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23251  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA in the Philippines on: July 05, 2011, 10:26:55 AM
Woof MK:

Delighted to have you here and thank you for your question.  I am off for the gym on my last day in town before a one week trip, so it is a busy day for me but I will try later to flesh out what has already been said by other posters.

Crafty Dog
23252  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies/TV of interest on: July 05, 2011, 10:25:07 AM
I found most of the actors in Game of Thrones completely unbelievable as fighting men, and laughed at the perfection of some of the clothing-- e.g. natty fine Italian looking leather for a medieval knight type, but somehow the show drew my wife and then me in; I loved the seeing some beautiful women's bodies grin  I thought the character of the Dwarf was very interesting and very well done by the actor in question. 
23253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: July 04, 2011, 11:52:20 PM
 cool cool cool
23254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our Founding Fathers on: July 04, 2011, 11:51:22 PM

http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/signers/index.htm
23255  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: July 04, 2011, 11:48:19 PM
C-MD:

No worries if he does; I will show you what to do  grin
23256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: July 04, 2011, 11:46:38 PM
So, what was the point of this post?

"http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/american-boots-on-ground-in-somalia/
Remember all the howling over Bush's "illegal war"? To quote Glenn Reynolds "They told me if I voted for McCain, there would be endless wars without congressional oversight, and they were right!""
23257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: July 04, 2011, 06:44:54 PM
The point being addressed here is the "Well, if you have nothing to hide argument".  May I take your response to mean that you agree that the argument is unsound?
23258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: July 04, 2011, 06:12:49 PM
"**Would someone who walks naked in public areas have a right of privacy that prevents them from being photographed? Or is there a requirement that if one wishes to assert privacy rights, that one actually takes steps to preserve that privacy?"

The problem arises when the government shoves a camera down your pants or up your anus.

More precisely, the point being made here is different than the straw man you attack.  The point is that people do and should have a right to privacy-- and that the "well if you have nothing to hide" argument is unsound.

23259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism, socialism: on: July 04, 2011, 06:09:41 PM
We're drifting a bit afield here, e.g. Blagojevich more properly belongs in the Corruption thread, ditto the fund raising in the WH issue.  The subject at hand is whether the ignoring the debt ceiling is C'l or a fascist type above-the-law action.
23260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / If its not a duck and it doesn't quack like a duck, its not about duck hunting on: July 04, 2011, 05:57:45 PM


http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4069761537893819675#
23261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: July 04, 2011, 05:55:56 PM
Are you saying you have a problem with what happened here?
23262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A letter from GB on: July 04, 2011, 01:11:10 PM
Hello America,

 
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, filled with endings and beginnings. I ended my show on cable news and I have launched a new digital network – GBTV. I have been traveling the country and the globe in support of Israel and planning my upcoming event there, Restoring Courage. My team and I have launched new websites, books and businesses. I haven’t stopped, I haven’t had the chance. Until today.
 
Today is an important day in our country's history – probably the most important. But what lessons can we take away from the 4th of July? Like so many national holidays, we barely have a moment to think about what the day really means. Sure, it’s the day we declared our independence from Britain – but it’s much more than that. It was the beginning of the great American experiment.
 
When those 56 men gathered to declare our Independence on July 4th, 1776 they weren’t just saying no to British rule – they were saying no to all rulers. They were declaring the beginning of the great American experiment, which sought to answer the question “Can man rule himself?”
 
 
 
Even with all the hardships and troubles facing America, I still believe the answer is “YES”! And I say that as emphatically and enthusiastically as I possibly can. Man CAN rule himself – and we are going to prove it together!
 
If you’re reading this then you probably know a lot about what I am working on – but ultimately my goal is to prove that we have not failed in the goals set forth by our Founders so many years ago on July 4th. Everything I’ve been working on has been done with the intention on giving you the tools, the history, and the information you need to be self-reliant.
 
Last Thursday, GBTV subscribers got to see me announce the latest piece, a non-profit initiative that I am calling “Mercury One.” It will focus on putting Americans like you into action – helping one another without government interference or tax dollar support. Together we will fix America – one town, one person, one entrepreneur at a time.
 
This Fourth of July – remember the importance of what our Founders started all those years ago. Remember the great American experiment!
 
Laos Deo,

 
23263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Why privacy matters even if you have nothing to hide on: July 04, 2011, 08:50:03 AM

May 15, 2011

Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide'
Enlarge ImageBy Daniel J. Solove

When the government gathers or analyzes personal information, many people say they're not worried. "I've got nothing to hide," they declare. "Only if you're doing something wrong should you worry, and then you don't deserve to keep it private."

The nothing-to-hide argument pervades discussions about privacy. The data-security expert Bruce Schneier calls it the "most common retort against privacy advocates." The legal scholar Geoffrey Stone refers to it as an "all-too-common refrain." In its most compelling form, it is an argument that the privacy interest is generally minimal, thus making the contest with security concerns a foreordained victory for security.

The nothing-to-hide argument is everywhere. In Britain, for example, the government has installed millions of public-surveillance cameras in cities and towns, which are watched by officials via closed-circuit television. In a campaign slogan for the program, the government declares: "If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear." Variations of nothing-to-hide arguments frequently appear in blogs, letters to the editor, television news interviews, and other forums. One blogger in the United States, in reference to profiling people for national-security purposes, declares: "I don't mind people wanting to find out things about me, I've got nothing to hide! Which is why I support [the government's] efforts to find terrorists by monitoring our phone calls!"

The argument is not of recent vintage. One of the characters in Henry James's 1888 novel, The Reverberator, muses: "If these people had done bad things they ought to be ashamed of themselves and he couldn't pity them, and if they hadn't done them there was no need of making such a rumpus about other people knowing."

I encountered the nothing-to-hide argument so frequently in news interviews, discussions, and the like that I decided to probe the issue. I asked the readers of my blog, Concurring Opinions, whether there are good responses to the nothing-to-hide argument. I received a torrent of comments:

My response is "So do you have curtains?" or "Can I see your credit-card bills for the last year?"
So my response to the "If you have nothing to hide ... " argument is simply, "I don't need to justify my position. You need to justify yours. Come back with a warrant."
I don't have anything to hide. But I don't have anything I feel like showing you, either.
If you have nothing to hide, then you don't have a life.
Show me yours and I'll show you mine.
It's not about having anything to hide, it's about things not being anyone else's business.
Bottom line, Joe Stalin would [have] loved it. Why should anyone have to say more?
On the surface, it seems easy to dismiss the nothing-to-hide argument. Everybody probably has something to hide from somebody. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn declared, "Everyone is guilty of something or has something to conceal. All one has to do is look hard enough to find what it is." Likewise, in Friedrich Dürrenmatt's novella "Traps," which involves a seemingly innocent man put on trial by a group of retired lawyers in a mock-trial game, the man inquires what his crime shall be. "An altogether minor matter," replies the prosecutor. "A crime can always be found."

One can usually think of something that even the most open person would want to hide. As a commenter to my blog post noted, "If you have nothing to hide, then that quite literally means you are willing to let me photograph you naked? And I get full rights to that photograph—so I can show it to your neighbors?" The Canadian privacy expert David Flaherty expresses a similar idea when he argues: "There is no sentient human being in the Western world who has little or no regard for his or her personal privacy; those who would attempt such claims cannot withstand even a few minutes' questioning about intimate aspects of their lives without capitulating to the intrusiveness of certain subject matters."

But such responses attack the nothing-to-hide argument only in its most extreme form, which isn't particularly strong. In a less extreme form, the nothing-to-hide argument refers not to all personal information but only to the type of data the government is likely to collect. Retorts to the nothing-to-hide argument about exposing people's naked bodies or their deepest secrets are relevant only if the government is likely to gather this kind of information. In many instances, hardly anyone will see the information, and it won't be disclosed to the public. Thus, some might argue, the privacy interest is minimal, and the security interest in preventing terrorism is much more important. In this less extreme form, the nothing-to-hide argument is a formidable one. However, it stems from certain faulty assumptions about privacy and its value.

To evaluate the nothing-to-hide argument, we should begin by looking at how its adherents understand privacy. Nearly every law or policy involving privacy depends upon a particular understanding of what privacy is. The way problems are conceived has a tremendous impact on the legal and policy solutions used to solve them. As the philosopher John Dewey observed, "A problem well put is half-solved."

Most attempts to understand privacy do so by attempting to locate its essence—its core characteristics or the common denominator that links together the various things we classify under the rubric of "privacy." Privacy, however, is too complex a concept to be reduced to a singular essence. It is a plurality of different things that do not share any one element but nevertheless bear a resemblance to one another. For example, privacy can be invaded by the disclosure of your deepest secrets. It might also be invaded if you're watched by a peeping Tom, even if no secrets are ever revealed. With the disclosure of secrets, the harm is that your concealed information is spread to others. With the peeping Tom, the harm is that you're being watched. You'd probably find that creepy regardless of whether the peeper finds out anything sensitive or discloses any information to others. There are many other forms of invasion of privacy, such as blackmail and the improper use of your personal data. Your privacy can also be invaded if the government compiles an extensive dossier about you.

Privacy, in other words, involves so many things that it is impossible to reduce them all to one simple idea. And we need not do so.

In many cases, privacy issues never get balanced against conflicting interests, because courts, legislators, and others fail to recognize that privacy is implicated. People don't acknowledge certain problems, because those problems don't fit into a particular one-size-fits-all conception of privacy. Regardless of whether we call something a "privacy" problem, it still remains a problem, and problems shouldn't be ignored. We should pay attention to all of the different problems that spark our desire to protect privacy.

To describe the problems created by the collection and use of personal data, many commentators use a metaphor based on George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell depicted a harrowing totalitarian society ruled by a government called Big Brother that watches its citizens obsessively and demands strict discipline. The Orwell metaphor, which focuses on the harms of surveillance (such as inhibition and social control), might be apt to describe government monitoring of citizens. But much of the data gathered in computer databases, such as one's race, birth date, gender, address, or marital status, isn't particularly sensitive. Many people don't care about concealing the hotels they stay at, the cars they own, or the kind of beverages they drink. Frequently, though not always, people wouldn't be inhibited or embarrassed if others knew this information.

Another metaphor better captures the problems: Franz Kafka's The Trial. Kafka's novel centers around a man who is arrested but not informed why. He desperately tries to find out what triggered his arrest and what's in store for him. He finds out that a mysterious court system has a dossier on him and is investigating him, but he's unable to learn much more. The Trial depicts a bureaucracy with inscrutable purposes that uses people's information to make important decisions about them, yet denies the people the ability to participate in how their information is used.

The problems portrayed by the Kafkaesque metaphor are of a different sort than the problems caused by surveillance. They often do not result in inhibition. Instead they are problems of information processing—the storage, use, or analysis of data—rather than of information collection. They affect the power relationships between people and the institutions of the modern state. They not only frustrate the individual by creating a sense of helplessness and powerlessness, but also affect social structure by altering the kind of relationships people have with the institutions that make important decisions about their lives.

Legal and policy solutions focus too much on the problems under the Orwellian metaphor—those of surveillance—and aren't adequately addressing the Kafkaesque problems—those of information processing. The difficulty is that commentators are trying to conceive of the problems caused by databases in terms of surveillance when, in fact, those problems are different.

Commentators often attempt to refute the nothing-to-hide argument by pointing to things people want to hide. But the problem with the nothing-to-hide argument is the underlying assumption that privacy is about hiding bad things. By accepting this assumption, we concede far too much ground and invite an unproductive discussion about information that people would very likely want to hide. As the computer-security specialist Schneier aptly notes, the nothing-to-hide argument stems from a faulty "premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong." Surveillance, for example, can inhibit such lawful activities as free speech, free association, and other First Amendment rights essential for democracy.

The deeper problem with the nothing-to-hide argument is that it myopically views privacy as a form of secrecy. In contrast, understanding privacy as a plurality of related issues demonstrates that the disclosure of bad things is just one among many difficulties caused by government security measures. To return to my discussion of literary metaphors, the problems are not just Orwellian but Kafkaesque. Government information-gathering programs are problematic even if no information that people want to hide is uncovered. In The Trial, the problem is not inhibited behavior but rather a suffocating powerlessness and vulnerability created by the court system's use of personal data and its denial to the protagonist of any knowledge of or participation in the process. The harms are bureaucratic ones—indifference, error, abuse, frustration, and lack of transparency and accountability.

One such harm, for example, which I call aggregation, emerges from the fusion of small bits of seemingly innocuous data. When combined, the information becomes much more telling. By joining pieces of information we might not take pains to guard, the government can glean information about us that we might indeed wish to conceal. For example, suppose you bought a book about cancer. This purchase isn't very revealing on its own, for it indicates just an interest in the disease. Suppose you bought a wig. The purchase of a wig, by itself, could be for a number of reasons. But combine those two pieces of information, and now the inference can be made that you have cancer and are undergoing chemotherapy. That might be a fact you wouldn't mind sharing, but you'd certainly want to have the choice.

Another potential problem with the government's harvest of personal data is one I call exclusion. Exclusion occurs when people are prevented from having knowledge about how information about them is being used, and when they are barred from accessing and correcting errors in that data. Many government national-security measures involve maintaining a huge database of information that individuals cannot access. Indeed, because they involve national security, the very existence of these programs is often kept secret. This kind of information processing, which blocks subjects' knowledge and involvement, is a kind of due-process problem. It is a structural problem, involving the way people are treated by government institutions and creating a power imbalance between people and the government. To what extent should government officials have such a significant power over citizens? This issue isn't about what information people want to hide but about the power and the structure of government.

A related problem involves secondary use. Secondary use is the exploitation of data obtained for one purpose for an unrelated purpose without the subject's consent. How long will personal data be stored? How will the information be used? What could it be used for in the future? The potential uses of any piece of personal information are vast. Without limits on or accountability for how that information is used, it is hard for people to assess the dangers of the data's being in the government's control.

Yet another problem with government gathering and use of personal data is distortion. Although personal information can reveal quite a lot about people's personalities and activities, it often fails to reflect the whole person. It can paint a distorted picture, especially since records are reductive—they often capture information in a standardized format with many details omitted.

For example, suppose government officials learn that a person has bought a number of books on how to manufacture methamphetamine. That information makes them suspect that he's building a meth lab. What is missing from the records is the full story: The person is writing a novel about a character who makes meth. When he bought the books, he didn't consider how suspicious the purchase might appear to government officials, and his records didn't reveal the reason for the purchases. Should he have to worry about government scrutiny of all his purchases and actions? Should he have to be concerned that he'll wind up on a suspicious-persons list? Even if he isn't doing anything wrong, he may want to keep his records away from government officials who might make faulty inferences from them. He might not want to have to worry about how everything he does will be perceived by officials nervously monitoring for criminal activity. He might not want to have a computer flag him as suspicious because he has an unusual pattern of behavior.

The nothing-to-hide argument focuses on just one or two particular kinds of privacy problems—the disclosure of personal information or surveillance—while ignoring the others. It assumes a particular view about what privacy entails, to the exclusion of other perspectives.

It is important to distinguish here between two ways of justifying a national-security program that demands access to personal information. The first way is not to recognize a problem. This is how the nothing-to-hide argument works—it denies even the existence of a problem. The second is to acknowledge the problems but contend that the benefits of the program outweigh the privacy sacrifice. The first justification influences the second, because the low value given to privacy is based upon a narrow view of the problem. And the key misunderstanding is that the nothing-to-hide argument views privacy in this troublingly particular, partial way.

Investigating the nothing-to-hide argument a little more deeply, we find that it looks for a singular and visceral kind of injury. Ironically, this underlying conception of injury is sometimes shared by those advocating for greater privacy protections. For example, the University of South Carolina law professor Ann Bartow argues that in order to have a real resonance, privacy problems must "negatively impact the lives of living, breathing human beings beyond simply provoking feelings of unease." She says that privacy needs more "dead bodies," and that privacy's "lack of blood and death, or at least of broken bones and buckets of money, distances privacy harms from other [types of harm]."

Bartow's objection is actually consistent with the nothing-to-hide argument. Those advancing the nothing-to-hide argument have in mind a particular kind of appalling privacy harm, one in which privacy is violated only when something deeply embarrassing or discrediting is revealed. Like Bartow, proponents of the nothing-to-hide argument demand a dead-bodies type of harm.

Bartow is certainly right that people respond much more strongly to blood and death than to more-abstract concerns. But if this is the standard to recognize a problem, then few privacy problems will be recognized. Privacy is not a horror movie, most privacy problems don't result in dead bodies, and demanding evidence of palpable harms will be difficult in many cases.

Privacy is often threatened not by a single egregious act but by the slow accretion of a series of relatively minor acts. In this respect, privacy problems resemble certain environmental harms, which occur over time through a series of small acts by different actors. Although society is more likely to respond to a major oil spill, gradual pollution by a multitude of actors often creates worse problems.

Privacy is rarely lost in one fell swoop. It is usually eroded over time, little bits dissolving almost imperceptibly until we finally begin to notice how much is gone. When the government starts monitoring the phone numbers people call, many may shrug their shoulders and say, "Ah, it's just numbers, that's all." Then the government might start monitoring some phone calls. "It's just a few phone calls, nothing more." The government might install more video cameras in public places. "So what? Some more cameras watching in a few more places. No big deal." The increase in cameras might lead to a more elaborate network of video surveillance. Satellite surveillance might be added to help track people's movements. The government might start analyzing people's bank rec ords. "It's just my deposits and some of the bills I pay—no problem." The government may then start combing through credit-card records, then expand to Internet-service providers' records, health records, employment records, and more. Each step may seem incremental, but after a while, the government will be watching and knowing everything about us.

"My life's an open book," people might say. "I've got nothing to hide." But now the government has large dossiers of everyone's activities, interests, reading habits, finances, and health. What if the government leaks the information to the public? What if the government mistakenly determines that based on your pattern of activities, you're likely to engage in a criminal act? What if it denies you the right to fly? What if the government thinks your financial transactions look odd—even if you've done nothing wrong—and freezes your accounts? What if the government doesn't protect your information with adequate security, and an identity thief obtains it and uses it to defraud you? Even if you have nothing to hide, the government can cause you a lot of harm.

"But the government doesn't want to hurt me," some might argue. In many cases, that's true, but the government can also harm people inadvertently, due to errors or carelessness.

When the nothing-to-hide argument is unpacked, and its underlying assumptions examined and challenged, we can see how it shifts the debate to its terms, then draws power from its unfair advantage. The nothing-to-hide argument speaks to some problems but not to others. It represents a singular and narrow way of conceiving of privacy, and it wins by excluding consideration of the other problems often raised with government security measures. When engaged directly, the nothing-to-hide argument can ensnare, for it forces the debate to focus on its narrow understanding of privacy. But when confronted with the plurality of privacy problems implicated by government data collection and use beyond surveillance and disclosure, the nothing-to-hide argument, in the end, has nothing to say.

Daniel J. Solove is a professor of law at George Washington University. This essay is an excerpt from his new book, Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, published this month by Yale University Press.


23264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Jay: Federalist 4; Jefferson on credit 1813; Hamilton 1775 on: July 04, 2011, 08:36:27 AM
"But the safety of the people of America against dangers from foreign force depends not only on their forbearing to give just causes of war to other nations, but also on their placing and continuing themselves in such a situation as not to invite hostility or insult; for it need not be observed that there are pretended as well as just causes of war." --John Jay, Federalist No. 4

"It is a wise rule and should be fundamental in a government disposed to cherish its credit, and at the same time to restrain the use of it within the limits of its faculties, 'never to borrow a dollar without laying a tax in the same instant for paying the interest annually, and the principal within a given term; and to consider that tax as pledged to the creditors on the public faith.'" --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Wayles Eppes, 1813


"The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power." --Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, 1775

"As our president bears no resemblance to a king so we shall see the Senate has no similitude to nobles. First, not being hereditary, their collective knowledge, wisdom, and virtue are not precarious. For by these qualities alone are they to obtain their offices, and they will have none of the peculiar qualities and vices of those men who possess power merely because their father held it before them." --Tench Coxe, An American Citizen, No. 2, 1787


"Liberty is a word which, according as it is used, comprehends the most good and the most evil of any in the world. Justly understood it is sacred next to those which we appropriate in divine adoration; but in the mouths of some it means anything, which enervate a necessary government; excite a jealousy of the rulers who are our own choice, and keep society in confusion for want of a power sufficiently concentered to promote good." --Oliver Ellsworth, A Landholder, No. III, 1787




23265  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Conspiracy theory on: July 04, 2011, 12:07:40 AM
No idea as to the validity of this source or its conclusions, but I have noted various times previously about how low the margin requirements are for oil futures , , ,

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

The Contango Game: How Koch Industries Manipulates The Oil Market For Profit
By Lee Fang on Apr 13, 2011 at 11:55 am

In recent weeks, gas prices around the country have surged to levels unseen since the 2008 oil spike. However, market fundamentals are not driving the nearly $4.00/gallon gas prices. In fact, under the Obama administration, oil production is at record highs and there is adequate global supply of crude. As Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) commissioner Bart Chilton has explained, rampant oil speculation, which is at its highest level on record right now, is to blame for current prices.

Currently, the public knows very little about the oil speculation industry because a conservative majority on the CFTC has refused to implement a mandate from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill to curb abuses. Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing steep cuts to the CFTC, hampering any new rules on oil speculation that may be released later this summer. Fortunately, both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the CFTC have so far survived the latest round of budget cuts.

While much of the attention on oil speculators has rested on the backs of investors and commodity traders, the petrochemical conglomerate Koch Industries occupies a unique role in manipulating the oil market. Koch has little business in the extraction process. Instead, Koch focuses on shipping crude oil, refining it, distributing it to retailers — then speculating on the future price. With control of every part of the market, Koch is able to bet on future prices with superior information. As Yasha Levine notes, Koch along with Enron pioneered a number of complex financial products to leverage its privileged position in the energy industry.

In 2008, Koch called attention to itself for “contango” oil market manipulation. A commodity market is said to be in contango when future prices are expected to rise, that is, when demand is expected to outstrip supply. Big banks and companies like Koch employ a contango strategy by buying up oil and storing it in massive containers both on land and offshore to lock in the oil for sale later at a set price. In December of 2008, Koch leased “four supertankers to hold oil in the U.S. Gulf Coast to take advantage of rising prices in the months ahead.” Writing about Koch’s contango efforts to artificially drive down supply, Fortune magazine writer Jon Birger noted they could be raising “gasoline prices by anywhere from 20 to 40 cents a gallon” at the time. Speaking with the Business Times, Koch executive David Chang even boasted that falling crude prices in 2008 provided an opportunity remove oil from the market for future delivery:

CHANG: The drop in crude oil prices from more than US$145 per barrel in July 2008 to less than US$35 per barrel in December 2008 has presented opportunities for companies such as ours. In the physical business, purchases of crude oil from producers and storing offshore in tankers allow us to benefit from the contango market where crude prices are higher for future delivery than for prompt delivery.

A recent presentation from Koch Supply & Trading, the Koch unit devoted to selling financial products, confirms that Koch has taken advantage of a lax regulatory environment to aggressively trade on future oil prices. “The return of speculators to Oil, the ‘macro trade’ is alive and well,” reads slide 36:

Koch Supply & Trading Risk Management

The slideshow, given to an industry association for oil speculators, describes Koch as the “world’s top five crude oil traders and actively trades about 50 types of crude oil around the world.” Notably, Koch “has trading operations in London, Geneva, Singapore, Houston, New York, Wichita, Rotterdam, and Mumbai.”

As a recent Center for Public Integrity report uncovered, Koch lobbied aggressively against Obama’s financial reform bill, particularly on provisions related to transparency in the energy trading market. Is Koch again buying up supply in expectation of higher crude prices during the summer or beyond — as many analysts have predicted? No one knows, especially when the energy speculation and trading industry currently operates with virtually no regulation.

23266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: A American Seder for Indendence Day, July 4, 1776 on: July 04, 2011, 12:04:06 AM
As the 4th of July is upon us, let us take a moment and reflect upon some words of some men who knew a thing or two about True Patriotism.


 
"This Republic was not established by Cowards, and Cowards shall not preserve it." Samuel Adams
 
"A Man with a Gun is a Citizen, a Man without is a Subject."  Paul Revere
 
"Great Danger lies in the Notion you can reason with Evil."  General Patton
 
"A Government Big Enough to give you everything you could ever dream of is strong enough to take everything you have."  Thomas Jefferson
 
"A People that Value it's Privleges above its' Principals shall soon lose both."
President Eisenhower, 1953
 
"If you want Peace, Prepare for War." Cicero
 
 
Have a Great 4th and take some time today to reflect upon these words and Remember our Men and Women in Uniform all over the World who put their lives on the line everyday so we can Celebrate our Independence!!!
 
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!!!!
23267  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bat Fight on: July 03, 2011, 11:56:55 PM


http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/426608ab8c/bat-fight?ref=nf
23268  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: July 03, 2011, 11:53:23 PM
And I look forward to seeing it. 

Do you remember The Cherry's Parable?
23269  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: July 03, 2011, 11:52:28 PM
B284: 

It just might  grin
23270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: July 03, 2011, 11:50:59 PM
Works for me.

Thanks Kostas.
23271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Interesting" is another word for LAWLESS. on: July 03, 2011, 11:50:10 PM
Oy fg vey JDN , , ,
23272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq advised to bypass Congress on Debit Limit!?! on: July 03, 2011, 07:29:01 PM


Cornyn: Obama Bypassing Congress on Debt Limit is 'Crazy Talk'

Published July 03, 2011
FoxNews.com

Schools and universities across the country on Friday will celebrate the signing of the U.S. Constitution, a portion of which is seen here. But plans to commemorate the day at many federal agencies contacted by FoxNews.com remain unclear.

Sen. John Cornyn warned President Obama on Sunday to not even consider interpreting the Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment to bypass Congress and raise the debt limit without its approval.

"That's crazy talk. It's not acceptable for Congress and the president not to do their job and to say somehow the president has the authority then to basically do this by himself," Cornyn, R-Texas, a former judge on the Texas Supreme Court, told "Fox News Sunday."

The proposal that Obama re-interpret Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment to justify raising the $14.3 trillion debt limit has been gaining traction in Democratic circles since Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told reporters that the Constitution's language could support the president's raising the limit without congressional approval.

'The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for the payments of pension and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion' -- this is the important thing -- 'shall not be questioned,' " Geithner read during a discussion hosted by Politico in May.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and others on Capitol Hill reportedly acknowledged that the idea is percolating, and had been presented to the president.

"It's certainly worth exploring. I think it needs a little more exploration and study," he said during a conference call with reporters held Friday.

Without addressing efforts to invoke the Constitution, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said Sunday the president and congressional negotiators shouldn't even be discussing a debt deal privately.

"Congress is the constitutional place for this to be decided," said Sessions, who is the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.

Asked during a press conference Wednesday whether the debt limit was constitutional, the president glossed over the question, saying, "I'm not a Supreme Court justice, so I'm not going to put my constitutional law professor hat on here."


Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/07/03/cornyn-obama-bypassing-congress-on-debt-limit-is-crazy-talk/#ixzz1R5XfXq8F

23273  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: European “Gathering of the Pack” 2011 on: July 03, 2011, 02:58:24 PM
As I've gotten older, the 12-14 hour flight to Switzerland had gotten tougher on my hips, so I have had to evolve some special pre-flight workouts to prepare.  Very pleased with today's session.
23274  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: July 03, 2011, 02:55:44 PM
Keep in mind that he will be fighting in the Euro Gg and , , , he has asked me to help him evolve his three section staff game  evil
23275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gaffney: The Tipping Point- Embracing the Muslim Brotherhood on: July 03, 2011, 11:21:20 AM
The Tipping Point: Embracing the Muslim Brotherhood
Frank j. gaffney, jr.
 
 
 
The Obama administration chose the eve of the holiday marking our Nation's birth to acknowledge publicly behavior in which it has long been stealthily engaged to the United States' extreme detriment:  Its officials now admit that they are embracing the Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikhwan in Arabic).  That would be the same international Islamist organization that has the destruction of the United States, Israel and all other parts of the Free World as its explicit objective.
 
On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to downplay the momentousness of this major policy shift by portraying it during a stopover in Budapest as follows:  "The Obama administration is continuing the approach of limited contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood that have existed on and off for about five or six years."  In fact, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy points out in a characteristically brilliant, and scathing, dissection of this announcement, Team Obama's official, open legitimation of the Brotherhood marks a dramatic break from the U.S. government's historical refusal to deal formally with the Ikhwan.
 
To understand why the Obama administration's embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood is so ominous, consider three insights into the organization's nature and ambitions:
 
First, here's the MB's creed:  "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope."  (Source: Husain Haqqani and Hillel Fradkin, "Islamist Parties: Going Back to the Origins.")
 
Second, here's the Ikwhan's mission in America:
 
"A kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within, sabotaging its miserable house with their [i.e., Americans'] hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions." (Source: Muslim Brotherhood's "Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goals of the Group," entered into evidence by the Department of Justice in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terrorism-finance trial. Archived at the NEFA Foundation.)               
 
Third, here are excerpts from the Muslim Brotherhood's "phased plan" for accomplishing that mission:
 
Phase One: Discreet and secret establishment of leadership.
Phase Two: Phase of gradual appearance on the public scene and exercising and utilizing various public activities. It greatly succeeded in implementing this stage. It also succeeded in achieving a great deal of its important goals, such as infiltrating various sectors of the Government.     
Phase Three:  Escalation phase, prior to conflict and confrontation with the rulers, through utilizing mass media. Currently in progress.
Phase Four:  Open public confrontation with the Government through exercising the political pressure approach. It is aggressively implementing the above-mentioned approach. Training on the use of weapons domestically and overseas in anticipation of zero-hour. It has noticeable activities in this regard.
Phase Five:  Seizing power to establish their Islamic Nation under which all parties and Islamic groups are united. (Source: Undated Muslim Brotherhood Paper entitled, "Phases of the World Underground Movement Plan." Archived at Shariah: The Threat to America.)
 
In short, the Muslim Brotherhood is deadly serious about waging what it calls "civilization jihad" against the United States and other freedom-loving nations in order to secure their submission to the Islamic totalitarian political-military-legal doctrine called shariah.  The MB's goal in this country is to replace our Constitution with theirs, namely the Koran.  And they regard this task as one commanded by none other than Allah.  (For more details on the nature, ambitions and modus operandi of the Ikhwan, see the Team B II Report, Shariah: The Threat to America).  To this end, as Andy McCarthy notes in the aforementioned essay, the MB's senior official, Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi, has effectively declared war on the United States.
 
Were there any doubt that legitimacy is what the Ikhwan is taking away from this gambit, consider this assessment from an expert in Islamic groups, Ammar Ali Hassan, cited by Associated Press:  "...The Brotherhood will likely try to float ‘conditions' or ‘reservations' on any dialogue to avoid a perception that it is allowing the U.S. to meddle in Egypt's internal affairs. But in the end, the talks will give a boost to the group, he said, by easing worries some in the Brotherhood and the public have of a backlash if the Brotherhood becomes the dominant player in Egypt. ‘Now the Muslim Brotherhood will not have to worry [about] moving forward toward taking over power,' Hassan said."         
Unfortunately, the U.S. government's dangerous outreach to the Ikhwan is not confined to Egypt but is systematically practiced inside the United States, as well.  For example:
 
Muslim-American organizations identified in court by the U.S. government - and, in many cases, by the Muslim Brotherhood itself - as MB fronts are routinely cultivated by federal, state and local officials. Representatives of homeland security, Pentagon, intelligence and law enforcement agencies frequently meet with and attend functions sponsored by such groups.
 
MB-associated individuals are sent as our country's "goodwill ambassadors" to foreign Muslim nations and communities. MB-favored initiatives to insinuate shariah into the United States - notably, the Ground Zero Mosque and shariah-compliant finance, conscientious objector status for Muslim servicemen and stifling of free speech in accordance with shariah "blasphemy" laws - are endorsed and/or enabled by official institutions.
 
A blind eye is turned to the presence across the country of shariah-adherent mosques that incubate jihadism. A peer-reviewed study published last month in Middle East Quarterly determined that 81% of a random sample of 100 mosques exhibited such qualities - constituting an infrastructure for recruitment, indoctrination and training consistent with the Brotherhood's phased plan.
 
Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, individuals with family and other ties to the Muslim Brotherhood have actually given senior government positions. The most recent of these to come to light is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff, Huma Abedin (who also happens to be former Rep. Anthony Weiner's wife).
 
It seems a safe bet that, as Team Obama legitimates Muslim Brotherhood organizations and groups overseas, it will feel ever less constrained about further empowering their counterparts in the United States.  If so, the MB will come to exercise even greater influence over what our government does and does not do about the threat posed by shariah, both abroad and here.
 
The absolutely predictable effect will be to undermine U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East and further catalyze the Brotherhood's campaign to insinuate shariah in the United States and, ultimately, to supplant the Constitution with Islamic law.  Consequently, the Obama administration's efforts to "engage" the Muslim Brotherhood are not just reckless.  They are wholly incompatible with the President's oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" and the similar commitment made by his subordinates.
 
These officials' now-open embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood constitutes a geo-strategic tipping point, one that must catalyze an urgent national debate on this question:  Does such conduct violate their oath of office by endangering the Constitution they have undertaken to uphold?
 
At a minimum, such a debate would afford a much-needed opportunity to examine alternatives to the administration's present course - as well as the real risks associated with that its intensifying pursuit.  For instance, one of the most astute American authorities on the Middle East in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, Dr. Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a posting at The American blog yesterday:
 
"Rather than embrace the Brotherhood, the Obama administration should be seeking to ensure that the group cannot dominate Egypt. Most analysts agree that the Muslim Brotherhood is by far the best organized group in Egypt, but that it only enjoys perhaps 25 or 30 percent support. The secular opposition remains weak and fractured. If the Obama administration wishes to remain engaged in Egypt's future and shape the best possible outcome for both U.S. national security and the Egyptian people, it should be pushing for electoral reform to change Egypt's dysfunctional system to a proportional representation model in which the secular majority can form a coalition to check a Muslim Brotherhood minority for which true democracy is anathema."
 
The same goes for the enemy within.  Instead of relying upon - let alone hiring - Muslim Brotherhood operatives and associates, the United States government should be shutting down their fronts, shariah-adherent, jihad-incubating "community centers" and insidious influence operations in America.  By recognizing these enterprises for what they are, namely vehicles for fulfilling the seditious goals of the MB's civilization jihad, they can and must be treated as prosecutable subversive enterprises, not protected religious ones under the U.S. Constitution.
 
Let the debate begin.

 
This article can be found here:
http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/p18757.xml
23276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man fomerly in Iraq comments on: July 03, 2011, 10:04:22 AM


I highlighted a section below, which I found to be the biggest problem there as regards training and standing up Iraqi security forces.  Long term mentoring.  Or the lack thereof.  This is not a couple of years project.  Change is slow, but of the places I went to the ones that had come the longest way were those where the day in/day out, leadership by example mentoring process was of a longer duration.  Too often we trained them and then expected they would like suddenly change their thousands of years culture to suddenly be like us.  Because some fat, cigar in the mouth gringo trainer yelling at them told them this was the way they should be.
 

> But Iraqi and American commanders worry that this crucial military legacy of
> the war may be at risk now that American forces are withdrawing this year
> under an agreement between the countries.
23277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson: Reinstating gun rights on: July 03, 2011, 09:25:56 AM
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/03/us/03guns.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha23

A major piece on restoring gun rights to people who rights were terminated due to mental illness.

Yes, it is POTH, but it does seem like some people who should not have their rights restored are getting their rights restored.
23278  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Iraqis hope US SOC sticks around on: July 03, 2011, 09:18:44 AM
BAGHDAD — In darkness and dressed in black, the American and Iraqi Special Operations commandos navigated the dense urban neighborhood here in the capital and approached a house they believed to be a hide-out for two brothers suspected of carrying out assassinations and car-bomb attacks. As the Iraqis bashed in the door, the sound of glass shattering and screams pierced the nighttime stillness.

The Americans, having spent years taking the lead on such missions, waited outside until the house was secure.
The important thing, an American sergeant said after the raid was completed, is that the Iraqis took the lead on this mission. He spoke on the condition that he be identified only by rank to comply with the ground rules allowing a reporter access to an Army Special Forces unit. “They are the ones doing the dirty work,” he said.

But Iraqi and American commanders worry that this crucial military legacy of the war may be at risk now that American forces are withdrawing this year under an agreement between the countries. Americans say the Iraqi special operations force, which was deliberately balanced with the country’s main sects and ethnicities, is more capable than the Iraqi Army and may be critical in preventing a resilient insurgency from exploding into a sectarian civil war. Even as few Iraqi politicians are willing to admit publicly that they need American help, Iraqi soldiers say that American troops must stay longer to continue training and advising.

“The Americans need to stay because we don’t have control over our borders,” said Maj. Gen. Fadhel al-Barwari, commander of the Iraq Special Operations Force.

The commandos make up a tightknit community where relationships between Iraqis and Americans are especially strong, having been nurtured over multiple deployments. In some cases the Americans here are on their eighth or ninth rotation. “Would we hope after spending eight years in this country, sharing blood, sweat and tears, dying side by side, working with each other, that we would maintain a relationship?” Col. Scott E. Brower, commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula, said in an interview at a base north of Baghdad. “Of course we would.”

The senior Iraqi military leaders have advised Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki that some troops should stay. American officials have said they would agree to a such a request.

Even though combat has officially been declared over, Iraq still looks like a war to the Special Operations units scattered around the country.

“Yeah, anytime a guy’s got a loaded gun and he’s going out at midnight in a helicopter, you’ve got to treat it that way,” said an American Special Forces major. Even so, he said, the risks of such work have diminished greatly. “It’s been awhile since we’ve gotten in a good firefight,” he said.

As the major spoke at a picnic table in Victory Base Complex, the vast American complex near the Baghdad airport, several American helicopters took off nearby, ferrying a team of Iraqi and American Special Forces troops on their way to capture a Shiite militiaman suspected of firing rockets at an American base.

On the recent nighttime raid organized to seize the two brothers, the commandos did not get their men, but they said that a vast majority of their raids ended with the capture of suspects. Shots are rarely fired.

There were about six Iraqis on the mission for each American, who were dressed in the same black fatigues the Iraqis wore. After the house was secured, several team members went to the roof, where an Iraqi commando rooted through a storage bin looking for explosives, repeatedly kicking a plastic cassette player that turned out not to be an improvised explosive device. Others monitored rooftops next door for threats.

Eleven family members were in the house, but not the suspects. As the relatives were questioned, several versions of the brothers’ whereabouts emerged. According to one version, they had left that afternoon. In another, they had not been in the home for a year and a half.

“No bad guys tonight,” said one American soldier, a chief warrant officer.

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

Page 2 of 2)



No weapons caches or explosives were found either. “Usually they don’t keep the materials in the house,” said the American chief warrant officer, who explained that they were often stored with a neighbor. “With the laws, we can’t search the neighbor’s house,” he said.

American Special Operations units have been training and equipping an Iraqi counterterrorism force almost from the beginning of the war in 2003. General Barwari was made to do push-ups eight years ago by some of the Americans who still advise his unit. Today he lives in a palace once owned by Saddam Hussein, where he shares living space with peacocks, ostriches, pigeons, an alligator and two monkeys. From the palace, he directs near-nightly raids with the help of the Americans.
General Barwari, whose relationship with the American military began in 1991 in northern Iraq, benefited greatly from America’s war here, and in its closing days he frets about what will become of his country without the American troops.

If Americans stay, he said, “He won’t be fighting beside me, but he will give us air support.”

“There are many things we don’t have knowledge about,” he added.

Some of the Iraqi units remain outside the regular military chain of command, and report directly to Mr. Maliki. This has proved to be fodder for the prime minister’s critics who believe he has amassed too much power, and removing the units from his direct control was part of an American-backed power-sharing agreement last year that ended months of political stalemate after parliamentary elections. But that agreement has never been completed and is now threatening to come apart amid political discord. Mr. Maliki has yet to name ministers of defense and the interior, and the counterterrorist units remain under his control.

The American Special Operations advisers worry about what will happen to their Iraqi counterparts without their American relationships — and largess, evident in the Special Operations headquarters on Victory Base. The complex, paid for with $32 million of American money, includes $2 million for an indoor training ground the commandos refer to as the “shoot house.” They note that many of the nighttime missions are carried out with American helicopters.

The American government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars training and arming these forces, yet the exact amount is unknown because the military has not fully accounted for it, according to a report late last year by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which reported that only $237 million had been directly attributed to support for the Iraqi special forces.

The future of the American military here is a political decision in the hands of the government of Iraq, which must formally ask to modify the security agreement to allow some troops to stay.

The American “S.F. guys always believe we’ll be back,” said the American major.


23279  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 03, 2011, 09:01:02 AM
Grateful to have been born in America.
23280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: July 03, 2011, 09:00:13 AM
I would also submit that the 2.1% inflation number is complete and utter bull excrement.
23281  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: A American Seder for Indendence Day, July 4, 1776 on: July 03, 2011, 08:57:15 AM
Amen to that GM.

Now here's a surprise:
http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2011/07/harvard-study-4th-of-july-events-only-help-republicans-video/
23282  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: July 02, 2011, 08:01:09 PM
You're on! grin
23283  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / North Korea now heads , , , wait for it , , , on: July 02, 2011, 02:41:14 PM
the Nuclear Disarmament Committee.  Sorry no citation, but I'm pretty confident of this one.
23284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ICE adds Israel to list on: July 02, 2011, 02:29:03 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/u-s-adds-israel-to-promoter-producer-or-protector-of-terrorists-list/

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

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/...ry-tends-promo

"As a matter of policy, according to the inspector general’s report, citizens of Israel and other “specially designated countries” are subjected to a special security screening called a “Third Agency Check” (TAC) when they are actually detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the division of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for enforcing the immigration laws. ICE officers are supposed to check all aliens they take into custody against the Terrorist Watchlist, which includes the identities of individuals the U.S. government knows or reasonably suspects to be terrorists. When ICE holds a citizen from a “specially designated country” in its own detention facilities, according to the agency’s standing policy, the individual is also supposed to be run through a TAC. In addition to the Terrorist Watchlist screening, ICE uses a Third Agency Check (TAC) to screen aliens from specially designated countries (SDCs)...The purpose of the additional screening is to determine whether other agencies have an interest in the alien,” says the report."


Israel has a substantial Arab population which is obviously a terrorist threat. The only thing this designation means is that if an Arab Israeli on our terror watchlist gets caught, instead of being handled solely by ICE, other agencies, like State, CIA or FBI, will be notified about the detainee. Why?


“The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism,” Christensen said in a written statement. “Countries may have been included on the list because of the backgrounds of arrestees, not because of the country’s government itself. The United States maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with many of these countries in order to address security issues within their own borders and in our mutual pursuit of safety and security around the globe,” said Christensen."


The ultimate purpose is to HELP Israel by insuring that if we snag one of their Arab citizens on a terror watchlist, intelligence will be shared. It does NOT mean that Israelis in general are going to be subjected to heightened scrutiny. Please note the obvious fact that Israel HAS NOT ISSUED ANY FORMAL PROTEST. Bibi was more than willing to bitch-slap Obama when he was here; if this was something Israel didn't want, we would have heard about it by now. The website for the Isreali Ministry of Foreign Affairs, complete with up to the minute press releases, is here;


http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA

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

Marc:  By this logic Great Britain and its Copmmonwealth should be on the list too.   Why would North Korea be removed?   Seems like somebody is up to something nefarious. 
23285  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Time Zone changes on: July 02, 2011, 11:28:17 AM
Sometimes I have to cross many time zones.  A month or so ago it was 10 time zones to Israel.  On Wednesday it will be 8 times zones as I travel to Bern, Switzerland.

I have read articles which say that time zone changes becomes harder as we get older.

Many years ago I asked Guro Inosanto how he managed a far, far tougher travel schedule than mine.  Here is a part of his answer:

Yoga headstands:  He felt that blood to the brain was a very good way to get the body to WAKE UP when it was the local time to do so.
23286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: South China Sea Flashpoint on: July 02, 2011, 11:14:43 AM


One of the world's flashpoints is the disputed waters of the South China Sea. The Philippines and Vietnam want explicit U.S. support against Chinese incursions, and the U.S. Senate passed a nonbinding resolution Monday deploring Chinese actions. But China is hardly backing down. Last week, Deputy Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai warned that "the individual countries are actually playing with fire, and I hope the fire will not be drawn to the United States."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is so far holding to the line she laid down last July in Hanoi: The U.S. doesn't take sides on the territorial disputes, but it wants to play a role in their peaceful resolution because of its interests in the region and support for freedom of navigation. As China ratchets up tension, it's time for something stronger.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario was in Washington last week seeking to clarify the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries. In case of an attack on the Philippines, that agreement only obligates Washington to "consult" and "act to meet the common dangers." The Philippine media has been chasing its tail trying to figure out whether Mrs. Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas firmed up this U.S. commitment.
The real news is that the Philippines is coming back into the U.S. orbit. As recently as early this year, Manila seemed to be courting Beijing—for instance, by extraditing Taiwanese citizens to the mainland without consulting Taipei. Mr. Aquino's predecessor scuttled the efforts of Southeast Asian nations to negotiate as a bloc with China over the South China Sea, instead opting to cut a separate deal in late 2004 to sacrifice some Philippine claims so that joint oil exploration could go ahead.

The current about-face is the result of China overplaying its hand. Especially alarming is that the People's Liberation Army seems to be calling China's shots on the South China Sea. China's navy vessels have been involved in confrontations even as its diplomats sound conciliatory. While it is too early to say that Beijing is going down the militarist road, all of this has concentrated minds in Southeast Asian capitals.

The U.S. and its regional friends have two main objectives. The first is to upgrade the 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which China has routinely violated, to a more rigorous code of conduct that spells out how ships and aircraft must behave. Beijing seems to be resuming its policy of "creeping assertiveness" by which it makes the area a Chinese lake by fait accompli.

The second is to convince China to spell out the basis of its claims to the islands and waters surrounding them. Singapore, which has no territorial dispute with China, recently called on Beijing to "clarify its claims with more precision as the current ambiguity as to their extent has caused serious concerns in the international maritime community."

This is important because Beijing has long claimed the South China Sea as its "historical waters" apparently on the basis of a 1947 map showing a dotted U-shaped line around 90% of the area, including the coastal waters of other nations. Customary law, to which Beijing is a signatory through the Law of the Sea treaty, does not recognize such expansive claims. But the Chinese position can't be subject to rigorous scrutiny until it is stated definitively.

No doubt Beijing would like to avoid that. Its preference has been to negotiate on a bilateral basis with each Southeast Asian neighbor, so that it can bring its superior economic and military power to bear. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) had some brief success in getting China to take multilateral negotiations seriously in the early 2000s, until the Philippines bugged out.

Now that Asean is united again, U.S. involvement is an important bargaining chip. Should China continue to preach peace while its military harasses other vessels, Asean nations will be driven to tighten their security arrangements with the U.S. Indications from Washington that it will be a willing partner should put Beijing on notice that its civilian leaders need to rein in the military and put the dispute on track for a negotiated solution.

23287  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pamela Geller on: July 02, 2011, 11:02:24 AM


www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-Wv3_OSsOs&feature=player_embedded#at=25
23288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Future still belongs to America on: July 02, 2011, 11:00:33 AM


By WALTER RUSSELL MEAD
It is, the pundits keep telling us, a time of American decline, of a post-American world. The 21st century will belong to someone else. Crippled by debt at home, hammered by the aftermath of a financial crisis, bloodied by long wars in the Middle East, the American Atlas can no longer hold up the sky. Like Britain before us, America is headed into an assisted-living facility for retired global powers.

This fashionable chatter could not be more wrong. Sure, America has big problems. Trillions of dollars in national debt and uncounted trillions more in off-the-books liabilities will give anyone pause. Rising powers are also challenging the international order even as our key Cold War allies sink deeper into decline.

But what is unique about the United States is not our problems. Every major country in the world today faces extraordinary challenges—and the 21st century will throw more at us. Yet looking toward the tumultuous century ahead, no country is better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities or manage the dangers than the United States.

Geopolitically, the doomsayers tell us, China will soon challenge American leadership throughout the world. Perhaps. But to focus exclusively on China is to miss how U.S. interests intersect with Asian realities in ways that cement rather than challenge the U.S. position in world affairs.

China is not Germany, the U.S. is not Great Britain, and 2011 is not 1910. In 1910 Germany was a rising power surrounded by decline: France, Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary were all growing weaker every year even as Germany went from strength to strength. The European power system grew less stable every year.

In Asia today China is rising—but so is India, another emerging nuclear superpower with a population on course to pass China's. Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and Australia are all vibrant, growing powers that have no intention of falling under China's sway. Japan remains a formidable presence. Unlike Europe in 1910, Asia today looks like an emerging multipolar region that no single country, however large and dynamic, can hope to control.

View Full Image

Getty Images
 .This fits American interests precisely. The U.S. has no interest in controlling Asia or in blocking economic prosperity that will benefit the entire Pacific basin, including our part of it. U.S. policy in Asia is not fighting the tide of China's inexorable rise. Rather, our interests harmonize with the natural course of events. Life rarely moves smoothly and it is likely that Asia will see great political disturbances. But through it all, it appears that the U.S. will be swimming with, rather than against, the tides of history.

Around the world we have no other real rivals. Even the Europeans have stopped talking about a rising EU superpower. The specter of a clash of civilizations between the West and an Islamic world united behind fanatics like the unlamented Osama bin Laden is less likely than ever. Russia's demographic decline and poor economic prospects (not to mention its concerns about Islamic radicalism and a rising China) make it a poor prospect as a rival superpower.

When it comes to the world of ideas, the American agenda will also be the global agenda in the 21st century. Ninety years after the formation of the Communist Party of China, 50 years after the death of the philosopher of modern militant Islam Sayyid Qutb, liberal capitalist democracy remains the wave of the future.

Fascism, like Franco, is still dead. Communism lingers on life support in Pyongyang and a handful of other redoubts but shows no signs of regaining the power it has lost since 1989 and the Soviet collapse. "Islamic" fanaticism failed in Iraq, can only cling to power by torture and repression in Iran, and has been marginalized (so far) in the Arab Spring. Nowhere have the fanatics been able to demonstrate that their approach can protect the dignity and enhance the prosperity of people better than liberal capitalism. The heirs of Qutb are further from power than they were during the first Egyptian Revolution in 1953.

Closer to home, Hugo Chavez and his Axis of Anklebiters are descending towards farce. The economic success of Chile and Brazil cuts the ground out from under the "Bolivarean" caudillos. They may strut and prance on the stage, appear with Fidel on TV and draw a crowd by attacking the Yanquis, but the dream of uniting South America into a great anticapitalist, anti-U.S. bloc is as dead as Che Guevara.

So the geopolitics are favorable and the ideological climate is warming. But on a still-deeper level this is shaping up to be an even more American century than the last. The global game is moving towards America's home court.

The great trend of this century is the accelerating and deepening wave of change sweeping through every element of human life. Each year sees more scientists with better funding, better instruments and faster, smarter computers probing deeper and seeing further into the mysteries of the physical world. Each year more entrepreneurs are seeking to convert those discoveries and insights into ways to produce new things, or to make old things better and more cheaply. Each year the world's financial markets are more eager and better prepared to fund new startups, underwrite new investments, and otherwise help entrepreneurs and firms deploy new knowledge and insight more rapidly.

Scientific and technological revolutions trigger economic, social and political upheavals. Industry migrates around the world at a breathtaking—and accelerating—rate. Hundreds of millions of people migrate to cities at an unprecedented pace. Each year the price of communication goes down and the means of communication increase.


New ideas disturb the peace of once-stable cultures. Young people grasp the possibilities of change and revolt at the conservatism of their elders. Sacred taboos and ancient hierarchies totter; women demand equality; citizens rise against monarchs. All over the world more tea is thrown into more harbors as more and more people decide that the times demand change.

This tsunami of change affects every society—and turbulent politics in so many countries make for a turbulent international environment. Managing, mastering and surviving change: These are the primary tasks of every ruler and polity. Increasingly these are also the primary tasks of every firm and household.

This challenge will not go away. On the contrary: It has increased, and it will go on increasing through the rest of our time. The 19th century was more tumultuous than its predecessor; the 20th was more tumultuous still, and the 21st will be the fastest, most exhilarating and most dangerous ride the world has ever seen.

Everybody is going to feel the stress, but the United States of America is better placed to surf this transformation than any other country. Change is our home field. It is who we are and what we do. Brazil may be the country of the future, but America is its hometown.

Happy Fourth of July.

Mr. Mead is a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of the American Interest.

23289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Eurozone crisis and Europe's financial institutions on: July 02, 2011, 09:51:11 AM
The Eurozone Crisis and the History of Europe's Financial Institutions

German financial institutions will contribute 3.2 billion euros ($4.7 billion) to the second Greek bailout, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble announced Thursday. The banks involved in the deal will roll over all Greek debt holdings scheduled to mature by 2014. Schaeuble added that 55 percent of the estimated 10 billion euros of Greek debt held by German financial institutions mature after 2020. German financial institutions have therefore joined their French counterparts in expressing a willingness to participate in a voluntary rollover of Greek debt.

The news from Germany and France is a positive sign for Greece and follows a successful vote in Athens to implement new austerity measures and to privatize state assets. At the press conference in Berlin, executives from Deutsche Bank and the insurer Allianz stood next to Schaeuble and offered their support to Greece. While the details of the agreements have to be settled, the overall congratulatory tone of the announcement has generated optimism that when eurozone finance ministers meet on Sunday, July 3, Greece will be offered a bailout package with terms that will include private-sector participation.

That Germany and France have managed to cajole their financial institutions to participate in the rescue of Greece is not surprising. In Europe, banks and states have historically had a close relationship. Europe’s geography naturally fosters competition — a considerable number of powerful political entities are packed into a small space. Europe is essentially overpopulated, not with people, but with countries.

The French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars kicked off a race to establish political systems based on the nation-state concept — a process that required the borders of new states not only to conform to a particular linguistic and cultural agglomeration but also to contain a substantial capital pool, preferably one that captured a key European financial center. This evolution established a break from Europe’s past, when a hegemon like Hapsburg Spain could depend on Dutch bankers for capital.

“That Germany and France have managed to cajole their financial institutions to participate in the rescue of Greece is not surprising. In Europe, banks and states have historically had a close relationship.”
State building in the mid-to-late 19th century placed great strains on European governments because of the intensity of competition between rival states in such close proximity. Germany, for example, was born in 1871 following a short but intense war against France. Although Germany emerged from the war a united empire — and with a piece of France as a trophy, — it also understood that it had made a very dangerous enemy with which it had to compete to survive. Germany was under pressure to consolidate not only politically and militarily but also economically. Berlin, as well as its rivals, became obsessed with how much steel, coal and railway mileage they could produce.

Building railways, canals, schools, factories and navies requires capital. While coal and steel fueled late 19th-century industrialization, the common denominator for state building is ultimately capital. Therefore, as continental European states developed state champions of industry, they needed to create complementary state champions of finance and encourage relationships between the two. Rather than making a lot of money, the goal was to direct capital into the industries that would best ensure the state’s survival and independence.

The relationship between German industrial giant Siemens and the country’s largest financial institution, Deutsche Bank, is one of the most instructive in this regard. Executives of one often sat on the board of the other and their relationship was coordinated by the interests of the state for more than100 years.

The historical relationship between European states and financial institutions stands in contrast to the development of the United States. While the United States also faced security concerns (the threat of a British invasion) and incredible infrastructural challenges (such as the difficulty of crossing the Appalachians), these issues had either abated or been resolved by the mid-19th century. Europe was in the throes of post-Napoleonic competition and its states posed no threat to the United States. American railroad development was largely a private affair, and — while there was a geostrategic impetus to connect the coasts — the endeavor was not conducted in the atmosphere of the intense interstate competition that Europe experienced.

American financial institutions were therefore allowed to operate in almost ideal conditions for free-market competition. The main objective was to make money, not develop an economy that can defeat a neighbor in a war. It is no surprise that two of the world’s main three credit rating agencies — Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s — grew out of this era of American capitalism. Investors wanted an independent perspective of which railroad bonds and banks in which to invest. In Europe, the choice was clear — whichever institutions had the state’s backing.

The resulting differences in American and European financial systems therefore come with positive and negative attributes. One major drawback of European financial systems is that to this day many banks are thought of as social welfare institutions more than profit-driven businesses. German landesbanken and Spanish cajas come to mind as examples. Not surprisingly, these institutions are some of the most troubled banks in Europe. The second problem for Europe is that businesses have become dependent on bank lending for capital, whereas American businesses have traditionally looked to access the corporate bond market and raise capital through the stock market. The problem with the European approach is that it often stifles innovation. Companies with close relationships with financial institutions have greater access to financing than innovative start-ups. This approach also leaves corporations exposed to financial crises when banks stop lending.

However, benefits also exist. In the present case, Berlin and Paris managed to mobilize their financial institutions to help bail out a foreign state in a very short amount of time. The downside is that suspicions between EU member states remain, and the eurozone’s banking problems are somewhat a product of these suspicions. European states have jealously guarded their financial institutions for centuries. Europe needs an unified, eurozone-wide oversight mechanism presiding over the Continent’s banks to ensure that if a bank in Ireland needs to be closed, Dublin can’t stop it from happening. The fundamental difficulty is that banks are state-building tools. For states to allow a supranational entity to control these tools would be tantamount to handing over control of their destinies.

23290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: 6th circuit says color blind is C'ly impermissable on: July 02, 2011, 09:42:25 AM

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down Michigan’s 2006 ban on the consideration of race and gender in public-university admissions and government hiring in the latest round of the decade-long fight over the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies.

Affirmative ActionThe 2-to-1 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, said the voter-approved ban “unconstitutionally alters Michigan’s political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities.”

“This is a tremendous victory,” said George B. Washington, who represented the coalition challenging the ban. “We think we’ll win in the end, however many appeals there are.”

But Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette, promised Friday that he would indeed appeal the decision overturning the ban — known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative — through a formal request for rehearing en banc, by all 16 judges of the court.

“The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative embodies the fundamental premise of what America is all about: equal opportunity under the law,” he said. “Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit, and I will continue the fight for equality, fairness and rule of law.”

Kelly Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the university, said it was too soon to know whether the ruling would lead to a change in admissions policies. “The university is reviewing the possible implications of the court’s decision, and recognizes that there may be further legal steps as well,” she said.

Affirmative action got a lift in Texas last month, when the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted, 9 to 7, not to hear an appeal of a three-judge panel’s decision upholding the use of race as a “plus factor” in admission to the University of Texas. And another case is pending before the Ninth Circuit in California, where Mr. Washington predicted Friday’s ruling would “have a big impact.”

In the end, the issue is likely to return to the United States Supreme Court, which last considered the question in two 2003 cases involving the University of Michigan.

Michigan’s ban on affirmative action — covering both government hiring and admission to public colleges and universities — was made part of the State Constitution after a 2006 voter initiative that passed by 58 percent to 42 percent. It was known as Proposal 2 and prohibited public institutions from giving “preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”

The voter initiative followed the Supreme Court decisions, which found that while the University of Michigan could not set quotas for certain racial groups, or give them extra points, in undergraduate admissions, it could consider race as one factor in the holistic law school admissions process.

Jennifer Gratz, a white student who was wait-listed at the University of Michigan in 1995 and was the lead plaintiff in one of the Supreme Court cases, led the campaign for the voter initiative to amend the State Constitution. She was backed by Ward Connerly, a wealthy black Republican who was a former regent of the University of California, and had successfully campaigned for a similar anti-affirmative-action proposition in California in 1996.

The following year, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the California ban. But in 2010, based on the ruling in the University of Michigan law school case, Mr. Washington filed another case challenging the California ban, the one now on appeal to the Ninth Circuit.

Bans like Michigan’s are currently on the books in California, Nebraska and Washington. But the Sixth Circuit decision is binding only in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Judge R. Guy Cole and Judge Martha Daughtrey of the Sixth Circuit issued the majority opinion on Friday in the case. Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote a dissent.

Legal experts said it was extremely difficult to predict how the Sixth Circuit, ruling en banc — or, for that matter, the United States Supreme Court — would vote on the Michigan ban.

“That circuit is very divided on social issues like the death penalty and affirmative action” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond law school. “And the Supreme Court split 5-4 in the Michigan law school case. Of course, the composition of the court has changed, but we’re still fighting these questions out.”
23291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Russia to send two brigades on: July 02, 2011, 09:33:52 AM
By ALAN CULLISON
MOSCOW—Russia plans to deploy two army brigades in the north to defend its interests in the Arctic regions, where governments citing climate change have made competing claims over natural resources.

Russia's defense minister said officials haven't yet worked out the details of troops or weaponry, but that the brigades, which usually number a few thousand troops, would be cobbled together with an eye toward the experience of Russia's northern neighbors—Finland, Norway and Sweden—which already have such northern forces.

"The location will be determined, as well as weapons, numbers and infrastructure for the brigades," said Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, according to Russian news agencies. "They could be put in Murmansk, Archangelsk or another place."

Russia has staked a claim to a large part of the Arctic, which is thought to hold as much as a quarter of the world's oil and gas reserves, arguing that an underwater ridge running from its northern Siberian shores leads directly to the North Pole.

As Arctic ice melts amid rising global temperatures—surface temperatures in 2010 tied those of 2005 as the warmest on record, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies—countries abutting the Arctic Circle are vying for new shipping routes and fishing grounds, as well as oil and gas drilling opportunities.

To cap its claim, Russia floated a small submarine under the ice caps four years ago and planted a titanium flag on the ocean floor, an act that had more symbolic than legal significance.

Lately Moscow has been resounding its claims, and on Thursday Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a pro-Kremlin party congress in the Ural Mountains that Russia would build a $33 billion year-round port on the Yamal Peninsula, in the Russian Arctic.

Mr. Putin said Russia was "open to dialogue" with its northern neighbors, but will "strongly and persistently" defend its interests in the region.

Russia's claims mostly antagonize Canada and Denmark, whose ambitions most closely overlap Russia's in the region.

By deploying forces in the north, Moscow is again sending a message, mostly symbolic, that its claim to the Arctic regions is serious, said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Moscow-based Russia in Global Affairs magazine.

"The Russian position is that in order to be respected they need to have some forces there," said Mr. Lukyanov. But he added, "I don't think that Russia feels it will ever need these forces to defend its interests."

In May, the eight nations abutting the Arctic Circle, the Arctic Council, tried to sound a note of civility by signing an agreement to coordinate search-and-rescue missions in the region. At its meeting in Greenland, the council tiptoed around the tougher issue of territorial claims. But the U.S. said it hopes the agreement could be a template for solving future security issues.

The council is comprised of Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.

23292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iran steps up arming our enemies in Iraq and Afpakia on: July 02, 2011, 09:30:13 AM
Iran steps up the pressure on Baraq.

One wonders, will there be a last flight out of Baghdad from the roof of the American Embassy?

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

By JAY SOLOMON
TEHRAN—Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has transferred lethal new munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, according to senior U.S. officials, in a bid to accelerate the U.S. withdrawals from these countries.

The Revolutionary Guard has smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to its militia allies in Iraq, weapons that have already resulted in the deaths of American troops, defense officials said. They said Iranians have also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit U.S. and other coalition positions from a safer distance.

Such arms shipments would escalate the shadow competition for influence playing out between Tehran and Washington across the Middle East and North Africa, fueled by U.S. preparations to draw down forces from two wars and the political rebellions that are sweeping the region.

The U.S. is wrestling with the aftermath of uprisings against longtime Arab allies from Tunisia to Bahrain, and trying to leave behind stable, friendly governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran appears to be trying to gain political ground amid the turmoil and to make the U.S. withdrawals as quick and painful as possible.

"I think we are likely to see these Iranian-backed groups continue to maintain high attack levels" as the exit date nears, Maj. Gen. James Buchanan, the U.S. military's top spokesman in Iraq, said in an interview. "But they are not going to deter us from doing everything we can to help the Iraqi security forces."

In June, 15 U.S. servicemen died in Iraq, the highest monthly casualty figure there in more than two years. The U.S. has attributed all the attacks to Shiite militias it says are are trained by the Revolutionary Guards, rather than al Qaeda or other Sunni groups that were the most lethal forces inside Iraq a few years ago.

In Afghanistan, the Pentagon has in recent months traced to Iran the Taliban's acquisition of rockets that give its fighters roughly double the range to attack North Atlantic Treaty Organization and U.S. targets. U.S. officials said the rockets' markings, and the location of their discovery, give them a "high degree" of confidence that they came from the Revolutionary Guard's overseas unit, the Qods Force.

U.S. defense officials are also increasingly concerned that Iran's stepped-up military activities in the Persian Gulf could inadvertently trigger a clash. A number of near misses involving Iranian and allied ships and planes in those waters in recent months have caused Navy officials to call for improved communication in the Gulf.

Iran's assertive foreign policy comes amid a growing power struggle between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Many of the president's closest aides have been detained on alleged corruption charges in recent weeks, raising questions as to whether Mr. Ahmadinejad will serve out his term.U.S. and European officials also say Iran has grown increasingly aggressive in trying to influence the political rebellions across the Middle East and North Africa. Tehran is alleged to have dispatched military advisers to Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad put down a popular uprising.

In recent months, according to U.S. officials, Iran has also increased its intelligence and propaganda activities in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, countries where pro-U.S. leaders have either fallen or come under intense pressure.

Iranian officials denied in interviews and briefings this week that the Revolutionary Guard played any role in arming militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. They charged the U.S. with concocting these stories to justify maintaining an American military presence in the region.

"This is the propaganda of the Americans. They are worried because they have to leave Iraq very soon, according to the plan," said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast. "They are better off going home and sorting out their own domestic problems."

Iranians officials have also accused the U.S. and Israel of interfering in Iranian affairs, including assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists and supporting opposition groups. The U.S. and Israel have denied this.

In recent weeks, Iran's leadership invited the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to Tehran to discuss regional affairs. Senior Iranian officials made it clear during those meetings that they wanted an accelerated exit of American forces from the region.

"Americans want to have permanent bases in Afghanistan, and this is dangerous because the real security will not be established as long as the American military forces are present," Ayatollah Khamenei told Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week, according to Iranian state media.

Iraq has in recent years been a proxy battlefield for the U.S. and Iran. U.S. officials in Iraq said the Qods Force is training and arming three primary militias that have in recent months attacked U.S. and Iraqi forces. Kata'ib Hezbollah, or Brigades of the Party of God, is viewed as the one most directly taking orders from Revolutionary Guard commanders in Iran. Two others, the Promise Day Brigade and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, are offshoots of the Mahdi Army headed by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who currently lives in Iran.

Over the past six months, Kata'ib Hezbollah has escalated attacks on U.S. forces employing weapons called IRAMs, or improvised rocket-assisted munitions. The weapons are often propane tanks packed with hundreds of pounds of explosives and powered by rockets. Militiamen launch the weapons from the backs of flatbed trucks.

Kata'ib Hezbollah claimed credit for a June 6 IRAM attack that killed six American troops at Camp Victory, near Baghdad International Airport. This week, three more Americans were killed when an IRAM struck a desert base just a few miles from the Iranian border in Iraq's Wasit Province, according to U.S. officials.

"We believe the militias see themselves as in competition with each other," said Gen. Buchanan. "They want to claim credit for making us leave Iraq."

The U.S. believes Iranian involvement in Afghanistan is significantly lower than in Iraq. But U.S. officials said they have seen clear evidence that the Revolutionary Guard has transferred longer-range rockets to elements of the Taliban that significantly enhance their ability to target U.S. and other NATO forces.

In February, British forces intercepted a shipment of four dozen 122-millimeter rockets moving through Afghanistan's desolate Nimruz Province near the Iranian and Pakistan borders. The rockets have an estimated range of about 13 miles, more than double the distance of the majority of the Taliban's other rockets.

"It was the first time we've seen that weapon," said a senior U.S. defense official in Afghanistan. "We saw that as upping the ante a bit from the kind of support we've seen in the past."

U.S. officials stressed that most of Iran's influence in Afghanistan is channeled through "soft power"—business, aid and diplomacy. But these officials said the deployment of more U.S. and NATO forces along the Afghan-Iranian border as part of the Obama administration's Afghanistan "surge" appears to have raised Iran's sense of insecurity.

These officials said Iran's support for the Taliban appears to wax and wane in relation to how successful Washington and NATO appear to be in stabilizing Afghanistan. Shiite-majority Iran has traditionally viewed the Taliban, a Sunni group, with trepidation. The two sides nearly fought a war in 1998 after the Taliban executed Iranian diplomats based in the central Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

"They're supporting the Taliban because they want us out of here," said the U.S. official in Afghanistan. "If we're making gains, I can see them upping their support. If they're making gains, they'll probably stay quiet."

In large part because of the growing wariness over Iran's backing of Shiite militias in Iraq, the U.S. is considering altering its withdrawal plans from the country, say administration and defense officials.

All U.S. forces are due to depart at the end of the year, but senior American officials have hinted loudly that they would like Baghdad to ask the U.S. to keep a viable force in the country beyond that date. Some administration and military officials have talked about retaining 10,000 troops in Iraq.

Military officials and defense analysts cite Iran as a prime justification for extending the U.S. presence. They say Iran is trying to use its military, which is much more powerful than Iraq's, and Shiite proxy militias inside Iraq to pressure Baghdad to maintain close ties with Tehran.

Adm. William McRaven, the administration's nominee to lead Special Operations Command, told a Senate panel this week that he favors keeping a commando force in Iraq that would be available to counter threats.

—Julian E. Barnes contributed to this article.
Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com

23293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Indendence Day, July 4, 1776 (An American Seder and more) on: July 02, 2011, 09:00:56 AM
Four years ago, I wrote a column titled "America Needs a July Fourth Seder." In it, I explained that "national memory dies without national ritual. And without a national memory, a nation dies." Many readers and listeners to my radio show responded by creating their own rituals to make the day far more meaningful than watching fireworks and eating hot dogs.

I now present a simple 10-minute ceremony that every American can easily use on July Fourth. It is a product of the Internet-based Prager University that I founded nearly two years ago. We call it the Fourth of July Declaration, and here it is. (A paginated and printed version can be downloaded at the website www.prageruniversity.com).

It begins with a note to the individual leading the ritual, the "host."

NOTE TO HOST *

We hope this day finds you, your family and your friends in good health, enjoying another glorious Fourth together. We all love barbecues, parties and fireworks, but if that's all the Fourth of July is about, the day has lost its meaning and we lose a vital connection to our American past.

Welcome to our Fourth of July Declaration!

We have modeled this Declaration on the best-known commemoration of a historical event in the world -- the Jewish Passover meal. It has successfully kept the memory of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt alive for over 3,000 years.

As Americans, we need to reconnect with our Founding. We need to rediscover the meaning of our country's creation. And we need to do it every year. That is the reason for ritual -- to enable us to remember. Without ritual, the memory fades. And without memory, life -- whether of the individual or of a nation -- loses its meaning.

That's where this Fourth of July Declaration comes in.

In keeping with the philosophy of Prager University that profound concepts can be taught in five minutes, this Declaration is brief.

If you follow this simple ceremony, this holiday will not just be another barbecue. It will be the meaningful day it was meant to be: a celebration of the birth of our exceptional country, the United States of America.

You are encouraged to add more to your Fourth of July Declaration. This ceremony is only a starting point. But even doing this minimum will mean a lot -- to you, to your family and friends, and to the nation.

* Feel free to read this "note to host" to those assembled at your celebration of the day.


MATERIALS AND FOOD NEEDED FOR THE CEREMONY


-- Iced Tea

-- Salty pretzels

-- Strawberries and blueberries and whipped cream. (But any goodie colored red, white and blue will do.)

-- A small bell

The ringer on your cell phone will do in a pinch

-- An American coin

The bigger, the better. A half-dollar is ideal, but a quarter will do.

-- A printed (unsigned) Declaration of Independence.

-- Lyrics to "God Bless America" for all your guests. Download the lyrics. (www.scoutsongs.com/lyrics/godblessamerica.html)


THE CEREMONY BEGINS


DIRECTION: Everyone gathers around the table.

HOST SPEAKS: Today, we take a few minutes to remember what the Fourth of July is about and to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to be Americans.

Before America was a nation, it was a dream -- a dream shared by many people, from many nations, over many generations.

It began with the Pilgrims in 1620, who fled Europe so that they could be free to practice their religion. It continued through the 17th century, as more and more people arrived in a place that came to be known as the New World. In this new world, where you were from didn't matter; what mattered was where you were headed.

As more and more people settled, they started to see themselves as new people -- Americans.

They felt blessed: The land was spacious. The opportunities limitless.

By 1776, a century and a half after the first Pilgrims landed, this new liberty-loving people was ready to create a new nation.

And on July 4 of that year, they did just that. They pronounced themselves to be free of the rule of the English king. We know this statement as the Declaration of Independence.

DIRECTION: Host invites the young people (generally ages 7 and older) present to read and to answer the following:

YOUNG READERS:

Q: Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July?

A: Because the Fourth of July is the birthday of the American people -- the day we chose to become the United States of America, a free nation.

Q: Why was America different from all other countries?

A: Because in 1776, all countries were based on nationality, religion, ethnicity or geography. But America was created on the basis of a set of ideas. This is still true today.

Q: What are those ideas?

A: Three ideas summarize what America is all about. They are engraved on every American coin. They are "Liberty," "In God We Trust" and "E Pluribus Unum."

DIRECTION: Host passes around an American coin and chooses readers from the group to read the following:

READER No. 1: "Liberty" means that we are free to pursue our dreams and to go as far in life as hard work and good luck will take us.

READER No. 2: "In God We Trust" means that America was founded on the belief that our rights and liberties have been granted to us by the Creator. Therefore they cannot be taken away by people.

READER No. 3: "E Pluribus Unum" is a Latin phrase meaning "From Many, One." Unlike other countries, America is composed of people of every religious, racial, ethnic, cultural and national origin -- and regards every one of them as equally American. Therefore, "out of many (people we become) one" -- Americans.

HOST: We have on our table items that symbolize the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War that won our freedom.

DIRECTION: Host holds up each symbolic item as he explains its symbolic meaning.

-- We drink iced tea to remember the Boston Tea Party. "No taxation without representation" was the patriots' chant as they dumped British tea into the Boston Harbor.

-- We eat a salty pretzel to remember the tears shed by the families who lost loved ones in the struggle for freedom in The Revolutionary War and all the wars of freedom that followed.

-- We ring a bell to recall the Liberty Bell, which was rung to announce the surrender of the King's army. On the bell are inscribed these words from the Book of Leviticus: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof."

-- We eat strawberries and blueberries dipped in whipped cream to celebrate the red, white and blue of our flag.

HOST: We celebrate America's greatness without denying its flaws. There are no perfect individuals, so there can certainly be no perfect country. Our national history has its share of shame. The greatest of these is the shame of slavery, which existed at our founding, as it existed throughout the world at that time.

But let it never be forgotten that we fought a terrible civil war in which hundreds of thousands of American died. And the reason for that war was slavery.

Let it also not be forgotten that America has fought in more wars for the freedom of other peoples than any nation in history.

America's history is one that we can be proud of.

DIRECTION: Host holds up a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

We now close with one more ritual. Let each of us sign our names to the Declaration of Independence. While it is a replica of the one our founders signed, the words and sentiments are eternal.

DIRECTION: Everyone present signs their name to the Declaration of Independence. As each one signs, the host hands each person the lyrics to "God Bless America."

HOST: Everyone sing with me.

DIRECTION: Everyone sings (hopefully).

HOST: Happy Birthday, America. Happy Fourth of July. Now let's eat.
23294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: July 02, 2011, 08:46:19 AM
Thank you for those specific examples of the standard of proof required GM. (As usual, the post would be helped by some introductory words by you as to why you are posting it wink )  That said, one suspects it is relatively easy for a smarter-than-stupid dealer to not get caught -- which I think is JDN's point.

Which I think, brings us to my point-- that the government itself has been a far bigger source of the guns used by the Narco Gangs than anyone else-- yet the Obama Gang continues to use dishonest data in order to attack the American people's right to bear arms.   When viewed in conjunction with the President's very curious statement about "working under the radar" the reasonable yet admittedly circumstantial inference is that the President, AG Holder, and all his people involved are some seriously cold, and IMO criminal people.
23295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: July 01, 2011, 11:00:31 PM
I'd say GM's example is relevant because it is of a gun store owner getting in trouble, which is contrary to your apparent suggestion that for practical purposes the statute is useless.

I will give you another example.  "Operation Fast and Furious" started with gun dealers approaching the BATF about what they saw as illegal purchases.   It was the BATF that told the dealers to proceed.  This struck the dealers as so odd that some (or all? not sure) of them said "You better give me that in writing!"

Net result?  Some 2,000 to 2,500 guns were deliberately sold in violation of US Federal Law to narco gangs in Mexico.  By way of reference, and I believe I have my data correct here, at the request of the Mexican government the US has traced 5,100 guns as coming from the US.  In other words, some 40-50% of the guns traced back to the US were the result of Operation Fast and Furious.  Let us also note that the Zetas were Mexican Special Forces trained by the US Army at Fort Bragg-- until they went rogue.  Feel free to research the point further, but it is quite clear that a goodly portion of narco armament is of the sort not available to US civilians under any conditions-- but it is of the sort that our government has sold to the Mexican military, or other Latin militaries.  In other words, the US government is responsible for quite a bit more than the 40-50% of guns traced as originating in the US.
23296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chickens coming home to roost on: July 01, 2011, 04:53:55 PM
This is what comes of Baraq, Hillary, the rest of the Pooh Bahs of the Demogogue Party, and their running dogs in the Pravdas, sabotaging our efforts in Iraq under Bush.  angry angry angry
=======================

STRATFOR analyst Reva Bhalla discusses the emerging dynamics in the Middle East, where Iran waits to exploit the power vacuum left in Iraq by the U.S. withdrawal, while unrest simmers in Syria and Bahrain.


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

Colin: As the Obama administration frets about the prospects for Afghanistan, its relations with Pakistan, the diminishing options for NATO in Libya, the negative Israeli response to peace proposals and, of course, the U.S. deficit, a power vacuum is emerging in the Middle East. Unrest is simmering in many countries, especially Syria and Bahrain, and as Iran prepares to take advantage, countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey are uneasy.

Welcome to Agenda, and to look at the problematic power vacuum in more detail, I’m joined by Reva Bhalla, STRATFOR’s senior Middle East analyst. Reva, let’s start with Bahrain. More than three months ago, when the Shiite-led protests reached their peak, it looked as if there was a very serious confrontation building up between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Bahrain as the main proxy battleground. Where does that situation stand today?

Reva: Well if you look at the situation in Bahrain today as compared to, say, in mid-March, things certainly look a lot calmer, but the Bahraini government is certainly walking a political tightrope. Coming up we have a national dialogue that the Bahraini government is initiating on July 2 where it’s trying to show that it’s reaching out the opposition, bringing them into the political fold, and at the very least, listening to their demands. But, we are also seeing protests continue. On Thursday, tear gas was used against protesters. There are plans for more protests, and these are led by the majority Shiite opposition. This is especially concerning not only to Bahrain, but also to the Saudis who lead the GCC force that has a military presence currently in the island country. Now, going back to the origin of these protests, there are legitimate Shiite grievances there, but the real fear of these Sunni royal families is that Iran could bring its covert assets to bear and initiate larger uprisings that could seriously undermine the authority of these Sunni royal governments. That’s something that would certainly work in favor of the Iranians as they’re trying to expand their sphere of influence in eastern Arabia. Now while Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies were very quick to clamp down in Bahrain in mid-March and arrest most of the unruly elements that were tied to Iran, there is some indication that Iran has exercised some constraint and that they still have some assets that they could bring to the table and further destabilize these Sunni royal regimes, and so the GCC states are very wary of the fact. They’re also looking ahead at Ramadan, which begins in August, and you know, at this time you have an opportunity for Shiite opposition groups to organize. You have religious tensions particularly high at this time and the Bahrainis do not want to see a situation escalate that Iran could exploit further down the line.

Colin: So, what happens now?

Reva: We’re looking at a situation now where the rumors are circulating that the GCC forces are drawing down their military forces in Bahrain, saying that the situation is calm enough for us to be able to do this. Now, what we’re really interested in at STRATFOR is whether this drawdown of forces is a limited concession by the Saudis to initiate a dialogue with the Iranians. We’ve seen over the past couple weeks in particular the Iranians putting out feelers for negotiations with the Saudis, and the reason for that is because the Iranians want to show its Arab adversaries that it can compel them into negotiations and those negotiations would be all about getting them to recognize the Iranian sphere of influence in exchange for Iran taking a step back and putting an end to, or at least a cessation to, its meddling in internal Arab affairs. Now, whether this dialogue actually produces some results remains to be seen — we’re watching this very closely. But the Iranians made a point today to announce that they are very happy to see the drawdown of Saudi forces in Bahrain, so this could be the beginning of a broader negotiation there.

Colin: Right. Let’s move west to the Levant region where Syria is continuing its crackdowns: how does this fit into the Persian-Arab struggle you’ve just been describing to me?

Reva: Well you can see why Iran would be so worried about Syria right now. We don’t believe that the Syrian regime is on the verge of collapse, and that’s because we don’t see serious splits within the army. As long as the Alawites remain together in Syria, as long as the army holds together, we don’t see the type of splits that would indicate that this regime is in very serious trouble, at least in the near future. Now, the regime has a lot of complications moving ahead as it tries to pull out of this crisis, as it tries to manage its opposition. Especially as you have outside forces — like Turkey, like Saudi Arabia, like the United States — thinking about the alternatives to the al Assad regime. And that alternative would most likely be a Sunni entity, and you can see Turkey wanting to restore Sunni influence in the Levant region and, over time, allowing for such a political transformation. That is something that would work directly against Iranian interests because, remember, Iran, to maintain its foothold in the Levant, needs a crucial ally in Syria so that it can support its main militant proxy, Hezbollah, in Lebanon. And the Alawite Baathist regime in Damascus today, which has been in power now for the last four decades, allows Iran to do so. But if that regime falls, with time, Iran loses that very crucial leverage, and that is a key pillar in its overall deterrent strategy.

Colin: Let’s talk about Turkey. Its government is now at the start of its third term. George Friedman and I discussed the challenges for the foreign minister in a broad sense. But more specifically, does Turkey now have the ability to effect any kind of change in Syria?

Reva: Well it’s an interesting question and I think that’s one that Turks are actually asking themselves right now. You know, for a long time as Turkey has been coming out of its geopolitical shell in many respects, it’s been out of the game for the past 90-odd years. It’s now starting to see again what kinds of influence it can project in the region, and it’s starting to see that its zero-problems-with-neighbors policy is grinding against reality. And Syria is probably the best case example of this. In Syria, again, you have a situation where Iran is very worried about the sustainability of the Syrian regime, even if that regime is not about to collapse right away. The Turks have an interest in restoring Sunni authority in Syria and projecting its influence in that country. Whether Turkey acknowledges this public or not, it has a problem with its neighbors — it has a problem with Syria — and Syria is, in effect, an indirect confrontation between the Turks and the Persians. And so this is a very interesting dynamic, one that we’ve been expecting to come to light for some time as Turkey is the natural counter-balance to Iranian power in this region. And Syria is really not the only point of contention there. Really, the crucial area that we want to look at is Mesopotamia, and that’s where we have the U.S. withdrawing from Iraq leaving open a power vacuum that the Iranians have been waiting a very long time to fill, and then the Turks have been working very quietly to bolster the Sunni forces to balance against the Iranians. That’s sort of the natural proxy battleground between these two powers. So while publicly Turkey’s still trying to show that it does not have these big problems with its neighbors, that it’s downplaying any sort of confrontation, at a certain point it becomes very hard to hide the fact that these problems are coming to the fore.

Colin: Now, you mention the power vacuum as the Americans leave Iraq. In Washington, President Obama has much in his mind: Afghanistan of course, NATO’s problems in Libya, the deficit. So how much focus is there on the triangular issue that we’ve just been talking about?

Reva: I really don’t think that the U.S. can devote that much attention to these issues, as important as they are. And really the crucial issue for the United States is the future of Iraq, and what to do about the impending withdrawal there. How do you create an efficient blocking force against Iran, and if you can’t, can the U.S. actually engage in a fruitful negotiation with the Iranians, however unsavory that may be, to form some sort of understanding on a balance of power in the Persian Gulf region. Now that is something that, of course, is going to alarm the Saudis greatly. And that’s why, again, we’re looking at these hints of concessions in Bahrain to see if the Saudis are going to try to preempt the U.S. When the Saudis can’t depend on the U.S. fully right now to play that blocking role against the Iranians, and if the Turks aren’t quite ready completely fulfill that role, then will the Saudis try to move ahead and try to work out at least some sort of limited understanding for the short term to secure its interests at least until the U.S. can turn its attention back to these very important issues.

Colin: Reva, thanks. Reva Bhalla there, STRATFOR’s senior Middle East analyst. And in next week’s agenda, I’ll be talking to George Friedman about Iran — the first in a series of Agenda specials on world pressure points. I’m Colin Chapman. Until next time, goodbye.

23297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: July 01, 2011, 03:58:59 PM
Beck noted in his closing comments that if he had been fired, they would not have trusted him with a Live show, which they did.  He also noted various points well before the announcement that the show was coming to an end that he clearly stated that he was not interested in doing what he was doing for much longer and would be moving on to the next chapter in his life/mission.

Given the pressure of the Soros conspiracy on advertisers and Fox, I would not be surprised if Fox did not beg him to stay, but that is different than Fox firing him.

As for how long his next venture will last or how successful it will be, time will tell.  GB's trust in his own instincts to go well outside the box have served him pretty far so far.  It took extraordinary vision and huge testicles to call for that 8/28 rally in DC -- and look how that turned out.  Look how his ratings, even after their decline from their peak, turned out.  And, if we judge a man by his enemies, GB is a class act and a great American.



23298  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: July 01, 2011, 02:35:08 PM
Fox couldn't take him being 2.5 times the size audience of his nearest competitor?  Sure , , ,  rolleyes

IMO Beck is quite a remarkable man, someone whom I respect greatly.
23299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: July 01, 2011, 10:25:01 AM
http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2011/06/26/
http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2011/06/27/
23300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Men & Women on: July 01, 2011, 10:18:31 AM


http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2011/06/12/
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