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23001  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Several days of quotes on: September 22, 2011, 06:51:41 AM


"History by apprising [citizens] of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views." --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781


"We are either a United people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all maters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it." --George Washington, letter to James Madison, 1785


"The steady character of our countrymen is a rock to which we may safely moor; and notwithstanding the efforts of the papers to disseminate early discontents, I expect that a just, dispassionate and steady conduct, will at length rally to a proper system the great body of our country. Unequivocal in principle, reasonable in manner, we shall be able I hope to do a great deal of good to the cause of freedom & harmony." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, 1801


"No pecuniary consideration is more urgent, than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt: on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy of time more valuable." --George Washington, Message to the House of Representatives, 1793


"There is not a more important and fundamental principle in legislation, than that the ways and means ought always to face the public engagements; that our appropriations should ever go hand in hand with our promises. To say that the United States should be answerable for twenty-five millions of dollars without knowing whether the ways and means can be provided, and without knowing whether those who are to succeed us will think with us on the subject, would be rash and unjustifiable." --James Madison, Speech in Congress, 1790


"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Taylor, 1816
23002  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Lone Wolves on: September 22, 2011, 06:46:06 AM
Cutting Through the Lone-Wolf Hype
September 22, 2011


By Scott Stewart

Lone wolf. The mere mention of the phrase invokes a sense of fear and dread. It conjures up images of an unknown, malicious plotter working alone and silently to perpetrate an unpredictable, undetectable and unstoppable act of terror. This one phrase combines the persistent fear of terrorism in modern society with the primal fear of the unknown.

The phrase has been used a lot lately. Anyone who has been paying attention to the American press over the past few weeks has been bombarded with a steady stream of statements regarding lone-wolf militants. While many of these statements, such as those from President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden and Department of Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano, were made in the days leading up to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, they did not stop when the threats surrounding the anniversary proved to be unfounded and the date passed without incident. Indeed, on Sept. 14, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen, told CNN that one of the things that concerned him most was “finding that next lone-wolf terrorist before he strikes.”

Now, the focus on lone operatives and small independent cells is well founded. We have seen the jihadist threat devolve from one based primarily on the hierarchical al Qaeda core organization to a  threat emanating from a broader array of grassroots actors operating alone or in small groups. Indeed, at present, there is a far greater likelihood of a successful jihadist attack being conducted in the West by a lone-wolf attacker or small cell inspired by al Qaeda than by a member of the al Qaeda core or one of the franchise groups. But the lone-wolf threat can be generated by a broad array of ideologies, not just jihadism. A recent reminder of this was the July 22 attack in Oslo, Norway, conducted by lone wolf Anders Breivik.

The lone-wolf threat is nothing new, but it has received a great deal of press coverage in recent months, and with that press coverage has come a certain degree of hype based on the threat’s mystique. However, when one looks closely at the history of solitary terrorists, it becomes apparent that there is a significant gap between lone-wolf theory and lone-wolf practice. An examination of this gap is very helpful in placing the lone-wolf threat in the proper context.


The Shift Toward Leaderless Resistance

While the threat of lone wolves conducting terrorist attacks is real, the first step in putting the threat into context is understanding how long it has existed. To say it is nothing new really means that it is an inherent part of human conflict, a way for a weaker entity — even a solitary one — to inflict pain upon and destabilize a much larger entity. Modern lone-wolf terrorism is widely considered to have emerged in the 1800s, when fanatical individuals bent on effecting political change demonstrated that a solitary actor could impact history. Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist who assassinated U.S. President William McKinley in 1901, was one such lone wolf.

The 1970s brought lone wolf terrorists like Joseph Paul Franklin and Ted Kaczynski, both of whom were able to operate for years without being identified and apprehended. Based on the success of these lone wolves and following the 1988 Fort Smith Sedition Trial, in which the U.S. government’s penetration of white hate groups was clearly revealed, some of the leaders of these penetrated groups began to advocate “leaderless resistance” as a way to avoid government pressure. They did not invent the concept, which is really quite old, but they readily embraced it and used their status in the white supremacist movement to advocate it.

In 1989, William Pierce, the leader of a neo-Nazi group called the National Alliance and one of the Fort Smith defendants, published a fictional book under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald titled “Hunter,” which dealt with the exploits of a fictional lone wolf named Oscar Yeager. Pierce dedicated the book to Joseph Paul Franklin and he clearly intended it to serve as an inspiration and model for lone-wolf operatives. Pierce’s earlier book, “The Turner Diaries,” was based on a militant operational theory involving a clandestine organization, and “Hunter” represented a distinct break from that approach.

In 1990, Richard Kelly Hoskins, an influential “Christian Identity” ideologue, published a book titled “Vigilantes of Christendom” in which he introduced the concept of the “Phineas Priest.” According to Hoskins, a Phineas Priest is a lone-wolf militant chosen by God and set apart to be God’s “agent of vengeance” upon the earth. Phineas Priests also believe their attacks will serve to ignite a wider “racial holy war” that will ultimately lead to the salvation of the white race.

In 1992, another of the Fort Smith defendants, former Ku Klux Klan Leader Louis Beam, published an essay in his magazine “The Seditionist” that provided a detailed roadmap for moving the white hate movement toward the leaderless resistance model. This roadmap called for lone wolves and small “phantom” cells to engage in violent action to protect themselves from detection.

In the white-supremacist realm, the shift toward leaderless resistance — taken because of the government’s success in penetrating and disrupting group operations — was an admission of failure on the part of leaders like Pierce, Hoskins and Beam. It is important to note that in the two decades that have passed since the leaderless-resistance model rose to prominence in the white-supremacist movement there have been only a handful of successful lone-wolf attacks. The army of lone wolves envisioned by the proponents of leaderless resistance never materialized.

But the leaderless resistance model was advocated not only by the far right. Influenced by their anarchist roots, left-wing extremists also moved in that direction, and movements such as the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front actually adopted operational models that were very similar to the leaderless-resistance doctrine prescribed by Beam.

More recently, and for similar reasons, the jihadists have also come to adopt the leaderless-resistance theory. Perhaps the first to promote the concept in the jihadist realm was jihadist military theoretician Abu Musab al-Suri. Upon seeing the success the United States and its allies were having against the al Qaeda core and its wider network following 9/11, al-Suri began to promote the concept of individual jihad — leaderless resistance. As if to prove his own point about the dangers of belonging to a group, al-Suri was reportedly captured in November 2005 in Pakistan.

Al-Suri’s concept of leaderless resistance was embraced by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the al Qaeda franchise group in Yemen, in 2009. AQAP called for this type of strategy in both its Arabic-language media and its English language magazine, “Inspire,” which published long excerpts of al-Suri’s material on individual jihad. In 2010, the al Qaeda core also embraced the idea, with U.S.-born spokesman Adam Gadahn echoing AQAP’s calls for Muslims to adopt the leaderless resistance model.

However, in the jihadist realm, as in the white-supremacist realm before it, the shift to leaderless resistance was an admission of weakness rather than a sign of strength. Jihadists recognized that they have been extremely limited in their ability to successfully attack the West, and while jihadist groups welcomed recruits in the past, they are now telling them it is too dangerous because of the steps taken by the United States and its allies to combat the transnational terrorist threat.


Busting the Mystique

Having established that when a group promotes leaderless resistance as an operational model it is a sign of failure rather than strength, let’s take a look at how the theory translates into practice.

On its face, as described by strategists such as Beam and al-Suri, the leaderless-resistance theory is tactically sound. By operating as lone wolves or small, insulated cells, operatives can increase their operational security and make it more difficult for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to identify them. As seen by examples such as Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan and Roshonara Choudhry, who stabbed British lawmaker Stephen Timms with a kitchen knife in May 2010, such attacks can create a significant impact with very little cost.

Lone wolves and small cells do indeed present unique challenges, but history has shown that it is very difficult to put the lone-wolf theory into practice. For every Eric Rudolph, Nidal Hasan and Anders Breivik there are scores of half-baked lone-wolf wannabes who either botch their operations or are uncovered before they can launch an attack.

It is a rare individual who possesses the requisite combination of will, discipline, adaptability, resourcefulness and technical skill to make the leap from theory to practice and become a successful lone wolf. Immaturity, impatience and incompetence are frequently the bane of failed lone-wolf operators, who also frequently lack a realistic assessment of their capabilities and tend to attempt attacks that are far too complex. When they try to do something spectacular they frequently achieve little or nothing. By definition and operational necessity, lone-wolf operatives do not have the luxury of attending training camps where they can be taught effective terrorist tradecraft. Nasir al-Wahayshi has recognized this and has urged jihadist lone wolves to focus on simple, easily accomplished attacks that can be conducted with readily available items and that do not require advanced tradecraft to succeed.

It must also be recognized that attacks, even those conducted by lone wolves, do not simply materialize out of a vacuum. Lone wolf attacks must follow the same planning process as an attack conducted by a small cell or hierarchical group. This means that lone wolves are also vulnerable to detection during their planning and preparation for an attack — even more so, since a lone wolf must conduct each step of the process alone and therefore must expose himself to detection on multiple occasions rather than delegate risky tasks such as surveillance to someone else in order to reduce the risk of detection. A lone wolf must conduct all the preoperational surveillance, acquire all the weapons, assemble and test all the components of the improvised explosive device (if one is to be used) and then deploy everything required for the attack before launching it.

Certainly, there is far more effort in a truck bomb attack than a simple attack with a knife, and the planning process is shorter for the latter, but the lone wolf still must follow and complete all the steps. While this operational model offers security advantages regarding communications and makes it impossible for the authorities to plant an informant in a group, it also increases operational security risks by exposing the lone operator at multiple points of the planning process.

Operating alone also takes more time, does not allow the lone attacker to leverage the skills of others and requires that the lone attacker provide all the necessary resources for the attack. When we consider all the traits required for someone to bridge the gap between lone-wolf theory and practice, from will and discipline to self-sufficiency and tactical ability, there simply are not many people who have both the ability and the intent to conduct such attacks. This is why we have not seen more lone-wolf attacks despite the fact that the theory does offer some tactical advantages and has been around for so long.

The limits of working alone also mean that, for the most part, lone-wolf attacks tend to be smaller and less damaging than attacks conducted by independent cells or hierarchical organizations. Breivik’s attack in Norway and Hasan’s attack at Fort Hood are rare exceptions and not the rule.

When we set aside the mystique of the lone wolf and look at the reality of the phenomenon, we can see that the threat is often far less daunting in fact than in theory. One of the most vocal proponents of the theory in the white supremacist movement in the late 1990s was a young California neo-Nazi named Alex Curtis. After Curtis was arrested in 2000 and convicted of harassing Jewish figures in Southern California, it was said that when he made the jump from “keyboard commando” to conducting operations in the physical world he proved to be more of a “stray mutt” than a lone wolf.

Lone wolves — or stray mutts — do pose a threat, but that threat must be neither overstated nor ignored. Lone attackers are not mythical creatures that come out of nowhere to inflict harm. They follow a process and are vulnerable to detection at certain times during that process. Cutting through the hype is an important step in dispelling the mystique and addressing the problems posed by such individuals in a realistic and practical way.

23003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: Will Israel Survive? on: September 22, 2011, 06:38:23 AM


Will Israel survive? That question hasn't really been asked since 1967. Then, a far weaker Israel was surrounded on all sides by Arab dictatorships that were equipped with sophisticated weapons from their nuclear patron, the Soviet Union. But now, things are far worse for the Jewish state.

Egyptian mobs just tried to storm the Israeli embassy in Cairo and kill any Israelis they could get their hands on. Whatever Egyptian government emerges, it will be more Islamist than before -- and may renounce the peace accords with Israel.


One thing unites Syrian and Libyan dissidents: They seem to hate Israel as much as the murderous dictators whom they have been trying to throw out.


The so-called "Arab Spring" was supposed to usher in Arab self-introspection about why intolerant strongmen keep sprouting up in the Middle East. Post-revolutionary critics could freely examine self-inflicted Arab wounds, such as tribalism, religious intolerance, authoritarianism, endemic corruption, closed economies and gender apartheid.


But so far, "revolutionaries" sound a lot more like reactionaries. They are more often retreating to the tired conspiracies that the Israelis and Americans pushed onto innocent Arab publics homegrown corrupt madmen such as Bashar Assad, Muammar Gadhafi and Hosni Mubarak.


In 1967, the more powerful periphery of the Middle East -- the Shah's Iran, Kemalist Turkey, a military-run Pakistan and the Gulf monarchies -- was mostly uninvolved in the Israel-Arab frontline fighting.


Not now. A soon-to-be-nuclear Iran serially promises to destroy Israel. The Erdogan government in Turkey brags about its Ottoman Islamist past -- and wants to provoke Israel into an eastern Mediterranean shooting war. Pakistan is the world's leading host and exporter of jihadists obsessed with destroying Israel. The oil-rich Gulf states use their vast petroleum wealth and clout to line up oil importers against Israel. The 21st century United Nations is a de facto enemy of the Jewish state.


Meanwhile, the West is nearly bankrupt. The European Union is on the brink of dissolving, its population shrinking amid growing numbers of Islamic immigrants.


America is $16 trillion in debt. We are tired of three wars. The Obama administration initially thought putting a little "light" into the once-solid relationship between Israel and the United States might coax Arab countries into negotiating a peace. That new American triangulation certainly has given a far more confident Muslim world more hope -- but it's hope that just maybe the United States now cannot or will not come to Israel's aid if Muslim states ratchet up the tension.


It is trendy to blame Israel intransigence for all these bleak developments. But to do so is simply to forget history. There were three Arab efforts to destroy Israel before it occupied any borderlands after its victory in 1967. Later, it gave back all of Sinai and yet now faces a hostile Egypt. It got out of Lebanon -- and Hezbollah crowed that Israel was weakening, as that terrorist organization moved in and stockpiled thousands of missiles pointed at Tel Aviv. Israel got out of Gaza and earned as thanks both rocket showers and a terrorist Hamas government sworn to destroy the Jewish state.


The Arab Middle East damns Israel for not granting a "right of return" into Israel to Palestinians who have not lived there in nearly 70 years. But it keeps embarrassed silence about the more than half-million Jews whom Arab dictatorships much later ethnically cleansed from Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and sent back into Israel. On cue, the Palestinian ambassador to the United States again brags that there will be no Jews allowed in his newly envisioned, and American subsidized, Palestinian state -- a boast with eerie historical parallels.


By now we know both what will start and deter yet another conflict in the Middle East. In the past, wars broke out when the Arab states thought they could win them and stopped when they conceded they could not.


But now a new array of factors -- ever more Islamist enemies of Israel such as Turkey and Iran, ever more likelihood of frontline Arab Islamist governments, ever more fear of Islamic terrorism, ever more unabashed anti-Semitism, ever more petrodollars flowing into the Middle East, ever more chance of nuclear Islamist states, and ever more indifference by Europe and the United States -- has probably convinced Israel's enemies that finally they can win what they could not in 1947, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982 and 2006.


So brace yourself. The next war against Israel is no longer a matter of if, only when. And it will be far more deadly than any we've witnessed in quite some time.
23004  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: September 22, 2011, 06:13:55 AM
GM: 

"sheltered douchbags like you"?  "while you cower at a safe distance"?

I love ya man and I know you and JDN sometimes bump heads strongly, but you know that we seek to avoid this kind of personal commentary around here. 

Please do better on this.

Thank you,
Marc
===============

Returning now to the merits of the conversation, as usual GM does a very good job of bringing out the LEO POV.  I know I certainly have seen indiginant news reports on TV showing LEO behavior with great indignation that at earlier points in my life I would have shared but now look at and shout back at the Barbie & Ken doll teleprompter readers about what clueless morons they are (as inwardly I realize what a moron I had been earlier in my life cheesy ).

That said, the point remains that there ARE times police get out of line, sometimes  quite a bit out of line.  Given the charges being brought here, it seems reasonable to me to think that perhaps this may have been such a case; even while keeping in mind that political charges are not unknown either.

23005  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 22, 2011, 05:58:04 AM
Yes!!!
23006  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: September 22, 2011, 05:56:41 AM
Woof All:

We would appreciate your emailing to info@dogbrothers.com your thoughts in 2-3 paragraphs about your experience and what it meant to you for use in our newsletter.  Getting it in today would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
CD
23007  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I haven't a clue what this means , , , on: September 21, 2011, 10:11:31 PM
Fed Actively Twists But Holds Off on QE3
Today the Federal Reserve announced major changes to
the composition of its balance sheet as well as major
changes to its description of the economy.
From now through the middle of next year, the Fed will
sell $400 billion of Treasury securities with maturities of
three years or less and purchase $400 billion in Treasury
securities with maturities of six years to thirty years. This
is an “active” form of “twisting” the maturities in its
balance sheet in an attempt to bring down long-term
interest rates. It is more aggressive than the “passive”
alternative in which the Fed would roll some of its
maturing short-term Treasury securities into longer-term
Treasury debt. It is unclear at this point whether the Fed
will employ the passive approach in addition to the active
twist of $400 billion.
The Fed also announced that it will cease shifting its
portfolio of mortgage backed securities (MBS) and the
debt of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (GSE debt) into
Treasury securities. Since mid-2010, the Fed has reduced
its holdings of these residential mortgage-based assets by
about $300 billion, to $1 trillion from $1.3 trillion, buying
Treasury securities with the principal as MBS and GSE
debt matured. Now the Fed will use the principal to buy
MBS. The Fed did not provide a date for that process to
end. In other words, going forward and for the foreseeable
future the Fed will maintain a stable amount of Treasury
securities and a stable amount of mortgage-based assets.
All of these measures come on top of the decision at the
Fed’s last meeting in early August to commit to
maintaining the current federal funds rate at nearly zero
percent through at least mid-2013.
Notice, however, that neither the active twist nor a passive
twist, nor maintaining the size of its mortgage-related
assets will alter the overall size of the Fed’s balance sheet.
In other words, the Fed did not announce a third round of
quantitative easing. The Fed also did not reduce or
eliminate the interest rate it pays banks on their excess
reserves, another policy move it surely discussed at the
meeting over the last two days.
The changes to the language of the Fed’s statement were
also significant. The Fed noted a modest increase in
household spending but suggested the recovery should be
stronger given the easing of supply-chain disruptions
related to Japan’s disasters. More importantly, the Fed
said downside risks to the economic outlook were
“significant,” including recent problems in “global
financial markets,” an obvious reference to the European
sovereign debt problems. Remarkably, even with
consumer prices up 0.5% in July, 0.4% in August and
3.8% in the past year, the Fed said that “inflation appears
to have moderated since earlier in the year,” the exact
same language it used at the prior meeting. Message to
markets: the Fed does not care about inflation right now.
Three members of the Federal Open Market Committee
(Fisher, Kocherlakota and Plosser), all reserve bank
presidents, not members of the Washington DC-based
Board of Governors, voted against today’s decision to shift
the composition of the Fed’s Treasury assets to longerdated
maturities and maintain the size of the Fed’s
This report was prepared by First Trust Advisors L. P., and reflects the current opinion of the authors. It is based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable.
Opinions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.
mortgage-related assets. These same three members
dissented last month against the decision to commit to
maintaining near zero short-term rates through at least
mid-2013.
We believe the changes announced today are unlikely to
have the beneficial effects on the economy that the Fed
majority thinks. The Fed is clearly trying to reduce
mortgage rates as well as other long-term interest rates.
But the policy measures taken today will, if they have a
financial impact, flatten the slope of the yield curve,
reducing bank earnings.
Moreover, the shift in the composition of the Fed’s
portfolio of Treasury securities means that, on net
(Treasury issuance minus Fed purchases), the federal
government is issuing less long-term debt and more shortterm
debt. This is poor management of the federal debt.
Given historically low interest rates, the federal
government should be issuing more long-term debt and
less short-term debt, not the other way around.
Ultimately, we believe today’s policy moves were more
about appearing to do something than getting actual
results.
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
23008  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Hitchhiker's guide to the Iranian galaxy on: September 21, 2011, 05:55:12 PM
Dispatch: Freed Hikers and Iran's Power Struggle
September 21, 2011 | 1941 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:



Analyst Reva Bhalla discusses what the hikers’ release reveals about the ongoing power struggle in Iran and whether this struggle could impede Iran’s goals in Iraq and the wider region.


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

Related Links
Intelligence Guidance: U.S.-Taliban Talks, Iran’s Power Struggle, Greek Austerity
Internal Rifts Hamper Iran’s Strong Negotiating Position
Long-Term Consequences of Iran’s Intra-Elite Struggle
It was announced on Wednesday that after having spent 782 days in an Iranian prison, the two remaining American hikers were released on a $1 million bail. The delay over the hiker release exposed the depth of the Iranian power struggle, but the release may be one small sign that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad still carries a great deal of authority when it comes to driving Iran’s foreign policy.

The Iranian power struggle is often exaggerated by mostly Western commentators who often describe the constant bickering between the Iranian president and his rivals as a sign of the regime is cracking under pressure, and that it’s only a matter of time before pro-democracy protesters are able to overwhelm a weakening clerical regime.

At STRATFOR we see things a bit differently. There’s no denying that there is a serious power struggle in Iran, and signs of that can be seen every day. Most recently, when the Iranian judiciary, controlled by the president’s biggest rivals, basically embarrassed Ahmadinejad in delaying the hikers’ release after Ahmadinejad publicly announced that they would be released. But it’s important to understand the core dynamics underlying this power struggle. A rising political faction so far led by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad charges the corrupted clerical elite of betraying the revolution and for ignoring the demands of the poor. The most striking aspect of this power struggle is not that a firebrand leader is getting ganged up on by the country’s most senior clerics, but the fact that such a leader would not be attacking the clerical establishment in the first place, if that establishment wasn’t already seen as weakening and undergoing a crisis in legitimacy. Ahmadinejad after all is just a politician in the end. The far more important thing to understand is the faction that he represents and the growing delegitimization of the country’s corrupted clerical elite.

This is a long-term process though. The clerical establishment still has a great deal of institutional strength and they’ve used that strength to constrain Ahmadinejad quite well. However, with time the discrediting of the clerical elite is likely to create an opening for the military, as opposed to pro-democracy groups, to fill a vacuum within the regime. That’s why it’s extremely important to watch the evolution of the IRGC [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps], already a major military and economic force in the state, and now an increasingly influential voice in Iranian politics.

The more immediate question that we’re asking ourselves is whether this Iranian power struggle is going to distract Iran from meeting its core geopolitical imperatives in Iraq. Clearly a power vacuum is opening in Iraq with the withdrawal of U.S. forces and this represents a historical opportunity for the Iranians. The next step for the Iran is not only to consolidate influence in Iraq but to shape a realignment of Arab interests in the region that, at least in the short-term, favor Iranian interests.

A big part of this effort will entail driving the United States toward an accommodation with Iran while Iran still feels like it has the upper hand. This is something that Ahmadinejad has actually tried to do but has been held back by his rivals as they have been trying to deny the president a major foreign policy coup. There is no guarantee of success for Iran in this wider initiative, as this is going to take a great deal of focus and strategy in the coming months. Given that we can also expect the level of internal turmoil in Iran to increase in the coming months, we’re going to have to watch very closely to see if Iran can contain its problems at home while it keeps its eye on the bigger prize in Iraq and the wider region.

Click for more videos

23009  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The ever relentless Wesbury: August existing home sales up 7.7% on: September 21, 2011, 05:49:29 PM
Existing home sales rose 7.7% in August To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/21/2011


Existing home sales rose 7.7% in August to an annual rate of 5.03 million units, easily beating the consensus expected pace of 4.75 million units. Existing home sales are up 18.6% versus a year ago.

Sales in August were up in all major regions of the country. Almost all of the increase in overall sales was due to single-family homes. Sales of condos/coops rose slightly.
 
The median price of an existing home fell to $168,300 in August (not seasonally adjusted), and is down 5.1% versus a year ago. Average prices are down 4.0% versus last year.
 
The months’ supply of existing homes (how long it would take to sell the entire inventory at the current sales rate) fell to 8.5 from 9.5 in July.  The drop in the months’ supply was due to both the faster pace of sales as well as a smaller inventory of homes for sale.
 
Implications:  Sales of existing homes rebounded sharply in August, coming in well above consensus expectations, and beating the forecast of all 74 economic groups that made predictions. What makes the 7.7% gain to a 5.03 million annual pace even more impressive is that it came in the face of financial volatility in August as well as a hurricane that hit the eastern seaboard late in the month. It would not have been surprising if these factors temporarily depressed sales, which are counted at closing. Lenders could have balked, asking for a larger down-payment or re-inspection to make sure the storm did not damage the home; buyers could have balked out of (in our view, unwarranted) concern about a double-dip recession. Despite these potential pitfalls, the strength in sales was widespread, increasing in all major regions of the country and for both single-family homes and condos/coops. While a large portion of sales came from distressed properties (such as foreclosures and short sales), this is necessary for inventories to continue to be worked off and for the housing market to ultimately recover. The inventory of existing homes is down 13.1% in the past year and homes available for sale this August were at the lowest level for any August since 2005. Despite today’s good news, strict lending standards continue to making access to credit difficult, so we don’t expect robust sales gains every month.  In other recent news, the growth of chain store sales continues to show we are not in recession. Last week’s same-store sales were up 3.4% versus a year ago according to the International Council of Shopping Centers and up 4.1% according to Redbook Research.
23010  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: How to cut government spending on: September 21, 2011, 05:47:56 PM
This article makes much more sense to me, and it is written by a guy who was Bill Clinton's pollster:


http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903927204576574513428610454.html?mod=djemEditorialPage_t


Voters Want State Government Reform
By DOUGLAS E. SCHOEN
Americans believe that bold action to restrict spending is necessary to stabilize the finances of state government.

Last month, in a wide-ranging national survey of 1,000 randomly selected, registered voters, and in 10 polls in individual states each with 400 respondents, my polling company found that voters strongly favor measures to pare the compensation of current and future public employees. They strongly oppose higher taxes.

Specifically, over three-quarters (78%) say their state faced a budget crisis this year, and 68% say that the crisis was resolved with spending cuts. Overwhelmingly they blame politicians for creating and exacerbating the problems: 48% say "elected state officials made careless and self-serving decisions," while only 6% say "state governments did not tax enough."

The top priorities for resolving current fiscal issues are to cut government spending (47%) and to ask for greater sacrifice from current public employees, by having them contribute more towards their benefits (31%). By almost two-to-one, they think that current public employees should have to contribute more toward their pension benefits because of budget problems.

A majority (51%) say they would not be willing to cut "social service programs provided by your state" to maintain the compensation of public employees; and 60% say that "education and health care" should not be cut so that "the salaries and benefits of public employees could be paid at current levels."

Further, by 48% to 40%, voters say that public employees' salaries should be "frozen," and they should be required to contribute more towards their benefits when states face the type of crises they are now facing. Close to two-thirds (64%) say they would not be willing to have their taxes raised as a means of keeping salaries and benefits of current employees at current levels.

However, there is a clear distinction in voters' minds between what current public employees should be asked to contribute and what retired public employees should be asked to contribute. Sixty-nine percent say retirees should "not have to" contribute more towards their health-care benefits or take a reduced pension because of state and local government budget problems.

A majority (56%) supports reducing certain state services to address state budget crises if programs need to be cut. Voters are most inclined to cut libraries and parks services and least inclined to cut education, health care, police and fire protection. However, a whopping 60% of voters oppose "increasing state sales, income or other taxes" to reduce budget deficits.

While there is a clear sense that cutting spending and reducing salaries and benefits will result in fiscal stability for state governments, there is no similar linkage between reforming the collective bargaining process and achieving fiscal well-being for individual state governments.

Put simply, the voters don't see a connection between the two.

Collective bargaining is not overwhelmingly popular in the abstract. A majority (50%) agrees that "public employees should not bargain collectively and use union power to limit or delay the delivery of important government services." Moreover, 60% of voters feel that collective bargaining is a benefit "and can be changed and negotiated based on economic circumstances," while 30% see it as "essential" and "a basic right of labor." In the recent "disputes between state governments and public unions over collective bargaining," voters side with state officials by 46% to 39%.



However, this skepticism towards collective bargaining does not translate directly into support for the steps that Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio took in their individual jurisdictions.

Nationally, the Wisconsin law to restrict public employee collective bargaining rights was opposed 49% to 45%, and the similar Ohio legislation was opposed by 45% to 40%. In the states, there was similar opposition. Wisconsin voters oppose Mr. Walker's measure, 52% to 45%, and Ohio voters oppose Mr. Kasich's measure, 52% to 43%.

Yet the reason for this apparent movement against collective bargaining reform is that unlike reducing state spending and benefits, voters nationally and in those two states are not convinced that clear savings will result from reforming the labor relations process. By 56% to 33%, voters nationally say "it is unclear how much money will actually be saved by limiting" collective bargaining rights.

Voters also reject the notion that reforming collective bargaining will make government more efficient in each of these two states. A solid majority (55%) rejects that notion in Wisconsin, and a 45% to 41% plurality in Ohio rejects this notion as well. By large margins in both states—59% to 17% in Ohio and 43% to 28% in Wisconsin—voters say it is more important to reform public employee salaries and benefits than it is to reform collective bargaining.

On other measures that restrict current public employee rights and benefits, voters say that tenure for teachers should be phased out, 56% to 39%. Fundamental reform of public sector pension plans is strongly favored. Voters support "moving all new public employees from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan" by 69% to 17%.

One of the reasons voters feel so strongly about reducing the level of compensation for state employees is that they believe that they are earning disproportionately high wages relative to those in the private sector.

There is a clear belief that public employees are better compensated than those in the private sector: 41% of voters think "the salaries and benefits of most public employees are too high for the work they do," while 32% think they're "about right" and 13% think they're "too low."

Voters also think that while public sector workers generally can retire with full benefits at about age 57 years old, this is too early. Generally they say the normal retirement age should be 65.

It is clear that American voters endorse a very specific agenda to reduce spending, pare back employee benefits, and hold the line on taxes wherever and whenever possible. The electorate clearly shows sympathy with the concept of limiting collective bargaining rights, but so far has not seen or come to accept the direct linkage between restricting that benefit and assuring the ongoing fiscal well-being of their state.

Mr. Schoen, who served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton, is author of "Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond."(Rowman and Littlefield, 2012). The national survey discussed in this op-ed was conducted on Aug. 5-10. The states individually surveyed on Aug. 29-Sept. 5 were Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. All surveys were conducted for the Manhattan Institute.




On Sep 20, 2011, at 6:24 AM, epo wrote:


 
Is Obama’s proposal winning him reelection?
Bob
 
http://capitalgainsandgames.com/blog/bruce-bartlett/2368/updated-tax-polls
Updated Tax Polls
19 Sep 2011
Posted by Bruce Bartlett

<image001.jpg>
I have previously posted a table showing that people support raising taxes as part of deficit reduction by a 2-to-1 margin over the Grover Norquist/Club for Growth/Tea Party position that the deficit must be reduced only by spending cuts without a penny of higher taxes. In light of President Obama's new budget plan, which includes higher taxes, I am posting an updated table, including a poll on Friday showing that three-fourths of people support higher taxes and only 21 percent support the doctrinaire right-wing position.

Can/Should the Budget Deficit Be Reduced with Spending Cuts Alone or Should There Be Some Increase in Taxes?

 
Poll
 
Date
 
Some/All Taxes
No Taxes/
All Spending
New York Times/CBS News
9-16-11
74
21
Bloomberg
9-14-11
48
38
Associated Press
8-26-11
69
29
Gallup
8-10-11
66
33
CNN
8-10-11
63
36
McClatchy/Marist
8-9-11
68
29
New York Times/CBS News
8-4-11
63
34
CNN
8-2-11
60
40
Ipsos/Reuters
7-26-11
68
19
Rasmussen
7-25-11
56
34
CNN
7-21-11
64
34
Washington Post/ABC News
7-19-11
66
32
NBC News/Wall Street Journal
7-19-11
62
27
CBS News
7-18-11
69
28
Quinnipiac
7-14-11
67
25
Gallup
7-13-11
73
20
Washington Post/ABC News
6-9-11
61
37
Ipsos/Reuters
6-9-11
59
26
Bloomberg
5-13-11
64
33
Ipsos/Reuters
5-12-11
61
27
Gallup
4-29-11
76
20
USC/Los Angeles Times
4-25-11
62
33
New York Times/CBS News
4-22-11
66
19
Washington Post/ABC News
4-20-11
62
36
Washington Post/ABC News
3-15-11
67
31
Washington Post/ABC News
12-12-10
62
36
Associated Press/CNBC
11-26-10
65
33
Average
 
64.5
30
 



Scott Grannis
http://scottgrannis.blogspot.com

23011  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 21, 2011, 04:17:29 PM
Bush made Pakistan the North Star of our Afpakia strategy.  How's that working out for us?
23012  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck right on yet another conspiracy on: September 21, 2011, 04:14:59 PM

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/onstar-announces-tracking-continues-even-after-cancellation/

and an additional citation:

Several years ago Glenn broke ties with GM as a sponsor, in large part because he was worried about their interactions with government. All that technology and access at the fingertips of the federal government just didn't sit well with Glenn. At the time, they said they wouldn't be doing any sort of tracking or anything like that. That was then, this is now. OnStar is now notifying its 6 million account holders that it will keep a complete account of the speed and location of OnStar-equipped vehicles even for drivers who discontinue the monthly service. Why? Glenn has more on radio today - check it out at GlennBeck.com.
23013  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / OnStar spys on customers even after cancellation of service on: September 21, 2011, 04:14:14 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/onstar-announces-tracking-continues-even-after-cancellation/
23014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Power of Persuasion on: September 21, 2011, 04:09:33 PM
instead of the persuasion of power:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/see-these-graphic-ads-credited-with-dramatically-decreasing-drug-usage-in-montana/
23015  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: September 21, 2011, 10:51:32 AM
Good one  smiley
23016  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / George Washington's Farewell Address on: September 21, 2011, 10:45:18 AM
George Washington’s Farewell Address
Monday, Sep 19, 2011 at 5:17 PM EDT

Delivered September 19, 1796

Friends and Citizens:

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.


In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rival ships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our Western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by which they were procured ? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren and connect them with aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?

Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it – It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation of the twenty-second of April, I793, is the index of my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your representatives in both houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

23017  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who ya gonna call? Jew Busters! on: September 21, 2011, 10:40:13 AM


http://www.glennbeck.com/2011/09/20/which-foreign-leader-did-obama-call-first/
23018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McFarlane & Woolsey: Weakening the Power of Foreign Oil on: September 21, 2011, 10:11:59 AM


How to Weaken the Power of Foreign Oil
By ROBERT C. McFARLANE and R. JAMES WOOLSEY
Published: September 20, 2011
 
OUR country has just gone through a sober national retrospective on the 9/11 attacks. Apart from the heartfelt honoring of those lost — on that day and since — what seemed most striking is our seeming passivity and indifference toward the well from which our enemies draw their political strength and financial power: the strategic importance of oil, which provides the wherewithal for a generational war against us, as we mutter diplomatic niceties.

Oil’s strategic importance stems from its virtual monopoly as a transportation fuel. Today, 97 percent of all air, sea and land transportation systems in the United States have only one option: petroleum-based products. For more than 35 years we have engaged in self-delusion, saying either that we have reserves here at home large enough to meet our needs, or that the OPEC cartel will keep prices affordable out of self-interest. Neither assumption has proved valid. While the Western Hemisphere’s reserves are substantial and growing, they pale in the face of OPEC’s, which are substantial enough to effectively determine global supply and thus the global price.
According to senior executives in the oil industry, in the years ahead that price is going to rise beyond anything we’ve seen — well above the $147 per barrel we experienced three years ago. Such a run-up in the price of oil has been predicted as a consequence of an event like an attack on a major Saudi processing facility that takes production off line. But such a spike would be more likely to be caused by the predictable increase of demand in China, India and developing countries, alongside the cartel’s strategy of driving up prices by constraining supply. While OPEC sits on 79 percent of the world’s conventional oil reserves, it accounts for only one-third of global oil supply.

There is, however, a way out of this crisis. Ultimately, electric cars may become the norm, but for the near and middle term, the solution lies in opening the transportation fuel market to competition from sources other than petroleum. American oil companies have come around to understanding the wisdom of introducing competition, as a matter of their own self-interest. But doing so means rapidly ramping up production of the alternative fuels, and that is the challenge. As an example, before investors will expand production capacity for cellulosic ethanol from plant life, or for methanol from natural gas — which on a per-mile basis is significantly cheaper than gasoline — they want to see that a sufficient proportion of the cars and trucks on America’s roads can burn these fuels.

Here too, however, a solution is at hand; it lies in Detroit’s making more flex-fuel cars — cars able to use gasoline, ethanol, methanol or any mixture of these. And because this flex-fuel option costs less than $100 per car, making such a change is not exorbitant. Indeed, some 90 percent of all cars sold in Brazil last year are flex-fuel cars, and many of them were made by Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. That gives Brazilian drivers the option to purchase the most cost-effective fuel, and they can easily switch from one type to another.

But here’s the rub. Although the American manufacturers have stated publicly their willingness to make flex-fuel vehicles up to 50 percent of their production, they’re just not doing it. Hence the need for Congress to require that new vehicles allow the use of alternative fuels. In some corners of Washington, that raises a cry against “mandates.” Of course the response to that is: Doing nothing is equivalent to mandating a monopoly by a single fuel (whose price is set by a foreign cartel).

Competition is a bedrock of our American way of life. It’s time to introduce it into our fuel market.

That is the purpose of the United States Energy Security Council, a bipartisan group being introduced to the public today in Washington, which includes former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and two former secretaries of defense, William J. Perry and Harold Brown, as well as three former national security advisers, a former C.I.A. director, two former senators, a Nobel laureate, a former Federal Reserve chairman, and several Fortune-50 chief executives (including a former president of Shell Oil North America, John D. Hofmeister).

The time has come to strip oil of its strategic status. We owe it to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in its aftermath, and to those whose fate still hangs in the balance.

Robert C. McFarlane was the national security adviser from 1983 to 1985. R. James Woolsey, chairman of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1993 to 1995.
23019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 21, 2011, 10:08:25 AM
That doesn't mean that we of the American Creed don't need to be getting our thinking current.  Indeed, while the issues are somewhat out of the spotlight is a better time to do the work.
23020  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: September 21, 2011, 10:06:51 AM
"Those that are incorruptable will remain so no matter what the amount of money is that is offered in bribes"

Sorry, but that seems simplistic to me.  Lots of people, indeed perhaps most people have a price.  The cartels were paying $400,000US a month to someone on Calderon's staff at one point.  Combine that with "plata o plomo" (silver or lead, i.e. take the money or we will kill you) and most people will break.

Human trafficking is not an example of a "victimless crime" and as such should remain illegal and the resources currently wasted on the WoD could be brought to bear.

23021  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Peace negotiator Rabbani assassinated on: September 21, 2011, 10:01:04 AM
Afghan Assassination Raises Questions As Negotiations Begin

On Tuesday, Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of the High Peace Council in Afghanistan, was assassinated in a suicide attack at his residence. While local and foreign officials confirmed his death, the details surrounding his assassination remain unclear. According to the head of the criminal investigation division of the Kabul police, Mohammad Zahir, Rabbani was meeting two Taliban representatives who were escorted by senior members of the peace council for talks at Rabbani’s residence. The Afghan interior ministry confirmed that one of the suicide attackers was arrested. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for Rabbani’s assassination approximately three hours after the attack. He said that two Taliban suicide bombers had met Rabbani under the pretext of talks and added that the attack killed the other suicide bomber, along with four of Rabbani’s guards. Mujahid typically claims militant Taliban attacks and reportedly has links with the Haqqani network, an autonomous branch of the Taliban.

“The U.S.-Taliban negotiating track is still in its developing phases, and now is the time to shape it.”
Significant gaps remain, however, in the Taliban claims and in the official Afghan statements. The most pressing preliminary unknown is the identity of the attackers. Taliban suicide bombers do not typically rise above the rank of foot soldiers — far short of negotiators with private access to Rabbani. Nor do we know how the two attackers infiltrated the strong layer of security that surrounds Rabbani’s residence in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood.

The attack comes as U.S.-Taliban negotiations, mediated by Pakistan, are in their initial phases. While we are currently seeing greater coordination between the Pakistan, Taliban and Haqqani triad, several factions within each group may be attempting to derail negotiations to work in their favor.

This calls into question why Rabbani would be targeted for an attack. Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, was the president of Afghanistan from 1992-1996. He was overthrown by the Taliban and assumed political leadership of the Northern Alliance, in league with legendary Tajik leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. Afghan President Hamid Karzai made Rabbani chairman of the High Peace Council for good reason: Rabbani was well respected as one of the leading mujahideen leaders during the Soviet days. More importantly, as an influential representative of the minority Tajik community, Rabbani could counter resistance from Afghan Tajiks who were opposed to dealing on any level with their Taliban rivals. Rabbani also had his fair share of enemies — he was allegedly deeply involved in the Afghan drug trade, and as one of the main U.S. financial conduits in Afghanistan, he was reportedly taking more than his share of commission from money flows out of the United States.

The circumstances of Rabbani’s death remain unclear, but we can’t help but be reminded of the al Qaeda assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud two days prior to 9/11. Massoud was killed in an intimate setting by a two-man Arab team carrying an explosives-laden video camera under the pretext of conducting an interview. Massoud was a resilient Northern Alliance leader, capable of standing up to the Taliban’s political authority — an obstacle that al Qaeda needed to get rid of.

Rabbani, who was filling Massoud’s shoes as the lead representative of the Tajiks, posed a strategic hurdle to the Taliban. The U.S.-Taliban negotiating track is still in its developing phases, and now is the time to shape it. Rabbani’s assassination creates a power vacuum within the factions in the North and allows the Taliban to push their demands for political dominance in any postwar political arrangement. If this is what the Taliban were actually calculating in assassinating Rabbani (and if the Taliban actually carried out this assassination), it leaves the United States in a highly uncomfortable position. As Marine Gen. John Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force put it, the Rabbani assassination represents “another outrageous indicator that, regardless of what Taliban leadership outside the country say, they do not want peace, but rather war.”

The biggest question moving forward is the assassination’s impact on negotiations. The United States has to wonder whether Mullah Omar is a credible negotiator — and whether it can feel safe sending a representative to negotiate with the Taliban. Yet at the end of the day, the United States has no choice but to engage in an unsavory negotiation with the Taliban — and this may be what the Taliban were calculating all along.

23022  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: September 21, 2011, 08:41:49 AM
This is VERY bad stuff!  Once a cancer like this takes root, it is terribly hard to undo and terribly destructive of civic culture.

I would point out GM that BBG and I have pointed out numerous times in the War on Drugs thread that one of the costs of the WoD is that the supra-profits it creates will fuel tremendous corruption.

23023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 21, 2011, 08:36:01 AM
Emotionally he seems to be in the right place, but I'm still looking for more substance from Perry.  Cain has put forth his very interesting 9-9-9 plan, Romney has his 59 point plan, etc.  I was glad to see Perry speak strongly and clearly for Israel the other day, but I'm not sensing yet any depth on foreign affairs e.g. his comments on Afpakia in the most recent debate.  I continue to doubt that most of the Reps have yet thought out the implications of the passing of the American uni-polar moment and to have a vision to communicate to the American people.  Indeed, I think a lot of Americans are burnt out on the Bush-Republican vision.
23024  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: September 21, 2011, 08:27:27 AM
Whoops GM, I see I missed acknowledging and thanking you for the clip of Ryan.  The first couple of minutes are not there, but it is most of it.  Thank you.
23025  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Secret recordings on: September 21, 2011, 08:20:20 AM


http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31727_162-20108965-10391695.html?tag=strip
23026  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: September 20, 2011, 08:39:41 PM
second post of day:

Turkey has been an American ally and a member of NATO since 1952. Sometimes it even acts like one.

The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan—the popular three-term prime minister who lately has made his reputation abroad by bashing Israel and distancing Turkey from the West—agreed last week to host a powerful American radar on Turkish territory. The deal helps protect Turks and Europeans from Iranian missiles and deter Tehran's nuclear and regional aspirations.

The X-band radar station, located some 400 miles west of the Iranian border, will be a linchpin of a new missile defense system. The U.S. plans to put 48 interceptors in Romania and Poland that could intercept small- and medium-range missiles. Two years ago, the Obama Administration pulled the plug on plans to build a broader defense shield based in Europe that also protected the continental U.S. against a long-range missile attack. That was a mistake, but this new system is better than none at all.

For Turkey and NATO, the agreement is a security and diplomatic win. During the Cold War, Turkey stood on the frontline against the Soviets. Mr. Erdogan may pal around with Iran's despotic leaders and promote a booming cross-border trade, but he seems to realize the threat from Tehran's atomic ambitions.

This thaw was long in coming. Ankara damaged the U.S. at the onset of the Iraq war in 2003 by, at the last minute, forbidding American troops from invading through Turkey. The security relationship has never recovered, even as Turkey sent troops to Afghanistan and backed this year's Libya intervention. Also welcome are talks to base American drones in Turkey to fight Kurdish militants. The U.S. has been a steadfast ally against Kurdish terrorism, though it gets little credit from Turkey's leaders or public.

The Erdogan government did manage to spoil last week's moment by making even the radar about Israel, leaking that Israel wouldn't get any data gathered by the radar. U.S. officials say they will share any information from the U.S.-owned radar with all allies.

Israel poses no danger to Turkey, even as terrorism and nuclear proliferation do. Were Mr. Erdogan to temper his antipathy for Israel and confront those security challenges squarely, he'd become a more credible leader in the Middle East and a more respected partner for the West.

23027  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 20, 2011, 08:30:19 PM
Grateful for what I do and that I have my Pretty Kitty to share the Adventure with me.
23028  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Matt Berry is OK on: September 20, 2011, 08:27:02 PM
I spent quite a while in the ER last night and after CAT scans and Xrays it was determined my brain was fine (well no worse than it was when I stepped on the mat) but my TMJ was broken and I needed half a dozen stitches inside my ear. I need to see an oral surgen to get my jaw wired when I get back to Boston. It was disapointing, but hey if I was afraid to get hurt I would play checkers!

I had a great day, huge thanks to all my bros who fought and of.course yourself and Pretty Kitty. Can't wait fpr next year (or maybe the tribal?) I probably won't be able to fight at Beat the Crap Out of Cancer, but I will be attending the one in Toronto.

I was glad to see my Boy Ryan made C-, he deserved it.

Again, my thanks!

Matt Berry

PS: I am home safe now. I saw a doc when I got back and I am going to the specialist tomorrow.
Thanks again for the great time and I look forward to continuing being a part of this great organization.
23029  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: September 20, 2011, 05:22:46 PM
Clearly I am in need of an intervention.  I will see if I can get the ever efficient Lonely Dog to take on this mission.
23030  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: socioeconomic class in the US on: September 20, 2011, 05:20:32 PM
Or what some of us call economic fascism, liberal fascism, corporate fascism, etc.
23031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / India getting involved in South China Sea on: September 20, 2011, 05:19:21 PM
Vice President of Strategic Intelligence Rodger Baker explains how increasing Indian involvement in the South China Sea is a maneuver to outflank China, which is becoming involved in the Indian Ocean.


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

Although competition between China and India is not terribly new, we do see a current flare-up in the relations between the two countries. India has been expanding its relations with Vietnam, focusing on oil and gas exploration and production as well as military cooperation. This has received a strong verbal response from the Chinese as well as some physical activity.

India and Vietnam have been cooperating in offshore oil and gas exploration for several years. However, they are moving to a new phase with more of the exploitation of the resources. It appears that later this year a new memorandum of understanding between the two countries is going to be signed. China has responded to this by accusing India of violating Chinese territorial waters and of interfering in Chinese territorial issues. There has been a report of an incident where Chinese maritime police have interfered with the operations of an Indian vessel in the Vietnamese waters, and we see statements coming out of Beijing warning India to back off.

India for a long time has pursued what it calls a “Look East” policy but it has not pursued it very strongly. We see India now moving back again into the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] nations, into the South China Sea, trying to expand its activity, trying to secure some of its influence, and ultimately taking a role in securing the major supply routes to the area, but also in trying to counter the Chinese. Chinese activity in Pakistan, Chinese activity in Myanmar, the expansion of Chinese port agreements throughout the Indian Ocean Basin, even the Chinese naval activity in regard to the anti-piracy operations off of Africa, have left the Indians feeling a little bit vulnerable.

Seeing the Chinese become stronger, at least theoretically, in their operations in the Indian Ocean, India is looking in some sense to flank China now. In response to the Chinese activities in the Indian Ocean, the Indians are going to become more active in the South China Sea and maybe even farther north. There is talk about creating a trilateral grouping to discuss security, economics and politics of the region between India, the United States and Japan, for example. This very obviously to the Chinese looks like an attempt to constrain Chinese operations and Chinese capabilities within in their own sphere of influence.

The South China Sea has long been the center of competition for sea lane control as well as, for the most part, theoretically for resources; though fishing is there, there has been some offshore oil and gas activity. In recent years we’ve seen an expansion of attention into not only exploring but truly exploiting the undersea resources, and not just in oil and gas but also now in mineral exploration. This is changing, in some sense, the way in which the countries interact because formerly when lots of countries claimed either all or parts of the territory, there was little to force them into confrontation. Now as countries begin to access resources, begin to explore the resources in the sea beds, they are doing so in ways that in some sense asserts their territorial claim to that area. That leaves the other countries that don’t interfere with that in some sense accepting those territorial claims.

The concreteness of this has changed, in some sense, the way in which interactions regarding the South China Sea play out. As countries expand their operations, as they put in installations, semi-permanent, permanent installations, to be able to access these resources, they find themselves needing to defend those resources. Other countries may be interfering in the operations and so we see these issues where China will send a boat to interfere with the activity of another country’s ships. The response, then, from Vietnam, or from India in this case, may be to become more robust in their own military patrols in the area. And this builds up a case where you have more military vessels in the area at the same time and the chances for accidental confrontation start to rise.

In the end, while India is becoming more involved, there are some serious limitations. The Indians certainly have very large land borders that they are much more concerned about. The country still struggles with several internal insurgencies or militancy. And their ability to forcefully push themselves into the South China Sea is very limited. The Vietnamese who are working with them know this. Vietnam is playing a lot of different options, not just working with India but also working with China, with the United States, with Japan and several other countries.

As we watch this competition play, the countries in Southeast Asia are put in an interesting position. They have the ability to exploit this competition to draw, perhaps, greater attention from each of the different players. At the same time they have the risk of being exploited by these players and finding themselves caught up in this big power confrontation.

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23032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Stephens: What comes after Europe? on: September 20, 2011, 04:07:27 PM
What Comes After 'Europe'?
The riots of Athens will become those of Milan, Madrid and Marseilles. Border checkpoints will return. Currencies will be resurrected, then devalued.
By BRET STEPHENS

When the history of the rise and fall of postwar Western Europe is someday written, it will come in three volumes. Title them "Hard Facts," "Convenient Fictions" and—the volume still being written—"Fraud."

The hardest fact on which postwar Europe was founded was military necessity, crisply summed up by Lord Ismay's famous line that NATO's mission was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down." The next hard fact was hard money, the gift of Ludwig Erhard, author of the economic reforms that created the Deutsche mark, abolished price controls, and put inflation in check for generations. The third hard fact was the creation of Jean Monnet's common market that gave Europe a shared economic—not political—identity.

The result was the Wirtschaftswunder in Germany, Les Trente Glorieuses in France and il miracolo economico in Italy. It could have lasted into the present day. It didn't.

In 1965, government spending as a percentage of GDP averaged 28% in Western Europe. Today it hovers just under 50%. In 1965, the fertility rate in Germany was a healthy 2.5 children per mother. Today it is a catastrophic 1.35. During the postwar years, annual GDP growth in Europe averaged 5.5%. After 1973, it rarely exceeded 2.3%. In 1973, Europeans worked 102 hours for every 100 worked by an American. By 2004 they worked just 82 hours for every 100 American ones.

It was during this general slowdown that Europe entered the convenient fiction phase.
There was, for starters, the convenient fiction that if you just added up the GDP of the European Union's expanding list of member states, you had an economy whose size exceeded that of the United States. Didn't this make "Europe" an economic superpower? There was the convenient fiction that Europe didn't need robust military capabilities when it could exert global influence through diplomacy and soft power. There was the convenient fiction that Europeans shared identical values and could thus be subject to uniform regulations governing crime and punishment. There was the convenient fiction that Continentals weren't lagging in productivity but were simply making an enlightened choice of leisure over labor.

And there was, finally, the whopping fiction that Europe had its own "model," distinct and superior to the American one, that immunized it from broader international currents: globalization, Islamism, demography. Europeans love their holidays and thought they were entitled to a long holiday from history as well.

All this did wonders, for a while, to mask European failures and puff up European pride. But there is always a danger in substituting grandiosity for achievement, mistaking pronouncements for facts, or, more generally, believing in your own nonsense.

Here is where Europe slipped from convenient fiction to outright fraud.

There was the fraud of Greece's entry into the euro, a double-edged affair since Athens lied about its budgetary figures and Brussels chose to accept the lie. There was the fraud of the so-called Maastricht criteria—the fiscal rules that were supposed to govern the euro only to be quickly flouted by France and Germany and then junked altogether in the current crisis. There was the fraud of the European Constitution, overwhelmingly rejected wherever a vote on it was permitted, only to be revised and imposed by parliamentary fiat.

What is now happening in Europe isn't so much a crisis as it is an exposure: a Madoff-type event rather than a Lehman one. The shock is that it's a shock. Greece was never going to be bailed out and will, sooner or later, default. The banks holding Greek debt will, sooner or later, be recapitalized. The recapitalization will be borne by German taxpayers, and it will bring them—sooner rather than later—to the outer limit of their forbearance. The Chinese will not ride to the rescue: They know not to throw good money after bad.
And then Italy will go Greek. Europe's crisis will lap on U.S. shores, and America's economic woes will lap on Europe's—a two-way tsunami.

America will survive this because America is a state. But as Bismarck once remarked, "Whoever speaks of Europe is wrong. Europe is a geographical expression." The "fiscal union" that's being mooted will never come to pass: German voters won't stand for it, and neither will any other country that wants to retain fiscal independence—which is to say, the core attribute of democratic sovereignty.

What comes next is the explosion of the European project. Given what European leaders have made of that project over the past 30-odd years, it's not an altogether bad thing. But it will come at a massive cost. The riots of Athens will become those of Milan, Madrid and Marseilles. Parties of the fringe will gain greater sway. Border checkpoints will return. Currencies will be resurrected, then devalued. Countries will choose decay over reform. It's a long, likely parade of horribles.

Where is the Europe of Ismay, Erhard and Monnet? It's there in memory, if anyone cares to recover it. Give it another 50 years, and maybe someone will.
23033  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: September 20, 2011, 03:54:05 PM
Seeing Eye Dog:

So noted.

Crafty Dog
GF
======
C-Mongolian Dog:

For those of use without keyboards that do such things, how should that be written without accents, dots over letters, and such.   Does Chhimed Kunzang work for you?
23034  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spencer: How very odd , , , on: September 20, 2011, 03:46:44 PM
"Who is being told to keep quiet here and why?  Posted by Robert Spencer today:"

www.jihadwatch.org/2011/09/fbi-covering-up-florida-based-saudi-familys-link-to-911-jihad-plot.html


FBI covering up Florida-based Saudi family's link to 9/11 jihad plot?
This family abruptly fled the country shortly before 9/11, "leaving behind three vehicles, food in the refrigerator and toys in the swimming pool." Mohammed Atta may have visited their home. The FBI insists they had nothing to do with the 9/11 jihad plot, and has been extremely reticent about sharing information about their investigation.

Just how compromised is the FBI? First we see their full retreat from telling anti-terror investigators the truth about Islam after a hard-Left journalist and Hamas-linked CAIR complained, and now this. "FBI: No link between Sarasota family and 9/11 plot," by Dan Christensen for The Miami Herald, September 16 (thanks to Ken):

A top Florida FBI agent said Thursday that members of a Saudi family living quietly near Sarasota were questioned after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but no evidence was found that linked them to the hijackers who slammed jetliners into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
A week after The Miami Herald published a story showing ties between the family and some of the terrorists, Tampa’s head FBI agent, Steven Ibison, released a statement Thursday saying the FBI investigated “suspicions surrounding” the Sarasota home, but never found evidence tying the family members to the hijackers.

“There was no connection found to the 9/11 plot,” said the statement, released to the St. Petersburg Times.

The agency’s statement came just days after U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., asked for a House investigation into the events surrounding the Sarasota family, which abruptly left the home several days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, leaving behind three vehicles, food in the refrigerator and toys in the swimming pool.

The FBI’s official version, the second in a week, conflicts sharply with reports from people who worked at the homeowners’ association and a counterterrorism officer who joined the investigation.

A senior administrator at the luxury community told The Herald that cars used by the 9/11 hijackers — the tag numbers noted by security guards at the gate — drove to the entrance asking to visit the family at various times before the attacks. One of the cars was linked to terrorist leader Mohamed Atta, said administrator Larry Berberich.

In addition, a counterterrorism officer who requested anonymity said agents also linked telephone calls between the home and known hijacking suspects in the year before the attacks.

So far, the FBI’s response to the discovery has drawn criticism from former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., who said he was never told of the Sarasota investigation when he was co-chair of the congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks. Thursday’s FBI statement said the agency provided all the information to the congressional inquiry.

Graham, who appeared on national television this week, said the FBI failed to provide information in the years after 9/11 linking members of the terrorist team to other Saudis in California until congressional investigators discovered it themselves.

“It was not because the FBI gave us the information. We had a very curious and effective investigator who found out,” Graham told the MSNBC cable television network.

In an appearance Monday on MSNBC, Graham said he spoke with President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism advisor. He said he has gone to the White House’s chief of counterterrorism to ask that the administration look into the Sarasota case.


Oh, that's gonna help.

The FBI, which has not released any results of its investigation, said family members who lived in the home owned by Saudi financier Esam Ghazzawi were tracked down and interviewed about the case after the attacks.
It was not clear from Thursday’s statement whether the FBI or Saudi intelligence conducted the interrogations. The family was believed to have flown to Saudi Arabia after briefly stopping in Virginia several days before Sept. 11....


Where in Virginia, and for what purpose?
Posted by Robert on September 19, 2011 2:38 AM | 18 Comments
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23035  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Switzerland forced to import inflation on: September 20, 2011, 02:57:18 PM
WSJ:

By JAVIER E. DAVID
NEW YORK—Widespread market speculation that Switzerland may adopt new measures to prevent its currency from inflicting further damage on its export sector sent the franc sharply lower Tuesday, with the move momentarily distracting traders from Europe's ongoing sovereign-debt problems.

In early U.S. trading, speculation ran rampant through the market that the Swiss National Bank—seemingly unhappy that the franc has continued to strengthen despite efforts to weaken it—was mulling a new target rate of CHF1.25 against the euro. The SNB declined to comment on the rumor.

Two weeks after the Swiss National Bank shocked markets by adopting a target rate of CHF1.20 against the euro, the single currency has drifted around that level without actually breaching it. Until recently, shelter-seeking traders have used the franc as an umbrella from the various storms buffeting the global economy.

But heightened fears of a Greek default—and the spillover effects on the global financial system—have sent nervous investors flocking to safe-haven instruments. The SNB is determined to shield the country's exporters from the ravages of a muscular franc, and has indicated a willingness to expend unlimited amounts in order to achieve that goal.

Europe's inability to resolve Greece's festering woes, and new fears about Italy, have put the SNB between the proverbial rock and a hard place, analysts say.

"If they don't step in and buy a lot of euros, they're going to lose a lot of jobs and companies in their export sector," said Andrew Busch, global foreign exchange strategist at BMO Capital Markets in Chicago, calling it "a devil's trade-off."

But the franc's strength is a direct function of how Europe's raging debt crisis is churning the market. Mr. Busch echoed other analysts who question how effectively the Swiss can continue to counteract safe-haven buying.

"It's really a question of whether Europe get's their act together or not," he added.

The euro spiked as high as 1.2215 francs before paring some of those gains to trade near 1.2157 francs by midday.

Meanwhile, the euro was at $1.3684 compared with $1.3686 late Monday, and at ¥104.70 from ¥104.89. The dollar was at ¥76.51 compared with ¥76.59, while the pound was at $1.5692 from $1.5715. The dollar climbed as high as 0.8922 franc before scaling back to recently trade at 0.8884 franc from 0.8820 franc late Monday.

The ICE Dollar Index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of currencies, was at 77.12, off 0.3%.

Late Monday, Standard & Poor's lowered Italy's credit rating to single-A from A-plus, keeping a negative outlook. The decision converged with dour German economic figures, and heaped more negative sentiment on a market already battered by fears that Europe's sovereign-debt problems will soon infect the global financial system.

Meanwhile, Greece is locked in high-stakes talks with the so-called troika of European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund officials. The talks hinge on whether Greece can meet certain benchmarks to guarantee the release of a badly needed tranche of funds.

"The euro has been resilient to bad news today in terms of Italy's downgrade and German numbers," said Vassili Serebriakov, foreign exchange strategist at Wells Fargo in New York. "There's some optimism about the troika talks, but overall the market's not really getting much of a shift in sentiment still."
23036  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 20, 2011, 02:50:49 PM
"lost money in a stock he claims he didn't even know he invested in while he was lobbying for the company."

I am not following here.  Are you saying Baraq held stock in Solyndra while he lobbied for it as a Senator?  If so, I have not seen this elsewhere , , ,
23037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 20, 2011, 02:48:11 PM
WOOF!
23038  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: September 20, 2011, 02:47:13 PM
Good point(s) but I think it would probably be better in the Energy thread.  BTW, I note that the risk of a hurricaine in the Gulf of Mexico seems to change the price of oil about $2 to $4 in one day , , ,
23039  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Lashkar-e-Taiba on: September 20, 2011, 01:09:12 PM
The Evolution of a Pakistani Militant Network
September 15, 2011


By Sean Noonan and Scott Stewart

For many years now, STRATFOR has been carefully following the evolution of “Lashkar-e-Taiba” (LeT), the name of a Pakistan-based jihadist group that was formed in 1990 and existed until about 2001, when it was officially abolished. In subsequent years, however, several major attacks were attributed to LeT, including the November 2008 coordinated assault in Mumbai, India. Two years before that attack we wrote that the group, or at least its remnant networks, were nebulous but still dangerous. This nebulous nature was highlighted in November 2008 when the “Deccan Mujahideen,” a previously unknown group, claimed responsibility for the Mumbai attacks.

While the most famous leaders of the LeT networks, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, are under house arrest and in jail awaiting trial, respectively, LeT still poses a significant threat. It’s a threat that comes not so much from LeT as a single jihadist force but LeT as a concept, a banner under which various groups and individuals can gather, coordinate and successfully conduct attacks.

Such is the ongoing evolution of the jihadist movement. And as this movement becomes more diffuse, it is important to look at brand-name jihadist groups like LeT, al Qaeda, the Haqqani network and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan as loosely affiliated networks more than monolithic entities. With a debate under way between and within these groups over who to target and with major disruptions of their operations by various military and security forces, the need for these groups to work together in order to carry out sensational attacks has become clear. The result is a new, ad hoc template for jihadist operations that is  not easily defined and even harder for government leaders to explain to their constituents and reporters to explain to their readers.

Thus, brand names like Lashkar-e-Taiba (which means Army of the Pure) will continue to be used in public discourse while the planning and execution of high-profile attacks grows ever more complex. While the threat posed by these networks to the West and to India may not be strategic, the possibility of disparate though well-trained militants working together and even with organized-crime elements does suggest a continuing tactical threat that is worth examining in more detail.


The Network Formerly Known as Lashkar-e-Taiba

The history of the group of militants and preachers who created LeT and their connections with other groups helps us understand how militant groups develop and work together. Markaz al-Dawa wal-Irshad (MDI) and its militant wing, LeT, was founded with the help of transnational militants based in Afghanistan and aided by the Pakistani government. This allowed it to become a financially-independent social-service organization that was able to divert a significant portion of its funding to its militant wing.

The first stirrings of militancy within this network began in 1982, when Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi traveled from Punjab, Pakistan, to Paktia, Afghanistan, to fight with Deobandi militant groups. Lakhvi, who is considered to have been the military commander of what was known as LeT and is awaiting trial for his alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, adheres to an extreme version of the Ahl-e-Hadith (AeH) interpretation of Islam, which is the South Asian version of the Salafist-Wahhabist trend in the Arab world. In the simplest of terms, AeH is more conservative and traditional than the doctrines of most militant groups operating along the Durand Line. Militants there tend to follow an extreme brand of the Deobandi branch of South Asian Sunni Islam, similar to the extreme ideology of al Qaeda’s Salafist jihadists.

Lakhvi created his own AeH-inspired militant group in 1984, and a year later two academics, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and Zafar Iqbal, created Jamaat ul-Dawa, an Islamist AeH social organization. Before these groups were formed there was already a major AeH political organization called Jamaat AeH, led by the most well-known Pakistani AeH scholar, the late Allama Ehsan Elahi Zaheer, who was assassinated in Lahore in 1987. His death allowed Saeed and Lakhvi’s movement to take off. It is important to note that AeH adherents comprise a very small percentage of Pakistanis and that those following the movement launched by Saeed and Lakhvi represent only a portion of those who ascribe to AeH’s ideology.

In 1986, Saeed and Lakhvi joined forces, creating Markaz al-Dawa wal-Irshad (MDI) in Muridke, near Lahore, Pakistan. MDI had 17 founders, including Saeed and Lakhvi as well as transnational militants originally from places like Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian territories. While building facilities in Muridke for social services, MDI also established its first militant training camp in Paktia, then another in Kunar, Afghanistan, in 1987. Throughout the next three decades, these camps often were operated in cooperation with other militant groups, including al Qaeda.

MDI was established to accomplish two related missions. The first involved peaceful, above-board activities like medical care, education, charitable work and proselytizing. Its second and equally important mission was military jihad, which the group considered obligatory for all Muslims. The group first fought in Afghanistan along with Jamaat al-Dawa al-Quran wal-Suna, a hardline Salafist group that shared MDI’s ideology. Jamil al-Rahman, the group’s leader at the time, provided support to MDI’s first militant group and continued to work with MDI until his death in 1987.

The deaths of al-Rahman and Jamaat AeH leader Allama Ehsan Elahi Zaheer in 1987 gave the leaders of the nascent MDI the opportunity to supplant Jamaat al-Dawa al-Quran wal-Suna and Jamaat AeH and grow quickly.

In 1990, the growing MDI officially launched LeT as its militant wing under the command of Lakhvi, while Saeed remained emir of the overall organization. This was when LeT first began to work with other groups operating in Kashmir, since the Soviets had left Afghanistan and many of the foreign mujahideen there were winding down their operations. In 1992, when the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was finally defeated, many foreign militants who had fought in Afghanistan left to fight in other places like Kashmir. LeT is also known to have sent fighters to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Tajikistan, but Kashmir became the group’s primary focus.

MDI/LeT explained its concentration on Kashmir by arguing that it was the closest Muslim territory that was occupied by non-believers. Since MDI/LeT was a Punjabi entity, Kashmir was also the most accessible theater of jihad for the group. Due to the group’s origin and the history of the region, Saeed and other members also bore personal grudges against India. In the 1990s, MDI/LeT also received substantial support from the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) and military, which had its own interest in supporting operations in Kashmir. At this point, MDI/LeT developed relations with other groups operating in Kashmir, such as Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami and Jaish-e-Mohammad. Unlike these groups, however, MDI/LeT was considered easier to control because its AeH sect of Islam was not very large and did not have the support of the main AeH groups. With Pakistan’s support came certain restraints, and many LeT trainees said that as part of their indoctrination into the group they were made to promise never to attack Pakistan.

LeT expanded its targeting beyond Kashmir to the rest of India in 1992, after the destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque during communal rioting in Uttar Pradesh state, and similar unrest in Mumbai and Gujarat. LeT sent Azam Cheema, who Saeed and Iqbal knew from their university days, to recruit fighters in India. Indian militants from a group called Tanzim Islahul Muslimeen were recruited into LeT, which staged its first major attack with five coordinated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on trains in Mumbai and Hyderabad on Dec. 5-6, 1993, the first anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque. These are the first attacks in non-Kashmir India that can be linked to LeT. The group used Tanzim Islahul Muslimeen networks in the 1990s and later developed contacts with the Student Islamic Movement of India and its offshoot militant group the Indian Mujahideen.

The Student Islamic Movement of India/Indian Mujahideen network was useful in recruiting and co-opting operatives, but it is a misconception to think these indigenous Indian groups worked directly for LeT. In some cases, Pakistanis from LeT provided IED training and other expertise to Indian militants who carried out attacks, but these groups, while linked to the LeT network, maintained their autonomy. The most recent attacks in India — Sept. 7 in Delhi and  July 13 in Mumbai — probably have direct ties to these networks.

Between 1993 and 1995, LeT received its most substantial state support from Pakistan, which helped build up LeT’s military capability by organizing and training its militants and providing weapons, equipment, campaign guidance and border-crossing support in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. LeT operated camps on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border as well as in Kashmir, in places like Muzaffarabad.

At the same time, MDI built up a major social-services network, building schools and hospitals and setting up charitable foundations throughout Pakistan, though centered in Punjab. Its large complex in Muridke included schools, a major hospital and a mosque. Some of its funding came through official Saudi channels while other funding came through non-official channels via Saudi members of MDI such as Abdul Rahman al-Surayhi and Mahmoud Mohammad Ahmed Bahaziq, who reportedly facilitated much of the funding to establish the original Muridke complex.

As MDI focused on dawah, or the preaching of Islam, it simultaneously developed an infrastructure that was financially self-sustaining. For example, it established Al-Dawah schools throughout Pakistan that charged fees to those who could afford it and it began taxing its adherents. It also became well-known for its charitable activities, placing donation boxes throughout Pakistan. The group developed a reputation as an efficient organization that provides quality social services, and this positive public perception has made it difficult for the Pakistani government to crack down on it.

On July 12, 1999, LeT carried out its first fidayeen, or suicide commando, attack in Kashmir. Such attacks focus on inflicting as much damage as possible before the attackers are killed. Their goal also was to engender as much fear as possible and introduce a new intensity to the conflict there. This attack occurred during the Kargil war, when Pakistani soldiers along with its sponsored militants fought a pitched battle against Indian troops in the Kargil district of Kashmir. This was the height of Pakistani state support for the various militant groups operating in Kashmir, and it was a critical, defining period for the LeT, which shifted its campaign from one focused exclusively on Kashmir to one focused on India as a whole.

State support for LeT and other militant groups declined after the Kargil war but fidayeen attacks continued and began to occur outside of Kashmir. In the late 1990s and into the 2000s, there was much debate within LeT about its targeting. When LeT was constrained operationally in Kashmir by its ISI handlers, some members of the group wanted to conduct attacks in other places. It’s unclear at this point which attacks had Pakistani state support and which did not, but the timing of many in relation to the ebb and flow of the Pakistani-Indian political situation indicates Pakistani support and control, even if it came only from factions within the ISI or military. The first LeT attack outside of Kashmir took place on Dec. 22, 2000, against the Red Fort in Delhi.


The Post-9/11 Name Game

In the months following 9/11, many Pakistan-based jihadist groups were “banned” by the Pakistani government. They were warned beforehand and moved their funds into physical assets or under different names. LeT claimed that it split with MDI, with new LeT leader Maula Abdul Wahid al-Kashmiri saying the group now was strictly a Kashmiri militant organization. Despite these claims, however, Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi was still considered supreme commander. MDI was dissolved and replaced by Jamaat-ul-Dawa, the original name used by Saeed and Iqbal’s group. Notably, both al-Kashmiri and Lakhvi were also part of the Jamaat-ul-Dawa executive board, indicating that close ties remained between the two groups.

In January 2002, LeT was declared illegal, and the Pakistani government began to use the word “defunct” to describe it. In reality it wasn’t defunct; it had begun merely operating under different names. The group’s capability to carry out attacks was temporarily limited, probably on orders from the Pakistani government through Jamaat-ul-Dawa’s leadership.

At this point, LeT’s various factions began to split and re-network in various ways. For example, Abdur Rehman Syed, a senior operational planner involved in David Headley’s surveillance of Mumbai targets, left LeT around 2004. As a major in the Pakistani army he had been ordered to fight fleeing Taliban on the Durand Line in 2001. He refused and joined LeT. In 2004 he began working with Ilyas Kashmiri and Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami. Two other senior LeT leaders, former Pakistani Maj. Haroon Ashiq and his brother Capt. Kurram Ashiq, had left Pakistan’s Special Services Group to join LeT around 2001. By 2003 they had exited the group and were criticizing Lakhvi, the former LeT military commander.

Despite leaving the larger organization, former members of the MDI/LeT still often use the name “Lashkar-e-Taiba” in their public rhetoric when describing their various affiliations, even though they do not consider their new organizations to be offshoots of LeT. The same difficulties observers face in trying to keep track of these spun-off factions has come to haunt the factions themselves, which have a branding problem as they try to raise money or recruit fighters. New names don’t have the same power as the well-established LeT brand, and many of the newer organizations continue to use the LeT moniker in some form.


Operating Outside of South Asia

Organizations and networks that were once part of LeT have demonstrated the capability to carry out insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, small-unit attacks in Kashmir, fidayeen assaults in Kashmir and India and small IED attacks throughout the region. Mumbai in 2008 was the most spectacular attack by an LeT offshoot on an international scale, but to date the network has not demonstrated the capability to conduct complex attacks outside the region. That said, David Headley’s surveillance efforts in Denmark and other plots linked to LeT training camps and factions do seem to have been inspired by al Qaeda’s transnational jihadist influence.

To date, these operations have failed, but they are worth noting. These transnational LeT-linked plotters include the following:

The Virginia Jihad Network.
Dhiren Barot (aka Abu Eisa al-Hind), a Muslim convert of Indian origin who grew up in the United Kingdom, was arrested there in 2004 and was accused of a 2004 plot to detonate vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in underground parking lots and surveilling targets in the United States in 2000-2001 for al Qaeda. He originally learned his craft in LeT training camps in Pakistan.
David Hicks, an Australian who was in LeT camps in 1999 and studied at one of their madrassas. LeT provided a letter of introduction to al Qaeda, which he joined in January 2001. He was captured in Afghanistan following the U.S.-led invasion.
Omar Khyam of the United Kingdom, who attended LeT training camps in 2000 before his family brought him home.
The so-called “Crevice Network,” members of which were arrested in 2004 and charged with attempting to build fertilizer-based IEDs in the United Kingdom under the auspices of al Qaeda.
Willie Brigette, who had been connected to LeT networks in France and was trying to contact a bombmaker in Australia in order to carry out attacks there when he was arrested in October 2003.
While these cases suggest that the LeT threat persists, they also indicate that the transnational threat posed by those portions of the network focused on attacks outside of South Asia does not appear to be as potent as the attack in Mumbai in 2008. One reason is the Pakistani support offered to those who focus on operations in South Asia and particularly those who target India. Investigations of the Mumbai attack revealed that current or former ISI officers provided a considerable amount of training, operational support and even real-time guidance to the Mumbai attack team.

It is unclear how far up the Pakistani command structure this support goes. The most important point, though, is that Pakistani support in the Mumbai attack provided the group responsible with capabilities that have not been demonstrated by other parts of the network in other plots. In fact, without this element of state support, many transnational plots linked to the LeT network have been forced to rely on the same kind of “Kramer jihadists” in the West that the al Qaeda core has employed in recent years.

However, while these networks have not shown the capability to conduct a spectacular attack since Mumbai, they continue to plan. With both the capability and intention in place, it is probably only a matter of time before they conduct additional attacks in India. The historical signature of LeT attacks has been the use of armed assault tactics — taught originally by the ISI and institutionalized by LeT doctrine — so attacks of this sort can be expected. An attack of this sort outside of South Asia would be a stretch for the groups that make up the post-LeT networks, but the cross-pollination that is occurring among the various jihadist actors in Pakistan could help facilitate planning and even operations if they pool resources. Faced with the full attention of global counterterrorism efforts, such cooperation may be one of the only ways that the transnational jihad can hope to gain any traction, especially as its efforts to foster independent grassroots jihadists have been largely ineffective.

23040  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / As usual, Canada shows some class on: September 20, 2011, 12:37:14 PM
second post:

Harper gives thumbs down to Palestinian state

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made his government's strongest statements yet against a drive to get the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state next week.

"No unilateral actions like this are helpful in terms of establishing a long-run peace in the Middle East," Harper said during a stop in Saskatoon, Sask. "Canada views the action as very regrettable and we will be opposing it at the United Nations."

Previously, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird had dismissed the Palestinian Authority's effort as "meaningless" and "unhelpful."

He also indicated Canada would welcome a Palestinian state only after peace negotiations with Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans to goes before the UN next week to demand recognition of full Palestinian statehood and UN membership.

Right now, the Palestinians are recognized simply as an "entity."

Even if a statehood resolution passed in the UN General Assembly, it would then go to the Security Council where Washington has already said it would exercise its veto.

In that case, the Palestinians could still go back to the full UN General Assembly to gain recognition as a non-member state.

That would give the Palestinians possible access to other international bodies, such as the International Criminal Court.

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Politics/2011/09/16/18697046.html
23041  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: September 20, 2011, 12:31:08 PM
Please post here the names of all new Dogs, Candidate DBs etc.
23042  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Robert Spencer: FBI under fire on: September 20, 2011, 11:26:40 AM


From Robert Spencer today:


FBI Under Fire For Teaching the Truth

Posted By Robert Spencer On September 19, 2011

The FBI came under fire again Wednesday from hard-Left journalist Spencer Ackerman in Wired, who has been conducting a campaign for some time to get the bureau to purge its terrorism training seminars of any hint of the truth about the global jihad and Islamic supremacism.

Ackerman reported with breathless self-righteous indignation that “the FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that ‘main stream’ [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a ‘cult leader’; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a ‘funding mechanism for combat.’ At the Bureau’s training ground in Quantico, Virginia, agents are shown a chart contending that the more ‘devout’ a Muslim, the more likely he is to be ‘violent.’ Those destructive tendencies cannot be reversed, an FBI instructional presentation adds: ‘Any war against non-believers is justified’ under Muslim law; a ‘moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah.’”

Like virtually all Leftist and Islamic supremacist critiques of anti-jihad and anti-terror material, Ackerman’s piece takes for granted that such assertions are false, without bothering to explain how or why. Apparently Ackerman believes that their falsity is so self-evident as to require no demonstration; unfortunately for him, however, no one else has provided any proof of this, either. And there is considerable evidence that what this FBI training material asserts is true.

Are mainstream American Muslims “likely to be terrorist sympathizers”? Certainly all the mainstream Muslim organizations condemn al-Qaeda and 9/11; however, some of the foremost of those organizations, such as the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim American Society, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim Students Association, and the Council of American-Islamic Relations, and others, have links of various kinds to the jihad terrorist group Hamas and its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is dedicated to imposing Islamic law around the world. A mainstream Muslim spokesman in the U.S., the Ground Zero Mosque Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, refused to condemn Hamas until it became too politically damaging for him not to do so; another, CAIR’s Nihad Awad, openly declared his support for Hamas in 1994. Another mainstream Muslim spokesman in this country, Reza Aslan, has praised another jihad terrorist group, Hizballah, and called on the U.S. to negotiate with Hamas. Other mainstream Muslim spokesmen in the U.S. such as Obama’s ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Rashad Hussain, and media gadfly Hussein Ibish, have praised and defended the confessed leader of another jihad terror group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad: Sami al-Arian.

Do these men and organizations represent a tiny minority of extremists that actually does not express the opinions of the broad mainstream of Muslims in this country? Maybe, but if so, they simply do not have any counterparts of comparable size or influence who have not expressed sympathy for some form of Islamic terror.

Was Muhammad a “cult leader”? Certainly one definition of a cult is that members are not free to opt out if they choose to do so – and it was Muhammad who enunciated Islam’s notorious death penalty for apostasy by saying, ““Whoever changes his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Bukhari 9.84.57). Also, there are several celebrated incidents in which Muhammad lashed out violently against his opponents, ordering the murder of several people for the crime of making fun of him — including the poet Abu ‘Afak, who was over one hundred years old, and the poetess ‘Asma bint Marwan. Abu ‘Afak was killed in his sleep, in response to Muhammad’s question, “Who will avenge me on this scoundrel?” Similarly, Muhammad on another occasion cried out, “Will no one rid me of this daughter of Marwan?” One of his followers, ‘Umayr ibn ‘Adi, went to her house that night, where he found her sleeping next to her children. The youngest, a nursing babe, was in her arms. But that didn’t stop ‘Umayr from murdering her and the baby as well. Muhammad commended him: “You have done a great service to Allah and His Messenger, ‘Umayr!” (Ibn Ishaq, 674-676).

Is the “Islamic practice of giving charity” no more than a “‘funding mechanism for combat’”? If not, one wonders why so many Islamic charities in the United States and around the world have been shut down for funding terrorism, including what was once the largest Islamic charity in the United States, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), as well as the Global Relief Foundation (GRF), the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), and many others.

Is it true that “the more ‘devout’ a Muslim, the more likely he is to be ‘violent,’” and is it also true that “moderating process cannot happen if the Koran continues to be regarded as the unalterable word of Allah”? While certainly not all devout Muslims are terrorists, virtually all Islamic terrorists are devout Muslims. In recent years, not only Osama bin Laden but also devout Muslims such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, would-be Times Square bomber Feisal Shahzad, Arkansas jihad murderer Abdulhakim Muhammad, and other jihad terror plotters such as Khalid Aldawsari, Baitullah Mehsud, and Roshonara Choudhry, among many others, reference Islamic teachings to justify violence against unbelievers. Just this week, Detroit underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab declared in court that Muslims should only be judged by the Qur’an.

Can “any war against non-believers” really be “‘justified’ under Muslim law”? Majid Khadduri, an Iraqi scholar of Islamic law of international renown. In his book War and Peace in the Law of Islam, which was published in 1955 and remains one of the most lucid and illuminating works on the subject, Khadduri says this about jihad:


The state which is regarded as the instrument for universalizing a certain religion must perforce be an ever expanding state. The Islamic state, whose principal function was to put God’s law into practice, sought to establish Islam as the dominant reigning ideology over the entire world….The jihad was therefore employed as an instrument for both the universalization of religion and the establishment of an imperial world state. (P. 51)

Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Shari’ah and Law of the International Islamic University in Islamabad. In his 1994 book The Methodology of Ijtihad, he quotes the twelfth century Maliki jurist Ibn Rushd: “Muslim jurists agreed that the purpose of fighting with the People of the Book…is one of two things: it is either their conversion to Islam or the payment of jizyah.” Nyazee concludes: “This leaves no doubt that the primary goal of the Muslim community, in the eyes of its jurists, is to spread the word of Allah through jihad, and the option of poll-tax [jizya] is to be exercised only after subjugation” of non-Muslims.

A Shafi’i manual of Islamic law endorsed by the most prestigious institution in Sunni Islam, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, says that the leader of the Muslims “makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians…until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax,” and cites Qur’an 9:29 in support of this idea: “Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden-who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book-until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled.” (‘Umdat al-Salik o9.Cool

Are there wars against unbelievers that cannot be justified by Islamic law? Certainly. But there is also a broad mandate for such wars – broad enough to have served as a justification for wars between Muslims and non-Muslims throughout history. During World War I, the crumbling Ottoman Empire even tried to shore up support for its war against the Allies by declaring it a jihad.

In the face of Ackerman’s reports, the FBI is in full retreat. It announced after an earlier report that it had banned use of my book The Truth About Muhammad, which is simply a biography of Muhammad based on the earliest Muslim sources. And this latest report quickly drove the bureau further into Lysenkoism; it quickly announced late Thursday that it was dropping the latest program that Ackerman had zeroed in on as well.

Lysenkoism was ideologically biased junk science regarding biology and agriculture that was adopted as official policy by the Soviet Union under Stalin. The real scientists who told the truth were sent to the gulag.

It is no surprise that in an official environment that refuses to speak about “Islam” and “terrorism” in the same sentence — a policy which must involve quite a lot of mental and verbal gymnastics when jihad terrorists start quoting Qur’an and other Islamic sources — that the truth about Islam would come under fire whenever it appears as part of counterterrorism studies. It is no surprise that in an official environment that thinks that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular” and that jihad is a wholly positive interior spiritual struggle would get nervous at revelations that somewhere the truth about Islam and jihad was getting through.

As Lysenkoism grows more entrenched and the FBI’s heads planted more firmly in the sand, Spencer Ackerman’s responsibility for the next jihad attack in the U.S. grows apace.

23043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Monday Brief of Patriot Post on: September 20, 2011, 11:19:31 AM


September 19, 2011

Essential Liberty
Join thousands of Patriots who have already signed on to the Oath Accountability Civil Action for Constitutional Integrity.

To enforce our Constitution's limits on the central government, we believe a formal legal action is necessary. This action, if successful, would require that all members of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, first and foremost, abide by their oaths "to support and defend" our Constitution, under penalty of law, and comport with its enumerated limitations on the federal government. The current scope of federal activities provides abundant evidence that many members of those three co-equal branches have long since abandoned their oaths, and, at present, there is no recourse for prosecution to enforce compliance.

To that end, please sign on to this action, and join Patriots across the nation in this effort to establish legal standing as citizens, particularly those in our Armed Services who defend their oaths with blood and life. If we are unsuccessful in our effort to seek remedy for the lack of any proscription against, and penalty for breach of oath, it is because the judiciary refuses any such accountability regarding the wanton violation of our Constitution. Such rejection would in effect render Americans once again condemned to the abuse previously characterized in American history as "Taxation Without Representation."

Our goal is 500,000 signatures, which is minimally necessary because if the federal judiciary refuses to hear this action, then we will take it to the national legislature for codification into federal law. A large support base will be necessary if we are forced to exercise that alternative.


     


The Foundation
"[T]here is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust." --James Madison

Government

Obama stimulus recipient Solyndra has gone under"Solyndra was the first company to receive a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy as part of the 2009 stimulus package. This wasn't small potatoes. The loan guarantee was for $535 million. ... As my Washington Examiner colleague David Freddoso reported, an audit of the company performed by PriceWaterhouseCoopers two months before Obama's visit noted that the firm had accumulated losses of $558 million in its five years of existence. The auditor noted that Solyndra 'has suffered recurring losses from operations, negative cash flows since inception and has a net stockholders' deficit that, among other factors, raises substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.' One of the original investors in Solyndra was Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, who was also a major contributor to Obama's 2008 campaign. In early 2011, Kaiser and other investors provided an additional $75 million in financing to Solyndra. They did so on condition, approved by the Energy Department, that they receive priority over previous creditors, including the government. ... But let's assume for the time being that there was no criminal conduct here, no violation of government procedures, no fraud. Let's assume everyone in the administration acted with good faith. There's still a scandal -- the scandal of the government handing out hundreds of millions of dollars to unproven and speculative businesses. ... The real scandal is the 'green jobs' loan guarantee program itself. And the ones getting scammed are American taxpayers." --political analyst Michael Barone

How can we stop crony capitalism?

Essential Liberty
"[W]hile interest in the Constitution is growing, few Americans actually know much about what it says. And that has serious downsides. It means that many Americans don't really understand the rights the Constitution protects or the powers it grants. For example, in 2009, Oklahoma tested its high school students on their knowledge of civics -- including basic ideas about the U.S. Constitution. They failed miserably. Only 28% knew that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and just 26% identified the Bill of Rights correctly. ... American adults -- including those serving in politics -- fare no better when it comes to their knowledge of the Constitution. In early 2011, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute surveyed adults and college students to assess their civic knowledge. They discovered that ordinary Americans actually scored higher on their knowledge of the Constitution than the elected officials surveyed. ... Citizens who do not understand their rights -- or the limitations of government -- can neither defend those rights nor participate meaningfully in the political process." --columnist Rebecca Hagelin

Insight
"[Tyrannical] power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?" --French historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

Re: The Left
"New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, in a radio interview on Friday, warned that high unemployment could lead to widespread rioting. That's right. He actually said that. At a time when European cities have suffered massively from hooliganism, and at a time when U.S. towns like Philadelphia and Kansas City have suffered huge human and commercial tolls from so-called flash riots. For Bloomberg to come out with this statement is irresponsible and incendiary. But you know what? He's got a personal agenda. This is a desperate talking point to sell President Obama's jobs plan, which Bloomberg favors as a solution to high unemployment and zero growth. There's a whole history here of liberals threatening riots if they don't get their way. ... Riots are not the answer to our economic problems. Promoting private-sector investment is." --columnist Lawrence Kudlow

Political Futures
"Suddenly, liberal op-ed writers are trashing ... Barack Obama as a one-term president ('one and done'). Centrist Democrats up for re-election in 2012 openly worry about inviting a kindred president into their districts, lest the supposed new pariah lose them votes. ... [W]hat Obama's supporters are mad about is that the public is boiling over chronic 9 percent unemployment, a comatose housing market, escalating food and fuel prices, near nonexistent economic growth, a gyrating stock market, record deficits, $16 trillion in aggregate debt, and a historic credit downgrading. And voters are not just mad, but blaming these hard times on the liberal Obama agenda of more regulations, more federal spending, more borrowing, more talk of taxes, and more 'stimulus' programs. ... Voters may or may not like Obama, but they surely do not like what he is still trying to do." --historian Victor Davis Hanson


Opinion in Brief

"President Obama's official re-election campaign has set up a website ostensibly to defend him against false attacks, but its obvious purpose is to smear Republicans and propagandize. What could be more shameless? ... [It's] called 'AttackWatch.com,' but it should be called 'AttackDog.com.' It has already proved that in its first few days of existence. When I opened the website for the first time, I saw revolving pictures of Obama's currently front-running GOP rivals, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, with the accompanying captions 'Rick Perry's massive jobs lie' and 'Romney's job chart shows flawed understanding of the facts.' ... The recent New York and Nevada elections and Obama's ever-cratering approval ratings show how desperately he is hemorrhaging support. He has no choice but to divert our attention from the record and onto red herrings he can generate through false characterizations of his opponents. That's what AttackWatch.com is about. That's what the entire re-election effort is about." --columnist David Limbaugh

What are you doing to get reported to AttackWatch?
For the Record
"Even a mandatory Ponzi scheme like Social Security can fail if it cannot rustle up enough new entrants. You can force young people into Social Security, but if there just aren't enough young people in existence to support current beneficiaries, the system will collapse anyway. When Social Security began making monthly distributions in 1940, there were 160 workers for every senior receiving benefits. In 1950, there were 16.5; today, three; in 20 years, there will be but two. Now, the average senior receives in Social Security about a third of what the average worker makes. Applying that ratio retroactively, this means that in 1940, the average worker had to pay only 0.2 percent of his salary to sustain the older folks of his time; in 1950, 2 percent; today, 11 percent; in 20 years, 17 percent. This is a staggering sum, considering that it is apart from all the other taxes he pays to sustain other functions of government, such as Medicare whose costs are exploding. The Treasury already steps in and borrows the money required to cover the gap between what workers pay into Social Security and what seniors take out. When young people were plentiful, Social Security produced a surplus. Starting now and for decades to come, it will add to the deficit, increasingly so as the population ages. Demography is destiny." --columnist Charles Krauthammer

Culture
"A group known as Brookline Political Action for Peace, or Brookline PAX as members like to be called, claims, among other things, that the recitation of the pledge smacks of anti-Americanism or even McCarthyism, and more compellingly, may even promote bullying. Therefore, they argue, the pledge should be banned. The organization, led by peacenik and noted anti-pledge activist Marty Rosenthal, seeks to petition town meeting voters in November to urge the school committee to end the requirement that principals in Brookline allow a weekly recitation of the pledge. ... According to reports, Mr. Rosenthal claims the pledge has no educational value and is 'literally and psychologically a loyalty oath, reminiscent of McCarthyism or some horrific totalitarian regimes.' He also said, 'The pledge is at odds with America's most important traditions.' ... State Rep. Frank I. Smizik, a Democrat and co-signer of the resolution, claims banning the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our nation is an anti-bullying measure, saying it would protect students who do not want to participate and also would promote their First Amendment rights. ... The day it becomes possible to argue that the recitation of the pledge to our flag is an anti-American act of indoctrination, there is nothing these folks won't do to undermine the sense of American unity or character that reciting the pledge fosters and promotes." --columnist Marybeth Hicks

Reader Comments
"I just tweeted the link to the article and the link to affirm support of the class action lawsuit. I also sent it to friends and family. This is outstanding! This is where the rubber meets the road. Either the judicial branch scorns us or it supports us based on the Constitution. At least we'll know where things stand at that point." --Joel

"Have you established a legal fund so those who are interested can contribute for this noble and necessary cause? I for one would like to see a separate fund for this fight other than the general fund The Patriot Post operates with. If there is anything other than spread the word, let me know. I will do all in my power to help facilitate this endeavor that must succeed." --Anton

Editor's Reply: At present this effort is being funded by the Essential Liberty Project Fund.
"Of course Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Almost every large federal program, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid (the list goes on) makes promises to current recipients based on revenues expected in the future. Social Security promises a steady paycheck in retirement, not based on what was paid in and earnings invested by the individual, but an amount unrelated to investments and earnings. Health care programs promise medical care regardless of what the premiums are and regardless of the true costs. Of course they are Ponzi schemes." --Bruce

"As the father of a Marine, I salute Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. Dakota Meyer for his selfless devotion to his fellow Marines and to his duty as a warrior. I mourn with him for the loss of his brothers in arms. May he find peace, secure in the knowledge that he did his very best. Well done, good and faithful servant. Semper Fidelis." --Mark


The Last Word

"To tell you the truth, when I first heard tell of the awards that allegedly awaited Islamic martyrs, even I began to see the attraction. I mean, on the face of it, moving from Jenin or Tehran, say, to Paradise sounds like an awfully good deal. Toss in six dozen beautiful virgins, and what healthy, red-blooded nincompoop wouldn't gladly blow himself to Kingdom Come? The problem, of course, is that, like most youngsters, they never bother thinking things through. For instance, in the natural course of events, what the impetuous young idiot will inevitably have on his hands are six dozen ex-virgins. And if he thinks he has it bad now, just wait until he winds up spending eternity with 72 women who while away each and every day complaining that he's always leaving his burnoose on the floor, doesn't help out with the kids, and never takes them dancing." --columnist Burt Prelutsky

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Nate Jackson for The Patriot Post Editorial Team

23044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: No recession on: September 20, 2011, 11:01:24 AM

Monday Morning Outlook

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No Recession, No Panic To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/19/2011


Online markets (at Intrade) put the odds of a recession in the next year at 40%. The consensus of economists (in a Wall Street Journal poll) has the odds of recession at one in three. These elevated fears are hitting consumer confidence, creating political pressures and causing volatility in financial markets.

We think the actual odds of a recession are much lower than the consensus thinks. We place them at 20%, barely above the 15% that history tells us exists in any year.
 
Yes, real GDP growth slowed to less than 1% in the first half of 2011, versus a 2.4% average growth rate in the past two years. But, recent data on consumption and production (as Japan recovered) suggests US growth reaccelerated to the 2.5% - 3.0% range in the third quarter.
 
Real consumer spending – goods and services combined – looks like it’s climbing at a 1.5% to 2% annual rate in Q3. Business investment – both equipment & software and commercial construction – is up in recent months. Home building appears flat and government could be a slight drag on growth, but any weakness here should be more than offset by net exports and inventories. In other words, despite fears, there is no evidence that GDP is turning in a negative direction.
 
This is not a surprise. The US economy does not double-dip or slip into recession when monetary policy is loose. Our nominal GDP rule for the Fed suggests a neutral federal funds rate should be 3.0%. With the Fed now holding rates at zero, it is running an accommodative policy. With the yield curve sloping upward, it seems clear that liquidity is not a problem for the economy.
 
Meanwhile, income tax rates remain relatively low and are not going to rise until 2013 at the very earliest. We believe the newest proposal from the White House to raise tax rates is dead on arrival.
 
So, what is causing the elevated odds of recession? It appears that many worry about another Lehman-style panic. They fret that we can scare ourselves into a recession. They fear that the US will see a sudden plunge in the velocity of money, possible deflation, and frozen financial markets.   
 
The catalyst for all this is supposedly Greece and its very real potential of default on its government debt. But as we pointed out two months ago, the five largest US banks have only $54 billion in exposure to the debts of Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and Spain, combined, versus more than $700 billion in bank capital. In the early 1980s, when Latin and South American countries were defaulting, the eight largest US banks had exposure to those countries equal to 263% of capital.
 
In other words, direct exposure is not a problem. So investors and some economists are worried about “counterparty risk,” with our banks coming under pressure if foreign banks with greater direct exposure become undercapitalized.
 
But here again, we think the fears are overblown. Does anyone seriously think Germany, France and the rest of the leading countries in Europe would not recapitalize their banks if they were on the brink of failure? Moreover, changes to mark-to-market accounting mean that illiquid markets can no longer spread mayhem like an out of control wildfire. We aren’t saying that losses won’t happen, but we don’t see how this spreads like Lehman. And in the meantime, our banks can borrow from the Federal Reserve’s discount window at nearly 0%.
 
We are watching high frequency data – weekly data – on railcar loadings, steel production, hotel occupancy, retail sales, box office receipts, and initial unemployment claims. Through the second week of September there is no evidence that a panic is underway. In fact, the economy continues to grow.
 
As a result, we do not agree with the elevated odds of a recession that so many seem to believe. We think there is opportunity in financial markets. Equity values and commodity prices (excluding precious metals) have been knocked down, while Treasury bond prices have been bid up. These market moves will reverse when the data show that recession fears have been unwarranted.
23045  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: August Housing Starts on: September 20, 2011, 10:51:04 AM
Data Watch

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Housing starts fell 5.0% in August to 571,000 units at an annual rate To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/20/2011


Housing starts fell 5.0% in August to 571,000 units at an annual rate, coming in below the consensus expected pace of 590,000.  Starts are down 5.8% versus a year ago.

The decline in August was mostly due to multi-family starts, which are extremely volatile from month to month and which fell 13.5%. Single-family starts declined 1.4%. Multi-family starts are down 14.0% from a year ago while single-family starts are down 2.3%.
 
Starts fell in the Northeast and South, but rose in the Midwest and West.
 
New building permits gained 3.2% in August to a 620,000 annual rate, easily beating the consensus expected pace of 590,000. Compared to a year ago, permits for multi-unit homes are up 7.8% while permits for single-family units are up 2.0%.
 
Implications:  Home building was stuck in the mud in August, both literally and figuratively. Housing starts declined 5% and fell short of consensus expectations. In addition, the total number of homes under construction fell to a new record low (since at least 1970). However, the weakness in August was largely due to Hurricane Irene. In the face of reports about the on-coming hurricane as well as its actual landfall and aftermath, builders postponed breaking ground on new homes. Excluding the Northeast, which was the hardest hit region, single-family starts were unchanged in August, which pretty much sums up the state of single-family construction for the past couple of years. Multi-unit starts were down in August, but as the top chart to the right shows, are still in a general rising trend as more former homeowners become renters. The brightest news from today’s report was that permits to build new homes were up 3.2% and came in well above consensus expectations. Permits are now up 7.8% versus a year ago. Excluding the temporary burst in activity in late 2009 and early 2010, which was due to the homebuyer tax credit, this is the steepest climb in permits since 2005, back before the housing collapse began. The rise in permits is consistent with our view that housing is at or very close to an upward inflection point. Based on population growth and “scrappage” rates, home building must increase substantially over the next several years to avoid eventually running into shortages.
23046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The legal case against Palestinian statehood on: September 20, 2011, 06:15:52 AM


By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR.
AND LEE A. CASEY
Later this week Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to seek recognition of a Palestinian state from the United Nations. The move is opposed by the Obama administration, which has rightly called it a "distraction." Nevertheless, the PA's effort has wide support among the U.N. membership, including Security Council members Russia, China and Britain, as well as other important regional states such as Turkey. These powers should think again because putting the U.N.—and particularly the General Assembly—in the business of state recognition is inconsistent with international law and the U.N. Charter, and it is manifestly not in their interests.

The U.N.—General Assembly or Security Council—has no power to create states or to grant all-important formal "recognition" to state aspirants. The right to recognize statehood is a fundamental attribute of sovereignty and the United Nations is not a sovereign. Those who cite as precedent the General Assembly's 1947 resolution providing for the partition of Palestine misread that instrument and its legal significance.

 Rep. Buck McKeon on the impact of $1 trillion in defense cuts.
.Resolution 181 outlined a detailed (and rigorous) process whereby the British Mandate in Palestine was to end and two new states, one Jewish and one Arab, were to be established. It recommended that process to Great Britain (as the mandate-holder) and to other U.N. members. It did not create or recognize these states, nor were the proposed states granted automatic admission to the United Nations. Rather, once the two states were established as states, the resolution provided that "sympathetic consideration" should be given to their membership applications.

In the event, the Arab countries rejected partition and Israel declared (and successfully defended) its independence. Israel's statehood was recognized, in accordance with international law, by other states—including the United States and the Soviet Union.

The Palestinian Authority, by contrast, does not meet the basic characteristics of a state necessary for such recognition. These requirements have been refined through centuries of custom and practice, and were authoritatively articulated in the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States. As that treaty provides, to be a state an entity must have (1) a permanent population, (2) a defined territory, (3) a government, and (4) the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

As of today, the PA has neither a permanent population nor defined territory (both being the subject of ongoing if currently desultory negotiations), nor does it have a government with the capacity to enter into relations with other states. This pivotal requirement involves the ability to enter and keep international accords, which in turn posits that the "government" actually controls—exclusive of other sovereigns—at least some part of its population and territory. The PA does not control any part of the West Bank to the exclusion of Israeli authority, and it exercises no control at all in the Gaza Strip.

Enlarge Image

CloseGetty Images
 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
.The PA does not, therefore, qualify for recognition as a state and, concomitantly, it does not qualify for U.N. membership, which is open only to states. All of this is surely understood by the PA and its backers, and is also why the administration has correctly labeled this effort as a distraction—"stunt" being a less diplomatic but even more accurate term in these circumstances. What is unfortunate is that the Obama administration has failed to present the case against a Palestinian statehood resolution in legal rather than tactical terms, even though these arguments are obvious and would greatly reinforce the U.S. position, also providing a thoroughly neutral basis for many of our allies, particularly in Europe, to oppose Mr. Abbas's statehood bid.

The stakes in this battle are high. The PA's effort to achieve recognition by the U.N., even if legally meaningless, is not without serious consequences. To the extent that state supporters of that measure may themselves have irredentist populations or active border disputes with their neighbors—as do Russia, China, Britain and Turkey—they will certainly store up future trouble for themselves.

Traditionally, states rarely recognize (even if they may materially support) independence movements in other states. This is because granting such recognition may have very serious consequences, up to and including war. (The classic example here being France's recognition of the infant United States in 1778 and its immediate and inevitable entry into the War for Independence against Britain).

With respect to Israel, although it does not actually claim all of the territory on which the "State of Palestine" would be established, it is and has been engaged in difficult negotiations over that territory—and the PA's status—for many years. Support for U.N. recognition might not rise to the level of an act of aggression against Israel, but the U.N. Charter also forbids members to act in a "manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations." First among those purposes is maintaining international peace and security, and efforts prematurely to force recognition of a Palestinian state clearly undercut this goal. This is, in fact, a rare instance in which a measure is bad policy, bad law, and has the real potential to damage the interests of its opponents and its supporters.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are Washington, D.C., lawyers who served in the Justice Department during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Mr. Rivkin is also a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

23047  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey-Cyprus on: September 20, 2011, 06:06:08 AM
Turkey's Rhetoric May Lead To Choppy Waters

Texas-based energy firm Noble Energy began exploratory drilling in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone on Monday, defying Turkish demands to cease and desist. Since the island of Cyprus is divided into two, with one part internally recognized as part of Greece and the other, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey, Noble Energy was already venturing into controversial waters. What Noble Energy, Cyprus, the United States and much of Europe likely did not anticipate, however, was that Turkey — for lack of better options — would try using this drilling dispute to herald its return to the eastern Mediterranean.

 Turkey finds itself in an exciting, albeit uncertain position these days. Regional developments — from Iran filling a power vacuum in Iraq, to protracted unrest in Syria and a brewing Egypt-Israel crisis — are pushing Turkey into action. The United States is certainly aware of the problems that are quickly piling up in the Middle East, but Washington is still trying to regain its footing after more than a decade of fighting wars in the Islamic world. Turkey is in a position to ease the United States’ burden in this region. Washington and Ankara will have their fair share of disagreements, but Turkey’s considerable military, political and economic power can help Washington manage the neighborhood while pursuing common strategic interests on other issues, such as the containment of Russia.

“Turkey, unprepared to deal with the more difficult issues, is instead expending a great deal of effort on low-cost rhetorical moves designed to enhance its regional clout.”
Turkey, however, is not quite ready to fulfill this role, and is especially unprepared to project influence in the eastern Mediterranean. It takes time to build up regional clout, and to be credible a country needs to display military strength and political willpower. This may mean losing friends in some places, but for a country with ambitions like Turkey, that could be a small price to pay if it means Turkey’s neighbors will start taking Ankara more seriously. But hard power is, well, hard. Turkey, unprepared to deal with the more difficult issues, is instead expending a great deal of effort on low-cost rhetorical moves designed to enhance its regional clout.

As Turkey is learning in its dealings with Israel, however, rhetoric is of little use when not backed by substance. Condemnations against Israel are a great way for Turkey to enhance its appeal in the Arab street, especially amid pro-Palestinian fervor in the region as the United Nations vote over Palestinian statehood approaches. This led Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week to make a high-profile visit to Cairo, where he tried to evince a fatherly image, that of a regional caretaker come to help Egypt fend off an intractable neighbor. Yet there are no strong indications Turkey is prepared to follow through on threats to deploy frigates to escort Turkish aid ships to Gaza.

Israel finds itself in an increasingly vulnerable position, and cannot afford to alienate a regional neighbor like Turkey, but it also knows that Turkey does not want to get into a shooting war with Israel Defense Forces. Israel and Turkey also have little interest in a covert battle of pitting militant proxies against one another, as Israel’s firebrand Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened recently, announcing that Israel would support the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey. That bold statement may not have enjoyed the backing of all of Israel’s leadership, but it did give the Turks pause.

As Turkey realized the limits of its actions with Israel, it quickly turned its attention to the island of Cyprus. On the surface, Cyprus appeared to Turkey a far easier target in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey thus reacted quickly to the news of Noble Energy’s drilling plans, and said that frigates, gunboats and the Turkish air force would be closely monitoring their actions. Moreover, Turkish officials have threatened to send their own oil platform to drill in the disputed waters off the coast of Cyprus, under a continental shelf agreement with the Turkish Cypriot government, and even to provide naval exports for its exploration crews.

Turkey reckons that Europe is far too distracted with the eurozone crisis to come up with a coherent policy for Greece’s troubled finances, much less an energy dispute in Cypriot waters. Ankara also assumed that the United States, already dealing with multiple, growing crises in the eastern Mediterranean, and looking for Turkish assistance to put out many of these fires, would defend Turkey and pressure the Greek Cypriots and Noble Energy to hold back on drilling.

But the Turks appear to have miscalculated. The United States has been extremely quiet in recent days, but an “unnamed senior U.S. official” leaked to reporters that Washington supports “the right” of Cyprus to explore for energy. In other words, Washington was sending a careful, yet deliberate message to Turkey: to not count on U.S. backing in this fight, and to back down. In many ways, Turkey was using the Cyprus dispute as a litmus test in its relationship with the United States. Although Washington has a strategic need to develop a much stronger relationship with Turkey, it does not appear ready to fend for Ankara in this particular dispute. This is bound to cause friction in the coming days between Washington and Ankara.

The Turkish government may need to factor in an additional concern. Greece may indeed be far too distracted with its financial crisis to react decisively to Turkey’s actions against Cyprus. But if Turkey actually tries to follow through with its threat — carrying out overflights and providing naval escorts to energy exploration crews in disputed Cypriot waters — things could get messy. And if a hard-pressed Greek government is looking for a distraction to rally public support, a conflict with Turkey may not be a bad idea — especially if it’s one the Turks weren’t anticipating.

23048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq's dilema on: September 20, 2011, 06:02:48 AM
As usual, Stratfor's grasp of economics is rather specious and glib, but as usual, the comments on geopolitics are not.

Obama's Dilemma: U.S. Foreign Policy and Electoral Realities
September 20, 2011


By George Friedman

STRATFOR does not normally involve itself in domestic American politics. Our focus is on international affairs, and American politics, like politics everywhere, is a passionate business. The vilification from all sides that follows any mention we make of American politics is both inevitable and unpleasant. Nevertheless, it’s our job to chronicle the unfolding of the international system, and the fact that the United States is moving deeply into an election cycle will affect American international behavior and therefore the international system.

The United States remains the center of gravity of the international system. The sheer size of its economy (regardless of its growth rate) and the power of its military (regardless of its current problems) make the United States unique. Even more important, no single leader of the world is as significant, for good or bad, as the American president. That makes the American presidency, in its broadest sense, a matter that cannot be ignored in studying the international system.

The American system was designed to be a phased process. By separating the selection of the legislature from the selection of the president, the founders created a system that did not allow for sudden shifts in personnel. Unlike parliamentary systems, in which the legislature and the leadership are intimately linked, the institutional and temporal uncoupling of the system in the United States was intended to control the passing passions by leaving about two-thirds of the U.S. Senate unchanged even in a presidential election year, which always coincides with the election of the House of Representatives. Coupled with senatorial rules, this makes it difficult for the president to govern on domestic affairs. Changes in the ideological tenor of the system are years in coming, and when they come they stay a long time. Mostly, however, the system is in gridlock. Thomas Jefferson said that a government that governs least is the best. The United States has a vast government that rests on a system in which significant change is not impossible but which demands a level of consensus over a period of time that rarely exists.

This is particularly true in domestic politics, where the complexity is compounded by the uncertainty of the legislative branch. Consider that the healthcare legislation passed through major compromise is still in doubt, pending court rulings that thus far have been contradictory. All of this would have delighted the founders if not the constantly trapped presidents, who frequently shrug off their limits in the domestic arena in favor of action in the international realm, where their freedom to maneuver is much greater, as the founders intended.


The Burden of the Past

The point of this is that all U.S. presidents live within the framework in which Barack Obama is now operating. First, no president begins with a clean slate. All begin with the unfinished work of the prior administration. Thus, George W. Bush began his presidency with an al Qaeda whose planning and implementation for 9/11 was already well under way. Some of the al Qaeda operatives who would die in the attack were already in the country. So, like all of his predecessors, Obama assumed the presidency with his agenda already laid out.

Obama had a unique set of problems. The first was his agenda, which focused on ending the Iraq war and reversing social policies in place since Ronald Reagan became president in 1981. By the time Obama entered office, the process of withdrawal from Iraq was under way, which gave him the option of shifting the terminal date. The historic reversal that he wanted to execute, starting with healthcare reform, confronted the realities of September 2008 and the American financial crisis. His Iraq policy was in place by Inauguration Day while his social programs were colliding with the financial crisis.

Obama’s campaign was about more than particular policies. He ran on a platform that famously promised change and hope. His tremendous political achievement was in framing those concepts in such a way that they were interpreted by voters to mean precisely what they wanted them to mean without committing Obama to specific policies. To the anti-war faction it meant that the wars would end. To those concerned about unilateralism it meant that unilateralism would be replaced by multilateralism. To those worried about growing inequality it meant that he would end inequality. To those concerned about industrial jobs going overseas it meant that those jobs would stay in the United States. To those who hated Guantanamo it meant that Guantanamo would be closed.

Obama created a coalition whose expectations of what Obama would do were shaped by them and projected on Obama. In fact, Obama never quite said what his supporters thought he said. His supporters thought they heard that he was anti-war. He never said that. He simply said that he opposed Iraq and thought Afghanistan should be waged. His strategy was to allow his followers to believe what they wanted so long as they voted for him, and they obliged. Now, this is not unique to Obama. It is how presidents get elected. What was unique was how well he did it and the problems it caused once he became president.

It must first be remembered that, contrary to the excitement of the time and faulty memories today, Obama did not win an overwhelming victory. About 47 percent of the public voted for someone other than Obama. It was certainly a solid victory, but it was neither a landslide nor a mandate for his programs. But the excitement generated by his victory created the sense of victory that his numbers didn’t support.

Another problem was that he had no programmatic preparation for the reality he faced. September 2008 changed everything in the sense that it created financial and economic realities that ran counter to the policies he envisioned. He shaped those policies during the primaries and after the convention, and they were based on assumptions that were no longer true after September 2008. Indeed, it could be argued that he was elected because of September 2008. Prior to the meltdown, John McCain had a small lead over Obama, who took over the lead only after the meltdown. Given that the crisis emerged on the Republicans’ watch, this made perfect sense. But shifting policy priorities was hard because of political commitments and inertia and perhaps because the extremities of the crisis were not fully appreciated.

Obama’s economic policies did not differ wildly from Bush’s — indeed, many of the key figures had served in the Federal Reserve and elsewhere during the Bush administration. The Bush administration’s solution was to print and insert money into financial institutions in order to stabilize the system. By the time Obama came into power, it was clear to his team that the amount of inserted money was insufficient and had to be increased. In addition, in order to sustain the economy, the policy that had been in place during the Bush years of maintaining low interest rates through monetary easing was extended and intensified. To a great extent, the Obama years have been the Bush years extended to their logical conclusion. Whether Bush would have gone for the stimulus package is not clear, but it is conceivable that he would have.

Obama essentially pursued the Bush strategy of stabilizing the banks in the belief that a stable banking system was indispensible and would in itself stimulate the economy by creating liquidity. Whether it did or it didn’t, the strategy created the beginnings of Obama’s political problem. He drew substantial support from populists on the left and suspicion from populists on the right. The latter, already hostile to Bush’s policies, coalesced into the Tea Party. But this was not Obama’s biggest problem. It was that his policies, which both seemed to favor the financial elite and were at odds with what Democratic populists believed the president stood for, weakened his support from the left. The division between what he actually said and what his supporters thought they heard him say began to widen. While the healthcare battle solidified his opposition among those who would oppose him anyway, his continuing response to the financial crisis both solidified opposition among Republicans and weakened support among Democrats.


A Foreign Policy Problem

This was coupled with his foreign policy problem. Among Democrats, the anti-war faction was a significant bloc. Most Democrats did not support Obama with anti-war reasons as their primary motivator, but enough did make this the priority issue that he could not win if he lost this bloc. This bloc believed two things. The first was that the war in Iraq was unjustified and harmful and the second was that it emerged from an administration that was singularly insensitive to the world at large and to the European alliance in particular. They supported Obama because they assumed not only that he would end wars — as well as stop torture and imprisonment without trial — but that he would also re-found American foreign policy on new principles.

Obama’s decision to dramatically increase forces in Afghanistan while merely modifying the Bush administration’s timeline for withdrawing from Iraq caused unease within the Democratic Party. But two steps that Bush took held his position. First, one of the first things Obama did after he became president was to reach out to the Europeans. It was expected that this would increase European support for U.S. foreign policy. The Europeans, of course, were enthusiastic about Obama, as the Noble Peace Prize showed. But while Obama believed that his willingness to listen to the Europeans meant they would be forthcoming with help, the Europeans believed that Obama would understand them better and not ask for help.

The relationship was no better under Obama than under Bush. It wasn’t personality or ideology that mattered. It was simply that Germany, as the prime example, had different interests than the United States. This was compounded by the differing views and approaches to the global financial crisis. Whereas the Americans were still interested in Afghanistan, the Europeans considered Afghanistan a much lower priority than the financial crisis. Thus, U.S.-European relations remained frozen.

Then Obama made his speech to the Islamic world in Cairo, where his supporters heard him trying to make amends for Bush’s actions and where many Muslims heard an unwillingness to break with Israel or end the wars. His supporters heard conciliation, the Islamic world heard inflexibility.

The European response to Obama the president as opposed to Obama the candidate running against George Bush slowly reverberated among his supporters. Not only had he failed to end the wars, he doubled down and surged forces into Afghanistan. And the continued hostility toward the United States from the Islamic world reverberated among those on the Democratic left who were concerned with such matters. Add to that the failure to close Guantanamo and a range of other issues concerning the war on terror and support for Obama crumbled.


A Domestic Policy Focus

His primary victory, health-care reform, was the foundation of an edifice that was never built. Indeed, the reform bill is caught in the courts, and its future is as uncertain as it was when the bill was caught in Congress. The Republicans, as expected, agree on nothing other than Obama’s defeat. The Democrats will support him; the question is how enthusiastic that support will be.

Obama’s support now stands at 41 percent. The failure point for a president’s second term lurks around 35 percent. It is hard to come back from there. Obama is not there yet. The loss of another six points would come from his Democratic base (which is why 35 is the failure point; when you lose a chunk of your own base, you are in deep trouble). At this point, however, the president is far less interested in foreign policy than he is in holding his base together and retaking the middle. He did not win by a large enough margin to be able to lose any of his core constituencies. He may hope that his Republican challenger will alienate the center, but he can’t count on that. He has to capture his center and hold his left.

That means he must first focus on domestic policy. That is where the public is focused. Even the Afghan war and the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq are not touching nerves in the center. His problem is twofold. First, it is not clear that he can get anything past Congress. He can then argue that this is Congress’ fault, but the Republicans can run against Congress as well. Second, it is not clear what he would propose. The Republican right can’t be redeemed, but what can Obama propose that will please the Democratic core and hold the center? The Democratic core wants taxes. The center doesn’t oppose taxes (it is merely uneasy about them), but it is extremely sensitive about having the taxes eaten up by new spending — something the Democratic left supports. Obama is trapped between two groups he must have that view the world differently enough that bridging the gap is impossible.

The founders gave the United States a government that, no matter how large it gets, can’t act on domestic policy without a powerful consensus. Today there is none, and therefore there can’t be action. Foreign policy isn’t currently resonating with the American public, so any daring initiatives in that arena will likely fail to achieve the desired domestic political end. Obama has to hold together a coalition that is inherently fragmented by many different understandings of what his presidency is about. This coalition has weakened substantially. Obama’s attention must be on holding it together. He cannot resurrect the foreign policy part of it at this point. He must bet on the fact that the coalition has nowhere else to go. What he must focus on is domestic policy crafted to hold his base and center together long enough to win the election.

The world, therefore, is facing at least 14 months with the United States being at best reactive and at worse non-responsive to events. Obama has never been a foreign policy president; events and proclivity (I suspect) have always drawn him to domestic matters. But between now and the election, the political configuration of the United States and the dynamics of his presidency will force him away from foreign policy.

This at a time when the Persian Gulf is coming to terms with the  U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the power of Iran, when  Palestinians and Israelis are facing another crisis over U.N. recognition, when the future of Europe is unknown, when North Africa is unstable and Syria is in crisis and when U.S. forces continue to fight in Afghanistan. All of this creates opportunities for countries to build realities that may not be in the best interests of the United States in the long run. There is a period of at least 14 months for regional powers to act with confidence without being too concerned about the United States.

The point of this analysis is to try to show the dynamics that have led the United States to this position, and to sketch the international landscape in broad strokes. The U.S. president will not be deeply engaged in the world for more than a year. Thus, he will have to cope with events pressed on him. He may undertake initiatives, such as trying to revive the Middle East peace process, but such moves would have large political components that would make it difficult to cope with realities on the ground. The rest of the world knows this, of course. The question is whether and how they take advantage of it.

23049  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Este hilo on: September 20, 2011, 05:49:09 AM
ahora tiene mas que 100,000 "reads" (osea, ha sido leido mas que cien mil veces).  Muchas gracias a CaptainCCS por sus contribuciones.
23050  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: September 20, 2011, 05:47:11 AM
An internet friend's comments begin this post:
================================

This pretty much confirms what I already suspected - the Calderon administration is more interested in teaming up with Obama to infringe on the rights of U.S. citizens than in getting answers on this debacle. I think it's safe to say they have little to no interest in seeing this solved, "breach of sovereignity" or not.

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

Quote:
Mexico still waiting for answers on Fast and Furious gun program


Top Mexican officials say the U.S. kept them in the dark. One official was stunned to learn that the cartel hit men who killed her brother had assault rifles from Fast and Furious in their arsenal.

By Ken Ellingwood, Richard A. Serrano and Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

5:00 PM PDT, September 19, 2011

Reporting from Mexico City and Washington


Last fall's slaying of Mario Gonzalez, the brother of a Mexican state prosecutor, shocked people on both sides of the border. Sensational news reports revealed that cartel hit men had tortured Gonzalez, and forced him to make a videotaped "confession" that his high-powered sister was on the take.

But American authorities concealed one disturbing fact about the case from their Mexican counterparts: U.S. federal agents had allowed AK-47 assault rifles later found in the killers' arsenal to be smuggled across the border under the notorious Fast and Furious gun-trafficking program.

U.S. officials also kept mum as other weapons linked to Fast and Furious turned up at dozens of additional Mexican crime scenes, with an unconfirmed toll of at least 150 people killed or wounded.

Months after the deadly lapses in the program were revealed in the U.S. media — prompting congressional hearings and the reassignment of the acting chief of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — top Mexican officials say American authorities have still not offered them a proper accounting of what went wrong.

Marisela Morales, Mexico's attorney general and a longtime favorite of American law enforcement agents in Mexico, told The Times that she first learned about Fast and Furious from news reports. And to this day, she said, U.S. officials have not briefed her on the operation gone awry, nor have they apologized.

"At no time did we know or were we made aware that there might have been arms trafficking permitted," Morales, Mexico's highest-ranking law enforcement official, said in a recent interview. "In no way would we have allowed it, because it is an attack on the safety of Mexicans."

Morales said she did not want to draw conclusions before the outcome of U.S. investigations, but that deliberately letting weapons "walk" into Mexico — with the intention of tracing the guns to drug cartels — would represent a "betrayal" of a country enduring a drug war that has killed more than 40,000 people. U.S. agents lost track of hundreds of weapons under the program.

Concealment of the bloody toll of Fast and Furious took place despite official pronouncements of growing cooperation and intelligence-sharing in the fight against vicious Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. The secrecy also occurred as President Felipe Calderon and other senior Mexican officials complained bitterly, time and again, about the flow of weapons into Mexico from the U.S.

Patricia Gonzalez, the top state prosecutor in Chihuahua at the time of her brother's 2010 kidnapping, noted that she had worked closely with U.S. officials for years and was stunned that she did not learn until many months later, through media reports, about the link between his death and Fast and Furious weapons.

"The basic ineptitude of these officials [who ordered the Fast and Furious operation] caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims," Gonzalez said.

Fast and Furious weapons have also been linked to other high-profile shootings. On May 24, a helicopter ferrying Mexican federal police during an operation in the western state of Michoacan was forced to land after bullets from a powerful Barrett .50-caliber rifle pierced its fuselage and armor-reinforced windshield. Three officers were wounded.

Authorities later captured dozens of drug gang gunmen involved in the attack and seized 70 weapons, including a Barrett rifle, according to a report by U.S. congressional committees. Some of the guns were traced to Fast and Furious.

Email traffic and U.S. congressional testimony by ATF agents and others make clear that American officials purposefully concealed from Mexico's government details of the operation, launched in November 2009 by the ATF field offices in Arizona and New Mexico.

In March 2010, with a growing number of guns lost or showing up at crime scenes in Mexico, ATF officials convened an "emergency briefing" to figure out a way to shut down Fast and Furious. Instead, they decided to keep it going and continue to leave Mexico out of the loop.

Communications also show that the U.S. Embassy, along with the ATF office in Mexico, at least initially, was also kept in the dark.

In July 2010, Darren Gil, the acting ATF attache in Mexico City, asked his supervisors in the U.S. about guns in Mexico but got no answer, according to his testimony before a U.S. congressional committee investigating the matter.

"They were afraid that I was going to either brief the ambassador or brief the government of Mexico officials on it," Gil said.

Part of the reason for not telling Mexican authorities, Gil and others noted, is the widespread corruption among officials in Mexico that has long made some U.S. officials reluctant to share intelligence. By late last year, however, with the kidnapping of Mario Gonzalez and tracing of the AK-47s, some ATF officials were beginning to tell their superiors that it was time to inform the Mexicans.

Carlos Canino, an ATF agent at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, warned headquarters that failure to share the information would have dire consequences for the U.S.-Mexican relationship.

"We need to tell them [Mexico] this, because if we don't tell them this, and this gets out, it was my opinion that the Mexicans would never trust us again," Canino testified to congressional investigators in Washington.

Atty. Gen. Morales said it was not until January that the Mexican government was told of the existence of an undercover program that turned out to be Fast and Furious. At the time, Morales said, Mexico was not provided details.

U.S. officials gave their Mexican counterparts access to information involving a group of 20 suspects arrested in Arizona. These arrests would lead to the only indictment to emerge from Fast and Furious.

"It was then that we learned of that case, of the arms trafficking," Morales told The Times. "They haven't admitted to us that there might have been permitted trafficking. Until now, they continue denying it to us."

In March, after disgruntled ATF agents went to congressional investigators, details of Fast and Furious began to appear in The Times and other U.S. media. By then, two Fast and Furious weapons had been found at the scene of the fatal shooting of a U.S. border agent near Rio Rico, Ariz.

As well, a second agent had been killed near the Mexican city of San Luis Potosi, sending the ATF hierarchy into a "state of panic," ATF supervisor Peter Forcelli said, because of fears the weapons used might have arrived in Mexico as part of Fast and Furious. So far, all the U.S. government has said in the latter case is that one of the weapons was traced to an illegal purchase in the Dallas area.

In June, Canino, the ATF attache, was finally allowed to say something to Atty. Gen. Morales about the weapons used by Mario Gonzalez's captors, thought to be members of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

"I wanted her to find out from me, because she is an ally of the U.S. government," he testified.

Canino later told congressional investigators that Morales was shocked.

"Hijole!" he recalled her saying, an expression that roughly means, "Oh no!"

Canino testified that Fast and Furious guns showed up at nearly 200 crime scenes.

Mexican Congressman Humberto Benitez Trevino, who heads the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, said the number of people killed or wounded by the weapons had probably doubled to 300 since March, when he said confidential information held by Mexican security authorities put the figure at 150. The higher number, he said, was his own estimate.

A former attorney general, Benitez labeled the operation a "failure," but said it did not spell a collapse of the two nations' shared fight against organized crime groups.

"It was a bad business that got out of hand," he said in an interview.

Many Mexican politicians responded angrily when the existence of the program became known in March, with several saying it amounted to a breach of Mexican sovereignty. But much of that anger has subsided, possibly in the interest of not aggravating the bilateral relationship. For Mexico, the U.S. gun problem goes far beyond the Fast and Furious program. Of weapons used in crimes and traced, more than 75% come from the U.S.

"Yes, it was bad and wrong, and you have to ask yourself, what were they thinking?" a senior official in Calderon's administration said, referring to Fast and Furious. "But, given the river of weapons that flows into Mexico from the U.S., do a few more make a big difference?"

Still, Mexican leaders are under pressure to answer questions from their citizens, with very little to go on.

"The evidence is over there [north of the border]," Morales said. "I can't put a pistol to their heads and say, 'Now give it to me or else.' I can't."

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

richard.serrano@latimes.com

wilkinson@latimes.com

Ellingwood and Wilkinson reported from Mexico City and Serrano from Washington.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times 



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