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23201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-China Competition and re-engagement on: July 13, 2011, 04:48:01 AM
---------------------------
July 13, 2011


A COMPETITIVE CHINA-U.S. RE-ENGAGEMENT

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen continued his visit to
China on Monday. He met with Chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army
Chen Bingde, future Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials at naval and
air force bases in China.

Mullen's visit has attracted attention because the two sides have proved incapable
of sustained military communication and exchange, with disruptions arising from
intractable differences such as American military support for Taiwan. Mullen's trip
is the first for an official of his rank since 2007. There is every reason to think
that disruptions will continue to occur because of the disparity between the two
sides' views on how international military exchanges should function. The United
States seeks continual interaction separate from other aspects of the relationship,
whereas China cannot afford to separate what Washington views as "political" issues
from its military engagements and frequently cuts off exchange. Thus it is important
that the two sides are talking at all.

"Chen's comment that the United States should spend less on its military and focus
more on reviving its weak economy had a certain pointedness in the context of
American budget-deficit debates, but on a deeper level reflected China's fear that
it is becoming the United States' next target for direct competition before China is
ready."

However, the visit has also attracted attention because it is an exceedingly
interesting time for the two sides to be talking. As wars and a financial crisis
make the United States' strategic constraints more visible than at any other time in
the post-Cold War era, China's fast-growing economy and military development make
for a sharp contrast. The view among some regional players, whose national security
depends on their accurate assessment of the situation, is that a kind of leveling is
taking place.

The renewed engagement is also notable because it follows recent incidents and
conflicts that show regional animosities -- in the Koreas, the East and South China
Seas and Southeast Asia -- threaten to spill out of their former containers,
especially where American power is not considered to be overwhelming. Despite the
U.S. re-engagement throughout the region, some East Asian states suspect that
weakness and a long-term lack of commitment lie at the base of its prolonged
distance from regional affairs.

Thus what the United States and China say regarding military matters -- and any sign
of the trajectory of their intentions and capabilities -- are of great interest to
both parties as well as the rest of the region and world. So far the two sides have
shown they are capable proceeding with the calculated warming of relations formally
launched when Chinese President Hu Jintao met with U.S. President Barack Obama in
January. They have agreed to hold drills on humanitarian assistance and disaster
relief, as well as counter-piracy, and to work toward holding more traditional
military exercises in the future. These developments are not small, and they have at
least temporarily eased some fears in the region that relations between the United
States and China were on the verge of a downward spiral.

The recent warming in U.S.-China relations has drawn inevitable comparisons to the
Kissinger-style detente. However, the contrast between these events is more
striking. When Kissinger traveled to China, relations between the two countries
could hardly have been worse and because the countries shared a common enemy,
relations had ample opportunity to improve. At present, the prospects for
improvement appear limited, whereas their many differences on economic, military and
strategic interests present serious pitfalls. For instance, Chen's optimism
regarding China's future naval capabilities and his criticisms of U.S. military
exercises in the South China Sea with Australia, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam
reflect Beijing's bolder stance. Meanwhile, Mullen's insistence on the durability
and depth of American power and presence in the region and emphasis on China's need
to become a more responsible power seem to reflect a warning to Beijing not to
become too bold. The clash over the South China Sea will intensify regardless of a
warmer diplomatic atmosphere.

Nevertheless, for the time being the warming of relations continues apace because
China is not yet the great power it aspires to be. What allows both countries to
defer confrontation is not only American preoccupation elsewhere but also -- as Chen
all too readily admitted during Monday's meeting -- China's persistent military
weaknesses, despite its recent highlighting of a fifth-generation fighter-jet
prototype, an aircraft carrier and anti-ship ballistic missiles. Chen's comment that
the United States should spend less on its military and focus more on reviving its
weak economy had a certain pointedness in the context of American budget-deficit
debates, but on a deeper level reflected China's fear that it is becoming the United
States' next target for direct competition before China is ready.

What Chen inadvertently pointed to is that, like the Soviets, Beijing's competition
with the United States has an economic basis. Economics is at the heart of military
power. However, in this regard the Chinese do not have as great an advantage as is
widely thought. The American economy has shown itself to be resilient after many
recessions, while the current Chinese model shows all the signs of unbalanced and
unsustainable growth. Coincidentally, the military meeting came as an American
financial delegation visited China to renew demands for inspections of auditing
firms, after a wave of accounting scandals struck Chinese companies listed on
American stock exchanges. The scandals have drawn attention because of their
flagrancy, but China's domestic economy is rife with false accounting. Hidden risks
have become more visible after recent revelations of gigantic debts held by local
governments that push China's total public debt up to levels comparable to
heavily-indebted, developed Western countries. The risks are located in the
state-owned banks, which can only hold things together so long as rapid growth
enables them to continue deferring debt payments. Thus China's great challenge is to
face not only a rising international rivalry but also its eventual combination with
deteriorating domestic economic conditions.

Copyright 2011 STRATFOR.
23202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: July 13, 2011, 02:28:52 AM
grumble , , , grumble , , , grumble , , , I suppose that makes sense , , , grumble , , ,
23203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the Republicans on: July 12, 2011, 03:48:32 PM
Maybe its because I am jet lagged, but it is so ingenious it is going right over my head with nary a look back.  Please explain.
23204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: July 12, 2011, 02:46:05 PM
http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2011/07/01/
23205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / COWARDS! TRAITORS! on: July 12, 2011, 02:27:43 PM



 Dear RedState Morning Briefing Subscriber:

Mitch McConnell just concluded a press conference declaring his intentions
to have the Senate Republicans engage in a historic capitulation. So fearful
of being blamed for a default, McConnell is proposing a compromise that lets
Barack Obama raise the debt ceiling without making any spending cuts at all.

McConnell’s idea is to make the debt ceiling
automatic<http://content.eaglepub.com/?darXZAYpvopp8oUOQD0-lYgasuWsASgRd&http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/271695/mcconnells-contingency-plan-rich-lowry>
*unless Congress, by a 2/3 vote* blocks the increase. Oh yes, he put a salve
on it by dressing it up in tough talk that, to quote the *Wall Street
Journal*, “[a] ‘eal solution’ to U.S. fiscal problems isn’t possible as long
as President Barack Obama remains in office.” So since no “real solution” is
possible, McConnell proposes to go Pontius Pilate and wash his hands of
spending, blaming Obama while doing nothing himself.

Here is how the plan would
work.<http://content.eaglepub.com/?daKg4AUppF.vHo2OGkt0kYVaiuhquSgRd&http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/271706/more-contingency-plan-rich-lowry>

In a nutshell, the President would get to raise the debt ceiling three times
in the next year at several billion bucks a pop without making any spending
cuts unless two-thirds of both houses of Congress disagree. In his press
conference, McConnell says he would not give the President “unilateral
authority to make spending cuts on his own,” but this plan would allow the
President to raise the debt ceiling pretty much automatically.

Much more information on this amazing capitulation can be found by clicking
right
here<http://content.eaglepub.com/?dargZ4YpuF.pHoUGQD00lwgaiuWquNgFd&http://www.redstate.com/erick/2011/07/12/it-is-time-to-burn-mitch-mcconnell-in-effigy-he-goes-pontius-pilate-on-the-debt-ceiling/>
.  You'll find a rather appropriate suggestion for a response as well.


Sincerely yours,

Erick Erickson
Editor,
RedState.com<http://content.eaglepub.com/?darg4AYLuZD58OROoUt0D5VdiuWquSgRd&http://www.redstate.com/>
23206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: liberals have absconded the education system on: July 12, 2011, 01:53:46 PM
Lets keep this line of thought on the Education thread.  Please repost it there.
23207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Abortion on: July 12, 2011, 01:41:44 PM
Doug:

Dang!  Fay still wields a mean keyboard!
23208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the Republicans on: July 12, 2011, 01:30:37 PM
Boener and McConnell (Senate) are the epitome of the stereotype of the unhip old white wasp male Repbublican.
23209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Gingrich on: July 12, 2011, 05:50:25 AM
This could be posted elsewhere, but I am posting it here because of how it underelines just how bad the current trajectory is.  What are we to do?
----------------

A Diplomatic Defeat for President Obama
and America
by Newt Gingrich

The elite media largely ignored an astounding defeat recently for the United States and for the cause of freedom.

The Iranian dictatorship hosted an anti-terrorism conference in Tehran.

That's right. The world's leading state sponsor of terrorism--the country that funds and trains Hamas and Hezbollah and sends arms to the Taliban--simply stole our language and held a conference that professed to oppose terrorism.

Under the Iranian definition of that term, the United States and Israel are the primary supporters of terrorism in the world.

Amazingly, sixty countries--yes, sixty--participated in the Iranian conference.

In a scene worthy of a Kurt Vonnegut satire, the North Koreans, Cubans, Venezuelans, Palestineans and other enthusiastic supporters of anti-American activities all showed up.

Even more alarmingly, our so-called allies Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan were also in attendance. After billions of dollars spent and thousands of Americans lost, these "allies" ignored our requests and dignified the dishonest event and a country that is funding terrorism worldwide.

Cliff May captured the disaster in the National Review.

"A few days ago, the regime that rules Iran, designated by the U.S. State Department as the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism, held what it called the First International Conference on the Global Fight against Terrorism. The U.S. and Israel were singled out as "satanic world powers" with a "black record of terrorist behaviors." This should have been the subject of scorn and ridicule from the "international community." But senior officials from at least 60 countries attended and U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon delivered a message via special envoy expressing his appreciation to Tehran. Apparently he was not bothered by the fact that Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, was among those attending."

As an example of how bad some of the participants were who showed up to accuse the U.S. of "terrorism," consider the indictment of the Sudanese President: Omar al-Bashir was charged with genocide, with crimes against humanity (including murder, extermination, forcible transfer of civilian populations, torture, and rapes), and with war crimes (including intentional attacks against civilians and pillaging).

This is the company our so-called allies are comfortable with?

    
Liberals Are Destroying the Bill Of Rights

Bestselling author Frank Miniter exposes the shocking
campaign to destroy our God-given liberties in his new book, Saving the Bill of Rights. Click Here...

To make this outrageous situation even worse, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon sent a special envoy to Tehran to deliver a message supporting the conference.

Perhaps nothing should have surprised us after Iran won a vice-presidency of the U.N. General Assembly recently. An organization founded to preserve peace has now elevated the world's top state sponsor of terrorism to a leadership role.

Unfortunately, also like a Vonnegut novel, these stories represent a reality that is less humorous than it is distressing.

The participation of allies like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in the anti-American charade in Tehran is just the kind of sight that could become more common in the future amid questions about the United States' commitment in the region.

As the Obama Administration's policy--which appears to be "weakness and abandonment"--becomes clearer, allies will revaluate and reorient away from the United States and toward Iran. After all, the U.S. is leaving, and Iran is an increasingly powerful force in the region--and it will soon be armed with nuclear weapons.

The elite media has largely ignored this unfolding disaster. Yet the dangers of this realignment are serious. The radical Islamists that countries like Iran arm, train, and support while claiming to oppose terrorism are no small threat. They aim to destroy the United States and Israel, and to halt the cause of freedom wherever they can.

Radical Islamism is dangerous given weak state sponsors, and it will be even more serious when backed by a large regional power such as Iran is becoming.

The Obama Administration, meanwhile, remains blind to the forces threatening us.

Consider this additional report from Cliff May regarding a young Marine who was charged last month for repeated shooting attacks on the Pentagon and was arrested, in Arlington Cemetery, with explosives materials and literature referencing Al Qaeda:

"Yonathan Melaku was charged in federal court with shooting at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The officials who arrested him later searched his home and found a videotape in which he is shouting "Allahu Akbar!" They also found a notebook in which he'd written about Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda , the Taliban, and The Path to Jihad, a book of lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Islamic cleric who was widely considered a moderate before he fled to Yemen where he is now a top Al Qaeda commander.

"So it's pretty obvious what Melaku was up to, right? Not if you're a federal employee, it's not. "I can't suggest to you his motivations or intent," James W. McJunkin, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, told reporters at a news conference. "It's not readily apparent yet."

"Many in the mainstream media also expressed befuddlement. A Washington Post story carried the headline: "Pentagon Shooting Subject Not Known to Law Enforcement." (Really? That's the news here?) The article told readers that "a motive for the shootings -- and why Melaku had possible bomb-making materials -- remains elusive." So does that mean we can't rule out a crime of passion -- or a paint-ball competition that got out of hand?"

In case after case, we have leaders who are determined to ignore obvious truths.

Not since the 1930s have our leaders so willfully deceived themselves about a growing threat to our survival.
Your Friend,
23210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Warming up for the bug out. on: July 12, 2011, 05:09:38 AM
July 12, 2011


DETAILS ON THE DEATH OF KARZAI'S BROTHER

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's younger brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was killed in
Kandahar on July 12 during a gathering in his house, Kandahar Governor Tooryali Wesa
confirmed. Initial reports remain sketchy but it is believed that the Afghan
leader's brother was killed by multiple gunshots to the head and chest with a AK-47
fired by Sardar Mohammad, a former bodyguard to Karzai's older brother Qayyoum.
Unconfirmed reports say that the assassin was immediately killed and Ahmad Wali's
body has been taken to Mirwais Civil Hospital. One of the two official spokesmen for
the Taliban, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, told the German News Agency Deutsche Presse Agentur
that Ahmad Wali Karzai was killed by a Taliban sleeper agent.

This particular Karzai brother has escaped assassination attempts in the past. His
death comes as a major blow to President Karzai who depended on Ahmed Wali for
creating a social support base for the president in Kandahar province, the homeland
of the Taliban. Ahmed Wali's official position was head of the legislative council
in Kandahar, but he wielded a disproportionate amount of influence in the province
and the country at large, claiming close relations with a wide array of players
including the CIA, local Taliban elements and even drug lords. Despite his close
dealings with U.S. intelligence, American officials openly criticized Ahmed Wali in
2009, accusing him of corruption and being involved in the drug trade.

For President Karzai, the death of Ahmed Wali couldn't have come at a worse time.
The senior Karzai was already confronting the fact that U.S.-NATO forces have begun
working toward a withdrawal from the country and have engaged in talks with the
Taliban as well as neighboring Pakistan. The loss of his influential sibling further
weakens President Karzai's position in the south of Afghanistan and complicates
efforts to try and reach a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. 

Copyright 2011 STRATFOR.
23211  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: July 12, 2011, 05:05:13 AM
Yesterday at the Camp Guro Lonely opened with KK, then I taught Double Stick into Kali Tudo. For those so inclined Guro Lonely did a Kali Fitness segment. Today my section will be on DLO.
23212  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Training Camp August 12-14 on: July 12, 2011, 04:52:00 AM
People:

If you are coming, please get your registrations in ASAP so we can get a sense of the numbers coming and choose our location accordingly.

Generally it will be held in the Hermosa Beach area and run each day from 10:00-16:30.  For those inclined there will be a swim in the ocean at the end of the day and there will be group dinner each evening.

TAC!
Guro Crafty
23213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The problem with the Hague on: July 12, 2011, 04:13:38 AM
STRATFOR
---------------------------
July 12, 2011


LIBYA AND THE PROBLEM WITH THE HAGUE

By George Friedman

The war in Libya has been under way for months, without any indication of when it
might end. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's faction has been stronger and more
cohesive than imagined and his enemies weaker and more divided. This is not unusual.
There is frequently a perception that dictators are widely hated and that their
power will collapse when challenged. That is certainly true at times, but often the
power of a dictator is rooted in the broad support of an ideological faction, an
ethnic group or simply those who benefit from the regime. As a result, naive
assumptions of rapid regime change are quite often replaced by the reality of
protracted conflict.
 
This has been a characteristic of what we have called "humanitarian wars," those
undertaken to remove a repressive regime and replace it with one that is more
representative. Defeating a tyrant is not always easy. Gadhafi did not manage to
rule Libya for 42 years without some substantial support.
 
Nevertheless, one would not expect that, faced with opposition from a substantial
anti-regime faction in Libya as well as NATO and many other countries, Gadhafi would
retain control of a substantial part of both the country and the army. Yet when we
look at the situation carefully, it should be expected.
 
The path many expected in Libya was that the support around Gadhafi would
deteriorate over time when faced with overwhelming force, with substantial
defections of senior leaders and the disintegration of his military as commanders
either went over to the other side en masse, taking their troops with them, or
simply left the country, leaving their troops leaderless. As the deterioration in
power occurred, Gadhafi -- or at least those immediately around Gadhafi -- would
enter into negotiations designed for an exit. That hasn't happened, and certainly
not to the degree that it has ended Gadhafi's ability to resist. Indeed, while NATO
airpower might be able to block an attack to the east, the airstrikes must continue
because it appears that Gadhafi has retained a great deal of his power.
 
The International Criminal Court
 
One of the roots of this phenomenon is the existence of the International Criminal
Court (ICC), which became operational in 2002 in The Hague, Netherlands. The ICC has
jurisdiction, under U.N. mandate, to prosecute individuals who have committed war
crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity. Its jurisdiction is limited to
those places where recognized governments are unwilling or unable to carry out their
own judicial processes. The ICC can exercise jurisdiction if the case is referred to
the ICC prosecutor by an ICC state party signatory or the U.N. Security Council
(UNSC) or if the prosecutor initiates the investigation him or herself.
 
The current structure of international law, particularly the existence of the ICC
and its rules, has an unintended consequence. Rather than serving as a tool for
removing war criminals from power, it tends to enhance their power and remove
incentives for capitulation or a negotiated exit. In Libya's case, Gadhafi's
indictment was referred to the ICC by the UNSC, and he was formally indicted in late
June. The existence of the ICC, and the clause that says that it has jurisdiction
where signatory governments are unable or unwilling to carry out their own
prosecutions, creates an especially interesting dilemma for Gadhafi and the
intervening powers.
 
Consider the case of Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia. Milosevic, like Gadhafi, was
indicted during a NATO intervention against his country. His indictment was handed
down a month and a half into the air campaign, in May 1999, by the International
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a court that was to be the mold,
to a large extent, for the ICC. After the intervention, Milosevic clung to power
until 2001, cracking down on the opposition and dissident groups whom he painted as
traitors during the NATO air campaign. Milosevic still had supporters in Serbia, and
as long as he refused to cede his authority, he had enough loyalists in the
government who refused to prosecute him in the interest of maintaining stability.
 
One of the reasons Milosevic refused to cede power was the very real fear that
regime change in Serbia would result in a one-way ticket to The Hague. This is
exactly what happened. A few months after Serbia's October 2000 anti-Milosevic
revolution, the new and nominally pro-Western government issued an arrest warrant
for Milosevic, finally sending him to The Hague in June 2001 with a strong push from
NATO. The Milosevic case illustrates the inherent risk an indicted leader will face
when the government falls in the hands of the opposition.
 
The case of Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader, is also instructive
in showing the low level of trust leaders like Gadhafi may place in assurances from
the West regarding non-prosecution. Serbian authorities arrested Karadzic in July
2008 after being on the run for 12 years. He claimed in court proceedings at the
ICTY that he was given assurances by the United States -- denied by Washington --
that if he were to step down and make way for a peace process in Bosnia, he would
not be prosecuted. This obviously did not happen. In other words, the likely
political arrangements that were arrived at to initiate a peace process in
Bosnia-Herzegovina were wholly disregarded by the ICTY.
 
Gadhafi is obviously aware of the Balkans precedents. He has no motivation to
capitulate, since that could result in him being sent to The Hague, nor is there
anyone that he can deal with who can hold the ICC in abeyance. In most criminal
proceedings, a plea bargain is possible, but this is not simply a matter of a plea
bargain.
 
Regardless of what a country's leader has done, he or she holds political power, and
the transfer of that power is inherently a political process. What the ICC has done
since 2002 -- and the ICTY to an extent before that -- is to make the political
process moot by making amnesty impossible. It is not clear if any authority exists
to offer and honor an amnesty. However, the ICC is a product of the United Nations,
and the authority of the United Nations lies in the UNSC. Though there is no clear
precedent, there is an implicit assumption that the UNSC would be the entity to
offer a negotiated amnesty with a unanimous vote. In other words, the political
process is transferred from Libya to the UNSC, where any number of countries might
choose to abort the process for their own political ends. So the domestic political
process is trumped by The Hague's legal process, which can only be trumped by the
UNSC's political process. A potentially simple end to a civil war escalates to
global politics.
 
And this is not simply a matter of a leader's unwillingness to capitulate or
negotiate. It aborts the process that undermines men like Gadhafi. Without a doubt,
most of the men who have surrounded him for years are guilty of serious war crimes
and crimes against humanity. It is difficult to imagine anyone around Gadhafi whose
hands are clean, or who would have been selected by Gadhafi if their hands weren't
capable of being soiled. Each of them is liable for prosecution by the ICC,
particularly the senior leadership of the military; the ICC has bound their fate to
that of Gadhafi, actually increasing their loyalty to him. Just as Gadhafi has
nothing to lose by continued resistance, neither do they. The ICC has forged the
foundation of Gadhafi's survival and bitter resistance.
 
It is not a question only of the ICC. Recall the case of Augusto Pinochet, who
staged a coup in Chile against Salvador Allende and presided over a brutal
dictatorship. His support was not insubstantial in Chile, and he left power in a
carefully negotiated political process. A Spanish magistrate, a minor figure in the
Spanish legal system, claimed jurisdiction over Pinochet's crimes in Chile and
demanded that he be extradited from Britain, where Pinochet was visiting, and the
extradition was granted. Today the ICC is not the only authority that can claim
jurisdiction in such cases, but under current international law, nations have lost
the authority to negotiate solutions to the problem of transferring power from
dictators to representative democracies. Moreover, they have ceded that authority
not only to the ICC but also to any court that wants to claim jurisdiction.
 
Apply this to South Africa. An extended struggle took place between two communities.
The apartheid regime committed crimes under international law. In due course, a
negotiated political process arranged a transfer of power. Part of the agreement was
that a non-judicial truth commission would review events but that prosecutions would
be severely limited. If that transfer of power were occurring today, with the ICC in
place and "Spanish magistrates" loose, how likely would it be that the white
government would be willing to make the political concessions needed to transfer
power? Would an agreement among the South Africans have trumped the jurisdiction of
the ICC or another forum? Without the absolute certainty of amnesty, would the white
leadership have capitulated? 
 
The desire for justice is understandable, as is the need for an independent
judiciary. But a judiciary that is impervious to political realities can create
catastrophes in the name of justice. In both the Serbia and Libya cases, ICC
indictments were used by Western countries in the midst of bombing campaigns to
legitimize their humanitarian intervention. The problem is that the indictments left
little room for negotiated settlements. The desire to punish the wicked is natural.
But as in all things political -- though not judicial -- the price of justice must
also be considered. If it means that thousands must die because the need to punish
the guilty is an absolute, is that justice? Just as important, does it serve to
alleviate or exacerbate human suffering?
 
Judicial Absolutism
 
Consider a hypothetical. Assume that in the summer of 1944, Adolph Hitler had
offered to capitulate to the allies if they would grant him amnesty. Giving Hitler
amnesty would have been monstrous, but at the same time, it would have saved a year
of war and a year of the holocaust. From a personal point of view, the summer of
1944 was when deportation of Hungarian Jews was at its height. Most of my family
died that fall and winter. Would leaving Hitler alive been worth it to my family and
millions of others on all sides?
 
The Nuremberg precedent makes the case for punishment. But applied rigorously, it
undermines the case for political solutions. In the case of tyrannies, it means
negotiating the safety of tyrants in return for their abdication. The abdication
brings an end to war and allows people who would have died to continue to live their
lives. 
 
The theory behind Nuremberg and the ICC is that the threat of punishment will deter
tyrants. Men like Gadhafi, Milosevic, Karadzic and Hitler grow accustomed to living
with death long before they take power. And the very act of seizing that power
involves two things: an indifference to common opinion about them, particularly
outside their countries, and a willingness to take risks and then crush those who
might take risks against them. Such leaders constitute an odd, paradoxical category
of men who will risk everything for power, and then guard their lives and power with
everything. It is hard to frighten them, and harder still to have them abandon power
without guarantees.
 
The result is that wars against them take a long time and kill a lot of people, and
they are singularly indifferent to the suffering they cause. Threatening them with a
trial simply closes off political options to end the war. It also strips countries
of their sovereign right to craft non-judicial, political solutions to their
national problems. The dictator and his followers have no reason to negotiate and no
reason to capitulate. They are forced to continue a war that could have ended
earlier and allowed those who would have died the opportunity to live.
 
There is something I call judicial absolutism in the way the ICC works. It begins
with the idea that the law demands absolute respect and that there are crimes that
are so extraordinary that no forgiveness is possible. This concept is wrapped in an
ineluctable judicial process that, by design, cannot be restrained and is
independent of any moderating principles. 
 
It is not the criminals the ICC is trying who are the issue. It is the next criminal
on the docket. Having seen an older dictator at The Hague earlier negotiate his own
exit, and see that negotiation fall through, why would a new dictator negotiate a
deal? How can Gadhafi contemplate a negotiation that would leave him without power
in Libya, when the Milosevic case clearly illuminates his potential fate at the
hands of a rebel-led Libya? Judicial absolutism assumes that the moral absolute is
the due process of law. A more humane moral absolute is to remove the tyrant and
give power to the nation with the fewest deaths possible in the process. 
 
The problem in Libya is that no one knows how to go from judicial absolutism to a
more subtle and humane understanding of the problem. Oddly, it is the judicial
absolutists who regard themselves as committed to humanitarianism. In a world filled
with tyrants, this is not a minor misconception.


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www.stratfor.com.
23214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are to blame on: July 12, 2011, 03:15:20 AM
By PETER WALLISON

When the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) reported in January that the 2008 crisis was caused by lax regulation, greed on Wall Street and faulty risk management at banks and other financial firms, few were surprised.

That, after all, was the narrative propagated by government sources since 2008 and widely accepted in the media, in numerous books, and by many commentators. Writing in the New York Times on June 30, for example, Pro-Publica reporter Jesse Eisinger complained that bankers' concerns about excessive regulation under the Dodd-Frank Act did not take account of "the staggering costs of the crisis that the banks led us into."

The notion that the "banks led us into" the financial crisis echoes the narrative of the FCIC's Democratic majority, which placed the blame for the financial crisis on the private sector and dismissed the idea that government housing policy could have been responsible.

According to the FCIC majority report, the government's housing policies—led by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac—contributed only "marginally" to the crisis. Moreover, Fannie and Freddie "followed rather than led Wall Street and other lenders" into the subprime and other risky mortgage lending that ultimately caused the financial crisis.

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Associated Press
James A. Johnson, former Fannie Mae Chairman

With the publication of "Reckless Endangerment," a new book about the causes of the crisis, this story is beginning to unravel. The authors, Gretchen Morgenson, a business reporter and commentator for the New York Times, and Josh Rosner, a financial analyst, make clear that it was Fannie Mae and the government housing policies it supported, pursued and exploited that brought the financial system to a halt in 2008.

After James A. Johnson, a Democratic political operative and former aide to Walter Mondale, became chairman of Fannie Mae in 1991, they note, it became a political powerhouse, intimidating and suborning Congress and tying itself closely to the Clinton administration's support for the low-income lending program called "affordable housing."

This program required subprime and other risky lending, but it solidified Fannie's support among Democrats and some Republicans in Congress, and enabled the agency to resist privatization or significant regulation until 2008. "Under Johnson," write Ms. Morgenson and Mr. Rosner, "Fannie Mae led the way in encouraging loose lending practices among banks whose loans the company bought. . . . Johnson led both the private and public sectors down a path that led directly to the financial crisis of 2008."

The authors are correct. Far from being a marginal player, Fannie Mae was the source of the decline in mortgage underwriting standards that eventually brought down the financial system. It led rather than followed Wall Street into risky lending.

This history does not appear in the FCIC majority report, and Mr. Johnson was not among the more than 700 witnesses the commission claims to have interviewed. Edward Pinto (a former chief credit officer of Fannie Mae, and now a colleague at the American Enterprise Institute) presented the evidence to the commission showing that by 2008 half of all mortgages in the U.S. (27 million loans) were subprime or otherwise risky, and that 12 million of these loans were on the books of the GSEs.

The research he gave the commission also showed that two-thirds of these subprime or risky loans were on the books of government agencies or firms subject to government control. But these facts were left out of the majority report. They did not fit with the narrative that the financial crisis was caused by the private sector, and they moved the blame uncomfortably close to the powerful figures in Congress who had supported the GSEs and the affordable housing goals over many years—and of course who appointed the majority of the commission.

If that were the end of the matter, we would be dealing solely with a report distorted by partisan considerations. The commission majority's false narrative, however, buttresses the notion that more regulation of banks and other private-sector financial institutions could have prevented the financial crisis—and might be necessary to prevent another one. This was the rationale for the Dodd-Frank Act.

But if government housing policy, and not Wall Street, caused the financial crisis, what was the basis for Dodd-Frank's extraordinary and growth-suppressing regulation on the financial system? This question is particularly trenchant as the country struggles through a seemingly interminable recession, brought on initially by a mortgage meltdown and a financial crisis but possibly extended by the uncertainties and credit restrictions flowing from the most comprehensive controls of the financial system since the New Deal.

The principal sponsors of that Dodd-Frank Act, former Sen. Chris Dodd and former House Financial Services Committee Chair Barney Frank, were also the principal supporters and political protectors of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the government housing policies they implemented.

It is little wonder then that legislation named after them would place the blame for the financial crisis solely on the private sector and do nothing to reform a government-backed housing finance system that will increasingly be seen as the primary cause of the devastating events of 2008.

Mr. Wallison, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was a member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and dissented from the majority report.
23215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / New CA law requires gay is good instruction on: July 12, 2011, 03:00:26 AM
Earlier this month, the left-leaning California State Legislature overwhelmingly passed The FAIR Education Act (SB 48) and has sent the bill on Governor Jerry Brown for what will surely be a celebratory signing. The FAIR Education Act is the seventh sexual indoctrination law to teach the state’s children to regard homosexuality, transsexuality (sex-changes operations) and bisexuality as good and natural. This is another in an impressive string of legal victories by gay activists. On the other hand, it further fuels a growing national discontent with public education.

Among the bill’s provisions are that textbooks and instructional materials must positively promote “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” as role models and that children as young as 6 will be taught to admire homosexuality, same-sex “marriages,” bisexuality, and transsexuality.

Teachers, even those with religious objections to the gay life style, will be made to positively portray homosexuality, same-sex “marriages,” bisexuality, and transsexuality, because to be silent can bring the charge of “reflecting adversely”. School boards will be required to select textbooks and other instructional materials that positively portray sex-change operations, same-sex “marriages”, because to be silent on these subjects opens them up to charges of “reflecting adversely. Finally, parents will not be notified, nor will they be able to exempt their children, from this new core curriculum.

In a free society where parents were financially able to select and direct the education of their children, such a pro-gay curriculum would make a reasonable choice for that minute portion of parent population who believes it is healthy and useful to educate young children and teens into these complex and controversial issues of human sexuality. But such is not the case in the US today where only a small percentage of parents can afford to send their children to private or religious schools.

Given the brute fact that the state can and does put parents in the slammer for not delivering up their children for the state approved and directed schooling, this new legislation has about it a distinct Stalinist odor. The odor is particularly strong in the nostrils of those parents who believe such grave matters as how one lives out their sexuality is not the educational province of the state bureaucrats who create the lesson plans for teachers.

It is tempting to dismiss this soon-to-be statewide curriculum as just another in a long line of outrageous and kooky, La-La Land events seemingly designed to keep the rest of us chuckling and mildly finger-wagging. However, the Sunshine State is the 800-pound gorilla of the textbook world and teachers and parents in Montana, Iowa and Georgia will surely be seeing the “gay agenda” in their next textbook adoptions.

It is, of course, morally reprehensible to be against an effort to stamp out bullying, especially if it involves matters of sexual self-identification. One does so at the fear of destroying one’s professional reputation and endangering life and limb. (Thankfully, I have no reputation to endanger and I am writing from a secure location known only to the editors of MercatorNet and the United States Internal Revenue Service.) That said, targeted anti-bullying campaigns, such as this current California effort, have always struck me as ineffective and rather phony.

Few children grow to maturity without feeling envy, jealousy, extreme frustration and, sometimes, real rage. In the hot-house and regimented world of our crowded schools, these feelings have and always will find an outlet. It is a fact of life, just as water runs downhill, that the strong will attempt to prey on the weak.

What should be done about it? Religion has one powerful set of answers. It tells us that we have fallen human natures which each of us must work hard to overcome. And that that twit who is getting on our nerves is, in fact, a child of God and I must treat him as such. But, of course, bringing such a dangerous idea into the public school would lead to a full-employment act for tort lawyers.

Another idea would be to teach the nation’s core documents and the meaning of such phrases as “certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But, really teach them. Explain them. Build them into the rituals and procedures of the school. Make the virtues of respect and fair play which undergird a good society a major focus of the curriculum. Recognize students who exemplify these habits of good character. Demand adherence to them or face distasteful consequences, such as separation into less commodious environments.

Another idea… and one which is receiving a great boost from legislation requiring a gay-friendly curriculum… is to eliminate state-run public schools. That is, make a transition to one of the many school choice options that put parents back in charge of their children’s education.

Increasingly, the very idea of the state answering the core educational question, “what is most worth a child knowing,” is being acknowledged as dangerous and a violation of parents’ right to control the education of their children. Currently in the US the parents of well over one million children are making huge personal and financial sacrifices to homeschool their children, and the movement is growing. While motivations vary, many of these parents have withdrawn their children from the public school because of the very over-sexualized environment this new California legislation will doubtlessly intensify.

It is tempting to take solace in the idea that this latest school victory by gay activists is a step too far and will spark a revolt. However, the public school teachers unions, local, state and national, are very strong and very politically protected. The opposition is underfunded, disorganized and tends to have a short attention span.

On the other hand, if attempts to alter our children’s understanding of their sexuality and what is the correct way for them to live out their sexuality cannot arouse parents to action, what, in God’s name and our nation’s future, will?

Kevin Ryan founded the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University, where he is professor emeritus. He has written and edited 20 books. He has appeared on CBS's "This Morning", ABC's "Good Morning America", "The O’Reilly Factor", CNN and the Public Broadcasting System speaking on character education. He can be reached at kryan@bu.edu.
23216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Chinese Bears on: July 12, 2011, 02:39:40 AM
How can investors prepare themselves for a major Chinese slowdown?

Doubts are mounting about the health of China's property market, Beijing's ability to control inflation and the true extent of government debt. Last week, the central government disclosed that local governments owed debts equal to a quarter of gross domestic product. It's hard to imagine a large chunk of those borrowings won't turn sour.

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Agence-France Presse
Lunch at a Chinese construction site.

All that means bets against China are attracting new attention.

Popular places to profit from a negative bet on China have gotten crowded. In recent months, some hedge funds have earned big money after borrowing shares of U.S.-listed Chinese companies, many with auditing or governance problems, in order to profit from their subsequent fall.

Several say the easy money has been made. More to the point, these stock bets aren't really a play on China's broader economic health but rather on specific company woes.

Some investors are shorting exchange-traded funds that invest in China's heavily restricted yuan-denominated "A-share" markets in Shanghai and Shenzhen—that is, selling borrowed securities to profit from their fall. But the underlying A shares are battered, with the main index off nearly 20% its post-financial crisis highs of August 2009. Hong Kong-listed Chinese shares are more accessible for shorts, some of whom have taken negative positions on the Hang Seng Index or individual stocks, but the market there for Chinese shares is also pretty beaten down.

Short Plays

Examples of how an investor can bet on a major China slowdown through currencies. If the option expires without hitting the strike price, the total investment is lost. However, investors can also sell the options before they expire. When the currency moves in the direction of the bet, the option generally rises in value.

"One-touch" options pay off a specified amount once the currency pair reaches a certain level. "European-style" options allow the investor to exchange currencies at a specified rate on a predetermined future date.

Australian Dollar One Touch
Investor buys a one-touch option that pays US$1,000,000 if the Australian dollar falls to 70 U.S. cents any time within two years from its current level of around $1.07. The option now costs about US$120,000. If the strike price is hit, the investor makes a return of about 730%.

Australian Dollar European-Style Option
Investor buys a European-style option to sell the Australian dollar at 70 U.S. cents when the option expires in two years. An option that allows the investor to sell US$10 million of Australian dollars at 70 U.S. cents now costs about US$160,000. The more the Aussie dollar falls below 70 cents by the expiry date, the greater the return.

Canadian Dollar European-Style Option
Investor buys a European-style option to buy the U.S. dollar at 1.30 Canadian dollars in two years, compared to its current level of 86 Canadian cents. It now costs about US$80,000 to buy an option for US$10 million of Canadian dollars at C$1.30 cents. The more the U.S. dollar rises above C$1.30 by the expiry date, the greater the return.

Yuan Non-Deliverable European-Style Option
Investor buys a "European-style" option to buy the U.S. dollar at 8 yuan in two years, compared to its current level of 6.46 yuan. An option that allows the investor to buy US$10 million of yuan at 8 yuan now costs about US$50,000. The more the U.S. dollar rises above 8 yuan by the expiry date, the greater the return. With non-deliverable yuan trades, no yuan actually changes hands.

Source: WSJ Research

However, there are other ways to profit from a China implosion. While stocks have sagged, currencies and commodities subject to the country's huge influence over global demand are still hovering at levels that suggest nothing is wrong.

The Australian dollar has soared 75% against the U.S. dollar from lows set during the global financial crisis, in large part because of Chinese demand for the country's iron ore, coal, gas and other resources. It remains surprisingly close to its all-time highs, even as commodity prices have fallen back.

The Canadian dollar could be another, less obvious way to play a Chinese slowdown, particularly for those feeling gloomy about the U.S. and Europe and therefore expect weak demand for Chinese exports.

Like Australia, Canada would suffer from a drop in Chinese consumption of its oil, gas and minerals. If China sees both exports and imports fall off, it will have less money to buy Canadian government debt, too. That could depress the Canadian dollar, which still trades about 27% above its financial-crisis lows against the U.S. dollar.

A bet against the Canadian dollar is a bit cheaper than one against its Australian counterpart, in part because Canadian interest rates aren't as high, a main cost factor in pricing currency bets such as swaps and options.

Then there's copper. China is the No. 1 consumer of the red metal, which is used for pipes and wires in buildings. That makes it a proxy play on Chinese real-estate. On Friday, three-month copper prices fell as low as $9,345 a metric ton in London, down from $9,429 a ton Thursday, after the release of a soft Chinese purchasing managers index.

But prices remain more than double their levels from late 2008. And the last time China's Purchasing Managers Index was at current sluggish levels of around 50, copper was closer to $7,000 a ton, notes Patrick Perret-Green, a Singapore-based strategist for Citigroup.

Bets that rely on a China slowdown rippling through the corporate world are another avenue. Hugh Hendry, who runs Eclectica Asset Management in London, has taken an unusual short-China position by buying up credit-default swaps on Japanese companies he believes would suffer from a slowdown in exports to China, now Japan's biggest trading partner.

Perhaps the longest shot is betting on a fall in China's currency. That play has recently picked up some fans willing to defy the conventional wisdom that the yuan can only go up against the dollar. Bankers say hedge funds are buying cheap positions that will score huge profits if the yuan suddenly falls. But China's currency isn't freely convertible, and Beijing retains a lot of scope— $3 trillion in currency reserves, or the equivalent of 51% of GDP—to manipulate the exchange rate if it needs to. It's easy to envision a scenario where China's economy suffers while the currency doesn't budge. As one banker put it, these bets are cheap to make for a reason.

China shorts have been on a roll for over a year now. Hedge-fund manager James Chanos took a public beating early last year for challenging China's economic fundamentals, and asserting that it was in the midst of a "credit-driven property bubble." There's a lot more people agreeing with him these days.

They may not all be right. The negative China buzz could turn out to be a passing phase, and the chance to make money as a short has passed.

Indeed, some analysts argue that Chinese stocks are so beaten down that it's time for a rally. Royal Bank of Scotland predicts the MSCI-China index could jump as much as 80% through 2012 as Beijing shifts toward growth policies ahead of a change in China's leadership next year.

China proved naysayers wrong many times in the past. Even if things turn bad, it may take longer to happen than some might think. An investor who's right at the wrong time could lose a lot of money waiting to be vindicated.

Like long-term China bulls, the shorts may need to acquire a knack for patience.
23217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: July 11, 2011, 07:10:05 PM
And the ACLU has done good work on this issue.  

But something that forms an important part of my sense of the group is my memory of the literature I received from them containing foaming hatred of President Reagan on what we might call now "radical progressive criteria" or "affirmative man endowed rights".   These values were deep in the essence of the organization.
23218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UN Norks running nuke program on: July 11, 2011, 06:38:12 PM


"Renegade nuclear-armed North Korea has taken over as head of a key UN disarmament
body, despite facing Security Council sanctions over its weapons programs.

The development comes the same week the UN defended its decision to support Iran's
holding an international "anti-terrorism" conference, at which participants
described Western powers as international terrorists.

UN officials say So Sepyong, the North Korean ambassador, becomes president of the
Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament (CD) as a result of rules that rotate the
position among its 65 member states in alphabetical order.

But critics said Wednesday the rules should be changed when they allow the CD -whose
mandate is in part to push for world nuclear disarmament -to be led by a country the
West considers an international nuclear pariah.

"No system should tolerate such a fundamental conflict of interests," said Hillel
Neuer, executive director of Geneva-based UN Watch, which also led protests against
the UN's input at the Iranian conference.

"It's common sense that a disarmament body should not be headed by the world's
archvillain on illegal weapons and nuclear proliferation, notorious for exporting
missiles and nuclear know-how to fellow rogue regimes around the globe."

Once a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, North Korea pulled out in 2003
after violating it. In 2006, it conducted its first nuclear bomb test and is
believed to have stockpiled up to eight nuclear warheads.

Mr. So said Tuesday he was "very engaged in moving the conference forward" and would
use his four weeks as president to seek "constructive proposals" that would
strengthen the CD's "work and ... credibility."

"That might make sense, if by 'forward' he means toward a nuclear winter, or by
'constructive,' he means steering clear of anything that might impede North Korea,"
said Anne Bayefsky, head of the New York-based monitoring group, Eye on the UN.

One of the most vocal countries at the group's meetings is Iran, which William
Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, said Wednesday had just carried out secret
tests of ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload in breach of UN
resolutions.

Mohammad Hassan Daryaei, Iran's ambassador to the CD, pledged his country's "full
support and cooperation" with North Korea as he congratulated the new president.

Marius Grinius, the Canadian envoy, also welcomed North Korea's succession, but
added Ottawa, along with other Western powers, believes the body has been
marginalized for years. It was "not negotiating anything," and had "not been for a
very long time."

While the UN bills the conference as the "single multilateral disarmament
negotiating forum of the international community," others exist -to the point Mr.
Grinius said the CD's inertia may seal its fate.

It was on "life support," he said, and "fast approaching a historic tipping point."


http://www.nationalpost.com/news/North+Korea+takes+over+body+disarmament/5027272/story.html
23219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US Naval Power on: July 11, 2011, 03:18:26 PM
By GORDON ENGLAND, JAMES L. JONES, AND VERN CLARK

All our citizens, and especially our servicemen and women, expect and deserve a thorough review of critical security decisions. After all, decisions today will affect the nation's strategic position for future generations.

The future security environment underscores two broad security trends. First, international political realities and the internationally agreed-to sovereign rights of nations will increasingly limit the sustained involvement of American permanent land-based, heavy forces to the more extreme crises. This will make offshore options for deterrence and power projection ever more paramount in support of our national interests.

Second, the naval dimensions of American power will re-emerge as the primary means for assuring our allies and partners, ensuring prosperity in times of peace, and countering anti-access, area-denial efforts in times of crisis. We do not believe these trends will require the dismantling of land-based forces, as these forces will remain essential reservoirs of power. As the United States has learned time and again, once a crisis becomes a conflict, it is impossible to predict with certainty its depth, duration and cost.

That said, the U.S. has been shrinking its overseas land-based installations, so the ability to project power globally will make the forward presence of naval forces an even more essential dimension of American influence.

What we do believe is that uniquely responsive Navy-Marine Corps capabilities provide the basis on which our most vital overseas interests are safeguarded. Forward presence and engagement is what allows the U.S. to maintain awareness, to deter aggression, and to quickly respond to threats as they arise. Though we clearly must be prepared for the high-end threats, such preparation should be made in balance with the means necessary to avoid escalation to the high end in the first place.

The versatility of maritime forces provides a truly unmatched advantage. The sea remains a vast space that provides nearly unlimited freedom of maneuver. Command of the sea allows for the presence of our naval forces, supported from a network of shore facilities, to be adjusted and scaled with little external restraint. It permits reliance on proven capabilities such as prepositioned ships.

Maritime capabilities encourage and enable cooperation with other nations to solve common sea-based problems such as piracy, illegal trafficking, proliferation of W.M.D., and a host of other ills, which if unchecked can harm our friends and interests abroad, and our own citizenry at home. The flexibility and responsiveness of naval forces provide our country with a general strategic deterrent in a potentially violent and unstable world. Most importantly, our naval forces project and sustain power at sea and ashore at the time, place, duration, and intensity of our choosing.

Given these enduring qualities, tough choices must clearly be made, especially in light of expected tight defense budgets. The administration and the Congress need to balance the resources allocated to missions such as strategic deterrence, ballistic missile defense, and cyber warfare with the more traditional ones of sea control and power projection. The maritime capability and capacity vital to the flexible projection of U.S. power and influence around the globe must surely be preserved, especially in light of available technology. Capabilities such as the Joint Strike Fighter will provide strategic deterrence, in addition to tactical long-range strike, especially when operating from forward-deployed naval vessels.

Postured to respond quickly, the Navy-Marine Corps team integrates sea, air, and land power into adaptive force packages spanning the entire spectrum of operations, from everyday cooperative security activities to unwelcome—but not impossible—wars between major powers. This is exactly what we will need to meet the challenges of the future.

Mr. England is a former secretary of the Navy. Mr. Jones is a former commandant of the Marine Corps. Mr. Clark is a former chief of naval operations.
23220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What you know ain't so on: July 11, 2011, 03:11:47 PM
By ROBERT BRIDGES

At the risk of heaping more misery on the struggling residential property market, an analysis of home-price and ownership data for the last 30 years in California—the Golden State with notoriously golden property prices—indicates that the average single family house has never been a particularly stellar investment.

In a society increasingly concerned with providing for retirement security and housing affordability, this finding has large implications. It means that we have put excessive emphasis on owner-occupied housing for social objectives, mistakenly relied on homebuilding for economic stimulus, and fostered misconceptions about homeownership and financial independence. We've diverted capital from more productive investments and misallocated scarce public resources.

Between 1980 and 2010, the value of a median-price, single-family house in California rose by an average of 3.6% per year—to $296,820 from $99,550, according to data from the California Association of Realtors, Freddie Mac and the U.S. Census. Even if that house was sold at the most recent market peak in 2007, the average annual price growth was just 6.61%.

So a dollar used to purchase a median-price, single-family California home in 1980 would have grown to $5.63 in 2007, and to $2.98 in 2010. The same dollar invested in the Dow Jones Industrial Index would have been worth $14.41 in 2007, and $11.49 in 2010.

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Here's another way of looking at the situation. If a disciplined investor who might have considered purchasing that median-price house in 1980 had opted instead to invest the 20% down payment of $19,910 and the normal homeownership expenses (above the cost of renting) over the years in the Dow Jones Industrial Index, the value of his portfolio in 2010 would have been $1,800,016. The stocks would have been worth more than the house by $1,503,196. If the analysis is based on 2007, the stock portfolio would have been worth $2,186,120, exceeding the house value by $1,625,850.

In light of this lackluster investment performance, and in the aftermath of the recent housing-market collapse, why is there such rapt attention to the revival of the homebuilding industry and residential property markets? The answer is that for policy makers whose survival depends on economic recovery, few activities have such direct, intense and immediate positive economic impact as new home construction.

These positive effects are transitory, however, when local economies have insufficient permanent employment to justify a constant level of demand for new housing stock. Existing housing does little to create new employment beyond limited levels of service employment. By contrast, a business investment in the amount of the several hundred thousand dollars represented in the value of a house would likely create many permanent jobs and produce income, profits and competition. As with most things, the benefits of building new homes come with a sobering caveat: What becomes of the work force once the party is over?

Home values may gain value over time, but home equity is locked-in until the house is sold. The profits may then be reinvested or spent, creating significant stimulative effects, but usually this happens when market conditions are strong, exacerbating unsustainable market booms. When troubled assets are dumped, or when defaults occur during weak market conditions, the trough is deepened.

Housing markets may be forever doomed to cyclicality for many reasons, but public policies that stimulate new construction or home purchases by tax and financing subsidies, reduction of qualifying incomes, buyer credits, mortgage backstopping, and preferential zoning and permitting, only intensify these cycles. Efforts to reduce loan balances and to create special rescue programs have reduced the security of loans, challenged the enforceability of contracts, and driven up real borrowing costs. Nearly a third of our states do not allow lenders the recourse provisions necessary to go after a borrower's personal assets in case of default on a residential mortgage. The sanctity of mortgage obligations has become the rough moral equivalent of the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit.

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Getty Images/Illustration Works
There is also a misconception that paying off a home mortgage is a path to financial or retirement security. The reality is that tapping the equity is expensive: Home-equity loans or lines of credit made with low qualifying incomes often command high interest rates and costs. If an emergency occurs—the loss of a job, or a business setback—it's likely that the same conditions creating the problem will lower the value and impede the marketability of the home and curtail the availability of financing for a buyer. Funds set aside for emergencies should always be liquid assets.

Is it wise for coming generations to continue to view ownership as the cornerstone of personal finance? Young people planning for retirement increasingly face a choice between house payments and contributions to retirement accounts. They simply can't afford both. With the specter of looming cuts in Social Security and other entitlement programs, or even possible systemic insolvency, the challenge for tomorrow's retirees is income self-sufficiency.

A nation of house buyers becomes captive to the economic cyclicality caused by bursts of construction activity, and it is not lifted or sustained by the limited levels of service employment related to existing housing. By contrast, a nation of business startups and investors supports our capital markets and creates long-term employment, income, exports and the myriad technological advancements desperately needed by an expanding American society.

New home construction and the markets for existing homes should be recognized as activities secondary to, and dependent on, employment. Healthy job markets create healthy property markets, not the reverse. Housing demand driven by job growth creates conditions capable of sustaining a stable level of construction employment, attracting private equity investment, sustaining competitive private debt markets, encouraging capital growth, and ensuring the lowest possible housing prices.

Owner-occupied homes will always be the basis for healthy and stable neighborhoods. But coming generations need to realize that while houses are possessions and part of a good life, they are not always good investments on the road to financial independence.

Mr. Bridges is professor of clinical finance and business economics at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.
23221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Lucy holds football for Charlie Brown , , , again. on: July 11, 2011, 03:06:59 PM

So the fondest Washington hopes for a grand debt-limit deal have broken down over taxes. House Speaker John Boehner said late Saturday that he couldn't move ahead with a $4 trillion deal because President Obama was insisting on a $1 trillion tax increase, and the White House quickly denounced House Republicans for scuttling debt reduction and preventing "the very wealthiest and special interests from paying their fair share."

How dare Republicans not agree to break their campaign promises and raise taxes when the jobless rate is 9.2% and President Obama's economic recovery is in jeopardy?

Related Video

 
Senior Economics Writer Steve Moore maps out the potential agreement for raising the debt ceiling.

We think Mr. Boehner is making the sensible choice. No one wants to reform the tax code more than we do, but passing a $1 trillion tax increase first on the promise of tax reform later is a political trap. If the President were really sincere about reform and a willingness to keep the top tax rate at or below 35%, he'd negotiate that at the same time he does a debt deal. Mr. Boehner will have a hard enough time getting any debt-limit increase through the House, much less one that raises tax rates.

Keep in mind that Mr. Obama has already signed the largest tax increase since 1993. While everyone focuses on the Bush tax rates that expire after 2012, other tax increases are already set to hit the economy thanks to the 2010 Affordable Care Act. As a refresher, here's a non-exhaustive list of ObamaCare's tax increases:

• Starting in 2013, the bill adds an additional 0.9% to the 2.9% Medicare tax for singles who earn more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000.

• For first time, the bill also applies Medicare's 2.9% payroll tax rate to investment income, including dividends, interest income and capital gains. Added to the 0.9% payroll surcharge, that means a 3.8-percentage point tax hike on "the rich." Oh, and these new taxes aren't indexed for inflation, so many middle-class families will soon be considered rich and pay the surcharge as their incomes rise past $250,000 due to tax-bracket creep. Remember how the Alternative Minimum Tax was supposed to apply only to a handful of millionaires?

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Associated Press
House Speaker John Boehner

Taxpayer cost over 10 years: $210 billion.

• Also starting in 2013 is a 2.3% excise tax on medical device manufacturers and importers. That's estimated to raise $20 billion.

• Already underway this year is the new annual fee on "branded" drug makers and importers, which will raise $27 billion.

• Another $15.2 billion will come from raising the floor on allowable medical deductions to 10% of adjusted gross income from 7.5%.

• Starting in 2018, the bill imposes a whopping 40% "excise tax" on high-cost health insurance plans. Though it only applies to two years in the 2010-2019 window of ObamaCare's original budget score, this tax would still raise $32 billion—and much more in future years.

• And don't forget a new annual fee on health insurance providers starting in 2014 and estimated to raise $60 billion. This tax, like many others on this list, will be passed along to consumers in higher health-care costs.


There are numerous other new taxes in the bill, all adding up to some $438 billion in new revenue over 10 years. But even that is understated because by 2019 the annual revenue increase is nearly $90 billion, or $900 billion in the 10 years after that. Yet Mr. Obama wants to add another $1 trillion in new taxes on top of this.

The economic ironies are also, well, rich. Mr. Obama is now pushing to reduce the payroll tax by two-percentage points for another year to boost the economy, but he's already built in a big increase in that same payroll tax for 2013. So if a payroll tax cut creates jobs this year, why doesn't a payroll tax increase destroy jobs after 2013?

Mr. Obama is also touting spending cuts he's willing to make in entitlements in return for bigger tax increases, yet the spending increases built into ObamaCare aren't even up for discussion in the debt-limit talks. The Affordable Care Act adds more than 30 million more Americans onto Medicaid's rolls, when that program is already growing by 6.5% this year. So Mr. Obama is willing to cut current entitlements on grounds that they are unaffordable, but he's taken what may be the most expensive entitlement off the table.

We think this was the President's spend-and-tax plan from the very first. Run up spending and debt in the name of stimulus and health-care reform, then count on Wall Street bond holders and the political establishment to browbeat Republicans into paying for it all. He apparently didn't figure on the rise of the tea party, or 1.9% GDP growth and 9.2% unemployment two years after the recession ended.

Last November Republicans won the House and landslide gains in many states in large part because of the deep unpopularity of the stimulus and ObamaCare. Mr. Boehner has a mandate for spending cuts and repealing the Affordable Care Act. If Republicans instead agree to raise taxes in return for future spending cuts that may or may not happen, they will simply be the tax collectors for Mr. Obama's much expanded entitlement society.
23222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: July 11, 2011, 02:58:14 PM
By the way, I note this thread now has over 100,000 reads cool
23223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: July 11, 2011, 02:56:37 PM
second post   
BEIJING—Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, kicked off a visit to China with a vow to maintain the U.S. military presence in Asia and a warning that recent incidents in the disputed waters of the South China Sea could escalate into conflict.

At the start of a four-day visit, Adm. Mullen on Sunday acknowledged China as a fellow Pacific power, but urged its military to ease regional concerns about its rapid modernization by playing a more cooperative, responsible and transparent role in the world.

Adm. Mullen arrived Saturday on a reciprocal visit at the invitation of Gen. Chen Bingde, his Chinese counterpart, who visited the U.S. in May as part of bilateral efforts to rebuild military exchanges that resumed in January after a 12-month suspension by Beijing.

But even as both sides express their commitment to enhance military ties, tensions are mounting again over one of the most divisive issues between them—the South China Sea, where China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all have territorial claims.

View Full Image

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Admiral Mike Mullen, right, seen here alongside Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in March, is visiting Beijing in a bid to cool military tensions between the U.S. and China.

Adm. Mullen expressed concern about recent incidents in those waters that have provoked angry exchanges between China and two other claimants—Vietnam and the Philippines—as well as protests in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, over the past few weeks.

"We have an enduring presence here, we have an enduring responsibility," Adm. Mullen told foreign reporters at a briefing. "We seek to strongly support the peaceful resolution of these differences. The worry, among others that I have, is that the ongoing incidents could spark a miscalculation, and an outbreak that no one anticipated and we should seek to avoid that under all circumstances."

Several Southeast Asian nations—most notably Vietnam—have been strengthening military ties with the U.S. since Chinese military and civilian figures began using more strident rhetoric about their territorial claims early last year.

China has accused the U.S. of interfering in its territorial affairs since Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, declared in Hanoi last July that the U.S. had an interest in protecting freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Beijing, which advocates resolving the territorial issues bilaterally without any U.S. involvement, has also repeatedly demanded that the U.S. cease aerial reconnaissance and joint exercises around what it sees as its territorial waters.

Adm. Mullen made it clear that the U.S. would maintain its military presence and activities in the region, which included low-level joint naval exercises with Japan and Australia in the South China Sea on Saturday.

"The U.S. is not going away," he said. "Our enduring presence in this region has been important to our allies for decades and it will continue to be so."

China's Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment about Saturday's exercises, or Adm. Mullen's comments Sunday. But the state-run China Daily, an English-language newspaper, said in an editorial Friday that Southeast Asian nations should not tolerate attempts by outside forces to interfere in bilateral disputes.

"Asia's history proves outside forces have never worked whole-heartedly for Asian peace and development," it said.

Speaking later Sunday to students at Renmin University in Beijing, Adm. Mullen urged China's military to be more open about its modernization program. "With greater military power must come greater responsibility, greater cooperation, and just as important, greater transparency," he said. "Without these things, the expansion of military power in your region, rather than making it more secure and stable, could have the opposite affect."

The U.S. and many Asian countries have been alarmed by China's rapid development of advanced weaponry—notably a stealth fighter, a prototype of which it test-flew in January, and an aircraft carrier expected to begin sea trials in August.

"There are some very specific capabilities that are being developed here that are very focused on the United States' capability," Adm. Mullen told the earlier briefing.

However, he said it was not clear whether China would be able to make use of the carrier's full potential, given the huge cost and technical challenges.

"There is great symbolism associated with that and I understand that…. Sometimes matching the actual capability of it versus the symbolism of it, there can be a gap there so I, like you, wait to see what is forthcoming," he said.

He also expressed hope that China and the U.S. could find more ways to cooperate on antipiracy patrols, humanitarian operations, and North Korea, and to communicate directly with each other to help resolve crises.

"China and the United States are both Pacific powers and will be for a long, long time. And we need to, from my perspective, approach this relationship as two leaders with all of the responsibilities that that implies," he said. "And frankly I think we need to work a lot harder on strategic trust and transparency. And it's my hope that these reciprocal visits will get us started in this direction and that they can be sustained even through difficult issues."
23224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud, SEIU/ACORN et al, corruption etc. on: July 11, 2011, 02:27:01 PM
Wow- wonder what Mao and Ghandi would say , , ,
23225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Manufacturer's have the SF Bay blues , , , on: July 11, 2011, 02:21:32 PM
http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_16028/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=1IhJ5lxA

 Guess who's been building the new span of the SF Bay Bridge?   
23226  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: July 10, 2011, 06:03:19 PM
Lots of good vibes in the post Gg altered state today.

Today I taught single stick for 5 hours.  Tomorrow Benji will do KK and I will do double stick and Kali Tudo.

Tonight I played the PPV show for everyone.  Good times!
23227  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Mayweather jumproping on: July 10, 2011, 05:56:04 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2B2Vrg1Y25c&feature=player_embedded
23228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Here's the URL on: July 10, 2011, 05:28:30 PM
http://capwiz.com/nra/dbq/officials/
23229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NRA: Sign and send this to your Senator on: July 10, 2011, 05:26:15 PM
Pertinent counter-point there GM as to the right way of doing things.
================

Urge Your U.S. Senator To Sign Sen. Moran's Letter To The President Opposing The UN Arms Trade Treaty
 
Friday, July 01, 2011
 
NRA will be in full attendance at the UN's Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) "Preparatory Committee" meeting in New York, July 11-15.  The so-called "Prep. Com." will be laying the ground work for a final negotiation session in 2012.  NRA's message will be simple and strong – an ATT which in any way, shape or form affects the constitutional rights of American gun owners is simply unacceptable.  Civilian firearms must not be within the scope of an ATT.  There will be no compromise on this crucial point.

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) agrees with NRA's position and has drafted a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton expressing "grave concern about the dangers posed by the United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty."   

Members are strongly encouraged to contact their U.S. Senators and urge them to stand by Sen. Moran, the Constitution and America's gun owners by supporting and signing this critically important letter (you can find contact information for your U.S. Senators here, or you may contact them by phone at (202) 224-3121).  It is imperative that we get backing from your senators in order to show the UN and the Obama administration that they don't have sufficient support or votes in the U.S. Senate to ratify a gun-ban treaty.

As we have often reported, NRA has been engaged at the United Nations and elsewhere internationally in response to anti-small arms initiatives for more than 15 years.  During this time, we have been actively opposing transnational efforts that would limit Americans' Second Amendment freedoms and have been monitoring and actively fighting any and all attempts on the part of the UN to restrict our sovereignty and gun rights.

NRA has been a recognized Non-Governmental Organization at the United Nations since 1997.  Our status as an NGO allows us to closely monitor the internal UN debate over firearm issues and report back to our members.  Our NGO status also allowed NRA to take an active role in thwarting the absurdly titled "UN Conference to Review Progress Made in the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects" in 2006, and the previous meeting, the "UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons" in the summer of 2001.

In addition to its UN activities, NRA is a founding member of the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities.  The WFSA is an association of hunting, shooting, and industry organizations that was founded in 1996.  The WFSA includes over 35 national and international organizations, representing over 100 million sport shooters worldwide.

NRA members may rest assured that NRA will be actively involved in this process and will oppose any treaty that attempts to impose limits on our Second Amendment rights.  In the meantime, members should contact their U.S. Senators and urge them to sign Sen. Moran's letter.


 
23230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Its Vegas and the spin begins here on: July 10, 2011, 05:15:03 PM
http://www.vegasinc.com/news/2011/jul/08/las-vegas-home-sales-surge-prices-continue-fal/
23231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: July 10, 2011, 04:28:28 PM
I'm with BD on this.
23232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: July 10, 2011, 04:26:16 PM
The point I was addressing was the nature of those who make up the support of the ACLU, not the leadership itself.
23233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: July 10, 2011, 04:21:00 PM
Amen.  I thought that last post really pulled things together.
23234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 10, 2011, 01:44:13 PM
That , , , was , , , awesome.
23235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: July 10, 2011, 01:37:02 PM


"some might be suckered in by the superficial claims of caring about the constitution and are ignorant of the Stalinist origins of the group. "

That would include me when I was in.  I would submit though that you remain a tad too harsh.  I think a noticable percentage of regular members includes who are simply making a well intentioned statement that they believe the C, applies to everyone, even the anus clients that the ACLU so often represents.
23236  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: July 10, 2011, 01:30:57 PM
My bad. embarassed  This was only his second Gg as Candidate and so he is not yet eligible for consideration.  He remains C-Gung Fu Dog,
23237  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: July 10, 2011, 12:41:19 AM
Far too big a day to relate all at once, (I will have to get the final count of the fighters from Benji) so I will start with the newly ascended Gong Fu Dog;s Three Section Staff.  In the interest of full disclosure I should say that I worked both GFD and one of his opponents, Dog Andraz  wink

Frankly our thoughts on the TSS before GFD was that generally it was not a terribly effective weapon (see #6 in RCSFg, The Stick vs Other Weapons) but GFD, with a strong background in a traditional Chinese Gung Fu system has caused our thinking to evolve.  See the 2011 TrIbal Gg clip.  When paired with his substantial aggressive BJJ guard skills it is not enough to achieve closing the distance.  I worked with Dog Andraz some ideas for closing on GFD's TSS , , , and then I worked with GFD to become harder to close against.  Much of this had to do with adding to his ability to throw caveman and forehand horizontals (which by the themselves run the risk of predictability) with uppercuts from both sides and backhand horizontals and diagonals as well.  Also we worked a gunfighting footwork concept to his spinning backhand move.   
Given that he had only been exposed to these ideas for the first time the day before this fight, I was really impressed with how well he integrated them into his fight.

I look forward to seeing what happens as he deepens in this material from this experience.

DA executed very well the blocking structure on which we had worked to defend against the TSS ability to whip around typical blocks and whack the opponent, often in the back of the head.  Being sound in this is vital against the TSS and I thought DA did this very well.   

Both men had their moments in a very exciting fight.

This was not the only quality fight for the TSS.  GFD can generate considerable power with some of his motions and he may have broken a metacarpal in one of a different opponent's hands.  Also there submissions  from guard. when the fight did close e.g. GFD closed against a spear structure long staff opponent.   

In a related vein Lonely Dog and , , , I forget who had an intriguing fight using flails (stick with wooden ball attached by short length of rope).  IT being felt that the wooden ball presented IQ reducing risks, a certain care was used.

Sorry for disjointed nature of this post; it is the best I am capable of at this moment.
23238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CAIR on: July 10, 2011, 12:09:01 AM

In Defense Of The Constitution

News & Analysis
July 9, 2011
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/CAIRreportLeeBacaMuslimBrotherhood.html

   
     CAIR, Berkeley, And The Report About Nothing

     The Council on American-Islamic Relations(CAIR) and Berkeley
University recently issued a joint report on “Same Hate, New Target:
Islamophobia and Its Impact in the United States 2009-2010 (
http://crg.berkeley.edu/content/islamophobia-report-0910 )”.  There
are a few interesting questions arising from this joint effort between
one of Americas largest Islamic hate groups and a university that
prides itself on politically inclusive speech and“diversity”.

     Some questions for Berkeley;

   -    Why did Berkeley join with a known Islamic supremacist
hate group with proven ties (
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/HLFJudgeSolisUnsealedRulingCAIRHamas.pdf
) to Islamic terrorism to issue a report?
   -    Why wouldn’t Berkeley respond when Anti-CAIR e-mailed
them simply asking for an explanation on their relationship to CAIR?

     The best thing to come from this infamous collaboration
was…exactly nothing.  The report was printed on glossy paper, many
names and high titles of authors were included, and spiffy graphics
were on the cover. Yet it appears nobody has bothered to read the
report.  It seems that CAIR’s ability to attract fawning mentions
of this"report" in the main-stream press has hit a stumbling block.
There are no adoring reporters calling CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper
about the report, there is no mention of it on the talk-show networks.
It appears there is no interest in CAIR and Berkeley’s phony report
on "Islamophobia".  (We did find news releases paid for by CAIR (
http://www.google.com/search?q=Same+Hate%2C+New+Target%3A+Islamophobia+and+Its+Impact+in+the+United+States+2009-2010&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a#q=Same+Hate%2C+New+Target%3A+Islamophobia+and+Its+Impact+in+the+United+States+2009-2010&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbo=u&tbm=nws&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wn&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=dd5639e19c54e10d&biw=992&bih=583
) touting their farcical report.)

     Time and money was wasted, trees were needlessly cut down,
much pontificating and smoke blowing went into the Report About
Nothing and it seems nobody cares.

     This is as it should be.

-------------------------
 
   
     L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca's Muslim Community Affairs Unit
Spills The Beans On The Muslim Brotherhood?

     L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca has unfortunately shown to be a
tireless defender of CAIR (
http://www.investigativeproject.org/2675/compelling-testimony-political-theater
). Despite all evidence (
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/WhatLawEnforcementSaysAboutCAIR.html )
proving CAIR's creation by HAMAS supporters and operatives (
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/HLFJudgeSolisUnsealedRulingCAIRHamas.pdf
) to advance the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood and support HAMAS (
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/FBItiesCAIRHamas ), Baca has publicly and
enthusiastically defended CAIR as witnessed at the recent
congressional hearings (
http://www.investigativeproject.org/2675/compelling-testimony-political-theater
) held by Rep. Peter King.

     So an interesting event occurred at the Islamic Center of
Southern California (
http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/355.pdf ) (ICSC).
The Center was hosting a community town hall meeting led by the Muslim
Public Affairs Council (
http://www.investigativeproject.org/1785/mpac-pursues-islamist-ideology-in-guise-of-civil
) (MPAC), a group founded (
http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/358.pdf ) and
staffed (
http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/ArticlePrint.aspx?id=554287 )
by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other like-minded
Islamofascists (
http://www.danielpipes.org/4603/mpac-cair-and-praising-osama-bin-laden
).
 
     The L.A. County Sheriff’s Muslim Community Affairs Unit
(MCAU) was featured, represented by Deputy Sherif Morsi whose goal (
http://homeland.house.gov/sites/homeland.house.gov/files/Testimony%20Baca%20Attach%201.pdf
) as a MCAU official is to “build a stronger relationship with the
Muslim community for better understanding and cooperation with law
enforcement.”

     Deputy Morsi was questioned by Alan Kornman (
http://theunitedwest.org/la-sheriff%E2%80%99s-muslim-community-affairs-unit-is-a-civil-rights-lawsuit-waiting-to-happen/
) of"The United West ( http://theunitedwest.org/ )" about the MCAU and
whether other religions had a special unit in the L.A. County
Sheriff's office to help build their community support. (The short
answer, No. None.)

     When Mr. Kornman spoke to Deputy Morsi after the meeting,
Kornman had started to ask a question about the Muslim Brotherhood
when Deputy Morsi immediately cut off the entire question upon hearing
the words "Muslim Brotherhood" by saying: (video 4:44 (
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1x7C8P_Hu6g ))

     "I don't work terrorism, that's not my function,...I don't
deal with terrorism, I'm not going to make any comments on
terrorism..."

     Deputy Sheriff Sherif Morsi did what probably no other Muslim
in that meeting would have done, let alone in public. When asked about
the Muslim Brotherhood he quickly and emphatically equated the group
with TERRORISM. There can be no mistake here. Morsi clearly related
the Muslim Brotherhood with Terrorism.

     L.A. County Deputy Sheriff Sherif Morsi apparently knows the
real danger the Muslim Brotherhood poses to the United States of
America.

     Maybe he can one day clue-in his boss?

Andrew Whitehead
Director
Anti-CAIR
ajwhitehead@anti-cair-net.org
www.anti-cair-net.org ( http://www.anti-cair-net.org/ )

Story Links:
http://crg.berkeley.edu/content/islamophobia-report-0910
http://www.google.com/search?q=Same+Hate%2C+New+Target%3A+Islamophobia+and+Its+Impact+in+the+United+States+2009-2010
http://www.investigativeproject.org/2675/compelling-testimony-political-theater
http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/355.pdf
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/WhatLawEnforcementSaysAboutCAIR.html
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/HLFJudgeSolisUnsealedRulingCAIRHamas.pdf
http://www.anti-cair-net.org/FBItiesCAIRHamas
http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/355.pdf
http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/358.pdf
http://www.investors.com/NewsAndAnalysis/ArticlePrint.aspx?id=554287
http://www.danielpipes.org/4603/mpac-cair-and-praising-osama-bin-laden
http://homeland.house.gov/sites/homeland.house.gov/files/Testimony%20Baca%20Attach%201.pdf
http://theunitedwest.org/la-sheriff%E2%80%99s-muslim-community-affairs-unit-is-a-civil-rights-lawsuit-waiting-to-happen/
http://theunitedwest.org/
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1x7C8P_Hu6g
23239  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: July 09, 2011, 05:14:56 PM
An awesome day.
23240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: July 09, 2011, 11:14:53 AM
About one year ago Glenn Beck had some go outside in front of his studio and act all this out. VERY funny bit and  tragic that this is what we have come to.
23241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Panetta: Winning! on: July 09, 2011, 11:05:52 AM
Panetta: US within reach of defeating al-Qaida
 
FILE - In this June 9, 2011 file photo, Leon Panetta testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington during a hearing on his nomination for defense secretary. Speaking with reporters flying with him on his first visit to Afghanistan since taking over as defense secretary, Panetta said Saturday, July 9, 2011 that the U.S. and its allies are within reach of defeating al-Qaida after killing Osama bin Laden and gaining new insights about the terrorist group's other leading figures. (AP Photo - Manuel Balce Ceneta)
ROBERT BURNS
From Associated Press
July 09, 2011 11:23 AM EDT
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. and its allies are within reach of defeating al-Qaida after killing Osama bin Laden and gaining new insights about the terrorist group's other leading figures, new U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Saturday.

The former CIA director offered an upbeat assessment about the prospects for ending al-Qaida's threat as he spoke with reporters flying with him on his first visit to Afghanistan since taking over as Pentagon chief July 1.

In a separate interview later, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he agreed with Panetta's assessment.


In the aftermath of the May 2 raid that killed bin Laden in Pakistan, the U.S. has determined that eliminating "somewhere around 10 to 20 key leaders" of al-Qaida would cripple the network, Panetta said. Those leaders are in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa, he added.

"We're within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaida," Panetta said, addressing reporters for the first time since succeeding Robert Gates as defense secretary.

"The key is that, having gotten bin Laden, we've now identified some of the key leadership within al-Qaida, both in Pakistan as well as in Yemen and other areas," he said.

"If we can be successful at going after them, I think we can really undermine their ability to do any kind of planning, to be able to conduct any kind of attack" on the United States. "That's why I think it's within reach. Is it going to take some more work? You bet it is. But I think it's within reach," Panetta said.

In an interview at the main U.S. military headquarters in Kabul, Petraeus said al-Qaida is on the run.

"There has been enormous damage done to al-Qaida," beyond the death of bin Laden, in the areas of western Pakistan where the group is believed operating, Petraeus said. "That has very significantly disrupted their efforts and it does hold the prospect of a strategic defeat, if you will, a strategic dismantling, of al-Qaida."

Asked how he defines a "strategic defeat" for al-Qaida, Petraeus said it means that "they can't carry out strategically important attacks."

Petraeus, who is leaving his post this month and succeeding Panetta at the CIA, said there are small numbers of al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan. He said the al-Qaida "brand" is likely to remain a feature of the global terrain, even if the Pakistan-based core of al-Qaida is unable to carry out large attacks against the West.

Panetta said the 10 to 20 top terrorist figures in al-Qaida's hierarchy who are now the focus of U.S. efforts include Ayman al-Zawahri, the designator successor to bin Laden as al-Qaida's leader.

Panetta said the U.S. believes al-Zawahri is living in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of western Pakistan.

The only other name he mentioned was Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born Muslim cleric living in Yemen. The U.S. has put him on a kill-or-capture list.

"Now is the moment, following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple al-Qaida as a major threat" to America, he said.

Al-Qaida's attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, triggered the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban government that had sheltered bin Laden. But in the years since, the Taliban has reasserted itself and al-Qaida has managed to operate from havens in neighboring Pakistan.

Al-Qaida affiliates have emerged in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. That's led many in the U.S. to argue for a shift from fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan to targeting al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan and other places.

Asked whether he thought Pakistani authorities knew that bin Laden had been living in their country, Panetta said, "Suspicions, but no smoking gun." The Pakistani government says it did not know bin Laden's whereabouts when Navy SEALs attacked his compound not far from Islamabad.

In Panetta's talks with Petraeus and his successor, Marine Gen. John R. Allen, a central topic was expected to be President Barack Obama's decision on June 22 to withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year and 23,000 more by September 2012. The drawdown is to begin this month, but not all details have been worked out.

Offering an overview of the security situation in Afghanistan, Petraeus said he was encouraged that the number of insurgent attacks in June was down slightly from June 2010 and that the trend is holding thus far in July. This contrasts with intelligence analysts' forecast of an 18 percent to 30 percent increase for 2011, he said.

Panetta also intended to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Karzai's mercurial character and frequent public criticisms of the U.S.-led international military coalition have soured his relations with many U.S. officials, including the current U.S. ambassador. Karl Eikenberry.


Eikenberry is handing off that post this month to Ryan Crocker, a veteran diplomat and former U.S, ambassador to Iraq who was coaxed out of retirement. Crocker reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul after the 2001 toppling of the Taliban

Panetta said he believes he and Obama's "whole new team" of U.S. leaders in Kabul have a good understanding of Karzai.

"Hopefully, it can be the beginning of a much better relationship than what we've had over the last few years," he said.

On a lighter note, he said he has gotten a feel for his new job as defense secretary. He compared it to his official aircraft, a towering military version of the Boeing 747.

"It's big, it's complicated, it's filled with sophisticated technology, it's bumpy, but in the end it's the best in the world."
23242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: July 09, 2011, 10:33:14 AM
For one year in the 1980s I was a member of the ACLU.   The in-house material was extremely leftist and dishonest in its pretense of a commitment to freedom and quite pro-socialist.  I did not renew.
23243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Incandescent bulbs on: July 09, 2011, 10:24:00 AM


http://dailycaller.com/2011/07/08/house-gop-set-to-repeal-incandescent-bulb-ban/
23244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: July 09, 2011, 10:22:38 AM
Umm , , , our embassador?
23245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Noonan- Reagan on: July 09, 2011, 02:59:21 AM
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What brilliant good it can do a country when the world respects, and will not forget, one of its leaders. What was vividly true 30 years ago is true today: The world looks to America. It doesn't want to be patronized or dominated by America, it wants to see America as a beacon, an example, a dream of what could be. And the world wants something else: American goodness. It wants to have faith in the knowledge that America is the great nation that tries to think about and act upon right and wrong, and that it is a beacon also of things practical—how to have a sturdy, good, unsoiled economy, how to create jobs that provide livelihoods that allow families to be formed, how to maintain a system in which inventors and innovators can flourish. A world without America in this sense—the beacon, the inspiration, the speaker of truth—would be a world deprived of hopefulness. And so we must be our best selves again not only for us but for the world.

These are the thoughts that follow eight days of celebration, in Eastern Europe and London, of the leadership of Ronald Reagan. History is rarely sweet, but it was last week when they raised statues of him in his centenary year. People old and young stopped for a moment to think and speak of him, and to define what his leadership meant to them and their countries. The celebrations in Krakow, Budapest, Prague and London were a reminder that we are all traveling through history together, that you are living not only your own life but the life of your times, as Laurens van der Post once said. And your era can actually be affected, made better, by what you do.

The subject matter was the fall of the wall, the end of communism, the reunification of Europe—those epochal events the world is still absorbing and that in retrospect seem even more amazing. Good people picked good leaders—the Big Three of the Cold War, Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, Reagan—and together they pushed until walls fell. Man is not used to such kind outcomes. A feeling of awe and gratitude colored the ceremonies: "My God, look what was done, I still can't believe it. Let's talk about how it happened and take those lessons into the future." Now of all times we could use the inspiration.

In Krakow, the city from which Karol Wojtyla was called to Rome to become John Paul II, there was a thanksgiving mass celebrated by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who said in his homily: "President Reagan . . . took great pains to bring about the demise of that which he so aptly named 'the evil empire.' This empire of evil denied many people and nations their freedom. It did so by way of a pernicious ideology . . . the result of this experiment was the death and sufferings of millions." "There can be no doubt," he said, that Reagan and John Paul brought about "the collapse of communism."

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In Budapest, in a special session of the Hungarian Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen spoke of the end of Hungary as a captive nation and its beginnings as a democracy. Reagan, he said, "helped Hungary find itself." Member of Parliament Janos Horvath spoke of Reagan's style of peaceful liberation. What America did by being strong, by being serious in its focus, by speaking plain and true, not only inspired the victims of communism but weakened their oppressors. Reagan had "the imagination" to understand that the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a historic event: "He kept quoting Harry Truman's commitment to the liberation of the captive nations. That, for Reagan, was a more important thing than for other presidents." Hungary knew Truman had been "infuriated" by what the Soviets did, "arresting people, including myself." Reagan made clear he "felt the indignation." And so, "Hungary took seriously what America meant—human rights, democracy." It left Horvath an optimist. "I have faith that the right thing prevails. This is the Ronald Reagan mentality."

I asked a member of Parliament whether the people of Hungary had felt any bitterness over the fact that President Eisenhower did not commit U.S. military forces to help the Hungarians in 1956. At first he was puzzled. Bitterness? Any residual disappointment, I said. No, he said. "We understood your position." Meaning, he explained, our position as a superpower in the nuclear age, and our position on freedom. They knew whose side we were on.

A veteran diplomat in the area, an American, said later that everything he'd heard in the speeches left him thinking how the great progress of the past quarter-century had been made not through warfare but through diplomacy, tough decisions, aid, encouragement and rhetorical clarity and candor.

More Peggy Noonan

Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns

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At the unveiling of the Reagan statue in Freedom Square, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Reagan "managed change wisely and preserved peace. This is why he needs to have a statue in Budapest." In tearing down "the distorted and sick ideologies of the 20th century," Reagan "remade the world for us."

Rather stunningly, the leader of Hungary's government bluntly ended his speech with a sentiment often heard in Omaha, Tucson, Morristown and Tallahassee: "We need a Ronald Reagan. Is he there, somewhere, already?" The world misses him as much as we do. It misses grand leadership as much as we do.

***
In Prague they named a street for him. In London, on the Fourth of July, 235th birthday of the United States, they unveiled a statue in front of the U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square. Two other presidents grace that square: a heroic FDR in flowing cape, and a steely-eyed Eisenhower in army uniform. The day was nonpartisan, non-narrow. A great American was being justly honored by his British friends who, as Foreign Secretary William Hague said, "will never forget" him. A statue, he said, is not just a remembrance. With statues we come "face to face" with the great men and women of the past, and ponder their greatness.

That night, members of Parliament gathered for a formal dinner in London's magnificent Guildhall. There were speeches, some beautiful. Among the packed tables there was a former member of Mrs. Thatcher's cabinet, who in his day had taken heavy blows for his unrepentant conservatism. Now, white-haired, he listened to the speeches, as across the room a woman watching him remembered the greatest speech in English history: "Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot/ But he'll remember with advantages/ What feats he did that day."

And so Mr. Reagan's centennial nears its close. We remember him—and Thatcher, and John Paul—for many reasons. To reinforce and reinspire. To keep fresh our knowledge that history can be made better. To be loyal to the truth.

And another reason. That night in conversation, former Prime Minister John Major asked how our teaching of history was in America. Not good, I said. He said in Britain it was the same, and it concerned him. We were across from a huge, heroic sculpture of the Duke of Wellington. If we don't teach who he was and what he did, we will not make any more Wellingtons. Glory lives only when you pass it on.
23246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: July 09, 2011, 02:53:46 AM
The best that can be said for yesterday's June jobs report is that maybe, if we're lucky, it's a lagging indicator. Perhaps the meager 18,000 in net new jobs, and the increase in the jobless rate to 9.2%, are the trailing end of the 2011 slowdown that will turn around in the second half.

Let's hope so because the details of the report are every bit as ugly as the headlines. Revised numbers for May indicate a gain of only 25,000 jobs, instead of the initial report of 54,000. The separate and more volatile household survey found that the labor force shrank by 272,000. So the jobless rate rose even as the supply of workers fell.

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Wages declined by a penny to $22.99 an hour and the average workweek fell slightly to 34.3 hours. The combined rate for jobless and discouraged workers rose to 16.2%, and six million Americans, or 44.4% of the jobless, have been out of work for more than six months. The percentage of working age Americans with a paycheck fell to 58.2%, which is below the 58.5% at this time a year ago. The economy isn't generating President Obama's vaunted "green jobs," or blue- or white-collar jobs, or any color jobs.

Other recent economic indicators have pointed to a growth pickup. Corporate profits are healthy, the stock market (until Friday) had rebounded from its recent correction, manufacturing output has climbed, and consumers increased retail spending at a brisk 7% clip last month.

But it's no wonder that polls find that more than half of Americans believe the economy is still in recession. In six of the last eight recoveries, all the jobs lost were regained within two years of recession's end. In this recovery we are still seven million jobs below peak employment in 2008, and about two million fewer than if the $830 billion 2009 stimulus had worked as advertised and held unemployment below 8%.

President Obama's economic advisers have been leaving one by one to return to private life, and who can blame them. They used the entire Keynesian, liberal playbook to spur economic growth, and this is the result. The intellectual dissonance must be demoralizing.
23247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Baraq about to bone Boener on: July 09, 2011, 02:47:23 AM
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President Obama wants Congress to raise the $14.3 trillion national debt limit, which means he needs House Republican votes. Yet Mr. Obama and the Washington chorus are insisting that in return for doing him the favor of voting to raise that limit, Republicans must also do him another favor by raising taxes.

That's the larger political context for the news that House Speaker John Boehner and Mr. Obama have agreed to go for a big bang debt-limit deal that cuts spending and raises taxes far more than everyone expected. The target is now said to be $4 trillion over 10 years, though that's far less important than the details, which are still murky.

But we're told that the essence of the deal is that Mr. Obama is willing to put larger cuts in Medicare and Social Security and the promise of tax reform on the table, if Mr. Boehner agrees to let the current tax rates on capital gains, dividends and the top two tax brackets expire after 2012.

We can't fault Mr. Boehner for trying, and his arguments for doing so carry some weight. The thinking is that cuts in entitlements must be done on a bipartisan basis, Mr. Obama has incentive to deal to shed his big-spending reputation, and even if Republicans win Congress and the White House in 2012 they won't be able to do much against united Democrats. The Speaker thinks that if he can get Mr. Obama's consent now to put spending on a downward path to 19% of GDP over time (from 24% or so), it is worth moving on taxes.

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We trust Mr. Boehner also realizes this is a high-risk game for the economy and his House majority. Especially risky is his willingness to "decouple" the Bush tax rates for the middle class and upper incomes. The White House is insisting that as part of any deal the current tax rates on the middle class—the child tax credit, etc.—would be made permanent, while the lower rates on capital gains, dividends and the higher income brackets would expire after 2012. Taken by itself this would be a tax increase pure and simple and violate the GOP's campaign pledge.

But here's what we're told is Mr. Boehner's political kicker: The proposed deal would also include some kind of "trigger" device, so far undefined, that would compel House and Senate negotiators to complete tax reform discussions over the next several months. We're told the White House has said it is open in principle to a top rate of 35% on individuals and something like 26% or 27% on corporations—in return for closing various loopholes.

More troubling than these details is the staggered timing. Republicans would be putting their fingerprints on a tax increase in return for spending cuts as a first order of business, which would raise the dividend and top income tax rates to 39.6% (from 35%), or 41% if you include the phase-out of deductions. (Plus the 3.8% payroll tax hike baked into ObamaCare.) Only then would Mr. Obama and the Democrats negotiate the details of tax reform and lower overall rates.

But why at that point would Democrats want tax reform? They'd have achieved their main political goals of a huge debt-reduction deal, getting GOP cover for a tax increase, and putting Republicans cross-wise with the tea party. Raising tax rates first also makes the math of tax reform that much harder to negotiate on both revenue and income-distribution grounds. Under the Beltway's scoring rules, cutting rates would look like an even bigger gain for higher-income folks and an even bigger revenue loss for the Treasury.

In other words, Mr. Boehner would make his ultimate goal—tax reform—that much more difficult to achieve politically. And that's assuming the entitlement cuts he gets are genuine—not merely cuts to doctors or hospitals that won't happen in practice. It also assumes that the "trigger" for tax reform is strong enough to override liberal obstruction in the Senate. We'll see a unicorn first.

Meantime, such a deal would signal that tax rates are more likely to rise in 2013, which won't help the listless economy. Only yesterday, in response to the June 9.2% jobless rate, Mr. Obama called for an extension of this year's payroll tax cut. So he wants to increase the deficit by extending a payroll tax cut that has coincided with higher joblessness, while raising other taxes in a way that would reduce investment that would create jobs. Republicans who embrace this logic deserve the tea party's disdain.

***
Tax reform is a worthwhile policy goal, and Mr. Boehner is right to pursue it. But the only way he can avoid being taken for a ride by Democrats is if all parts of any deal are negotiated, voted on and then implemented immediately. Two men, one deal, once. Promises of future action aren't credible.

Even if Mr. Obama is sincere on tax reform, he can't guarantee he can deliver Senate Democrats who are desperate to keep their majority in 2012, much less Nancy Pelosi. We're told that in Thursday's White House meeting, Mr. Obama promised to veto any short-term debt-limit deal to give the two sides more time to negotiate. If that's true, then the President isn't serious. It means he is using the pressure of the August 2 deadline to bull-rush Mr. Boehner into a bad deal.

If Mr. Obama is sincere about a long-term spending and tax reform agreement, he'll take the time to get it right. If he insists on issuing ultimatums, then House Republicans would be better off passing a debt-limit ceiling for a few months with comparable spending cuts and letting Senate Democrats do the same. Mr. Boehner shouldn't bet his majority on Mr. Obama's promises.
23248  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: WTO ruling relevant to REE issue on: July 09, 2011, 02:41:12 AM
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By JAMES BACCHUS

China's entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 was an unambiguously positive step for China in terms of opening up the country to trade and overall economic development. Now it is becoming clearer that China's WTO membership is a benefit for other countries, too. Witness the way in which the WTO may help foreign governments and businesses compel Beijing to reconsider troubling export restrictions on important raw materials.

In recent years, Beijing has expanded a list of minerals and metals subject to stiff export taxes and quotas or outright export bans. A trend that started with elements such as bauxite and materials such as coke for use in steel production expanded dramatically last year to include so-called rare-earth metals—17 elements whose unique properties make them indispensable to high-technology applications such as magnets, lasers, computer screens and cell phones. China currently accounts for 97% of global production of these critical metals.

Foreign businesses and governments have struggled to convince Beijing to relax these export limits, especially in the case of rare earths. But the ruling in a WTO case decided this week suggests that the world trade body could be an effective tool for resolving this problem.

Responding to a complaint by the United States, the European Union and Mexico, a WTO panel ruled on Tuesday that duties and quotas imposed by China on exports of nine metal ores and other raw materials vital to steel, chemical, aluminum and other industries violate international trade rules. This case does not touch on rare earths specifically but the facts and legal concepts are very similar.

The most significant aspect of the finding relates to China's claim to an environmental defense of its export rules. China's WTO accession agreement committed Beijing to eliminate taxes and other charges on exports of all goods except for a list of 84 products; the list does not include any of the raw materials at issue in the current case or any of the rare-earth elements. The only exception allowed by the WTO would be if China could prove that an export restriction is necessary for health or environmental protection, which is what Beijing tried to do in this case.

Mining can at times damage the environment, so China's defense couldn't necessarily be ruled out automatically. The WTO panel's rationale in the raw-materials case decided this week helps set the ground rules for judging China's future environmental claims.

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An iron ore stock yard in Tianjin, China

Importantly, the panel in the raw-materials case concluded that commitments of this kind made in China's accession agreement are not eligible for the environmental defense that is available to many other WTO violations. The rule permitting an environmental defense is in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which is one of many agreements that, together, comprise the overall WTO treaty. An open legal question is the extent to which the scope of this rule extends to excusing violations of the specific accession agreements of China and other WTO members.

The raw-materials panel concluded that since China's WTO agreement didn't specifically invoke GATT rules for export duties relating to these products (and for rare-earths), China can't now base its defense on a GATT provision. Based on previous WTO rulings, this seems a sound conclusion.

The panel went on to say that even if an environmental defense were available in such cases, China did not meet the legal burden of proving such a defense in the raw-materials dispute. The panel found that China did not show that those restrictions would contribute to human health by reducing pollution. Further, although China argued that the raw-materials restrictions are justified because they relate to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources, the panel found otherwise.

The basic legal problem for Beijing in claiming an environmental defense is that while it has limited exports to foreigners, it has not simultaneously taken steps to limit domestic mining or consumption, which is required under the GATT rule for such a defense. This rationale has a direct bearing on the rare-earths limits because those too have affected only exports and not domestic consumption.

This week's panel decision may not be the last word in this case. China has 60 days to appeal to the WTO Appellate Body, the global trade appeals court, which would then have 90 days to render a final decision. China can be expected to appeal. Reacting to this week's ruling, the Chinese government reiterated its environmental argument, saying its restrictive export measures on the raw materials "are in line with the objective of sustainable development promoted by the WTO and they help induce the resource industry toward healthy development."

Based on findings in previous cases, though, it is by no means certain China would win an appeal. If the panel decision were upheld, Beijing would either have to comply with the ruling by removing the restrictions on raw-materials exports, or suffer costly sanctions in other areas of trade from the countries that filed the case.

Beijing can't necessarily afford for matters to go that far. There are signs the government may change its policies accordingly. For instance, although the rare-earths restrictions have not yet been the subject of any litigation, the Commerce Ministry announced that it may unilaterally reform the rare-earths restrictions "according to relevant laws and World Trade Organization rulings," even as other parts of the government seemed to press forward toward an appeal.

Some officials within Beijing understand that China needs the WTO as much as other WTO members need China. Because China has a stake in maintaining free trade under the WTO system—and in encouraging other countries to change their own policies in those WTO cases where China itself prevails—Beijing has an incentive to comply with the spirit of the ruling across the board, in addition to complying with the letter of the ruling for the affected exports.

One positive outcome would be a negotiated settlement to the rare-earths issue now—years before any WTO ruling on that case could be implemented. Such a settlement could address any legitimate health or environmental concerns Beijing may have while ensuring that domestic and foreign consumers of rare earths alike share in any costs associated with better health and environmental compliance.

The next chance for a breakthrough will come next week with the arrival in Beijing of EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. Commenting on the raw-materials ruling, Mr. De Gucht said, "I expect that China will now bring its export regime in line with international rules. Furthermore, in the light of this result, China should ensure free and fair access to rare earth supplies." That's good advice. Beijing would be wise to heed it.

Mr. Bacchus, a former Democratic Representative from Florida, is former chairman of the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization and chairs the global practice of Greenberg Traurig LLP.
23249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: July 09, 2011, 01:18:58 AM
My last two posts in the SNAFU thread contain what is IMHO some very important material.  The US, as Iran has predicted for some time now, appears to be in the process of being run out of the Middle East altogether.  It appears we are out of Afpakia, Iraq, Egypt, and now Saudi Arabia, hence out of all the smaller kingdoms of the Arabian peninsula.

It appears that Baraq has managed to completely rupture the Saudis trust in our will with his handling of their concerns during the uprising against Mubarak in Egypt.

Looking backwards for a moment, in a larger sense it seems to be that all of this was already in the cards when the Dems determined to bring down US efforts in Iraq and Baraq pretend surged in Afpakia.

Bush is not immune here either.  A plausible although mistaken case can be made that we should have finished with Afpakia (either leaving altogether or finishing the job) before going into Iraq.  This IMHO ignores what would have happened had we not gone into Iraq- which is a longer discussion than I feel up to right now with the Gathering in a few hours.  Bush-Rumbo also did a poor job of running the Iraq War, even when taking into account the utter destructiveness of the Dem opposition.

But here we are.   What to do now?

One idea that occurs to me is a mutual defense treaty with Israel with a base in Israel. 
23250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Triangle of intrigue- some very important stuff here folks on: July 09, 2011, 01:05:10 AM

STRATFOR
---------------------------
July 9, 2011


TRIANGLE OF INTRIGUE: IRANIAN-SAUDI NEGOTIATIONS AND THE U.S. POSITION

On Thursday, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast repeated a demand
for Saudi Arabia to withdraw its forces from Bahrain and "prepare the ground for
regional cooperation." He added that negotiations between Tehran and Riyadh would
benefit the region, but "the conditions should be provided" for such negotiations.
 
The idea of Iranian-Saudi negotiations developing over the future balance of power
in the Persian Gulf region does not seem to have caught the attention of mainstream
media, but STRATFOR is exploring the theme thoroughly and for good reason. We
spotted the first indication of this cooperation June 29, when rumors began
circulating that the GCC Peninsula Shield Force, which intervened in Bahrain in
mid-March to help put down a Shia-led uprising, was drawing down its forces.
Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defense Force Marshal Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al
Khalifa denied rumors of a withdrawal of GCC forces in a July 7 interview. Al
Khalifa said the forces were repositioning while looking at ways to increase their
military capacity and coordination. Meanwhile, STRATFOR sources claim that the
1,000-plus force that deployed in mid-March has been pared down to about 300. We are
then left with two questions: Why the sudden confusion over the status of GCC forces
in Bahrain? And why have Iranian officials suddenly begun issuing near-daily
statements about the conditions for a fruitful negotiation with Saudi Arabia?

"As one Saudi source phrased it, if the Americans do not include the Saudis in their
own talks with Iran, then why should the Saudis coordinate their negotiations with
the Americans?"

 
The answer to both questions is related to a developing dialogue between Riyadh and
Tehran, driven by the fact that the United States lacks both a clear strategy and
the capability to prevent Iran from filling a crucial power vacuum in Iraq once U.S.
forces withdraw. Against the odds, the United States is trying to negotiate with the
Iraqi government an extension that would allow at least one U.S. division of 10,000
troops to remain in Iraq past the end-of-year Status of Forces Agreement deadline.
Washington is struggling to negotiate this residual force against Iran for one
simple reason: leverage. From the politicians in Parliament to Shiite leader Muqtada
al-Sadr's militiamen on the street, Iran has more means than the United States to
influence decisions made in Baghdad.

Iran could theoretically consent to a small U.S. military presence (far less than a
division) in Iraq, but Tehran would only do so if it felt confident it could hold
those troops under the threat of attack while remaining immune to an invading force.
The United States won't agree to a small and ineffective force that would be
vulnerable to Iran, so the negotiations fail to move forward. The pressure felt by
the United States was expressed Thursday when U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman
Adm. Mike Mullen told Pentagon reporters that "Iran is very directly supporting
extremist Shia groups, which are killing our troops" in Iraq. Any extension of the
U.S. troop presence, Mullen said, "has to be done in conjunction with control of
Iran in that regard."

The weakness of the U.S. position vis-a-vis Iran worries the GCC states, especially
Saudi Arabia. A strong Iranian push into Iraq, combined with the long-term threat
that Iran can provoke Shiite dissent in not only Bahrain, but more importantly in
Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province, creates a highly stressful situation for
the Saudis. Add to that the prospect of a weak and insufficient U.S. conventional
military deterrent against Iran, and it becomes easier to see why the Saudis might
feel compelled right now to open up a dialogue with the Iranians.
 
Saudi Arabia may not be able to accept the idea of recognizing an Iranian sphere of
influence in Iraq that extends dangerously close to the Saudi borderland. However,
the Kingdom could negotiate a temporary truce with Iran under the terms of which
Saudi Arabia would begin to draw down its military presence in Bahrain, while Iran
would cease meddling in the Shiite affairs of the GCC states. This
confidence-building conversation could then extend step-by-step to other strategic
matters, including the appointment of a Sunni (versus a Shia) to the defense
ministry in Iraq, the distribution of Iraqi oil revenues, the Sunni-Shia power
balance in Lebanon and so on.

While investigating this issue, STRATFOR learned that at least five bilateral
meetings between Saudi Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Turki bin Muhammad
bin Saud and Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Muhammad Rida Shibani have
quietly taken place, suggesting that negotiations are proceeding, albeit slowly.
According to STRATFOR sources. Iran has tried to bring Kuwait into the talks as a
third party, a prospect Saudi Arabia has thus far rejected. Iran often confuses
negotiations by adding more participants, with the aim of sowing divisions in the
adversary's camp. They employ the tactic regularly when negotiating with the West
over Iran's nuclear program, trying to bring countries like Turkey and Brazil into
the conversation. However, Saudi Arabia seems to be making clear to Iran that it
intends to speak alone on behalf of the GCC -- excluding even its main patron, the
United States.
 
Given the current situation, the Saudis cannot be sure that the United States will
be able to buttress them against Iran. The Saudis also don't know whether the United
States and Iran will reach an understanding of their own that would leave Saudi
Arabia vulnerable. Such a rapprochement might see Washington effectively ceding Iraq
to Iran (which in many ways may be inevitable) while seeking guarantees that Iran
will desist from meddling in Saudi Arabia. Unable to trust U.S. intentions toward
Iran, the Saudis appear to be negotiating with Iran independent of the United
States. As one Saudi source phrased it, if the Americans do not include the Saudis
in their own talks with Iran, then why should the Saudis coordinate their
negotiations with the Americans?
 
This reaction could put the United States in a difficult position. Washington, in
trying to negotiate an extension in Iraq, needs to build up its leverage against
Iran. One-on-one talks between the Iranians and the Saudis would undermine the U.S.
negotiating position. Moreover, the United States cannot be sure how far a
Saudi-Iranian negotiation will go. Right now, preliminary steps like a truce in
Bahrain can be made between the Saudis and the Iranians, but what if the
negotiations move to discussing the eviction of the U.S. Fifth Fleet from Bahrain in
exchange for Iranian security guarantees to Saudi Arabia? The Saudi royals hope
these thoughts will compel the White House to commit to a more effective blocking
force against Iran, thereby precluding the need for Riyadh to strike an unsavory
deal with the Persians. The problem is that the United States already feels so
compelled but finds itself stymied. If the question now is one of capability, Iran
has already shown that it holds the upper hand in Iraq as Washington and Riyadh
contemplate their next -- independent -- moves.
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