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23251  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PA's capitol city is bankrupt on: September 29, 2011, 09:49:12 AM

23252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick on: September 29, 2011, 09:46:52 AM


Upon his return to Ramallah from New York, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was greeted by a crowd of several thousand well-wishers. They applauded him for his speech at the UN. There, Abbas erased Jewish history from the Land of Israel, denied Israel's right to exist and pledged his commitment to establish a racist Palestinian state ethnically cleansed of all Jews.

Many of Abbas's supporters in Ramallah held posters of US President Barack Obama. On them Obama was portrayed as a monkey. The caption read, "The First Jewish President of the United States."

The fact that the Palestinians from Fatah and Hamas alike are Jew-hating racists should surprise no one who has been paying a modicum of attention to the Palestinian media and general culture. Since the PA was established in 1994 in the framework of the peace process between Israel and the PLO, it has used the media organs, schools and mosques it controls to spew out a constant flow of anti-Semitic propaganda. Much of the Jew-hating bile is indistinguishable from anti-Jewish propaganda published by the Nazis.

As for their anti-black bigotry, it is enough to recall the frequency with which Condoleezza Rice was depicted as a monkey and a devil in the Palestinian and pan-Arab media during George W. Bush's presidency to realize that the racist depiction of Obama was not a fluke. Moreover, and more disturbingly, it is worth recalling that like its fellow Arab League members, the PA has strongly supported Sudan's genocide of black Africans in Darfur.

To a degree, the willingness of African-Americans to turn a blind eye to Arab anti-black prejudice is understandable. Since the mid-1960s, oil rich Arab kingdoms led by Saudi Arabia have spent hundreds of millions of petrodollars in outreach to African-Americans. This outreach includes but is not limited to massive proselytization efforts among inner city blacks. The combination of a strong and growing African-American Muslim population and a general sense of amity towards Muslims as a result of outreach efforts contribute to a willingness on the part of African- Americans to overlook Arab anti-black racism.

Unlike African-Americans, Jewish Americans have been targeted by no serious outreach campaigns by the likes of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world. To the contrary, as Mitchell Bard documented in his bookThe Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America's Interests in the Middle East, these Arab nations have spared no effort in anti-Israel lobbying in the US. Among the Arab lobby's goals is to undermine the legitimacy of American Jewish lobbying on behalf of Israel.

Furthermore, the anti-Jewish atmosphere in the Arab world is far more comprehensive and poisonous than its anti-black prejudice. A Pew global opinion poll from 2008 showed that hatred of Jews is effectively universal in the Arab world and overwhelming in non-Arab Muslim states. In Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, between 95 and 97 percent of respondents expressed hatred of Jews. In Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan between two-thirds and three-quarters of respondents expressed hatred of Jews.

Jew-hatred among Muslim minorities in the West is less overwhelming. But Muslim antagonism towards Jews vastly outstrips that of the general populations of their countries. According to a Pew survey from 2006, while 7% of British citizens express unfavorable views of Jews, 47% of British Muslims admit to such views. In France, 13% of the general population admits to harboring negative feelings towards Jews and 28% of French Muslims do. Likewise in Germany, 22% of the general population acknowledges anti-Semitic views and 44% of German Muslims do.

More dangerously, the quantity of anti-Semitic attacks carried out by Muslims in the West far outstrips their percentage in the general population. According to Pew data, in 2010 Muslims comprised just 4.6% of the population of the UK but carried out 39% of the anti-Semitic attacks. Moreover, according to the Times Online, in 2006, 37% of British Muslims claimed that British Jews are legitimate targets for attacks. Only 30% of British Muslims disagreed.

With the overwhelming data showing that throughout the Arab world there is strong support for organizations and regimes which advocate the genocide of world Jewry, the American Jewish community could have been expected to devote the majority of its attention and resources to exposing and combating this existential threat. Just as the American Jewish community dedicated itself in the past to causes such as the liberation of Soviet Jewry and fighting neo-Nazi groups in the US and throughout the world, it could have been expected that from the Anti-Defamation League to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, that major American Jewish groups would be using the financial and human resources at their disposal to defend against this violent, genocidal hatred.

But this has not occurred. Many leading American Jewish organizations continue to be far more involved in combating the currently relatively benign anti-Semitism of the Catholic Church and Evangelical Christians than confronting the escalating dangers of Muslim anti-Semitism.

According to a Gallup poll released last month, 80% of American Jews have favorable views of American Muslims. Seventy percent believe that they are not supportive of al-Qaida. These data indicate that American Jews are second only to American Muslims in their support for Muslim Americans. Indeed 6% more American Jews than American Muslims believe that American Muslims face prejudice due to their religion.

American Jewish championing of American Muslims is disconcerting when compared with American Jewish treatment of the philo-Semitic Evangelical Christians. Matthew Knee discussed this issue in depth in a recent article published at the Legal Insurrection website.

In a 2003 Pew survey, 42% of American Jews expressed antagonism towards Evangelical Christians. In a 2004 American National Election Study, Jews on average rated Evangelical Christians at 30 out of 100 on a "feeling thermometer," where 1 was cold and 100 was hot.

A 2005 American Jewish Committee survey found that Jews assessed that following Muslims, Evangelical Christians have the highest propensity for being anti-Semites. And yet, in the same 2004 American National Election Survey, Evangelical Christians rated Jews an average of 82 on the 1- 100 feelings scale. Evangelical Christians rated Catholics at 80.

Consistent survey data show that levels of anti- Semitism among Evangelical Christians is either the same as or slightly lower than the national average. According to a 2007 ADL survey, the US average is 15%.

There is a clear disparity between survey data on anti-Semitism among various American ethnic groups and American Jews' assessment of the prevalence of anti-Semitism among the same groups. The AJC survey found that American Jews believed that 29% of Evangelicals are largely anti- Semitic. They assessed that only 7% of Hispanics and 19% of African-Americans are anti-Semites.

As it works out, their perceptions are completely incorrect. According to the 2007 ADL survey, foreign born Hispanics, and African-Americans, harbor significantly stronger anti-Semitic views than the national average. Twenty-nine percent of foreign born Hispanics harbor very anti-Semitic views. Thirty-two percent of African-Americans harbor deeply anti-Semitic views.

Like Jews, Hispanics, African-Americans and Muslims vote disproportionately for the Democratic Party. Evangelical Christians on the other hand, are reliably Republican. A 2009 survey on US anti- Semitism conducted by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco found that Democrats are more likely to be anti-Semitic than Republicans.

The Gallup survey from last month showing American Jews' deep support for American Muslims is of particular interest because that support stands in stark contrast with survey data concerning American Jewish perception of Muslim American anti-Semitism.

The 2005 AJC survey showed that American Jews believe that 58% of American Muslims are anti- Semitic. That is, American Jews are Muslim Americans' strongest non-Muslim defenders at the same time they are convinced that most Muslim Americans are anti-Semites.

What can explain this counterintuitive behavior? And how can we account for the apparent pattern of incorrect Jewish perceptions of anti-Semitism among Evangelical Christians on the one hand and fellow Democrats on the other hand?

As Knee argues, the disparity may very well be due to partisan loyalties. The Democratic Party has openly engaged in fear mongering and demonization of Evangelical Christians in order to maintain Jewish loyalty to the party. Knee quotes then-Democratic national chairman Howard Dean's statement that "Jews should feel comfortable in being American Jews without being constrained from practicing their faith or be compelled to convert to another religion."

As for Muslims, Knee cites a press release from the National Jewish Democratic Council from March attacking Congressman Peter King's hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims. In the press release, the council claimed that such hearings "can and will" harm religious tolerance in America. That is, the council implied that by investigating the radicalization of American Muslims - and its concomitant transformation of American Muslims into supporters of the genocidal Jew-hatred endemic among radical Muslims worldwide - Rep. King is endangering Jews.

If American Jews are most concerned with being able to maintain their loyalty to the Democratic Party, then it makes sense for them to wildly exaggerate Evangelical anti-Semitism. It is reasonable for them to underestimate African-American and Hispanic anti-Semitism, and ignore the higher rates of anti-Semitism among Democrats than among Republicans. Moreover, it makes sense for them to follow their party's lead in failing to address the dangers of global Islamic anti- Semitism.

None of this makes sense, however, if American Jews are most concerned with defending Jews - in America and worldwide - from anti-Semitic sentiments and violence.

On Wednesday evening we begin our celebration of the New Year. Rosh Hashana marks a period of soul-searching among Jews. We are called upon at this time to account for our actions and our failures to act and to improve our faithfulness to our people, to our laws and to God.

It is possible that American Jews are simply unaware of the disparities between reality and their perceptions of reality. But it is the duty of all Jews to educate ourselves about the threats that reality poses to ourselves and our people.

At the UN last week, Abbas received accolades and applause from all quarters for his anti-Semitic assault on Jewish history and the Jewish state. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's remarks were applauded by Israel-supporters in the audience in the General Assembly.

As Israel is increasingly isolated and Jews worldwide are under attack, it is my prayer for the coming year that the American Jewish community will come to terms with a difficult reality and the choices it entails, and act with the majority of their fellow Americans to defend Israel and combat anti-Semitism in the US and throughout the world.
23253  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: September 29, 2011, 09:36:43 AM
By Scott Stewart
The 2011 Pan American Games will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico, from Oct. 14 through Oct. 30. The games will feature 36 different sports and will bring more than 6,000 athletes and tens of thousands of spectators to Mexico’s second-largest city. The Parapan American Games, for athletes with physical disabilities, will follow from Nov. 12 to Nov. 20.
Like the Olympics, the World Cup or any other large sporting event, planning for the Pan American Games in Guadalajara began when the city was selected to host them in 2006. Preparations have included the construction of new sports venues, an athletes’ village complex, hotels, highway and road infrastructure, and improvements to the city’s mass transit system. According to the coordinating committee, the construction and infrastructure improvements for the games have cost some $750 million.
The preparations included more than just addressing infrastructure concerns, however. Due to the crime environment in Mexico, security is also a very real concern for the athletes, sponsors and spectators who will visit Guadalajara during the games. The organizers of the games, the Mexican government and the governments of the 42 other participating countries also will be focused intensely on security in Guadalajara over the next two months.
In light of these security concerns, STRATFOR will publish a special report on the games Sept. 30. The report, of which this week’s Security Weekly is an abridged version, will provide our analysis of threats to the games.
Cartel Environment
Due to the violent and protracted conflicts between Mexico’s transnational criminal cartels and the incredible  levels of brutality that they have spawned, most visitors’ foremost security concern will be Mexico’s criminal cartels. The Aug. 20 incident in Torreon, Coahuila state, in which a firefight occurred outside of a stadium during a nationally televised soccer match, will reinforce perceptions of this danger. The concern is understandable, especially considering Guadalajara’s history as a cartel haven and recent developments in the region. Even so, we believe the cartels are unlikely to attack the games intentionally.
Historically, smuggling has been a way of life for criminal groups along the U.S.-Mexico border, and moving illicit goods across the border, whether alcohol, guns, narcotics or illegal immigrants, has long proved quite profitable for these groups. This profitability increased dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s as the flow of South American cocaine through the Caribbean was sharply cut due to improvements in maritime and aerial surveillance and interdiction. This change in enforcement directed a far larger percentage of the flow of cocaine through Mexico, greatly enriching the Mexican smugglers involved in the cocaine trade. The group of smugglers who benefited most from cocaine trade included Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Rafael Caro Quintero, who would go on to form a Guadalajara-based organization known as the Guadalajara cartel. That cartel became the most powerful narcotics smuggling organization in the country, and perhaps the world, controlling virtually all the narcotics smuggled into the United States from Mexico.
The Guadalajara cartel was dismantled during the U.S. and Mexican reaction to the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique Camarena by the group. Smaller organizations emerged from its remains that eventually would become the Arellano Felix Organization (aka the Tijuana cartel), the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization (aka the Juarez cartel), the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa Federation. The sheer number of major cartel organizations that came out of the Guadalajara cartel demonstrates the immense power and geographic reach the group once wielded.
Even after the demise of the Guadalajara cartel, Guadalajara continued to be an important city for drug smuggling operations due to its location in relation to Mexico’s highway and railroad system and its proximity to Mexico’s largest port, Manzanillo. The port is not just important to cocaine smuggling; it also has become an important point of entry for precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. For many years, the Sinaloa Federation faction headed by Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal was in charge of the Guadalajara plaza. Although Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco continued to be an important component of the cocaine trade, Coronel Villarreal became known as “the king of crystal” due to his organization’s heavy involvement in the meth trade.
Guadalajara remained firmly under Sinaloa control until the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) split off from Sinaloa following the arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva in January 2008. This caused the Beltran Leyva Organization to ally itself with Los Zetas and to begin to attack Sinaloa’s infrastructure on Mexico’s Pacific coast. In April 2010, Coronel Villarreal’s 16-year-old son Alejandro was abducted and murdered. Like the murder of Edgar Guzman Beltran, the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, the BLO and Los Zetas were thought to have been behind the murder of Coronel Villarreal’s son. In July 2010, Coronel Villarreal himself was killed during a shootout with the Mexican military in Zapopan, Jalisco state.
Coronel Villarreal’s death created a power vacuum in Guadalajara that several organizations attempted to fill due to the importance of Guadalajara and Jalisco to the smuggling of narcotics. One of these was La Familia Michoacana (LFM). LFM’s attempt to assume control of Guadalajara led to the rupture of the alliance between LFM and Sinaloa. (LFM has since fractured; the most powerful faction of that group is now called the Knights Templar.) The group now headed by Hector Beltran Leyva, which is called the Cartel Pacifico Sur, and its ally Los Zetas also continue to attempt to increase their influence over Guadalajara.
But the current fight for control of Guadalajara includes not only outsiders such as the Knights Templar and the CPS/Los Zetas but also the remnants of Coronel Villarreal’s network and what is left of the Milenio cartel (also known as the Valencia cartel) which has historically been very active in Guadalajara and Manzanillo. One portion of the former Milenio cartel is known as “La Resistencia” and has become locked in a vicious war with the most prominent group of Coronel’s former operatives, which is known as the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG). CJNG appears to have gotten the better of La Resistencia in this fight, and La Resistencia has recently allied itself with Los Zetas/CPS out of desperation.
In July, CJNG announced it was moving some of its forces to Veracruz to attack Los Zetas’ infrastructure there. This CJNG group in Veracruz began to call itself “Matazetas,” Spanish for “Zeta killers.” It is believed that the CJNG is responsible for the recent killings of low-level Zeta operators in Veracruz. Taken with the Los Zetas/La Resistencia alliance, the CJNG offensive in Veracruz means that if Los Zetas have the ability to strike against the CJNG infrastructure in Guadalajara, they will do so. Such strikes could occur in the next few weeks, and could occur during the games.
As illustrated by the recent body dumps in Veracruz, or the bodies dumped in Acapulco during Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s visit to that city in March, the Mexican cartels do like to perform a type of macabre theater in order to grab media attention. With the attention of the press turned toward Guadalajara, it would not be surprising if one or more cartel groups attempted some sort of body dump or other spectacle in Guadalajara during the games.
And given the ongoing fight for control of Guadalajara, it is quite likely that there will be some confrontations between the various cartel groups in the city during the games. However, such violence is not likely to be intentionally directed against the games. The biggest risk to athletes and spectators posed by the cartels comes from being in the wrong place at the wrong time; the cartels frequently employ fragmentation grenades and indiscriminate fire during shootouts with the authorities and rival cartels.
One of the side effects of the Mexican government’s war against the cartels is that as some cartels have been weakened by pressure from the government and their rivals, they have become less capable of moving large shipments of narcotics. This has made them increasingly reliant on other types of crime to supplement their income. Crime always has been a problem in Mexico, but activities such as robbery, kidnapping and extortion have gotten progressively worse in recent years. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2011 Crime and Safety report for Guadalajara, crimes of all types have increased in the city. Indeed, due to the high levels of crime present in Mexico, athletes and spectators at the Pan American Games are far more likely to fall victim to common crime than they are to an act of cartel violence.
The Mexican government will employ some 10,000 police officers (to include 5,000 Federal Police officers) as well as hundreds of military personnel to provide protection to the athletes and venues associated with the Pan American Games. But when one considers that the Guadalajara metropolitan area contains some 4.4 million residents, and that there will be thousands of athletes and perhaps in excess of 100,000 spectators, the number of security personnel assigned to work the games is not as large as it might appear at first glance. Nevertheless, the authorities will be able to provide good security for the athletes’ village and the venues, and on the main travel routes, though they will not be able to totally secure the entire Guadalajara metropolitan area. Places outside the security perimeters where there is little security, and therefore a greater danger of criminal activity, will remain.
When visiting Guadalajara during the games, visitors are advised to be mindful of their surroundings and maintain situational awareness at all times in public areas. Visitors should never expose valuables, including wallets, jewelry, cell phones and cash, any longer than necessary. And they should avoid traveling at night, especially into areas of Guadalajara and the surrounding area that are away from the well-established hotels and sporting venues. Visitors will be most vulnerable to criminals while in transit to and from the venues, and while out on the town before and after events. Excessive drinking is also often an invitation to disaster in a high-crime environment.
As always, visitors to Mexico should maintain good situational awareness and take common-sense precautions to reduce the chances of becoming a crime victim. Pickpockets, muggers, counterfeit ticket scalpers, and express kidnappers all will be looking for easy targets during the games, and steps need to be taken to avoid them. Mexico has a problem with corruption, especially at lower levels of their municipal police forces, and so this must be taken into account when dealing with police officers.
While traditional kidnappings for ransom in Mexico are usually directed against well-established targets, express kidnappings can target anyone who appears to have money, and foreigners are often singled out for express kidnapping. Express kidnappers are normally content to drain the contents of the bank accounts linked to the victim’s ATM card, but in cases where there is a large amount of cash linked to the account and a small daily limit, an express kidnapping can turn into a protracted ordeal. Express kidnappings can also transform into a traditional kidnapping if the criminals discover the victim of their express kidnapping happens to be a high net worth individual.
It is also not uncommon for unregulated or “libre” taxi drivers in Mexico to be involved with criminal gangs who engage in armed robbery or express kidnapping, so visitors need to be careful only to engage taxi services from a regulated taxi stand or a taxi arranged via a hotel or restaurant, but even that is no guarantee.
Miscellaneous Threats
In addition to the threats posed by the cartels and other criminals, there are some other threats that must be taken into consideration. First, Guadalajara is located in a very active seismic area and earthquakes there are quite common, although most of them cannot be felt. Occasionally, big quakes will strike the city and visitors need to be mindful of how to react in an earthquake.
Fire is also a serious concern, especially in the developing world, and visitors to Guadalajara staying in hotels need to ensure that they know where the fire exits are and that those fire exits are not blocked or locked.
The traffic in Mexico’s cities is terrible and Guadalajara is no exception. Traffic congestion and traffic accidents are quite common.
Visitors to Mexico also need to be mindful of the poor water quality in the country and the possibility of contracting a water-borne illness from drinking the water or from eating improperly prepared food. Privately operated medical facilities in Mexico are well-equipped for all levels of medical care, and foreign visitors should choose private over public (government-operated) health care facilities. Private medical services can also stabilize a patient and facilitate a medical evacuation to another country (such as the United States) should the need arise.
In conclusion, the most dangerous organizations in Mexico have very little motivation or intent to hit the Pan American Games. The games are also at very low risk of being a target for international terrorism. The organizing committee, the Mexican government and the other governments that will be sending athletes to the games will be coordinating closely to ensure that the games pass without major incident. Because of this, the most likely scenario for an incident impacting an athlete or spectator will be common crime occurring away from the secure venues.

23254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We may not want to hear this , , , on: September 29, 2011, 09:30:40 AM
Amid those dark political clouds overhead right now, President Barack Obama can console himself with this silver lining: The electoral map remains stacked in favor of him and his Democrats.

In a close presidential election—and there is every reason to believe that 2012's will be—that is an important and often overlooked fundamental. It will affect the strategic decisions both parties make as the campaign unfolds. Indeed, the shape of the electoral map already appears to be driving some moves this year, and offers signposts indicating which states will be pivotal next year.

 President Obama can console himself with the fact that the electoral map remains stacked in favor of him and his Democrats. Jerry Seib explains why on The News Hub.
.The important thing to remember about a presidential election is that it isn't a contest to win the popular vote nationwide. It is a contest to win in a combination of states that will produce the 270 votes in the electoral college that give a candidate the majority there.

Therein lies the Democrats' built-in advantage. They happen to start with a bloc of reliably blue states that is larger, and much richer in electoral votes, than the reliably red bloc Republicans have on their side. If a Democratic presidential candidate merely hangs on to this trove of deep-blue states, he or she is a long way down the road to victory.

Specifically, there are 18 states plus the District of Columbia that have voted Democratic in all five presidential elections since 1992. Combined, they carry 242 electoral votes—90% of the votes needed for victory.

Republicans have a much smaller bloc of highly reliable electoral college votes. There are just 13 states that have gone red in each of the last five elections, and they deliver 102 electoral votes, less than half of the number needed.

Electoral Advantage
View Interactive
.See how states' electoral college votes have been cast since 1992.

More photos and interactive graphics
.That means the key to victory for President Obama is holding this blue line. Doing so will be significantly harder this year, because he is running amid economic distress of a magnitude unseen in any of those five previous elections. But if he manages to hold his party's blue base, he would need to pick off only a few more less-friendly states.

The most likely additional states for the Democrats are the five—Iowa, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada and Ohio—that have gone Democratic in either three or four of the last five elections. If President Obama carries all of these light-blue states, while hanging on to all the deepest-blue states, he will have 281 electoral votes, 11 more than he needs.

And that, it should be noted, would be without having to win the giant swing state of Florida, or needing to hold on to the normally red states of Virginia and North Carolina that Mr. Obama won in 2008.

So the question for Republicans is pretty simple: Which of the deep-blue or blue-leaning states can they pick off? Know the answer to that question and you'll know where the 2012 action will be.

Indeed, the president faces problems in some of those deep-blue states, which suggests that the wall can be breached. "Recent history aside, Obama will have to work hard to keep the Democratic base intact in 2012," political analyst Rhodes Cook wrote in a recent newsletter examining the electoral map. "Not only does it include states on the two coasts, but also industrial battlegrounds such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin."

The president's job-approval rating was below 50% in both California and Pennsylvania in recent polls, for example.

Another state that jumps out as a particular trouble spot is Wisconsin. Republican Gov. Scott Walker won the governor's seat there in 2010, and his blunt confrontation with public-employee unions has energized conservatives—and aroused liberals. How that translates into presidential politics is crucial.

Among the light-blue states, Iowa and New Hampshire both offer GOP opportunities. But big Ohio, with 18 electoral votes, is the juiciest target for Republicans among the light-blue states. Notably, the president's job-approval rating in Ohio stood just below 50% in a summertime Quinnipiac University poll.

Even if the president keeps all of the dark-blue states and all of the other light-blue states, take Ohio out of his column and he comes up seven electoral votes short.

Where could he make up those votes? Here's a good guess: Colorado, a swing state Mr. Obama won in 2008 after it went Republican in three of the previous four elections. It just happens to have nine electoral votes. Take out Ohio and plug in Colorado, and the president just squeaks by.

It's easy to see how these electoral calculations already are playing out, by watching where Democrats are focusing their energies and where President Obama is spending his time. It's no coincidence that both Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were in light-blue Ohio in the past week. On Tuesday, the president arrives in Colorado, trying to shore up his standing in that potentially crucial swing state.

23255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Growing Latino Vote on: September 29, 2011, 09:26:51 AM

WOODBRIDGE, Va.—The surging Hispanic population in several states that figure to be crucial to the outcome of next year's election is prompting an early scramble by both parties to influence Hispanic voters.

The trend is particularly important to President Barack Obama, who has seen his support among white voters sag, putting his hold on several swing states in danger. He is ramping up an urgent effort to win support from Latinos, while Republicans are trying to build on doubts among them about his stewardship of the economy.

In Florida, the nation's largest presidential swing state, the voting-age Hispanic population grew by nearly 250,000 people between 2008 and 2010, census data show. By contrast, the voting-age white population grew by 30,400.

Nevada added more than 44,000 voting-age Hispanics over the same period, more than double the increase of 18,000 voting-age whites. And in New Mexico, the voting-age Hispanic total rose by more than 36,000, outpacing the growth among whites of just over 19,000.

Mr. Obama won all three states in 2008—and two-thirds of Hispanic voters nationwide—but he's now facing headwinds. Hispanic unemployment stands at 11.3%, higher than the 9.1% rate for the nation as a whole. And the president has failed to deliver a promised overhaul of immigration laws that would include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Enlarge Image

Close.Some swing states added more white adults than Hispanic adults. But a meaningful rise in voting-age Hispanics also gives Mr. Obama an opportunity. He won North Carolina, for example, by more than 14,000 votes. About 54,400 additional voting-age Hispanics have come to the state between 2008 and 2010, census data show.

Mr. Obama's re-election campaign is starting a broad canvassing effort, reaching from traditional Hispanic communities to suburban areas where a Hispanic surge is relatively new. Hispanic-to-Hispanic phone banks are being set up in New Mexico and Nevada. Latino student outreach is also beginning.

From the White House, the president on Wednesday conducted an online roundtable on Hispanic issues. A day earlier, he spoke at a predominantly Hispanic high school in Denver.

Republicans aren't leaving the field open to the president. The first television ad of the presidential campaign from American Crossroads, a GOP-allied independent group, ran in Spanish and English in July, about the same time as Spanish-language radio ads from the Republican National Committee.

"I supported President Obama because he spoke so beautifully, but since then things have gone from bad to much worse," said a female character in the English version of the American Crossroads ad.

Mr. Obama implored Latinos at the Wednesday event to register and vote in order to claim their full voice in the political process. "We still have not seen the kinds of participation levels that are necessary to match up the numbers with actual political power," he said, in comments translated into Spanish.

America in 2010
See details on the concentration of Hispanics and other racial groups by county, nationwide.

 .More photos and interactive graphics
.Polling explains why the push is coming so early in the president's re-election effort: Mr. Obama's support among whites has sunk. Only 35% of white adults approved of his job performance in August. Six months into his presidency, 49% had approved of his job performance, Wall Street Journal/NBC News surveys show. Hispanics view him more favorably: 57% approved of Mr. Obama in August, down from 71% in June 2009.

Here in Virginia, which Mr. Obama carried in 2008, two-thirds of white voters disapproved of his job performance in a recent poll. That is one reason that, in suburbs like this one, his re-election campaign is recruiting Latino neighborhood captains, canvassing coordinators, phone-bank hosts and data-management coordinators.

In Jill Borak's Woodbridge living room, Keisy Chavez, a Obama campaign Latino outreach coordinator, was training new recruit Chepita Jovel last week as the two worked their way down call sheets of Spanish-sounding surnames. Flipping between English and Spanish, they worked the phones and cajoled former volunteers to work once again for the president.

Related Article
For First Time, Largest Group of Poor Children Are Latino
.But generating enthusiasm could be a challenge, due to higher unemployment today and no overhaul of immigration laws for the president to campaign on. A less-ambitious effort to provide illegal immigrant children a route to citizenship through service and study also has foundered. "People are discouraged," said Ms. Chavez, a life-insurance saleswoman by day. "But you know, it's just like in sales. You say, 'I understand why you feel like that,' and you bring them along."

One potentially encouraging sign for Mr. Obama: The Census Bureau reported Wednesday that Latinos made up 7% of voters in 2010, the highest percentage for a nonpresidential election since the bureau began collecting such data.

At the same time, the Obama administration's Department of Homeland Security has deported more than one million illegal immigrants in three years, putting him on pace to deport more in one term than George W. Bush did in two. That has done nothing to win over conservatives, but it has done much to sour many Latino voters.

"I think there is a Latino problem right now for the president," said Walter Tejada, a Democrat and member of the Arlington County board of supervisors and one of the most prominent Hispanic politicians in the area. "There's a disenchantment, and there's definitely an enthusiasm gap. It's very real."

Republicans are focusing on that in ads in key states. "The No. 1 issue facing Hispanics today is the number one issue facing everyone else—jobs and the economy," said Whit Ayres, who has been polling Hispanic voters for a Latino outreach effort by Resurgent Republic, another GOP group.

Mr. Obama may have one thing going for him: By huge majorities, Hispanic voters favor immigration bills that have languished since the Bush administration, and they largely blame the GOP for their failure, according to a new poll of Hispanic voters by Resurgent Republic.

Some Republicans see that as a serious problem. They argue that the GOP has a wide opening to win Hispanic votes in a year when economic issues are trumping all others, and they believe Latinos, who tend to be Catholic and include many small-business owners, should be as open to the party's low-tax, culturally conservative message as are other voters.

But many Latinos read the GOP's call for tough illegal immigration laws as an affront.

Some Republican campaign consultants have quietly hoped immigration issues would drop from the current presidential debate, allowing the economic argument to dominate.

But in recent days, the opposite has happened as Republican front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have sparred at debates over a law the Texas governor signed granting in-state university tuition to illegal immigrants.

Mr. Romney has called the law a magnet for illegal immigration. When Mr. Perry suggested at a recent debate that the law's critics had no heart, the backlash among conservative voters was harsh.

"The message from the Resurgent Republic poll for Republicans is to be extremely careful of their tone when talking about immigration," Mr. Ayres said. "It is critically important for Republicans discussing immigration reform not to come across as anti-Hispanic."

The Republican economic message doesn't appear to be resonating among Hispanics, either. Resurgent Republic asked Hispanics in Florida, Colorado and New Mexico whether they agreed that the best way to improve the economy was to increase government investment in job training, education and infrastructure, or by reining in government spending, lowering taxes and reducing excessive regulations.

In Colorado, a swing state, 56% sided with more government spending, as Mr. Obama has proposed, while 37% sided with less government, as Republicans propose. In Florida, the spread was 52% to 40%. In New Mexico, it was 59%-30%.

23256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Changes on: September 29, 2011, 12:46:22 AM

A Change in the Afghan War
Related Link
•   Foundations: Pakistan’s Muslim Identity Crisis
In an interview published in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen reiterated his view that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate provided support for the  Haqqani network. And he continued to juxtapose Haqqani attacks on American troops and American targets with the ISI’s “strategic support” for the group.
The interview was released as Mullen’s final testimony before Congress last week continued to elicit reactions. It was during this testimony — not a setting in which casual comments usually slip out — that he explicitly connected the ISI to Haqqani. During Mullen’s tenure as America’s top military officer, he traveled to Pakistan more than two dozen times and maintained close relations with Islamabad’s senior military leadership. Despite attempts in Washington to moderate his testimony, and anger and denials from Pakistan, we can be sure that Mullen chose his words carefully — a point that Wednesday’s interview further underscores.
“The U.S.-Pakistani relationship has begun to change in a fundamental way.”
The U.S.-Pakistani relationship has begun to change in a fundamental way. The United States and its allies are leaving Afghanistan. The peak of military operations there — itself intended as an attempt to shape the circumstances for a withdrawal — has already passed. A new officer, U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, has been put in charge of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan not to perpetuate the counterinsurgency-focused strategy of David Petraeus.
The move to an exit from Afghanistan is not immediate, but it is inexorable. Washington’s only long-term strategic interest in Central Asia is to deny it as sanctuary to transnational terrorist groups like al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has been defeated in Afghanistan and Washington is moving from a position of needing Pakistani territory to logistically facilitate a surge and ongoing military operations, to one where it requires Pakistan to ensure that Afghanistan will never again serve as a staging ground for attacks against American interests.
Mullen did not recently discover Pakistani connections with Haqqani, or the Taliban in general. They have always existed — Pakistan was instrumental in creating the Taliban and ensuring their ascendancy — and it was never in Islamabad’s interest to sever them. Those ties served as a fundamental means of ensuring Pakistani leverage in Afghanistan. What changed is what the United States needs from Pakistan. The United States’ willingness to overlook Pakistani actions against its interests, in exchange for the cooperation necessary for operational expediency, has ended.
Already, the United States has quietly moved its logistical burden onto the Northern Distribution Route — an astonishingly long and tedious alternative traversing Russia and Central Asia to Pakistan — so much so that only about a third of supplies and fuel continue to reach Afghanistan via the port of Karachi and Pakistani refineries. But as the total number of foreign troops continues to decline, excess stockpiles are burned through, austerity measures take effect and the tempo of combat operations declines, the point at which the war in Afghanistan can be sustained independent of Pakistan is fast approaching.
This is a remarkable inflection point. Washington’s logistical vulnerability and reliance on Islamabad has left combat operations in Afghanistan hostage to Pakistan, which has been a defining dynamic of the war. To sustain the large-scale combat operations, the United States had been forced to tolerate Pakistani support for hostile forces in Afghanistan. Mullen’s testimony last Thursday and the interview this Wednesday reflect a change in the rules.
Whether Pakistan is capable of adjusting course and satisfying new American demands — even if it wants to — is unclear. But with the American exit on the horizon and the twilight of logistical reliance on Pakistan at hand, the rules of the game have undergone perhaps their most fundamental change since the beginning of the war.
23257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Son of Solyndra: Crony Socialism on: September 28, 2011, 10:41:27 PM
Pasting here CCP's post from the Cognitive Dissonance thread.

Crony Socialism: Obama Gives $737 Million to Solar Firm Linked to the Pelosi Clan
Posted by Jim Hoft on Wednesday, September 28, 2011, 12:14 PM
It’s as if Solyndra never happened. The Obama Administration is giving $737 million to a Tonopah Solar, a subsidiary of California-based SolarReserve. PCG is an investment partner with SolarReserve. Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law happens to be the number two man at PCG.

Team Obama is spending $737 million to create 45 permanent jobs.
The Hill reported, via Free Republic:

The Energy Department announced Wednesday that is has finalized a $737 million loan guarantee for a Nevada solar project.

The decision comes several weeks after a California-based solar manufacturer that received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Obama administration in 2009 filed for bankruptcy and laid off 1,100 workers, setting off a firestorm in Washington.

The $737 million loan guarantee will help finance construction of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a 110-megawatt solar-power-generating facility in Nye County, Nev. The project is sponsored by Tonopah Solar, a subsidiary of California-based SolarReserve.

Crescent Dunes is the latest solar project to receive a loan guarantee from the Energy Department in recent weeks. The department announced a $1.2 billion loan guarantee to Abengoa Solar for a solar generation project in California and a $150 million loan guarantee to 1366 Technologies for a Massachusetts solar manufacturing project earlier this month.

The Energy Department says the project will result in 600 construction jobs and 45 permanent jobs.

23258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 28, 2011, 10:37:40 PM
Miller is hip, wickedly funny, and a rather serious and astute political observer who is roughly a right wing Jon Stewart.  This is an excellent endorsement for Cain.

FOX tonight is reporting that Romney (working from memory here) is 23%, Perry 17%, Cain 14% and Gingrich 11% Huntsman at 6% now doubles Bachman's 3%.  These shifts seem significant to me.  Cain is now getting serious attention, and breaking into double digits is really good news for Newt too.
23259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 28, 2011, 10:33:37 PM
What specious sophistry!  tongue angry tongue  Sorry but I cannot be bothered to dignify it with a response. tongue
23260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq's Auntie on: September 28, 2011, 11:11:18 AM

Here illegally, in public housing ahead of citizens, collected welfare, collected $51,000 in disability,

The mind boggles , , ,
23261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: September 28, 2011, 11:06:18 AM
As my teaching ditty goes, "Intelligence is the amount of time it takes to forget a lesson."   cheesy

There are days that GM and you actually do have reasoned interaction cheesy  Lets continue to build upon those.  smiley
23262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 28, 2011, 11:04:19 AM
I suppose, but ultimately it's irrelevant.  The Palestinians are not willing to recognize Israel's right to exist, so what's the point of negotiating?
23263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury sticks to his guns on: September 28, 2011, 10:54:26 AM
I know we banter a bit about Wesbury's relentless bullishness, but it cannot be said the man lacks the courage of his convictions.  By the way, some of the data he is citing are not without persuasive power , , , If he turns out to be right GM should be first in line for the humble pie  cheesy

New orders for durable goods slipped 0.1% in August To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/28/2011
New orders for durable goods slipped 0.1% in August, slightly better than the consensus expected decline of 0.2%. Orders excluding transportation also slipped 0.1% versus a consensus expected -0.2%.  Overall new orders are up 12.3% from a year ago, while orders excluding transportation are up 7.8%.
The drop in orders was led by motor vehicles. Aircraft and related parts were the largest gainer while other categories of orders showed little change.
The government calculates business investment for GDP purposes by using shipments of non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft.  That measure rose 2.8% in August (3.3% including upward revisions to July) and even if unchanged in September will be up at a 17.7% annual rate in Q3 versus the Q2 average.
Unfilled orders rose 0.9% in August and are up 8.1% from last year.
Implications:  This is not what a recession looks like. New orders for durable goods slipped a tiny 0.1% in August, both with and without transportation. But shipments of “core” capital goods, which exclude aircraft and defense and which the government uses to calculate the business investment part of GDP, increased a robust 3.3% (including upward revisions for July). This is the fourth straight monthly gain for core shipments, which are now at a new all-time record high.   They are up 10.8% in the past year and are accelerating, up at a 19.6% annual rate over the past six months and an even faster 22.6% rate in the past three months. Increases in core shipments should continue: unfilled orders are up about 15% versus a year ago. In addition, non-financial corporate balance sheets are strong and loaded with cash earning nearly zero percent interest. Meanwhile, corporate profits are at a record high. As a result, the odds are stacked in favor of a substantial increase in business investment over the next few years. In other recent news, the Richmond Fed index, a measure of manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic, increased to -6 in September from -10 in August.  Chain store sales were up 4.2% versus a year ago according to Redbook Research and 2.7% according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.  On the housing front, the Case-Shiller index, a measure of home prices in the 20 largest metro areas, was unchanged in July (seasonally-adjusted) and down 4.2% versus a year ago.  However, prices were up in nine of the twenty areas.  The biggest losses in July and the prior three months were where many would expect: Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.
23264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: September 28, 2011, 10:41:19 AM
Maybe if your last response had been your first response there would have been a conversation intead of a nonversation?
23265  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 28, 2011, 10:38:00 AM
Cain is definitely moving up in my estimation too.   I note that Dennis Miller has endorsed him btw , , , interesting.
23266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 28, 2011, 10:34:43 AM
Negotiations were going on just fine while settlements were being built until Baraq fuct things up , , , and who gives a ____ about what Daniel Seidemann has to say anyway except Pravda on the Beach?

23267  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Williams on: September 28, 2011, 10:31:22 AM
second post

"If European governments and the U.S. Congress ceased the practice of giving people what they have not earned, budgets would be more than balanced. For government to guarantee a person a right to goods and services he has not earned, it must diminish someone else's right to what he has earned, simply because governments have no resources of their very own. ... It turns out that if Congress taxed away our entire $14 trillion 2011 GDP and put it in the bank, it would just barely cover Social Security and Medicare liabilities. That observation suggests that we can't tax our way out of our fiscal mess. In order to avoid permanent stagnation or total economic collapse, governments must start the process of reducing welfare spending. I wouldn't recommend cold turkey for a heroin addict, neither would I recommend cold turkey for all those people who have been addicted and made dependent upon government handouts. We must find a compassionate way to wean people off government." --economist Walter E. Williams
23268  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who'd a thunk it? FEMA was fudging the numbers , , , on: September 28, 2011, 10:29:47 AM

"Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was telling everyone who would listen that they needed billions to replenish their disaster relief fund right now, or else they would run out of money today. ... Then, suddenly, FEMA told Senate Democrats that all of their previous warnings were overblown. The agency was able to recover $40 billion from ongoing long-term projects, and instead of being broke, they actually had $114 million in the bank, just enough to get them into the next fiscal year. Which is convenient, because that allows them access to all of next year's budgeted disaster relief spending. Since there is now no need for unbudgeted disaster relief spending this year, there is now no need for spending offsets. ... If anybody ever wants to know why conservatives never believed Secretary Tim Geithner when he said the government was going to run out of money this August, this $114 million FEMA find is a great example why." --Washington Examiner columnist Conn Carroll
23269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / It just keeps getting worse and worse. on: September 28, 2011, 10:28:40 AM
"New documents reveal the Department of Justice lied to Congress and show how U.S. officials bought guns with tax dollars and then made sure no one stopped their transfer to Mexican drug cartels. The funneling of thousands of American guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels in the operation known as Fast and Furious was not a botched sting operation or the result of bureaucratic incompetence. It was not designed to interdict gun trafficking, but to facilitate it. We now know that it involved not just the use of straw buyers, but also agents of the federal government purchasing weapons with taxpayer money, ordering the licensed dealers to conduct the sales off the books, then calling off surveillance of the gun traffickers and refusing to interdict the transfer of the weapon or arrest the people involved. ... A two-year-old C-SPAN video shows Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, who would resign nine months later after less than a year's service, telling reporters at a Justice Department briefing of major policy initiatives to fight the Mexican drug cartels. 'The president has directed us to take action to fight these cartels,' Ogden began, 'and Attorney General Holder and I are taking several new and aggressive steps as part of the administration's comprehensive plan.' Ogden said the administration's plan, at the president's direction, included the ATF's 'increasing its efforts by adding 37 new employees in three new offices, using $10 million in Recovery Act funds and redeploying 100 personnel to the Southwest border in the next 45 days to fortify its Project Gunrunner,' of which Operation Fast and Furious would be a part. ... Fast and Furious should spark our pursuit of the truth, even if the trail leads to the Oval Office." --Investor's Business Daily
Will the administration succeed in its Fast & Furious goals?
"The entire [Fast & Furious] operation ended with only 20 indictments of straw purchasers -- indictments that could have happened immediately upon transfer of the weapons, stopping the flow. In fact, the straw purchasers, at issue, were known to be straw purchasers from the get-go. The indictments only took place at all because U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered using the weapons authorized for free flow by ATF and DOJ. ... So what was the real goal of the DOJ and ATF? It certainly wasn't to shut down access to arms for the cartels -- the ATF was agreeing to such access. It wasn't to stop straw purchasers -- the ATF was signing off on the straw purchasers. It wasn't to track the movements of the cartel -- there was no way to do that. It was, very simply, to establish for political reasons that American guns were being used in crimes by foreign cartels." --columnist Ben Shapiro
23270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Physics on: September 28, 2011, 09:59:39 AM
Well, I'm not so fast!  Explain it to me please!  cheesy
23271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: September 28, 2011, 09:58:36 AM
Well, that was a nonversation , , ,
23272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / C.S. Lewis on: September 28, 2011, 12:08:37 AM

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
C. S. Lewis
English essayist & juvenile novelist (1898 - 1963)
23273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 28, 2011, 12:06:20 AM


Baraq's speech patterns here, and I am working from memory, for some reason  wink remind me of how Senator Harry Reid almost got mentioned in the Pravdas for his comment early in His Glibness's campaign for the nomination about how he was clean, presentable, well-spoken, and when necessary could speak "Negro dialect".   
23274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Canada's Baird lectures our JDN on: September 27, 2011, 10:44:07 PM
Baird targets Israel’s foes
Foreign affairs minister talks tough in UN speech
By MIKE BLANCHFIELD The Canadian Press
Tue, Sep 27 - 4:54 AM

Foreign affairs minister John Baird: "Canada will not accept or stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory and its citizens."(Sean Kilpatrick / CP)

OTTAWA — Canada used its United Nations speaking slot Monday to lambaste opponents of Israel as no better than the appeasers who allowed fascism and communism to flourish before the Second World War.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird delivered Canada’s views to the General Assembly in a speech that put meat on the bones of the Harper government’s unflinching support of Israel.

"Just as fascism and communism were the great struggles of previous generations, terrorism is the great struggle of ours. And far too often, the Jewish state is on the front line of our struggle and its people the victims of terror," says a prepared text of Baird’s remarks.

"Canada will not accept or stay silent while the Jewish state is attacked for defending its territory and its citizens. The Second World War taught us all the tragic price of ‘going along’ just to ‘get along.’ "

Baird made no direct mention of the Holocaust in which six million Jews died at the hands of Nazi Germany. But he evoked the era when he quoted Winston Churchill as saying "an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."

Baird reiterated Canada’s opposition to the recent Palestinian bid to secure UN recognition as a state.

The UN Security Council became seized with the matter on Monday for the first time after Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas delivered his own forceful speech advocating the move.

"We supported the aspirations of those peoples who sought for themselves and their countries brighter futures during the Arab Spring that just passed," said Baird.

"But we will not go along with the unilateral actions of the Palestinian Authority."

Baird repeated Canada’s call for a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The no-holds-barred address also took aim at the UN itself, for allowing despotic regimes to hold memberships on, or occupy the chair of, major committees.

"The greatest enemies of the United Nations are not those who publicly repudiate its actions," said Baird.

"The greatest enemies of the United Nations are those who quietly undermine its principles and, even worse, by those who sit idly, watching its slow decline."

© 2011 The Halifax Herald Limited
23275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Conficker Worm on: September 27, 2011, 05:43:49 PM
The 'Worm' That Could Bring Down The Internet
Tweet Share Email
September 27, 2011 — 9:13 AM
Courtesy of the author
Mark Bowden is the author of several books, including Black Hawk Down, Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World's Greatest Outlaw and Guests of the Ayatollah.
For the past three years, a highly encrypted computer worm called Conficker has been spreading rapidly around the world. As many as 12 million computers have been infected with the self-updating worm, a type of malware that can get inside computers and operate without their permission.
"What Conficker does is penetrate the core of the [operating system] of the computer and essentially turn over control of your computer to a remote controller," writer Mark Bowden tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "[That person] could then utilize all of these computers, including yours, that are connected. ... And you have effectively the largest, most powerful computer in the world."
The gigantic networked system created by the Conficker worm is what's known as a "botnet." The Conficker botnet is powerful enough to take over computer networks that control banking, telephones, security systems, air traffic control and even the Internet itself, says Bowden. His new book, Worm: The First Digital World War, details how Conficker was discovered, how it works, and the ongoing programming battle to bring down the Conficker worm, which he says could have widespread consequences if used nefariously.
"If you were to launch with a botnet that has 10 million computers in it — launch a denial of service attack — you could launch a large enough attack that it would not just overwhelm the target of the attack, but the root servers of the Internet itself, and could crash the entire Internet," he says. "What frightens security folks, and increasingly government and Pentagon officials, is that a botnet of that size could also be used as a weapon."
When Russia launched its attack on Georgia in 2008, Russian officials also took down communication lines and the Internet within Georgia. Egypt also took down its own country's Internet service during the uprisings last spring.
"It's the equivalent of shutting down the train system during the Civil War, where the Union troops and the Confederate troops used trains to shuttle arms and ammunition and supplies all over their area of control," says Bowden. "And if you could shut their trains down, you cripple their ability to function. Similarly, you could do that today by taking down the Internet."
The Conficker worm can also be used to steal things like your passwords and codes for any accounts you use online. Officials in Ukraine recently arrested a group of people who were leasing a portion of the Conficker worm's computers to drain millions of dollars from bank accounts in the United States.
"It raises the question of whether creating or maintaining a botnet is a criminal activity, because if I break into a safe at the bank using a Black & Decker drill, is Black & Decker culpable for the way I use the tool?" he says. "That's one of the tools you could use the botnet for. With a botnet of 25,000 computers, you could break the security codes for, you could raid people's accounts, you could get Social Security numbers and data — there's almost no commercial security system in place that couldn't be breached by a supercomputer of tens of thousands."
After Conficker was discovered in 2008 at Stanford, it prompted computer security experts from around the world to get together to try to stop the bot. The volunteer group of experts, which called itself the Conficker Working Group, also tried to get the government involved with their efforts. But they soon discovered that the government didn't have a very good understanding of what the worm could do.
"[They] began reaching out to the NSA [National Security Agency] and [the Pentagon] to see if they would be willing to loan their computers [to help them], and what [they] discovered was that no one in the government understood what was happening," says Bowden. "There was a very low level of cyberintelligence, even at agencies that ought to have been very seriously involved, who were responsible for protecting the country, its electrical grid, its telecommunications. These agencies lacked the sophistication not only to deal with Conficker, but even to understand what Conficker was."
At some point in early 2009, the Conficker Working Group learned that the Conficker worm could wreak havoc on April 1, 2009 — a date when the computers infected by Conficker would receive instructions from their remote-controlled operator.
"The assumption was that if Conficker was to do anything, that would be the day that it would be destructive to the Internet," says Bowden. "But on April 1, nothing happened."
The Conficker Working Group realized that the creator of Conficker had little interest in taking down the Internet or using its bot to create mass destruction.
"The people behind it apparently want to use it for criminal reasons — to make money," says Bowden.
But that doesn't mean that Conficker is controlled, says Bowden. No one knows yet who controls the worm or what its intentions might be.
"At any moment, Conficker could do something really threatening," he says. "[People fighting the bot] are trying to figure it out still. And every new day, as the worm makes its contacts, they generate long lists of computers that are infected — which still include big networks within the FBI, within the Pentagon, within large corporations. So they monitor it and keep track of where it's spread, and they're still working with the government to secure vital computer networks from botnets like Conficker."
23276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Team Baraq silences Ford? on: September 27, 2011, 05:25:42 PM
23277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 27, 2011, 05:20:03 PM
Perhaps I am missing something, but I read GM's citation on the bunker busters as showing the Baraq folks as bullexcrementers.
23278  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Courtesy of Glenn Beck: Law Student chokes on Silver Spoon on: September 27, 2011, 05:18:03 PM

First, catch the guy's performance here.


The Blog
US Video: Liberal law student chokes on silver spoon in (false) protest
The latest anti-business viral video burning up the liberal blogosphere today seems heart-wrenching… that is, until you do your homework.
Robert Stephens graduated from Carleton College (average cost: $42,942/year) in 2010 and now studies law at The George Washington University Law School (average cost: $70,449/year).  His father has a Ph.D. and two master’s degrees; his mother also has a master’s degree.  Only in America could a kid have been blessed with so much… and only in America could he still claim to be a victim. America’s capitalist society has apparently leveled a grave injustice against his family and Robert will not stand for it.
Robert, right, with a friend on the GWU campus (Image: Facebook)
Stephens — who identifies his personal political philosophy as Bolivian socialism — made a trip to New York City this weekend to participate in the “Days of Rage” march on Wall Street.  He was arrested Saturday when he refused police requests to get up and out of the way of traffic in the street.
In his emotional “rage,” Stephens told the sympathetic Socialist/Marxist/Anarchist crowd how an eeeeeevil Wall Street bank had taken his parents’ home away from them:
Attempts to contact Robert to find out exactly what grave injustices he and his family have suffered have gone unanswered.  In the meantime, sympathetic comments on both Robert’s Facebook page and the YouTube video are also… unsettling:
(Full disclosure: I attended GWU as an undergrad and, to help make sure my mortgage gets paid every month, I continue to work at the law school as a part-time employee on the weekends.)
Our friend Robert and his woeful tale have quickly become darlings of the liberal blogosphere and the mainstream media (and Iran’s Tehran Times!).  Here he is in a picture posted at Buzzfeed — an image that perfectly captures him utilizing the biggest tool in the left-wing’s arsenal: the media.
Caption on this photo: “Protested (sic) falls to his knees in tears in front of Chase Bank crying – this is the bank that took my parents’ home.”
According to the Daily Kos, Robert should be commended as “a patriot” for spelling out the reason people are protesting.  “If you can watch it without being affected, you are as heartless as Dick Cheney,” the site notes.
There’s just one problem: Robert Stephens’ story is (surprise!) completely bogus.
Phone inquiries into the county property records & taxpayer services office reveal that the Stephens family home is not and never has been in foreclosure, that property taxes had been paid in full this year and the remaining balance on their mortgage for the half-million dollar home is less than one year’s worth of tuition+fees at their son’s law school.
The nail in this empty protest‘s coffin is a delightful phone conversation I just had with Robert’s mother, Marquita, where she admitted Chase Bank indeed was not “taking” their home from them. Instead, due to a recent “reduction in income,” they’ve decided to hold a “short sale.”
When I asked Mrs. Stephens if she and her husband planned to stay in their suburban St. Paul, Minn., surroundings after the sale, she told me they weren’t too keen on the idea.  The area is “a bit too conservative,” she said.
23279  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 27, 2011, 01:49:45 PM
GM: Concerning the consequences of animal movements that would be blocked by a fence, I am sorry but I have no citation, merely whatever credibility I may have with you as someone who is capable of sizing things up and not getting bamboozled too often.
23280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: September 27, 2011, 11:48:49 AM
Well, based upon your data, it is  cheesy cheesy cheesy

BTW, as we all know, measurable traces of pot linger in the system for a very long time after the buzz itself (weeks? months?)
23281  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: September 27, 2011, 11:40:30 AM
"Apparently the deceased in the Ramos case had a conviction for hitting his grandfather with a fire poker , , ,"
"So?  That was 17 years ago.  The Officers had no idea of that at the time they were busy beating Thomas to death aka the "deceased"."

I get that, but it seems entirely possible to me that someone who at any point in his life was capable of hitting his grandfather with a fire poker may have , , , certain vibrations detectable on an animal level.

"I hope he's in general lockup (he's not at great cost to the county).  Why give him special treatment?"

Because he is a policeman and policemen in prison are subject to unique dangers.  I gotta say this comment of yours strikes me as remarkably petty.
"And oh yeah, our tax dollars are paying big bucks for his high profile attorney.  More money..."

Because of what they do for us, police regularly are in hellacious situations.  They serve to know that should the excrement hit the legal fan for them that their families will not face financial destruction if they fight the charges.

23282  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 27, 2011, 11:29:54 AM
Good analysis by Sowell (no surprise there) but deeply concerning is Perry's ability to defend himself and mount an attack.

IMHO a border fence the whole length of the border is not only a stupidity, it also would be an ecological disaster with the disruptions it would cause to animal movements.  Perry's "boots on the ground" is the way to go for most of the border.
23283  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues and LE in action on: September 27, 2011, 09:57:24 AM
Apparently the deceased in the Ramos case had a conviction for hitting his grandfather with a fire poker , , ,
23284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: September 27, 2011, 09:09:27 AM
Therefor if people smoke marijuana instead of drinking alchohol, there would be less car crashes, yes?  grin
23285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: September 27, 2011, 09:07:51 AM
Interesting. I have not seen any discussion of respective population growth , , ,
23286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 27, 2011, 09:06:21 AM
GM:  Yes Obama is president and so in a very broad sense anything he says or does affects the election, but that does not mean anything he says or does belongs on this thread.  rolleyes  C'mon now!
23287  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH tries catching up with Stratfor on: September 27, 2011, 05:56:03 AM
With several remarkable asides thrown in and several years behind the curve,Pravda on the Hudson tries catching up with Stratfor:
ISTANBUL — Not so long ago, the foreign policy of Turkey revolved around a single issue: the divided island of Cyprus. These days, its prime minister may be the most popular figure in the Middle East, its foreign minister envisions a new order there and its officials have managed to do what the Obama administration has so far failed to: position themselves firmly on the side of change in the Arab revolts and revolutions.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, front left, prayed with Libyan and Turkish leaders in Tripoli on Sept. 16.
No one is ready to declare a Pax Turkana in the Middle East, and indeed, its foreign policy is strewn this year with missteps, crises and gains that feel largely rhetorical. It even lacks enough diplomats. But in an Arab world where the United States seems in retreat, Europe ineffectual and powers like Israel and Iran unsettled and unsure, officials of an assertive, occasionally brash Turkey have offered a vision for what may emerge from turmoil across two continents that has upended decades of assumptions.

Not unexpectedly, the vision’s center is Turkey.

“Turkey is the only country that has a sense of where things are going, and it has the wind blowing on its sails,” said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Istanbul Bilgi University.

The country’s foreign policy seized the attention of many in the Middle East and beyond after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tour this month of three Arab countries that have witnessed revolutions: Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Even Mr. Erdogan’s critics were impressed with the symbolism of the trip.

Though many criticize his streak of authoritarianism at home, the public abroad seemed taken by a prime minister who portrayed himself as the proudly Muslim leader of a democratic and prosperous country that has come out forcefully on the side of revolution and in defense of Palestinian rights.

One Turkish newspaper, supportive of Mr. Erdogan, called the visits the beginning “of a new era in our region.” An Egyptian columnist praised what he called Mr. Erdogan’s “leadership qualities.” And days later, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke boldly of an axis between Egypt and Turkey, two of the region’s most populous and militarily powerful countries, that would underpin a new order in the region, one in which Israel would stay on the margins until it made peace with its neighbors.

“What’s happening in the Middle East is a big opportunity, a golden opportunity,” a senior Turkish official said in Ankara, the capital. He called Turkey “the new kid on the block.”

The trip marked a pivot after what many had viewed as a series of setbacks for a country that, like most of the world, utterly failed to predict the revolts in the region.

After long treating the Arab world with a measure of disdain — Israel and Turkey were strategic allies in the 1990s — Turkey had spent years cultivating ties with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya and President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. More than 25,000 Turks worked in Libya, and Syria was seen as the gateway to Turkey’s ambitions to economically integrate part of the Middle East.

Even after the uprisings erupted, Turkey opposed NATO’s intervention in Libya. Until last month, it held out hope that Mr. Assad, despite evidence to the contrary, could oversee a transition in Syria.

Though Mr. Erdogan came out early in demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down in Egypt — at the very time American officials were trying to devise ways for him to serve out his term — that stance came with little cost. Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Erdogan were not fond of each other, and Egyptian officials resented Turkey’s growing profile.

“The old policy collapsed, and a new policy is required now toward the Middle East,” said Ersin Kalaycioglu, a professor of political science at Sabanci University in Istanbul.

In an interview, Mr. Davutoglu, viewed by many as the architect of Turkey’s engagement with the region, laid out that new policy. In addition to a proposed alliance with Egypt, he said Turkey would position itself on the side of the revolts, especially in neighboring Syria, which represents Turkey’s biggest challenge. He insisted that Turkey could help integrate the region by virtue of its economy, with its near tripling of exports since Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party took power in 2002.


(Page 2 of 2)

The outline suggested an early version of the European Union for the Middle East — economic integration and political coordination — and Mr. Davutoglu said such an arrangement would eventually require at least a degree of military cooperation.

“There should be regional ownership,” he said. “Not Turkish, not Arab, not Iranian, but a regional ownership.”
The vision is admittedly ambitious, and Mr. Davutoglu’s earlier prescription of “zero problems” with neighbors has run up against the hard realities of the region. Turkey faces a growing crisis over rights to gas in the sea off Cyprus, still divided between Greek and Turkish regions and still a foreign policy mess for Turkey. Relations with Israel collapsed after Israeli troops killed nine people on board a Turkish flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza last year.

Iran, Turkey’s neighbor to the east and competitor in the region, is bitter over a Turkish decision to accede to American pressure and host a radar station as part of a NATO missile defense system. Syrian and Turkish leaders no longer talk with one another.

But the sense of rising Turkish power and influence is so pronounced in the country these days that it sometimes borders on jingoism. It has touched on the country’s deep current of nationalism, and perhaps a hint of romanticism, harbored by the more religious, for Turkey’s return to an Arab world it ruled for more than four centuries.

“We’re not out there to recreate the Ottoman Empire, but we are out there to make the most of the influence we have in a region that is embracing our leadership,” said Suat Kiniklioglu, deputy chairman of external affairs for Mr. Erdogan’s party.

Even those who bristle at what they see as Mr. Erdogan’s arrogance acknowledge that he represents a phenomenon, at home and abroad. He brought his populism to the Arab world, where he displayed an intuitive sense of the resonance that the Palestinian issue still commands, in contrast to American officials who have misunderstood it, failed to appreciate it or tried to wish it away. In speeches, he catered to the West and his domestic critics by embracing a secular state, even as he prayed in suit and tie in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

For a region long stirred with anger at seemingly impotent leaders, submissive to American and Israeli demands, Mr. Erdogan came across as independent and forceful.

Cengiz Candar, a Turkish columnist with a résumé in the Arab world dating from the early 1970s, called it Mr. Erdogan’s “animal-like political intuitions.”

He added: “And these intuitions tell him, apart from the emotions, that you’re on the right track. As along as you take these steps, Turkey is consolidating its stature as a regional power more and more and you will be an actor on the international stage.”

There remains a debate in Turkey over the long-term aims of the engagement. No one doubts that officials with his party — deeply pious, with roots in political Islam — sympathize with Islamist movements seeking to enter mainstream Arab politics, namely the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and, more so, the Nahda Party in Tunisia. Mr. Candar calls them “kinsmen.” “They speak a common dialect,” he said.

But relations remain good with the United States, even if American officials accuse Mr. Erdogan of overconfidence. Some Turkish officials worry that the crisis with Israel will end up hurting the relationship with Washington; others believe that Turkey is bent on supplanting Israel as the junior partner of the United States in the Middle East.

The bigger challenges seem to be within Turkey. Although Turkey has opened new embassies across Africa and Latin America, its diplomatic staff remains small, and the Foreign Ministry is trying to hire 100 new employees per year. Mr. Kiniklioglu, the party official, estimated that no more than 20 people were devising foreign policy.

The exuberance of Turkish officials runs the risk of backlash, too. The Arab world’s long-held suspicion toward Turkey has faded, helped by the soft power of popular Turkish television serials and Mr. Erdogan’s appeal. Yet senior officials acknowledge the potential for an Arab backlash in a region long allergic to any hint of foreign intervention. Somewhat reflexively, Egyptian Islamists, piqued last week by Mr. Erdogan’s comments about a secular state, warned him against interfering in their affairs.

And across the spectrum in Turkey, still wrestling with its own Kurdish insurgency in the southeast, critics and admirers acknowledge that the vision of a Turkish-led region, prosperous and stable, remains mostly a fleeting promise amid all the turmoil. “The image is good,” said Mr. Kalaycioglu, the professor. “Whether it’s bearing any fruit is anyone’s guess. Nothing so far seems to be happening beyond that image.”

23288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran at a crossroads on: September 27, 2011, 05:27:10 AM

Geopolitical Journey: Iran at a Crossroads
September 27, 2011

STRATFORBy Kamran Bokhari

Geopolitically, a trip to Iran could not come at a better time. Iran is an emerging power seeking to exploit the vacuum created by the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq, which is scheduled to conclude in a little more than three months. Tehran also plays a major role along its eastern border, where Washington is seeking a political settlement with the Taliban to facilitate a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Islamic republic simultaneously is trying to steer popular unrest in the Arab world in its favor. That unrest in turn has significant implications for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an issue in which Iran has successfully inserted itself over the years. The question of the U.S.-Iranian relationship also looms — does accommodation or confrontation lie ahead? At the same time, the Iranian state — a unique hybrid of Shiite theocracy and Western republicanism — is experiencing intense domestic power struggles.

This is the geopolitical context in which I arrived at Imam Khomeini International airport late Sept. 16. Along with several hundred foreign guests, I had been invited to attend a Sept. 17-18 event dubbed the “Islamic Awakening” conference, organized by the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Given the state of Iranian-Western ties and my position as a senior analyst with a leading U.S.-based private intelligence company, the invitation came as surprise.

With some justification, Tehran views foreign visitors as potential spies working to undermine Iranian national security. The case of the  American hikers jailed in Iran (two of whom were released the day of my return to Canada) provided a sobering example of tourism devolving into accusations of espionage.

Fortunately for me, STRATFOR had not been placed on the list of some 60 Western organizations (mostly American and British think tanks and civil society groups) banned as seditious in early 2010 following the failed Green Movement uprising. Still, the Iranian regime is well aware of our views on Iranian geopolitics.

In addition to my concerns about how Iranian authorities would view me, I also worried about how attending a state-sponsored event designed to further Iranian geopolitical interests where many speakers heavily criticized the United States and Israel would look in the West. In the end, I set my trepidations aside and opted for the trip.

Geopolitical Observations in Tehran

STRATFOR CEO and founder George Friedman has written of geopolitical journeys, of how people from diverse national backgrounds visiting other countries see places in very different ways. In my case, my Pakistani heritage, American upbringing, Muslim religious identity and Canadian nationality allowed me to navigate a milieu of both locals and some 700 delegates of various Arab and Muslim backgrounds. But the key was in the way STRATFOR trains its analysts to avoid the pitfall that many succumb to — the blurring of what is really happening with what we may want to see happen.

The foreigner arriving in Iran immediately notices that despite 30 years of increasingly severe sanctions, the infrastructure and systems in the Islamic republic appear fairly solid. As a developing country and an international pariah, one would expect infrastructure along the lines of North Korea or Cuba. But Iran’s construction, transportation and communications infrastructure shares more in common with apartheid-era South Africa, and was largely developed indigenously.

Also notable was the absence of any visible evidence of a police state. Considering the state’s enormous security establishment and the recent unrest surrounding the Green Movement, I expected to see droves of elite security forces. I especially expected this in the northern districts of the capital, where the more Westernized segment of society lives and where I spent a good bit of time walking and sitting in cafes.

Granted, I didn’t stay for long and was only able to see a few areas of the city to be able to tell, but the only public display of opposition to the regime was “Death to Khamenei” graffiti scribbled in small letters on a few phone booths on Vali-e-Asr Avenue in the Saadabad area. I saw no sign of Basij or Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel patrolling the streets, only the kind of police presence one will find in many countries.

This normal security arrangement gave support to STRATFOR’s view from the very beginning that the unrest in 2009 was not something the regime couldn’t contain. As we wrote then and I was able to see firsthand last week, Iran has enough people who — contrary to conventional wisdom — support the regime, or at the very least do not seek its downfall even if they disagree with its policies.

I saw another sign of support for the Islamic republic a day after the conference ended, when the organizers arranged a tour of the mausoleum of the republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. We visited the large complex off a main highway on the southern end of town on a weekday; even so, numerous people had come to the shrine to pay their respects — several with tears in their eyes as they prayed at the tomb.

Obviously, the intensity of religious feelings varies in Iran, but a significant stratum of the public remains deeply religious and still believes in the national narrative of the revolutionary republic. This fact does not get enough attention in the Western media and discourse, clouding foreigners’ understanding of Iran and leading to misperceptions of an autocratic clergy clinging to power only by virtue of a massive security apparatus.

In the same vein, I had expected to see stricter enforcement of religious attire on women in public after the suppression of the Green Movement. Instead, I saw a light-handed approach on the issue. Women obeyed the requirement to cover everything but their hands and faces in a variety of ways. Some women wore the traditional black chador. Others wore long shirts and pants and scarves covering their heads. Still others were dressed in Western attire save a scarf over their head, which was covering very little of their hair.

The dress code has become a political issue in Iran, especially in recent months in the context of the struggle between conservative factions. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has encountered growing opposition from both pragmatic and ultraconservative forces, has come under criticism from clerics and others for alleged moral laxity when it comes to female dress codes. Even so, the supreme leader has not moved to challenge Ahmadinejad on this point.

Ahmadinejad and the Clerical-Political Divide

In sharp contrast with his first term, Ahmadinejad — the most ambitious and assertive president since the founding of the Islamic republic in 1979 — has been trying to position himself as the pragmatist in his second term while his opponents come out looking like hard-liners. In recent months his statements have become less religiously informed, though they have retained their nationalist and radical anti-Western tone.

For example, his speech at the conclusion of the second day of the conference on the theme of the event, Islamic Awakening, was articulated in non-religious language. This stood in sharp contrast to almost every other speaker. Ahmadinejad spoke of recent Arab unrest in terms of a struggle for freedom, justice and emancipation for oppressed peoples, while his criticism of the United States and Israel was couched in terms of how the two countries’ policies were detrimental to global peace as opposed to the raw ideological vitriol that we have seen in the not too distant past.

But while Iran’s intra-elite political struggles complicate domestic and foreign policymaking, they are not about to bring down the Islamic republic — at least not anytime soon. In the longer term, the issue at the heart of all disputes — that of shared governance by clerics and politicians — does pose a significant challenge to the regime. This tension has existed throughout the nearly 32-year history of the Islamic republic, and it will continue to be an issue into the foreseeable future as Iran focuses heavily on the foreign policy front.

Iran’s Regional Ambitions

In fact, the conference was all about Iran’s foreign policy ambitions to assume intellectual and geopolitical leadership of the unrest in the Arab world. Iran is well aware that it is in competition with Turkey over leadership for the Middle East and that Ankara is in a far better position than Iran economically, diplomatically and religiously as a Sunni power. Nevertheless, Iran is trying to position itself as the champion of the Arab masses who have risen up in opposition to autocratic regimes. The Iranian view is that Turkey cannot lead the region while remaining aligned with Washington and that Saudi Arabia’s lack of enthusiasm for the uprisings works in Tehran’s favor.

The sheer number of Iranian officials who are bilingual (fluent in Persian and Arabic) highlights the efforts of Tehran to overcome the ethno-linguistic geopolitical constraints it faces as a Persian country trying to operate in a region where most Muslim countries are Arab. While its radical anti-U.S. and anti-Israeli position has allowed it to circumvent the ethnic factor and attract support in the Arab and Muslim worlds, its Shiite sectarian character has allowed its opponents in Riyadh and elsewhere to restrict Iranian regional influence. In fact, Saudi Arabia remains a major bulwark against Iranian attempts expand its influence across the Persian Gulf and into Arabian Peninsula, as has been clear by the success that the Saudis have had in containing the largely Shiite uprising in Bahrain against the country’s Sunni monarchy.

Even so, Iran has developed some close relations across the sectarian divide, something obvious from the foreign participants invited to the conference. Thus in addition to the many Shiite leaders from Lebanon and Iraq and other parts of the Islamic world, the guest list included deputy Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook; Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) chief Ramadan Abdullah Shallah; a number of Egyptian religious, political, intellectual and business notables; the chief adviser to Sudanese President Omar al Bashir as well as the leader of the country’s main opposition party, Sadiq al-Mahdi; a number of Sunni Islamist leaders from Pakistan and Afghanistan, including former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani whom I had the opportunity of speaking with only two days before he was assassinated in Kabul; and the head of Malaysia’s main Islamist group, PAS, which runs governments in a few states — just to name a few.

Tehran has had much less success in breaching the ideological chasm, something evidenced by the dearth of secular political actors at the conference. Its very name, Islamic Awakening, was hardly welcoming to secularists. It also did not accurately reflect the nature of the popular agitation in the Arab countries, which is not being led by forces that seek revival of religion. The Middle East could be described as experiencing a political awakening, but not a religious awakening given that Islamist forces are latecomers to the cause.

A number of my hosts asked me what I thought of the conference, prompting me to address this conceptual discrepancy. I told them that the name Islamic Awakening only made sense if one was referring the Islamic world, but that even this interpretation was flawed as the current unrest has been limited to Arab countries.

While speaker after speaker pressed for unity among Muslim countries and groups in the cause of revival and the need to support the Arab masses in their struggle against autocracy, one unmistakable tension was clear. This had to do with Syria, the only state in the Arab world allied with Iran. A number of speakers and members of the audience tried to criticize the Syrian regime’s efforts to crush popular dissent, but the discomfort this caused was plain. Syria has proven embarrassing for Iran and even groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and PIJ, which are having a hard time reconciling their support for the Arab unrest on one hand and supporting the Syrian regime against its dissidents on the other.

The Road Ahead

Attending this conference allowed me to meet and observe many top Iranian civil and military officials and the heads of Arab and other Muslim non-state actors with varying degree of relationships with Tehran. Analyzing them from a distance one tends to dismiss their ideology and statements as rhetoric and propaganda. Some of what they say is rhetoric, but beneath the rhetoric are also convictions.

We in the West often expect Iran to succumb to international pressure, seek rehabilitation in the international community and one day become friendly with the West. We often talk of a U.S.-Iranian rapprochement, but at a strategic level, the Iranian leadership has other plans.

While Iran would like normalized relations with Washington and the West, it is much more interested in maintaining its independence in foreign policy matters, not unlike China’s experience since establishing relations with the United States. As one Iranian official told me at the conference, when Iran re-establishes ties with the United States, it doesn’t want to behave like Saudi Arabia or to mimic Turkey under the Justice and Development Party.

Whether or not Iran will achieve its goals and to what extent remains unclear. The combination of geography, demography and resources means Iran will remain at the center of an intense geopolitical struggle, and I hope for further opportunities to observe these developments firsthand.

23289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / S. Adams on voting on: September 27, 2011, 05:19:49 AM
"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual -- or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country." --Samuel Adams, in the Boston Gazette, 1781
23290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 27, 2011, 05:18:15 AM
Part of my response to JDN's let Israel get pushed into the sea post in the name of US security was to point out that there are a number cases where the US goes it alone, but this is not the place for extended conversation regarding those cases. 

More to the point, indeed THE point were the various examples I gave of why friendship is GOOD for the interests of the US.
23291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 27, 2011, 05:14:23 AM
GM:  Do posts on Chinese railroads really belong in this thread?  C'mon , , ,
23292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Putin's return to Presidency, NATO, & East Europe on: September 27, 2011, 05:09:09 AM
Putin's Candidacy Draws Varied Reactions

Two days following the announcement that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will seek a return to the presidency in March 2012, the decision is already bearing consequences — the first of which is a split inside the Kremlin. Putin’s nomination as the candidate for the ruling United Russia party has actually been welcomed by many within the Kremlin. After all, it is no secret that Putin continued to act as Russia’s top decision maker, even after stepping back from the presidency to the premiership.

“Tough choices between rival factions in the Kremlin will have to be made, and Putin will have to favor one faction over the others.”
But the decision to shift Russian President Dmitri Medvedev to the premiership has caused many of Putin’s loyalists to rebel. Medvedev is seen as weak and too willing to accommodate pro-Western policies. His role as president was accepted as long as Putin served as a buffer in the premiership. But many inside the Kremlin’s ministries are unhappy with Medvedev directly overseeing them. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has already resigned, and STRATFOR sources in Moscow say that other ministers and staff are considering doing the same.

While the announcement was expected to cause some controversy, Putin cannot afford a divided Kremlin as elections for the presidency and parliament approach. Tough choices between rival factions in the Kremlin will have to be made, and Putin will have to favor one faction over the others.

Meanwhile, international reaction to Putin’s announced return has been varied. Powerful states such as the United States and Germany have an established near-term relationship with Russia, and said they will work with whoever is in charge. Smaller countries, like the Baltic states and many Central European countries, have a different view on Putin’s possible return to the presidency. They see it as a sign that Russia is about to return to a more assertive foreign policy.

These states are not entirely incorrect. As STRATFOR discussed in the lead-up to the ruling tandem’s decision, Putin, while not fond of the idea of returning to the presidency, feels his return may be necessary in light of the foreign policy challenges that lie ahead.

Putin will focus much of his attention on how to manage the further fracturing of NATO and the European Union. NATO is divided on a number of issues, but disagreements over the alliance’s strategic focus are especially splintering the alliance. NATO members France, Italy and Germany want to hold a close relationship with Moscow. This runs against the interests of other members — mainly the Central European countries — that want to make countering Russia a top priority for NATO. These Central European states think Moscow will use Putin’s return, and the more aggressive stance they think Russia will assume under his leadership, to further divide alliance members.

While NATO’s fracturing has arguably been in the works for decades, the tipping point for Putin’s return was most likely the impending crises in the European Union. Putin, as president, will try to assure the Russian people that he is strong enough to prevent the European crises from rippling through Russia. But the crises in Europe are not limited to the financial realm. A fundamental rift has opened up between the various identities united under the banners of the European Union and the eurozone, and the rift seems likely to worsen in the foreseeable future. As with the NATO fracturing, Russia is primed to take advantage of such fissures in order to continue to divide Europe to its own advantage.

Putin’s presence is also intended to show Europe that whatever chaos lies ahead, Russia will remain a beacon of stability and strength — one that Europe could rely on should they choose to. And for those European states who choose not to, life could be made much more difficult.

23293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: September 26, 2011, 11:56:59 PM
Naturally the Pravdas are all over this , , ,
23294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 26, 2011, 11:55:43 PM
I'm gonna have to read those citations about just what the truth is with the bunker busters but it's late , , ,
23295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 26, 2011, 10:53:56 PM
I could be misremembering, but IIRC we backed Greece over Turkey in Cyprus and good relations with Turkey sure would be helpful.  Our backing of the British in the Falklands is universally unpopular in Latin America.  What would the implications be for the geo-strategic calculus of South East Asia if we were seen as abandoning Taiwan?  No need to answer really, my larger point is that Israel is not the only place where the US pursues policies not popular with many countries.

As for the larger point, in my unhumble opinion, our friendship with Israel is most definitely to the good of the US.  A few simple examples:  As has been pointed out to you here previously, Saddam Hussein would be a nuclear power now but for Osirak, and Syria would be well on its way to becoming one but for Israel.  Also, peruse this forum for reports of Saudi Arabia green lighting Israel to take out Iran's nuke program only to be stopped by Baraq.
23296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 26, 2011, 10:43:45 PM
I saw some poll numbers on the Brett Baier Report tonight showing that Bachman has fallen below Huntsman (or was it the FL straw poll?)  OUCH!!!  cheesy
23297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: September 26, 2011, 10:42:00 PM
Maybe it was next to the missing billing records from Hillary's law firm that appeared in her quarters at the WH after the statute of limitations expired , , , or maybe it travelled with the WH silverware when the Clintons left the WH.

But I digress , , , BTW is there an guestimated market value to that moon rock?
23298  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: September 26, 2011, 10:38:56 PM
Does this logic also apply to Taiwan, Cyprus, and the Falklands?
23299  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bones Jones blows off SS on: September 26, 2011, 10:33:05 PM
23300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Obamacare and just who are the uninsured on: September 26, 2011, 08:02:06 PM

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its latest estimates on poverty, income and health-insurance coverage. Strikingly, the official poverty rate is the highest it's been in 50 years.

As one might expect, the number of Americans without health insurance also rose—to 49.9 million, an increase of 919,000 since 2009.

But that large number hides more than it reveals. And diving into it shows that the uninsured rate won't fall unless the economy starts humming again. Unfortunately, ObamaCare's billions of dollars in new taxes and regulations won't allow that to happen.

Let's take a closer look at the 49.9 million uninsured. The Census reports that 9.5 million of them, about 19%, have household incomes over $75,000. In other words, a fifth of the uninsured make at least 50% more than the median American. They can afford to purchase a plan but have chosen not to.

Another 8.8 million uninsured make between $50,000 and $75,000. Paying for coverage might be more of a stretch for these folks, but they still have incomes higher than the majority of Americans.

For these two subsets of the uninsured population, an insurance plan might not be worth the money, particularly if they're young and healthy. And with ObamaCare set to drive up the cost of a basic individual insurance plan by 10% to 13%, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the number of voluntarily uninsured is certain to grow.

Another 9.7 million of the uninsured are noncitizens, both legal and illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants will not be able to participate in ObamaCare's exchanges, so they'll continue to seek care in expensive emergency rooms and community hospitals, thereby adding to the cost of care for everyone else. Add these three groups up, and more than half of the people the Census Bureau counts as uninsured could be considered questionably so.

The uninsured truly in need of help are those with household incomes below $25,000. They represent roughly a third of the uninsured, or 16.1 million.

Now, 16 million uninsured is nothing to sneeze at. But they represent only 5% of the American population. Finding coverage for them doesn't require remaking one-sixth of the U.S. economy, as ObamaCare does. Many of these 16 million people are already eligible for public insurance, chiefly Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. They just haven't signed up.

The Census figures also show that the number of people with private insurance dropped by 300,000 last year. About 1.5 million people lost their employer-sponsored insurance, most likely because of the economic downturn. But that loss in coverage was partially offset by the fact that over a million people bought coverage for themselves or their families on the private market.

What are we to make of all these numbers? For starters, increasing the employment rate offers the fastest way to reduce the number of uninsured.

The Census pegs the uninsured rate at 16.3%. Not-so-coincidentally, the percentage of the population that is unemployed, has temporarily given up searching for a job, or is working part-time but would like full-time employment is 16.2%.

In America's employer-dominated insurance system, those two figures are closely linked. Without job growth, the percentage of Americans without insurance will stagnate or increase.

The president and his team have cited the Census figures as proof of the need for ObamaCare. But any coverage gains delivered by the law will undoubtedly be undermined by the law's $800 billion in tax increases, which will further slow economic growth and prevent employers from hiring, and thus from furnishing the previously unemployed with coverage.

Because of ObamaCare's mandates and regulations, many employers are also set to drop the coverage they offer and let their employees buy insurance in the exchanges. In June, a study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimated that about a third of employers will do so. In a report last year published by his American Action Forum, former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin estimated that 35 million of the 160 million people who currently have employer-based coverage will lose it.

The Census Bureau's latest report confirms that insurance coverage can be hard to come by. But there's more to the Census figures than meets the eye. Until the American economy resumes growing, the uninsured rate will stay right where it is.

Ms. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco. Her latest book is "The Truth About Obamacare" (Regnery 2010).

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