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23001  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: China's Cyber Assault on: June 15, 2011, 12:46:41 PM
This eems rather ominous , , ,

By RICHARD CLARKE
In justifying U.S. involvement in Libya, the Obama administration cited the "responsibility to protect" citizens of other countries when their governments engage in widespread violence against them. But in the realm of cyberspace, the administration is ignoring its primary responsibility to protect its own citizens when they are targeted for harm by a foreign government.

Senior U.S. officials know well that the government of China is systematically attacking the computer networks of the U.S. government and American corporations. Beijing is successfully stealing research and development, software source code, manufacturing know-how and government plans. In a global competition among knowledge-based economies, Chinese cyberoperations are eroding America's advantage.

The Chinese government indignantly denies these charges, claiming that the attackers are nongovernmental Chinese hackers, or other governments pretending to be China, or that the attacks are fictions generated by anti-Chinese elements in the United States. Experts in the U.S. and allied governments find these denials hard to believe.

Three years ago, the head of the British Security Service wrote to hundreds of corporate chief executive officers in the U.K. to advise them that their companies had in all probability been hacked by the government of China. Neither the FBI nor the Department of Homeland Security has issued such a notice to U.S. executives, but most corporate leaders already know it.

Some, like Google, have the courage to admit that they have been the victims of Chinese hacking. We now know that the "Aurora" attack (so named by the U.S. government because the English word appears in the attack software) against Google in 2009 also hit dozens of other information technology companies—allegedly including Adobe, Juniper and Cisco—seeking their source code. Aurora wasn't an isolated event. This month Google renewed its charge against China, noting that the Gmail accounts of senior U.S. officials had been compromised from a server in China. The targeting of specific U.S. officials is not something that a mere hacker gang could do.

The Aurora attacks were followed by systematic penetrations of one industry after another. In the so-called Night Dragon series, attackers apparently in China went after major oil and gas companies, not only in the U.S. but throughout the world. The German government claims that the personal computer of Chancellor Angela Merkel was hacked by the Chinese government. Australia has also claimed that its prime minister was targeted by Chinese hackers.

Recently the computer-security company RSA (a division of EMC) was penetrated by an intrusion which appears to have stolen the secret sauce behind the company's SecureID. That system is widely used to protect critical computer networks. And this month, the largest U.S. defense contractor, Lockheed, was subject to cyberespionage, apparently by someone using the stolen RSA data. Cyber criminals don't hack defense contractors—they go after banks and credit cards. Despite Beijing's public denials, this attack and many others have all the hallmarks of Chinese government operations.

In 2009, this newspaper reported that the control systems for the U.S. electric power grid had been hacked and secret openings created so that the attacker could get back in with ease. Far from denying the story, President Obama publicly stated that "cyber intruders have probed our electrical grid."

There is no money to steal on the electrical grid, nor is there any intelligence value that would justify cyber espionage: The only point to penetrating the grid's controls is to counter American military superiority by threatening to damage the underpinning of the U.S. economy. Chinese military strategists have written about how in this way a nation like China could gain an equal footing with the militarily superior United States.

What would we do if we discovered that Chinese explosives had been laid throughout our national electrical system? The public would demand a government response. If, however, the explosive is a digital bomb that could do even more damage, our response is apparently muted—especially from our government.

Congress hasn't passed a single piece of significant cybersecurity legislation. When the Chinese deny senior U.S. officials' claims (made in private) that Beijing is stealing terabytes of data in the U.S., Congress should not leave the American people in doubt. It should demand answers to basic questions:

What does the administration know about the role of the Chinese government in cyberattacks on public and private computer networks in the United States?

If there is widespread Chinese hacking of sensitive U.S. networks and critical infrastructure, what has the administration said about it to the Chinese government? Specifically, did President Obama raise concerns about these attacks with Chinese President Hu Jintao at the White House this spring?

Since defensive measures such as antivirus software and firewalls appear unable to stop the Chinese penetrations, does the administration have any plan to address these cyberattacks?

In private, U.S. officials admit that the government has no strategy to stop the Chinese cyberassault. Rather than defending American companies, the Pentagon seems focused on "active defense," by which it means offense. That cyberoffense might be employed if China were ever to launch a massive cyberwar on the U.S. But in the daily guerrilla cyberwar with China, our government is engaged in defending only its own networks. It is failing in its responsibility to protect the rest of America from Chinese cyberattack.

Mr. Clarke was a national security official in the White House for three presidents. He is chairman of Good Harbor Consulting, a security risk management consultancy for governments and corporations.

23002  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 15, 2011, 12:28:55 PM
Andraz:

Looks like he's read a bit more than one or two books evil
23003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US's non-policy on: June 15, 2011, 12:22:19 PM


http://www.mexidata.info/id2933.html
23004  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Hiatus on: June 15, 2011, 11:53:34 AM
President Obama's re-election machine is already running full bore, but has his entire Administration also decamped for the campaign trail? We ask because the towering ambitions of Mr. Obama's first two years have suddenly gone into abeyance in his third, apparently to be deferred until years five through eight. The White House is more or less conceding that it doesn't have a chance of winning a second term unless his major policies go on hiatus.

This holiday from committing liberal history began in December with the White House-GOP deal that extended the Bush tax rates through the 2012 election and added a payroll tax cut on employees to 4.2% from 6.2%. These proposals came from the same Democrats who only months earlier had increased payroll taxes to finance their health-care bill and routinely claim that tax rates don't matter to the private economy. But then, 9.1% joblessness and 1.8% growth have a way of concentrating the political mind.

Next came the much-ballyhooed White House scrub for "excessive" regulation, even as hundreds of new rules mandated by the legislation of the first two years continue to be written and to slow business investment. But at least the rule review persuaded the Environmental Protection Agency to stop treating dairy farm milk spills as if they were Gulf oil leaks. That should help next year in Wisconsin.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
The White House is more or less conceding that Mr. Obama's major policies must go on hiatus.
.Picking up the vacation pace, this week the EPA delayed by two months the carbon regulations that it wants to impose, even as it resists bipartisan attempts on Capitol Hill to kill them altogether. Next up may be a delay in pending regulations meant to harm coal-fired power, before opponents gather enough votes to kill them. The EPA has already yanked an entire rule that would have forced thousands of businesses to install new industrial boilers.

Maybe the White House should short-circuit all this by dispatching EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to an undisclosed location through November 2012.

Also this week, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission voted—five to zero—to delay by six months the derivatives swap rules that were due this month under the Dodd-Frank financial re-regulation. The alphabet soup of financial regulators will eventually add tens of thousands of pages to the Federal Register, but for now they are conceding that the derivatives market isn't the calamity they claimed it was in the rush to pass the bill.

Then there's health care. Over the last year, the Health and Human Services Department has granted at least 1,372 temporary waivers to ObamaCare mandates, most notably for price controls on private insurance companies. Many have gone to Democratic allies like unions, but many more went to ordinary businesses and even states. HHS has already given a pass to Nevada, New Hampshire and Maine, and another dozen or so have applied or are expected to ask for exemptions.

 Opinion Journal Columnist John Fund on the GOP presidential debate.
.This is less political favoritism than a panicked, ad hoc bid to minimize pre-election insurance disruptions that can be attributed to a law that is still widely reviled. If the law isn't enforced, maybe voters will forget it passed. In its New Hampshire reprieve, HHS admitted that ObamaCare would "destabilize the individual market," though it neglected to mention that this is what ObamaCare is meant to do. Just not yet.

By the way, this waiver process isn't in the law's statutory language. HHS has simply created it via regulation. In other words, the health bureaucracy knew the rules they were writing would be destructive and have created a political safety valve. They have even found a way to override ObamaCare's cuts to the Medicare Advantage program that were counted as "savings" to make the health bill look less spendthrift. Medicare Advantage offers insurance choices to one in four seniors and is popular in, well, Florida, so seniors also get a two-year reprieve.

Why aren't liberals deploring this betrayal of their programs? Perhaps because even they can't ignore reality forever. Mr. Obama's epic fiscal binge, waves of new industrial policy and the political allocation of credit haven't created the boom they promised. If business can now be persuaded that the government assault is over and start to invest again so the economy improves enough for Mr. Obama to win a second term, then a two-year delay in fulfilling their dreams is well worth it.

Liberals figure that as long as Mr. Obama can be re-elected next year on another hope-and-change platform, it will be too late to hope to change anything and he can then return to his legacy project of building a tax and entitlement state on the European model. The economy may benefit from Mr. Obama's temporary amnesty, but the real lesson of this hiatus from liberalism is that it should be shut down permanently.

23005  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Fred Burton on tracking OBL's courier on: June 15, 2011, 10:44:31 AM

Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton examines the sophisticated surveillance operation that led to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s safe house in Pakistan.


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

In this week’s Above the Tearline, we thought we’d take a look at the highly sophisticated surveillance operation that took place many weeks before the SEAL Team Six takedown of the Osama bin Laden safe house.

In the aftermath of the bin Laden takedown, most of the mainstream media has been focused on the brilliant SEAL Team Six assault on the compound. What we would like to take a look at is the highly sophisticated CIA surveillance operation that took place on the courier, who was bin Laden’s lifeline to the free world. Trade craft wise, the surveillance of the courier is the brilliance in this operation in my assessment, meaning you had to set up a standalone safe house in country for a CIA team to operate it in without the knowledge of the Pakistani government. In essence you’re operating behind enemy lines.

One of the other concepts of operating a unilateral surveillance team in a foreign country is the notion of third-party intelligence services trying to figure out what you’re doing. Such as the Indian Intelligence Bureau, the Russian SVR, as well as the very aggressive intelligence capabilities of and organizations such as al Qaeda getting wind of what your team could be doing. The personnel operating in this surveillance team are on a very dangerous mission. In essence, if caught they are committing crimes against Pakistan and they are on their own. They’re operating - the term is black - in country so the U.S. would not acknowledge any activities on the part of our government if the surveillance team had been picked up before the bin Laden operation went down.

The courier was operationally very secure. For example he would remove his cell phone battery so the cell phone could not have been used to track his movements to the compound. And think about the surveillance team and the ability to follow that man without getting caught. At any point along this operation if the courier saw the surveillance team, the operation would’ve been blown. I know from first-hand experience in the Ramzi Yousef case, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing, that elements within the Pakistani ISI cannot be trusted so this is why the CIA decided to put together a unilateral operation once they had the lead on the courier. And the logistics, and the care and feeding and the backstop of what took place to get this team into country to surveil all the courier from many, many weeks before the bin Laden operation is probably the most brilliant CIA surveillance operation in quite some time.

23006  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / You say you do not believe on: June 15, 2011, 08:47:32 AM


From a letter by the Rebbe:

I do not accept your assertion that you do not believe.

For if you truly had no concept of a Supernal Being Who created the world with purpose, then what is all this outrage of yours against the injustice of life?

The substance of the universe is not moral, nor are plants and animals. Why should it surprise you that whoever is bigger and more powerful swallows his fellow alive?

It is only due to an inner conviction in our hearts, shared by every human being, that there is a Judge, that there is right and there is wrong. And so, when we see a wrong, we demand an explanation: Why is this not the way it is supposed to be?

That itself is belief in G-d.


23007  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Medved on: June 15, 2011, 08:18:07 AM
Well, the writer seems to be thinking of two specific items:  

a) the $200m comment, which does seem to be a moment of poor/reckless fact checking, and

b) the wrong state comment, which personally I file under the same heading as Obama once saying there were 57 states.

Here's Medved's analysis:

The headline for the big GOP debate should read “ROMNEY SOLIDIFIES HIS STATUS AS FRONTRUNNER” but the appropriate sub-head may prove even more significant in the long run: “Bachmann Makes Energetic and Well-Received Debut.” At this point, no one should doubt that the feisty congresswoman from Minnesota will emerge as a major contender—certainly in Iowa (where she was born and raised, and where her evangelical fervor will rally Mike Huckabee’s currently unfocused cadres) and, if she wins there, then most likely in the rest of the country.
Michelle Bachmann greets the audience after the presidential debate at St. Anselms College in Manchester, New Hampshire on June 13, 2011. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton, Reuters / Landov)

For weeks, political analysts have argued that the biggest question about the shape of the Republican race involved identifying the anti-Mitt—the formidable Romney rival who could provide a rallying point for all those who for, whatever reason, found the former Massachusetts governor unacceptable. In recent weeks it looked increasingly likely that Tim Pawlenty would play that role, especially after he unveiled an audacious economic plan that was generally well-received among conservatives. But the New Hampshire debate (carried on CNN) will give rise to feverish speculation that Bachmann may gain momentum as the Mittster’s most fearsome rock-the-establishment challenger.

It’s not that Bachmann delivered a brilliant or masterful or inspiring performance on the stage at St. Anselm College, where she announced her formal candidacy in the midst of the broadcast; it’s just that she so wildly exceeded expectations, especially from all those skeptics who wrote her off long-ago as a whining, unhinged Sarah Palin wannabe, without the moose-hunting exoticism, flirtatious mien or flighty, ditzy voice.

Actually, the main reason that Bachmann helped herself so substantially is that her credibility should destroy the final, forlorn and dwindling chance that the former Alaska governor might still join the race. Tea Party enthusiasts who adore Palin for her fearless, unabashedly conservative positions, girl-next-door sex appeal, impassioned patriotism, and vibrant family life will find a more convincing, less tarnished version of the same virtues in Bachmann. She’s the mother of five (like Palin) and she and her husband raised 23 teenaged foster children (as she told the TV audience three different times), taking kids from troubled inner city backgrounds and guiding them all successfully through high school, with most of them ultimately enrolling in college. Moreover, in the New Hampshire debate Bachmann looked simply smashing—radiant, self-assured, elegantly understated in her tailored, severe black suit with the luminous white blouse, simultaneously formidable and friendly, with her piercing, pale blue eyes igniting for the camera like Bunsen Burners every time she spoke.

One of the common rules for such encounters spells out that the candidate who seems to enjoy himself (or herself) the most, almost always wins the public; that’s why Huckabee, hugely accomplished raconteur and communicator that he is, won every one of last year’s GOP debates and became a major candidate despite lack of money and no prior name recognition. Michele Bachmann, who sparkled and smiled and clearly enjoyed herself more than any of her stiff, often somber male colleagues, has already demonstrated considerable fund-raising prowess (her 2010 congressional campaign broke records) and enjoys semi-celebrity status because of her notorious rants on cable TV.

In this appearance, however, she had obviously abandoned the flame-thrower persona in favor of approach that could actually qualify as… presidential. She looked seasoned and sure-footed most of the night, even though she stumbled through two confusing and contradictory answers to late-in-the-game questions on social issues (about whether she’d accept gay marriage in states like New Hampshire where it’s already operational, and how she felt about Pawlenty’s willingness to permit abortions in instances of rape, incest, and a risk to the mother’s life).

More interesting than these abstruse ruminations were her political instincts at the conclusion of the formal broadcast. CNN kept cameras on the candidates as the network talking-heads delivered voice-over commentary on what had just occurred. Most of the contenders embraced their wives and socialized with one another, milling about on stage. I noticed that Bachmann, on the other hand, plunged into the crowd of spectators, shaking hands, signing autographs, making new friends, flashing that perfect smile with its charmingly imperfect teeth. She is, quite simply, one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met in politics and she gained ground in the debate because some of that natural warmth and ebullience managed to come across.

As for Romney, he also helped himself, showing vast improvement from his robotic debate performances from four years before. Two strengths stood out most conspicuously here: first, his admirable ability to turn any question on any subject into an opportunity to bash Obama, as if they were already fighting it out for the White House, just the two of them. He never let the audience forget that the president represented his true opponent and that any minor disagreements with Pawlenty or Santorum or Gingrich hardly mattered.

Second, it’s obvious that Mitt has now conquered one of the toughest challenges facing any participant in televised debates—listening to your rivals respectfully, without looking smug or supercilious or discomfited or, worst of all, bored. Al Gore famously lost his second debate with George W. Bush in large part because he greeted many of his opponent’s answers with audible, impatient sighs. Romney on the other hand, looked directly at the other debaters when they spoke, smiling sympathetically, suggesting fellowship, courtesy, even open-mindedness. In general, Mitt looked considerably more comfortable and more at ease than he ever did in 2008; assuming he’s received some serious media coaching, it’s safe to say it paid off handsomely.

His only weak moment came on a question suggesting that pro-lifers might distrust him because he formally endorsed abortion rights. His feeble, oddly plaintive answer—that he counted as proudly, unequivocally pro-life because he had campaigned that way four years ago—amounted to a missed opportunity to reassure those who still see in Romney an excess of calculation and a shortage of passion.

The biggest missed opportunity, however, marred Pawlenty’s otherwise capable outing: when asked why he had used the term “Obamaney-care” on Fox News to emphasize the similarity between the health plans of Barack and Mitt, he provided only a lame narrative (which he recited twice) about Obama himself suggesting he had borrowed key ideas from the Massachusetts plan Romney at one time proudly promoted. Pawlenty pointedly refused to engage Romney on his point of greatest vulnerability, even after moderator John King goaded him by saying he had been willing to make snide remarks about Mitt in the safety of a cable news studio, but wouldn’t try it when his rival stood beside him for a live televised event.

In one sense, T-Paw may have displayed admirable instincts to avoid going after his opponent with hammer-and-tong ferocity in their very first joint appearance; it’s probably too early in the process for any sort of nasty confrontation. But he should have at least cited the main similarity between Romney’s health reform and Obama’s bureaucratic nightmare: both schemes rely on an individual mandate, in which government uses its bullying power to require that every citizen purchase health insurance. Pawlenty could have delivered a far more effective but still gracious response by saying, “No, I don’t want to debate the details of Governor Romney’s plan—that’s irrelevant outside of Massachusetts, and I understand that in that very liberal state there are some people who still like it. But I just think it’s the wrong approach when government gives us more orders rather than allowing us more liberty; when government grows and freedom shrinks. Governor Romney and Barack Obama both supported plans that forced people to buy insurance, whether they wanted it or needed it or not. I just think that’s exactly the wrong approach.”

In other answers, particularly on foreign policy and right-to-work laws, Pawlenty delivered crisp, focused, persuasive sound bites that came across with special effectiveness when delivered in his aw-shucks, Mr. Rogers, friendly neighbor demeanor.

Rick Santorum also provided coherent, thoughtful responses to every question he faced and came across like a seasoned, trustworthy, telegenic and impressive conservative. His problem? There’s no segment of the party base ready to rally to his banner. The Tea Party platoons (effusively praised by Santorum) are already somewhat divided between Ron Paul, Herman Cain and now (in much greater numbers, presumably) Michele Bachmann. If Rick Perry of Texas belatedly joins the fray, he’ll also draw substantial Tea Party support. Santorum, with no money and no natural power-base (he lost his last statewide election in Pennsylvania by 18 points) will find it impossible to escape the dreaded “Good Guy/Can’t Win” label—like the Ralph Bellamy role in Golden Age Hollywood movies, with a character who’s upright, admirable, handsome, hard-working and with no chance at all of winning a glamorous leading lady who’s more likely to go for the raffish Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart.

Finally, the three guys who don’t really belong on that stage: Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Ron Paul.

Newt looked less scary than expected, and never conveyed the battered air of a candidate on an epic losing streak whose presidential aspirations had recently exploded in a welter of accusations and embarrassments. On stage in New Hampshire, he provided informed and well-crafted responses, but hardly delivered the brilliant nuggets one might expect from what pundits invariably describe as “the most brilliant, creative mind in the Republican Party.” Newt did well, but no better than Romney, Pawlenty, Santorum or Bachmann. Given the crushing baggage he must lug through all future laps in this long race, the former Speaker did little to jump-start his sputtering campaign.

Among the seven candidates who showed up at St. Anselm, Herman Cain may have hurt himself the most. His line about “bringing the best minds together in a room, getting the right answers, and then forming a new policy” has begun to sound like a dodge and a platitude, not the endearing modesty of a self-advertised non-politician. His other answers (particularly the muddled and ignorant defense of a prior statement about feeling uncomfortable with a Muslim in his cabinet) showed not just every-man naivete but appalling ignorance. It’s now clear that his problem isn’t that he doesn’t read briefing papers; it’s that he doesn’t read newspapers. As a consistently successful businessman, Mr. Cain ought to realize that no big corporation would hire a new CEO who hadn’t thoroughly familiarized himself with the top issues on the agenda, and proposed decisive approaches; it’s not enough to say you’ll count on experts to set you straight.

And speaking of setting the record straight, I now acknowledge that my past insults aimed at Ron Paul (calling him “Dr. Demento,” among other endearments), may have counted as overly generous. Last time he ran, the Mad Doctor inspired a cult following and raised a great deal of money, but won fewer than 30 delegates and consistently modest primary vote totals. This time, he’ll do even worse: his body language (waving his arms and twitching his eyebrows like a pan-handling street corner prophet predicting the end of the world) and not just his words suggest a crank and a crackpot. Even Dennis Kucinich might have been embarrassed by Dr. Paul’s suggestion that halting the bombing of Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan and Yemen would actually make the United States more secure, or that eliminating “welfare to foreign nations” would allow us to continue current levels of Medicare (that cost more than a hundred times what we spend on all foreign aid programs combined).

At least Dr. Paul rightly ridiculed Herman Cain’s repeated promise to consult experts before reaching decisions. The crotchety 75-year-old promised to bring all the troops home regardless of the advice or insistence of his generals and admirals because, after all “I’m Commander in Chief.”

Those words provided the debate’s single most chilling moment and will encourage any voters who paid attention to this exercise to rush to support the more plausible candidates. Yes, Dr. Paul provides some comic relief and a bit of unpredictability that sometimes enlivens boring televised debates but his presence also undermines the valuable idea that there is such a thing as a consistent GOP message, and that running for the presidency amounts to serious business.

This column appeared originally in The Daily Beast on June 14, 2011.
23008  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison 1822 Freedom of Religion from Government on: June 15, 2011, 08:14:57 AM


"We are teaching the world the great truth that governments do better without kings and nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of government." --James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, 1822

23009  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taken in by Gay Girl on: June 15, 2011, 08:11:13 AM
Nice summary Rachel!

Another example of dishonesty:

http://townhall.com/columnists/jonahgoldberg/2011/06/15/taken_in_by_gay_girl


Which brings me to this by Andraz:

" if there is a lecture to be had from post-modern crisis of human thought, its that today there is no one true light that illuminates the blind anymore. There are only different stories. Only shades.  But I presume to understand, you were coming up in a time where stories were taken literally and the light was still one and true (for both sides).  I hate to be an old trumpet, and hate it even more to disprove this dubious attempt yet again, but necessity prevails. GM makes things sound so simple. Now its my sacred duty to complicate them and carve the way forth for truth, so it may never rest buried under piles of rubble."

As I think you already know about me Andraz, I fully get the point about shades and different stories, that we are all blind men grasping a different part of the elephant and so forth.  That said, IMHO you seem to go substantively further to a dimension where there is no true and false, no right and wrong.  Posting clips which you admit "very well may have been staged" does not serve to free Truth from under piles of rubble; rather it ADDS rubble and hides it amongst the smoke of obfuscation-- which serves to cause of those who seek to push the Jews into the sea. 

This is the sort of thing that leads to very bright, very well educated academics (i.e. you  cheesy ) speaking such foolishness as Israel "surrounding the Palestinians" and unwilling to notice the clear simple implications of Muslim treatment of the Coptics in Egypt for the nature of Islam in this part of the world.   As Rachel's clip nicely shows, it is the Jews of Israel who have Jerusalem open to all.  It was (and is) the Muslims who seek to deny the history of the Jews there.  Even today they burrow under their mosque seeking to remove the physical evidence that our temple was there before their mosque.

This is the sort of thing that leads to an inability to see that the underlying fundamental problem is not the Jews, it is that the other side contains percentages of those who seek to remove us altogether.

NEVER AGAIN. 

23010  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on Bachman on: June 15, 2011, 12:42:53 AM


http://www.theblaze.com/stories/do-you-know-michele-bachmann-a-quick-history-of-her-political-life/
23011  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Salafists accepting democracy? on: June 15, 2011, 12:18:26 AM
On first read, some of this piece strikes me as , , , needing a bit more thought.  That said, the question presented is of profound importance.
==============================

Democratizing Salafists and the War Against Jihadism

Egypt’s provisional military authority on Sunday approved the application of the country’s first Salafist party, Hizb al-Nour. Days earlier, the world’s oldest — and Egypt’s primary — Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, was licensed by the Political Parties Affairs Committee (which is appointed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces).

According to Egyptian media reports, as many as four other parties of Salafist persuasion are in the making, following unprecedented popular unrest in the country, which led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government.

“The democratization of Salafism even in a limited form could have far-reaching geopolitical implications. Salafists considering democratic politics as a legitimate means of pursuing political objectives can have a moderating effect on ultra-conservative, extremist and radical forces.”
The establishment of Hizb al-Nour marks the first time a Salafist group has sought to enter relatively free electoral politics in the Arab world. Unlike the bulk of Islamists (of the Muslim Brotherhood persuasion), Salafists (also known as Wahhabists) have generally been ideologically opposed to democracy. From the point of view of Salafists/Wahhabists and other radical Islamists, as well as the jihadists, democracy is un-Islamic because they see it as a system that allows man to enact laws, which, in their opinion, is the right of God.

With Hizb al-Nour as a legal political entity, it appears that at least some Egyptian Salafists seem to have moved past a major redline. As far as Egypt is concerned, they are looking at an intense intra-Islamist competition, which could allow the country’s military to consolidate its position while it oversees the shift toward multiparty politics. From the ruling Egyptian council’s perspective, the presence of Salafists in the electoral mix helps it check the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and vice versa.

The case of Egypt notwithstanding, there will be a great many Salafist actors in the region who will continue to insist that Islam and democracy are incompatible. But the democratization of Salafism even in a limited form could have far-reaching geopolitical implications. Salafists considering democratic politics as a legitimate means of pursuing political objectives can have a moderating effect on ultra-conservative, extremist and radical forces.

At the least, it provokes critical debate that could undermine them from within. There are already a significant number of Salafists who do not support the violent ideology of jihadism and consider it to be a deviation from Salafism. That said, jihadism gained ground due to the fact that mainstream Salafists traditionally have never articulated a political program.

If Salafists in significant numbers embrace democratic politics, it could undermine jihadists in the long run. Mainstream politics could serve as an alternative means of pursuing religious goals — one that is less costly than the path of violence and offers a stake in the political system. Furthermore, it provides for a socialization process that could foster norms whereby Salafists can become comfortable with political pluralism.

In the near term, however, Salafists participating in democratic politics can have a destabilizing effect in the region’s most influential Arab state, Saudi Arabia, at a time when popular demands for political reforms have swept the Arab world. Thus far, the kingdom has remained immune to the mass agitation that has overwhelmed almost every other Arab country. In addition to their petroleum wealth, the Saudis have relied on the Salafist religious establishment to prevent the eruption of public unrest.

The political debut of Egyptian Salafists could, however, encourage some among the Saudi Salafists to follow suit. Salafists in the Saudi kingdom could demand political reforms; in the 1990s, a significant current within Saudi Salafism did engage in such a campaign, albeit unsuccessfully. In the current climate, however, the outcome could differ.

While there is concern in the United States and Israel regarding the entry of Islamists into the political mainstream in the Middle East, Salafists embracing democratic politics could actually help counter violent extremism. In the short term, though, it could destabilize the Arab world’s powerhouse and the world’s leading exporter of crude.

23012  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 14, 2011, 11:40:01 PM
I'm off to spend some time with my wife, but first a few comments:

1) "You speak of Academia like its a coherent whole, „us against the world“ type of an institution, that holds its own in a sea of predators. Well here is some first hand insight : even at hardline scientific cathedras, you would be hard pressed to find phds that agree on something. Viscious competition and backstabbing is common just as it is common in management or sports."

I am reminded of Harvard Prof, Nixon cabinet member, and later US Senator from NY, Daniel Moynihan who commented that Washington politics was child's play to that at Harvard -- working from memory here-- "precisely because so little of import was at stake". 

That said, IMHO it is a simple fact that US academia is overwhelmingly leftist and much of it is dedicated to propagation of leftist ideology and not a search for the Truth.

2) Concerning the description of the video that Kostas posted at my request, I regret my lack of citations, but I do remember receiving it from various places and with considerable certainty I regard my description of it to be quite true.

3) "where IDF soldiers shoot tied civilians point blank range, with high ranking officers present."  Working from memory here again because I am too lazy to go surf through all those videos to double check, but IIRC the shooting was in the leg with a rubber bullet-- in which case your description here leaves a very misleading impression.

There's more, but my wife is cuter than all of you guys put together smiley


23013  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: June 14, 2011, 11:20:25 PM
Glenn is in his final few weeks and is summarizing the themes with which he has been working these past few years before moving on to the next step in his mission.   Some really good stuff every day.

Today some powerful stuff on sexual slavery for infidel women and in a very separate matter an interesting aside about the underlying strategy to putting former Congressional budget maven Panetta in charge of DoD-- it is to prepare the way for major cuts.
23014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Paks arrest US informants on OBL on: June 14, 2011, 11:17:29 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Tuesday, June 14, 2011 -- 10:32 PM EDT
-----

Pakistan Arrests C.I.A. Informants Who Aided Bin Laden Raid

Pakistan’s top military spy agency has arrested some of the Pakistani informants who fed information to the Central Intelligence Agency in the months leading up to the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, according to American officials.

Pakistan’s detention of five C.I.A. informants, including a Pakistani Army major who officials said copied the license plates of cars visiting Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the weeks before the raid, is the latest evidence of the fractured relationship between the United States and Pakistan. It comes at a time when the Obama administration is seeking Pakistan’s support in brokering an endgame in the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The fate of the C.I.A. informants arrested in Pakistan is unclear, but American officials said that the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, raised the issue when he travelled to Islamabad last week to meet with Pakistani military and intelligence officers. 


Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/15/world/asia/15policy.html?emc=na
23015  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV on: June 14, 2011, 03:45:14 PM
Imagine my surprise to discover we are on Direct TV PPV right now! 

23016  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Should Martial Artists Train Moves They Mastered on: June 14, 2011, 03:40:01 PM
No time at the moment for a substantial post on this interesting question, but for this moment a few random thoughts seriatim:

1) In the first series, you may notice that when Top Dog finishes teaching a segment he says (working from memory here) "Work it, AND MOVE ON" (emphasis added).

2) There is a difference between practice to deepen mastery and repetition of mediocrity.

3) My sense of things is that the search for deeper mastery calls for a certain understanding of real time application and a certain relaxed focus awareness while practicing that allows one to notice increasingly subtle details.

4) There is such a thing as the point of diminishing returns.  A lifetime does not suffice, so why go past the point of diminishing returns? The fastest progress comes from working the weakest link.  If you have improved a link to where it is no longer your weakest, not only is your entire chain stronger now, but by definition you should be moving on to what is now your new weakest link.  There is such a thing as overtraining and creating some sort of high repetition irritations, and these can sometimes become chronic.  Know when to move on , , , and when to come back to it to keep the level that one has achieved.


23017  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Aun peor on: June 14, 2011, 03:31:40 PM


Narco gangster reveals the underworld-Houston Chronicle

 

Narco gangster reveals the underworld
Cartels have taken cruelty up a notch, says one drug trafficker: kidnapping bus passengers for gladiatorlike fights to the death
By DANE SCHILLER
HOUSTON CHRONICLE
June 13, 2011, 12:26AM
 

The elderly are killed. Young women are raped. And able-bodied men are given hammers, machetes and sticks and forced to fight to the death.

In one of the most chilling revelations yet about the violence in Mexico, a drug cartel-connected trafficker claims fellow gangsters have kidnapped highway bus passengers and forced them into gladiatorlike fights to groom fresh assassins.

In an in-person interview arranged by intermediaries on the condition that neither his name nor the location of his Texas visit be published, the trafficker also admitted to helping push cocaine worth $5 million to $10 million a month into the United States.

Law enforcement sources confirm he is a cartel operative but not a fugitive from pending charges.

His words are not those of a federal agent or drawn from a news conference or court papers.

Instead, he offers a voice from inside Mexico's mayhem — a mafioso who mingles among crime bosses and foot soldiers in a protracted war between drug cartels as well as against the government.

If what he says is true, gangsters who make commonplace beheadings, hangings and quartering bodies have managed an even crueler twist to their barbarity.

Members of the Zetas cartel, he says, have pushed passengers into an ancient Rome-like blood sport with a modern Mexico twist that they call, "Who is going to be the next hit man?"

"They cut guys to pieces," he said.

The victims are likely among the hundreds of people found in mass graves in recent months, he said.

In the vicinity of the Mexican city of San Fernando, nearly 200 bodies were unearthed from pits, and authorities said most appeared to have died of blunt force head trauma.

Many are believed to have been dragged off buses traveling through Mexico, but little has been said about the circumstances of their deaths.

The trafficker said those who survive are taken captive and eventually given suicide missions, such as riding into a town controlled by rivals and shooting up the place.

The trafficker said he did not see the clashes, but his fellow criminals have boasted to him of their exploits.

Killing 'for amusement'
Former and current federal law-enforcement officers in the U.S. said that while they knew Mexican bus passengers had been targeted for violence, they'd never before heard of forcing passengers into death matches.

But given the level of violence in Mexico — nearly 40,000 killed in gangland warfare over the past several years — they didn't find it tough to believe.

Borderland Beat, a blog specializing in drug cartels, reported an account in April of bus passengers brutalized by Zeta thugs and taunted into fighting.

"The stuff you would not think possible a few years ago is now commonplace," said Peter Hanna, a retired FBI agent who built his career focusing on Mexico's cartels. "It used to be you'd find dead bodies in drums with acid; now there are beheadings."

Even so, Hanna noted, killing people this way would be time-consuming and inefficient. "It would be more for amusement," he suggested. "I don't see it as intimidation or a successful way to recruit people."

Hidden behind designer sunglasses and a whisper of a beard, the trafficker interviewed by the Houston Chronicle talked at a restaurant's back table. He had silver shopping bags filled at Nordstrom, but seemed anything but a typical wealthy Mexican on a Texas shopping trip.

As a condition of the interview, he asked that he be referred to only as Juan.

He has worked as a drug-trafficker in Northern Mexico for more than a decade, he said, but has grown tired of gangsters running roughshod over each other and innocent civilians.

Juan, who has worked with the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, the two major drug organizations that control territory along the South Texas-Mexico border, said that back home, he sleeps with a semiautomatic rifle by his bed and a handgun under his pillow.

"It is like the Wild West. You can carry a gun and you are Superman," he said of gangsters and killing at will. "Like everybody says, it is out of control now. We have to put a stop to it."

A recent U.S. Senate report contends the Zetas are the most violent of Mexico's cartels. Its members are believed to be responsible for the recent killing of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who was shot on a Mexican highway.

'They brag about it'
Just on Thursday, authorities in Mexico said they arrested members of the Zetas and seized 201 automatic weapons, 600 camouflage uniforms and 30,000 rounds of ammunition.

"I am not defending the Sinaloa or the Gulf Cartel," Juan said of the Zetas' main rivals. "I earn more money with the Zetas, but I know the (crap) they do," he said. "They brag about it."

With the recent killing of the ICE agent and perhaps other attacks, the Zetas also are breaking the golden rule for Mexican traffickers: Don't kill Americans, he said. It brings too much heat.

If the Zetas are crushed, violence will lessen, he said, and Mexico's older cartels will go back to the older way of doing business - dividing up territory and agreeing not to clash with each other.

Death toll has exploded
Mike Vigil, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was the chief of international operations, said Mexican gangsters used to understand that violence should be used sparingly.

"They love brutality," Vigil said of the Zetas. "They do not care whether you are a police officer, a trafficker or an innocent bystander.

"The drug-trafficking organizations are eventually going to have to deal with the Zetas."

The death toll has exploded since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006 and dispersed military troops throughout the country to fight the cartels. The resulting battles have wrought carnage among local politicians, soldiers, gangsters and civilians alike.

As for the military, Juan said, "They are not helping," noting that the soldiers, like the gangsters, seem to kill whoever they want.

He also discussed some of the finer points of drug trafficking.

Checkpoints no problem
"We don't hide it," he said, telling stories of openly off-loading tractor-trailer rigs of cocaine in parking lots. "These are not lies. Everybody in Mexico knows it."

Even the checkpoints Mexican officials operate along the highways between Central Mexico and the border do not pose much of a problem, Juan said.

The trick, he confided, is to send someone in advance to bribe a commander so a drug load won't be bothered.

"It is better to tell them," he said. "It will cost you more if they catch it."

Tries not to be flashy
As for how he's been able to survive a decade, Juan said the secret is not being greedy or flashy enough to draw attention from other gangsters, who these days show no hesitation to cut down rivals.

He said he can quickly size up in a bar or cafe who is likely to be a trafficker, from the money they spend to the way they talk, sit or eat.

"You can tell in a restaurant or anywhere - that guy is moving dope," Juan said.

Other keys to longevity in the business: knowing your place in the Mexican under­world's hierarchy and not giving the impression you are making more money or interested in taking a chunk out of another gangster's livelihood.

"You keep doing the work you do," Juan said. "Stay at your level."



Read more: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/topstory/7607122.html#ixzz1PGAG4aVk

 

 

23018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse , , , on: June 14, 2011, 03:30:33 PM


Narco gangster reveals the underworld-Houston Chronicle

 

Narco gangster reveals the underworld
Cartels have taken cruelty up a notch, says one drug trafficker: kidnapping bus passengers for gladiatorlike fights to the death
By DANE SCHILLER
HOUSTON CHRONICLE
June 13, 2011, 12:26AM
 

The elderly are killed. Young women are raped. And able-bodied men are given hammers, machetes and sticks and forced to fight to the death.

In one of the most chilling revelations yet about the violence in Mexico, a drug cartel-connected trafficker claims fellow gangsters have kidnapped highway bus passengers and forced them into gladiatorlike fights to groom fresh assassins.

In an in-person interview arranged by intermediaries on the condition that neither his name nor the location of his Texas visit be published, the trafficker also admitted to helping push cocaine worth $5 million to $10 million a month into the United States.

Law enforcement sources confirm he is a cartel operative but not a fugitive from pending charges.

His words are not those of a federal agent or drawn from a news conference or court papers.

Instead, he offers a voice from inside Mexico's mayhem — a mafioso who mingles among crime bosses and foot soldiers in a protracted war between drug cartels as well as against the government.

If what he says is true, gangsters who make commonplace beheadings, hangings and quartering bodies have managed an even crueler twist to their barbarity.

Members of the Zetas cartel, he says, have pushed passengers into an ancient Rome-like blood sport with a modern Mexico twist that they call, "Who is going to be the next hit man?"

"They cut guys to pieces," he said.

The victims are likely among the hundreds of people found in mass graves in recent months, he said.

In the vicinity of the Mexican city of San Fernando, nearly 200 bodies were unearthed from pits, and authorities said most appeared to have died of blunt force head trauma.

Many are believed to have been dragged off buses traveling through Mexico, but little has been said about the circumstances of their deaths.

The trafficker said those who survive are taken captive and eventually given suicide missions, such as riding into a town controlled by rivals and shooting up the place.

The trafficker said he did not see the clashes, but his fellow criminals have boasted to him of their exploits.

Killing 'for amusement'
Former and current federal law-enforcement officers in the U.S. said that while they knew Mexican bus passengers had been targeted for violence, they'd never before heard of forcing passengers into death matches.

But given the level of violence in Mexico — nearly 40,000 killed in gangland warfare over the past several years — they didn't find it tough to believe.

Borderland Beat, a blog specializing in drug cartels, reported an account in April of bus passengers brutalized by Zeta thugs and taunted into fighting.

"The stuff you would not think possible a few years ago is now commonplace," said Peter Hanna, a retired FBI agent who built his career focusing on Mexico's cartels. "It used to be you'd find dead bodies in drums with acid; now there are beheadings."

Even so, Hanna noted, killing people this way would be time-consuming and inefficient. "It would be more for amusement," he suggested. "I don't see it as intimidation or a successful way to recruit people."

Hidden behind designer sunglasses and a whisper of a beard, the trafficker interviewed by the Houston Chronicle talked at a restaurant's back table. He had silver shopping bags filled at Nordstrom, but seemed anything but a typical wealthy Mexican on a Texas shopping trip.

As a condition of the interview, he asked that he be referred to only as Juan.

He has worked as a drug-trafficker in Northern Mexico for more than a decade, he said, but has grown tired of gangsters running roughshod over each other and innocent civilians.

Juan, who has worked with the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, the two major drug organizations that control territory along the South Texas-Mexico border, said that back home, he sleeps with a semiautomatic rifle by his bed and a handgun under his pillow.

"It is like the Wild West. You can carry a gun and you are Superman," he said of gangsters and killing at will. "Like everybody says, it is out of control now. We have to put a stop to it."

A recent U.S. Senate report contends the Zetas are the most violent of Mexico's cartels. Its members are believed to be responsible for the recent killing of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who was shot on a Mexican highway.

'They brag about it'
Just on Thursday, authorities in Mexico said they arrested members of the Zetas and seized 201 automatic weapons, 600 camouflage uniforms and 30,000 rounds of ammunition.

"I am not defending the Sinaloa or the Gulf Cartel," Juan said of the Zetas' main rivals. "I earn more money with the Zetas, but I know the (crap) they do," he said. "They brag about it."

With the recent killing of the ICE agent and perhaps other attacks, the Zetas also are breaking the golden rule for Mexican traffickers: Don't kill Americans, he said. It brings too much heat.

If the Zetas are crushed, violence will lessen, he said, and Mexico's older cartels will go back to the older way of doing business - dividing up territory and agreeing not to clash with each other.

Death toll has exploded
Mike Vigil, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was the chief of international operations, said Mexican gangsters used to understand that violence should be used sparingly.

"They love brutality," Vigil said of the Zetas. "They do not care whether you are a police officer, a trafficker or an innocent bystander.

"The drug-trafficking organizations are eventually going to have to deal with the Zetas."

The death toll has exploded since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006 and dispersed military troops throughout the country to fight the cartels. The resulting battles have wrought carnage among local politicians, soldiers, gangsters and civilians alike.

As for the military, Juan said, "They are not helping," noting that the soldiers, like the gangsters, seem to kill whoever they want.

He also discussed some of the finer points of drug trafficking.

Checkpoints no problem
"We don't hide it," he said, telling stories of openly off-loading tractor-trailer rigs of cocaine in parking lots. "These are not lies. Everybody in Mexico knows it."

Even the checkpoints Mexican officials operate along the highways between Central Mexico and the border do not pose much of a problem, Juan said.

The trick, he confided, is to send someone in advance to bribe a commander so a drug load won't be bothered.

"It is better to tell them," he said. "It will cost you more if they catch it."

Tries not to be flashy
As for how he's been able to survive a decade, Juan said the secret is not being greedy or flashy enough to draw attention from other gangsters, who these days show no hesitation to cut down rivals.

He said he can quickly size up in a bar or cafe who is likely to be a trafficker, from the money they spend to the way they talk, sit or eat.

"You can tell in a restaurant or anywhere - that guy is moving dope," Juan said.

Other keys to longevity in the business: knowing your place in the Mexican under­world's hierarchy and not giving the impression you are making more money or interested in taking a chunk out of another gangster's livelihood.

"You keep doing the work you do," Juan said. "Stay at your level."



Read more: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/topstory/7607122.html#ixzz1PGAG4aVk

 

 

23019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Happy Birthday US Army and American Flag! on: June 14, 2011, 03:25:54 PM


Patriot Post

Today, June 14th, is both the 236th anniversary of the establishment of the United States Army, and fittingly, the 234th anniversary of the adoption of our nation's flag.

In 1776, Thomas Paine opened his famous pamphlet, "The American Crisis," with these words: "THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."

On this June day in 2011, America is once again in crisis, and the Liberty won at great price and bequeathed to us by generations of Patriots is in eminent peril. Paine's words from 1776 ring true today.

23020  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 14, 2011, 03:23:14 PM
I have only seen the first half so far.

I thought Newt answered well last night the perception that he had attacked Ryan's plan by pointing out his words were precise in answer to a precise question about how Pelosi-Reid had rammed through Obamacare.    I thought Newt did well last night, but obviously the loss of his staff on top of the widespread perception that he backstabbed Ryan leave him very vulnerable.

I thought Michelle Bachman did well, and was frustrated by how few questions were sent her way.

I wish Cain had pushed the FAIR tax.  I think he has the potential to do well and look good with it.  He continues to look very weak on foreign affairs.  Given the tectonic shifts going on in the world, to say "Well, I will get together a bunch of experts who will show me the secret intel and then I will decide what to to do" does not cut it in the slightest.

Wuzzhisface, the ex-Senator from PA is a waste of time.  The fact that he is running is proof of profound cluelessness.

Pawlenty did not take the dare to follow up on his Obamney Care quote and I thought Romney came in well-prepared and articulate on it.

More after I watch the whole thing.
23021  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: India-Iran on: June 14, 2011, 03:06:30 PM
Analyst Kamran Bokhari examines the pressure put on relations between New Delhi and Tehran due to U.S. sanctions on Iranian energy exports at a time when the looming U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has both countries concerned.


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

Iran’s national security chief, Saeed Jalili, will soon be paying a visit to India, and this visit comes at a time when there is a lot happening between the two countries in terms of both bilateral relations and regional geopolitics.

Jalili’s visit to New Delhi comes at a time when relations between Iran and India are not as comfortable as they have been in recent years. The primary reason for that is that India is unable to pay Iran for the crude imports it gets from the clerical regime because of the international sanctions that have basically done away with the old mechanism that the two countries used to use in the form of a regional clearinghouse. That is an issue that has been lingering on for months and needs to be resolved.

The fact that there is this payment issue between India and Iran has allowed Saudi Arabia to enter into the dynamic where there are reports that Saudi Arabia is willing to increase its crude exports to India such that New Delhi would no longer need to import from Tehran. That issue has an unsettling effect on the Iranians even though they are just reports. Therefore this issue of the Saudi offer is likely to figure high on the agenda in the negotiations that will take place between the Iranians and the Indians. And especially now that the United States and its NATO allies are moving toward a drawdown strategy for Afghanistan, countries like India and Iran are especially concerned about their security given that the Taliban are likely to benefit from a Western military withdrawal from their country. And of course by extension, it also brings Pakistan into the equation which is a concern more so for New Delhi than it is for Tehran, but nonetheless there are shared concerns on the part of both the Iranians and the Indians and they would like to be able to prep for the coming drawdown.

Jalili’s trip will thus be about a host of issues, some long-standing, that actually bring India and Iran together, and others that are more contemporary and can become of a contentious nature because of the U.S.-led sanctions on Iran.

23022  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 14, 2011, 12:22:43 PM
I wish I could speak with more certainty on the point, but my understanding is what you are seeing now is the Pentagon using general purpose $ for whatever it is we are doing in Libya but that it IS possible for the Congress to say "No $ for Activity X".

Any help here BD?
23023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Analysis of new video on: June 14, 2011, 12:18:28 PM



 

By Scott Stewart

A new video from al Qaeda’s media arm, As-Sahab, became available on the Internet on June 2. The video was 100 minutes long, distributed in two parts and titled “Responsible Only for Yourself.” As the name suggests, this video was the al Qaeda core’s latest attempt to encourage grassroots jihadists to undertake lone-wolf operations in the West, a recurrent theme in jihadist messages since late 2009.

The video, which was well-produced and contained a number of graphics and special effects, features historical footage of a number of militant Islamist personalities, including Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abdullah Azzam and Abu Yahya al-Libi.

In addition to al-Libi, who is considered a prominent al Qaeda ideological authority, the video also features an extensive discourse from another Libyan theologian, Sheikh Jamal Ibrahim Shtaiwi al-Misrati. Al-Misrati (who is from Misurata, as one can surmise from his name) was also featured in a March 25 As-Sahab message encouraging jihadists in Libya to assume control of the country and place it under Shariah once the Gadhafi regime is overthrown. The still photo used over the March message featuring al-Misrati was taken from the video used in the June 2 message, indicating that the recently released video of al-Misrati was shot prior to March 25. The video also contains a short excerpt of a previously released Arabic language Al-Malahim media video by Anwar al-Awlaki and an English-language statement by Adam Gadahn that is broken up into small segments and appears periodically throughout the video.

Despite the fact that many of the video segments used to produce this product are quite dated, there is a reference to bin Laden as a shaheed, or martyr, so this video was obviously produced after his death.

Unlike the As-Sahab message on the same topic featuring Adam Gadahn released in March 2010 and the English-language efforts of  al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s “Inspire” magazine, this video is primarily in Arabic, indicating that it is intended to influence an Arabic-speaking audience.

To date, much of the media coverage pertaining to the release of this video has focused on one short English-language segment in which Adam Gadahn encourages Muslims in the United States to go to gun shows and obtain automatic weapons to use in shooting attacks. This focus is understandable given the contentiousness of the gun-control issue in the United States, but a careful examination of the video reveals far more than just fodder for the U.S. gun-control debate.


Contents of the Video

The first 36 minutes of the video essentially comprise a history lesson of militants who heard the call to jihad and then acted on it. Among the examples are individuals such as ElSayyid Nosair, the assassin of Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane; Abdel Basit (also known as Ramzi Yousef), the operational planner of the 1993 World Trade Center attack and the thwarted Bojinka plot; Mohammed Bouyeri, the assassin of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh; and Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan. Others include the leader of the team of assassins who killed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the militants behind the Mumbai attacks.

Then, after listing those examples, the video emphasizes the point that if one is to live in the “real Islamic way,” one must also follow the examples of the men profiled. Furthermore, since the “enemies of Islam” have expanded their “attacks against Islam” in many different places, the video asserts that it is not only in the land of the Muslims that the enemies of Islam must be attacked, but also in their homelands (i.e., the West). In fact, the video asserts that it is easy to strike the enemies of Islam in their home countries and doing so creates the biggest impact. And this is the context in which Gadahn made his widely publicized comment about Muslims buying guns and conducting armed assaults.

Now, it is important to briefly address this comment by Gadahn: While it is indeed quite easy for U.S. citizens to legally purchase a wide variety of firearms, it is illegal for them to purchase fully automatic weapons without first obtaining the proper firearms license. This fixation with obtaining fully automatic rifles instead of purchasing readily available and legal semi-automatic weapons has led to the downfall of a number of jihadist plots inside the United States, including one just last month in New York. Therefore, aspiring jihadists who would seek to follow Gadahn’s recommendations to the letter would almost certainly find themselves quickly brought to the attention of the authorities.

When we look at the rest of Gadahn’s comments in this video, it is clear the group is trying to convey a number of other interesting points. First, Gadahn notes that jihadists wanting to undertake lone-wolf activities must take all possible measures to keep their plotting secret, and the first thing they should do is avail themselves of all the electronic manuals available on the Internet pertaining to security.

A few minutes later in the video, Gadahn remarks on a point made in a segment from a U.S. news program that the Hollywood perception of the capabilities of the National Security Agency (NSA) is nowhere near what those capabilities are in real life and that, while the NSA and other Western intelligence agencies collect massive amounts of data, it is hard for them to link the pieces together to gain intelligence on a pending attack plan. This is true, and the difficulty of putting together disparate intelligence to complete the big picture is something STRATFOR has long discussed. Gadahn notes that the downfall of most grassroots operations is loose lips and not the excellence of Western intelligence and urges aspiring grassroots jihadists to trust no one and to reveal their plans to no one, not even friends and family members. This claim is also true. Most thwarted grassroots plots have been uncovered due to poor operational security and sloppy tradecraft.

The video also contains lengthy theological discussions justifying the jihadist position that jihad is a compulsory, individual obligation for every able-bodied Muslim. As the video turns to the necessity of attacking the enemies of Islam in their homelands, Gadahn notes that Americans are people who crave comfort and security and that terrorist attacks scare them and take away their will to fight Muslims. According to Gadahn, terrorist attacks also cause the people to object to leaders who want to attack Islam, and the people will not vote for those leaders.

Throughout the video, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is depicted several times, and it is asserted that the United States and the West are controlled by Jewish interests. Gadahn says that influential figures in the Zionist-controlled Western governments, industries and media should be attacked, and that such attacks will weaken the will of the masses to fight against Islam. He also says that attacks against such targets are not hard and that, from recent examples of people who have assaulted the pope and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, it is evident that if jihadists trust their efforts to Allah and choose the right place, time and method, they can succeed in their attacks.

But armed assaults are not the only type of attacks being advocated in the video. The message also contains several minutes of material dedicated to encouraging cyber-jihadists to conduct electronic attacks against the United States. This concept was supported by several excerpts from a segment of the U.S. television program 60 Minutes pertaining to the cyber threat and featuring U.S. experts discussing their fears that terrorists would attack such targets as the electrical grid. Again, this is an old threat, and acquiring the skills to become a world-class hacker takes time, talent and practice. This means that, in practical terms, the threat posed by such attacks is no greater than it was prior to the release of this video.


Tactical Implications

First, it needs to be recognized that this video does not present any sort of new threat. As far as Gadahn’s pleas for American Muslims to buy firearms and conduct armed assaults, we wrote an analysis in May 2010 discussing many failed jihadist bomb plots and forecasting that the jihadists would shift to armed assaults instead. Furthermore, jihadist websites have long been urging their followers to become cyber-jihadists and to create viruses that would cripple the economies of the United States and the West, which are so dependent on computerized systems.

Even the calls to target industrial and media leaders are not new. Jihadist publications such as the now-defunct online magazine of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, Maaskar al-Battaar, encouraged attacks against such targets as far back as 2004.

This means that this latest As-Sahab message merely echoes threats that have already existed for some time now, such as threats emanating from grassroots jihadists. The grassroots threat is real and must be guarded against, but it is not nearly as acute as the threat posed by other, more skillful terrorist actors. Grassroots operatives do not often possess good terrorist tradecraft, and their attacks tend to be poorly planned and executed and susceptible to discovery and disruption.

However, killing people is not difficult, and even amateurs can be deadly. As we examine these repeated pleas by al Qaeda for grassroots jihadists to conduct attacks in the West, and then consider the ease with which such attacks can be conducted — evidenced by Hasan’s actions at Fort Hood — it raises an interesting question: Why haven’t we seen more of these attacks?

Certainly we’ve seen some thwarted attempts like the previously mentioned plot in New York in May 2011 and a successful attack in March on U.S. Air Force personnel in Frankfurt, Germany, but overall, the jihadist message urging Muslims to take up arms and conduct attacks simply does not appear to be gaining much traction among Muslims in the West — and the United States in particular. We have simply not seen the groundswell of grassroots attacks that was initially anticipated. The pleas of Gadahn and his companions appear to be falling upon deaf ears and do not seem to resonate with Muslims in the West in the same way that the cries of the pro-democracy movements in the Middle East have in recent months.

In theory, these grassroots efforts are supposed to supplement the efforts of al Qaeda to attack the West. But in practice, al Qaeda and its franchise groups have been rendered transnationally impotent in large part by the counterterrorism efforts of the United States and its allies since 9/11. Jihadist groups been able to conduct attacks in the regions where they are based, but grassroots operatives have been forced to shoulder the bulk of the effort to attack the West. In fact, the only successful attacks conducted inside the United States since 9/11 have been conducted by grassroots operatives, and in any case, grassroots plots and attacks have been quite infrequent. Despite the ease of conducting such attacks, they have been nowhere near as common as jihadist leaders hoped — and American security officials feared.

One reason for this paucity of attacks may be the jihadist message being sent. In earlier days, the message of Islamist militants like Abdullah Azzam was “Come, join the caravan.” This message suggested that militants who answered the call would be trained, equipped and put into the field of battle under competent commanders. It was a message of strength and confidence — and a message that stands in stark contrast to As-Sahab’s current message of “Don’t come and join us, it is too dangerous — conduct attacks on your own instead.” The very call to leaderless resistance is an admission of defeat and an indication that the jihadists might not be receiving the divine blessing they claim.



Read more: Al Qaeda's New Video: A Message of Defeat | STRATFOR
23024  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 14, 2011, 12:10:19 PM
It should matter that Said lied about his personal history, but ultimately for me the larger point is the hatred to be found within the Muslim Arab mindset.  When there are no Jews to hate, then the next handy non-Muslim target will do just fine, see e.g. what is happening to the Coptic Christians right now in Egypt.   

There is also a , , , words fail me here , , , sociopathic inability to understand that one's own actions may have something to do with how people act towards you.  For example, in one of Andraz's videos there is footage of the wall that Israel built as an example of terrible Israeli oppression, but no sense that all the suicide murder terror attacks that were being launched from the West Bank caused it nor apparently is there any awareness that the wall has pretty much succeeded in stopping them.
23025  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Ataques a Casinos en Monterrey on: June 14, 2011, 11:55:47 AM
Money-Laundering Targets

Another significant facet of Monterrey’s strategic value to the cartels made the news May 25 when four casinos were robbed. Heavily armed gunmen reportedly emptied out the cashier cages at Casino Hollywood, Casino Royale, Casino Red and Casino Miravalle Palace, all in the same general area between Monterrey proper and the westside city of San Pedro Garza Garcia.

Los Zetas are currently fighting with the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels for Monterrey. The Zetas hold the city, but the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels want to take it because it sits astride intersecting smuggling corridors for drug and human trafficking. But that is only part of the story. The greater Monterrey area has about three dozen casinos, most of the more than 40 casinos in northeast Mexico. To an extent that no other business sector can be, large casino operations are essential to laundering the billions of dollars generated by Mexico’s cartels. Clearly, the tit-for-tat operations in which Gulf and Zetas elements target each other’s vital support networks appear to have been elevated to a higher level with bigger stakes.

Mexican media have indicated that “millions” were taken in the heists, but no source has quantified how much money was taken or whether the currency was in pesos or U.S. dollars. Furthermore, the reports have offered confusing or conflicting information about the order in which the heists occurred, so much so that a sequence may not be easily determined. In this situation, however, such tactical details are less important than the larger implications of the apparently well-coordinated heists.

Last January, the Casino Royale was the scene of an apparent effort to eliminate two high-profile members of the Juarez cartel who were gambling in the casino. Gunmen entered the establishment and started firing hundreds of rounds, but the reported targets got away — and later were apprehended by authorities. Almost as an afterthought, one online report mentioned in its last sentence that “in the confusion” the casino’s cashier cage was robbed and all of the casino’s security-camera tapes disappeared. STRATFOR has found no direct link in the media between the January shooting-robbery and the May robbery at Casino Royale. But we find the events more than coincidental. In all likelihood, the first heist in January was a test run for the coordinated multi-casino robberies conducted May 25.

Certainly, U.S. interdiction efforts have put a financial strain on all of the Mexican cartels, making casino robberies a tempting proposition, but the successful theft of millions of dollars or pesos may only have been a bonus on top of the larger reward of hitting a rival cartel at a vulnerable spot: its money-laundering operations.

Two years ago, Monterrey was something of a neutral zone where all top cartel families made use of the affluent stability and superior schools and medical care. In late January 2010, however, Los Zetas started consolidating their hold on the city after declaring open war on their former parent organization, the Gulf cartel. Last summer, after taking losses on the border at Reynosa and Matamoros, Los Zetas retreated to Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey. In Monterrey, the Zetas forces were entrenched for about two weeks when Hurricane Alex roared into the Rio Grande Valley and catastrophic flooding demolished huge sections of the city’s transportation arteries — effectively pulling up the drawbridge behind the Zetas.

Despite the heavy Zetas presence, Monterrey’s longer history as relatively neutral ground means that the casinos robbed May 25 were likely laundering funds for any number of drug trafficking organizations. The Zetas’ control of the Monterrey metropolitan area does not equate to exclusive use of its black market infrastructure, and dozens of large casinos have far more strategic worth as money-laundering operations than they do as extortion targets.


On the Quiet Coahuila Front

With the exception of Torreon and Saltillo, Coahuila state has been fairly quiet in Mexico’s cartel wars. The state is sparsely populated, lacks high-volume interstate highway arteries and remains largely undisputed Los Zetas territory. But several recent events along with an increasing Mexican military presence could point to a coming change in Coahuila’s security conditions.

According to official government news releases and confirmed by STRATFOR sources in the region, there has been a gradual increase in the deployment of military assets to Coahuila and in military activities in 2011. Mexican marines seized just over a ton of cocaine at a ranch northwest of Monclova on May 24. Then on June 1, Mexican army personnel found 38 narcofosas, or hidden graves, in the village of Guerrero, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Piedras Negras. It is not yet clear how many victims were disposed of at the Guerrero site — the meter-deep pits contained thousands of bits of charred human bones, metal buckles, buttons, and other personal items, and three 55-gallon drums also were found in which human bodies had been cremated. Also on June 1, the Mexican military uncovered a large cache of firearms and munitions on a farm in Nadadores, including 161 weapons and 92,039 rounds of ammunition of various calibers.

By no means are these recent events in Coahuila unique for Mexico, but the increase in military personnel and operations in the sparsely populated state is notable. As that military presence grows, STRATFOR expects significant clashes between Los Zetas and Mexican troops over the next few months. In Mexico, cartels have demonstrated that they will absorb a low level of losses as “the cost of doing business.” However, losses can reach a point where they are no longer acceptable to an organization, and violent countermeasures tend to result. In the quieter areas of Coahuila, particularly in the western and northern parts of the state where the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have not bothered to contest Zetas control, Los Zetas may soon respond to the Mexican government’s inroads with direct and violent action against the military.



(click here to view interactive map)

May 31

Unidentified people asphyxiated a man and abandoned his body in a vacant lot near the Francisco Madero avenue in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The victim was tortured and beaten before being killed.
Soldiers arrested four men in Acapulco, Guerrero state, for transporting a dismembered body in the trunk of a car. A fifth suspect managed to escape. The men had been stopped at a military roadblock but attempted to flee and crashed into another car.

June 1

Unidentified gunmen in the Dale neighborhood of Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, shot and killed Fernando Oropeza, the former deputy director of a low-risk prison. Oropeza had resigned from his post after a clandestine bar was discovered at the prison.
Two people were killed and one was injured in a firefight between suspected members of drug trafficking gangs in the Region 233 neighborhood of Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The incident reportedly began when six members of a criminal gang arrived at a food vendor’s stall and opened fire on several members of a rival group identified only as “LGD.”
Relatives of journalist Noel Lopez identified his body among those found in a mass grave in Chinameca, Veracruz state. Lopez had last been seen headed to Soteapan on March 8.

June 2

Unidentified gunmen in the Jardines de Oriente neighborhood of Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, opened fire on a municipal police vehicle, killing a police officer.
Federal police officers arrested Candido Ramos Perez, the suspected head for Cartel Pacifico Sur of the Cuernavaca “plaza” in Morelos state, during vehicle inspections on the Cuernavaca-Mexico City highway near the southern boundary of the Federal District. A suspected cartel lookout riding in Ramos Perez’s vehicle also was arrested.

June 3

Military authorities announced the seizure of 161 firearms and 92,039 rounds of ammunition reportedly belonging to Los Zetas in the municipality of Nadadores, Coahuila state.
Security guards at the Sinaloa state government palace in Culiacan discovered a severed head and hands on the building’s exterior stairs. A preliminary report stated that the victim could be a state police officer.
The Mexican prosecutor general’s office announced the seizure of two large containers holding 80 barrels of monomethylamine, a precursor used to manufacture chemical drugs, at container-ship facilities in Manzanillo, Colima state. Another 80 barrels were seized from a separate ship, bringing the total amount of precursors seized to 34,848 kilograms.

June 4

Soldiers arrested Jorge Hank Rhon, a former mayor of Tijuana, Baja California state, during a raid in response to a citizen complaint. Approximately 50 firearms were seized from Rhon’s house.
Federal police announced the arrest of Victor Manuel Perez Izquierdo, the head of Los Zetas in Quintana Roo state, during an operation in Cancun. Ten other members of Los Zetas were arrested along with Perez Izquierdo. Authorities said the operation resulted from the arrests of 10 Zetas in Cancun on May 28.

June 5

Military authorities announced the seizure of four armored vehicles and 23 tractor-trailers during raids on vehicle workshops in Reynosa and Camargo, Tamaulipas state.
Unidentified gunmen shot and killed the municipal police commander of Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, in the San Angel neighborhood as he headed to his house.
Police in the Mitras Norte neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, discovered the bodies of two men hanging from a pedestrian bridge. Signs bearing undisclosed messages to members of a criminal group were found near the bodies.
Unidentified people abandoned a taxi with a dismembered body outside a police station in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state. A message found in the vehicle included a threat to the mayor of Guadalupe, warning that she would be next.


Read more: Mexico Security Memo: Casino Attacks in Monterrey | STRATFOR
23026  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: May Retail Sales on: June 14, 2011, 11:50:46 AM
Retail sales declined 0.2% in May To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 6/14/2011


Retail sales declined 0.2% in May (-0.6% including downward revisions to March/April). The consensus had expected a drop of 0.5%. Retail sales are up 7.7% versus a year ago.

Sales excluding autos were up 0.3% in May (0.2% including revisions to March/April). The consensus expected a gain of 0.2%. Retail sales ex-autos are up 8.2% in the past year.
 
The drop in retail sales for May was led by autos, which fell 2.9%. The largest move outside the auto sector was an upswing in non-store retailers (mail order and internet).   
 
Sales excluding autos, building materials, and gas increased 0.2% in May and were up 0.4% including revisions for March/April. These sales are up 6.1% versus last year. This calculation is important for estimating GDP.
 
Implications:  Despite dire headlines and political rhetoric, the US is nowhere near a double-dip recession. While overall retail sales dipped 0.2% in May, this reflects what we already knew, which is that supply-chain disruptions due to Japan’s disasters have temporarily reduced auto sales. Excluding autos, sales came in very close to consensus expectations. In the past year, total retail sales are up 7.7% and sales excluding autos are up 8.2%. Once the supply-chain issues are resolved, within the next month or so, auto sales will pick up again. The details of the report show strength. “Core” sales (which exclude autos, building materials, and gas) were up a solid 0.4% including upward revisions to prior months.  Even if these sales are unchanged for the rest of the second quarter they will still be up at a 5% annual rate in Q2. Factoring-in services as well as inflation, real consumer spending will probably be up at a 2% to 2.5% annual rate in Q2. Consumer spending continues to rise for two key reasons. First, earnings are growing due to more jobs, more wages per hour, and more hours per worker. Second, consumers’ financial obligations (debt service plus other recurring payments like rent, car leases, homeowners’ insurance, and property taxes) are now the smallest share of disposable income since 1995. Add on top of that a recovery in the auto sector as Japan heals, and the future looks bright for retail sales.
23027  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat security report on: June 14, 2011, 11:47:39 AM

Money-Laundering Targets

Another significant facet of Monterrey’s strategic value to the cartels made the news May 25 when four casinos were robbed. Heavily armed gunmen reportedly emptied out the cashier cages at Casino Hollywood, Casino Royale, Casino Red and Casino Miravalle Palace, all in the same general area between Monterrey proper and the westside city of San Pedro Garza Garcia.

Los Zetas are currently fighting with the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels for Monterrey. The Zetas hold the city, but the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels want to take it because it sits astride intersecting smuggling corridors for drug and human trafficking. But that is only part of the story. The greater Monterrey area has about three dozen casinos, most of the more than 40 casinos in northeast Mexico. To an extent that no other business sector can be, large casino operations are essential to laundering the billions of dollars generated by Mexico’s cartels. Clearly, the tit-for-tat operations in which Gulf and Zetas elements target each other’s vital support networks appear to have been elevated to a higher level with bigger stakes.

Mexican media have indicated that “millions” were taken in the heists, but no source has quantified how much money was taken or whether the currency was in pesos or U.S. dollars. Furthermore, the reports have offered confusing or conflicting information about the order in which the heists occurred, so much so that a sequence may not be easily determined. In this situation, however, such tactical details are less important than the larger implications of the apparently well-coordinated heists.

Last January, the Casino Royale was the scene of an apparent effort to eliminate two high-profile members of the Juarez cartel who were gambling in the casino. Gunmen entered the establishment and started firing hundreds of rounds, but the reported targets got away — and later were apprehended by authorities. Almost as an afterthought, one online report mentioned in its last sentence that “in the confusion” the casino’s cashier cage was robbed and all of the casino’s security-camera tapes disappeared. STRATFOR has found no direct link in the media between the January shooting-robbery and the May robbery at Casino Royale. But we find the events more than coincidental. In all likelihood, the first heist in January was a test run for the coordinated multi-casino robberies conducted May 25.

Certainly, U.S. interdiction efforts have put a financial strain on all of the Mexican cartels, making casino robberies a tempting proposition, but the successful theft of millions of dollars or pesos may only have been a bonus on top of the larger reward of hitting a rival cartel at a vulnerable spot: its money-laundering operations.

Two years ago, Monterrey was something of a neutral zone where all top cartel families made use of the affluent stability and superior schools and medical care. In late January 2010, however, Los Zetas started consolidating their hold on the city after declaring open war on their former parent organization, the Gulf cartel. Last summer, after taking losses on the border at Reynosa and Matamoros, Los Zetas retreated to Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey. In Monterrey, the Zetas forces were entrenched for about two weeks when Hurricane Alex roared into the Rio Grande Valley and catastrophic flooding demolished huge sections of the city’s transportation arteries — effectively pulling up the drawbridge behind the Zetas.

Despite the heavy Zetas presence, Monterrey’s longer history as relatively neutral ground means that the casinos robbed May 25 were likely laundering funds for any number of drug trafficking organizations. The Zetas’ control of the Monterrey metropolitan area does not equate to exclusive use of its black market infrastructure, and dozens of large casinos have far more strategic worth as money-laundering operations than they do as extortion targets.


On the Quiet Coahuila Front

With the exception of Torreon and Saltillo, Coahuila state has been fairly quiet in Mexico’s cartel wars. The state is sparsely populated, lacks high-volume interstate highway arteries and remains largely undisputed Los Zetas territory. But several recent events along with an increasing Mexican military presence could point to a coming change in Coahuila’s security conditions.

According to official government news releases and confirmed by STRATFOR sources in the region, there has been a gradual increase in the deployment of military assets to Coahuila and in military activities in 2011. Mexican marines seized just over a ton of cocaine at a ranch northwest of Monclova on May 24. Then on June 1, Mexican army personnel found 38 narcofosas, or hidden graves, in the village of Guerrero, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Piedras Negras. It is not yet clear how many victims were disposed of at the Guerrero site — the meter-deep pits contained thousands of bits of charred human bones, metal buckles, buttons, and other personal items, and three 55-gallon drums also were found in which human bodies had been cremated. Also on June 1, the Mexican military uncovered a large cache of firearms and munitions on a farm in Nadadores, including 161 weapons and 92,039 rounds of ammunition of various calibers.

By no means are these recent events in Coahuila unique for Mexico, but the increase in military personnel and operations in the sparsely populated state is notable. As that military presence grows, STRATFOR expects significant clashes between Los Zetas and Mexican troops over the next few months. In Mexico, cartels have demonstrated that they will absorb a low level of losses as “the cost of doing business.” However, losses can reach a point where they are no longer acceptable to an organization, and violent countermeasures tend to result. In the quieter areas of Coahuila, particularly in the western and northern parts of the state where the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have not bothered to contest Zetas control, Los Zetas may soon respond to the Mexican government’s inroads with direct and violent action against the military.



(click here to view interactive map)

May 31

Unidentified people asphyxiated a man and abandoned his body in a vacant lot near the Francisco Madero avenue in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The victim was tortured and beaten before being killed.
Soldiers arrested four men in Acapulco, Guerrero state, for transporting a dismembered body in the trunk of a car. A fifth suspect managed to escape. The men had been stopped at a military roadblock but attempted to flee and crashed into another car.

June 1

Unidentified gunmen in the Dale neighborhood of Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, shot and killed Fernando Oropeza, the former deputy director of a low-risk prison. Oropeza had resigned from his post after a clandestine bar was discovered at the prison.
Two people were killed and one was injured in a firefight between suspected members of drug trafficking gangs in the Region 233 neighborhood of Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The incident reportedly began when six members of a criminal gang arrived at a food vendor’s stall and opened fire on several members of a rival group identified only as “LGD.”
Relatives of journalist Noel Lopez identified his body among those found in a mass grave in Chinameca, Veracruz state. Lopez had last been seen headed to Soteapan on March 8.

June 2

Unidentified gunmen in the Jardines de Oriente neighborhood of Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, opened fire on a municipal police vehicle, killing a police officer.
Federal police officers arrested Candido Ramos Perez, the suspected head for Cartel Pacifico Sur of the Cuernavaca “plaza” in Morelos state, during vehicle inspections on the Cuernavaca-Mexico City highway near the southern boundary of the Federal District. A suspected cartel lookout riding in Ramos Perez’s vehicle also was arrested.

June 3

Military authorities announced the seizure of 161 firearms and 92,039 rounds of ammunition reportedly belonging to Los Zetas in the municipality of Nadadores, Coahuila state.
Security guards at the Sinaloa state government palace in Culiacan discovered a severed head and hands on the building’s exterior stairs. A preliminary report stated that the victim could be a state police officer.
The Mexican prosecutor general’s office announced the seizure of two large containers holding 80 barrels of monomethylamine, a precursor used to manufacture chemical drugs, at container-ship facilities in Manzanillo, Colima state. Another 80 barrels were seized from a separate ship, bringing the total amount of precursors seized to 34,848 kilograms.

June 4

Soldiers arrested Jorge Hank Rhon, a former mayor of Tijuana, Baja California state, during a raid in response to a citizen complaint. Approximately 50 firearms were seized from Rhon’s house.
Federal police announced the arrest of Victor Manuel Perez Izquierdo, the head of Los Zetas in Quintana Roo state, during an operation in Cancun. Ten other members of Los Zetas were arrested along with Perez Izquierdo. Authorities said the operation resulted from the arrests of 10 Zetas in Cancun on May 28.

June 5

Military authorities announced the seizure of four armored vehicles and 23 tractor-trailers during raids on vehicle workshops in Reynosa and Camargo, Tamaulipas state.
Unidentified gunmen shot and killed the municipal police commander of Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, in the San Angel neighborhood as he headed to his house.
Police in the Mitras Norte neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, discovered the bodies of two men hanging from a pedestrian bridge. Signs bearing undisclosed messages to members of a criminal group were found near the bodies.
Unidentified people abandoned a taxi with a dismembered body outside a police station in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state. A message found in the vehicle included a threat to the mayor of Guadalupe, warning that she would be next.


Read more: Mexico Security Memo: Casino Attacks in Monterrey | STRATFOR
23028  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: May PPI on: June 14, 2011, 11:05:10 AM
Data Watch

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.2% in May To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 6/14/2011


The Producer Price Index (PPI) increased 0.2% in May, higher than the consensus expected rise of 0.1%. Producer prices are up 7.3% versus a year ago.

The May gain in the PPI was led by energy, which increased 1.5%. Food prices fell 1.4%. The “core” PPI, which excludes food and energy, increased 0.2%, matching consensus expectations.

Consumer goods prices rose 0.2% in May and are up 9.4% versus last year. Capital equipment prices were up 0.2% in May and are up 1.3% in the past year.

Core intermediate goods prices increased 0.9% in May and are up 6.3% versus a year ago. Core crude prices fell 0.9% in May but are up 19.0% in the past twelve months.

Implications:  Producer prices continued to move higher in May, outpacing consensus expectations, and are up 7.3% in the past year. Most of the gain in May was due to energy, but core prices (which exclude food and energy) are up at a 3.5% annual rate in the past six months. Further up the production pipeline, core intermediate prices increased 0.9% in May and are up 6.3% versus a year ago. Core crude prices, despite slipping in May, are up 19% in the past year. So while the Federal Reserve can still claim core inflation is low for consumers, core producer prices are accelerating.  Based on these inflation signals and the current state of the economy, the Fed’s monetary policy is way too loose. With oil prices so volatile, producer prices are going to be volatile as well. However, we anticipate that the underlying trend in producer price inflation will remain too high. In other recent inflation news, trade prices continue to escalate.  Import prices increased 0.2% in May and are up 12.5% versus a year ago.  Excluding oil, import prices increased 0.4% in May and are up 4.5% in the past year.  Export prices rose 0.2% in May and are up 9% versus a year ago.  Excluding farm products, export prices are up 7% in the past year. Like back in the early 2000s the Fed has been too loose for too long.

 
23029  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Friedman ruminations on: June 14, 2011, 11:01:50 AM
Turkey's Elections and Strained U.S. Relations
June 14, 2011


By George Friedman

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won Parliamentary elections June 12, which means it will remain in power for a third term. The popular vote, divided among a number of parties, made the AKP the most popular party by far, although nearly half of the electorate voted for other parties, mainly the opposition and largely secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP). More important, the AKP failed to win a super-majority, which would have given it the power to unilaterally alter Turkey’s constitution. This was one of the major issues in the election, with the AKP hoping for the super-majority and others trying to block it. The failure of the AKP to achieve the super-majority leaves the status quo largely intact. While the AKP remains the most powerful party in Turkey, able to form governments without coalition partners, it cannot rewrite the constitution without accommodating its rivals.

One way to look at this is that Turkey continues to operate within a stable framework, one that has been in place for almost a decade. The AKP is the ruling party. The opposition is fragmented along ideological lines, which gives the not overwhelmingly popular AKP disproportionate power. The party can set policy within the constitution but not beyond the constitution. In this sense, the Turkish political system has produced a long-standing reality. Few other countries can point to such continuity of leadership. Obviously, since Turkey is a democracy, the rhetoric is usually heated and accusations often fly, ranging from imminent military coups to attempts to impose a religious dictatorship. There may be generals thinking of coups and there may be members of AKP thinking of religious dictatorship, but the political process has worked effectively to make such things hard to imagine. In Turkey, as in every democracy, the rhetoric and the reality must be carefully distinguished.


Turkey’s Shifting Policy

That said, the AKP has clearly taken Turkey in new directions in both domestic and foreign policy. In domestic policy, the direction is obvious. While the CHP has tried to vigorously contain religion within the private sphere, the AKP has sought to recognize Turkey’s Islamic culture and has sought a degree of integration with the political structure.

This has had two results. Domestically, while the AKP has had the strength to create a new political sensibility, it has not had the strength to create new institutions based on Islamic principles (assuming this is one of its desired goals). Nevertheless, the secularists, deriving their legitimacy from the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, have viewed his legacy and their secular rights — one of which is the right of women not to have to wear headscarves — as being under attack. Hence, the tenor of public discourse has been volatile. Indeed, there is a constant sense of crisis in Turkey, as the worst fears of the secularists collide with the ambitions of the AKP. Again, we regard these ambitions as modest, not because we know what AKP leaders intend in their heart, but simply because they lack the power to go further regardless of intentions.

The rise of the AKP and its domestic agenda has more than just domestic consequences. Since 2001, the United States has been fighting radical Islamists, and the fear of radical Islamism goes beyond the United States to Europe and other countries. In many ways, Turkey is both the most prosperous and most militarily powerful of any Muslim country. The idea that the AKP agenda is radically Islamist and that Turkey is moving toward radical Islamism generates anxieties and hostilities in the international system.

While the thought of a radical Islamist Turkey is frightening, and many take an odd pleasure in saying that Turkey has been “lost” to radical Islamism and should be ostracized, the reality is more complex. First, it is hard to ostracize a country that has the largest army in Europe as well as an economy that grew at 8.9 percent last year and that occupies some of the most strategic real estate in the world. If the worst case from the West’s point of view were true, ostracizing Turkey would be tough, making war on it even tougher, and coping with the consequences of an Islamist Turkey tougher still. If it is true that Turkey has been taken over by radical Islamists — something I personally do not believe — it would be a geopolitical catastrophe of the first order for the United States and its allies in the region. And since invading Turkey is not an option, the only choice would be accommodation. It is interesting to note that those who are most vociferous in writing Turkey off are also most opposed to accommodation. It is not clear what they propose, since their claim is both extreme and generated, for the most part, for rhetorical and not geopolitical reasons. The fear is real, and the threat may be there as well, but the solutions are not obvious.


Turkey’s Geopolitical Position

So I think it is useful to consider Turkey in a broader geopolitical context. It sits astride one of the most important waterways in the world, the Bosporus, connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. That alone made Ataturk’s desire for an inward Turkey not playing great power games difficult to attain. Given that it is part of the Caucasus, shares a border with Iran, borders the Arab world and is part of Europe, Turkey inevitably becomes part of other countries’ plans. For example, in World War II both powers wanted Turkey in the war on their side, particularly the Germans, who wanted Turkish pressure on the Baku oil fields.

After World War II, the Cold War drove Turkey toward the United States. Pressure in the Caucasus and the Soviet appetite for controlling the Bosporus, a historic goal of the Russians, gave Turkey common cause with the United States. The Americans did not want the Soviets to have free access to the Mediterranean, and the Turks did not want to lose the Bosporus or be dominated by the Soviets.

From the American point of view, a close U.S.-Turkish relationship came to be considered normal. But the end of the Cold War redefined many relationships, and in many cases, neither party was aware of the redefinition for quite some time. The foundation of the U.S.-Turkish alliance rested on the existence of a common enemy, the Soviets. Absent that enemy, the foundation disappeared, but in the 1990s there were no overriding pressures for either side to reconsider its position. Thus, the alliance remained intact simply because it was easier to maintain it than rethink it.

This was no longer the case after 2001, when the United States faced a new enemy, radical Islamism. At this point, the Turks were faced with a fundamental issue: the extent to which they would participate in the American war and the extent to which they would pull away. After 2001, the alliance stopped being without a cost.

The break point came in early 2003 with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which came after the AKP election victory in late 2002. The United States wanted to send a division into northern Iraq from southern Turkey, and the Turks blocked the move. This represented a critical break in two ways. First, it was the first time since World War II that the Turks had distanced themselves from an American crisis — and in this case, it was one in their very neighborhood. Second, it was a decision made by a government suspected by the United States of having sympathies for Islamists. The Turks did not break with the United States, eventually allowing U.S. air operations to continue from Turkey and participating in assistance programs in Afghanistan.

But for the United States, the decision on Iraq became a defining moment, when the United States realized that it could not take Turkish support for granted. The Turks, on the other hand, decided that the United States was taking actions that were not in their best interests. The relationship was not broken, but it did become strained.

Turkey was experiencing a similar estrangement from Europe. Since medieval times, Turkey has regarded itself as a European country, and in the contemporary era, it has sought membership in the European Union, a policy maintained by the AKP. At first, the European argument against Turkish membership focused on Turkey’s underdeveloped condition. However, for the last decade, Turkey has experienced dramatic economic growth, including after the global financial crisis in 2008. Indeed, its economic growth has outstripped that of most European countries. The argument of underdevelopment no longer holds.

Still, the European Union continues to block Turkish membership. The reason is simple: immigration. There was massive Turkish immigration to Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. Germany and France have significant social strains resulting from Muslim immigration, and allowing Turkey into the European Union would essentially open the borders. Now, a strong argument could be made that  EU membership would be disastrous for Turkey economically, but for Turkey it is not the membership that matters nearly as much as the rejection. The European rejection of Turkey over the immigration issue alienates Turkey from the Europeans, making it harder for the AKP to counter allegations that it is “turning its back on the West.”

Thus, the Turks, not wanting to participate in the Iraq war, created a split with the United States, and the European rejection of Turkish membership in the European Union has generated a split with Europe. From a Turkish point of view, the American invasion of Iraq was ill conceived and the European position ultimately racist. In this sense, they were being pushed away from the West.


Turkey and the Islamic World

But two other forces were at work. First, the Islamic world changed its shape. From being overwhelmingly secular in political outlook, not incidentally influenced by Ataturk, the Islamic world began to move in a more religious direction until the main tendency was no longer secular but Islamic to varying degrees. It was inevitable that Turkey would experience the strains and pressures of the rest of the Muslim world. The question was not whether Turkey would shift but to what degree.

The other force was geopolitical. The two major wars in the Muslim world being fought by the United States were not proceeding satisfactorily, and while the main goal had been reached — there were no further attacks on the United States — the effort to maintain or create non-Islamic regimes in the region was not succeeding. Now the United States is withdrawing from the region, leaving behind instability and an increasingly powerful and self-confident Turkey.

In the end, the economic and military strength of Turkey had to transform it into a major regional force. By default, with the American withdrawal, Turkey has become the major power in the region on several counts. For one, the fact that Turkey had an AKP government and was taking a leadership position in the region made the United States very uncomfortable. For another, and this is the remarkable part, Turkey moved moderately on the domestic front when compared to the rest of the region, and its growing influence was rooted in American failure rather than Turkish design. When a Turkish aid flotilla sailed to Gaza and was intercepted by the Israelis in 2010, the Turkish view was that it was the minimum step Turkey could take as a leading Muslim state. The Israeli view was that Turkey was simply supporting radical Islamists.

This is not a matter of misunderstanding. The foundation of Turkey’s relationship with Israel, for example, had more to do with hostility toward pro-Soviet Arab governments than anything else. Those governments are gone and the secular foundation of Turkey has shifted. The same is true with the United States and Europe. None of them wants Turkey to shift, but given the end of the Cold War and the rise of Islamist forces, such a shift is inevitable, and what has occurred thus far seems relatively mild considering where the shift has gone in other countries. But more important, the foundation of alliances has disappeared and neither side can find a new, firm footing. As exemplified by Britain and the United States in the late 19th century, rising powers make older powers uneasy. They can cooperate economically and avoid military confrontation, but they are never comfortable with each other. The emerging power suspects that the greater power is trying to strangle it. The greater power suspects that the emerging power is trying to change the order of things. In fact, both of these assumptions are usually true.

By no means has Turkey emerged as a mature power. Its handling of events in Syria and other countries — consisting mostly of rhetoric — shows that it is has yet to assume a position to influence, let alone manage, events on its periphery. But it is still early in the game. We are now at a point where the old foundation has weakened and a new one is proving difficult to construct. The election results indicate that the process is still under way without becoming more radical and without slowing down. The powers that had strong relationships with Turkey no longer have them and wonder why. Turkey does not understand why it is feared and why the most ominous assumptions are being made, domestically and in other countries, about its government’s motives. None of this should be a surprise. History is like that.

23030  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh , , , on: June 14, 2011, 10:51:48 AM
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." --John Adams, Address to the Military , 1798

23031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams: US of 2011 is fuct on: June 14, 2011, 10:50:09 AM
"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." --John Adams, Address to the Military , 1798

23032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: June 14, 2011, 10:45:17 AM
GM:

If I understand correctly your point in posting that about the DoD budget (and noted that we are burning up missile inventory) it is to imply that Congress cannot order on what money is to be spent or not because in Libya we see the DoD showing discretionary actions.  Is that correct?
23033  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: June 13, 2011, 08:19:17 PM
When I was about 16 as part of an audience of about 250 I once heard NC speak against the War in Vietnam at the Ethical Culture Society on Central Park West in Manhattan against the War in Vietnam.  I thought he was very bright, and shared his anger about the War and since them have kept an eye on him from time to time over the years.  My thinking about many things since I was 16 has changed a lot.  NC's thinking?  Not so much cheesy  Indeed I wonder how he can be so specious on so many points yet be taken seriously by obviously bright and educated people such as our AB.

I think GM's article gets him about right; that point about horizontal fame is dead on. 

I have not had a chance yet to go through all the clips that AB posted, and while I indeed find a few of them interesting and reflection provoking in a mournful "the tragedy of it all" kind of way, I find more of them deceptive in what is left out.  What is the barrier that the Israelis are defending for example?  I note how much trust there is in the ultimate decency of the Isreali soldiers.  I don't think any of those croweds trying to force their way through checkpoint (across Israeli border?) would be doing the same against those Hamas fellows who gunned down the prone hog tied Fatah people!  I find others to be such wild Orwellian Big Lie bullexcrement that I scarcely know where to begin.  In additional but smaller import I saw one famous picture of a man huddling with a boy who was shot; alleged to a great hue and cry to have been shot by the Israeli soldiers-- of course once the howling press mob had moved on there was no coverage of the careful analysis which showed that it was a propaganda fraud.  I saw assertion od data whose provencance was  completely unknown. 
23034  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kudos for our friend Scott Grannis on: June 13, 2011, 02:35:51 PM
Soft Patch Already Fading To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 6/13/2011


For the record, in our professional lives, we don’t really care that much about Republicans or Democrats. Our constituency is the investor. But everything is politicized. Conservatives get mad at us because we are optimistic about the economy – they want to say Obama is hurting it. Liberals get mad because we think investors are better served by a much smaller government – they want a bigger one.

We are in “no-man’s-land,” taking fire from both sides. Some argue the end of stimulus is certain death for the economy. Others argue government growth is causing the next great depression. Anyone in the middle (like us), that says, “yes, the economy would be more robust (and unemployment lower) if we had less government, but, the US economy is still growing anyway” is a target for politicized anger.
 
And now that a “Soft Patch” in economic data and some softness in stock prices have developed, the political rhetoric has ramped up. We think it’s all temporary, but that suits almost no one in the political sphere. Investors who let politics interfere with their economic or investing thought-process are making a grave mistake. We think the pessimism is overdone and this is a great buying opportunity.
 
Take a deep breath and start looking for signs of economic life. Start looking at Calafia Beach Pundit, a blog written by a fabulous economist, Scott Grannis. Scott has been optimistic for the past two years and recently highlighted commercial and industrial lending, what he calls “a good measure of bank lending to small and medium-sized businesses.” These loans expanded for the seventh straight month in May and are up 12.2% at an annual rate in the past three months.
 
How about tax receipts? Up 19.2% in May compared to a year ago, despite a cut in payroll tax rates. Net individual income tax payments were up 55% versus May 2010 – a burst due to a sharp rise in “non-withheld” payments (final settlement for taxes owed for 2010). But, according to the Congressional Budget Office, withheld receipts – for income and payroll taxes combined – were still up 10% versus a year ago.
 
Meanwhile, exports hit a record high in April, up 18.8% versus year-ago levels. And aggregate hours worked (total employment times the length of the workweek) are up 3.5% at an annual rate during the three months ending in May. Commercial construction expanded for the third straight month in April. And this week, we’ll get a key report on May retail sales. Weak auto sales will drag the top-line number down, but chain store sales were up in May and we expect ex-auto retail sales to be up about 8% above May 2010 levels.
 
None of this fits the dour, and politically-hyped, forecasts of economic Armageddon so prevalent these days. The soft patch is nothing more than a temporary and superficial blow to the economy. If it was anything more than Japan’s disasters and the tornado season, the good numbers we’ve been seeing lately – on lending, tax revenue, trade, hours-worked, ex-auto sales, and commercial building – wouldn’t be happening.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
23035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: June 13, 2011, 11:05:14 AM
As much as I like reading and listening to Bolton, he completely lacks in political experience-- including experience in persuading folks of his hard lines views without falling into the warmonger traps of the Pravdas.
23036  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: June 13, 2011, 11:03:06 AM
Brief · June 13, 2011

The Foundation
"Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression." --James Madison

Government

Congress doesn't have many experts on the issues, but they did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night."In the course of any given year, Congress votes on taxes, medical care, military spending, foreign aid, agriculture, labor, international trade, airlines, housing, insurance, courts, natural resources, and much more. There are professionals who have spent their entire adult lives specializing in just one of these fields. The idea that Congress can be competent in all these areas simultaneously is staggering. Yet, far from pulling back -- as banks or other private enterprises must, if they don't want to be ruined financially by operating beyond the range of their competence -- Congress is constantly expanding further into more fields. Having spent years ruining the housing markets with their interference, leading to a housing meltdown that has taken the whole economy down with it, politicians have now moved on into micro-managing automobile companies and medical care. They are not going to stop unless they get stopped. And that is not going to happen until the voters recognize the fact that political rhetoric is no substitute for competence." --economist Thomas Sowell

Insight
"History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly, it is not a sufficient condition." --American economist and author Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

U.S. Army Birthday and Flag Day 2011
Tomorrow is the 236th birthday of the United States Army, born of the desire to defend liberty and spread its flame. As the U.S. Army now leads the way in the Long War, let us not forget to pray for these brave Patriots standing in harm's way and their families awaiting their safe return.

Tomorrow is also Flag Day. Our flag is a beacon of liberty, a symbol of hope for all people who "hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed -- that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it...." On this Flag Day, we American Patriots display and pay homage to our national flag.

To purchase the highest quality American-made U.S. flags available, please visit The Patriot Shop.


 

The Gipper
"As we think back over the history of our nation's flag, we remember that the story of its early years was often one of hardship and trials, sometimes a fight for simple survival. ... As the American Republic grew and prospered and new stars were added to the flag, the ideal of freedom grew and prospered. From the rolling hills of Kentucky to the shores of California to the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon, our pioneers carried our flag before them, a symbol of the indomitable spirit of a free people. And let us never forget that in honoring our flag, we honor the American men and women who have courageously fought and died for it over the last 200 years, patriots who set an ideal above any consideration of self. Our flag flies free today because of their sacrifice. ... These anniversaries remind us that the great American experiment in freedom and democracy has really just begun. They remind us of the terrible hardships our forefathers willingly endured for their beliefs. And they challenge us to match that greatness of spirit in our own time, and I know we will. We are, after all, the land of the free and the home of the brave." --Ronald Reagan

Re: The Left
"No nation or culture in history has done more to advance the well-being of mankind than the United States and Western civilization. However to the Marxist mindset of the radical left, only they, utilizing the vehicle of a massive central government, could control mankind's nature and create a fair society. It is the ideal philosophy for those who, so enamored with themselves, can wallow in their self-importance and rule with a heavy hand the same masses they claim to protect. Under no circumstances, therefore, can these revolutionaries defend or profess admiration for their country; instead they must not only transform the United States into a villain, but destroy any vestiges of its accomplishments in order to permanently retain control over the populace and exact revenge for the alleged transgressions of the West. Barack Obama has spent his entire life, from birth to the present, marinated in this mindset. He is thus incapable of change or being receptive to any other viewpoint, as that would be an admission of failure." --columnist Steve McCann

Liberty
"For several years, the British media have been full of horror stories about failures in the National Health Service (NHS). ... The Telegraph now reports that the 'terminally ill' will be asked by their doctors how they would like to die and to write it down so the NHS will know. Will government then assist them to stop the care meter from running? Death panels, anyone? ... And then there is the disappearance of Britain's once proud work ethic, thanks to the expansion of the welfare state under the Labour Party. The Daily Mail reports that between 1997 and 2010, under Labour, 'the number of households in which no one has ever had a job almost doubled from 184,000 to 352,000.' ... A dysfunctional British immigration system has allowed 256,000 asylum-seekers over the past 20 years to be granted 'amnesty,' according to the Daily Mail. ... Add to these concerns the huge number of Muslim immigrants who display no desire to be assimilated into British life, the high abortion rate among the British, and the increasing secularization of culture and you have predictors of where America may be headed if it does not turn back on these attitudes and behavior patterns." --columnist Cal Thomas


 

Opinion in Brief
"They call it BCS, Bill Clinton Syndrome, and it has broken out anew in New York City and Washington, D.C., where it was first discovered. ... BCS strikes powerful figures, usually male, who experience lewd compulsions of an overpowering nature, generally in the presence of technology, often the telephone, occasionally a smart phone or even a computer, and usually when they are alone or behind closed doors with a woman of inferior rank. The first victim of the syndrome was, of course, President Bill Clinton, but it has struck a growing number of powerful individuals, most recently Congressman Chris Lee, International Monetary Fund chieftain Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and now Congressman Anthony Weiner... He apparently suffered at least the underpants version of BCS. He served as the moral scold to Republicans in Congress. ... What will become of these wretches I do not know, but for Weiner there is hope. The press has reported that his recent marriage to the Hillary Clinton aide was 'officiated' over by none other than Bill Clinton. I advise that Bill counsel Weiner and Hillary counsel the wife. Then let all four retire from public life. Along with them they can take any other public official suspected of suffering BCS. This nonsense has gone too far." --columnist R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.

Political Futures
"If next year the American people pull the plug on the Obama presidency, mark down the past week as the beginning of the end.... Barack Obama's worst week was about more than bad data. The two great legislative monuments to the first Obama term, the remaking of the health-care industry and the Dodd-Frank financial reform, look like they've got serious structural cracks. A McKinsey report estimates that a third of employers will abandon their health-insurance plans come 2014. On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the failure (or inability) of Dodd-Frank's regulatory arm to write new rules for the $583 trillion derivatives market has the financial sector in a panic over its legal exposure. ... We are heading toward an election fought over the economy. That's good because ultimately this means the subject is growth. The one consensus that exists across the political spectrum is that strong economic growth eases many problems -- from the entitlement burden to the tragedy of high youth unemployment. The battle will be fought over economic growth and how we get it -- Obama's way or something close to the opposite of Obama's way. ... Barack Obama will have better weeks than this. On the available evidence, however, the trend lines for politics and the economy are becoming clearer every day." --columnist Daniel Henninger

Culture
"It's been 67 years since the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation. In those 67 years, at every level of government, black Americans have been overwhelmingly staunch supporters of the Democrat party. What black Americans have gotten in return is an education system in which black children lag consistently behind their white counterparts, by an average of almost four years. Yet for 67 years, Democrats have promised black Americans that they're going to make things better for their communities, as long as they keep hitching their wagons to the Democrat party star. After two-thirds of a century, one might be inclined to think that more than a few black Americans might be inclined to ask the question, 'what have you done for me lately,' as in how come our children keep getting the short end of the educational stick after more than three generations of party loyalty? Yet in order to ask that question, one must know history and have learned to think for oneself. Knowledge of history and an ability to think independently require a decent education. Democrats around the nation are making sure that doesn't happen. In short, union campaign funds are more important than the education of black children, and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to explain how a status quo that ought be considered criminal could survive every challenge that's been thrown at it." --columnist Arnold Ahlert

Reader Comments
"Alexander, you are always willing to tread on the Left's 'sacred ground' where too many other conservatives dare not go. Thanks for your clarity on the homosexual issue, distinguishing between what constitutes personal choice versus their public policy agenda." --Semper Fi

"The left is so filled with hate and so quick to spin that they seldom look at the facts. Truth has little to do with their agenda and honest debate is not in their vocabulary. Alexander has taken a lightning rod issue and presented it in a fair, objective and honest context. His essay on this contentious topic was not only correct in every detail but it was a brave and heroic statement to make. Certainly doing so will subject him to viscous attacks from liberals, particularly the small but vitriolic homosexual crowd. Good work Alexander. Stand firm and remain steadfast." --Bill

Typical criticism of Alexander's column:

"Clearly you have never studied the topic of gays. You are apparently more interested in satisfying the cries of right wing evangelicals than in seeking the truth. The Defense of Marriage Act was pushed through Congress by Jerry Falwell/Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family)/the Mormon Church and the US Council of Catholic Bishops. ... Eventually, the Defense of Marriage Act will be declared unconstitutional, which it clearly is. ... It is time for the U.S. to catch up with the rest of the world on gay marriage. Public opinion in the U.S. supports gay marriage. ... Who are you to tell me what I can and can't do in the privacy of my bedroom?"

Editor's reply: First, the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law September 21, 1996, by Bill Clinton, who said: "I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or reconsidered." The legislation passed by overwhelming majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, 85-14 in the Senate and a vote of 342-67 in the House. The record reflects something quite more than a "Jerry Falwell/Dr. James Dobson, Mormon Church, US Council of Catholic Bishops" agenda and "satisfying the cries of right wing evangelicals" rather than seeking the truth.

Second, for the record, there is no constitutional basis to assert that gender identity is a civil right. You can push for an amendment if you want, or take the liberal route and amend it by judicial diktat, but this assertion has no basis under Rule of Law.

Third, my guide and test for Truth in this and all matters, starting with Liberty, is not predicated on public opinion polls or the actions of other nations.

Last, as I wrote, I support your liberty to practice your individual beliefs and behaviors right up unto the point at which you propose to impose your redefinition of nature upon others. The homosexual political agenda is something quite apart from the practice of your personal choices and behavior. I will continue to "out" the Left's agenda for what it is, including the errant argument that all of society should support the homosexual pathos, which offends "the laws of nature and nature's God."

23037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 13, 2011, 10:46:14 AM
And, to top it off, Glenn Beck is a Mormon!
23038  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: June 13, 2011, 10:44:47 AM
Thank you for this.
23039  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: June 13, 2011, 10:41:06 AM
Thank you for the transcript Doug.

IMH one of the things we need to look for in a candidate is the ability to stay calm, affable, unflappable, and centered when tornados of calumny are aimed at him/her while expressing in pithy distilled simplicity the reasons for what he/she is saying.

In his demeanor I saw the potential for this in Cain durng this interview.  The point is not the polling numbers right now.  The point is the man has the courage to stand by his convictions and IMHO to bring many people over to his side and earn the respect of nearly all in so doing    In contrast, I think Romney's make-up is to whither under hateful race and class warfare of the progressives and their running dogs in the Pravdas  grin

This is a man who has the courage to be a black Tea Partier.  This is a man who has the courage to take on the liberal fascists to their faces, with a smile:
==============

Gigot: What makes you think that the American public is ready to hear a candidate, support a candidate, who supports what, let's face it, is a very radical change? Because you throw it the entire tax system. When other Republican candidates at the federal level, like Jim DeMint in South Carolina--

Cain: Right.

Gigot: --or certain Congress--congressional candidates have supported it, the Democrats have gone after it and said, "They want to raise the price of everything you buy--your home, your car--by 23%," and it's hurt them. How would you counter that argument?

Cain: The difference is, I can defend all of the lies, all of the misperceptions and all of the distortions about the FAIR Tax, and I'm willing to take that battle on. That's the reason why. Because what has happened--it does get demagogued. But then when you explain to the American people that it not only eliminates the withholding tax for both FICA as well as the payroll tax, but that it also eliminates the IRS and the costs that we have there, it--we will only need to spend 10% of what we spend on the IRS--you know, those people that abuse us and harass us?


, , ,

Gigot: And you think you can sell this to the Republican primary electorate when Mike Huckabee couldn't do it successfully in 2008. He ran on the FAIR Tax.

Cain: Yes, he did.

Gigot: And he didn't win the nomination.

Cain: Here's the difference.

Gigot: Why is it going to be different?

Cain: Here's the difference. First of all, this is Herman Cain.
==========

Reagan had a calm center.  Maybe Herman Cain does too.
23040  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hamas vs. Fatah on: June 13, 2011, 08:59:43 AM
My point of course being that when folks are asking Israel to negotiate with Hamas, give land up up front, etc. this is with whom they are being asked to negotiate.  In addition to the killings/executions/murders seen here, there were many others that were accomplished to the Fatah folks simply being thrown from the roofs of tall buildings.
23041  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: June 13, 2011, 07:47:30 AM
Night Owl has been hard at work on a clip of the 2011 DB Tribal Gathering of the Pack.  I have just seen the ruff edit and given my blessings.  The final version should be ready , , , soon, which as those of you who have been around a while know can be a somewhat elusive concept smiley
23042  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Erdogan's re-election on: June 13, 2011, 07:17:30 AM
Turkey put on a democratic clinic yesterday for the rest of the Muslim world with another free and spirited national election. In their wisdom, the Turks chose to reward Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for their recent run of good economic fortune, while putting a check on his largest political ambitions.

His ruling Justice and Development Party, whose roots are in Turkey's Islamist movement, won half the vote and 325 seats in parliament, according to preliminary results. Mr. Erdogan will be only the second man in the history of the Turkish republic to claim the premiership for a third term. But his party, known by the acronym AKP, fell shy of the 330 votes needed to send changes to Turkey's constitution to a referendum—and far short of Mr. Erdogan's dream of a "super majority" of 367 to get them adopted by parliament alone.

Mr. Erdogan wants a French-style republic with a strong presidency and himself as the president. But his often divisive rhetoric and his attacks on the media and opponents had stoked fears of creeping authoritarianism. In his victory speech last night, Mr. Erdogan claimed to get the message. "We'll go to the opposition and we'll seek consultation and consensus," he said. "We will bring democracy to an advanced level, widening rights and freedoms. The responsibility has risen, and so has our humility."

Turkey needs a legitimate overhaul of its political system to become a true liberal democracy. Its judiciary and military are still too much powers in themselves, and minority rights and checks and balances are missing in a flawed structure that dates to modern Turkey's founding in 1923. But any reform needs to be implemented with a national consensus, with clear checks on the power of any one man, party or institution.

The AKP's capable stewardship of Turkey's economy explains its run of electoral success. Exports have quadrupled in a decade and per capita income has nearly tripled. Turkey shows the merits of free market policies, including open trade and sound fiscal management. The AKP has also alleviated many concerns about creeping Islamization, which wasn't an issue in this campaign. If Mr. Erdogan stays true to his word last night and smooths his intolerant edges, Turkey could become a true model for liberty in the Middle East.
23043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bryce: The Shale Revolution on: June 13, 2011, 07:15:31 AM

I have no opinion over the validity of the expressed concerns over contamination of the water table.  We certainly would not want the equivalent of a BP Gulf blow out!
==============================================


By ROBERT BRYCE
The U.S. is on the verge of an industrial renaissance if—and it's a big if—policy makers don't foul it up by restricting the ability of drillers to use the technology that's making a renaissance possible: hydraulic fracturing.

The shale drilling boom now underway in Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and other states is already creating jobs, slashing natural-gas prices, and spurring billions of dollars of investment in new production capacity for critical commodities like steel and petrochemicals. Better yet, it's spurring a huge increase in domestic oil production, which has been falling steadily since the 1970s.

Despite the myriad benefits of the low-cost hydrocarbons that are now being produced thanks to hydraulic fracturing, the media, environmental groups and politicians are hyping the possible dangers of the process, which uses high-pressure pumps to force water, sand and chemicals into shale formations. Doing so fractures the formation and allows the extraction of natural gas or petroleum.

Although hydraulic fracturing has been used more than one million times in the U.S. over the past 60 years, environmental activists are hoping to ban the process or have it regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Opponents claim the process can harm groundwater even though drinking-water aquifers are separated by as much as two miles of impermeable rock from the shales that are being targeted by the fracturing process.

New York currently has a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. On May 31, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued several federal agencies, claiming they had not done a proper environmental assessment on the possible effects of drilling in the New York City watershed. On June 6, the New York Assembly passed a bill that will ban all forms of hydraulic fracturing in the state until mid-2012. And the EPA has launched "a comprehensive research study" on the possible "adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on water quality and public health" nationwide.

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David Klein
 .Despite the opposition, some of America's biggest industrial companies are evangelizing about the merits of natural gas. Among the most fervent advocates are John Surma, the CEO of U.S. Steel, and Dan DiMicco, the CEO of Nucor. Mr. Surma told me in an interview that the shale revolution is "the first bit of good news in U.S. manufacturing in two decades." Mr. DiMicco went further, telling me that "we could change the entire manufacturing base in the U.S. if we just embrace what's happening in natural gas."

In March, Nucor, America's biggest steel producer, broke ground on a new $750 million direct-reduced-iron (DRI) plant in Louisiana. The plant's key commodity is low-cost natural gas, which will be superheated and then mixed with iron ore pellets and scrap in a furnace. The DRI process allows companies to produce about the same amount of steel with about a quarter of the capital they'd need to build a conventional integrated steel plant. And they can produce that steel with lower carbon-dioxide emissions because they are replacing metallurgical coal with methane.

Nucor may ultimately invest $3 billion in Louisiana on plants that could create as many as 1,000 permanent, high-paying jobs. Meanwhile, U.S. Steel may soon build a DRI plant of its own.

Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, U.S. drillers are producing lots of ethane and propane, which are key feedstocks for the petrochemical sector. Last October, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company announced plans to build a new plant in Baytown, Texas that will provide components for the production of polyethylene, a plastic resin used to make milk jugs and beverage containers. A few months later, the company said it was examining the feasibility of building a major petrochemical plant on the Gulf Coast.

In April, Dow Chemical announced plant expansions at several facilities in Louisiana and Texas, including construction of a new ethylene plant on the Gulf Coast that will begin operating in 2017 and a new propylene production facility that will begin operating by 2015. Dow's reason for the expansions: "competitively priced ethane and propane feedstocks." And last week Shell announced that it is developing plans to build a large ethylene plant in the Appalachian region. Ethylene and propylene are building blocks for a wide variety of consumer products including plastics, fibers and lubricants.


The drilling industry itself is creating jobs. Over the past 12 months, some 48,000 people were hired in Pennsylvania by companies working in the Marcellus Shale, a massive deposit that underlies several Eastern states, including Pennsylvania and New York.

While the Pennsylvania economy is getting a much-needed lift from drilling, opposition in New York may mean that the state loses out on jobs and investment. A new study by Tim Considine, an energy economist at the University of Wyoming, estimates that drilling in the Marcellus Shale could add as many as 15,000 new jobs to the New York economy by 2015. The study, conducted for the Manhattan Institute (a think tank where I am a senior fellow), estimated that shale drilling in New York could add some $1.7 billion to the state's economy by 2015 and increase the state's tax revenue by more than $200 million.

Regardless of what happens in New York, hydraulic fracturing is unlocking huge quantities of oil from shale. In March, domestic crude production was 5.63 million barrels per day, the highest level since 2003. Amazingly, production is rising despite the Obama administration's de facto moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. And shale oil production will likely continue rising from deposits like the Bakken Shale in North Dakota, where state officials are predicting output will hit 700,000 barrels per day by 2018, double the state's current production.

A vibrant industrial base requires cheap, abundant and reliable sources of energy. The shale revolution now underway is the best news for North American energy since the discovery of the East Texas Field in 1930. We can't afford to let fear of a proven technology stop the much-needed resurgence of American industry.

Mr. Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His fourth book, "Power Hungry: The Myths of 'Green' Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future" (PublicAffairs), was recently published in paperback.

23044  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: June 13, 2011, 07:09:35 AM
I'm back. Good times!
23045  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: June 13, 2011, 06:56:57 AM
Well, nice to see Bolton get it right in his customarily pithy manner, and what a disingenous lying sack of excrement the Hamas guy is.
23046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cain and the FAIR Tax; Bachman-Cain; Noonan on Romney on: June 13, 2011, 06:48:08 AM
Herman Cain was interviewd this weekend on the WSJ Editorial Report (or something like that) on FOX.

A VERY strong interview.  The man owns the topic on a level I have not before seen.  Previously I liked Cain because I agreed with most of what he says (winced on his non-position on Afghanistan and his lack of knowledge of the "right of return" wrt Israel though) but this is the first time I got a sense of the level he can operate at.  

As I have mentioned previously, Michelle Bachman continues to draw my attention (see my post the other day of the WSJ piece on her, plus a just read an extensive piece in yesterday's National Post while in Toronto http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/06/11/republican-race-bachmann-viewed-as-a-serious-contender/ ).  

I continue to toy with the idea that a Bachman-Cain ticket would be a very good one.  Due to his beginner level on foreign affairs ultimately IMHO he will not and should not get the presidential nominatiaon, but his executive experience complements an area where Bachman is very weak, while her intellgient and informed hostility to the federael tax code due tax attorney background means that together the two of them could be a powerful team for radical tax reform of the best sort-- and in a way that can appeal across party lines.
=====

Though IMHO Peggy Noonan no longer hits at the level she used to, she remains a writer I follow.  Herewith her thoughts on Romney:

Of course he should resign—or, better, and as a statement, the House should remove him. I speak as a conservative who wishes to conserve. If I were speaking as a Republican I'd say, "By all means keep him, let him taint all your efforts."

But sometimes all of Washington has to put up its hand up like a traffic cop and say no. It has to say: That doesn't go here, it's not acceptable, it's not among the normal human transgressions of back stairs, love affairs and the congressman on the take. This is decadence. It is pornography. We can't let the world, and the young, know it's "politically survivable." Because that will hurt us, not him, and define us, not him. So: enough.

***
In other news, Mitt Romney had his first good week. It was startling. He stepped out from the blur. The other candidates now call him "the front runner." By most standards he was the front runner months ago, but nobody talked about him. He didn't live in the Republican imagination. It was "Will Mitch run?" and "You like Pawlenty?" Only seven minutes into the conversation would you get, "How will Romney do?" He was so '08, that disastrous year.

But this week he got three big boosts. He had a reasonable announcement speech followed by a lot of national interviews. Then the Washington Post poll: Mr. Romney leads President Obama. On top of that, the two most visible Republicans the past 10 days were Sarah Palin, on her magical mystery tour, and him. They got all the coverage, and for a moment it seemed like a two-person race. Meaning a lot of Republicans got to think, "Hmm, Palin or Romney—a trip to Crazytown or the man of sober mien." That did not hurt him.

VThe financial reporting period ends June 30. Mr. Romney's focused like a laser on getting the kind of numbers that will demoralize rivals and impress the media. Money leads to money. At a Manhattan fund raiser this week, an organizer said they raised about $200,000, not bad for an hour at the end of a long day of fund raising. The roughly 70 attendees were mostly men in suits. There was no vibration of "I'd walk on burning coals for this guy." More an air of "This is a sound choice." On the other hand, no one was distractedly checking his BlackBerry in the back of the room, as I saw once at a Giuliani event in 2008. He was talking, they were scrolling. That's what we call "a sign."

Mr. Romney's emergence means a new phase in the primary contest begins. So some quick observations on the front runner. We'll begin with shallowness and try to work our way up.

All candidates for president are network or local. Romney is a network anchorman—sleek, put together, the right hair, a look of dignity. He's like Brian Williams. Some candidates are local anchormen—they're working hard, they're pros, but they lack the patina, the national sense. Reagan, Clinton, Obama—they were network. This has to do not only with persona, but with a perceived broadness of issues and competencies. It's not decisive, and it can change—Harry Truman was local, and became network. But it probably helps Mr. Romney that he's network.

His seamless happiness can be grating. People like to root for the little guy, and he's never been the little guy. His family has never in his lifetime known financial ill fortune, and his personal wealth is of the self-made kind, the most grating because it means you can't even patronize him. He has in him that way of people who are chipper about each day in large part because each day has been very nice to them. This makes some people want to punch him in the nose. I said once he's like an account executive on "Mad Men," stepping from the shower and asking George the valet to bring him the blue shirt with the white collar. But this year he looks slightly older, maybe wiser, maybe a little more frayed than in 2008. Which is good. Since 2008 everyone else is more frayed, too.

In '08, Romney's brand was at odds with his stand. He looked and had the feel of a well-born Eastern moderate Republican. But he positioned and portrayed himself as grass-roots tea party. It was jarring, didn't seem to fit, and contributed to the impression that he was an attractive lump of poll-tested packaging. He's trying to get around this in two ways. First, he's attempting to focus on economic issues, on which he has personal and professional credibility. Second, he's trying to demonstrate authenticity by sticking to some stands unpopular with the base—global warming, health care.

The common wisdom has been that health care is the huge weak spot in his candidacy. Maybe, but maybe not. The base hates ObamaCare, as we know, and Mr. Romney devised a similar plan as governor of Massachusetts. But he can talk earnestly about it on the hustings until voters' eyes glaze over and they plead to change the subject, which he will. And there are a lot of other subjects. If he gets through the primaries, his position on health care will become a plus: The Democrats this year will try to paint the Republican candidate as radical on health spending. It would be harder to do that to Mr. Romney.

Has enough time passed since his famous flip-flops on issues like abortion to make them old news? Four years ago it colored his candidacy. We'll find out if people decide it's yesterday's story, and give him a second look.

The real problem for Romney is: Does he mean it? Is he serious when he takes a stand? Has he thought it through or merely adopted it? And there is of course religion. In a silly and baiting interview with Piers Morgan on CNN, Mr. Romney swatted away an insistence that he delve into Mormonism and, by implication, defend it. It was like seeing some Brit in 1960 trying to make John F. Kennedy explain and defend Catholicism. It's not something we do in America. Because we still have a little class.

When Mr. Romney's father, George, ran for the GOP nomination in 1968, his religion was not an issue. Forty years later, when his son first ran, it was. Has America grown more illiberal? Maybe not. In 1968, evangelical Christians voted in Democratic primaries, because they tended to be Democrats. By 1980, all that was changing: evangelicals went Republican with Reagan and never came back.

Catholics do not tend to take a harsh view of Mormonism, nor do mainstream Protestants. It is evangelical Christians who are most inclined not to approve. In a general election this would not make much difference: Evangelicals will not vote for Obama. But in the GOP primaries it could still hurt Mr. Romney. No one knows, because no one knows what kind of year this is. Maybe evangelicals will have seen enough of him not to mind; maybe the Obama presidency convinced them it's not so important.

My own read is standard Catholic. Mormons have been, on balance, a deeply constructive force in American life, and it is absurd and ignorant not to support a political figure only because you do not prefer or identify with the theology of his church.

Really, grow up. Enough.

23047  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FAIR Tax and Herman Cain on: June 13, 2011, 06:39:11 AM
Herman Cain was interviewd this weekend on the WSJ Editorial Report (or something like that) on FOX.

A VERY strong interview.  The man owns the topic on a level I have not before seen.
23048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson gets testy with the press 1805 on: June 13, 2011, 06:16:44 AM


"During the course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been levelled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare. These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted, inasmuch as they tend to lessen its usefulness and to sap its safety." --Thomas Jefferson, Second Inaugural Address, 1805

23049  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Redistricting begins on: June 12, 2011, 06:50:08 AM
By JIM CARLTON

SAN FRANCISCO—California's embrace of an independent commission to redraw legislative districts got its first big test Friday as a newly released map of proposed boundaries drew criticism from Republicans and a prominent Latino group.

Many Republicans complained that the proposed new districts would make their party even less competitive in a state already dominated by Democrats. Nineteen of California's 58 congressional districts are held by Republicans while Democrats hold both Senate seats, almost all elected statewide offices and near-full control of the Legislature.

Under the proposed new lines unveiled by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, legislative districts would have a more compact shape, with few dividing cities or taking snakelike paths to connect similar voting blocs.

Some currently Republican state and congressional districts would be redrawn to include parts of ones now held by Democrats—potentially setting up an election between incumbents that could make it tougher for the GOP member to be re-elected, said Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the California Republican Party.

"You can make the argument that this has improved the chances of the Democrats statewide, which I don't think is what the voters had in mind," Mr. Beccaro said, referring to ballot initiatives in 2008 and 2010 that took the job of redrawing political boundaries in California out of the hands of the Legislature. California and Arizona are the only states where congressional districts are determined by independent panels. The California commission also is redrawing state legislative districts.

The chairman of the California Democratic Party, John Burton, said he couldn't comment on the map until he had the opportunity to study it further.

Another potential sore point among some voters will be that many districts in heavily Latino areas are being redrawn, said Bruce Cain, a political science professor at the University of California, Berkeley. The biggest changes to congressional districts are occurring in areas including eastern Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County, he said, where the Hispanic population has grown rapidly over the past 10 years.

But Latino activists point out that despite their population gains, they are getting no new congressional districts. That is due in part to the fact that California—for the first time since statehood—received no added district under the 2010 census because its population didn't grow enough.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund had requested the number of districts representing mostly Latino areas grow from seven to 11, but it has stayed at seven. "We have extremely serious concerns about that," said Steven Ochoa, a spokesman for the Los Angeles-based advocacy group.

But commission members said they prepared the map with no biases, using only federally mandated criteria such as making sure districts were of equal population. They also said they depended on extensive input from residents at 23 public hearings.

"Our job is to come up with a legal plan and base it all on public testimony," said Cynthia Dai, a commissioner from San Francisco. The maps released Friday will be subject to more hearings before they are finalized Aug. 15.

If California's new redistricting system succeeds, it likely would be followed by other states, Mr. Cain said. He added a likely byproduct from the new California maps, if they hold up, would be heightened competition in congressional races that are now mostly shoo-ins for incumbents. He estimated as many as a third of the districts would be competitive in 2012.
23050  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cognitive Dissonance in Rep strategy? on: June 12, 2011, 06:47:51 AM
I can't access the whole piece from where I am, but this sentence posits the apparent cognitive dissonance rather pithiy:



Tim Pawlenty's call for an economic-growth plan built on tax cuts has raised concerns among Republicans in Congress who worry the presidential candidate's message could muddy their immediate quest to slash spending and curb the deficit.
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