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22951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: May 25, 2011, 04:18:15 PM
Question:  "Where does personal responsibility come in?"

Answer:  Personal responsibility comes in when you take care of your dying wife.
22952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / And so it goes , , , on: May 25, 2011, 04:11:16 PM
22953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gates on Iraq on: May 25, 2011, 01:37:35 PM
Second post of the day:

'Something we could not have predicted five months ago is that Iraq would emerge as the most advanced Arab democracy in the entire region. As messy as it is, when you think back to the months and months that it took to form a government, and the fact that the conflict was political, they weren't in the streets shooting each other. The government wasn't in the streets shooting its people."

Those musings about the Arab Spring don't come from John McCain or Joe Lieberman. That was Bob Gates, speaking yesterday at the American Enterprise Institute, where he delivered one of his last major speeches as a member of the Obama Administration. The soon-to-depart Defense Secretary was responding to a question about the U.S. interest in Iraq, which Mr. Gates said is to sustain "a model for a multisectarian, multi-ethnic society in the Arab world that shows that democracy can work."

Well, well. Mr. Gates's comments are especially remarkable because he was a member of President George W. Bush's 2006 Iraq Study Group, which recommended what amounted to a staged retreat instead of the troop surge that Mr. Bush eventually endorsed and that defeated the insurgency.

Mr. Gates also expanded yesterday on the strategic opportunities that Iraq has opened in the autocratic Middle East, especially as an ally against Iranian ambitions. He sees "a mutual interest both in Iraq and in the United States in sustaining this relationship" after the scheduled pullout of about 50,000 troops at the end of the year, with the U.S. military supporting logistics, intelligence and airspace defense.

Mr. Gates said it would send "a powerful signal to the region that we're not leaving, that we will continue to play a part. I think it would be reassuring to the Gulf states. I think it would not be reassuring to Iran, and that's a good thing."

The Pentagon chief cautioned that the choice is Iraq's, but "I think as is often the case in Iraq, it will take some time for the political leaders to figure out a way to move forward on this, and all I can say is that from the standpoint of Iraq's future but also our role in the region, I hope they figure out a way to ask. And I think that the United States will be willing to say yes when that time comes."

The main case for toppling Saddam Hussein was to protect America from what everyone thought were his weapons of mass destruction, but a secondary argument was to give Iraqis a chance to govern themselves in a way that would become a model for the region and, perhaps, a U.S. ally.

Lo and behold, Mr. Gates is saying that Iraq is that model, and that even the Obama Administration now sees a democratic Iraq as a potential bulwark for American interests in the Gulf. The rest of the press corps won't acknowledge it, but Mr. Gates is more or less saying: mission accomplished.

22954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Holding Warren accountable on: May 25, 2011, 01:33:42 PM
I'd go further than this editorial.  It seems to me like there's a real separation of powers problem here:

No one in Washington does moral indignation better than Elizabeth Warren, the de facto head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And yesterday she was in high dudgeon on Capitol Hill attempting to repel efforts to hold her new bureaucracy more accountable. We hope Republicans keep at it.

As George Mason University law professor Todd Zywicki explained at the same hearing yesterday, the consumer bureau's structure "may be unprecedented in American history." It has a single director, accountable only to the President. Its annual budget isn't subject to Congressional appropriations. Its regulations may be overturned by the new Financial Stability Oversight Council—a point Mrs. Warren likes to repeat—but only with the very high bar of a two-thirds vote.

That's why a May 2 letter from 44 Senate Republicans to President Obama deserves attention. The Senators propose three reforms: a board of directors to oversee the bureau; submitting the agency's budget to annual Congressional appropriations; and letting other regulators assess the implications of new bureau rules on the safety and soundness of the financial system.

Under the Dodd-Frank law, the bureau's director reports only to the President and can only be removed for "inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance." So a single person who's very hard to fire would have regulatory authority over consumer financial products and services ranging from mortgages to credit cards. Other financial regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, are governed by a board.

The bureau's director can also set the agency's budget annually, with a ceiling of several hundred million dollars. As the Senators point out, there's no mechanism to ensure those taxpayer monies are used prudently. Other consumer protection agencies face annual Congressional budget scrutiny—an ever more important democratic check amid ballooning deficits. Mrs. Warren yesterday evaded this criticism by calling the bureau a "banking regulator" and comparing it to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which isn't subject to Congressional appropriations.

But her bureau isn't a traditional banking regulator like the Federal Reserve or OCC that ensure the safety and soundness of the financial system. The bureau's mandate is to regulate consumer-financial products, while the impact on bank health is someone else's problem. For precisely this reason, House Republicans want to let the Financial Stability Oversight Council overturn a bureau rule with a simple majority, rather than two-thirds.

Mrs. Warren's response to these efforts has been to say her critics want to "stick a knife in the ribs" of the agency; release a statement claiming Congress intends to "defund, delay, and defang" her agency "before it can help one family"; and in written testimony yesterday, declare that, "While making baseless claims might be shrewd tactics for those who want to undermine the Bureau's work, they are flatly wrong."

Mrs. Warren knows all about shrewd. Though her bureau doesn't assume full powers until July and President Obama still hasn't formally nominated a bureau director, she has been among those trying to extort $20 billion from banks for their mortgage foreclosure mistakes. She's also stacking her agency with liberals who want to allocate credit and punish the banks.

The political betting is that Mr. Obama will continue to evade Senate scrutiny by giving her a recess appointment as director. If Republicans won't put her agency out of business, the least they can do is rein it in.

22955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Circumcission and the SF initiative on: May 25, 2011, 01:29:55 PM
This is the story of how my husband's circumcision saved my life.

It's a personal story, but let it also serve as a public health rebuttal to the proposed ban on male circumcision that will be on the San Francisco ballot this November.

San Francisco's ballot initiative would prohibit circumcision on all males under the age of 18. It would allow no religious exemptions, and it apparently gives no regard to the numerous studies demonstrating that male circumcision can substantially reduce—by more than 50%—the transmission of the HIV virus during sex.

"Communities, and especially women, may benefit much more from circumcision interventions than had previously been predicted, and these results provide an even greater imperative to increase scale-up of safe male circumcision services," concludes a study published this year in the peer-reviewed journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Peter, my husband, was born with hemophilia, best known as the disease of Victorian royals (and for good reason, since the guilty gene passed through the brood of Queen Victoria right down to the doomed young son of Russia's last czar). Those who suffer from hemophilia lack the crucial factor in the blood that makes it clot.

When we are cut, we all bleed—usually, we need only a Band-Aid and some pressure to stem the flow. Except for the most minor injuries, hemophiliacs almost always need more. Specifically, they need a transfusion of the blood factor of which their DNA made them bankrupt.

As a result of one such clotting factor transfusion prior to 1985, Peter became HIV-positive.

A baby rests on a pillow sounded by family members, immediately following his Bris, a Jewish circumcision ceremony in San Francisco. San Francisco voters in November will be asked to weigh in on what was until now a private family matter: male circumcision.
.Today, the U.S. blood supply has been cleaned up significantly, reducing the chance of such transmission to almost nil. But before the risk was known and blood screening had been introduced, the risk to hemophiliacs was enormous.

Peter and I had met and fallen in love at college. We married in 1977, and by the 1980s we were getting ready to have children. I had already suffered two lost pregnancies and we were eager to try again.

I remember reading the earliest news stories about AIDS, a mysterious new blood-borne disease, and freezing with the intuitive knowledge that whatever was borne through the blood could be borne into Peter's blood—and, by accident, perhaps mine, too. Since we were trying to get me pregnant, we had stopped using any birth control. How innocent it seems in retrospect that even when I suffered our second lost pregnancy in 1984, Peter had gamely whispered in my ear, "Don't worry. I'll knock you up again."

But we had no chance. Soon thereafter, it was confirmed that the very blood products that had helped save and heal and improve the lives of so many hemophiliacs also had the power to infect them with AIDS. As for sex—as they say in Brooklyn, fuggedaboutit. In politer terms, Peter's hematologists advised us to cease and desist getting pregnant again. Our mutual, sad assumption in the months that ensued: Not only had our love not produced a baby, but it may well have doomed me, too.

And then our very own HIV test results—his and hers—arrived. Peter was positive. I was negative. How had it happened that I never became HIV-positive myself?

It wasn't until recently that we knew: He was circumcised. Actually, I should say, now I know. Peter died in 1999.

But here is the reason I am alive today: In the same way that circumcision vastly diminishes the chance of infecting women with the human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer, studies suggest that circumcision also helps guard against the transmission of the HIV virus. In both cases, cells on the inside of the male foreskin are implicated in spreading the virus. But if the foreskin is removed, a source of infection is also removed.

So there you have it: My husband's circumcision saved my life.

That reprieve allowed us to make the decision to adopt a child (our son, now 22, who will soon graduate from college). And it impressed on me the importance of public health decisions that unwittingly can save a life—which in this case happened to be mine. If the San Francisco initiative passes, and encourages other communities to do the same, who knows whose lives won't be saved.

Ms. Cole is the author of the memoir "After Great Pain: A New Life Emerges" (Simon & Schuster, 1992) and the book columnist for the Psychotherapy Networker.

22956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: May 25, 2011, 01:23:59 PM

I love ya man, but on a human level that is one of the more profoundly clueless things you've said.   rolleyes

22957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Jihadist Strategy for Pakistan on: May 25, 2011, 01:19:49 PM

The United States and the Jihadist Strategy for Pakistan

On Monday, Pakistani security forces secured a key naval aviation base in Karachi after a 17-hour standoff with a team of jihadist operatives. Details remain sketchy of how this group, composed of as few as six and as many as 20 militants, was able to make its way into the high-security facility to destroy one U.S. supplied P-3C Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft and damage a second. What is clear, however, is that this latest attack is among the most significant to have targeted the country’s military establishment since the jihadist insurgency intensified in 2007.

The attack comes within three weeks of the U.S. unilateral military operation that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden at a compound a mere three-hour drive from the capital. The discovery that the al Qaeda leader had been residing in a house for years at walking distance from the country’s military academy reinforced long-held international suspicions that elements within the Pakistani military-intelligence complex were sheltering al Qaeda’s apex leadership. The attack on the navy in Karachi shapes another related perception that the country’s security forces are unable to protect their own assets from jihadist attacks.

“Ironically, the Pakistani security establishment, which cultivated Islamist militants for its foreign policy objectives, is now the only thing standing in the way of the country descending into a jihadist anarchy.”
We have a paradoxical situation in which enemies of the state are being protected by elements within the security establishment, which itself as an institution is the target of the same jihadists. This warped situation works well for the strategic objectives of al Qaeda and its allies within the South Asian nation. Pakistani jihadists and their al Qaeda allies are happy to see the United States and the international community increase pressure on Islamabad and more important, engage in increased unilateral operations inside the country due to the lack of confidence in Islamabad’s intent and/or capability to deal with the situation on its own.

The ultimate jihadist dream is to create the circumstances in which the United States invades Pakistan either because of the fear that the Pakistanis have become weak to the point that they are unable to contain the jihadist threat, or worse, that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were in danger of falling into the hands of radical forces. Each attack the jihadists launch against Pakistani security forces is designed to augment the American perception of threat. Demonstrating that the jihadists have significantly penetrated the country’s security organs further shapes this dynamic.

A U.S. invasion of Pakistan is the ideal outcome for the jihadists because they know that short-term American goals may undermine the state, but the long-term geopolitical interest of the United States in Pakistan is a strong Pakistan. So, they are happy to settle for increasing U.S. unilateral operations in the country. These, the jihadists hope, would help increase the anti-American sentiment and aggravate the mutual mistrust between Washington and Islamabad. The more the United States becomes aggressive toward Pakistan, the more it undermines the Pakistani state and its ability to govern a country that has already been significantly weakened by deteriorating political, security and economic conditions.

The jihadists have never been able to overthrow a sitting government in any Muslim country because they lack the capabilities to do so. But a template exists in the form of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s when the country was in a state of chaos after years of civil war. The jihadists use this model wherever they operate — Iraq, Yemen, Somalia — with the goal of gradually eroding the incumbent state.

A key catalyst in this regard is U.S. military intervention, which from the jihadists’ point of view cannot be totally dismissed in the Pakistani context. Increasing U.S. action in Pakistan or pressure on Islamabad could lead to rifts within the military-intelligence complex — the one entity that stands in the way of jihadists’ being able to take over the state. In other words, the jihadist attacks on their own are not capable of bringing down the Pakistani state, and al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban are aware of this.

Therefore, these attacks are designed to exacerbate fears that Pakistan is a failing state and gradually compel the United States to increase its overt and unilateral military and intelligence footprint in the country. The Sept. 11 attacks were designed to achieve the same goal and force the United States to invade Saudi Arabia. Washington didn’t take the bait and instead sent forces into Afghanistan and Iraq, thwarting the jihadist strategy.

A decade later, however, the jihadists seem to be creating the kind of circumstances in which the United States is slowly being pushed into Pakistan. Ironically, the Pakistani security establishment, which historically has cultivated Islamist militants for its foreign policy objectives, is now the only force standing in the way of the country descending into a jihadist anarchy. For the jihadists, the most effective way of weakening the Pakistani state is to play upon American fears and force it into a country of 180 million people.

From the point of view of al Qaeda and its allies, Pakistan, along with Afghanistan, would make for one large Talibanistan, which would have catastrophic implications for the region and the world at large. Thus, there is a method to the jihadist madness in Pakistan — to get the United States to help them achieve what they can’t on their own. Therefore, bin Laden’s death, at the hands of American forces engaged in an unprecedented unilateral action on Pakistani soil, may have helped the jihadist cause in a way that the life of the al Qaeda founder could not.

22958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: May 25, 2011, 12:05:30 PM
Many of the Republican presidential hopefuls should be able to beat President Obama in 2012. This president has a track record now and, thus, many vulnerabilities. If he is not our "worst president," as Donald Trump would have it, his sweeping domestic initiatives—especially his stimulus package and health-care reform—were so jerry-built and high-handed that they generated a virtual revolution in America's normally subdued middle class.

The president's success in having Osama bin Laden killed is an exception to a pattern of excruciatingly humble and hesitant leadership abroad. Mr. Obama has been deeply ambivalent about the application of American power, as if a shameful "neocolonialism" attends every U.S. action in the world. In Libya he seems actually to want American power to diminish altogether.

This formula of shrinking American power abroad while expanding government power at home confuses and disappoints many Americans. Before bin Laden, 69% of Americans believed the country was on the wrong track, according to an Ipsos survey. A recent Zogby poll found that only 38% of respondents believed Mr. Obama deserved a second term, while 55% said they wanted someone new.

And yet Republicans everywhere ask, "Who do we have to beat him?" In head-to-head matchups, Mr. Obama beats all of the Republican hopefuls in most polls.

The problem Mr. Obama poses for Republicans is that there has always been a disconnect between his actual performance and his appeal. If Hurricane Katrina irretrievably stained George W. Bush, the BP oil spill left no lasting mark on this president. Mr. Obama's utter confusion in the face of the "Arab spring" has nudged his job-approval numbers down, but not his likability numbers, which Gallup has at a respectable 47.6%. In the mainstream media there has been a willingness to forgive this president his mistakes, to see him as an innocent in an impossible world. Why?

There have really always been two Barack Obamas: the mortal man and the cultural icon. If the actual man is distinctly ordinary, even a little flat and humorless, the cultural icon is quite extraordinary. The problem for Republicans is that they must run against both the man and the myth. In 2008, few knew the man and Republicans were walloped by the myth. Today the man is much clearer, and yet the myth remains compelling.

What gives Mr. Obama a cultural charisma that most Republicans cannot have? First, he represents a truly inspiring American exceptionalism: He is the first black in the entire history of Western civilization to lead a Western nation—and the most powerful nation in the world at that. And so not only is he the most powerful black man in recorded history, but he reached this apex only through the good offices of the great American democracy.

Thus his presidency flatters America to a degree that no white Republican can hope to compete with. He literally validates the American democratic experiment, if not the broader Enlightenment that gave birth to it.

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 .He is also an extraordinary personification of the American Dream: Even someone from a race associated with slavery can rise to the presidency. Whatever disenchantment may surround the man, there is a distinct national pride in having elected him.

All of this adds up to a powerful racial impressionism that works against today's field of Republican candidates. This is the impressionism that framed Sen. John McCain in 2008 as a political and cultural redundancy—yet another older white male presuming to lead the nation.

The point is that anyone who runs against Mr. Obama will be seen through the filter of this racial impressionism, in which white skin is redundant and dark skin is fresh and exceptional. This is the new cultural charisma that the president has introduced into American politics.

Today this charisma is not as strong for Mr. Obama. The mere man and the actual president has not lived up to his billing as a historical breakthrough. Still, the Republican field is framed and—as the polls show—diminished by his mere presence in office, which makes America the most socially evolved nation in the world. Moreover, the mainstream media coddle Mr. Obama—the man—out of its identification with his exceptionalism.

Conversely, the media hold the president's exceptionalism against Republicans. Here is Barack Obama, evidence of a new and progressive America. Here are the Republicans, a cast of largely white males, looking peculiarly unevolved. Add to this the Republicans' quite laudable focus on deficit reduction and spending cuts, and they can be made to look like a gaggle of scolding accountants.

How can the GOP combat the president's cultural charisma? It will have to make vivid the yawning gulf between Obama the flattering icon and Obama the confused and often overwhelmed president. Applaud the exceptionalism he represents, but deny him the right to ride on it as a kind of affirmative action.

A president who is both Democratic and black effectively gives the infamous race card to the entire left: Attack our president and you are a racist. To thwart this, Republicans will have to break through the barrier of political correctness.

Mr. McCain let himself be intimidated by Obama's cultural charisma, threatening to fire any staff member who even used the candidate's middle name. Donald Trump shot to the head of the Republican line by focusing on Mr. Obama as a president, calling him our "worst" president. I carry no brief for Mr. Trump, but his sudden success makes a point: Another kind of charisma redounds to those willing to challenge political correctness—those unwilling to be in thrall to the president's cultural charisma.

Lastly, there must be a Republican message of social exceptionalism. America has more social mobility than any heterogeneous society in history. Isn't there a great Republican opportunity to be had in urging minorities to at last move out of their long era of protest—in which militancy toward the very society they struggled to join was the way ahead? Aren't Republicans uniquely positioned to offer minorities a liberation from both dependency and militancy?

In other words, isn't there a fresh new social idealism implicit in conservative principles? Why not articulate it and fight with it in the political arena? Such a message would show our president as unevolved in his social thinking—oh so 1965. The theme: Barack Obama believes in government; we believe in you.

Mr. Steele is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Among his books is "White Guilt" (Harper/Collins, 2007).

22959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good Paul Ryan video on Medicare on: May 25, 2011, 11:34:32 AM
22960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 25, 2011, 11:24:18 AM
Somehow, I'm not worried about Iran getting its hands on a bunch of pot , , , Indeed, it might mellow them out a bit.
22961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Stay or go? on: May 25, 2011, 08:52:04 AM
Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Iraq to host U.S. troops beyond the end of the year to maintain stability and keep Iran at bay, echoing the growing concerns of U.S. military officials that the government in Baghdad isn't moving fast enough to request an extension of the U.S. troop presence.

Mr. Gates predicted the U.S. would accede to such a request to send a message to American allies and Iran that the U.S. isn't withdrawing from the region, he said in remarks to a think tank in Washington on Tuesday.

"It would be reassuring to the Gulf States. It would not be reassuring to Iran, and that is a good thing," Mr. Gates said.

Some military officials say that without a continued U.S. presence, Iraq is likely to fall into the orbit of Iran. In a paper released Tuesday, Frederick Kagan, an influential defense analyst, argued that without a continued U.S. presence, Iraq would also be vulnerable to continued insurgent-style attacks from Iran-backed proxies or even a full-scale invasion by Iran.

U.S. military bases and personnel in Iraq have come under increasing attacks from mortar fire and bombings, in what the military says is an effort to drive the Americans from the country. Two U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday by a roadside bomb in Baghdad.

Mr. Gates said a continued American presence in Iraq would help sustain the "investment in treasure and lives" the U.S. has made in Iraq and help show other countries in the Middle East that a "multisectarian, multi-ethnic" democracy in the Arab world will work.

Under the current agreement between Baghdad and Washington, the U.S. must withdraw nearly all of its troops by the end of this year. The U.S. military would like to keep about 10,000 troops in Iraq, a number the Obama administration is likely to approve, U.S. officials have said.

The Pentagon said on Tuesday that it would rotate two brigades and a division headquarters into Iraq this summer, a move that would position the U.S. to maintain a substantial force in the country should Baghdad request an extension.

Mr. Kagan, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who regularly advises military commanders, argued in his paper, which was released Tuesday, that Iraq won't be able to defend itself against Iran and its agents without a U.S. troop presence.

"The Iraqi Security Forces will not be able to defend Iraq's sovereignty, independence from Iran, and internal stability without American assistance, including some ground forces, for a number of years," Mr. Kagan wrote.

Many Iraqi lawmakers say they believe there is a parliamentary majority in Iraq supporting a continued U.S. troop presence. But the influential pro-Iranian cleric, Moqtada al Sadr, is pushing lawmakers to block a request.

Some Iraqi officials have said privately that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports keeping U.S. troops, but he won his current term with the backing of Mr. Sadr's supporters.

A Sadr bloc spokesman said the group continues to view the American presence as an occupation and would hold a peaceful protest on Thursday.

Iraq has a long history of brinksmanship in its dealings with the U.S., but with the Americans due to begin shuttering bases, a last-minute deal could come too late for the Pentagon.

"Time is your enemy," said a senior military official.

Officials have said the U.S. military is four months away from a logistical point-of-no-return, when it would need to begin the final dismantling of remaining military installations and sending equipment out of the country to withdraw on time.

There were at least 162 attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq last month, up from 128 in March and 93 in February, according to a foreign security company in Iraq that tracks the data. The surge in attacks last month coincided with a rash of American military, political and diplomatic visits to the country.

"Various extremist groups and illegal militias have said they will increase attacks against U.S. forces and they are trying to do that to claim credit for driving out our forces," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, a spokesman for the U.S. forces in Iraq.

—Munaf Ammar contributed to this article.
22962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The 8th: Cruel and Unusual on: May 25, 2011, 08:49:58 AM

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion forcing California to cut its inmate population sharpened his divide with conservative colleagues over what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Backed by the court's four liberals, Justice Kennedy has delivered a series of opinions since 2005 that have abolished the death penalty for minors and for adult criminals who left their victims alive. A Kennedy ruling also required that juvenile offenders be given an opportunity to seek parole unless their crimes included murder.

And on Monday, the Reagan appointee wrote the decision prohibiting California from housing inmates in prisons incapable of providing with them essential medical care—even if that requires the release of felons before they complete their sentences.

The prisoner-rights decisions mark a striking contrast to the court's trajectory since the mid-2000s, when President George W. Bush elevated Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

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Justice Anthony Kennedy
.Together with them and veteran justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, Justice Kennedy has formed a majority to uphold gun rights, permit unfettered corporate and union political spending and undo certain limits on governmental support of religion.

But when it comes to the Constitution's Eighth Amendment, which prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments," Justice Kennedy has championed a doctrine that echoes the liberal Warren Court of the 1950s and '60s: that the prohibition be applied, as Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in 1958, according to "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society."

“To incarcerate, society takes from prisoners the means to provide for their own needs. … A prison's failure to provide sustenance for inmates may actually produce physical torture or a lingering death.

Justice Anthony Kennedy

The Warren opinion referred to English precedents dating to the Magna Carta and said the "basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man."

Justice Kennedy cited Chief Justice Warren's opinion Monday, then applied it to the California case. "Prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons," Justice Kennedy wrote.

More Eighth Amendment cases could reach the high court in coming years. While the court approved a three-drug recipe for lethal injections in 2008, some suppliers of the narcotics have dropped out of the business and states have substituted other chemicals.

That could invite challenges from condemned prisoners alleging that untested formulas would cause unconstitutional levels of pain.

And new cases may test the implications of Justice Kennedy's earlier opinions limiting punishments for underage offenders. This month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found it constitutional to sentence a 14-year-old to life imprisonment with no chance of parole.

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Justice Antonin Scalia
.Justice Kennedy has looked to social science and modern practices in his earlier decisions outlawing the harshest punishments. "By protecting even those convicted of heinous crimes, the Eighth Amendment reaffirms the duty of the government to respect the dignity of all persons," he wrote in the 2005 opinion Roper v. Simmons, abolishing the death penalty for juveniles.

Such positions have put him at odds with Justice Scalia, who misses no opportunity to stress his contempt for Chief Justice Warren's "evolving standards" formula.

"I detest that phrase," Justice Scalia said at a law-school forum in 2005, "because I'm afraid that societies don't always mature. Sometimes they rot." In his Monday dissent—joined only by Justice Thomas—Justice Scalia wrote that Justice Kennedy's opinion was unprecedented, even under "our judge-empowering 'evolving-standards of decency' jurisprudence."

t would absurd to suggest—that every single one of those prisoners has personally experienced torture or a lingering death.

Justice Antonin Scalia

Justice Scalia says he construes constitutional provisions according to their original meaning. Dissenting from Justice Kennedy's Roper opinion, Justice Scalia said "cruel and unusual" originally meant that judges could only impose punishments authorized by the legislature, rather than fashion their own.

On Monday, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito filed a separate dissent that avoided mention of the "evolving standards" or "dignity" concepts.

Justice Kennedy's opinion included an array of anecdotes regarding prison conditions in California, where "as many as 54 prisoners may share a single toilet" and a psychiatric patient was "held in a cage for nearly 24 hours, standing in a pool of his own urine, unresponsive and nearly catatonic."

Justice Scalia replied that the Constitution doesn't authorize judges to prescribe "rules for the 'decent' running of schools, prisons and other government institutions." He offered his own vivid image, saying that many of those released wouldn't be ill inmates but "fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym."

22963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Oil Traders sued by Feds on: May 25, 2011, 08:31:31 AM
After oil prices surged past $100 a barrel in 2008, suspicions that traders had manipulated the market led to Congressional hearings and regulatory investigations. But they produced no solid cases in the record run-up in gasoline prices.

Ahmadinejad Backs Out of Key Role at OPEC (May 25, 2011) But on Tuesday, federal commodities regulators filed a civil lawsuit against two obscure traders in Australia and California and three American and international firms.

The suit says that in early 2008 they tried to hoard nearly two-thirds of the available supply of a crucial American market for crude oil, then abruptly dumped it and improperly pocketed $50 million.

The regulators from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission would not say whether the agency was conducting any other investigations into oil speculation. With oil prices climbing again this year, President Obama has asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to set up a working group to look into fraud in oil and gas markets and “safeguard against unlawful consumer harm.”

In the case filed Tuesday, the defendants — James T. Dyer of Australia, Nicholas J. Wildgoose of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and three related companies, Parnon Energy of California, Arcadia Petroleum of Britain and Arcadia Energy, a Swiss company — have told regulators they deny they manipulated the market.

If the United States proves the claims, the defendants may give up $50 million in profits that were believed to be made as a result of the manipulation and also pay a penalty of up to $150 million.

The commodities agency says the case involves a complex scheme that relied on the close relationship between physical oil prices and the prices of financial futures, which move in parallel.

In a matter of a few weeks in January 2008, the defendants built up large positions in the oil futures market on exchanges in New York and London, according to the suit, filed in the Federal Court in the Southern District of New York.

At the same time, they bought millions of barrels of physical crude oil at Cushing, Okla., one of the main delivery sites for West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark for American oil, the suit says. They bought the oil even though they had no commercial need for it, giving the market the impression of a shortage, the complaint says.

At one point they had such a dominant position that they owned about 4.6 million barrels of crude oil, estimating that this represented two-thirds of the seven million barrels of excess oil then available at Cushing, according to lawsuits.

This type of oil is also the main driver of prices of the futures contracts, and their actions caused futures prices to rise, the authorities say. “They wanted to lull market participants into believing that supply would remain tight,” the agency said. “They knew that as long as the market believed that supply was tight and getting even tighter, there would be upward pressure on the prices of W.T.I. for February delivery relative to March delivery, which was their goal.”

The traders in mid-January cashed out their futures position, and then a few days later began to bet on a decline in oil futures, with Mr. Wildgoose remarking in an e-mail about the “inevitable puking” of their position on an unsuspecting market, the federal lawsuit says.

In one day, Jan. 25, they then dumped most of their holdings of West Texas Intermediate oil, and profited by the drop in futures.

The traders repeated the buying and selling in March 2008, and were preparing to do it again in April but stopped when investigators contacted them for information, the suit says.

Between January and April, average gas prices rose roughly to $3.50 a gallon, from $3. It was not until later in 2008, after the defendants had ceased their reported actions, that oil prices soared higher — reaching $145 that July. By the end of the year, prices had fallen to about $44. The Texas oil is now around $100.

Many other factors were at work, including tight oil supplies in the Middle East and fears that a growing global economy would consume more oil. Yet the enforcement action by the commodities regulator was the first credible evidence that a small group of traders also played a role in manipulating prices.

“This will  help to satisfy the desire to find a culprit and throw them under the wheels of justice,” said Michael Lynch, an oil market specialist at Strategic Energy and Economic Research, a consulting firm.

Calls to Arcadia Petroleum in London were not immediately returned. A person who answered the phone at Arcadia Energy in Switzerland said that he was unaware of the complaints and that Mr. Dyer and Mr. Wildgoose were on vacation and unavailable for comment.

In the last few years, the commission has settled a handful of cases of manipulation in the natural gas market.

In 2007, it settled charges for $1 million against the Marathon Petroleum Company for trying to manipulate West Texas Intermediate crude oil in 2003.

The agency brought an action similar to its latest case in 2008, asserting that Optiver Holding, a proprietary trading fund based in the Netherlands with a Chicago affiliate, used a trading program in 2007 to issue orders to manipulate the crude oil market. The case is pending. It involved claims of manipulation of futures contracts for light sweet crude, New York Harbor heating oil and New York Harbor gasoline.

Clifford Krauss contributed reporting.

22964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH editorial on: May 25, 2011, 08:25:53 AM
Refusing to answer the door is a grounds for kicking it in?


What’s wrong with the police kicking in the door of an apartment after they smell marijuana drifting from it, if they knock hard, announce who they are and then hear what sounds like evidence being destroyed?

Related in News
Search Allowed if Police Hear Evidence Being Destroyed (May 17, 2011) Some lower courts have said the answer is pretty much everything, because the police themselves created the pretext for barging in. But the Supreme Court ruled last week that such a warrantless search does not necessarily violate the Fourth Amendment, according to a vague new standard for determining whether the police violated the protection against unreasonable search, or threatened to do so.

They sent the case back to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which is going to have a hard time understanding the new standard — and in any case never resolved whether any evidence was, in fact, destroyed.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lone dissenter in this strange decision, wisely warned that the new rule gave the police “a way routinely to dishonor” the constitutional requirement that they obtain a warrant, by manufacturing an exception to it. There are already exceptions for “exigent circumstances,” emergencies like an imminent risk of death or a danger evidence will be destroyed. But the urgency usually exists when the police arrive at the scene. In this case, the police caused the exigent circumstances themselves.

The new rule undermines the rule of law by shifting the power to approve a forced entry from a magistrate to the police. It empowers the police to decide whether circumstances allow them to kick in the door.

The majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito Jr. says that the “exigent circumstances” rule applies even though the police triggered the danger that evidence would be destroyed. Apartment-dwellers with nothing to hide, the justice said, are at fault if they don’t take advantage of their right to refuse entry when the police knock. (As if this would be realistic even in Justice Alito’s neighborhood.)

Justice Ginsburg asks, “How ‘secure’ do our homes remain if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity?”

Her dissent is a reminder of the enduring value of privacy, as well as of her value to American law. It is unsettling that she is the only justice to insist that the law hold the line on its definition of exigent circumstances so that our “officers are under the law,” as Justice Robert Jackson once put it. But it is reassuring to have her stand up for the Fourth Amendment and to police power that is literally and constitutionally unwarranted.

22965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams 1781: the vote; Madison, Federalist 39, a republic on: May 25, 2011, 08:22:56 AM
"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual - or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country." --Samuel Adams, in the Boston Gazette, 1781

"If we resort for a criterion to the different principles on which different forms of government are established, we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people,  and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure for a limited period, or during good behavior." --James Madison, Federalist No. 39
22966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Samuel Adams 1781 on: May 25, 2011, 08:21:28 AM

"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual - or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country." --Samuel Adams, in the Boston Gazette, 1781

22967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on Netanyahu's speech on: May 24, 2011, 06:05:43 PM
Some points in here with which I distinctly disagree, others make sense:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech to the U.S. Congress on May 24 spending a lot of his time on the threat posed by Iran and explaining the reason why Israel has not been able to proceed on the peace path outlined by U.S. President Barack Obama and the presidents before him.

The gist of Netanyahu’s argument was that, while Israel is ready to make very painful concessions in this peace deal, it is the Palestinians that have been blocking the peace process. He also maintained that Jerusalem will not be divided and that Israel will not make large concessions on its security or on the borders of a future Palestinian state.

A great deal of attention has been paid to a very specific line in Obama’s speech from last week, where he said the borders of Israel and Palestine will be based on the lines of 1967 with mutually agreed swaps. This was portrayed by much of the media as a major U.S. policy shift and led Netanyahu to declare to the Israeli lobby in Washington that those 1967 borders are indefensible.

There is absolutely nothing groundbreaking in what Obama actually said. The 1967 lines refer to the borders before the 1967 Six-Day War, when Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and basically went beyond the border outlined in the 1949 armistice between Israel and Arab states.

Obama is not saying that the 1967 lines will be the exact same borders of a two-state solution; he is saying negotiations need to be held for those mutually agreed swaps that would deal with the very contentious issues of East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements. Obama said he was explicit in what he meant, but no matter which way you look at this issue, this is an issue that remains very much clouded in controversy. The only new aspect to Obama’s roadmap for peace was perhaps the urgency in which he is conveying his message. This does not change the fact that Israel is very unlikely to make significant concessions to the Palestinians, especially at a time when the Palestinians are in a fledgling unity government that includes Hamas, which refuses still recognize Israel’s right to exist. As Netanyahu put it, he declared Hamas the Palestinian version of al Qaeda and called on Fatah to rip up its agreement with Hamas if it wants to negotiate seriously with Israel.

Now, the biggest challenge to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in the surrounding environment to the conflict itself. Egypt is undergoing a very shaky political transition, and the military regime there is also trying to keep a lid on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Jordan meanwhile is facing much higher levels of political pressure from its Islamist opposition, and the Syrians are throwing all of their effort into putting down a country-wide uprising. Meanwhile, the threat of a third Palestinian intifada continues to loom.

The past 33 years of Israeli history have been largely quiescent, for Israeli standards. Now, Israel faces threats on nearly all of its frontiers. Obama argued that this very uncertainty in the region is exactly why Israel cannot afford to delay the peace process any longer, and why both Israel and the United States should avoid ending up on the wrong side of history, as he put it. This is a point that Israel will likely strongly disagree with. It also brings up a much more important question, one that we addressed in this week’s “Geopolitical Weekly,” of whether there really is a true “Arab Spring” capable of bringing about democratic revolutions that would be friendly to U.S., much less Israeli, interests.

Meanwhile, as Netanyahu emphasized in his speech, a big focus for Israel, and what arguably should be the focus for the United States, concerns Iran, where the United States has yet to devise and effective strategy to counterbalance the Iranians that are waiting to fill a power vacuum in Iraq following the U.S. withdrawal. That remains a key point the Obama presidency must address, and it is largely one that is ignored by the effects of the Arab Spring.

22968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq and the Arab Spring on: May 24, 2011, 05:52:49 PM
Some distinct gaps here e.g. that candidate BO sedulously worked to undermine the efforts GF sees him as now supporting but as always an interesting analysis:


May 24, 2011 | 0902 GMT

Obama and the Arab Spring
By George Friedman

U.S. President Barack Obama gave a speech last week on the Middle East. Presidents make many speeches. Some are meant to be taken casually, others are made to address an immediate crisis, and still others are intended to be a statement of broad American policy. As in any country, U.S. presidents follow rituals indicating which category their speeches fall into. Obama clearly intended his recent Middle East speech to fall into the last category, as reflecting a shift in strategy if not the declaration of a new doctrine.

While events in the region drove Obama’s speech, politics also played a strong part, as with any presidential speech. Devising and implementing policy are the president’s job. To do so, presidents must be able to lead — and leading requires having public support. After the 2010 election, I said that presidents who lose control of one house of Congress in midterm elections turn to foreign policy because it is a place in which they retain the power to act. The U.S. presidential campaign season has begun, and the United States is engaged in wars that are not going well. Within this framework, Obama thus sought to make both a strategic and a political speech.

Obama’s War Dilemma
The United States is engaged in a  broad struggle against jihadists. Specifically, it is engaged in a war in Afghanistan and is in the terminal phase of the Iraq war.

The Afghan war is stalemated. Following the death of Osama bin Laden, Obama said that the Taliban’s forward momentum has been stopped. He did not, however, say that the Taliban is being defeated. Given the state of affairs between the United States and Pakistan following bin Laden’s death, whether the United States can defeat the Taliban remains unclear. It might be able to, but the president must remain open to the possibility that the war will become an extended stalemate.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops are being withdrawn from Iraq, but that does not mean the conflict is over. Instead, the withdrawal has opened the door to Iranian power in Iraq. The Iraqis lack a capable military and security force. Their government is divided and feeble. Meanwhile, the Iranians have had years to infiltrate Iraq. Iranian domination of Iraq would open the door to  Iranian power projection throughout the region. Therefore, the United States has proposed keeping U.S. forces in Iraq but has yet to receive Iraq’s approval. If that approval is given (which looks unlikely), Iraqi factions with clout in parliament have threatened to renew the anti-U.S. insurgency.

The United States must therefore consider its actions should the situation in Afghanistan remain indecisive or deteriorate and should Iraq evolve into an Iranian strategic victory. The simple answer — extending the mission in Iraq and increasing forces in Afghanistan — is not viable. The United States could not pacify Iraq with 170,000 troops facing determined opposition, while the 300,000 troops that Chief of Staff of the Army Eric Shinseki argued for in 2003 are not available. Meanwhile, it is difficult to imagine how many troops would be needed to guarantee a military victory in Afghanistan. Such surges are not politically viable, either. After nearly 10 years of indecisive war, the American public has little appetite for increasing troop commitments to either war and has no appetite for conscription.

Obama thus has limited military options on the ground in a situation where conditions in both war zones could deteriorate badly. And his political option — blaming former U.S. President George W. Bush — in due course would wear thin, as Nixon found in blaming Johnson.

The Coalition of the Willing Meets the Arab Spring
For his part, Bush followed a strategy of a coalition of the willing. He understood that the United States could not conduct a war in the region without regional allies, and he therefore recruited a coalition of countries that calculated that radical Islamism represented a profound threat to regime survival. This included Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jordan, and Pakistan. These countries shared a desire to see al Qaeda defeated and a willingness to pool resources and intelligence with the United States to enable Washington to carry the main burden of the war.

This coalition appears to be fraying. Apart from the tensions between the United States and Pakistan, the unrest in the Middle East of the last few months apparently has undermined the legitimacy and survivability of many Arab regimes, including key partners in the so-called coalition of the willing. If these pro-American regimes collapse and are replaced by anti-American regimes, the American position in the region might also collapse.

Obama appears to have reached three conclusions about the Arab Spring:

It represented a genuine and liberal democratic rising that might replace regimes.
American opposition to these risings might result in the emergence of anti-American regimes in these countries.
The United States must embrace the general idea of the Arab risings but be selective in specific cases; thus, it should support the rising in Egypt, but not necessarily in Bahrain.
Though these distinctions may be difficult to justify in intellectual terms, geopolitics is not an abstract exercise. In the real world, supporting regime change in Libya costs the United States relatively little. Supporting an uprising in Egypt could have carried some cost, but not if the military was the midwife to change and is able to maintain control. (Egypt was more an exercise of regime preservation than true regime change.) Supporting regime change in Bahrain, however, would have proved quite costly. Doing so could have seen the United States lose a major naval base in the Persian Gulf and incited spillover Shiite protests in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province.

Moral consistency and geopolitics rarely work neatly together. Moral absolutism is not an option in the Middle East, something Obama recognized. Instead, Obama sought a new basis for tying together the fraying coalition of the willing.

Obama’s Challenge and the Illusory Arab Spring
Obama’s conundrum is that there is still much uncertainty as to whether that coalition would be stronger with current, albeit embattled, regimes or with new regimes that could arise from the so-called Arab Spring. He began to address the problem with an empirical assumption critical to his strategy that  in my view is questionable, namely, that there is such a thing as an Arab Spring.

Let me repeat something I have said before: All demonstrations are not revolutions. All revolutions are not democratic revolutions. All democratic revolutions do not lead to constitutional democracy.

The Middle East has seen many demonstrations of late, but that does not make them revolutions. The 300,000 or so demonstrators concentrated mainly in Tahrir Square in Cairo represented a tiny fraction of Egyptian society. However committed and democratic those 300,000 were, the masses of Egyptians did not join them along the lines of what happened in Eastern Europe in 1989 and in Iran in 1979. For all the media attention paid to Egypt’s demonstrators, the most interesting thing in Egypt is not who demonstrated, but the vast majority who did not. Instead, a series of demonstrations gave the Egyptian army cover to carry out what was tantamount to a military coup. The president was removed, but his removal would be difficult to call a revolution.

And where revolutions could be said to have occurred, as in Libya, it is not clear they were democratic revolutions. The forces in eastern Libya remain opaque, and it cannot be assumed their desires represent the will of the majority of Libyans — or that the eastern rebels intend to create, or are capable of creating, a democratic society. They want to get rid of a tyrant, but that doesn’t mean they won’t just create another tyranny.

Then, there are revolutions that genuinely represent the will of the majority, as in Bahrain. Bahrain’s Shiite majority rose up against the Sunni royal family, clearly seeking a regime that truly represents the majority. But it is not at all clear that they want to create a constitutional democracy, or at least not one the United States would recognize as such. Obama said each country can take its own path, but he also made clear that the path could not diverge from basic principles of human rights — in other words, their paths can be different, but they cannot be too different. Assume for the moment that the Bahraini revolution resulted in a democratic Bahrain tightly aligned with Iran and hostile to the United States. Would the United States recognize Bahrain as a satisfactory democratic model?

The central problem from my point of view is that the Arab Spring has consisted of demonstrations of limited influence, in non-democratic revolutions and in revolutions whose supporters would create regimes quite alien from what Washington would see as democratic. There is no single vision to the Arab Spring, and the places where the risings have the most support are the places that will be least democratic, while the places where there is the most democratic focus have the weakest risings.

As important, even if we assume that democratic regimes would emerge, there is no reason to believe they would form a coalition with the United States. In this, Obama seems to side with the neoconservatives, his ideological enemies. Neoconservatives argued that democratic republics have common interests, so not only would they not fight each other, they would band together — hence their rhetoric about creating democracies in the Middle East. Obama seems to have bought into this idea that a truly democratic Egypt would be friendly to the United States and its interests. That may be so, but it is hardly self-evident — and this assumes democracy is a real option in Egypt, which is questionable.

Obama addressed this by saying we must take risks in the short run to be on the right side of history in the long run. The problem embedded in this strategy is that if the United States miscalculates about the long run of history, it might wind up with short-term risks and no long-term payoff. Even if by some extraordinary evolution the Middle East became a genuine democracy, it is the ultimate arrogance to assume that a Muslim country would choose to be allied with the United States. Maybe it would, but Obama and the neoconservatives can’t know that.

But to me, this is an intellectual abstraction. There is no Arab Spring, just some demonstrations accompanied by slaughter and extraordinarily vacuous observers. While the pressures are rising, the demonstrations and risings have so far largely failed, from Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak was replaced by a junta, to Bahrain, where Saudi Arabia by invitation led a contingent of forces to occupy the country, to Syria, where Bashar al Assad continues to slaughter his enemies just like his father did.

A Risky Strategy
Obviously, if Obama is going to call for sweeping change, he must address the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. Obama knows this is the graveyard of foreign policy: Presidents who go into this rarely come out well. But any influence he would have with the Arabs would be diminished if he didn’t try. Undoubtedly understanding the futility of the attempt, he went in, trying to reconcile an Israel that has no intention of returning to thegeopolitically vulnerable borders of 1967 with a Hamas with no intention of publicly acknowledging Israel’s right to exist — with Fatah hanging in the middle. By the weekend, the president was doing what he knew he would do and was switching positions.

At no point did Obama address the question of Pakistan and Afghanistan or the key issue: Iran. There can be fantasies about uprisings in Iran, but 2009 was crushed, and no matter what political dissent there is among the elite, a broad-based uprising is unlikely. The question thus becomes how the United States plans to deal with Iran’s emerging power in the region as the United States withdraws from Iraq.

But Obama’s foray into Israeli-Palestinian affairs was not intended to be serious; rather, it was merely a cover for his broader policy to reconstitute a coalition of the willing. While we understand why he wants this broader policy to revive the coalition of the willing, it seems to involve huge risks that could see a diminished or disappeared coalition. He could help bring down pro-American regimes that are repressive and replace them with anti-American regimes that are equally or even more repressive.

If Obama is right that there is a democratic movement in the Muslim world large enough to seize power and create U.S.-friendly regimes, then he has made a wise choice. If he is wrong and the Arab Spring was simply unrest leading nowhere, then he risks the coalition he has by alienating regimes in places like Bahrain or Saudi Arabia without gaining either democracy or friends.
22969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 24, 2011, 05:37:11 PM
The wittiness of the lo-flo toilets is noted, as is the failure to note that in point of fact , , , they got the wrong apartment.
22970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China on: May 24, 2011, 05:04:24 PM
The Crafty Doctrine was formulated in the context of Afpakia.  Pakistan having a patron in China, perhaps giving it a seaport, is a major new variable.
22971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now that's funny on: May 24, 2011, 01:48:27 PM
22972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 24, 2011, 01:44:08 PM
When it wasn't reasonable to wait for a warrant grin

And if I remember correctly the suspect did not know the police were after him.  He simply went home.   The risk of destruction of evidence was triggered by the knock.
The police could have waited while sending for a warrant.  Oh wait!  Maybe they couldn't have gotten one (on the dealing charge) because they had only a 50% (or less if there were more than two apartments) chance of giving the judge the right address , , ,  rolleyes  Is a 50% chance of getting the right place a sufficient % for you?
22973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: May 24, 2011, 01:33:22 PM
Doug:  I recorded the Wallace interview of Cain and finally got to watch it.  Not knowing the phrase "right of return" is pretty discouraging.  I respect the point about not having intel on Afghanistan, but not to have something to say at all e.g. about basic thoughts concerning the Islamo-fascist threat is really discouraging.  Also from a former Fed chairman I would have expected more articulate economic commentary. 

Maybe as he gets a bit warmed up he will do better and become worthy of the VP slot , , ,

Viz Pawlenty:  That sounds like a real good start!
22974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 24, 2011, 01:26:16 PM
Yup.  Just look at all that spare bandwidth we have. 

Any predictions on how BO will respond?

This discussion might better belong on the US-China thread , , ,
22975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: New single-family homes nicely up in April on: May 24, 2011, 01:23:57 PM
New single-family home sales rose 7.3% in April To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 5/24/2011

New single-family home sales rose 7.3% in April, coming in at a 323,000 annual rate, beating the consensus expected pace of 300,000.

Sales were up in all major regions of the country.
At the current sales pace, the months’ supply of new homes (how long it would take to sell the homes in inventory) fell to 6.5 in April from 7.2 in March. The decline in the months’ supply was due to both the faster pace of sales and lower inventories, which fell 5,000 from last month, hitting the lowest level on record, since at least 1963.
The median price of new homes sold was $217,900 in April, up 4.6% from a year ago. The average price of new homes sold was $268,900, down 0.6% versus last year.
Implications:  New home sales rose 7.3% in April, beating consensus expectations for the second straight month.  And for the first time since August 2007, sales increased in all four major regions of the country, showing that the gain in sales was widespread and not confined to one area. On top of that, the level of new homes in inventory fell to the lowest level on record, since at least 1963. While this is all very good news, it does not necessarily signal the start of a consistent upward trend. Sales remain in the range we have seen since last May, and the new home market still faces two major challenges. With such a large number of existing homes on the market, many of which are like new or are in foreclosure and steeply discounted, the new home market isn’t as attractive to buyers. Credit conditions also remain very tight, despite low mortgage rates, particularly for buyers who don’t have very good credit scores and a 20% down-payment. So while housing is clearly beginning to recover, these issues will keep the pace of recovery subdued for the time being. We expect new home sales to eventually increase substantially, but it will take several years to fully recover. In other news this morning, the Richmond Fed index, a measure of manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic, dropped to -6 in May from +10 in April. While this number was a disappointment, it is not consistent with other manufacturing indicators that show continued growth in manufacturing.
22976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 24, 2011, 10:45:26 AM
How do you negotiate with someone who stated purpose is serve as Allah's servant by killling you and yours?
22977  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: May 24, 2011, 10:41:53 AM
Very sorry to hear that PD.  Speaking from extensive personal experience, some of the toughest tests of our path come when we are injured.  Now is when you can show how much our path gives by keeping your mind right.
22978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 24, 2011, 10:38:51 AM
There are LOTS of circumstances well within the law which will induce people to start moving around when there is a loud knocking on the door of "Its the police!!!

As noted, there was time for a warrant.

" here the suspects would not have anticipated police discovery but for the knock.  The police could have posted officers outside the apartment while obtaining a warrant for entry because there was “very little risk” that the evidence would have been destroyed while awaiting a warrant."

22979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 24, 2011, 10:18:29 AM
"In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg contends that the Court’s decision “arms police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases”; in a largely rhetorical question, she also asks whether our homes will actually remain secure “if police, armed with no warrant, can pound on doors at will and, on hearing sounds indicative of things moving, forcibly enter and search for evidence of unlawful activity[.]”  To maintain the protections of the Fourth Amendment, she argues, the exigent circumstances must exist “when the police come on the scene, not subsequent to their arrival, prompted by their own conduct.”

"Justice Ginsburg notes that if the police had not knocked, no evidence would have been destroyed; she emphasizes that even the Court’s opinion concedes that “[p]ersons in possession of valuable drugs are unlikely to destroy them unless they fear discovery by the police,” and here the suspects would not have anticipated police discovery but for the knock.  The police could have posted officers outside the apartment while obtaining a warrant for entry because there was “very little risk” that the evidence would have been destroyed while awaiting a warrant."

22980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 24, 2011, 01:32:11 AM
I've not had the time to digest CCP's post, but I will note that I get a bit testy on the meme that seems to float on the wind about mixed loyalty and Jews.


Israel and Obama’s Radical Past

Israel and Obama’s Radical Past

May 20, 2011 10:05 A.M.

By Stanley Kurtz 

Does President Obama’s radical past tell us anything significant about his stance on Israel today? Perhaps more important, do the radical alliances of Obama’s Chicago days raise a warning flag about what the president’s position on Israel may be in 2013, should he safely secure reelection? Many will deny it, but I believe Obama’s radical history speaks volumes about the past, present, and likely future course of his policy on Israel.

The Los Angeles Times has long refused to release a videotape in its possession of a farewell dinner, attended by Obama, for scholar and Palestinian activist Rashid Khalidi. Obama spoke warmly of his friendship for Khalidi at that event. Unfortunately, the continuing mystery of that video tape has obscured the rather remarkable article that the LA Times did publish about the dinner — and about Obama’s broader views on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In light of the controversy over Obama’s remarks on Israel in his address yesterday on the Middle East, it is worth revisiting that 2008 article from the LA Times.

The extraordinary thing about “Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Obama” is that in it, Obama’s supporters say that in claiming to be pro-Israel, he is hiding his true views from the public. Having observed his personal associations, his open political alliances, his public statements, and his private remarks, Obama’s Palestinian allies steadfastly maintain that Obama’s private views are far more pro-Palestinian than he lets on.

Having pieced together Obama’s history, I make much the same argument about Obama’s broader political stance in my book, Radical-in-Chief. Obama’s true views are far to the left of what he lets on in public. Yet it’s striking to see Palestinian activists making essentially the same point — not in criticism of Obama, but in praise.

Notice also that, in this article, Rashid Khalidi himself claims that Obama’s family ties to Kenya and Indonesia have inclined him to be more sympathetic to Palestinians than other American politicians are. That sort of claim often gets ridiculed when conservatives make it.

The point of all this is not that, as president, Obama is going to make policy exactly as Rashid Khalidi might. Obviously, no American president could take such a position and survive politically. Rather, the point is that Obama’s stance is going to tilt more heavily toward the Palestinians than any other likely American president, Republican or Democrat — just as Obama’s Palestinian allies argued in that LA Times piece.

The entire article is worth a read, but here are some choice excerpts:

A special tribute [at the farewell dinner] came from Khalidi’s friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals provided by Khalidi’s wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases” . . .

[Obama today] expresses a firmly pro-Israel view. . . .

And yet the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor’s going away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.

Their belief is not drawn from Obama’s speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago, including his presence at events where anger at Israeli and U.S. Middle East policy was freely expressed. . . .

“I am confident that Barack Obama is more sympathetic to the position of ending the occupation than either of the other candidates,” said Hussein Ibish…. “That’s my personal opinion, Ibish said, “and I think it for a very large number of circumstantial reasons and what he’s said.”

. . . Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian rights activist in Chicago who helps run Electronic Intifada, said that he met Obama several times at Palestinian and Arab American community events. At one, a 2000 fundraiser at a private home, Obama called for the U.S. to take an “even-handed” approach toward Israel….

Abunimah, in a Times interview and on his website, said Obama seemed sympathetic to the Palestinian cause but more circumspect as he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. At a dinner gathering that year, Abunimah said, Obama greeted him warmly and said privately that he needed to speak cautiously about the Middle East.

Abunimah quoted Obama as saying that he was sorry he wasn’t talking more about the Palestinian cause, but that his primary campaign had constrained what he could say.

Obama, through his aide, Axelrod, denied he ever said those words, and Abunimah’s account could not be independently verified.

In Radical-in-Chief, I show how Obama generally resorts to obfuscation to hide his radical past, saving outright false denial for those few cases where it is absolutely necessary. Is this another such case?

Radical-in-Chief also shows in some detail, with new information, that Obama had to know about Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s intensely anti-Israel views. I also discuss the triangular relationship between Obama, Khalidi, and Bill Ayers. Ayers and Khalidi were extremely close friends and allies, and both were close political allies of Obama as well.

For further evidence that Obama’s early views tell us more about his actions in the present — and future — than his current “pragmatic” statements, see “Obama’s Past Tells the Truth.”

There is also the question of Samantha Power, Obama’s most important foreign policy advisor during his Senate years, and a guiding force behind our current intervention in Libya. I surveyed her views in “Samantha Power’s Power.” Although Power now disavows it, there is persuasive evidence that she once advocated an American military intervention against Israel to impose a two-state solution. It is extraordinary that someone holding that view should have been Obama’s closest foreign-policy adviser for years, and a continuing influence within his administration today.

It is true, of course, that Obama has long maintained close ties to the Jewish community. Yet the depth of his ties to the pro-Palestinian Left is unmatched among major American politicians. It is reasonable to conclude that this is having an effect on Obama’s policies — more than he admits — and will continue to do so, especially should the president secure reelection.

22981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 23, 2011, 01:47:32 PM
Speaking of which, this from today's LA Times-- a source which I often mock-- but here it reads rather well:

May 23, 2011
One of the most important functions of the Supreme Court is to put legal limits on police excesses. But the court failed to fulfill that responsibility last week when it widened a loophole in the requirement that police obtain a warrant before searching a home.

The 8-1 decision came in the case of a search of an apartment in Kentucky by police who suspected illegal drugs were being destroyed. The police, who said they smelled marijuana near the apartment, had knocked loudly on the door and shouted, "This is the police." Then, after hearing noises they thought indicated the destruction of evidence, they broke down the door.

 Court says police may break into homes in certain cases
 Carving out class-action exceptions
 Supreme Court: Class (action) dismissed
Prop. 8: Who's fit to judge?
Let sun shine on dependency court
For Alejandra Tapia, prison as punishment
See more stories »
XScrutinizing Wal-Mart
 Police don't need a warrant to enter a residence when there are "exigent circumstances," such as imminent danger, the possibility that a suspect will escape or concern about the immediate destruction of evidence. But in this case, the police actually created the exigent circumstances that they then capitalized on to conduct the warrantless search.

According to Kentucky's Supreme Court, the exigent-circumstances exception didn't apply because the police should have foreseen that their conduct would lead the occupants of the apartment to destroy evidence. Overturning that finding, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the court that as long as the police officers' behavior was lawful, the fact that it produced an exigent circumstance didn't violate the Constitution. That would be the case, Alito suggested, even if a police officer acted in bad faith in an attempt to evade the warrant requirement.

But as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent, Alito's reasoning "arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the 4th Amendment's warrant requirement in drug cases. In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, never mind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant."

Ginsburg also dismissed the argument that entering the apartment in the Kentucky case was necessary to prevent the destruction of drug evidence. Quoting the majority opinion, she wrote that "persons in possession of valuable drugs are unlikely to destroy them unless they fear discovery by the police." Therefore, police can take the time to obtain a warrant.

Allowing police to create an exception to the warrant requirement violates the 4th Amendment. That is how the court should have ruled.
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
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Comments (2)Add / View comments | Discussion FAQ
Kiljoy616 at 9:33 AM May 23, 2011
The Constitution a nice idea that is slowly dying out one piece at a time. at 12:13 AM May 23, 2011
Finally! An editorial that I completely, 100% agree with. In this case, the court was wrong.

22982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: May 23, 2011, 01:27:50 PM
Which means that the example is not on point  cheesy
22983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: May 23, 2011, 01:08:53 PM
If I am not mistaken, China regards Taiwan as part of China too cheesy
22984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jerusalem, Israel: Separation of Powers question? on: May 23, 2011, 12:37:22 PM
Jewish World Review May 5, 2011 / 1 Iyar, 5771

Supreme Court steps into White House-Congress feud over Jerusalem status

By Warren Richey

Our contributor's child, born in Jerusalem to American parents, was told that his passport must list "Jerusalem" -- without a country -- as the place of his birth. Why? Because America doesn't recognize the Holy City as the Jewish State's capital. Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, and his wife Naomi, found that obscene, particularly because a law of Congress agrees with them. For years they waded through a maddening bureaucracy. Their case, which could potentially have a serious impact on any future Muddle East peace negotiations, was just accepted by the High Court. It's being framed as a dispute concerning the separation of powers within the US government

The US Supreme Court agreed this week to take up a case that could greatly complicate the delicate Middle East peace process in a legal challenge to the US State Department's policy of neutrality over the disputed status of Jerusalem.

The case arises out of a clash between Congress and the White House over which branch of government is empowered to decide how best to conduct sensitive issues of diplomacy overseas.

In addition to fundamental questions concerning the separation of powers within the US government, the case involves an example of the president issuing a signing statement announcing his intent not to enforce a portion of a law passed by Congress.

At the center of the case is the thorny question of how to record the birth of a child to American citizens when the happy event takes place in Jerusalem.

When a child is born to American citizens in Jerusalem, US government protocol is to list the place of birth as simply "Jerusalem."

It is done for diplomatic reasons, to avoid having to take sides between competing Arab and Israeli claims to the holy city.

Congress, on the other hand, has eschewed such diplomatic niceties. In September 2002, it passed a law directing the State Department — whenever requested — to record a birth in Jerusalem as having taken place in "Israel." The congressional action sparked protests and condemnation in the Middle East among those who interpreted the new law as a shift from a long-held US position.

The status of the city of Jerusalem is one of the most difficult and sensitive issues in the quest for peace between Arabs and Israelis.

Palestinians maintain that Jerusalem is an indivisible part of Arab lands they recognize as Palestine. Israelis counter that Jerusalem is not only an Israeli city, but Israel's capital.

The US diplomatic corps, seeking to maintain credibility as a mediator in the peace process, has remained neutral on the issue.

Into this delicate diplomatic dance came the infant child of Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky. The child, identified in court papers as MBZ, was born Oct. 17, 2002, in Jerusalem. When the boy's mother applied for documents verifying the birth abroad of a US citizen, she asked that the certificate reflect that the birth occurred in "Jerusalem, Israel."

State Department officials pointed out that, for political and diplomatic reasons, US policy is to record the place of birth as simply "Jerusalem."

The parents filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to order the US government to list the birthplace of their son on official documents as "Jerusalem, Israel." They noted that in September 2002, a month before the birth, Congress had passed the law instructing US officials to list the place of birth as Israel.

It is that dispute that the Supreme Court has agreed to decide. At issue is whether US officials must comply with the congressional action or, instead, enforce the diplomatic protocol favored for the past 60 years by all presidents.

The child, Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, is now eight years old.

The law in question is a provision of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for fiscal year 2003. The relevant portion of the law is entitled "United States Policy with Respect to Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel."

President Bush signed the Authorization Act into law but simultaneously issued a signing statement to emphasize that US policy regarding the status of Jerusalem had not changed. Bush wrote that the congressional mandate would "impermissibly interfere with the president's constitutional authority to formulate the position of the United States, speak for the nation in international affairs, and determine the terms on which recognition is given to foreign states."

In the federal court case, government lawyers argued that "if 'Israel' were to be recorded as the place of birth of a person born in Jerusalem, such 'unilateral action' by the United States on one of the most sensitive issues in the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians would critically compromise the United States' ability to help further the Middle East peace process."

Supporters of the congressional action argue that once Congress passes a law it is up to the executive branch to faithfully uphold and enforce it. They say Congress has the authority to undertake a policymaking role in foreign affairs.

A federal judge threw out the Zivotofskys' case, ruling that the issue is a political question related to an aspect of foreign affairs that is constitutionally assigned to the executive branch of government. An appeals court panel affirmed the decision.

In agreeing to take up the case, the high court asked the parties to also address whether the 2002 congressional mandate "impermissibily infringes the president's power to recognize foreign sovereigns."

The case, MBZ v. Clinton, will likely be scheduled for oral argument sometime in the court's next term, which begins in early October.

22985  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Ranges observed in the fights on: May 23, 2011, 12:21:26 PM
22986  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Preparations for a possible fight at the Euro Gathering on: May 23, 2011, 11:54:44 AM

22987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: May 23, 2011, 11:17:26 AM
The judicial filibuster is back, and it's better than ever! Yesterday the U.S. Senate effectively killed the nomination of hard-left University of California law professor Goodwin Liu to serve on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by rejecting a "cloture" motion that would have cleared the way for an actual confirmation vote. The cloture vote was 52-43 in favor, eight short of the requisite three-fifths majority. It was a near-party-line vote, with Alaska's Lisa Murkowski the only Republican voting "yes" and Nebraska's Ben Nelson the only Democrat voting "no."

The use of the filibuster to kill judicial nominations that a majority of senators support is a fairly new tactic. After Democrats lost the Senate majority in 2002, they used cloture votes to prevent the appointment of several Bush nominees, most notably Miguel Estrada. In 2005, Republicans, who then held a 55-45 majority, threatened to use what was dubbed the "nuclear option," which would change the Senate rules to preclude the filibustering of judicial appointments.

Instead, a bipartisan "gang" of 14 senators, seven from each party, reached an agreement in which the Republicans promised to abjure the nuclear option and the Democrats pledged to forgo filibusters except in "extraordinary circumstances." Assuming all the gangsters kept their word, there would be no more than 48 votes for the nuclear option and (in "ordinary" circumstances) at least 62 votes to break a filibuster.

The judicial filibuster faded into irrelevance after the 2006 election. In 2007-08, the Democrats had a majority and didn't need to filibuster to block Bush nominees. In 2009-10, the Republicans' numbers were so diminished that the Dems could overcome any filibuster of an Obama pick. But with the Republicans' gains in last year's election, the Senate looks much like it did in 2005, when the president's party had a majority but the minority was big enough to use the filibuster.

There's a certain rough justice in Liu's being kept off the bench by a judicial filibuster, since he earlier made a name for himself by slandering Judge (now Justice) Samuel Alito. As the Associated Press reports:

Liu had said Alito's vision was an America "where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy . . . where federal agents may point guns at ordinary citizens during a raid, even after no sign of resistance ... where the FBI may install a camera where you sleep . . . where a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man, absent . . . analysis showing discrimination."
Liu told his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee that this "was not an appropriate way to describe Justice Alito." He described his own language as "unduly harsh," and added, "If I had it to do over again, I would have deleted it."
Yeah, we bet he would have! Roll Call reports that Republicans cited "extraordinary circumstances" to justify the blocking of Liu's nomination, The Hill reports that "Democrats on Thursday said the standard for filibustering judicial nominees has been lowered significantly as a result of Liu's defeat":

"It's a bad, bad precedent," said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), a member of the Judiciary Committee. "If this is not an extraordinarily well-qualified person, I don't know who will be. I'm afraid the phrase 'extraordinary circumstances' will suffer great damage by this action if a filibuster is sustained."
In truth, whatever meaning the rather vague phrase "extraordinary circumstances" might have had, it lost in January 2007, for the gangsters' agreement applied only in the 109th Congress. Thus the nine remaining gangsters were free to vote in favor of the filibuster, as five of them, including Democrat Nelson, did.

Left-wing extremists are predictably accusing GOP senators of hypocrisy. The outfit that styles itself People for the American Way "sent out a list of quotes from Republicans from 2005 declaring that it was unconstitutional not to allow up-or-down votes on judicial nominees," Roll Call notes.

Of course, Democrats back then were championing the filibuster as a vital check on majority power. One may reasonably conclude that both sides are more concerned with substance than with process, although the Republicans have the better of the argument inasmuch as it is hardly reasonable to expect them to disarm unilaterally.

Murkowski stood almost alone in attributing her vote entirely to her view of the procedural question: "I stated during the Bush administration that judicial nominations deserved an up-or-down vote, except in 'extraordinary circumstances,' and my position has not changed simply because there is a different president making the nominations," she said in a statement.

Associated Press
Hatch: "Present" means "no."
.Utah's Orrin Hatch also tried to make a statement against the filibuster, but in a silly way: He voted "present." He did the same thing two weeks ago on a cloture vote for another nominee, John McConnell of Rhode Island (that one made it to the floor on a 63-33 vote). "I just felt that was the only honorable thing I could do under the circumstances," Hatch told the Legal Times after the McConnell vote. "I opposed the nominee, but I didn't want to vote against cloture."

The reason this is silly is that unlike a confirmation vote, which is approved so long as "yes" votes outnumber "noes," a cloture vote requires a three-fifths majority of all seated senators. Assuming no Senate seats are vacant, a cloture motion could theoretically be stopped by a 59-1 vote in favor. That means that a "present" vote, or an absence, is identical in effect to a "no" vote.

Hatch insists there is a symbolic difference. "It's not the same," he told Legal Times. "If it were the same, I'd have voted 'no.' It's the only way I could preserve my integrity on this matter."

But "asked whether he could ever support a filibuster of a judicial nominee, Hatch did not rule out the possibility":

"I have every right to vote 'no' on cloture, because the Democrats have set the standard," Hatch said, alluding to the judge wars of the Bush administration. Still, he said he wouldn't feel good about it, "because I still feel I was right about the filibustering of judges."
Again, the effect of a "no" vote is identical to that of a "present" vote. So Hatch is unwilling to rule out a purely symbolic vote that would violate his stated principles. It's hard to imagine a protest with less of a point.

Baghdad Newt
"Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday he'll use 'cheerful persistence' to overcome the bumps that marked the first formal week of his campaign," the Associated Press reports.

Gingrich said he isn't surprised by the rough start to his campaign. . . . "My reaction is if you're the candidate of very dramatic change, it you're the candidate of really new ideas, you have to assume there's a certain amount of clutter and confusion and it takes a while to sort it all out, because you are doing something different," Gingrich told reporters after he opened an intense three-day campaign swing in Iowa. . . .
"This campaign is very alive and very well with lots of grass-roots support," Gingrich told the crowd.
It gets better:

He said reporters covering his campaign must adjust their thinking.
"It's going to take a while for the news media to realize that you're covering something that happens once or twice in a century, a genuine grass-roots campaign of very big ideas," said Gingrich. "I expect it to take a while for it to sink in."
How bad is Gingrich as a candidate? He doesn't even have John Kerry's comic timing. The stuff he says is so crazy and outrageous that one quickly becomes desensitized to it.

The stuff he's saying now is objectively hilarious, but that's a perilous oxymoron, because it's not nearly as funny as yesterday's material about sheep and the liar's paradox. Even someone who is as much of a genius as Newt can't possibly outdo that.

By contrast, Kerry, the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat who by the way served in Vietnam, never stops being funny. He has the hat to this day! Kerry's secret is that he has just enough self-restraint to maintain an illusion of dignity among those who sympathize with him politically. That they take him seriously only adds to the humor.

Gingrich would be funnier if he could find other people to say with a straight face things like, "This is something that happens once or twice a century." But good luck with that.

Riding High in April, Shot Down in May
A day after he announced it, Willie Nelson has withdrawn his presidential endorsement of the monotonous libertarian extremist Gary Johnson, reports (apparently quoting Nelson's email verbatim):

"Yesterday, both the Teapot Party and Gary Johnson 2012 sent out press releases announcing the endorsement," wrote Teapot Party member Steve Bloom Thursday. . . .
"My position is it too early for me to endorse anyone," he wrote in an email to Bloom. "And I think every one should vote their own conscience."
Willie went on: "I think I will wait and see where he stands on other things. My bad. Sorry. I still think he is a good guy but so Is Dennis [Kucinich] and if he decided to run I would personally vote for him. If it came down to either him or Gary I'm already committed to Dennis. They both have said they support legal pot."
We're glad he cleared that up. But wait. What if it's Newt Gingrich vs. Russ Feingold--how does Willie vote then? An anxious world holds its breath. An anxious world exhales. An anxious world suddenly feels more mellow. A mellow world scarfs down an entire bag of Doritos. Dude, what was this item about again?

Survival Is Not an Option
After getting off to a "great start," Katie Couric yesterday signed off as anchorman of the "CBS Evening News," reports the network's New York website. If Harold Camping is right, she just missed the story of her lifetime. New York magazine has an interview with Camping, leader of "the Christian movement that believes Judgment Day will occur on May 21":

How certain are you that world is going to end on May 21--do you have any doubts?
God has given sooo much information in the Bible about this, and so many proofs, and so many signs, that we know it is absolutely going to happen without any question at all. There's nothing in the Bible that God has ever prophesied--there's many things that he prophesied would happen and they always have happened--but there's nothing in the Bible that holds a candle to the amount of information to this tremendous truth of the end of the world. I would be absolutely in rebellion against God if I thought anything other than it is absolutely going to happen without any question.
Wow, he's like a Christian Eric Holder. Then again, why should he worry? If he's wrong, it's not the end of the world.

22988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 23, 2011, 10:43:05 AM
Beinhart has a fair point about the deep implications of the Pal strategy of going to the UN and getting recognized there.  Glen Beck also sees this as highly significant.

Beinhart raises apparently reasonable questions about the defensibility of some of the Israeli West Bank settlements.

That said, some rather large and obvious questions remain.

a) Why was this speech sprung upon the Israelis?  Why did BO not give N. a heads up with sufficient time for some backchannel communications?

b) What the hell does "contiguous" mean in this context?  That Gaza and the West Bank will be connected?!?

c) What about BO going further (last year?) than the Pals in making suspending settlements a pre-requisite for returning to negotiations?  If I have this right, this was something that the Pals had not sought, but now must now that BO has done so.

d)  Beinhart also seems to have little problem with the idea of negotiating with Hamas  rolleyes
22989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 23, 2011, 10:21:22 AM
Indeed, I too learned of the Rockwell-Rothbard nexus and its ugly concepts thanks to GM.

Returning to the subject at hand, I emailed Mitch Vilos, the author of the "Self-Defense Law in the 50 States" book which we carry in our catalog (also, see the relevant thread on the Martial Arts forum) the URL of this thread.  Given his unusually extensive research in this area, I was curious for his input, which he was kind enough to give:

Here it is:

You notice that we did not address this as part of our template for each
state because we felt it was not something that most people would ever have
to consider or anticipate.  But, that said, we did come across states that
addressed the issue and as I recall, Indiana was not the only state that had
statutes indicating that citizens are not justified in resisting an unlawful
arrest or entry. 

With the disclaimer that I haven't researched it extensively (for reasons
given above), my guess is that this is a huge "thumbs down" factor in any
case.  If you resist and bad things happen to a police officer, it's going
to result in arrest, prosecution and possible conviction just because there
tends to be a belief by most potential jurors that policemen can do no wrong
(with some inner city exceptions, of course).  Remember, Texas has a strong
home defense statute.  But one of the thumbs down factors in the home is if
the intruder is a child.  Reference the Texas thumbs down case (Gonzales as
I recall) where the Texas trailer owner shot and killed one of several young
teens in his trailer to steal candy.  He was arrested, tried and finally
acquitted, but nevertheless had to endure a life-changing experience.  I
suspect that is going to be the way it will be for using or threatening
deadly force against a LEO in most cases. Same with spousal shootings
(Chapter 13).  Unless the battered wife gets out of the home, if she shoots
her husband in her own home, she will be arrested and prosecuted.  She is
seldom acquitted.   

A horrible outgrowth of this issue is going to be home invasions where the
invaders pose as cops.  The more this happens, the more homeowners will
shoot to kill no matter that whoever enters is screaming, "police, get
down!!! Hands where we can see them!!!!!"  One clue to a real cop entry
might be the "flash-bang."  I suspect we'll see more severe penalties for
impersonating LEOs during home invasions for this very reason.  It makes the
entry more and more dangerous for the real LEOs.  Unfortunately Indiana's
removal of right to resist unlawful police entry gives a signal to home
invaders that impersonating SWAT no knock entries will be the key to

One corollary.  The more home invaders impersonate officers, the less likely
a defending citizen will be convicted for using force against unlawful
entries where there is a "reasonable man" standard for self-defense. But
that won't keep citizens from being arrested and prosecuted for using force
against officers even in the event of an unlawful entry. 

Hope this gives some helpful insight into the issue.  Mitch

22990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 23, 2011, 08:19:54 AM
As I understand the argument by some lucid Isrealis, it is that holding on to Arab populated territory has considerable risks of its own.
22991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Peru, elections on: May 23, 2011, 08:18:12 AM
Peruvian national-socialist Ollanta Humala and his center-right populist
rival Keiko Fujimori have finally agreed to a televised debate ahead of the
June 5 presidential runoff election. Perhaps the May 29 event will reveal
how genuinely committed each candidate is to preserving, refining and
strengthening the fragile democratic capitalism that has been moving the
country out of poverty for the past decade. This is, after all, the crucial
question for Peruvian voters.

Liberalization has been good for Peru. Its gross-domestic-product growth
averaged about 6.5% annually from 2002-2010. Poverty is half what it was 20
years ago. The government has opened markets, increased property-rights
protection, improved transparency in the state's fiscal accounts, and
restrained spending.

This success has helped sustain the case for Latin American freedom at a
time when Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and the Colombian terrorist group FARC are
using money, weapons and ideological outreach to try to overthrow democracy
and outlaw private property across the continent. Revolutionary ideals have
met with some success among the region's most vulnerable populations. Mr.
Chávez's Bolivarian movement was instrumental in bringing the antidemocratic
Evo Morales to power in Bolivia. Internal FARC documents indicate the
guerrillas helped finance the presidential campaign of Ecuadoran caudillo
Rafael Correa. In all three countries civil liberties, including free speech
and due process, have been dramatically abridged.

View Full Image

Peruvian presidential candidates Keiko Fujimori and Ollanta Humala

Peru has mostly kept these destructive forces at bay. But the risk of a
revolutionary uprising, particularly in the southern sierra, remains real.
Discontent simmers in Peru's significant indigenous communities, where
people are less likely to be beneficiaries of economic modernization, and
where state inefficiency and corruption translate into abysmal public
services. Centuries of racial tension also persist in these areas, and the
U.S. war on drugs in the face of steady American demand has further
alienated the population.

This is the target market of Mr. Chávez, and it is also the stronghold for
Mr. Humala's national-socialist Gana Peru party.

A recent special-client report, "The Possibility of an Insurrection in the
Southern Andes" by the Peruvian security-consulting firm Peace Keeping
Solutions (PKS), lists 14 "acts of insurrection" since 2004, including one
led by Mr. Humala's brother Antauro on Jan. 1, 2005, that was supported at
the time by the candidate. The report points out that while Mr. Chávez's
political structures have played a role in fomenting this unrest, chavismo
"doesn't explain the existence of leftist and nationalist ideas among 40% or
more of the Peruvian population." That, PKS maintains, is a result of
ideological forces within national universities, professional organizations,
the Peruvian military and some political parties.

Chavismo has a limited capacity to "organize insurrection" in Peru, PKS
says. But that capacity is strengthened by the state's failure to counteract
radicalism. The army is "indifferent, bordering on complicity," the National
Intelligence Agency is "inefficient," police administration is deficient,
and police intelligence is starved for resources. Meanwhile, there has been
"a permissive attitude" in the prime minister's office and at times
cooperation with militant activists from regional authorities.

Mr. Humala's history is tied up in all this. He is an ex-army officer who
has built his political career by tapping into the resentment of the
disenfranchised with demagogic speeches against liberal economics and
threats of violence against the establishment. Mr. Humala even attempted his
own military coup in 2000, and there are credible allegations that he took
money from Mr. Chávez in his 2006 presidential bid.

Last week he tried to distance himself from this past by publicly swearing
on a Bible to refrain from dismantling the country's democratic institutions
if elected. His critics howled that it was pure theater and no more
believable than the recent rewrite of his policy agenda. The old one, dated
December 2010, was a 198-page anti-market, national-socialist rant. The new
one is eight pages of promises to "combat corruption," "reestablish public
ethics," and lay down the rule of law. It is as if Mr. Humala was knocked
off his horse on the road from Puno.

Either that or he has agreed to an image makeover so he can get elected. The
latter seems more likely. Nevertheless, he is being helped by a few Peruvian
elites who appear less enamored of him than they are obsessed with hatred
for Keiko Fujimori's father, former president Alberto Fujimori. Her defeat,
it seems, would be their long-sought revenge for his authoritarian style.
How else to explain so-called free-market types backing a national-socialist
who six months ago was pledging to eviscerate the liberal economic model?

Ms. Fujimori has a heavy responsibility to defend the measures that have
improved Peru's living standards and to explain how she would deepen
reforms. A lot is riding on how well she does in the debate. If the only
motivated voters come election day are those with scores to settle against
her father, the country is in deep trouble.
22992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US draws a line in the silicon on: May 23, 2011, 08:09:09 AM
In the days immediately after 9/11, the U.S. sent tanks to surround the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and protect it from potential threats. In its basement is the largest depository of gold in the world, worth some $300 billion, almost all owned by foreign governments. The Fed's gold has only ever been stolen in the movies.

We know all about defending real-world treasure, but we are only beginning to understand threats to the 1s and 0s of the digital era. Vastly more capital and valuable information now flow digitally than through the real world, but Internet security is an afterthought

This month the White House issued a pair of reports on the problem, both years in the making. One includes proposals for new domestic rules to protect infrastructure and to give companies immunity for sharing information about data breaches with local and federal authorities.

The other report, "U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace," is a warning shot directed at rogue countries and cyber terrorists. Released at an event with four cabinet secretaries present, the study defines the benefits of the Web as "prosperity, security and openness in a networked world." It warns countries that cut off their own citizens from the Web or use cyber weaponry against the U.S. or its allies. The goal is to make the Web secure "without crippling innovation, suppressing freedom of expression or association, or impeding global interoperability."

The report says that "hostile acts in cyberspace" are as much a threat as physical acts. "We reserve the right to use all necessary means," including military, to "defend our nation, our allies, our partners and our interests." It adds, "Certain hostile acts conducted through cyberspace could compel actions under the commitments we have with our military treaty partners."

This tough language would have been more forceful if the usual suspects, including China and Russia, had appeared by name somewhere in the 30-page document. It would also be helpful for the U.S. to disclose cyber attacks by the country of origin. But at least the White House pledges to "ensure that the risks associated with attacking or exploiting our networks vastly outweigh the potential benefits." The U.S. now spends some $16 billion a year for classified and unclassified work on cyber security, and this expense will grow.

There's a lot of catching up to do. There are constant cyber attacks against the Pentagon and other federal agencies, as well as against banks, electrical grids, dams and nuclear facilities. Over the past year, the U.S. failed to stop Chinese hackers from penetrating the Gmail accounts of American human rights activists. It also failed to prevent efforts to access Nasdaq's computers and a break-in at RSA, the cyber security company that provides SecurID access to private networks.

It's not surprising that our digital networks are vulnerable—they were planned to be. The Internet was created in the 1970s to solve the Pentagon problem of how to keep communications lines open during all-out war. The Darpanet-inspired Web moves packets of data around in an open, interconnected, decentralized and mostly unencrypted way. This is resilient, but also highly subject to infiltration.

There's cyber crime, such as the hacking of Sony PlayStations that revealed some 100 million accounts, including credit cards. Sony CEO Howard Stringer last week admitted he can't ensure the security of the videogame network, saying: "It's not a brave new world; it's a bad new world." There's also cyber war, which, at least so far, we seem to be winning. Israel apparently used the Stuxnet computer worm last year to undermine Iranian nuclear facilities, and in 2007 Israel may have activated a kill switch in Syrian air defenses before bombing Syria's nuclear facility.

The biggest unknown is cyber terrorism. The report doesn't say how many cyber attacks are by foreign governments as opposed to by terror groups, a dangerous known unknown.

The Washington response is the usual: too many agencies, more than a dozen, each claiming some cyber responsibilities. The result is that no one agency is being held accountable. There are proposals now to add the Securities and Exchange Commission to the bureaucracy by asking corporate lawyers to assess the materiality of data breaches by publicly traded companies.

A better approach includes proposals in "Cyber War," co-authored last year by former White House aide Richard Clarke. These include the U.S. maintaining its own "white hat" hackers tasked with trying to break into the grid. Another idea is to create a private government network for sensitive purposes accessible only by authorized officials.

Protecting the Web will never be as straightforward as dispatching tanks to protect gold bars. But it's progress for the U.S. to draw a line in the silicon warning enemies that digital attacks may be result in real-world responses.

22993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: May 23, 2011, 08:02:18 AM
Good question. 

Coincidentally, Scott Grannis just responded to a similar question from me as follows:

Marc, of course it's impossible to rule out a catastrophic sequence of events. If everything goes the wrong way we will be in deep sh*t. But I would note that the market does not sit still when defaults loom. As I noted in a post about commercial real estate backed securities not too long ago, a year ago the market expected gigantic defaults. Actual defaults have been much lower than expected and feared, and the prices of those securities have soared in the past year. The market has already priced in a significant restructuring (a nice word for default) of Greek debt, with 2-yr Greek govt bonds now trading at a yield of 25%. The unknowns are not whether Greece will default, they are a) when will the default occur and b) how big will it be? If the actual default is equal to or less than the market expects already, then that will be good news.

I would further note that Euro swap spreads are only mildly elevated. If the european bond market suspected that a Greek default would precipitate and end-of-the-world scenario, I can assure you that swap spreads would be trading at multiples of their current level. Swap spreads are a measure of the likelihood that big banks will be unable to honor their obligations. 2-yr euro swaps are only 50 bps or so, with 25-30 being normal. The market is telling you that a Greek default is not going to be a big deal, believe it or not.

All of the things you worry about have been front and center for the markets for over one year now. I think it's reasonable to assume that the market, in its wisdom, has by now fully analyzed the risks and has priced them in.

I've responded to this with some probing questions about the validity of the efficient market hypothesis, which seems to inform his answer, and now await his response.
22994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Misunderstood? on: May 23, 2011, 07:58:24 AM
Several key points not addressed by this piece, but , , ,

The reaction to President Barack Obama's speech on Thursday has largely focused on one line: "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." News outlets from across the political spectrum ran headlines highlighting Mr. Obama's demand that Israel return to the "1967 borders," referring to Israel's boundaries before it took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the 1967 Six Day War.

Meantime, GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty condemned "President Obama's insistence on a return to the 1967 borders," calling it "a mistaken and very dangerous demand." Rep. Alan West (R., Fla.) described the position as "the beginning of the end as we know it for the Jewish state." The Republican Jewish Coalition deemed a return to such borders "unacceptable."

These individuals are absolutely correct that a return to the 1967 lines would be an unacceptable proposition for Israel. But Mr. Obama never said Israel should return to the 1967 lines. He said the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps should be the basis for negotiations. As Mr. Obama said yesterday at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, "it means that the parties themselves—Israelis and Palestinans—will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967." With this flexibility, Israel could incorporate, in internationally recognized borders, the vast majority of some 500,000 Israelis currently living beyond the 1967 lines. In effect, Mr. Obama met the Israeli demand that a future border reflect Israeli demographic and security concerns.

The concept of land swaps has served as the basis for every serious attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past decade. For every piece of land beyond the 1967 lines that Israel wants to annex, it would give a piece of land to the Palestinians from within Israel proper.

President George W. Bush's 2004 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now insisting that Mr. Obama reaffirm, is based on this premise. Mr. Obama's Thursday speech formalizes into official U.S. policy the working assumption of every U.S. president and secretary of state since the 2000 Camp David negotiations, as well as former Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, Israel's most decorated soldier.

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Associated Press
Several riflemen and a machine gunner of the United Arab Republic Army are seen manning a trench somewhere in the Gaza Strip, along the border to Israel, in 1967.
.Since a large proportion of the Israeli settlers live in areas adjacent to and contiguous with the 1967 lines, there are multiple border scenarios that would allow Israel to annex the vast majority of Israelis living beyond the 1967 lines. The president's formulation encompasses solutions ranging from the Geneva Initiative (which brings into Israel 72% of Israelis living beyond the 1967 lines) to maps by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (which bring into Israel up to 80% of Israelis living beyond the 1967 lines).

There is a finite amount of land that would be reasonable for Israel to swap in exchange for this post-1967 territory. This land should be unpopulated, away from vital Israeli infrastructure, and should not interrupt Israel's geographic contiguity or the living patterns of Israelis. It also shouldn't be near central Israel's "narrow waist," the precariously thin strip of coastal plain—some nine miles wide—between the 1967 lines and the Mediterranean Sea. Fortunately, there is enough land within Israel proper that fits these conditions that would allow the Jewish state to include the vast majority of Israelis living beyond the 1967 lines, as well as to address Israeli security concerns.

By insisting that the 1967 lines be modified, Mr. Obama showed his paramount concern for Israel's security. "Every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself—by itself—against any threat," Mr. Obama said. Furthermore, he went beyond Mr. Bush's 2004 letter to Mr. Sharon by demanding a non-militarized Palestinian state, and conditioning Israeli withdrawal from any post-1967 territory on the demonstrated effectiveness of security arrangements.

He also shared Israel's fears about Hamas's participation in the Palestinian government, legitimizing Israel's reluctance to "negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize [Israel's] right to exist." And by insisting that Israel be recognized as "a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people"—meeting another Netanyahu demand—Mr. Obama effectively renounced any return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.

Based on the simplistic media coverage, it's easy to miss the distinction between "return to the 1967 lines" and the president's actual formulation of "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps." The truth is that the president's vision ensures that Israel can remain a Jewish and democratic state, include within internationally recognized borders the vast majority of Israelis currently living beyond the 1967 lines, and keep its citizens safe.

Mr. Wexler, a former democratic member of Congress, is president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Mr. Krieger is senior vice president of the center.

22995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Mundell says on: May 23, 2011, 07:47:50 AM
Marc:  I'm not sure I really follow his logic here 100%, but Mundell is deep and IMHO his thoughts deserve considerable contemplation. 

Conservative economists have been raising alarms for months about the Federal Reserve's second quantitative-easing program, QE2. They argue it has lowered the dollar's value, leading to higher oil and commodity prices—a precursor to broader, more damaging inflation.

Yet the man many of them regard as their monetary guru—supply-side economics pioneer and Nobel Laureate Robert Mundell—says dollar weakness is not his main concern. Instead, he fears a return to recession later this year when QE2 ends and the dollar begins its inevitable rise. Deflation, not inflation, should be the greater concern. Avoiding the recession is simplicity itself: Just have the U.S. Treasury fix the exchange rate between the dollar and the euro.

Mr. Mundell's surprising statement came at a March 22 conference in New York sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, The Wall Street Journal and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. His economic predictions carry great weight because, unlike most economists of his generation, he is often right. His analysis of international economics has revolutionized the field, making him the euro's intellectual father and a primary adviser to China's economic policy makers.

Nevertheless, with gold around $1,500 and oil above $100 a barrel, supply-siders are scratching their heads: How can he possibly see deflation ahead? How can dollar weakness not be the problem?

The key to Mr. Mundell's view is that exchange rates transmit inflation or deflation into economies by raising or lowering prices for imported items and commodities. For example, when the dollar declines significantly against the world's second-leading currency, the euro, commodity prices rise. This creates U.S. inflationary pressure. Conversely, when the dollar appreciates significantly against the euro, commodity prices fall, which leads to deflationary pressure.

.From 2001-07, he argues, the dollar underwent a long, steady decline against the euro, tacitly encouraged by U.S. monetary authorities. In response to the dollar's decline, investors diverted capital into inflation hedges, notably real estate, leading to the subprime bubble. By mid-2007, the real-estate bubble had burst. In response, the Fed reduced short-term interest rates rapidly, which lowered the dollar further. The subprime crisis was severe, but with looser money, the economy appeared to stabilize in the second quarter of 2008.

Then, in summer 2008, the Fed committed what Mr. Mundell calls one of the worst mistakes in its history: In the middle of the subprime crunch—exacerbated by mark-to-market accounting rules that forced financial companies to cover short-term losses—the central bank paused in lowering the federal funds rate. In response, the dollar soared 30% against the euro in a matter of weeks. Dollar scarcity broke the economy's back, causing a serious economic contraction and crippling financial crisis.

In March 2009, the Fed woke up and enacted QE1, lowering the dollar against the euro, and signs of recovery soon appeared. But in November 2009, QE1 ended and the dollar soared against the euro once again, pushing the U.S. economy back toward recession. Last summer, the Fed initiated QE2, which lowered the value of the dollar, allowing a second leg of the recovery to take hold.

Nevertheless, Mr. Mundell views QE2 as the wrong solution for the problem. Instead, the U.S. and Europe simply should coordinate exchange-rate policies to maintain an upper and lower limit on the euro price, say between $1.30 and $1.40. Over time, the band would be narrowed to a given rate. Further quantitative easing would be off the table.

With a fixed exchange rate, prices could move free from the scourge of sudden deflation and inflation, allowing investment horizons and planning timelines to expand along with production levels on both sides of the Atlantic. To supercharge the U.S. recovery, he also recommends permanently extending the Bush tax rates and lowering the corporate income tax rate to 15% from 35%.

Above all, he made it clear that the volatile exchange rate is the responsibility of the U.S. Treasury, not the central bank. Without a breakthrough on exchange rates, he predicted another dollar appreciation following QE2, resulting in a return to recession and a worsening of the U.S. debt crisis. This would likely lead to a third round of quantitative easing, continuing the dysfunctional cycle.

Criticize the Fed all you like, Mr. Mundell says, but the key to recovery is to stabilize the dollar at a healthy level relative to the euro. Given his stellar track record, it's worth asking: Is anyone in Washington listening?

Mr. Rushton edits The Supply Side blog.

22996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Syria on: May 23, 2011, 07:42:19 AM

One mystery of American foreign policy, in Administrations of either party, is the eternal hope that the Assad family dynasty in Syria will one day experience an epiphany and become a reforming, pro-Western government.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher visited Damascus more than 20 times in the 1990s in search of a concession to peace that never came from Hafez Assad. President George W. Bush refused to implement the stiffest sanctions on Syria legislated by Congress and sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to beseech current President Bashar Assad to stop being a highway for jihadists into Iraq. To no avail.

President Obama also bought into the illusion, sending emissaries to turn Mr. Assad away from Iran, stop serving as a conduit for heavy weapons into Lebanon, and other impossible dreams. Even after the regime's crackdown on political opponents and the murder of hundreds, Mr. Obama held out hope in his Mideast speech last week that Mr. Assad will come around: "The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: he can lead that transition, or get out of the way."

Mr. Assad long ago made his choice, and America's choice should be full-throated support for his democratic opponents.
22997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Voter ID on: May 23, 2011, 07:40:32 AM
On Thursday, the Wisconsin legislature sent a bill requiring photographic identification for voting to Gov. Scott Walker's desk. This follows the enactment of an even stricter law in Kansas a few weeks ago.

Drafted by my office, Kansas's Secure and Fair Elections Act combined three elements: (1) a requirement that voters present photo IDs when they vote in person; (2) a requirement that absentee voters present a full driver's license number and have their signatures verified; and (3) a proof of citizenship requirement for all newly registered voters. Although a few states, including Georgia, Indiana and Arizona, have enacted one or two of these reforms, Kansas is the only state to enact all three.

Other states are moving in the same direction. The Texas legislature sent a photo-ID bill to Gov. Rick Perry's desk last Monday. And next year Missouri voters will get a chance to vote on a photo-ID requirement.

Immediately after the Kansas law was signed in April, critics cried foul. They argued that voter fraud isn't significant enough to warrant such steps, that large numbers of Americans don't possess photo IDs, and that such laws will depress turnout among the poor and among minorities. They are wrong on all three counts.

Voter fraud is a well-documented reality in American elections. To offer a few examples, a 2010 state representative race in Kansas City, Mo. was stolen when one candidate, J.J. Rizzo, allegedly received more than 50 votes illegally cast by citizens of Somalia. The Somalis, who didn't speak English, were coached to vote for Mr. Rizzo by an interpreter at the polling place. The margin of victory? One vote.

In Kansas, 221 incidents of voter fraud were reported between 1997 and 2010. The crimes included absentee-ballot fraud, impersonation of another voter, and a host of other violations. Because voter fraud is extremely difficult to detect and is usually not reported, the cases that we know about likely represent a small fraction of the total.

My office already has found 67 aliens illegally registered to vote in Kansas, but when the total number is calculated, it will likely be in the hundreds. In Colorado, the Secretary of State's office recently identified 11,805 aliens illegally registered to vote in the state, of whom 4,947 cast a ballot in the 2010 elections.

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 .Evidence of voter fraud is present in all 50 states, and public confidence in the integrity of elections is at an all-time low. In the Cooperative Congressional Election Study of 2008, 62% of American voters thought that voter fraud was very common or somewhat common.

Fear that elections are being stolen erodes the legitimacy of our government. That's why the vast majority of Americans support laws like Kansas's Secure and Fair Elections Act. A 2010 Rasmussen poll showed that 82% of Americans support photo ID laws. Similarly, a 2011 Survey USA poll of Kansas voters showed that 83% support proof-of-citizenship requirements for voter registration.

Critics of these laws nevertheless make outrageous arguments against them. New York University's Brennan Center, which stridently opposes all photo ID laws, claims that a whopping 11% of the American voting-age public—that means tens of millions of people—don't possess a photo ID. It bases this number on a survey it conducted in 2006.

However, we don't have to rely on implausible estimates when the actual numbers are readily available. In Kansas, my office obtained the statistics, and they tell a very different story. According to the 2010 census, there are 2,126,179 Kansans of voting age. According to the Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles, 2,156,446 Kansans already have a driver's license or a non-driver ID. In other words, there are more photo IDs in circulation than there are eligible voters. The notion that there are hundreds of thousands of voters in Kansas (or any other state) without photo IDs is a myth.

Carrying a photo ID has become a part of American life. You can't cash a check, board a plane, or even buy full-strength Sudafed over the counter without one. That's why it's not unreasonable to require one in order to protect our most important privilege of citizenship. But just in case any person lacks a photo ID, Kansas's law provides a free state ID to anyone who needs one. Other states have included similar provisions in their photo-ID laws.

Some opponents of election security laws also declare that they are part of a sinister plot to depress voter registration and turnout, especially among minority voters who are more likely to vote Democrat. Here too the facts do not support the claim. Georgia's photo ID requirement was in place for both the 2008 and 2010 elections, when turnout among minority voters was higher than average. Likewise, Arizona's proof-of-citizenship requirement for registration has not impeded minority voters from registering.

If election security laws really were part of a Republican scheme to suppress Democratic votes, one would expect Democrats to fight such laws, tooth and nail. That didn't happen in Kansas, where two-thirds of the Democrats in the House and three-fourths of the Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of the Secure and Fair Elections Act. They did so because they realize that fair elections protect every voter and every party equally.

No candidate, Republican or Democrat, wants to emerge from an election with voters suspecting that he didn't really win. Election security measures like the one in my state give confidence to voters and candidates alike that the system is fair.

Mr. Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state. He is also the co-author of Arizona's SB 1070 illegal immigration law and former Counsel to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

22998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Time to roll back America's borders , , , on: May 23, 2011, 07:25:09 AM
Mike Adams   Time for America to Roll Back Its Borders
Email Mike Adams | Columnist's Archive  Share   Buzz 0diggsdigg
Sign-Up  Dear President Obama:

I am writing today with a somewhat unusual request. Actually, it is a series of requests. First and foremost, I will be asking that you return America to its August 20th, 1959 borders so that Hawaii is no longer a state and you are no longer a citizen.
22999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Reps and Mediscare on: May 23, 2011, 07:19:09 AM
Underneath Newt Gingrich's rhetoric last week about Paul Ryan's "right-wing social engineering" was a common anxiety about the politics of Medicare: Is this the right moment for entitlement reform? Did the GOP endanger its House majority by giving Democrats a campaign strategy for 2012, and is Mr. Ryan's proposal really too "radical" after all?

Entitlement reform is the hardest challenge in politics, which is one reason we oppose all new entitlements. But Republicans now tempted to retreat at the first smell of cordite need to understand that they are taking even larger political and policy risks than Mr. Ryan is. The Medicare status quo of even two years ago, much less 20, is irretrievably gone, and anyone pining for its return is merely making President Obama's vision of government-run health care inevitable.

This reality is underscored in the just-released annual report of the Medicare trustees. Democrats sold ObamaCare as a way to slow the growth of costs, but the report shows that the program's finances have deteriorated even since last year. Medicare is carrying $24.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities through 2085, and chief actuary Richard Foster says even that does "not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations."

As a matter of simple arithmetic, this problem can't be solved with tax increases, because health costs and thus government spending on health care are rising so much faster than the economy as a whole is growing. The U.S. capacity to pay for Medicare on present trend diminishes every year.

With ObamaCare, Democrats offered their vision for Medicare cost control: A 15-member unelected board with vast powers to set prices for doctors, hospitals and other providers, and to regulate how they should be organized and what government will pay for. The liberal conceit is that their technocratic wizardry will make health care more rational, but this is faith-based government. The liberal fallback is political rationing of care, which is why Mr. Obama made it so difficult for Congress to change that 15-member board's decisions.

Republicans have staunchly opposed this agenda, but until Mr. Ryan's budget they hadn't answered the White House with a competing idea. Mr. Ryan's proposal is the most important free-market reform in years because it expands the policy options for rethinking the entitlement state.

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Associated Press
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan
."Premium support" is not a new idea, but it has long been dormant, and Republicans will need to continue their effort to reintroduce it to voters. Seniors would receive a fixed-dollar subsidy from the government to choose from private insurance options, with higher payments for the poor and sick. Consumers would make cost-conscious choices at the margin, and insurers and providers would compete on health-care value and quality.

Mr. Gingrich is right that reforms of this magnitude need to be grounded in a social consensus built over time. But that means the task for Republicans is to educate the public about market principles and more consumer choice. Mr. Ryan's model is flexible enough to adjust the level and rate of growth of the premium-support subsidy. The Ryan Medicare plan was never going to be adopted this year, but it is the first credible, detailed alternative to Mr. Obama's approach.

Some GOP critics, like Mr. Gingrich, claim that it would be politically safer to introduce premium support but give seniors a chance to keep traditional Medicare. The problem is that this leaves all of Medicare's distortions in place and does little to stop its explosive costs. As long as the major incentive in health care is Medicare's fee formula, very little will improve.

Republicans have been passing such reform quarter-measures for 20 years, with little to show for it. Medicare Advantage already offers private insurance options to one in four seniors, but this camel's nose hasn't led to a reconstruction of the larger Medicare tent. The same is true of health savings accounts in the 2003 prescription drug benefit, or the current Republican talking point that medical malpractice reform will somehow solve every problem in health care.

All of these are important but don't reach Medicare's core problem of government-controlled prices and regulation, and in any case Democrats always gut the reforms once they return to power. In retrospect, this play-it-safe strategy paved the way for ObamaCare.

The political forces unleashed by ObamaCare will grow unimpeded if Republicans now retreat from offering an alternative. Once the White House's efforts to limit costs by fiat fail—as they inevitably will—liberals will turn to even harsher controls. This future is already emerging in post-Mitt Romney Massachusetts, and also in Vermont, which wants to move to single government payer.

We wrote earlier this year that Republicans would get no objection from us if they postponed Medicare reform until they had a GOP President, but the House went ahead anyway. Far be it from us to criticize politicians for having too much courage. But having committed themselves, Republicans will appear (and will be) feckless if they abandon reform only weeks after voting for it. Trying to change entitlements can be agony, but it is fatal to try and fail. The voters will conclude the critics were right.

Mr. Gingrich has done great harm to his party and the cause of reform with his reckless criticism of Mr. Ryan, forfeiting any serious claim to be the GOP nominee. But equally as culpable are the self-styled conservative pundits who derided Republicans for dropping the reform mantle during the Bush years but now tremble that Mr. Ryan has gone too far.

The reality is that Medicare "as we know it" will change because it must. The issue is how it will change, and, leaving aside this or that detail, the only alternatives are Mr. Ryan's proposal to introduce market competition or Mr. Obama's plan for ever-tightening government controls on prices and care. Republicans who think they can dodge this choice are only guaranteeing that Mr. Obama will prevail.

23000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: How it was done on: May 23, 2011, 07:11:07 AM
In January, the chief of the military's elite special-operations troops accepted an unusual invitation to visit Central Intelligence Agency headquarters. There, Adm. William McRaven was shown, for the first time, photos and maps indicating the whereabouts of the world's most wanted man.

Adm. McRaven—one of the first military officers to be brought into the CIA's latest hunt for Osama bin Laden—offered a blunt assessment: Taking bin Laden's compound would be reasonably straightforward. Dealing with Pakistan would be hard.

A Wall Street Journal reconstruction of the mission planning shows that this meeting helped define a profound new strategy in the U.S. war on terror, namely the use of secret, unilateral missions powered by a militarized spy operation. The strategy reflects newfound trust between two traditionally wary groups: America's spies, and its troops.

The bin Laden strike was the strategy's "proof of concept," says one U.S. official.

Last month's military strike deep inside Pakistan is already being used by U.S. officials as a negotiating tool—akin to, don't make us do that again—with countries including Pakistan thought to harbor other terrorists. Yemen and Somalia are also potential venues, officials said, if local-government cooperation were found to be lacking.

The new U.S. strategy has roots in a close relationship between CIA Director Leon Panetta and Adm. McRaven. In 2009, the two inked a secret agreement setting out rules for joint missions that provided a blueprint for dozens of operations in the Afghan war before the bin Laden raid.

The Long, Winding Path to Closer CIA and Military Cooperation
.The reshuffling of the Obama administration's national-security team will likely reinforce the relationship between the nation's spies and its top military teams. Mr. Panetta is expected to take over the Pentagon this summer armed with a strong understanding of its special-operations capabilities. Gen. David Petraeus, who is expected to become CIA director, made extensive use of special operations while running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This account of the planning of the raid on bin Laden's home in Abbottabad, Pakistan, is based on interviews with more than a dozen administration, intelligence, military and congressional officials.

Officials and experts say the new U.S. approach will likely be used only sparingly. "This is the kind of thing that, in the past, people who watched movies thought was possible, but no one in the government thought was possible," one official said.

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Associated Press
CIA contractor Raymond Davis under arrest in Pakistan in January.
.Growing Closer: Spy, Military Ties Aided bin Laden Raid
2004 CIA learns the nom de guerre
of one of Osama bin Laden's trusted couriers.

2007 CIA learns the courier's real name.

2009 CIA and special-forces commanders ink a secret deal to conduct joint operations.

May 2009 CIA briefs President Obama on bin Laden.

Aug. 2010 Courier is tailed by the CIA to his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Sept. 2010 Mr. Panetta briefs Mr. Obama on the Abbottabad compound.

Dec. 2010 CIA station chief's cover is blown in Pakistan; U.S. blames Pakistan's intelligence agency

Dec. 2010 Mr. Panetta updates Mr. Obama, who calls for attack planning to begin.

Jan. 2011 CIA briefs Adm. William McRaven, commander of military special-operations troops.

Jan. 27 CIA contractor Raymond
Davis is charged in the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis.

Feb. 25 Select group of CIA and military officials meet to discuss intelligence and uncertainty regarding bin Laden's presence.

March 14 Obama decides on urgent unilateral action.

March 16 Mr. Davis is freed in Pakistan, easing the path to attack bin Laden's compound.

April 11 Mr. Panetta meets with Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

April 19 Mr. Obama gives provisional go-ahead for helicopter raid.

April 28 National Security Council meets to present final plans for helicopter raid to the president.

April 29 Mr. Obama authorizes raid on the Abbottabad compound.

April 30 Mr. Obama calls Adm. McRaven for final status check.

May 2 An early-morning raid kills bin Laden deep in Pakistani territory.

May 2 Adm. Mullen calls Pakistan
Army Chief Gen. Kayani to tell him of the raid.

May 7 Pakistan appears to out the CIA's station chief in Islamabad.

May 9 Pakistani Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani gives a speech saying Pakistan didn't harbor bin Laden and criticizing the U.S. strike on its territory.

May 16 Sen. John Kerry travels to Pakistan to smooth tensions.
.On Sunday, President Barack Obama said in an interview with the BBC that he would be willing to authorize similar strikes in the future. "Our job is to secure the United States," he said.

Salman Bashir, Pakistan's foreign secretary, said earlier this month in an interview that a repeat of the bin Laden raid could lead to "terrible consequences." Other officials have said Pakistan would curtail intelligence cooperation with the U.S. in the event of another such attack.

A more traditional approach would have been to simply bomb the bin Laden property using stealth aircraft, perhaps in cooperation with Pakistani troops. But from the outset, Mr. Obama decided to cut Pakistan out of the loop.

Top U.S. officials—in particular, Defense Secretary Robert Gates—worried how keeping Pakistan in the dark would affect relations with the country, a close but unstable ally. But mistrust of the Pakistani intelligence services drowned out that fear.

In the end, several hundred people in the U.S. government knew about the raid before it happened. But it didn't leak.

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Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Sen. John Kerry with Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik in May.
.U.S. officials took extraordinary measures to keep it quiet, often speaking in code to each other. One decided to refer to the operation as "the trip to Atlantic City" to avoid accidentally tipping off colleagues.

In August 2010, after 10 years of a largely fruitless hunt for the man who killed nearly 3,000 Americans, the CIA caught a break when it followed a courier believed to be working with bin Laden to a home in Abbottabad, about 40 miles from Pakistan's capital. After months of observation, the CIA eventually decided that one of the three families living there was most likely bin Laden's.

In December, Mr. Panetta laid out CIA's best intelligence case for Mr. Obama, which pointed to bin Laden's likely, but not certain, presence at the compound. The president asked Mr. Panetta to start devising a plan.

Mr. Panetta turned to Adm. McRaven. It was his visit to CIA headquarters in January, and his quick analysis of the pros and cons, that sealed the two men's partnership, officials say.

Their ties mark a significant historical shift. During the Cold War, there was little interaction between the Pentagon and CIA, as the military focused on planning for a land war with the Soviets and the spy community focused on analysis. That started changing in the 1990s, but only the past few years have the CIA and military begun working particularly closely.

Adm. McRaven assigned one senior special-operations officer—a Navy Captain from SEAL Team 6, one of the top special-forces units—to work on what was known as AC1, for Abbottabad Compound 1. The captain spent every day working with the CIA team in a remote, secure facility on the CIA's campus in Langley, Va.

On the evening of Feb. 25, several black Suburbans pulled up to the front of CIA's Langley headquarters. The meeting was planned after dusk, on a Friday, to reduce the chances anyone would notice. Around a large wooden table in the CIA director's windowless conference room, the Pentagon's chief counterterrorism adviser Michael Vickers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright and senior CIA officials joined Adm. McRaven and Mr. Panetta. Over sandwiches and sodas, the CIA team walked through their intelligence assessment.

After the Raid in the Compound
While President Obama has decided not to release photographs of Osama bin Laden taken after the al Qaeda leader was shot to death by U.S. forces, other photos taken at the compound have been released by Reuters.

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.His Compound
Photos inside and out

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Anjum Naveed/Associated Press
U.S. forces found Osama bin Laden at this compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 40 miles outside Islamabad.
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See a timeline about Osama bin Laden.

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.In the middle of the conference table sat a scale model of the compound. Measuring four feet by four feet, it was built by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency based on satellite photos. It was accurate down to every tree.

Analysts told the group they had high confidence that a "high-value" terrorist target was living there. They said there was "a strong probability" it was bin Laden.

The planners reviewed the options they had developed. The first was a bombing strike with a B-2 stealth bomber that would destroy the compound and any tunnels under it. The second was a helicopter raid with U.S. special operations, which immediately evoked visions of "Black Hawk Down," the disastrous Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in which a U.S. helicopter was shot down and 19 U.S. soldiers killed.

The third option was to offer the Pakistanis an opportunity to assist in the raid, perhaps by forming a cordon around the compound to ensure U.S. forces could carry out the operation without obstruction.

Kicking planning into higher gear, the president reviewed these options at a March 14 meeting of the National Security Council. Among his first decisions was to scotch the idea of gathering more intelligence to make sure they had found bin Laden. The potential gain was outweighed by the risk of being exposed.

Mr. Obama also rejected a joint Pakistani operation, officials say. There was no serious consideration of the prospect, said one administration official, given the desire for secrecy.

Weighing on the minds of several officials was the fate of a CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, being held in a Lahore jail after having shot two Pakistanis in disputed circumstances. Mr. Panetta, pressing hard for his release, worried Mr. Davis might be killed if the U.S. couldn't spring him before the bin Laden raid.

The B-2 plan had many supporters, particularly among military brass. A bombing would provide certainty that the compound's residents would be killed, and it posed less risk to U.S. personnel. At the time, Mr. Gates, the defense secretary, was skeptical of the intelligence case that bin Laden was at the compound.

At the end of the meeting, officials believed Mr. Obama favored the bombing raid, too. Gen. Cartwright asked two Air Force officers to flesh out that proposal.

They immediately faced a challenge. CIA analysts couldn't tell if there was a tunnel network under the compound. Planners had to presume it existed, which meant the B-2 bombers would have to drop a large amount of ordinance. But a bombing raid of that magnitude would likely kill innocent neighbors in nearby homes.

Another other option would use less powerful ordinance, sparing the neighbors. But any tunnels would be spared, too.

Gen. Cartwright made no recommendations. But the team's PowerPoint presentation, created just after the meeting with the president, laid out plainly the disadvantages of the larger bombing run. It showed another house besides bin Laden's clearly in the blast radius and estimated that up to a dozen civilians could be killed. The ability to recover evidence of bin Laden's death was also minimal—meaning the U.S. wouldn't even be able to prove why they violated Pakistani airspace.

By the time the National Security Council gathered again March 29, the president had grown wary of the bombing-raid option. "He put that plan on ice," a U.S. official said.

Instead, Mr. Obama turned to Adm. McRaven to further develop the idea of a helicopter raid. Adm. McRaven assembled a team drawing from Red Squadron, one of four that make up SEAL Team 6. Red Squadron was coming home from Afghanistan and could be redirected with little notice inside the military.

The team had experience with cross-border operations from Afghanistan into Pakistan, and had language skills that would come in handy as well. The team performed two rehearsals at a location inside the U.S.

Planners ran through the what-ifs: What if bin Laden surrendered? (He likely would be held near Bagram Air Force base, a senior military official said.) What if U.S. forces were discovered by the Pakistanis in the middle of the raid? (A senior U.S. official would call Pakistan's chief military officer and try to talk his way out of it.)

The U.S. was pretty sure it could get in and out without alerting the Pakistanis. Officials say the choppers used in the raid were designed to be less visible to radar and, possibly, to make them quieter.

In addition, because the U.S. helped equip and train Pakistan's military, it had intimate knowledge of the country's capabilities—from the sensitivity of the radar systems deployed along the Afghan border to the level of alert for Pakistani forces in and around Islamabad and Abbottabad.

If Pakistan scrambled F-16s to investigate, the U.S. knew how long it would take the planes to reach the area, officials said. The U.S. supplies F-16s to Pakistan on the condition they are kept at a Pakistani military base with 24/7 U.S. security surveillance, according to diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

On April 11, Mr. Panetta had a high-stakes meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha. Ties between the U.S. and Pakistan were already chilly, partly due to the spat over Mr. Davis, the CIA contractor jailed in Lahore. But Mr. Davis had since been freed, and the high-profile event at Langley was intended to improve ties between the nations.

At the event, Gen. Pasha asked Mr. Panetta to be more forthcoming about what his agency was doing inside Pakistan. Gen. Pasha also voiced frustration that the CIA was operating in his country behind his back—not knowing, of course, of the planning for the bin Laden attack.

Mr. Pasha has said the meeting involved a shouting match; American officials say that didn't happen. Mr. Panetta promised to review Gen. Pasha's concerns, according to U.S. officials. His goal was to try to improve ties so the bin Laden takedown didn't occur when relations were at rock bottom.

When the National Security Council met again eight days later. Mr. Obama gave a provisional go-ahead for the helicopter raid. But he worried the plan for managing the Pakistanis was too flimsy.

The U.S. had little faith that, if U.S. forces were captured by the Pakistanis, they would be easily returned home. Given how difficult it had been to resolve the case of Mr. Davis—which took more than two months of heated negotiations—one U.S. official said: "How could we get them to uphold an incursion 128 miles into their airspace?"

Mr. Obama directed Adm. McRaven to develop a stronger U.S. escape plan. The team would be equipped to fight its way out and would have two helicopters on stand-by in case of an emergency.

On April 28, a few days before the attack on bin Laden's compound, Mr. Obama held a public event in the East Room of the White House to unveil his new national-security team. From there, Messrs. Obama and Panetta went to the Situation Room, where Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained the final plan to the National Security Council.

Only at that meeting did Mr. Gates come around to fully endorsing the operation, because of his skepticism of the intelligence indicating bin Laden was there.

Mr. Obama told his advisers he wanted to speak directly with Adm. McRaven before the raid was launched. The admiral was in Afghanistan preparing his strike team.

That call took place on Saturday afternoon, Washington time, over a secure phone line. Mr. Obama asked Adm. McRaven for an update on final preparations. Mr. Obama also asked the admiral if had learned anything since arriving in Afghanistan that caused him to alter his confidence in the mission.

Adm. McRaven told Mr. Obama the team was ready, and that his assessment remained unchanged.

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