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23851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTB: A sense of humor seems to be MIA , , , on: June 30, 2011, 08:09:18 PM


A picture of Mickey Mouse with long beard and Minnie with a full-face veil posted on businessman Naguib Sawiris’ Twitter account has enraged Muslims and prompted 15 lawyers to file a lawsuit against him for blasphemy and insulting Islam.

The Christian Copt telecommunications mogul, who has emerged as a provocative voice in post-revolutionary Egypt, apologized on Twitter, saying that he meant the picture to be humorous, not an affront to the country's majority population of Muslims. "I apologize for those who don’t take this as a joke. I just thought it was a funny picture no disrespect meant! I’m sorry,” the magnate tweeted.

Nonetheless, Sawiris’ apology wasn’t enough to halt the fury and criticism from many Muslims, especially the ultraconservative Salafis, whose lawyers have already sued the billionaire. A Facebook group launched under the name “we are also joking, Sawiris” gathered no less than 90,000 members in recent days, calling for boycotting products or services sold by any of the businessman’s companies, especially the Mobinil mobile phone company. 

"If you’re a real Muslim ... boycott his (Sawiris’) products if you love your religion. We have to cut the tongue of any person who attacks our religion,” the group writes. Several other Facebook groups under the same name or the moniker “we hate you Mickey Sawiris” also collected thousands of members angry at what the called “Sawiris’ mockery of and disrespect to Islam.”

The Internet campaign coincides with another offline effort by Islamic clerics, who have spoken to Egyptian and Arab media channels to denounce Sawiris’ act. “We can’t stay silent at any defaming campaigns towards religious symbols. Would Sawiris accept that a nun or a priest gets ridiculed?” Islamic preacher Safwat Hegazi asked in Al Quds al Arabi newspaper.

The flap follows recent attacks by radical Muslims against Christian institutions in Cairo, including the May burning of the Virgin Mary Church and ensuing clashes that left 12 people dead and 230 wounded in the poor neighborhood of Imbaba.   

Shares of both Mobinil and Sawiris’ Orascom Telecom fell on the Egyptian stock exchange Monday. This is the second time Sawiris has indirectly provoked Salafis.  The first clash came in 2007, when the businessman said that he was “not against veil, but when he walks in the streets of Egypt, he feels like a stranger" due to the growing number of veiled women.

Sawiris recently helped start the Free Egyptians political party, announcing that he would give up his role as Orascom’s executive chairman of the Orascom Telecom Holding Co. to focus on political and social work. The current row, however, might dent his party’s chances in the upcoming parliamentary elections, as Salafis and Islamic clerics have a notable influence on the votes of many Egyptians who base their perspectives according to religious convictions rather than political directions.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

23852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rove: GOP can blow it on: June 30, 2011, 05:49:54 PM
By KARL ROVE
High unemployment, anemic growth, defections in key groups such as independents and Hispanics, and unpopular policies are among the reasons President Obama is unlikely to win re-election. But likely to lose is far from certain to lose. If Republicans make enough unforced errors, Mr. Obama could win.

The first such mistake would be forgetting that the target voters are those ready to swing away from Mr. Obama (independents, Hispanics, college educated and young voters) and those whose opposition to Mr. Obama has deepened since 2008 (seniors and working-class voters).

These voters gave the GOP a big win in the 2010 midterm. They are deeply concerned about the economy, jobs, spending, deficits and health care. Many still like Mr. Obama personally but disapprove of his handling of the issues. They are not GOP primary voters, but they are watching the contest. The Republican Party will find it more difficult to gain their support if its nominee adopts a tone that's harshly negative and personally anti-Obama.

The GOP nominee should fiercely challenge Mr. Obama's policies, actions and leadership using the president's own words, but should stay away from questioning his motives, patriotism or character. He will do this to his GOP opponent to try to draw Republicans into the mud pit. They should avoid it.

It won't be easy. Mr. Obama can't win re-election by trumpeting his achievements. And he has decided against offering a bold agenda for a second term: That was evident in his State of the Union emphasis on high-speed rail, high-speed Internet and "countless" green jobs.

Instead, backed by a brutally efficient opposition research unit, the president will use focus-group tested lines of attack to disqualify the Republican nominee by questioning his or her values, intentions and intelligence.

Republicans should avoid giving him mistakes to pounce on and should stand up to this withering assault, always looking for ways to turn it back on Mr. Obama and his record. The GOP candidate must express disappointment and regret, not disgust and anger, especially in the debates. Ronald Reagan's cheery retorts to Jimmy Carter's often-petty attacks are a good model. Any day that isn't a referendum on the Obama presidency should be considered wasted.

Republicans also must not confuse the tea party movement with the larger, more important tea party sentiment. As important as tea party groups are, and for all the energy and passion they bring, for every person who showed up at a tea party rally there were dozens more who didn't but who share the deep concerns about Mr. Obama's profligate spending, record deficits and monstrous health-care bill.

The GOP candidate must stay focused on this broader tea party sentiment, not just the organized groups, especially when some of them stray from the priorities that gave rise to them (for example, adopting such causes as the repeal of the 17th Amendment, which established election of U.S. senators by popular vote). The broader sentiment is what swung independents so solidly into the GOP column last fall.
=========
About Karl Rove
Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is the author of the book "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions).

Email the author atKarl@Rove.comor visit him on the web atRove.com. Or, you can send a Tweet to @karlrove.
===============

.The GOP nominee could also lose if the Republican National Committee (RNC) and battleground-state party committees don't respond to the Obama grass-roots operation with a significant effort of their own. The GOP had the edge in grass-roots identification, persuasion, registration and turnout efforts in 2000 and 2004. It lost these advantages in 2008, big time, in part because its candidate didn't emphasize the grass roots. It must regain them in 2012. Only the RNC and the state party committees can effectively plan, fund and execute these efforts.

Finally, Republicans cannot play it safe. It is tempting to believe that Mr. Obama is so weak, the economy so fragile, that attacking him is all that's needed. Applying relentless pressure on the president is necessary but insufficient. Setting forth an alternative vision to Mr. Obama's will be required as well. Voters are looking for a serious GOP governing agenda as a reason to turn Mr. Obama out of office.

Failing to offer a well-thought-out vision and defend it against Mr. Obama's inevitable distortions, demagoguery and straw-man arguments would put the GOP nominee in the position of Thomas Dewey in 1948, whose strategy of running out the clock gave President Harry Truman the opening he needed.

Mr. Obama could have enjoyed the advantage of incumbency—with its power to set the agenda and dominate the stage—until next spring when the GOP nomination will be settled. Instead he prematurely abandoned the stance of an assured public leader to become an aggressive political candidate. Now his re-election depends on political rivals making significant errors. That's dangerous for any politician, but given his Oval Office record, Mr. Obama may have no other viable strategy.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

23853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: June 30, 2011, 05:45:26 PM
President Obama was right about his audacity, if not always the hope. Six months after he agreed to a bipartisan extension of current tax rates, he is now insisting on tax increases as part of the debt-ceiling talks. At his press conference yesterday he repeated this demand, as well as his recent talking point that taxes are lower than they've been in generations. Let's examine that claim because it explains Washington's real revenue problem—slow economic growth.

Mr. Obama has a point that tax receipts are near historic lows, but the cause isn't tax rates that are too low. As the nearby table shows, as recently as 2007 the current tax structure raised 18.5% of GDP in revenue, which is slightly above the modern historical average. Even in 2008, when the economy grew not at all, federal tax receipts still came in at 17.5% of the economy.

Today's revenue problem is the result of the mediocre economic recovery. Tax collections in 2009 fell below 15% of GDP, the lowest level since 1950. But remarkably, tax receipts stayed that low even in the recovery year of 2010. So far this fiscal year tax receipts are growing at a healthy 10% clip, so the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) January estimate of 14.8% of GDP is probably low. We suspect revenues will be closer to 16%, but even that would be the weakest revenue rebound from any recession in 50 years, and far below the average tax take since 1970 of 18.2%.

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...But what about the liberal claim, repeated constantly, that the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 caused today's deficits? CBO has shown this to be demonstrably false. On May 12, the budget arm of Congress examined the changes in its baseline projections from 2001 through 2011. In 2001, it had predicted a surplus in 2011 of $889 billion. Instead, it expects a deficit of $1.4 trillion.

What explains that $2.29 trillion budget reversal? Well, the direct revenue loss from the combination of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts contributed roughly $216 billion, or only about 9.5% of the $2.29 trillion. And keep in mind that even this low figure is based on a static revenue model that assumes almost no gains from faster economic growth.

After the Bush investment tax cuts of 2003, tax revenues were $786 billion higher in 2007 ($2.568 trillion) than they were in 2003 ($1.782 trillion), the biggest four-year increase in U.S. history. So as flawed as it is, the current tax code with a top personal income tax rate of 35% is clearly capable of generating big revenue gains.

CBO's data show that by far the biggest change in its deficit forecast is the spending bonanza, with outlays in 2011 that are $1.135 trillion higher than the budget office estimated a decade ago. One-third of that is higher interest payments on the national debt, notwithstanding record low interest rates. But $523 billion is due to domestic spending increases, including defense, education, Medicaid and the Obama stimulus. Mr. Bush's Medicare drug plan accounts for $53 billion of this unanticipated spending in 2011.

The other big revenue reductions come from the "temporary" tax changes of the Obama stimulus and 2010 bipartisan tax deal. CBO says the December tax deal—which includes the one-year payroll tax cut and the annual fix on the alternative minimum tax—will reduce revenues by $196 billion this year. The temporary speedup in business expensing will cost another $55 billion.

Related Video
 Editorial Board Member Steve Moore on the president's press conference.
..The payroll tax cut was sold in the name of stimulating growth and hiring, yet the economy has grown more slowly this year than in last year's fourth quarter. As we've long argued, the "temporary, targeted and timely" tax cuts favored by Keynesians and the White House don't do much for growth because they don't permanently change incentives to save and invest. Mr. Obama was hawking more of those yesterday, even as he wants to raise taxes overall.

Republicans—notably George W. Bush in 2001 and 2008—have sometimes fallen for this same tax cut gimmickry. But perhaps they're learning their lesson. Republicans have reacted with little enthusiasm to the White House trial balloon to extend the payroll tax cuts for another year. The lesson is that when it comes to growth, not all tax cuts are created equal. The tax cuts with the biggest bang for the buck are permanent, take effect immediately, and hit at the next dollar of marginal income.

All of which makes the White House debt-ceiling strategy a policy contradiction. On the one hand, Mr. Obama is saying Republicans must agree to raise taxes on business and high incomes, though he knows even many Democrats won't vote for that. On the other hand, Mr. Obama says he wants another payroll tax cut because he is worried about slow growth.

Even orthodox Keynesian policy doesn't recommend a tax increase with growth under 2% and the jobless rate at 9.1%. The White House game here can only be an attempt to see if he can use the prospect of a debt-limit financial panic to scare Republicans into voting to raise taxes. We doubt the GOP is this dumb.

Republicans should stick to their plan of insisting on spending cuts in return for a debt-ceiling vote. Every dollar in lower spending means one less dollar taken from the private economy in borrowing or future tax increases. As for revenues, they will increase when the economy shakes its lethargy caused by Mr. Obama's policies. A tax increase won't help growth—or revenues.

23854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US reaches out to Islamist parties on: June 30, 2011, 05:37:04 PM


By MATT BRADLEY in Cairo and ADAM ENTOUS in Washington
The Obama administration is reaching out to Islamist parties whose political power is on the rise in the wake of Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa.

The tentative outreach effort to religious political groups—the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ennahda in Tunisia—reflects the administration's realization that democracy in the Middle East means dealing more directly with popular Islamist movements the U.S. has long kept at arm's length.

Speaking to reporters in Budapest, Hungary, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Obama administration is seeking "limited contacts" with Muslim Brotherhood members ahead of Egypt's parliamentary and presidential elections slated for later this year.

"You cannot leave out half the population and claim that you are committed to democracy," Mrs. Clinton said.

The Obama administration has been even more aggressive in courting Tunisia's most prominent Islamist party, Ennahda.

Since the fall of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in January, the party has sought contact with the West, vowing to respect women's rights and not to impose religious law if it comes to power in elections.

In May, with help from the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, Ennahda party leaders quietly visited Washington for talks at the State Department and with congressional leaders, including Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), according to organizers. U.S. officials described the visit as an opportunity to build bridges with a moderate Islamist party that could serve as a model for groups in other countries in the region.

"We told the Americans that we are a civil, not a religious, party," Hamadi Jebali, secretary general of Ennahda, said in an interview.

He assured U.S. officials that Ennahda wouldn't impose its religious beliefs on more secular Tunisians. "Islamic parties are evolving, both in the Maghreb and elsewhere," Mr. Jebali said.

U.S. officials said the Obama administration was responding to changes in the "political landscape" across the region, but that it would treat parties in different countries in different ways, depending on the degree to which they were open to the West and shunned violence.

"The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing," said one Obama administration official. "It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency."

Before a street-level uprising toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February, U.S. contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood were infrequent and limited to members of parliament affiliated with the group. The Egyptian government banned the 83-year-old organization in 1954 because of its suspected role in an assassination attempt on the Egyptian president, so Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary candidates had to run for parliament as independents.

U.S. officials say Mr. Mubarak, long a close American ally in the turbulent Middle East, objected to previous U.S. efforts to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood.

When President Barack Obama delivered a speech to the Muslim world in 2009, as many as 10 Brotherhood members were allowed to attend at the U.S. Embassy's invitation, said Shadi Hamid, an Egypt analyst for the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

Muslim Brotherhood officials cautiously welcome the American overture but remained bitter about the long alliance with Mr. Mubarak, a hated figure among Islamists and other opposition groups.

"When we sit on the dialogue table we will discuss why the [Egyptian] people hate the American administration," said Mohamed Al Biltagy, a prominent member of the group's parliamentary bloc before Brotherhood members were swept from Egypt's legislature last November in allegedly fraudulent elections.

U.S. officials played down the implications of the administration's decision to renew contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood. They said any exchanges would likely be held at a lower level at first, reflecting concerns in Congress and the Pentagon about taking any steps that could boost the group's political standing.

Mrs. Clinton said U.S. diplomats who meet with Muslim Brotherhood members will "emphasize the importance of and support for democratic principles, and especially a commitment to nonviolence, respect for minority rights, and the full inclusion of women in any democracy."

U.S.-funded election advisers working in Egypt have met several times with Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Cairo since the fall of the Mubarak regime. "There's no legal prohibition whatsoever," a senior U.S.-paid election adviser said.

The U.S. decision to approach both Egyptian and Tunisian Islamists reflects the strong possibility that they will play a prominent role after elections are held in both countries. Secular parties appear to be struggling to organize themselves, even though secularists drove the popular uprisings.

The election adviser said newly established secular parties in Egypt have in recent weeks stepped up their election preparations, hoping to counter the Muslim Brotherhood's widely perceived organizational advantage. But the adviser said these secular parties were, for the most part, still ill-prepared to make a strong showing if parliamentary elections are held as planned in September.

"We're trying to get people to lower their expectations," the adviser said.

—Keith Johnson in Washington and Amina Ismail in Cairo contributed to this article.
23855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Does it still matter? on: June 30, 2011, 05:30:55 PM


TIME on the Constitution: 'Does It Still Matter?'
Only if Liberty still matters
"The Constitution, which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all." --George Washington, September 19, 1796

Unmitigated IgnoranceIn celebration of the 235th anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence, Time Magazine, the "journal of record" for the Leftist Illiterati (or as they prefer to be known, "the intelligentsia"), published a cover story featuring their errant interpretation of our Constitution. On an image of the shredding of that venerable old document Time posited this question: "Does it still matter?"

The short answer is, only if Liberty and the Rule of Law still matter. But Time's managing editor, Richard Stengel, begs to differ, having discarded Rule of Law for the rule of men.

In his boorish 5,000-word treatise on the issue, Stengel unwittingly exposes the Left's patently uninformed and self-serving interpretation of our Constitution, and he aptly defines their adherence to a "living constitution." That adulterated version of its original intent is the result of revision by decades of radical judicial diktats, rather than in the manner prescribed by our Constitution's Article V.

Stengel opined, "To me the Constitution is a guardrail. It's for when we are going off the road and it gets us back on. It's not a traffic cop that keeps us going down the center." According to Stengel, then, our Constitution just exists to keep us between the ditches and entitles us to swerve all over the road without consequence. Of course, that is hardly what our Founders intended, but Stengel insists that to ask "what did the framers want is kind of a crazy question."

Exhibiting a keen sense of the obvious, Stengel observes that times have changed and that our Founders "did not know about" all the advancements of the present era. Thus he concludes our Constitution must be pliable, or, as Thomas Jefferson forewarned in 1819, "a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please."

Stengel insists, "The Constitution works so well precisely because it is so opaque, so general, so open to various interpretations," rather than, as "originalists contend ... a clear, fixed meaning."

To assert that our Founders intended the Constitution to be "so opaque, so general, so open to various interpretations" is beyond any accurate reading of history. As noted previously, our Founders provided a method to amend our Constitution in Article V. The problem, of course, is that Stengel and his Leftist cadres know their agenda would never pass a Constitutional Convention and, thus, they circumvent Article V by discarding Rule of Law in deference to their own rules.

Consequently, we now have a Constitution in exile, one that is little more than a straw man amid increasingly politicized courts that serve the special interests of political constituencies rather than interpreting the document's plain language, as judges are bound by sacred oath to do (Article VI, Section 3).

While it is highly tempting, any effort to rebut Stengel's erroneous claims point by point would violate my own rule against swapping spit with a jackass. However, as it is the eve of Independence Day, let us, for the record, revisit Essential Liberty as "endowed by our Creator" according to our Declaration.


Signing of the DeclarationThe natural rights of man outlined in our Declaration are enshrined in our Constitution as evident in its most comprehensive explication, The Federalist Papers, a defense of that venerable document by its author, James Madison, and Founders Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

Here is what our Founders actually did write about our Constitution and Rule of Law.

George Washington: "The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution, which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all. ... If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed."

Thomas Jefferson: "Our peculiar security is in possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction. ... If it is, then we have no Constitution. ... [T]o consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions ... would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. ... In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."

Alexander Hamilton: "If it were to be asked, 'What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic?' The answer would be, 'An inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws -- the first growing out of the last. ... A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government. ... [T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments."

James Madison: "I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers."

Stengel's biggest whopper, however, is one I simply can't let pass without rebuttal. He writes, "If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it sure doesn't say so. Article I, Section 8, the longest section of the longest article of the Constitution, is a drumroll of congressional power."

My chief witness against this ridiculous claim would be James Madison, "the Father of our Constitution." As Madison wrote in Federalist No. 45, "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several states will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State."

That piece of trenchant prose would, of course, became the basis for the Tenth Amendment, which clearly and tightly limits the authority and scope of the federal government.

Before Stengel next ventures to opine on our Constitution, which for him is clearly uncharted territory, perhaps he should read a copy of "Essential Liberty."


Shredding Rule of LawTime magazine is but one of a surfeit of liberal propaganda tools which play supporting roles in the primary assault on our Constitution.

The lead actor is Barack Hussein Obama who, along with his cadre of "useful idiots," are systematically dismantling the last vestiges of our Constitution's Rule of Law mandate.

As we prepare to observe this Independence Day anniversary, our nation is once again confronting a perilous threat to Liberty.

Thomas Paine once wrote, "[A]n unwritten constitution is not a constitution at all." I beg you take note: Our Constitution is being "unwritten" at an unprecedented pace. Obama has mounted a well-organized and well-funded effort to "fundamentally transform" our nation into a socialist state by thus deconstructing our Constitution. He has deserted his oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," in accordance with Article II, Section 1, and clearly never intended to "take care that the Laws be faithfully executed," as specified in Section 3.
As was the case at the Dawn of American Liberty, we are but a small band of American Patriots facing an empire of statists, but we are steadfast in our sacred oath to sustain our Constitution. Please help us combat the ideology and propaganda of the Left in order to restore the integrity of our Constitution.

On behalf of Liberty, if you are able, please support our Independence Day Campaign. We still must raise $112,448 to meet our goal and there are just 4 days left.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

23856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Flotilla 2, the prequel on: June 30, 2011, 11:34:49 AM
http://townhall.com/news/world/2011/06/30/gaza_flotilla_organizers_2nd_ship_sabotaged
23857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Venezuela Oil on: June 30, 2011, 11:32:13 AM
Vice President of Analysis Peter Zeihan examines the challenges faced by the Venezuelan oil industry regardless of who holds political power in Caracas.


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

Oil production is typically an extraordinarily capital intensive industry. It uses a high amount of skilled labor, very specialized infrastructure and the type of facilities that are required are extremely expensive. This is triply so in the case of Venezuela. The Venezuelan oil patch is one of the most difficult in the world: the crude is low-quality, the deposits are complex, and the sort of infrastructure that is required is just lengthy. Very few of the oil fields are very close to the coast, so you also have an additional disconnect between getting the crude to market that requires even more infrastructure. They have to use a lot of steam injections sometimes just to melt the deposits and a lot of the crude comes up such low quality that they actually have to add higher quality crude to it, mixing it, sort of partially refining it before they even put it into the refineries and then take it to the coast.

Even then most of Venezuela’s crude production is of such low quality that only very specific refineries that have been explicitly modified or built to handle the crude can handle it. One of the great misconceptions in the global oil industry is that oil is oil. There is actually considerable variety between the various crude oil grades and most refineries prefer to get their crude from a single source, year after year after year, and typically there are only a couple dozen sources that might be able to meet their specific needs. Oil is not a fungible commodity and Venezuelan crude is one of the more exceptional grades in terms of just being unique. As such, PDVSA [Petroleos de Venezuela], the state oil company of Venezuela, has had to be a very sophisticated firm in order to manage all of these capital, infrastructure, staffing, technological and economic challenges.

The problem that the Chavez government had in the early years is when you have this large of a nucleus of skilled labor — these are intelligent people who are used to thinking through problems, they have opinions, they have political opinions — PDVSA became the hotbed of opposition to Chavez, culminating ultimately in the coup attempt in April 2002. Chavez, regardless of what you think of his politics, had a very simple choice to make: he could leave these people ensconced in their economic fortress of PDVSA, allowing them to plot against them at will, or he could gut the company of its political activists. He chose the latter option and that has solidified his rule but has come at the cost as a slow degradation of PDVSA’s energy capacity. As a result, ten years on, output is probably at a third below where it was at its peak.

With Chavez in Cuba recovering from surgery, the question naturally is, is he on his death bed, is he about to go out, is there about to be a transition to a different sort of government? From an energy point of view this is all way too preliminary because of the nature of the Venezuelan oil company. Let’s assume for a moment that Chavez dies tomorrow and that the next government is even worse than him: horrible managers that don’t understand the energy industry — a lot of the charges that have been brought against the Chavez government. You’d have no real change for the next six months. There is only so much that you can do differently in the oil industry if you want to keep it operational, and whoever the new government is has a vested interest in keeping the money flowing. So the slow, steady degradation of capacity that we’ve seen for the last 10 years? No reason to expect that that would change at all.

On the flip side, let’s assume for the moment that after Chavez’s death we have a new government that is remarkably pro-American and remarkably pro-energy. Again, for the first six months you’d probably not see much change. The capital investment to operate the Venezuelan industry is so huge that you’d probably need tens of billions of dollars applied simply to handle the deferred maintenance issues that have built up over the last ten years. Ultimately you’re going to be looking at years of efforts and tens of billions of dollars of new capital investment if you’re going to reverse the production decline. That’s something that you shouldn’t expect any meaningful progress in anything less than a two-year time frame.

Suffice it to say, Venezuelan oil is going to be a factor of life in global politics and American politics for the foreseeable future. But because of the sheer scope of the problems that face the Venezuelan oil industry, independently of anything that is related to Chavez’s political needs, the market is up against a problem of inertia. It takes years — honestly, a decade — if you want to make a meaningful change in the way that Venezuela works. The oil patch is just that difficult.

23858  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: June 30, 2011, 11:31:44 AM
Vice President of Analysis Peter Zeihan examines the challenges faced by the Venezuelan oil industry regardless of who holds political power in Caracas.


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

Oil production is typically an extraordinarily capital intensive industry. It uses a high amount of skilled labor, very specialized infrastructure and the type of facilities that are required are extremely expensive. This is triply so in the case of Venezuela. The Venezuelan oil patch is one of the most difficult in the world: the crude is low-quality, the deposits are complex, and the sort of infrastructure that is required is just lengthy. Very few of the oil fields are very close to the coast, so you also have an additional disconnect between getting the crude to market that requires even more infrastructure. They have to use a lot of steam injections sometimes just to melt the deposits and a lot of the crude comes up such low quality that they actually have to add higher quality crude to it, mixing it, sort of partially refining it before they even put it into the refineries and then take it to the coast.

Even then most of Venezuela’s crude production is of such low quality that only very specific refineries that have been explicitly modified or built to handle the crude can handle it. One of the great misconceptions in the global oil industry is that oil is oil. There is actually considerable variety between the various crude oil grades and most refineries prefer to get their crude from a single source, year after year after year, and typically there are only a couple dozen sources that might be able to meet their specific needs. Oil is not a fungible commodity and Venezuelan crude is one of the more exceptional grades in terms of just being unique. As such, PDVSA [Petroleos de Venezuela], the state oil company of Venezuela, has had to be a very sophisticated firm in order to manage all of these capital, infrastructure, staffing, technological and economic challenges.

The problem that the Chavez government had in the early years is when you have this large of a nucleus of skilled labor — these are intelligent people who are used to thinking through problems, they have opinions, they have political opinions — PDVSA became the hotbed of opposition to Chavez, culminating ultimately in the coup attempt in April 2002. Chavez, regardless of what you think of his politics, had a very simple choice to make: he could leave these people ensconced in their economic fortress of PDVSA, allowing them to plot against them at will, or he could gut the company of its political activists. He chose the latter option and that has solidified his rule but has come at the cost as a slow degradation of PDVSA’s energy capacity. As a result, ten years on, output is probably at a third below where it was at its peak.

With Chavez in Cuba recovering from surgery, the question naturally is, is he on his death bed, is he about to go out, is there about to be a transition to a different sort of government? From an energy point of view this is all way too preliminary because of the nature of the Venezuelan oil company. Let’s assume for a moment that Chavez dies tomorrow and that the next government is even worse than him: horrible managers that don’t understand the energy industry — a lot of the charges that have been brought against the Chavez government. You’d have no real change for the next six months. There is only so much that you can do differently in the oil industry if you want to keep it operational, and whoever the new government is has a vested interest in keeping the money flowing. So the slow, steady degradation of capacity that we’ve seen for the last 10 years? No reason to expect that that would change at all.

On the flip side, let’s assume for the moment that after Chavez’s death we have a new government that is remarkably pro-American and remarkably pro-energy. Again, for the first six months you’d probably not see much change. The capital investment to operate the Venezuelan industry is so huge that you’d probably need tens of billions of dollars applied simply to handle the deferred maintenance issues that have built up over the last ten years. Ultimately you’re going to be looking at years of efforts and tens of billions of dollars of new capital investment if you’re going to reverse the production decline. That’s something that you shouldn’t expect any meaningful progress in anything less than a two-year time frame.

Suffice it to say, Venezuelan oil is going to be a factor of life in global politics and American politics for the foreseeable future. But because of the sheer scope of the problems that face the Venezuelan oil industry, independently of anything that is related to Chavez’s political needs, the market is up against a problem of inertia. It takes years — honestly, a decade — if you want to make a meaningful change in the way that Venezuela works. The oil patch is just that difficult.

23859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams, 1781 on: June 30, 2011, 11:23:31 AM


"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual - or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country." --Samuel Adams, in the Boston Gazette, 1781
23860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: An Exceptional Fourth on: June 30, 2011, 11:22:16 AM

For the last 235 years, on the Fourth of July, Americans have celebrated the birth of the United States, and the founding ideas that have made it the most powerful, wealthiest and freest nation in the history of civilization.

But as another Fourth of July approaches, there has never been more uncertainty about the future of America -- and the anxiety transcends even the dismal economy and three foreign wars. President Obama prompted such introspection in April 2009, when he suggested that the United States, as one of many nations, was not necessarily any more exceptional than others. Recently, a New Yorker magazine article sympathetically described our new foreign policy as "leading from behind."

The administration not long ago sought from the United Nations and the Arab League -- but not from Congress -- authorization to attack Col. Gadhafi's Libya. Earlier, conservative opponents had made much of the president's bows to Chinese and Saudi Arabian heads of state, which, coupled with serial apologies for America's distant and recent past, were seen as symbolically deferential efforts to signal the world that the United States was at last not necessarily pre-eminent among nations.

Yet there has never been any nation even remotely similar to America. Here's why. Most revolutions seek to destroy the existing class order and use all-powerful government to mandate an equality of result rather than of opportunity -- in the manner of the French Revolution's slogan of "liberty, equality and fraternity" or the Russian Revolution's "peace, land and bread."

In contrast, our revolutionaries shouted "Don't tread on me!" and "Give me liberty or give me death!" The Founders were convinced that constitutionally protected freedom would allow the individual to create wealth apart from government. Such enlightened self-interest would then enrich society at large far more effectively that could an all-powerful state.

Such constitutionally protected private property, free enterprise and market capitalism explain why the United States -- with only about 4.5 percent of the world's population -- even today, in an intensely competitive global economy, still produces a quarter of the world's goods and services. To make America unexceptional, inept government overseers, as elsewhere in the world, would determine the conditions -- where, when, how and by whom -- under which businesses operate.

Individual freedom in America manifests itself in ways most of the world can hardly fathom -- whether our unique tradition of the right to gun ownership, the near impossibility of proving libel in American courts, or the singular custom of multimillion-dollar philanthropic institutions, foundations and private endowments. Herding, silencing or enfeebling Americans is almost impossible -- and will remain so as long as well-protected citizens can say what they want and do as they please with their hard-earned money.

Race, tribe or religion often defines a nation's character, either through loose confederations of ethnic or religious blocs as in Rwanda, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, or by equating a citizenry with a shared appearance as reflected in the German word "volk" or the Spanish "raza." And while the United States was originally crafted largely by white males who improved upon Anglo-Saxon customs and the European Enlightenment, the Founders set in place an "all men are created equal" system that quite logically evolved into the racially blind society of today.

This year a minority of babies born in the United States will resemble the look of the Founding Fathers. Yet America will continue as it was envisioned, as long as those of various races and colors are committed to the country's original ideals. When International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexual assault against a West African immigrant maid in New York, supposedly liberal French elites were outraged that America would dare bring charges against such an establishment aristocrat. Americans, on the other hand, would have been more outraged had their country not done so.

The Founders' notion of the rule of law, coupled with freedom of the individual, explains why the United States runs on merit, not tribal affinities or birth. Most elsewhere, being a first cousin of a government official, or having a prestigious name, ensures special treatment from the state. Yet in America, nepotism is never assured. End that notion of American merit and replace it with racial tribalism, cronyism or aristocratic privilege, and America itself would vanish as we know it.

There is no rational reason why a small republican experiment in 1776 grew to dominate global culture and society -- except that America is the only nation, past or present, that put trust in the individual rather than in the state and its elite bureaucracy. Such confidence in the average free citizen made America absolutely exceptional -- something we should remember more than ever on this Fourth of July.
23861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Seattle Plot on: June 30, 2011, 11:19:28 AM
By Scott Stewart
Stratfor:

On June 22 in a Seattle warehouse, Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif pulled an unloaded M16 rifle to his shoulder, aimed it, and pulled the trigger repeatedly as he imagined himself gunning down young U.S. military recruits. His longtime friend Walli Mujahidh did likewise with an identical rifle, assuming a kneeling position as he engaged his notional targets. The two men had come to the warehouse with another man to inspect the firearms the latter had purchased with money Abdul-Latif had provided him. The rifles and a small number of hand grenades were to be used in an upcoming mission: an attack on a U.S. Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in an industrial area south of downtown Seattle.

After confirming that the rifles were capable of automatic fire and discussing the capacity of the magazines they had purchased, the men placed the rifles back into a storage bag intending to transport them to a temporary cache location. As they prepared to leave the warehouse, they were suddenly swarmed by a large number of FBI agents and other law enforcement officers and quickly arrested. Their plan to conduct a terrorist attack inside the United States had been discovered when the man they had invited to join their plot (the man who had allegedly purchased the weapons for them) reported the plot to the Seattle Police Department, which in turn reported it to the FBI. According to the federal criminal complaint filed in the case, the third unidentified man had an extensive criminal record and had known Abdul-Latif for several years, but he had not been willing to undertake such a terrorist attack.

While the behavior of Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh in this plot demonstrates that they were amateur “wannabe” jihadists rather than seasoned terrorist operatives, their plot could have ended very differently if they had found a kindred spirit in the man they approached for help instead of someone who turned them into the authorities. This case also illustrates some important trends in jihadist terrorism that we have been watching for the past few years as well as a possible shift in mindset within the jihadist movement.


Trends

First, Abu-Khalid Abdul-Latif and Walli Mujahidh, both American converts to Islam, are prime examples of what we refer to as grassroots jihadists. They are individuals who were inspired by the al Qaeda movement but who had no known connection to the al Qaeda core or one of its franchise groups. In late 2009, in response to the success of the U.S. government and its allies in preventing jihadist attacks in the West, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) began a campaign to encourage jihadists living in the West to conduct simple attacks using readily available items, rather than travel abroad for military and terrorism training with jihadist groups. After successes such as the November 2009 Fort Hood shooting, this theme of encouraging grassroots attacks was adopted by the core al Qaeda group.

While the grassroots approach does present a challenge to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in that attackers can seemingly appear out of nowhere with no prior warning, the paradox presented by grassroots operatives is that they are also far less skilled than trained terrorist operatives. In other words, while they are hard to detect, they frequently lack the skill to conduct large, complex attacks and frequently make mistakes that expose them to detection in smaller plots.

And that is what we saw in the Seattle plot. Abdul-Latif had originally wanted to hit U.S. Joint Base Lewis-McChord (formerly known as Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base), which is located some 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Seattle, but later decided against that plan since he considered the military base to be too hardened a target. While Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh were amateurs, they seem to have reached a reasonable assessment of their own abilities and which targets were beyond their abilities to strike.

Another trend we noted in this case was that the attack plan called for the use of firearms and hand grenades in an armed assault, rather than the use of an improvised explosive device (IED). There have been a number of botched IED attacks, such as the May 2010 Times Square attack and Najibullah Zazi’s plot to attack the New York subway system.

These were some of the failures that caused jihadist leaders such as AQAP’s Nasir al-Wahayshi to encourage grassroots jihadists to undertake simple attacks. Indeed, the most successful jihadist attacks in the West in recent years, such as the Fort Hood shooting, the June 2009 attack on a military recruitment center in Little Rock, Ark., and the March 2011 attack on  U.S. troops at a civilian airport in Frankfurt, Germany, involved the use of firearms rather than IEDs. When combined with the thwarted plot in New York in May 2011, these incidents support the trend we identified in May 2010 of grassroots jihadist conducting more armed assaults and fewer attacks involving IEDs.

Another interesting aspect of the Seattle case was that Abdul-Latif was an admirer of AQAP ideologue Anwar al-Awlaki. Unlike the Fort Hood case, where U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had been in email contact with al-Awlaki, it does not appear that Abdul-Latif had been in contact with the AQAP preacher. However, from video statements and comments Abdul-Latif himself posted on the Internet, he appears to have had a high opinion of al-Awlaki and to have been influenced by his preaching. It does not appear that Abdul-Latif, who was known as Joseph Anthony Davis before his conversion to Islam, or Mujahidh, whose pre-conversion name was Frederick Domingue Jr., spoke Arabic. This underscores the importance of al-Awlaki’s role within AQAP as its primary spokesman to the English-speaking world and his mission of radicalizing English-speaking Muslims and encouraging them to conduct terrorist attacks in the West.


Vulnerabilities

Once again, in the Seattle case, the attack on the MEPS was not thwarted by some CIA source in Yemen, an intercept by the National Security Agency or an intentional FBI undercover operation. Rather, the attack was thwarted by a Muslim who was approached by Abdul-Latif and asked to participate in the attack. The man then went to the Seattle Police Department, which brought the man to the attention of the FBI. This is what we refer to as grassroots counterterrorism, that is, local cops and citizens bringing things to the attention of federal authorities. As the jihadist threat has become more diffuse and harder to detect, grassroots defenders have become an even more critical component of international counterterrorism efforts. This is especially true for Muslims, many of whom consider themselves engaged in a struggle to defend their faith (and their sons) from the threat of jihadism.

But, even if the third man had chosen to participate in the attack rather than report it to the authorities, the group would have been vulnerable to detection. First, there were the various statements Abdul-Latif made on the Internet in support of attacks against the United States. Second, any Muslim convert who chooses a name such as Mujahidh (holy warrior) for himself must certainly anticipate the possibility that it will bring him to the attention of the authorities. Abdul-Latif and Mujahidh were also somewhat cavalier in their telephone conversations, although those conversations do not appear to have brought them to the attention of the authorities.

Perhaps their most significant vulnerability to detection, aside from their desire to obtain automatic weapons and hand grenades, would have been their need to conduct preoperational surveillance of their intended target. After conducting some preliminary research using the Internet, Abdul-Latif quickly realized that they needed more detailed intelligence. He then briefly conducted physical surveillance of the exterior of the MEPS to see what it looked like in person. Despite the technological advances it represents, the Internet cannot replace the physical surveillance process, which is a critical requirement for terrorist planners. Indeed, after the external surveillance of the building, Abdul-Latif asked the informant to return to the building under a ruse in order to enter it and obtain a detailed floor plan of the facility for use in planning the attack.

In this case, the informant was able to obtain the information he needed from his FBI handlers, but had he been a genuine participant in the plot, he would have had to have exposed himself to detection by entering the MEPS facility after conducting surveillance of the building’s exterior. If some sort of surveillance detection program was in place, it likely would have flagged him as a person of interest for follow-up investigation, which could have led authorities back to the other conspirators in the attack.


A New Twist

One aspect of this plot that was different from many other recent plots was that Abdul-Latif insisted that he wanted to target the U.S. military and did not want to kill people he considered innocents. Certainly he had no problem with the idea of killing the armed civilian security guards at the MEPS — the plan called for the attackers to kill them first, or the unarmed still-civilian recruits being screened at the facility, then to kill as many other military personnel as possible before being neutralized by the responding authorities. However, even in the limited conversations documented in the federal criminal complaint, Abdul-Latif repeated several times that he did not want to kill innocents. This stands in stark contrast to the actions of previous attackers and plotters such as John Allen Mohammed, the so-called D.C. sniper, or Faisal Shahzad, who planned the failed Times Square attack.

Abdul-Latif’s reluctance to attack civilians may be a reflection of the debate we are seeing among jihadists in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and even Algeria over the killing of those they consider innocents. This debate is also raging on many of the English-language jihadist message boards Abdul-Latif frequented. Most recently, this tension was seen in the defection of a Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan faction in Pakistan’s Kurram agency.

If this sentiment begins to take wider hold in the jihadist movement, and especially the English-speaking jihadist community in the West, it could have an impact on the target-selection process for future attacks by grassroots operatives in the West. It could also mean that commonly attacked targets such as subway systems, civilian aircraft, hotels and public spaces will be seen as less desirable than comparably soft military targets. Given the limitations of grassroots jihadists, and their tendency to focus on soft targets, such a shift would result in a much smaller universe of potential targets for such attacks — the softer military targets such as recruit-processing stations and troops in transit that have been targeted in recent months.

Removing some of the most vulnerable targets from the potential-target list is not something that militants do lightly. If this is indeed happening, it could be an indication that some important shifts are under way on the ideological battlefield and that jihadists may be concerned about losing their popular support. It is still too early to know if this is a trend and not merely the idiosyncrasy of one attack planner — and it is contrary to the target sets laid out in recent messages from AQAP and the al Qaeda core — but when viewed in light of the Little Rock, Fort Hood and Frankfurt shootings, it is definitely a concept worth further examination.

23862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glenn's last night on Fox tonight, and what comes next on: June 30, 2011, 11:14:17 AM
second post of the morning.

Just a reminder.  Tonight is Glenn's last night on FOX.  Should be a humdinger!
==================================

Glenn's Fox Finale Tonight…What’s Next?
You have enjoyed watching Glenn take on liberals, progressives and even radical leftists for the last two and a half years at 5pm on Fox News. From the corruption at ACORN to the Czars to Van Jones, Glenn exposed the left's agenda and routinely flustered the White House in the process. Glenn's Fox Finale tonight marks the end of a history making program, but far from the end, this also marks the beginning of something even bigger: GBTV.

What is GBTV? GBTV is a live, streaming video network that will feature a wide variety of programming, but most important it is the brand new home of Glenn's daily 5pm-7pm live show. The place to find everything you loved about Glenn on TV, plus a lot more. Glenn's show will expand to two hours a night, five nights a week and be streamed live in HD exclusively on GBTV.

How do I get GBTV? GBTV goes wherever you do. From your laptop to your desktop to your iPad, iPhone or television (via a Roku device), GBTV is always available. No more faking illnesses to ensure you're home to watch Glenn. If you've got Internet access, you've got GBTV – live or on demand whenever you want to watch.

Join GBTV! If you are one of the many who have become tired of calling your Congressman and getting no result - GBTV is the place for you. GBTV is not just a place to view shows you love; it's a way to get involved and to turn ideas into action. The sensational scandals and partisan bickering will be left to others and GBTV, led by the viewer, will move forward and find real solutions. Get in on the ground floor and get started turning this country around - without the help of the federal government.

TUNE IN TONIGHT: Tune in to GBTV tonight at 6:30 pm ET for a special GBTV broadcast and get a sneak peek into Beck's most ambitious project yet.
 

Welcome to GBTV. The Truth Lives Here
23863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coulter on the mob harassment of Beck on: June 30, 2011, 11:13:13 AM
Of all the details surrounding the liberal mob attack on Glenn Beck and his family in New York's Bryant Park last Monday night, one element stands out. "No, it won't be like that, Dad," his daughter said when Beck questioned the wisdom of attending a free, outdoor movie showing in a New York park.

People who have never been set upon by a mob of liberals have absolutely no idea what it's like to be a publicly recognizable conservative. Even your friends will constantly be telling you: "Oh, it will be fine. Don't worry. Nothing will happen. This place isn't like that."

Liberals are not like most Americans. They are the biggest pussies on Earth, city-bred weaklings who didn't play a sport and have never been in a fight in their entire lives. Their mothers made excuses for them when they threw tantrums and spent way too much time praising them during toilet training.

I could draw a mug shot of every one of Beck's tormentors, and I wasn't there.

Beck and his family would have been fine at an outdoor rap concert. They would have been fine at a sporting event. They would have been fine at any paid event, mostly because people who work for the government and live in rent-controlled apartments would be too cheap to attend.

Only a sad leftist with a crappy job could be so brimming with self-righteousness to harangue a complete stranger in public.

A liberal's idea of being a bad-ass is to say vicious things to a conservative public figure who can't afford to strike back. Getting in a stranger's face and hurling insults at him, knowing full well he has too much at risk to deck you, is like baiting a bear chained to a wall.

They are not only exploiting our lawsuit-mad culture, they are exploiting other people's manners. I know I'll be safe because this person has better manners than I do.

These brave-hearts know exactly what they can get away with. They assault a conservative only when it's a sucker-punch, they outnumber him, or he can't fight back for reasons of law or decorum.

Liberals don't get that when you're outnumbering the enemy 100-1, you're not brave.

But they're not even embarrassed. To the contrary, being part of the majority makes liberals feel great! Honey, wasn't I amazing? I stood in a crowd of liberals and called that conservative a c**t. Wasn't I awesome?

This is a liberal's idea of raw physical courage.

When someone does fight back, liberals transform from aggressor to victim in an instant, collapsing on the ground and screaming bloody murder. I've seen it happen in a nearly empty auditorium when there was quite obviously no other human within 5 feet of the gutless invertebrate.

People incapable of conforming to the demands of civilized society are frightening precisely because you never know what else such individuals are capable of. Sometimes -- a lot more often than you've heard about -- liberals do engage in physical violence against conservatives ... and then bravely run away.

That's why not one person stepped up to aid Beck and his family as they were being catcalled and having wine dumped on them at a nice outdoor gathering.

No one ever steps in. Never, not once, not ever. (Except at the University of Arizona, where college Republicans chased my assailant and broke his collarbone, God bless them.)

Most people are shocked into paralysis at the sight of sociopathic liberal behavior. The only ones who aren't are the conservative's bodyguards -- and they can't do anything without risking a lawsuit or an arrest.

My hero Tim Profitt is now facing charges for stopping a physical assault on Senate candidate Rand Paul by a crazed woman disguised in a wig.

But the disturbed liberal whose assault Profitt stopped faces no charges -- she instigated the entire confrontation and then instantly claimed victim status. In a better America, the cop would say, "Well, you provoked him."

Kentucky prosecutors must be very proud of how they so dutifully hew to the letter of the law (except in the case of Paul's assailant).

Maybe they wouldn't be such good little rules-followers if they ever, just once, had to face the liberal mob themselves. But if Beck's own daughter can't imagine the liberal mob, I suppose prosecutors can't be expected to, either.

Michael Moore and James Carville can stroll anywhere in America without risking the sort of behavior the Beck family experienced. But all recognizable conservatives are eternally trapped in David Dinkins' New York: Simply by virtue of leaving their homes, they assume a 20 percent chance of being assaulted.

Bullying is on the rise everywhere in America -- and not just because Obama decided to address it. It's because no one hits back. The message in our entire culture over the last two decades has been: DON'T FIGHT!

There were a lot fewer public confrontations when bullies got their faces smashed.

Maybe it's time for Beck to pony up some of those millions of dollars he's earned and hire people to rough up the liberal mob, or, at a minimum, to provide a legal defense to those like Profitt who do.

These liberal pukes have never taken a punch in their lives. A sock to the yap would be an eye-opening experience, and I believe it would do wonders.

They need to have their behavior corrected. It's a shame this job wasn't done by their parents. It won't be done by the police.

As long as liberals can't be normal and prosecutors can't be reasonable, how about a one-punch rule against anyone bothering a stranger in public? Then we'll see how brave these lactose-intolerant mama's boys are.

Believe me, liberal mobbings will stop very quickly after the first toilet-training champion takes his inaugural punch.
23864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Greater Game in Bahrain on: June 30, 2011, 10:58:02 AM
The Greater Game in Bahrain

According to rumors cited by anonymous Bahraini and Saudi government sources on Tuesday, the 1,000-plus Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force, deployed to Bahrain in the spring to quell a Shia-led uprising, has begun to withdraw now that the security situation on the island has largely stabilized. STRATFOR sources in the Saudi and Bahraini governments clarified that there will be a reduction of GCC forces, but not a full withdrawal. A Saudi source went on to explain that a permanent base will be built to station a stripped-down Saudi-led force, ready to deploy on short notice, with Saudi reinforcements less than three hours away across the Bahrain-Saudi causeway.

When GCC forces intervened in Bahrain in mid-March at the request of the Bahraini royal family, the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf were in panic mode. A Shia-led uprising in Bahrain had the potential to activate dissent among Shiite population centers in Eastern Arabia, particularly in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. The potential for dissent was especially elevated if Iran could bring its forces to bear under the right circumstances. Led by Saudi Arabia, the GCC moved swiftly to help Bahrain clamp down on demonstrations, using their combined security and intelligence powers to identify and neutralize suspected Iranian assets across Bahraini society.

“What STRATFOR is wondering is whether Riyadh, unable to fully trust U.S. intentions, is seriously considering reaching its own accommodation with Iran.”
So far, the GCC’s handling of the crisis in Bahrain has worked. The most destabilizing elements within the opposition have been jailed and a large number of Bahrainis support a return to normalcy on the streets. The Bahraini government is shifting from restoration to maintenance of law and order, gradually reducing the security presence on the streets. Beginning July 2, the government will open a National Dialogue with various civil society groups. The government aims to give the impression that it is sincere about addressing opposition demands, so long as those demands are discussed in an orderly setting. It should be noted that the National Dialogue so far does not include Bahrain’s largest Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq.

The sight of GCC forces heading home in armored vehicles while Bahraini government officials talk to a select group of opposition leaders may create the impression that calm has returned to Bahrain. However, a much deeper dynamic between the Arabs and Persians needs to be understood as these events unfold. Iran may not have been able to fully exploit the wave of Shia-led unrest that hit Bahrain, and Tehran has historically faced considerable constraints in projecting influence to its co-religionists in Eastern Arabia. Nevertheless, STRATFOR has also picked up indications that Iran was playing a much more deliberate game — taking care to conserve its resources while counting on the perception of a Wahhabist occupation of Shiite-majority land to exacerbate local grievances and stress the GCC states over time. With the Arab states on edge, Iran’s primary aim is to ensure a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq — an area where threats to the Islamic republic have historically originated.

This reality stresses Saudi Arabia, a state already bearing the burden of managing an explosive situation in Yemen while sorting out succession issues at home and, most critically, trying to figure out the best path forward in dealing with Iran. It is increasingly evident that the United States is too distracted to meaningfully counterbalance Iran in the near term, especially as Tehran appears to have the necessary leverage to prevent the United States from extending its military presence in Iraq. Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies are left wondering if the United States will temporarily set aside its broader conflict with Tehran and forge a short-term understanding with the Islamic republic. Such an understanding could expand Iran’s sphere of influence in the region on U.S. terms, leaving Saudi Arabia with a deep sense of betrayal and vulnerability. There are no clear indications that negotiations between the United States and Iran have reached such a juncture, but the Saudis have to reckon with the possibility. STRATFOR is wondering whether Riyadh, unable to fully trust U.S. intentions, is seriously considering reaching its own accommodation with Iran first.

This logic is what led STRAFOR today to take a closer look at what was happening behind the scenes of the rumored Saudi withdrawal from Bahrain. The GCC states and Iran are at an impasse. The Arabs demand that Iran cease meddling in their affairs and Iran counters that GCC forces must first withdraw fully from Bahrain. In explaining the plan for the reconfiguration of GCC forces in Bahrain, a Saudi diplomatic source mentioned ongoing talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran and said there are indications that Iran may be backing off its covert activities in Bahrain. This claim obviously merits further investigation. If true, it could represent a preliminary yet highly important step in a developing Saudi-Iranian dialogue. Neither side would be expected to back down completely in the early stages of this dialogue, but a show of good faith, such as a reduction in GCC forces ahead of National Dialogue talks in Bahrain, could set the mood for further talks.

23865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 30, 2011, 10:34:59 AM
Umm , , , very interesting of course, but why is this in this thread instead of Nuclear War or Iran?
23866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 30, 2011, 01:37:24 AM
Lets see if we can continue the relevant points on the foreign affairs thread please.

Regarding Afpakia:

Baraq ran on a platform of Iraq being the wrong war and Afpakia being the right war.   Once elected he put his own man in, then ignored the war altogether until his own man said he hadn't heard from the President but once in six months and the military began a leak campaign that they needed more troops-- lots more.  Finally the Pravdas bestirred themselves a bit and thus provoked Baraq into months of Hamlet like dithering which yielded an even more incoherent policy than the one he inherited (and Bush's Afpakia strategy was pretty bad).  Solution:  Both surge and withdraw rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes leaving "an essential war of self-defense" in the hands of Karzai, the Afgan Army, and the Afghan police.  Of course, knowing we were leaving wouldn't affect anybody's behavior in the meantime , , ,  rolleyes   Despite what normal folks might consider an act of war by harboring OBL (and many, many other deeds of similar character) Pakistan is our ally , , , but we have kowtowed to Russia in numerous ways (e.g. abandoning eastern Europe) so we can depend on them as a supply line to Afghanistan and depend on them should we ever need to get into outer space.

Seen in this light, I can readily understand people saying "You've been dithering and fg up for 10 years and Baraq has already told everyone we are leaving-- just like we are leaving Iraq (begun by candidates Baraq and Hillary et al), and the middle east altogether.  We don't see a point in staying.  Whenever we leave it will be a clusterfcuk.  NO ONE is calling for going after Pak's nukes.  NO ONE is bringing to the table the level of understanding that our YA does.  Does anyone here see anyone whom they wish to follow in all this?

Then there are the points Stratfor makes about our overloaded bandwidth.  Of course Baraq will use the stampede for the exits as an exucse to get Panetta to further gut our capabilities in an increasingly likely to go sideways world.

And so the gathering clusterfcuk develops momentum , , ,
23867  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 30, 2011, 01:22:21 AM
Grateful for a nice day of teaching.
23868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: June 29, 2011, 09:15:02 PM
Just watched the Allen West speech of my previous post-- well worth the time and quite relevant to this thread-- including the political dimension.
23869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 29, 2011, 09:13:24 PM
I saw a snippet yesterday where the question of his "low macho factor" came up.  His answer"

"You've got to be kidding.  I used to play hockey and I probably have been in more fights than the rest of the candidates combined."

I liked him in that moment  grin
23870  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: June 29, 2011, 09:02:46 PM
a) "Intelligence is the amount of time it takes to forget a lesson."

b) "Knees are escape valves for hips."
23871  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: June 29, 2011, 09:00:56 PM
New registrations:

C-Mighty Dog
Nathan Carlen
Katherine Waruszewski-- our first woman registered for this Gathering-- someone let "Bitch" know!
Alex Bondarenko
Robert Neal
23872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: June 29, 2011, 12:33:35 PM
Back before I was married and getting more , , , selective in my social life, there was a time , , , Myself, I was happy with a magazine dedicated to "All "Natural' Women" (i.e. no silicon breasts).
23873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 29, 2011, 12:30:53 PM
Thoughtful piece by Pawlenty.  Would you please post in the Foreign Affairs thread as well?  I would like to discuss it there in the context of that thread instead of in the context of the 2012 campaign.
23874  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Unprotected candidates on: June 29, 2011, 11:34:56 AM

In this week’s Above the Tearline, we’re going to look at the period of time when individuals running for President of the United States are not afforded U.S. Secret Service protection. In the protection business this is called either the “assassin’s window” or the “Robert F. Kennedy (or R.F.K) window.”

In 1968, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Los Angeles by a Palestinian assassin by the name of Sirhan Sirhan. At the time of Kennedy’s murder, he was not afforded U.S. Secret Service protection. What most people don’t realize is U.S. Secret Service protection is afforded the leading candidate after that person is selected at the party convention. At that point in time, the U.S. Secret Service assumes responsibility for the candidate running for President of the United States. We are in a very interesting period of time which happens every four years at presidential election time in that you have numerous candidates running for President of the United States that have various levels of protection. For example, Congresswoman Bachmann, who announced her candidacy for presidency; She will have U.S. Capitol Police protection because of her official position as a U.S. congresswoman, and all members of Congress are afforded protection by the U.S. Capitol Police. On the other hand, former governor Romney and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich are private citizens and therefore do not have official government protection, so their campaigns will either have to hire off-duty police officers or utilize private executive protection security.

An interesting parallel is that Senator Obama was afforded U.S. Secret Service protection earlier than any other person running for presidential office based predominantly upon the white hate threat to him. The Above the Tearline aspect of this is as you look at this period of time in the assassin’s window where some candidates have protection 24 x 7 and other candidates do not. In some cases you will have the kind of individual — the stalker — that will take the path of least resistance and focus his energy and efforts towards those individuals that do not have protection.

23875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: June 29, 2011, 11:30:19 AM
As noted, the parent can buy for his/her child what he/she wishes to.  This completely meets the point raised by JDN.  Furthermore, the parent should be able to let a child go unattended into a store which sells magazines and not have to worry about the child (e.g. a 12 year old) buying "Big Dick Dwarves Anally Rape Anal Virgins and Shoot Jizz all over their Faces".
23876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post Chronicle on: June 29, 2011, 11:18:17 AM
Chronicle · June 29, 2011

The Foundation
"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness." --George Washington

Editorial Exegesis

Rather than drill, Obama plays games with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve"President Barack Obama has chosen a curious moment to release 30 million barrels of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The president initially justified the release as protection against disruptions in supply caused by the conflict in Libya. Later, the administration changed the explanation, saying Obama hopes to stabilize gasoline prices going into the summer vacation driving season. Libya is an important source of oil. But the fighting there has not had a major impact on supplies. And oil prices have fallen back in recent weeks from their yearly highs. ... As we've said when previous presidents considered using the reserve to influence short-term prices, that's not what the stockpile is there for. The reserve is designed to shield the American economy from dramatic disruptions in the oil supply. Such a major cutoff hasn't happened. Using the reserve to manipulate market prices is a futile enterprise. ... The president's decision to release oil reserves, coming at a time when his approval rating is sinking, opens him to criticism that his re-election campaign is driving his economic and energy decisions. He can claim credit for future declines in gasoline prices that may have occurred naturally. If the priority of the administration is now to keep gasoline cheap, it should also drop its opposition to increased domestic oil production, which would have a larger impact on long-term oil prices than would tapping into the reserve. Likewise, that goal should also inform its current considerations of sharply higher fuel economy standards for the automotive fleet. ... In any case, the release of the oil reserves in response to fluctuations in the market is not sound policy." --The Detroit News


Upright
"On economic growth, real GDP has risen 0.8% over the 13 quarters since the recession began, compared to an average increase of 9.9% in past recoveries. From the beginning of the recession to April 2011, real personal income has grown just .9% compared to 9.4% for the same period in previous post 1960 recessions. The standard response from Obama apologists is that recession of 2008 and 2009 was different because, as former Clinton administration economist Robert Shapiro puts it, 'this was a financial crisis, and these take longer to recover from.' In fact, in most cases, the deeper the recession, the stronger the recovery to make up for lost ground." --columnist Stephen Moore

"Right now America is nothing more than Greece with better PR. And note I said right now, because at the rate we're going, we're well on our way to making that country look like amateurs by comparison." --columnist Arnold Ahlert

"The salient feature of America in the Age of Obama is a failed government class institutionally committed to living beyond its means, and a citizenry too many of whom are content to string along." --columnist Mark Steyn

"A recent poll showed that nearly half the American public believes that the government should redistribute wealth. That so many people are so willing to blithely put such an enormous and dangerous arbitrary power in the hands of politicians -- risking their own freedom, in hopes of getting what someone else has -- is a painful sign of how far many citizens and voters fall short of what is needed to preserve a democratic republic." --economist Thomas Sowell

23877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: Farewell Address 1796 on: June 29, 2011, 10:00:32 AM


"The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position." --George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
23878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Adams: Betting on the Bad Guys on: June 29, 2011, 09:58:34 AM
Betting on the Bad Guys
Cartoonist Scott Adams's personal road to riches: Put your money on the companies you hate the most
By SCOTT ADAMS

When I heard that BP was destroying a big portion of Earth, with no serious discussion of cutting their dividend, I had two thoughts: 1) I hate them, and 2) This would be an excellent time to buy their stock. And so I did. Although I should have waited a week.

People ask me how it feels to take the side of moral bankruptcy. Answer: Pretty good! Thanks for asking. How's it feel to be a disgruntled victim?

I have a theory that you should invest in the companies that you hate the most. The usual reason for hating a company is that the company is so powerful it can make you balance your wallet on your nose while you beg for their product. Oil companies such as BP don't actually make you beg for oil, but I think we all realize that they could. It's implied in the price of gas.


Scott AdamsI hate BP, but I admire them too, in the same way I respect the work ethic of serial killers. I remember the day I learned that BP was using a submarine…with a web cam…a mile under the sea…to feed live video of their disaster to the world. My mind screamed "STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME LOVE YOU! MUST…THINK…OF DEAD BIRDS TO MAINTAIN ANGER!" The geeky side of me has a bit of a crush on them, but I still hate them for turning Florida into a dip stick.

Apparently BP has its own navy, a small air force, and enough money to build floating cities on the sea, most of which are still upright. If there's oil on the moon, BP will be the first to send a hose into space and suck on the moon until it's the size of a grapefruit. As an investor, that's the side I want to be on, with BP, not the loser moon.

I'd like to see a movie in which James Bond tries to defeat BP, but in the end they run Bond through a machine that turns him into "junk shot" debris to seal a leaky well. I'm just saying you don't always have to root for Bond. Be flexible.

Perhaps you think it's absurd to invest in companies just because you hate them. But let's compare my method to all of the other ways you could decide where to invest.

Technical Analysis
Technical analysis involves studying graphs of stock movement over time as a way to predict future moves. It's a widely used method on Wall Street, and it has exactly the same scientific validity as pretending you are a witch and forecasting market moves from chicken droppings.

Investing in Well-Managed Companies
When companies make money, we assume they are well-managed. That perception is reinforced by the CEOs of those companies who are happy to tell you all the clever things they did to make it happen. The problem with relying on this source of information is that CEOs are highly skilled in a special form of lying called leadership. Leadership involves convincing employees and investors that the CEO has something called a vision, a type of optimistic hallucination that can come true only in an environment in which the CEO is massively overcompensated and the employees have learned to be less selfish.

Track Record
Perhaps you can safely invest in companies that have a long track record of being profitable. That sounds safe and reasonable, right? The problem is that every investment expert knows two truths about investing: 1) Past performance is no indication of future performance. 2) You need to consider a company's track record.

Right, yes, those are opposites. And it's pretty much all that anyone knows about investing. An investment professional can argue for any sort of investment decision by selectively ignoring either point 1 or 2. And for that you will pay the investment professional 1% to 2% of your portfolio value annually, no matter the performance.

Invest in Companies You Love
Instead of investing in companies you hate, as I have suggested, perhaps you could invest in companies you love. I once hired professional money managers at Wells Fargo to do essentially that for me. As part of their service they promised to listen to the dopey-happy hallucinations of professional liars (CEOs) and be gullible on my behalf. The pros at Wells Fargo bought for my portfolio Enron, WorldCom, and a number of other much-loved companies that soon went out of business. For that, I hate Wells Fargo. But I sure wish I had bought stock in Wells Fargo at the time I hated them the most, because Wells Fargo itself performed great. See how this works?

Do Your Own Research
I didn't let Wells Fargo manage my entire portfolio, thanks to my native distrust of all humanity. For the other half of my portfolio I did my own research. (Imagine a field of red flags, all wildly waving. I didn't notice them.) My favorite investment was in a company I absolutely loved. I loved their business model. I loved their mission. I loved how they planned to make our daily lives easier. They were simply adorable as they struggled to change an entrenched industry. Their leaders reported that the company had finally turned cash positive in one key area, thus validating their business model, and proving that the future was rosy. I doubled down. The company was Webvan, may it rest in peace.

(This would be a good time to remind you not to make investment decisions based on the wisdom of cartoonists.)

But What About Warren Buffett?
The argument goes that if Warren Buffett can buy quality companies at reasonable prices, hold them for the long term and become a billionaire, then so can you. Do you know who would be the first person to tell you that you aren't smart enough or well-informed enough to pull that off? His name is Warren Buffett. OK, he's probably too nice to say that, but I'm pretty sure he's thinking it. However, he might tell you that he makes his money by knowing things that other people don't know, and buying things that other people can't buy, such as entire companies.

People Love Berkshire Hathaway And That Has Done Great
I'm not saying that the companies you love are automatically bad investments. I'm saying that investing in companies you love is riskier than investing in companies you hate.

Second, take a look at Berkshire Hathaway's holdings. It's a rogue's gallery of junk food purveyors, banks, insurance companies and yes, Goldman Sachs and Moody's. The second largest holding of Berkshire Hathaway is…wait for it…Wells Fargo.

(Disclosure: I own stock in Berkshire Hathaway for the very reasons I'm describing. And my first job out of college was at Crocker National Bank, later swallowed by Wells Fargo.)

Let's talk about morality. Can you justify owning stock in companies that are treating the Earth like a prison pillow with a crayon face? Of course you can, but it takes some mental gymnastics. I'm here to help.

If you buy stock in a despicable company, it means some of the previous owners of that company sold it to you. If the stock then rises more than the market average, you successfully screwed the previous owners of the hated company. That's exactly like justice, only better because you made a profit. Then you can sell your stocks for a gain and donate all of your earnings to good causes, such as education for your own kids.

Having absorbed all of the wisdom I have presented here so far, you are naturally wondering if I have any additional investment tips. Yes, and I will put my tips in the form of a true story. Recently I bought something called an iPhone. It drops calls so often that I no longer use it for audio conversations. It's too frustrating. And unlike my old BlackBerry days, I don't send e-mail on the iPhone because the on-screen keyboard is, as far as I can tell, an elaborate practical joke. I am, however, willing to respond to incoming text messages a long as they are in the form of yes-no questions and my answer are in the affirmative. In those cases I can simply type "k," the shorthand for OK, and I have trained my friends and family to accept L, J, O, or comma as meaning the same thing.

The other day I was in the Apple Store, asking how to repair a defective Apple laptop, and decided, irrationally, that I needed to have Apple's new iPad. The smiling Apple employee said she would be willing to put me on a list so I could wait an indefinite amount of time to maybe someday have one. I instinctively put my wallet on my nose and started barking like a seal, thinking it might reduce the wait time, but they're so used to seeing that maneuver that it didn't help.

My point is that I hate Apple. I hate that I irrationally crave their products, I hate their emotional control over my entire family, I hate the time I waste trying to make iTunes work, I hate how they manipulate my desires, I hate their closed systems, I hate Steve Jobs's black turtlenecks, and I hate that they call their store employees Geniuses which, as far as I can tell, is actually true. My point is that I wish I had bought stock in Apple five years ago when I first started hating them. But I hate them more every day, which is a positive sign for investing, so I'll probably buy some shares.

Again, I remind you to ignore me.

23879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on Harold Koh's testimony; Stratfor on: June 29, 2011, 09:50:18 AM
I note that, as I have said here before, Harold Koh is IMHO an enemy of American sovereignty and is well positioned at the State Dept to do major damage-- but that is not the point here-- here he stands for an imperial presidency:
=======
WASHINGTON — A resolution authorizing American intervention in Libya was approved on Tuesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hours after members skeptically grilled the administration’s legal adviser over his assertion that airstrikes and other military measures did not amount to hostilities.

Enlarge This Image
 
Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times
Harold H. Koh, a legal adviser to the State Department, testified on Tuesday.
Libyan Base Falls to a Rebel Ambush in the West (June 29, 2011)


The resolution, approved 14 to 5, would allow President Obama to continue for one year the involvement of United States military forces in the NATO-led operation in Libya; it now heads to the full Senate. A similar measure failed in the House last week, underscoring that even in a divided government, the Senate remains a more interventionist body while the House is increasingly dubious about foreign ventures and their cost.

For weeks, tensions have escalated between members of Congress and the Obama administration over the president’s decision not to seek Congressional authorization for the mission in Libya. The Vietnam-era War Powers Resolution stipulates that presidents must terminate unauthorized deployments into what the law calls hostilities 60 days after notifying Congress that they have begun.

In testimony before the committee Tuesday, Harold H. Koh, the legal adviser to the State Department, insisted that the resolution did not apply to Libya, a position that the administration has expressed repeatedly.

“From the outset, we noted that the situation in Libya does not constitute a war,” Mr. Koh said. He cited four factors — ground troops and significant non-air forces have not been involved, the lack of American casualties or a significant threat of them, a limited risk of escalation, and the limited use of military means — as the central points of logic in the administration’s decision to essentially ignore Congress beyond providing largely perfunctory information.

That logic was rejected by many members of the committee.

Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, a Democrat, said, “When you have an operation that goes on for months, costs billions of dollars, where the United States is providing two-thirds of the troops, even under the NATO fig leaf, where they’re dropping bombs that are killing people, where you’re paying your troops offshore combat pay and there are areas of prospective escalation — something I’ve been trying to get a clear answer from with this administration for several weeks now, and that is the possibility of a ground presence in some form or another, once the Qaddafi regime expires — I would say that’s hostilities.”

A Republican senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee, went further, accusing the administration of “sticking a stick in the eye of Congress” and saying it had done “a great disservice to our country.”

Mr. Koh did concede that the administration could have handled the situation differently. “If we had to roll the tape back, I’m sure there are many places where some would have urged — and I would have been among them — coming up with, coming up earlier for more briefings and to lay out these legal positions,” he said. Officials from the Department of Defense and Department of Justice declined to provide witnesses for the hearing.

The resolution that the committee voted on was sponsored by Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the committee, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. In arguing for its passage, Mr. Kerry pressed his colleagues to look beyond the issue of how the White House had conferred with Congress and to support the mission, which he said was largely aimed at saving Libyan civilians from massacre. “The rationale for being there is compelling,” he said.

Several amendments attached to the resolution were also adopted, including one offered by Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the committee, which explicitly prohibits the use of ground forces in Libya.

Other approved amendments included provisions stating that any war reconstruction costs in Libya should be borne by that government and the Arab League nations, which requested American assistance in the region, and another that would reopen an inquiry into the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The Libyan government took responsibility for the bombing in 2003 as part of a broader settlement in which Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi agreed to give up his nuclear and chemical weapons programs.

Another amendment offered by Mr. Lugar, which failed, would have further restricted the United States’ role in Libya, essentially ending airstrikes and the use of drones.

In the end, he voted against the entire resolution, as did Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, James Risch of Idaho and Mr. Corker.

Mr. DeMint said in an interview after the vote that he based his decision on the cost of the American operations in Libya, which are expected to reach $1 billion this fiscal year, and the lack of the administration’s earlier involvement with Congress.

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


Summary
As the intervention in Libya continues, the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. This may embolden NATO to continue using airstrikes in an attempt to assassinate Gadhafi quickly, especially as domestic considerations could cause coalition partners to begin to lose their will to carry out the mission. Should this short-term push fail, however, the inevitable track will be one that leads to a negotiated settlement, first dealing with Gadhafi’s inner circle and, failing that, eventually with the Libyan leader himself.

Analysis
As the Libyan intervention exceeds 100 days, there is still no end in sight. A military stalemate persists in the east, while rebels from Misurata are struggling to push much farther west than Zlitan, and Nafusa Mountain guerrillas face a difficult task in advancing toward the coast. Moreover, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on June 27, rendering his prospects for exile all the more unlikely.

The warrant, however, provides added impetus to NATO’s current strategy of using airpower to try to assassinate the Libyan leader as a means of accomplishing the mission: regime change. The three countries currently leading the Libyan intervention — the United States, the United Kingdom and France — are also increasing their efforts to induce people close to Gadhafi to betray him. But the longer the operation continues, the higher the chance that the West will begin to grow weary of another drawn-out war, at which point NATO will find it increasingly difficult to effect regime change. At some point, reaching a negotiated settlement will become the best of a number of unattractive options. Negotiations have already begun in an unofficial capacity, but the fact that no country involved wants to deal with a side that includes the Libyan leader will only prolong the process.


The Coalition: Weary of War?

NATO jets continue to bomb targets across Libya. In doing so, however, the coalition has run into the inevitable problem of civilian casualties. This has yet to make any demonstrable impact on public opinion of the war in countries leading the campaign, which remains consistently in favor of regime change in Libya, though against an escalation that includes the use of ground troops. For example, a poll published June 20 regarding Western countries’ opinion of regime change in Libya showed a consistently high level of approval. The longer the conflict continues, however, the higher the chance for public opinion to turn against the war.

Notably, the country whose public is most opposed is Italy, which also happens to be the first NATO country on the verge of withdrawing from the operation. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini first intimated this June 22. In response to multiple reports of civilian casualties due to NATO airstrikes, he called for an immediate halt to the campaign so that humanitarian aid could be deployed. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reaffirmed the shift in the Italian position away from the airstrikes June 24, when he told an EU summit that Italy was “pushing for political mediation which will deliver a final solution.”

Rome’s true motivation has more to do with domestic political pressures placed upon the Berlusconi government by its main coalition partner, Lega Nord, over the cost of the intervention rather than the fear of civilian casualties. But the reason for Italy’s objections is less important than their potential consequence: The coalition of NATO countries that have signed up to participate in Operation Unified Protector is in danger of fracturing, albeit slowly, and the Italian exit could represent the first crack.

The United Kingdom’s discourse on Libya is emblematic of a deep-rooted debate over the proper level of funding its military should receive. Recent budget cuts to the armed forces have exacerbated the United Kingdom’s inability to spread its forces across multiple theaters, and the military is using the conflict in Libya — and more specifically, the argument that its forces are overstretched — as a political tool to justify its public criticism of the budget cuts. Several leading military officials have made public statements to this effect over the past three weeks, and Prime Minister David Cameron has been quick to quash any rumors that these statements reveal a faltering will to continue the mission. However, Defense Secretary Liam Fox on June 27 admitted that the United Kingdom may have to re-prioritize some of its armed forces to see the Libyan operation through. This indicates that the complaints from the military have substance.

In the United States, Congress rather than the military is showing its resistance to the operation in Libya. The U.S. House of Representatives made its stance known June 24 by voting down a bill that would have given U.S President Barack Obama authority to wage war in the North African country. Despite the fact that the House — paradoxically, perhaps — voted down a separate proposal on the same day to restrict funding for the operation, the fact that there is widespread opposition to the Libya intervention within both the Republican and Democratic parties sent a clear message: The indefinite deployment of U.S. troops will cost Obama political capital at home.

Another factor the White House may be contemplating concerns the June 23 U.S. announcement regarding the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and other International Energy Agency countries, which both cited the loss of oil output from Libya as the primary factor in their decision to pre-empt an anticipated price increase in the summer. Washington, as well as the other countries involved, thus has an interest in ending the conflict soon, but only in a way that would allow oil production to resume as soon as possible. (An anonymous British diplomat leaked to the media June 24 details of a British Foreign Office assessment that claimed that eastern Libyan oil infrastructure had not been that badly damaged and that it would take three to four weeks for oil exports to resume after Gadhafi’s fall. It is unclear whether this is true or whether it is simply intended to serve as an incentive for countries to keep pushing through until the end.)

France has the least domestic opposition toward regime change in Libya, and it is one of the leaders of the air campaign as well.  France was the first country to recognize the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council, and Paris would likely be the last country to abandon the mission that has become, among other things, a point of personal pride for President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy wants to avoid being perceived as weak ahead of the 2012 presidential election, especially as the race is beginning to heat up. One of the main Socialist presidential nominee candidates, Martine Aubry, is set to announce her candidacy June 28, and the Socialists may decide to put the Libya intervention — and the way it is being conducted — at the forefront of their anti-Sarkozy campaign.


A Failing Trust in the Rebels

The once-touted option of arming the rebel opposition to fight the Libyan army on the ground has lost traction in NATO. The monthslong stalemate in the east shows no signs of changing, while Misurata remains an island of rebellion in the western coastal region — though some of the rebel fighters from the city have been trying to push westward toward Tripoli despite currently being blocked outside of the city of Zlitan. Nafusa Mountain guerrillas, meanwhile, are making slight progress in terms of advancing northward, with some fighters having descended from the mountains to battle Libyan forces, but their chances of ever taking the capital are slim.

The real problem continues to lie in the uncertainty that surrounds the rebel council, which is officially recognized by a handful of countries as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people — it is recognized by even more countries in the West and by Russia and China as the de facto government of eastern Libya. All of the countries that have begun to develop ties with the council realize they will need to maintain good relations with Benghazi if they want to conduct business in Libya in the future, namely in the oil sector. Yet the West has been hesitant to fully arm the rebels or deliver on the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid that has been promised them in various international conferences since April. This suggests a general lack of trust for the council that prevents full-scale Western support, a distrust perhaps stemming from prior connections many of its leaders held with the Gadhafi regime, the potential existence of jihadist elements within the council, or the disbelief that any one faction truly speaks for all of Libya’s rebels.

NATO thus has few good options. The most attractive option, from NATO’s perspective, is to fulfill the mission as quickly as possible, while there is still resolve in the West. This means it will either convince regime insiders to push Gadhafi out, or increase its attempts to assassinate Gadhafi from the air, dealing with the resulting power vacuum later. Whether this strategy will work is unknown. But the longer it takes, the higher the chance that a coterie of NATO countries will eventually be forced to fully support a negotiated settlement to end the conflict.

The council is opposed to any outcome that does not include Gadhafi’s ouster. For months, it was even opposed to any solution that did not involve Gadhafi’s being forced to leave the country. But as cracks within the NATO countries participating in the bombing began to emerge, the rebels’ negotiating position began to weaken because their leverage with countries such as Qatar does not provide them much help in a military conflict with Gadhafi. This has led to a slight easing of the council’s position. During a June 24 interview in French media, a rebel spokesman said the council would be satisfied with Gadhafi’s retiring to a “Libyan oasis under international control,” provided he and his family are barred from participating in any future government. The spokesman also said the council would be willing to discuss the formation of an interim government with “any technocrat or Libyan official who does not have any blood on their hands.”


The Beginning of Negotiations

It is under these circumstances that official negotiations will likely begin. Such a path will not immediately lead to talks between the rebels and Gadhafi himself, however. The first attempt will be to separate Gadhafi’s inner circle from the regime, offering those without “blood on their hands” a share of power in the new Libya in exchange for betraying their leader. (Deciding who does and does not fall in this category will most likely be subject to negotiation, not based upon a true examination of the personal records of various regime officials.) Best positioned to lead any future negotiations will be the Russians (via the African Union), who have deep-rooted relations with both the West and Gadhafi and who have balanced their support of Tripoli and Benghazi to ensure a future presence throughout Libya.

The rebel spokesman who broached the topic of negotiations said negotiations have, in fact, already begun through intermediaries in countries such as France and South Africa. No country, however, wants to negotiate with Gadhafi himself unless all other options have been exhausted. If NATO jets are unable to kill the Libyan leader, then the alliance will attempt to undermine him from within.

The problem with this approach is embodied in the ICC warrants. Though Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and his long-time intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sannousi have been the only specific targets of this round of ICC warrants, no one connected to the regime will enjoy a guarantee of continued immunity from prosecution. This makes it difficult, though not impossible, to incentivize a deal for them, especially when the rebel military threat is low, and the NATO countries participating in the operations in Libya — which are hesitant to deploy ground troops — have yet to show that their attempts at assassinating Gadhafi will prove successful.



Read more: NATO's Diminishing Options in Libya | STRATFOR
23880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Allen West: First Principles on: June 29, 2011, 09:34:55 AM


Haven't had a chance to watch this yet-- it is 35 minutes long-- but it is Allen West, so it promises to be lively wink

http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/p18753.xml
23881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shapiro: Treating children as adults on: June 29, 2011, 09:31:55 AM


This week, the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, ruled that the state of California could not bar the sale of violent video games to minors. The majority opinion, written by quasi-originalist Justice Antonin Scalia, argued that the First Amendment requires that government not mandate that minors be controlled by their parents. Purer originalist Judge Clarence Thomas took the opposite view. "Although much has changed in this country since the Revolution," he wrote, "the notion that parents have authority over their children and that the law can support that authority persists today."

This is the debate that defines our time. The treatment of minors as tiny adults is a dangerous move that threatens the foundations of our society. Civilized societies have always recognized that parents must control their children until the kids reach maturity -- that's how we've historically passed along morals and information. If we left children to their own devices, there is little doubt that they would engage in every selfish pursuit they could -- kids aren't the naturally altruistic folks non-parents seem to think they are -- and hurt themselves in the process. They wouldn't go to school, they wouldn't go to church, and they certainly wouldn't embrace their parents' value systems.

But today's left, and many on the libertarian right, have embraced the concept of children making their own decisions. Paternalism has become a dirty word, even though parents are supposed to be paternal. New generations should not have to rediscover old truths -- reinventing the wheel takes time, effort and pain. They should be able to inherit the received wisdom of the past, glean from it, and then make their own decisions.

Historically, this has meant that parents control what their children see and hear. To a point, the more control parents have had, the better. There is a reason that unwed motherhood is the leading indicator of many of our most pressing social problems: Without a father in the home, children often run out of control and grow into irresponsible adults. Government should do its utmost to maintain enough respect for the family unit to allow adults to raise their children.

Now, however, we've moved into a brave new world in which children are thought to be adults who are far away. The left has pushed for lowered age of consent; they've pushed for children to be able to attain abortions without parental permission; they've pushed for heightened sex education, so children can make "informed" decisions without the input of their guardians.

This is not only scientifically inaccurate, but it's also morally incoherent. Children are children because they are not fully developed human beings. Science tells us that adolescents are biologically driven to embrace risky and stupid behavior. The part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which actually controls for risky behavior, isn't fully developed until children are fully grown. Leave children and adolescents to their own devices, and they will not make good decisions -- they will attack any boundaries and cross any lines.

What is government's role in all of this? Justice Scalia believes that government should not put more power in the hands of parents -- government should essentially be neutral between children and those who raise them. Justice Thomas believes that government should create a system wherein parents get the last word. In today's world, more than ever, it is important that children not be treated with libertarian casualness requiring parents to be all-knowing and all-seeing. Instead, government should place control firmly in the hands of parents, requiring children to go to their parents for advice and guidance.

Freedom and responsibility for actions go hand in hand; only adults can be held responsible for their actions and the actions of their children. Therefore, only adults should have the freedom to choose on behalf of their children. Any other moral system is a fundamental rejection of the superstructure of civilization in favor of a moral chimera.
23882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shedlock: China Bubble? on: June 29, 2011, 09:25:45 AM
Lost in the worry over Greek debt defaults, China Daily reports on a default story of more significance. Please consider Local governments run up huge debts, risk defaulting

Local governments had an overall debt of 10.7 trillion yuan ($1.65 trillion) by the end of 2010, said China's top auditor on Monday in a report to the National People's Congress.

He warned that some were at risk of defaulting on payments.

It was the first time the world's second-largest economy publicly announced the size of its local governments' debts. The scale amounts to more than one-quarter of its GDP in 2010, which stood at 39.8 trillion yuan.

Concerns are rising that the problem of local government debt could destabilize the financial system of the country if it is not managed properly, especially after the central government's tightening of the housing market, which could affect local fiscal revenue that is highly dependent on land sales and make debt repayment more difficult.

In addition, China's ambitious plan to construct 36 million affordable homes during the coming five years, including 10 million in 2011 and 10 million in 2012, added to worries about increasing capital tension and rising non-performing loans in commercial banks.

About 79 percent of the local government loans were made by banks across the country, according to the NAO.

Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at the Industrial Bank, said the figures released were moderate compared with previous estimates, and risks lying in these loans are quite limited.

"Overdue loans take up only a small proportion of the total lending and local governments didn't pay them in a timely way mainly because deadlines were too concentrated, not because of deteriorated ability to repay."
$1.65 Trillion is a mountain of cash even to the US. How much of that is at risk is the question, but even 10% would be significant.

Moreover, it is certain that what cannot be paid back, won't be paid back. As in the US, once assets backing loans crash, so will willingness and ability to pay back the loans. Thus, efforts by some to downplay the odds should fall on deaf ears.

Speculation in China is as least as rampant as it was in the US. For example, please consider Ponzi Financing Involving Copper Trade Gone Wild In China.

Also consider Wave of Violent Protests, Rioting, Bombings Hits China; Expect More Riots When China's Credit Bubble Pops, Exposing Mountains of Fraud

Finally, please consider World's Biggest Property Bubble: China's Ghost Cities Revisited; 64 Million Vacant Properties

As long as credit bubbles expand, no one heeds warnings like that issued by China's top auditor. Then when the bubble bursts, everyone cries they were not warned, they were taken advantage of, and they deserve a bailout.

One thing's for certain, when China's credit bubble pops, it will rock the world.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com
========================
Also see http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2011/03/worlds-biggest-property-bubble-chinas.html
23883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hotair.com Obama lied while our men die on: June 29, 2011, 09:13:41 AM
Uh oh: White House caught lying about Petraeus’s withdrawal recommendations?
Share280 posted at 9:16 pm on June 28, 2011 by Allahpundit
printer-friendly Terrific catch by Stephen Hayes from this afternoon’s Afghanistan testimony by Lt. Gen. John Allen. I can’t help but wonder: Why would the White House lie and claim that Obama’s withdrawal plan was within the range of options presented to him by Petraeus? I thought the next 18 months were going to be all about Obama going with his gut. Wingin’ it, if you will.
His gut told him that he needs to get reelected, and the easiest way to do that was to yank as many troops as possible out of the country no matter what it might mean for the war. That was the only “range of options” that mattered.
So he winged it.
In response to questioning from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Allen testified that Obama’s decision on the pace and size of Afghanistan withdrawals was “a more aggressive option than that which was presented.”
Graham pressed him. “My question is: Was that a option?”
Allen: “It was not.”
Allen’s claim, which came under oath, contradicts the line the White House had been providing reporters over the past week—that Obama simply chose one option among several presented by General David Petraeus. In a conference call last Wednesday, June 22, a reporter asked senior Obama administration officials about those options. “Did General Petraeus specifically endorse this plan, or was it one of the options that General Petraeus gave to the president?”
The senior administration official twice claimed that the Obama decision was within the range of options the military presented to Obama.
Follow the link up top for a full transcript of what that senior administration official said last week. Are Hayes and I missing some nuance in the quotes? It’s one thing if the White House wants to squander the surge in the name of winning next year, but at least own it. Don’t use Petraeus as the fig leaf for a terrible, electorally motivated war “strategy.” Good lord.
23884  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: June 29, 2011, 09:06:52 AM
MPJ?
23885  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: June 29, 2011, 12:33:07 AM
Here is some of my philosophy in no particular order:

a) Never argue with your joints; they always win.

b) The key to most things is alignment.

c) Where a muscle is tight, in that range of motion to complementary muscle is weak.  To maximize elasticity, it is as important to work complete contraction as it is to stretch.

d)  In my rather strongly held self-taught opinion (remember "Only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times.") most lower back pain (e.g. L4 pinching a nerve) is the result of short, tight hip flexors (psoas, ilio, and quads) and weak hip extensors (hamstring, glute, and in a certain sense quadratus lumborum).  This leads the pelvis to tilt forward, which raises the pelvic crest towards the ribs which tends to compress the lumbar region of the spine e.g. L4.  If you restore range of motion to the hip flexors and extensors, this should lessen, perhaps dramatically, the compression on the lumbar portion of the spine, perhaps with near miraculous results.

No suing no one for no reason for nothing no how no way.  Consult a proper expert in these things.  Feel free to show him/her this post.
===========

I've been focusing on strength work the last couple of months.  I tend to organize my work in this regard by the joint in question e.g. the muscles that move the humerus i.e. the shoulder joint.



Defined thusly, many movements which are considered back movements (e.g. pulldowns) are part of the workout.



This week I stumbled on a pairing which I liked a lot.   Certainly under this concept it is obvious to pair overhead presses (I prefer dumbbells to bar) with pull down motions.  What I did differently this time was to apply a concept I learned from Chris Gizzi for activating/aligning the scapula.



Instead of doing a seated regular press I set the backrest of the seat bench at a slight angle from perpendicular and faced so that my front was resting on the backrest and did my set of dumbbell presses with a distinctly light weight.  Each set I increased the intensity not by increasing the weight, but by lowering the back rest a click or two towards horizontal.  Very subtle!  Very effective!
23886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I wonder if there was a pat down, or if one was not necessary , , , on: June 28, 2011, 09:31:13 PM


Why Was a Man in Panties and a Bra Allowed to Fly?
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Dennis Prager
On June 9, a man boarded a US Airways flight from Fort Lauderdale to Phoenix, dressed in women's panties, a bra and thigh-high stockings.

No US Airways employee at the Fort Lauderdale airport asked him to cover himself. Nor did any flight attendant ask him to do so. And obviously, no one demanded that he get off the plane.

US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder was asked how the airline allowed a nearly naked cross-dresser to board a plane and sit next to other passengers who, one assumes, did not appreciate being seated next to an exhibitionist.

As reported by the San Francisco Examiner, she "said employees had been correct not to ask the man to cover himself. 'We don't have a dress code policy. Obviously, if their private parts are exposed, that's not appropriate. ... So if they're not exposing their private parts, they're allowed to fly.'"

The decline of American civilization since the 1960s has been so fast and so dramatic that it takes one's breath away.

That a woman speaking on behalf of a major airline can say with a straight face that her airline allows anyone dressed or undressed to fly on its airplanes so long as they do not expose their genitals perfectly encapsulates this decline.

The only question is: How did we get here?

For one thing, the concept of decency is dying. I suspect that if an adult were to say to a group of randomly chosen American college students that this man indecently exposed himself and should not have been allowed to fly, that adult would be a) not understood -- what does "indecent" mean? -- and/or b) roundly condemned for intolerance and bigotry.

To judge this man as acting indecently, not to mention to bar him from flying, is to engage in violating the only values a generation of Americans has been taught: not to judge, not to discriminate, to welcome diversity and to fully accept those who are different, especially in the sexual arena.

That is why I think it is very difficult to have a dialogue on this matter. For those who believe in public "decency," the matter is as clear as a bell -- this was profoundly indecent -- and for those who do not believe in such a concept, the matter is equally clear -- "decency" is an anachronism.

One caller to my radio talk show simply could not see what was so bad about what the man did and that US Airways allowed him to fly. I asked my caller if he thought an airline should ban naked passengers. While he acknowledged that public nudity is against the law, he saw no reason that it should be so. Basically, I suspect that in my caller's view, my opposition to this man being allowed to fly constituted a "hang up."

So the god of tolerance is one reason for the death of the concept of "public decency."

Another is the age of secularism in which we live. In a more religious America, the human being was regarded as created in God's image, a being that ideally aspires to a level of holiness. As secularism proceeds with the increasing force of an avalanche, however, man is increasingly regarded as just another animal.

One way in which higher civilizations have demonstrated the human-animal difference has been the wearing of clothing. Animals are naked in public; humans are clothed. But secularism eats away at such religious ideals. Thus religion-based concepts such as holiness and decency die out. You can see it in the widespread acceptance of public cursing as well as in public exhibitionism, among many other manifestations.

I don't know if US Airways is alone among airlines in allowing anyone to fly as long as their genitals are covered. But it seems to me that if restaurants can post dress codes and announce that they reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, an airline -- in which people, unlike in restaurants, are forced to sit two inches from strangers -- should be able to do so.

In the meantime, this is the Brave New World that mindless tolerance, diversity and lawsuits on their behalf have wrought.

23887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bachman, Gov. Terry on: June 28, 2011, 12:32:47 PM
I've already expressed concern about her lack of executive experience (hence my dalliance with the idea of Cain as her VP candidate) but to have such a high turnover rate of chief of staffs in such a short amount of time with one of them writing a stab-in-the-back hit piece like this certainly does not sound good.

I saw Texas Gov. Terry (Perry?) on Glenn Beck yesterday.  Very impressive!  Excellent articulation of states's overeignty and the concept of federalism.  I will be watching for more on him.

23888  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: June 28, 2011, 11:40:08 AM
El Chango’s Arrest

The leader of a faction of La Familia Michoacana (LFM) — the faction that continues to use the LFM name — was arrested June 21 without incident in  Aguascalientes state in central Mexico. At the time of his arrest, Jose de Jesus “El Chango” Mendez Vargas and his branch of the LFM were under heavy pressure from the other LFM faction, known as the Knights Templar (KT) and led by Servando “La Tuta” Gomez Martinez, as well as from Mexican authorities and the Sinaloa Federation.

Mendez Vargas’ arrest clearly is a  short-term blow to his faction of LFM, but it is too early to tell if it will result in the end of the group. More important, it is unclear what effect it will have on the battle for control of the drug flow through Michoacan state.

Mendez Vargas’ faction of the LFM is the weaker of the two currently fighting for control of the LFM territory and business. In fact, STRATFOR sources and media reports indicate that Mendez Vargas’ faction was losing the battle against the Knights Templar. Mendez Vargas’ forces had experienced some significant losses in the weeks prior to his arrest, and banners posted by the Knights Templar alleged that Mendez Vargas was so desperate that he had even reached out to his former enemies in Los Zetas for assistance.

Presently, it appears that the Knights Templar has placed itself in a position to assume control of the LFM empire. The Knights Templar is a local organization with local support, and many of its members have a long history of close ties to the community. However, after being weakened by the fight with Mendez Vargas’ faction, it is not altogether clear if the Knights Templar will have the strength to fend off a renewed push by its enemies in the Sinaloa Federation. It is also possible that the remnants of Mendez Vargas’ organization will become even more closely aligned with Los Zetas, which will allow the Zetas to expand their presence in Michoacan by working through locals. All this means that the capture of Mendez Vargas may have removed one cartel leader, but it will likely do little to quell the violence in the state.


Troops in Tamaulipas

Around 2,800 Mexican soldiers deployed during the week of June 19 to 22 cities in Tamaulipas state along the U.S.-Mexico border. The objective of the deployment is to put the military in charge of security operations in the state while stamping out corruption in local police forces. After relieving all officers of duty, the military will conduct interviews and drug tests on new officers to determine who will receive further training and continue in law enforcement. Many of the officers who are not rehired likely will begin working for the cartels.

The military has taken control in Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and San Fernando, border towns that saw violence increase just last week, along with the state capital of Victoria. An audacious raid in Matamoros by Los Zetas on June 17 looked to be an indication that the violence was only going to get worse in Tamaulipas. In this context it is not surprising that the Tamaulipas state government felt the need to ask the federal government for help.

The government position is that the presence of the military in Tamaulipas will lead to a decrease in violence. However, statistics on murders in Juarez, Chihuahua state, where the military took control in early March 2009, are evidence that military deployments do not necessarily correlate with a reduction in violence. In 2008, prior to the deployment, there were 1,600 murders in Juarez attributed to organized crime, according to Spanish newspaper Diario Universal. In 2009, the number went up to 2,650. The attorney general’s office in the state’s northern zone reported 3,200 murders in 2010, and as of June 15 there were already 1,500 murders on record for 2011.

The military cannot be everywhere at once, and it would take far more than 2,800 soldiers to secure the entire state of Tamaulipas. Cartels know the military presence will not last forever, so while there occasionally can be direct conflicts, more often the cartels will hunker down and wait for the military to leave or simply strike where the military has no presence.

Also, the Mexican military cannot risk being in a location too long because it faces the same corruptive forces that continually destroy the police departments. The longer the military comes in contact with those forces, the harder it is to guarantee soldiers are not being corrupted. The value of the military is that it has long been kept separate from the drug war and therefore has not been the focus of the cartels’ corruption efforts. This is already changing, and authorities must be careful with using the military to fight the war.

Another issue is that populations tend to tire of the presence of soldiers, who lack the police skills and training necessary to manage a civilian population. An extended deployment increases the chances of an incident that could upset the locals, and at the very least it is a hindrance to civilians’ daily lives.

The arrival of the military in Tamaulipas state is not a guarantee of security and tranquility. Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel are currently locked in a brutal battle for control of the northeast. The way they fight their battle may be altered a bit due to the presence of the military, but we believe that based on the experience of past military deployments in places such as Juarez, the violence between the two groups will continue despite the deployment.



(click here to view interactive map)

June 20

A journalist, his wife and son were found murdered in their house in Veracruz, Veracruz state. The journalist, the second murdered in the state this month, wrote about crime and politics for the newspaper Notiver.
Five bodies were found throughout Michoacan state with a narcomanta on each claiming responsibility on behalf of the Knights Templar.
The police chief in Morelia, Michoacan state, was detained for possession of drugs and weapons for military use only.
More than three tons of methamphetamine and precursor chemicals were found in an industrial area of El Marques, Queretaro state.

June 21

A cache of weapons and military tactical gear, including camouflage uniforms, were found in Coneto de Comonfort, Durango state.
The burned bodies of three traffic cops were found on the street in Guadalupe, Chihuahua state.
Eight suspected members of the Knights Templar were detained in Piedras de Lumbre, Michoacan state. Among the detained were the group’s leaders in Tuxpan and Zitacuaro, Michoacan state.

June 22

A man’s body was found in Jesus Maria, Aguascalientes state, with a narcomanta alluding to the detention of Mendez Vargas, the LFM head who was detained by police the previous day.
A group of marines was ambushed by unknown gunmen in Panuco, Zacatecas state, leaving one marine dead.
The police chief in Praxedis G. Guerrero, Chihuahua state, and her family were attacked and held at knifepoint during a robbery in the state of Chihuahua.
The municipal police chief of Ciudad Isla, Veracruz state, Ricardo Reyes Alvarez, was attacked by gunmen. The police chief was killed and three others were injured in the attack.
Three individuals working for the criminal organization led by Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal were detained in Tlaltizapan, Morelos state. The suspects were arrested with two kilograms (more than four pounds) of marijuana, one kilogram of cocaine and firearms.

June 23

A group of suspected extortionists opened fire on an escort vehicle in the convoy of Julian Leyzaola Perez, the municipal security chief in Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. One attacker was injured in the ensuing firefight.
Seven individuals suspected of belonging to a gang of kidnappers operating in Pachuca and Mineral de la Reforma were detained in Hidalgo state. The individuals are responsible for at least two kidnappings and one murder.
Seventy-eight Central American migrants were detained at a railway station in Irolo, Hidalgo state. Among the migrants were Hondurans, Salvadoreans, and Guatemalans.

June 24

Ninety-one police officers were arrested in Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala state, on charges of robbery and collusion among public officials.
Four Salvadorans were arrested in San Salvador, El Salvador, in connection to the August 2010 massacre in San Fernando, Tamaulipas state, that left 72 immigrants dead. The Salvadorans were responsible for transferring undocumented migrants to Mexico.
Approximately 60 undocumented migrants were kidnapped by armed men in Veracruz. The migrants were on a freight train headed from Oaxaca to Veracruz when the train was stopped by three vehicles parked in its path.
Eleven graves containing human remains were found in Nuevo Leon by the Mexican army.
The Mexican government announced the deployment of around 2,800 Mexican troops to Tamaulipas to take charge of public safety and counter corruption within the police force.

June 25

Mexican Federal Police captured alleged Los Zetas leader Albert Gonzalez Pena, aka “El Tigre,” in Xalapa, Veracruz state. He was responsible for moving drugs farther into northern and central Mexico and was also linked to various other criminal activities in Veracruz state.
Nine women from the Institutional Revolutionary Party were assaulted and received death threats allegedly due to political affiliations in Pachuca, Hidalgo state. The attackers are allegedly working for the campaign of a rival candidate.
Seven bodies were found in the municipalities of Ixtapaluca and Valle de Chalco, Mexico state. A message from LFM was left with them.

85540
23889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: June 28, 2011, 11:39:34 AM
El Chango’s Arrest

The leader of a faction of La Familia Michoacana (LFM) — the faction that continues to use the LFM name — was arrested June 21 without incident in  Aguascalientes state in central Mexico. At the time of his arrest, Jose de Jesus “El Chango” Mendez Vargas and his branch of the LFM were under heavy pressure from the other LFM faction, known as the Knights Templar (KT) and led by Servando “La Tuta” Gomez Martinez, as well as from Mexican authorities and the Sinaloa Federation.

Mendez Vargas’ arrest clearly is a  short-term blow to his faction of LFM, but it is too early to tell if it will result in the end of the group. More important, it is unclear what effect it will have on the battle for control of the drug flow through Michoacan state.

Mendez Vargas’ faction of the LFM is the weaker of the two currently fighting for control of the LFM territory and business. In fact, STRATFOR sources and media reports indicate that Mendez Vargas’ faction was losing the battle against the Knights Templar. Mendez Vargas’ forces had experienced some significant losses in the weeks prior to his arrest, and banners posted by the Knights Templar alleged that Mendez Vargas was so desperate that he had even reached out to his former enemies in Los Zetas for assistance.

Presently, it appears that the Knights Templar has placed itself in a position to assume control of the LFM empire. The Knights Templar is a local organization with local support, and many of its members have a long history of close ties to the community. However, after being weakened by the fight with Mendez Vargas’ faction, it is not altogether clear if the Knights Templar will have the strength to fend off a renewed push by its enemies in the Sinaloa Federation. It is also possible that the remnants of Mendez Vargas’ organization will become even more closely aligned with Los Zetas, which will allow the Zetas to expand their presence in Michoacan by working through locals. All this means that the capture of Mendez Vargas may have removed one cartel leader, but it will likely do little to quell the violence in the state.


Troops in Tamaulipas

Around 2,800 Mexican soldiers deployed during the week of June 19 to 22 cities in Tamaulipas state along the U.S.-Mexico border. The objective of the deployment is to put the military in charge of security operations in the state while stamping out corruption in local police forces. After relieving all officers of duty, the military will conduct interviews and drug tests on new officers to determine who will receive further training and continue in law enforcement. Many of the officers who are not rehired likely will begin working for the cartels.

The military has taken control in Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and San Fernando, border towns that saw violence increase just last week, along with the state capital of Victoria. An audacious raid in Matamoros by Los Zetas on June 17 looked to be an indication that the violence was only going to get worse in Tamaulipas. In this context it is not surprising that the Tamaulipas state government felt the need to ask the federal government for help.

The government position is that the presence of the military in Tamaulipas will lead to a decrease in violence. However, statistics on murders in Juarez, Chihuahua state, where the military took control in early March 2009, are evidence that military deployments do not necessarily correlate with a reduction in violence. In 2008, prior to the deployment, there were 1,600 murders in Juarez attributed to organized crime, according to Spanish newspaper Diario Universal. In 2009, the number went up to 2,650. The attorney general’s office in the state’s northern zone reported 3,200 murders in 2010, and as of June 15 there were already 1,500 murders on record for 2011.

The military cannot be everywhere at once, and it would take far more than 2,800 soldiers to secure the entire state of Tamaulipas. Cartels know the military presence will not last forever, so while there occasionally can be direct conflicts, more often the cartels will hunker down and wait for the military to leave or simply strike where the military has no presence.

Also, the Mexican military cannot risk being in a location too long because it faces the same corruptive forces that continually destroy the police departments. The longer the military comes in contact with those forces, the harder it is to guarantee soldiers are not being corrupted. The value of the military is that it has long been kept separate from the drug war and therefore has not been the focus of the cartels’ corruption efforts. This is already changing, and authorities must be careful with using the military to fight the war.

Another issue is that populations tend to tire of the presence of soldiers, who lack the police skills and training necessary to manage a civilian population. An extended deployment increases the chances of an incident that could upset the locals, and at the very least it is a hindrance to civilians’ daily lives.

The arrival of the military in Tamaulipas state is not a guarantee of security and tranquility. Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel are currently locked in a brutal battle for control of the northeast. The way they fight their battle may be altered a bit due to the presence of the military, but we believe that based on the experience of past military deployments in places such as Juarez, the violence between the two groups will continue despite the deployment.



(click here to view interactive map)

June 20

A journalist, his wife and son were found murdered in their house in Veracruz, Veracruz state. The journalist, the second murdered in the state this month, wrote about crime and politics for the newspaper Notiver.
Five bodies were found throughout Michoacan state with a narcomanta on each claiming responsibility on behalf of the Knights Templar.
The police chief in Morelia, Michoacan state, was detained for possession of drugs and weapons for military use only.
More than three tons of methamphetamine and precursor chemicals were found in an industrial area of El Marques, Queretaro state.

June 21

A cache of weapons and military tactical gear, including camouflage uniforms, were found in Coneto de Comonfort, Durango state.
The burned bodies of three traffic cops were found on the street in Guadalupe, Chihuahua state.
Eight suspected members of the Knights Templar were detained in Piedras de Lumbre, Michoacan state. Among the detained were the group’s leaders in Tuxpan and Zitacuaro, Michoacan state.

June 22

A man’s body was found in Jesus Maria, Aguascalientes state, with a narcomanta alluding to the detention of Mendez Vargas, the LFM head who was detained by police the previous day.
A group of marines was ambushed by unknown gunmen in Panuco, Zacatecas state, leaving one marine dead.
The police chief in Praxedis G. Guerrero, Chihuahua state, and her family were attacked and held at knifepoint during a robbery in the state of Chihuahua.
The municipal police chief of Ciudad Isla, Veracruz state, Ricardo Reyes Alvarez, was attacked by gunmen. The police chief was killed and three others were injured in the attack.
Three individuals working for the criminal organization led by Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal were detained in Tlaltizapan, Morelos state. The suspects were arrested with two kilograms (more than four pounds) of marijuana, one kilogram of cocaine and firearms.

June 23

A group of suspected extortionists opened fire on an escort vehicle in the convoy of Julian Leyzaola Perez, the municipal security chief in Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. One attacker was injured in the ensuing firefight.
Seven individuals suspected of belonging to a gang of kidnappers operating in Pachuca and Mineral de la Reforma were detained in Hidalgo state. The individuals are responsible for at least two kidnappings and one murder.
Seventy-eight Central American migrants were detained at a railway station in Irolo, Hidalgo state. Among the migrants were Hondurans, Salvadoreans, and Guatemalans.

June 24

Ninety-one police officers were arrested in Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala state, on charges of robbery and collusion among public officials.
Four Salvadorans were arrested in San Salvador, El Salvador, in connection to the August 2010 massacre in San Fernando, Tamaulipas state, that left 72 immigrants dead. The Salvadorans were responsible for transferring undocumented migrants to Mexico.
Approximately 60 undocumented migrants were kidnapped by armed men in Veracruz. The migrants were on a freight train headed from Oaxaca to Veracruz when the train was stopped by three vehicles parked in its path.
Eleven graves containing human remains were found in Nuevo Leon by the Mexican army.
The Mexican government announced the deployment of around 2,800 Mexican troops to Tamaulipas to take charge of public safety and counter corruption within the police force.

June 25

Mexican Federal Police captured alleged Los Zetas leader Albert Gonzalez Pena, aka “El Tigre,” in Xalapa, Veracruz state. He was responsible for moving drugs farther into northern and central Mexico and was also linked to various other criminal activities in Veracruz state.
Nine women from the Institutional Revolutionary Party were assaulted and received death threats allegedly due to political affiliations in Pachuca, Hidalgo state. The attackers are allegedly working for the campaign of a rival candidate.
Seven bodies were found in the municipalities of Ixtapaluca and Valle de Chalco, Mexico state. A message from LFM was left with them.
23890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Divided States of Europe on: June 28, 2011, 10:40:37 AM
The Divided States of Europe
June 28, 2011


By Marko Papic

Europe continues to be engulfed by economic crisis.  The global focus returns to Athens on June 28 as Greek parliamentarians debate austerity measures imposed on them by eurozone partners. If the Greeks vote down these measures, Athens will not receive its second bailout, which could create an even worse crisis in Europe and the world.

It is important to understand that the crisis is not fundamentally about Greece or even about the indebtedness of the entire currency bloc. After all, Greece represents only 2.5 percent of the eurozone’s gross domestic product (GDP), and the bloc’s fiscal numbers are not that bad when looked at in the aggregate. Its overall deficit and debt figures are in a better shape than those of the United States — the U.S. budget deficit stood at 10.6 percent of GDP in 2010, compared to 6.4 percent for the European Union — yet the focus continues to be on Europe.

That is because the real crisis is the more fundamental question of how the European continent is to be ruled in the 21st century. Europe has emerged from its subservience during the Cold War, when it was the geopolitical chessboard for the Soviet Union and the United States. It won its independence by default as the superpowers retreated: Russia withdrawing to its Soviet sphere of influence and the United States switching its focus to the Middle East after 9/11. Since the 1990s, Europe has dabbled with institutional reform but has left the fundamental question of political integration off the table, even as it integrated economically. This is ultimately the source of the current sovereign debt crisis, the lack of political oversight over economic integration gone wrong.

The eurozone’s economic crisis brought this question of Europe’s political fate into focus, but it is a recurring issue. Roughly every 100 years, Europe confronts this dilemma. The Continent suffers from overpopulation — of nations, not people. Europe has the largest concentration of independent nation-states per square foot than any other continent. While Africa is larger and has more countries, no continent has as many rich and relatively powerful countries as Europe does. This is because, geographically, the Continent is riddled with features that prevent the formation of a single political entity. Mountain ranges, peninsulas and islands limit the ability of large powers to dominate or conquer the smaller ones. No single river forms a unifying river valley that can dominate the rest of the Continent. The Danube comes close, but it drains into the practically landlocked Black Sea, the only exit from which is another practically landlocked sea, the Mediterranean. This limits Europe’s ability to produce an independent entity capable of global power projection.

However, Europe does have plenty of rivers, convenient transportation routes and well-sheltered harbors. This allows for capital generation at a number of points on the Continent, such as Vienna, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Rotterdam, Milan, Turin and Hamburg. Thus, while large armies have trouble physically pushing through the Continent and subverting various nations under one rule, ideas, capital, goods and services do not. This makes Europe rich (the Continent has at least the equivalent GDP of the United States, and it could be larger depending how one calculates it).

What makes Europe rich, however, also makes it fragmented. The current political and security architectures of Europe — the EU and NATO — were encouraged by the United States in order to unify the Continent so that it could present a somewhat united front against the Soviet Union. They did not grow organically out of the Continent. This is a problem because Moscow is no longer a threat for all European countries, Germany and France see Russia as a business partner and European states are facing their first true challenge to Continental governance, with fragmentation and suspicion returning in full force. Closer unification and the creation of some sort of United States of Europe seems like the obvious solution to the problems posed by the eurozone sovereign debt crisis — although the eurozone’s problems are many and not easily solved just by integration, and Europe’s geography and history favor fragmentation.


Confederation of Europe

The European Union is a confederation of states that outsources day-to-day management of many policy spheres to a bureaucratic arm (the European Commission) and monetary policy to the European Central Bank. The important policy issues, such as defense, foreign policy and taxation, remain the sole prerogatives of the states. The states still meet in various formats to deal with these problems. Solutions to the Greek, Irish and Portuguese fiscal problems are agreed upon by all eurozone states on an ad hoc basis, as is participation in the Libyan military campaign within the context of the European Union. Every important decision requires that the states meet and reach a mutually acceptable solution, often producing non-optimal outcomes that are products of compromise.

The best analogy for the contemporary European Union is found not in European history but in American history. This is the period between the successful Revolutionary War in 1783 and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Within that five-year period, the United States was governed by a set of laws drawn up in the Articles of the Confederation. The country had no executive, no government, no real army and no foreign policy. States retained their own armies and many had minor coastal navies. They conducted foreign and trade policy independent of the wishes of the Continental Congress, a supranational body that had less power than even the European Parliament of today (this despite Article VI of the Articles of Confederation, which stipulated that states would not be able to conduct independent foreign policy without the consent of Congress). Congress was supposed to raise funds from the states to fund such things as a Continental Army, pay benefits to the veterans of the Revolutionary War and pay back loans that European powers gave Americans during the war against the British. States, however, refused to give Congress money, and there was nothing anybody could do about it. Congress was forced to print money, causing the Confederation’s currency to become worthless.

With such a loose confederation set-up, the costs of the Revolutionary War were ultimately unbearable for the fledgling nation. The reality of the international system, which pitted the new nation against aggressive European powers looking to subvert America’s independence, soon engulfed the ideals of states’ independence and limited government. Social, economic and security burdens proved too great for individual states to contain and a powerless Congress to address.

Nothing brought this reality home more than a rebellion in Western Massachusetts led by Daniel Shays in 1787. Shays’ Rebellion was, at its heart, an economic crisis. Burdened by European lenders calling for repayment of America’s war debt, the states’ economies collapsed and with them the livelihoods of many rural farmers, many of whom were veterans of the Revolutionary War who had been promised benefits. Austerity measures — often in the form of land confiscation — were imposed on the rural poor to pay off the European creditors. Shays’ Rebellion was put down without the help of the Continental Congress essentially by a local Massachusetts militia acting without any real federal oversight. The rebellion was defeated, but America’s impotence was apparent for all to see, both foreign and domestic.

An economic crisis, domestic insecurity and constant fear of a British counterattack — Britain had not demobilized forts it held on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes — impressed upon the independent-minded states that a “more perfect union” was necessary. Thus the United States of America, as we know it today, was formed. States gave up their rights to conduct foreign policy, to set trade policies independent of each other and to withhold funds from the federal government. The United States set up an executive branch with powers to wage war and conduct foreign policy, as well as a legislature that could no longer be ignored. In 1794, the government’s response to the so-called Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania showed the strength of the federal arrangement, in stark contrast to the Continental Congress’ handling of Shays’ Rebellion. Washington dispatched an army of more than 10,000 men to suppress a few hundred distillers refusing to pay a new whiskey tax to fund the national debt, thereby sending a clear message of the new government’s overwhelming fiscal, political and military power.

When examining the evolution of the American Confederation into the United States of America, one can find many parallels with the European Union, among others a weak center, independent states, economic crisis and over-indebtedness. The most substantial difference between the United States in the late 18th century and Europe in the 21st century is the level of external threat. In 1787, Shays’ Rebellion impressed upon many Americans — particularly George Washington, who was irked by the crisis — just how weak the country was. If a band of farmers could threaten one of the strongest states in the union, what would the British forces still garrisoned on American soil and in Quebec to the north be able to do? States could independently muddle through the economic crisis, but they could not prevent a British counterattack or protect their merchant fleet against Barbary pirates. America could not survive another such mishap and such a wanton display of military and political impotence.

To America’s advantage, the states all shared similar geography as well as similar culture and language. Although they had different economic policies and interests, all of them ultimately depended upon seaborne Atlantic trade. The threat that such trade would be choked off by a superior naval force — or even by North African pirates — was a clear and present danger. The threat of British counterattack from the north may not have been an existential threat to the southern states, but they realized that if New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania were lost, the South might preserve some nominal independence but would quickly revert to de facto colonial status.

In Europe, there is no such clarity of what constitutes a threat. Even though there is a general sense — at least among the governing elites — that Europeans share economic interests, it is very clear that their security interests are not complementary. There is no agreed-upon perception of an external threat. For Central European states that only recently became European Union and NATO members, Russia still poses a threat. They have asked NATO (and even the European Union) to refocus on the European continent and for the alliance to reassure them of its commitment to their security. In return, they have seen France selling advanced helicopter carriers to Russia and Germany building an advanced military training center in Russia.


The Regionalization of Europe

The eurozone crisis — which is engulfing EU member states using the euro but is symbolically important for the entire European Union — is therefore a crisis of trust. Do the current political and security arrangements in Europe — the European Union and NATO — capture the right mix of nation-state interests? Do the member states of those organizations truly feel that they share the same fundamental fate? Are they willing, as the American colonies were at the end of the 18th century, to give up their independence in order to create a common front against political, economic and security concerns? And if the answer to these questions is no, then what are the alternative arrangements that do capture complementary nation-state interests?

On the security front, we already have our answer: the regionalization of European security organizations. NATO has ceased to effectively respond to the national security interests of European states. Germany and France have pursued an accommodationist attitude toward Russia, to the chagrin of the Baltic States and Central Europe. As a response, these Central European states have begun to arrange alternatives. The four Central European states that make up the regional Visegrad Group — Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary — have used the forum as the mold in which to create a Central European battle group. Baltic States, threatened by Russia’s general resurgence, have looked to expand military and security cooperation with the Nordic countries, with Lithuania set to join the Nordic Battlegroup, of which Estonia is already a member. France and the United Kingdom have decided to enhance cooperation with  an expansive military agreement at the end of 2010, and London has also expressed an interest in becoming close to the developing Baltic-Nordic cooperative military ventures.

Regionalization is currently most evident in security matters, but it is only a matter of time before it begins to manifest itself in political and economic matters as well. For example, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been forthcoming about wanting Poland and the Czech Republic to speed up their efforts to enter the eurozone. Recently, both indicated that they had cooled on the idea of eurozone entry. The decision, of course, has a lot to do with the euro being in a state of crisis, but we cannot underestimate the underlying sense in Warsaw that Berlin is not committed to Poland’s security. Central Europeans may not currently be in the eurozone (save for Estonia, Slovenia and Slovakia), but the future of the eurozone is intertwined in its appeal to the rest of Europe as both an economic and political bloc. All EU member states are contractually obligated to enter the eurozone (save for Denmark and the United Kingdom, which negotiated opt-outs). From Germany’s perspective, membership of the Czech Republic and Poland is more important than that of peripheral Europe. Germany’s trade with Poland and the Czech Republic alone is greater than its trade with Spain, Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined.



(click here to enlarge image)
The security regionalization of Europe is not a good sign for the future of the eurozone. A monetary union cannot be grafted onto security disunion, especially if the solution to the eurozone crisis becomes more integration. Warsaw is not going to give Berlin veto power over its budget spending if the two are not in agreement over what constitutes a security threat. This argument may seem simple, and it is cogent precisely because it is. Taxation is one of the most basic forms of state sovereignty, and one does not share it with countries that do not share one’s political, economic and security fate.

This goes for any country, not just Poland. If the solution to the eurozone crisis is greater integration, then the interests of the integrating states have to be closely aligned on more than just economic matters. The U.S. example from the late 18th century is particularly instructive, as one could make a cogent argument that American states had more divergent economic interests than European states do today, and yet their security concerns brought them together. In fact, the moment the external threat diminished in the mid-19th century due to Europe’s exhaustion from the Napoleonic Wars, American unity was shaken by the Civil War. America’s economic and cultural bifurcation, which existed even during the Revolutionary War, erupted in conflagration the moment the external threat was removed.

The bottom line is that Europeans have to agree on more than just a 3 percent budget-deficit threshold as the foundation for closer integration. Control over budgets goes to the very heart of sovereignty, and European nations will not give up that control unless they know their security and political interests will be taken seriously by their neighbors.


Europe’s Spheres of Influence

We therefore see Europe evolving into a set of regionalized groupings. These organizations may have different ideas about security and economic matters, one country may even belong to more than one grouping, but for the most part membership will largely be based on location on the Continent. This will not happen overnight. Germany, France and other core economies have a vested interest in preserving the eurozone in its current form for the short-term — perhaps as long as another decade — since the economic contagion from Greece is an existential concern for the moment. In the long-term, however, regional organizations of like-minded blocs is the path that seems to be evolving in Europe, especially if Germany decides that its relationship with core eurozone countries and Central Europe is more important than its relationship with the periphery.



(click here to enlarge image)
We can separate the blocs into four main fledgling groupings, which are not mutually exclusive, as a sort of model to depict the evolving relationships among countries in Europe:

The German sphere of influence (Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Switzerland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Finland): These core eurozone economies are not disadvantaged by Germany’s competitiveness, or they depend on German trade for economic benefit, and they are not inherently threatened by Germany’s evolving relationship with Russia. Due to its isolation from the rest of Europe and proximity to Russia, Finland is not thrilled about Russia’s resurgence, but occasionally it prefers Germany’s careful accommodative approach to the aggressive approach of neighboring Sweden or Poland. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are the most concerned about the Russia-Germany relationship, but not to the extent that Poland and the Baltic states are, and they may decide to remain in the German sphere of influence for economic reasons.


The Nordic regional bloc (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia): These mostly non-eurozone states generally see Russia’s resurgence in a negative light. The Baltic states are seen as part of the Nordic sphere of influence (especially Sweden’s), which leads toward problems with Russia. Germany is an important trade partner, but it is also seen as overbearing and as a competitor. Finland straddles this group and the German sphere of influence, depending on the issue.


Visegrad-plus (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria). At the moment, the Visegrad Four belong to different spheres of influence. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary do not feel as exposed to Russia’s resurgence as Poland or Romania do. But they also are not completely satisfied with Germany’s attitude toward Russia. Poland is not strong enough to lead this group economically the way Sweden dominates the Nordic bloc. Other than security cooperation, the Visegrad countries have little to offer each other at the moment. Poland intends to change that by lobbying for more funding for new EU member states in the next six months of its EU presidency. That still does not constitute economic leadership.


Mediterranean Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus and Malta): These are Europe’s peripheral states. Their security concerns are unique due to their exposure to illegal immigration via routes through Turkey and North Africa. Geographically, these countries are isolated from the main trade routes and lack the capital-generating centers of northern Europe, save for Italy’s Po River Valley (which in many ways does not belong to this group but could be thought of as a separate entity that could be seen as part of the German sphere of influence). These economies therefore face similar problems of over-indebtedness and lack of competitiveness. The question is, who would lead?
And then there are France and the United Kingdom. These countries do not really belong to any bloc. This is London’s traditional posture with regard to continental Europe, although it has recently begun to establish a relationship with the Nordic-Baltic group. France, meanwhile, could be considered part of the German sphere of influence. Paris is attempting to hold onto its leadership role in the eurozone and is revamping its labor-market rules and social benefits to sustain its connection to the German-dominated currency bloc, a painful process. However, France traditionally is also a Mediterranean country and has considered Central European alliances in order to surround Germany. It also recently entered into a new bilateral military relationship with the United Kingdom, in part as a hedge against its close relationship with Germany. If France decides to exit its partnership with Germany, it could quickly gain control of its normal sphere of influence in the Mediterranean, probably with enthusiastic backing from a host of other powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom. In fact, its discussion of a Mediterranean Union was a political hedge, an insurance policy, for exactly such a future.


The Price of Regional Hegemony

The alternative to the regionalization of Europe is clear German leadership that underwrites — economically and politically — greater European integration. If Berlin can overcome the anti-euro populism that is feeding on bailout fatigue in the eurozone core, it could continue to support the periphery and prove its commitment to the eurozone and the European Union. Germany is also trying to show Central Europe that its relationship with Russia is a net positive by using its negotiations with Moscow over Moldova as an example of German political clout.

Central Europeans, however, are already putting Germany’s leadership and commitment to the test. Poland assumes the EU presidency July 1 and has made the union’s commitment to increase funding for new EU member states, as well as EU defense cooperation, its main initiatives. Both policies are a test for Germany and an offer for it to reverse the ongoing security regionalization. If Berlin says no to new money for the newer EU member states — at stake is the union’s cohesion-policy funding, which in the 2007-2013 budget period totaled 177 billion euros — and no to EU-wide security/defense arrangements, then Warsaw, Prague and other Central European capitals have their answer. The question is whether Germany is serious about being a leader of Europe and paying the price to be the hegemon of a united Europe, which would not only mean funding bailouts but also standing up to Russia. If it places its relationship with Russia over its alliance with Central Europe, then it will be difficult for Central Europeans to follow Berlin. This will mean that the regionalization of Europe’s security architecture — via the Visegrad Group and Nordic-Baltic battle groups — makes sense. It will also mean that Central Europeans will have to find new ways to draw the United States into the region for security.

Common security perception is about states understanding that they share the same fate. American states understood this at the end of the 18th century, which is why they gave up their independence, setting the United States on the path toward superpower status. Europeans — at least at present — do not see their situation (or the world) in the same light. Bailouts are enacted not because Greeks share the same fate as Germans but because German bankers share the same fate as German taxpayers. This is a sign that integration has progressed to a point where economic fate is shared, but this is an inadequate baseline on which to build a common political union.

Bailing out Greece is seen as an affront to the German taxpayer, even though that same German taxpayer has benefited disproportionally from the eurozone’s creation. The German government understands the benefits of preserving the eurozone — which is why it continues bailing out the peripheral countries — but there has been no national debate in Germany to explain this logic to the populace. Germany is still waiting to have an open conversation with itself about its role and its future, and especially what price it is willing to pay for regional hegemony and remaining relevant in a world fast becoming dominated by powers capable of harnessing the resources of entire continents.

Without a coherent understanding in Europe that its states all share the same fate, the Greek crisis has little chance of being Europe’s Shays’ Rebellion, triggering deeper unification. Instead of a United States of Europe, its fate will be ongoing regionalization.

23891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams 1787 on the nature of the Senate on: June 28, 2011, 10:33:22 AM


"The rich, the well-born, and the able, acquire and influence among the people that will soon be too much for simple honesty and plain sense, in a house of representatives. The most illustrious of them must, therefore, be separated from the mass, and placed by themselves in a senate; this is, to all honest and useful intents, an ostracism." --John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, vol 1 , 1787


23892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Harder to own gold starting July 15? on: June 28, 2011, 10:28:27 AM
Not sure of the reliability of this source/advertisement, and not really understanding of what is going on here , , , but it smells of the government trying to make gold ownership more difficult.

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http://www.goldworth.com/townhall.html
23893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bond vs. US (individual standing to assert the 10th) on: June 28, 2011, 10:20:10 AM
By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. AND LEE A. CASEY
The Supreme Court's most important ruling this year may have been its unanimous decision in Bond v. United States, which held that individual citizens can challenge federal statutes when they encroach on authority the Constitution reserves to the states. The decision, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, has far-reaching implications—especially for the government's efforts to defend ObamaCare.

The facts of the case were curious, to say the least. Defendant Carol Bond, having discovered that her close friend was pregnant by her husband, sprinkled caustic substances on a mailbox, car-door handle and door knobs. The substances worked: The hated paramour suffered minor burns.

Instead of being held liable under one of the more common federal criminal laws, Ms. Bond was subjected to federal prosecution under a statute designed to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention. In defense, she argued that the law exceeded Congress's power because its violation required no link to interstate commerce or any other specific federal interest. The government argued that because the state (Pennsylvania) was not party to the suit, Ms. Bond could not defend herself by attacking that law on federalism grounds. The government prevailed in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court disagreed. With an unusual unanimity, the court held squarely that individual citizens have every right to challenge federal laws on the ground that they exceed the limited and enumerated powers vested in Congress by the Constitution. The court stated without equivocation that "y denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power. When the government acts in excess of its lawful powers, that liberty is at stake."

"Fidelity to principles of federalism," Justice Kennedy further noted, "is not for the States alone to vindicate."

For Supreme Court watchers, Bond is a profound reaffirmation of the centrality of the state-federal "dual sovereignty" system. That's why the decision is bad news for those who defend ObamaCare—the most extravagant challenge to that dual system in our history.

View Full Image

Images.com/Corbis
 .In enacting the ObamaCare law, Congress seized for itself the very type of power—the ability to regulate individual conduct regardless of any significant connection to interstate commerce or another legitimate federal regulatory interest—that the Constitution reserves solely to the states. In defending the law in court, the Obama administration has persistently sought to narrow the Constitution's federalism principles and to trivialize the Supreme Court's recent decisions supporting those principles.

What Bond makes clear is that those principles and cases are meant to be read broadly to achieve their original purpose: securing "the freedom of the individual" by allowing the states to respond "to the initiative of those who seek a voice in shaping the destiny of their own times without having to rely solely upon the political processes that control a remote central power."

Justice Kennedy's opinion posits a vision of federalism in which "[t]he principles of limited national powers and state sovereignty are intertwined." The decision makes it particularly clear that "impermissible interference with state sovereignty is not within the enumerated powers of the National Government." It adds, "an action that exceeds the National Government's enumerated powers undermines the sovereign interests of States."

The long and short of this critical ruling is that, as the various legal challenges to ObamaCare make their way through the courts of appeal, all nine justices have emphatically reaffirmed the importance of the Constitution's federal architecture and the very real limitations that structure imposes on Congress. Stay tuned as those challenges reach the Supreme Court—as early as next term.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey filed an amicus brief on behalf of six states in the Bond case, and they represent 26 states challenging ObamaCare's constitutionality. They served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

23894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Former Chief of Staff: Bachman not ready on: June 28, 2011, 10:04:42 AM
WSJ

By Patrick O'Connor
A former aide welcomed Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann to the White House race on Tuesday with a scathing op-ed in the Des Moines Register.


Associated Press
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.)Ron Carey, one of the six chiefs of staff Ms. Bachmann has had since coming to Congress less than five years ago, penned an article with the headline “Bachmann is so not ready for the presidency, but (former Minnesota Gov. Tim) Pawlenty has the judgment and skills.”

“Having seen the two of them, up close and over a long period of time, it is clear to me that while Tim Pawlenty possesses the judgment, demeanor and the readiness to serve as president, Michele Bachmann decidedly does not,” Mr. Carey wrote.

Mr. Carey, who helped elect Ms. Bachmann to Congress in 2006 and 2008, called her campaign and congressional offices “wildly out of control.” Unopened campaign donations littered her office and thousands of her constituents’ emails and letters went unanswered, he wrote.

“If she is unable, or unwilling, to handle the basic duties of a campaign or congressional office, how could she possibly manage the magnitude of the presidency?” Mr. Carey asks in the op-ed.

“I know Michele Bachmann very well,” Mr. Carey concludes his op-ed. “She is a faithful conservative with great oratory skills, but without any leadership experience or real results from her years in office. She is not prepared to assume the White House in 2013.”

The Bachmann campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the article, but the congresswoman said Tuesday during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show that she expects a barrage of negative stories.

“There will be a media onslaught of attack, but that’s nothing new,” she said, responding to a question about whether she would receive scrutiny similar to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during her run as John McCain’s vice presidential pick. “That is something that goes with the territory. It doesn’t matter who the candidate is, whether they’re male or female, there’s simply attacks that will come.”

23895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Coming Debacle on: June 28, 2011, 03:00:52 AM


What does it mean that the U.S. will now be withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan on an accelerated and defined timetable in order to focus, as President Obama said last week, on "nation building here at home"?

It emboldens the Taliban, which thanks to Mr. Obama's surge and David Petraeus's generalship had all but been ousted from its traditional strongholds in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. "My soul, and the soul of thousands of Taliban who have been blown up, are happy," Taliban field commander Jamal Khan told the Daily Beast of his reaction to Mr. Obama's speech. "I had more than 50 encounters with U.S. forces and their technology. But the biggest difference in ending this war was not technology but the more powerful Islamic ideology and religion."

It increases the risk to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, where the fatality count was finally starting to come down after peaking in 2010. Fewer troops means that U.S. commanders will have to make an invidious choice between clearing territory of enemies and holding and building it for friends. "Whether it is Nangarhar or Ghazni, Kandahar or Herat, the place where we decide to 'surge' with remaining forces will leave a window open—and the Taliban will crawl in," says a U.S. military official with experience in Afghanistan. "Any commander who has experienced a withdrawal under pressure knows that it is perhaps the most difficult operation you can conduct and certainly the most dangerous; it gives the attacker a feeling of superiority and demoralizes the withdrawing force."

It strengthens already potent anti-American forces in Pakistan and weakens the hand of moderates. Skeptics of the U.S. within Pakistan's government, particularly the army, will mark the U.S. withdrawal as further evidence that Washington is a congenitally unreliable ally. Opponents of the U.S. outside of the government will capitalize politically on the perception of American weakness. Drone strikes, which outgoing CIA director Leon Panetta has called "the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership," will likely come to an end. Islamabad will also find new reasons to patch up its differences with erstwhile allies in the Taliban and other terrorist groups as a way of keeping its options open.

It strengthens the hand of Iran, which, as the Journal's Jay Solomon reported yesterday, "is moving to cement ties with the leaders of three key American allies—Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq—highlighting Tehran's efforts to take a greater role in the region as the U.S. military pulls out." As a demonstration of those ties, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi paid a visit to Kabul last week to sign a bilateral security agreement. "We believe that expansion of joint defense and security cooperation with Iran is in favor of our interests," said his Afghan counterpart Abdulrahim Wardak.

It further weakens NATO, whose future is already in doubt given its inability to oust Moammar Gadhafi from Tripoli. In the last decade it became the fashion to say of the alliance that it was either "out of area"—meaning Europe—or "out of business." Leaving and losing Afghanistan spells the latter.

It gives Hamid Karzai opportunity and motive to reinvent himself as an anti-American leader. The Afghan president is already well on his way to forging a close political alliance with insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is believed to have given Osama bin Laden safe passage out of Afghanistan in 2001 and is wanted by the U.S. on a $25 million bounty. Mr. Karzai is said to be furious that the Obama administration made no effort to get a strategic forces agreement that would have left a residual U.S. force after 2014. "I think the reality of their complete withdrawal has struck home," Afghan Human Rights Commissioner Nader Nadery tells the Associated Press. "Now he sees they may go and they don't want a [military] presence here . . . and perhaps now he is thinking, 'Who will protect me?'"

It accelerates Afghanistan's barely suppressed, and invariably violent, centrifugal forces. There are already reports that the old Northern Alliance, which held out against the Taliban in the 1990s and took Kabul in 2001, may be reconstituting itself as a fighting force in anticipation of a hostile government in Kabul. This is a formula for civil, and perhaps regional, war; it is not clear what kind of "partnership" the U.S. could hope to build, as Mr. Obama promised to do, with whatever emerges from its ashes.

Finally, it signals that the United States, like Britain before it, is a waning power. In his speech last week, Mr. Obama waxed eloquent on the point that "what sets America apart is not solely our power—it is the principles upon which our union was founded." Very true. But a nation that abandons to the Taliban those it was once committed to protect shows that it lacks power and principle alike.

At the end of "Charlie Wilson's War," the film quotes the late congressman saying: "These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world. . . . And then we f—ed up the endgame." To watch President Obama's Afghan policy unfold is to understand exactly what Wilson meant.

23896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: June 28, 2011, 02:43:03 AM
The Perils of Succession in Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called a number of his closest advisers Monday from Cuba, where he is reportedly recovering from emergency surgery. Chavez was visiting Cuba on June 10 when a sudden pain in his abdomen reportedly required his immediate hospitalization and surgery. STRATFOR sources close to the Cuban medical team say Chavez has prostate cancer. Chavez has refused to delegate power even temporarily during his absence, an indication of how little he trusts his closest advisers and allies in the government. Although Chavez seems likely to hold onto power in Caracas despite the current complications, the crisis in the country raises important questions about the future of the Venezuelan state, whose government and power structure have been built around a single, iconic figure.

“It remains plausible that a political transition would allow Venezuela the space to reconsider and potentially realign both its political and economic positions— whether the presidency goes to a Chavez loyalist or a representative of a new faction of power brokers.”
A regional precedent for the current predicament can be found among Chavez’s ideological brethren. Former Cuban President Fidel Castro suffered a medical complication in 2008 and was forced to step down, abdicating power to his slightly younger brother, Raul Castro. Fidel ruled Cuba for nearly 50 years and was the linchpin of the country’s governing strategy. In 2008, Fidel stepped into the background, allowing Raul to pioneer changes to the economy that have begun to bring Cuba closer to finding compromise with its neighbor, the United States.

Castro had the option to step down because he trusts his brother. It is not clear to whom Chavez can turn in the event he finds himself incapacitated. Although his brother Adan Chavez appears to be positioning to take over, Chavez has so thoroughly split power among all possible successors that any would-be ruler will have to fight to maintain control.

Nevertheless, Castro’s example shows us that even the most iconic leader must eventually hand over authority.

We do not know whether Chavez will have to make this choice now. It remains plausible that a political transition would allow Venezuela the space to reconsider and potentially realign both its political and economic positions— whether the presidency goes to a Chavez loyalist or a representative of a new faction of power brokers.

Venezuela must deal with a handful of fixed economic realities. Oil remains at the center of everything, from growth and investment to politics. With all capital concentrated in the oil sector, development without a redistributive model is very difficult. Venezuela’s efforts to develop agricultural self-sufficiency struggle against a mountainous geography and a tropical climate. A high reliance on imports for basic foodstuffs means that inflation will always be a present danger.

Some economic and political characteristics of the Chavez administration could undergo serious changes following a power transition. Since the failed 2002 coup, in which he perceived U.S. involvement, Chavez has been working hard to diversify fuel exports away from the United States and toward partners like China and Europe as a way of reducing his vulnerability to the U.S. market. However, not only is the United States the largest oil consumer in the world, it is also geographically close to Venezuela. Diverting oil exports to other markets — let alone markets on the other side of the planet — costs the Venezuelan oil industry. With oil at over $100 per barrel, there is room to maneuver, but when every dollar gained through oil exports is needed to satisfy populist demands at home, the opportunity costs of walking away from Venezuela’s largest natural market become apparent..

This practice and other economic policies have left the Venezuelan economy in a fragile state. Oil production is declining, the electricity sector is failing, inflation is perennially high, and the government’s debts are climbing higher. This month may not be the moment for change in Venezuela, but Chavez’s sickness highlights the vulnerabilities of a country that relies so heavily on the dictates of a single leader. Ironically, the system of dividing power among competing factions guarantees Chavez’s unchallenged control while he is healthy. However, it makes it exceedingly difficult for him to delegate power to a trusted second in this hour of need.

23897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: June 27, 2011, 10:49:39 PM
I've commented here more than once about China's weird demographic profile, its cooked bookkeeping, and its rape of its environment and that of the planet.  Doug's post seems sound to me.
23898  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / SEAL (?!?) with pipe goes ape in Vegas on: June 27, 2011, 04:57:49 PM


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db7XUYFR1N4
23899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / TSA searches 95 year old granny for a diaper bomb? on: June 27, 2011, 03:55:12 PM
From Glenn Beck's newsletter today:

The TSA is defending a recent controversial screening in which a 95-year-old with cancer was forced to take off her diaper for a pat down. You'd think a 95-year-old in a wheelchair wouldn't pose much of a risk, but the TSA said their team responded to the diaper 'security alarm' in a 'professional' manner according to proper procedure.
23900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Technology vs Law (aggregator issues) on: June 27, 2011, 01:01:27 PM
GM, I would love to see that posted in the Police-Civilian interaction thread on the Martial Arts Forum.
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For the past century, the imperial power of the law seemed unstoppable, as legislation and litigation reached into every area of life. But now the law has met its match. Technology raises issues so quickly and unpredictably that judges are reduced to King Canutes, trying to stop the flow of ocean tides with their bare hands.

Consider two similar cases based on rapid changes in technology occurring a century apart. Both dealt with "hot news," a legal doctrine that determines who owns news for how long. Long dormant, the issue has heated up as services such as Google and aggregators such as Huffington Post drew large audiences through summaries of original reporting by news organizations.

These cases were hard calls for judges in 1918 and again in the case decided last week. Here are the facts in the earlier case, International News Service v. Associated Press:

The International News Service was founded by William Randolph Hearst as an alternative to the Associated Press. Like his newspapers, INS opposed America's entry into World War I. British military censors tired of its exaggerated reporting (one headline read, "Zeppelins Set London Ablaze!") and banned Hearst's newswire from using the undersea cable that linked to telegraphs in the U.S. that delivered reports to newspapers.

Hearst's newswire responded by copying AP stories, sometimes obtained by bribing AP employees, and sending the reports to its member newspapers as its own. "The distribution of news matter throughout the country is principally from east to west," Supreme Court Justice Mahlon Pitney observed, "and, since in speed the telegraph and telephone easily outstrip the rotation of the earth, it is a simple matter for defendant to take complainant's news from bulletins or early editions of complainant's members in the eastern cities and, at the mere cost of telegraphic transmission, cause it to be published in western papers issued at least as early as those served by complainant."

The news itself, as opposed to the words in which it is written, is not subject to copyright. But the court found that INS had misappropriated a "quasi-property right" by "endeavoring to reap where it has not sown, and by disposing of it to newspapers that are competitors of complainant's members . . . appropriating to itself the harvest."

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 .Last week's case, Barclays Capital v. Theflyonthewall.com, turned out differently. The website uses the Internet to redistribute information the way Hearst's newswire used the telegraph. The plaintiffs in the case, which include Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, invest in research about companies and markets and then share their market-moving trading recommendations with their biggest trading customers. They make the recommendations public only later, after funding the research through trading commissions.

Theflyonthewall.com undermined this system by reporting these recommendations quickly after their distribution to big investors; it's hard to keep secrets these days. A trial judge had sided with the banks and ordered the site to wait until 30 minutes after the opening of the stock exchange to republish the banks' buy-sell-hold recommendations, giving the banks' customers time to trade.

But the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that the website could continue its work. Unlike in the Hearst newswire case, Theflyonthewall.com is not free riding when it collects and distributes news about banks' research. "The firms are making the news," Judge Robert Sack wrote. "Fly, despite the firms' understandable desire to protect their business model, is breaking it."

Judge Sack knows the news industry well after representing Dow Jones and other media companies when he was in private practice. He is philosophical about the power of judges to stem the tide of technology, even when there's unfairness. "The adoption of new technology that injures or destroys present business models is commonplace," he writes.

There can't be laws against using technology to spread news. Justice Louis Brandeis wrote as much in his 1918 dissent in International News Service. "With the increasing complexity of society, the public interest tends to become omnipresent, and the problems presented by new demands for justice cease to be simple. Then the creation or recognition by courts of a new private right may work serious injury to the general public unless the boundaries of the right are definitely established and widely guarded."

But just because the law can't control how news spreads does not make technology a pure good. Google and Twitter filed a brief in Theflyonthewall, warning: "Hot news becomes cold in a nanosecond in the modern world." They don't want restriction on their business practices. But as in the cases of the not-so-innocent Hearst newswire and Theflyonthewall.com, Internet aggregators profit from the work of others as they undermine their business models.

Judges are right to stand aside to let the tide of technology flow freely. It's only through more innovation, unfettered by new legal constraints, that technology will deliver new ways to fund original reporting, whether by journalists or equity analysts.

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