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23101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 07, 2010, 12:56:57 AM
When they belong to Big Brother that is a very distinct question from the one presented here GM.
23102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: July 06, 2010, 09:55:15 PM
A Hatred That Resists Exorcism
By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN
Published: July 5, 2010
Is there anything left to be said about anti-Semitism? By now surely the outline is clear: how hatred of Jews grew out of early Christianity’s attempts to supplant Judaism; how the demonization of Jews in the Middle Ages turned violent; how the hatred was given its name by a 19th-century German journalist; and how it reached cataclysmic fulfillment in the Holocaust.

Enlarge This Image



Special Collection and Rare Books/Mu Libraries, University of Missouri
A George Cruikshank illustration of Fagin for “Oliver Twist.”

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Al-Dustour, Jordan
“The Blood of a Palestinian Child, a Gift for Mother’s Day,” a 1994 cartoon in a Jordanian newspaper.

There are other landmarks: the expulsion of the Jews from England, Spain and Portugal; intermittent massacres in Muslim lands; the construction of European ghettos; the pogroms of Russia and Eastern Europe; the Dreyfus Affair; the Nazification of Europe; Stalin’s purges and show trials.

And then, of course, there are the triumphs that act as a kind of remonstrance: the Enlightenment success of Jews in secular European societies, the myriad opportunities in the United States, the birth of modern Hebrew and, after a half-century of settlement, land purchases and institution building, the creation of Israel, whose founding principles incorporated both democratic and Judaic ideals.

Why then during the last six months have new tomes been published devoted to the hatred of Jews? “A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism From Antiquity to the Global Jihad” (Random House) weighs in at about 1,200 pages, a compendium of a career’s research by Robert S. Wistrich, professor of modern Jewish history at Hebrew University in Israel. And more than 800 pages are devoted just to British anti-Semitic history in “Trials of the Diaspora” (Oxford) by Anthony Julius, a learned British lawyer whose clients included Diana, Princess of Wales, and whose book on T.S. Eliot’s anti-Semitism was widely praised for its supple understanding.

Surely this attention is a bit overwrought? Aren’t we in an age that must be “post” all such sentiments — postmodern, post-Auschwitz and post-anti-Semitic? Haven’t many anti-Semitic doctrines (or their consequences) been largely overturned? How many people today would advocate ghettos or extermination? Who still believes that Jews bake Christian children’s blood into matzo? Many countries have forbidden hate speech; hasn’t that enforced a decorous social tact? And while it is difficult to ignore the vulgar hatreds expressed by Muslim protestors or in the newspapers of the Arab world or even among Westerners, aren’t those just frustrated expressions of justifiable political grievances?

Besides, anti-Semitism, we now understand, is a form of racism. Like all forms of group hatred, it is subject to reform and to the modern cure of sensitivity training. We learn about such hatreds in order to exorcise them. It seems every museum exhibition, textbook and children’s story about racism provides a similar moral prescription: tolerance.

So isn’t there something a little tasteless about bringing up anti-Semitism all the time, let alone drumming its theme page after page? Sure, racism may still flourish, but given the modern success of Jews, hasn’t this particular form of it become an anomaly? Or worse, hasn’t the term become a manipulative attempt to deflect judgment? As is often pointed out, criticism of Israel is not necessarily anti-Semitic any more than criticism of any particular Jew is.

But spend some time submerged in these books — by no means a pleasant or an easy task — and these notions recede into irrelevance. Mr. Wistrich’s volume presents itself as an encyclopedic history, and is so full of details and citations, it overwhelms. We hear from a 17th-century Viennese preacher (“After Satan Christians have no greater enemies than the Jews”), Karl Marx (“What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money”) and the Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah (“If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew”).

Mr. Wistrich offers less a history, though, than a contemporary indictment with historical background. This makes his book difficult to read. Its approach is one of cumulative examples culminating in jihadists and their apologists. Its rosterlike style can become tedious but the examples are powerfully dispiriting.

“Trials of the Diaspora” has a similar effect, though Mr. Julius is more focused and analytical, dissecting types of enmity, the nature of anti-Semitic myth and its influence on the greatest examples of English literature. From his analysis, we begin to see too just how different anti-Semitism is from other forms of racism.

Racism attaches negative attributes onto people bearing a particular biological heritage. Such characteristics are passed on; they are inherited. The hatred is focused; the perceived threat can be excised. In a way, racism is a materialist or physical passion: the problem and the solution are concrete.

While anti-Semitism has tapped into racial hatreds in modern times, Mr. Julius and Mr. Wistrich highlight its traditional reliance on conspiracy: the hidden plot. Anti-Semitism isn’t just a matter of asserting unpleasant or reprehensible attributes. It sees the Jew as an antinomian threat, overturning all ethical laws. The Jew works in secret, creating invisible alliances, pulling elaborate strings, undermining society’s foundations. This is why the Protocols of the Elders of Zion has found such a fertile international ground. That 19th-century document purports to be the secret minutes of such a plotting ensemble of Jews. It is the counterfeit confirmation of a long-held belief.

Anti-Semitism is a metaphysical passion, not a materialist one. It doesn’t even require a Jewish presence.

One reason anti-Semites have been so obsessed with the issue of finance in the modern world is that money is the circulatory system of capitalist society. It is mysterious, manipulable: the Jew’s perfect instrument. The Jew, first seen as a theological spoiler, becomes a metaphysical and monetary spoiler. The medieval image of the Jew was related to the vampire, Mr. Julius shows; the modern anti-Semitic vision sees the Jew as a guzzler of a society’s lifeblood.

This amplifies virulence as well: the Jew, for the anti-Semite, is not just a danger, but the greatest danger exerting the greatest powers. In current paradoxical parlance, the Jew is, in essence, a Nazi. The Jew does not just devour a Christian child’s blood, but the blood of all innocent children, and more completely, the blood of all innocents.

Is any evidence needed? Appearances are irrelevant; argument is illusion. What use is visible fact when the power of the Jew is in the web woven below the surface? Jewish autonomy is itself evidence of Jewish threat. Moreover, confrontation requires courage. Anti-Semitism never sees itself as a hatred; it views itself as a revelation. An attack on the Jew is never offensive; it is always defensive. This is precisely how the Nazis portrayed it. It is precisely how Islamist ideology does as well, evident, for example, in the principles and founding documents of Hamas and Hezbollah.

In a recent book, “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World” (Yale), the historian Jeffrey Herf shows how Nazi propagandists literally taught Arab audiences the language of anti-Semitism through popular radio programs in Arabic. Nazi ideology bears many resemblances to that of contemporary Islamic extremism, some the consequence of careful teaching. That teaching is still present in the Arab world, amplified by political leaders and imams, often annexed to denigrations of Jews taken from Islamic sources

The result, Mr. Julius and Mr. Wistrich recognize, has been one of the most historically noxious forms of anti-Semitic mythology, which has also fed into political debates in the West and cannot be overlooked or easily dismissed. It is easy enough to discern when responsible criticisms of Israel veer into something reprehensible: the structure of anti-Semitic belief is not subtle. There is a wildly exaggerated scale of condemnation, in which extremes of contempt confront a country caricatured as the world’s worst enemy of peace; such attacks (and the use of Nazi analogies) are beyond evidence and beyond pragmatic political debate or protest. Israel’s autonomy — it’s very presence — is the problem. Mr. Julius writes, “Israel is the only state in the world whose legitimacy is widely denied and whose destruction is publicly advocated and threatened; Israelis are the only citizens of a state whose indiscriminate murder is widely considered justifiable.”

But even if we leave aside such manifestations, it is clear enough that anti-Semitism requires much deeper understanding than it usually gets. Last week, for example, Hannah Rosenthal, the United States’ special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, spoke in Kazakhstan, asserting the similarity of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

This is not an uncommon assertion (and cases of unwarranted discrimination are always similar) but Islamophobia is a concept developed within the last two decades by those who wish to elevate Islam’s reputation in the West; anti-Semitism was a concept eagerly embraced and expanded by haters of Jews. One was constructed by a group’s supporters, the other by a group’s enemies.

Moreover, much of what is characterized as Islamophobia today arises out of taking seriously the impassioned claims of doctrinal allegiance made by Islamic terrorist groups and their supporters. Anti-Semitism, though, has nothing to do with any claims at all.

Connections is a critic’s perspective on arts and ideas.
23103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CCN reporter mourns Hezzie death on: July 06, 2010, 09:09:11 PM
Recently some big mucky muck of Hezbollah died.  I gather some twit reporter at CNN tweeted about her sadness at his death.
23104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 06, 2010, 09:02:24 PM
Steele is proving to be an ass on many levels, one of which is exhibited here, and should resign.

GM is right.  BO ran on Afpakia being the right war and that we had to get out of Iraq so we would have the bandwidth to focus on Afpakia.  Instead , , , well you already know the story.
23105  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Left Fascist Axis on: July 06, 2010, 03:54:55 PM
July 06, 2010
The Left-Fascist Axis. Again
By James Lewis

We are seeing another Left-fascist axis in our time, recapitulating Stalin's (and worldwide communism's) embrace of Hitler's Germany. The Gaza flotilla crisis was set up by the radical Left (Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Jodie Evans and other Obama buds), in collusion with Hamas, which is about as fascist as they get. If you doubt it, watch Hamas TV on the MEMRI website. They are the worst. They teach toddlers about the glories of dying for Allah.  Even Fatah thinks Hamas is a throwback to the Dark Ages.


In the Gaza flotilla, the Turks who yelled out "Khaibar! Khaibar!" as they were trying to kill Israeli soldiers, were members of the Turkish branch of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood. They yelled out "Khaibar!" because that massacre of Jews was Mohammed's own Auschwitz. That doesn't leave any doubt about who they are. Martyrdom is just a means to an end, and that end is "Khaibar." The media always forget to tell us that part.


Words matter, which is why the Left is always making up new words for themselves, to disguise who they really are.  The Left isn't  Communist any more, they are "progressive" -- which leaves the rest of us  back in 1776. "Progressives" always know which way to find "progress," and it always comes down to stomping on the rest of us. Because if you're not "progressive" you must be an enemy of  "progress."   


The radical Left  hasn't changed one smidgen since Stalin. The Left still believes in global totalitarianism. Stalin is dead, but Stalinism is on the march. Listen to the stomping of their boots.


The Left is a throwback to all the ancient utopian cults, the Mayans, Genghis Khan and the Yellow Emperor of China, Idi Amin Dada and Robert Mugabe. It's the ancient Egyptian priesthood, which was also a cult run by a totalitarian clique. In ancient Egypt you had to die to get to utopia, but the psychology is always the same.  Utopian cults always appeal to suckers. They are a very nasty part of the human condition. But there's nothing new there, and they are certainly not "progressive." They are a throwback.


Obama doesn't look like a normal American because he is a High Priest. Harry Truman wouldn't recognize him, but King Tut would. Obama has all the arrogance and ignorance of a Pharaoh.


So here are two ways to simplify the daily media circus. First, the media are the cult of the Left, trying to twist your mind. The "Left" equals global totalitarianism, which is Stalinism, which is Leninism, which is radical feminism, which is the hateful racism of the Reverend Wright and Louis Farrakhan.  Same story, different labels. Keep it simple.


Whatever mask they try on, radical leftists are internationalists -- meaning that they are against America as a sovereign nation. That's Obama's real beef against us, and it's why he will never enforce our borders. Sure, leftists are all "patriots" in their own minds, because they worship the prairie flowers and the pretty mountains.  And they all despise MacDonald's hamburgers and eat arugula, because at bottom they are the most amazing snobs.  America is just one little piece of Planet Gaia, where everybody will live in peace and harmony because Obama or Algore will rule us with an iron fist. It's all for our own good.


So, the Left hasn't changed since ancient times. That's why Harvard has a "speech code," courtesy of the likes of Elena Kagan and the PC Commissars. People can't be trusted to say what's on their minds.  They might hurt somebody's feelings. Speech codes are ancient ways to control people.  All the prehistoric little Hitlers had speech taboos.


The second useful word is "fascist." Academics spend their lives trying to define that word. But if  you believe in killing people until they surrender to your totalitarian hokum; if you want to enslave women, kids, Jews, Christians, nonconformist Muslims (like the Bahai'is), gays, Africans in the Sudan, Marxists (yes), Trotskyites, liberals, and anybody who thinks the US Constitution is a good idea, you're a fascist. Simple, reasonable definition.


So we are seeing the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Take 2. The motivation is identical. These people  hate the modern world, just like the Nazis and Lenin did.  Hitler wanted to go back to the Nordic gods. His utopia was in a fantasy past. Lenin placed his utopia in the distant future. If you're a coercive utopian you have to dream of  a long-ago  past or a misty future, as long as it's impossible to see what it's really like.


Today the Saudis want to go back to Mohammed in the 7th century, and the Twelvers in Iran want to go back to the Hidden Mahdi in the 11th century. They all want to make utopia by force and terror. 


The Left-fascists are intolerant of individualism, liberty, free speech and electoral legitimacy, which is why they always try to sabotage constitutional government. Kagan on the Supreme Court. Obama as Pharaoh in the Oval. Why bow down to the King of Saudi and the Emperor of Japan? They are both medieval reactionaries. Obama bowed down to them, but he was really giving the high sign to America. That's Obama's schtick.


We are seeing a re-run of the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1938. That Left-Fascist alliance fell apart when Hitler flipped and decided to send tanks into Poland and Russia instead.


It is what Freud called a "repetition compulsion." It happens over and over again, because these people don't live in reality. That's why they are dangerous. They can never figure out what went wrong last time, so they keep trying it again.  They live in egomaniacal fantasies, and real people keep getting in their way. Off with their heads!


The last time a Left-Fascist Axis rose to power it led to World War Two and the Cold War. Maybe the only way to win is to make them fight each other. That's how we came out of it before.


I don't know how decent people will prevail this time. I think we will, because we have done so over the centuries. But we are in another Long War with some real bad hot spots. The enemy today is both the Left and the fascists.


Read the news and you'll see it every day.


They're baaaaack!

Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/07/the_leftfascist_axis_again.html at July 06, 2010 - 02:57:38 PM CDT
23106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Hall of Shame on: July 06, 2010, 12:18:22 PM
I suspect this was part of a governmental deal for oil.
23107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Southern Pulse on: July 06, 2010, 12:17:35 PM
Mexico 

Mexican State and Ministerial Police raided a safe house that allegedly belonged to Los Zetas in Las Hortensias neighborhood of Tapachula, Chiapas, on 30 June 2010. Authorities seized two armored vehicles, fragmentation grenades, and multiple high caliber weapons. An explosive device was dismantled.  (Clearly these were bought in some Texas gun store , , ,)

Mexico 

Narco banners signed by Carteles Unidos (United Cartels) were posted on 27 June 2010 in select areas of Guadalajara, Jalisco. These messages, directed to the Governor of Jalisco, read: "With all due respect Mr. Governor, this information is true, let us kill all these criminals that have dismembered innocent people in our State.”
23108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: July 06, 2010, 10:38:36 AM
BTW, for those not familiar with Turkey or POTH (Pravda on the Hudson a.k.a. The NY Times)  "socially conservative" in the article of the previous post is POTH's term of the moment for "Islamist".

With this in mind, Turkey's demand for Israel's apology for the flotilla brouhaha when it really supported creating an interantional incidennt to burnish its credentials in the Arab world ()see GM's post this morning in the Israel thread) and its move east as described in the POTH piece is understood.

23109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: July 06, 2010, 10:30:47 AM
Yet the market is strongly up this morning.   huh
========

The Washington Post babbled again today about Obama inheriting a huge deficit from Bush. Amazingly enough,...... a lot of people swallow this nonsense. So once more, a short civics lesson.    

Budgets do not come from the White House. They come from Congress, and the party that controlled Congress since January 2007 is the Democratic Party. They controlled the budget process for FY 2008 and FY 2009, as well as FY 2010 and FY 2011. In that first year, they had to contend with George Bush, which caused them to compromise on spending, when Bush somewhat belatedly got tough on spending increases.
For FY 2009 though, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid bypassed George Bush entirely, passing continuing resolutions to keep government running until Barack Obama could take office. At that time, they passed a massive omnibus spending bill to complete the FY 2009 budgets.  

And where was Barack Obama during this time? He was a member of that very Congress that passed all of these massive spending bills, and he signed the omnibus bill as President to complete FY 2009. Let's remember what the deficits looked like during that period:    (below)

GRAPH

If the Democrats inherited any deficit, it was the FY 2007 deficit, the last of the Republican budgets.  That deficit was the lowest in five years, and the fourth straight decline in deficit spending. After that, Democrats in Congress took control of spending, and that includes Barack Obama, who voted for the budgets. If Obama inherited anything, he inherited it from himself.
In a nutshell, what Obama is saying is I inherited a deficit that I voted for and then I voted to expand that deficit four-fold since January 20th.  
(remember that the federal government’s fiscal year runs from October 1st of the preceding calendar year to September 30th of the actual calendar year.  So, FY 2007 ran from October 1, 2006 to September 30, 2007.  The budget “deemed passed” by the last House bill is for FY 2011.)

========
Not sure where to put this one, but here is as good a place as any:

“If you really want to see when an empire is getting vulnerable, the big giveaway is when the costs of servicing the debt exceed the cost of the defense budget,” Niall Ferguson said. Ferguson also predicts that will happen in the U.S. within the next six years because politicians lack urgency over the crisis to come.
23110  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH fluff piece on Turkey on: July 06, 2010, 05:31:15 AM
Turning East, Turkey Asserts Economic Power
By LANDON THOMAS Jr.
Published: July 5, 2010

 
ISTANBUL — For decades, Turkey has been told it was not ready to join the European Union — that it was too backward economically to qualify for membership in the now 27-nation club. That argument may no longer hold.  Today, Turkey is a fast-rising economic power, with a core of internationally competitive companies turning the youthful nation into an entrepreneurial hub, tapping cash-rich export markets in Russia and the Middle East while attracting billions of investment dollars in return.

For many in aging and debt-weary Europe, which will be lucky to eke out a little more than 1 percent growth this year, Turkey’s economic renaissance — last week it reported a stunning 11.4 percent expansion for the first quarter, second only to China — poses a completely new question: who needs the other one more — Europe or Turkey?

“The old powers are losing power, both economically and intellectually,” said Vural Ak, 42, the founder and chief executive of Intercity, the largest car leasing company in Turkey. “And Turkey is now strong enough to stand by itself.”

It is an astonishing transformation for an economy that just 10 years ago had a budget deficit of 16 percent of gross domestic product and inflation of 72 percent. It is one that lies at the root of the rise to power of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has combined social conservatism with fiscally cautious economic policies to make his Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., the most dominant political movement in Turkey since the early days of the republic.

So complete has this evolution been that Turkey is now closer to fulfilling the criteria for adopting the euro — if it ever does get into the European Union — than most of the troubled economies already in the euro zone. It is well under the 60 percent ceiling on government debt (49 percent of G.D.P.) and could well get its annual budget deficit below the 3 percent benchmark next year. That leaves the reduction of inflation, now running at 8 percent, as the only remaining major policy goal.

“This is a dream world,” said Husnu M. Ozyegin, who became the richest man in Turkey when he sold his bank, Finansbank, to the National Bank of Greece in 2006. Sitting on the rooftop of his five-star Swiss Hotel, he was looking at his BlackBerry, scrolling down the most recent credit-default spreads for euro zone countries. He still could not quite believe what he was seeing.

“Greece, 980. Italy, 194 and here is Turkey at 192,” he said with a grunt of satisfaction. “If you had told me 10 years ago that Turkey’s financial risk would equal that of Italy I would have said you were crazy.”

Having sold at the top to Greece, Mr. Ozyegin is now putting his money to work in the east. His new bank, Eurocredit, gets 35 percent of its profit from its Russian operations.

Mr. Ozyegin represents the old guard of Turkey’s business elite that has embraced the Erdogan government for its economic successes. Less well known but just as important to Turkey’s future development has been the rapid rise of socially conservative business leaders who, under the A.K.P., have seen their businesses thrive by tapping Turkey’s flourishing consumer and export markets.

Mr. Ak, the car leasing executive, exemplifies this new business elite of entrepreneurs. He drives a Ferrari to work, but he is also a practicing Muslim who does not drink and has no qualms in talking about his faith. He is not bound to the 20th-century secular consensus among the business, military and judicial elite that fought long and hard to keep Islam removed from public life.

On the wall behind his desk is a framed passage in Arabic from the Koran, and he recently financed an Islamic studies program just outside Washington at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where Mr. Erdogan recently spoke.

Whether he is embracing Islam as a set of principles to govern his life or Israeli irrigation technology for his sideline almond and walnut growing business, Mr. Ak represents the flexible dynamism — both social and economic — that has allowed Turkey to expand the commercial ties with Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria that now underpin its ambition to become the dominant political actor in the region.

Other prominent members of this newer group of business executives are Mustafa Latif Topbas, the chairman and a founder of the discount-shopping chain BIM, the country’s fastest-growing retail chain, and Murat Ulker, who runs the chocolate and cookie manufacturer Yildiz Holding.

=======

Page 2 of 2)



With around $11 billion in sales, Yildiz Holding supplies its branded food products not just to the Turkish market but to 110 markets globally. It has set up factories in Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine and now owns the Godiva brand.

The two billionaires have deep ties to the prime minister — Mr. Erdogan once owned a company that distributed Ulker-branded products, and Mr. Topbas is a close adviser — but the trade opportunities in this part of the world are plentiful enough that a boost from the government is now no longer needed.
In June, Turkish exports grew by 13 percent compared with the previous year, with much of the demand coming from countries on Turkey’s border or close to it, like Iraq, Iran and Russia. With their immature manufacturing bases, they are eager buyers of Turkish cookies, automobiles and flat-screen televisions.

This year, for example, the country’s flagship carrier, Turkish Airlines, will fly to as many cities in Iraq (three) as it does to France. Some of its fastest growing routes are to Libya, Syria and Russia, Turkey’s largest trading partner, where it flies to seven cities. That is second only to Germany, which has a large population of immigrant Turks.

In Iran, Turkish companies are building fertilizer plants, making diapers and female sanitary products. In Iraq, the Acarsan Group, based in the southeastern town of Gaziantep, just won a bid to build five hospitals. And Turkish construction companies have a collective order book of over $30 billion, second only to China.

On the flip side, the Azerbaijani government owns Turkey’s major petrochemicals company and Saudi Arabia has been a big investor in the country’s growing Islamic finance sector.

No one here disputes that these trends give Mr. Erdogan the legitimacy — both at home and abroad — to lash out at Israel and to cut deals with Iran over its nuclear energy, moves that have strained ties with its chief ally and longtime supporter, the United States. (Turkey has exported $1.6 billion worth of goods to Iran and Syria this year, $200 million more than to the United States.)

But some worry that the muscle flexing may have gone too far — perhaps the result of tightening election polls at home — and that the aggressive tone with Israel may jeopardize the defining tenet of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: peace at home, peace in the world.

“The foreign policy of Turkey is good if it brings self-pride,” said Ferda Yildiz, the chairman of Basari Holding, a conglomerate that itself is in negotiations with the Syrian government to set up a factory in Syria that would make electricity meters.

Even so, he warns that it would be a mistake to become too caught up in an eastward expansion if it comes at the expense of the country’s longstanding inclination to look to the West for innovation and inspiration.

“It takes centuries to make relations and minutes to destroy them,” he said.
23111  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NASA, Space programs on: July 06, 2010, 05:14:22 AM
I posted this yesterday in the Hall of Shame thread, and use it here today to kick off this thread.

Amongst the long list of areas of strong disagreement I have with Obama is what he has done/is doing with US efforts in space.  My understanding is that our edge in space forms a essential cornerstone of our military strength via our abilities to look down, to communicate, , , and other matters.  This is why the Chinese are so intent on killer satellite technology (as well as hacking our military computer networks)-- so they can blind us and incapacitate our communications.

That our CinC has selected policies that leave us having to pay the Russians to give us a ride into space (on top of depending on them as a supply route to Afghanistan) is jaw dropping to the point of wondering about the man's sanity , , , or patriotism.   I gather he now is absolving the US of any intention of acting independently in outer space as well. 

With regard to the following, Krauthammer spoke of "PC psycho babble".  He is right:
==============

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/obamas-new-mission-for-nasa-reach-out-to-muslim-world-97785979.html

Obama’s new mission for NASA: Reach out to Muslim world
By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
07/05/10 2:50 AM EDT

In a far-reaching restatement of goals for the nation’s space agency, NASA administrator Charles Bolden says President Obama has ordered him to pursue three new objectives: to “re-inspire children” to study science and math, to “expand our international relationships,” and to “reach out to the Muslim world.”  Of those three goals, Bolden said in a recent interview with al-Jazeera, the mission to reach out to Muslims is “perhaps foremost,” because it will help Islamic nations “feel good” about their scientific accomplishments.

In the same interview, Bolden also said the United States, which first sent men to the moon in 1969, is no longer capable of reaching beyond low earth orbit without help from other nations.

Bolden made the statements during a recent trip to the Middle East.  He told al-Jazeera that in the wake of the president’s speech in Cairo last year, the American space agency is now pursuing “a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world.”  Then:
When I became the NASA Administrator — before I became the NASA Administrator — [Obama] charged me with three things: One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.

Later in the interview, Bolden discussed NASA’s goal of greater international cooperation in space exploration.  He said the United States, more than 40 years after the first moon mission, cannot reach beyond earth’s orbit today without assistance from abroad:
In his message in Cairo, [Obama] talked about expanding our international outreach, expanding our international involvement.  We’re not going to go anywhere beyond low earth orbit as a single entity.  The United States can’t do it, China can’t do it — no single nation is going to go to a place like Mars alone.

Bolden’s trip included a June 15 speech at the American University in Cairo.  In that speech, he said in the past NASA worked mostly with countries that are capable of space exploration.  But that, too, has changed in light of Obama’s Cairo initiative.  “He asked NASA to change…by reaching out to ‘non-traditional’ partners and strengthening our cooperation in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and in particular in Muslim-majority nations,” Bolden said.  “NASA has embraced this charge.”

“NASA is not only a space exploration agency,” Bolden concluded, “but also an earth improvement agency.”




Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/obamas-new-mission-for-nasa-reach-out-to-muslim-world-97785979.html#ixzz0spO08kib
23112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq Hussein Obama on: July 05, 2010, 06:24:54 PM
Second entry of the day:

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/obamas-new-mission-for-nasa-reach-out-to-muslim-world-97785979.html

Obama’s new mission for NASA: Reach out to Muslim world
By: Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
07/05/10 2:50 AM EDT

In a far-reaching restatement of goals for the nation’s space agency, NASA administrator Charles Bolden says President Obama has ordered him to pursue three new objectives: to “re-inspire children” to study science and math, to “expand our international relationships,” and to “reach out to the Muslim world.”  Of those three goals, Bolden said in a recent interview with al-Jazeera, the mission to reach out to Muslims is “perhaps foremost,” because it will help Islamic nations “feel good” about their scientific accomplishments.

In the same interview, Bolden also said the United States, which first sent men to the moon in 1969, is no longer capable of reaching beyond low earth orbit without help from other nations.

Bolden made the statements during a recent trip to the Middle East.  He told al-Jazeera that in the wake of the president’s speech in Cairo last year, the American space agency is now pursuing “a new beginning of the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world.”  Then:
When I became the NASA Administrator — before I became the NASA Administrator — [Obama] charged me with three things: One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering.

Later in the interview, Bolden discussed NASA’s goal of greater international cooperation in space exploration.  He said the United States, more than 40 years after the first moon mission, cannot reach beyond earth’s orbit today without assistance from abroad:
In his message in Cairo, [Obama] talked about expanding our international outreach, expanding our international involvement.  We’re not going to go anywhere beyond low earth orbit as a single entity.  The United States can’t do it, China can’t do it — no single nation is going to go to a place like Mars alone.

Bolden’s trip included a June 15 speech at the American University in Cairo.  In that speech, he said in the past NASA worked mostly with countries that are capable of space exploration.  But that, too, has changed in light of Obama’s Cairo initiative.  “He asked NASA to change…by reaching out to ‘non-traditional’ partners and strengthening our cooperation in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia and in particular in Muslim-majority nations,” Bolden said.  “NASA has embraced this charge.”

“NASA is not only a space exploration agency,” Bolden concluded, “but also an earth improvement agency.”




Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/obamas-new-mission-for-nasa-reach-out-to-muslim-world-97785979.html#ixzz0spO08kib
23113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Kagan on: July 05, 2010, 02:23:13 PM
Wow.  Good stuff with the Questions for Kagan too.
23114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shocking, absolutely shocking development on: July 05, 2010, 10:42:26 AM
Doctor: 'Dying' Lockerbie bomber may live 10 years

'Embarrassing that he's gone on so long,' says expert who gave 3-month prognosis


msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 7/4/2010 7:03:03 AM



LONDON — A doctor who said the man convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 had only three months to live now says the Libyan could survive another 10 years, London's Sunday Times reported.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was convicted of 270 counts of murder for being behind the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, was released on compassionate grounds in 2009, after doctors said he only had a few months to live.

Specialist Karol Sikora told the newspaper it was "embarrassing" that al-Megrahi, who has prostate cancer and received a hero's welcome upon his return to Libya, had managed to outlive the prognosis.

The report is sure to re-ignite accusations that Scottish authorities bowed to pressure from Libya and the British government to release al-Megrahi, who American officials accuse of being an officer of the Libyan intelligence service.

"There is always a chance that he would live for 10 years ... but it's very unusual," Sikora told the Times.

"There was a 50 percent chance that he would die in three months," he added, "but there was also a 50 percent chance that he would live longer."

While at the time of his release the Scottish government sited "firm consensus" among medical experts over al-Megrahi's condition, that agreement does not appear to exist, according to the newspaper.

Eight people involved in the case now "suggest" that the Scottish government and Libyan officials selectively chose their information, the Sunday Times reported.

According to an earlier Sunday Times report, a former British justice secretary wrote to his counterpart in Scotland that it was "in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom" to make it possible for al-Megrahi to return to Libya.

The letter was written in 2007 during stalled negotiations over a BP oil exploration contract worth billions of dollars.

The Scottish government said at the time of the release in August that "life expectancy of less than three months" could make a prisoner eligible for release under compassionate grounds.

Sikora, who was paid 200 pounds (about $304) an hour by the Libyan government for his opinion, told the newspaper that there was always a chance that the Libyan would live longer than three months, but admitted that it was "embarrassing that he's gone on for so long."

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38084497...d_news-europe/
23115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post: The Brief on: July 05, 2010, 10:33:53 AM
"At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous." --Thomas Jefferson

Political Futures

The Kagan Show Hearings"[In her confirmation hearings last week, Elena] Kagan did her best to say nothing, and her best was sufficient unto the day. She reduced the vapid to the insipid, as in an exchange with Sen. Tom Coburn over the limits of the Constitution's Commerce Clause -- written by the Founders to limit the power of the federal government and distorted by liberals, both on the Supreme Court and off, to enable the feds to expand the nanny state without limit. When Mr. Coburn asked whether Congress could enact a law requiring Americans to eat three fruits and three vegetables a day, Mzz Kagan replied: 'That sounds like a dumb law.' Mr. Coburn was trying to get at her view of the Commerce Clause, and got a wisecrack. Mzz Kagan then added that the courts would be wrong to strike down a dumb law just because it was dumb. What's not at all dumb about the question is that President Obama is relying on the Commerce Clause to defend his own dumb idea, the health care 'reform.' But not to laugh. The left is always eager to defend its dumb ideas. ... Since Mzz Kagan has never been a judge, we don't have a judicial record to measure her by, and we must rely on her vague answers to vapid questions and can only surmise, suppose and speculate. She sounds like a reliable liberal, ready to stand up for the law of the nanny, enforced by the rod of the state. We won't know for sure until it's time to bend over." --Washington Times editor emeritus Wesley Pruden

For the Record
"As the great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, his job was 'to see that the game is played according to the rules whether I like them or not.' If the public doesn't like the rules, or the consequences to which the rules lead, then the public can change the rules via the ballot box. But that is very different from judges changing the rules by verbal sleight of hand, or by talking about 'weighing of the constitutional right to bear arms' against other considerations, as Justice Breyer puts it. That's not his job. Not if 'we the people' are to govern ourselves, as the Constitution says. As for the merits or demerits of gun control laws themselves, a vast amount of evidence, both from the United States and from other countries, shows that keeping guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens does not keep guns out of the hands of criminals. It is not uncommon for a tightening of gun control laws to be followed by an increase -- not a decrease -- in gun crimes, including murder. Conversely, there have been places and times where an increase in gun ownership has been followed by a reduction in crimes in general and murder in particular. Unfortunately, the media intelligentsia tend to favor gun control laws, so a lot of hard facts about the futility, or the counterproductive consequences of such laws, never reach the public through the media. ... The media, like Justice Breyer, might do well to reflect on what is their job and what is the voting public's job." --economist Thomas Sowell


Culture
"[In] the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision ... in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (UC Hastings) ... [the] court ruled that a public university is not required to subsidize campus groups it considers discriminatory. The Christian Legal Society excludes homosexuals and non-Christians. But isn't the court allowing the university to discriminate against the beliefs of the Christian group, especially if the group is now required to admit people who violate teachings central to its faith and mission statement? In writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the school's policy, which requires student organizations to be open to everyone to qualify for official status, 'ensures that no Hastings student is forced to fund a group that would reject her as a member.' I wonder if this would apply to a member of CLS if they applied for membership in the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender club, or anything else that may come down the pike. Will campus Jewish groups be required to admit Christians? Maybe the football team can bring a discrimination suit against the school for not allowing them to shower with the women's lacrosse team. The court's ruling in the CLS case is no less far-fetched. Student activity fees have long subsidized campus organizations whose beliefs and practices no doubt offend and are counter to the beliefs and practices of other students. The way the legal game is played, the beliefs of Christian groups can be regularly offended, but gay and other groups favored by the secular left enjoy special status from academic elites. This is what passes for pluralism, tolerance and academic freedom on college campuses." --columnist Cal Thomas
23116  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 05, 2010, 10:20:50 AM
Grateful for a family game of lacrosse.

Grateful to be an American.
23117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon on Journalism on: July 05, 2010, 10:14:13 AM
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/even-as-the-world-watched-ii-tasting-the-kool-aid.htm
23118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: July 05, 2010, 01:14:25 AM
http://www.usflag.org/more2.html
23119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Americans who risked everything on: July 04, 2010, 01:22:59 PM
The Americans Who Risked Everything
 

My father, Rush H. Limbaugh, Jr., delivered this oft-requested address locally a number of times, but it had never before appeared in print until it appeared in The Limbaugh Letter. My dad was renowned for his oratory skills and for his original mind; this speech is, I think, a superb demonstration of both. I will always be grateful to him for instilling in me a passion for the ideas and lives of America's Founders, as well as a deep appreciation for the inspirational power of words which you will see evidenced here:
 
"Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor"
 

It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.

Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren't nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.

The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that "the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them." All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.

On the wall at the back, facing the president's desk, was a panoply -- consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"

Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissension. "Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York."

Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase "by a self-assumed power." "Climb" was replaced by "must read," then "must" was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called "their depredations." "Inherent and inalienable rights" came out "certain unalienable rights," and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.

A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.

Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: "I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American." But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.
 
 
Much To Lose

What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?

I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.

Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half - 24 - were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, nine were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th Century.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. Ben Franklin wryly noted: "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately."

Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: "With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone."

These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember, a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.
 
They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.

It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)

Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: "Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.

"The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.

"If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens."

Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.

William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers' faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, "but in no face was he able to discern real fear." Stephan Hopkins, Ellery's colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."
 
 
 
"Most Glorious Service"

Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

· Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered -- and his estates in what is now Harlem -- completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.

· William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.

· Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.

· Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.

· John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.

· Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.
 
· Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton's parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the Revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.

· Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington's appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.

· George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.

· Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.

· John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: "Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country."

· William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.
 
 
· Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage, he and his young bride were drowned at sea.

· Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.

· Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson's palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, "Why do you spare my home?" They replied, "Sir, out of respect to you." Nelson cried, "Give me the cannon!" and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson's sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson's property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.
 
 
 
Lives, Fortunes, Honor

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.

He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons' lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man's heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: "No."

The 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. "And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
 
 
My friends, I know you have a copy of the Declaration of Independence somewhere around the house - in an old history book (newer ones may well omit it), an encyclopedia, or one of those artificially aged "parchments" we all got in school years ago. I suggest that each of you take the time this month to read through the text of the Declaration, one of the most noble and beautiful political documents in human history.

There is no more profound sentence than this: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness..."

These are far more than mere poetic words. The underlying ideas that infuse every sentence of this treatise have sustained this nation for more than two centuries. They were forged in the crucible of great sacrifice. They are living words that spring from and satisfy the deepest cries for liberty in the human spirit.

"Sacred honor" isn't a phrase we use much these days, but every American life is touched by the bounty of this, the Founders' legacy. It is freedom, tested by blood, and watered with tears.

- Rush Limbaugh III
 
 
23120  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Americans who risked everything on: July 04, 2010, 01:22:15 PM
The Americans Who Risked Everything
 

My father, Rush H. Limbaugh, Jr., delivered this oft-requested address locally a number of times, but it had never before appeared in print until it appeared in The Limbaugh Letter. My dad was renowned for his oratory skills and for his original mind; this speech is, I think, a superb demonstration of both. I will always be grateful to him for instilling in me a passion for the ideas and lives of America's Founders, as well as a deep appreciation for the inspirational power of words which you will see evidenced here:
 
"Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor"
 

It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.

Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren't nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.

The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that "the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them." All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.

On the wall at the back, facing the president's desk, was a panoply -- consisting of a drum, swords, and banners seized from Fort Ticonderoga the previous year. Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured the place, shouting that they were taking it "in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"

Now Congress got to work, promptly taking up an emergency measure about which there was discussion but no dissension. "Resolved: That an application be made to the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania for a supply of flints for the troops at New York."

Then Congress transformed itself into a committee of the whole. The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. They cut the phrase "by a self-assumed power." "Climb" was replaced by "must read," then "must" was eliminated, then the whole sentence, and soon the whole paragraph was cut. Jefferson groaned as they continued what he later called "their depredations." "Inherent and inalienable rights" came out "certain unalienable rights," and to this day no one knows who suggested the elegant change.

A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.

Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: "I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American." But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.
 
 
Much To Lose

What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? To each of you, the names Franklin, Adams, Hancock and Jefferson are almost as familiar as household words. Most of us, however, know nothing of the other signers. Who were they? What happened to them?

I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.

Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half - 24 - were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, nine were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians.

With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th Century.

Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward. Ben Franklin wryly noted: "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately."

Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: "With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone."

These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember, a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.
 
They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.

It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)

Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: "Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.

"The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.

"If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens."

Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.

William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers' faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, "but in no face was he able to discern real fear." Stephan Hopkins, Ellery's colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."
 
 
 
"Most Glorious Service"

Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

· Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered -- and his estates in what is now Harlem -- completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.

· William Floyd, another New York delegate, was able to escape with his wife and children across Long Island Sound to Connecticut, where they lived as refugees without income for seven years. When they came home they found a devastated ruin.

· Philips Livingstone had all his great holdings in New York confiscated and his family driven out of their home. Livingstone died in 1778 still working in Congress for the cause.

· Louis Morris, the fourth New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.

· John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.

· Dr. John Witherspoon, signer, was president of the College of New Jersey, later called Princeton. The British occupied the town of Princeton, and billeted troops in the college. They trampled and burned the finest college library in the country.
 
· Judge Richard Stockton, another New Jersey delegate signer, had rushed back to his estate in an effort to evacuate his wife and children. The family found refuge with friends, but a Tory sympathizer betrayed them. Judge Stockton was pulled from bed in the night and brutally beaten by the arresting soldiers. Thrown into a common jail, he was deliberately starved. Congress finally arranged for Stockton's parole, but his health was ruined. The judge was released as an invalid, when he could no longer harm the British cause. He returned home to find his estate looted and did not live to see the triumph of the Revolution. His family was forced to live off charity.

· Robert Morris, merchant prince of Philadelphia, delegate and signer, met Washington's appeals and pleas for money year after year. He made and raised arms and provisions which made it possible for Washington to cross the Delaware at Trenton. In the process he lost 150 ships at sea, bleeding his own fortune and credit almost dry.

· George Clymer, Pennsylvania signer, escaped with his family from their home, but their property was completely destroyed by the British in the Germantown and Brandywine campaigns.

· Dr. Benjamin Rush, also from Pennsylvania, was forced to flee to Maryland. As a heroic surgeon with the army, Rush had several narrow escapes.

· John Martin, a Tory in his views previous to the debate, lived in a strongly loyalist area of Pennsylvania. When he came out for independence, most of his neighbors and even some of his relatives ostracized him. He was a sensitive and troubled man, and many believed this action killed him. When he died in 1777, his last words to his tormentors were: "Tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it [the signing] to have been the most glorious service that I have ever rendered to my country."

· William Ellery, Rhode Island delegate, saw his property and home burned to the ground.
 
 
· Thomas Lynch, Jr., South Carolina delegate, had his health broken from privation and exposures while serving as a company commander in the military. His doctors ordered him to seek a cure in the West Indies and on the voyage, he and his young bride were drowned at sea.

· Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., the other three South Carolina signers, were taken by the British in the siege of Charleston. They were carried as prisoners of war to St. Augustine, Florida, where they were singled out for indignities. They were exchanged at the end of the war, the British in the meantime having completely devastated their large landholdings and estates.

· Thomas Nelson, signer of Virginia, was at the front in command of the Virginia military forces. With British General Charles Cornwallis in Yorktown, fire from 70 heavy American guns began to destroy Yorktown piece by piece. Lord Cornwallis and his staff moved their headquarters into Nelson's palatial home. While American cannonballs were making a shambles of the town, the house of Governor Nelson remained untouched. Nelson turned in rage to the American gunners and asked, "Why do you spare my home?" They replied, "Sir, out of respect to you." Nelson cried, "Give me the cannon!" and fired on his magnificent home himself, smashing it to bits. But Nelson's sacrifice was not quite over. He had raised $2 million for the Revolutionary cause by pledging his own estates. When the loans came due, a newer peacetime Congress refused to honor them, and Nelson's property was forfeited. He was never reimbursed. He died, impoverished, a few years later at the age of 50.
 
 
 
Lives, Fortunes, Honor

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.

He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons' lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man's heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: "No."

The 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. "And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
 
 
My friends, I know you have a copy of the Declaration of Independence somewhere around the house - in an old history book (newer ones may well omit it), an encyclopedia, or one of those artificially aged "parchments" we all got in school years ago. I suggest that each of you take the time this month to read through the text of the Declaration, one of the most noble and beautiful political documents in human history.

There is no more profound sentence than this: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness..."

These are far more than mere poetic words. The underlying ideas that infuse every sentence of this treatise have sustained this nation for more than two centuries. They were forged in the crucible of great sacrifice. They are living words that spring from and satisfy the deepest cries for liberty in the human spirit.

"Sacred honor" isn't a phrase we use much these days, but every American life is touched by the bounty of this, the Founders' legacy. It is freedom, tested by blood, and watered with tears.

- Rush Limbaugh III
 
 
23121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survivalist issues: Hunkering down at home on: July 04, 2010, 12:47:10 PM
No excrement!

OTOH having all the food in the refrigerator go bad and have no internet access until electricity is restored could be a much bigger bummer.
23122  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Die Less Often: Interface of Gun, Knife and Emtpy Hand on: July 04, 2010, 12:42:54 PM
Which is why a fuller statement of the facts and his name are awaiting further developments wink
23123  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knives in the Middle East; jambiya daggers on: July 04, 2010, 12:41:54 PM
I'm hoping to get something more specific on when and how they are used , , ,
23124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Repeal! on: July 04, 2010, 12:40:38 PM
Repeal BO's hostile takeover of our health care!

http://heritageforamerica.org/support/donate-now-to-help-heritage-actions-fight-to-repeal-obamacare/
23125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Interesting website for border issues on: July 04, 2010, 11:04:20 AM
http://www.borderlandbeat.com/
23126  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Die Less Often: Interface of Gun, Knife and Emtpy Hand on: July 04, 2010, 10:43:26 AM
Marc, Gabe:

Your "Die Less Often" material saved 2 lives--mine and the "bad guy" in
March. He is in jail for pulling a gun, and I have been Mirandized, but not
charged with assault. He wound up being a felon with a firearm, and the
sheriff told me "good job", but still Mirandized me for my statement...<g>

Anyway--I used the DLO technique on him. I was not armed at the time--gun in
the car but not on the body, and I can't really go into detail until I know
how the court case is coming out. I made mistakes, that's for sure.

Suffice it to say? The sh*t works. I ain't no black belt, but his gun never
completely cleared leather, and nobody got shot. , , ,
Thank you, gentlemen.
23127  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 72 year old CCW hero on: July 04, 2010, 10:23:38 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soZT__WQKsM
23128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: July 04, 2010, 10:11:16 AM
I don't understand.  Why would Baraq Hussein Obama want to deport this man?  cheesy angry angry
23129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survivalist issues: Hunkering down at home on: July 04, 2010, 10:09:56 AM
We have a substantial gasoline powered generator with enough power and enough outlets to keep our refrigerator and other things going , , , and the substantial length of construction grade extensions cords necessary to make the connections possible.
23130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Split Your Sea on: July 04, 2010, 10:04:07 AM
Split Your Sea
http://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/488371/jewish/Split-Your-Sea.htm
By Yosef Y. Jacobson

"To match couples together is as difficult as the splitting of the sea,"
states the Talmud.1

What is the meaning behind these words? True, the process of finding and
maintaining a life partner may be challenging and difficult, nothing short
of a miracle. But why, of all miracles described in the Bible, does the
Talmud choose specifically the miracle of the splitting of the sea to
capture the process of marriage?

A Map of the Subconscious

What is the difference between the land and the sea? Both are vibrant and
action-filled enviroments populated by a myriad of creatures and a great
variety of minerals and vegetation. Yet the universe of dry land is exposed
and out in the open for all to see and appreciate, while the world of the
sea is hidden beneath a blanket of water.

In Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah and Chassidic spirituality), these two
physical planes reflect the conscious and unconscious dimensions of the
human psyche.2 Both parts of the self are extremely vibrant and dynamic. The
difference between them is that while our conscious self is displayed and
exhibited for ourselves and others to feel and experience, our subconscious
self remains hidden, not only from other people but even from ourselves.
Most of us know very little of what is going on in the sub-cellars of our
psyche.

If you were given a glimpse into your own "sea" and discovered the universe
of personality hidden beneath your conscious brain, what do you think you
would find? Shame, fear, guilt, pain, insecurity, an urge to destroy, to
survive, to dominate, a cry for love? Would you discover Freud's Libido,
Jung's collective unconscious, Adler's search for power and control,
Frankl's quest for meaning?

Where Freud diagnosed the libido as a craving for a parent, and Jung saw it
as a longing etched in our collective unconscious, the Kabbalah understood
it as a quest for union with G-d In Kabbalah, at the core of the human
condition is a yearning for oneness. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi
(1745-1812), founder of the Chabad school of Kabbalah, was one of the
greatest soul-experts in the history of Judaism, has written on the subject
more then any other Jewish sage. In 1796, a hundred years before Freud, he
published a book, the Tanya, in which he presented his "map of the
subconscious," based on the Talmudic and Kabbalistic tradition. Rabbi
Schnuer Zalman offers a facinating parable for the inner life of the soul:
quoteing the biblical verse, "The soul of man is a divine flame" (Proverbs
20:27), he explains that just as the flame is always swaying, dancing,
licking the air, seeking to tear free of the wick and rise heavenward, so
too the soul in man is always aspiring to leave its shell and experience
oneness with the divine.

The Secret of Intimacy

This quest for a relationship with the divine is manifested in our search
for relationships with our twin flame here below. Where Freud diagnosed the
libido as a craving for union with a parent, and Jung saw it as a longing
for the opposite gender etched in our collective unconscious, the Kabbalah
understood it as a quest for union with G-d. Our desire for intimacy is one
of the profoundest expressions of our existential craving for Truth, for
Oneness, for G-d.

As the Book of Genesis states, "G-d created Man in His image, in the image
of G-d He created him; male and female He created them." Clearly, it was in
the union and oneness of the genders that the first Adam, the first human
being, reflected the image of G-d.

This view of relationships and intimacy is expressed in the very Hebrew
names for man and woman given by Adam in Genesis. The Hebrew words for man
and woman -- Ish and Isah -- both contain the Hebrew word for fire, Eish.
They also each contain one more letter--a yud and a hei respectively--which
when combined makes up G-d's name. The significance of this is profound. Man
without woman, and woman without man, lack the fullness of G-d's name. When
they unite, the two-half images of the divine within them also unite. The
fire and passion drawing them to each other is their yearning to recreate
the full name of G-d between them.

At a Jewish wedding ceremony, this blessing is recited: Blessed are You,
G-d, King of the Universe, Who created the human being in His image... Why
is this blessing said at a wedding ceremony? Wouldn't it be more appropriate
to say such a blessing when a child is born? The answer is that it is
through the uniting of man and woman that the image of G-d is most closely
reflected.

Our desire for intimacy is one of the profoundest expressions of our
existential craving for TruthThe ramifications of this idea are important.
It means that marriage is not a suspension of one's natural individual self
for the sake of uniting with a stranger. Rather, through marriage man and
woman return to their true natural state, a single being reflecting G-d,
each in his and her own unique way. Marriage allows wife and husband to
discover their full and complete self, a self made up of masculine and
feminine energy.

Know Thyself

We may travel through life unaware of this dimension of self, seeking
oneness with the divine. Throughout our years on this planet we may behave
as though this element of self does not exist. Though its symptoms
reverberate through our consciousness -- most often in the feelings of
emptiness and lack of contentment when our spiritual self is un-satiated -- 
we are prone to dismiss it or deny it. After all, at least in the short
term, it is far easier to accept that we are nothing more than intelligent
beasts craving self-gratification than spiritual souls craving for G-d.

When we view the surface self, selfishness is easier than selflessness;
isolation more natural than relationship; solitariness more innate than love
and commitment. Only when we "split our sea," when we discover the depth of
our souls, the subtle vibrations of our subconscious, do we discover that
oneness satisfies our deepest core; that love is the most natural expression
of our most profound selves.

"To match couples together is as difficult as the splitting of the sea," the
Talmud states. The challenge in creating and maintaining a meaningful and
powerful relationship is the need to split our own seas each day, to learn
how in the depth of our spirits we yearn to love and share our lives with
another human being and with our creator.3

FOOTNOTES
1.   Talmud, Sotah 2a. The Talmud is discussing second marriages, however,
in many Jewish works, this quote is applied to all marriage (see for example
Akeidas Yitzchak Parshas Vayeishev).
2.   This notion of viewing the macrocosm as a metaphor for the microcosm is
central to all Jewish writings. "Man is a miniature universe," our sages
have declared (Midrash Tanchumah Pekudei 3), a microcosm of the entire
created existence. The human being thus includes the elements of the land as
well as the elements of the sea -- man has both a terrestrial and an aquatic
aspect to his life. In Kabbalah terminology, the sea is defined as alma
d'eiskasya, the "hidden world," while land is described as alma d'eitgalya,
the "revealed world" (Torah Or Parshas Beshalach).
3.   This essay is based on a discourse by the second Chabad-Lubavitch
Rebbe, Rabbi DovBer (1773-1827), known as the Miteler Rebbe. (Published in
Maamarei Admur Haemtzaei, Kuntrasim, Derushei Chasunah.)


   By Yosef Y. Jacobson   More articles...  |
Rabbi Yosef Y Jacobson is editor of Algemeiner.com, a website of Jewish news
and commentary in English and Yiddish. Rabbi Jacobson is also a popular and
widely-sought speaker on Chassidic teaching and the author of the tape
series "A Tale of Two Souls."
Originally posted on Algemeiner.com
Image: Detail from a painting by Sarah Kranz. Ms. Kranz has been
illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children's books)
since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her
clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of
London
23131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Perfect Storm of Ignorance on: July 04, 2010, 09:53:53 AM
A Perfect Storm of Ignorance

by Jeffrey Friedman

Jeffrey Friedman is the editor of Critical Review and of Causes of the
Financial Crisis, forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

You are familiar by now with the role of the Federal Reserve in stimulating
the housing boom; the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in encouraging
low-equity mortgages; and the role of the Community Reinvestment Act in
mandating loans to "subprime" borrowers, meaning those who were poor credit
risks. So you may think that the government caused the financial crisis. But
you don't know the half of it. And neither does the government.

A full understanding of the crisis has to explain not just the housing and
subprime bubbles, but why, when they popped, it should have had such
disastrous worldwide effects on the financial system. The problem was that
commercial banks had made a huge overinvestment in mortgage-backed bonds
sold by investment banks such as Lehman Brothers.

Commercial banks are familiar to everyone with a checking or savings
account. They accept our deposits, against which they issue commercial loans
and mortgages. In 1933, the United States created the FDIC to insure
commercial banks' depositors. The aim was to discourage bank runs by
depositors who worried that if their bank had made too many risky loans,
their accounts, too, might be at risk.

The question of whether deposit insurance was necessary is worth asking, and
I will ask it later on. But for now, the key fact is that once deposit
insurance took effect, the FDIC feared that it had created what economists
call a "moral hazard": bankers, now insulated from bank runs, might be
encouraged to make riskier loans than before. The moral-hazard theory took
hold not only in the United States but in all of the countries in which
deposit insurance was instituted. And both here and abroad, the regulators'
solution to this (real or imagined) problem was to institute bank-capital
regulations. According to an array of scholars from around the world — Viral
Acharya, Juliusz Jablecki, Wladimir Kraus, Mateusz Machaj, and Matthew
Richardson — these regulations helped turn an American housing crisis into
the world's worst recession in 70 years.

WHAT REALLY WENT WRONG

The moral-hazard theory held that since the FDIC would now pick up the
pieces if anything went wrong, bankers left to their own devices would make
clearly risky loans and investments. The regulators' solution, across the
entire developed world, was to require banks to hold a minimum capital
cushion against a commercial bank's assets (loans and investments), but the
precise level of the capital reserve, and other details, varied from country
to country.

In 1988, financial regulators from the G-10 agreed on the Basel (I) Accords.
Basel I was an attempt to standardize the world's bank-capital regulations,
and it succeeded, spreading far beyond the G-10 countries. It differentiated
among the risks presented by different types of assets. For instance, a
commercial bank did not have to devote any capital to its holdings of
government bonds, cash, or gold — the safest assets, in the regulators'
judgment. But it had to allot 4 percent capital to each mortgage that it
issued, and 8 percent to commercial loans and corporate bonds.

Each country implemented Basel I on its own schedule and with its own
quirks. The United States implemented it in 1991, with several different
capital cushions; a 10 percent cushion was required for "well-capitalized"
commercial banks, a designation that carries privileges that most banks
want. Ten years later, however, came what proved in retrospect to be the
pivotal event. The FDIC, the Fed, the Comptroller of the Currency, and the
Office of Thrift Supervision issued an amendment to Basel I, the Recourse
Rule, that extended the accord's risk differentiations to asset-backed
securities (ABS): bonds backed by credit card debt, or car loans — or
mortgages — required a mere 2 percent capital cushion, as long as these
bonds were rated AA or AAA or were issued by a government-sponsored
enterprise (GSE), such as Fannie or Freddie. Thus, where a well-capitalized
commercial bank needed to devote $10 of capital to $100 worth of commercial
loans or corporate bonds, or $5 to $100 worth of mortgages, it needed to
spend only $2 of capital on a mortgage-backed security (MBS) worth $100. A
bank interested in reducing its capital cushion — also known as "leveraging
up" — would gain a 60 percent benefit from trading its mortgages for MBSs
and an 80 percent benefit for trading its commercial loans and corporate
securities for MBSs.

Astute readers will smell a connection between the Recourse Rule and the
financial crisis. By 2008 approximately 81 percent of all the rated MBSs
held by American commercial banks were rated AAA, and 93 percent of all the
MBSs that the banks held were either triple-A rated or were issued by a GSE,
thus complying with the Recourse Rule. (Figures for the proportion of
double-A bonds are not yet available.) According to the scholars I mentioned
earlier, the lesson is clear: the commercial banks loaded up on MBSs because
of the extremely favorable treatment that they received under the Recourse
Rule, as long as they were issued by a GSE or were rated AA or AAA.

When subprime mortgages began to default in the summer of 2007, however,
those high ratings were cast into doubt. A year later, the doubts turned
into a panic. Federally mandated mark-to-market accounting — the requirement
that assets be valued at the price for which they could be sold right now —
translated temporary market sentiment into actual numbers on a bank's
balance sheet, so when the market for MBSs dried up, Lehman Brothers went
bankrupt — on paper. Mark-to-market accounting applied to commercial banks
too. And it was the commercial banks' worry about their own and their
counterparties' solvency, due to their MBS holdings, that caused the lending
freeze and, thus, the Great Recession.

What about the rest of the world? The Recourse Rule did not apply to
countries other than the United States, but Basel I included provisions for
even more profitable forms of "capital arbitrage" through off-balance-sheet
entities such as structured investment vehicles, which were heavily used in
Europe. Then, in 2006, Basel II began to be implemented outside the United
States. It took the Recourse Rule's approach, encouraging foreign banks to
stock up on GSE-issued or highly rated MBSs.

THE PERFECT STORM?

Given the large number of contributory factors — the Fed's low interest
rates, the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie and Freddie's actions, Basel
I, the Recourse Rule, and Basel II — it has been said that the financial
crisis was a perfect storm of regulatory error. But the factors I have just
named do not even begin to complete the list. First, Peter Wallison has
noted the prevalence of "no-recourse" laws in many states, which relieved
mortgagors of financial liability if they simply walked away from a house on
which they defaulted. This reassured people in financial straits that they
could take on a possibly unaffordable mortgage with virtually no risk.
Second, Richard Rahn has pointed out that the tax code discourages
partnerships in banking (and other industries). Partnerships encourage
prudence because each partner has a lot at stake if the firm goes under.
Rahn's point has wider implications, for scholars such as Amar Bhidé and
Jonathan Macey have underscored aspects of tax and securities law that
encourage publicly held corporations such as commercial banks — as opposed
to partnerships or other privately held companies — to encourage their
employees to generate the short-term profits adored by equities investors.
One way to generate short-term profits is to buy into an asset bubble.
Third, the Basel Accords treat monies set aside against unexpected loan
losses as part of banks' "Tier 2" capital, which is capped in relation to
"Tier 1" capital — equity capital raised by selling shares of stock. But
Bert Ely has shown in the Cato Journal that the tax code makes equity
capital unnecessarily expensive. Thus banks are doubly discouraged from
maintaining the capital cushion that the Basel Accords are trying to make
them maintain. This litany is not exhaustive. It is meant

only to convey the welter of regulations that have grown up across different
parts of the economy in such immense profusion that nobody can possibly
predict how they will interact with each other. We are, all of us, ignorant
of the vast bulk of what the government is doing for us, and what those
actions might be doing to us. That is the best explanation for how this
perfect regulatory storm happened, and for why it might well happen again.

By steering banks' leverage into mortgage-backed securities, Basel I, the
Recourse Rule, and Basel II encouraged banks to overinvest in housing at a
time when an unprecedented nationwide housing bubble was getting underway,
due in part to the Recourse Rule itself — which took effect on January 1,
2002: not coincidentally, just at the start of the housing boom. The Rule
created a huge artificial demand for mortgage-backed bonds, each of which
required thousands of mortgages as collateral. Commercial banks duly met
this demand by lowering their lending standards. When many of the same banks
traded their mortgages for mortgage-backed bonds to gain "capital relief,"
they thought they were offloading the riskiest mortgages by buying only
triple-A-rated slices of the resulting mortgage pools. The bankers appear to
have been ignorant of yet another obscure regulation: a 1975 amendment to
the SEC's Net Capital Rule, which turned the three existing rating
companies — S&P, Moody's, and Fitch — into a legally protected oligopoly.
The bankers' ignorance is suggested by e-mails unearthed during the recent
trial of Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, who ran the two Bear Stearns hedge
funds that invested heavily in highly rated subprime mortgage-backed bonds.
The e-mails show that Tannin was a true believer in the soundness of those
ratings; he and his partner were exonerated by the jury on the grounds that
the two men were as surprised by the catastrophe as everyone else was. Like
everyone else, they trusted S&P, Moody's, and Fitch. But as we would expect
of corporations shielded from market competition, these three "rating
agencies" had gotten sloppy. Moody's did not update its model of the
residential mortgage market after 2002, when the boom was barely underway.
And Moody's model, like those of its "competitors," determined how large
they could make the AA and AAA slices of mortgage-backed securities.

THE REGULATORS' IGNORANCE OF THE REGULATIONS

The regulators seem to have been as ignorant of the implications of the
relevant regulations as the bankers were. The SEC trusted the three rating
agencies to continue their reliable performance even after its own 1975
ruling protected them from the market competition that had made their
ratings reliable. Nearly everyone, from Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke on
down, seemed to be ignorant of the various regulations that were pumping up
house prices and pushing down lending standards. And the FDIC, the Fed, the
Comptroller of the Currency, and the Office of Thrift Supervision, in
promulgating one of those regulations, trusted the three rating companies
when they decided that these companies' AA and AAA ratings would be the
basis of the immense capital relief that the Recourse Rule conferred on
investment-bank-issued mortgage-backed securities. Did the four regulatory
bodies that issued the Recourse Rule know that the rating agencies on which
they were placing such heavy reliance were an SEC-created oligopoly, with
all that this implies? If you read the Recourse Rule, you will find that the
answer is no. Like the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which later
studied whether to extend this American innovation to the rest of the world
in the form of Basel II (which it did, in 2006), the Recourse Rule wrongly
says that the rating agencies are subject to "market discipline."

Those who play the blame game can find plenty of targets here: the bankers
and the regulators were equally clueless. But should anyone be blamed for
not recognizing the implications of regulations that they don't even know
exist?

Omniscience cannot be expected of human beings. One really would have had to
be a god to master the millions of pages in the Federal Register — not to
mention the pages of the Register's state, local, and now international
counterparts — so one could pick out the specific group of regulations,
issued in different fields over the course of decades, that would end up
conspiring to create the greatest banking crisis since the Great Depression.
This storm may have been perfect, therefore, but it may not prove to be
rare. New regulations are bound to interact unexpectedly with old ones if
the regulators, being human, are ignorant of the old ones and of their
effects.

This is already happening. The SEC's response to the crisis has not been to
repeal its 1975 regulation, but to promise closer regulation of the rating
agencies. And instead of repealing Basel I or Basel II, the BIS is busily
working on Basel III, which will even more finely tune capital requirements
and, of course, increase capital cushions. Yet despite the barriers to
equity capital and loan-loss reserves created by the conjunction of the IRS
and the Basel Accords, the aggregate capital cushion of all American banks
at the start of 2008 stood at 13 percent — one-third higher than the
American minimum, which in turn was one-fifth higher than the Basel minimum.
Contrary to the regulators' assumption that bankers need regulators to
protect them from their own recklessness, the financial crisis was not
caused by too much bank leverage but by the form it took: mortgage-backed
securities. And that was the direct result of the fine tuning done by the
Recourse Rule and Basel II.

HOW DID WE GET INTO THIS MESS?

The financial crisis was a convulsion in the corpulent body of social
democracy. "Social democracy" is the modern mandate that government solve
social problems as they arise. Its body is the mass of laws that grow up
over time — seemingly in inverse proportion to the ability of its brain to
comprehend the causes of the underlying problems.

When voters demand "action," and when legislators and regulators provide it,
they are all naturally proceeding according to some theory of the cause of
the problem they are trying to solve. If their theories are mistaken, the
regulations may produce unintended consequences that, later on, in
principle, could be recognized as mistakes and rectified. In practice,
however, regulations are rarely repealed. Whatever made a mistaken
regulation seem sensible to begin with will probably blind people to its
unintended effects later on. Thus future regulators will tend to assume that
the problem with which they are grappling is a new "excess of capitalism,"
not an unintended consequence of an old mistake in the regulation of
capitalism.

Take bank-capital regulations. The theory was (and remains) that without
them, bankers protected by deposit insurance would make wild, speculative
investments. So deposit insurance begat bank-capital regulations. Initially
these were blunderbuss rules that required banks to spend the same levels of
capital on all their investments and loans, regardless of risk. In 1988 the
Basel Accords took a more discriminating approach, distinguishing among
different categories of asset according to their riskiness — riskiness as
perceived by the regulators. The American regulators decided in 2001 that
mortgage-backed bonds were among the least risky assets, so they required
much lower levels of capital for these securities than for every alternative
investment but Treasury's. And in 2006, Basel II applied that erroneous
judgment to the capital regulations governing most of the rest of the
world's banks. The whole sequence leading to the financial crisis began, in
1933, with deposit insurance. But was deposit insurance really necessary?

The theory behind deposit insurance was (and remains) that banking is
inherently prone to bank runs, which had been common in 19th-century America
and had swept the country at the start of the Depression.

But that theory is wrong, according to such economic historians as Kevin
Dowd, George Selgin, and Kurt Schuler, who argue that bank panics were
almost uniquely American events (there were none in Canada during the
Depression — and Canada didn't have deposit insurance until 1967). According
to these scholars, bank runs were caused by 19th-century regulations that
impeded branch banking and bank "clearinghouses." Thus, deposit insurance,
hence capital minima, hence the Basel rules, might all have been a mistake
founded on the New Deal legislators' and regulators' ignorance of the fact
that panics like the ones that had just gripped America were the unintended
effects of previous regulations.

What I am calling social democracy is, in its form, very different from
socialism. Under social democracy, laws and regulations are issued
piecemeal, as flexible responses to the side effects of progress — social
and economic problems — as they arise, one by one. (Thus the official name:
progressivism.) The case-by-case approach is supposed to be the height of
pragmatism. But in substance, there is a striking similarity between social
democracy and the most utopian socialism. Whether through piecemeal
regulation or central planning, both systems share the conceit that modern
societies are so legible that the causes of their problems yield easily to
inspection. Social democracy rests on the premise that when something goes
wrong, somebody — whether the voter, the legislator, or the specialist
regulator — will know what to do about it. This is less ambitious than the
premise that central planners will know what to do about everything all at
once, but it is no different in principle.

This premise would be questionable enough even if we started with a blank
legal slate. But we don't. And there is no conceivable way that we, the
people — or our agents in government — can know how to solve the problems of
modern societies when our efforts have, in fact, been preceded by
generations of previous efforts that have littered the ground with a tangle
of rules so thick that we can't possibly know what they all say, let alone
how they might interact to create another perfect storm.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2010 edition of
Cato Policy Report.

http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/v32n1/cpr32n1-1.html
23132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Afg in the 1950s on: July 04, 2010, 08:11:50 AM
Some quite remarkable photos of Afg before its modern troubles began.

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/05/27/once_upon_a_time_in_afghanistan
23133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: July 03, 2010, 09:13:37 PM
Tangent:

Not disagreeing at all with the essence of this piece-- govt regs here are absurd and are destroying jobs.  That said, the LED market is going to be really big-- not only because of economic regs, but more because of the "creative destruction" of the free market. 

CREE will be the leader in this market.  AIXG, recently with a cup and a handle pattern that broke wrong, still bears watching.  Disclaimer: Most of my CREE was bought at 22 but I am buying more at 60 and more yet at 57 should it go there.

End of tangent.
23134  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Knives in the Middle East; jambiya daggers on: July 03, 2010, 04:02:00 PM
Woof All:

Anyone have anything to offer?  If you do not wish to post here, please PM me.

TAC!
CD
23135  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Criminal Justice system on: July 03, 2010, 02:03:04 PM
Exactly so.

BTW, until your comment I had never put the 2 and 2 together to realize that the 1936 date for the criminalization of pot roughly coincided with the end of Prohibition.  Anyone have the exact date for the end of Prohibition?
23136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Masses yearning on: July 03, 2010, 11:13:50 AM
http://www.investors.com/EditorialCartoons/Cartoon.aspx?id=539231
23137  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Criminal Justice system on: July 03, 2010, 09:39:53 AM
Here in CA there is a good chance that an initiative legalizing pot will pass.
23138  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / El Paso city hall hit by 7 stray shots, and on: July 02, 2010, 03:54:10 PM
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/APStories/stories/D9GLQI9G1.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/latin_america/10485228.stm
23139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Resources and Helpful Links on: July 02, 2010, 03:40:06 PM
Good to see you here Mick C!
23140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Jefferson' on: July 02, 2010, 09:48:33 AM
The tenderest words in American political history were cut from the document they were to have graced.

It was July 1, 2 ,3 and 4, 1776, in the State House in Philadelphia. America was being born. The Continental Congress was reviewing and editing the language of the proposed Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson, its primary author, was suffering the death of a thousand cuts.

The tensions over slavery had been wrenching, terrible, and were resolved by brute calculation: to damn or outlaw it now would break fragile consensus, halt all momentum, and stop the creation of the United States. References to the slave trade were omitted, but the founders were not stupid men, and surely they knew their young nation would have its date with destiny; surely they heard in their silence the guns of Fort Sumter.

Still, in the end, the Congress would not produce only an act of the most enormous human and political significance, the creation of America, it would provide history with one of the few instances in which a work of true literary genius was produced, in essence, by committee. (The writing of the King James Bible is another.)

The beginning of the Declaration had a calm stateliness that signaled, subtly, that something huge is happening:

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separate."

This gave a tone of moral modesty to an act, revolution, that is not a modest one. And it was an interesting modesty, expressing respect for the opinion of the world while assuming the whole world was watching. In time it would be. But that phrase, "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind" is still a marker, a reminder: We began with respect. America always gets in trouble when we forget that.

The second paragraph will, literally, live forever in the history of man. It still catches the throat:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

What followed was a list of grievances that made the case for separation from the mother country, and this part was fiery. Jefferson was a cold man who wrote with great feeling. He trained his eyes on the depredations of King George III: "He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns. . . . He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compete the work of death, desolation and tyranny . . ."

Members of the Congress read and reread, and the cutting commenced. Sometimes they cooled Jefferson down. He wrote that the king "suffered the administration of justice totally to cease in some of these states." They made it simpler: "He has obstructed the Administration of Justice."

"For Thomas Jefferson it became a painful ordeal, as change after change was called for and approximately a quarter of what he had written was cut entirely." I quote from the historian David McCullough's "John Adams," as I did last year at this time, because everything's there.

Jefferson looked on in silence. Mr. McCullough notes that there is no record that he uttered a word in protest or in defense of what he'd written. Benjamin Franklin, sitting nearby, comforted him: Edits often reduce things to their essence, don't fret. It was similar to the wisdom Scott Fitzgerald shared with the promising young novelist Thomas Wolfe 150 years later: Writers bleed over every cut, but at the end they don't miss what was removed, don't worry.

"Of more than eighty changes in Jefferson's draft during the time Congress deliberated, most were minor and served to improve it," writes Mr. McCullough. But one cut near the end was substantial, and its removal wounded Jefferson, who was right to be wounded, for some of those words should have stayed.

More Peggy Noonan
Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns

click here to order her new book, Patriotic Grace
.Jefferson had, in his bill of particulars against the king, taken a moment to incriminate the English people themselves—"our British brethren"—for allowing their king and Parliament to send over to America not only "soldiers of our own blood" but "foreign Mercenaries to invade and destroy us." This, he said, was at the heart of the tragedy of separation. "These facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, and manly spirit bids us renounce forever" our old friends and brothers. "We must endeavor to forget our former love for them."

Well. Talk of love was a little much for the delegates. Love was not on their mind. The entire section was removed.

And so were the words that came next. But they should not have been, for they are the tenderest words.

Poignantly, with a plaintive sound, Jefferson addresses and gives voice to the human pain of parting: "We might have been a free and great people together."

What loss there is in those words, what humanity, and what realism, too.

"To write is to think, and to write well is to think well," David McCullough once said in conversation. Jefferson was thinking of the abrupt end of old ties, of self-defining ties, and, I suspect, that the pain of this had to be acknowledged. It is one thing to declare the case for freedom, and to make a fiery denunciation of abusive, autocratic and high-handed governance. But it is another thing, and an equally important one, to acknowledge the human implications of the break. These were our friends, our old relations; we were leaving them, ending the particular facts of our long relationship forever. We would feel it. Seventeen seventy-six was the beginning of a dream. But it was the end of one too. "We might have been a free and great people together."

It hurt Thomas Jefferson to see these words removed from his great document. And we know something about how he viewed his life, his own essence and meaning, from the words he directed that would, a half-century after 1776, be cut onto his tombstone. The first word after his name is "Author."

America and Britain did become great and free peoples together, and apart, bound by a special relationship our political leaders don't often speak of and should never let fade. You can't have enough old friends. There was the strange war of 1812, declared by America and waged here by England, which reinvaded, and burned our White House and Capitol. That was rude of them. But they got their heads handed to them in New Orleans and left, never to return as an army.

Even 1812 gave us something beautiful and tender. There was a bombardment at Fort McHenry. A young lawyer and writer was watching, Francis Scott Key. He knew his country was imperiled. He watched the long night in hopes the fort had not fallen. And he saw it—the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

And so to all writers (would-be, occasional and professional) and all editors too, down through our history: Happy 234th Independence Day. And to our British cousins: Nice growing old with you.
23141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's tax trap on: July 02, 2010, 09:44:41 AM
"'Next year when I start presenting some very difficult choices to the country, I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits step up. Because I'm calling their bluff."

That was President Barack Obama, the heretofore unknown deficit hawk, all but announcing the other day the tax trap that he's been laying for Republicans. From what we hear about intra-GOP debates, more than a few will be happy to walk right into it.

You don't need a Mensa IQ to figure this one out. Mr. Obama's plan has been to increase spending to new, and what he hopes will be permanent, heights. Then as the public and financial markets begin to fret about deficits and debt, he'll claim that the debt is "unsustainable" and that the only "responsible" policy is to raise taxes.

White House officials even talk privately about the galvanizing political benefit of a bond market crisis, which would force panicked Members of Congress to accept a big new value-added tax. The President's two looming tax reports—one from his deficit commission and the other from Paul Volcker's economic advisory group—are intended to propose a VAT and other tax options. Whatever their initial reception, the proposals will be there to be pulled from the shelf when the political moment is right.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 .Voila, Mr. Obama will have established a new spend-and-tax policy architecture that has the feds taking from 25% to 30% of GDP, up from the roughly 21% modern average.

***
This strategy explains why Mr. Obama is now starting to fret in public about deficits and debt. This week he even said reducing the debt will be "our project." Funny how debt seemed a lower priority when he was urging Congress to pass $862 billion in stimulus and $1 trillion in new health-care subsidies.

The Congressional Budget Office is contributing to this political drama by declaring this week that the "federal budget is on an unsustainable path." Of course, but why? The biggest reason is that Medicare and Medicaid keep rising at two to three times the rate of everything else in the economy and, as CBO explains, will eventually take up every dollar of tax revenues raised, leaving no money for anything else, including national defense.

"Slowing the growth rate of outlays for Medicare and Medicaid," advises CBO, "is the central long term challenge for federal fiscal policy." This is the same CBO that blessed ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion to 16 million more recipients.

What CBO's latest apocalyptic report doesn't stress is what we'd call the more important deficit in its forecast: the growth deficit. CBO predicts an annual rate of GDP growth of 2.2%. Yet since 1959 the U.S. economy has grown at an average rate of 3%, and during the 1980s and 1990s it was closer to 3.5%. The compounding effect of restoring this faster pace of growth would mean far more net national wealth and would certainly make debt repayment easier.

Even Mr. Obama's current spending level of 25% of GDP would be more manageable if the slow economic recovery weren't keeping tax revenue at unusual lows. In 2007, the economy threw off revenue of 18.5% of GDP. That fell to 14.8% in 2009 and may not be too much higher this year. The point is that there is no hope of balancing the federal budget without a return to higher levels of economic growth.

This is where Republicans need to maneuver around Mr. Obama's tax trap. He and his White House economists believe that taxes have little effect on growth so they can get revenues to 20% or 25% of GDP simply by raising tax rates or imposing a VAT. But if they're wrong about the impact of those taxes on a still-fragile economy recovery, they could keep the economy on a subpar growth path for years to come. We think the last thing the U.S. economy needs at the moment—and the worst policy for the deficit—is the big tax increase that will hit on January 1 with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

Yet we hear that even many Republicans are privately insisting that any extension of those Bush tax cuts must be "paid for" with other tax increases. Under Congress's perverse budget rules, extending those tax cuts will "cost" the Treasury revenue, even though extending those tax rates would only prevent a tax increase.

And because Congress still uses static revenue scoring—meaning no change in economic behavior from tax changes—the Joint Tax Committee thinks it will raise nearly $1 trillion over 10 years from the higher tax rates on incomes, dividends and capital gains. That's highly improbable. After those tax rates were cut in 2003, total federal tax revenue increased by 44%, or $743 billion, from 2003-2007.

In other words, Democrats have rigged the rules so that merely stopping a tax increase will be scored to increase the deficit. These are the same Democrats who haven't "paid for" trillions of spending in the last four years, but watch them soon denounce Republicans as fiscally irresponsible merely for trying to stop a tax increase. Orwell would love modern Washington.

If Republicans go along with this perverse pay-as-you-go logic, they will play into Mr. Obama's hands. He'll gladly offer to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to "pay for" extending the lower Bush rates on the middle class. Never mind that the tax increases on capital gains, dividends and income tax rates will do the most economic harm.

***
Republicans need to break out of their rhetorical preoccupation with debt and deficits, focusing their political aim instead on spending and above all on reviving economic growth. They should hold the line against all tax increases and begin to consider a menu of tax cuts to make the U.S. more competitive, especially if the economy continues to underperform.

Mr. Obama's strategy of spending our way to prosperity clearly hasn't worked, as the voters are coming to understand. But if the GOP policy response is merely to bemoan deficits, they will soon find themselves back at their historic stand as tax collectors for the welfare state. To avoid Mr. Obama's tax trap, Republicans also need a growth agenda.
23142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A turning point? on: July 02, 2010, 09:17:10 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wj8pQ0fmzjo&feature=player_embedded
23143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Deep Cuban Drilling on: July 02, 2010, 08:56:22 AM
Second post of the morning:

Florida has long fought to prevent oil drilling anywhere near its white sandy beaches. But as the state continues to deal with oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill washing up on its shores, it faces a new threat: deepwater drilling in nearby Cuban waters.

Maria Ritter, a spokeswoman for Spanish oil company Repsol YPF SA, said it plans to drill off Cuba, about 60 miles south of Key West, Fla., early next year. If successful, this would likely kick off a spate of exploration. Only one deepwater well has been drilled in Cuban waters, by Repsol in 2004. The effort found oil but not enough to justify commercial development.

Since then, the U.S. Geological Survey has said there could be a substantial amount of untapped oil off the Cuban coast, whetting the appetite of several global oil companies that have signed exploration leases.

U.S. companies won't participate because of a longstanding trade embargo against Cuba. Repsol plans to use a floating drilling rig being refurbished in a Chinese shipyard, similar to the Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP PLC that caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in April. Almost all parts and components in the rig to be used by Repsol are from non-U.S. companies.

The Obama administration has sought a six-month ban on deepwater drilling in U.S. waters to reassess risks and establish new safety procedures if necessary. But any new rules wouldn't reach Repsol's project in Cuban waters.

A spill there, even one significantly smaller than the continuing BP spill, could turn into an economic and environmental nightmare for Florida. Some oceanographers say the oil would likely be carried up Florida's Atlantic Coast, the heart of its tourism industry.

"We have one of the world's largest coral reefs and a protected marine sanctuary there," said Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.) "We should not be drilling there."

Cuba's state oil firm, Union Cuba Petroleo, could not be reached for comment. Ms. Ritter, the Repsol spokeswoman, declined to comment on the project beyond confirming plans for the rig. Repsol has operations in many parts of the world, including the U.S. portion of the Gulf of Mexico.

Drilling off Florida in U.S. waters has been banned by federal moratorium for decades. To protect the state's tourism-based economy, Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent, is floating a proposal for an amendment to the Florida constitution to ban offshore drilling there permanently.

It's not clear what U.S. or Florida officials could do to stop oil exploration in Cuba. The U.S. controls coastal waters up to 200 miles from its shores, but under a 1977 treaty it agreed to divide the Straits of Florida equally with Cuba. That means Repsol can drill a deepwater well about the same distance from Key West, Fla., as the Deepwater Horizon was from the Louisiana coast.

The rig headed for Cuban waters has five rams in its blowout preventer, each designed to help shut off an out-of-control well. The Deepwater Horizon's blowout preventer had only four.

In the event of a spill in Cuban waters, many ships, equipment and personnel from the U.S. Gulf Coast could be prevented from helping because of the embargo. But that may be changing. A Treasury Department spokeswoman said some U.S. firms involved in oil cleanup have been issued licenses to travel to Cuba in case oil from the continuing spill hits beaches there.

Cuba's efforts to promote offshore oil exploration appear close to paying off. Cuba imports about 110,000 barrels of oil daily and produces an additional 52,000 barrels, mostly from onshore and shallow-water fields, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Ms. Ritter said Madrid-based Repsol plans to drill a new well near the 2004 well as soon as the rig—called the Scarabeo 9—is ready. Construction of Scarabeo 9 is expected to be complete at the end of 2010 or early 2011, said a spokesman for Enis SpA, an Italian company that controls the rig. Repsol's partners on the well include Norway's Statoil ASA and the overseas arm of India's state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corp. Eight other foreign oil companies hold offshore leases in Cuban waters.
23144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: WTF? on: July 02, 2010, 08:53:31 AM
By PAUL H. RUBIN
Destin, Fla.

As the oil spill continues and the cleanup lags, we must begin to ask difficult and uncomfortable questions. There does not seem to be much that anyone can do to stop the spill except dig a relief well, not due until August. But the cleanup is a different story. The press and Internet are full of straightforward suggestions for easy ways of improving the cleanup, but the federal government is resisting these remedies.

First, the Environmental Protection Agency can relax restrictions on the amount of oil in discharged water, currently limited to 15 parts per million. In normal times, this rule sensibly controls the amount of pollution that can be added to relatively clean ocean water. But this is not a normal time.

Various skimmers and tankers (some of them very large) are available that could eliminate most of the oil from seawater, discharging the mostly clean water while storing the oil onboard. While this would clean vast amounts of water efficiently, the EPA is unwilling to grant a temporary waiver of its regulations.

Next, the Obama administration can waive the Jones Act, which restricts foreign ships from operating in U.S. coastal waters. Many foreign countries (such as the Netherlands and Belgium) have ships and technologies that would greatly advance the cleanup. So far, the U.S. has refused to waive the restrictions of this law and allow these ships to participate in the effort.

The combination of these two regulations is delaying and may even prevent the world's largest skimmer, the Taiwanese owned "A Whale," from deploying. This 10-story high ship can remove almost as much oil in a day as has been removed in total—roughly 500,000 barrels of oily water per day. The tanker is steaming towards the Gulf, hoping it will receive Coast Guard and EPA approval before it arrives.

In addition, the federal government can free American-based skimmers. Of the 2,000 skimmers in the U.S. (not subject to the Jones Act or other restrictions), only 400 have been sent to the Gulf. Federal barriers have kept the others on stations elsewhere in case of other oil spills, despite the magnitude of the current crisis. The Coast Guard and the EPA issued a joint temporary rule suspending the regulation on June 29—more than 70 days after the spill.

The Obama administration can also permit more state and local initiatives. The media endlessly report stories of county and state officials applying federal permits to perform various actions, such as building sand berms around the Louisiana coast. In some cases, they were forbidden from acting. In others there have been extensive delays in obtaining permission.

As the government fails to implement such simple and straightforward remedies, one must ask why.

More
As Storm Stalls Cleanup, House Passes Victims' Bill
Florida Sees New Threat to Its Beaches
.One possibility is sheer incompetence. Many critics of the president are fond of pointing out that he had no administrative or executive experience before taking office. But the government is full of competent people, and the military and Coast Guard can accomplish an assigned mission. In any case, several remedies require nothing more than getting out of the way.

Another possibility is that the administration places a higher priority on interests other than the fate of the Gulf, such as placating organized labor, which vigorously defends the Jones Act.

Finally there is the most pessimistic explanation—that the oil spill may be viewed as an opportunity, the way White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said back in February 2009, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Many administration supporters are opposed to offshore oil drilling and are already employing the spill as a tool for achieving other goals. The websites of the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, for example, all feature the oil spill as an argument for forbidding any further offshore drilling or for any use of fossil fuels at all. None mention the Jones Act.

To these organizations and perhaps to some in the administration, the oil spill may be a strategic justification in a larger battle. President Obama has already tried to severely limit drilling in the Gulf, using his Oval Office address on June 16 to demand that we "embrace a clean energy future." In the meantime, how about a cleaner Gulf?

Mr. Rubin, a professor of economics at Emory University, held several senior positions in the federal government in the 1980s. Since 1991 he has spent his summers on the Gulf.
23145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Foes adopt new methods on: July 02, 2010, 08:48:19 AM


By CHARLES LEVINSON
JERUSALEM—Hamas and Hezbollah, groups that have long battled Israel with violent tactics, have begun to embrace civil disobedience, protest marches, lawsuits and boycotts—tactics they once dismissed.

For decades, Palestinian statehood aspirations seemed to lurch between negotiations and armed resistance against Israel. But a small cadre of Palestinian activists has long argued that nonviolence, in the tradition of the American civil rights movement, would be far more effective.

Officials from Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, point to the recent Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, in which Israeli troops killed nine activists, as evidence there is more to gain by getting Israel to draw international condemnation through its own use of force, rather than by attacking the country.

"When we use violence, we help Israel win international support," said Aziz Dweik, a leading Hamas lawmaker in the West Bank. "The Gaza flotilla has done more for Gaza than 10,000 rockets."

Hamas and Hezbollah, the Islamist movement in Lebanon that has been fighting Israel since the early 1980s, haven't renounced violence and both groups continue to amass arms. Hamas still abides by a charter that calls for Israel's destruction; Palestinian youths still hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers across the West Bank separation barrier. And the flotilla incident didn't fall into conventional standards of peaceful protest: While most activists passively resisted Israeli soldiers, some on the boat where protesters were killed attacked commandos as they boarded, according to video footage released by Israel and soldiers' accounts.

The incident triggered international condemnation and plunged Israel into one of its worst diplomatic crises in years. In response, Israel said it would take some steps to ease its blockade on the Gaza Strip.

After the incident, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on supporters to participate in the next flotilla bound for Gaza. Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of the Hezbollah politburo in Beirut, said it was the first time Mr. Nasrallah had forcefully and publicly embraced such tactics against Israel.

"We saw that this kind of resistance has driven the Israelis into a big plight," he said. Organizers in Lebanon say they have two ships ready to sail, but no departure date has been set.

A senior Israeli foreign ministry official said Israel recognizes "changes in the tactical thinking of Hamas and other resistance movements." The official said the groups are no less committed to Israel's destruction, but have simply concluded they are more likely to defeat Israel by encouraging its international isolation instead of through military force.

"People who are provoking violence are using peaceful protest as a cover," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.

The Palestinian protest movement picked up steam in the past year, spearheaded by activists in the West Bank and a coalition of pro-Palestinian international human-rights groups.

The absence of peace talks for much of the past two years has pushed the Palestinian Authority leadership to embrace the movement as well. Dominated by members of Hamas's more moderate rival Fatah, they long advocated a negotiated settlement with Israel and dismissed popular protest campaigns.

But in January, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad launched a campaign to boycott products produced in Israeli settlements and to plant trees in areas declared off limits by Israel. In April, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas outlawed settlement products in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas.

Hamas's turnaround has been more striking, said Mustapha Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian advocate for nonviolent resistance. "When we used to call for protests, and marches, and boycotts and anything called nonviolence, Hamas used these sexist insults against us. They described it as women's struggle," Mr. Barghouti said. That changed in 2008, he said, after the first aid ship successfully ran the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

"Hamas has started to appreciate just how effective this can be," Mr. Barghouti said.

Hamas has started organizing its own peaceful marches into the Israeli-controlled buffer zone along the Gaza border and supported lawsuits against Israeli officials in European courts. Hamas says it has ramped up support for a committee dedicated to sponsoring similar protests in Gaza.

Mr. Dweik, the Hamas lawmaker, recently began turning up at weekly protests against Israel's West Bank barrier.

Salah Bardawil, a Hamas lawmaker in Gaza City, says Hamas has come to appreciate the importance of international support for its legitimacy as a representative of the Palestinian people and its fight against Israeli occupation, and has adapted its tactics. Hamas hasn't claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in years and now denounces the tactic as counterproductive. Since an Israeli military incursion into the territory in December 2008-January 2009, it has also halted rocket attacks into Israel.

"Hamas used to believe [international support] was just empty words," said Mr. Bardawil. "Today it is very interested in international delegations … and in bringing Israeli officials to justice through legal proceedings."

Write to Charles Levinson at charles.levinson@wsj.com
23146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq recommends this article on: July 02, 2010, 08:42:32 AM

"Risk-tolerant China investing heavily in Iraq as U.S. companies hold back"
 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/01/AR2010070103406.html
23147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Other Story on: July 02, 2010, 07:39:08 AM
The other story about same-sex parenting
Research showing the risks of lesbian and gay parenting is ignored in the race to make a political case.
http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the_other_story_about_same-sex_parenting/


There is an inherent risk that anyone who has anything to say about gay male or lesbian parenting, no matter how cautious, will be misunderstood at best and vilified at worst. Nevertheless, the mission of a university professor includes seeking new ways to look at old issues, to resist all forms of intimidation, and to ensure that multiple sides of controversial issues are considered. Since there are more voices promoting the virtues of parenting by people defining themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT), I will present here an alternative, possibly minority, view that focuses on some of the possible risks associated with gay and lesbian parenting.

This is a challenging area. As one hint about the difficulties, consider this: when a group of authors published three articles (two even in the same journal) on data from the same set of lesbian parents about 1980, the two articles reporting favorable outcomes were cited 65 times compared to only two citations for the one article reporting unfavorable outcomes. In other cases, the worse the methodological quality of the research, the more likely it is to have been cited in major reviews of the literature.

The methodological quality of much of the literature is poor. Many studies have not controlled for parental educational and family per-capita income differences between lesbian and heterosexual families. Regardless, between February and June of 2010 no less than three articles have concluded that two lesbian mothers may, on average, tend to be better parents than heterosexual parents (Biblarz & Stacey, 2010; Gartrell & Bos, 2010; Biblarz & Savci, 2010) -- quite a controversial position. However, serious concerns remain.

Sexual Fidelity

Research is increasingly clear that many lesbigay partners enter into their versions of a committed relationship with expectations that cheating is acceptable. Some research suggests that gay men have more stable relationships only if cheating is permitted. Michael Bettinger (2006) reported: “An important difference between gay men and heterosexuals is that the majority of gay men in committed relationships are not monogamous”.

Dr. Esther Rothblum has reported that whereas women (lesbian or heterosexual) seldom permit sexual affairs, “40 percent of gay men in civil unions have an agreement that non-monogamy is permitted and over half have had sex outside their current relationship”. If gay marriage means accepting sexual non-monogamy within marriage, we must accept an inherent change in the intrinsic meaning of marriage and ultimately the meaning of responsible parenting.

Relationship Stability and Children

Another issue concerns the relationship between having children and staying together for the sake of the children. Though gay and lesbian couples in some studies appear to have higher quality, more satisfying relationships, they also appear less likely to remain stable when children are involved. Recent studies by Patterson and by Nanette Gartrell in the United States, as well as Scandinavian research, confirm this outcome, even when the GLBT subjects sampled had much higher levels of education than the heterosexual subjects.

Recently, Gartrell and Bos reported that over 56 per cent of lesbian parents had separated by the time their child was 17 years old. Based on the mothers’ reports of the children’s psychological adjustment, the adverse impact of that instability was not quite statistically significant. Comparable studies of heterosexual parents have found rates of separation ranging from 3 per cent to less than 30 percent over similar timeframes.

As yet, we have no published data on the stability of legally married LGBT parents. However, recent evidence indicates that very few GLBT individuals come together with the intention of having children and few, in fact, ever have children; if they do have a child, few spend the entire year with that child.

Effects on Children

Richard Redding, writing in a 2008 issue of the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, concluded that gay parents were more likely to have gay children. My meta-analyses of 26 studies and ten books on GLBT parenting concur with his findings (Schumm, in press). Furthermore, my research indicates that many literature reviews have systematically excluded information about negative child outcomes associated with gay parenting -- that is, greater levels of insecure attachment and drug abuse among daughters of gay fathers. The most recent review of literature on GLBT families did not mention Sirota’s (2009) research, even though I reported a summary of it two years ago.

Space does not permit an adequate treatment here, but some research suggests differential effects on sex role orientations of children and their views of non-monogamous sexuality. My hunch is that delayed gratification orientation may be an important intervening variable for understanding the influence of parental sexual orientation on child outcomes, but I am not aware of any studies on that variable.

Again, there appear to be differences in reporting of child outcomes, depending on the source of the data – whether parents, children, or teachers, for example. My sense is that maternal reports tend to be influenced by what the writers understand to be socially desirable outcomes, especially if the mothers sense the political purposes of the study.

Ends do not justify the means

One could probably write a book on the misuse of research regarding LGBT individuals and families. Even if the political goals of the researchers were laudable, the misuse of science would not be. In my view, the ends do not justify the means. Numerous legal and social science scholars have virtually sworn that the idea that GLBT parents might tend to have GLBT children was nothing but a myth; however, close examination of multiple sources of data suggests otherwise, as my forthcoming article will show.

Today, some would say, so what? That might be a plausible position, but it was not the position taken by most scholars between 1990 and 2005. Then, and now, I presume, most of the public would deem relationship instability to be unfavorable for the welfare of children, and would want to consider the evidence that lesbian parents have much less stable relationships than do married heterosexual parents.

As I noted at the beginning, it is risky to express such views about same-sex parenting, no matter how objectively based they are. But the public has a right to consider all the evidence in such an important matter, affecting as it does the welfare of children.

Dr Walter Schumm is a Professor of Family Studies in the School of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University. He has published over 250 scholarly articles and book chapters and is co-editor of the Sourcebook of Family Theories and Methods: A Contextual Approach (Plenum, 1993; Springer, 2009). He is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, a former brigade and battalion commander. His views may not reflect the positions of Kansas State University or the US Department of Defense.

For further information, including a list of references for the above article, contact Dr Schumm at schumm@ksu.edu
23148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The 30 Year War on: July 02, 2010, 07:33:41 AM
I have high regard for Stratfor in general and for its head, George Friedman.  That said, this article, which makes many excellent points, IMHO also makes some glib ones and fails to ask certain important questions-- what was to be done in the wake of 2001?  Was the third phase sustainable, or was it, as Michael Yon asserts, imploding?  Why is the Durand Line taken seriously/why do we/should we do nothing about the enemy's presence in Pakistan? etc.
===============

The 30-Year War in Afghanistan
Is it worthwhile getting American troops to fight in Afghanistan instead of arming the Taliban's allies? 


This article was first published on the Stratfor website. The author, George Friedman, is chairman and CEO of Stratfor, the world’s leading online publisher of geopolitical intelligence.


The Afghan War is the longest war in U.S. history. It began in 1980 and continues to rage. It began under Democrats but has been fought under both Republican and Democratic administrations, making it truly a bipartisan war. The conflict is an odd obsession of U.S. foreign policy, one that never goes away and never seems to end. As the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal reminds us, the Afghan War is now in its fourth phase.

The Afghan War’s First Three Phases

The first phase of the Afghan War began with the Soviet invasion in December 1979, when the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, organized and sustained Afghan resistance to the Soviets. This resistance was built around mujahideen, fighters motivated by Islam. Washington’s purpose had little to do with Afghanistan and everything to do with U.S.-Soviet competition. The United States wanted to block the Soviets from using Afghanistan as a base for further expansion and wanted to bog the Soviets down in a debilitating guerrilla war. The United States did not so much fight the war as facilitate it. The strategy worked. The Soviets were blocked and bogged down. This phase lasted until 1989, when Soviet troops were withdrawn.

The second phase lasted from 1989 until 2001. The forces the United States and its allies had trained and armed now fought each other in complex coalitions for control of Afghanistan. Though the United States did not take part in this war directly, it did not lose all interest in Afghanistan. Rather, it was prepared to exert its influence through allies, particularly Pakistan. Most important, it was prepared to accept that the Islamic fighters it had organized against the Soviets would govern Afghanistan. There were many factions, but with Pakistani support, a coalition called the Taliban took power in 1996. The Taliban in turn provided sanctuary for a group of international jihadists called al Qaeda, and this led to increased tensions with the Taliban following jihadist attacks on U.S. facilities abroad by al Qaeda.

The third phase began on Sept. 11, 2001, when al Qaeda launched attacks on the mainland United States. Given al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan, the United States launched operations designed to destroy or disrupt al Qaeda and dislodge the Taliban. The United States commenced operations barely 30 days after Sept. 11, which was not enough time to mount an invasion using U.S. troops as the primary instrument. Rather, the United States made arrangements with factions that were opposed to the Taliban (and defeated in the Afghan civil war). This included organizations such as the Northern Alliance, which had remained close to the Russians; Shiite groups in the west that were close to the Iranians and India; and other groups or subgroups in other regions. These groups supported the United States out of hostility to the Taliban and/or due to substantial bribes paid by the United States.

The overwhelming majority of ground forces opposing the Taliban in 2001 were Afghan. The United States did, however, insert special operations forces teams to work with these groups and to identify targets for U.S. airpower, the primary American contribution to the war. The use of U.S. B-52s against Taliban forces massed around cities in the north caused the Taliban to abandon any thought of resisting the Northern Alliance and others, even though the Taliban had defeated them in the civil war.

Unable to hold fixed positions against airstrikes, the Taliban withdrew from the cities and dispersed. The Taliban were not defeated, however; they merely declined to fight on U.S. terms. Instead, they redefined the war, preserving their forces and regrouping. The Taliban understood that the cities were not the key to Afghanistan. Instead, the countryside would ultimately provide control of the cities. From the Taliban point of view, the battle would be waged in the countryside, while the cities increasingly would be isolated.

The United States simply did not have sufficient force to identify, engage and destroy the Taliban as a whole. The United States did succeed in damaging and dislodging al Qaeda, with the jihadist group’s command cell becoming isolated in northwestern Pakistan. But as with the Taliban, the United States did not defeat al Qaeda because the United States lacked significant forces on the ground. Even so, al Qaeda prime, the original command cell, was no longer in a position to mount 9/11-style attacks.

During the Bush administration, U.S. goals for Afghanistan were modest. First, the Americans intended to keep al Qaeda bottled up and to impose as much damage as possible on the group. Second, they intended to establish an Afghan government, regardless of how ineffective it might be, to serve as a symbolic core. Third, they planned very limited operations against the Taliban, which had regrouped and increasingly controlled the countryside. The Bush administration was basically in a holding operation in Afghanistan. It accepted that U.S. forces were neither going to be able to impose a political solution on Afghanistan nor create a coalition large enough control the country. U.S. strategy was extremely modest under Bush: to harass al Qaeda from bases in Afghanistan, maintain control of cities and logistics routes, and accept the limits of U.S. interests and power.

The three phases of American involvement in Afghanistan had a common point: All three were heavily dependent on non-U.S. forces to do the heavy lifting. In the first phase, the mujahideen performed this task. In the second phase, the United States relied on Pakistan to manage Afghanistan’s civil war. In the third phase, especially in the beginning, the United States depended on Afghan forces to fight the Taliban. Later, when greater numbers of American and allied forces arrived, the United States had limited objectives beyond preserving the Afghan government and engaging al Qaeda wherever it might be found (and in any event, by 2003, Iraq had taken priority over Afghanistan). In no case did the Americans use their main force to achieve their goals.

The Fourth Phase of the Afghan War

The fourth phase of the war began in 2009, when U.S. President Barack Obama decided to pursue a more aggressive strategy in Afghanistan. Though the Bush administration had toyed with this idea, it was Obama who implemented it fully. During the 2008 election campaign, Obama asserted that he would pay greater attention to Afghanistan. The Obama administration began with the premise that while the Iraq War was a mistake, the Afghan War had to be prosecuted. It reasoned that unlike Iraq, which had a tenuous connection to al Qaeda at best, Afghanistan was the group’s original base. He argued that Afghanistan therefore should be the focus of U.S. military operations. In doing so, he shifted a strategy that had been in place for 30 years by making U.S. forces the main combatants in the war.

Though Obama’s goals were not altogether clear, they might be stated as follows:

1.Deny al Qaeda a base in Afghanistan.
2.Create an exit strategy from Afghanistan similar to the one in Iraq by creating the conditions for negotiating with the Taliban; make denying al Qaeda a base a condition for the resulting ruling coalition.
3.Begin withdrawal by 2011.
To do this, there would be three steps:

1.Increase the number and aggressiveness of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
2.Create Afghan security forces under the current government to take over from the Americans.
3.Increase pressure on the Taliban by driving a wedge between them and the population and creating intra-insurgent rifts via effective counterinsurgency tactics.
In analyzing this strategy, there is an obvious issue: While al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan in 2001, Afghanistan is no longer its primary base of operations. The group has shifted to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries. As al Qaeda is thus not dependent on any one country for its operational base, denying it bases in Afghanistan does not address the reality of its dispersion. Securing Afghanistan, in other words, is no longer the solution to al Qaeda.

Obviously, Obama’s planners fully understood this. Therefore, sanctuary denial for al Qaeda had to be, at best, a secondary strategic goal. The primary strategic goal was to create an exit strategy for the United States based on a negotiated settlement with the Taliban and a resulting coalition government. The al Qaeda issue depended on this settlement, but could never be guaranteed. In fact, neither the long-term survival of a coalition government nor the Taliban policing al Qaeda could be guaranteed.

The exit of U.S. forces represents a bid to reinstate the American strategy of the past 30 years, namely, having Afghan forces reassume the primary burden of fighting. The creation of an Afghan military is not the key to this strategy. Afghans fight for their clans and ethnic groups. The United States is trying to invent a national army where no nation exists, a task that assumes the primary loyalty of Afghans will shift from their clans to a national government, an unlikely proposition.

The Real U.S. Strategy

Rather than trying to strengthen the Karzai government, the real strategy is to return to the historical principles of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan: alliance with indigenous forces. These indigenous forces would pursue strategies in the American interest for their own reasons, or because they are paid, and would be strong enough to stand up to the Taliban in a coalition. As CIA Director Leon Panetta put it this weekend, however, this is proving harder to do than expected.

The American strategy is, therefore, to maintain a sufficient force to shape the political evolution on the ground, and to use that force to motivate and intimidate while also using economic incentives to draw together a coalition in the countryside. Operations like those in Helmand province — where even Washington acknowledges that progress has been elusive and slower than anticipated — clearly are designed to try to draw regional forces into regional coalitions that eventually can enter a coalition with the Taliban without immediately being overwhelmed. If this strategy proceeds, the Taliban in theory will be spurred to negotiate out of concern that this process eventually could leave it marginalized.

There is an anomaly in this strategy, however. Where the United States previously had devolved operational responsibility to allied groups, or simply hunkered down, this strategy tries to return to devolved responsibilities by first surging U.S. operations. The fourth phase actually increases U.S. operational responsibility in order to reduce it.

From the grand strategic point of view, the United States needs to withdraw from Afghanistan, a landlocked country where U.S. forces are dependent on tortuous supply lines. Whatever Afghanistan’s vast mineral riches, mining them in the midst of war is not going to happen. More important, the United States is overcommitted in the region and lacks a strategic reserve of ground forces. Afghanistan ultimately is not strategically essential, and this is why the United States has not historically used its own forces there.

Obama’s attempt to return to that track after first increasing U.S. forces to set the stage for the political settlement that will allow a U.S. withdrawal is hampered by the need to begin terminating the operation by 2011 (although there is no fixed termination date). It will be difficult to draw coalition partners into local structures when the foundation — U.S. protection — is withdrawing. Strengthening local forces by 2011 will be difficult. Moreover, the Taliban’s motivation to enter into talks is limited by the early withdrawal. At the same time, with no ground combat strategic reserve, the United States is vulnerable elsewhere in the world, and the longer the Afghan drawdown takes, the more vulnerable it becomes (hence the 2011 deadline in Obama’s war plan).

In sum, this is the quandary inherent in the strategy: It is necessary to withdraw as early as possible, but early withdrawal undermines both coalition building and negotiations. The recruitment and use of indigenous Afghan forces must move extremely rapidly to hit the deadline (though officially on track quantitatively, there are serious questions about qualitative measures) — hence, the aggressive operations that have been mounted over recent months. But the correlation of forces is such that the United States probably will not be able to impose an acceptable political reality in the time frame available. Thus, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is said to be opening channels directly to the Taliban, while the Pakistanis are increasing their presence. Where a vacuum is created, regardless of how much activity there is, someone will fill it.

Therefore, the problem is to define how important Afghanistan is to American global strategy, bearing in mind that the forces absorbed in Iraq and Afghanistan have left the United States vulnerable elsewhere in the world. The current strategy defines the Islamic world as the focus of all U.S. military attention. But the world has rarely been so considerate as to wait until the United States is finished with one war before starting another. Though unknowns remain unknowable, a principle of warfare is to never commit all of your reserves in a battle — one should always maintain a reserve for the unexpected. Strategically, it is imperative that the United States begin to free up forces and re-establish its ground reserves.

Given the time frame the Obama administration’s grand strategy imposes, and given the capabilities of the Taliban, it is difficult to see how it will all work out. But the ultimate question is about the American obsession with Afghanistan. For 30 years, the United States has been involved in a country that is virtually inaccessible for the United States. Washington has allied itself with radical Islamists, fought against radical Islamists or tried to negotiate with radical Islamists. What the United States has never tried to do is impose a political solution through the direct application of American force. This is a new and radically different phase of America’s Afghan obsession. The questions are whether it will work and whether it is even worth it.

























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23149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Don't let Obama hear about this or he'll be trying to do it here on: July 01, 2010, 10:22:21 PM
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010/07/02/story_2-7-2010_pg7_9

Babar Formula’ on the cards to protect fake degree-holders

* Govt engaged in negotiations with allies, PML-Q to introduce bill in NA over issue
* PML-N, MQM not going to back the proposed bill

By Irfan Ghauri

ISLAMABAD: The government’s legal pundits led by Federal Law Minister Babar Awan have come up with a new national reconciliation bill to bail out fake degree-holders, informed sources told Daily Times on Thursday.

The government is currently engaged in taking into confidence its allied parties, as well as the PML-Q over the proposed bill. As pressure mounts on fake degree-holders with each passing day, the Federal Law Ministry has devised a formula — known amongst political circles as the Babar Formula — to save the parliamentarians from any further embarrassment.

“The political ground work is almost complete and the bill has also been drafted”, the sources said, adding that, “It would be presented in the upcoming session of the National Assembly”. Though no more valid now, possessing a bachelors’ degree was one of the prerequisites for contesting national and provincial assembly elections back in 2008.

According to estimates, more than 150 members of the assemblies contested elections on fake degrees and they might have to resign in a move that could have huge political implications for the current government. The bill, if approved by the National Assembly and the Senate, would have a retrospective effect.

The government has so far been successful in convincing at least three of its four allied parties to support the legislation. However, the MQM has still not committed itself to supporting the bill, saying it would be tantamount to favoring “culprits of the nation”.

But officials from both sides said that the MQM was considering abstaining form voting on the bill to give the government a chance of getting it approved from both the houses without any difficulty. According to insiders, President Asif Ali Zardari has assigned Labour Minister Khursheed Ali Shah and Interior Minister Rehman Malik the task of convincing the MQM and contacts have already been established.

The ANP, the JUI-F and group of parliamentarians from the tribal regions led by Munir Orakzai have assured the government that they would vote in favor of the bill. The government has managed to get the support of the PML-Q, in what appears to be an indication of the new political alignment in the country.

A PML-Q MNA from Bahawalpur division Riaz Pirzada said the bill had already been drafted and might be introduced to the National Assembly later this month. According to Pirzada, the government is negotiating with various parties and there are indications that a consensus can emerge over the issue ahead of the next meeting of the lower house.

Pirzada, however, added the legislation would be brought to the National Assembly as a private bill by himself and several other parliamentarians from various parties.

PML-Q Information Secretary Kamal Ali Agha, however, said the party is still to decide its “official reaction” to the issue and had not decided whether or not to support the bill. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab did not deny that the government was seeking support from other parties for protecting fake degree-holders.

A top leader of the JUI-F said that the party would support “anything in favor of the democracy”.

23150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: July 01, 2010, 07:19:12 PM
""Central banks were the ultimate authors of the credit crisis since it is they who set the price of credit too low""

"No.  For another opinion: the congress is the author of the credit crisis because they put the volume of credit too high.  When the cost of credit goes from 3% to 20%, what will that do to the federal budget and our ability to afford the public goods we require?  It was not the Fed was determined that the federal government would be the writer and guarantor of all mortgages or that required that mortgages be made based on criteria other than creditworthiness.  Those decisions came from the elected officials and the dysfunctional committees that they formed. Once again I would pose the question: is there really a correct set of policies for a Fed in the situation where we are spending 50% more than we take in, have virtually outlawed manufacturing and energy production and choose instead to send dollars out to the places in the world that supply us?"

You posit the Fed as enabler of Congressional lunacies by artificially driving down interest rates.  This I reject completely.  THERE IS A PROPER POLICY/MISSION FOR THE FED:   A STABLE CURRENCY.  PERIOD. 

This clusterfcuk in which we find ourselves is a creation of BOTH the Congress and the Fed.  The Fed forced interest rates to way below market rates since the Year 2000 scare at least; then came the pump due to 911, then came the pump due to , , , whatever.   As stupid and capricious as was the Congress, so too the Fed.  Together, the both of them created this.
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