Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Egypt's Bumbling Brotherhood
on: February 03, 2011, 07:20:00 AM
FWIW here's this from the op-ed page of Pravda on the Hudson-- is there any merit here?
Egypt’s Bumbling Brotherhood
By SCOTT ATRAN
Published: February 2, 2011
AS Egyptians clash over the future of their government, Americans and Europeans have repeatedly expressed fears of the Muslim Brotherhood. “You don’t just have a government and a movement for democracy,” Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, said of Egypt on Monday. “You also have others, notably the Muslim Brotherhood, who would take this in a different direction.”
The previous day, the House speaker, John Boehner, expressed hope that Hosni Mubarak would stay on as president of Egypt while instituting reforms to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists from grabbing power.
But here’s the real deal, at least as many Egyptians see it. Ever since its founding in 1928 as a rival to Western-inspired nationalist movements that had failed to free Egypt from foreign powers, the Muslim Brotherhood has tried to revive Islamic power. Yet in 83 years it has botched every opportunity. In Egypt today, the Brotherhood counts perhaps some 100,000 adherents out of a population of over 80 million. And its failure to support the initial uprising in Cairo on Jan. 25 has made it marginal to the spirit of revolt now spreading through the Arab world.
This error was compounded when the Brotherhood threw in its lot with Mohamed ElBaradei, the former diplomat and Nobel Prize winner. A Brotherhood spokesman, Dr. Essam el-Erian, told Al Jazeera, “Political groups support ElBaradei to negotiate with the regime.” But when Mr. ElBaradei strode into Tahrir Square, many ignored him and few rallied to his side despite the enormous publicity he was receiving in the Western press. The Brotherhood realized that in addition to being late, it might be backing the wrong horse. On Tuesday, Dr. Erian told me, “It’s too early to even discuss whether ElBaradei should lead a transitional government or whether we will join him.” This kind of flip-flopping makes many Egyptians scoff.
When the army allowed hundreds of Mubarak supporters and plainclothes policemen through barricades on Wednesday to muscle out protesters, the Muslim Brotherhood may have gained an opportunity. It might be able to recover lost leverage by showing its organizational tenacity in resisting the attempts to repress the demonstrators.
Nonetheless, the Brotherhood did not arrive at this historical moment with the advantage of wide public favor. Such support as it does have among Egyptians — an often cited figure is 20 percent to 30 percent — is less a matter of true attachment than an accident of circumstance: the many decades of suppression of secular opposition groups that might have countered it. The British, King Farouk, Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar el-Sadat all faced the same problem that Hisham Kaseem, a newspaper editor and human rights activist, described playing out under Mr. Mubarak. “If people met in a cafe and talked about things the regime didn’t like, he would just shut down the cafe and arrest us,” Mr. Kaseem said. “But you can’t close mosques, so the Brotherhood survived.”
If Egyptians are given political breathing space, Mr. Kaseem told me, the Brotherhood’s importance will rapidly fade. “In this uprising the Brotherhood is almost invisible,” Mr. Kaseem said, “but not in America and Europe, which fear them as the bogeyman.”
Many people outside Egypt believe that the Brotherhood gains political influence by providing health clinics and charity for the poor. But the very poor in Egypt are not very politically active. And according to Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Council, the group has only six clinics in Cairo, a city of 18 million. Many of the other clinics are Islamic in orientation simply because most Egyptians are Islamic. The wealthier businessmen who often sponsor them tend to shun the Brotherhood, if only to protect their businesses from government disapproval.
Although originally the Brotherhood was organized into paramilitary cells, today it forswears violence in political struggle. This has made it a target of Al Qaeda’s venom. In January 2006, Ayman al-Zawahri, the former leader of Egypt’s Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda’s leading strategist, blasted the Brotherhood’s willingness to participate in parliamentary elections and reject nuclear arms. You “falsely affiliated with Islam,” he said in vilifying the group. “You forget about the rule of Shariah, welcome the Crusaders’ bases in your countries and acknowledge the existence of the Jews who are fully armed with nuclear weapons, from which you are banned to possess.”
People in the West frequently conflate the Brotherhood and Al Qaeda. And although their means are very different, even many Egyptians suspect that they share a common end that is alien to democracy. When I asked Dr. Erian about this, he retorted that the United States and Mr. Mubarak had conspired after Sept. 11 to “brainwash” people into thinking of all Muslim activists as terrorists, adding that “the street” knew the truth.
The street, however, manifests little support for the Brotherhood. Only a small minority of the protesters in Tahrir Square joined its members in prayers there (estimates range from 5 percent to 10 percent), and few Islamic slogans or chants were heard.
Obviously the Brotherhood wants power and its positions, notably its stance against Israel, are problematic for American interests. “Israel must know that it is not welcome by the people in this region,” Dr. Erian said. Moreover, the Brotherhood will probably have representatives in any freely elected government. But it is because democracies tolerate disparate political groups that they generally don’t have civil wars, or wars with other democracies. And because the Brotherhood itself is not monolithic — it has many factions — it could well succumb to internal division if there really were a political opening for other groups in Egypt.
What we are seeing in Egypt is a revolt led by digitally informed young people and joined by families from all rungs of society. Though in one sense it happened overnight, many of its young proponents have long been working behind the scenes, independent of the Brotherhood or any old guard opposition. Egyptians are a pretty savvy lot. Hardly anyone I talked to believes that democracy can be established overnight.
The Brotherhood leadership talks of a year or two of transition, although that may reflect a vain hope of using that time to broaden its popular support enough to reach a controlling plurality. The more common assessment even among democracy advocates is that the military will retain control — Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief and new vice president, will be acceptable to Egyptians if the army gets rid of Mr. Mubarak now — and over the next decade real democratic reforms will be instituted.
“Egypt is missing instruments essential to any functioning democracy and these must be established in the transition period — an independent judiciary, a representative Parliament, an open press,” Mr. Kaseem said. “If you try to push democracy tomorrow we’ll end up like Mauritania or Sudan,” both of which in recent decades have had coups on the heels of democratic elections.
A military in control behind the scenes — for a while — is probably the best hope for a peaceful transition. “Let the U.S.A. stay away,” urged Mr. Kaseem, who insisted that he is pro-American and abhors the Brotherhood. “They are only bungling things with calls for immediate reforms and against the Brotherhood. We are handling this beautifully. Even a military leader with an I.Q. of 30 wouldn’t go down the same path as Mubarak because he would understand that the people of Egypt who are out in the streets are no longer apathetic, their interests are mostly secular, they are connected and they will get power in the end.”
If America’s already teetering standing among Egyptians and across the Arab and Muslim world is not to topple altogether, the United States must now publicly hold Mr. Mubarak responsible for the violence and privately inform the Egyptian Army that it cannot support any institution that is complicit.
But there is little reason for the United States to fear a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. If Egypt is allowed to find its own way, as it so promisingly began to do over the past week, the problems of violent extremism and waves of emigration that America and Europe most fear from this unhappy region could well fade as its disaffected youth at last find hope at home.
Scott Atran, an anthropologist at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, the University of Michigan and John Jay College, is the author of “Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood and the (Un)making of Terrorists.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters
on: February 02, 2011, 10:15:32 AM
That Brit hit piece on Beck is so utterly devoid of merit that I too wonder at its presence here. Has the man ever even watched the show? Certainly he never caught the episodes of GB discussing Father Coughlin!
GM: I watched last night's show; very interesting. I would note that he was careful to say the scenario he was outlining was a worst case scenario.
I understand that the world can be a dark, dangerous place sometimes and that sometimes we need to deal with bad people, but this brings with it its own costs.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: MB strategy
on: February 01, 2011, 07:56:28 PM
Dispatch: The Muslim Brotherhood's Strategies in Egypt and Jordan
February 1, 2011 | 2108 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:
Analyst Reva Bhalla examines the different political strategies pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan.
Editor’s Note:Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Today, Jordanian King Abdullah II decided to dissolve the government, and asked for a new Cabinet to be formed. Now obviously the timing of the events in Jordan are critical, as the Hashemite monarchy in Jordan is watching events play out in Egypt. This isn’t necessarily a sign of a domino effect taking place in the region and in fact there are very important factors to keep in mind when comparing the situation in Egypt versus Jordan.
Jordan deals with its opposition very differently than the Egyptian government has, for example, the Jordanian government has more of an accommadationist approach with its opposition. The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Islamic Action Front is recognized as a legitimate political entity in Jordan even though it is still struggling to adequately represent itself in the parliament. Tensions in Jordan have really been simmering since the parliamentary elections that were held in November last year. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm hotly opposed those elections, particularly an electoral law that they argued favored pro-monarchy areas in rural parts of Jordan. Since then, the group has been demanding a lowering of prices in food and fuel, they’ve been demanding a change to the electoral law and they’ve been organizing these mass demonstrations and sit-ins that have been peaceful.
Now one thing to note is that they are not demanding regime change, unlike the situation in Egypt. The political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood sees an opportunity right now and they’re basically just trying to take advantage of the current situation to push their own political demands. The Jordanian government has already announced a $452 million subsidy plan to bring down the price of food, to bring down the price of fuel, to increase pension, and things of the sort to basically accommodate the opposition. In other words this is not so much a crisis point like we’re seeing in Tunisia and Egypt, this is more of government trying to maintain the upper hand in trying to rush toward accommodation in preventing a larger conflagration.
The image that Jordan is portraying right now in conceding to these demands could carry significant repercussions beyond Jordan’s borders, particularly if the events in Jordan are perceived as an Islamist organization being successful and forcing a regime like the Hashemite monarchy to bend to their demands. This could not only inspire other fledgling opposition groups in other countries to attempt the same, but it could also further embolden the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is playing a very careful game right now. I think the Brotherhood is very well aware that the romanticism of the revolution in the streets could wear off the longer the people go without a regular supply of food, without security, and most important without results. It’s become clear so far that Mubarak does not have any intention of leaving anytime soon. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood needs to sustain the momentum in the streets right now. What they want to avoid is having people think that “Look, I waited three decades to get rid of Mubarak, I can wait another eight months until September elections for him to be deposed.” At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood is very conscious of the negative connotations associated with its Islamist branding and for that reason it’s trying to reach out to certain secularist leaders for example, Mohamed ElBaradei, who may lack credibility but at least he’s a secular leader that a lot of people can at least look to for some sort of leadership while the Muslim Brotherhood works on creating this political opening that they’ve been waiting for for decades.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Mubarak declines to run again
on: February 01, 2011, 07:52:48 PM
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Feb. 1 he would not seek another term as president in elections slated for September but that he will complete his current term. In a televised national address, his second since the Egyptian unrest began the previous week, Mubarak said he would use the remainder of his term to oversee the transition of power. He also called on the parliament to amend the Egyptian Constitution’s Article 76 (which narrows the pool of potential presidential candidates) and Article 77 (which allows for unlimited presidential terms). It is currently unclear whether these measures will be considered.
The opposition immediately rejected the pronouncement. Each political concession offered during this crisis by the Egyptian political establishment — which until this point had ruled with absolute authority since the 1950s — has only emboldened the opposition. Unrest is thus likely to continue, which means the Egyptian military likely will attempt to force Mubarak to step down before the elections. However, even this will not likely resolve matters, as the need to create a neutral caretaker government until elections can be held will be the basis for further struggles between the regime and the opposition.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: February 01, 2011, 07:46:25 PM
A most pertinent question!
I was greatly intrigued by a different Indian POV piece you shared with me a year or so ago which I think I shared here which argued for the dismemberment of Pakistan.
Your post of the 27th is quite lengthy--though it looks quite worthy of the time to read it, the fact is that I don't have the time. May I ask for your synopsis thereof?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: ISM Manufacturing Index 2/1/11
on: February 01, 2011, 01:36:26 PM
Interesting. FWIW here's Wesbury coming to very different conclusions:
The ISM Manufacturing index increased to 60.8 in January To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
The ISM Manufacturing index increased to 60.8 in January from 58.5 in December. The consensus expected a decline to 58.0, First Trust forecast an increase to 58.8. (Levels higher than 50 signal expansion; levels below 50 signal contraction.)
All of the major measures of activity were up in January and all remain well above well above 50.0, signaling continued growth. The new orders index increased to 67.8 from 62.0 and the production index increased to 63.5 from 63.0. The supplier deliveries index rose to 58.6 from 56.7 and the employment index also rose to 61.7 from 58.9.
The prices paid index increased to 81.5 in January from 72.5 in December.
Implications: The manufacturing sector is absolutely booming. Today’s ISM report blew away the consensus (which expected a decline), increasing to 60.8. This is the highest level since May 2004, more than six years ago. The sub-indicies of the report show robust growth in manufacturing, and many of them reached multi-year highs as well. The new orders index rose to 67.8, also the highest level since 2004, and the production index rose to 63.5. The employment index rose to 61.7, the highest level for the index since 1972, suggesting that Friday’s manufacturing payroll number might surprise to the upside. The only bad news in today’s report was on the inflation front, where the prices paid index rose to 81.5 from an already elevated 72.5 in December. The index is quickly approaching levels seen during the summer of 2008, when energy prices spiked. The Fed’s loose monetary policy continues to become more and more inappropriate as the recovery continues. In other news this morning, construction declined 2.5% in December versus a consensus expected gain of 0.1%. Including slight downward revisions to prior months, construction was down 2.8%. The decline in December was led by home building (primarily home improvements) and government construction (primarily schools, roads, and federal office buildings).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Pakistan's growing arsenal
on: February 01, 2011, 10:24:33 AM
Pakistani Nuclear Arms Pose Challenge to U.S. Policy
By DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: January 31, 2011
WASHINGTON — New American intelligence assessments have concluded that Pakistan has steadily expanded its nuclear arsenal since President Obama came to office, and that it is building the capability to surge ahead in the production of nuclear-weapons material, putting it on a path to overtake Britain as the world’s fifth largest nuclear weapons power.
For the Obama administration, the assessment poses a direct challenge to a central element of the president’s national security strategy, the reduction of nuclear stockpiles around the world. Pakistan’s determination to add considerably to its arsenal — mostly to deter India — has also become yet another irritant in its often testy relationship with Washington, particularly as Pakistan seeks to block Mr. Obama’s renewed efforts to negotiate a global treaty that would ban the production of new nuclear material.
The United States keeps its estimates of foreign nuclear weapons stockpiles secret, and Pakistan goes to great lengths to hide both the number and location of its weapons. It is particularly wary of the United States, which Pakistan’s military fears has plans to seize the arsenal if it was judged to be at risk of falling into the hands of extremists. Such secrecy makes accurate estimates difficult.
But the most recent estimates, according to officials and outsiders familiar with the American assessments, suggest that the number of deployed weapons now ranges from the mid-90s to more than 110. When Mr. Obama came to office, his aides were told that the arsenal “was in the mid-to-high 70s,” according to one official who had been briefed at the time, though estimates ranged from 60 to 90.
“We’ve seen a consistent, constant buildup in their inventory, but it hasn’t been a sudden rapid rise,” a senior American military official said. “We’re very, very well aware of what they’re doing.”
White House officials share the assessment that the increase in actual weapons has been what one termed “slow and steady.”
But the bigger worry is the production of nuclear materials. Based on the latest estimates of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, an outside group that estimates worldwide nuclear production, experts say Pakistan has now produced enough material for 40 to 100 additional weapons, including a new class of plutonium bombs. If those estimates are correct — and some government officials regard them as high — it would put Pakistan on a par with long-established nuclear powers.
“If not now, Pakistan will soon have the fifth largest nuclear arsenal in the world, surpassing the United Kingdom,” said Bruce Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer and the author of “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of Global Jihad.”
“And judging by the new nuclear reactors that are coming online and the pace of production, Pakistan is on a course to be the fourth largest nuclear weapons state in the world, ahead of France,” he said. The United States, Russia and China are the three largest nuclear weapons states.
Mr. Riedel conducted the first review of Pakistan and Afghanistan policy for President Obama in early 2009.
Pakistan’s arsenal of deployed weapons is considered secure, a point the White House reiterated last week while declining to answer questions about its new estimates. The United States has spent more than $100 million helping the country build fences, install sensor systems and train personnel to handle the weapons. But senior officials remain deeply concerned that weapons-usable fuel, which is kept in laboratories and storage centers, is more vulnerable and could be diverted by insiders in Pakistan’s vast nuclear complex.
In State Department cables released by WikiLeaks late last year, Anne Patterson, then the American ambassador to Pakistan, wrote of concerns that nuclear material in Pakistan’s laboratories was vulnerable to slow theft from insiders. The cables also revealed an American effort to deny its ally technology that it could use to upgrade its arsenal to plutonium weapons.
“The biggest concern of major production, to my mind, is theft from the places where the material is being handled in bulk — the plants that produce it, convert it to metal, fabricate it into bomb parts, and so on,” said Matthew Bunn, a Harvard scholar who compiles an annual report called “Securing the Bomb” for the group Nuclear Threat Initiative. “All but one of the real thefts” of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, he said, “were insider thefts from bulk-handling facilities — that’s where you can squirrel a little bit away without the loss being detected.”
On Monday, The Washington Post, citing nongovernment analysts, said Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal now numbered more than 100 deployed weapons. In interviews over the past three weeks, government officials from several countries, including India, which has an interest in raising the alarm about Pakistani capability, provided glimpses of their own estimates.
Almost all, however, said their real concern was not the weapons, but the increase in the production of material, especially plutonium. Pakistan is completing work on a large new plutonium production reactor, which will greatly increase its ability to produce a powerful new generation of weapons, but also defies Mr. Obama’s initiative to halt the production of weapons-grade material.
Nuclear projects are managed by the Pakistani military, but the country’s top civilian leaders are, on paper, part of the nuclear chain of command. Last year, Pakistan’s prime minister visited the new plutonium reactor at Kushab, suggesting at least some level of knowledge about the program. “We think the civilians are fully in the loop,” one senior Obama administration official said.
Still, it is unclear how Pakistan is financing the new weapons production, at a time of extraordinary financial stress in the country. “What does Pakistan need with that many nuclear weapons, especially given the state of the country’s economy?” said one foreign official who is familiar with the country’s plans, but agreed to discuss the classified program if granted anonymity.
“The country already has more than enough weapons for an effective deterrent against India,” the official said. “This is just for the generals to say they have more than India.”
American officials have been careful not to discuss Pakistan’s arsenal in public, for fear of further inflaming tensions and fueling Pakistani fears that the United States was figuring how to secure the weapons in an emergency, or a government collapse. But in November Mr. Obama’s top nuclear adviser, Gary Samore, criticized Pakistan for seeking to block talks on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, which, if negotiated and adopted, could threaten Pakistan’s program.
In interviews last year, senior Pakistani officials said that they were infuriated by the deal Washington struck to provide civilian nuclear fuel to India, charging it had freed up India’s homemade fuel to produce new weapons. As a result, they said, they had no choice but to boost their own production and oppose any treaty that would cut into their ability to match India’s arsenal.
In a statement in December, the Pakistan’s National Command Authority, which overseas the arsenal, said that it “rejects any effort to undermine its strategic deterrence,” adding, “Pakistan will not be a party to any approach that is prejudicial to its legitimate national security interests.”
Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Friday that Mr. Obama remained “confident” about the security of Pakistani weapons, and said he “continues to encourage all nations to support the commencement of negotiations on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.” Other officials say efforts are now under way to find a way to start negotiations in new forums, away from Pakistani influence.
A senior Pakistani military officer declined Monday to confirm the size of his country’s nuclear arsenal or the describe rates of production, saying that information was classified.
“People are getting unduly concerned about the size of our stockpile,” said the officer, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “What we have is a credible, minimum nuclear deterrent. It’s a bare minimum.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: So the expectation goes , , ,
on: February 01, 2011, 08:41:46 AM
GM: Are you saying that the US has the ability to choose the outcome here?
Expectations and Reality in Egypt
Tuesday is expected to be another day of mass protests calling for the immediate resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. What makes the crisis in Egypt so concerning for Egyptians and outside observers alike is the sheer opacity of the situation. From Mubarak to the military, to the United States and Israel, and the demonstrators on the streets, everyone is building their own wall of expectations of how this crisis will play out. But in reviewing those expectations, it is equally important to keep in mind the outlying factors that can break those walls down.
Mubarak, who shows no sign of going anywhere just yet, has the expectation that, in spite of him being the target of ire in these demonstrations, he has what it takes to ride this crisis out. More specifically, he is betting that the opposition will remain weak, disunited and unable to cohere into a meaningful threat. Now entering the eighth day of protests, Egyptians are growing weary of going days without working, getting a regular supply of food, having the trash picked up and most of all, living in fear of their homes, shops and banks getting robbed in the absence of police. Mubarak expects that by showing a willingness to negotiate with some of the opposition and holding out an elusive promise of elections, the majority of protesters will come to the conclusion that if they waited 30 years to get rid of Mubarak, they can wait another eight months if it means preventing the country from descending into anarchy. Those protesters that remain on the street will pare down rapidly and can be handled the old-fashioned way in a heavy-handed security crackdown.
Or so the expectation goes.
“Mubarak may be a good motivator to get people out on the streets, but hunger leads to desperation, and desperation can quickly spiral into anarchy.”
Watching from the sidelines, the United States, Israel and many other observers vested in Egypt’s fate are holding onto the expectation that the military, the traditional guarantor of stability in the country, will be able to manage the transition and prevent undesirable political forces from sweeping into power. The military has to gamble that the demonstrators, who largely perceive the military as their path to a post-Mubarak Egypt, will continue to support them in the interest of stability. The military is also trying to keep tabs on itself in watching for any potential coup murmurings arising from the lower ranks of the army, where an Islamist streak, albeit long repressed, remains. As long as the demonstrations can be contained and the military is able to assert its political authority regardless of what Mubarak does, the republic will be saved.
Or so the expectation goes.
Then we have the opposition, united against Mubarak and divided on pretty much everything else. The opposition expects that ire against Mubarak will sustain the demonstrations, force the president out and lead to legitimate elections, providing them with the political space and voice they’ve been demanding for decades. The expectation of ambitious groups like the April 6 Movement, driven mostly by Egyptian youths, is that a general strike called for Jan. 30 will be observed, and that the calls for mass demonstrations on the streets will soon reach the ears of even the small shopkeepers and peasants across the country, which will force the regime to bend to their demands. In other words, the opposition will be able to graduate from a motley crew of ideologies, religious orientations and political interests into a national protest movement before the regime develops the motivation and ability to attempt another major crackdown.
Or so the expectation goes.
The expectations of each of these stakeholders and the reality that waits may be a bridge too far. But there is one factor, less discussed, that could throw off all these expectations entirely: the price of bread. Though the government appears to have about a month of stable wheat supply and no major obstacles to importing more, the ongoing security crisis is causing problems as Egyptians line up outside bakeries in the hope of hording as much bread as possible. With a strain on supply and speculation increasing, the price of bread is climbing, with some reporters claiming the price has quadrupled in Cairo over the past few days. The last time Egypt had a bread crisis was in 2008, when the military took control over bread production and ensured distribution to prevent mass riots. Now, the military is stretched extremely thin, from trying to deal with Mubarak, govern the country, contain the demonstrations, deal with Egypt’s allies and patrol the streets. Mubarak may be a good motivator to get people out on the streets, but as singer-songwriter Bob Marley stated, a hungry mob is an angry mob. Hunger can lead to desperation, and desperation can quickly spiral into anarchy. The regime will look to the military to help enforce price controls on wheat, distribute bread and keep the most destitute Egyptians from joining the demonstrations.
Or so the expectation goes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: December data 1/31/11
on: January 31, 2011, 10:44:09 PM
Personal income increased 0.4% in December while personal consumption increased 0.7% To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Personal income increased 0.4% in December, exactly as the consensus expected. Personal consumption increased 0.7%, beating the consensus expected gain of 0.5%. In the past six months, personal income is up at a 3.7% annual rate while spending is up at a 5.8% rate.
Disposable personal income (income after taxes) was up 0.4% in December and is up at a 3.0% annual rate in the past six months. The rise in December was led by private-sector wages and salaries, interest, and dividends.
The overall PCE deflator (consumer inflation) increased 0.3% in December and is up 1.2% versus a year ago. The “core” PCE deflator, which excludes food and energy, was unchanged in December and is up 0.7% since last year.
After adjusting for inflation, “real” consumption was up 0.4% in December, is up at a 3.7% annual rate in the past six months, and at a 4.6% annual rate in the past three months.
Implications: Watch out above! Consumer spending accelerated into the end of 2010. “Real” (inflation-adjusted) consumer spending increased 0.4% in December and was up at a 4.6% annual rate in the last three months of the year. Why are consumers spending more? First, their incomes are rising. In the past year, real private-sector wages and salaries plus small business incomes are up 3.2%. Second, although consumers are still paying down debt, they’re doing so at a slower pace. Notice that this means spending can grow faster than income, not slower. Third, consumers’ financial obligations – their debt-related monthly payments plus other recurring charges like rent, car leases, and homeowners’ insurance – is now the lowest share of after-tax income since 1995. On the inflation front, consumption prices are up only 1.2% versus a year ago but seem to be accelerating, with prices up at a 2.0% annual rate in the past six months and a 2.4% rate in the past three months. Meanwhile, “core” inflation, which excludes food and energy, remains very subdued, up only 0.7% in the past year. Low core inflation is the excuse the Federal Reserve is using for quantitative easing. We think the Fed needs to focus more on overall inflation, not just the core. So do the Egyptians.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt
on: January 31, 2011, 09:26:54 PM
SNAFU: Cluelessness and hypocrisy abound.
Sorry, I'm not buying this "Who lost Egypt?" analysis. Mubarak is 82 and is dying of prostate cancer. Transitions are often tricky in the absence of democracy.
There may not be much we can do at this moment. STFU has its merits sometimes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor
on: January 31, 2011, 12:39:44 PM
The Egypt Crisis in a Global Context: A Special Report
January 30, 2011 | 2253 GMT
It is not at all clear what will happen in the Egyptian revolution. It is not a surprise that this is happening. Hosni Mubarak has been president for more than a quarter of a century, ever since the assassination of Anwar Sadat. He is old and has been ill. No one expected him to live much longer, and his apparent plan, which was that he would be replaced by his son Gamal, was not going to happen even though it was a possibility a year ago. There was no one, save his closest business associates, who wanted to see Mubarak’s succession plans happen. As his father weakened, Gamal’s succession became even less likely. Mubarak’s failure to design a credible succession plan guaranteed instability on his death. Since everyone knew that there would be instability on his death, there were obviously those who saw little advantage to acting before he died. Who these people were and what they wanted is the issue.
Let’s begin by considering the regime. In 1952, Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser staged a military coup that displaced the Egyptian monarchy, civilian officers in the military, and British influence in Egypt. Nasser created a government based on military power as the major stabilizing and progressive force in Egypt. His revolution was secular and socialist. In short, it was a statist regime dominated by the military. On Nasser’s death, Anwar Sadat replaced him. On Sadat’s assassination, Hosni Mubarak replaced him. Both of these men came from the military as Nasser did. However their foreign policy might have differed from Nasser’s, the regime remained intact.
The demands for Mubarak’s resignation come from many quarters, including from members of the regime — particularly the military — who regard Mubarak’s unwillingness to permit them to dictate the succession as endangering the regime. For some of them, the demonstrations represent both a threat and opportunity. Obviously, the demonstrations might get out of hand and destroy the regime. On the other hand, the demonstrations might be enough to force Mubarak to resign, allow a replacement — for example, Omar Suleiman, the head of intelligence who Mubarak recently appointed vice president — and thereby save the regime. This is not to say that they fomented the demonstrations, but some must have seen the demonstrations as an opportunity.
This is particularly the case in the sense that the demonstrators are deeply divided among themselves and thus far do not appear to have been able to generate the type of mass movement that toppled the Shah of Iran’s regime in 1979. More important, the demonstrators are clearly united in opposing Mubarak as an individual, and to a large extent united in opposing the regime. Beyond that, there is a deep divide in the opposition.
Western media has read the uprising as a demand for Western-style liberal democracy. Many certainly are demanding that. What is not clear is that this is moving Egypt’s peasants, workers and merchant class to rise en masse. Their interests have far more to do with the state of the Egyptian economy than with the principles of liberal democracy. As in Iran in 2009, the democratic revolution, if focused on democrats, cannot triumph unless it generates broader support.
The other element in this uprising is the Muslim Brotherhood. The consensus of most observers is that the Muslim Brotherhood at this point is no longer a radical movement and is too weak to influence the revolution. This may be possible, but it is not obvious. The Muslim Brotherhood has many strands, many of which have been quiet under Mubarak’s repression. It is not clear who will emerge if Mubarak falls. It is certainly not clear that they are weaker than the democratic demonstrators. It is a mistake to confuse the Muslim Brotherhood’s caution with weakness. Another way to look at them is that they have bided their time and toned down their real views, waiting for the kind of moment provided by Mubarak’s succession. I would suspect that the Muslim Brotherhood has more potential influence among the Egyptian masses than the Western-oriented demonstrators or Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is emerging as their leader.
There is, of course, the usual discussion of what U.S. President Barack Obama’s view is, or what the Europeans think, or what the Iranians are up to. All of them undoubtedly have thoughts and even plans. In my view, trying to shape the political dynamics of a country like Egypt from Iran or the United States is futile, and believing that what is happening in Egypt is the result of their conspiracies is nonsense. A lot of people care what is happening there, and a lot of people are saying all sorts of things and even spending money on spies and Twitter. Egypt’s regime can be influenced in this way, but a revolution really doesn’t depend on what the European Union or Tehran says.
There are four outcomes possible. First, the regime might survive. Mubarak might stabilize the situation, or more likely, another senior military official would replace him after a decent interval. Another possibility under the scenario of the regime’s survival is that there may be a coup of the colonels, as we discussed yesterday. A second possibility is that the demonstrators might force elections in which ElBaradei or someone like him could be elected and Egypt might overthrow the statist model built by Nasser and proceed on the path of democracy. The third possibility is that the demonstrators force elections, which the Muslim Brotherhood could win and move forward with an Islamist-oriented agenda. The fourth possibility is that Egypt will sink into political chaos. The most likely path to this would be elections that result in political gridlock in which a viable candidate cannot be elected. If I were forced to choose, I would bet on the regime stabilizing itself and Mubarak leaving because of the relative weakness and division of the demonstrators. But that’s a guess and not a forecast.
Whatever happens matters a great deal to Egyptians. But only some of these outcomes are significant to the world. Among radical Islamists, the prospect of a radicalized Egypt represents a new lease on life. For Iran, such an outcome would be less pleasing. Iran is now the emerging center of radical Islamism; it would not welcome competition from Egypt, though it may be content with an Islamist Egypt that acts as an Iranian ally (something that would not be easy to ensure).
For the United States, an Islamist Egypt would be a strategic catastrophe. Egypt is the center of gravity in the Arab world. This would not only change the dynamic of the Arab world, it would reverse U.S. strategy since the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Sadat’s decision to reverse his alliance with the Soviets and form an alliance with the United States undermined the Soviet position in the Mediterranean and in the Arab world and strengthened the United States immeasurably. The support of Egyptian intelligence after 9/11 was critical in blocking and undermining al Qaeda. Were Egypt to stop that cooperation or become hostile, the U.S. strategy would be severely undermined.
The great loser would be Israel. Israel’s national security has rested on its treaty with Egypt, signed by Menachem Begin with much criticism by the Israeli right. The demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula not only protected Israel’s southern front, it meant that the survival of Israel was no longer at stake. Israel fought three wars (1948, 1967 and 1973) where its very existence was at issue. The threat was always from Egypt, and without Egypt in the mix, no coalition of powers could threaten Israel (excluding the now-distant possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons). In all of the wars Israel fought after its treaty with Egypt (the 1982 and 2006 wars in Lebanon) Israeli interests, but not survival, were at stake.
If Egypt were to abrogate the Camp David Accords and over time reconstruct its military into an effective force, the existential threat to Israel that existed before the treaty was signed would re-emerge. This would not happen quickly, but Israel would have to deal with two realities. The first is that the Israeli military is not nearly large enough or strong enough to occupy and control Egypt. The second is that the development of Egypt’s military would impose substantial costs on Israel and limit its room for maneuver.
There is thus a scenario that would potentially strengthen the radical Islamists while putting the United States, Israel, and potentially even Iran at a disadvantage, all for different reasons. That scenario emerges only if two things happen. First, the Muslim Brotherhood must become a dominant political force in Egypt. Second, they must turn out to be more radical than most observers currently believe they are — or they must, with power, evolve into something more radical.
If the advocates for democracy win, and if they elect someone like ElBaradei, it is unlikely that this scenario would take place. The pro-Western democratic faction is primarily concerned with domestic issues, are themselves secular and would not want to return to the wartime state prior to Camp David, because that would simply strengthen the military. If they win power, the geopolitical arrangements would remain unchanged.
Similarly, the geopolitical arrangements would remain in place if the military regime retained power — save for one scenario. If it was decided that the regime’s unpopularity could be mitigated by assuming a more anti-Western and anti-Israeli policy — in other words, if the regime decided to play the Islamist card, the situation could evolve as a Muslim Brotherhood government would. Indeed, as hard as it is to imagine, there could be an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood designed to stabilize the regime. Stranger things have happened.
When we look at the political dynamic of Egypt, and try to imagine its connection to the international system, we can see that there are several scenarios under which certain political outcomes would have profound effects on the way the world works. That should not be surprising. When Egypt was a pro-Soviet Nasserite state, the world was a very different place than it had been before Nasser. When Sadat changed his foreign policy the world changed with it. If the Sadat foreign policy changes, the world changes again. Egypt is one of those countries whose internal politics matter to more than its own citizens.
Most of the outcomes I envision leave Egypt pretty much where it is. But not all. The situation is, as they say, in doubt, and the outcome is not trivial.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / California wet dreaming
on: January 31, 2011, 12:30:51 PM
Californians are accustomed to earthquakes, and are resigned to the possibility of another Big One in coming decades. But scientists now say the state also faces the very real possibility of a catastrophic rainstorm so massive that it could do more damage than any earthquake, submerging one in four California homes under floodwaters and causing $300 billion in damage.
Using improved satellite imagery, scientists have identified “atmospheric rivers”—moisture-laden air currents 200 miles wide and 2,000 miles long—flowing from tropical Pacific waters to the West Coast. Periodically, these rivers can conspire to create monsoon-like rainstorms over California in which 10 feet of rain could fall over just a few weeks. Tree-ring data shows evidence of vast floods in California’s past, and in the winter of 1861–62, enough rain fell to create “an inland sea” 300 miles long and 20 miles wide, from north of Sacramento all the way to Los Angeles.
“We think this event happens once every 100 or 200 years or so, which puts it in the same category as our big San Andreas earthquakes,” Lucy Jones, chief scientist of the United States Geological Survey’s multi-hazards initiative, tells Science Daily. Though experts can’t forecast when the next “superstorm” will hit, Jones says, it could well be within current lifetimes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTB: Your Rx or your privacy
on: January 31, 2011, 11:49:49 AM
Your Rx or your privacy
The Supreme Court will decide whether states can bar the buying and selling of prescription data.
IMS Health Inc. operates in the shadows of the healthcare industry, gathering data that drug makers can use to sell medications more effectively. The data, however, are taken from the prescriptions that doctors write for their patients. That information is at the heart of a dispute over how far states can go to protect privacy — a dispute that has reached the Supreme Court, and one that could broaden the reach of the 1st Amendment in troubling ways.
IMS and a handful of market research competitors pay pharmacists for the details contained in prescriptions, including the name of the doctor and the patient, the drug prescribed and the dosage. They compile that information into databases that track individual doctors' prescribing habits, replacing patients' names with "de-identified" numbers. Such databases can be valuable to the public, potentially helping to enforce drug laws, find patterns in the spread of disease and spot variations in how medications are used. But the main use — and the one that pays for the databases — is to help pharmaceutical companies persuade physicians to prescribe more of their products.
That's one of the reasons states across the country have proposed or enacted regulations governing prescription data mining. Drug makers hire legions of sales representatives to pitch physicians in person about new products and new applications for older medications. They pay market researchers millions of dollars for information on individual doctors' prescriptions because it helps them find sick people (chronically sick people in particular) who could be treated with their drugs or who are taking their competitors' medications.
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Some doctors object to the disclosure of such arguably private information to drug company sales forces. And some consumer advocates argue persuasively that the marketing inevitably leads physicians to prescribe drugs too frequently, and to prescribe the newer and more expensive drugs that pharmaceutical companies hawk most aggressively. These drugs may have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, but that doesn't mean they're necessarily the best choice for the patient; the FDA doesn't compare the effectiveness of new drugs against existing therapies.
In light of these concerns, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont each adopted laws restricting the release of information on individual physicians' prescriptions. IMS, other market researchers and drug manufacturers challenged those laws in federal court, claiming that their 1st Amendment rights were violated. The plaintiffs contended that the information provided by market researchers to drug companies and from drug companies to physicians was a form of "speech" that the states could regulate only if there was a compelling state interest and only if they used the least restrictive means to do so. There was no evidence that drug marketing harmed physicians or patients, they argued, so there was no compelling state interest in limiting speech.
The U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the strictures in New Hampshire (and later, Maine) but the 2nd Circuit overturned the law in Vermont. The divergent rulings reflected a split between the courts over whether regulating the sale of such data amounted to a restraint on speech. The 1st Circuit held that New Hampshire's law restricted market research companies' conduct — namely, their ability to aggregate and transfer information for drug-marketing purposes — not their speech. The 2nd Circuit held that Vermont restricted speech by data miners and pharmaceutical companies, but did so without demonstrating a compelling state interest.
This month the Supreme Court agreed to consider Vermont's appeal, and we hope the justices will be guided by the dissent written by 2nd Circuit Judge Debra Ann Livingston. As Livingston noted, pharmacies obtain sensitive information about doctors and prescriptions only because the state orders them to gather it for law enforcement reasons. Otherwise, doctors and patients might insist that the data be kept confidential. That information is every bit as sensitive as a hospital chart or a doctor's notes, and should be subject to equally effective protection.
Just because IMS doesn't supply patients' names to drug companies, that doesn't mean they can't be tracked individually. According to Meredith Jacob of the American University Washington College of Law, the databases assign unique numbers to pharmacies' customers that can be used to follow their prescriptions over time, helping drug makers spot the patients most likely to be customers for their new drugs and market those medicines to their physicians.
What's worse, the data about prescriptions could conceivably be combined with other records to reveal some patients' names. That's because "de-identified" data may provide clues that enable it to be matched against names in other databases. In one example of this technique cited in a brief by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a researcher was able to use public records to name more than a third of the supposedly anonymized victims in Chicago's homicide database.
Drug makers should be able to market their products, but their 1st Amendment rights shouldn't guarantee them access to sensitive data that wouldn't exist but for the government's requirement that doctors and patients disclose it. Many of the public health and safety benefits cited by defenders of prescription data mining can be obtained without revealing prescribers' names to drug company sales reps. If states want to give doctors and their patients more protection against marketers gaining access to that information, they should be able to do so.
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Vancouver January 29-30
on: January 31, 2011, 11:46:10 AM
A wonderful time with Tricky Dog and friends this weekend. Greatly adding to it all was the presence of several instructors from various systems. The Vancouver FMA community is one little troubled by the usual soap opera of "As the stick twirls" so common elsewhere.
*Applied Single Stick (Variation 5, Salt & Pepper as an example of Occupying Strikes, Outside Sweep-Inside Diamond) and more
--Stick Clinch-- the Rico Variations ("give the dog a bone" and others)
--Fang choke: from kesagatame (sp?)
--Side control counters
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: January 31, 2011, 11:40:32 AM
Those of us who espouse spouting bastards because they are our bastards (apologies to John Foster Dulles's quote about Somaza of Nicaragua) need to acknowledge that the day comes when difficult questions are presented. This happened in Iran where the US played a pivotal role in putting the Shah in power, and then, under Kissinger-Nixon, in building him up. Yes, Carter and his crew were profoundly clueless, but it must be acknowledged they faced a truly difficult situation.
The same can be said here, including the part about Baraq being clueless (tangent: Where does this meme about Hillary doing a good job, which seems to pop up from time to time, come from? Not from any evidence of which I am aware
In my humble opinion, when things get this far, it may well be too late already.
The time for the Dems to have been concerned about democracy in the Arab world, and the US's respect, was when the Surge was in play and was working. Instead, for transient personal political advantage Baraq, Hillary, et al through it away. Naturally the various Iraqi players read the writing on the wall , , , just as the various Afpakia players are doing now.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTB: A Mosque divided
on: January 31, 2011, 11:24:01 AM
The court battle for control of the mosque has turned ugly, with each side using inflammatory rhetoric, claiming to be more assimilated and alleging that it has been threatened or assaulted.
By Raja Abdulrahim, Los Angeles Times
January 31, 2011
On a Friday afternoon in October, men in black security T-shirts and matching cargo pants roamed the parking lot and perimeter of the Islamic Center of Northridge as worshipers arrived for weekly prayers.
Several Los Angeles Police Department patrol cars were parked nearby as officers kept a watchful eye on a demonstration out front. About 30 men yelled and held up signs. One waved a small American flag as another denounced the mosque's religious leader as a devil.
Worshipers, looking uncomfortable, hurried past and into the building.
, , , In a scene reminiscent of others across the country where new and existing mosques have faced heated opposition in recent months. But the protests at the Islamic Center's main mosque in Granada Hills are different, not demonstrations by anti-Islamic groups but a struggle between rival Muslim groups over control of the institution.
The two sides, each made up mainly of Pakistani and Afghan immigrants, are battling in court over leadership elections and greater openness at the Granada Hills mosque and an older satellite center in Northridge. The dispute has taken on an ugly, ethnically charged tone, including heated rhetoric about which group is more American in dress, accent and behavior.
The parties have traded accusations of radicalism as each side tries to discredit the other, sometimes using comparisons and accusations that American Muslims are more accustomed to hearing from critics outside their communities.
In one lawsuit, a dissident group accuses the mosque leaders of methods that "resemble Taliban-style tactics one might presume to exist only outside the boundaries of the United States."
The suit also quotes a threatening, profane voicemail message it says was left for one of the plaintiffs, in which the caller allegedly said, "Don't … with us. We are Pashtuns. We will kill you."
Mitchell Young, formerly an attorney for the mosque's leaders, said the quarrel seems "tribal" at times. "The underpinnings of this conflict are very different than the particulars of the lawsuit," he said.
Such jockeying over who is more American is not uncommon in immigrant communities, said Kamal Sadiq, a UC Irvine political science professor who studies South Asian communities. Proving who is more assimilated is a way of establishing who has a bigger claim on the mosque, he said.
The legal case centers on specifics of California law governing nonprofit corporations, including board elections, open membership and financial transparency.
The plaintiffs, including former board members and their supporters, say some have been barred from membership at the mosque. A spokesman would not say how many members it has.
At a pre-trial hearing in Los Angeles this month, Superior Court Judge Michelle Rosenblatt ordered court-supervised elections for the mosque's board, a victory for those challenging the current leadership. A trial is set for Feb. 7.
The defendants in the case are the Islamic Center's two imams, Qazi Fazlullah and Qari Yousuf, along with board members and supporters, many of whom emigrated from Afghanistan or Pakistan's Pashtun region. The plaintiffs are mainly from Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, and from the country's Punjab region.
Manzar Qureshi, a former board member at the mosque who is acting as a spokesman for the plaintiffs, said many Pakistanis tend to blame those from the Pashtun region, which abuts Afghanistan, for the terrorism-related problems in Pakistan. Qureshi, a native of Karachi, acknowledged that the regional tensions have contributed to the dispute.
Fazlullah, a former member of Pakistan's parliament, has led the San Fernando Valley mosque since 1997. A spokesman said the imam would not comment on the dispute.
The struggle has divided the area's Muslim community and led some who feel uncomfortable with such vitriol at a religious institution to cut back their attendance or seek services elsewhere. The plaintiffs said some of their supporters were prevented from praying at the mosque during a recent religious holiday. They now hold their own services in a rented room at the nearby Granada Hills Masonic Center.
Mosque spokesman Mahmood Payind denied that attendance, which numbers in the hundreds, has dipped because of the dispute. But at two recent Friday prayer services, the parking lot seemed less crowded than it was last fall.
Payind, who is from Afghanistan, said the accusatory language used by the plaintiffs is geared toward gaining support for their case, especially in an American courtroom.
It's easy to say someone "looks like so and so with the beard," the spokesman said, referring to Osama bin Laden. "They're trying to poison the well because of Islamophobia. They are like the Bill O'Reilly of this community."
Indeed, much of the rhetoric appears aimed at swaying public opinion in a case that could go before a jury. After a judge denied emergency motions filed by the plaintiffs to gain control of the mosque's finances, insurance policy and keys, one plaintiff suggested that the center's leaders were sending money overseas — an allegation Young, the former attorney, said was equivalent to an accusation of supporting terrorism.
"If you put us in a room, you can compare who has more of an accent," mosque spokesman Payind said. "We play basketball, we go to the movies, we play soccer. I myself am married to an American woman, so where is my Taliban style? Why they are playing that is because it is inflammatory words or because they can use that card: Muslim terrorist."
But the plaintiffs say the language they use is a result of the violent behavior of the defendants in trying to silence dissent.
"Unfortunately the defendants … are engaged in a series of patterns of conduct which is not very befitting in America," the plaintiffs' attorney Omar Siddiqui said. "It just seems like a lot of these people have brought their Third World ideas into the Valley."
Qureshi says he was once threatened in the mosque parking lot and another time was locked in its office while his two young sons waited outside. In a related lawsuit, another plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted and wrongfully imprisoned by the mosque's security guards in an August incident after Friday prayers. The defendants deny the allegations.
Since the conflict escalated about a year ago, police have been called several times to each of the mosque's locations. The officers took reports on accusations of battery, witness intimidation, trespassing, verbal threats and disturbing the peace, but the city attorney's office has declined to file charges, saying nothing has risen to a criminal act, said Lt. Tom Murrell, formerly of the LAPD's Devonshire division.
Each side also has made accusations to the department's counterterrorism division, Deputy Chief Michael Downing confirmed, but he said the conflict was being handled locally by the Devonshire division. Complaints have also been made to the FBI, the plaintiffs said. A spokeswoman said she could not confirm whether the bureau was investigating.
Murrell, the former commander of Devonshire's detective division who is now in the LAPD's Information Technology Division, said detectives had hoped that the case would be referred to a city attorney hearing, equivalent to dispute resolution.
"But in this case there are some cultural, religious things which are beyond what the civil commissioners can grasp," he said.
Each side in the case claims to have the support of the Valley's Muslim community. But many clearly feel torn.
One man who has attended the mosque since 2002, and who did not want to be identified for fear of being seen as taking sides, said he has cut back his attendance because of the controversy. "I don't feel comfortable going into the mosque and seeing cops around and the security guards," he said.
The man, who lives in nearby Sylmar, said he is inclined to believe the plaintiffs but hasn't spoken to Fazlullah to hear his views. He said, though, that a religious scholar like Fazlullah should be treated with more respect.
"I still would like a mosque that doesn't have this propaganda," he said. "I just listen and try to pray for both sides, because it makes us look bad in front of the [American] community."firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt
on: January 30, 2011, 01:05:20 AM
I've been busy teaching all day and have just returned from a pleasant group dinner, so I have seen very little info today, but I would toss into the mix here a reminder that in the Bush era the much derided neo-cons sought to enable the US to avoid the sort of dilema in which in finds itself today with Egypt; indeed as GM's most recent post notes, the democracy activist was being helped in a Bush program. This notion was also a core idea behind the second Iraq War albeit one viciously derided by the loyal and less than loyal opposition in the Democratic Party.
Where would we be now if candidate Obama, candidate Clinton, former Prez candidates Kerry and Gore, Senator Majority Leader Harry "We've already lost" Reid, second in line to the Presidency Nancy Pelosi et al had not advocated cut and run as the Surge was succeeding? What if instead of calling General Petraeus General Betray-us, the Dems had not undercut our efforts?
It seems reasonable to me to think that many Iraqi politicians would not have been preparing for our exit. It seems reasonable to me to think that we would still be welcome in Iraq and Iraq much sturdier in its democracy and the US in much higher repute in the Arab world for having fought for democracy.
Wouldn't that be a good thing in this moment?
Just same ramblings before going to bed , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Al Jazeera
on: January 29, 2011, 01:51:09 PM
President Obama, say the 'D-Word'
US appears to shy away from talk about democracy in Middle East, despite
historic anti-government rallies in ally Egypt.
Mark LeVine Last Modified: 28 Jan 2011 12:36 GMT
*Obama has 'sought to equate Egypt's protesters and government as equally
pitted parties in the growing conflict' [AFP]***
It's incredible, really. The president of the United States can't bring
himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it,
use euphemisms, throw out words like "freedom" and "tolerance" and
"non-violent" and especially "reform," but he can't say the one word that
really matters: democracy.
How did this happen? After all, in his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the
spoke the word loudly and clearly - at least once.
"The fourth issue that I will address is democracy," he declared, before
explaining that while the United States won't impose its own system, it was
committed to governments that "reflect the will of the people... I do have
an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability
to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the
rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is
transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you
choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that
is why we will support them everywhere."
"No matter where it takes hold," the president concluded, "government of the
people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power."
Of course, this was just
however lofty, reflecting a moment when no one was rebelling against the
undemocratic governments of our allies - at least not openly and in a manner
that demanded international media coverage.
Now it's for real.
And "democracy" is scarcely to be heard on the lips of the
his most senior officials.
In fact, newly released WikiLeaks cables show that from the moment it
assumed power, the Obama administration specifically toned down public
criticism of Mubarak. The US ambassador to Egypt advised secretary of state
Hillary Clinton to avoid even the mention of former presidential candidate
Ayman Nour, jailed and abused for years after running against Mubarak in
part on America's encouragement.
Not surprisingly, when the protests began, Clinton declared that Egypt was
"stable" and an important US ally, sending a strong signal that the US would
not support the protesters if they tried to topple the regime. Indeed,
Clinton has repeatedly described Mubarak as a family friend. Perhaps Ms
Clinton should choose her friends more wisely.
Similarly, president Obama has refused to take a strong stand in support of
the burgeoning pro-democracy movement and has been no more discriminating in
his public characterisation of American support for its Egyptian "ally".
Mubarak continued through yesterday to be praised as a crucial partner of
the US. Most important, there has been absolutely no call for real
Rather, only "reform" has been suggested to the Egyptian government so that,
in Obama's words, "people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate
"I've always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on
reform - political reform, economic reform - is absolutely critical for the
long-term well-being of Egypt," advised the president, although
vice-president Joe Biden has refused to refer to Mubarak as a dictator,
leading one to wonder how bad a leader must be to deserve the title.
Even worse, the president and his senior aides have repeatedly sought to
equate the protesters and the government as somehow equally pitted parties
in the growing conflict, urging both sides to "show restraint". This
equation has been repeated many times by other American officials.
This trick, tried and tested in the US discourse surrounding the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is equally nonsensical here. These are not two
movements in a contest for political power. Rather, it is a huge state, with
a massive security and police apparatus that is supported by the world's
major superpower to the tune of billions of dollars a year, against a
largely young, disenfranchised and politically powerless population which
has suffered brutally at its hands for decades.
The focus on reform is also a highly coded reference, as across the
developing world when Western leaders have urged "reform" it has usually
signified the liberalisation of economies to allow for greater penetration
by Western corporations, control of local resources, and concentration of
wealth, rather than the kind of political democratisation and redistribution
of wealth that are key demands of protesters across the region.
*Al Jazeera interview says it all*
An Al Jazeera English
Thursday with US state department spokesman PJ Crowley perfectly summed up
the sustainability of the Obama administration's position. In some of the
most direct and unrelenting questioning of a US official I have ever
witnessed, News Hour anchor Shihab al-Rattansi repeatedly pushed Crowley to
own up to the hypocrisy and absurdity of the administration's position of
offering mild criticism of Mubarak while continuing to ply him with billions
of dollars in aid and political support.
When pressed about how the US-backed security services are beating and
torturing and even killing protesters, and whether it wasn't time for the US
to consider discontinuing aid, Crowley responded that "we don't see this as
an either or [a minute later, he said "zero sum"] proposition. Egypt is a
friend of the US, is an anchor of stability and helping us pursue peace in
the Middle East".
Each part of this statement is manifestly false; the fact that in the midst
of intensifying protests senior officials feel they can spin the events away
from openly calling for a real democratic transition now reveals either
incredible ignorance, arrogance, or both.
Yet this is precisely an either/or moment. Much as former US president Bush
declared in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we can either be "with or against"
the Egyptian people. Refusing to take sides is in fact taking sides -the
Moreover, Crowley, like his superiors, refused to use the word democracy,
responding to its use by anchor al-Rattansi with the word "reform" while
arguing that it was unproductive to tie events in Egypt to the protests in
other countries such as Tunis or Jordan because each has its own
"indigenous" forces and reasons for discontent.
That is a very convenient singularisation of the democracy movements, which
ignores the large number of similarities in the demands of protests across
the region, the tactics and strategies of protest, and their broader
distaste and distrust of the US in view of its untrammelled support for
dictatorships across the region.
Ensconced in a system built upon the lack of democracy - not just abroad,
but as we've seen in the last decade, increasingly in the US as well -
perhaps president Obama doesn't feel he has the luxury of pushing too hard
for democracy when its arrival would threaten so many policies pursued by
Instead, "stability" and "reform" are left to fill the void, even though
both have little to do with democracy in an real sense.
Perhaps Obama wants to say the D-word. Maybe in his heart he hopes Mubarak
just leaves and allows democracy to flourish. By all accounts, the president
is no ideologue like his predecessor. He does not come from the
political-economic-strategic elites as did Bush, and has no innate desire to
serve or protect their interests.
Feeling trapped by a system outside his control or power to change, maybe
president Obama hopes that the young people of the Arab world will lead the
way, and will be satisfied by congratulations by his administration after
But even if accurate, such a scenario will likely never come to pass. With
Egyptians preparing to die in the streets, standing on the sidelines is no
longer an option.
*A gift that won't be offered again*
The most depressing and even frightening part of the tepid US response to
the protests across the region is the lack of appreciation of what kind of
gift the US, and West more broadly, are being handed by these movements.
Their very existence is bringing unprecedented levels of hope and productive
activism to a region and as such constitutes a direct rebuttal to the power
and prestige of al-Qaeda.
Instead of embracing the push for real democratic change, however, surface
reforms that would preserve the system intact are all that's recommended.
Instead of declaring loud and clear a support for a real democracy agenda,
the president speaks only of "disrupting plots and securing our cities and
skies" and "tak[ing] the fight to al-Qaeda and their allies", as he declared
in his State of the Union address.
Obama doesn't seem to understand that the US doesn't need to "take the
fight" to al-Qaeda, or even fire a single shot, to score its greatest
victory in the "war on terror". Supporting real democratisation will do more
to downgrade al-Qaeda's capabilities than any number of military attacks. He
had better gain this understanding quickly because in the next hours or days
the Egypt's revolution will likely face its moment of truth. And right
behind Egypt are Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, and who knows what other countries,
all looking to free themselves of governments that the US and its European
allies have uncritically supported for decades.
If president Obama has the courage to support genuine democracy, even at the
expense of immediate American policy interests, he could well go down in
history as one of the heroes of the Middle East's Jasmine winter. If he
chooses platitudes and the status quo, the harm to America's standing in the
region will likely take decades to repair.
Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting
researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in
Sweden. His most recent books are Heavy Metal Islam (Random House) and
Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books).*
*The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.*
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Medicaid cuts
on: January 29, 2011, 12:12:53 PM
Hamstrung by federal prohibitions against lowering Medicaid eligibility, governors from both parties are exercising their remaining options in proposing bone-deep cuts to the program during the fourth consecutive year of brutal economic conditions.
Gov. Jerry Brown of California, a Democrat, proposes cutting Medicaid by $1.7 billion.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is expected to propose at least $2 billion in cuts in his budget.
Because states confront budget gaps estimated at $125 billion, few essential services — schools, roads, parks — are likely to escape the ax. But the election of tough-minded governors, the evaporation of federal aid, the relentless growth of Medicaid rolls and the exhaustion of alternatives have made the program, which primarily covers low-income children and disabled adults, an outsize target.
In Arizona, which last year ended Medicaid payments for some organ transplants, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, is asking the Obama administration to waive a provision of the new health care law so that the state can remove 280,000 adults from the program’s rolls. In California, the newly elected governor, Jerry Brown, a Democrat, proposes cutting Medicaid by $1.7 billion, in part by limiting the beneficiaries to 10 doctor visits a year and six prescriptions a month.
In the budget he will unveil on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York is expected to propose cutting even more — at least $2 billion from projected state spending on Medicaid, which totaled about $14 billion this year.
And Gov. Nathan Deal, the new Republican leader of Georgia, proposed this month to end Medicaid coverage of dental, vision and podiatry treatments for adults. South Carolina is considering going a step further by also eliminating hospice care.
The governors are taking little joy in their proposals. And many of them, particularly the Republicans, are complaining about provisions of last year’s health care overhaul, and of the stimulus package before it, that require the states to maintain eligibility levels in order to keep their federal Medicaid dollars.
“Please know that I understand fully the impacts of this rollback, and it is with a heavy heart that I make this request,” Ms. Brewer wrote this week in seeking a waiver, the first of its kind, from Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services. “However, I am left with no other viable alternative.”
The shrinking of Medicaid programs, if approved by the state legislatures, would come at a tenuous moment for the Obama administration. Starting in 2014, the health care law calls for an enormous expansion of Medicaid eligibility that is expected to add 16 million beneficiaries by 2019.
Some states are now cutting benefits like prescription drugs and mental health treatment that will be required then. The federal government will cover the entire cost of the expansion through 2016, when states must gradually pick up a share, peaking at 10 percent in 2020 and remaining there.
Governors have known that this precipice was near for close to two years.
Medicaid, which covered 48.5 million people in 2009, up 8 percent in a year, is a joint state and federal program. The federal government provides the lion’s share of the money and sets minimum standards for eligibility and benefits that states may exceed if they wish.
In 2009, Congress provided about $90 billion for states in the stimulus package to offset the cost of surging Medicaid rolls. Last August, it extended the aid at a reduced level, adding $15 billion over six months. The relief raised the federal share to between 65 percent and 82 percent, depending on the state, up from between 50 percent and 75 percent.
While that money is widely credited with staving off catastrophe, deficits were so deep that 39 states cut Medicaid payments to providers in 2010, and 20 states pared benefits, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
On July 1, the enhanced federal aid will disappear, causing an overnight increase of between one-fourth and one-third in each state’s share of Medicaid’s costs. But because of the federal eligibility restrictions, the options for states are largely limited to cutting benefits that are not federally required; reducing payments to doctors, hospitals and nursing homes; and raising taxes on those providers.
“States have already cut payments to health care providers and scaled back benefits over the last few years, so these new proposed cuts are much more painful,” said Edwin Park, a health expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning research group.
A number of states, Texas and California among them, are considering further reductions of as much as 10 percent in payments to providers. Medicaid reimbursement is already so low that many physicians refuse to accept the coverage.
Several states also plan to raise co-payments for beneficiaries. And a number of governors, notably Rick Scott in Florida, are considering vast expansions of managed care plans in an attempt to control costs.
Mr. Brown’s proposed cap on doctors’ visits in California would affect only 10 percent of Medicaid recipients, said Toby Douglas, the state’s Medicaid director. But many of them would be among the sickest beneficiaries. Mr. Brown also has suggested eliminating an adult day care program that serves 27,000 people who might otherwise end up in nursing homes.
“We are having to make proposals that are not the best choices for our most vulnerable beneficiaries,” Mr. Douglas said. “But given our limited resources, they are the best choices for the State of California.”
Lawmakers in a few states have discussed withdrawing from Medicaid, although Texas officials recently concluded that the loss of federal matching dollars would make it impractical. In at least one state, Minnesota, officials are expanding Medicaid eligibility to some childless adults before 2014, largely to win federal dollars for coverage that was being provided by the state.
Arizona’s waiver request will be a test of the new health care law’s flexibility, and of the White House’s disposition. Other states are watching. Twenty-nine Republican governors wrote Mr. Obama and Congressional leaders this month to urge repeal of the prohibition, which they called “unconscionable.”
Jessica Santillo, a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services, said the agency would not comment on Arizona’s pending request or the administration’s approach to waivers. “We want to continue our close partnership with the states and our nation’s governors,” she said.
Arizona is asking to remove 250,000 childless adults and 30,000 parents from Medicaid. They were granted eligibility by a 2000 referendum that made Arizona one of the few states to cover low-income childless adults.
The expansion was financed with proceeds from cigarette taxes and a tobacco lawsuit, but that money became insufficient in 2004. The state’s general fund has been making up the difference ever since. Eliminating the coverage would save $541 million, closing nearly half of the budget gap for the coming year.
In her letter to Ms. Sebelius, Ms. Brewer noted that Medicaid consumed 30 percent of her state’s general fund, up from 17 percent in 2007. And she emphasized that Arizona’s coverage was more generous than that in most states, a pointed reference to Kansas, where Ms. Sebelius was governor until two years ago.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sent by a not always reliable internet friend
on: January 29, 2011, 12:01:02 PM
I am clueless in these things. Any comments from the more cyber-literate amongst us?
Does your government have an Internet kill-switch? Read our guide to
Guerrilla Networking and be prepared for when the lines get cut.
By Patrick Miller, David Daw
Jan 28, 2011 3:50 PM
These days, no popular movement goes without an Internet presence of
some kind, whether it's organizing on Facebook or spreading the word
through Twitter. And as we've seen in Egypt
</article/218052/egypt_expands_communications_blackout.html>, that means
that your Internet connection can be the first to go. Whether you're
trying to check in with your family, contact your friends, or simply
spread the word, here are a few ways to build some basic network
connectivity when you can't rely on your cellular or landline Internet
Do-It-Yourself Internet With Ad-Hoc Wi-Fi
Even if you've managed to find an Internet connection for yourself, it
won't be that helpful in reaching out to your fellow locals if they
can't get online to find you. If you're trying to coordinate a group of
people in your area and can't rely on an Internet connection, cell
phones, or SMS, your best bet could be a wireless mesh network
sorts--essentially, a distributed network of wireless networking devices
that can all find each other and communicate with each other. Even if
none of those devices have a working Internet connection, they can still
find each other, which, if your network covers the city you're in, might
be all you need. At the moment, wireless mesh networking isn't really
anywhere close to market-ready, though we have seen an implementation of
the 802.11s draft standard, which extends the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard to
include wireless mesh networking, in the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO
However, a prepared guerrilla networker with a handful of PCs could make
good use of Daihinia <http://daihinia.com/> ($25, 30-day free trial), an
app that piggybacks on your Wi-Fi adapter driver to turn your normal
ad-hoc Wi-Fi network into a multihop ad-hoc network (disclaimer: we
haven't tried this ourselves yet), meaning that instead of requiring
each device on the network to be within range of the original access
point, you simply need to be within range of a device on the network
that has Daihinia installed, effectively allowing you to add a wireless
mesh layer to your ad-hoc network.
Advanced freedom fighters can set up a portal Web page on their network
that explains the way the setup works, with Daihinia instructions and a
local download link so they can spread the network even further. Lastly,
just add a Bonjour-compatible chat client like Pidgin
<http://pidgin.im/> or iChat, and you'll be able to talk to your
neighbors across the city without needing an Internet connection.
Back to Basics
Remember when you stashed your old modems in the closet because you
thought you might need them some day? In the event of a total
communications blackout--as we're seeing in Egypt, for example--you'll
be glad you did. Older and simpler tools, like dial-up Internet or even
ham radio, could still work, since these "abandoned" tech avenues aren't
being policed nearly as hard.
In order to get around the total shutdown of all of the ISPs within
Egypt, several international ISPs are offering dial-up access to the
Internet to get protesters online, since phone service is still
operational. It's slow, but it still works--the hard part is getting the
access numbers without an Internet connection to find them.
Unfortunately, such dial-up numbers can also be fairly easily shut down
by the Egyptian government, so you could also try returning to FidoNet
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FidoNet>--a distributed networking system
for BBSes that was popular in the 1980s. FidoNet is limited to sending
only simple text messages, and it's slow, but it has two virtues: Users
connect asynchronously, so the network traffic is harder to track, and
any user can act as the server, which means that even if the government
shuts down one number in the network, another one can quickly pop up to
take its place.
You could also take inspiration from groups that are working to create
an ad-hoc communications network into and out of Egypt using Ham Radio
<http://werebuild.eu/wiki/Egypt/Main_Page#Hamradio>, since the signals
are rarely tracked and extremely hard to shut down or block. Most of
these efforts are still getting off the ground, but hackers are already
cobbling together ways to make it a viable form of communication into
and out of the country.
Always Be Prepared
In the land of no Internet connection, the man with dial-up is king.
Here are a few gadgets that you could use to prepare for the day they
cut the lines.
Given enough time and preparation, your ham radio networks could even be
adapted into your own ad-hoc network using Packet Radio
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Packet_radio>, a radio communications
protocol that you can use to create simple long-distance wireless
networks to transfer text and other messages between computers. Packet
Radio is rather slow and not particularly popular (don't try to stream
any videos with this, now), but it's exactly the kind of networking
device that would fly under the radar.
In response to the crisis in Egypt, nerds everywhere have risen to call
for new and exciting tools for use in the next government-mandated
shutdown. Bre Pettis, founder of the hackerspace NYC Resistor
<http://www.nycresistor.com/> and creator of the Makerbot
<http://www.makerbot.com/> 3D printer, has called for "Apps for the
a quick and easy way to set up chats on a local network so you can talk
with your friends and neighbors in an emergency even without access to
the Internet. If his comments are any indication, Appocalypse apps may
be headed your way soon.
Tons of cool tech are also just waiting to be retrofitted for these
purposes. David Dart's Pirate Box <http://wiki.daviddarts.com/PirateBox>
is a one-step local network in a box originally conceived for file
sharing and local P2P purposes, but it wouldn't take much work to adapt
the Pirate Box as a local networking tool able to communicate with other
pirate boxes to form a compact, mobile set of local networks in the
event of an Internet shutdown.
Whether you're in Egypt or Eagle Rock, you rely on your Internet access
to stay in touch with friends and family, get your news, and find
information you need. (And read PCWorld, of course.) Hopefully with
these apps, tools, and techniques, you won't have to worry about
anyone--even your government--keeping you from doing just that.
/Patrick Miller hopes he isn't first against the wall when the
revolution comes. Find him on Twitter
have a working Internet connection, anyway. /
/David Daw is an accidental expert in ad-hoc networks since his
apartment gets no cell reception. Find him on Twitter
<http://twitter.com/#%21/DavidHDaw/> or send him a ham radio signal. /http://www.pcworld.com/printable/article/id,218155/printable.html
We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once. --
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Egypt
on: January 29, 2011, 11:54:02 AM
Egypt gets its own thread for obvious reasons.
I begin by noting how utterly vapid most of the coverage we are seeing is. An internet friend is recommendinghttp://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/
I have no idea whether he has lost his fg mind and am in Vancouver for a seminar at the moment, but perhaps one of us can take a look and report back whether it is worth the time.
RED ALERT: MUBARAK NAMES FORMER AIR FORCE CHIEF AS NEW EGYPTIAN PM
Egypt's former air force chief and minister for civil aviation, Ahmed Shafiq, has
been designated the new prime minister by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and
tasked to form the next Cabinet, Al Jazeera reported Jan. 29. The announcement comes
shortly after Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was appointed vice
president, a position that has been vacant for the past 30 years.
Mubarak is essentially accelerating a succession plan that has been in the works for
some time. STRATFOR noted in December 2010 that a conflict was building between the
president on one side and the old guard in the army and the ruling party on the
other over Mubarak's attempt to create a path for his son Gamal to eventually
succeed him. The interim plan Mubarak had proposed was for Suleiman to become vice
president, succeed Mubarak and then pass the reins to Gamal after some time. The
stalwart members of the old guard, however, refused this plan. Though they approved
of Suleiman, they knew his tenure would be short-lived given his advanced age.
Instead, they demanded that Shafiq, who comes from the air force -- the most
privileged branch of the military from which Mubarak himself also came -- be
designated the successor. Shafiq is close to Mubarak and worked under his command in
the air force. Shafiq also has the benefit of having held a civilian role as
minister of civil aviation since 2002, making him more palatable to the public.
Mubarak may be nominally dissolving the Cabinet, ordering an army curfew and now
asking Shafiq to form the next government, but the embattled president is not the
one in charge. Instead, the military appears to be managing Mubarak's exit, taking
care not to engage in a confrontation with the demonstrators while the political
details are being sorted out.
Copyright 2011 STRATFOR.
RED ALERT: HAMAS AND THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD
The following is a report from a STRATFOR source in Hamas. Hamas, which formed in
Gaza as an outgrowth of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB), has an interest in
exaggerating its role and coordination with the MB in this crisis. The following
information has not been confirmed. Nonetheless, there is a great deal of concern
building in Israel and the United States in particular over the role of the MB in
the demonstrations and whether a political opening will be made for the Islamist
organization in Egypt.
The Egyptian police are no longer patrolling the Rafah border crossing into Gaza.
Hamas armed men are entering into Egypt and are closely collaborating with the MB.
The MB has fully engaged itself in the demonstrations, and they are unsatisfied with
the dismissal of the Cabinet. They are insisting on a new Cabinet that does not
include members of the ruling National Democratic Party.
Security forces in plainclothes are engaged in destroying public property in order
to give the impression that many protesters represent a public menace. The MB is
meanwhile forming people's committees to protect public property and also to
coordinate demonstrators' activities, including supplying them with food, beverages
and first aid.
Copyright 2011 STRATFOR.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Q4 GDP first estimate
on: January 28, 2011, 12:28:52 PM
The first estimate for Q4 real GDP growth is 3.2% at an annual rate To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
The first estimate for Q4 real GDP growth is 3.2% at an annual rate, slightly lower than the consensus expected.
The largest positive contributions to the real GDP growth rate were net exports, which added 3.4 points to the real GDP growth rate, and personal consumption, which increased at a 4.4% annual rate.
The weakest component of real GDP, by far, was inventories, which alone reduced the real GDP growth rate by 3.7 points.
The GDP price index increased at a 0.3% annual rate in Q4. Nominal GDP – real GDP plus inflation – rose at a 3.4% rate in Q4 and is now up 4.2% versus a year ago.
Implications: Real GDP grew at a 3.2% annual rate in Q4. This was slightly lower than the consensus (3.5%), but significantly lower than our much publicized forecast of 5.4%, which was the highest forecast in the consensus survey. But don’t throw us out as being those crazy optimists just yet. Our forecast was largely based on a key insight about how the government (mis)measures oil prices, so we predicted net exports would add 3.3 points to the GDP growth rate, much higher than anyone else. And guess what? Net exports added 3.4 points to the GDP growth rate! And because we were so bullish on trade, we predicted real final sales (real GDP excluding inventories) would grow at a 7.1% annual rate, the fastest pace since 1984. And, guess what? Real final sales came in at exactly that 7.1% growth rate! Where we were off, was with government spending (much weaker than we had expected), personal consumption and home building (stronger than we expected) and inventories (substantially below both our forecast and the consensus). Inventories alone subtracted 3.7 points from real GDP growth. In other words, manufacturers and retailers underestimated consumer demand and ran down inventories dramatically in the fourth quarter. Anecdotal reports suggest that low inventory levels are having a cost in the form of lost sales. Moreover, prices are not likely to be slashed to reduce excess inventories after the holidays. What this means is that there is more room for production increases in 2011 and inflation will continue to move higher. Our original forecast of 4% real GDP growth this year is probably too low. Real consumer spending grew at a 4.4% annual rate in Q4, the fastest in almost five years, while business investment continued to advance and home building increased without any assistance from homebuyer tax-credits.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lebanon
on: January 28, 2011, 09:05:31 AM
Looks like it may be a busy day on this thread!
Plenty of POTH commentary mingled in this piece-- Marc
ALMOST exactly six years after the Cedar Revolution led to a rapid withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, the United States’ dream that it could use this fragile country as a launching pad for a New Middle East — one with a decidedly pro-American bent — has seemingly collapsed.
One could argue that it crumpled at exactly 11:58 a.m. on Tuesday, when a Christian member of the Lebanese Parliament from the Bekaa Valley named Nicola Fattoush strode into the presidential palace and cast his ballot against Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Mr. Hariri is the son of Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister whose assassination in February 2005 is the basis for soon-to-be-expected indictments by the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Although the new prime minister, Najib Mikati, didn’t need Mr. Fattoush’s support to defeat Saad Hariri — the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah and the Parliament’s largest single bloc of Christians, headed by Gen. Michel Aoun, along with some Sunni Muslim and Druze members, provided the numerical edge — Mr. Fattoush’s vote held particular significance. Not only had he been an ally of Saad Hariri’s, but he had just days before received a widely publicized visit from the United States ambassador, Maura Connelly, in his home district.
That a small-time figure known for his political horse-trading would spurn a superpower’s attempt to retain his vote for its man provides an exclamation point on just how poorly Washington’s policy of “maximalism” — applying sporadic bouts of pressure on its allies while refusing to sincerely negotiate with its adversaries — has fared in Lebanon and the Middle East as a whole. The Obama administration is going to need a very different approach when it comes to dealing with the “new” Lebanon.
Unfortunately, though, such a change will be far more difficult today than it would have been just six years ago, when Hezbollah had its political back against the wall, lacking support outside its Shiite base and the insurance of Syrian troops in the country.
In April of that year, Hezbollah went so far as to send one of its affiliated politicians, Trade Hamade, to meet with State Department officials to work out a modus vivendi. He left Washington empty-handed: the Bush administration believed that American influence was on the rise in Lebanon and that Hezbollah could be cornered into agreeing to disarmament before any substantive negotiations.
Instead of undermining Hezbollah’s political support by broadening alliances with pro-American figures in Lebanon and addressing the concerns held by many Lebanese — the sentiment that Israel still occupied Lebanese territory in the south, that there were Lebanese in Israeli jails and that the country needed a stronger national defense — the Bush administration cultivated a narrow set of local allies and pursued a “with us or against us” strategy aimed at eliminating Hezbollah. Sadly, it took this policy less than a year to result in a botched Israeli invasion that killed and wounded thousands of Lebanese citizens and gave Hezbollah unprecedented popularity in the region.
(MARC: At the time I posted here of the grave historical error that IMO Israel was committing by pulling up short.)
Today, Syria has regained much of its hegemony in the country — this time without the cost of stationing troops — and is again at the center of regional politics. Hezbollah’s military capacity, by all accounts, has soared, and many of its leaders seem to harbor the dangerous belief that they can decisively win a “final” confrontation with Israel. The Party of God has also deftly maintained and even expanded its political alliances — including one with about half the Christians in the country — that gave it the power to change the government this week by constitutional means.
Perhaps most frustratingly, Hezbollah has largely succeeded in undermining the legitimacy of the United Nations tribunal in the Arab and Islamic worlds. In this effort it had unintentional American help. As a recent report from the International Crisis Group put it, the manner in which the investigation was established, “pushed by two Western powers with clear strategic objectives” — the United States and France — “contaminated” the process.
So, what can the United States do to reverse Hezbollah’s new momentum? Its options are limited. Given the change of government, Congress may well try to cut off all aid to Lebanon and the Lebanese Army. The Obama administration will likely reiterate its support for the tribunal and push for any indictments of Hezbollah figures. But neither step would have much of an impact on Hezbollah’s core calculations or desires.
Hezbollah will continue to increase its military power, edging ever closer to what Israeli officials have called a “redline” of capabilities that would prompt Israel to mount a major “pre-emptive” attack. Such a move would, as it was in 2006, be devastating for Lebanon, probably for Israel and certainly for United States interests in the region, not least because Hezbollah would likely survive and even gain new adherents among those affected by Israeli strikes on Lebanese infrastructure and civilian areas.
Still, there is a way for Washington to stake out a reasonable, nonviolent alternative: by pushing for the immediate revival of peace talks between Syria and Israel. Eleven years ago, a peace agreement between the two countries that would have included the disarmament of Hezbollah fell apart, largely because the Israeli prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak, found it too politically difficult to hand over to Syria the last few hundred yards of shoreline around the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee bordering the Golan Heights.
Although a new deal on the Golan would not lead to the end of Hezbollah in the immediate term, it would contain the movement’s ability and desire to use violence, as Syria would need to commit to cutting off the supply routes by which Iranian (and Syrian) weapons are now smuggled into Lebanon. Militarily weakened, and without Syrian or much domestic political backing to continue in its mission to liberate Jerusalem, Hezbollah would find it extremely difficult to threaten Israel’s northern border.
Certainly some Israelis see the benefits of such a deal. Ilan Mizrahi, a former deputy chief of the Mossad and national security adviser to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, told an interviewer recently that on his first day on the job, he recommended that Mr. Olmert make a deal with Syria because it would “change the security situation in the Middle East.” He said he still believed that.
When asked if a pullout might create a threat to Israel along the Golan, Mr. Mizrahi answered: “Our chief of staff doesn’t think so. Our head of intelligence, military intelligence, doesn’t think so ... the best Israeli generals are saying we can negotiate it, so I believe them.”
Would pressuring Israel into a full withdrawal from the Golan be politically difficult for President Obama? Surely — as it would be for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. But given the alternatives for Lebanon, Israel and the United States, anything less would be merely setting up temporary roadblocks to an impending regional disaster.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another one from POTH
on: January 28, 2011, 08:35:24 AM
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — Demonstrators in Egypt have protested against rising prices and stagnant incomes, for greater freedom and against police brutality. But religion, so often a powerful mobilizing force here, has so far played little role.
That may be about to change.
With organizers calling for demonstrations after Friday prayer, the political movement will literally be taken to the doorsteps of the nation’s mosques. And as the Egyptian government and security services brace for the expected wave of mass demonstrations, Islamic groups seem poised to emerge as wildcards in the growing political movement.
Reporters in Egypt said on Friday that, after rumors swept Cairo late Thursday that the authorities planned to throttle the protesters' communications among themselves, access to the Internet, text messaging services and Twitter was not possible on Friday morning in Cairo, Alexandria and possibly other cities.
Heightening the tension, the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest organized opposition group in the country, announced Thursday that it would take part in the protest. The support of the Brotherhood could well change the calculus on the streets, tipping the numbers in favor of the protesters and away from the police, lending new strength to the demonstrations and further imperiling President Hosni Mubarak’s reign of nearly three decades.
“Tomorrow is going to be the day of the intifada,” said a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood here in Egypt’s second largest city, who declined to give his name because he said he would be arrested if he did. The spokesman said that the group was encouraging members of its youth organization — roughly those 15 to 30 years old — to take part in protests.
But Islam is hardly homogeneous, and many religious leaders here said Thursday that they would not support the protests, for reasons including scriptural prohibitions on defying rulers and a belief that democratic change would not benefit them. “We Salafists are not going to participate in any of the demonstrations tomorrow,” said Sheik Yasir Burhami, a leading figure among the fundamentalist Salafists in Alexandria.
While the largest demonstrations have taken place in the capital, Cairo, and the most chaos Thursday was to be found in Suez, Alexandria has been a focal point for past protests. The beating death of a young businessman named Khaled Said last year led to weeks of demonstrations against police brutality and calls to overhaul the security services.
The city on the Mediterranean, long Egypt’s gateway to the outside world, has mirrored the country’s steady erosion over decades of authoritarian rule. It has gone from being a cosmopolitan showcase to a poor, struggling city that evokes barely a vestige of its former grandeur. The New Year’s bombing of a Coptic church here was a reminder of the direction of the city, identified by European intelligence services as a hub for radicalizing students who come to study Arabic. Many of the most radical Salafists — those who would support the use of violence — were arrested by the government after the bombing.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sheik Gaber Kassem, leader of the mystic Sufi community here, said the Sufis were discouraging their followers from taking part in the demonstrations, which the government has deemed illegal.
“We are going to be in the mosque and we’re going to be in front of the mosque, but we are not going to march in the streets,” said Mr. Kassem, adding that they were in favor of freedom of expression and had taken part in legal protests Tuesday, but that they were against the violence and chaos that were likely on Friday.
Relative calm prevailed here on Thursday, as activists said they were preparing for Friday’s demonstrations. With riot police and plainclothes security personnel watching, dozens of lawyers protested in front of the courthouse, calling for two of their colleagues who had been arrested at Tuesday’s demonstration to be set free and shouting, “People, people, take to the streets.”
Hamid Said, 29, who founded the Nasar Center for Human Rights in Alexandria, said that to date the protests here had not been led by Muslim groups, as the government claimed. “You did not have the Muslim Brotherhood protesting here, you had normal people protesting against their problems,” said Mr. Said, a lawyer who said he had been arrested five times since 2008, but never detained for more than a few days.
Mr. Said cited political oppression and police brutality as the leading causes of frustration among the people. He said that he had once applied for a position for which he was well qualified, but that he lost out to the son of a government minister.
Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, a Muslim cleric known as Abu Omar, said that many conservative Muslims would not support a secular politician like Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize winner and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “ElBaradei and the others, they have no connection to religion. If Hosni Mubarak goes, they will replace him with someone else like him,” said Abu Omar, who came to prominence after it was disclosed that he had been kidnapped by the Central Intelligence Agency from Milan in 2003.
Religious leaders like Mr. Kassem said they could not rule out that many of their followers would join the protests.
The spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria said that efforts by the government to hinder groups from gathering, like blocking access to social networking sites, would no longer be effective.
“It’s already clear that we will go out tomorrow. The message is already out,” he said. “Tomorrow all the Egyptians are going to be on the streets.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wikileaks
on: January 28, 2011, 08:31:43 AM
Agreed that the risks of "One man, one vote, one time" are considerable. So too are the risks of being married to bastards when the day comes , , ,
Anyway, FWIW here's POTH excerpts from Wikileaks:
WASHINGTON — It was Hillary Rodham Clinton’s first meeting as secretary of state with President Hosni Mubarak, in March 2009, and the Egyptians had an odd request: Mrs. Clinton should not thank Mr. Mubarak for releasing an opposition leader from prison because he was ill.
In fact, a confidential diplomatic cable signed by the American ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, advised Mrs. Clinton to avoid even mentioning the name of the man, Ayman Nour, even though his imprisonment in 2005 had been condemned worldwide, not least by the Bush administration.
The cable is among a trove of dispatches made public by the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks that paint a vivid picture of the delicate dealings between the United States and Egypt, its staunchest Arab ally. They show in detail how diplomats repeatedly raised concerns with Egyptian officials about jailed dissidents and bloggers, and kept tabs on reports of torture by the police.
But they also reveal that relations with Mr. Mubarak warmed up because President Obama played down the public “name and shame” approach of the Bush administration. A cable prepared for a visit by Gen. David H. Petraeus in 2009 said the United States, while blunt in private, now avoided “the public confrontations that had become routine over the past several years.”
This balancing of private pressure with strong public support for Mr. Mubarak has become increasingly tenuous in recent days. Throngs of angry Egyptians have taken to the streets and the White House, worried about being identified with a reviled regime, has challenged the president publicly.
On Thursday, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Mubarak as a partner but said he needed to undertake political and economic reforms. In an interview posted on YouTube, Mr. Obama said neither the police nor the protesters should resort to violence. “It is very important,” he added, “that people have mechanisms in order to express legitimate grievances.”
It is not known what Mrs. Clinton said to Mr. Mubarak in their first meeting, at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik. But she set the public tone afterward, when she was asked by an Arab television journalist about a State Department report critical of Egypt’s human rights record.
“We hope that it will be taken in the spirit in which it is offered, that we all have room for improvement,” Mrs. Clinton said, adding that Mr. Mubarak and his wife, Suzanne, were friends of her family, and that it was up to the Egyptian people to decide the president’s future.
The cables, which cover the first year of the Obama presidency, leave little doubt about how valuable an ally Mr. Mubarak has been, detailing how he backed the United States in its confrontation with Iran, played mediator between Israel and the Palestinians and supported Iraq’s fledgling government, despite his opposition to the American-led war.
Privately, Ambassador Scobey pressed Egypt’s interior minister to free three bloggers, as well as a Coptic priest who performed a wedding for a Christian convert, according to one of her cables to Washington. She also asked that three American pro-democracy groups be granted formal permission to operate in the country, a request the Egyptians rejected.
However effusive the Americans were about Mr. Mubarak in public, the cables offered a less flattering picture of Egypt’s first lady, Suzanne Mubarak. During a visit to the Sinai, one reported, she commandeered a bus that had been bought with money from the United States Agency for International Development and that had been meant to carry children to school.
Egyptian state security was concerned enough about American activities in Sinai, according to another cable, that it surreptitiously recorded a meeting between diplomats and members of a local council.
Yet many more of the cables describe collaboration between the United States and Egypt. In her 2009 visit, Mrs. Clinton was trying to revive the moribund peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Mubarak was central to this: the cables detail his efforts to broker a cease-fire between Israelis and the militant group Hamas in Gaza, as well as American pressure on him to curb the smuggling of weapons to Hamas from Egypt through tunnels.
Mrs. Clinton was also laying out Mr. Obama’s rationale for engaging Iran — an overture, the cables report, that Mr. Mubarak predicted would fail. A May 2009 cable before Mr. Mubarak’s first visit to the Obama White House noted that Egyptian officials told a visiting American diplomat, Dennis B. Ross, that “we should prepare for confrontation through isolation.”
Like other Arab leaders, Mr. Mubarak is depicted in the cables as obsessed with Iran, which he told American diplomats was extending its tentacles from “the Gulf to Morocco” through proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah. He views these groups — particularly Hamas, a “brother” of Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood — as a direct threat to his own rule.
In a meeting with General Petraeus on June 29, 2009, Mr. Mubarak said the Iranian government wanted to establish “pockets” of influence inside Egypt, according to a cable. General Petraeus told him the United States was responding to similar fears among Persian Gulf states by deploying more Patriot missiles and upgrading its F-16 fighter jets stationed in the region.
Despite obvious American sympathy for Mr. Mubarak’s security concerns, there is little evidence that the diplomats believed the president, now 82, was at risk of losing his grip on power. The May 2009 cable noted that riots over bread prices had broken out in Egypt in 2008 for the first time since 1977. And it said the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood had prompted the government to resort to “heavy-handed tactics against individuals and groups.”
But the cable, again signed by Ambassador Scobey, portrayed Mr. Mubarak as the ultimate survivor, a “tried and true realist” who would rather “let a few individuals suffer than risk chaos for society as a whole.”
“During his 28-year rule,” the cable said, “he survived at least three assassination attempts, maintained peace with Israel, weathered two wars in Iraq and post-2003 regional instability, intermittent economic downturns, and a manageable but chronic internal terrorist threat.”
Another cable, dated March 2009, offered a pessimistic analysis of the prospects for the “April 6 Movement,” a Facebook-based group of mostly young Egyptians that has received wide attention for its lively political debate and helped mobilize the protests that have swept Egypt in the last two days. Leaders of the group had been jailed and tortured by the police. There were also signs of internal divisions between secular and Islamist factions, it said.
The United States has defended bloggers with little success. When Ambassador Scobey raised several arrests with the interior minister, he replied that Egypt did not infringe on freedom of the press, but that it must respond when “people are offended by blogs.” An aide to the minister told the ambassador that The New York Times, which has reported on the treatment of bloggers in Egypt, was “exaggerating the blogger issue,” according to the cable.
American diplomats also cast a wide net to gather information on police brutality, the cables show. Through contacts with human rights lawyers, the embassy follows numerous cases, and raised some with the Interior Ministry. Among the most harrowing, according to a cable, was the treatment of several members of a Hezbollah cell detained by the police in late 2008.
Lawyers representing the men said they were subjected to electric shocks and sleep deprivation, which reduced them to a “zombie state.” They said the torture was more severe than what they normally witnessed.
To the extent that Mr. Mubarak has been willing to tolerate reforms, the cable said, it has been in areas not related to public security or stability. For example, he has given his wife latitude to campaign for women’s rights and against practices like female genital mutilation and child labor, which are sanctioned by some conservative Islamic groups.
Still, Mr. Mubarak generally views broader reforms as an invitation to extremism. “We have heard him lament the results of earlier U.S. efforts to encourage reform in the Islamic world,” said a cable, noting that he often invoked the shah of Iran — a secular leader who came under pressure from Washington, only to be replaced by an even more repressive, hostile government.
Even the private encounters with Mr. Mubarak have layers of sensitivity. While Mrs. Clinton was advised to steer clear of mentioning Ayman Nour, the cable signed by Ambassador Scobey suggested she might broach the topic of Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian-American author and critic of Mr. Mubarak who fled Egypt after being found guilty of defaming the country.
“If you have any one-on-one opportunity with President Mubarak,” the ambassador wrote, “you may wish to suggest that annulling these cases and allowing him to return to Egypt would also be well received by the new administration.”
It is not clear whether Mrs. Clinton did so.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / One Gurkhas and one Kukri vs. 40 Train robber-rapists
on: January 28, 2011, 08:01:28 AM
Lone Nepali Gorkha who subdued 40 train robbers-bishnu-shrestha
Written by Hamrosite
Friday, 14 January 2011 19:58
Lone Nepali Gorkha who subdued 40 train robbers
POKHARA, Jan 13: Gorkha soldiers have long been known the world over for their valor and these khukuri-wielding warriors winning the British many a battle have become folklore.
A retired Indian Gorkha soldier recently revisited those glory days when he thwarted 40 robbers, killing three of them and injuring eight others, with his khukuri during a train journey. He is in line to receive three gallantry awards from the Indian government.
Slave girl Morgiana in the Arabian Nights used her cunning to finish off Ali Baba´s 40 thieves, but Bishnu Shrestha of Baidam, Pokhara-6 did not have time to plot against the 40 train robbers. He, however, made good use of his khukuri to save the chastity of a girl and hundreds of thousands in loot.
Shrestha, who was in the Maurya Express to Gorakhpur from Ranchi on September 2 while returning home following voluntary retirement from the Indian army--saved the girl who was going to be raped by the robbers in front of her helpless parents, and in doing so won plaudits from everybody.
The government of Nepal decided to provide special honor to the Indian Gorkha soldier who fought as many as 40 bandits in a train with nothing but a khukuri, and thwarted them from robbing passengers and raping a minor.
“He will be provided a special honor for doing Nepal proud at international stage,” Finance Minister Surendra Raj Pandey said after the cabinet meeting on Thursday. The government, however, has yet to declare what the honor would comprise of and when will it be given.
The Indian government is to decorate Shrestha with its Sourya Chakra, Bravery Award and Sarvottam Jeevan Raksha Medal and the 35-year-old is leaving for India Saturday to receive the first of the awards on the occasion of India´s Republic Day on January 26.
“The formal announcement of the awards will be made on Republic Day and on Independence Day on August 15,” said Shrestha, whose father Gopal Babu also retired from the same 7/8 Platoon of the Gorkha Regiment around 29 years ago.
His regiment has already given him a cash award of Indian rupees 50,000, and decided to terminate his voluntary retirement. He will get the customary promotion after receiving the medals. The Indian government will also announce a cash bounty for him and special discounts on international air tickets and domestic train tickets.
The band of about 40 robbers, some of whom were travelling as passengers, stopped the train in the Chittaranjan jungles in West Bengal around midnight. Shrestha-- who had boarded the train at Ranchi in Jharkhand, the place of his posting--was in seat no. 47 in coach AC3.
“They started snatching jewelry, cell phones, cash, laptops and other belongings from the passengers,” Shrestha recalled. The soldier had somehow remained a silent spectator amidst the melee, but not for long. He had had enough when the robbers stripped an 18-year-old girl sitting next to him and tried to rape her right in front of her parents. He then took out his khukuri and took on the robbers.
“The girl cried for help, saying ´You are a soldier, please save a sister´,” Shrestha recalled. “I prevented her from being raped, thinking of her as my own sister,” he added. He took one of the robbers under control and then started to attack the others. He said the rest of the robbers fled after he killed three of them with his khukuri and injured eight others.
During the scuffle he received serious blade injury to his left hand while the girl also had a minor cut on her neck. “They had carried out their robbery with swords, blades and pistols. The pistols may have been fake as they didn´t open fire,” he surmised.
The train resumed its journey after some 20 minutes and a horde of media persons and police were present when it reached Chittaranja station. Police arrested the eight injured dacoits and recovered around 400,000 Indian rupees in cash, 40 gold necklaces, 200 cell phones, 40 laptops and other items that the fleeing robbers dropped in the train.
Police escorted Shrestha to the Railways Hospital after the rescued girl told them about his heroic deed. Mainstream Indian media carried the story. The parents of the girl, who was going for her MBBS studies, also announced a cash award of Indian rupees 300,000 for him but he has not met them since.
“Even the veins and arteries in my left hand were slit but the injury has now healed after two months of neurological treatment at the Command Hospital in Kolkata,” he said showing the scar. “Fighting the enemy in battle is my duty as a soldier; taking on the dacoits in the train was my duty as a human being,” said the Indian army nayak, who has been given two guards during his month-long holidays in Nepal.
“I am proud to be able to prove that a Gorkha soldier with a khukuri is really a handful. I would have been a meek spectator had I not carried that khukuri,” he said.
He still finds it hard to believe that he took on 40 armed robbers alone. “They may have feared that more of my army friends were traveling with me and fled after fighting me for around 20 minutes,” he explained.
Meanwhile Shrestha is finding it difficult to reach out to all those who intend to honor him for his courageous act. He has already been honored by around a dozen private firms, mothers´ groups, local political leaders and schools, while many are preparing to honor him. Some firms from Kathmandu have also invited him for felicitation.
“My son is finding it difficult to manage time to accept all the honors,” said Shrestha´s elated father Gopal Babu who had also retired around 29 years ago from the same 7/8 Platoon of the Gorkha Regiment, that his son served. “We had never thought that he would be honored at this scale,” Gopal Babu expressed his happiness.
Agni Air, Rastriya Paropakar Mahasangh, Shantipatan Tole Sudhar Samiti, Miteri Mothers´ Group, ward committees of the Nepali Congress and Communist Part of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, Tal Barahi Higher Secondary School and others have already honored him. “He could not travel to Kathmandu due to lack of time,” his father said.
On most occasions he was felicitated with shawl (khada), vermillion, dhaka topi and given certificates. Agni Air has given him an honorary life membership and announced a limetime free air travel. “Some of my friends from India even called me to congratulate for his bravery. Everybody should honor such brave persons,” said Sushil Basnet of Agni Air.
The soldier was happy about all the appreciation he has received from different quarters and thanked the media for covering the news. “The Indian media brought the incident to light and the Nepali media too gave it due importance. I may have even been sent to jail on the charge of robbery had the girl and the Indian media not come forward to my support,” Shrestha said. “I was hardly recognized even in Baidam. Now the whole country knows me.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Low Tigris water levels= no electricity
on: January 28, 2011, 07:56:42 AM
BAGHDAD (AFP) – Record low water levels at Iraq's largest hydroelectric dam have ground turbines there to a halt, amplifying a power shortage that led to riots last summer, a top official said on Thursday.
Adel Mahdi, advisor to the electricity minister, said water levels at the Mosul dam on the Tigris River had fallen to 298 metres (977 feet) above sea level.
"It is the first time since 1984 when the dam was built that water levels have fallen this low," Mahdi told AFP.
"The installed power generation capacity of Mosul's hydroelectric plant is 1,175 megawatts, but the current production is zero, because the turbines need a minimum water level of 307 metres (1,007 feet) to operate," he added.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Egypt
on: January 27, 2011, 11:58:24 PM
A 'Day of Rage' Turns All Eyes to the Egyptian Military
With tensions running high in Egypt ahead of the planned Jan. 28 “Day of Rage,” a street agitation campaign organized by the multi-faceted opposition, speculation is rising in the country and internationally over the regime’s next moves. The regime faces a very basic dilemma. After three decades of emergency rule in which Cairo’s iron fist was sufficiently feared to keep dissent contained, the wall of fear is crumbling. The task at hand for the ruling National Democratic Party, the military and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is to rebuild that wall as quickly as possible and to spread enough fear among those Egyptians who are gathering the courage to come out into the streets in protest.
Preparations to rebuild the wall of fear have begun. Internet access and cell networks are cutting out in major cities while the more technologically savvy Egyptian youth are advising each other on how to circumvent the state censures and remain online. Anonymous, 26-page glossy documents are also being distributed in Cairo containing a basic how-to guide for the Friday protestors. Pre-emptive round-ups were reportedly underway on Thursday night in an attempt to take some of the wind out of Friday’s demonstrations. So far, the security forces deployed consist of uniformed local police, plainclothes police and Central Security Forces (black-clad paramilitaries equipped with riot gear). Though these security forces have been working long hours over the past three days, Egypt still appears to have plenty of police resources to throw at this crisis.
“If the Egyptian security apparatus does not succeed in transforming the Day of Rage into a Day of Fear, the trigger for army intervention will not be far off.”
While the streets are being readied downtown, heavy discussions are taking place just a few miles away in the presidential palace and the central military high command in greater Cairo. STRATFOR sees two key trends developing so far. One in which the Mubarak name is being gradually de-linked from the core of regime and another where the military is gaining a much larger say in the governance of the state.
Among the more revealing statements made by the NDP coming out of the Jan. 27 meeting, which also included security officials, was the following: “The NDP is not the executive, just a party, and itself reviews the performance of the executive.” A report from the Egyptian daily, Al Mesryoon, also claimed that during a Jan. 25 Cabinet meeting, an unnamed minister called for Mubarak to appoint a vice president from the military, resign as president of the NDP and cancel all plans to have his son, Gamal, succeed him as president.
This report has not been verified, but it fits into a trend that STRATFOR has been tracking over the past several months in which the military and old guard of the ruling party have been heavily pressuring the elder Mubarak to give up on his plans to have his son succeed him, arguing that ‘one of their own’ from the military needed to take the helm to lead the country through this precarious period of Egyptian history. STRATFOR also cannot help but wonder why both Mubarak and his son have been mysteriously quiet and absent from the public eye throughout the crisis, especially as rumors have run abound on Gamal allegedly fleeing the country, gold being smuggled out of the country and funds being transferred to overseas banks.
Over the next 24 hours, the military’s moves are critical to watch. Cairo is obviously the center of activity, but our eyes will also be on the city of Suez. Suez has been the scene of intense protests over the past three days, with police and fire stations being raided and firebombed by demonstrators and three demonstrators killed in protests. This is the only city we know of thus far where STRATFOR sources have reported that the military is deploying alongside the police in an effort to restore calm. Civil-military relations are traditionally the strongest in Suez, the historic scene of battle for Egypt, where soldiers are still viewed by many as unsung heroes. If the military succumbs to the protestors in Suez, control of Cairo then comes into serious question.
This is still an exercise in scenario building. Even the most hardcore opposition protestors on the street will admit that the reality of the situation is that the army remains in control. Amid all the unknowns, one thing is near certain: If the Egyptian security apparatus does not succeed in transforming the Day of Rage into a Day of Fear, the trigger for army intervention will not be far off.
The Strategic Implications of Instability in Egypt
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the Egyptian government on Wednesday to engage in political, economic and social reforms as part of an effort to heed to the legitimate demands of the Egyptian people. Clinton’s statement came a day after the Middle East’s largest Arab state experienced its most extensive protest demonstrations in 34 years. Unlike the unrest in 1977, these protests were not about the price of bread; rather the agitators are seeking the ouster of the Egyptian government — at a time when the regime is already in a state of transition, given that President Hosni Mubarak is at an advanced age and is ailing.
For three decades, the Mubarak government has sustained Egypt’s status as an ally of the United States and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty — a position that was realized during the days of Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat. It was under Sadat that Cairo moved away from its opposition to Washington, which was the hallmark of the regime presided over by Sadat’s predecessor, Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was also the founder of the modern Egyptian republic. The key American concern is that when all is said and done, Cairo will remain pro-Western and at peace with Israel.
“The problem with democratic reforms is that they can potentially bring to power political forces that at the very least do not define their country’s national interest in line with U.S. strategic interests in the region.”
It is not certain that a post-Mubarak Egypt will necessarily become hostile to the United States and Israel. But it is also not certain that status quo will be sustained in a post-transition Egypt. What exactly will happen will be based on the ability (or the lack thereof) of the Egyptian military to ensure that there are no fundamental changes in policy — regardless of whether or not the current ruling National Democratic Party is in power.
Washington realizes that the public discontent within Egypt and the region creates for a very tricky situation that the Egyptian military may or may not be able to manage. The United States cannot come out and openly oppose the drive toward democratic governance, mainly for public relations purposes. But Washington doesn’t want to be caught in a situation akin to a 1979 Iran when the Shah fell, bringing to power a regime that has emerged as the biggest strategic challenge to U.S. interests in the region.
The options for the Egyptian government are to work with the military while trying to manage reforms to placate the masses. The problem with democratic reforms is that they can potentially bring to power political forces that at the very least do not define their country’s national interest in line with U.S. strategic interests in the region. As it is, the United States is struggling to deal with an Iran empowered because of the collapse of the Baathist regime in Iraq.
At a time when Iran is projecting power across Mesopotamia and into the Levant, a less than stable Egypt will massively amplify the United States’ Middle East problems. Regime change in Egypt also has implications for the stability in other major countries in the region such as Israel, Syria, Jordan and Yemen. It is this gravity of the situation that would explain why Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Wednesday issued a very odd statement in which he expressed a lack of confidence in the ability of the Egyptian state to handle the public uprising.
The United States and much of the rest of the world will be watching how the Egyptian government manages the protests, the military and the succession question. Thus, everything depends on whether or not there will be regime change in Egypt.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: January 27, 2011, 10:47:20 PM
I would offer for our consideration another line of analysis here.
Bush sought to get us out of the supporting bastards because they were our bastards line of policy e.g. look out how well Kissinger's embrace of the Shah worked out. I suppose we could blame the moron Carter, but does that not evade the central question presented?
Did not Hamas' victory in Gaza meant that Israel could finally take a hard line?
Was not one of the core premises of the Iraq War to enable democracy? Yes the Dems have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but what if we had not thrown away the success of the Surge? Would we not be esconced on Iran's western border with Iraq as a beacon of the possible for the Arab (Muslim) world?
I lack the knowledge to opine on the implications of the MB taking over in Egypt, but as Stratfor points out, geopolitics are geopolitics and Sunni and Shia (Iran) seem to be oil and water. I do think policies based upon backing unpopular bastards have their risks.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Welcome to Ya
on: January 27, 2011, 10:40:13 PM
A hearty woof of welcome to my friend who is posting under the name "Ya". I think we will find him an interesting and knowledgeable contributor on a wide range of subjects. His first post in on the Afg-Pak thread-- a post of a mere 206 page book. GM, you may have met your match
in volume, though I suspect you will find considerable overlap in your lines of thought.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / California or Texas
on: January 27, 2011, 10:35:06 PM
The Governor of California is jogging with his dog along a nature trail.
A coyote jumps out and attacks the Governor's dog, then bites the Governor.
1. The Governor starts to intervene, but reflects upon the movie "Bambi" and then realizes he should stop because the coyote is only doing what is natural.
2. He calls animal control. Animal Control captures the coyote and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases and $500 for relocating it.
3. He calls a veterinarian. The vet collects the dead dog and bills the State $200 testing it for diseases.
4. The Governor goes to hospital and spends $3,500 getting checked for diseases from the coyote and on getting his bite wound bandaged.
5. The running trail gets shut down for 6 months while Fish & Game conducts a $100,000 survey to make sure the area is now free of dangerous animals.
6. The Governor spends $50,000 in state funds implementing a "coyote awareness program" for residents of the area.
7. The State Legislature spends $2 million to study how to better treat rabies and how to permanently eradicate the disease throughout the world.
8. The Governor's security agent is fired for not stopping the attack. The State spends $150,000 to hire and train a new agent with additional special training re: the nature of coyotes.
9. PETA protests the coyote's relocation and files a $5 million suit against the State.
The Governor of Texas is jogging with his dog along a nature trail. A Coyote jumps out and attacks his dog.
1. The Governor shoots the coyote with his State-issued pistol and keeps jogging. The Governor has spent $0.50 on a .45 ACP hollow point cartridge.
2. The Buzzards eat the dead coyote.
And that, my friends, is why California is broke and Texas is not.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Nice shooting; is there a backstory?
on: January 27, 2011, 02:18:16 PM
By ZAHID HUSSAIN
LAHORE, Pakistan—A U.S. consular official shot dead two armed men Thursday as they tried to rob him in a crowded street in the central Pakistani city of Lahore, triggering a public protest in a nation where anti-Americanism is fierce.
A pedestrian also was killed when hit by another car that came to rescue the diplomat as he was being chased by a crowd.
Police later detained the American, who wasn't identified by name.
"The man said he fired in self-defense," Umar Saeed, a senior police officer in Lahore, was quoted as saying by local media.
Scores of people protested and burnt tires outside the police station where the American man was held. Television footage showed the man's white Honda car, with a civilian registration number plate, riddled with bullets and the windshield smashed.
One eyewitness told GEO TV network that the American fired after the armed men, who were riding a motorbike, tried to stop his car.
One of the alleged robbers died on the spot while the second succumbed to injuries in a local hospital.
It was unclear whether the attackers had any links to militant Islamist groups that have mounted attacks across Pakistan in the past two years.
The U.S. embassy in Islamabad confirmed that a U.S. consular employee was involved in an incident in Lahore without providing further details.
Mr. Saeed said police officials were investigating the incident.
It wasn't clear whether any case was registered against the U.S. official, who customarily should be covered by diplomatic immunity from any legal action in Pakistan.
The incident fueled anti-American rhetoric as some local television channels called for an investigation into why the American was armed.
There have been several incidents in the past where U.S. diplomatic cars were stopped by the security agencies in Lahore and Islamabad and searched for weapons.
A section of Pakistan's media has been fanning anti-American sentiment, accusing U.S. diplomats of being involved in spying.
Western diplomats in Pakistan are supposed to follow strict security guidelines while traveling because of threats from rising militant violence.
Lahore, which is the country's second-largest city, has in the past couple of years been hit by a series of terrorist attacks that have left hundreds of people dead.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor intel guidance for Egypt
on: January 27, 2011, 02:15:16 PM
Editor’s Note: The following is an internal STRATFOR document produced to provide high-level guidance to our analysts. This document is not a forecast, but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions on areas for focus.
Let’s use the Iranian rising of 1979 as a model. It had many elements involved, from Communists, to liberals to moderate Muslims, and of course the radicals. All of them were united in hating the Shah, but not in anything else.
The Western press did not understand the mixture and had its closest ties with the liberals, for the simple reason that they were the most Western and spoke English. For a very long time they thought these liberals were in control of the revolution.
For its part, the intelligence community did not have good sources among the revolutionaries but relied on SAVAK, the Shah’s security service, for intelligence. SAVAK neither understood what was happening, nor was it prepared to tell CIA. The CIA suspected the major agent was the small Communist party, because that was the great fear at that time — namely, that the Soviets were engineering a plot to seize Iran and control the Persian Gulf.
Meanwhile, Western human rights groups painted the Shah as a monster, and saw this as a popular democratic rising. Western human rights and democracy groups, funded by the U.S. government and others, were standing by to teach people like Bani Sadr to create a representative democracy.
Bani Sadr was the first post-Shah president. He was a moderate Islamist and democrat; he also had no power whatsoever. The people who were controlling the revolution were those around the Ayatollah Khomeini, who were used by the liberals as a screen to keep the United States quiet until the final moment came and they seized control.
It is important to understand that the demonstrations were seen as spontaneous, but were actually being carefully orchestrated. It is also important to understand that the real power behind the movement remained opaque to the media and the CIA, because they didn’t speak English and the crowds they organized didn’t speak English, and none of the reporters spoke Farsi (nor did a lot of the intelligence agency people). So when the demonstrations surged, the interviews were with the liberals who were already their sources, and who made themselves appear far more powerful than they were — and who were encouraged to do so by Khomeini’s people.
It was only at the end that Khomeini ran up the Jolly Roger to the West.
Nothing is identical to the past, but Iran taught me never to trust a revolutionary who spoke English; they will tend to be pro-Western. When the masses poured into the streets — and that hasn’t happened in Egypt yet — they were Khomeini supporters who spoke not a word of English. The media kept interviewing their English-speaking sources and the CIA kept up daily liaison meetings with SAVAK — until the day they all grabbed a plane and met up with their money in Europe and the United States. The liberals, those who weren’t executed, also wound up in the United States, teaching at Harvard or driving cabs.
Let’s be very careful on the taxonomy of this rising. The Western human rights groups will do what they can to emphasize its importance, and to build up their contacts with what they will claim are the real leaders of the revolution. The only language these groups share with the identified leaders is English, and the funding for these groups depends on producing these people. And these people really want to turn Egypt into Wisconsin. The one thing I can guarantee is that is not what is going on.
What we have to find out is who is behind this. It could be the military wanting to stage a coup to keep Gamal Mubarak out of power. They would be doing this to preserve the regime, not to overthrow it. They could be using the demonstrations to push their demands and perhaps pressure Hosni Mubarak to leave voluntarily.
The danger is that they would be playing with fire. The demonstrations open the door for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is stronger than others may believe. They might keep the demonstrations going after Hosni leaves, and radicalize the streets to force regime change. It could also be the Muslim Brotherhood organizing quietly. Whoever it is, they are lying low, trying to make themselves look weaker than they are — while letting the liberals undermine the regime, generate anti-Mubarak feeling in the West, and pave the way for whatever it is they are planning.
Our job now is to sort through all the claimants and wannabees of this revolution, and find out who the main powers are. These aren’t spontaneous risings and the ideology of the people in the streets has nothing to do with who will wind up in power. The one thing to be confident of is that liberal reformers are the stalking horse for something else, and that they are being used as always to take the heat and pave the way.
Now, figure out who is really behind the demonstrations and we have a game.
Read more: Intelligence Guidance: The Situation in Egypt | STRATFOR
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury
on: January 27, 2011, 02:03:44 PM
Not disagreeing, but balancing out with intellingent counter POV:
New orders for durable goods declined 2.5% in December To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
New orders for durable goods declined 2.5% in December, coming in well below the consensus expected increase of 1.5%. Excluding transportation, orders increased 0.5%, falling short of the consensus expected gain of 0.9%. Orders are up 6.9% versus a year ago, 11.5% excluding transportation.
The overall decline in orders in December was mostly due to transportation equipment, specifically civilian aircraft/parts (which are extremely volatile from month to month). Other major categories of new orders were mixed.
The government calculates business investment for GDP purposes by using shipments of non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft. That measure rose 1.7% in December (2.0% including upward revisions to prior months). These orders increased at a 6.4% rate in Q4 versus the Q3 average.
Unfilled orders fell 0.4% in December but are up at a 3.2% annual rate in the past three months.
Implications: Today's headlines on durable goods orders and unemployment claims were disappointing. However, the details of the durables report and extenuating circumstances on claims suggest the case for robust economic growth remains intact. Almost all the weakness in orders was due to civilian aircraft, which are extremely volatile and which hit a 20-year low in December. Including revisions to prior months, new orders for durable goods excluding transportation rose 1.5%. Meanwhile, shipments of “core” capital goods (which exclude civilian aircraft and defense) showed a strong gain in December, rising 1.7% after a 1.4% increase in November. We expect orders for durable goods to move higher in 2011 as firms are loaded with cash earning near zero percent interest and capacity utilization is approaching long-term norms. In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment insurance rose 51,000 last week to 454,000. The four-week moving average is now 429,000. Continuing claims for regular state benefits rose 94,000 to 3.99 million. Initial claims that would have been filed the prior week were delayed due to unusual southern snowstorms. The true underlying trend is likely near the 4-week moving average. On the housing front, pending home sales – contracts on existing homes – rose 2.0% in December. With three strong months in a row now, existing home sales, which are counted at closing, should continue to gain in January.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Taranto
on: January 27, 2011, 02:01:43 PM
By JAMES TARANTO
(Best of the tube tonight: We'll be on Fox News Channel's "Hannity" tonight as part of the "Great American Panel." The program starts at 9 p.m. ET, and we'll be on in the latter half hour. A repeat airs at midnight ET.)
America's liberal left is preoccupied with salacious fantasies of political violence. These take two forms: dreams of leftist insurrection, and nightmares of reactionary bloodshed. The "mainstream" media ignore or suppress the former type of fantasy and treat the latter as if it reflected reality. This produces a distorted narrative that further feeds the left's fantasies and disserves those who expect the media to provide truthful information.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece, socialist author Barbara Ehrenreich defends socialist sociologist Frances Fox Piven, who has recently been criticized, most prominently by Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck, for advocating violence in the service of left-wing aims.
Ehrenreich claims that Piven was merely urging "economically hard-pressed Americans" to "organize a protest at the local unemployment office." In fact, as we noted Monday, what Piven urged in the pages of The Nation was--these are her words--"something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece."
Glenn Reynolds has repeatedly reminded us what those Greek riots looked like, quoting a Wall Street Journal account from last May:
At the same time, tens of thousands of protesters marched through Athens in the largest and most violent protests since the country's budget crisis began last fall. Angry youths rampaged through the center of Athens, torching several businesses and vehicles and smashing shop windows. Protesters and police clashed in front of parliament and fought running street battles around the city.
Witnesses said hooded protesters smashed the front window of Marfin Bank in central Athens and hurled a Molotov cocktail inside. The three victims died from asphyxiation from smoke inhalation, the Athens coroner's office said. Four others were seriously injured there, fire department officials said.
Ehrenreich was writing for the L.A. Times's opinion page, and she is entitled to her opinion, but she is not entitled to her own facts. The heading "opinion" is not a license to tell outright lies.
The dishonesty of Ehrenreich's piece is shocking, but it isn't even the most bizarre thing about it. She begins by bemoaning the absence of grass-roots activism in America:
Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over. Tell British students that their tuition is about to go up and they take to the streets; American students just amp up their doses of Prozac.
Ehrenreich's explanation is America has become "a tyranny of the heavily armed." Americans don't get politically involved because they're afraid of getting shot. The implication is that if only the government would take away Americans' guns, Americans would be able to grab their Molotov cocktails and rise up against the government, or for the government, or something.
But wait. How has it escaped Ehrenreich's notice that the past two years have seen the greatest flowering of grass-roots democracy in America since the civil rights movement? We refer, of course, to the Tea Party movement. To be sure, you won't see any Molotov cocktails at a Tea Party gathering. You may see some guns--a normal part of life in most of America--but they will be borne lawfully and not used violently.
Since the Tea Party advocates individualism and not socialism, we may assume that Ehrenreich strongly disapproves of it (as does her pal Piven). But to bemoan the dearth of grass-roots activism in America without even acknowledging the Tea Party's existence suggests a detachment from reality bordering on the clinical.
Even odder, many on the left have advanced a false narrative in which the Tea Party is violent. The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg did so in a column last week, in which he was still trying to justify the media's falsely blaming the right for the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Hertzberg claims that the shooting "took place amid a two-year eruption of shocking vituperation and hatred, virtually all of it coming from people who call themselves conservatives," and that "these realities, and not the malevolence of liberal opportunists, were why, in the immediate aftermath of the crime, the 'national conversation' focussed on the nation's poisonous political and rhetorical climate."
This is bunk. The "two-year eruption of shocking vituperation and hatred" is a media myth, promulgated in two primary ways:
Peace-loving Oregon leftists wish for Sarah Palin's death, April 24, 2010.
.The first is by seeking out the most extreme expressions by Tea Party activists and sympathetic politicians and portraying them as if they were typical. This is in sharp contrast to the way left-wing political rallies are covered. Extreme and violent rhetoric is at least as easy to find there if you look--Michael Bowers has put together a photo gallery of "Left-Wing Hatred"--but the mainstreamers seldom look. During the Bush years, "antiwar" rallies were routinely depicted as nothing more than forums for wholesome, patriotic dissent.
The second is by presenting innocuous rhetoric from the right as if it were something sinister or dangerous. The most famous example--cited by Hertzberg, naturally--is the SarahPAC map of targeted districts, including Giffords's, which many on the left hoped had incited the man who shot her. Palinoiacs denounced the map as "violent" when it first came out last March, notwithstanding that the visual metaphor of a target is about as common in political campaigns of both parties as cartoons on the pages of Hertzberg's magazine.
Similarly, as we noted Jan. 12, Paul Krugman, the New York Times's most dishonest columnist, characterized as "eliminationist rhetoric" Rep. Michele Bachmann's comment that she wanted her constituents to be "armed and dangerous." In context, it turned out that she wanted them to be "armed" with information--a poor choice of words, but no more eliminationst than Barack Obama's comment in June 2008: "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." At the time, the New York Times characterized this part of "Mr. Obama's efforts to show he can do more than give a good speech."
Hertzberg is saying no more than that liberal journalists like himself are justified in perpetuating the myth of conservative violence because they promulgated it in the first place.
Perhaps he is right that it is not the product of opportunism but rather of sincerely held prejudice. But would it be a defense of, say, Theodore Bilbo or Joseph McCarthy to say that they sincerely believed the prejudices and falsehoods they espoused? What's more, Bilbo and McCarthy were politicians. Why is it so hard for journalists to remember that their job is to tell the truth?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Trials of Gitmo
on: January 27, 2011, 01:49:32 PM
So maybe we aren't reading our friends in the liberal media as carefully as we should. Earlier this month several media sources reported that the Obama Administration will soon resume trying Guantanamo detainees in military tribunals, almost a year to the day after the prison was supposed to have been closed for good. Yet somehow we missed the avalanche of commentary denouncing "kangaroo courts," "legal black holes" and all the other epithets once reserved for the Bush Administration when it was doing precisely the same thing. Critics in Europe are also notably silent.
That said, we welcome evidence of liberal maturity in the war on terror, and in the last two years the Administration has been growing up faster than expected. The decision to resume the tribunals was forced by the Democratic Congress's decision in December to forbid the Pentagon from spending money to transfer Gitmo's remaining detainees to the U.S. mainland.
Barring that option, the Administration's only choices were to re-open the tribunals, hold the prisoners indefinitely without trial, or otherwise let them go. Given that the recidivism rate of released Gitmo detainees is estimated at 25%, we'd say the Administration is choosing wisely.
And justly. Among the first detainees likely to be tried in the tribunals is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the Saudi mastermind of the 2000 USS Cole bombing in which 17 U.S. sailors were killed. The relatives of Nashiri's victims deserve a verdict.
And the American people deserve a trial that won't be turned into a legal farce, which is what nearly happened last year in New York when terrorist Ahmed Ghailani was acquitted of 284 of the 285 counts held against him. This week Ghailani received a life sentence on that charge, saving the Administration from what might have been a major embarrassment.
Still, it's worth noting that even as the Administration prepares to try some 30 detainees, it also plans to hold another 50 without trial. We won't hold our breath awaiting the outpouring of liberal outrage. But we do breathe a sigh of relief that President Obama has seen the wisdom of his predecessor's ways.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Patriot response to BO's SOTU
on: January 27, 2011, 12:27:41 PM
2011 SOTU: The Patriot Response
"As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible [and] not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen which we ourselves ought to bear." --George Washington
Barack Hussein Obama delivered his third State of the Union address this week. The good news: We can remove this man and his dangerously inept Leftist regime in two years.
The bad news: He still has two years left, and according to his ObamaPrompter, he intends to stay the course toward economic implosion.
By way of decoding Obama's message to America, Reps. Paul Ryan and Michelle Bachmann provided good rebuttals. However, they were constrained by certain standards of collegiality, so I have taken the liberty of providing The Patriot Post's unvarnished response to select excerpts of the SOTU.
First, some general observations:
1. Obama is the least qualified person to be president in any room he enters, so he looked particularly juvenile and incompetent at the House chamber podium.
2. Obama is still making political fodder of the Tucson tragedy, eager for another undignified pep rally like the "memorial service" he headlined at the University of Arizona. There, he was constantly cheered by sycophantic students whom he never once attempted to silence in due respect for what should have been a solemn occasion. For the record, in the 24 hours prior to Obama's SOTU, there were 11 law enforcement officers wounded or killed by sociopathic products of Socialist policies ... but they received no mention on Tuesday night.
3. The "date-night" seating arrangements were a great touch, particularly with serious men like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) sitting next to that bucktoothed moron, Al Franken (D-MN).
Here is the abbreviated version of the SOTU: "I want ... I believe ... I've seen ... I've heard ... I said ... I will be ... I'm asking ... I don't know ... I challenge ... I urge ... I set ... I know ... I'm proposing ... I ask ... I took ... I made ... I would ... I intend ... I've ordered ... I will not ... I've heard ... I am eager ... I'm not ... I'm not ... I'm not ... I am ... I've proposed ... I care ... I recognize ... I'm willing ... I've proposed ... I created ... I don't agree ... I am prepared ... I hear ... I will submit ... I ask ... I will veto ... I will travel ... I call on all ... I know ... I stand..."
For a more in-depth analysis, what follows are Barack Obama claims with The Patriot's rebuttals, keeping in mind that nothing Obama proposed has an authorizing provision in our Constitution:
Barack Obama: "We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. ... That's how our people will prosper. That's how we'll win the future. ... We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time."
The Patriot's Response: Obama's objective to socialize our economy is completely antithetical to "winning the future." After $850 billion in Keynesian "stimulus" spending, unemployment is higher than when Obama took office, and our national debt has grown by almost three TRILLION dollars, now bumping up against the $14.29 trillion debt ceiling just enacted in December. Here's a real stimulus plan: Reduce taxes and regulations, which will grow the economy, which will increase tax revenues, which will provide more government funding for legitimate expenditures.
BO: "To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I've ordered a review of government regulations."
TPR: This administration, which has implemented record government regulations, will now consider removing just a few of them but only if such revisions would not affect "values that are difficult or impossible to quantify, including equity, human dignity, fairness, and distributive impacts." Obama's taxes and regulations have, to this point, demoted our great nation to ninth place in Heritage Foundation's 2011 Index of Economic Freedom.
BO: "At stake right now is not who wins the next election -- after all, we just had an election."
TPR: Election, what election? As the Left is so fond of trying to forget.
BO: "Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let's fix what needs fixing and let's move forward."
TPR: Clearly, Obama lost the battle in last November's election. Losers always say things like "let's move forward."
BO: "Now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same."
TPR: Bold words for a prez who has outspent all his predecessors, and who is now proposing more "stimulus spending," though he dared not use that term this time around, lest it be confused with the last colossal heap of Recovery.gov waste.
BO: "Our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need. That's what planted the seeds for the Internet."
TPR: And all this time we thought it was Al Gore.
BO: "We will make sure this is fully paid for ... and pick projects based on what's best for the economy, not politicians."
TPR: Obama is not interested in "what's best for the economy"; he's interested in picking economic "winners."
BO: "Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us are willing to do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed."
TPR: And the answer is ... YES! Start by eliminating the Department of Education and its unconstitutional mandates. Encourage school choice and privatization. Sit back and watch education standards rise.
BO: "This is our generation's Sputnik moment."
TPR: Whoever wrote that line for the ObamaPrompter needs a one-way ticket into space.
BO: "I'm asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the [tax] system. Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. ... In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual tax code."
TPR: How about eliminating the U.S. tax code altogether and replacing it with a flat or national sales tax? Of course, our voluminous tax code is the hammer that Democrats use to control the free market, reward their friends, and punish their enemies. They're not about to lay down that hammer.
BO: "If you have ideas about how to improve [ObamaCare] by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you."
TPR: You mean like he "listened" during the original ObamaCare debate? Repeal it. Take that and work with it.
BO: "Invest ... investing ... investments ..."
TPR: As mentioned earlier, this is ObamaSpeak for unrestrained unconstitutional spending, in a year that the Congressional Budget Office projects a whopping $1.5 trillion deficit. The preamble for Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform concluded: "After all the talk about debt and deficits, it is long past time for America's leaders to put up or shut up. The era of debt denial is over, and there can be no turning back." Obama threw those commissioners under the train.
BO: "Let's make sure that we're not [cutting government programs for] our most vulnerable citizens. ... If we truly care about our deficit, we simply can't afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts. ... We should ask millionaires to give up their tax break. It's not a matter of punishing their success. It's about promoting America's success."
TPR: Ah, yes, redistributing wealth is always about "promoting America's success."
BO: "We shouldn't just give our people a government that's more affordable. We should give them a government that's more competent and more efficient. We can't win the future with a government of the past. ... In the coming months, my administration will develop a proposal to merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government."
TPR: This is ObamaSpeak for further centralization of government power.
BO: "And so we must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. And America's moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity. And because we've begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America's standing has been restored."
TPR: So, Obama embarked on a worldwide apology tour, bowing to foreign dictators, and now "America's standing is restored"?
BO: "Now, the final critical step in winning the future is to make sure we aren't buried under a mountain of debt."
TPR: (Feel free to add your own rebuttal here, but don't mention the Red Chinese!)
BO: "We will argue about everything. The costs. The details. The letter of every law. Of course, some countries don't have this problem. If the central government wants a railroad, they build a railroad, no matter how many homes get bulldozed. If they don't want a bad story in the newspaper, it doesn't get written."
TPR: One of Obama's fundamental transformations of the U.S. Obama has never hidden his admiration for countries that "don't have this problem."
BO: "And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country."
TPR: Obama begrudgingly delivered this tribute to the longest standing ovation of the evening.
BO: "Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love."
TPR: No standing ovation for gays in the military.
BO: "We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. ... We share common hopes and a common creed."
TPR: Apparently the original Constitution we use has been replaced with a "new and improved version" Obama uses.
Finally, Obama proclaimed, "It makes no sense."
This was the only thing Obama said that actually made sense.
Evaluating Obama's SOTU performance, commentator Charles Krauthammer summed it up best: "This is a president who can give great speeches, and has. This was not one of them."
But Obama's speech was not designed to impress savvy political analysts and serious-minded Patriots. It was designed to play to popular polls, and it played well.
Commentator Mark Levin had this observation: "Obama was trying to deliver a 'best of' moment in his State of the Union Address, yet it looks as if he tried plagiarizing past speeches from Reagan and JFK. We know that Obama is an ideologue and his positions on cap and trade, entitlements, social security, et al., are not going to change, no matter how moderate he desperately tries to appear. Obama's future for America will deliver us misery and poverty; it's not progressive, it's regressive. Why is it that liberals continue to mess up words like, 'Social, justice, and reform?'"
For the record, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's rebuttal said all that needed to be said in just a few minutes. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has far more credibility and a far better grasp of our nation's fiscal peril than does Obama. Here are some excerpts:
"These budget debates are not just about the programs of government; they're also about the purpose of government. ... The principles that guide us are anchored in the wisdom of the Founders; in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence; and in the words of the American Constitution. They have to do with the importance of limited government; and with the blessing of self-government. We believe government's role is both vital and limited... We believe, as our Founders did, that 'the pursuit of happiness' depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government. ... Whether sold as 'stimulus' or repackaged as 'investment,' [Democrats'] actions show they want a federal government that controls too much; taxes too much; and spends too much in order to do too much. ... Our nation is approaching a tipping point. ... We need to chart a new course. ... We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative -- not political clout -- determines who succeeds. ... We need to reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money, which has blessed us with unprecedented prosperity. And it has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. That's the real secret to job creation -- not borrowing and spending more money in Washington. Limited government and free enterprise have helped make America the greatest nation on earth."
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!
Publisher, The Patriot Post
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The importance of speaking English properly
on: January 27, 2011, 12:14:34 PM
On his 74th birthday, a man got a gift certificate from his wife. The
certificate paid for a visit to a medicine man living on a nearby reservation
who was rumored to have a wonderful cure for erectile dysfunction. After
being persuaded, he drove to the reservation, handed his ticket to the
medicine man, and wondered what he was in for. The old man handed a potion to him,
and with a grip on his shoulder, warned,
'This is a powerful medicine. You take only a teaspoonful, and then say
'1-2-3.' When you do, you will become more manly than you have ever been in
your life, and you can perform as long as you want."
The man was encouraged. As he walked away, he turned and asked, "How do I
stop the medicine from working?"
"Your partner must say '1-2-3-4,'" he responded, "but when she does, the
medicine will not work again until the next full moon."
He was very eager to see if it worked so he went home, showered, shaved,
took a spoonful of the medicine, and then invited his wife to join him
in the bedroom. When she came in, he took off his clothes and said,
"1-2-3!" Immediately, he was the manliest of men.
His wife was excited and began throwing off her clothes, and then she
asked, "What was the 1-2-3 for?"
And that, my friends, is why we should never end our sentences with a
preposition, because we could end up with a dangling participle.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters
on: January 27, 2011, 12:03:33 PM
It was yesterday or the day before that Glenn was discussing something (I haven't seen the whole broadcast yet) about which I had not heard previously: Working from memory here, apparently in September 2010 (i.e. during the height of the election compaign) a hard lefty with a huge trail of his leftness attempted to assassinate a Democratic governor with a knife-- only he mis-identified his target and instead stabbed the Dean of the university that had invited the governor to speak.
You never heard of that? Me neither-- until GB.
IMHO GB is a remarkable man in search of Truth for the good of America. The powers that be fear him-- and they should.