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22951  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / NYPD cop kills ex-pro wrestler on: September 09, 2011, 02:24:51 PM
NYPD Cop Kills Ex-Pro Wrestler Who Had Him in Chokehold


More in the story, but this stood out;

A former pro wrestler shot by a Manhattan narcotics cop has died, police said.

John Collado, 43, who police say had a plainclothes detective in a chokehold, was shot on Post Ave. in Inwood about 5 p.m. Tuesday. Collado died 12 hours later at Harlem Hospital.

A police source said Collado lifted the cop more than a foot off the ground, but was still able to grab a gun and fire backwards into Collado's lower chest.

Read more: 
22952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Apparently a third gun at the scene of BP Terry's murder was covered up on: September 09, 2011, 02:18:44 PM

EXCLUSIVE: Third Gun Linked to 'Fast and Furious' Identified at Border Agent's Murder


A third gun linked to "Operation Fast and Furious" was found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, new documents obtained exclusively by Fox News suggest, contradicting earlier assertions by federal agencies that police found only two weapons tied to the federal government's now infamous gun interdiction scandal.

Sources say emails support their contention that the FBI concealed evidence to protect a confidential informant. Sources close to the Terry case say the FBI informant works inside a major Mexican cartel and provided the money to obtain the weapons used to kill Terry.

Unlike the two AK-style assault weapons found at the scene, the third weapon could more easily be linked to the informant. To prevent that from happening, sources say, the third gun "disappeared."

In addition to the emails obtained by Fox News, an audio recording from a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent investigating the Terry case seems to confirm the existence of a third weapon. In that conversation, the agent refers to an "SKS assault rifle out of Texas" found at the Terry murder scene south of Tucson.

The FBI refused to answer a detailed set of questions submitted to officials by Fox News. Instead, agency spokesman Paul Bresson said, "The Brian Terry investigation is still ongoing so I cannot comment." Bresson referred Fox News to court records that only identify the two possible murder weapons.

However, in the hours after Terry was killed on Dec. 14, 2010, several emails written to top ATF officials suggest otherwise.
In one, an intelligence analyst writes that by 7:45 p.m. -- about 21 hours after the shooting -- she had successfully traced two weapons at the scene, and is now "researching the trace status of firearms recovered earlier today by the FBI."
In another email, deputy ATF-Phoenix director George Gillett asks: "Are those two (AK-47s) in addition to the gun already recovered this morning?"

The two AK-type assault rifles were purchased by Jaime Avila from the Lone Wolf Trading Co. outside of Phoenix on Jan. 16, 2010. Avila was recruited by his roommate Uriel Patino. Patino, according to sources, received $70,000 in "seed money" from the FBI informant late in 2009 to buy guns for the cartel.

According to a memo from Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley, who oversaw the operation, Avila began purchasing firearms in November 2009, shortly after Patino, who ultimately purchased more than 600 guns and became the largest buyer of guns in Operation Fast and Furious.

Months ago, congressional investigators developed information that both the FBI and DEA not only knew about the failed gun operation, but that they may be complicit in it. House Government Reform and Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, fired off letters in July requesting specific details from FBI director Robert Mueller and Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart.

"In recent weeks, we have learned of the possible involvement of paid FBI informants in Operation Fast and Furious," Issa and Grassley wrote to Mueller. "Specifically, at least one individual who is allegedly an FBI informant might have been in communication with, and was perhaps even conspiring with, at least one suspect whom ATF was monitoring."

Sources say the FBI is using the informants in a national security investigation. The men were allegedly debriefed by the FBI at a safe house in New Mexico last year.

Sources say the informants previously worked for the DEA and U.S. Marshall's Office but their contracts were terminated because the men were "stone-cold killers." The FBI however stopped their scheduled deportation because their high ranks within the cartel were useful.

In their July letter, Issa and Grassley asked Mueller if any of those informants were ever deported by the DEA or any other law enforcement entity and how they were repatriated.

Asked about the content of the emails, a former federal prosecutor who viewed them expressed shock.

"I have never seen anything like this. I can see the FBI may have an informant involved but I can't see them tampering with evidence. If this is all accurate, I'm stunned," the former prosecutor said.

“This information confirms what our sources were saying all along -- that the FBI was covering up the true circumstances of the murder of Brian Terry," added Mike Vanderboegh, an authority on the Fast and Furious investigation who runs a whistleblower website called Sipsey Street.

"It also confirms that the FBI was at least as culpable, and perhaps more culpable, than the ATF in the (Fast and Furious) scandal, and that there was some guiding hand above both these agencies (and the other agencies involved) coordinating the larger operation," Vanderboegh said.

Asked about the new evidence, Terry family attorney Pat McGroder said, "The family wants answers. They'd like to put this to rest and put closure to exactly what happened to Brian."

By William Lajeunesse
Published September 09, 2011
22953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Initial Radiation reports understated on: September 09, 2011, 02:10:02 PM
TOKYO—The Japanese government initially underestimated radiation releases from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, in part because of untimely rain, and so exposed people unnecessarily, a report released this week by a government research institute says.

Enlarge Image

An aerial view of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station as seen on March 24, 2011.
.Adding to earlier evidence of initial government missteps, the report by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency says an unlucky combination of heavy rains and shifting winds meant that much of the airborne radioactive debris washed down over a broad area around the crippled plant. Before the changing weather, the radiation had been expected to drift over the Pacific Ocean, which would have posed less of a risk to public health, at least in the short term.

"Local residents would have stayed indoors and avoided radiation if they had been told about the dangers of the rainfall," said Tetsuo Sawada, assistant professor of reactor engineering at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The Japanese government's initial evacuation zone—after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the plant's cooling systems and caused core meltdowns—was within 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) of the stricken plant. But as the study highlights, radiation spread far beyond the 20-kilometer radius, with rainstorms contributing to the ground contamination.

According to the agency, the rain came on the worst possible day for plant operators—March 15, the day an explosion struck the plant's No. 2 reactor, punching a large hole in the suppression chamber that is part of the primary containment vessel, the main shield for radiation releases. The gash allowed toxic air to leak into the atmosphere without check.

According to the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, radiation releases peaked around that day, dropping as workers managed to cool down the badly damaged No. 2 unit, as well as the other three seriously damaged reactors.

"If there was no rain on March 15, the ground contamination would have been far less severe than it is," said Haruyasu Nagai, an author of the report.

Two earlier explosions, just after the disaster, at reactors Nos. 1 and 3, didn't release nearly as much radiation because they occurred outside the primary containment vessels. The explosion at No. 2, by contrast, was caused by a buildup of pressure inside the containment vessel, as the overheating reactor kept producing steam.

The rain started falling in areas around the plant in the afternoon of March 15. At the same time, the wind, which had been heading east—as is normal for the season—shifted and started heading northwest, carrying the toxic air deep into the country.

By the time the rain stopped, a large swath of land to the northwest of the plant, well beyond the 20-kilometer radius, was contaminated far more than allowed for human habitation. In late April, the government belatedly decided to evacuate residents in these areas.

"Much of the radioactive substance would have been carried into the ocean on an easterly wind eventually," says the report's author, who estimates about half of the radiation released in March ended up falling into the ocean.

Asked about the latest report, a spokesman for the nuclear-safety agency said the results appeared to be valid. "The radiation is likely to have spread as the JAEA analysis suggests," Yoshinori Moriyama said.

22954  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: September 09, 2011, 02:04:35 PM

A cowboy appeared before St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

“Have you ever done anything of particular merit?” St. Peter asked.

“Well, I can think of one thing,” the cowboy offered.

“On a trip to the Big Horn Mountains out in Wyoming, I came upon a gang of bikers who were threatening a young woman. I directed them to leave her alone, but they wouldn’t listen. So, I approached the largest and most tattooed biker and smacked him in the face, kicked his bike over, ripped out his nose ring, and threw it on the ground. I yelled, “Now, back off or I’ll kick the crap out of all of you!”

St. Peter was impressed, “When did this happen?”

“Couple of minutes ago.”
22955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: September 09, 2011, 01:46:14 PM
"Thread Nazi" here again.  The preceding posts I think would do just fine on the China-US thread or the Military thread.

I picture this thread as being more about "the vision thing"; e.g. "The US's unipolar moment is over.  Now what?"
22956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 09, 2011, 12:29:29 PM
For the record I live some 15-20 miles from Santa Monica.  I drive a 21 year old truck and make my living teaching martial arts.   tongue
22957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: September 09, 2011, 12:24:36 PM
The US would not need Turkey for anti-Iranian missile defense if Baraq had not pussed out on the AMD batteries in eastern Europe.

Anyway, more to the point, it makes perfect sense to me that the best thing the US could do would be to sign a mutual defense treaty with Israel.  Reliable and highly capable ally (e.g. two nuke enemies-- Iraq and Syria-- nipped in the bud), permanent base of operations in the mid-east, end to any doubt about viability of Israel's survival, great intel, foxy women, and much more.

22958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fact checking Baraq's speech on: September 09, 2011, 11:42:19 AM
22959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 09, 2011, 11:20:18 AM
Hi, wearing my Thread Continuity Nazi Hat right now grin

Lets take that to the Tax thread please.
22960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: September 09, 2011, 11:18:36 AM

The Foundation
"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." --Thomas Jefferson

Government & Politics
Obama's Speech Job

In case you were busy washing your hair, rewinding your CDs or getting a root canal last night, Barack Obama gave a speech. Yes, another one, and with warmed-over recycled ideas, to boot. He made sure we all knew his speech was about jobs because he used the word "jobs" 44 times. (Given his narcissism, we wonder if that number was intentional.) Indeed, he centered the speech on his "American Jobs Act," which, by the way, aims to create jobs. He hasn't yet sent an actual bill to Congress, though he called for Congress to "pass this bill right away" (or some variant) 17 times, but ... jobs.

In the spirit of bipartisan comity, we'll start by lauding something with which we agreed: "Those of us here tonight can't solve all of our nation's woes," the president said. "Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers." We couldn't have said it better. Government doesn't create jobs; it can only create conditions under which the economy can flourish. Unfortunately, it was downhill from there, because Obama's very next sentence began, "But..."

Obama repeatedly framed his proposals as "nothing controversial" because "everything in here" has already been proposed by "both Democrats and Republicans." We hate to disagree, but nearly everything in the speech was controversial. From tax hikes on job creators in exchange for gimmicky tax credits, to more money dumped into the bottomless pit of education and infrastructure, to the very premise that government must grow in order for the economy to grow -- the ideas presented last night were the wrong ones.

Taxes were a major theme, but instead of proposing permanently lower rates and a broader base -- something that would actually work -- the president called for more temporary complications and supposed sweeteners. Obama said that Congress must extend the temporary payroll tax cut they passed last year, because, he warned, "If we allow that tax cut to expire -- if we refuse to act -- middle-class families will get hit with a tax increase at the worst possible time." That's interesting: A tax cut expiration is a tax increase. Funny how that didn't apply to the Bush tax cuts, which were good for 10 years, not just one. And funny how it doesn't apply to increasing the taxes of job creators "at the worst possible time." Indeed, that was his next proposal.

"[T]here are many Republicans who don't believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it," he said, but, "We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake, and everybody pays their fair share. And I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that, if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order." Of course, "everybody" means the top 2 percent. He then declared with a straight face, "This isn't class warfare." Republicans in the chamber gave him the only appropriate response: laughter.

Estimates are that this stimulus package as proposed would cost about $447 billion. That's about half of the first stimulus, and we saw how well that worked. (Little wonder that Democrats have stricken the word "stimulus" from the lexicon.) How on earth will another few hundred billion dollars suddenly fix anything? "Everything in this bill will be paid for. Everything," Obama insisted, but how?

First of all, through the aforementioned tax increases on a select and punishable few. Primarily, however, Obama wants the debt reduction committee, created in the debt ceiling deal to find $1.5 trillion in savings over 10 years, to come up with even more savings, again over 10 years. In other words, let's spend another $450 billion now and have future presidents and Congresses pay for it later. Also, "a week from Monday," Obama will release "a more ambitious deficit plan." If this all wasn't so preposterous, it would've been another laugh line.

Obama also mocked those who think that government is too big. He trotted out his predictable straw-man arguments about Republicans wanting to cut "most government spending" or eliminating "most government regulations." He certainly intends to fight hard for the new floor of government spending and regulation he has established. He may offer a concession here or there, but by and large the damage has already been done. Even rolling back to the bloated and costly -- but still far smaller and cheaper -- government of 2008 will be impossible while he occupies the White House. Finally, there's a big difference between limited government and no government. It is the former that we must seek.

Just how half-baked was this speech?
On Cross-Examination
The Heritage Foundation's policy experts offered their responses to Obama's proposals, from refinancing mortgages to infrastructure spending and tax gimmicks.

The Cato Institute explains in an outstanding video why Keynesian government spending won't actually help.

Open Query
"What here hasn't already been tried and failed before?" --GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann

On the Campaign Trail: The GOP Debate
Eight of the Republican presidential candidates gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Wednesday night for the first of five fall debates. All eyes were on newly entered candidate Rick Perry. The Texas governor, who spent the week in his state managing wildfire response, is not the slickest debater in the field. That honor would likely go to Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. Yet Perry did well enough to solidify his status as the new frontrunner. Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, performed well but continued to fade after Perry's entrance took a huge bite out of her support. Of course, with the media placing Perry and Romney front and center and focusing most of their attention on the two pack-leaders, everyone else on the stage took a backseat. That's what they get for allowing MSNBC to carry the debate.

Some observations about the other candidates: Jon Huntsman continued his disappointing run to the left, apparently under the mistaken impression that independents and Democrats will decide the Republican primary. He will not win the nomination on this course.

Newt Gingrich won't win the nomination, but he won some points in the debate by attacking the moderators for their inane questions. He correctly pointed out that any candidate on the stage would be better than Barack Obama, and that they are in a sense a team working toward winning the White House.

Herman Cain is still struggling to get noticed, and he missed a golden opportunity immediately after Gingrich's answer to attack Obama, instead choosing to attack Romney. He wasn't wrong, but he seemed to have completely missed what Gingrich said and failed to play off of it.

Rick Santorum also won't win the nomination, but wins the award for stupidest question asked of him by the moderators: Where do the poor fit among Republicans? The implication is that Republicans don't care about the poor. Unfortunately, Santorum's answer -- talking in the third person about how much he has done for the poor -- wasn't the best answer.

Ron Paul's contribution is that he leaves no stone unturned, no orthodoxy unchallenged and no candidate unassailed. His questions and points are important for conservatives to consider in fine-tuning positions and policies. All the same, he won't be the nominee. (Yeah, we know -- we might as well be Soviets for saying so.)

In fact, unless something changes drastically, this race is between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Quote of the Week
"If 10 percent is good enough for God, 9 percent should be good enough for government." --Herman Cain at the GOP presidential debate Wednesday night

What did you think of the debate?
This Week's 'Alpha Jackass' Award
Whatever happened to civility? Democrats were certainly quick to call for it when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot, along with several others, in Tucson in January. In spite of the facts, the Left blamed the Right for heated political rhetoric. Yet when a union leader spews hatred and calls for "war," Democrats suddenly don't mind so much.

"We gotta keep an eye on the battle that we face: A war on workers. And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party," thundered Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa Jr. at a Labor Day rally. "They got a war, they got a war with us and there's only going to be one winner. It's going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We're gonna win that war." Then he promised, "President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let's take these son of a b-----s [sic] out and give America back to an America where we belong."

Not only was he vulgar, but he also botched the grammar.

Barack Obama took the stage later, saying he was "proud" of Hoffa and other labor leaders. The White House and other Democrat leaders have pointedly refused on multiple occasions to repudiate or even question Hoffa's words. Hoffa himself doubled down, later insisting that he would say it again "because I believe it. They've declared war on us. We didn't declare war on them, they declared war on us. We're fighting back. The question is, who started the war?" Maybe that's why 500 union members in Seattle stormed the Port of Longview with baseball bats and crowbars taking six security guards hostage over hiring objections.

Speaking of a war on "them," the newest rage on Internet is a video game called "Tea Party Zombies Must Die," in which the player kills zombie versions of the Left's favorite conservative bogeymen. "DON'T GET TEA-BAGGED!" reads the description. "The Tea Party zombies are walking the streets of America. Grab your weapons and bash their rotten brains to bits! Destroy zombie Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, the Koch Brothers, and many more!" (National Review's Daniel Foster has screenshots.) We're just glad to see the juveniles on the Left channeling their angst in such productive ways.

Hope 'n' Change: ObamaCare Wins With Stacked Deck
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld ObamaCare Thursday, overturning a lower court's decision in favor of the state of Virginia. The Fourth Circuit ruled that Virginia lacked standing in the case, though at least two judges would have upheld it on the "merits." The Sixth Circuit Court likewise upheld the law earlier this year, though the 11th Circuit Court struck down the individual mandate last month as unconstitutional. Although the Fourth Circuit is roughly evenly divided between Republican and Democrat appointees, this particular three-judge panel consisted of one Clinton appointee and two appointed by Obama. Certainly not a fair hearing. Again, the bottom line is that ObamaCare is headed to the Supreme Court.

New & Notable Legislation
House Republicans are working on legislation that will block a recent proposed ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding unionization. The ruling speeds up the process of union elections, offering little time for employers and workers to debate union organization. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have blasted the ruling as an infringement on workers' rights. Another bill has been drafted to keep the NLRB in check by preventing the board from ordering a company to relocate its employees. Senate Republicans have vowed to block any nominations to the NLRB until these issues are resolved.

From the Left: Politicizing Hurricanes
Congressional Democrats manufactured a scandal out of thin air this week, blaming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for blocking disaster funding in the wake of Hurricane Irene. There haven't been many stories about people being denied aid, however, because it's simply not the case. Yet Democrats are charging that Cantor is doing exactly that. On the contrary, the GOP added $1 billion to FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund in June, and offset the increase by cutting spending on the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program, a liberal pet project to create luxury electric cars. Cantor has noted on separate occasions that the federal government plays too large a role in disaster relief, but, despite Democrats' claims, his efforts to fund FEMA have been more generous than even the White House proposed. The only thing he's guilty of is hobbling Joe Biden's dream project to create electric cars that nobody will buy anyway.

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National Security
Warfront With Jihadistan: Iraq Withdrawal on Steroids
Seeking to shore up plummeting poll numbers and pander to its anti-military base, the Obama regime is reportedly set to drastically reduce U.S. troop strength in Iraq to just 3,000 by year's end, a major reduction in strength in the still highly volatile country. When asked about this report, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta tried to sidestep, saying "no decision has been made" on the number of troops to stay in Iraq, but multiple sources confirm that Obama has already made the decision.

There are currently about 45,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. American commanders recommended a somewhat lower number to remain there by year's end, but the Obama regime, ever thinking of 2012, whined about "the cost and the political optics" of that many troops remaining in Iraq. U.S. commanders then further reduced their recommendation to 10,000, saying that number could work "in extremis," meaning in reality our troops would be hard pressed to continue training Iraqi forces while also maintaining security in large sections of Iraq. Still, even that low troop level was too much for Obama.

U.S. commanders are rightly angry. "We can't secure everybody with only 3,000 on the ground, nor can we do what we need to with the Iraqis," argued one. Another senior military official said that by reducing the number of troops to 3,000, the Obama regime has effectively reduced the U.S. mission in Iraq to training only, at best, while leaving a still-insufficient Iraqi security force to fend for themselves, all of which will endanger the remaining 3,000 U.S. troops -- for nothing more than supposed political gain.

Thankfully, there was some good news for our troops, as August marked the first month since March 2003 that not one U.S. military member died in either combat or non-hostile circumstances while supporting Iraqi operations. Sadly, Obama's latest move seems destined to ensure that August will be the last month we lose no troops in Iraq, at least until he completely surrenders Iraq and brings the handful of remaining troops home.

What will withdrawal from Iraq mean?
22961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 09, 2011, 09:59:06 AM
Well, we are starting to drift into Liberal Fascism territory here, but I would submit that the tax code is a major, perhaps THE major tool of fascism (both liberal and corporate). 

The poor are told "We are taxing the rich."

The rich are told "Don't worry, its all a game, here's some shelters, loopholes, and deductions"

The special interests are told "We will funnel money to you via the workings of the tax code according to how much you donate to our campaigns."
22962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Friedman on Turkish-Israeli Relations on: September 09, 2011, 09:54:46 AM
Second post

Agenda: With George Friedman on Turkish-Israeli Relations
September 9, 2011 | 1359 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

STRATFOR CEO Dr. George Friedman explains the deterioration of the long-standing relationship between Israel and Turkey and how both sides’ geopolitical interests will affect whether that relationship can be re-established.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Related Links
Ankara’s Tougher Regional Stance
Colin: The once close relationship between Turkey and Israel has deteriorated further after a United Nations legal panel report on an incident in May last year, when a Turkish aid convoy to Gaza was attacked by Israeli forces, resulting in the death of nine Turkish activists. The report upheld the Israeli government’s right to impose the blockade, but criticized the troops for excessive force. Turkey has now cut all military ties to Israel, and the relationship seems to be in tatters.

Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman. Two questions: to what extent does the U.N. report really escalate the problems between Israel and Turkey; and to what extent does that matter?

George: I don’t think the report itself escalates the situation in any direction. It simply creates a moment in which the crisis that occurred a year ago during a flotilla incident resumes. I think that really the problem between Israel and Turkey hasn’t been resolved — it’s been put on hold — and it really doesn’t revolve around either the flotilla or apologies. It really revolves around the question of whether Turkey and Israel can maintain their relationship they maintained during the Cold War and the years immediately after it. The world has changed fairly dramatically since the Cold War. The region in which Turkey operates is no longer threatened by the Soviet Union. It doesn’t have a common interest with Israel in fighting the Soviets. Turkey is living in a world that is increasingly Islamist as opposed to secular. It’s accommodating itself to it. Israel, in the meantime, has its own interests in trying to preserve what it thinks are its territorial interests, and they simply don’t coincide with what Turkey is saying. Therefore, these are two countries that were once linked with common interests. Those interests have withered, and the relationship is seriously in trouble.

Colin: In this context, do you think Israel and Turkey can repair their relationship and, if they can, what will that new relationship be?

George: Well this is not like a marriage that gets repaired or unrepaired. These are more like businesses who have interests and the question is: will those interest realign? And there are certainly some common interests, though they’re not as deep as they were 20 or 30 years ago. Because the foundation of the relationship has changed, the nature of the relationship is going to change. Also, the tolerance on the part of each side is going to change. From the Israeli point of view, the Turks have changed to becoming unrecognizable, they say. It used to be a secular republic, and they fear that it has become a religious one. From the Turkish point of view, the Israelis have become inflexible and unrealistic in their policies inside the Palestinian Territories 3.18, and the Israelis have simply not been willing to change their visions. So you have two countries — the basis of the relationship having very much dissolved in the past years — each having a view of the other as having changed irrevocably and neither really desperately needing the other. If you look at it on balance, Israel probably needs Turkey more than Turkey needs Israel simply because if Turkey were to throw its weight behind anti-Israeli forces in the region, which it has not done to this point, that would represent a serious challenge to Israel. On the other hand, there is relatively little that Israel can do to Turkey, certainly not in order to change its foreign policy. So you have had deterioration in the relationship. It is hard to imagine it being repaired, certainly not on the basis of which it was before and certainly not to the depth at which it operated before. And also there is a suspicion on both sides that the other has drifted in directions that are not acceptable.

Colin: The relationship degrades. To what extent will this affect Turkey’s relationship with the United States?

George: Well, Turkey is trying very hard not to allow its relationship with the United States to be affected by its problems with Israel. It has gone out of its way to try to draw a distinction between the two. The United States frankly needs Turkey a great deal, particularly as it withdrawals from Iraq, as Iran becomes more assertive in the region. It needs a Turkey that is prepared to align with the United States. Turkey, on the other hand, is not prepared to go it alone yet. It is not in a position to police the region, if you will, simply without U.S. support. So the Turks are trying to be very careful with the Americans to make it very clear that the cause of this rift comes from Israel and Israel’s unwillingness to apologize; Israel’s unwillingness to accept Turkey as it is today; Israel’s intransigence. The Israelis, at the same time, are very aggressive in trying to make it clear that Turkey has moved into the camp of the enemy of the United States by joining with the Islamists and trying to make the case that it alone is the only secure ally the United States has in the region. Those are public relations campaigns. The fact of the matter is that United States has uses for both countries. The use of Israel is certainly declined over the years since the end of the Cold War, but it still has uses in intelligence sharing and other matters, whereas Turkey is an ascendant power and, as an ascendant power, the United States is going to want to have a close relationship with it. The United States is not going to choose between Turkey and Israel and it won’t allow itself to be maneuvered in that direction. But, on the other hand, it is also not going to allow itself to be split off from either country by the other.

Colin: And this begs another question. With much of the Middle East in turmoil, especially its other neighbor, Syria, isn’t there an opportunity for Turkey to assert itself — to take some kind of leadership role?

George: Well, a leadership role is one of those things that people love to use. With leadership comes responsibility; with responsibility comes decisions; and with decisions comes possibility of error and bogging down. So, everybody likes the idea of leadership. The question is: what’s the price for it? Now I think the Turks, very reasonably, are looking around at a region that the United States wasn’t able to pacify, and it doesn’t have the appetite to get engaged in that. For example, it doesn’t know what the price of pacifying Syria would be; it doesn’t know what the future would hold, and, therefore, it evades it. Leadership is a very heavy burden, and the Turks are not going to adopt that before they’re ready.

Colin: George, we’ll leave it there. Thank you. George Friedman, ending this week’s Agenda. Back again next week and, until then, bye for now.

22963  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ: Blacklisted on: September 09, 2011, 09:03:26 AM
The U.S. added a Venezuelan general, two legislators and a top intelligence official to a kingpins list for their alleged involvement in drug dealing and arms trafficking with Colombian guerrillas, the U.S. Treasury said Thursday.

The action spotlights what U.S. officials say are President Hugo Chávez's close links to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC. "Today's action exposes four Venezuelan government officials as key facilitators of arms, security training and other assistance in support of the FARC's operations in Venezuela,' said Adam Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Treasury unit that levied the charges.

In response, Venezuela's foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, told Venezuelan television, "We repudiate it." He called the U.S. a "sick society" as the "cause of this sickness of narco trafficking," and said it pretends to be "a kind of global police to judge decent citizens of our country."

A spokeswoman for Colombia's foreign affairs ministry said the government declined to comment.

The U.S. Treasury added Gen. Cliver Alcalá, who commands one of the Venezuelan army's most important units, and Freddy Bernal, the former mayor of Caracas, now a ruling-party congressman, to the blacklist. The U.S. said Gen. Alcalá organized an arms-for-drugs route for the guerrillas and Mr. Bernal facilitated arms sales to the communist guerrillas.

Mr. Bernal, in a comment on his twitter account, said the U.S. action "was an aggression against the Fatherland."

Enlarge Image

CloseAssociated Press
Freddy Bernal, left, during a campaign stop in Caracas with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, center, and Cilia Flores, right, in 2010.
.Amilcar Figueroa, known as Tino, who is a member of Venezuela's delegation to the Latin American Parliament, a regional, advisory group, was also placed on the list. The Treasury said Mr. Figueroa served as a primary arms dealer for the guerrillas.

Ramon Isidro Madriz Moreno, known as Amin, a key officer in Venezuela's intelligence service known as SEBIN, was also added to the list. The U.S. said he has coordinated security for the FARC.

U.S. citizens are prohibited from engaging in transactions with individuals or organizations on the blacklist.

The FARC, Latin America's oldest and largest guerrilla organization, funds much of its activity by drug smuggling and kidnapping. The U.S. and the European Union have long considered it a terrorist group.

The four men join three other top Venezuelan officials on the U.S. Treasury blacklist. They are Venezuela's top general, Gen. Henry Rangel Silva; Gen. Hugo Carvajal, head of Venezuela's military intelligence; and Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, Venezuela's former interior minister.

Silke Pfeiffer, the Colombia/Andes project director for the International Crisis Group, said she wasn't surprised by the latest sanctions. "The complicity of individual senior officials of the Venezuelan security forces with organized crime is an open secret," she said. "And it could hardly exist without the president's silent consent."

The alleged links between Mr. Chávez and the FARC were dramatically exposed when a Colombian cross-border military raid into Ecuador in 2008 killed Raúl Reyes, a top FARC commander. As a result of the raid, the Colombians captured Mr. Reyes' computers, which yielded a wealth of information about Venezuelan support for the guerrillas. At the time, Mr. Chávez denied the accusations of support and said the captured computer files were phony.

Among the emails recovered from the Reyes documents was a report of a meeting between Gen. Alcala and a top FARC commander in Venezuela in 2006. The FARC commander recounted to his colleagues Gen. Alcala's offer of obtaining shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and shipping the arms to the guerrillas through the port of Maracaibo, which he would soon control. In the same email, Mr. Figueroa suggested to the FARC commander that weapons to the guerrillas could be piggybacked through Maracaibo aboard shipments of weapons the Venezuelan government was acquiring from Russia.

"This would provide the perfect cover for any purchase that we make," wrote FARC commander Iván Marquez to his colleagues.

The Reyes correspondence also appears to show Mr. Bernal arranging for the FARC to give explosives training to members of pro-Chavez paramilitary groups he controlled in Caracas. Mr. Bernal, according to the correspondence, also offered the FARC help in obtaining arms from Croatia through an Arab arms dealer.

Since then, Mr. Chávez appears to have scaled back his support of the FARC as he has pursued a rapprochement with Colombia's new president, Juan Manuel Santos.

The FARC, which once numbered close to 17,000 men and who a decade ago were at the gates of Bogotá, were driven back into Colombia's jungles and mountains by former President Álvaro Uribe's aggressive military policies, strongly backed by U.S. aid. The guerrillas, who have seen many of their top leaders killed, are now believed to number about 8,000 fighters.

Over the past year, the FARC has changed its tactics and mounted a counterattack of ambushes of army patrols and bombings of Colombia's oil pipelines. The FARC counterattack this week prompted Mr. Santos to replace his defense minister and announce a massive increase in military spending.

—Ezequiel Minaya in Caracas and Dan Molinski in Bogotá contributed to this article.
22964  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: September 09, 2011, 08:40:18 AM
Fu Dog has conflicts with real life matters of import on Gg day and will not be coming.
22965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: September 09, 2011, 08:38:40 AM
Another fine post from YA.  Here's this WSJ report on today's episode of congnitive dissonance:

KABUL—Peace negotiations with the Taliban are unlikely to bear results until additional military pressure is brought on the insurgents, the new American ambassador to Kabul said, playing down expectations of progress in the efforts to end the 10-year-old war. (Of course said pressure will be brought to bear as we draw down , , ,)

"The Taliban needs to feel more pain before you get to a real readiness to reconcile," Ambassador Ryan Crocker, a veteran diplomat who took over the American Embassy in Kabul in July, cautioned in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

U.S. and Afghan officials have been trying for more than a year to open negotiations with the insurgents, even as U.S. surge troops deployed since early last year advanced into Taliban strongholds, killing or capturing scores of insurgent commanders. That surge is now beginning to wind down, with the U.S.-led coalition aiming to bring most combat troops home by the end of 2014.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made a peace settlement his key priority, establishing a special High Peace Council entrusted with pursuing a political solution to the intensifying conflict. So far, these contacts with insurgent representatives, carried out in Afghanistan and abroad, have failed to produce any concrete results.

"They are still just kind of feeling each other out at this stage," Mr. Crocker said.

A key stumbling block, a person familiar with these outreach attempts said, is that Afghan and U.S. officials are still trying to establish whether their interlocutors have the authority to speak for the Taliban's leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

The Taliban until recently publicly rejected the idea of peace negotiations, saying all foreign forces must leave Afghanistan before any such talks begin. Last month, however, Mullah Omar appeared to soften that position, admitting for the first time that some contacts have already taken place.

In an Aug. 28 message for the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday, Mullah Omar said "every legitimate option can be considered" in order to reach the Taliban's goal of establishing "an independent Islamic regime" in Afghanistan. He added, however, that "the contacts which have been made with some parties for the release of prisoners can't be called a comprehensive negotiation for the solution of the current imbroglio of the country."

Mullah Omar's statement, which also promised to establish a "peace-loving and responsible regime" that would encompass all Afghan ethnicities and encourage businessmen and professionals, in recent days elicited cautious optimism among some U.S. and Afghan officials.

Mr. Crocker said he disagreed with such upbeat assessments.

"Mullah Omar's Eid message, read as positive in some quarters, did not infuse me with any optimism," the ambassador said. "He acknowledged the talks but said they are purely tactical. He did not indicate a readiness to make any concessions at all on the side of the Taliban," he said.

Mr. Crocker called it "the kind of statement that one would expect from a governmental leader in waiting. I think he's going to be disappointed."

If there was anything encouraging in Mullah Omar's new approach, he added, it was the indication that the Taliban may be feeling the effect of the coalition's offensives.

"They have been hurt militarily and they are therefore broadening the array of tools that they are prepared to deploy, like talks, visits, so forth," he said.

Until recently, some Afghan and Western officials had hoped that military pressure—combined with the peace outreach—would persuade the Taliban to send representatives to the international conference on Afghanistan that is scheduled for December in Bonn.

That isn't likely to happen, in part because of obstacles thrown up by Pakistan, where Mullah Omar and other key Afghan Taliban leaders reside, a Western diplomat said.

The Pakistani government, eager to maintain its leverage, hasn't yielded to Afghan requests to publicly call on the Taliban to open peace talks. Pakistan also declined to provide safe-passage guarantees that would allow Pakistan-based Taliban leaders to travel for any such negotiations.

"Implicit in that is, 'Yeah, you can try to get to Afghanistan. I hope your family is going to be OK!' " the Western diplomat quipped. Mullah Omar said in the Eid message that this year's Bonn conference will be no different from the one that created Afghanistan's post-Taliban government headed by Mr. Karzai 10 years earlier because "neither true representatives of the Afghan people have participation in it, nor attention is paid to the comprehensive and real solution of the problems of Afghanistan."

The deputy chairman of the Afghan government's High Peace Council, Abdul Hakim Mujahid—who served as the Taliban regime's unofficial envoy to the U.S. and the United Nations before 2001—said it is unrealistic to expect the Taliban to "come out of their caves" as long as the international community doesn't accept them as "a real force" in Afghanistan.

"There is a great ocean of a lack of confidence," Mr. Mujahid said.

In the absence of progress in high-level contacts with the Taliban, the U.S. and Afghan officials are concentrating on the so-called reintegration program that aims to woo Taliban foot soldiers and midlevel commanders from the battlefield with offers of amnesty and jobs.

"We've seen several thousand move forward in this process," Mr. Crocker said. "If this were to increase exponentially you could kind of see commanders without an army—and that could really change the dynamic."

22966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Chickens come home to roost on: September 09, 2011, 08:27:54 AM
The natural results of the Dems continuous war against US success in Iraq come to their natural conclusion.

U.S. Military Presence in Iraq Will Struggle to Counter Iran

Most U.S. officials Tuesday and Wednesday denied that any decision had been made regarding the number of American troops that might remain in Iraq beyond the end-of-year deadline for complete withdrawal stipulated under the current Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). However, The New York Times reported Tuesday that newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta supported a plan keeping 3,000-4,000 troops as the continued U.S. military presence in Iraq— a number far less than previously discussed. Only a day after the Times report which cited an unnamed senior military official, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffery went a step further than most in responding to the leak. The ambassador rejected the given figure as having ‘no official status or credibility.’

“The continued maintenance of U.S. forces in Iraq is ultimately merely a symptom of the larger, unresolved issue of Tehran’s increasing regional influence.”
Washington is less concerned with Iraq itself, and more with how the changes in Iraq following the U.S. invasion have affected Iran. Despite the accommodation reached with the Sunnis in 2006 and the successes of the surge of 2007, no extension of U.S. troop presence in Iraq is going to change the fact that Iran has been the single biggest beneficiary of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Iran has seen a rapid rise in the magnitude of its regional influence — and has every intention of keeping it.

Despite domestic politics at home, the U.S. desire to maintain some military presence in Iraq beyond the end of the year is motivated by Iran’s increased influence. Tehran’s regional rise is a problem to which Washington has no ready solution — unless, of course, Washington wants to engage in a politically unpalatable rapprochement with the Persians from a disadvantageous negotiating position.

Thus, Washington is left with an unresolved and, at least in the near term, unsolvable problem — an increase in Iranian power, not just in Iraq, but  across the Persian Gulf and the wider region. Iraq benefits from direct military-to-military relations with the United States through training, advising and assistance (particularly with things like planning, logistics and maintenance) and modern arms. These ties provide Iraq and its security forces with capabilities they would otherwise lack. For Washington, a residual military force in Iraq helps maintain the influence, leverage and situational awareness that having its personnel in these positions provides. This capability is not something Washington wants to lose, particularly after longstanding American-Egyptian military-to-military relations proved so crucial in communicating with Cairo in February.

While the benefits to Washington of a continued military presence in Iraq are real — starting with its impact on Washington’s influence in Baghdad — they do little to address the larger problem of Iranian power in the region. Even if tens of thousands of troops remained in Iraq beyond 2011, they could not halt the decline of American influence and power in Iraq vis-a-vis Iran.

While the question of the size, role and disposition of any U.S. military contingent in Iraq beyond 2011 is an important one, the continued maintenance of forces in Iraq is ultimately merely a symptom of the larger, unresolved issue of Tehran’s increasing regional influence. Even if no American uniformed forces remain save a Marine Security Guard detachment and attache personnel at the embassy, the United States will still be maintaining the largest diplomatic presence in the world in Iraq. Nevertheless, no quantity of U.S. forces currently under discussion — not 3,000 and not even 30,000 — will change the fact that this American presence, while attempting to hold the line against Persian influence, leaves personnel and troops vulnerable to Iranian proxies and covert Iranian forces in the country.

22967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Today's episode of insidious exchange rate nonsense on: September 09, 2011, 08:17:03 AM
Here's is today's episode in the sort of insidious nonsense triggered by beggar-thy-neighbor currency devaluations:

Norwegian and Canadian officials on Thursday criticized Switzerland's move this week to cap the rise of its currency, as the impact reverberated in currency markets world-wide.

The Norwegian krone soared against the euro after the Swiss National Bank said Tuesday that it would use "unlimited" spending to prevent the euro from falling below 1.20 francs. The move sent investors flooding into other currencies belonging to economies viewed as fiscally sound, with Norway among the top destinations.

Norwegian central bank Gov. Oystein Olsen warned investors that a strengthening krone would stifle Norway's economy by hurting exports. A swift policy response—likely lower interest rates—is in the offing if the krone keeps rising, Mr. Olsen said.

The Federation of Norwegian Industries said Thursday that the krone's strength was putting pressure on Norway's companies. "It's a serious issue when the Norwegian krone is so strong," Knut Sunde, an executive of the federation said. "We hope that the Swiss effect will fade, but we are not sure," Mr. Sunde said.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Thursday said he is "concerned" about Switzerland's audacious move into foreign-exchange markets and worried it could ignite another round of so-called currency wars. Brazil's Finance Minister Guido Mantega last year began referring to the prospect of "currency wars" among countries seeking to protect their economic growth by keeping the value of their currencies down.

Mr. Flaherty said he planned to discuss the issues at this week's meeting of Group of Seven finance ministers in France.

For months, funds have flowed into Switzerland and other supposedly safe countries as investors have sought havens from Europe's financial crisis and the U.S.'s economic woes. In early August, the euro fell to near-parity with the Swiss franc, from 1.50 francs at the start of 2010.

Such flows are the latest example of floods of capital leaving the world's sluggish economies—especially the U.S. and the euro zone—and entering faster-growing economies such as Canada and Brazil.

What Norway, Sweden, Japan and other refuges have in common is big current-account surpluses, which means they rely less on international investors for financing and seem safer to investors.

Japanese officials this week quashed speculation that Japan would follow Switzerland in curbing the yen with a ceiling. However, Norway's pushback is making investors wonder again where to run when markets turn turbulent.

"Investors are saying, if you're taking away one of our safe havens, where's the next one?" said Thanos Papasavvas, an analyst at Investec Asset Management in London, which manages around $100 billion in funds. The Norwegian krone "doesn't have the liquidity and the history of the Swiss franc," he added.

Axel Merk, chief investment officer at Merk Investments LLC, a Palo Alto-Calif., currency-management fund, says investors should stop looking for a safe place to hide.

It is also possible traders' preferences for Switzerland and Japan won't change much, especially if Switzerland's intervention effort eventually fails, as many expect. The euro traded at 1.2149 francs late Thursday in New York—close enough to the ceiling to indicate there is still investor demand, traders said.

—Katarina Gustafsson and Paul Vieira contributed to this article.
22968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Abbas rebuffs Baraq on: September 09, 2011, 08:12:05 AM
By JAY SOLOMON in Washington and JOSHUA MITNICK in Ramallah

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rebuffed a last-ditch U.S. push aimed at getting him to back away from his campaign to win Palestinian statehood through a United Nations vote, placing Washington and Ramallah on a potential collision course in the months ahead.

On Thursday, Mr. Abbas recommitted to his plan to pursue the U.N. vote this month, following a meeting in the West Bank the previous day with two senior Obama administration officials. These officials explicitly warned the Palestinian leader that his relations with the U.S. could sour if he followed through on his initiative, according to diplomats briefed on the meeting.

The two American diplomats, the White House's Dennis Ross and special Middle East peace envoy David Hale, specifically pointed Mr. Abbas to threats made by the U.S. Congress to cut American financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority as a result of the U.N. initiative, according to these diplomats.

Messrs. Ross and Hale also told the Palestinian leader that the U.N. vote could undermine security in the Palestinian territories and potentially derail longer-term hopes for Mideast peace, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely disengage and harden his government's position toward the Palestinian Authority, according to these diplomats.

"The U.N. route is not an option," the American diplomats said, according to an official briefed on the exchange.

Mr. Abbas confirmed during a news briefing in Ramallah on Thursday that the U.S. has been exerting growing pressure on him to back away from his U.N. strategy. But he said he still planned to introduce a resolution to the Security Council this month asking that the 15-nation body recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, despite repeated U.S. statements that it will veto the measure.
"They talked about some sort of confrontation, which means there will be a big difference between'' the Palestinians and the U.S., Mr. Abbas said. "I am in need of their help. I will keep my relations normal-style with them. But if they don't want that, of course, it's up to America."

U.S. officials acknowledged Thursday they have been increasing pressure on Mr. Abbas. The State Department said U.S. diplomats would veto any resolution on Palestinian statehood placed before the Security Council. The State Department has also launched a global campaign in recent weeks to lobby governments to vote against any Palestinian initiative at the U.N. General Assembly. "If something comes to a vote in the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. will veto," State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said Thursday.

The U.S. envoys offered sweeteners to Mr. Abbas on Wednesday, according to the diplomats briefed on the meeting. But Palestinian officials said these were too little, too late.

Among the incentives: The U.S. had suggested the so-called quartet of powers working to broker a Mideast peace—composed of the U.N., European Union, U.S. and Russia—would put out a new statement in the coming days that seeks to more formally define the terms of a new round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians.  (What a , , , remarkablestrategy this is!)

The statement is specifically seeking to weave in President Barack Obama's stated position that new talks use Israel's borders prior to the 1967 Six Day War as the baseline for creating a new Palestinian state, while acknowledging the need for some territorial exchanges. Mr. Netanyahu has so far rejected such parameters for the talks, arguing that Israel's 1967 borders are now "indefensible."

The Palestinians have been asking the quartet to demand a complete freeze on Jewish construction in the disputed West Bank and East Jerusalem, a timeline for new talks and guarantees that East Jerusalem and the future status of Palestinians refugees will be on the agenda.

None of these issues are expected in the new statement, U.S. and European officials say.

Mr. Abbas said Thursday that he would look at the text of any new quartet statement. But he strongly suggested that his decision had been made to go to the U.N. "If if they come now in this short time and say: 'Okay, we have a package, and don't go to the United Nations,' I think this amounts to a game,"' Mr. Abbas said.

The U.S. officials also told Mr. Abbas that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would play a more central and "personal" role in the peace process if the Palestinians agreed to enter into another round of direct talks with Israel's government.

U.S. officials privately worry that a decision by the Obama administration to veto the Palestinian initiative could end up dominating the debate at the U.N. General Assembly during the last two weeks of September.

The White House had been hoping to utilize the annual event to showcase the spread of democratic movements across the Middle East and North Africa. Mr. Obama is planning to participate in an event showcasing the new leadership in Libya that recently overthrew longstanding strongman Moammar Gadhafi, with the help of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization military strikes.

The Palestinians' push at the U.N. is in many ways ceremonial. Only the Security Council has the power to formally authorize the creation of a new state, which Washington has made clear won't happen.

But Palestinian officials said they were likely to work around the Security Council and seek a vote among the 192-nation General Assembly aimed at giving Palestine the status of a nonmember observer state. Only the Vatican now has that status.

A widely expected vote in favor could give the Palestinians far more rights at the U.N. and membership at key U.N. and global bodies, such as the U.N. Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

Israeli officials are already expressing concerns that their government could face growing legal challenges at both the Human Rights Council and the ICC if the General Assembly votes in favor of the Palestinian initiative. Indeed, Messrs. Ross and Hale told Mr. Abbas that actions by the Palestinians at the ICC was a "red line" that the U.S. believed couldn't be crossed.

Mr. Abbas said Thursday that the Palestinians aren't looking to go to the ICC, but suggested they might pursue claims there in the future in response to Israeli actions.

Leading Democratic and Republican lawmakers have publicly warned Mr. Abbas in recent months that he risks future U.S. financial assistance if he goes forward with the U.N. vote. The U.S. has been providing the Palestinian Authority with $500 million to $900 million in annual aid. It has come in the form of military assistance, direct budgetary support and funds for international organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), announced last month that she would also seek to cut off funding for any U.N. agency that accepts an upgrade in the Palestinians' diplomatic status.

In 2006, Congress briefly cut off most funding for the Palestinian Authority after the militant group Hamas, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization, won local elections. The U.S. actions greatly undercut the Palestinian Authority's ability to pay its staffers and meet its financial obligations. Much U.S. legislation toward the Palestinians has rigid requirements that limit the White House's ability to seek waivers.

Still, a number of U.S. officials have privately said that the cessation of aid to the Palestinian Authority could end up undermining Washington and Israel's interests. The Palestinian Authority has been commended for improving the performance of its security forces in the West Bank. An end of military assistance could ultimately hurt Israel's security situation, said these U.S. officials.

"If they cut their aid to us, it will be a different situation,'' Mr. Abbas said Thursday. "Of course it's a problem."

22969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on conscience 1748; S. Adams on corrupt manners 1749 on: September 09, 2011, 07:53:26 AM
"Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience." --George Washington, The Rules of Civility, 1748

"[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." --Samuel Adams, essay in The Public Advertiser, 1749
22970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rothstein: Exhibition Review on: September 09, 2011, 07:51:42 AM
Second post of the morning:  Another thoughtful piece from internet friend Ed Rothstein:

This review of a 9/11 exhibition in NY expands on one of the themes I touched on last week.




Exhibition Review
Recapturing the Spirit of a City as It Reeled From Its Wounds

Fred R.Conrad/The New York Times

An exhibition at the New-York Historical Society displays photos and relics from the terrorist attacks.

Published: September 7, 2011
·         Outdone by Reality(September 1, 2011)
·         9/11 Books Released Into a Sea of Others(September 6, 2011)
·         Critic’s Notebook: Amid the Memorials, Ambiguity and Ambivalence(September 3, 2011)
Enlarge This Image

Fred R.Conrad/The New York Times
The exhibition includes children's letters and tributes.


After 10 years the devil is still in the details. And we see them, again and again, in the modest exhibition opening at the New-York Historical Society on Thursday, “Remembering 9/11.”

The images still have the feel of raw scars: the gashed towers spewing smoke; the layers of pale, powdery dust from metal, paper and flesh covering a rack of abandoned bicycles; exhausted firefighters and police officers tempering their own terror to rescue others; eyes of onlookers peering up, hands over mouths, shocked at seeing things still thought too horrifying to show; the deserted Holland Tunnel; piles of ruined fire hydrants; a forensic specialist’s test tube showing a single tooth.

And we see images of the shrines that seemed to spring up in any public space of the city, with candles, poems, photographs, pleas: “Missing Person,” “Please Call,” “Have you seen my Daddy?”

“Missing,” one sign announces, “Two handsome twins”: the illustration shows a ghostly image of the two towers.

The exhibition’s curator, Marilyn Satin Kushner, explained in an interview that, apart from incorporating images from Washington and from Shanksville, Penn., these 135 photographs were randomly selected from the 6,500 that were gathered in the months after the attacks and displayed in two small SoHo storefronts in what was almost an impromptu commemoration called “Here Is New York: A Democracy of Photographs.” Solicited and unsolicited, unsigned, undated and unidentified, roughly rendered on inkjet printers, these accumulated images from the life of a city, which are now part of the society’s collection, still have a powerful effect. They seem to overlay one another in the mind, each one added to a ghostly memory of another, imprints of shocking and immediate experience. The original collection also included first-person video recollections, five of which are sampled here in audio form.

A wider selection of images will also be shown in a free exhibition in the lobby of 195 Broadway, at Fulton Street, near the ground zero site, from Saturday to 18. Some will be permanently mounted in a new gallery of the historical society when its building fully opens on Nov. 11, after its extensive renovation and redesign. For now this exhibition, free to the public, is in a small rotunda entry space and a long cramped hallway.

Four years ago, when the New-York Historical Society gave a more complete showing of these photographs, they seemed to suggest that Sept. 11 was still something to be remembered rather than interpreted, still an event that could only be invoked as a series of traumatic memories, not as a historical event to be understood and put into context.

Surprisingly, not much has changed for the 10th anniversary, either here or in many other planned events this week. The private details of grief still overwhelm any sense of public meaning, which is peculiar given the scale of the event and its consequences.

But those private details are still powerful in themselves. With great savvy, soon after the attacks, Kenneth T. Jackson, then president of the society, set a goal of collecting material associated with Sept. 11. So this exhibition supplements the photographs with objects saved from makeshift shrines, some of the poems and posters still covered with drops of wax from memorial candles. Also shown here are children’s letters and drawings donated by fire and police departments, expressions of touching directness and sincerity sent to New York from all over the country and from foreign lands as well.

The exhibition includes a selection of the “Portraits of Grief” pages published in The New York Times in the months after Sept. 11; every day the paper offered brief, pungent evocations of individual lives lost. Thirty four reproduced pages are mounted as two video screens slowly scroll through the complete collection of these portraits. Again details tell, sketching the fireman who loved to teach children about safety (Raymond R. York); the Indian software designer on a three-month project in New York (Shreyas Ranganath); the accounting manager who had a year earlier graduated from Queens College night school while working two jobs (Del-Rose Cheatham); the insurance broker who, from the time he was 13, had dreamed of moving to New York from Williamsburg, Va. (Rick Blood). We read of scheduled marriages and celebrations never to take place, of fervent passions cut off, of conversations unfinished. The deaths are seen as tears in the life fabric, all threads suddenly and brutally ripped apart.

The overall impact of all this material is powerful. But it is strange that even after a decade, the scope of remembrance does not extend to more extensive interpretation. This exhibition is not alone; this anniversary is widely marked by ambiguity, uncertainty and guilt.

What in this exhibition would be different if these thousands of dead had been wiped out in a tsunami like the one that hit Japan earlier this year? What, in these images, objects and stories would be any different if there had been an earthquake that had simply consumed the twin towers in its maw? Where is the sense that this was not an act of God but an act of man? And that it was an attack, not simply a calamity? Even the sketches for the National September 11 Memorial by its architect, Michael Arad, some of which are also shown here, are meditative, abstract, focusing on the gaps left by destruction.

We only see a few hints that it was anything other than an act of God: one photograph shows a banner warning about domestic brutality against American Muslims (which never took place beyond isolated and quickly condemned incidents); another shows a hasty protest against any possibility of a counterattack. “Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War” is the sign three protestors hold up, a reaction that would have been unimaginable as a response to attack in the parts of the world that cheered for the terrorists afterward.

From the very start, as such images suggest, there was a kind of anticipatory retreat from the implications of the attack, an impulse now amplified by judgments of missteps made over the past decade.

Is this vagueness something Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is aiming at as well in his decision not to invite first responders and members of the clergy to join him at the Sept. 11 commemoration this Sunday while inviting victims’ family members? This eliminates two groups that clearly gave Sept. 11 a broader public meaning. Listen, in the exhibition, to the account of an encounter with a priest described by a survivor, Joanne Capestro, who tells of barely making it out of one of the towers. Emerging, she sees piles of bodies of those who jumped spread over the ground before her; as the tower collapses, she dives under a nearby car, where a priest comforts her.

But the ceremonial emphasis on family members is in keeping with the almost private sensations of this exhibition as well. We recollect Sept. 11, it seems, as an accumulation of personal griefs; nothing larger has been defined. There is almost a decision to avoid, to turn the head, to give just passing acknowledgment to religious sentiments offering compassion and comfort (look at all the wax drippings from votive candles) and to overlook completely the religious hatred that lay behind the attacks (which is invisible here, and which, one ventures to guess, will be largely absent on Sunday). Is there a fear of somehow seeming too crude by naming what should be named?

Just after Sept. 11, it seemed that the enormity of the experience was going to undermine the doctrines of postmodern relativism that typically affirmed that no particular judgment has any essential priority over any other, and bring to an end too the almost reflexive analyses that consistently cast the West as the world’s unambiguous villain. But is it possible that these impulses have just metastasized and that, given strength by events of the last decade, they prevent us from daring to commemorate and comprehend rather than simply remember?

“Remembering 9/11” runs through April 1 at the New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, at 77th Street; (212) 873-3400 or “Here Is New York @ 195 Broadway” runs from Saturday through Sept. 18 at 195 Broadway, at Fulton Street, Lower Manhattan;

22971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: As predicted by Stratfor on: September 09, 2011, 07:44:15 AM
.ISTANBUL—Turkey is showing signs of trading its vaunted "zero problems with neighbors" foreign policy for a more muscular approach to its bid to become the leading power in the Middle East and North Africa.

The shift, analysts and diplomats say, could trigger clashes with Israel and force Washington to choose between its closest allies in the region.

In recent weeks the policy change has been on display as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to deploy his country's navy in a dispute with Israel, approved a major aerial bombing campaign against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and pressed Egypt to let him make a politically provocative visit to Hamas-run Gaza.

A Turkish cabinet minister also threatened that Turkey would use its navy to prevent Cyprus and Israel from developing offshore natural gas fields without the involvement of Turkish-backed Northern Cyprus.

Shifting Approach
Before Arab Spring: Turkey votes against sanctions on Tehran at U.N.
After: Turkey Agrees to host radar for missile-defense directed at Iran. (MARC: Made necessary by Baraq buying off the Russians  by not placing anti-rocket missiles in eastern Europe as promised to the E-Euros because he wanted to have Russia allow alternate supply routes for Afghanistan)

Before: Pursues 'democratic opening.'
After: Launches missile strikes.

Before: Protests natural-gas drilling.
After: Threatens to deploy navy.
.On Monday, Mr. Erdogan departs for high-profile visits to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya—three core battlegrounds in the wave of popular revolutions that have swept the Arab world in the past year.

Turkey isn't shifting from soft power to hard, says Ibrahim Kalin, senior adviser to Mr. Erdogan, but is using "smart power" by turning to force where necessary. "The soft power is still there," he says.

The Arab Spring forced Turkey to retool its foreign policy, analysts and diplomats say, after the revolutions rocked the regimes of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi—partners in Turkey's "zero problems" approach—and for a time put Ankara in conflict with popular Arab sentiment.

Mr. Assad's crackdown also drove Ankara into more direct competition with Syrian ally Iran, whose regime Turkey had courted assiduously. Last week, Ankara agreed to host the forward radar for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization missile-defense system directed at Iran.

While the Obama administration has expressed alarm over the confrontational approach to Israel, U.S. officials said they have been coordinating closely with Turkey in responding to political upheavals in Arab countries—and Washington views Ankara as central to any efforts to stabilize the Mideast.

Turkish officials see the Arab upheavals of 2011 as playing to Turkey's strengths as a model Muslim democracy. They say their "zero problems" policy remains in tune with the Arab Spring, because it shares the same values as the protesters.

The officials now feel ready to press those advantages with Mr. Erdogan's trip next week. "We have made it clear we never had any kind of imperial intentions, but there is demand from the Arab street," Mr. Kalin said in a phone interview on Thursday.

How much Turkish leadership Arab leaders will accept remains an open question. Mr. Erdogan pushed hard, for example, to secure Egyptian permission to cross its border into Gaza, where he would likely receive a hero's welcome for his vocal opposition to Israeli policy. Egypt so far appears to have refused permission for the trip.

So far there is little sign that Israel will bow to threats and meet Turkey's demand that it should apologize for the deaths of nine people in the seizure of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara ship in May 2010.

Nor does Cyprus appear to be rushing to compromise in reunification talks, while Syria's President Assad has so far rebuffed pressure to reform from Ankara, as well as from other capitals. Israel sees Turkey's campaign for an end to the blockade of Gaza as part of a strategic decision to gain prominence in the Muslim world at the expense of their old strategic alliance.In Iran, ex-justice minister Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi complained that Turkey is promoting "liberal Islam."

The policy shift doesn't have universal appeal at home, either. Turkey's main opposition party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu caused a storm of protest from government officials on Wednesday when he said Turkey's foreign policy had turned from one of zero problems to "zero gains."

For now though, surveys suggest Mr. Erdogan is the most popular leader in the Middle East.

In Egypt, a new zeal for revolutionary change has cast Mr. Erdogan's more confrontational attitude toward Israel and his moderate approach toward political Islam as a model for the democratic experiment. Activists are reportedly planning a welcome party to greet Mr. Erdogan's arrival.

Egyptian foreign-policy institutions are less likely to look to Turkish regional leadership with the same enthusiasm, said an official in Egypt's ministry of foreign affairs. "Egypt is not in the business of following," he said.

Mr. Erdogan, in a speech at Cairo University on Monday, will set out Turkey's vision for the region's future, one defined by "not occupation, not authoritarianism, not dictatorship," said Mr. Kalin.

Mr. Erdogan will also sign bilateral energy and other economic agreements, attend a high-level joint political-security council, meet representatives of the prodemocracy movement and address a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers, according to Mr. Kalin.

Yet Mr. Erdogan's outreach to the Arab world comes with a visibly tougher approach to foreign policy. That includes a series of warnings to Cyprus and Israel in recent days against drilling offshore for natural gas without the involvement of Turkish-backed Northern Cyprus.

"That's what naval forces are for," Egemen Bagis, Turkey's Europe minister told the Sunday's Zaman newspaper.

"In this game of brinksmanship accidents can happen, not least because parts of the Israeli government are prone to high risk-taking," says Professor Ilter Turan, professor of international relations at Istanbul's Bilgi University.

Mr. Turan sees the Turkish government's more aggressive stance as part of a wider confidence that is the result of the ruling Justice and Development Party's sweeping re-election in June.

In a sign of that confidence, Ankara—once careful to court the European Union—this summer threatened to freeze relations with the bloc over Cyprus reunification talks.

Then, in August, Turkey's once all-powerful generals effectively admitted defeat in a power struggle with the government; a new slate of top commanders appears to have accepted civilian control, boosting government confidence.

It isn't clear how far Turkey will go. For example, while Ankara has threatened to send out naval patrols, it has yet to do so. The assault on bases of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party, known as the PKK, is only the first in several years and hasn't expanded into a land campaign.

According to Henri Barkey, Turkey specialist and professor of international relations at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, Turkey is using the latest conflict with Israel in "a bid to recover lost prestige in the Arab world" after the Arab Spring. At the same time, he said, Ankara is bidding for regional leadership and challenging the U.S. to choose between its two closest regional allies.

"It's a very high stakes approach, but they are also very confident," he said.

—Joshua Mitnick in Tel Aviv, Matt Bradley in Cairo and Jay Solomon in Washington contributed to this article.

Associated Press
ANKARA—Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stepped up his belligerent rhetoric against Israel, saying that the country's warships will escort Turkish Gaza-bound aid ships in the future to prevent a repeat of last year's Israeli raid on a flotilla that killed nine people.

Erdogan's comments to Al-Jazeera television broadcast on Thursday was the first time Turkey said it will send warship to help attempts to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. The country had already announced it would increase navy patrols in the eastern Mediterranean in response to Israel's refusal to apologize for the raid.

"At the moment, there is no doubt that the Turkish military ships' primary duty is to protect [Turkish] ships," Anatolia quoted Mr. Erdogan as telling Al-Jazeera. "We will be making humanitarian aid. This aid will no longer be subjected to any kind of attack as the Mavi Marmara was."

Eight Turks and a Turkish American were killed aboard the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, that was part of an international flotilla trying to break the blockade, which Israel imposed in 2007 to keep militants from bringing weapons into Gaza.

Dan Meridor, the Israeli Cabinet minister in charge of intelligence, said Friday that Mr. Erdogan's threat was "grave and serious."

"Turkey, which declares that Israel is not above international law, must understand that it isn't either," he said.

"I do not think it would be correct to get into verbal saber rattling with him now," Mr. Meridor told Army Radio. "I think that our silence is the best answer, and I hope this will pass."

"I think anyone who is listening can make their own mind up about him and the direction he has chosen," Mr. Meridor said.

A United Nations report into the raid, released last week, said violent activists on board the Mavi Marmara had attacked the raiding naval commandos and described the blockade of Gaza as legitimate, although it also accused Israel of using disproportionate force against the activists.

Turkey rejected the report's findings saying it would never recognize the blockade's legitimacy and insisted on an Israeli apology as well as compensation for the deaths as a precondition for normalization of a relationship once seen as a cornerstone of regional stability.

Last week, it slapped a series of sanctions on Israel—once a top military trading partner—that included the expelling of senior Israeli diplomats and the suspension of all military deals. It has also wowed to back the Palestinians bid for recognition of their statehood at the U.N.

Israel has expressed regret for the loss of lives aboard the flotilla but has refused to apologize saying its forces acted in self-defense. It has also said it was time for the two countries to restore their former close ties.

22972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: The Dodd-Frank Employment Act on: September 09, 2011, 07:30:03 AM
D-F boggles even the mind of Pravda on the Hudson:
The amount billed by Debevoise & Plimpton to write a 17-page letter on a new rule intended to rein in risky banking — around $100,000 — would make most authors jealous.

That’s the fee just for parsing the proper definition of a bank-owned hedge fund. Longer and more complex regulatory missives, weighing in on who should be deemed too big to fail or how derivatives are traded, can easily cost twice as much.
These comment letters could save Wall Street banks billions of dollars if they help persuade policy makers to adopt a more lenient interpretation of the coming rules. And white-shoe law firms like Debevoise & Plimpton are cranking them out by the dozen.

Call it Dodd-Frank Inc. A year after Congress passed the broadest financial overhaul since the Great Depression, the law has spawned a host of new businesses to help Wall Street comply — and capitalize — on the hundreds of new regulations.

Besides the lawyers, there are legions of corporate accountants, financial consultants, risk management advisers, turnaround artists and technology vendors all vying for their cut.

 “It is a full-employment act,” said Gregory J. Lyons, a partner at Debevoise, where a team of a half-dozen lawyers has drafted 30-plus comment letters in the last six months.

“The law is passed, but we are still reasonably early in the process,” Mr. Lyons said. “There is still a lot to be written.”

New regulation has long been one of Washington’s unofficial job creation tools. After the enactment of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the late 1970s, hundreds of lawyers and accountants were hired by companies to strengthen their internal controls. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 became a boon for the Big Four accounting firms as public corporations were forced to tighten compliance in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom scandals.

Now, the Dodd-Frank Act is quickly becoming such a gold mine that even Wall Street bankers, never ones to undercharge, are complaining that the costs are running amok.   

“It’s basically lawyers, hired guns and money,” said the chief financial officer of a major Wall Street firm, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “Everyone has an angle.”

No one yet is tracking all the money being spent to deal with Dodd-Frank (which in itself could be an entrepreneurial venture), but a back-of-the-envelope calculation puts it in the billions of dollars.

And that’s not even counting the roughly $1.9 billion spent by companies lobbying on financial issues since the regulatory overhaul was first proposed in early 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The bulk of the lobbying tab was spent in the two years before Dodd-Frank took effect. Now firms are spending similarly eye-popping sums to comply with or battle against the rules emerging from the law. They are turning to existing companies that have started dedicated teams like the one at Debevoise & Plimpton, as well as start-ups like the Invictus Consulting Group.

When Kamal Mustafa founded Invictus in early 2008, few banks underwent routine stress tests to assess their financial health. Now, the new law requires the nation’s largest banks to conduct annual stress tests, while regulators are leaning hard on smaller lenders to take similar measures. As a result, Invictus’s business — dispensing advice on how to properly administer those exams — has taken off.

“You can stress-test all you want, but somebody has to validate the results,” Mr. Mustafa said. “That’s a massive opportunity.”

Regulators from seven states — including California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — have hired his firm, Mr. Mustafa said, and he is selectively signing up two to four new bank clients a month. Annual advisory fees start at $20,000 and can reach $100,000 or more.

With business booming, Mr. Mustafa said he planned to hire 40 to 50 former bankers in the coming months, almost quadrupling his current staff. And in May, Invictus established its first European outpost: a London office focused on overseas banks and regulators.



Technology vendors, including I.B.M. and SunGard Consulting Services, are expecting huge windfalls from the new systems that banks will need to churn out vast amounts of data for regulators, or to lower the cost of processing a derivatives trade. Wall Street banks and asset managers are expected to spend more than $3.8 billion from this year to 2013 on technology to cope with all the new financial rules, according to the TowerGroup, a technology research firm.

Retail banking consultants are racking up new assignments advising banks on how to make up missing revenue from lost debit card fees, while governance advisers are helping firms assess whether executive pay packages will pass muster with shareholders, who are now entitled to a nonbinding say-on-pay vote.
Some law firms have even become small-scale publishing houses. Davis Polk & Wardwell, for example, is offering a $7,500-a-month subscription to a Web site that tracks the progress of every Dodd-Frank requirement. So far, more than 30 large financial companies have signed up.

As Congress started drafting the legislation in the spring of 2010, Davis Polk & Wardwell began compiling a spreadsheet to keep its lawyers updated on hundreds of regulations. Then, Gabriel D. Rosenberg, a young associate, proposed turning the firm’s database of legal summaries and rule-making deadlines into an interactive site — and spent a weekend building a prototype. 

By late July, clients started logging on to the “regulatory tracker” — and have steered more business to the firm as a result, said Randall D. Guynn, the head of Davis Polk’s financial institutions group. “There were a lot of new relationships because people want this,” he said.

Perhaps the biggest new business established by Dodd-Frank stems from the requirement that large financial institutions establish living wills, or emergency plans to wind themselves down in the event of a collapse. Firms are hiring small armies of outside advisers to develop the plans and handle the mountains of paperwork, according to people involved in the process.

As a result, global law firms like Clifford Chance and Sullivan & Cromwell; accounting firms like Deloitte and PricewaterhouseCoopers; and financial consultancies like Oliver Wyman and the Promontory Financial Group, are all working overtime to land assignments. Even restructuring boutiques, like Alvarez & Marsal and Houlihan Lokey, are elbowing their way in.   

Armed with a 60-slide visual presentation, Houlihan Lokey executives approached about a dozen Wall Street firms this spring with an offer to help draft their living wills.

Their sales pitch: we mapped out funeral plans for Lehman Brothers and the CIT Group during the throes of the crisis; we can help with your final arrangements, too.

“When we do a restructuring, we advise our clients and then execute on it,” said Michael McMahon, the head of Houlihan’s financial institutions group. “We are doing the exact same thing here — but we just have to document it.”

It is lucrative work. Barclays said earlier this summer that it has spent more than £30 million, or $48 million, on outside advisers and in-house staff to draft its living will. Each of the five biggest Wall Street banks and several other large financial companies could easily spend just as much.

What is more, most global firms will need to have several versions of their living wills to satisfy the requirements of the different national regulators. That should keep the billable hours coming.

Lawyers and consultants are salivating at the prospect of even more business opportunities. Some envision that many of the banks’ largest creditors will hire them to figure out how they might fare if the living wills were actually to take effect.

“They are going to ask, ‘What is going to happen to me?’ ” said Chip MacDonald, a lawyer at Jones Day. “We are only getting started.”
22973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Forgive and Forget? on: September 09, 2011, 07:24:24 AM
Pasting Rachel's post on Power of Word here as well:

9/11: Forgive and Forget?
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
We are not the ones who have the right to make that decision.

    God, I need your guidance. I continue to grieve for all the victims of 9/11 even after a decade has passed. My heart is filled with pain, and with anger at the terrorists responsible for the horrible deaths on that day of infamy in which 3,000 innocents perished. But I know that you teach us to forgive those who sin. In the Bible you often tell us that you are a God who is slow to anger, merciful and forgiving. We are supposed to imitate you and adopt Your behavior as guidelines for our own personal conduct.

    Does that really mean that no matter how difficult it is, I have to now tell myself to forgive all those who intentionally and with callous premeditation committed these unspeakable crimes? Am I guilty of failing my spiritual obligations if I'm not willing to respond to barbaric acts with love and forgiveness? God, how far does clemency go? In the name of religion, must I today be prepared to pardon even those who committed murder?

Forgiveness is a divine trait. It defines the goodness of God. Without it, human beings probably couldn't survive. Because God forgives, there's still hope for sinners. When we do wrong, God reassures us that He won't abandon us as a result of our transgressions. Divine forgiveness is the quality that most clearly proves God's love for us.

That is why the many passages in the Bible that affirm God's willingness to forgive our sins are so important. They comfort us and they fill us with confidence. We know none of us are perfect. If we would be judged solely on our actions, we would surely fall short. Thank God, the heavenly court isn't that strict. We can rest assured, as the prophet Isaiah told us, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."

It makes perfect sense, then, for us to understand that if we expect God to forgive us for our failings, we have to be prepared to forgive others as well. What we need when we're being judged from above certainly deserves to be granted to those we are judging. We are guided by the profound words of Alexander Pope: "To err is human; to forgive, divine."

That all makes it seem like we have no choice in the matter. Forgiveness appears to be our only moral option. But the more we study the Bible, the more we recognize a peculiar paradox. The same God who preaches forgiveness very often doesn't forgive. Instead, He punishes sinners. He holds people responsible. He criticizes, He condemns, and afflicts those who committed crimes. Adam and Eve sinned, and they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Cain sinned and was condemned to become a wanderer over the face of the earth. The generation of Noah sinned and a flood destroyed them. The builders of the Tower of Babel sinned and their speech was turned into babble. In one story after another, from the Five Books of Moses through the works of the prophets, we read of retribution, of accountability, of divine punishment, and the withholding of automatic forgiveness.

Isn't this an innate contradiction in the Bible? The same book in which God identifies himself as merciful and forgiving, repeatedly shows us a God of justice who withholds undeserved pardons. There must be something we're missing. There can't be such an obvious contradiction in the Bible. And sure enough, just a little reflection makes clear why there are times when God forgives people for their sins, and why at other times He refuses.

The Price for Forgiveness

Heavenly pardon is predicated on a condition. Before God grants forgiveness, He asks us to acknowledge that we were wrong and renounce the sinful behavior.

God is willing to overlook the sins of the past for the sake of an altered future. He is ready to pardon the most terrible wrongs for the price of remorse, regret and the desire for a new beginning. But the one thing God's forgiveness is unwilling to do is to condone vicious crimes by simply accepting them. An unrepentant sinner mistakes God's mercy for permission to continue his ways. To forgive such a person isn't kindness; its cruelty to all those who'll be hurt by the evil that wasn't stopped before it could do more harm.

Yes, it was the same God who drowned the wicked generation of Noah and who saved the evil people of Ninveh. Those who were destroyed by the Flood were given plenty of warning. They watched Noah build his ark for many years. Noah told them what God planned to do if they didn't repent. But they didn't believe him – even when it started to rain and pour like never before. So of course people who didn't see the need to ask for forgiveness weren't forgiven.

But when Jonah told the residents of the city of Ninveh that they were doomed due to their evil behavior, they took the message to heart and committed themselves to a new way of life. The people who changed were immediately forgiven. God wasn't going to hold their past against them – because it was really a thing of the past.

Don't Forgive Them Unless

Forgiving people who don't personally atone for the sins makes a statement: Repentance isn't really necessary. Can anything be more immoral than encouraging evil by refraining from any condemnation of those who commit it?

The day after the Columbine High School massacre, a group of students announced that they forgave the killers. A short while after the Oklahoma bombing, some people put out a call to forgive Timothy McVeigh. And on September 12th, on several American campuses, colleges groups pleaded for forgiveness for the terrorists responsible for the horrific events of the previous day.

These weren't just misguided gestures of compassion. They were serious sins with potentially tragic consequences. Evil unchallenged is evil condoned. To forgive and forget, as Arthur Schopenhauer so well put it, "means to throw valuable experience out the window." And without the benefit of experience's lessons, we are almost certain to be doomed to repeat them.

The terrorists who piloted the planes into the Twin Towers never asked to be forgiven. They expressed not the slightest remorse as they went to their deaths together with their victims. Those who sent them, those who financed them, and those who applauded their mission never for a moment regretted what happened. Forgiving them is no less than granting license to murder thousands of more innocent people.

To speak of forgiveness as if it were the automatic entitlement of every criminal is to pervert a noble sentiment into a carte blanche for mayhem and chaos. We might as well open the doors of every jail and release all the thieves, rapists and murderers. Our wonderful act of compassion wouldn't take too long to be followed by the cries of the victims of our folly! To forgive those who remain unrepentant is to become an accomplice to future crimes.

What If A Nazi Asked For Forgiveness?

What if a Nazi asked for forgiveness at some later date? What if a brutal murderer realizes the enormity of his crimes and honestly regrets his past deeds? What if the plea for forgiveness is accompanied by sincere remorse? Can the crimes of the past be forgotten? Is a troubled conscience sufficient to secure automatic forgiveness?

This is not just a theoretical question. Something exactly like that happened toward the end of the Holocaust. And the man who had to decide what to do in such a situation, a concentration camp victim who had suffered indescribable mistreatment and torture, wrote a remarkable book about his experience.

Simon Wiesenthal was a prisoner of the Nazis, confined to slave labor in a German hospital. One day he was suddenly pulled away from his work and brought into a room where an SS soldier lay dying. The German officer, Karl, confessed to Wiesenthal that he had committed atrocious crimes. Although raised as a good Catholic and in his youth God-fearing, Karl had allowed himself to become a sadistic accomplice to Nazi ideology. Now that he knew his end was near and he would soon be facing his Maker, Karl was overcome by the enormity of his sins.

More than anything else, Karl knew that he needed atonement. He wanted to die with a clear conscience. So he asked that a Jew be brought to him. And from this Jew, Simon Wiesenthal, the killer asked for absolution.


Wiesenthal has been haunted by this scene his entire life. When it happened, he was in such shock that he didn't know how to respond. His emotions pulled him in different directions. Anger mixed with pity, hatred with compassion, and revulsion with mercy. His conclusion was to leave in utter silence. He didn't grant Karl the forgiveness the German desperately sought.

Years later, Wiesenthal shared the story with a number of prominent intellectuals, theologians and religious leaders. How would they have reacted? he asked them. In the light of religious teachings and ethical ideals, what should have been the proper response? Was there a more suitable reply than silence?

Wiesenthal collected the answers and had them published as a book entitled, The Sunflower. The range of responses offers a fascinating insight into different views on forgiveness. Some, like the British journalist Christopher Hollis, believe that the law of God is the law of love, no matter what the situation. We have an obligation to forgive our fellow human beings even when they have caused us the greatest harm. A remorseful murderer deserved compassion.

And Who Are You To Forgive?

One rabbi offered a different perspective. No one can forgive crimes not committed against him or her personally. What Karl sought could only come from his victims. It is preposterous to think that one solitary Jew can presume to speak for 6 million.

This rabbi had been invited to address a group of prominent business executives. Among them were some of the most important CEOs in the country. His lecture dealt with the Holocaust and its lessons for us. He stressed the importance of memory and the need to continue to bear witness to the crime of genocide.

When he finished, one of the very famous names in American corporate life angrily rebutted the essence of his talk. "I'm tired," he said," of hearing about the Holocaust. You claim that you're speaking in the name of morality. Why can't you demonstrate true morality by learning to forgive and forget?"

To a stunned audience, the rabbi replied by asking them for permission to tell a story about Rabbi Israel Kagan, commonly known as the Chafetz Chaim. In the history of the Jewish people, he explained, there has hardly ever been someone considered as saintly as the Chafetz Chaim. A Polish rabbi and scholar of the late 19th and early 20th century, he was universally revered not just for his piety but more importantly for his extreme concern for the feelings of his fellow man.

Rabbi Kagan was traveling on a train, immersed in a religious book he was studying. Alongside him sat three Jews anxious to while away the time by playing cards. The game required a fourth hand so they asked the unrecognized stranger to join them. Rabbi Kagan politely refused, explaining that he preferred to continue his reading. The frustrated card players refused to take no for an answer. They began to beat the poor Rabbi until they left him bleeding.

Hours later, the train pulled into the station. Hundreds of people swarmed the platform waiting to greet the great sage. Posters bore signs of Welcome to the Chafetz Chaim. As the rabbi, embarrassed by all the adulation, walked off the train with his bruises, the crowd lifted him up and carried him off on their shoulders. Watching with horror were the three Jews who had not long before accosted the simple Jew sitting in their cabin, now revealed as one of the spiritual giants of their generation. Profoundly ashamed and plagued by their guilt, they managed to make their way through the crowd and reached their unwilling card player partner.

With tears, they poured out their feelings of shame and remorse. How could they possibly have assaulted this great Rabbi? They begged for forgiveness. And incredibly enough, the rabbi said no. The man who spent his life preaching love now refused to extend it to people who harmed him and regretted their actions. It seemed incomprehensible. So the three Jews attributed it to a momentary lapse. Perhaps, they thought, it was just too soon for the rabbi to forgive them. He probably needed some time to get over the hurt. They would wait a while and ask again at a more propitious moment.

Several weeks passed and it was now close to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Even the simplest Jews knew that they had to gain forgiveness from their friends if they wanted to be pardoned by God. With trepidation, the wicked three wrangled an appointment and once again were able to speak to the Rabbi. They pleaded their case. Still the Rabbi said no. He would not forgive them.

The rabbi's son was present as this strange scene played itself out. Puzzled by his father's peculiar behavior, he couldn't contain himself. It was so unlike anything he had ever witnessed before. Why did his father suddenly act so cruelly? Why would he persist in tormenting people who only asked for a simple expression of forgiveness?

The son dared to ask. His father explained. "Do you really think I don't want to forgive these poor Jews before the High Holy days? If it were only in my power to do so, don't you know that I would have forgiven them when they stood before me at the railroad station? Of course I, Rabbi Kagan, forgive them for what they did to me. When they learned who I was, they were mortified and filled with shame for what they had done. But the man they beat up was the one they presumed to be a simple, unassuming poor person with no crowd of well-wishers waiting to greet him. He was the victim and only he is the one capable of granting them forgiveness. Let them go find that person. I am incapable of releasing them from their guilt."

Upon completing the story, the rabbi turned to the executive who suggested that it was time for us to move on after the Holocaust and to forgive and forget. "I would be more than happy to do so if I only could. But I was not the one who was sealed in the gas chambers to die a horrible death. I didn't have my child pulled from my breast and shot it in front of my eyes. I was not among the tortured, the beaten, the whipped, and the murdered. It is they and they alone who can offer forgiveness. Go and find those 6 million and ask them if they are prepared to forgive and forget."

A decade after 9/11 there are those who raise the question: Should we forgive those who murdered the thousands of innocents?

Perhaps the most appropriate response is simply this: We are not the ones who have the right to make that decision. Though 10 years have passed, we may not forgive and we dare not forget.

This article can also be read at:
22974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 09, 2011, 07:11:24 AM
The point about Bush being a political nullity from 2006 forward seems a fair one to me, thus muddying the meaning of the data from 2007-9 about the number of millionaires. 

What I notice in my life is that the low interest rate policies are in fact a war on savers.   Given the chaos in the markets I would dearly love to have a place of refuge for what I have left that did not automatically entail losses -- which is how I perceive the interface of current interest rates for savers and inflation plus taxes.  Even accepting the IMO dishonest official inflation rate taxes, interest rates for savers are now negative and we the taxpayers are subsidizing free money to the same bankers who gleefully exploited the Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's loan guarantees (loans at rates below t-bill rates). 

The class warfare of "tax the rich" is IMO both an absurdity (the top 3% already pay as much as everyone else so how can it be said that they are not paying their share?) and a deception (don't notice that we are bailing out the banks instead of allowing them to go bankrupt and be taken over by new owners).

22975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Settlement or cover-up? on: September 09, 2011, 06:52:47 AM
This is Pravada on the Hudson and so we must read between the lines.  I could be wrong but I wonder about the conjunction of the subject matter of this article and the recent investigation of 17 financial firms.  IIRC Fannie Mae's Raines (who now sits with major-donations-recipient-as-a-Senator Oboma) already got in trouble for accelerating FM's profits so as to inflate his bonuses)

Regulators are nearing a settlement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over whether the mortgage finance giants adequately disclosed their exposure to risky subprime loans, bringing to a close a three-year investigation.

The proposed agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, under the terms being discussed, would include no monetary penalty or admission of fraud, according to several people briefed on the case. But a settlement would represent the most significant acknowledgement yet by the mortgage companies that they played a central role in the housing boom and bust.

And the action, however limited, may help refurbish the S.E.C.’s reputation as an aggressive regulator, particularly as the country struggles with the aftereffects of the financial crisis that the housing bubble fueled.

But the potential settlement — even it if it is little more than a rebuke — comes at an awkward time for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Last week, the government overseer of the two companies sued 17 large financial firms, blaming them for luring the mortgage giants into buying troubled loans. That is a similar accusation to the one the S.E.C. is leveling at Fannie and Freddie — that the two entities misled their own investors. The case against the financial firms could be complicated should Fannie and Freddie sound a note of contrition for their own role in the implosion of the mortgage market in settling with the S.E.C.

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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMy SpacePermalink6 CommentsTwitter .The agency abandoned hopes of assessing a fine because of the precarious financial positions of the two companies, according to the people briefed on the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet final. The government has already propped up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with more than $100 billion since taking control of them in 2008. Any fee levied against them would simply wind up on the taxpayers’ tab.

The negotiations have been going on since at least early summer, and a deal may not materialize until later this year, these people cautioned. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the S.E.C. all declined to comment.

The sprawling investigation into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac once encompassed both civil and criminal elements, making headlines as one of the most significant cases to stem from the financial crisis. The case also threatened to ensnare some of Fannie and Freddie’s former top officials. Earlier this year, recent chief executives at both companies received so-called Wells notices from the S.E.C., an indication that the agency was considering a civil enforcement action against them.

But three years on, the civil settlement would be the only government action against the companies.

The criminal inquiry has sputtered to a halt. The Justice Department has concluded its inquiry, at least at Freddie Mac, according to a securities filing in August by the company. No charges have been filed against either company.

At the S.E.C., regulators have zeroed in on the fine print of Fannie’s and Freddie’s disclosures, according to those who have been briefed on it. The agency is specifically looking at the way the companies reported their subprime mortgage portfolios and concentrations of loans extended to borrowers who offered little documentation.

While Fannie and Freddie do not offer home loans, they buy thousands of mortgages from lenders and resell them in packages to investors. The S.E.C.’s case hinges on whether the companies misled the public and regulators by lowballing the number of high-risk mortgages on their books.

One potential weakness of the case is that it hinges on the definition of subprime, which the government itself has struggled to nail down. The term often references loans to borrowers with low credit scores and spotty payment records. But Fannie and Freddie categorized loans as prime or subprime based on the lender rather than on the loan itself.

The path to the current settlement talks at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has been a delicate one. While internally, the two companies did not view the government’s case as particularly strong, they said they moved to settle to spare time and precious resources, according to one person close to the talks. In addition, the companies asked that whatever the settlement, it not include a fine or accusations of fraud in the hopes of protecting an already battered morale and an empty purse at the institutions.

In particular, a fraud accusation could cause an exodus of the employees best equipped to dig the institutions out of their current morass, people close to the talks said. A settlement with the mortgage companies would be a first step in wrapping up the S.E.C.’s broader examination. The agency is still pursuing potential claims against at least four former executives at Fannie and Freddie.

This summer, lawyers for Richard Syron, the former chief of Freddie Mac, and Daniel H. Mudd, his counterpart at Fannie Mae, met with the S.E.C.’s enforcement chief, Robert Khuzami, according to some of the people briefed on the case.

The S.E.C. has sent Wells notices to Mr. Syron; Mr. Mudd; the former chief financial officer at Freddie Mac, Anthony J. Piszel; and Donald J. Bisenius, executive vice president at Freddie until his recent departure.

None of the individuals have been accused of any wrongdoing.

Mr. Mudd and Mr. Syron are the two most prominent executives swept up in the case. Mr. Mudd is now chief executive of the public traded hedge fund and private equity firm Fortress Investment Group. Mr. Syron, a former president of the American Stock Exchange, is an adjunct professor at Boston College and serves on its board of trustees.

Through their lawyers, Mr. Mudd and Mr. Syron declined to comment. The S.E.C. could yet decide not to sue the former executives.

Ultimately, the two mortgage companies have larger worries to confront than the potential citations: chief among them is their continuing viability.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced plans to wind down the two companies, leaving the fates of the companies unresolved and the future of government-backed housing finance in doubt.
22976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 911 on: September 08, 2011, 09:42:02 PM

The first battle in the renewed war against terrorism wasn't waged in Fallujah or Kandahar or Tikrit. It was held 32,000 feet above Pittsburgh, on Sept. 11, 2001.

And it wasn't soldiers who led the battle.

It was four athletes, pushing a food cart.

United Flight 93 was supposed to go from Newark to San Francisco that Tuesday morning, but 31-year-old Jeremy Glick wasn't supposed to be on it.

He was supposed to go the day before, but a fire at Newark Airport forced him to re-book for the next day, one of the bloodiest in American history.

About 45 minutes into the flight, four radical Islamic terrorists stormed the cockpit, sliced the throats of the pilots and took charge. They told the 33 passengers and seven crew members they were hijacking the plane and returning to Newark.

Glick, a muscular 1993 national collegiate judo champion, scampered back to the second-to-last row and called his wife, Lyz. It wasn't long before he and the others -- talking to their families -- realized that nobody was going back to Newark. They were on board a 150,000-pound missile, bound for some unthinkable end. The World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon had already been hit. What was 93 aimed for?

"We're going to rush the hijackers," Glick told Lyz.

Horrified, she pictured the hijackers having machine guns.

"No," Jeremy said. "Box cutters."

And Lyz says, "I was thinking, 'OK, Jeremy can handle a man with a knife, no problem. With him being so strong, and with his experience in martial arts and judo, he's going to unleash some terrible force. That's no match for him.'"

Mark Bingham, 31, was back there with Glick. He'd won two national club rugby titles with Cal-Berkeley. He was huge, fierce, funny and, incidentally, gay. He once wrestled a gun from a mugger. A knife wasn't going to scare him.

"I remember Mark and his buddies got thrown off an entire island once," says his dad, Jerry. "He told me, 'Dad, we lost the match, but we won the fight.' I know how he was. He'd have been definitely been kickin' ass and takin' names."

The third was Oracle salesman Todd Beamer, 32, a former shortstop at Wheaton (Ill.) College, a basketball star, and a soccer player.

"I knew, when I saw what happened," says his dad, David, "that Todd would be part of that. Todd was not going to be sitting in his seat while somebody was trying to crash the plane."

The fourth was 38-year-old Tom Burnett, a former high school football star from Bloomington, Minn. These men became convinced that they had to stop the plane, even if they had to stop it with their lives.

"I know we're going to die," Burnett told his wife, Dina. "Some of us are going to do something about it."

There certainly were more passengers among the 33 on board who planned the insurrection and stormed the cockpit, but we know about these four. All of them jocks. All of them with the physical and mental training to rise up when all seems lost. This is the best guess of what they did:

"We're going to attack," Glick told Lyz. "I'm going to put the phone down. I love you. I'll be right back."

Lyz couldn't hold the line. What she was hearing was sending her body into convulsions. She handed the phone to her dad and walked into a different room.

Beamer revealed the same plan to the operator, Lisa Jefferson, who was sitting in a call center in Oakbrook, Ill. When it was time, he let the phone dangle so he could keep the line open in case he made it back alive. She heard Beamer say to the others, "Let's roll." It's a phrase that would later be stenciled on jet fighters, NASCAR rides and above locker room doors.

Using a food-service cart as a battering ram, the attackers raced up the aisle and smashed through the cockpit door. It was almost 10 a.m.

"My dad said first he heard a series of screams," Lyz recalls. "Then he heard another set of screams. Then it all sounded like a roller coaster, up and down. And then it just ... (pause) ... ended."

Officials believe that the terrorists, being buckled in, rocked the plane up and down violently, trying to fling the passengers against the ceiling. Excerpts of the cockpit voice recorder tape are chilling. (Words in parenthesis are translated from the Arabic.)

09:58:52 -- Stay back.

09:58:55 -- In the cockpit.

09:58:57 -- In the cockpit.

09:58:57 -- (They want to get in here. Hold, hold from the inside. Hold from the inside. Hold.)

09:59:04 -- Hold the door.

■Enlargecourtesy Glick Family
Flight 93 passenger Jeremy Glick at 26 years old, five years before Sept. 11, 2001.

09:59:09 -- Stop him.

09:59:11 -- Sit down.

09:59:15 -- Sit down.

09:59:16 -- Unintelligible.

09:59:17 -- (What?)

09:59:18 -- (There are some guys. All those guys.)

09:59:20 -- Let's get them.

09:59:25 -- Sit down.

09:59:29 -- (What?)

09:59:36 -- Unintelligible.

09:59:42 -- (Trust in Allah, and in him.)

09:59:45 -- Sit down.

09:59:47 -- Unintelligible.

09:59:53 -- Ahh.

10:00:06 -- (There is nothing.)

10:00:07 -- (Is that it? Shall we finish it off?)

10:00:08 -- (No. Not yet.)

10:00:09 -- (When they all come, we finish it off.)

10:00:11 -- (There is nothing.)

10:00:13 -- Unintelligible.

10:00:14 -- Ahh.

10:00:15 -- I'm injured.

10:00:16 -- Unintelligible.

10:00:21 -- Ahh.

10:00:22 -- (Oh Allah. Oh Allah. Oh gracious.)

courtesy Bingahm Family
Mark Bingham, left, wtih his father, Jerry. Mark was one of the four who led the charge on the cockpit of hijacked Flight 93 on Sept.11, 2001.

10:00:25 -- In the cockpit. If we don't, we'll die.

10:00:29 -- (Up, down. Up, down, in the) cockpit.

10:00:33 -- (The) cockpit.

10:00:37 -- (Up, down. Saeed, up, down.)

10:00:42 -- Roll it.

10:00:55 -- Unintelligible.

10:00:59 -- (Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.)

10:01:01 -- Unintelligible.

10:01:08 -- (Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?)

10:01:09 -- (Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.)

10:01:11 -- (Saeed.)

10:01:12 -- ... engine ...

10:01:16 -- (Cut off the oxygen.)

10:01:18 -- (Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen.)

10:01:37 -- Unintelligible.

10:01:41 -- (Up, down. Up, down.)

10:01:41 -- (What?)

10:01:42 -- (Up, down.)

10:01:42 -- Ahh.

10:01:59 -- Shut them off.

10:02:03 -- Shut them off.

10:02:14 -- Go.

10:02:16 -- Move.

10:02:17 -- Turn it up.

10:02:18 -- (Down, down.)

10:02:23 -- (Pull it down. Pull it down.)

10:02:25 -- Down. Push, push, push, push, push.

10:02:33 -- (Hey. Hey. Give it to me. Give it to me.)

10:02:35 -- (Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me.)

10:02:40 -- Unintelligible.

United Flight 93 dove into a remote field in southwestern Pennsylvania, near Shanksville, killing all aboard. People 10 miles away said they felt the ground shake. It's believed the plane was headed for the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

"This was the first victory of the war," says David Beamer. "The Capitol dome still stands."

The hole left by the Boeing 757 was 24 feet wide and 18 feet deep. But the hole it put in those left behind sometimes feels even bigger.

This may be why Todd Beamer's wife, Lisa, does not talk about 9/11 or Shanksville or "Let's roll." She is raising her three kids -- 13, 11 and 9 -- alone. She didn't remarry.

In Church Hill, Tenn., Mark Bingham's dad doesn't need an anniversary to remember his son. He thinks about him every day.

"I haven't been right since," Jerry Bingham says, crying softly. "We work on it every day. You think you're gettin' through it, but you don't. You just don't. Not a day goes by that it's not on your mind, ever."

But not all his memories are painful. President Bush invited the Flight 93 families to the White House the week after 9/11. Afterward, the families were being escorted out the back way of the east wing. They were surprised to turn a corner and see that 150 to 200 White House workers had lined up on either side of them. They were applauding.

"The dishwashers, the cooks, the maids, the busboys," says Bingham. "They were clapping for us. They were thanking us. It just tore me up. And we were all crying and hugging each other. I'll never forget it."

Lyz Glick refuses to forget, too. She's turned Jeremy's heroics into Jeremy's Heroes, a non-profit organization that has helped thousands of young public school athletes who otherwise couldn't afford to train. "That's helped us to heal the most," she says.

What's also helped is something Jeremy said in her 27 minutes with him on that phone call. "Whatever decisions you make in your life," he said, "I need you to be happy and I will respect any decisions that you make.'"

Lyz was married to her grief for so long. She would continually call Jeremy's cell phone, just to hear his voice, over and over. Fold his clothes. Re-live the call and hope it was enough.

Finally, years later, she married Jeremy's best friend and best man, Jim Best. She has three kids -- one by Jeremy, age 10, and two with Jim, 4 and 2.

Many of the families of the Flight 93 victims have stayed close. So close, in fact, 24 of them will run in the New York City Marathon in November as a team, led by the sister, Kiki, of one of the slain pilots, Leroy Homer, a former high school track star.

You might recognize them. They'll probably be wearing T-shirts that read: They didn't quit. Neither will we.

Over 50,000 mementos, gifts and testimonials have been left at the battle site in Shanksville. Kids leave their favorite stuffed animals. People write long, emotional thanks on everything from granite stones to paper plates. One Vietnam vet left his purple heart.

Many of the families will be there Saturday, Sept. 10, for one final burial ceremony.

And yet 10 years later, the memorial that was promised these 40 people hasn't been delivered. The Flight 93 National Memorial is still $10 million short of completion. There is still no visitor's center to teach, no Tower of Voices to listen, and no 40 groves of trees to honor.

"I'm 69 years old," says David Beamer. "I'd like to see the thing get done in my lifetime. If you and everybody you know can make one little sacrifice -- one hour of your income -- we could get this done tomorrow."

I sent an hour's pay not just to honor the passengers of Flight 93 but also to thank them. My niece was working in the Capitol that day. This spring, she had her second baby.

To send your hour's pay, go to

The passengers aboard Flight 93 saved hundreds of lives -- if not thousands -- in 35 minutes. We've had 10 years.

It's a hole we need to fill.

22977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 08, 2011, 03:53:15 PM
Over to you Doug , , ,
22978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 08, 2011, 03:22:38 PM
"there are now millions fewer millionaires."

I believe you.  Any chance you have a citation for this?  There's someone I would love to beat up with it  evil

22979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 08, 2011, 01:02:18 PM
When he was alive, Jude Wanniski made a pretty good case against the alleged benefits of competetive devlauations, but I don't feel up to trying to replicate it.  For the moment I will note that another name for comp-devs is "beggar-thy-neighbor devaluations" will the purported gains being illusory in the long run; in great part because the other nations respond similarly with the net result in the case of the US due to its reserve currency role of world wide inflation-- exactly as we have seen in food and other commodities.
22980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unwavering Wesbury: July Trade deficit numbers on: September 08, 2011, 10:49:50 AM
The trade deficit in goods and services shrank $6.8 billion to $44.8 billion in July To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/8/2011

The trade deficit in goods and services shrank $6.8 billion to $44.8 billion in July. The consensus expected a much larger trade deficit of $51.0 billion.

Exports increased $6.2 billion in July, led by autos/parts, oil, and widespread gains in capital goods. Imports declined $0.5 billion, with a drop in oil imports roughly offsetting a gain in autos/parts. The decline in oil imports was mostly due to lower volume, although prices fell as well.
In the last year, exports are up 15.1% while imports are up 13.6%.
The monthly trade deficit is $3.2 billion larger than last year.  Adjusted for inflation, the trade deficit in goods is $1.3 billion smaller than last year.  This is the trade measure that is most important for calculating real GDP.
Implications:  Exports boomed in July, helping push down the trade deficit far more than the consensus expected. In fact, of the 74 economic groups that forecast the trade deficit, none thought it would be this low. Exports of autos and related parts led the way but exports also increased substantially for oil and capital goods outside the auto sector, such as telecomm equipment. We still have two months to go, but it looks like trade will make a positive contribution to real GDP growth in the third quarter, which is so far shaping up much better than the first half of the year. Meanwhile, revisions to prior months – for both trade and construction – suggest real GDP growth will be revised up slightly for Q2. Beneath the headlines, the total volume of international trade in and out of the US – imports plus exports – rebounded in July after a temporary setback in June. We expect the total volume of trade to continue on an upward trend in the second half of the year. In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment insurance increased 2,000 last week to 414,000. Continuing claims for regular state benefits dropped 30,000 to 3.72 million. These numbers are not at all consistent with a recession.
22981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ajami: From 911 to Arab Spring on: September 08, 2011, 10:47:21 AM
The Arabic word shamata has its own power. The closest approximation to it is the German schadenfreude—glee at another's misfortune. And when the Twin Towers fell 10 years ago this week, there was plenty of glee in Arab lands—a sense of wonder, bordering on pride, that a band of young Arabs had brought soot and ruin onto American soil.

The symbols of this mighty American republic—the commercial empire in New York, the military power embodied by the Pentagon—had been hit. Sweets were handed out in East Jerusalem, there were no tears shed in Cairo for the Americans, more than three decades of U.S. aid notwithstanding. Everywhere in that Arab world—among the Western-educated elite as among the Islamists—there was unmistakable satisfaction that the Americans had gotten their comeuppance.

There were sympathetic vigils in Iran—America's most determined enemy in the region—and anti-American belligerence in the Arab countries most closely allied with the United States. This occasioned the observation of the noted historian Bernard Lewis that there were pro-American regimes with anti-American populations, and anti-American regimes with pro-American populations.

I traveled to Jeddah and Cairo in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In the splendid homes of wealthy American-educated businessmen, in the salons of perfectly polished men and women of letters, there was no small measure of admiration for Osama bin Laden. He was the avenger, the Arabs had been at the receiving end of Western power, and now the scales were righted. "Yes, but . . . ," said the Arab intellectual class, almost in unison. Those death pilots may have been zealous, but now the Americans know, and for the first time, what it means to be at the receiving end of power.

Very few Arabs believed that the landscape all around them—the tyrannical states, the growing poverty, the destruction of what little grace their old cities once possessed, the war across the generations between secular fathers and Islamist children—was the harvest of their own history. It was easier to believe that the Americans had willed those outcomes.

In truth, in the decade prior to 9/11, America had paid the Arab world scant attention. We had taken a holiday from history's exertions. But the Arabs had hung onto their belief that a willful America disposed of their fate. The Arab regimes possessed their own sources of power—fearsome security apparatuses, money in the oil states, official custodians of religion who gave repression their seal of approval.

Enlarge Image

CloseAFP/Getty Images
Demonstrators in Instanbul hold a Syrian flag in support of the protests in Syria.
.But it was more convenient to trace the trail across the ocean, to the United States. Mohammed Atta, who led the death pilots, was a child of the Egyptian middle class, a lawyer's son, formed by the disappointments of Egypt and its inequities. But there was little of him said in Egypt. The official press looked away.

There was to be no way of getting politically conscious Arabs to accept responsibility for what had taken place on 9/11. Set aside those steeped in conspiracy who thought that these attacks were the work of Americans themselves, that thousands of Jews had not shown up at work in the Twin Towers on 9/11. The pathology that mattered was that of otherwise reasonable men and women who were glad for America's torment. The Americans had might, but were far away. Now the terrorism, like a magnet, drew them into Arab and Muslim lands. Now they were near, and they would be entangled in the great civil war raging over the course of Arab and Muslim history.

The masters and preachers of terror had told their foot soldiers, and the great mass on the fence, that the Americans would make a run for it—as they had in Lebanon and Somalia, that they didn't have the stomach for a fight. The Arabs barely took notice when America struck the Taliban in Kabul. What was Afghanistan to them? It was a blighted and miserable land at a safe distance.

But the American war, and the sense of righteous violation, soon hit the Arab world itself. Saddam Hussein may not have been the Arab idol he was a decade earlier, but he was still a favored son of that Arab nation, its self-appointed defender. The toppling of his regime, some 18 months or so after 9/11, had brought the war closer to the Arabs. The spectacle of the Iraqi despot flushed out of his spider hole by American soldiers was a lesson to the Arabs as to the falseness and futility of radicalism.

It is said that "the east" is a land given to long memory, that there the past is never forgotten. But a decade on, the Arab world has little to say about 9/11—at least not directly. In the course of that Arab Spring, young people in Tunisia and Egypt brought down the dreaded dictators. And in Libya, there is the thrill of liberty, delivered, in part, by Western powers. In the slaughter-grounds of Syria, the rage is not directed against foreign demons, but against the cruel rulers who have robbed that population of a chance at a decent life.

America held the line in the aftermath of 9/11. It wasn't brilliant at everything it attempted in Arab lands. But a chance was given the Arabs to come face to face, and truly for the first time, with the harvest of their own history. Now their world is what they make of it.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and co-chair of the Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.
22982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fonda's fantasy: to have fuct Che Guevara on: September 08, 2011, 10:31:33 AM
Not a very good piece of writing in my opinion, but , , ,

Humberto Fontova   
Jane Fonda's Crush on Che Guevara
9/7/2011 | Email Humberto Fontova | Columnist's Archive Sign-Up  A new biography of Jane Fonda by Patricia Bosworth reveals a lifelong lament by the famous actress: “My biggest regret” Fonda is quoted during a “feminist consciousness-raising session,” according to the book’s account, “is I never got to f*** Che Guevara.”

In case you read Townhall, Ms Fonda, here’s some consolation, honey: “I used to call him El Gallo (the rooster)” recalled Carlos Figueroa who was Ernesto Guevara’s adolescent friend in Alta Gracia, Argentina. “I’d be visiting him and eating in his family’s dining room and whenever the poor servant girls would enter Ernesto would promptly grab her and force her to lay on the dining room table where he’d have rapid intercourse with her. Immediately afterwards he’d throw her out and continue eating as if nothing had happened.”

“Es un gallo—un gallo! (He’s a rooster!—rooster”) complained a scowling Berta Gonzalez a few years later upon emerging from her Mexico City bedroom summer of 1955. This was shortly after his Motorcycle Diary trip, when the hobo Ernesto Guevara was scribbling unreadable poetry and mooching off women in Mexico City, where he met Fidel and Raul Castro. Berta Gonzalez was a Cuban exile in Mexico at the time.

Gallo, as you might have guessed, is a common pejorative by Spanish-speaking women against men who terminate carnal encounters prematurely.

Alas, how the feminist sessionists reacted to Ms Fonda’s above-mentioned confession, and thus, the “raising of their consciousness,” is not mentioned in the book. But we can guess. After all, feminist swooning over Cuban Stalinism started early, and by the feminist movement’s very founders.

“Not only is (the Cuban Revolution) a great success but an example for the rest of the world!” gushed Simon De Beauvoir in March 1960. Her bellhop, Jean Paul Sartre, was not to be outdone. He crowned Che Guevara “the era’s most perfect man.” These “intellectual” hyperventilations 1960 set the tone for future ones of everyone from Maxine Waters’ to Jimmy Carter and from Ted Turner’s to George Mc Govern’s, and from Barbara Walters’ to Andrea Mitchell’s.

“Fidel Castro is old-fashioned, courtly–even paternal, a thoroughly fascinating figure!” (NBC’s Andrea Mitchell)

Alas, Cuban feminists view the Cuban Revolution somewhat differently from Hollywood, Georgetown and Manhattan feminists. When feminist icon Barbara Walters sat quivering alongside Fidel Castro in 1977 cooing: “Fidel Castro has brought very high literacy and great health-care to his country. His personal magnetism is powerful!” dozens of Cuban feminists suffered in torture chambers within walking distance of the hyperventilating Ms Barbara Walters.

“They started by beating us with twisted coils of wire recalls former political prisoner Ezperanza Pena from exile today. “I remember Teresita on the ground with all her lower ribs broken. Gladys had both her arms broken. Doris had her face cut up so badly from the beatings that when she tried to drink, water would pour out of her lacerated cheeks.”

“On Mother’s Day they allowed family visits,” recalls, Manuela Calvo from exile today.” But as our mothers and sons and daughters were watching, we were beaten with rubber hoses and high-pressure hoses were turned on us, knocking all of us the ground floor and rolling us around as the guards laughed and our loved-ones screamed helplessly.”

“When female guards couldn’t handle us male guards were called in for more brutal beatings. I saw teen-aged girls beaten savagely their bones broken their mouths bleeding,” recalls prisoner Polita Grau.

The gallant regime co-founded by Che Guevara jailed 35,150 Cuban women for political crimes, a totalitarian horror utterly unknown—not only in Cuba—but in the Western Hemisphere until the regime so “magnetic” to Barbara Walters, Andrea Mitchell, Diane Sawyer, Jane Fonda, etc. Some of these Cuban ladies suffered twice as long in Castro’s Gulag as Alexander Solzhenitsyn suffered in Stalin’s.

Their prison conditions were described by former political prisoner Maritza Lugo. “The punishment cells measure 3 feet wide by 6 feet long. The toilet consists of an 8 inch hole in the ground through which cockroaches and rats enter, especially in cool temperatures the rat come inside to seek the warmth of our bodies and we were often bitten. The suicide rate among women prisoners was very high.”

Upon the death of Raul Castro’s wife Vilma Espin in 2006 the Washington Post gushed that: “she was a champion of women’s rights and greatly improved the status of women in Cuba, a society known for its history of machismo.” Actually, in 1958 Cuba had more female college graduates as a percentage of population than the U.S.

This Castroite “improvement of status” and “good life “for Cuban women also somehow tripled Cuban women’s pre-revolution suicide rate, making Cuban women the most suicidal on earth. This according to a 1998 study by scholar Maida Donate-Armada that uses some of the Cuban regime’s own figures.

On Christmas Eve of 1961 a Cuban woman named Juana Diaz spat in the face of the executioners who were binding and gagging her. Castro and Che’s Russian-trained secret police had found her guilty of feeding and hiding “bandits” (Cuban rednecks who took up arms to fight the Stalinist theft of their land to build Soviet –style Kolkhozes.) When the blast from Castroite firing squad demolished her face and torso Juana was six months pregnant.

Thousands upon thousands of Cuban women have drowned, died of thirst or have been eaten alive by sharks attempting to flee the Washington Post’s dutifully transcribed “improvement of status.” This from a nation formerly richer than half the nations of Europe and deluged by immigrants from same.

In 1962, a Cuban Catholic nun named Aida Rosa Perez was overheard in a private conversation saying things about Fidel Castro and Che Guevara similar (but milder) than those Jane Fonda and Joy Behar trumpet about Republicans. Sister Rosa Perez was sentenced to 12 years at hard labor. Two years into her, while toiling in the sun inside Castro's Gulag and surrounded by leering guards, Sister Rosa collapsed from a heart attack.

The Cuban Archive project headed Mrs Maria Werlau has fully documented the firing squad executions of 11 Cuban women in the early days of the regime. Another 219 women died from various brutalities and tortures while in prison. The Taliban has nothing on the regime co-founded by Che Guevara. So I trust you’ll excuse these Cuban ladies if they regard the “struggles” of Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda as a trifle overblown. And for many of them, though it’s utterly ignored by the MSM, the feminist struggle continues.
22983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Baraq by the numbers on: September 08, 2011, 10:25:54 AM
When it comes to the economy, presidents, like quarterbacks, often get more credit or blame than they deserve. They inherit problems and policies that affect the economy well into their presidencies and beyond. Reagan inherited Carter's stagflation, George H.W. Bush twin financial crises (savings & loan and Third World debt), and their fixes certainly benefitted the Clinton economy.

President Obama inherited a deep recession and financial crisis resulting from problems that had been building for years. Those responsible include borrowers and lenders on Wall Street and Main Street, the Federal Reserve, regulatory agencies, ratings agencies, presidents and Congress.

Mr. Obama's successor will inherit his deficits and debt (i.e., pressure for higher taxes), inflation and dollar decline. But fairly or not, historians document what occurred on your watch and how you dealt with your in-box. Nearly three years since his election and more than two years since the economic recovery began, Mr. Obama has enacted myriad policies at great expense to American taxpayers and amid political rancor. An interim evaluation is in order.

And there's plenty to evaluate: an $825 billion stimulus package; the Public-Private Investment Partnership to buy toxic assets from the banks; "cash for clunkers"; the home-buyers credit; record spending and budget deficits and exploding debt; the auto bailouts; five versions of foreclosure relief; numerous lifelines to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; financial regulation and health-care reform; energy subsidies, mandates and moratoria; and constant demands for higher tax rates on "the rich" and businesses.

Consider the direct results of the Obama programs. A few have performed better than expected—e.g., the auto bailouts, although a rapid private bankruptcy was preferable and GM and Chrysler are not yet denationalized successes. But the failed stimulus bill cost an astounding $280,000 per job—over five times median pay—by the administration's inflated estimates of jobs "created or saved," and much more using more realistic estimates.

Cash for clunkers cost $3 billion, just to shift car sales forward a few months. The Public-Private Investment Partnership, despite cheap federal loans, generated 3% of the $1 trillion claimed, and toxic assets still hobble some financial institutions. The Dodd-Frank financial reform law institutionalized "too big to fail" amid greater concentration of banking assets and mortgages in Fannie and Freddie. The foreclosure relief program permanently modified only a small percentage of the four million mortgages the president promised. And even Mr. Obama now admits that the shovels weren't ready in all those "shovel-ready" stimulus projects.

Perpetually overpromising and underdelivering is not remotely good enough, not even for government work. No corporate CEO could survive such a clear history of failure. The economic records set on Mr. Obama's watch really are historic (see nearby table). These include the first downgrade of sovereign U.S. debt in American history, and, relative to GDP, the highest federal spending in U.S. history save the peak years of World War II, plus the highest federal debt since just after World War II.

The employment picture doesn't look any better. The fraction of the population working is the lowest since 1983. Long-term unemployment is by far the highest since the Great Depression. Job growth during the first two years of recovery after a severe recession is the slowest in postwar history.

Moreover, the home-ownership rate is the lowest since 1965 and foreclosures are at a post-Depression high. And perhaps most ominously, the share of Americans paying income taxes is the lowest in the modern era, while dependency on government is the highest in U.S. history.

That's quite a record, although not what Mr. Obama and his supporters had in mind when they pronounced this presidency historic.

Enlarge Image

Close...President Obama constantly reminds us, with some justification, that he was dealt a difficult hand. But the evidence is overwhelming that he played it poorly. His big government spending, debt and regulation fix has clearly failed. Relative to previous recoveries from deep recessions, the results are disastrous. A considerable fraction of current joblessness, lower living standards, dependency on government and destroyed savings is the result. Worse, his debt explosion will be a drag on economic growth for years to come.

Mr. Obama was never going to enthusiastically embrace pro-market, pro-growth policies. But many of his business and Wall Street supporters (some now former supporters) believed he would govern more like President Clinton, post-1994. After a stunning midterm defeat, Mr. Clinton embarked on an "era of big government is over" collaboration with a Republican Congress to reform welfare, ratify the North American Free Trade Agreement and balance the budget. But Mr. Obama starts far further left than Mr. Clinton and hence has a much longer journey to the center.

The president still has time to rebound from his economic policy missteps by promoting permanent, predictable policies to strengthen forecasted anemic growth. But do Mr. Obama and his advisers realize their analysis of the economic crisis was flawed and their attempted solutions mostly misconceived? That vast spending, temporary tax rebates and social engineering did little of lasting value at immense cost? That the prospect of ever more regulation and taxation created widespread uncertainty and severely damaged incentives and confidence? That the repeated attempts to prevent markets (e.g., the housing market) from naturally bottoming and rebounding have created confusion and inhibited recovery?

Can Mr. Obama change course, given the evidence that the economy responded poorly to top-down direction from Washington rather than the bottom-up individual initiative that is the key to strong growth? Is he willing to rein in the entitlement state erected under radically different economic and demographic conditions? And will he reform the corporate and personal income taxes with much lower rates on a broader base? Or is he going to propose the same failed policies—more spending, social engineering, temporary tax cuts and permanent tax hikes?

On the answer to these questions, much of Mr. Obama's, and the nation's, future rests.

Mr. Boskin, a professor of economics at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.

22984  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guide Dog Opening Martial Arts School in Pomona, California on: September 08, 2011, 10:22:16 AM

Sorry for my geographic ignorance.  Would Surf Dog in Hemet be of practical use to you?  Or Beowulf and Fu Dog in Moreno Valley?

22985  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: Baraq's record and some American jews. on: September 08, 2011, 10:14:32 AM

US election season is clearly upon us as US President Barack Obama has moved into full campaign mode. Part and parcel of that mode is a new bid to woo Jewish voters and donors upset by Obama's hostility to Israel back in the Democratic Party's fold.

To undertake this task, the White House turned to its reliable defender, columnist Jeffrey Goldberg. Since 2008, when then-candidate Obama was first challenged on his anti-Israel friends, pastors and positions, Goldberg has willingly used his pen to defend Obama to the American Jewish community.

Trying to portray Obama as pro-Israel is not a simple task. From the outset of his tenure in office, Obama has distinguished himself as the most anti-Israel president ever.

Obama is the first president ever to denounce Jewish property rights in Jerusalem. He is the first president to require Israel to deny Jews property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria as a precondition for peace talks with the Palestinians.

He is the first US president to adopt the position that Israel must surrender its right to defensible borders in the framework of a peace treaty. He has even made Israeli acceptance of this position a precondition for negotiations.

He is the first US president to accept Hamas as a legitimate actor in Palestinian politics. Obama's willingness to do so was exposed by his refusal to end US financial assistance to the PA in the aftermath of last spring's unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas.

He is the first US president to make US support for Israel at the UN conditional on Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.

Even today, Obama has refused to state outright whether or not he will veto a Security Council resolution later this month endorsing Palestinian statehood outside the context of a peace treaty with Israel. As he leaves Israel twisting in the wind, he has sent his chief Middle East Peace Processors Dennis Ross and David Hale to Israel to threaten Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into caving to US-Palestinian demands and beg PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to accept an Israeli surrender and cancel his plans to have the UN General Assembly upgrade the PLO's mission to the UN.

Given Obama's record - to which can be added his fervent support for Turkish Prime Minister and virulent anti-Semite Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his courtship of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and his massive weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Egypt - it is obvious that any attempt to argue that Obama is pro-Israel cannot be based on substance, or even on tone. And so Goldberg's article, like several that preceded it, is an attempt to distort Obama's record and deflect responsibility for that record onto Netanyahu. Netanyahu, in turn, is demonized as ungrateful and uncooperative.

Goldberg's narrative began by recalling Netanyahu's extraordinary statement during his photo opportunity with Obama at the Oval Office during his visit to Washington in May. At the time, Netanyahu gave an impassioned defense of Israel's right to secure borders and explained why the 1949 armistice lines are indefensible.

Goldberg centered on then-secretary of defense Robert Gates's angry statement to his colleagues in the wake of Netanyahu's visit. Gates reportedly accused Israel of being ungrateful for all the things the US did for it.

After presenting Gates as an objective critic whose views were justified and shared by one and all, Goldberg went on to claim that the administration's justified antipathy for Netanyahu was liable to harm Israel. That is, he claimed that it would be Netanyahu's fault if Obama abandoned traditional US support for Israel.

Goldberg's article is stunning on several levels. First, his distortion of events is breathtaking. Specifically he failed to note that Netanyahu's statement at the Oval Office was precipitated by Obama's decision to blindside Netanyahu with his announcement that the US supported an Israeli withdrawal to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines. Obama made the statement in a speech given while Netanyahu was en route to Washington.

Then there is his portrayal of Gates as an objective observer. Goldberg failed to mention that Gates's record has been consistently anti-Israel. In his Senate approval hearings during the Bush administration, Gates became the first senior US official to state publicly that Israel had a nuclear arsenal.

Gates was a member of the 2006 Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group that recommended the US pressure Israel to surrender Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights in order to appease the Arab world and pave the way for a US withdrawal from Iraq.

Gates did everything he could at the Pentagon to deny Israel the ability to attack Iran's nuclear installations. He was also a fervent advocate of massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia that upset the military balance in the Middle East.

The Obama administration bases its claims that it is pro-Israel on the fact that it has continued and expanded some of the joint US-Israel missile defense projects that were initiated by the Bush administration. Goldberg sympathetically recorded the argument.

But the truth is less sanguine. While jointly developing defensive systems, the administration has placed unprecedented restrictions on the export of offensive military platforms and technologies to Israel. Under Gates, Pentagon constraints on Israeli technology additions to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters nearly forced Israel to cancel its plans to purchase the aircraft.

It is an open question whether American Jews will be willing to buy the bill of goods the administration is trying to sell them through their media proxies in next year's presidential elections. But if next week's special elections for New York's Ninth Congressional District are any indication, the answer is apparently that an unprecedented number of American Jews are unwilling to ignore reality and support the most anti-Israel president ever.

The New York race is attracting great attention because it is serving as a referendum on Obama's policies toward Israel. The district, representing portions of Queens and Brooklyn, is heavily Jewish and has been reliably Democratic. And yet, a week before the elections, Republican candidate Bob Turner is tied in the polls with Democratic candidate David Weprin, and the main issue in the race is Obama's policies on Israel.

To sidestep criticism of the president's record, Weprin is seeking to distance himself from Obama. He refuses to say if he will support Obama's reelection bid. And he is as critical of Obama's record on Israel as his Republican opponent is.

But Turner's argument - that as a Democrat, Weprin will be forced to support his party and so support Obama - is gaining traction with voters. According to a McLaughlin poll of the district released on September 1, Turner's bid is gaining steam, and Weprin's is running out of steam, with Turner's favorability rates on the rise and Weprin's declining.

Deflecting substantive criticism by seeking to demonize one's opponents is a standard leftist play. Obama and his political supporters engage in it routinely in their demonization of their political opponents as "terrorists" and "extremists." And now, with the American Jewish vote in play for the first time since 1936, they are doing it to Netanyahu.

It is encouraging to see that at least in New York's Ninth Congressional District, American Jews are refusing to be taken in.
22986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Upcoming military cuts on: September 08, 2011, 09:59:28 AM
22987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Most Afgahanis do not know of 911 on: September 08, 2011, 09:07:07 AM

KABUL—The Sept. 11 attacks that triggered the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan also uprooted 16-year-old Abdul Ghattar from his village in war-torn Helmand province, bringing him to a desolate refugee camp on the edge of Kabul.

Yet Mr. Ghattar stared blankly when asked whether he knew about al Qaeda's strike on the U.S., launched a decade ago from Afghan soil.

"Never heard of it," he shrugged as he lined up for water at the camp's well, which serves thousands of fellow refugees. "I have no idea why the Americans are in my country."

In a nearby tent that is the camp's school, his teacher, 22-year-old Mullah Said Nabi Agha, didn't fare much better. He said he has never seen the iconic image of the Twin Towers burning. He was vaguely aware that some kind of explosion had occurred in America.

"I was a child when it happened, and now I am an adult, and the Americans are still here," Mr. Agha said. "I think the Americans did it themselves, so they could invade Afghanistan."

The teacher's view is by no means rare here. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, of course, are known to educated Afghans, and to many residents of big cities. But that isn't always the case elsewhere in a predominantly rural country where 42% of the population is under the age of 14, and 72% of adults are illiterate. With few villages reached by television or electricity, news here is largely spread by word of mouth.‬

Such opinions highlight a contrast between American and Afghan perspectives on the longest foreign war in U.S. history, one that killed thousands of Afghans and, at the latest count, claimed the lives of 1,760 U.S. troops.

They also explain the Taliban's ability to rally popular support—in part by seizing the narrative to portray the war not as one triggered by America's need for self-defense, but as one of colonial aggression by infidels lusting for Afghanistan's riches.

"The Islamic Emirate wages a lawful struggle for the defense of its religion, country and soil," the Taliban's leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, told Afghans last month on the occasion of the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday.

According to a survey of 15- to 30-year-old men in the two southern provinces where President Barack Obama sent the bulk of American surge troops, 92% of respondents said they didn't know about "this event which the foreigners call 9/11" after being read a three-paragraph description of the attacks.

"Nobody explained to them the 9/11 story—and it's hard to win the hearts and minds of the fighting-age males in Helmand if they don't even know why the foreigners are here," says Norine MacDonald, president of the International Council on Security and Development, the think tank that carried out the survey of 1,000 Afghan men in eight districts of Kandahar and Helmand. "There is a vacuum—and it's being filled by al Qaeda and Taliban propaganda claiming that we are here to destroy Islam."

Some Afghans who do know about the events of 2001 often subscribe to conspiracy theories, imported from Pakistan and Iran, that have long lost currency even in the Middle East.

Maulvi Abdulaziz Mujahed, an imam at Kabul's Takbir mosque who served as chairman of the Kabul provincial council in 2008 to 2009, said in a recent interview that the Sept. 11 attacks were a Jewish conspiracy, a view he says was reinforced by his 2009 visit to New York's Ground Zero.

"I saw the photos of all those who have been killed in the attacks, and I saw people bring flowers for their loved ones. But I couldn't find a single Jew among them," Mr. Mujahed said. "The superpowers wanted a good pretext to invade Afghanistan, and these attacks provided it."

Abdul Hakim Mujahid, the deputy chairman of the Afghan government's High Peace Council, a body created to negotiate a peaceful solution to the war, was in New York when the two jets struck the Twin Towers—in his capacity as the Taliban regime's semi-official envoy to the U.S. and the United Nations.

While Mr. Mujahid says he was saddened by the attacks, he says he still doesn't believe al Qaeda was responsible for "the unfortunate incident."

"After 9/11, the whole world rushed to Afghanistan, and the people of Afghanistan were under the illusion that everything would be changed: The roads would be paved black, the houses would be painted white, the infrastructure rebuilt and the industries established," he says. "But gradually these expectations have come down, and now have reached the point of zero. The people are asking: When will the foreigners finally leave?"

Not every Afghan subscribes to the conspiracy theories or wants the Americans to leave. At the campus of Kabul University, where young women and men mix in a setting unimaginable under Taliban rule, students said in interviews they were fully aware of the Sept. 11 attacks and saw the U.S. invasion as bringing benefits to Afghanistan. Many of them were ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks from the country's north—ethnic minorities discriminated against under the rule of the Taliban.

"Under the Taliban, Afghanistan was a terrorist haven, nobody could leave their house, and I wouldn't have been able to attend university," says Nasser Hasrab, a 20-year-old literature student from the northern Faryab province. "After the Soviets left we had a civil war, and I am afraid that if the Americans leave, the same would happen again."

Across town in the Herat restaurant—once the favorite hangout of Taliban leaders and al Qaeda militants—owner Abdulazim Niyazi, dressed in a Polo shirt and clutching a Samsung cellphone, pondered the momentous change of the past decade.

Because TV was banned under the Taliban, there was no particular celebration or commotion in the restaurant on Sept. 11, 2001, he said. Since then, Mr. Niyazi complained, boomtown Kabul has been swamped with corruption, prostitution and vice. More importantly, his business has soured.

"Under the Taliban, we were the only place," he said. "Now, Kabul is filled with restaurants."

—Habib Khan Totakhil contributed to this article.
22988  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / En su defensa, El Vicentillo acusa a los EUA on: September 08, 2011, 09:02:58 AM
Suspect Accuses U.S. of Aiding Mexican Cartel: Unlikely, but Clever Defense
September 7, 2011

By Scott Stewart

Many people interested in security in Mexico and the Mexican cartels will turn their attention to Chicago in the next few days. Sept. 11 is the deadline for the U.S. government to respond to a defense discovery motion filed July 29 in the case of Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, aka “El Vicentillo.” El Vicentillo is the son of Ismail “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, a principal leader of the Sinaloa Federation. While not as well-known as his partner, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, El Mayo nevertheless is a very powerful figure in Mexico’s cartel underworld, and one of the richest men in Mexico.

The Mexican military arrested El Vicentillo in March 2009 in an exclusive Mexico City neighborhood. Grand juries in Chicago and Washington had indicted El Vicentillo on drug smuggling charges, prompting the United States to seek his extradition from Mexico. Upon his February 2010 extradition, it was decided he would first face the charges pending against him in the Northern District of Illinois. According to the Justice Department, El Vicentillo is “one of the most significant Mexican drug defendants extradited from Mexico to the United States since Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the accused leader of the notorious Gulf Cartel, was extradited in 2007.”

The Zambada legal team’s July 29 motion caused quite a stir by claiming that the U.S. government had cut a deal with the Sinaloa Federation via the group’s lawyer, Humberto Loya Castro, in which El Chapo and El Mayo would provide intelligence to the U.S. government regarding rival cartels. In exchange, the U.S. government would not interfere in Sinaloa’s drug trafficking and would not seek to apprehend or prosecute Loya, El Chapo, El Mayo and the rest of the Sinaloa leadership — a deal reportedly struck without the Mexican government’s knowledge.

The allegations generated such a buzz in part because they came so soon after revelations that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Justice Department had permitted guns illegally purchased in the United States to “walk” into Mexico in an operation called “Fast and Furious.” Marked differences separate the two cases, however, making the existence of any deal between Sinaloa and the U.S. government highly unlikely. Accordingly, the government will likely deny the allegations in its impending response. Even so, the July 29 allegations still could prove useful for El Vicentillo’s defense strategy.

A History of Seizures and Arrests

The many seizures and arrests during the period El Vicentillo’s attorneys allege the truce was in effect — which the motion says began no later than January 2004 — are the first factor undermining the allegations. For example, in February 2007 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced the culmination of “Operation Imperial Emperor,” a 20-month investigation directed against the Sinaloa Federation that resulted in 400 arrests and netted 18 tons of drugs and $45 million in cash. In 2009, the DEA announced the conclusion of “Operation Xcellerator,” a multiagency counternarcotics investigation that involved the arrests of more than 750 alleged Sinaloa Federation members and confederates across the United States over a 21-month period and the seizure of 23 tons of narcotics and $53 million in cash.

The Northern District of Illinois indictment of El Vicentillo and other Sinaloa leaders contains a long list showing that the U.S. government seized thousands of kilograms of cocaine and more than $19 million in cash in the district alone from 2005 to 2008.

And these are just a few examples of Sinaloa’s losses during the time the DEA allegedly turned a blind eye to the cartel’s smuggling activities. Based on the size and scope of these Sinaloa losses in manpower, narcotics and cash, it is hard to imagine that anyone affiliated with that organization honestly thinks the DEA gave Sinaloa a pass to traffic narcotics.

It’s the Politics, Stupid

The second element militating against the allegation that the U.S. government entered into an agreement with the Sinaloa Federation is politics. Such an agreement would be political suicide for any attorney general or DEA administrator and the president they served were it ever disclosed. And as anyone who has worked inside the Beltway knows, secrets are very hard to keep — especially because of the length of time alleged by the defense in this case and because the period spanned multiple U.S. administrations involving two political parties.

Not only are such secrets hard to keep at the top levels of an administration, they are tough to keep at the street level, too. Notably, the first information about Fast and Furious came from rank-and-file ATF special agents incensed that guns were being allowed to walk. These agents leaked information regarding the program to reporters. The same dynamic certainly would have emerged among street-level DEA, FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who had spent their careers attempting to stem the flow of narcotics. These agents would not have just sat by and watched narcotics shipments walk into the United States. Thus, if a long-standing relationship between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Federation really existed, the story most likely would not have emerged first from a Mexican drug trafficker.

And U.S. attorneys certainly take political considerations into account. They do not like to lose high-profile cases and enjoy much prosecutorial leeway, meaning they can decline cases they are likely to lose. The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois is Patrick Fitzgerald, who is no stranger to high-profile cases. He served as the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak investigation, and he oversaw the prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. As an assistant U.S. attorney in New York, Fitzgerald was involved in the prosecution of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and members of the Gambino crime family.

It is highly unlikely a U.S. attorney of Fitzgerald’s experience would have pushed for such a high-profile case had he known of an agreement between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Federation. Instead, he could have sat back and allowed the U.S. attorney in Washington to take the first crack at El Vicentillo — and deal with the fallout. That Fitzgerald pressed to prosecute this case suggests no deal existed — as does the fact that the U.S. government pressed so hard for his extradition; why would a government seek an extradition that would cause major embarrassment?

When taking politics into account, it is also critical to remember the looming 2012 U.S. elections. Republican lawmakers have hammered the Obama administration over Fast and Furious, holding several high-profile congressional hearings on the subject. The Obama administration and congressional Democrats certainly have investigated the Zambada defense team’s allegations. Any truth to the allegation that the Bush administration had cut a deal with the Sinaloa Federation almost certainly would have prompted high-profile hearings by Democratic lawmakers in the Senate to reveal the truth — and to offset negative publicity from Fast and Furious.

That no hearings publicizing the allegations have been forthcoming is very revealing. The issue of publicity itself points toward another potential motive for the defense claims.

Legal Dream Team II

Wealthy defendants naturally seek the best representation money can buy, and that has held true in this case. Court filings indicate that El Vincentillo has retained a host of high-profile criminal defense attorneys, including New York attorneys Edward Panzer and George Santangelo, who have previously defended John Gotti and other members of the Gambino crime family; Los Angeles lawyer Alvin Michaelson, who has represented defendants such as former Los Angeles Mafia boss Dominic Brooklier; and Tucson defense attorney Fernando Gaxiola, a Spanish-speaking attorney who has worked several high-profile cases related to border crime.

A defense attorney’s prime objective is to sow doubt regarding a defendant’s guilt in the minds of jurors. In high-profile cases, big-money attorneys begin that task well ahead of trial with potential jurors. One means of accomplishing this is with a court motion certain to attract much media attention — like a motion claiming that the U.S. government allowed the Sinaloa Federation to smuggle tons of narcotics into the United States. Such charges also put the question of government integrity on trial.

The legal memorandum filed in support of the discovery motion in the present case stands out not only because it mistakenly refers to El Vicentillo’s father as “Ismael Zambada-Niebla” several times instead of consistently using his real name, Ismael Zambada Garcia, and incorrectly refers to the defendant as “Vicente Jesus Zambada Niebla,” but also because of its focus. It is very general, providing few details regarding the alleged agreement between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Federation. It does not identify a single person who allegedly met with Loya or El Vicentillo and who claimed to speak on behalf of the U.S. government.

Normally, high-level confidential informants must sign detailed agreements delineating the criminal activities in which they are allowed to engage, in accordance with the attorney general’s guidelines on the use of such informants. Typically, such authorizations run for 90-day periods, and the respective law enforcement agency is tasked with exercising careful supervision over the informant’s activities. The process described in the defense memorandum sharply deviates from this typical U.S. law enforcement practice, with the Sinaloa leadership allegedly receiving free rein and immunity for years.

It is certainly possible that members of the Sinaloa Federation provided information to the U.S. and Mexican governments about the activities of rival drug cartels. El Chapo is well-known for using governments as a tool against his enemies, and even against potential rivals within his own organization like Alfredo Beltran Leyva and Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal. Still, it is quite unlikely the Sinaloa leadership ever had a working source relationship with the DEA.

Large portions of the discovery request also focus on obtaining documents from the Fast and Furious hearings, and the defense team appears to be attempting to establish that if the U.S. government was willing to let guns walk in Fast and Furious, it also would be willing to let narcotics walk into the United States. In the words of the defense memorandum:

Essentially, the theory of the United States government in waging its “war on drugs” has been and continues to be that the “end justifies the means” and that it is more important to receive information about rival drug cartels’ activities from the Sinaloa Cartel in return for being allowed to continue their criminal activities, including and not limited to their smuggling of tons of illegal narcotics into the United States.

In practical terms, however, the concept behind Fast and Furious was quite different from the allegations made by El Vicentillo’s defense. The idea behind Fast and Furious was to allow low-level gunrunners to walk so law enforcement could trace the big players for subsequent arrest. In Fast and Furious, ATF agents never dealt with high-level gun dealers or cartel leaders; such individuals were the target of the ill-fated operation. Fast and Furious also was not nearly as wide-ranging or as long-lived as the alleged deal with the Sinaloa leadership. It also did not promise immunity from prosecution to cartel leaders.

The two cases thus are starkly different. But if the press can be persuaded to equate the two and widely disseminate this view to the public over the next few months, the defense team may have an easier time sowing a reasonable doubt in the minds of potential jurors. El Vicentillo’s trial begins in February 2012, which means that any publicity surrounding the case could reach potential jurors. And even if the government shows they are false, the allegations are likely to have a long shelf-life among conspiracy-minded individuals and Internet sites. As such, they will continue to be useful in El Vicentillo’s defense efforts.

22989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Fed thinking of further mischief on: September 08, 2011, 08:58:42 AM
Federal Reserve officials are considering three unconventional steps to revive the economic recovery and seem increasingly inclined to take at least one as they prepare to meet this month.

Worries about inflation at the Fed have receded in recent weeks and economic data have worsened, putting officials on the lookout for ways to spur economic growth and improve financial conditions.

Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks Thursday in Minneapolis, and is likely to reiterate that the central bank is studying all its options, before officials meet Sept. 20 and 21.

Other Fed officials, meanwhile, are expressing support for additional action.

"The real threat is an economy that is at risk of stalling and the prospect of many years of very high unemployment," John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in remarks Wednesday.

New measures could offer "protection against further deterioration in the patient's condition and perhaps help him get back on his feet."

 .The Fed's roundup of regional economic conditions, released Wednesday, described the economy as growing modestly with pockets of weakening activity, waning price pressures and high levels of uncertainty among businesses.

In normal times the Fed moves its target for the federal-funds rate— at which banks lend to each other overnight—to influence borrowing, investment and spending. But that rate already is near zero. The Fed also has purchased $2.325 trillion of Treasury bonds and mortgage debt to push long-term interest rates down.

Though officials aren't certain to take new steps this month, they are looking at alternatives to that controversial bond-buying, known as "quantitative easing." One step getting considerable attention inside and outside the Fed would shift the central bank's portfolio of government bonds so that it holds more long-term securities and fewer short-term securities.

The move—known to some in markets as "Operation Twist" and to some inside the Fed as "maturity extension"—is meant to further push down long-term interest rates and thus encourage economic activity. The program draws its name from a similar 1960s effort by the U.S. Treasury and the Fed, in which they tried to "twist" interest rates so that long-term rates were lower relative to short-term rates.

Anticipation of the move—along with grim economic news and the Fed's public plan to keep short-term interest rates near zero through 2013—has helped push yields on 10-year Treasury notes, above 3% in late July, to around 2%.

Report Paints Gloomy Picture on Growth
Economic Plans Unlikely to Deliver Fix
Fed's Rosengren Willing to Consider Action if Economy Doesn't Improve
.Although some consumers and businesses are unable or unwilling to borrow more at any interest rate, several Fed officials believe pushing rates still lower can help on the margin.

"There are still some businesses that at a lower cost of funds are going to make investment decisions and hiring decisions based on an ability to lock in those funds at a lower rate," Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in an interview.

He lists the program as one that should be considered. "There are people that will be buying homes or refinancing homes" if long-term rates are lower.

Such a step may meet internal resistance. Mr. Rosengren is among a contingent of Fed "doves" who are less worried about inflation and believe the Fed needs to take stronger action to bring down unemployment.

Not everyone agrees, and Mr. Bernanke is striving to build consensus, which makes the decision-making fluid.

Three of the five regional bank presidents who have a vote on monetary policy dissented in August because they didn't want the Fed to pledge to keep interest rates low for another two years, as it chose to do. They seem likely to resist additional actions. "It is unlikely that the [economic] data in September will warrant adding still more accommodation," Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said in a speech Tuesday.

A second step under consideration at the Fed, one getting mixed reviews internally, would reduce or eliminate a 0.25% interest rate the Fed currently is paying banks that keep cash on reserve with the central bank.

The 0.25% payment is greater than the 0.196% rate an investor can get on a two-year Treasury. Some officials believe the Fed shouldn't reward banks for holding cash instead of making loans.

"I'm not especially pleased with the way that policy tool is working at the moment," Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said in a recent interview. Mr. Rosengren said cutting that rate could give banks more incentive to lend and would further signal the Fed's determination to get the economy going.

Other Fed officials believe that reducing the rate wouldn't do much good because it is already so low, and might instead disturb short-term money markets.

A third step Fed officials are debating would involve using their words to make their economic objectives and plans for interest rates more clear.

Some officials felt the Fed's August pledge to keep rates low until 2013 wasn't specific enough about what was driving its thinking. They want the Fed to say what unemployment rate or inflation rate would trigger it to boost rates.

Mr. Bernanke has long favored a specific target for inflation. Some Fed officials, including Mr. Evans, want accompanying clarity for the Fed's unemployment objectives, recognizing the central bank's congressionally imposed mandate to pursue stable inflation and maximum employment.

Targeting unemployment is controversial inside the Fed. The central bank has control of inflation through its control of the nation's money supply.

But unemployment reflects many factors the Fed can't control, and thus some officials feel the central bank shouldn't set targets for it. Sorting out differences on this issue could take time.

The big step that tends to get a lot of attention in financial markets—a third round of bond buying by the central bank—remains an option, but doesn't have strong advocates inside the Fed now.

Some form of "Operation Twist" would be designed to accomplish some of the same objectives as more bond-buying, though most officials agree the effects would be limited.

An analysis by Goldman Sachs economists found that if the Fed replaces all its short-term holdings with long-term holdings, it would have a slightly smaller impact on financial markets than the Fed's $600 billion bond-buying program completed this year. That program seemed to boost stock prices, push down the dollar and help to hold down long-term interest rates, yet the economy stumbled not long after it was introduced. And there are risks—the program could make it harder for the Fed to tighten financial conditions later if inflation shoots higher.

Mr. Rosengren says the Fed should consider an even more radical measure, one not now among steps Mr. Bernanke has said he is evaluating: consider capping medium-term interest rates. If the economy worsens, he notes, the Fed could pledge to cap yields on Treasury bonds with maturities for as long as two years under a certain low level.

"If the economy were continuing to be weak or if we were to get an economic shock from abroad, then I think we would have to think of a variety of innovative ways to try to ensure that the economy picked up or do what we can with monetary policy to try to ensure that," Mr. Rosengren said. "You shouldn't think of us as only having one, two or three tools."

22990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: September 08, 2011, 08:46:20 AM
What remains a baffflement to me is how the reigning story on the recent game of chicken over raising the debt ceiling is to blame the Tea Party's takeover of the Reps and their collective failure to compromise when there were only $21B in cuts this year and $40-something billion in cuts next year-- not to mention that apparently Boener was willing to sign on for $800B in "revenues enhancements".


It is profoundly maddening that the Reps let this sort of thing happen again and again and again.
22991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Uh oh, where's the shoulder-fired missiles? on: September 08, 2011, 08:40:52 AM
TRIPOLI, Libya — The sign on the wall reads “Schoolbook Printing and Storage Warehouse,” but the fact that the double gates in the wall have been crudely ripped off suggests that something more interesting might be inside.

Workers loaded crates of mortar shells and ammunition on Wednesday from a large cache of weapons discovered in Tripoli.
It turns out that the only books to be found in any of the three large buildings in the walled compound are manuals — how to fire rocket launchers and wire-guided missiles, among others. The buildings are actually disguised warehouses full of munitions — mortar shells, artillery rounds, anti-tank missiles and more — thousands of pieces of military ordnance that are completely unguarded more than two weeks after the fall of the capital.

Perhaps most interesting of all is what is no longer there, but until recent days apparently was: shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles of the type that could be used by terrorists to shoot down civilian airliners. American authorities have long been concerned that Libyan missiles could easily find their way onto the black market.

These missiles, mostly SA-7b Grails, as NATO refers to them, have been spotted in Libya before and are well known to have been sold to the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi by former Eastern bloc countries. The evidence at the schoolbook warehouse confirms just how large those quantities were. It also raises questions about how many of them may have been purloined by rebels, criminals or smugglers.

Matthew Schroeder, who researches heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles and their proliferation for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said the discovery of yet another looted arms depot in Libya was cause for concern, especially depots that contained what security specialists call Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems, or Manpads.

Western governments and nongovernment organizations have repeatedly asked and prodded the rebel government, the Transitional National Council, to take steps to secure the vast stockpiles of arms that it has inherited, apparently to little avail.

“Claims that depots holding Manpads and other dangerous weapons are still not being properly secured are very worrisome and should be thoroughly investigated,” Mr. Schroeder said. “In cases where stockpile security is found to be lacking, immediate steps should be taken to correct any deficiencies.”

In Washington, President Obama’s top counterterrorism official, John O. Brennan, said that the spread of shoulder-fired missiles and other weapons from Libya’s arsenal posed “a lot of concerns,” and that the United States had pressed the rebel government to secure weapons stockpiles. “Obviously, there are a lot of parts of that country right now that are ungoverned,” he said at a security conference.

A senior American military officer who follows Libya closely said it was puzzling that there had been so few documented instances in which Libyan loyalist troops launched shoulder-fired missiles at NATO aircraft.   “I’m not sure what that means,” the officer said.  “Fewer systems than we thought? Systems are inoperable? Few in Libya know how to operate them?”

The officer said it was also unclear whether Al Qaeda or other extremist groups had acquired the missiles, though he said intelligence analysts were assuming they had.   “But if they do, why haven’t they used or threatened to use?” the officer said.  “It’s all very murky right now.”

On Wednesday, a reporter for The New York Times, as well as a researcher for Human Rights Watch and other reporters who visited the scene, found 10 crates that had held two missiles each lying opened and empty. The crates were clearly labeled as coming from Russia.

“Other countries know these weapons are on the loose, and they will be trying to get their hands on them,” said a researcher for Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert.

He was particularly concerned with one crate, labeled “9M342,” the Russian designation for the SA-24 heat-seeking missile.

“These were some of the most advanced weaponry the Russians made,” Mr. Bouckaert said. Referring to the rebels who have taken control of Tripoli and to the international community, he added, “They need to get people here to secure some of this.”


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The SA-24 can be mounted on vehicle-based launchers or fired from a person’s shoulder via a much smaller launcher known as a grip stock. The latter configuration, of the same class of weapon as the American-made Stinger, is considered the gravest potential danger to civilian aircraft because the weapon is readily portable and relatively simple to conceal and use.

No grip stocks for SA-24s have yet been found in Libya, and the Russian manufacturer of the SA-24 has previously said that it did not sell any grip stocks to Colonel Qaddafi’s military. The SA-24s, it said, were sold only with vehicle-mounted launchers.
The SA-7, however, is a shoulder-fired missile. A Soviet-era weapon dating to the 1960s that remains in wide use and circulation, it has been implicated in several attacks on airliners over the years, including a failed attack on an Israeli charter plane.

Former Eastern bloc nations call it a Strela, for the Russian word for arrow. Nine of the freshly emptied crates found Wednesday were marked with the Eastern bloc designation for the Strela: 9M32M.

Libyan rebels have occasionally been spotted carrying SA-7s, though the weapon has no evident practical use to them, given that the Qaddafi air force was grounded by NATO months ago and that the only military aircraft confirmed in the Libyan skies have been the NATO planes supporting the rebels’ advances.

Although only nine crates holding two SA-7s each were found in the schoolbook warehouse, those crates were a part of what evidently were nine different consignments.

In all, those consignments added up to a total of 2,445 crates delivered from Russia to Tripoli, containing 4,890 missiles, according to markings on the crates. But there was no way to ascertain whether the other crates in those consignments had previously been in this warehouse, or in some other part of the country. Many of the other missiles may have been issued to the Qaddafi forces in the field, which for months had a need to defend against aerial attack.

The Times has previously documented that 5,270 SA-7b missiles had been delivered to Libya. Some of those shipments were part of the same consignments found Wednesday. But according to the stenciled markings on the newly found crates, at least 2,322 of the missiles appear to be from previously undiscovered consignments, meaning that at least 7,592 of the missiles had been sent to Libya. Estimates of the true total run as high as 20,000 such missiles.

A spokesman for the Libyan rebel military, Abdulrahman Busin, said the rebel authorities were aware of the schoolbook warehouse, which is only about a quarter-mile from the headquarters of the Khamis Brigade, an elite loyalist military unit headed by a son of Colonel Qaddafi. Mr. Busin said the rebel “military police” had probably removed the missiles.

“The military police were aware of this and they took charge of it; they’re the ones who secured it,” Mr. Busin said.

But if that was the case, he was unable to explain why the facility remained unguarded on Wednesday. And efforts were unsuccessful in contacting the head of the military police to confirm if his forces indeed had the missing missiles.
22992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 07, 2011, 08:22:30 PM
I'm listening to the Tea Party "debates" (actually a series of job interviews).  I'm very pleased with the format, the quality of the questions, and the quality of the answers so far (good job by Cain btw) -- just starting to listen to Newt.

22993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Where's the Firemen? on: September 07, 2011, 08:06:41 PM
In our darkest hour, they gave us hope—the firefighters of September 11. In the chaos at the World Trade Center, the rigs pulled up, the men climbed out, retrieved their roll-up hoses and marched stalwart to the towers. Carrying nearly a hundred pounds of equipment they climbed the stairs; flight after flight after flight. A woman in the North Tower, descending from the 89th floor said, "When I saw the firemen I knew we would be all right."

When they arrived at the base of the towers, there were jumpers by the score. Two firefighters, terribly, were struck. "There is no other way to put it," an EMS who witnessed it said, "they exploded."

And still they went in.

In the lobby of the towers the men gathered, awaiting their orders. Outside the bodies rained down. Before a blown out elevator lay two victims, their clothes burnt off, their bodies charred. The huge pane-glass windows were shattered, the stone walls cracked. There was a report that more planes had been hijacked; they were headed to New York.

And still they went up.

In the South Tower, Battalion Chief Oreo Palmer, a marathon runner, shed his heavy equipment and coat and ran up the stairs. By 10 a.m. he had reached the 78th floor, the point of the plane's impact. The fires raged. "Send up two engine companies," he radioed down, "and we'll knock this down." Minutes later the tower collapsed.

In the North Tower, four office workers, two young men and women, were crossing the lower lobby, heading for the exit where a firemen waved.

Then the South Tower collapsed.

Its debris blew into the North Tower, killing FDNY Chaplin Father Mychal Judge and destroying the lower lobby. The ceiling caved in and the lights were knocked out. Now injured and bloodied, the four office workers climbed out from beneath the debris. Breathing dust, they gazed about in the pitch blackness. They had made it all this way only to die steps from escape. Then they saw the light. The fireman at the exit was still there, waving his small flashlight. The four headed for it and made their way out.

As they crossed the plaza into the daylight, one of the men looked back. The fireman was still there, standing his ground in case others needed help. And there he undoubtedly was when the full 110-story tower came down upon him.

"Courage," Winston Churchill said, "is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others."

Three hundred and forty-three firefighters, 37 Port Authority police officers, 23 NYPD officers and three court officers died at the World Trade Center. In response, America and the world hailed their heroism and sacrifice. Firehouses across the city became virtual shrines. New Yorkers gathered on the West Side Highway at a place that came to be called "Gratitude Point" to thank the police, firefighters and iron workers as they traveled to and from Ground Zero. Professional ball players wore their caps. School children's drawings honored them.

For weeks ordinary New Yorkers and visitors from out of town attended their hundreds of memorial services across the city and area suburbs—and were grateful for the opportunity to do so. When they were held at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Fifth Avenue—New York's Main Street—came to a halt.

Who—especially on the 10th anniversary of their sacrifice—would deny the first responders their due and proper honor? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His office says that because of the number of victims' family members attending there's not enough room to accommodate first responders at Ground Zero that day, though "we're working to find ways to recognize and honor first responders, and other groups, at different places and times." Different places and times?

When President Obama, after the killing of Osama bin Laden, visited New York City, he stopped by a Times Square firehouse that lost 15 men. Why did he do that? Later that day I had the opportunity to meet the president. I showed him a photo of my brother, FDNY Capt. Billy Burke, Engine Co. 21, who perished in the North Tower after refusing to leave the side of Ed Beyea, a computer programmer and wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. "I feel that the Navy Seals walked in the steps of my brother and all the other first responders of 9/11," I told him.

"That is just what I told the firefighters this morning," he replied.

The firemen, being who they are, would never complain or bring attention to themselves. I, however, am not a fireman. Just the son of one and the brother of another. To deny the firefighters and our first responders—these most humble and dedicated servants of New York—the opportunity to honor, at Ground Zero on 9/11, their lost brothers and sisters is atrocious.

Mr. Burke is the brother of Capt. William F. Burke Jr., Engine Co. 21, FDNY, who perished when the North Tower collapsed on September 11.

22994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJL Wikileaks lies with dogs and gets fleas on: September 07, 2011, 07:46:05 PM
The argument would be almost amusing if the potential consequences weren't so grave.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accused the Guardian newspaper—one of the five news organizations with which he collaborated in publishing edited versions of confidential U.S. State Department cables—of disclosing the password to his entire, unredacted cache of 250,000 cables. They are now freely available on the Internet. Not so, replied an indignant Guardian, which insisted it had been assured by Mr. Assange that "it was a temporary password which would expire and be deleted in a matter of hours."

We're (somewhat) inclined to believe the Guardian on this one, especially since Mr. Assange seems to have made up his mind long ago to release all the files anyway. He has now done so, and the damage is already being felt: On Friday, Australia's attorney general confirmed that one of the cables gives away the name of an Australian intelligence officer. Expect many more covers blown, careers ruined and lives placed in jeopardy before all this is over.

Then again, there's a saying about sleeping with dogs, and the Guardian's editors are responsible for trusting Mr. Assange that the password they published would be changed. The paper and its fellow Wikileaks collaborators have now issued a joint statement in which they say they are "united in condemning" the release of the unredacted cables. "The decision to publish by Julian Assange was his, and his alone," they say. Maybe so. But they have been his witting—and unwitting—enablers, and the consequences of the latest disclosures rest on their shoulders, too
22995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Covenant on: September 07, 2011, 07:38:36 PM
The Covenant A Jewish Reflection on 9-11

Hat tip to our Rachel.

22996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: On Compromise on: September 07, 2011, 06:13:22 PM

With the opening of the fall political season and tonight's Republican candidate debate, expect influential conservative voices to clamor for fellow conservatives to set aside half-measures, eschew conciliation, and adhere to conservative principle in its pristine purity. But what does fidelity to conservatism's core convictions mean?

Superstar radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has, with characteristic bravado, championed a take-no-prisoners approach. In late July, as the debt-ceiling debate built to its climax, he understandably exhorted House Speaker John Boehner to stand strong and rightly praised the tea party for "putting country before party." But then Mr. Limbaugh went further. "Winners do not compromise," he declared on air. "Winners do not compromise with themselves. The winners who do compromise are winners who still don't believe in themselves as winners, who still think of themselves as losers."

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Republican presidential candidates at the last debate.
.We saw the results of such thinking in November 2010, when Christine O'Donnell was defeated by Chris Coons in Delaware in the race for Vice President Joe Biden's vacated Senate seat. In Nevada Sharron Angle was defeated by Harry Reid, who was returned to Washington to reclaim his position as Senate majority leader. In both cases, the Republican senatorial candidate was a tea party favorite who lost a very winnable election.

The notion of conservative purity is a myth. The great mission of American conservatism—securing the conditions under which liberty flourishes—has always depended on the weaving together of imperfectly compatible principles and applying them to an evolving and elusive political landscape.

William F. Buckley Jr.'s 1955 Mission Statement announcing the launch of National Review welcomed traditionalists, libertarians and anticommunists. His enterprise provides a model of a big-tent conservatism supported by multiple and competing principles: limited government, free markets, traditional morality and strong national defense.

These principles may appear harmonious. That's because they all served the cause of preserving freedom against the leading threats of the day: massive expansion of government, intrusive regulation of the economy, a breakdown of established sources of authority and belief, and communist tyranny. But harmony was an achievement. Just ask those who made a priority of limiting government about the impact of funding and maintaining a powerful military. Or inquire of a traditionalist what measures are necessary to maintain the virtues amidst the constant churn and cultural cacophony generated by capitalism.

Our greatest conservative president, Ronald Reagan, prudently wove together a devotion to limiting government and protecting the moral bases of a free society. But the policies he pursued were not mechanically derived from his principles. They stemmed from complex considerations concerning the necessary, the desirable and the possible. His landmark pro-growth tax cuts of 1981 were followed later by some tax increases. On divisive social issues such as abortion and school prayer, he offered strong words but restrained actions. And in confronting the Soviet Union, he insisted on the unmitigated evil of communism while pursuing dramatic negotiations to lessen the threat of nuclear conflagration, thereby paving the way to victory in the Cold War.

The intellectual architects of the American political and economic order were also blenders and weavers. For example, John Locke, the great 17th-century theorist of individual rights and limited government, argued in "The Second Treatise of Government" that in the event a father dies and fails to provide for the care and education of his son, the state must make provision.

And in "The Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith, the father of free-market economics, maintained that the public should offer and require an education for almost all. While it would be grossly misleading to designate Locke and Smith as founders of the modern welfare state, it would be negligent to overlook their teaching that beyond securing individual rights, governments devoted to freedom had interests in the welfare of their citizens.

Today, we are urged by tea party activists, and with excellent reason, to look to the authors of "The Federalist," the authoritative expounders of the Constitution, to recover the principles of limited government. But it is instructive to recall that in their day the makers of the American Constitution were the enlargers and strengtheners of federal power.

Hamilton, Madison and Jay defended the new Constitution not only because of the many and varied limitations it imposed on the exercise of power. They also defended it because, in contrast to the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution incorporated in the national government the power to operate without the regular intervention of state governments; assigned it ultimate authority in matters requiring uniformity, including regulation of trade and naturalization; and made it supreme over the states, including in judicial matters.

On issue after issue, fidelity to the variety of conservative principles imposes not only the obligation to blend and balance but also to give due weight to settled expectations and longstanding practices. For instance, an appreciation of these crisscrossing obligations should impel conservatives to work both to improve the public schools we have and to increase competition and parental choice among an array of options.

While developing cost-cutting and market-based reforms for health care, conservatives should frankly acknowledge, as does Rep. Paul Ryan in his bold plan, the importance of maintaining a minimum social safety net. And in the Middle East and elsewhere, conservatism encourages a vigilant search for opportunities to promote liberty while counseling that our knowledge is limited, our resources scarce and our attention span poor.

Compromise can be, and often is, the path of least resistance, the province of the mealy-mouthed, weak-kneed, and lily-livered. Yet when circumstances warrant—and they often will—compromise will be the considered choice of the steely-eyed and stouthearted.

Clarity about principles is critical. It enables one to spot the betrayal of core convictions. But contrary to the partisans of purity, in politics winning and compromise are not antithetical.

Mr. Berkowitz is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

22997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: The Other Climate theory on: September 07, 2011, 06:09:50 PM
In April 1990, Al Gore published an open letter in the New York Times "To Skeptics on Global Warming" in which he compared them to medieval flat-Earthers. He soon became vice president and his conviction that climate change was dominated by man-made emissions went mainstream. Western governments embarked on a new era of anti-emission regulation and poured billions into research that might justify it. As far as the average Western politician was concerned, the debate was over.

But a few physicists weren't worrying about Al Gore in the 1990s. They were theorizing about another possible factor in climate change: charged subatomic particles from outer space, or "cosmic rays," whose atmospheric levels appear to rise and fall with the weakness or strength of solar winds that deflect them from the earth. These shifts might significantly impact the type and quantity of clouds covering the earth, providing a clue to one of the least-understood but most important questions about climate. Heavenly bodies might be driving long-term weather trends.

The theory has now moved from the corners of climate skepticism to the center of the physical-science universe: the European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN. At the Franco-Swiss home of the world's most powerful particle accelerator, scientists have been shooting simulated cosmic rays into a cloud chamber to isolate and measure their contribution to cloud formation. CERN's researchers reported last month that in the conditions they've observed so far, these rays appear to be enhancing the formation rates of pre-cloud seeds by up to a factor of 10. Current climate models do not consider any impact of cosmic rays on clouds.

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A cutting-edge physics experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research has scientists' heads in the clouds.
.Scientists have been speculating on the relationship among cosmic rays, solar activity and clouds since at least the 1970s. But the notion didn't get a workout until 1995, when Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark came across a 1991 paper by Eigil Friis-Christensen and Knud Lassen, who had charted a close relationship between solar variations and changes in the earth's surface temperature since 1860.

"I had this idea that the real link could be between cloud cover and cosmic rays, and I wanted to try to figure out if it was a good idea or a bad idea," Mr. Svensmark told me from Copenhagen, where he leads sun-climate research at the Danish National Space Institute.

He wasn't the first scientist to have the idea, but he was the first to try to demonstrate it. He got in touch with Mr. Friis-Christensen, and they used satellite data to show a close correlation among solar activity, cloud cover and cosmic-ray levels since 1979.

They announced their findings, and the possible climatic implications, at a 1996 space conference in Birmingham, England. Then, as Mr. Svensmark recalls, "everything went completely crazy. . . . It turned out it was very, very sensitive to say these things already at that time." He returned to Copenhagen to find his local daily leading with a quote from the then-chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): "I find the move from this pair scientifically extremely naïve and irresponsible."

Mr. Svensmark had been, at the very least, politically naïve. "Before 1995 I was doing things related to quantum fluctuations. Nobody was interested, it was just me sitting in my office. It was really an eye-opener, that baptism into climate science." He says his work was "very much ignored" by the climate-science establishment—but not by CERN physicist Jasper Kirkby, who is leading today's ongoing cloud-chamber experiment.

On the phone from Geneva, Mr. Kirkby says that Mr. Svensmark's hypothesis "started me thinking: There's good evidence that pre-industrial climate has frequently varied on 100-year timescales, and what's been found is that often these variations correlate with changes in solar activity, solar wind. You see correlations in the atmosphere between cosmic rays and clouds—that's what Svensmark reported. But these correlations don't prove cause and effect, and it's very difficult to isolate what's due to cosmic rays and what's due to other things."

In 1997 he decided that "the best way to settle it would be to use the CERN particle beam as an artificial source of cosmic rays and reconstruct an artificial atmosphere in the lab." He predicted to reporters at the time that, based on Mr. Svensmark's paper, the theory would "probably be able to account for somewhere between a half and the whole" of 20th-century warming. He gathered a team of scientists, including Mr. Svensmark, and proposed the groundbreaking experiment to his bosses at CERN.

Then he waited. It took six years for CERN to greenlight and fund the experiment. Mr. Kirkby cites financial pressures for the delay and says that "it wasn't political."

Mr. Svensmark declines entirely to guess why CERN took so long, noting only that "more generally in the climate community that is so sensitive, sometimes science goes into the background."

By 2002, a handful of other scientists had started to explore the correlation, and Mr. Svensmark decided that "if I was going to be proved wrong, it would be nice if I did it myself." He decided to go ahead in Denmark and construct his own cloud chamber. "In 2006 we had our first results: We had demonstrated the mechanism" of cosmic rays enhancing cloud formation. The IPCC's 2007 report all but dismissed the theory.

Mr. Kirkby's CERN experiment was finally approved in 2006 and has been under way since 2009. So far, it has not proved Mr. Svensmark wrong. "The result simply leaves open the possibility that cosmic rays could influence the climate," stresses Mr. Kirkby, quick to tamp down any interpretation that would make for a good headline.

This seems wise: In July, CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer told Die Welt that he was asking his researchers to make the forthcoming cloud-chamber results "clear, however, not to interpret them. This would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate-change debate."

But while the cosmic-ray theory has been ridiculed from the start by those who subscribe to the anthropogenic-warming theory, both Mr. Kirkby and Mr. Svensmark hold that human activity is contributing to climate change. All they question is its importance relative to other, natural factors.

Through several more years of "careful, quantitative measurement" at CERN, Mr. Kirkby predicts he and his team will "definitively answer the question of whether or not cosmic rays have a climatically significant effect on clouds." His old ally Mr. Svensmark feels he's already answered that question, and he guesses that CERN's initial results "could have been achieved eight to 10 years ago, if the project had been approved and financed."

The biggest milestone in last month's publication may be not the content but the source, which will be a lot harder to ignore than Mr. Svensmark and his small Danish institute.

Any regrets, now that CERN's particle accelerator is spinning without him? "No. It's been both a blessing and the opposite," says Mr. Svensmark. "I had this field more or less to myself for years—that would never have happened in other areas of science, such as particle physics. But this has been something that most climate scientists would not be associated with. I remember another researcher saying to me years ago that the only thing he could say about cosmic rays and climate was it that it was a really bad career move."

On that point, Mr. Kirkby—whose organization is controlled by not one but 20 governments—really does not want to discuss politics at all: "I'm an experimental particle physicist, okay? That somehow nature may have decided to connect the high-energy physics of the cosmos with the earth's atmosphere—that's what nature may have done, not what I've done."

Last month's findings don't herald the end of a debate, but the resumption of one. That is, if the politicians purporting to legislate based on science will allow it.

Miss Jolis is an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.

22998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Plan Romney on: September 07, 2011, 06:07:40 PM

Mitt Romney rolled out a major chunk of his economic agenda yesterday, and we'll say this for it: His ideas are better than President Obama's. Yet the 160 pages and 59 proposals also strike us as surprisingly timid and tactical considering our economic predicament. They're a technocrat's guide more than a reform manifesto.

The rollout is billed as Mr. Romney's "plan for jobs and economic growth," and it rightly points out that to create more jobs requires above all faster growth. This may seem like common sense, but it's a notable break from the Obama Administration's penchant for policies that "target" jobs rather than improving overall incentives for job creation. So we have had policies for "green jobs," or construction jobs, or teaching jobs, or automobile jobs, or temporary, targeted tax cuts for jobs—even as the economy struggles.

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Mitt Romney signs copies of his jobs plan for supporters in North Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday.
.Mr. Romney seems to understand that the private economy will inevitably produce millions of new jobs—in industries and companies we can't predict—when it resumes growing at 3% or more. This is an important philosophical distinction that drives most of the Romney agenda.

So it's good to see the former Massachusetts Governor endorse the House GOP effort to review and approve major new regulations that cost more than $100 million. Mr. Romney also joins the other GOP candidates in vowing to repeal ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank. He'd pull the Energy Department from the role as venture capitalist that it has pursued since the Bush Administration, re-focusing it back on basic research, rather than backing solar companies that go bankrupt.

His section on "human capital" is also laudable, pointing out how little sense it makes to educate the world's smartest young people in our universities only to send them home after they graduate. He'd offer more visas to keep more of them here. The former Bain Capital executive would also apply his management skills to revamping the vast federal job-training archipelago, with its 47 programs. His proposal for "personal reemployment accounts" for laid-off workers isn't a new idea but it is worth trying.

Where the Governor is less persuasive is on the larger issues of taxes, spending, entitlements and trade. Here he ducks and covers more than he needs to.

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 Editorial board members Mary Kissel, Mary O'Grady and Joe Rago on Mitt Romney's economic plan.
..On taxes, Mr. Romney would immediately cut the top corporate income-tax rate to 25% from 35%. His advisers say there's already a bipartisan consensus that the U.S. rate hurts American companies, and they're right. Even Mr. Obama agrees.

But on other taxes, Mr. Romney shrinks from a fight. He says he favors tax reform with lower individual tax rates but only "in the long run." His advisers say that means in the first two years of his Presidency, but then why not sketch out more details?

The answer may lie in his proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax—but only for those who earn less than $200,000 a year. This eviscerates most of the tax cut's economic impact and also suggests that he's afraid of Mr. Obama's class warfare rhetoric. He even picked Mr. Obama's trademark income threshold for the capital gains cut-off.

If Mr. Romney thinks this will let him dodge a class warfare debate, he's fooling himself. Democrats will hit him anyway for opposing Mr. Obama's proposal to raise taxes on higher incomes, dividends and capital gains in 2013. Perhaps Mr. Romney feels that his wealth and background make him especially vulnerable to the class charge, but if he won't openly make the economic case for lower tax rates he'll never get Congress to go along.

On spending, Mr. Romney joins the GOP's "cut, cap and balance" parade, setting a cap on spending over time at 20% of GDP. What Mr. Romney doesn't do is provide even a general map for how to get there, beyond cutting spending on nonsecurity domestic programs by 5% upon taking office.

He praises Paul Ryan for making "important strides" on Medicare but says his plan "will differ," without offering details. He also says there are a "number of options" to reform Social Security without endorsing any of them. We are told those specifics will come later. It's hardly unusual for candidates to avoid committing to difficult proposals, but it won't help Mr. Romney contrast his leadership with Mr. Obama's.

By far the most troubling proposal is Mr. Romney's call for "confronting China" on trade. This is usually a Democratic theme, but Mr. Romney does Mr. Obama one worse by pledging to have his Treasury brand China a "currency manipulator" if it doesn't "move quickly to bring its currency to full value." He'd then hit Beijing with countervailing duties.
(Marc:  I am not without sympathy to this idea)

Starting a trade war is a rare policy mistake that Mr. Obama hasn't made, but Mr. Romney claims it is a way to faster growth. His advisers say he doesn't favor a 25% tariff on Chinese goods as some in Congress do, but once a President unleashes protectionist furies they are hard to contain.

His economic aides say this idea comes directly from Mr. Romney himself, which is even less reassuring. It looks like a political maneuver to blunt the criticism he'll receive because some of Bain Capital's companies sent jobs overseas, or perhaps this is intended to win over working-class precincts in Pennsylvania and Ohio. But giving Americans the impression that a trade war will bring those jobs back to the U.S. is offering false hope. It also distracts from the other fiscal and regulatory reforms that are needed to attract capital and create jobs.

The biggest rap on Mr. Romney as a potential President is that it's hard to discern any core beliefs beyond faith in his own managerial expertise. For all of its good points, yesterday's policy potpourri won't change that perception.

22999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 07, 2011, 04:09:48 PM
Just got in.  Looks like a strong day in the market.  What happened?
23000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on moral character, 1790 on: September 07, 2011, 10:04:30 AM
"[A] good moral character is the first essential in a man, and that the habits contracted at your age are generally indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life. It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous." --George Washington, letter to Steptoe Washington, 1790

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