Dog Brothers Public Forum

HOME | PUBLIC FORUM | MEMBERS FORUM | INSTRUCTORS FORUM | TRIBE FORUM

Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
June 24, 2017, 05:40:40 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
103021 Posts in 2384 Topics by 1090 Members
Latest Member: Cgregurich73
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 ... 476 477 [478] 479 480 ... 805
23851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 21, 2011, 06:17:06 PM
"If the ISI/Army generals, keeper of the crown jewels lose power..Pak is in essence one step away from being denuked."

This seems quite pertinent!

Any thoughts on how to go about disempowering ISI/Army generals?
23852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 21, 2011, 06:14:03 PM
OK, but not sure how that connects to the question presented , , ,
23853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 21, 2011, 03:54:07 PM
Well Terry is relevant to making the point that it is not always known what the law is until after the fact, but still the question presented remains.
23854  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Kettlebells y Artes Marciales on: May 21, 2011, 01:42:14 PM
El clip tiene buenos ejemplos.

Jueves yo hacia KBs por la primera vez en bastante tiempo y ayer y hoy me duele un poco mis "hamstrings" (como se dice?) pero en buena manera.  Creo que es tiempo que yo empiece un ciclo de KBs.
23855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Israel's former UN ambassador, Gold on: May 21, 2011, 01:06:10 PM
By DORE GOLD
It's no secret that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to lobby the U.N. General Assembly this September for a resolution that will predetermine the results of any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on borders. He made clear in a New York Times op-ed this week that he will insist that member states recognize a Palestinian state on 1967 lines, meaning Israel's boundaries before the Six Day War.

Unfortunately, even President Barack Obama appears to have been influenced by this thinking. He asserted in a speech Thursday that Israel's future borders with a Palestinian state "should be based on the 1967 lines," a position he tried to offset by offering "mutually agreed land swaps." Mr. Abbas has said many times that any land swaps would be minuscule.

Remember that before the Six Day War, those lines in the West Bank only demarcated where five Arab armies were halted in their invasion of the nascent state of Israel 19 years earlier. Legally, they formed only an armistice line, not a recognized international border. No Palestinian state ever existed that could have claimed these prewar lines. Jordan occupied the West Bank after the Arab invasion, but its claim to sovereignty was not recognized by any U.N. members except Pakistan and the U.K. As Jordan's U.N. ambassador said before the war, the old armistice lines "did not fix boundaries." Thus the central thrust of Arab-Israeli diplomacy for more than 40 years was that Israel must negotiate an agreed border with its Arab neighbors.

The cornerstone of all postwar diplomacy was U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed in November 1967. It did not demand that Israel pull back completely to the pre-1967 lines. Its withdrawal clause only called on Israel to withdraw "from territories," not from all territories. Britain's foreign secretary at the time, George Brown, later underlined the distinction: "The proposal said 'Israel will withdraw from territories that were occupied,' and not from 'the' territories, which means that Israel will not withdraw from all the territories."

View Full Image

AFP/Getty Images
 
President Obama speaking about Israel Thursday.
.Prior to the Six Day War, Jerusalem had been sliced in two, and the Jewish people were denied access to the Old City and its holy sites. Jerusalem's Christian population also faced limitations. As America's ambassador to the U.N., Arthur Goldberg, would explain, Resolution 242 did not preclude Israel's reunification of Jerusalem. In fact, Resolution 242 became the only agreed basis of all Arab-Israeli peace agreements, from the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace to the 1993 Oslo Agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

How were Israel's legal rights to new boundaries justified? A good explanation came from Judge Stephen Schwebel, who would later be an adviser to the State Department and then president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Writing in the American Journal of International Law in 1970, he noted that Israel's title to West Bank territory—in the event that it sought alterations in the pre-Six Day War lines—emanated from the fact that it had acted in lawful exercise of its right to self-defense. It was not the aggressor.

View Full Image
...The flexibility for creating new borders was preserved for decades. Indeed, the 1993 Oslo Agreements, signed by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn, did not stipulate that the final borders between Israel and the Palestinians would be the 1967 lines. Borders were to be a subject for future negotiations. An April 2004 U.S. letter to Israel, backed by a bipartisan consensus in both houses of Congress, stipulated that Israel was not expected to fully withdraw, but rather was entitled to "defensible borders." U.S. secretaries of state from Henry Kissinger to Warren Christopher reiterated the same point in past letters of assurance.

If the borders between Israel and the Palestinians need to be negotiated, then what are the implications of a U.N. General Assembly resolution that states up front that those borders must be the 1967 lines? Some commentators assert that all Mr. Abbas wants to do is strengthen his hand in future negotiations with Israel, and that this does not contradict a negotiated peace. But is that really true? Why should Mr. Abbas ever negotiate with Israel if he can rely on the automatic majority of Third World countries at the U.N. General Assembly to back his positions on other points that are in dispute, like the future of Jerusalem, the refugee question, and security?


Mr. Abbas's unilateral move at the U.N. represents a massive violation of a core commitment in the Oslo Agreements in which both Israelis and Palestinians undertook that "neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of Permanent Status negotiations." Palestinian spokesmen counter that Israeli settlements violated this clause. Yet former Prime Minister Rabin was very specific while negotiating Oslo in preserving the rights of Israeli citizens to build their homes in these disputed areas, by insisting that the settlements would be one of the subjects of final status negotiations between the parties.

By turning to the U.N., Mr. Abbas wants to use the international community to change the legal status of the territories. Why should Israel rely on Mr. Abbas in the future after what is plainly a material breach of this core obligation?

The truth is that Mr. Abbas has chosen a unilateralist course instead of negotiations. For that reason he has no problem tying his fate to Hamas, the radical organization that is the antithesis of peace. Its infamous 1988 Charter calls for Israel's complete destruction and sees Islam in an historic battle with the Jewish people. In 2006, Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Hamas leader who attended the recent Cairo reconciliation ceremony with Mr. Abbas's Fatah movement, stated openly that Hamas was still committed to its 1988 Charter, noting, "the movement [would] not change a single word." Hamas's jihadist orientation was reconfirmed when Ismail Haniyeh, its prime minister in Gaza, condemned the U.S. for eliminating Osama bin Laden.

All Israeli prime ministers have spoken about negotiations as a vehicle for ending the Arab-Israeli conflict. There would be an end of claims. However, Mr. Abbas has now revealed his intention of using the U.N. for perpetuating the conflict. As he wrote this week: "Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one."

Mr. Abbas clearly is not prepared to make a historic compromise. By running to the U.N. and to Hamas, he is evading the hard choices he has to make, and he is leaving any resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict far more difficult for future generations.

Mr. Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
23856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 21, 2011, 12:23:42 AM
I heard it isn't viable any more , , ,
23857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: BO, Democracy and the ME on: May 21, 2011, 12:21:26 AM


Obama, Democracy and the Middle East

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday delivered a much-hyped speech in which he tried to lay out a new strategic framework for dealing with the Middle East, one that takes into account recent unprecedented developments in the region. This was Obama’s second major speech on the issue, including his much-celebrated June 2009 address in Cairo. While the Cairo address concerned U.S. relations with the wider Muslim world, today’s speech was limited to the largely Arab Middle East — understandably so, given the wave of popular unrest that has destabilized the region’s decades-old autocracies.

Obama’s speech is significant in that it forwards the most comprehensive public-relations statement on how Washington is adjusting its policies in response to turmoil in the Arab world. The target audience was both the region’s masses, who have long been critical of U.S. policies supporting authoritarian regimes, and its states, which are concerned about how potential shifts in official American attitudes toward long-standing allies and partners threaten their survival. From the U.S. point of view, the evolution under way in the region needs to be managed so that unfriendly forces cannot take advantage of democratic openings and, more important, decaying incumbent states do not fall into anarchy.

Supporting democratic movements is thus not just an altruistic pursuit; rather, it is a tool to deal with a reality in which dictatorial systems in the Middle East are increasingly under threat of becoming obsolete. Supporting the demand for political reform allows Washington to engage with and contain non-state actors — even Islamists — that it has thus far avoided. Doing so, however, creates problems with the incumbent regimes, which cannot be completely discarded, since the goal is to oversee orderly transitions and avoid vacuums.

This would explain the president’s variance in attitude toward different countries. Obama spoke of financially supporting the transitions under way in Tunisia and Egypt, given that the situation in both countries is relatively stable, with their respective armed forces overseeing a gradual process toward multiparty elections. In contrast, the U.S. views the situation in Libya, Syria and Yemen, where regimes are using force to maintain power, as untenable. This explains Obama’s far more stern language toward the rulers in these three countries, though he recognized the significant variances between the three cases.

“Supporting democratic movements is thus not just an altruistic pursuit; rather, it’s a tool to deal with a reality in which dictatorial systems in the Middle East are increasingly under threat of becoming obsolete.”
But the real policy challenge comes in Bahrain, where the sectarian demographic reality and geopolitical proximity to Iran prevent the United States from seriously backing calls for change. Washington cannot afford to see a key ally in the Persian Gulf region turn into a potentially hostile entity. At the same time, though, the United States cannot sit around and watch Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy, backed by forces from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, forcefully put down an uprising largely led by the country’s Shiite majority. That looks hypocritical, especially as Obama calls out Iran for supporting unrest in Arab countries while suppressing protesters at home.

Far more importantly, the United States fears that the Saudi-driven policy of forcefully putting down an uprising led by a majority of the population, while supporting the monarchy controlled by a Sunni minority, will eventually make matters worse and play right into the hands of the Iranians — hence Obama’s call on the Bahraini leadership (and by extension the Saudis) to negotiate with the opposition and engage in reforms that can help co-opt their opponents, rather than push them deeper into the arms of Tehran.

Clearly, there is a disconnect between Washington and Riyadh on how to deal with unrest in the region, especially as it pertains to Bahrain. The disagreement adds to the tensions between the two sides that resulted from the U.S. decision to effect regime change in Iraq, a move of which Iran has emerged as a major beneficiary. Given Saudi Arabia’s importance as a political, financial and energy powerhouse, the United States is prepared to largely overlook the lack of democracy in the religiously ultra-conservative kingdom. That would explain why, save the reference to women not being able to vote, Obama’s speech never addressed the Saudis directly.

For now, there is no serious movement calling for political reforms in the kingdom, which means the Americans can afford to be ambiguous about the Saudis. Eventually, there is bound to be some spillover effect in the kingdom, which is in the process of transitioning from a geriatric top leadership, and the United States will be forced to give up its ambivalent attitude. But even in the here and now, changes under way in the rest of the region — and especially on the Arabian Peninsula — and the need for the United States to reach an understanding with Iran as U.S. troops leave Iraq, will continue to complicate U.S.-Saudi dealings.

A speech stressing the need for reforms in the region could not avoid a discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The developing regional shifts have a direct impact on the chronic dispute. Here again, Obama could not avoid criticizing another close ally, Israel. The U.S. president said the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands threatens Israeli security.

Another notable shift in U.S. rhetoric was toward Hamas. Obama did not denounce the Palestinian Islamist movement outright as an irreconcilable force that could not be negotiated with. Instead, he pressed the Palestinians to respond to the question of how Israel could negotiate with a government that included Hamas, so long as the Islamist movement refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. This places the seemingly intractable problem in the hands of the Palestinians, not the Israelis.

Ultimately, the Obama speech was about navigating through an increasingly complex Middle East. It is unlikely to lead to any major changes in ground realities anytime soon. But the speech recognized that the status quo was unsustainable and that all parties concerned need to change their behavior to avoid further turmoil.

23858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: May 20, 2011, 10:44:52 PM
Regarding race baiting of conservative blacks and sexism against conservative women:  Yes of course this happens-- but my sense of things is that the rubber band on this sort of excrement is about to snap back-- people are getting fed up with this crap and Bachman and Cain are ideally suited to be the tip of the spear on this IMHO.
23859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 20, 2011, 04:45:50 PM
YA, in the past you have shared with me and I have posted here writings by Indian intel folks based around the idea of dissembling Pakistan altogether:  Pashtunistan (peeling the western half off from Afghanistan), Balochistan, settling border issues in favor of India, and destroying/taking Pak's nuke program. (Well maybe the last one is my idea  grin ) or something like that. 

As I have been posting here for a couple of years now (based in part upon the influence of materials which you have shared with me) our Afpakia policy is utterly incoherent. 

When you think outside the box, what do you think?
23860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bachman-Cain on: May 20, 2011, 04:39:08 PM
Based upon what I have seen and heard so far I like Michelle Bachman quite a bit.  I wish she had executive experience and a sense of time and depth dedicated to thinking about foreign affairs.  That said, I find her articulate, and respect what it takes to get a masters degree it tax law and what it takes to be a federal tax litigation attorney.  These things bespeak a not common level of intellectual rigor and an ability to think mathematically as well as a certain level of killer instinct-- which I mean in a good way.   The 5 children and 23 foster children partenting is quite an immunization shot against many forms of Dem demogoguery, as is being a woman.   Morris's comment about a Bachman-Cain ticket is intriguing-- for Cain has formidable private sector executive experience, and is the immunization shot against Dem race-baiting.
23861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Noonan on: May 20, 2011, 04:29:01 PM

   They were open secrets. Everyone knew. And maybe the lesson this week is that people should pay more attention to what they know.

Everyone knew Newt Gingrich was combustible, that he tended to blow things up, including, periodically, himself. He was impulsive, living proof that people confuse "a good brain" with "good judgment." He had bad judgment, which is why he famously had a hundred ideas a day and only 10 were good. He didn't know the difference and needed first-rate people around to tell him. But the best didn't work with him anymore, because he was unsteady, unreliable, more likely to be taken with insight-seizures than insights.

He was the smartest guy in the room, who didn't notice the rooms had gotten smaller. So he was running his own show. Boom.

In his famous "Meet the Press" interview, he was trying to differentiate himself from the field. He was likely thinking he'd go for the Mike Huckabee vote now that Mr. Huckabee is gone. That vote is populist-tinged, socially conservative but generally supportive of big-government programs. Newt's party and competitors support Paul Ryan's budget-cutting plan. Newt didn't think all aspects of that plan would go over with the American public.

 Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute on pols behaving badly: Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
.If he'd said that, he would have been fine, and there were lots of ways to say it. Such as: "The Ryan plan is serious and courageous. But I oppose changes in the delivery system of Medicare and think we should go another route, so I do not support that aspect of it."

Instead he used slashing, dramatic language and seemed to damn the entire enterprise. The Ryan plan isn't flawed, it's "right-wing social engineering." It's "imposing radical change."

After the firestorm he went on a political perp walk, more or less denying he'd said what he said, and then blaming it on others. This was followed by reports he had been in hock to Tiffany's—Tiffany's!—for up to half a million dollars. This is decidedly unpopulist behavior, and to Republicans sounded too weird, too frivolous, flaky and grand.

I said last week I had yet to meet a Gingrich 2012 voter. Now I won't have a chance to.

People in journalism are surprised. But they wouldn't have been surprised if they'd been paying attention to what they know: that Newt blows things up, including himself.

***
The allegations against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who stepped down as chief of the International Monetary Fund after being charged with seven counts including attempted rape and unlawful imprisonment, are just that, allegations. He's been indicted, not convicted. But half the French establishment knew about what they called his woman problem, and at least one previous accusation of harassment. It was an open secret. "Everyone knows that Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a libertine," said Gilles Savary, a member of the European Parliament Socialist party. He "doesn't try to hide it."

DSK, as he's known, is almost a classic villain—elegant, august, satyrlike in his multithousand-dollar suits and his multithousand-dollar suite. He is the perfect "champagne socialist," as they're now calling him, who preys on the weak—for who is less defended and more at the mercy of the world than a 32-year-old hotel maid, a widow, a West African immigrant working to support herself and her daughter?

View Full Image

Chad Crowe
 .But what is most startling about the story is not the charge that a powerful man did a dreadful thing. It is the utter and profound difference between the U.S. response to the story and the French response.

America was immediately sympathetic to the underdog. The impulse of every media organization, from tabloid to broadsheet to cable to network, was to side with the powerless one in the equation. The cops, the hotel's managers, the District Attorney's office—everyone in authority gave equal weight and respect to the word of the maid. Only in America (and not always in America) would they have taken the testimony of the immigrant woman from Africa and dragged the powerful man out of his first-class seat in the jet at JFK.

In France, the exact opposite. There, from the moment the story broke, DSK was the victim, not the villain. It was a setup, a trap, a conspiracy. He has a weakness for women. No, he loves them too much. Hairy-chested poseur and Sarkozy foreign-policy adviser Bernard-Henri Levy sneeringly referred to "the chambermaid," brayed about DSK's high standing, and called him "a friend to women." Jean Daniel, editor of Le Nouvel Observateur, sniffily asked why "the supposed victim was treated as worthy and beyond suspicion."

Why wouldn't she be treated as worthy, buddy? One is tempted to ask if it's the black part, the woman part or the immigrant part.

As David Rieff wrote in The New Republic, to French intellectuals, DSK deserves special treatment because he is a valuable person. "The French elites' consensus seems to be that it is somehow Strauss-Kahn himself and not the 32-year-old maid who is the true victim of this drama."

Americans totally went for the little guy. The French went for the power.

Lafayette would weep.

Someone once sniffed, "In America they call waiters 'Sir.' " Bien sur, my little bonbon. It's part of our unlost greatness.

More Peggy Noonan
Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns

click here to order her new book, Patriotic Grace
.The French are a very great people. They have filled the world with so much beauty, you have to wonder if God didn't send them down here just for that. As David McCullough observes in his tender new book, "The Greater Journey," generations of Americans, starting in 1820 or so, journeyed to Paris to learn the best in art, medicine, science and literature. They came back and filled our nation with the innovation and expertise they'd acquired there. The French didn't just enrich us, they helped America become itself.

Today they are great talkers, but for all their talk of emotions, and they do talk about emotions, they need, on this story at least, an attitude adjustment. They need to grow a heart. If the charges are true, this isn't a story about sex, romance and the war between men and women, it is about violence, and toward a person who is almost a definition of powerlessness.

Their mindless snobbery is unworthy of them.

***
We finish with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has finished himself. The scandal surrounding him this week is not precisely a public concern. He is not now holding office, and if he had plans or further ambitions in that area they are over. The story is not shocking—he has admitted bad behavior in the past, there have been longtime rumors, "Everyone knows." But still it took you aback. Why? The level of creepiness and the nature of the breach. The mother of the former governor's child worked for him, for them, for 20 years—another unequal power arrangement—meaning 20 years of fiction had to be maintained. "In my home!" as Michael Corleone said in "Godfather II." "Where my wife sleeps . . . and my children play with their toys." The rotten taste of this story will not fade soon.

Human sin is a constant, none are free, and anyone who is shocked by it is a fool or lying. Even so, what a week, full of human surprises. But we wouldn't be so surprised if we paid more attention to what we know, and built our expectations from there.

23862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 20, 2011, 04:05:24 PM
Alliance with India makes a lot of sense to me.
23863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: May 20, 2011, 11:55:07 AM
I'm still digesting the interview by Rush there , , , what do we make of it?

In the meantime, here's these examples of what he will need to deal with:
============
When Newt Gingrich launched his bid for the GOP presidential nomination last week, we knew there would be some Sturm und Drang added to the race. Newt's brain is always running, but sometimes his mouth runs even faster. That became painfully obvious just four days later.

During a discussion on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday about Paul Ryan's Medicare reform plan, Gingrich declared that such reforms were "too big a jump." If he had stopped there, we may never have heard about it. Instead, he proceeded, "I'm against ObamaCare, which is imposing radical change. And I would be against a conservative imposing radical change." Furthermore, "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering."

And that's when the fight started.

Some wondered for which party's nomination he's running, while others simply declared his campaign toast. Dick Armey, now the chairman of FreedomWorks, but a co-writer of the "Contract with America" made famous by Newt, said he doesn't understand why Gingrich thought "he helps himself by attacking the one guy [Ryan] that [conservatives] see as being courageous" about getting "government spending under control." Brendan Steinhauser, director of Federal and State Campaigns for FreedomWorks, says the Tea Partiers he's talked to are "irate" at Gingrich, because "For them, this is the fourth or fifth time he's done something that has made them mad." In fact, Steinhauser concluded, "I never met a single Tea Party activist that supported Newt Gingrich for president." Ryan himself laughed it off, saying, "With allies like that, who needs the Left?"

At first, Gingrich dug in and argued that his "establishment cocktail party" critics were taking his remarks out of context. Then he signed a pledge to repeal ObamaCare if elected. Tuesday, he cried uncle and called Ryan to apologize. But then he jumped the shark, saying, "It was not a reference to Paul Ryan. There was no reference to Paul Ryan in that answer," and he only apologized because "it was interpreted in a way which was causing trouble which he doesn't need or deserve." Has he been taking lessons from John Kerry? Gingrich has spent the better part of his first week on the campaign trail mopping up a mess that he should've known better than to make in the first place.

Medicare is one of the biggest pieces to the federal spending puzzle. If we are ever to solve the debt crisis (more on that below), we must address Medicare. Ryan's proposal, which includes moving future recipients (age 55 and under) to a "premium support" model for Medicare, will be debated by conservatives, savaged by liberals and ultimately modified -- though it's doubtful it will be any better for it. It isn't gospel, and it isn't the test by which all candidates must be measured, but criticism by fellow Republicans should at least be accompanied by better ideas. As National Review's Jonah Goldberg put it, "Newt's immediate policy proposals on Meet the Press were twofold: attack fraud and 'start a conversation.'"

"Mr. Ideas" is going to have to do a lot better than assaulting Ryan's plan and sitting on a love seat with Nancy Pelosi to win the GOP nomination. Better yet, he could just "keep up the good work" and lose the nomination.

Gingrich vs. Gingrich
"I agree that all of us have a responsibility to help pay for health care. And I think that there are ways to do it that make most libertarians relatively happy. I've said consistently, where there's some requirement you either have health insurance or you post a bond or in some way you indicate you're going to be held accountable." --Newt Gingrich on "Meet the Press" Sunday

"I am completely opposed to the ObamaCare mandate on individuals. I fought it for two and a half years. ... I am against any effort to impose a mandate on anyone because I believe it is fundamentally wrong and unconstitutional." -- Newt Gingrich in a campaign video Monday

Thanks for clearing that up, Newt.

(Hat tip: Wall Street Journal Political Diary)

Quote of the Week
"Debating the issues is perfectly fine. It's the way Gingrich talks about things that is so awful. He is incapable of disagreeing on any matter about anything without creating a whirlpool of negativity that ends up sucking in his own confreres while leaving his partisan and ideological antagonists amazingly untouched. In the end, then, no matter the issue, Gingrich somehow manages to turn the conversation away from the topic at hand and focuses it squarely on him -- what he said, what he meant, what he was doing, why he did it, what's the matter with him. The Ryan apology just added to the psychodrama of the last few days with Gingrich. The havoc generated by his narcissism will not abate. It can't. Alas." --columnist John Podhoretz
========
Anyway, what do we make of what he said with Rush?
23864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 20, 2011, 10:58:55 AM
No.

That said, it seems to me quite feasible that in such cases, no one have a motive to go public with it.


23865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams, 1756 on: May 20, 2011, 10:56:28 AM
"It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives." --John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756
23866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scaremongering? on: May 20, 2011, 10:54:54 AM
Glenn Beck talks about a spooky alliance between Islamists and leftists. Newt Gingrich calls sharia law abhorrent and urges the western world to ban it. Bill O’Reilly says that sharia law allows for things that most Americans think are illegal. Sean Hannity challenges Imam Rauf’s agenda of imposing sharia law on America. Are conservatives erecting a sharia bogeyman -- or is there a real threat?

There is an easy answer that does not require historical knowledge, political insight or religious study. It is possible to know if sharia is a threat to American culture by looking at the amount of sharia influence accepted in Europe. As Europeans have been swallowing bits and pieces of sharia cultural codes, they have normalized enough sharia practice for Americans to assess whether the same process is occurring here.

First, civilizational jihad operates by stealth. Islamists are not going to announce that there is a plan to subtly and incrementally inject sharia-compliant practices into western culture. The concessions Europeans have made resulted from coordinated public relations campaigns that cornered the culture into caving or being called intolerant. Thus, a seemingly innocuous accommodation like serving halal (Muslim approved) foods in public school cafeterias – as part of a year-round, daily regime – becomes a soothing matter of kindness and tolerance and is not honestly recognized as preferring one group’s socio-religious demands. Since sharia touches every area of a practicing Muslim’s life -- personal, social, familial, political, and legal -- there are many more such demands to be made of compliant communities.

For example, many French are outraged by the closure of streets in districts of Paris and Marseille for Friday prayers. As Muslims barricade the streets, they block traffic for curb-to-curb prayers in defiance of laws in this strictly secular society. Police are nearby, now to keep this new order. This practice started on the sidewalks as a demand for larger state-funded mosques and now spreads by sections of streets. This creeping expansion of turf is an instructive metaphor for western culture’s initial willingness to compromise and ultimate inability to draw a line. The west’s lack of cultural identity is allowing what cannot be accomplished at the ballot box to be accomplished by multicultural coercion.

Currently, there are hundreds of Muslim enclaves in France where sharia practices dominate and the French sense of “liberte, egalite, or fraternite” do not penetrate.

The United Kingdom has authorized sharia courts for Muslims to resolve civil disputes including marital and family conflicts. (Marc: To be precise, does this not apply to all religions?) Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, has observed that these sharia courts “lead to a segregated society” and “entrench division in society.” In a 2008 House of Lords appellate judgment Lord Hope said that the sharia law tenets at issue were “created by and for men in a male dominated society. There is no place . . . for equal rights between men and women.”

Recent examples show that Americans are keeping pace with Europe’s rate of Islamist accommodation. When the U.S. Government orders Bibles to be burned by the military in Afghanistan to avoid offending Muslims, but censors an American protestor who burned the Koran, this is de facto submission to sharia. When the government will not even try to protect an American cartoonist who proposes an “Everybody Draw Mohammad Cartoon Day” but tells her to go into hiding; when a radio station blacklists host’s wife for being “too anti-sharia;” when Yale University Press removed depictions of the controversial Danish cartoons from a book entitled The Cartoons That Shook the World; and, when four Dearborn Christians are arrested for handing out copies of the Gospel of St. John on a public street outside a Muslim festival, there is evidence that America is conceding important principles of individual liberty, equal protection, and constitutionally protected freedom.

The most culturally restrictive of the European concessions to Islam are the incitement-to-hate laws. Just the chance that racially-toned speech may trigger an angry reaction can provoke a criminal investigation. Several high profile “hate speech” prosecutions have demonstrated that the loss of speech freedoms will inhibit the ability of Europeans to define their culture according to their own Enlightenment values. Dearborn’s recent pre-emptive legal smackdown of Terry Jones’ demonstration near a mosque shows a similar erosion of vital expressive rights in the United States.

Each accommodation of Islamist demands is costly beyond measure when translated to a significant symbolic victory. For what the Islamists propose as an isolated act of cultural sensitivity is interpreted when conceded without a fight as powerful evidence of a culture that is morally weak and historically disconnected. While there is no tangible threat to the American way of life, it is easy to rationalize that the gains being consolidated by Islamists are not compromising American liberties. The sacrifice of expressive rights and cultural identity for temporary relief from the charges of intolerance only telegraphs willing incremental capitulation. What is lost in the race to placate the political Islamists among us is the reality that moderate Muslims are learning whether liberty-loving Americans can be trusted to keep sharia hardliners at bay.
23867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: BO abandons America and Isreal on: May 20, 2011, 10:38:12 AM
Caroline Glick   
Obama's Abandonment of America


I was out sick yesterday so I was unable to write today's column for the Jerusalem Post. I did manage to watch President Obama's speech on the Middle East yesterday evening. And I didn't want to wait until next week to discuss it. After all, who knows what he'll do by Tuesday?

Before we get into what the speech means for Israel, it is important to consider what it means for America.

Quite simply, Obama's speech represents the effective renunciation of the US's right to have and to pursue national interests. Consequently, his speech imperils the real interests that the US has in the region - first and foremost, the US's interest in securing its national security. Obama's renunciation of the US national interests unfolded as follows:

First, Obama mentioned a number of core US interests in the region. In his view these are: "Countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel's security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace."

Then he said, "Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind."

While this is true enough, Obama went on to say that the Arabs have good reason to hate the US and that it is up to the US to put its national interests aside in the interest of making them like America. As he put it, "a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and Muslim communities."

And you know what that means. If the US doesn't end the "spiral of division," (sounds sort of like "spiral of violence" doesn't it?), then the Muslims will come after America. So the US better straighten up and fly right.

And how does it do that? Well, by courting the Muslim Brotherhood which spawned Al Qaeda, Hamas, Jamma Islamiya and a number of other terror groups and is allies with Hezbollah.

How do we know this is Obama's plan? Because right after he said that the US needs to end the "spiral of division," he recalled his speech in Egypt in June 2009 when he spoke at the Brotherhood controlled Al Azhar University and made sure that Brotherhood members were in the audience in a direct diplomatic assault on US ally Hosni Mubarak.

And of course, intimations of Obama's plan to woo and appease the jihadists appear throughout the speech. For instance:

"There will be times when our short term interests do not align perfectly with our long term vision of the region."

So US short term interests, like for instance preventing terrorist attacks against itself or its interests, will have to be sacrificed for the greater good of bringing the Muslim Brotherhood to power in democratic elections.

And he also said that the US will "support the governments that will be elected later this year" in Egypt and Tunisia. But why would the US support governments controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood? They are poised to control the elected government in Egypt and are the ticket to beat in Tunisia as well.

Then there is the way Obama abandoned US allies Yemen and Bahrain in order to show the US's lack of hypocrisy. As he presented it, the US will not demand from its enemies Syria and Iran that which it doesn't demand from its friends.

While this sounds fair, it is anything but fair. The fact is that if you don't distinguish between your allies and your enemies then you betray your allies and side with your enemies. Bahrain and Yemen need US support to survive. Iran and Syria do not. So when he removes US support from the former, his action redounds to the direct benefit of the latter.

I hope the US Navy's 5th Fleet has found alternate digs because Obama just opened the door for Iran to take over Bahrain. He also invited al Qaeda - which he falsely claimed is a spent force - to take over Yemen.

Beyond his abandonment of Bahrain and Yemen, in claiming that the US mustn't distinguish between its allies and its foes, Obama made clear that he has renounced the US's right to have and pursue national interests. If you can't favor your allies against your enemies then you cannot defend your national interests. And if you cannot defend your national interests then you renounce your right to have them.

As for Iran, in his speech, Obama effectively abandoned the pursuit of the US's core interest of preventing nuclear proliferation. All he had to say about Iran's openly genocidal nuclear program is, "Our opposition to Iran's intolerance - as well as its illicit nuclear program, and its sponsorship of terror - is well known."

Well so is my opposition to all of that, and so is yours. But unlike us, Obama is supposed to do something about it. And by putting the gravest threat the US presently faces from the Middle East in the passive voice, he made clear that actually, the US isn't going to do anything about it.

In short, every American who is concerned about the security of the United States should be livid. The US President just abandoned his responsibility to defend the country and its interests in the interest of coddling the US's worst enemies.

As for Israel, in a way, Obama did Israel a favor by giving this speech. By abandoning even a semblance of friendliness, he has told us that we have nothing whatsoever to gain by trying to make him like us. Obama didn't even say that he would oppose the Palestinians' plan to get the UN Security Council to pass a resolution in support for Palestinian independence. All he said was that it is a dumb idea.

Obama sided with Hamas against Israel by acting as though its partnership with Fatah is just a little problem that has to be sorted out to reassure the paranoid Jews. Or as he put it, "the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel."

Hamas is a jihadist movement dedicated to the annihilation of the Jewish people, and the establishment of a global caliphate. It's in their charter. And all Obama said of the movement that has now taken over the Palestinian Authority was, "Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection."

Irrelevant and untrue.

It is irrelevant because obviously the Palestinians don't want peace. That's why they just formed a government dedicated to Israel's destruction.

As for being untrue, Obama's speech makes clear that they have no reason to fear a loss of prosperity. After all, by failing to mention that US law bars the US government from funding an entity which includes Hamas, he made clear that the US will continue to bankroll the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority. So too, the EU will continue to join the US in giving them billions for bombs and patronage jobs. The Palestinians have nothing to worry about. They will continue to be rewarded regardless of what they do.

Then of course there are all the hostile, hateful details of the speech:

He said Israel has to concede its right to defensible borders as a precondition for negotiations;

He didn't say he opposes the Palestinian demand for open immigration of millions of foreign Arabs into Israel;

He again ignored Bush's 2004 letter to Sharon opposing a return to the 1949 armistice lines, supporting the large settlements, defensible borders and opposing mass Arab immigration into Israel;

He said he was leaving Jerusalem out but actually brought it in by calling for an Israeli retreat to the 1949 lines;

He called for Israel to be cut in two when he called for the Palestinians state to be contiguous;

He called for Israel to withdraw from the Jordan Valley - without which it is powerless against invasion - by saying that the Palestinian State will have an international border with Jordan.

Conceptually and substantively, Obama abandoned the US alliance with Israel. The rest of his words - security arrangements, demilitarized Palestinian state and the rest of it - were nothing more than filler to please empty-headed liberal Jews in America so they can feel comfortable signing checks for him again.

Indeed, even his seemingly pro-Israel call for security arrangements in a final peace deal involved sticking it to Israel. Obama said, "The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state."

What does that mean "with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility?"

It means we have to assume everything will be terrific.

All of this means is that if Prime Minister Netanyahu was planning to be nice to Obama, and pretend that everything is terrific with the administration, he should just forget about it. He needn't attack Obama. Let the Republicans do that.

But both in his speech to AIPAC and his address to Congress, he should very forthrightly tell the truth about the nature of the populist movements in the Middle East, the danger of a nuclear Iran, the Palestinians' commitment to Israel's destruction; the lie of the so-called peace process; the importance of standing by allies; and the critical importance of a strong Israel to US national security.

23868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 20, 2011, 10:18:10 AM
"There are already legal disincentives for police misconduct,"

which as a practical matter are often meaningless

"and if those don't deter bad cops,"

and sometimes they don't,

"the idea of "self defense" certainly won't."

If a rogue cop is attacking you, you have a right to defend yourself.   In the American Creed, our rights come from our Creator.  Amongst these rights is the right to self-defense.  It IS that simple.
23869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: MB on the March, cautiously on: May 20, 2011, 12:12:33 AM


Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood on the March, but Cautiously

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (MB) officially registered Wednesday for the formation of a new political wing, paving the way for the establishment of the Freedom and Justice Party. With parliamentary elections scheduled in September, Freedom and Justice is expected to do well at the first polls of the post-Mubarak era. Just how well is the main question on the minds of the country’s ruling military council, which would prefer to hand off the day-to-day responsibilities of governing Egypt, while holding onto real power behind the scenes.

Leading MB official Saad al-Katatny, one of the founders of Freedom and Justice, said he hopes for the party to officially begin its activities June 17, and to begin selecting its executive authority and top leaders one month later. Members of Egypt’s Political Parties Affairs Committee will convene Sunday to discuss the application and will announce their decision the next day. They are expected to approve the request. Three and a half months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s leading Islamist group is on the verge of forming an official political party for the first time in its history.

“The SCAF wants to get back to ruling and give up the job of governing, but it knows that there has been a sea change in Egypt’s political environment that prevents a return to the way things were done under Mubarak.”
Following Mubarak’s ouster, MB wasted little time in seizing what it saw as the group’s historical moment to enter Egypt’s political mainstream. They announced plans to form a political party on Feb. 14. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took over administration of the country following the deposal of Mubarak, did nothing to hinder this development, despite the military’s deep antipathy toward Islamist groups. Political instability was (and is) rampant in the country, and the military sought to find a balance that would allow it to maintain control while appearing amenable to the people’s demands, and bring life back to normal. Opening up political space to Islamist groups, including at least two emerging Salafist parties, and announcing plans for fairly rapid elections, was seen by the military as the most effective way to achieve this balance.

It bears repeating that what happened in Egypt in January and February did not constitute a revolution. There was no regime change; there was regime preservation, through a carefully orchestrated military coup that used the 19 days of popular demonstrations against Mubarak as a smokescreen for achieving its objective. Though a system of one-party rule existed from the aftermath of the 1967 War until Feb. 11 of this year, true power in Egypt since 1952 has been with the military and that did not change with the ouster of Mubarak. What changed was that for the first time since the 1960s, Egypt’s military found itself not just ruling, but actually governing, despite the existence of an interim government (which the SCAF itself appointed).

The SCAF wants to get back to ruling and give up the job of governing, but it knows that there has been a sea change in Egypt’s political environment that prevents a return to the way things were done under Mubarak. The days of single-party rule are over. If the military wants stability, it is going to have to accept a true multiparty political system, one that allows for a broad spectrum of participation from all corners of Egyptian society. The generals can maintain control of the regime, but the day-to-day affairs of governance will fall under the control of coalition governments that could never have existed in the old Egypt.

This opens the door for MB to gain more political power than it has ever held and explains why its leaders were so quick to announce their plans for the formation of Freedom and Justice in February. But the group has tempered eagerness with caution. MB is aware of its reputation in the eyes of the SCAF (and the outside world, for that matter) and is playing a shrewd game to dispel its image as an extremist Islamist group. It has been publicly supportive of the SCAF on a number of occasions, and has marketed Freedom and Justice as a non-Islamist party — it includes women and one of its founders is a Copt — based on Islamic principles. MB has also insisted that the new party will have no actual ties to the Brotherhood itself (though this is clearly not the case), while promising that it will not field a presidential candidate in polls due to take place six weeks following the parliamentary elections. In addition, MB has pledged to run for no more than 49 percent of the available parliamentary seats. This is designed to reassure the SCAF that it does not immediately seek absolute political power.

Focusing on whether the SCAF is sincere in its publicly stated desire to transform Egypt into a democracy misses the more important point, which is that the military regime feels it has no choice but to move toward a multiparty political system. The alternatives — military dictatorship and single-party rule — are unfeasible. But there are red lines attached to the push toward political pluralism, and MB is aware of these. Trying to take too much, too quickly, will only incite a military crackdown on the political opening the armed forces have engineered in the last three months. As for the SCAF, it is willing to give Freedom and Justice a chance in the new Egypt, so long as the underlying reality of power remains the same.

23870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Asymetric Actors on: May 19, 2011, 10:24:09 PM
 shocked shocked shocked

Any comments on the following YA?

http://www.tnr.com/print/article/world/88652/pakistan-united-states-relations-islam-afghan-taliban-terrorism

Asymmetric Actors

Why Pakistan will never break with its Islamist allies.
Larry P. Goodson
May 19, 2011 | 12:00 am






Pakistan’s long conflict with India shapes its national security worldview. Far smaller and weaker than its neighbor, Pakistan compensates with far higher military spending and a larger Army than it can afford, creating a national security state. India is never far from the minds of Pakistan’s national leaders, but the differential in size is such that Pakistan has had to develop a strategic triad of national security tools in order to counter it.

First, Pakistan has a large and tactically proficient conventional Army, but of the four wars it has fought with India, it happens to have lost all of them. Second, it has an arsenal of perhaps 100 nuclear weapons, but these too are hardly useful because India is an immediate neighbor and many of its key military installations and formations are so close to the border that it would not be able to hit the Indian army without hitting itself. The shortcomings of these first two aforementioned tools have led Pakistan to rely heavily on a third one, of which the United States generally disapproves: an arsenal of asymmetric actors, variously known as irregulars, guerrillas, and/or terrorists. In the last decade, the United States has persuaded Pakistan to turn on some of these groups, but Pakistan’s perceived security needs have ensured that it still tolerates or actively cultivates the existence of others. And while the successful U.S. operation against bin Laden might provide Pakistan with the cover it needs to break decisively with al Qaeda, it will also likely lead the country to rely on its other militant groups even more.

 

Unlike its unsuccessful army or its unusable nuclear weapons, Pakistan’s irregulars have been used early, often, and successfully throughout the country’s history. Since creating an Islamic homeland for South Asia’s Muslims was the founding idea of Pakistan, some variant of Islamic ideology has frequently been the motivational principle for these irregulars. Initially, the Islamic ideology centered on the split between India and Pakistan, especially in the Kashmir region, but over time it has taken on additional dimensions. The Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 deepened the sectarian divide within Pakistan and led to the creation of both Sunni and Shia militant groups within Pakistani society. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, also in 1979, combined with Pakistan’s simultaneous internal process of Islamization to beget the Afghan mujahideen and, eventually, the Taliban, which Pakistan supported as an instrument of its foreign policy right up to (and even a little beyond) September 11.

Operation Enduring Freedom, which began with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, complicated issues for Pakistan. After years of developing, supporting, and using Islamist irregulars as a foreign policy tool, Pakistan had to choose whether to abandon those irregulars and side with the United States, which intended to attack the Islamists, or stay with the Islamists and be attacked by the United States. The second choice was unthinkable, given the worldwide condemnation of al Qaeda in the wake of the September 11 attacks, but giving up its most effective national security tool was also deeply unappealing. As a result, Pakistan made the obvious choice to modulate its efforts against Islamist irregulars, going after some while cultivating others, based on a firmly established and highly justified belief that Americans do not really understand Pakistan and will not stay in the region for the long haul anyway.

Here is how it works. Pakistan’s Islamist universe contains five major types of groups. (Of course, it’s not really that simple, as there is substantial cross-pollination and overlap among them all, but as rough categories the distinctions are still useful). The first groups are Kashmiri in orientation, or anti-Indian, and they are primarily motivated by a desire to free the area of Kashmir that is occupied by India. The most well-known of these groups are Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. The second groups are sectarian, like the Sunni Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Shia Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan and Tehrik-e-Jafaria Pakistan. Third are the Afghan Taliban, who crossed into Pakistan in the face of American military pressure in late 2001 and 2002, just as their forebears did in the 1980s. Today, the remnants of the original Taliban leadership are based in and around Quetta and are known as the Quetta Shura Taliban, while the Haqqani Network operates out of North Waziristan, and the Hezb-i-Islami faction headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is based in Bajaur. The fourth group is comprised of international jihadis like al Qaeda, who also fled into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002. Finally, a fifth and extremely problematic group for Pakistan are the Pakistani Taliban, like the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan and Tehrik-Nafaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi, which have emerged since September 11 to challenge the legitimacy of the Pakistani state.

This last category of groups is the problem, in the eyes of Pakistan, as they have declared war on the state itself. Thus, although these groups are descended from the other organizations, share some similar ideological views, and frequently cross membership and otherwise cooperate, the Pakistani government has attempted to fight the Pakistani Taliban, at times sharing intelligence about them with the United States, which has attacked these groups from across the border in Afghanistan. Likewise, the sectarian militants are problematic for Pakistan since most of their attacks happen in metropolitan areas and always produce tit-for-tat responses, but government efforts to crack down on these groups are thwarted by sectarian and communitarian loyalties within the police forces and local communities, not by a malign effort on the part of federal government officials to allow those groups to continue to murder.

On the other hand, the anti-Indian groups and the Afghan Taliban are important instruments of state policy, and Pakistan’s national government has every desire to maintain and utilize them in order to project force and counter Indian influence on both its Afghan and Indian borders. Al Qaeda and the international jihadis, for their part, have been the most troublesome group for Pakistan to categorize, since they often serve as the ideological inspiration for the other groups, but the most important targets for the Americans. That is, they could not be easily attacked, but they also could not be easily left alone. The solution Pakistan arrived at was to attempt to disconnect al Qaeda from the other groups, defang their operational capability, and occasionally cooperate (albeit very quietly) in the capture or killing of some al Qaeda operatives.

 

The killing of bin Laden has the potential to change Pakistan’s strategy, but not the fundamental national security reality that has underpinned it. Pakistan still needs its favored Islamist irregulars, while it will still fight, sideline, or actively ignore its less-favored militant Islamic groups. Bin Laden’s death weakens al Qaeda tremendously, as Ayman Al-Zawahiri and the rest of the second level of leadership are undoubtedly scrambling to stay alive and cannot concentrate on operational matters or inspirational leadership. The factors that, prior to bin Laden’s death, constrained Pakistan from attacking al Qaeda more seriously probably still exist, but greater American success in going after the group can be expected and explained away by virtue of the large intelligence cache recovered by the Americans in Abbottabad. It might be possible, therefore, for Pakistan to make a cleaner break with al Qaeda as a byproduct of the bin Laden killing.

But here’s the catch: If bin Laden’s death means Pakistan can perhaps better turn the screws on al Qaeda, it will also likely cause it to rely on its other Islamist irregulars even more. The reason for this is that bin Laden being alive and on the loose meant the United States still had unfinished business in the region, but his death—when combined with American war-weariness—is already emboldening proponents of the “counterterrorism is enough” strategy, who argue the U.S. has no reason to continue a full-fledged occupation of Afghanistan. An American withdrawal from the region—something that is already very much anticipated by Pakistan—has now become more likely, with an accelerated timetable for that withdrawal also possible. As a result, Pakistan will feel even more need to cultivate its Afghan Taliban and Kashmiri groups in order to thwart the possibility of a pro-Indian government in Afghanistan, as well as continue to pursue its interests in Kashmir. The Americans, meanwhile, might rely on Pakistan as an essential conduit in supplying its war effort in Afghanistan—some 75 percent of U.S. supplies destined for Afghanistan cross Pakistani territory—but to Pakistan, the United States remains a far-away, fair-weather friend. In the wake of bin Laden, in other words, expect Pakistan to stand by the third leg of its national security triad—the one that has worked for it in the past and promises to still be there in the future.

Larry P. Goodson is a Professor of Middle East Studies at the U.S. Army War College and author of the forthcoming book, Pakistan: Understanding the Dark Side of the Moon, to be published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2012. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Gov
23871  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 19, 2011, 08:24:47 PM
I am still digging my way through the pile of emails accumulated in the last few weeks, but in case I screwed up, please resend it.
23872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: May 19, 2011, 04:07:52 PM
Good thing we Jews have them "surrounded", right AB?  evil cheesy rolleyes
23873  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Texas is not Mexico on: May 19, 2011, 12:37:59 PM

By Scott Stewart

As one studies Mexico’s cartel war, it is not uncommon to hear Mexican politicians — and some people in the United States — claim that Mexico’s problems of violence and corruption stem largely from the country’s proximity to the United States. According to this narrative, the United States is the world’s largest illicit narcotics market, and the inexorable force of economic demand means that the countries supplying the demand, and those that are positioned between the source countries and the huge U.S. market, are trapped in a very bad position. Because of this market and the illicit trade it creates, billions of dollars worth of drugs flow northward through Mexico (or are produced there) and billions of dollars in cash flow back southward into Mexico. The guns that flow southward along with the cash, according to the narrative, are largely responsible for Mexico’s violence. As one looks at other countries lying to the south of Mexico along the smuggling routes from South America to the United States, they too seem to suffer from the same maladies.

However, when we look at the dynamics of the narcotics trade, there are other political entities, ones located to Mexico’s north, that find themselves caught in the same geographic and economic position as Mexico and points south. As borderlands, these entities — referred to as states in the U.S. political system — find themselves caught between the supply of drugs flowing from the south and the large narcotics markets to their north. The geographic location of these states results in large quantities of narcotics flowing northward through their territory and large amounts of cash likewise flowing southward. Indeed, this illicit flow has brought with it corruption and violence, but when we look at these U.S. states, their security environments are starkly different from those of Mexican states on the other side of the border.

One implicit reality that flows from the geopolitical concept of borderlands is that while political borders are clearly delineated, the cultural and economic borders surrounding them are frequently less clear and more dynamic. The borderlands on each side of the thin, artificially imposed line we call a border are remarkably similar in geographic and demographic terms (indeed, inhabitants of such areas are often related). In the larger picture, both sides of the border often face the same set of geopolitical realities and challenges. Certainly the border between the United States and Mexico was artificially imposed by the annexation of Texas following its anti-Mexico revolution as well as the U.S. annexation of what is now much of the U.S. West, including the border states of Arizona, California and New Mexico, following the Mexican-American War. While the desert regions along the border do provide a bit of a buffer between the two countries — and between the Mexican core and its northern territories — there is no geological obstacle separating the two countries. Even the Rio Grande is not so grand, as the constant flow of illicit goods over it testifies. In many places, like Juarez and El Paso, the U.S.-Mexico border serves to cut cities in half, much like the Berlin Wall used to do.

Yet as one crosses over that artificial line one senses huge differences between the cultural, economic and security environments north and south. In spite of the geopolitical and economic realities confronting both sides of this borderland, Texas is not Mexico. The differences run deep, and we thought it worthwhile this week to examine how and why.


Same Problems, Different Scope

First, it must be understood that this examination does not mean to assert that the illicit narcotics market in the United States has no effect on Mexico (or Central America, for that matter). The flow of narcotics, money and guns, and the organizations that participate in this illicit trade, does have a clear and demonstrable impact on Mexico. But — and this very significant — that impact does not stop at the border. This illicit commerce also impacts the U.S. states north of the border.

Certainly the U.S. side of the border has seen corruption of public officials, cartel-related violence and, of course, drug trafficking. But these phenomena have manifested themselves differently on the U.S. side of the border.

In the United States there have been local cops, sheriffs, customs inspectors and even FBI agents arrested and convicted for corruption. However, the problem is far worse on the Mexican side, where entire police forces have been relieved of their duties due to their cooperation with the drug cartels and where systematic corruption has been traced all the way from the municipal mayoral level to the Presidential Guard, and even to the country’s drug czar. There have even been groups of police officers and military units arrested while actively protecting shipments of drugs in Mexico — something that simply does not occur in the United States. And while Mexican officials are frequently forced to choose between “plata o plomo” (Spanish for “silver or lead,” a direct threat of violence meaning “take the bribe or we will kill you”), that type of threat is extremely rare in the United States. It is also very rare to see politicians, police chiefs and judges killed in the United States — a common occurrence in Mexico.

That said, there certainly has been cartel-related violence on the U.S. side of the border with organizations such as Los Zetas conducting assassinations in places like Houston and Dallas. The claim by some U.S. politicians that there is no spillover violence is patently false. However, the use of violence on the U.S. side has tended to be far more discreet on the part of the cartels (and the U.S. street gangs they are allied with) than in Mexico, where the cartels are frequently quite flagrant. The cartels kill people in the United States but they tend to avoid the gruesome theatrics associated with many drug-related murders in Mexico, where it has become commonplace to see victims beheaded, dismembered or hung from pedestrian walkways over major thoroughfares.

Likewise, the large firefights frequently observed in Mexico involving dozens of armed men on each side using military weapons, grenades and rocket-propelled grenades have come within feet of the border (sometimes with stray rounds crossing over onto the U.S. side), but these types of events have remained on the south side of that invisible line. Mexican cartel gunmen have used dozens of trucks and other large vehicles to set up roadblocks in Matamoros, but they have not followed suit in Brownsville. Cities on the U.S. side of the border are seen as markets, logistics hubs and places of refuge for cartel figures, not battlefields.

Even when we consider drug production, it is important to recognize that the first “super labs” for methamphetamine production were developed in California’s Central Valley, not in Mexico. It was only pressure from U.S. law enforcement agencies that forced the relocation of these laboratories south of the border. Certainly, meth production is still going on in many parts of the United States, but the production is being conducted in mom-and-pop operations that can produce only relatively small amounts of the drug, usually of varying quality. By contrast, Mexican super labs can produce tons of meth that is of very high (almost pharmacological) quality. Additionally, while Mexican cartels (and other producers) have long grown marijuana inside the United States in clandestine plots of land, the quantity of marijuana the cartels grow inside the United States is far eclipsed by the industrial marijuana production operations conducted in Mexico.

Even the size of narcotics shipments changes at the border. The huge shipments of drugs that are shipped within Mexico are broken down into smaller lots at stash houses on the Mexican side of the border to be smuggled into the United States. Then they are frequently broken down again in stash houses on the U.S. side of the border. The trafficking of drugs in the United States tends to be far more decentralized and diffuse than it is on the Mexican side, again in response to U.S. law enforcement pressure. Smaller shipments allow drug traffickers to limit their losses if a shipment is seized, and using a decentralized distribution network allows them to be less dependent on any one link in the chain. If one distribution channel is rolled up by the authorities, traffickers can shift their product into another sales channel.


Not Just an Institutional Problem

Above we noted that the same dynamics exist on both sides of the border, and the same cartel groups also operate on both sides. However, we also noted the consistent theme of the Mexican cartels being forced to behave differently on the U.S. side. The organizations are no different, but the environment in which they operate is very different. The corruption, poverty, diminished rule of law and lack of territorial control (particularly in the border-adjacent hinterlands) that is endemic to the Mexican system greatly empowers and emboldens the cartels in Mexico. The operating environment inside the United States is quite different, forcing the cartels to behave differently. Mexican cartels and drug trafficking are problems in the United States, but they are problems that can be controlled by U.S. law enforcement. The environment does not permit the cartels to threaten the U.S. government’s ability to govern.

A geopolitical monograph explaining the forces that have shaped Mexico can be found here. Understanding the geopolitics of Mexico is very helpful to understanding the challenges Mexico faces and why it has become what it is today. This broader understanding is also the key to understanding why the Mexican police simply can’t be reformed to solve the problems of violence and corruption. Certainly, the Mexican government has aggressively pursued police reform for many years now, with very little success. Indeed, it was the lack of a trustworthy law enforcement apparatus that led the Calderon government to turn to the military to counter the power of the Mexican cartels. This lack of reliable law enforcement has also led Calderon to aggressively pursue police reform. This reform effort has included unifying the federal police agencies and consolidating municipal police departments (which have arguably been the most corrupt institutions in Mexico) into unified state police commands, under which officers are subjected to better screening, oversight and accountability. Already, however, there have been numerous instances of these “new and improved” federal- and state-level police officers being arrested for corruption.

This illustrates the fact that Mexico’s ills go far deeper than just corrupt institutions. Because of this, revamping the institutions will not result in any meaningful change, and the revamped institutions will soon be corrupted like the ones they replaced. This fact should have been readily apparent; the institutional approach has been tried in the region before and has failed.

Perhaps the best example of this failure was the “untouchable and incorruptible” Department of Anti-Narcotics Operations, known by its Spanish acronym DOAN, which was created in Guatemala in the mid-1990s. The DOAN was almost purely a creation of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The concept behind the creation of the DOAN was that corruption existed within the Guatemalan police institutions because the police were undertrained, underpaid and underequipped. It was believed that if police recruits were carefully screened, properly trained, well paid and adequately equipped, they would not be susceptible to the corruption that plagued the other police institutions in the country. So the U.S. government hand-picked the recruits, thoroughly trained them, paid them generously and provided them with brand-new uniforms and equipment. However, the result was not what the U.S. government expected. By 2002, the “untouchable” DOAN had to be disbanded because it had essentially become a drug trafficking organization itself and was involved in torturing and killing competitors and stealing their shipments of narcotics.

The example of the Guatemalan DOAN (and of more recent Mexican police reform efforts) demonstrates that even a competent, well-paid and well-equipped police institution cannot stand alone within a culture that is not prepared to support it and keep it clean. In other words, over time, an institution will take on the characteristics of, and essentially reflect, the environment surrounding it. Therefore, significant reform in Mexico requires a holistic approach that reaches far beyond the institutions to address the profound economic, sociological and cultural problems that are affecting the country today. Indeed, given how deeply rooted and pervasive these problems are and the geopolitical hand the country was dealt, Mexico has done quite well. But holistic change will not be easy to accomplish. It will require a great deal of time, treasure, leadership and effort. In view of this reality, we can see why it would be more politically expedient simply to blame the Americans.



Read more: Corruption: Why Texas is Not Mexico | STRATFOR
23874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: May 19, 2011, 12:34:17 PM



By Scott Stewart

As one studies Mexico’s cartel war, it is not uncommon to hear Mexican politicians — and some people in the United States — claim that Mexico’s problems of violence and corruption stem largely from the country’s proximity to the United States. According to this narrative, the United States is the world’s largest illicit narcotics market, and the inexorable force of economic demand means that the countries supplying the demand, and those that are positioned between the source countries and the huge U.S. market, are trapped in a very bad position. Because of this market and the illicit trade it creates, billions of dollars worth of drugs flow northward through Mexico (or are produced there) and billions of dollars in cash flow back southward into Mexico. The guns that flow southward along with the cash, according to the narrative, are largely responsible for Mexico’s violence. As one looks at other countries lying to the south of Mexico along the smuggling routes from South America to the United States, they too seem to suffer from the same maladies.

However, when we look at the dynamics of the narcotics trade, there are other political entities, ones located to Mexico’s north, that find themselves caught in the same geographic and economic position as Mexico and points south. As borderlands, these entities — referred to as states in the U.S. political system — find themselves caught between the supply of drugs flowing from the south and the large narcotics markets to their north. The geographic location of these states results in large quantities of narcotics flowing northward through their territory and large amounts of cash likewise flowing southward. Indeed, this illicit flow has brought with it corruption and violence, but when we look at these U.S. states, their security environments are starkly different from those of Mexican states on the other side of the border.

One implicit reality that flows from the geopolitical concept of borderlands is that while political borders are clearly delineated, the cultural and economic borders surrounding them are frequently less clear and more dynamic. The borderlands on each side of the thin, artificially imposed line we call a border are remarkably similar in geographic and demographic terms (indeed, inhabitants of such areas are often related). In the larger picture, both sides of the border often face the same set of geopolitical realities and challenges. Certainly the border between the United States and Mexico was artificially imposed by the annexation of Texas following its anti-Mexico revolution as well as the U.S. annexation of what is now much of the U.S. West, including the border states of Arizona, California and New Mexico, following the Mexican-American War. While the desert regions along the border do provide a bit of a buffer between the two countries — and between the Mexican core and its northern territories — there is no geological obstacle separating the two countries. Even the Rio Grande is not so grand, as the constant flow of illicit goods over it testifies. In many places, like Juarez and El Paso, the U.S.-Mexico border serves to cut cities in half, much like the Berlin Wall used to do.

Yet as one crosses over that artificial line one senses huge differences between the cultural, economic and security environments north and south. In spite of the geopolitical and economic realities confronting both sides of this borderland, Texas is not Mexico. The differences run deep, and we thought it worthwhile this week to examine how and why.


Same Problems, Different Scope

First, it must be understood that this examination does not mean to assert that the illicit narcotics market in the United States has no effect on Mexico (or Central America, for that matter). The flow of narcotics, money and guns, and the organizations that participate in this illicit trade, does have a clear and demonstrable impact on Mexico. But — and this very significant — that impact does not stop at the border. This illicit commerce also impacts the U.S. states north of the border.

Certainly the U.S. side of the border has seen corruption of public officials, cartel-related violence and, of course, drug trafficking. But these phenomena have manifested themselves differently on the U.S. side of the border.

In the United States there have been local cops, sheriffs, customs inspectors and even FBI agents arrested and convicted for corruption. However, the problem is far worse on the Mexican side, where entire police forces have been relieved of their duties due to their cooperation with the drug cartels and where systematic corruption has been traced all the way from the municipal mayoral level to the Presidential Guard, and even to the country’s drug czar. There have even been groups of police officers and military units arrested while actively protecting shipments of drugs in Mexico — something that simply does not occur in the United States. And while Mexican officials are frequently forced to choose between “plata o plomo” (Spanish for “silver or lead,” a direct threat of violence meaning “take the bribe or we will kill you”), that type of threat is extremely rare in the United States. It is also very rare to see politicians, police chiefs and judges killed in the United States — a common occurrence in Mexico.

That said, there certainly has been cartel-related violence on the U.S. side of the border with organizations such as Los Zetas conducting assassinations in places like Houston and Dallas. The claim by some U.S. politicians that there is no spillover violence is patently false. However, the use of violence on the U.S. side has tended to be far more discreet on the part of the cartels (and the U.S. street gangs they are allied with) than in Mexico, where the cartels are frequently quite flagrant. The cartels kill people in the United States but they tend to avoid the gruesome theatrics associated with many drug-related murders in Mexico, where it has become commonplace to see victims beheaded, dismembered or hung from pedestrian walkways over major thoroughfares.

Likewise, the large firefights frequently observed in Mexico involving dozens of armed men on each side using military weapons, grenades and rocket-propelled grenades have come within feet of the border (sometimes with stray rounds crossing over onto the U.S. side), but these types of events have remained on the south side of that invisible line. Mexican cartel gunmen have used dozens of trucks and other large vehicles to set up roadblocks in Matamoros, but they have not followed suit in Brownsville. Cities on the U.S. side of the border are seen as markets, logistics hubs and places of refuge for cartel figures, not battlefields.

Even when we consider drug production, it is important to recognize that the first “super labs” for methamphetamine production were developed in California’s Central Valley, not in Mexico. It was only pressure from U.S. law enforcement agencies that forced the relocation of these laboratories south of the border. Certainly, meth production is still going on in many parts of the United States, but the production is being conducted in mom-and-pop operations that can produce only relatively small amounts of the drug, usually of varying quality. By contrast, Mexican super labs can produce tons of meth that is of very high (almost pharmacological) quality. Additionally, while Mexican cartels (and other producers) have long grown marijuana inside the United States in clandestine plots of land, the quantity of marijuana the cartels grow inside the United States is far eclipsed by the industrial marijuana production operations conducted in Mexico.

Even the size of narcotics shipments changes at the border. The huge shipments of drugs that are shipped within Mexico are broken down into smaller lots at stash houses on the Mexican side of the border to be smuggled into the United States. Then they are frequently broken down again in stash houses on the U.S. side of the border. The trafficking of drugs in the United States tends to be far more decentralized and diffuse than it is on the Mexican side, again in response to U.S. law enforcement pressure. Smaller shipments allow drug traffickers to limit their losses if a shipment is seized, and using a decentralized distribution network allows them to be less dependent on any one link in the chain. If one distribution channel is rolled up by the authorities, traffickers can shift their product into another sales channel.


Not Just an Institutional Problem

Above we noted that the same dynamics exist on both sides of the border, and the same cartel groups also operate on both sides. However, we also noted the consistent theme of the Mexican cartels being forced to behave differently on the U.S. side. The organizations are no different, but the environment in which they operate is very different. The corruption, poverty, diminished rule of law and lack of territorial control (particularly in the border-adjacent hinterlands) that is endemic to the Mexican system greatly empowers and emboldens the cartels in Mexico. The operating environment inside the United States is quite different, forcing the cartels to behave differently. Mexican cartels and drug trafficking are problems in the United States, but they are problems that can be controlled by U.S. law enforcement. The environment does not permit the cartels to threaten the U.S. government’s ability to govern.

A geopolitical monograph explaining the forces that have shaped Mexico can be found here. Understanding the geopolitics of Mexico is very helpful to understanding the challenges Mexico faces and why it has become what it is today. This broader understanding is also the key to understanding why the Mexican police simply can’t be reformed to solve the problems of violence and corruption. Certainly, the Mexican government has aggressively pursued police reform for many years now, with very little success. Indeed, it was the lack of a trustworthy law enforcement apparatus that led the Calderon government to turn to the military to counter the power of the Mexican cartels. This lack of reliable law enforcement has also led Calderon to aggressively pursue police reform. This reform effort has included unifying the federal police agencies and consolidating municipal police departments (which have arguably been the most corrupt institutions in Mexico) into unified state police commands, under which officers are subjected to better screening, oversight and accountability. Already, however, there have been numerous instances of these “new and improved” federal- and state-level police officers being arrested for corruption.

This illustrates the fact that Mexico’s ills go far deeper than just corrupt institutions. Because of this, revamping the institutions will not result in any meaningful change, and the revamped institutions will soon be corrupted like the ones they replaced. This fact should have been readily apparent; the institutional approach has been tried in the region before and has failed.

Perhaps the best example of this failure was the “untouchable and incorruptible” Department of Anti-Narcotics Operations, known by its Spanish acronym DOAN, which was created in Guatemala in the mid-1990s. The DOAN was almost purely a creation of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The concept behind the creation of the DOAN was that corruption existed within the Guatemalan police institutions because the police were undertrained, underpaid and underequipped. It was believed that if police recruits were carefully screened, properly trained, well paid and adequately equipped, they would not be susceptible to the corruption that plagued the other police institutions in the country. So the U.S. government hand-picked the recruits, thoroughly trained them, paid them generously and provided them with brand-new uniforms and equipment. However, the result was not what the U.S. government expected. By 2002, the “untouchable” DOAN had to be disbanded because it had essentially become a drug trafficking organization itself and was involved in torturing and killing competitors and stealing their shipments of narcotics.

The example of the Guatemalan DOAN (and of more recent Mexican police reform efforts) demonstrates that even a competent, well-paid and well-equipped police institution cannot stand alone within a culture that is not prepared to support it and keep it clean. In other words, over time, an institution will take on the characteristics of, and essentially reflect, the environment surrounding it. Therefore, significant reform in Mexico requires a holistic approach that reaches far beyond the institutions to address the profound economic, sociological and cultural problems that are affecting the country today. Indeed, given how deeply rooted and pervasive these problems are and the geopolitical hand the country was dealt, Mexico has done quite well. But holistic change will not be easy to accomplish. It will require a great deal of time, treasure, leadership and effort. In view of this reality, we can see why it would be more politically expedient simply to blame the Americans.



Read more: Corruption: Why Texas is Not Mexico | STRATFOR
23875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Repoart from the Libyan-Tunisia Border-2 on: May 19, 2011, 12:17:15 PM
second post of the morning

Report from the Libyan-Tunisian Border, Part II
May 19, 2011 | 1219 GMT
PRINT Text Resize:   

ShareThis

BORNI HICHEM/AFP/Getty Images
Libyan rebels inspect a vehicle in the border city of Wazin on April 23The following is the second and final installment of a field report written by a STRATFOR source who recently visited the Libyan-Tunisian border. While Libyan rebels in the coastal town of Misurata have made significant gains in recent weeks against the Libyan army, the other remaining outpost of rebellion in western Libya — mainly ethnic Berbers holding out in the Nafusa Mountains — has seen no significant change in the tactical situation since rebels seized the Wazin-Dehiba border crossing April 21.

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi launch Grad rockets and other forms of artillery at the string of rebel-held towns along the mountain range on a daily basis, but they have been unable to retake the elevated positions, which give the rebels access to a strategic redoubt in neighboring Tunisia. Control of the border crossing — one of only two official outposts between the two countries, and the only one in the vicinity of the Nafusa Mountains (also known as the Western Mountains) — affords the rebels the luxury of an unimpeded supply line from Tunisia. Were the rebels to lose control of the border post, they would be forced to smuggle materiel through the mountains. Though local tribes know the terrain well and are used to smuggling subsidized gasoline from Libya into Tunisia during the days before the Libyan conflict broke out, this is still a less-secure proposition than simply driving across the border on the main road and would make it more difficult for the rebels to sustain their guerrilla fight against Gadhafi.



(click here to enlarge image)
The fighting between the Libyan army and the rebels in the Nafusa Mountains has caused strains recently between the governments of Tunisia and Libya. Reports of stray Libyan artillery rockets landing on Tunisian soil are frequent, and though the damage has been minimal — a few injuries, but no deaths — there have also been instances in which Libyan soldiers fled into Tunisia during firefights with rebel forces, which Tunisia sees as a violation of its sovereignty. At the time STRATFOR’s source was leaving Dehiba, dozens of artillery rockets allegedly fell in the vicinity of the town once again, prompting the Tunisian government to issue a communique in which it threatened to report Libya to the U.N. Security Council for “committing acts of an enemy.”

Editor’s Note: What follows is a field report from a STRATFOR source in the region.

“I crossed onto the Libyan side again May 16 and talked to a bunch of traders from Zentan who sell sheep in Tunisia and bring gasoline back to Zentan the next day. They told me Zentan is being hit by an average of 20 artillery rockets — considered by everyone to be 122 mm Grads — each day, sometimes as many as 100. Only four struck on May 15, and there were none during the two or three previous days. I tend to consider the numbers rhetorical exaggerations on their part, but then again I heard heavy machine gun fire and at least 15 artillery rockets target the mountains during the two nights I was in Dehiba. As far as the military situation in and around Zentan is concerned, there seems to basically have been no significant change over the last three months, of course with the exception of the border post having been taken and its effect on the rebel supply lines. Before, everything had to go through the smuggling routes in the mountains — actually more like big hills, but pretty steep.

Both on the Tunisian and Libyan side, everyone was smuggling even before the war. Dehiba is a sort of bay surrounded on two sides by the mountains behind which lies Libya. Before the unrest, people were bringing gasoline from Libya into Tunisia because it was so much cheaper. Now the direction of the traffic has changed but the intensity only has picked up. There are rundown pickup trucks all over the place that have no license plates and are only used to cross the mountains. The soldiers and border control guards know this, of course; they can actually see it because the main point of commerce to trade sheep brought in from Libya is just behind the border post. This makes the whole situation kind of odd as cars going through the post are subject to a close scrutiny. But at the same time, everyone knows you can just go around. I guess the idea is that only locals can avoid the posts because they know the routes you have to take, while foreigners from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — who are the ones people are worried about, especially since the arrests in recent weeks — have to go through the controls.

In Zentan, the rebels hold the city center and families and old men are in the outskirts or accompanying villages. These men claimed that only 25 percent of residents had left, and after seeing the relatively low amount of refugees on the Tunisian side of the border I would believe that. Gadhafi’s troops shell downtown Zentan from down the mountain, though there does not seem to be much of a discernable pattern to their targeting. The rebels there claim to have killed 200 soldiers and imprisoned 250. At the same time, they claim there are only 500 soldiers encircling Zentan. Among the prisoners, according to the two supply runners I spoke to, there are mercenaries from Mali, Chad, Algeria and Sudan. Also, the families of local officers on Gadhafi’s side supposedly are being held hostage in Tripoli in order to ensure the officers’ obeisance.

I believe most of what those two told me, except some of the figures. They were guests of the man with whom I was staying. We ate, had tea and smoked together. This kind of stuff means everything down there. I had previously tried to talk to people from Zentan in a refugee camp while with an American working for an international nongovernmental organization and no one wanted to talk to us. The local who introduced me changed everything in that sense.

On the Libyan side of the border, I ventured into the first rebel-held town, Wazin. I was unable to go farther, as I had no one to translate for me and was worried about not getting back to Tunisia before nightfall (when the shelling usually starts). I talked to a group of young men from Jadu there. There were maybe seven or eight of them hanging out at a bombed-out gas station where they also sleep. The rebels have formed troops by locality of about 20 men each. They take shifts up on the mountains in three units — two days up there defending their front, one day in the valley to relax. Underequipped, they are forced to hand off their arms to the ones coming up when they switch. They claim they have taken all their weapons from Gadhafi’s soldiers.

All the rebels I met were former students or university graduates with low-paying jobs, one truck driver with a geology degree, for example, who had never fought before. I doubt very much their claim that the rebels are composed of about 40-50 percent former professional soldiers. I didn’t see nor talk to a single rebel who fit this description.

One of my new friends, a youngster living in Dehiba, called me when I was on my way back to Tunis and told me Gadhafi’s forces had started shelling more intensely, including during the day, which didn’t happen when I was there. It seems they also targeted Wazin, which also hadn’t been happening. The rebels on the mountain road they are holding seem to have moved back their positions some. Maybe that rumor that Gadhafi’s troops had received reinforcements a few days ago was true after all. The new rumor (as of May 17) is that Gadhafi has given his troops 48 hours to take the border post again, but then again, we’ve seen self-imposed deadlines like this from Gadhafi before in other theaters of the war, and they typically don’t mean much.”

23876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The TNC on: May 19, 2011, 12:07:46 PM
By JUDITH MILLER
Washington

Mahmoud Jibril, the interim prime minister of the Libyan opposition government, is a desperate man with a fondness for medical metaphors. "If you're bleeding to death, you need a tourniquet, not another diagnosis," he told the diplomats, lobbyists and pro-democracy activists invited to a reception at the Libyan ambassador's elegant house in Washington, D.C., last Thursday.

This was the first official visit by Mr. Jibril and other representatives of the Transitional National Council (TNC) who are struggling to manage Libya's transition from 42 years of Moammar Gadhafi's dictatorship to a democratic future. The delegation left Washington over the weekend with lots of goodwill but without the "tourniquet" Mr. Jibril was seeking—access to $3 billion of the $32 billion in Libyan assets that the U.S. froze in February.

After almost two days of nonstop meetings between the Libyans and members of Congress, officials at the State Department and the Pentagon, and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, the White House issued a terse statement calling Mr. Jibril and the TNC he co-chairs "credible and legitimate." Privately, the White House also pledged to help speed legislation suggested by Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), and supported by Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), to give the rebels access to some $180 million of Libyan funds.

But legislation takes time. And Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar's reluctance to get more deeply involved in Libya—the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee did not attend Friday's meeting with the Libyans—does not bode well for quick action. Time is an all-too-precious commodity for the rebels, who say they are running out of money.

Ali Tarhouni, the interim government's finance minister, said that even if Mr. Kerry's relief package were approved, the money only would cover the cost of feeding and providing power to Libya's liberated areas for 10-12 days. "We really appreciate everything the U.S. is doing," Mr. Tarhouni told me. "But it doesn't solve my problem. I'm basically trying to run a war economy without resources. We're not asking for American taxpayer money," he said, "just access to our own frozen funds, or loans using them as collateral."

Mr. Tarhouni said he hoped that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates would provide some more interim relief. Support from both countries—which along with France, Italy and a few African states have recognized the TNC as Libya's legitimate government and sent fuel to the rebels—has been "outstanding," he said.

View Full Image

Associated Press
 
Mahmoud Jibril
.Although the delegation left Washington empty-handed, it made some progress, according to Libyan and American sources. The delegation's visit reminded America that while Washington dithers, Libyans continue to die. Mr. Jibril told me that, based on hospital estimates, more than 11,000 Libyans have already been killed in the 12 weeks of fighting. The United Nations says that more than 800,000 people have fled Libya and that 1.6 million inside the country need assistance.

The visit has also allayed some concern that the rebel leadership is infiltrated and unduly influenced by al Qaeda or its longtime affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) —a standard theme of Gadhafi's narrative about the TNC.

Messrs. Jibril and Tarhouni acknowledge there are LIFG members and some other militants' voices represented in the council. Since the TNC represents all anti-Gadhafi elements of the country, "they are included," Mr. Jibril says. But he insists they are not in leadership positions and will not determine foreign or domestic policy if and when Gadhafi is overthrown, if the TNC survives.

Mr. Jibril got his masters and a doctorate in strategic planning from the University of Pittsburgh in 1985. Though he served from 2007-09 as the chair of the Gadhafi's National Economic Development Board and led the Libyan National Planning Council, Libya experts never considered him part of the dictator's inner circle.

Mr. Tarhouni's democratic credentials are more impressive. He was a university student in Libya decades ago when his antiregime activities landed him on a Gadhafi hit list and forced him to flee. An economics professor at the University of Washington, he abruptly left his family and students to join the Libyan uprising, apologizing to his students for his departure. "I told them I had been waiting 40 years for this moment. In fact, I had almost lost hope that I would ever live to see it," he said.

Both men express gratitude toward the U.S.—as well as their growing frustration—in vivid, colloquial English. Mr. Jibril, for instance, explaining why the rebels have been unwilling to declare themselves Libya's government, articulated his dilemma this way: If the TNC took such action, Gadhafi would accuse them of being a separatist movement. "Damned if you do, damned if you don't," he told an audience at the Brookings Institution on Thursday.

It is this legalistic never-never land that has complicated the TNC's effort to secure more concrete support from Washington. But that alone does not fully explain Washington's hesitation. Some in Congress and within the White House continue to warn of "mission creep" in Libya. What began, belatedly, as an effort to protect the population of Benghazi in eastern Libya has become a grueling stalemate. With no obvious vital strategic interests at stake in the vast, oil-rich land of 6.5 million, and with two other wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some American analysts warn ominously about the dangers of "imperial overreach."

The Obama administration has repeatedly called for Gadhafi to relinquish power, and it has been quietly searching for a country that will host him. The State Department has not permitted Gadhafi to replace his ambassadors in Washington and at the United Nations. Both have defected to the rebels. But the U.S. has not recognized the TNC as Libya's legitimate government either.

After their meetings in Washington, neither Mahmoud Jibril nor Ali Tarhouni seemed worried about tomorrow's War Powers Act deadline—which requires President Obama to end the use of force absent a Congressional decision to keep going. "The message we got is that this is not going to be a problem," Mr. Tarhouni said.

The administration "is not going to pull the plug on this engagement," says Dirk Vandewalle, a Libya expert and professor of government at Dartmouth. "We may not know who will lead Libya after Gadhafi falls," he added, "but the TNC has emerged as a coherent force that is reaching out to a wide range of Libyans and thinking seriously about the future."

Ms. Miller is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a commentator for Fox News.

23877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What BO should say on: May 19, 2011, 12:04:35 PM


By JAMES K. GLASSMAN
AND JUAN ZARATE
The twin events of the Arab Spring and the death of Osama bin Laden provide President Obama with an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the distorted narrative that the West is at war with Islam. His speech today, addressed mainly to the world's one and a half billion Muslims, is a perfect moment to establish a clear new story line—one that puts Muslims, and not the U.S., at the center of events in the Middle East and South Asia.

During our time in government, we put heavy emphasis on pushing back against the pernicious ideology of America's enemies. We believed that to make America safe we had to prevail in a war of ideas. But we also learned quickly that it was ineffective simply to say: "You're wrong when you accuse us of trying to destroy your religion. It's clear that we are good, tolerant people."

Despite the declining popularity of al Qaeda over the past few years and the change in American administrations, the prevailing and persistent narrative among Muslim communities is that the U.S. and the West in general are trying to destroy Islam and humiliate and marginalize Muslims. Once someone believes this narrative, he interprets events in any way necessary to fit into that framework.

Thus the American intervention to save Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s is ignored or explained away. Or, when the U.S. sends troops to Indonesia on a humanitarian mission to distribute food after a devastating tsunami, rumors sweep the country that the true objective is to lay the groundwork for conquering the nation in the name of Christianity.

The only way to answer a false narrative is to develop a true one, to promote it heavily, and to wait until events make the alternate narrative so broadly self-evident that it supplants the old one. In this case, the true narrative is that there is an epochal conflict occurring. It is not a "clash of civilizations," as Samuel Huntington described the confrontation between Islam and the West, but rather a "clash within a civilization"—that is, within Muslim communities themselves.

This narrative properly removes the U.S. from center-stage, and it allows Muslims to assume responsibility for critical events unfolding in their countries rather than feeling like impotent bystanders.

There are two conflicts that make up this clash within a civilization and both have become much clearer in the wake of the Arab Spring. The first is between believers in the great religion of Islam and violent Islamist extremists. The second struggle is between Muslims and others in the Middle East striving for freedom against autocratic rulers. When justice in this long battle finally prevails—when al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups are defeated and when freedom and democracy triumph—the victory will be justifiably a source of Muslim pride and renewal.

Though neither of these conflicts is about the U.S. directly, both affect us, as we learned on 9/11. For moral and national security reasons, we must be involved by supporting those fighting ideological oppression. Yet in the end, the conflicts have to be resolved by Muslims themselves.

The message that Americans will continue to help the forces of pluralism and moderation should have been the focus of President Obama's Cairo speech two years ago. Unfortunately, the president played into the prevailing narrative, apologizing for past American action in sweeping terms.

Worse, the resulting policy of engagement with autocratic regimes in the Middle East sacrificed our principles for the false hope of diplomatic breakthroughs. For instance, America tried actively to engage with repressive rulers in Iran, Syria and elsewhere; we reduced financial backing for civil society advocates in Egypt; and we failed to provide vigorous moral and material support to pro-democracy dissidents in Iran before they were crushed.

The good news is that the groundwork that had been laid previously (in large part during the Bush administration) and, more important, the will of Muslims themselves, have begun to pay off. The new narrative of a conflict within a civilization has emerged without any apparent assistance from U.S. strategic communicators. One handmade protest sign in Egypt summed it up: "Why enslave people? We're born free."

Meanwhile, the dramatic events in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere show that President George W. Bush was right when he said that "freedom is universal" and that the "untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world." Muslims desire and deserve freedom as much as everyone else. (A new Pew poll finds that vast majorities in Jordan, Egypt and other Muslim nations believe that democracy is better than any other kind of government.) Muslims aren't condemned to being permanent democratic outliers. The battle for freedom is far from over, but the path is now clear.

President Obama should use his speech to shape this narrative. The story is not about us. It's about brave Muslims fighting for freedom, who, in the end, will triumph.

Mr. Glassman served as under secretary of state for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the George W. Bush administration and is now executive director of the Bush Institute in Dallas. Mr. Zarate was deputy national security advisor for Counter-Terrorism and is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

23878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Alexcander: The Directorate of Indoctrination on: May 19, 2011, 11:56:35 AM
The Directorate of Indoctrination
Leftist Academic Apparatchiks
"Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." --George Washington from his Farewell Address, 1796
It's the end of the school year, so Barack Hussein Obama is including commencement speech whistle stops on his 2012 campaign itinerary.

In Memphis, where Obama delivered one such speech to budding sycophants at Booker T. Washington high school, he asserted, "My administration has been working hard to make sure that we ... encourage the kind of change that's led not by Washington, DC, but by teachers and principals and parents..." (Notice the order in which he lists the agents of change: "teachers and principals and parents.")

Of course, "the kind of change" led by socialist unions in government schools across the nation is already in lock step with what "Washington, DC" dictates. They're both bent upon churning out legions of useful idiots necessary to ensure incremental implementation of Democratic Socialism. Of incremental implementation, Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev once said, "We can't expect the American people to jump from capitalism to communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of socialism, until they awaken one day to find that they have communism."

I must note here that there are thousands of outstanding teachers who do not subscribe to Leftist efforts to "fundamentally transform the United States of America" via student indoctrination, partisan and sectarian curricula, and a liberal worldview. However, I must also note that, unfortunately, these brave souls are the rare exception to what was once the rule.

Prior to latter-20th century, outstanding teachers dominated public schools.

Historically, establishment of most private and public academic institutions for the young was, first and foremost, for the purpose of reading the Bible. Indeed, most Christian denominations established schools, colleges and universities to train clergy.

The nation's oldest academic institution, Harvard University, was established in 1636 and named for Puritan minister John Harvard. A 1643 college brochure identified Harvard's purpose: "To advance Learning and perpetuate it to Posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches." Harvard alumnus John Adams (class of 1755) wrote in 1776, "It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe." In his Dissertation on Canon and Feudal Law, Adams wrote, "Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge; I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers."

Yale, the nation's third oldest academic institution, was established in 1701 by royal charter "wherein Youth may be instructed in the Arts and Sciences [and] through the blessing of Almighty God may be fitted for Publick employment both in Church and Civil State." Yale alumnus Noah Webster (class of 1778), wrote in the forward of his 1828 Webster's American Dictionary, "In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed. ... No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people."

Princeton was founded by "New Light" Presbyterians of the Great Awakening for the purpose of training their ministers. Jonathan Dickinson, a Presbyterian minister and leader of the Great Awakening of the 1730s, was the school's co-founder and first president. Princeton alumnus James Madison (class of 1771) observed, "The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it."

Virginia's College of William and Mary, founded in 1693, was Anglican. Baptists founded Rhode Island College, now Brown University, in 1764. Congregationalists established Dartmouth College in 1769 to extend Christianity to native populations.

Founder Benjamin Rush wrote, "[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments."

But teaching reliance upon Essential Liberty as "endowed by our Creator," in support of Rule of Law as affirmed by "the Law of Nature and nature's God" and as outlined in our Declaration of Independence, is in direct opposition to those who would advocate for tyrannical rule of men.

Benjamin Franklin asserted, "A nation of well informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins."

The importance of government education as a tool for denying Rule of Law has been advocated by generations of tyrants. In order to achieve totalitarianism, they must undertake to expel God from the academy.

Karl Marx wrote, "The education of all children, from the moment that they can get along without a mother's care, shall be in state institutions at state expense." His student Vladimir Ilyich Lenin concurred, "Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." As Josef Stalin understood, "Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed."

Leftists also understand that the earlier socialist indoctrination is applied, the greater its force, and the greater the likelihood it will stick.

Obama promised in his inaugural speech that he would "transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age." It was a promise that he'd previously fleshed out in "The Audacity of Hope," the second of his self-congratulatory autobiographies: "It's time to redesign our schools -- not just for the sake of working parents, but also to help prepare our children for a more competitive world. Countless studies confirm the educational benefits of strong preschool programs, which is why even families which have a parent at home often seek them out."

Likewise, its sunrise-to-sunset year-round application could provide further assurance of successful indoctrination. "The same goes for longer school days, summer school, and after school programs," writes Obama.

To that end, according to the Communist Party Education Workers Congress, "We must create out of the younger generation a generation of Communists. We must turn children, who can be shaped like wax, into real, good Communists. ... We must remove the children from the crude influence of their families. We must take them over and, to speak frankly, nationalize them. From the first days of their lives they will be under the healthy influence of Communist children's nurseries and schools. There they will grow up to be real Communists."

Of course, the Left's indoctrination agenda has been subject to exposure since its inception.

Benjamin Disraeli, the conservative 19th-century British prime minister, noted, "Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery." His contemporary, John Stuart Mill, warned, "A general State education is a mere contrivance for molding people to be exactly like one another; and as the mold in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or a majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body."

The great 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke observed, "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." Indeed, that delusion is dependent on erasing the knowledge of the past, as 20th-century philosopher George Santayana concluded, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "If a nation expects to be ignorant -- and free -- in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Caveat emptor, my fellow Patriots! The ultimate objective of Leftist Apparatchiks in the Democrats' dumbed-down Directorate of Indoctrination is to disenfranchise Liberty.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

23879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CA bill respects authority of parents on: May 19, 2011, 11:51:49 AM
I have to confess my initial reaction to the headline was to roll my eyes in contempt for yet another government entity that I assumed was trying to legislate good parenting. After all, it’s a trend that has gained traction of late.
Some states are mandating the content of school lunches. Others have laws about how old kids must be to baby-sit. All states now have rules about bicycle helmets and federal law dictates when parents can take the booster seat out of the minivan and put it in a garage sale.

In fact, there are even laws about what sorts of toys and child gear can be sold at a garage sale. (Short answer: pretty much nothing unless you have it tested for lead.)

Given the propensity for governments to take it upon themselves to “assist” parents in the upbringing of our children on the assumption that we obviously don’t know what we’re doing, I figured a proposed California statute was just more of the same.

Turns out I’m in agreement with the legislation introduced by the Golden State’s Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, a Democrat. Not only is her bill an effort to empower users of social networking sites and protect their privacy when creating user profiles, but more importantly, Mrs. Corbett’s bill would restore parental authority over the online activities of minor children.

Currently, sites such as Facebook have default settings for new users. When you sign up for a Facebook account, your profile automatically is set to allow “Everyone” to see your information. You then must change to more restrictive settings if you want your profile viewed only by “Friends” or “Friends of friends.”

The California bill would demand that social networking sites do exactly the opposite - default to a restrictive setting that shows only your name and city. You then could open the door to your public profile, rather than close it after the fact.

More importantly to parents, this bill would allow Californians to demand that sites like Facebook take down within 48 hours information about their minor children when parents request it.

Like me, your reaction might have been, I already have the right to demand this, I’m the parent. Unfortunately, according to Facebook’s “frequently asked questions,” you don’t have that right at all.

Facebook didn’t get to be the world’s largest social networking site by catering to concerned parents, after all.

The company prohibits users younger than 13 and cooperates with parents or others who report underage users by deleting their accounts, though if you want to see the information a child posted on Facebook, you “may” be able to do so. It’s not an easy process. (There’s notaries, forms, conforming to applicable laws, etc., to deal with.)

But users ages 13 to 18 are guaranteed privacy by Facebook. Parental authority essentially is meaningless when your child becomes an “authorized” user of Facebook. Rather, the company simply encourages parents to talk with their kids about the best ways to use the site.

We send some strange and conflicting messages to our teenagers. On one hand, we practically encourage their ongoing adolescence with rules that regulate whether they can ride a bike to school, much less get a job or drive a car.

Then again, we let them roam the Internet, facilitating and respecting their privacy without the means to assert our proper protection and judgment over their virtual activities.

There probably are a host of unintended consequences with this bill, but there’s also a germ of respect for parents in it that ought to be upheld more broadly.

Solid parenting usually will alleviate the need to go around a teen and demand that information be removed from his or her Facebook page.

Still, a law that reminds social networking companies of the primacy of parents in the lives of their minor children is a good thing.
23880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Colbert's unfreedom of speech on: May 19, 2011, 11:47:30 AM
Comedy Central funnyman Stephen Colbert, like most of his friends and allies on the left, thinks that last year's Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC is, literally, ridiculous. To make his case that the ruling invites "unlimited corporate money" to dominate politics, Mr. Colbert decided to set up a political action committee (PAC) of his own. So far, though, the joke's been on him.

The hilarity began last month, when Mr. Colbert began to have difficulty setting up his PAC, which is a group that can raise money to run political ads or make contributions to candidates. So he called in Trevor Potter, a former Federal Elections Commission (FEC) chairman who is now a high-powered Washington lawyer.

Mr. Potter delivered some unfunny news: Mr. Colbert couldn't set up his PAC because his show airs on Comedy Central, which is owned by Viacom, and corporations like Viacom cannot make contributions to PACs that give money to candidates. As Mr. Potter pointed out, Mr. Colbert's on-air discussions of the candidates he supports might count as an illegal "in-kind" contribution from Viacom to Mr. Colbert's PAC.

All was not lost, however. As Mr. Potter explained, the comedian might still be able to set up a "Super PAC," a group that can raise unlimited sums of money as long as it spends it only on independent ads, without donating at all to candidates. Super PACs exist because of another case that proponents of campaign-finance law despise, SpeechNow.org v. FEC.

So the newly dubbed "Colbert Super PAC" was off to the races. Mr. Colbert could finally show us how amusing it is to raise unlimited corporate dollars and spend them on political ads.

View Full Image

Getty Images/FilmMagic
 
Stephen Colbert in Washington, D.C., last year.
.Or so it seemed. On May 11, Mr. Potter returned with more bad news: Viacom didn't like Mr. Colbert's plan because his on-air commentary might still amount to a contribution from Viacom to his Super PAC. It's difficult to place a dollar value on airtime, so a reporting mistake could put both Viacom and Mr. Colbert in legal hot water. Isn't campaign-finance law funny?

"Why does it get so complicated to do this? I mean, this is page after page of legalese," Mr. Colbert lamented. "All I'm trying to do is affect the 2012 election. It's not like I'm trying to install iTunes."

Well, that's pretty much what the nonprofit group Citizens United said to the Supreme Court in the case that Mr. Colbert is trying so hard to lampoon.

Campaign-finance laws are so complicated that few can navigate them successfully and speak during elections—which is what the First Amendment is supposed to protect. As the Supreme Court noted in Citizens United, federal laws have created "71 distinct entities" that "are subject to different rules for 33 different types of political speech." The FEC has adopted 568 pages of regulations and thousands of pages of explanations and opinions on what the laws mean. "Legalese" doesn't begin to describe this mess.

So what is someone who wants to speak during elections to do? If you're Stephen Colbert, the answer is to instruct high-priced attorneys to plead your case with the FEC: Last Friday, he filed a formal request with the FEC for a "media exemption" that would allow him to publicize his Super PAC on air without creating legal headaches for Viacom.

How's that for a punch line? Rich and successful television personality needs powerful corporate lawyers to convince the FEC to allow him to continue making fun of the Supreme Court. Hilarious.

Of course, there's nothing new about the argument Mr. Colbert's lawyers are making to the FEC. Media companies' exemption from campaign-finance laws has existed for decades. That was part of the Supreme Court's point in Citizens United: Media corporations are allowed to spend lots of money on campaign speech, so why not other corporations?

Whether Mr. Colbert understands that he has made the Supreme Court's point is anyone's guess. But there's nothing funny about what he has had to go through to set up a PAC, because real people who want to speak out during elections face these confounding laws all the time. And as his attempt at humor ironically demonstrates, the laws remain byzantine and often impossible to navigate, even after Citizens United.

There's a joke in here somewhere, but it isn't on the Supreme Court.

Messrs. Simpson and Sherman are attorneys at the Institute for Justice, which represented the plaintiffs in SpeechNow.org v. FEC.

23881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: May 19, 2011, 11:35:15 AM
By JAY SOLOMON And ADAM ENTOUS
WASHINGTON—When President Barack Obama lays out his vision for the Middle East in a speech Thursday, he will also be tacitly drawing attention to another upheaval: Tumult in the Arab world has accelerated a shift in the standing of Washington's foreign-policy power players.

The Obama White House has moved to exert greater civilian control over the military, challenging the views of the top brass in some areas, officials say. At the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's State Department, together with a more assertive White House National Security Council, has taken a lead in crafting America's response to the greatest geopolitical challenge since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Underscoring this shift is Mr. Obama's choice of venue to deliver the address: the State Department. The address Thursday morning—which is late afternoon, Cairo time—will be the president's first major policy address from the home base of U.S. foreign diplomacy.

The military's standing in the White House reflects lingering tensions with some of Mr. Obama's civilian advisers that grew out of a 2009 debate over escalating the war in Afghanistan, according to senior U.S. officials and foreign diplomats.

When popular revolutions began sweeping the Arab world, many in the military, which has been generally cautious about intervention, were reluctant to see longstanding Arab allies, such as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, pushed out.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and many military leaders were also particularly cautious about military action in Libya. Some have taken to calling the Libya campaign the "estrogen war" in an implicit critique of Mrs. Clinton and other female administration officials who backed it.

Mrs. Clinton was also an early voice of caution when it came to Egypt. But she moved more quickly to break with autocrats in Yemen and Libya and push for democratic change in Bahrain, while managing to maintain relationships with unhappy Arab allies, U.S. officials say.

Officials in the State Department and the White House, especially those who backed the use of force in Libya, dismiss the estrogen comment as the sexist grousing of military men who lost the argument.

===================
Managing the Turmoil | Some U.S. responses to Arab uprisings
Egypt State Department and Pentagon joined in urging caution about pushing for President Hosni Mubarak's ouster. On peace with Israel, counterterrorism and hostility to Iran, he was a vital U.S. ally. Having invested decades in building ties to the Egyptian army, Pentagon veterans shared Mrs. Clinton's view.

Bahrain The popular uprising in the tiny Persian Gulf sheikdom concerned U.S. military officials, who were fearful of losing their base for the Pentagon's Fifth Fleet, which polices the Gulf, and worried about what might happen if the regime fell. Mrs. Clinton pushed Bahrain to make political changes, chilling relations with Arab states.

Yemen Mrs. Clinton angered President Ali Abdullah Saleh in January by demanding a meeting with activists. In March, Defense Secretary Gates said the Yemeni leader's fate was 'too soon to call,' and praised his government as an ally against al Qaeda. The White House is now pushing Mr. Saleh to resign sooner rather than later.
======================

Libya Mr. Gates, urged caution when considering military intervention. Pentagon officials worried about the department being overstretched. 'This is not a question of whether we or our allies can do this. We can,' Mr. Gates said. 'The question is whether this is a wise thing to do.' The White House chose to proceed.
."Secretary Clinton has become one of the most forceful officials working on the world stage," says Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), a long-serving member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Her influence with the president has been enhanced by her stature."

The next test is Syria, where officials across the administration worry the fall of President Bashar al-Assad could unleash sectarian violence. Some aides to Mrs. Clinton, however, see the unrest as an unrivaled opportunity to diminish the power of Syria's ally, Iran, and rewrite the politics of the region.

Mr. Obama is expected to argue Thursday that the death of Osama bin Laden, paired with the popular uprisings, signals the possibility of a new, open and democratic opportunity for a region that is largely the province of entrenched autocrats.

Mr. Obama will also announce an economic aid plan focused on Egypt and Tunisia, according to senior administration officials, including $1 billion in debt relief and $1 billion in loan guarantees for Egypt, the creation of an Egyptian-American enterprise fund to help promote private investment, and a framework for strengthening trade.

Mr. Obama will speak from the State Department's Benjamin Franklin Room. White House officials say the setting embodies the policy shift the president is trying to achieve.

Even as the U.S. pursues "principally military and intelligence efforts" to fight terrorism and build toward an exit from Afghanistan, "the longer future in the Middle East we believe will have a huge diplomatic component to it," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

That puts the military in a bind. Many in the Pentagon ascribe to what Washington policy wonks call the "realist" theory of foreign policy, which believes in narrowly defined international goals, not reshaping the world. "We take countries as they are, not as we might wish they could be," said a senior military officer working on the Middle East.

Mrs. Clinton is no idealist, but she has sought to build the State Department into a powerful base, and in recent months has made common cause with a younger group of more idealistic White House officials, according to U.S. officials. Senior U.S. officials say the eruption of political revolts across the Middle East at the beginning of 2011 blindsided the administration.

Mrs. Clinton was forced to fashion the administration's first response to the crisis literally on the fly as she toured Persian Gulf states. In a speech in Qatar, she stunned Arab leaders by saying they risked "sinking into the sand" if they didn't change course.

During the first act of the Arab Spring, however, the State Department and Pentagon joined in pressing caution, especially with Egypt, a vital U.S. ally.

For Mrs. Clinton, a turning point came with the uprising in Bahrain, home to the Pentagon's Fifth Fleet, which polices the oil-rich Gulf. The Pentagon was fearful of losing its basing rights and worried about what might happen if the regime fell.

Mrs. Clinton pushed Bahrain for political change. That chilled relations to the point that neither Bahrain nor Saudi Arabia directly notified the White House in March before deploying thousands of Saudi and Emirati troops to shore up its ruling family, according to the U.S.

The State Department believed it was within hours of a breakthrough that could have pushed Bahrain closer to a deal with the political opposition. Mrs. Clinton was livid.

It was the decision to attack Libya that laid bare the new dynamic most starkly. Pentagon officials worried out loud that France and Britain were playing down the difficulty of removing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. They were outspoken about the limited effectiveness of a no-fly zone and skeptical about the impact of financial sanctions.

The White House and State Department, however, were under pressure from European and Arab allies. The U.S. put forth to allied countries and Arab states preconditions to military action that included a United Nations resolution, Arab participation and drawing up a plan that went beyond a no-fly zone.

Some officials worried Col. Gadhafi's troops would slaughter rebel forces, an echo of the violence in Rwanda and Srebrenica that occurred on President Bill Clinton's watch. "Senior officials all agreed to the pillars of our Libya policy," said a senior aide to Mrs. Clinton. "If all of these became available to us, could we really stand aside?"

23882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson, The Study of Law, 1790 on: May 19, 2011, 11:09:50 AM
"Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge." --James Wilson, Of the Study of the Law in the United States, 1790
23883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sharia 101 on: May 19, 2011, 11:02:29 AM
"Gaffney's argument boils down to this: Devout Muslims want to live under Sharia, the religious legal code that governs in Saudi Arabia and other traditional Islamic societies. But Sharia, which treats women as unequal, is incompatible with U.S. law. So organized Islam, Gaffney charges, is conspiring to supplant American law with Muslim law — and that, he says, is sedition."



23884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: May 19, 2011, 10:54:35 AM
The way I remember it the Gingrich Congres exercised control over Clinton spending, cornered him into a major welfare reform, cut the capital gains tax rate, and ran a budget surplus , , ,
23885  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 19, 2011, 10:48:32 AM
Forgive the moment of advertising, but  , , , ahem , , , there is training available in the Hermosa Beach area too  grin
23886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 19, 2011, 12:52:26 AM
"I can't for the life of me think of a good reason to take away a right to protect oneself against an unlawful entry, no matter who is doing the entering."

23887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: May 19, 2011, 12:44:20 AM
Well, to be precise, it did rather well for a while in the mid-90s , , , thanks to Newt and the "Contract with America".
23888  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Head injury/brain damage/concussion in boxing, kickboxing, football, etc: on: May 18, 2011, 08:53:29 PM
Thank you very much for the info Doug!
23889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: May 18, 2011, 08:48:17 PM
", , , freeloaders who are both rich AND poor. , , , We need a level playing field.  One in which we don't get people cheating from whatever socioeconomic class they are from."

Quite right, and quite right that the Reps don't get it.

23890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: May 18, 2011, 10:16:47 AM
This could also belong in the Budget thread.

Maybe I am missing something, but IIRC all spending bills must originate in the House of Representataives-- which is controlled by the Republicans.  So why don't they just pass spending bills as they see fit and leave it to the Senate and BO to take the blame for not passisng it?

23891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: May 18, 2011, 10:11:42 AM
This seems to me to be a very pertinent and troubling question.
23892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt tries walking it back on: May 18, 2011, 10:10:19 AM
May 18 , 2011· Vol. 6, No.20   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
 
I Signed the Pledge To Repeal Obamacare,
Have You?

by Newt Gingrich

Yesterday in Mason City, Iowa, I signed the Obamacare Repeal Pledge, sponsored by the Independent Women’s Voice and American Majority Action.  Obamacare is such a massive and complex power grab of a law that there are countless specific reasons to oppose the law.

But as I was signing the repeal pledge, I reflected upon three big reasons that Obamacare must be repealed:

It’s Unconstitutional.  Period. As Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has argued, if the federal government has the power to force you to purchase a product or service, there is no end to its power. 

As I argue in my forthcoming book, A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters and show in Callista's and my documentary, A City Upon a Hill: The Spirit of American Exceptionalism, Obamacare’s mandate to purchase health insurance is an assault on our country’s founding principles of limited, clearly delineated federal powers and an erosion of the rule of law.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution clearly spells out the powers of the federal government.  When the Democratic Congress passed Obamacare, the bill’s supporters argued that the individual mandate was constitutionally justified under the Commerce Clause, a provision that gives Congress the power to “regulate Commerce…among the several States.”

This is a gross misinterpretation of the Commerce Clause.  The Founders designed this clause to prevent American states from imposing tariffs on each other or engaging in other restrictive trade practices that would hamper the economy.  But in the last century, big government advocates have misused this stipulation to justify federal regulation of energy, trucking, financial services, and other assorted activities. 

Obamacare takes this overly-broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause to an absurd extreme.  If the federal government can force us to buy health insurance, what is stopping it from forcing us to buy other products? 

This is why dozens of state attorneys general have filed suit against Obamacare, charging that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

A Corrupt, Bureaucratic Power Grab

Aside from this mammoth expansion of federal power, Obamacare also violates the rule of law by granting vast discretion to administrative agencies.  In fact, Obamacare grants 1,968 new powers to government agencies and bureaucrats, most of them to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who administers Obamacare.  You can see all these powers spelled out on a massive wall chart at healthtransformation.net.

 

This discretionary power wielded by unelected bureaucrats presents an enormous danger for corruption.  Indeed, we have already seen how they can be abused.

Obamacare empowers the Secretary of HHS to issue waivers that exempt companies and organizations from the law’s many expensive and onerous requirements.  To date, HHS has issued over a thousand waivers, including ones to Big Labor and other powerful supporters of the Democratic Party.  This is all profoundly unfair to the millions of small businesses who lack the money and resources to influence Washington.

Yesterday, a report emerged that showed nearly 20% of the new waivers issued by HHS are in Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district.

This arbitrary “rule by waiver” is a fundamental violation of the rule of law. In fact, it absolutely negates the rule of law, replacing it with the rule of HHS Secretary Sebelius, Obama, and the Democratic Party.

The Wrong Model

Finally, Obamacare’s big government model, with its mandates, new bureaucracies and regulations, is simply the wrong way to lower costs and achieve better health outcomes.  It is Washington centered instead of individually centered.

The current market for health care is broken because consumers do not shop based on price and quality.  We have to redesign the system into one that responds to these downward cost pressures, like every other functioning market does. 

We can’t do that by empowering bureaucrats and lawyers.  Instead, you need to empower patients with access to quality information, including the real costs of the care they receive and give them the freedom to choose their providers based on that knowledge. 

This will create a true healthcare marketplace where providers compete to provide the best care at the lowest cost.  In this free market model, the 71 million baby boomers entering retirement would represent a boom, not bust, for healthcare.

Will You Sign the Pledge? 

The Obamacare Repeal Pledge is not just for lawmakers and candidates. 

There is a space for citizens to sign as well to show support for repealing Obamacare.

So will you sign the pledge?  Click here to sign.

Your Friend,

 

Newt
23893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: May 18, 2011, 10:02:40 AM
Dang JDN, you sure ate your Wheaties this morning! grin
23894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Security for AF bomber program on: May 17, 2011, 01:27:25 PM


Interesting blog post on the security costs for the $50B Air Force
bomber program -- estimated to be $8B.  This isn't all computer
security, but the original article specifically calls out Chinese
computer espionage as a primary threat.
http://taosecurity.blogspot.com/2011/04/apt-drives-up-bomber-cost.html
23895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Chinese hacking; chains of evidence on: May 17, 2011, 01:26:02 PM


WikiLeaks cable about Chinese hacking of U.S. networks:
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/04/wikileaks_cable.html

Increasingly, chains of evidence include software steps.  It's not just
the RIAA suing people -- and getting it wrong -- based on automatic
systems to detect and identify file sharers.  It's forensic programs
used to collect and analyze data from computers and smart phones.  It's
audit logs saved and stored by ISPs and websites.  It's location data
from cell phones.  It's e-mails and IMs and comments posted to social
networking sites.  It's tallies from digital voting machines.  It's
images and meta-data from surveillance cameras.  The list goes on and
on.  We in the security field know the risks associated with trusting
digital data, but this evidence is routinely assumed by courts to be
accurate.  Sergey Bratus is starting to look at this problem.  His
paper, written with Ashlyn Lembree and Anna Shubina, is "Software on the
Witness Stand: What Should it Take for Us to Trust it?."
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/04/software_as_evi.html
23896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 17, 2011, 01:22:55 PM
Hmmm , , , lets see.  I am on the can and someone knocks on the door shouting "Police!".  I flush the toilet to go answer the door, but whoops! no need!  They have kicked in the door and are in my house.  For the sake of argument, lets say they are undercover.  What could go wrong here?  What remedy?  Apparently my flushing the toilet is now  , , , probable cause?  Indeed any hurried noises (e.g. a naked woman looking to clother herself quickly) are now probable cause?

Call 911 to verify that the folks on the other side of the door are police.  Is this really a serious suggestion?  Have you ever tried calling 911?  I did once to report some bangers breaking into a car.  By the time the brain dead moron answering the phone allowed me to give the facts, the bangers were gone.  Here, just how long is it going to take the person answering the call to confirm or deny those guys at my door. Somehow I seriously doubt it will be timely enough so as to be meaningful , , ,
23897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Dishonest Minority on: May 17, 2011, 01:08:55 PM

      Status Report: "The Dishonest Minority"



Three months ago, I announced that I was writing a book on why security
exists in human societies.  This is basically the book's thesis statement:

     All complex systems contain parasites.  In any system of
     cooperative behavior, an uncooperative strategy will be effective
     -- and the system will tolerate the uncooperatives -- as long as
     they're not too numerous or too effective. Thus, as a species
     evolves cooperative behavior, it also evolves a dishonest minority
     that takes advantage of the honest majority.  If individuals
     within a species have the ability to switch strategies, the
     dishonest minority will never be reduced to zero.  As a result,
     the species simultaneously evolves two things: 1) security systems
     to protect itself from this dishonest minority, and 2) deception
     systems to successfully be parasitic.

     Humans evolved along this path.  The basic mechanism can be
     modeled simply.  It is in our collective group interest for
     everyone to cooperate. It is in any given individual's short-term
     self-interest not to cooperate: to defect, in game theory terms.
     But if everyone defects, society falls apart.  To ensure
     widespread cooperation and minimal defection, we collectively
     implement a variety of societal security systems.

     Two of these systems evolved in prehistory: morals and reputation.
     Two others evolved as our social groups became larger and more
     formal: laws and technical security systems.  What these security
     systems do, effectively, is give individuals incentives to act in
     the group interest.  But none of these systems, with the possible
     exception of some fanciful science-fiction technologies, can ever
     bring that dishonest minority down to zero.

     In complex modern societies, many complications intrude on this
     simple model of societal security. Decisions to cooperate or
     defect are often made by groups of people -- governments,
     corporations, and so on -- and there are important differences
     because of dynamics inside and outside the groups. Much of our
     societal security is delegated -- to the police, for example --
     and becomes institutionalized; the dynamics of this are also
     important.

     Power struggles over who controls the mechanisms of societal
     security are inherent: "group interest" rapidly devolves to "the
     king's interest."  Societal security can become a tool for those
     in power to remain in power, with the definition of "honest
     majority" being simply the people who follow the rules.

     The term "dishonest minority" is not a moral judgment; it simply
     describes the minority who does not follow societal norm.  Since
     many societal norms are in fact immoral, sometimes the dishonest
     minority serves as a catalyst for social change.  Societies
     without a reservoir of people who don't follow the rules lack an
     important mechanism for societal evolution.  Vibrant societies
     need a dishonest minority; if society makes its dishonest minority
     too small, it stifles dissent as well as common crime.

At this point, I have most of a first draft: 75,000 words.  The
tentative title is still "The Dishonest Minority: Security and its Role
in Modern Society."  I have signed a contract with Wiley to deliver a
final manuscript in November for February 2012 publication.  Writing a
book is a process of exploration for me, and the final book will
certainly be a little different -- and maybe even very different -- from
what I wrote above.  But that's where I am today.

And it's why my other writings -- and the issues of Crypto-Gram --
continue to be sparse.

Lots of comments -- over 200 -- to the blog post.  Please comment there;
I want the feedback.
http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/02/societal_securi.html
23898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Things seem to have changed a bit , , , on: May 17, 2011, 12:33:50 PM


"[The President] is the dignified, but accountable magistrate of a free and great people. The tenure of his office, it is true, is not hereditary; nor is it for life: but still it is a tenure of the noblest kind: by being the man of the people, he is invested; by continuing to be the man of the people, his investiture will be voluntarily, and cheerfully, and honourably renewed." --James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791


23899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Industrial Production on: May 17, 2011, 11:50:53 AM
Industrial production was unchanged in April To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 5/17/2011


Industrial production was unchanged in April, coming in below the consensus expected gain of 0.4%. Including revisions to prior months, production declined 0.5%. Production is up 5.0% in the past year.

Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, was down 0.4% in April. Including downward revisions to prior months, manufacturing fell 1.1%. The decline in April was due to auto production, which dropped 8.9%. Non-auto manufacturing increased 0.2%. Auto production is up 8.3% versus a year ago while non-auto manufacturing has risen 4.5%.
 
The production of high-tech equipment increased 2.3% in April and is up 13.6% versus a year ago.
 
Overall capacity utilization declined slightly to 76.9% in April. Manufacturing capacity use declined to 74.4%.
 
Implications:  Industrial production took a breather in April coming in unchanged, which was below the consensus expected gain of 0.4%. While mining and utility production both increased for the second straight month, manufacturing declined 0.4%. However, all of the drop in manufacturing was due to a 8.9% decline in auto production.  Given temporary shortages of parts related to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear/electricity problems in Japan, some US automakers are shifting their traditional summer shutdowns into the spring. As a result, auto production will slip in Q2 and then surge sharply again in Q3. So for the next few months, we will continue to focus on manufacturing excluding autos in order to figure out the underlying trend.   This measure of output was up 0.2% in April and is up 4.5% versus last year, so no problems there. High tech equipment continues to grow, up 2.3% in April and, despite downward revisions for prior months, up at a 23.1% annual rate in the past six months.  Production is going to continue to move higher and will likely keep being led by business equipment.  Inventories are low, corporate profits are at a record high and so is cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies.  In other recent news on the manufacturing sector, the Empire State index, a measure of manufacturing activity in New York, declined to a still solid +11.9 in May from +19.6 in April, suggesting continued growth in the factory sector, but not quite as quickly as earlier this spring.
23900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Housing starts drop-- due to tornadoes? on: May 17, 2011, 11:43:24 AM
Housing starts dropped 10.6% in April To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 5/17/2011


Housing starts dropped 10.6% in April to 523,000 units at an annual rate. They were also revised up by 6.6% in March, but are still down 23.9% versus a year ago.

The drop in April was mostly due to a 24.7% fall in multi-family starts (which are very volatile from month to month). Still, multi-family starts are 6.6% higher than a year ago. Single-family starts fell 5.1% in April and are down 30.4% versus a year ago.
 
Starts plummeted in the South, declined in the Northeast, but were up in the Midwest and West.
 
New building permits fell 4.0% in April to a 551,000 annual rate and were revised down by 3.3% in March.  Permits are down 12.8% versus a year ago with permits for single-family units down 18.6%.
 
Implications:  Housing starts fell 10.6% in April, coming in well below consensus expectations.  The number of homes under construction also fell to the lowest level on record (dating back to 1970). However, it appears the drop in starts in April was primarily due to an unusually violent tornado season. On net, all of the drop happened in the South. Outside that one region, starts were up 5.5%. In addition, two-thirds of the decline in starts was in multi-family units, which are volatile from month to month. In other words, with the drop in starts in April concentrated in one weather-ravaged region and primarily due to the more volatile component of home building, today’s report does not signal a future downward trend. Instead, we anticipate a significant rebound sometime in the next couple of months. Multi-family building has been generally moving up since late 2009 and, with the ongoing shift toward renting over owning, that trend should re-assert itself. Meanwhile, the South is still suffering, now with floods. But the impact of these disasters should clear by June. Also, not every aspect of home building is suffering. Completions increased 4.1% in April and yet are still at a low enough level so that builders can continue to work off the large excess inventory of homes. In fact, the pace of home building is still so low that inventory reduction will continue at a robust pace even as home building begins its long-term recovery later this year.
Pages: 1 ... 476 477 [478] 479 480 ... 805
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.21 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!