also confirmed.

Later that day, President Barack Obama, who had long resisted pressure from the government in Baghdad to help fight the Islamic State menace, authorized airstrikes on the militants approaching Erbil. He also approved both overt and covert programs to resupply the Kurdish fighters known as the Peshmerga against the jihadist threat spanning the Syria-Iraq border.


The airstrike campaign spread this past weekend as the U.S. sought to stop jihadists threatening a dam on the Euphrates upriver from Baghdad. The administration also is seeking to form an international coalition to fight Islamic State, which Mr. Obama is expected to elaborate on in a speech Wednesday. As the intense telephone contacts with Erbil a month ago show, the Kurds, a people with whom the U.S. has had a decadeslong but sometimes wary partnership, play a central role in U.S. plans to combat the jihadist threat.

Experts say the terrorist organization calling itself the Islamic State is operating like a government, with a bureaucratic hierarchy. Here's how it is structured. Reported by WSJ's Jason Bellini and Reem Makhoul.

In Iraq, administration officials envision Kurdish fighters as a leading edge in a potential ground campaign against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Officials also think that Kurdish fighters in Syria may be critical in battling the jihadists in that country, where the Defense Department is drawing up options that include airstrikes.

In return for the American military help last month, Kurdish and U.S. officials said, the Kurds postponed plans for an independence referendum and agreed to work more closely with the Iraqi government in Baghdad. Kurdish parties on Monday said they had agreed to join the new government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi despite retaining serious concerns over power sharing with Baghdad. The shift was an illustration of how the Islamic State threat, while tearing at the fabric of the Iraqi state, is also in some ways repairing it.

Complicating the U.S. strategy, one Kurdish fighting force is classified as a terrorist organization by Washington, based on its violent campaign for greater autonomy in Turkey. The U.S. won't work with that group, the PKK, and has long shunned a Syrian Kurdish group that is close to it. Yet recently, the administration has quietly reached out to the group in Syria.

The administration came to the defense of Erbil for a range of reasons, said U.S. and Kurdish officials. It already saw the Peshmerga as trusted allies in a volatile region. The Peshmerga—literally, "those who face death"—aren't a standing army but a collection of militias loyal to political factions in the Kurdish-dominated part of northern Iraq.

The president's most immediate concern, U.S. officials said, was to protect U.S. personnel in the oil-rich area, which is home to billions of dollars of U.S. investment. He also authorized strikes to protect the region's Yazidi religious minority from potential slaughter by Islamic State fighters.

"The U.S. is betting big on the Kurds," said Aaron Stein, a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank. "Their fates in this theater have become intertwined."

American ties to the Kurds, who live in parts of Iran, Turkey and Syria as well as Iraq, weren't always close. In the 1970s, the U.S. stood by while Iraqi and Iranian forces teamed up to crush Kurdish forces.

But over succeeding decades, enduring bonds between U.S. and Peshmerga commanders formed, when the U.S. intervened to protect the Kurds against Saddam Hussein in the 1990s and again after its 2003 invasion to topple the dictator. Youthful U.S. military officers who later rose to high posts in the White House, Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency came away from encounters impressed with "how brave the Peshmerga were," recalled a veteran U.S. diplomat, James Jeffrey.

In 2003, then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus's 101st Airborne Division took responsibility for security in Iraq's three Kurdish provinces and formed a strong bond with Mr. Barzani, said a former senior U.S. officer. Every month or so, the two met for lunch in a field tent on a Kurdish mountain to discuss military strategy and battles Mr. Barzani had fought against Mr. Hussein's forces. The Army division began building the region's two largest landing strips—now used in part for arms deliveries and U.S.-Kurdish joint collection of intelligence on the jihadists.

Mr. Barzani also forged ties to a generation of U.S. diplomats. Among other things, he went hiking with Mr. Jeffrey, a former ambassador both to Iraq and Turkey.

U.S.-Kurdish tensions flared early in Mr. Obama's tenure. Kurdish leaders weren't pleased by the administration's embrace of Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite Muslim prime minister who led Iraq for years until the U.S. and others soured on him this summer and he left under pressure. Obama administration officials, for their part, were alarmed by what they saw as efforts by Kurdish leaders to put northern Iraq on a path to independence.

In deciding which Kurdish groups the U.S. would work with, the U.S. has long taken cues from Turkey. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally has spent decades fighting the PKK, formally the Kurdistan Workers' Party. The U.S. wouldn't work with it.

The U.S. had also kept at arm's length a Kurdish force inside Syria called the Democratic Union Party. It is close to the PKK but says it is independent. Although the group has fought jihadist groups inside Syria for years, last year it was unable to get a U.S. visa for its leader, Saleh Muslim, to visit Washington to discuss cooperation.

The U.S. strategy began to shift in June, when jihadist fighters from what was then known only as ISIS or ISIL marched across northern Iraq and took the cities of Samarra, Mosul and Tikrit. Iraqi government forces largely melted away.

The U.S. military's Central Command prepared options to build up the Peshmerga defenders of Kurdistan, an island of stability in northern Iraq.

Mr. Barzani's chief of staff, Fuad Hussein, and Falah Bakir, the top diplomat for the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, met at the White House in early July with officials including Mr. Biden, a leading U.S. voice on Iraq policy. The Kurds said Mr. Barzani would support a push the U.S. was making for an Iraqi government more inclusive than Mr. Maliki's. But if that effort failed, said a longtime adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government, Mr. Barzani would hold a referendum on independence, a threat to break Iraq apart.

A week into August, the equation changed. Islamic State fighters stormed into Iraqi towns directly abutting Iraqi Kurdistan. The Peshmerga, heavily outgunned, retreated. Kurdistan suddenly had a 600-mile front line with the jihadist group.

Kurdish officials continually updated their American counterparts, including State Department official Brett McGurk and Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of Central Command. "We were talking to the Americans every hour," said Mr. Hussein.

Mr. Barzani mobilized the Peshmerga in preparation to take the fight to the jihadists. Islamic State didn't wait. On Aug. 7, hundreds of its fighters smashed through Kurdish defenses at the towns of Makhmour and Gwair, opening a direct route into Erbil.

"We didn't sleep," Mr. Hussein said. "They were 30 minutes from Erbil."

Most Western oil and other companies in Erbil had by this time evacuated foreign workers. Many expatriates still present followed residents fleeing north.

Kurdish officials redeployed elite Peshmerga units from nearby cities. They also called in a controversial force: guerrillas from the PKK—the group on U.S. and Turkish terrorist-organization lists—and from the Democratic Union Party in Syria, who are commonly known by the initials PYD.

"They took up position in what we call 'the suicide area,' which is the first line of defense. They made a real difference," said Koshan Gaff, a Peshmerga fighter. They also punched through Islamic State lines to form a corridor that helped save members of the Yazidi minority trapped on a mountainside.

Away from the chaotic front lines, U.S. intelligence officers in Erbil echoed Mr. Barzani's calls for an emergency ammunition resupply, U.S. officials said, and the White House tapped the CIA to launch a covert resupply mission. The administration was having trouble getting the Iraqi government to let the Pentagon directly rearm the Kurds, U.S. officials added, because Iraqi leaders in Baghdad wanted supplies to go through them to avoid fueling Kurdish efforts to gain greater autonomy.

While Mr. Barzani and his aides worked the phones, lobbyists for the Kurds and for U.S. companies roamed Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to press the administration to step up support. Some did so, concerned about the Kurds and U.S. investments.

Mr. Biden had kept in touch with Mr. Barzani since meeting him in 2002 while still a senator. "It's a very friendly relationship," said Mr. Hussein. "They don't just talk about politics, they talk about their grandchildren." In recent years, Mr. Biden frequently made requests of the Kurdish leader and was used to hearing him ask for help on various matters.

This time was different, U.S. officials said. With darkness falling in Erbil on Aug. 7, Mr. Barzani's tone grew more urgent as Islamic State moved an artillery piece close enough to reach the city's suburbs. Mr. Biden sought details about where Peshmerga forces were fighting or fleeing, to help the U.S. determine the urgency and how to respond, said U.S. and Kurdish officials.

Mr. Obama had just decided to use airstrikes to protect the Yazidis. Shortly after the Biden-Barzani call he also directed action to protect Erbil, citing, in particular, concerns about American personnel in the city, according to U.S. officials.

Aides said Mr. Obama had been worried about launching strikes in heavily populated areas. Pentagon planners said Islamic State positions were in relatively open areas near Erbil, minimizing the risk.

At 4:30 a.m. in Erbil on Aug. 8, Mr. Barzani and his advisers watched live TV coverage of Mr. Obama's announcement that the U.S. would strike jihadists approaching the Kurdish capital.

Later that day, U.S. F/A-18 fighter jets began pounding jihadist positions with 500-pound laser-guided bombs, the first hitting the artillery piece in range of Erbil suburbs. The combination of bombing runs, replenished ammunition and help for Peshmerga from guerrillas of the PKK and the group in Syria changed fortunes on the ground. The jihadists were pushed out of the towns on the road to Erbil and then from the Mosul Dam, which they had seized earlier.

The Kurds have since received some light weapons, such as rifles, mostly through European countries, in deliveries coordinated with the U.S. The Kurdistan Regional Government has sent the U.S. a list of gear it wants, including heavier weapons such as anti-artillery systems, in a request that is pending.

The airstrikes and other aid have given the Kurds time to regroup. But the scrambled political situation poses tricky new questions about the road ahead.

One is to what extent the U.S. might work with the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, the Kurdish fighting group in Syria that has long confronted jihadists is Syria but is close to the terrorist-designated PKK.

A representative of the PYD in France, Khaled Issa, met in recent months with American officials to discuss possible military cooperation. The U.S., which notes that it doesn't have formal relations with the PYD, has informed Turkey of the informal discussions.

Mr. Barzani, who likewise previously kept his distance from the Syrian Kurdish fighters, also has started cooperating more closely with them, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government adviser. It is an example of how the Islamic State threat has drawn disparate Kurdish groups closer.

Some U.S. lawmakers are pressing the administration to arm the Kurds in Syria. A U.S. official said Turkey may be close to cutting a deal with the PKK guerrillas, which could increase the U.S.'s room to maneuver. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said reaching a peace deal was a top priority.

Erbil's main airport has become a center of the battle against Islamic State. During the Iraq war, the U.S. established its own facility there, including private taxiways and hangars with communications gear. Now, Kurdish officials say the facility is rapidly being expanded, reflecting Washington's commitment to what has become a joint U.S.-Kurdish campaign against the jihadists.

"Everything changed in 48 hours" in early August, Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, said of the role of the Kurds. "Now we're fighting ISIS on behalf of the world."

—David Gauthier-Villars contributed to this article.

Write to Joe Parkinson at joe.parkinson@wsj.com and Adam Entous at adam.entous@wsj.com
193  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's nuke build up on: September 08, 2014, 07:29:16 PM


http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/09/08/its_time_to_stop_putins_nuclear_arms_buildup_inf_treaty
194  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Romney on: September 08, 2014, 07:12:34 PM
I'm curious as to everyone's take on these two items.

PS Thank you Doug!
195  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Rand Paul on: September 08, 2014, 07:11:30 PM

Rand Paul: 'I Am Not an Isolationist'
By SEN. RAND PAUL

Some pundits are surprised that I support destroying the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militarily. They shouldn’t be. I’ve said since I began public life that I am not an isolationist, nor am I an interventionist. I look at the world, and consider war, realistically and constitutionally.

I still see war as the last resort. But I agree with Reagan’s idea that no country should mistake U.S. reluctance for war for a lack of resolve.

As Commander-in-Chief, I would not allow our enemies to kill our citizens or our ambassadors. "Peace through Strength" only works if you have and show strength.

Our recent foreign policy has allowed radical jihadists to proliferate.

Today, there are more terrorists groups than there were before 9/11, most notably ISIS.

After all the sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq, why do we find ourselves in a more dangerous world?

And why, after six years, does President Obama lack a strategy to deal with threats like ISIS?

This administration’s dereliction of duty has both sins of action and inaction, which is what happens when you are flailing around wildly, without careful strategic thinking.

And while my predisposition is to less intervention, I do support intervention when our vital interests are threatened.

If I had been in President Obama’s shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS. I would have called Congress back into session—even during recess.

This is what President Obama should have done. He should have been prepared with a strategic vision, a plan for victory and extricating ourselves. He should have asked for authorization for military action and would have, no doubt, received it.

Once we have decided that we have an enemy that requires destruction, we must have a comprehensive strategy—a realistic policy applying military power and skillful diplomacy to protect our national interests.

The immediate challenge is to define the national interest to determine the form of intervention we might pursue. I was repeatedly asked if I supported airstrikes. I do—if it makes sense as part of a larger strategy.

There’s no point in taking military action just for the sake of it, something Washington leaders can’t seem to understand. America has an interest in protecting more than 5,000 personnel serving at the largest American embassy in the world in northern Iraq. I am also persuaded by the plight of massacred Christians and Muslim minorities.

The long-term challenge is debilitating and ultimately eradicating a strong and growing ISIS, whose growth poses a significant terrorist threat to U.S. allies and enemies in the region, Europe, and our homeland.

The military means to achieve these goals include airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. Such airstrikes are the best way to suppress ISIS’s operational strength and allow allies such as the Kurds to regain a military advantage.

We should arm and aid capable and allied Kurdish fighters whose territory includes areas now under siege by the ISIS.

Since Syrian jihadists are also a threat to Israel, we should help reinforce Israel’s Iron Dome protection against missiles.

We must also secure our own borders and immigration policy from ISIS infiltration. Our border is porous, and the administration, rather than acting to protect it, instead ponders unconstitutional executive action, legalizing millions of illegal immigrants.

Our immigration system, especially the administration of student visas, requires a full-scale examination. Recently, it was estimated that as many as 6,000 possibly dangerous foreign students are unaccounted for.

This is inexcusable over a decade after we were attacked on 9/11 by hijackers including one Saudi student who overstayed his student visa.

We should revoke passports from any Americans or dual citizens who are fighting with ISIS.

Important to the long-term stability in the region is the reengagement diplomatically with allies in the region and in Europe to recognize the shared nature of the threat of Radical Islam and the growing influence of jihadists. That is what will make this a comprehensive strategy.

ISIS is a global threat; we should treat it accordingly and build a coalition of nations who are also threatened by the rise of the Islamic State. Important partners such as Turkey, a NATO ally, Israel, and Jordan face an immediate threat, and unchecked growth endangers Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Gulf countries such as Qatar, and even Europe. Several potential partners—notably, the Turks, Qataris, and Saudis—have been reckless in their financial support of ISIS, which must cease immediately.

This is one set of principles. Any strategy, though, should be presented to the American people through Congress. If war is necessary, we should act as a nation. We should do so properly and constitutionally and with a real strategy and a plan for both victory and exit.

To develop a realistic strategy, we need to understand why the threat of ISIS exists. Jihadist Islam is festering in the region. But in order for it to grow, prosper, and conquer, it needs chaos.

Three years after President Obama waged war in Libya without Congressional approval, Libya is a sanctuary and safe haven for training and arms for terrorists from Northern Africa to Syria. Our deserted Embassy in Tripoli is controlled by militants. Jihadists today swim in our embassy pool.

Syria, likewise, has become a jihadist wonderland. In Syria, Obama’s plan just one year ago—and apparently Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s desire—was to aid rebels against Assad, despite the fact that many of these groups are al-Qaeda- and ISIS-affiliated. Until we acknowledge that arming the Islamic rebels in Syria allowed ISIS a safe haven, no amount of military might will extricate us from a flawed foreign policy.

Unfortunately, Obama’s decisions—from disengaging diplomatically in Iraq and the region and fomenting chaos in Libya and Syria—leave few good options. A more realistic and effective foreign policy would protect the vital interests of the nation without the unrealistic notion of nation-building.
196  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington Redskins on: September 08, 2014, 02:15:41 PM


http://www.tpnn.com/2014/09/02/overwhelming-majority-say-keep-nfls-washington-redskins-name-says-new-poll/ 

http://www.tpnn.com/2014/08/25/video-native-american-washington-redskins-fans-fight-back-to-save-team-name/
197  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Why stocks keep rising on: September 08, 2014, 01:47:57 PM
Why Do Stocks Keep Rising? To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 9/8/2014

So far this year, the S&P 500, including dividends, has returned 10.1% to investors. The NASDAQ, including dividends, is up 10.7%.

This has happened even though the Federal Reserve has tapered bond purchases from $85 billion per month, to the current $25 billion. And everyone knows, QE will fall to $15 billion after September 17th and zero after the Fed’s meeting in late October.

The market is up in spite of Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine, the rise and rapid spread of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and even volcanoes in Iceland. It’s up even though Ebola is spreading in Africa, upcoming Congressional elections in the US, and some members of the Fed publicly vocalizing about the need to raise interest rates sooner than next year.

The stock market is up even though some previously bullish analysts have turned skeptical or even bearish. It’s up even though it had a little hiccup back in July and even though the 5-year Treasury yield is up 100 basis points since early 2013.

This continues a trend that started sixty-six months ago on March 9, 2009. Since then, the S&P 500 is up at annualized average of 24% (including dividends). And the things the market has worried about in the past year don’t hold a candle to the fears stirred up over those previous five years.

During those five years, pundits on many business TV shows, after hearing that we thought stocks could go even higher and that the economy would keep growing, always asked “yeah, but what about ______”?

You can fill in the blank with a hundred things…they certainly did…the Sequester, Greece, Dubai, Cypress, the Fiscal Cliff (twice), part-time jobs, and on and on. This incessant pessimism, the constant belief that things were bound to go wrong seems almost surreal. How can somebody stay negative for so long, but convince themselves that they are always right?

Maybe this is why CNBC viewership is falling. According to Zap2it.com, it’s fallen to a 2-year low (click here).

It’s important to remember that many people watch business TV at work and ratings services do not do a good job of capturing this viewership. Nonetheless, if these data capture any type of decline at all, it’s a real shame.

The 21st century is an amazing period of entrepreneurial activity. Fracking, 3-D printing, robotics, biotech advances, the Cloud, wireless communication technologies, smartphones, tablets, and apps are just a few of the areas of massive advancement.

The business world is vibrant, productive and massively efficient. One broad measure of profits has grown 20% at an annual average rate between Q4-2008 and Q2-2014. How come TV can’t capture that vibrancy in a way that attracts more viewers?

The good news is that TV does not drive stock prices, profits do. Rising profits prove that resources are being utilized more efficiently and when resources are used more efficiently, they become more valuable.

One problem the pessimists have is that they look back at 2008 and see a failure of markets and the success of government. But TARP and QE never saved the economy. Stock markets fell an additional 40% after TARP was passed.  But once mark-to-market accounting rules were changed in March/April 2009, the crisis ended and a recovery began. That recovery has been real, not a “sugar high,” built on government action.

It may not have been the strongest recovery ever, but in those areas driven by, or that utilize, new technology, it has certainly been profitable.
That’s why stocks keep rising in spite of all the negative news that circulates. Understanding profits is the key to understanding why stocks keep rising.
________________________________________
198  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Even POTH gets on Qatar's case on: September 08, 2014, 12:58:14 PM


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/08/world/middleeast/qatars-support-of-extremists-alienates-allies-near-and-far.html?emc=edit_th_20140908&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0
199  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 18787 Never be idle on: September 08, 2014, 12:23:04 PM
"Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing. And that you may be always doing good, my dear, is the ardent prayer of yours affectionately." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Martha Jefferson, 1787
200  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Little help please on: September 08, 2014, 10:38:36 AM
I'm headed out for a couple of hours.

Would someone be so kind as to post the following here on this thread:

1) Romney's piece last week in the Washington Post;

2) Romney's interview yesterday on Chris Wallace's Sunday morning show on FOX.  I must say I found him quite presidential-- and sounding like a much better candidate than before.
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