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23901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Settlement or cover-up? on: September 09, 2011, 06:52:47 AM
This is Pravada on the Hudson and so we must read between the lines.  I could be wrong but I wonder about the conjunction of the subject matter of this article and the recent investigation of 17 financial firms.  IIRC Fannie Mae's Raines (who now sits with major-donations-recipient-as-a-Senator Oboma) already got in trouble for accelerating FM's profits so as to inflate his bonuses)

Regulators are nearing a settlement with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over whether the mortgage finance giants adequately disclosed their exposure to risky subprime loans, bringing to a close a three-year investigation.

The proposed agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission, under the terms being discussed, would include no monetary penalty or admission of fraud, according to several people briefed on the case. But a settlement would represent the most significant acknowledgement yet by the mortgage companies that they played a central role in the housing boom and bust.

And the action, however limited, may help refurbish the S.E.C.’s reputation as an aggressive regulator, particularly as the country struggles with the aftereffects of the financial crisis that the housing bubble fueled.

But the potential settlement — even it if it is little more than a rebuke — comes at an awkward time for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Last week, the government overseer of the two companies sued 17 large financial firms, blaming them for luring the mortgage giants into buying troubled loans. That is a similar accusation to the one the S.E.C. is leveling at Fannie and Freddie — that the two entities misled their own investors. The case against the financial firms could be complicated should Fannie and Freddie sound a note of contrition for their own role in the implosion of the mortgage market in settling with the S.E.C.

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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMy SpacePermalink6 CommentsTwitter .The agency abandoned hopes of assessing a fine because of the precarious financial positions of the two companies, according to the people briefed on the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet final. The government has already propped up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with more than $100 billion since taking control of them in 2008. Any fee levied against them would simply wind up on the taxpayers’ tab.

The negotiations have been going on since at least early summer, and a deal may not materialize until later this year, these people cautioned. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the S.E.C. all declined to comment.

The sprawling investigation into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac once encompassed both civil and criminal elements, making headlines as one of the most significant cases to stem from the financial crisis. The case also threatened to ensnare some of Fannie and Freddie’s former top officials. Earlier this year, recent chief executives at both companies received so-called Wells notices from the S.E.C., an indication that the agency was considering a civil enforcement action against them.

But three years on, the civil settlement would be the only government action against the companies.

The criminal inquiry has sputtered to a halt. The Justice Department has concluded its inquiry, at least at Freddie Mac, according to a securities filing in August by the company. No charges have been filed against either company.

At the S.E.C., regulators have zeroed in on the fine print of Fannie’s and Freddie’s disclosures, according to those who have been briefed on it. The agency is specifically looking at the way the companies reported their subprime mortgage portfolios and concentrations of loans extended to borrowers who offered little documentation.

While Fannie and Freddie do not offer home loans, they buy thousands of mortgages from lenders and resell them in packages to investors. The S.E.C.’s case hinges on whether the companies misled the public and regulators by lowballing the number of high-risk mortgages on their books.

One potential weakness of the case is that it hinges on the definition of subprime, which the government itself has struggled to nail down. The term often references loans to borrowers with low credit scores and spotty payment records. But Fannie and Freddie categorized loans as prime or subprime based on the lender rather than on the loan itself.

The path to the current settlement talks at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac has been a delicate one. While internally, the two companies did not view the government’s case as particularly strong, they said they moved to settle to spare time and precious resources, according to one person close to the talks. In addition, the companies asked that whatever the settlement, it not include a fine or accusations of fraud in the hopes of protecting an already battered morale and an empty purse at the institutions.

In particular, a fraud accusation could cause an exodus of the employees best equipped to dig the institutions out of their current morass, people close to the talks said. A settlement with the mortgage companies would be a first step in wrapping up the S.E.C.’s broader examination. The agency is still pursuing potential claims against at least four former executives at Fannie and Freddie.

This summer, lawyers for Richard Syron, the former chief of Freddie Mac, and Daniel H. Mudd, his counterpart at Fannie Mae, met with the S.E.C.’s enforcement chief, Robert Khuzami, according to some of the people briefed on the case.

The S.E.C. has sent Wells notices to Mr. Syron; Mr. Mudd; the former chief financial officer at Freddie Mac, Anthony J. Piszel; and Donald J. Bisenius, executive vice president at Freddie until his recent departure.

None of the individuals have been accused of any wrongdoing.

Mr. Mudd and Mr. Syron are the two most prominent executives swept up in the case. Mr. Mudd is now chief executive of the public traded hedge fund and private equity firm Fortress Investment Group. Mr. Syron, a former president of the American Stock Exchange, is an adjunct professor at Boston College and serves on its board of trustees.

Through their lawyers, Mr. Mudd and Mr. Syron declined to comment. The S.E.C. could yet decide not to sue the former executives.

Ultimately, the two mortgage companies have larger worries to confront than the potential citations: chief among them is their continuing viability.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced plans to wind down the two companies, leaving the fates of the companies unresolved and the future of government-backed housing finance in doubt.
23902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 911 on: September 08, 2011, 09:42:02 PM

The first battle in the renewed war against terrorism wasn't waged in Fallujah or Kandahar or Tikrit. It was held 32,000 feet above Pittsburgh, on Sept. 11, 2001.

And it wasn't soldiers who led the battle.

It was four athletes, pushing a food cart.

United Flight 93 was supposed to go from Newark to San Francisco that Tuesday morning, but 31-year-old Jeremy Glick wasn't supposed to be on it.

He was supposed to go the day before, but a fire at Newark Airport forced him to re-book for the next day, one of the bloodiest in American history.

About 45 minutes into the flight, four radical Islamic terrorists stormed the cockpit, sliced the throats of the pilots and took charge. They told the 33 passengers and seven crew members they were hijacking the plane and returning to Newark.

Glick, a muscular 1993 national collegiate judo champion, scampered back to the second-to-last row and called his wife, Lyz. It wasn't long before he and the others -- talking to their families -- realized that nobody was going back to Newark. They were on board a 150,000-pound missile, bound for some unthinkable end. The World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon had already been hit. What was 93 aimed for?

"We're going to rush the hijackers," Glick told Lyz.

Horrified, she pictured the hijackers having machine guns.

"No," Jeremy said. "Box cutters."

And Lyz says, "I was thinking, 'OK, Jeremy can handle a man with a knife, no problem. With him being so strong, and with his experience in martial arts and judo, he's going to unleash some terrible force. That's no match for him.'"

Mark Bingham, 31, was back there with Glick. He'd won two national club rugby titles with Cal-Berkeley. He was huge, fierce, funny and, incidentally, gay. He once wrestled a gun from a mugger. A knife wasn't going to scare him.

"I remember Mark and his buddies got thrown off an entire island once," says his dad, Jerry. "He told me, 'Dad, we lost the match, but we won the fight.' I know how he was. He'd have been definitely been kickin' ass and takin' names."

The third was Oracle salesman Todd Beamer, 32, a former shortstop at Wheaton (Ill.) College, a basketball star, and a soccer player.

"I knew, when I saw what happened," says his dad, David, "that Todd would be part of that. Todd was not going to be sitting in his seat while somebody was trying to crash the plane."

The fourth was 38-year-old Tom Burnett, a former high school football star from Bloomington, Minn. These men became convinced that they had to stop the plane, even if they had to stop it with their lives.

"I know we're going to die," Burnett told his wife, Dina. "Some of us are going to do something about it."

There certainly were more passengers among the 33 on board who planned the insurrection and stormed the cockpit, but we know about these four. All of them jocks. All of them with the physical and mental training to rise up when all seems lost. This is the best guess of what they did:

"We're going to attack," Glick told Lyz. "I'm going to put the phone down. I love you. I'll be right back."

Lyz couldn't hold the line. What she was hearing was sending her body into convulsions. She handed the phone to her dad and walked into a different room.

Beamer revealed the same plan to the operator, Lisa Jefferson, who was sitting in a call center in Oakbrook, Ill. When it was time, he let the phone dangle so he could keep the line open in case he made it back alive. She heard Beamer say to the others, "Let's roll." It's a phrase that would later be stenciled on jet fighters, NASCAR rides and above locker room doors.

Using a food-service cart as a battering ram, the attackers raced up the aisle and smashed through the cockpit door. It was almost 10 a.m.

"My dad said first he heard a series of screams," Lyz recalls. "Then he heard another set of screams. Then it all sounded like a roller coaster, up and down. And then it just ... (pause) ... ended."

Officials believe that the terrorists, being buckled in, rocked the plane up and down violently, trying to fling the passengers against the ceiling. Excerpts of the cockpit voice recorder tape are chilling. (Words in parenthesis are translated from the Arabic.)

09:58:52 -- Stay back.

09:58:55 -- In the cockpit.

09:58:57 -- In the cockpit.

09:58:57 -- (They want to get in here. Hold, hold from the inside. Hold from the inside. Hold.)

09:59:04 -- Hold the door.

■Enlargecourtesy Glick Family
Flight 93 passenger Jeremy Glick at 26 years old, five years before Sept. 11, 2001.

09:59:09 -- Stop him.

09:59:11 -- Sit down.

09:59:15 -- Sit down.

09:59:16 -- Unintelligible.

09:59:17 -- (What?)

09:59:18 -- (There are some guys. All those guys.)

09:59:20 -- Let's get them.

09:59:25 -- Sit down.

09:59:29 -- (What?)

09:59:36 -- Unintelligible.

09:59:42 -- (Trust in Allah, and in him.)

09:59:45 -- Sit down.

09:59:47 -- Unintelligible.

09:59:53 -- Ahh.

10:00:06 -- (There is nothing.)

10:00:07 -- (Is that it? Shall we finish it off?)

10:00:08 -- (No. Not yet.)

10:00:09 -- (When they all come, we finish it off.)

10:00:11 -- (There is nothing.)

10:00:13 -- Unintelligible.

10:00:14 -- Ahh.

10:00:15 -- I'm injured.

10:00:16 -- Unintelligible.

10:00:21 -- Ahh.

10:00:22 -- (Oh Allah. Oh Allah. Oh gracious.)

courtesy Bingahm Family
Mark Bingham, left, wtih his father, Jerry. Mark was one of the four who led the charge on the cockpit of hijacked Flight 93 on Sept.11, 2001.

10:00:25 -- In the cockpit. If we don't, we'll die.

10:00:29 -- (Up, down. Up, down, in the) cockpit.

10:00:33 -- (The) cockpit.

10:00:37 -- (Up, down. Saeed, up, down.)

10:00:42 -- Roll it.

10:00:55 -- Unintelligible.

10:00:59 -- (Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest.)

10:01:01 -- Unintelligible.

10:01:08 -- (Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?)

10:01:09 -- (Yes, put it in it, and pull it down.)

10:01:11 -- (Saeed.)

10:01:12 -- ... engine ...

10:01:16 -- (Cut off the oxygen.)

10:01:18 -- (Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen.)

10:01:37 -- Unintelligible.

10:01:41 -- (Up, down. Up, down.)

10:01:41 -- (What?)

10:01:42 -- (Up, down.)

10:01:42 -- Ahh.

10:01:59 -- Shut them off.

10:02:03 -- Shut them off.

10:02:14 -- Go.

10:02:16 -- Move.

10:02:17 -- Turn it up.

10:02:18 -- (Down, down.)

10:02:23 -- (Pull it down. Pull it down.)

10:02:25 -- Down. Push, push, push, push, push.

10:02:33 -- (Hey. Hey. Give it to me. Give it to me.)

10:02:35 -- (Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me.)

10:02:40 -- Unintelligible.

United Flight 93 dove into a remote field in southwestern Pennsylvania, near Shanksville, killing all aboard. People 10 miles away said they felt the ground shake. It's believed the plane was headed for the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

"This was the first victory of the war," says David Beamer. "The Capitol dome still stands."

The hole left by the Boeing 757 was 24 feet wide and 18 feet deep. But the hole it put in those left behind sometimes feels even bigger.

This may be why Todd Beamer's wife, Lisa, does not talk about 9/11 or Shanksville or "Let's roll." She is raising her three kids -- 13, 11 and 9 -- alone. She didn't remarry.

In Church Hill, Tenn., Mark Bingham's dad doesn't need an anniversary to remember his son. He thinks about him every day.

"I haven't been right since," Jerry Bingham says, crying softly. "We work on it every day. You think you're gettin' through it, but you don't. You just don't. Not a day goes by that it's not on your mind, ever."

But not all his memories are painful. President Bush invited the Flight 93 families to the White House the week after 9/11. Afterward, the families were being escorted out the back way of the east wing. They were surprised to turn a corner and see that 150 to 200 White House workers had lined up on either side of them. They were applauding.

"The dishwashers, the cooks, the maids, the busboys," says Bingham. "They were clapping for us. They were thanking us. It just tore me up. And we were all crying and hugging each other. I'll never forget it."

Lyz Glick refuses to forget, too. She's turned Jeremy's heroics into Jeremy's Heroes, a non-profit organization that has helped thousands of young public school athletes who otherwise couldn't afford to train. "That's helped us to heal the most," she says.

What's also helped is something Jeremy said in her 27 minutes with him on that phone call. "Whatever decisions you make in your life," he said, "I need you to be happy and I will respect any decisions that you make.'"

Lyz was married to her grief for so long. She would continually call Jeremy's cell phone, just to hear his voice, over and over. Fold his clothes. Re-live the call and hope it was enough.

Finally, years later, she married Jeremy's best friend and best man, Jim Best. She has three kids -- one by Jeremy, age 10, and two with Jim, 4 and 2.

Many of the families of the Flight 93 victims have stayed close. So close, in fact, 24 of them will run in the New York City Marathon in November as a team, led by the sister, Kiki, of one of the slain pilots, Leroy Homer, a former high school track star.

You might recognize them. They'll probably be wearing T-shirts that read: They didn't quit. Neither will we.

Over 50,000 mementos, gifts and testimonials have been left at the battle site in Shanksville. Kids leave their favorite stuffed animals. People write long, emotional thanks on everything from granite stones to paper plates. One Vietnam vet left his purple heart.

Many of the families will be there Saturday, Sept. 10, for one final burial ceremony.

And yet 10 years later, the memorial that was promised these 40 people hasn't been delivered. The Flight 93 National Memorial is still $10 million short of completion. There is still no visitor's center to teach, no Tower of Voices to listen, and no 40 groves of trees to honor.

"I'm 69 years old," says David Beamer. "I'd like to see the thing get done in my lifetime. If you and everybody you know can make one little sacrifice -- one hour of your income -- we could get this done tomorrow."

I sent an hour's pay not just to honor the passengers of Flight 93 but also to thank them. My niece was working in the Capitol that day. This spring, she had her second baby.

To send your hour's pay, go to

The passengers aboard Flight 93 saved hundreds of lives -- if not thousands -- in 35 minutes. We've had 10 years.

It's a hole we need to fill.

23903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 08, 2011, 03:53:15 PM
Over to you Doug , , ,
23904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 08, 2011, 03:22:38 PM
"there are now millions fewer millionaires."

I believe you.  Any chance you have a citation for this?  There's someone I would love to beat up with it  evil

23905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 08, 2011, 01:02:18 PM
When he was alive, Jude Wanniski made a pretty good case against the alleged benefits of competetive devlauations, but I don't feel up to trying to replicate it.  For the moment I will note that another name for comp-devs is "beggar-thy-neighbor devaluations" will the purported gains being illusory in the long run; in great part because the other nations respond similarly with the net result in the case of the US due to its reserve currency role of world wide inflation-- exactly as we have seen in food and other commodities.
23906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unwavering Wesbury: July Trade deficit numbers on: September 08, 2011, 10:49:50 AM
The trade deficit in goods and services shrank $6.8 billion to $44.8 billion in July To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/8/2011

The trade deficit in goods and services shrank $6.8 billion to $44.8 billion in July. The consensus expected a much larger trade deficit of $51.0 billion.

Exports increased $6.2 billion in July, led by autos/parts, oil, and widespread gains in capital goods. Imports declined $0.5 billion, with a drop in oil imports roughly offsetting a gain in autos/parts. The decline in oil imports was mostly due to lower volume, although prices fell as well.
In the last year, exports are up 15.1% while imports are up 13.6%.
The monthly trade deficit is $3.2 billion larger than last year.  Adjusted for inflation, the trade deficit in goods is $1.3 billion smaller than last year.  This is the trade measure that is most important for calculating real GDP.
Implications:  Exports boomed in July, helping push down the trade deficit far more than the consensus expected. In fact, of the 74 economic groups that forecast the trade deficit, none thought it would be this low. Exports of autos and related parts led the way but exports also increased substantially for oil and capital goods outside the auto sector, such as telecomm equipment. We still have two months to go, but it looks like trade will make a positive contribution to real GDP growth in the third quarter, which is so far shaping up much better than the first half of the year. Meanwhile, revisions to prior months – for both trade and construction – suggest real GDP growth will be revised up slightly for Q2. Beneath the headlines, the total volume of international trade in and out of the US – imports plus exports – rebounded in July after a temporary setback in June. We expect the total volume of trade to continue on an upward trend in the second half of the year. In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment insurance increased 2,000 last week to 414,000. Continuing claims for regular state benefits dropped 30,000 to 3.72 million. These numbers are not at all consistent with a recession.
23907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ajami: From 911 to Arab Spring on: September 08, 2011, 10:47:21 AM
The Arabic word shamata has its own power. The closest approximation to it is the German schadenfreude—glee at another's misfortune. And when the Twin Towers fell 10 years ago this week, there was plenty of glee in Arab lands—a sense of wonder, bordering on pride, that a band of young Arabs had brought soot and ruin onto American soil.

The symbols of this mighty American republic—the commercial empire in New York, the military power embodied by the Pentagon—had been hit. Sweets were handed out in East Jerusalem, there were no tears shed in Cairo for the Americans, more than three decades of U.S. aid notwithstanding. Everywhere in that Arab world—among the Western-educated elite as among the Islamists—there was unmistakable satisfaction that the Americans had gotten their comeuppance.

There were sympathetic vigils in Iran—America's most determined enemy in the region—and anti-American belligerence in the Arab countries most closely allied with the United States. This occasioned the observation of the noted historian Bernard Lewis that there were pro-American regimes with anti-American populations, and anti-American regimes with pro-American populations.

I traveled to Jeddah and Cairo in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In the splendid homes of wealthy American-educated businessmen, in the salons of perfectly polished men and women of letters, there was no small measure of admiration for Osama bin Laden. He was the avenger, the Arabs had been at the receiving end of Western power, and now the scales were righted. "Yes, but . . . ," said the Arab intellectual class, almost in unison. Those death pilots may have been zealous, but now the Americans know, and for the first time, what it means to be at the receiving end of power.

Very few Arabs believed that the landscape all around them—the tyrannical states, the growing poverty, the destruction of what little grace their old cities once possessed, the war across the generations between secular fathers and Islamist children—was the harvest of their own history. It was easier to believe that the Americans had willed those outcomes.

In truth, in the decade prior to 9/11, America had paid the Arab world scant attention. We had taken a holiday from history's exertions. But the Arabs had hung onto their belief that a willful America disposed of their fate. The Arab regimes possessed their own sources of power—fearsome security apparatuses, money in the oil states, official custodians of religion who gave repression their seal of approval.

Enlarge Image

CloseAFP/Getty Images
Demonstrators in Instanbul hold a Syrian flag in support of the protests in Syria.
.But it was more convenient to trace the trail across the ocean, to the United States. Mohammed Atta, who led the death pilots, was a child of the Egyptian middle class, a lawyer's son, formed by the disappointments of Egypt and its inequities. But there was little of him said in Egypt. The official press looked away.

There was to be no way of getting politically conscious Arabs to accept responsibility for what had taken place on 9/11. Set aside those steeped in conspiracy who thought that these attacks were the work of Americans themselves, that thousands of Jews had not shown up at work in the Twin Towers on 9/11. The pathology that mattered was that of otherwise reasonable men and women who were glad for America's torment. The Americans had might, but were far away. Now the terrorism, like a magnet, drew them into Arab and Muslim lands. Now they were near, and they would be entangled in the great civil war raging over the course of Arab and Muslim history.

The masters and preachers of terror had told their foot soldiers, and the great mass on the fence, that the Americans would make a run for it—as they had in Lebanon and Somalia, that they didn't have the stomach for a fight. The Arabs barely took notice when America struck the Taliban in Kabul. What was Afghanistan to them? It was a blighted and miserable land at a safe distance.

But the American war, and the sense of righteous violation, soon hit the Arab world itself. Saddam Hussein may not have been the Arab idol he was a decade earlier, but he was still a favored son of that Arab nation, its self-appointed defender. The toppling of his regime, some 18 months or so after 9/11, had brought the war closer to the Arabs. The spectacle of the Iraqi despot flushed out of his spider hole by American soldiers was a lesson to the Arabs as to the falseness and futility of radicalism.

It is said that "the east" is a land given to long memory, that there the past is never forgotten. But a decade on, the Arab world has little to say about 9/11—at least not directly. In the course of that Arab Spring, young people in Tunisia and Egypt brought down the dreaded dictators. And in Libya, there is the thrill of liberty, delivered, in part, by Western powers. In the slaughter-grounds of Syria, the rage is not directed against foreign demons, but against the cruel rulers who have robbed that population of a chance at a decent life.

America held the line in the aftermath of 9/11. It wasn't brilliant at everything it attempted in Arab lands. But a chance was given the Arabs to come face to face, and truly for the first time, with the harvest of their own history. Now their world is what they make of it.

Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and co-chair of the Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.
23908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fonda's fantasy: to have fuct Che Guevara on: September 08, 2011, 10:31:33 AM
Not a very good piece of writing in my opinion, but , , ,

Humberto Fontova   
Jane Fonda's Crush on Che Guevara
9/7/2011 | Email Humberto Fontova | Columnist's Archive Sign-Up  A new biography of Jane Fonda by Patricia Bosworth reveals a lifelong lament by the famous actress: “My biggest regret” Fonda is quoted during a “feminist consciousness-raising session,” according to the book’s account, “is I never got to f*** Che Guevara.”

In case you read Townhall, Ms Fonda, here’s some consolation, honey: “I used to call him El Gallo (the rooster)” recalled Carlos Figueroa who was Ernesto Guevara’s adolescent friend in Alta Gracia, Argentina. “I’d be visiting him and eating in his family’s dining room and whenever the poor servant girls would enter Ernesto would promptly grab her and force her to lay on the dining room table where he’d have rapid intercourse with her. Immediately afterwards he’d throw her out and continue eating as if nothing had happened.”

“Es un gallo—un gallo! (He’s a rooster!—rooster”) complained a scowling Berta Gonzalez a few years later upon emerging from her Mexico City bedroom summer of 1955. This was shortly after his Motorcycle Diary trip, when the hobo Ernesto Guevara was scribbling unreadable poetry and mooching off women in Mexico City, where he met Fidel and Raul Castro. Berta Gonzalez was a Cuban exile in Mexico at the time.

Gallo, as you might have guessed, is a common pejorative by Spanish-speaking women against men who terminate carnal encounters prematurely.

Alas, how the feminist sessionists reacted to Ms Fonda’s above-mentioned confession, and thus, the “raising of their consciousness,” is not mentioned in the book. But we can guess. After all, feminist swooning over Cuban Stalinism started early, and by the feminist movement’s very founders.

“Not only is (the Cuban Revolution) a great success but an example for the rest of the world!” gushed Simon De Beauvoir in March 1960. Her bellhop, Jean Paul Sartre, was not to be outdone. He crowned Che Guevara “the era’s most perfect man.” These “intellectual” hyperventilations 1960 set the tone for future ones of everyone from Maxine Waters’ to Jimmy Carter and from Ted Turner’s to George Mc Govern’s, and from Barbara Walters’ to Andrea Mitchell’s.

“Fidel Castro is old-fashioned, courtly–even paternal, a thoroughly fascinating figure!” (NBC’s Andrea Mitchell)

Alas, Cuban feminists view the Cuban Revolution somewhat differently from Hollywood, Georgetown and Manhattan feminists. When feminist icon Barbara Walters sat quivering alongside Fidel Castro in 1977 cooing: “Fidel Castro has brought very high literacy and great health-care to his country. His personal magnetism is powerful!” dozens of Cuban feminists suffered in torture chambers within walking distance of the hyperventilating Ms Barbara Walters.

“They started by beating us with twisted coils of wire recalls former political prisoner Ezperanza Pena from exile today. “I remember Teresita on the ground with all her lower ribs broken. Gladys had both her arms broken. Doris had her face cut up so badly from the beatings that when she tried to drink, water would pour out of her lacerated cheeks.”

“On Mother’s Day they allowed family visits,” recalls, Manuela Calvo from exile today.” But as our mothers and sons and daughters were watching, we were beaten with rubber hoses and high-pressure hoses were turned on us, knocking all of us the ground floor and rolling us around as the guards laughed and our loved-ones screamed helplessly.”

“When female guards couldn’t handle us male guards were called in for more brutal beatings. I saw teen-aged girls beaten savagely their bones broken their mouths bleeding,” recalls prisoner Polita Grau.

The gallant regime co-founded by Che Guevara jailed 35,150 Cuban women for political crimes, a totalitarian horror utterly unknown—not only in Cuba—but in the Western Hemisphere until the regime so “magnetic” to Barbara Walters, Andrea Mitchell, Diane Sawyer, Jane Fonda, etc. Some of these Cuban ladies suffered twice as long in Castro’s Gulag as Alexander Solzhenitsyn suffered in Stalin’s.

Their prison conditions were described by former political prisoner Maritza Lugo. “The punishment cells measure 3 feet wide by 6 feet long. The toilet consists of an 8 inch hole in the ground through which cockroaches and rats enter, especially in cool temperatures the rat come inside to seek the warmth of our bodies and we were often bitten. The suicide rate among women prisoners was very high.”

Upon the death of Raul Castro’s wife Vilma Espin in 2006 the Washington Post gushed that: “she was a champion of women’s rights and greatly improved the status of women in Cuba, a society known for its history of machismo.” Actually, in 1958 Cuba had more female college graduates as a percentage of population than the U.S.

This Castroite “improvement of status” and “good life “for Cuban women also somehow tripled Cuban women’s pre-revolution suicide rate, making Cuban women the most suicidal on earth. This according to a 1998 study by scholar Maida Donate-Armada that uses some of the Cuban regime’s own figures.

On Christmas Eve of 1961 a Cuban woman named Juana Diaz spat in the face of the executioners who were binding and gagging her. Castro and Che’s Russian-trained secret police had found her guilty of feeding and hiding “bandits” (Cuban rednecks who took up arms to fight the Stalinist theft of their land to build Soviet –style Kolkhozes.) When the blast from Castroite firing squad demolished her face and torso Juana was six months pregnant.

Thousands upon thousands of Cuban women have drowned, died of thirst or have been eaten alive by sharks attempting to flee the Washington Post’s dutifully transcribed “improvement of status.” This from a nation formerly richer than half the nations of Europe and deluged by immigrants from same.

In 1962, a Cuban Catholic nun named Aida Rosa Perez was overheard in a private conversation saying things about Fidel Castro and Che Guevara similar (but milder) than those Jane Fonda and Joy Behar trumpet about Republicans. Sister Rosa Perez was sentenced to 12 years at hard labor. Two years into her, while toiling in the sun inside Castro's Gulag and surrounded by leering guards, Sister Rosa collapsed from a heart attack.

The Cuban Archive project headed Mrs Maria Werlau has fully documented the firing squad executions of 11 Cuban women in the early days of the regime. Another 219 women died from various brutalities and tortures while in prison. The Taliban has nothing on the regime co-founded by Che Guevara. So I trust you’ll excuse these Cuban ladies if they regard the “struggles” of Betty Freidan, Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda as a trifle overblown. And for many of them, though it’s utterly ignored by the MSM, the feminist struggle continues.
23909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Baraq by the numbers on: September 08, 2011, 10:25:54 AM
When it comes to the economy, presidents, like quarterbacks, often get more credit or blame than they deserve. They inherit problems and policies that affect the economy well into their presidencies and beyond. Reagan inherited Carter's stagflation, George H.W. Bush twin financial crises (savings & loan and Third World debt), and their fixes certainly benefitted the Clinton economy.

President Obama inherited a deep recession and financial crisis resulting from problems that had been building for years. Those responsible include borrowers and lenders on Wall Street and Main Street, the Federal Reserve, regulatory agencies, ratings agencies, presidents and Congress.

Mr. Obama's successor will inherit his deficits and debt (i.e., pressure for higher taxes), inflation and dollar decline. But fairly or not, historians document what occurred on your watch and how you dealt with your in-box. Nearly three years since his election and more than two years since the economic recovery began, Mr. Obama has enacted myriad policies at great expense to American taxpayers and amid political rancor. An interim evaluation is in order.

And there's plenty to evaluate: an $825 billion stimulus package; the Public-Private Investment Partnership to buy toxic assets from the banks; "cash for clunkers"; the home-buyers credit; record spending and budget deficits and exploding debt; the auto bailouts; five versions of foreclosure relief; numerous lifelines to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; financial regulation and health-care reform; energy subsidies, mandates and moratoria; and constant demands for higher tax rates on "the rich" and businesses.

Consider the direct results of the Obama programs. A few have performed better than expected—e.g., the auto bailouts, although a rapid private bankruptcy was preferable and GM and Chrysler are not yet denationalized successes. But the failed stimulus bill cost an astounding $280,000 per job—over five times median pay—by the administration's inflated estimates of jobs "created or saved," and much more using more realistic estimates.

Cash for clunkers cost $3 billion, just to shift car sales forward a few months. The Public-Private Investment Partnership, despite cheap federal loans, generated 3% of the $1 trillion claimed, and toxic assets still hobble some financial institutions. The Dodd-Frank financial reform law institutionalized "too big to fail" amid greater concentration of banking assets and mortgages in Fannie and Freddie. The foreclosure relief program permanently modified only a small percentage of the four million mortgages the president promised. And even Mr. Obama now admits that the shovels weren't ready in all those "shovel-ready" stimulus projects.

Perpetually overpromising and underdelivering is not remotely good enough, not even for government work. No corporate CEO could survive such a clear history of failure. The economic records set on Mr. Obama's watch really are historic (see nearby table). These include the first downgrade of sovereign U.S. debt in American history, and, relative to GDP, the highest federal spending in U.S. history save the peak years of World War II, plus the highest federal debt since just after World War II.

The employment picture doesn't look any better. The fraction of the population working is the lowest since 1983. Long-term unemployment is by far the highest since the Great Depression. Job growth during the first two years of recovery after a severe recession is the slowest in postwar history.

Moreover, the home-ownership rate is the lowest since 1965 and foreclosures are at a post-Depression high. And perhaps most ominously, the share of Americans paying income taxes is the lowest in the modern era, while dependency on government is the highest in U.S. history.

That's quite a record, although not what Mr. Obama and his supporters had in mind when they pronounced this presidency historic.

Enlarge Image

Close...President Obama constantly reminds us, with some justification, that he was dealt a difficult hand. But the evidence is overwhelming that he played it poorly. His big government spending, debt and regulation fix has clearly failed. Relative to previous recoveries from deep recessions, the results are disastrous. A considerable fraction of current joblessness, lower living standards, dependency on government and destroyed savings is the result. Worse, his debt explosion will be a drag on economic growth for years to come.

Mr. Obama was never going to enthusiastically embrace pro-market, pro-growth policies. But many of his business and Wall Street supporters (some now former supporters) believed he would govern more like President Clinton, post-1994. After a stunning midterm defeat, Mr. Clinton embarked on an "era of big government is over" collaboration with a Republican Congress to reform welfare, ratify the North American Free Trade Agreement and balance the budget. But Mr. Obama starts far further left than Mr. Clinton and hence has a much longer journey to the center.

The president still has time to rebound from his economic policy missteps by promoting permanent, predictable policies to strengthen forecasted anemic growth. But do Mr. Obama and his advisers realize their analysis of the economic crisis was flawed and their attempted solutions mostly misconceived? That vast spending, temporary tax rebates and social engineering did little of lasting value at immense cost? That the prospect of ever more regulation and taxation created widespread uncertainty and severely damaged incentives and confidence? That the repeated attempts to prevent markets (e.g., the housing market) from naturally bottoming and rebounding have created confusion and inhibited recovery?

Can Mr. Obama change course, given the evidence that the economy responded poorly to top-down direction from Washington rather than the bottom-up individual initiative that is the key to strong growth? Is he willing to rein in the entitlement state erected under radically different economic and demographic conditions? And will he reform the corporate and personal income taxes with much lower rates on a broader base? Or is he going to propose the same failed policies—more spending, social engineering, temporary tax cuts and permanent tax hikes?

On the answer to these questions, much of Mr. Obama's, and the nation's, future rests.

Mr. Boskin, a professor of economics at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.

23910  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guide Dog Opening Martial Arts School in Pomona, California on: September 08, 2011, 10:22:16 AM

Sorry for my geographic ignorance.  Would Surf Dog in Hemet be of practical use to you?  Or Beowulf and Fu Dog in Moreno Valley?

23911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: Baraq's record and some American jews. on: September 08, 2011, 10:14:32 AM

US election season is clearly upon us as US President Barack Obama has moved into full campaign mode. Part and parcel of that mode is a new bid to woo Jewish voters and donors upset by Obama's hostility to Israel back in the Democratic Party's fold.

To undertake this task, the White House turned to its reliable defender, columnist Jeffrey Goldberg. Since 2008, when then-candidate Obama was first challenged on his anti-Israel friends, pastors and positions, Goldberg has willingly used his pen to defend Obama to the American Jewish community.

Trying to portray Obama as pro-Israel is not a simple task. From the outset of his tenure in office, Obama has distinguished himself as the most anti-Israel president ever.

Obama is the first president ever to denounce Jewish property rights in Jerusalem. He is the first president to require Israel to deny Jews property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria as a precondition for peace talks with the Palestinians.

He is the first US president to adopt the position that Israel must surrender its right to defensible borders in the framework of a peace treaty. He has even made Israeli acceptance of this position a precondition for negotiations.

He is the first US president to accept Hamas as a legitimate actor in Palestinian politics. Obama's willingness to do so was exposed by his refusal to end US financial assistance to the PA in the aftermath of last spring's unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas.

He is the first US president to make US support for Israel at the UN conditional on Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.

Even today, Obama has refused to state outright whether or not he will veto a Security Council resolution later this month endorsing Palestinian statehood outside the context of a peace treaty with Israel. As he leaves Israel twisting in the wind, he has sent his chief Middle East Peace Processors Dennis Ross and David Hale to Israel to threaten Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into caving to US-Palestinian demands and beg PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to accept an Israeli surrender and cancel his plans to have the UN General Assembly upgrade the PLO's mission to the UN.

Given Obama's record - to which can be added his fervent support for Turkish Prime Minister and virulent anti-Semite Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his courtship of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and his massive weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Egypt - it is obvious that any attempt to argue that Obama is pro-Israel cannot be based on substance, or even on tone. And so Goldberg's article, like several that preceded it, is an attempt to distort Obama's record and deflect responsibility for that record onto Netanyahu. Netanyahu, in turn, is demonized as ungrateful and uncooperative.

Goldberg's narrative began by recalling Netanyahu's extraordinary statement during his photo opportunity with Obama at the Oval Office during his visit to Washington in May. At the time, Netanyahu gave an impassioned defense of Israel's right to secure borders and explained why the 1949 armistice lines are indefensible.

Goldberg centered on then-secretary of defense Robert Gates's angry statement to his colleagues in the wake of Netanyahu's visit. Gates reportedly accused Israel of being ungrateful for all the things the US did for it.

After presenting Gates as an objective critic whose views were justified and shared by one and all, Goldberg went on to claim that the administration's justified antipathy for Netanyahu was liable to harm Israel. That is, he claimed that it would be Netanyahu's fault if Obama abandoned traditional US support for Israel.

Goldberg's article is stunning on several levels. First, his distortion of events is breathtaking. Specifically he failed to note that Netanyahu's statement at the Oval Office was precipitated by Obama's decision to blindside Netanyahu with his announcement that the US supported an Israeli withdrawal to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines. Obama made the statement in a speech given while Netanyahu was en route to Washington.

Then there is his portrayal of Gates as an objective observer. Goldberg failed to mention that Gates's record has been consistently anti-Israel. In his Senate approval hearings during the Bush administration, Gates became the first senior US official to state publicly that Israel had a nuclear arsenal.

Gates was a member of the 2006 Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group that recommended the US pressure Israel to surrender Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights in order to appease the Arab world and pave the way for a US withdrawal from Iraq.

Gates did everything he could at the Pentagon to deny Israel the ability to attack Iran's nuclear installations. He was also a fervent advocate of massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia that upset the military balance in the Middle East.

The Obama administration bases its claims that it is pro-Israel on the fact that it has continued and expanded some of the joint US-Israel missile defense projects that were initiated by the Bush administration. Goldberg sympathetically recorded the argument.

But the truth is less sanguine. While jointly developing defensive systems, the administration has placed unprecedented restrictions on the export of offensive military platforms and technologies to Israel. Under Gates, Pentagon constraints on Israeli technology additions to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters nearly forced Israel to cancel its plans to purchase the aircraft.

It is an open question whether American Jews will be willing to buy the bill of goods the administration is trying to sell them through their media proxies in next year's presidential elections. But if next week's special elections for New York's Ninth Congressional District are any indication, the answer is apparently that an unprecedented number of American Jews are unwilling to ignore reality and support the most anti-Israel president ever.

The New York race is attracting great attention because it is serving as a referendum on Obama's policies toward Israel. The district, representing portions of Queens and Brooklyn, is heavily Jewish and has been reliably Democratic. And yet, a week before the elections, Republican candidate Bob Turner is tied in the polls with Democratic candidate David Weprin, and the main issue in the race is Obama's policies on Israel.

To sidestep criticism of the president's record, Weprin is seeking to distance himself from Obama. He refuses to say if he will support Obama's reelection bid. And he is as critical of Obama's record on Israel as his Republican opponent is.

But Turner's argument - that as a Democrat, Weprin will be forced to support his party and so support Obama - is gaining traction with voters. According to a McLaughlin poll of the district released on September 1, Turner's bid is gaining steam, and Weprin's is running out of steam, with Turner's favorability rates on the rise and Weprin's declining.

Deflecting substantive criticism by seeking to demonize one's opponents is a standard leftist play. Obama and his political supporters engage in it routinely in their demonization of their political opponents as "terrorists" and "extremists." And now, with the American Jewish vote in play for the first time since 1936, they are doing it to Netanyahu.

It is encouraging to see that at least in New York's Ninth Congressional District, American Jews are refusing to be taken in.
23912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Upcoming military cuts on: September 08, 2011, 09:59:28 AM
23913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Most Afgahanis do not know of 911 on: September 08, 2011, 09:07:07 AM

KABUL—The Sept. 11 attacks that triggered the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan also uprooted 16-year-old Abdul Ghattar from his village in war-torn Helmand province, bringing him to a desolate refugee camp on the edge of Kabul.

Yet Mr. Ghattar stared blankly when asked whether he knew about al Qaeda's strike on the U.S., launched a decade ago from Afghan soil.

"Never heard of it," he shrugged as he lined up for water at the camp's well, which serves thousands of fellow refugees. "I have no idea why the Americans are in my country."

In a nearby tent that is the camp's school, his teacher, 22-year-old Mullah Said Nabi Agha, didn't fare much better. He said he has never seen the iconic image of the Twin Towers burning. He was vaguely aware that some kind of explosion had occurred in America.

"I was a child when it happened, and now I am an adult, and the Americans are still here," Mr. Agha said. "I think the Americans did it themselves, so they could invade Afghanistan."

The teacher's view is by no means rare here. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, of course, are known to educated Afghans, and to many residents of big cities. But that isn't always the case elsewhere in a predominantly rural country where 42% of the population is under the age of 14, and 72% of adults are illiterate. With few villages reached by television or electricity, news here is largely spread by word of mouth.‬

Such opinions highlight a contrast between American and Afghan perspectives on the longest foreign war in U.S. history, one that killed thousands of Afghans and, at the latest count, claimed the lives of 1,760 U.S. troops.

They also explain the Taliban's ability to rally popular support—in part by seizing the narrative to portray the war not as one triggered by America's need for self-defense, but as one of colonial aggression by infidels lusting for Afghanistan's riches.

"The Islamic Emirate wages a lawful struggle for the defense of its religion, country and soil," the Taliban's leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, told Afghans last month on the occasion of the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday.

According to a survey of 15- to 30-year-old men in the two southern provinces where President Barack Obama sent the bulk of American surge troops, 92% of respondents said they didn't know about "this event which the foreigners call 9/11" after being read a three-paragraph description of the attacks.

"Nobody explained to them the 9/11 story—and it's hard to win the hearts and minds of the fighting-age males in Helmand if they don't even know why the foreigners are here," says Norine MacDonald, president of the International Council on Security and Development, the think tank that carried out the survey of 1,000 Afghan men in eight districts of Kandahar and Helmand. "There is a vacuum—and it's being filled by al Qaeda and Taliban propaganda claiming that we are here to destroy Islam."

Some Afghans who do know about the events of 2001 often subscribe to conspiracy theories, imported from Pakistan and Iran, that have long lost currency even in the Middle East.

Maulvi Abdulaziz Mujahed, an imam at Kabul's Takbir mosque who served as chairman of the Kabul provincial council in 2008 to 2009, said in a recent interview that the Sept. 11 attacks were a Jewish conspiracy, a view he says was reinforced by his 2009 visit to New York's Ground Zero.

"I saw the photos of all those who have been killed in the attacks, and I saw people bring flowers for their loved ones. But I couldn't find a single Jew among them," Mr. Mujahed said. "The superpowers wanted a good pretext to invade Afghanistan, and these attacks provided it."

Abdul Hakim Mujahid, the deputy chairman of the Afghan government's High Peace Council, a body created to negotiate a peaceful solution to the war, was in New York when the two jets struck the Twin Towers—in his capacity as the Taliban regime's semi-official envoy to the U.S. and the United Nations.

While Mr. Mujahid says he was saddened by the attacks, he says he still doesn't believe al Qaeda was responsible for "the unfortunate incident."

"After 9/11, the whole world rushed to Afghanistan, and the people of Afghanistan were under the illusion that everything would be changed: The roads would be paved black, the houses would be painted white, the infrastructure rebuilt and the industries established," he says. "But gradually these expectations have come down, and now have reached the point of zero. The people are asking: When will the foreigners finally leave?"

Not every Afghan subscribes to the conspiracy theories or wants the Americans to leave. At the campus of Kabul University, where young women and men mix in a setting unimaginable under Taliban rule, students said in interviews they were fully aware of the Sept. 11 attacks and saw the U.S. invasion as bringing benefits to Afghanistan. Many of them were ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks from the country's north—ethnic minorities discriminated against under the rule of the Taliban.

"Under the Taliban, Afghanistan was a terrorist haven, nobody could leave their house, and I wouldn't have been able to attend university," says Nasser Hasrab, a 20-year-old literature student from the northern Faryab province. "After the Soviets left we had a civil war, and I am afraid that if the Americans leave, the same would happen again."

Across town in the Herat restaurant—once the favorite hangout of Taliban leaders and al Qaeda militants—owner Abdulazim Niyazi, dressed in a Polo shirt and clutching a Samsung cellphone, pondered the momentous change of the past decade.

Because TV was banned under the Taliban, there was no particular celebration or commotion in the restaurant on Sept. 11, 2001, he said. Since then, Mr. Niyazi complained, boomtown Kabul has been swamped with corruption, prostitution and vice. More importantly, his business has soured.

"Under the Taliban, we were the only place," he said. "Now, Kabul is filled with restaurants."

—Habib Khan Totakhil contributed to this article.
23914  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / En su defensa, El Vicentillo acusa a los EUA on: September 08, 2011, 09:02:58 AM
Suspect Accuses U.S. of Aiding Mexican Cartel: Unlikely, but Clever Defense
September 7, 2011

By Scott Stewart

Many people interested in security in Mexico and the Mexican cartels will turn their attention to Chicago in the next few days. Sept. 11 is the deadline for the U.S. government to respond to a defense discovery motion filed July 29 in the case of Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, aka “El Vicentillo.” El Vicentillo is the son of Ismail “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, a principal leader of the Sinaloa Federation. While not as well-known as his partner, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, El Mayo nevertheless is a very powerful figure in Mexico’s cartel underworld, and one of the richest men in Mexico.

The Mexican military arrested El Vicentillo in March 2009 in an exclusive Mexico City neighborhood. Grand juries in Chicago and Washington had indicted El Vicentillo on drug smuggling charges, prompting the United States to seek his extradition from Mexico. Upon his February 2010 extradition, it was decided he would first face the charges pending against him in the Northern District of Illinois. According to the Justice Department, El Vicentillo is “one of the most significant Mexican drug defendants extradited from Mexico to the United States since Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the accused leader of the notorious Gulf Cartel, was extradited in 2007.”

The Zambada legal team’s July 29 motion caused quite a stir by claiming that the U.S. government had cut a deal with the Sinaloa Federation via the group’s lawyer, Humberto Loya Castro, in which El Chapo and El Mayo would provide intelligence to the U.S. government regarding rival cartels. In exchange, the U.S. government would not interfere in Sinaloa’s drug trafficking and would not seek to apprehend or prosecute Loya, El Chapo, El Mayo and the rest of the Sinaloa leadership — a deal reportedly struck without the Mexican government’s knowledge.

The allegations generated such a buzz in part because they came so soon after revelations that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Justice Department had permitted guns illegally purchased in the United States to “walk” into Mexico in an operation called “Fast and Furious.” Marked differences separate the two cases, however, making the existence of any deal between Sinaloa and the U.S. government highly unlikely. Accordingly, the government will likely deny the allegations in its impending response. Even so, the July 29 allegations still could prove useful for El Vicentillo’s defense strategy.

A History of Seizures and Arrests

The many seizures and arrests during the period El Vicentillo’s attorneys allege the truce was in effect — which the motion says began no later than January 2004 — are the first factor undermining the allegations. For example, in February 2007 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced the culmination of “Operation Imperial Emperor,” a 20-month investigation directed against the Sinaloa Federation that resulted in 400 arrests and netted 18 tons of drugs and $45 million in cash. In 2009, the DEA announced the conclusion of “Operation Xcellerator,” a multiagency counternarcotics investigation that involved the arrests of more than 750 alleged Sinaloa Federation members and confederates across the United States over a 21-month period and the seizure of 23 tons of narcotics and $53 million in cash.

The Northern District of Illinois indictment of El Vicentillo and other Sinaloa leaders contains a long list showing that the U.S. government seized thousands of kilograms of cocaine and more than $19 million in cash in the district alone from 2005 to 2008.

And these are just a few examples of Sinaloa’s losses during the time the DEA allegedly turned a blind eye to the cartel’s smuggling activities. Based on the size and scope of these Sinaloa losses in manpower, narcotics and cash, it is hard to imagine that anyone affiliated with that organization honestly thinks the DEA gave Sinaloa a pass to traffic narcotics.

It’s the Politics, Stupid

The second element militating against the allegation that the U.S. government entered into an agreement with the Sinaloa Federation is politics. Such an agreement would be political suicide for any attorney general or DEA administrator and the president they served were it ever disclosed. And as anyone who has worked inside the Beltway knows, secrets are very hard to keep — especially because of the length of time alleged by the defense in this case and because the period spanned multiple U.S. administrations involving two political parties.

Not only are such secrets hard to keep at the top levels of an administration, they are tough to keep at the street level, too. Notably, the first information about Fast and Furious came from rank-and-file ATF special agents incensed that guns were being allowed to walk. These agents leaked information regarding the program to reporters. The same dynamic certainly would have emerged among street-level DEA, FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who had spent their careers attempting to stem the flow of narcotics. These agents would not have just sat by and watched narcotics shipments walk into the United States. Thus, if a long-standing relationship between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Federation really existed, the story most likely would not have emerged first from a Mexican drug trafficker.

And U.S. attorneys certainly take political considerations into account. They do not like to lose high-profile cases and enjoy much prosecutorial leeway, meaning they can decline cases they are likely to lose. The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois is Patrick Fitzgerald, who is no stranger to high-profile cases. He served as the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak investigation, and he oversaw the prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. As an assistant U.S. attorney in New York, Fitzgerald was involved in the prosecution of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and members of the Gambino crime family.

It is highly unlikely a U.S. attorney of Fitzgerald’s experience would have pushed for such a high-profile case had he known of an agreement between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Federation. Instead, he could have sat back and allowed the U.S. attorney in Washington to take the first crack at El Vicentillo — and deal with the fallout. That Fitzgerald pressed to prosecute this case suggests no deal existed — as does the fact that the U.S. government pressed so hard for his extradition; why would a government seek an extradition that would cause major embarrassment?

When taking politics into account, it is also critical to remember the looming 2012 U.S. elections. Republican lawmakers have hammered the Obama administration over Fast and Furious, holding several high-profile congressional hearings on the subject. The Obama administration and congressional Democrats certainly have investigated the Zambada defense team’s allegations. Any truth to the allegation that the Bush administration had cut a deal with the Sinaloa Federation almost certainly would have prompted high-profile hearings by Democratic lawmakers in the Senate to reveal the truth — and to offset negative publicity from Fast and Furious.

That no hearings publicizing the allegations have been forthcoming is very revealing. The issue of publicity itself points toward another potential motive for the defense claims.

Legal Dream Team II

Wealthy defendants naturally seek the best representation money can buy, and that has held true in this case. Court filings indicate that El Vincentillo has retained a host of high-profile criminal defense attorneys, including New York attorneys Edward Panzer and George Santangelo, who have previously defended John Gotti and other members of the Gambino crime family; Los Angeles lawyer Alvin Michaelson, who has represented defendants such as former Los Angeles Mafia boss Dominic Brooklier; and Tucson defense attorney Fernando Gaxiola, a Spanish-speaking attorney who has worked several high-profile cases related to border crime.

A defense attorney’s prime objective is to sow doubt regarding a defendant’s guilt in the minds of jurors. In high-profile cases, big-money attorneys begin that task well ahead of trial with potential jurors. One means of accomplishing this is with a court motion certain to attract much media attention — like a motion claiming that the U.S. government allowed the Sinaloa Federation to smuggle tons of narcotics into the United States. Such charges also put the question of government integrity on trial.

The legal memorandum filed in support of the discovery motion in the present case stands out not only because it mistakenly refers to El Vicentillo’s father as “Ismael Zambada-Niebla” several times instead of consistently using his real name, Ismael Zambada Garcia, and incorrectly refers to the defendant as “Vicente Jesus Zambada Niebla,” but also because of its focus. It is very general, providing few details regarding the alleged agreement between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Federation. It does not identify a single person who allegedly met with Loya or El Vicentillo and who claimed to speak on behalf of the U.S. government.

Normally, high-level confidential informants must sign detailed agreements delineating the criminal activities in which they are allowed to engage, in accordance with the attorney general’s guidelines on the use of such informants. Typically, such authorizations run for 90-day periods, and the respective law enforcement agency is tasked with exercising careful supervision over the informant’s activities. The process described in the defense memorandum sharply deviates from this typical U.S. law enforcement practice, with the Sinaloa leadership allegedly receiving free rein and immunity for years.

It is certainly possible that members of the Sinaloa Federation provided information to the U.S. and Mexican governments about the activities of rival drug cartels. El Chapo is well-known for using governments as a tool against his enemies, and even against potential rivals within his own organization like Alfredo Beltran Leyva and Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal. Still, it is quite unlikely the Sinaloa leadership ever had a working source relationship with the DEA.

Large portions of the discovery request also focus on obtaining documents from the Fast and Furious hearings, and the defense team appears to be attempting to establish that if the U.S. government was willing to let guns walk in Fast and Furious, it also would be willing to let narcotics walk into the United States. In the words of the defense memorandum:

Essentially, the theory of the United States government in waging its “war on drugs” has been and continues to be that the “end justifies the means” and that it is more important to receive information about rival drug cartels’ activities from the Sinaloa Cartel in return for being allowed to continue their criminal activities, including and not limited to their smuggling of tons of illegal narcotics into the United States.

In practical terms, however, the concept behind Fast and Furious was quite different from the allegations made by El Vicentillo’s defense. The idea behind Fast and Furious was to allow low-level gunrunners to walk so law enforcement could trace the big players for subsequent arrest. In Fast and Furious, ATF agents never dealt with high-level gun dealers or cartel leaders; such individuals were the target of the ill-fated operation. Fast and Furious also was not nearly as wide-ranging or as long-lived as the alleged deal with the Sinaloa leadership. It also did not promise immunity from prosecution to cartel leaders.

The two cases thus are starkly different. But if the press can be persuaded to equate the two and widely disseminate this view to the public over the next few months, the defense team may have an easier time sowing a reasonable doubt in the minds of potential jurors. El Vicentillo’s trial begins in February 2012, which means that any publicity surrounding the case could reach potential jurors. And even if the government shows they are false, the allegations are likely to have a long shelf-life among conspiracy-minded individuals and Internet sites. As such, they will continue to be useful in El Vicentillo’s defense efforts.

23915  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Fed thinking of further mischief on: September 08, 2011, 08:58:42 AM
Federal Reserve officials are considering three unconventional steps to revive the economic recovery and seem increasingly inclined to take at least one as they prepare to meet this month.

Worries about inflation at the Fed have receded in recent weeks and economic data have worsened, putting officials on the lookout for ways to spur economic growth and improve financial conditions.

Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks Thursday in Minneapolis, and is likely to reiterate that the central bank is studying all its options, before officials meet Sept. 20 and 21.

Other Fed officials, meanwhile, are expressing support for additional action.

"The real threat is an economy that is at risk of stalling and the prospect of many years of very high unemployment," John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in remarks Wednesday.

New measures could offer "protection against further deterioration in the patient's condition and perhaps help him get back on his feet."

 .The Fed's roundup of regional economic conditions, released Wednesday, described the economy as growing modestly with pockets of weakening activity, waning price pressures and high levels of uncertainty among businesses.

In normal times the Fed moves its target for the federal-funds rate— at which banks lend to each other overnight—to influence borrowing, investment and spending. But that rate already is near zero. The Fed also has purchased $2.325 trillion of Treasury bonds and mortgage debt to push long-term interest rates down.

Though officials aren't certain to take new steps this month, they are looking at alternatives to that controversial bond-buying, known as "quantitative easing." One step getting considerable attention inside and outside the Fed would shift the central bank's portfolio of government bonds so that it holds more long-term securities and fewer short-term securities.

The move—known to some in markets as "Operation Twist" and to some inside the Fed as "maturity extension"—is meant to further push down long-term interest rates and thus encourage economic activity. The program draws its name from a similar 1960s effort by the U.S. Treasury and the Fed, in which they tried to "twist" interest rates so that long-term rates were lower relative to short-term rates.

Anticipation of the move—along with grim economic news and the Fed's public plan to keep short-term interest rates near zero through 2013—has helped push yields on 10-year Treasury notes, above 3% in late July, to around 2%.

Report Paints Gloomy Picture on Growth
Economic Plans Unlikely to Deliver Fix
Fed's Rosengren Willing to Consider Action if Economy Doesn't Improve
.Although some consumers and businesses are unable or unwilling to borrow more at any interest rate, several Fed officials believe pushing rates still lower can help on the margin.

"There are still some businesses that at a lower cost of funds are going to make investment decisions and hiring decisions based on an ability to lock in those funds at a lower rate," Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said in an interview.

He lists the program as one that should be considered. "There are people that will be buying homes or refinancing homes" if long-term rates are lower.

Such a step may meet internal resistance. Mr. Rosengren is among a contingent of Fed "doves" who are less worried about inflation and believe the Fed needs to take stronger action to bring down unemployment.

Not everyone agrees, and Mr. Bernanke is striving to build consensus, which makes the decision-making fluid.

Three of the five regional bank presidents who have a vote on monetary policy dissented in August because they didn't want the Fed to pledge to keep interest rates low for another two years, as it chose to do. They seem likely to resist additional actions. "It is unlikely that the [economic] data in September will warrant adding still more accommodation," Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota said in a speech Tuesday.

A second step under consideration at the Fed, one getting mixed reviews internally, would reduce or eliminate a 0.25% interest rate the Fed currently is paying banks that keep cash on reserve with the central bank.

The 0.25% payment is greater than the 0.196% rate an investor can get on a two-year Treasury. Some officials believe the Fed shouldn't reward banks for holding cash instead of making loans.

"I'm not especially pleased with the way that policy tool is working at the moment," Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said in a recent interview. Mr. Rosengren said cutting that rate could give banks more incentive to lend and would further signal the Fed's determination to get the economy going.

Other Fed officials believe that reducing the rate wouldn't do much good because it is already so low, and might instead disturb short-term money markets.

A third step Fed officials are debating would involve using their words to make their economic objectives and plans for interest rates more clear.

Some officials felt the Fed's August pledge to keep rates low until 2013 wasn't specific enough about what was driving its thinking. They want the Fed to say what unemployment rate or inflation rate would trigger it to boost rates.

Mr. Bernanke has long favored a specific target for inflation. Some Fed officials, including Mr. Evans, want accompanying clarity for the Fed's unemployment objectives, recognizing the central bank's congressionally imposed mandate to pursue stable inflation and maximum employment.

Targeting unemployment is controversial inside the Fed. The central bank has control of inflation through its control of the nation's money supply.

But unemployment reflects many factors the Fed can't control, and thus some officials feel the central bank shouldn't set targets for it. Sorting out differences on this issue could take time.

The big step that tends to get a lot of attention in financial markets—a third round of bond buying by the central bank—remains an option, but doesn't have strong advocates inside the Fed now.

Some form of "Operation Twist" would be designed to accomplish some of the same objectives as more bond-buying, though most officials agree the effects would be limited.

An analysis by Goldman Sachs economists found that if the Fed replaces all its short-term holdings with long-term holdings, it would have a slightly smaller impact on financial markets than the Fed's $600 billion bond-buying program completed this year. That program seemed to boost stock prices, push down the dollar and help to hold down long-term interest rates, yet the economy stumbled not long after it was introduced. And there are risks—the program could make it harder for the Fed to tighten financial conditions later if inflation shoots higher.

Mr. Rosengren says the Fed should consider an even more radical measure, one not now among steps Mr. Bernanke has said he is evaluating: consider capping medium-term interest rates. If the economy worsens, he notes, the Fed could pledge to cap yields on Treasury bonds with maturities for as long as two years under a certain low level.

"If the economy were continuing to be weak or if we were to get an economic shock from abroad, then I think we would have to think of a variety of innovative ways to try to ensure that the economy picked up or do what we can with monetary policy to try to ensure that," Mr. Rosengren said. "You shouldn't think of us as only having one, two or three tools."

23916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: September 08, 2011, 08:46:20 AM
What remains a baffflement to me is how the reigning story on the recent game of chicken over raising the debt ceiling is to blame the Tea Party's takeover of the Reps and their collective failure to compromise when there were only $21B in cuts this year and $40-something billion in cuts next year-- not to mention that apparently Boener was willing to sign on for $800B in "revenues enhancements".


It is profoundly maddening that the Reps let this sort of thing happen again and again and again.
23917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Uh oh, where's the shoulder-fired missiles? on: September 08, 2011, 08:40:52 AM
TRIPOLI, Libya — The sign on the wall reads “Schoolbook Printing and Storage Warehouse,” but the fact that the double gates in the wall have been crudely ripped off suggests that something more interesting might be inside.

Workers loaded crates of mortar shells and ammunition on Wednesday from a large cache of weapons discovered in Tripoli.
It turns out that the only books to be found in any of the three large buildings in the walled compound are manuals — how to fire rocket launchers and wire-guided missiles, among others. The buildings are actually disguised warehouses full of munitions — mortar shells, artillery rounds, anti-tank missiles and more — thousands of pieces of military ordnance that are completely unguarded more than two weeks after the fall of the capital.

Perhaps most interesting of all is what is no longer there, but until recent days apparently was: shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles of the type that could be used by terrorists to shoot down civilian airliners. American authorities have long been concerned that Libyan missiles could easily find their way onto the black market.

These missiles, mostly SA-7b Grails, as NATO refers to them, have been spotted in Libya before and are well known to have been sold to the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi by former Eastern bloc countries. The evidence at the schoolbook warehouse confirms just how large those quantities were. It also raises questions about how many of them may have been purloined by rebels, criminals or smugglers.

Matthew Schroeder, who researches heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles and their proliferation for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, said the discovery of yet another looted arms depot in Libya was cause for concern, especially depots that contained what security specialists call Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems, or Manpads.

Western governments and nongovernment organizations have repeatedly asked and prodded the rebel government, the Transitional National Council, to take steps to secure the vast stockpiles of arms that it has inherited, apparently to little avail.

“Claims that depots holding Manpads and other dangerous weapons are still not being properly secured are very worrisome and should be thoroughly investigated,” Mr. Schroeder said. “In cases where stockpile security is found to be lacking, immediate steps should be taken to correct any deficiencies.”

In Washington, President Obama’s top counterterrorism official, John O. Brennan, said that the spread of shoulder-fired missiles and other weapons from Libya’s arsenal posed “a lot of concerns,” and that the United States had pressed the rebel government to secure weapons stockpiles. “Obviously, there are a lot of parts of that country right now that are ungoverned,” he said at a security conference.

A senior American military officer who follows Libya closely said it was puzzling that there had been so few documented instances in which Libyan loyalist troops launched shoulder-fired missiles at NATO aircraft.   “I’m not sure what that means,” the officer said.  “Fewer systems than we thought? Systems are inoperable? Few in Libya know how to operate them?”

The officer said it was also unclear whether Al Qaeda or other extremist groups had acquired the missiles, though he said intelligence analysts were assuming they had.   “But if they do, why haven’t they used or threatened to use?” the officer said.  “It’s all very murky right now.”

On Wednesday, a reporter for The New York Times, as well as a researcher for Human Rights Watch and other reporters who visited the scene, found 10 crates that had held two missiles each lying opened and empty. The crates were clearly labeled as coming from Russia.

“Other countries know these weapons are on the loose, and they will be trying to get their hands on them,” said a researcher for Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert.

He was particularly concerned with one crate, labeled “9M342,” the Russian designation for the SA-24 heat-seeking missile.

“These were some of the most advanced weaponry the Russians made,” Mr. Bouckaert said. Referring to the rebels who have taken control of Tripoli and to the international community, he added, “They need to get people here to secure some of this.”


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The SA-24 can be mounted on vehicle-based launchers or fired from a person’s shoulder via a much smaller launcher known as a grip stock. The latter configuration, of the same class of weapon as the American-made Stinger, is considered the gravest potential danger to civilian aircraft because the weapon is readily portable and relatively simple to conceal and use.

No grip stocks for SA-24s have yet been found in Libya, and the Russian manufacturer of the SA-24 has previously said that it did not sell any grip stocks to Colonel Qaddafi’s military. The SA-24s, it said, were sold only with vehicle-mounted launchers.
The SA-7, however, is a shoulder-fired missile. A Soviet-era weapon dating to the 1960s that remains in wide use and circulation, it has been implicated in several attacks on airliners over the years, including a failed attack on an Israeli charter plane.

Former Eastern bloc nations call it a Strela, for the Russian word for arrow. Nine of the freshly emptied crates found Wednesday were marked with the Eastern bloc designation for the Strela: 9M32M.

Libyan rebels have occasionally been spotted carrying SA-7s, though the weapon has no evident practical use to them, given that the Qaddafi air force was grounded by NATO months ago and that the only military aircraft confirmed in the Libyan skies have been the NATO planes supporting the rebels’ advances.

Although only nine crates holding two SA-7s each were found in the schoolbook warehouse, those crates were a part of what evidently were nine different consignments.

In all, those consignments added up to a total of 2,445 crates delivered from Russia to Tripoli, containing 4,890 missiles, according to markings on the crates. But there was no way to ascertain whether the other crates in those consignments had previously been in this warehouse, or in some other part of the country. Many of the other missiles may have been issued to the Qaddafi forces in the field, which for months had a need to defend against aerial attack.

The Times has previously documented that 5,270 SA-7b missiles had been delivered to Libya. Some of those shipments were part of the same consignments found Wednesday. But according to the stenciled markings on the newly found crates, at least 2,322 of the missiles appear to be from previously undiscovered consignments, meaning that at least 7,592 of the missiles had been sent to Libya. Estimates of the true total run as high as 20,000 such missiles.

A spokesman for the Libyan rebel military, Abdulrahman Busin, said the rebel authorities were aware of the schoolbook warehouse, which is only about a quarter-mile from the headquarters of the Khamis Brigade, an elite loyalist military unit headed by a son of Colonel Qaddafi. Mr. Busin said the rebel “military police” had probably removed the missiles.

“The military police were aware of this and they took charge of it; they’re the ones who secured it,” Mr. Busin said.

But if that was the case, he was unable to explain why the facility remained unguarded on Wednesday. And efforts were unsuccessful in contacting the head of the military police to confirm if his forces indeed had the missing missiles.
23918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 07, 2011, 08:22:30 PM
I'm listening to the Tea Party "debates" (actually a series of job interviews).  I'm very pleased with the format, the quality of the questions, and the quality of the answers so far (good job by Cain btw) -- just starting to listen to Newt.

23919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Where's the Firemen? on: September 07, 2011, 08:06:41 PM
In our darkest hour, they gave us hope—the firefighters of September 11. In the chaos at the World Trade Center, the rigs pulled up, the men climbed out, retrieved their roll-up hoses and marched stalwart to the towers. Carrying nearly a hundred pounds of equipment they climbed the stairs; flight after flight after flight. A woman in the North Tower, descending from the 89th floor said, "When I saw the firemen I knew we would be all right."

When they arrived at the base of the towers, there were jumpers by the score. Two firefighters, terribly, were struck. "There is no other way to put it," an EMS who witnessed it said, "they exploded."

And still they went in.

In the lobby of the towers the men gathered, awaiting their orders. Outside the bodies rained down. Before a blown out elevator lay two victims, their clothes burnt off, their bodies charred. The huge pane-glass windows were shattered, the stone walls cracked. There was a report that more planes had been hijacked; they were headed to New York.

And still they went up.

In the South Tower, Battalion Chief Oreo Palmer, a marathon runner, shed his heavy equipment and coat and ran up the stairs. By 10 a.m. he had reached the 78th floor, the point of the plane's impact. The fires raged. "Send up two engine companies," he radioed down, "and we'll knock this down." Minutes later the tower collapsed.

In the North Tower, four office workers, two young men and women, were crossing the lower lobby, heading for the exit where a firemen waved.

Then the South Tower collapsed.

Its debris blew into the North Tower, killing FDNY Chaplin Father Mychal Judge and destroying the lower lobby. The ceiling caved in and the lights were knocked out. Now injured and bloodied, the four office workers climbed out from beneath the debris. Breathing dust, they gazed about in the pitch blackness. They had made it all this way only to die steps from escape. Then they saw the light. The fireman at the exit was still there, waving his small flashlight. The four headed for it and made their way out.

As they crossed the plaza into the daylight, one of the men looked back. The fireman was still there, standing his ground in case others needed help. And there he undoubtedly was when the full 110-story tower came down upon him.

"Courage," Winston Churchill said, "is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others."

Three hundred and forty-three firefighters, 37 Port Authority police officers, 23 NYPD officers and three court officers died at the World Trade Center. In response, America and the world hailed their heroism and sacrifice. Firehouses across the city became virtual shrines. New Yorkers gathered on the West Side Highway at a place that came to be called "Gratitude Point" to thank the police, firefighters and iron workers as they traveled to and from Ground Zero. Professional ball players wore their caps. School children's drawings honored them.

For weeks ordinary New Yorkers and visitors from out of town attended their hundreds of memorial services across the city and area suburbs—and were grateful for the opportunity to do so. When they were held at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Fifth Avenue—New York's Main Street—came to a halt.

Who—especially on the 10th anniversary of their sacrifice—would deny the first responders their due and proper honor? New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His office says that because of the number of victims' family members attending there's not enough room to accommodate first responders at Ground Zero that day, though "we're working to find ways to recognize and honor first responders, and other groups, at different places and times." Different places and times?

When President Obama, after the killing of Osama bin Laden, visited New York City, he stopped by a Times Square firehouse that lost 15 men. Why did he do that? Later that day I had the opportunity to meet the president. I showed him a photo of my brother, FDNY Capt. Billy Burke, Engine Co. 21, who perished in the North Tower after refusing to leave the side of Ed Beyea, a computer programmer and wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. "I feel that the Navy Seals walked in the steps of my brother and all the other first responders of 9/11," I told him.

"That is just what I told the firefighters this morning," he replied.

The firemen, being who they are, would never complain or bring attention to themselves. I, however, am not a fireman. Just the son of one and the brother of another. To deny the firefighters and our first responders—these most humble and dedicated servants of New York—the opportunity to honor, at Ground Zero on 9/11, their lost brothers and sisters is atrocious.

Mr. Burke is the brother of Capt. William F. Burke Jr., Engine Co. 21, FDNY, who perished when the North Tower collapsed on September 11.

23920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJL Wikileaks lies with dogs and gets fleas on: September 07, 2011, 07:46:05 PM
The argument would be almost amusing if the potential consequences weren't so grave.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has accused the Guardian newspaper—one of the five news organizations with which he collaborated in publishing edited versions of confidential U.S. State Department cables—of disclosing the password to his entire, unredacted cache of 250,000 cables. They are now freely available on the Internet. Not so, replied an indignant Guardian, which insisted it had been assured by Mr. Assange that "it was a temporary password which would expire and be deleted in a matter of hours."

We're (somewhat) inclined to believe the Guardian on this one, especially since Mr. Assange seems to have made up his mind long ago to release all the files anyway. He has now done so, and the damage is already being felt: On Friday, Australia's attorney general confirmed that one of the cables gives away the name of an Australian intelligence officer. Expect many more covers blown, careers ruined and lives placed in jeopardy before all this is over.

Then again, there's a saying about sleeping with dogs, and the Guardian's editors are responsible for trusting Mr. Assange that the password they published would be changed. The paper and its fellow Wikileaks collaborators have now issued a joint statement in which they say they are "united in condemning" the release of the unredacted cables. "The decision to publish by Julian Assange was his, and his alone," they say. Maybe so. But they have been his witting—and unwitting—enablers, and the consequences of the latest disclosures rest on their shoulders, too
23921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Covenant on: September 07, 2011, 07:38:36 PM
The Covenant A Jewish Reflection on 9-11

Hat tip to our Rachel.

23922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: On Compromise on: September 07, 2011, 06:13:22 PM

With the opening of the fall political season and tonight's Republican candidate debate, expect influential conservative voices to clamor for fellow conservatives to set aside half-measures, eschew conciliation, and adhere to conservative principle in its pristine purity. But what does fidelity to conservatism's core convictions mean?

Superstar radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has, with characteristic bravado, championed a take-no-prisoners approach. In late July, as the debt-ceiling debate built to its climax, he understandably exhorted House Speaker John Boehner to stand strong and rightly praised the tea party for "putting country before party." But then Mr. Limbaugh went further. "Winners do not compromise," he declared on air. "Winners do not compromise with themselves. The winners who do compromise are winners who still don't believe in themselves as winners, who still think of themselves as losers."

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Republican presidential candidates at the last debate.
.We saw the results of such thinking in November 2010, when Christine O'Donnell was defeated by Chris Coons in Delaware in the race for Vice President Joe Biden's vacated Senate seat. In Nevada Sharron Angle was defeated by Harry Reid, who was returned to Washington to reclaim his position as Senate majority leader. In both cases, the Republican senatorial candidate was a tea party favorite who lost a very winnable election.

The notion of conservative purity is a myth. The great mission of American conservatism—securing the conditions under which liberty flourishes—has always depended on the weaving together of imperfectly compatible principles and applying them to an evolving and elusive political landscape.

William F. Buckley Jr.'s 1955 Mission Statement announcing the launch of National Review welcomed traditionalists, libertarians and anticommunists. His enterprise provides a model of a big-tent conservatism supported by multiple and competing principles: limited government, free markets, traditional morality and strong national defense.

These principles may appear harmonious. That's because they all served the cause of preserving freedom against the leading threats of the day: massive expansion of government, intrusive regulation of the economy, a breakdown of established sources of authority and belief, and communist tyranny. But harmony was an achievement. Just ask those who made a priority of limiting government about the impact of funding and maintaining a powerful military. Or inquire of a traditionalist what measures are necessary to maintain the virtues amidst the constant churn and cultural cacophony generated by capitalism.

Our greatest conservative president, Ronald Reagan, prudently wove together a devotion to limiting government and protecting the moral bases of a free society. But the policies he pursued were not mechanically derived from his principles. They stemmed from complex considerations concerning the necessary, the desirable and the possible. His landmark pro-growth tax cuts of 1981 were followed later by some tax increases. On divisive social issues such as abortion and school prayer, he offered strong words but restrained actions. And in confronting the Soviet Union, he insisted on the unmitigated evil of communism while pursuing dramatic negotiations to lessen the threat of nuclear conflagration, thereby paving the way to victory in the Cold War.

The intellectual architects of the American political and economic order were also blenders and weavers. For example, John Locke, the great 17th-century theorist of individual rights and limited government, argued in "The Second Treatise of Government" that in the event a father dies and fails to provide for the care and education of his son, the state must make provision.

And in "The Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith, the father of free-market economics, maintained that the public should offer and require an education for almost all. While it would be grossly misleading to designate Locke and Smith as founders of the modern welfare state, it would be negligent to overlook their teaching that beyond securing individual rights, governments devoted to freedom had interests in the welfare of their citizens.

Today, we are urged by tea party activists, and with excellent reason, to look to the authors of "The Federalist," the authoritative expounders of the Constitution, to recover the principles of limited government. But it is instructive to recall that in their day the makers of the American Constitution were the enlargers and strengtheners of federal power.

Hamilton, Madison and Jay defended the new Constitution not only because of the many and varied limitations it imposed on the exercise of power. They also defended it because, in contrast to the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution incorporated in the national government the power to operate without the regular intervention of state governments; assigned it ultimate authority in matters requiring uniformity, including regulation of trade and naturalization; and made it supreme over the states, including in judicial matters.

On issue after issue, fidelity to the variety of conservative principles imposes not only the obligation to blend and balance but also to give due weight to settled expectations and longstanding practices. For instance, an appreciation of these crisscrossing obligations should impel conservatives to work both to improve the public schools we have and to increase competition and parental choice among an array of options.

While developing cost-cutting and market-based reforms for health care, conservatives should frankly acknowledge, as does Rep. Paul Ryan in his bold plan, the importance of maintaining a minimum social safety net. And in the Middle East and elsewhere, conservatism encourages a vigilant search for opportunities to promote liberty while counseling that our knowledge is limited, our resources scarce and our attention span poor.

Compromise can be, and often is, the path of least resistance, the province of the mealy-mouthed, weak-kneed, and lily-livered. Yet when circumstances warrant—and they often will—compromise will be the considered choice of the steely-eyed and stouthearted.

Clarity about principles is critical. It enables one to spot the betrayal of core convictions. But contrary to the partisans of purity, in politics winning and compromise are not antithetical.

Mr. Berkowitz is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

23923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: The Other Climate theory on: September 07, 2011, 06:09:50 PM
In April 1990, Al Gore published an open letter in the New York Times "To Skeptics on Global Warming" in which he compared them to medieval flat-Earthers. He soon became vice president and his conviction that climate change was dominated by man-made emissions went mainstream. Western governments embarked on a new era of anti-emission regulation and poured billions into research that might justify it. As far as the average Western politician was concerned, the debate was over.

But a few physicists weren't worrying about Al Gore in the 1990s. They were theorizing about another possible factor in climate change: charged subatomic particles from outer space, or "cosmic rays," whose atmospheric levels appear to rise and fall with the weakness or strength of solar winds that deflect them from the earth. These shifts might significantly impact the type and quantity of clouds covering the earth, providing a clue to one of the least-understood but most important questions about climate. Heavenly bodies might be driving long-term weather trends.

The theory has now moved from the corners of climate skepticism to the center of the physical-science universe: the European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN. At the Franco-Swiss home of the world's most powerful particle accelerator, scientists have been shooting simulated cosmic rays into a cloud chamber to isolate and measure their contribution to cloud formation. CERN's researchers reported last month that in the conditions they've observed so far, these rays appear to be enhancing the formation rates of pre-cloud seeds by up to a factor of 10. Current climate models do not consider any impact of cosmic rays on clouds.

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A cutting-edge physics experiment at the European Organization for Nuclear Research has scientists' heads in the clouds.
.Scientists have been speculating on the relationship among cosmic rays, solar activity and clouds since at least the 1970s. But the notion didn't get a workout until 1995, when Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark came across a 1991 paper by Eigil Friis-Christensen and Knud Lassen, who had charted a close relationship between solar variations and changes in the earth's surface temperature since 1860.

"I had this idea that the real link could be between cloud cover and cosmic rays, and I wanted to try to figure out if it was a good idea or a bad idea," Mr. Svensmark told me from Copenhagen, where he leads sun-climate research at the Danish National Space Institute.

He wasn't the first scientist to have the idea, but he was the first to try to demonstrate it. He got in touch with Mr. Friis-Christensen, and they used satellite data to show a close correlation among solar activity, cloud cover and cosmic-ray levels since 1979.

They announced their findings, and the possible climatic implications, at a 1996 space conference in Birmingham, England. Then, as Mr. Svensmark recalls, "everything went completely crazy. . . . It turned out it was very, very sensitive to say these things already at that time." He returned to Copenhagen to find his local daily leading with a quote from the then-chair of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): "I find the move from this pair scientifically extremely naïve and irresponsible."

Mr. Svensmark had been, at the very least, politically naïve. "Before 1995 I was doing things related to quantum fluctuations. Nobody was interested, it was just me sitting in my office. It was really an eye-opener, that baptism into climate science." He says his work was "very much ignored" by the climate-science establishment—but not by CERN physicist Jasper Kirkby, who is leading today's ongoing cloud-chamber experiment.

On the phone from Geneva, Mr. Kirkby says that Mr. Svensmark's hypothesis "started me thinking: There's good evidence that pre-industrial climate has frequently varied on 100-year timescales, and what's been found is that often these variations correlate with changes in solar activity, solar wind. You see correlations in the atmosphere between cosmic rays and clouds—that's what Svensmark reported. But these correlations don't prove cause and effect, and it's very difficult to isolate what's due to cosmic rays and what's due to other things."

In 1997 he decided that "the best way to settle it would be to use the CERN particle beam as an artificial source of cosmic rays and reconstruct an artificial atmosphere in the lab." He predicted to reporters at the time that, based on Mr. Svensmark's paper, the theory would "probably be able to account for somewhere between a half and the whole" of 20th-century warming. He gathered a team of scientists, including Mr. Svensmark, and proposed the groundbreaking experiment to his bosses at CERN.

Then he waited. It took six years for CERN to greenlight and fund the experiment. Mr. Kirkby cites financial pressures for the delay and says that "it wasn't political."

Mr. Svensmark declines entirely to guess why CERN took so long, noting only that "more generally in the climate community that is so sensitive, sometimes science goes into the background."

By 2002, a handful of other scientists had started to explore the correlation, and Mr. Svensmark decided that "if I was going to be proved wrong, it would be nice if I did it myself." He decided to go ahead in Denmark and construct his own cloud chamber. "In 2006 we had our first results: We had demonstrated the mechanism" of cosmic rays enhancing cloud formation. The IPCC's 2007 report all but dismissed the theory.

Mr. Kirkby's CERN experiment was finally approved in 2006 and has been under way since 2009. So far, it has not proved Mr. Svensmark wrong. "The result simply leaves open the possibility that cosmic rays could influence the climate," stresses Mr. Kirkby, quick to tamp down any interpretation that would make for a good headline.

This seems wise: In July, CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer told Die Welt that he was asking his researchers to make the forthcoming cloud-chamber results "clear, however, not to interpret them. This would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate-change debate."

But while the cosmic-ray theory has been ridiculed from the start by those who subscribe to the anthropogenic-warming theory, both Mr. Kirkby and Mr. Svensmark hold that human activity is contributing to climate change. All they question is its importance relative to other, natural factors.

Through several more years of "careful, quantitative measurement" at CERN, Mr. Kirkby predicts he and his team will "definitively answer the question of whether or not cosmic rays have a climatically significant effect on clouds." His old ally Mr. Svensmark feels he's already answered that question, and he guesses that CERN's initial results "could have been achieved eight to 10 years ago, if the project had been approved and financed."

The biggest milestone in last month's publication may be not the content but the source, which will be a lot harder to ignore than Mr. Svensmark and his small Danish institute.

Any regrets, now that CERN's particle accelerator is spinning without him? "No. It's been both a blessing and the opposite," says Mr. Svensmark. "I had this field more or less to myself for years—that would never have happened in other areas of science, such as particle physics. But this has been something that most climate scientists would not be associated with. I remember another researcher saying to me years ago that the only thing he could say about cosmic rays and climate was it that it was a really bad career move."

On that point, Mr. Kirkby—whose organization is controlled by not one but 20 governments—really does not want to discuss politics at all: "I'm an experimental particle physicist, okay? That somehow nature may have decided to connect the high-energy physics of the cosmos with the earth's atmosphere—that's what nature may have done, not what I've done."

Last month's findings don't herald the end of a debate, but the resumption of one. That is, if the politicians purporting to legislate based on science will allow it.

Miss Jolis is an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.

23924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on Plan Romney on: September 07, 2011, 06:07:40 PM

Mitt Romney rolled out a major chunk of his economic agenda yesterday, and we'll say this for it: His ideas are better than President Obama's. Yet the 160 pages and 59 proposals also strike us as surprisingly timid and tactical considering our economic predicament. They're a technocrat's guide more than a reform manifesto.

The rollout is billed as Mr. Romney's "plan for jobs and economic growth," and it rightly points out that to create more jobs requires above all faster growth. This may seem like common sense, but it's a notable break from the Obama Administration's penchant for policies that "target" jobs rather than improving overall incentives for job creation. So we have had policies for "green jobs," or construction jobs, or teaching jobs, or automobile jobs, or temporary, targeted tax cuts for jobs—even as the economy struggles.

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Mitt Romney signs copies of his jobs plan for supporters in North Las Vegas, Nevada, on Tuesday.
.Mr. Romney seems to understand that the private economy will inevitably produce millions of new jobs—in industries and companies we can't predict—when it resumes growing at 3% or more. This is an important philosophical distinction that drives most of the Romney agenda.

So it's good to see the former Massachusetts Governor endorse the House GOP effort to review and approve major new regulations that cost more than $100 million. Mr. Romney also joins the other GOP candidates in vowing to repeal ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank. He'd pull the Energy Department from the role as venture capitalist that it has pursued since the Bush Administration, re-focusing it back on basic research, rather than backing solar companies that go bankrupt.

His section on "human capital" is also laudable, pointing out how little sense it makes to educate the world's smartest young people in our universities only to send them home after they graduate. He'd offer more visas to keep more of them here. The former Bain Capital executive would also apply his management skills to revamping the vast federal job-training archipelago, with its 47 programs. His proposal for "personal reemployment accounts" for laid-off workers isn't a new idea but it is worth trying.

Where the Governor is less persuasive is on the larger issues of taxes, spending, entitlements and trade. Here he ducks and covers more than he needs to.

Related Video
 Editorial board members Mary Kissel, Mary O'Grady and Joe Rago on Mitt Romney's economic plan.
..On taxes, Mr. Romney would immediately cut the top corporate income-tax rate to 25% from 35%. His advisers say there's already a bipartisan consensus that the U.S. rate hurts American companies, and they're right. Even Mr. Obama agrees.

But on other taxes, Mr. Romney shrinks from a fight. He says he favors tax reform with lower individual tax rates but only "in the long run." His advisers say that means in the first two years of his Presidency, but then why not sketch out more details?

The answer may lie in his proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax—but only for those who earn less than $200,000 a year. This eviscerates most of the tax cut's economic impact and also suggests that he's afraid of Mr. Obama's class warfare rhetoric. He even picked Mr. Obama's trademark income threshold for the capital gains cut-off.

If Mr. Romney thinks this will let him dodge a class warfare debate, he's fooling himself. Democrats will hit him anyway for opposing Mr. Obama's proposal to raise taxes on higher incomes, dividends and capital gains in 2013. Perhaps Mr. Romney feels that his wealth and background make him especially vulnerable to the class charge, but if he won't openly make the economic case for lower tax rates he'll never get Congress to go along.

On spending, Mr. Romney joins the GOP's "cut, cap and balance" parade, setting a cap on spending over time at 20% of GDP. What Mr. Romney doesn't do is provide even a general map for how to get there, beyond cutting spending on nonsecurity domestic programs by 5% upon taking office.

He praises Paul Ryan for making "important strides" on Medicare but says his plan "will differ," without offering details. He also says there are a "number of options" to reform Social Security without endorsing any of them. We are told those specifics will come later. It's hardly unusual for candidates to avoid committing to difficult proposals, but it won't help Mr. Romney contrast his leadership with Mr. Obama's.

By far the most troubling proposal is Mr. Romney's call for "confronting China" on trade. This is usually a Democratic theme, but Mr. Romney does Mr. Obama one worse by pledging to have his Treasury brand China a "currency manipulator" if it doesn't "move quickly to bring its currency to full value." He'd then hit Beijing with countervailing duties.
(Marc:  I am not without sympathy to this idea)

Starting a trade war is a rare policy mistake that Mr. Obama hasn't made, but Mr. Romney claims it is a way to faster growth. His advisers say he doesn't favor a 25% tariff on Chinese goods as some in Congress do, but once a President unleashes protectionist furies they are hard to contain.

His economic aides say this idea comes directly from Mr. Romney himself, which is even less reassuring. It looks like a political maneuver to blunt the criticism he'll receive because some of Bain Capital's companies sent jobs overseas, or perhaps this is intended to win over working-class precincts in Pennsylvania and Ohio. But giving Americans the impression that a trade war will bring those jobs back to the U.S. is offering false hope. It also distracts from the other fiscal and regulatory reforms that are needed to attract capital and create jobs.

The biggest rap on Mr. Romney as a potential President is that it's hard to discern any core beliefs beyond faith in his own managerial expertise. For all of its good points, yesterday's policy potpourri won't change that perception.

23925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 07, 2011, 04:09:48 PM
Just got in.  Looks like a strong day in the market.  What happened?
23926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on moral character, 1790 on: September 07, 2011, 10:04:30 AM
"[A] good moral character is the first essential in a man, and that the habits contracted at your age are generally indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life. It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous." --George Washington, letter to Steptoe Washington, 1790

23927  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: September 07, 2011, 09:10:52 AM
So, please spell it out.  What do you think is going on here?
23928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamic Cresent Memorial on: September 07, 2011, 09:08:13 AM
An internet friend sends me the following:

"I've known about this for years.  It's truly a sick thing, now nearly finished, and opening in Shanksville on 9-11 this year.  Check out Pamela's article today about it - she's been publicizing it as well.  Also click on the links to Tom Barnett's ads and detailed explanation.  This is a grotesque insult - another triumphal mosque disguised as a memorial to the victims:"
23929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Another one! Project Grenade Walker?!? on: September 06, 2011, 08:55:37 PM
GM, anyone:

Michelle Malkin:
Fast and Furious update: And now…Project Grenadewalker?!

The truth is still seeping out, despite Team Obama’s best efforts to cover up and shut up the Fast and Furious whistle-blowers.

Last week, we noted the latest evidence that the scandal went straight to the top and chronicled the desperate dance of the lemons. In discussing the quiet resignation of U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Phoenix, I talked with NRA News’s Cam Edwards about Burke’s transparent attempt at liability avoidance.

Today, the WSJ spotlights the Phoenix USAO’s botched handling of an Arizona man accused of supplying grenades to a Mexican drug cartel. Business Insider provides a closer look (h/t William Amos):

The WSJ reports today that federal authorities are now investigating why the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix — the same office that oversaw Fast and Furious — released Jean Baptiste Kingery after he confessed to providing military-style weapons to the now-defunct La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.

Kingery, who was arrested and released in June 2010, confessed to manufacturing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) using grenade components from the U.S. He also admitted to helping the cartel convert semi-automatic rifles into machine guns. Mexican criminal organizations are increasingly using these military-style weapons as the cartels’ escalate their wars against the government and one another.

Despite Kingery’s confession, and over loud protestations from the arresting ATF officers, the U.S. Attorney’s office let Kingery go within hours of his arrest.

Kingery’s release is now the subject of an internal probe by the DOJ inspector general. The findings in the DOJ probe were a major catalyst in the recent staff shakeup that ousted Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennie Burke and Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson from their posts.

The Phoenix U.S. Attorney’s office denies that it declined to prosecute the case, saying that it wanted to continue surveillance. The office alternatively told investigators that ATF agents wanted to make Kingery an informant, but lost contact with him within weeks of his release.

…The Congressional Oversight Committee has also expanded its Fast and Furious investigation to include the Kingery case. The Committee is investigating who in the Obama administration knew about the gunrunning program, under which ATF agents allowed more than 2,000 guns to “walk” across the border. 

On a related note, Kathleen Millar focuses on the State Department and poses provocative questions about F&F and the Arms Export Control act, which brought down the architects of Iran-Contra during the Reagan years:

The Arms Export Control Act prohibits US arms merchants and defense manufacturers from selling lethal weapons and sensitive or dual-use technology to people who may want to use those weapons and technology to fire back at US citizens—at the military, law enforcement agents, and more and more often, a lot of just plain Americans who routinely miss those signs 80 miles inland on the US side of the Mexico-Arizona border warning tourists to go no further–Mexican gunmen on the prowl.

US weapons cannot be sold and shipped to countries that support terrorism, or nations, states, groups, or other entities deemed unfriendly to the United States.

I’d say Mexican cartels, especially the violent assassination squads that comprise Los Zetas, fall into that category, wouldn’t you?

Even more importantly, the Arms Export Control Act is, in fact, a servant to Article Three of the United States Constitution, which defines the act of selling weapons to those who would ‘levy war against the United States’ or ‘giving aid and comfort to our enemies’ as treason. No kidding. Treason.

If a US law enforcement agency wants to involve itself in the sale of weapons purchased from US gun dealers for export purposes–sales that may be part of an legitimate enforcement or military operation–that agency, let’s say ATF, must apply to the State Department for an exemption from the licensing requirements normally imposed on the commercial sale and export of such weapons. If an enforcement agency or military entity intent on running a covert op involving the export of lethal weapons does not obtain the necessary exemptions from State, for–listen carefully–each weapon or bundle of weapons purchased, that agency or military purchaser has committed a crime. Consider. ATF sent more than 1700 weapons across the border into Mexico–that could translate into 1700+ violations of the Arms Export Control Act.

…Forced resignations, diversionary political rationales, debates about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law—none of this speaks to the central question. Did ATF, under advisement of its political administrators, break the laws of the United States of America? 
23930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ATF at it again on: September 06, 2011, 08:48:38 PM
Exclusive Report: Documents indicate ATF, FBI allowed Indiana ‘crime gun’ sales

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has acknowledged an Indiana dealer’s cooperation in conducting straw purchases at the direction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Exclusive documents obtained by Gun Rights Examiner show the dealer cooperated with ATF by selling guns to straw purchasers, and that bureau management later asserted these guns were being traced to crimes.

From the confidential source providing the documents:

The dealer…was sent a "demand letter," based on the number of traces to him, which was retracted after his attorney pointed out they resulted from his cooperation with ATF. (Strangely, he got two voicemails from two different ATF people, both saying they were the head of the tracing operation).

Some of the straw men turned out to have felony convictions, the agents called the FBI background check system and fixed it so the transactions would be approved, something which may also have happened in Phoenix. (The attorney wasn't clear as to whether the guns were actually delivered to the gangs).

If the guns did not make it to criminal end users, why the demand for the reporting requirement was made remains unexplained: A demand letter, dated February 14, 2011 and signed by Charles J. Houser, Chief, National Tracing Center Division, informed the dealer he was required to provide acquisition and disposition information on firearms obtained from non-licensees, as well as to provide quarterly reports, based on ATF’s assessment that the dealer “had an unusually high number of traces of new crime guns with a relatively short ‘time-to-crime’…”

In a response dated March 10, 2011, attorney Brent R. Weil of Kightlinger and Gray, LLP, informed Houser:

Specifically, my client participated with and cooperated in certain law enforcement operations during 2009/2010 at the behest of ATFE enforcement officers from the Evansville, Indiana office (Agent Kevin Whittaker) and in the course of doing so, followed their instructions regarding the completion of certain transactions and the delivery of firearms to purchasers who did not clear the standard NICS [National Instant Check System] background check and were suspected of being involved in the purchase and transportation of handguns out of state despite passing NICS’s background checks.

In order to verify ATF claims, Weil requested they “be given a list of the ‘ten or more crime guns with a “time-to-crime: of three years or less’ so that we can satisfy ourselves that we are not being improperly included in this program because of our cooperation with and/or involvement with ATFE enforcement activities.”

The response letter resulted in a voice mail from Houser to Weil on March 15, 2011, ignoring his request for the list of guns, but promising:

If…that count is composed of firearms that were, where your client was working in conjunction with ATF, we will get your client removed entirely from the program.”

That same day, another voice mail was received, this time from Brenda Bennett, also identifying herself as “Chief of the National Tracing Center,” who informed Weil:

I have verified the information in the letter. I talked to law enforcement and they confirmed what he had to say. Therefore, he is being removed from the demand list.

See the sidebar slideshow accompanying this article for screen captures of all documents referred to in this column. At the very least, as with “Project Gunwalker,” they indicate straw purchased guns ended up in crime traces, something those directing surveillance were well aware of. It also indicates the FBI and ATF were once again involved with allowing transactions rejected by NICS to proceed, indicating this practice could be more widespread than has been previously documented, and not confined to Southwest border operations.

It’s fair to ask at this point what Robert J. Browning knows about this. He’s the Special Agent In Charge (SAC) of the Columbus Field Division, which directs Indiana and Ohio field offices. Also worth questioning: Joseph H. Hogsett, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, specifically about what he has directed and approved that has any bearing on “crime guns” making their way to the street following law enforcement firearm transfer approvals to straw purchasers within his jurisdicition.

It’s also fair to ask if it seems credible that such similar operations would develop independently in the Southwest (“Project Gunwalker”) and the Midwest (“Project Gangwalker’?), without authorization from and oversight coordination by Main Justice.

Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars has advocated opening “a second front” to complement House Oversight Committee investigations, and this column has been a consistent advocate for appointment of a truly independent special investigator, as well as for individual state attorneys general determining if multiple felony violations of their state laws, committed jointly by two or more persons, have been perpetrated. What seems clear is none of this will happen unless gun owners create such an uproar that their demands cannot be ignored—by timid political wind riders who don’t wish to get involved, by an arrogant, stonewalling administration, and by their protectors/abettors in the mainstream press. 
23931  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey suspends Defense ties with Israel on: September 06, 2011, 08:17:49 PM

Dispatch: Turkey Suspends Defense Ties With Israel
September 6, 2011 | 2146 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:

Analyst Reva Bhalla discusses Turkey’s strategic need for a crisis with Israel and a growing U.S.-Turkish relationship that is increasing Israel’s vulnerability.

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

Related Links
Fresh Tensions Between Israel, Turkey Over Flotilla Incident
Iran Monitors Turkey’s Rising Regional Power
Israeli-Arab Crisis Approaching
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered a press conference on Tuesday in which he said Turkey would be suspending defense industry ties with Israel. The announcement follows Israel’s continued refusal to apologize for a flotilla incident last May, as well as a leaked report on a U.N. report that largely exonerated Israel before that crisis. Turkey has a strategic intent to ratchet up its crisis with Israel for primarily public-relations purposes, but this is a diplomatic crisis that Israel cannot afford.

Over the past several months, back channel talks between Israel and Turkey that have primarily been mediated by the United States have been taking place in search of a compromise over the flotilla incident. Political personalities certainly play a role in sustaining the sticking points in these negotiations, but there is a deeper interest that Turkey has in continuing this crisis. Turkey is slowly but surely reemerging as a regional power. Last May when the flotilla incident occurred, Turky’s public relations campaign designed to broaden Turkish appeal in the Islamic world, was already well under way. Many will recall Erdogan’s outburst at the Davos Summit in 2009. The spread of unrest in the Arab world has accelerated Turkey’s rise, pushing Turkey into making difficult policy decisions on everything from cooperating with the United States against Iran and Iraq to developing a contingency plan for a post-Assad Syria. Many countries in the region, including Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are looking to Turkey to see if Turkish talk is all it’s worth. There’s been a great deal of skepticism in the Arab media in particular, over whether Turkish influence is really as much as it claims.

Playing up a crisis with Israel could help, in part, with Turkey’s credibility issues as it seeks to redefine its relationship with Israel and saturate the Middle East with its own influence. The problem for Israel is that Israel cannot afford diplomatic isolation. Israel needs Turkey far more than Turkey needs Israel, especially as Israel is encountering many problems on its borders.

From Turkey’s perspective, even defense industry cooperation with Israel can be substituted, and that’s where we see the United States playing an interesting role. The United States will become increasingly reliant on Turkey to help manage conflicts in the Middle East from Syria, to Egypt, to Iran, and so the U.S. will increasingly prioritize its relationship with Turkey over its relationship with Israel. This is something that Turkey is likely aware of, and is why we think that Turkey may be more serious this time about expanding its presence in the eastern Mediterranean, including the possibility of the Turkish Navy escorting aid ships to the Gaza Strip.

Turkey doesn’t need to care too much about what Israel thinks, but it does need to care about what the United States thinks on these issues. Some bargaining can thus be expected between Ankara and Washington. For example, Turkey, in exchange for cooperation on issues that the U.S. cares about, can negotiate U.S. tolerance for a continued diplomatic crisis with Israel. That’s even a dynamic that the U.S. could use to its advantage in trying to corner Israel on other issues. In that sense, Turkey’s decision on Sunday to formally approve the installation of an X-band radar as part of a U.S.-led ballistic missile defense strategy, could serve as a useful indicator that Turkey and the United States have issues, largely unrelated to Israel, that take precedence.

23932  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DB on public radio on: September 06, 2011, 04:25:46 PM
23933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Non mfrg composite index on: September 06, 2011, 04:07:32 PM
Give us this day our daily reminder that there is a bullish case to be made.

The ISM non-manufacturing composite index increased to 53.3 in August To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/6/2011

The ISM non-manufacturing composite index increased to 53.3 in August, beating the consensus expected decline to 51.0. (Levels above 50 signal expansion; levels below 50 signal contraction.)

Key sub-indexes were mixed in August, but all remain at levels indicating economic growth. The new orders index rose to 52.8 from 51.7 and the supplier deliveries index gained to 53.0 from 50.5 last month. The business activity index fell to a still strong 55.6 in August from 56.1 in July and the employment index fell to 51.6 from 52.5.
The prices paid index rose to an elevated 64.2 in August from 56.6 in July.
Implications:  Today’s report on the service sector was a pleasant surprise!  The stock market has been volatile of late and many are concerned about financial turmoil in Europe. As a result, the consensus expected the ISM non-manufacturing index to decline to 51.0 from 52.7 in July. This seemed to make sense as the index sometimes reflects the vagaries of business sentiment rather than actual levels of service sector output. Instead, the index climbed to a respectable 53.3 and all the major sub-components of the index were above 50, signaling continued economic expansion. Sentiment among managers may not be as dour as thought, a positive sign going forward. Looking deeper into the report, the business activity index, which has a stronger correlation with GDP growth than the overall index, came in at a still strong 55.6 in August.  In addition, a composite that combines the ISM manufacturing and service indexes increased in August to 53.0 from 52.5 in July. This is simply not consistent with a recession and supports the case from “high-frequency” data that the US economy continues to grow, including unemployment claims, chain store sales, railcar loadings, auto sales, and box office receipts. On the inflation front, the prices paid index rose to an elevated 64.2 in August.  We believe quantitative easing was a mistake and any more would be an even bigger mistake.  Monetary policy is extremely loose, and no further monetary action is warranted. Inflation is already creeping upward.
23934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 06, 2011, 03:22:05 PM

Someone have a URL of the whole debate?
23935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison to the Dey of Algiers, 1816 on: September 06, 2011, 12:28:05 PM
"It is a principle incorporated into the settled policy of America, that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute." --James Madison, letter to the Dey of Algiers, 1816
23936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Two friends comment on: September 06, 2011, 12:15:53 PM

Here is what it covers.

(b) California’s domestic workers, which includes housekeepers,
nannies, and caregivers for children, persons with disabilities, and
the elderly, work in private households to care for the health, safety,
and well-being of the most important aspects of Californians’ lives:
their families and homes.

The purpose of this statute is to drive persons who employ domestic workers to go to agencies for their needs.  No more hiring on their own. 

1.5 years, and I expect to be gone from this state.


If passed, will the law also apply to gardeners and handymen?  Notgood atall.   ---j


This only applies to babysitters who are 18 or older, so the title of the article is a bit misleading, since it's not too hard to find younger babysitters. But what it will really kill is the nanny industry and the house cleaning industry and domestic help industry in general. Workers comp insurance is at least $2000 per year, and having a standby nanny every two hours is simply absurd. Worse still, the law gives enormous power to the domestic employee, since they can sue their employer for any alleged infraction of the law and the employer is obligated to pay all legal expenses for the employee. 

No matter how you look at it, it is a job killer, and it's not just about babysitters.
23937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / As it happened on: September 06, 2011, 12:12:16 PM
"Here is an archival website that covers 9-11 as it happened.  You can see what was happening as it occurred and was originally reported."
23938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Congress and Taiwan on: September 06, 2011, 08:25:25 AM
After the Carter Administration established diplomatic relations with mainland China in 1979, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act with veto-proof majorities to ensure that future Presidents would sell the island the arms it needs to defend itself. The law is now in danger of becoming a dead letter, as the Obama Administration is reportedly planning to reject Taiwan's request to buy badly needed new F-16 fighters. It's time for Congress to act again to correct the executive branch's inability to withstand pressure from China.

A move is afoot to do exactly that. If the Administration decides against the deal by its self-imposed deadline of Oct. 1, Senator John Cornyn of Texas says he will propose an amendment to the defense authorization bill mandating the sale. He would probably get support from a majority of lawmakers in both houses, who have signed on to letters supporting the sale. The idea is that President Obama would find it difficult if not impossible to veto a law that keeps the entire military funded.

A precedent was set for such a move in 2000, when a Republican-controlled Congress threatened to force President Bill Clinton to sell Aegis destroyers to Taiwan. That became a bargaining ploy that helped a lame-duck Administration see its way to selling a bigger package of weapons and radars than it otherwise would have approved.

In this case, Taiwan badly needs the new F-16s, as well as an upgrade of its older planes. Late last month, the Pentagon released its annual report on Chinese military power acknowledging the upcoming leap in capabilities represented by China's J-20 stealth fighter, now in testing. A separate report on Taiwan's airpower is now 18 months overdue, which suggests there is bureaucratic infighting over contents that would show the island's air defenses need upgrading.

In normal circumstances, we would not advocate Congress interfering in the conduct of foreign affairs, the responsibility of the executive branch. However, since 1979 China has brought increasing pressure to bear on U.S. Presidents, so that they have tended to put off arms sales to Taiwan for their successor to handle. As Taiwan's defense becomes more and more precarious, a future U.S. President may have to put Americans in harm's way to defend the island or see a democracy capitulate to an aggressor.

In this case Congress would be enhancing President Obama's foreign-policy leverage in Asia, not undermining it. Some of the wiser figures in the White House might even be thankful if the Congress takes this difficult decision off their hands. As well as selling the F-16s, lawmakers might also consider how to strengthen the Taiwan Relations Act to put arms sales to the island on a more automatic schedule that would allow future Presidents to deflect Chinese pressure. That would be a boon to American policy making, an assurance for Taiwan's freedom—and a spur to more responsible Chinese conduct.

23939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Current count of Electoral College on: September 06, 2011, 08:21:02 AM
second post of morning:

Straw polls, real polls, debates, caucuses, primaries—that's the public side of presidential campaigns 14 months before Election Day. But behind the scenes, strategists for President Obama and his major Republican opponents are already focused like a laser on the Electoral College.

The emerging general election contest gives every sign of being highly competitive, unlike 2008. Of course, things can change: Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were both in trouble at this point in their first terms, and George H.W. Bush still looked safe. Unexpectedly strong economic growth could make Mr. Obama's re-election path much easier than it currently looks, as could the nomination of a damaged Republican candidate. But a few more weeks like the past couple, and Mr. Obama's re-election trajectory will resemble Jimmy Carter's.

Both parties are sensibly planning for a close election. For all the talk about how Hispanics or young people will vote, the private chatter is about a few vital swing states. It's always the Electoral College math that matters most.

Voting is predictable for well over half the states, so even 14 months out it's easy to shade in most of the map for November 2012.

Barring a Carter-like collapse, President Obama is assured of 175 electoral votes from 12 deep-blue states and the District of Columbia: California (55 electoral votes), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), New Jersey (14), New York (29), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington state (12) and Washington, D.C. (3). Three more states are not quite as certain, but still likely Democratic: Maine (4), Minnesota (10) and Oregon (7). Even though Minnesota is competitive enough to vote Republican under the right set of conditions, it is the state with the longest Democratic presidential streak, dating to 1976.

Enlarge Image

CloseGetty Images/Stock Illustration Source
 .Four other states usually vote Democratic for president, but they're hardly a sure thing: Michigan (16), New Mexico (5), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10). A low Hispanic vote in 2012 could flip New Mexico, as Al Gore carried it by only 366 votes in 2000 and a dedicated effort by George W. Bush flipped it in 2004. In Michigan, economic problems might cause voters to cool on Democrats. Wisconsin, narrowly Democratic in 2000 and 2004, is a cauldron of unpredictable countertrends. And although Pennsylvania has frustrated all GOP attempts to win it over since 1988, recent polls have shown weakness for Mr. Obama there. These 51 electoral votes will be GOP targets if conditions in the fall of 2012 approximate today's.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have their own firewall. Almost any sentient GOP nominee will carry Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (Cool, Louisiana (Cool, Mississippi (6), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Utah (6), West Virginia (5) and Wyoming (3). These 18 states have 105 electoral votes.

The Obama forces have bravely boasted that they can turn Arizona (11), Georgia (16) and Texas (38), mainly because of growing Latino voting power. But with the economy in the tank, electoral claims on these big three will likely go the way of John McCain's early declaration in '08 that California was within his grasp. Count another 65 red votes here.

Four years ago, even optimistic Democrats didn't think they would pick up Indiana (11), North Carolina (15), or an electoral vote in Nebraska (which like Maine awards one vote per congressional district), yet all three went for Mr. Obama by small margins. In 2012, Indiana is likely to desert him, as is the one Cornhusker district. To keep North Carolina, the Democrats chose Charlotte for their national convention and will make a big play statewide. As of now, it looks tough for them. Thus Republicans are in the lead to win 26 more electors. Missouri was the sole squeaker that went for McCain; few believe it will be tight next year, so the GOP will likely have those 10 votes, too.

Republicans therefore are a lock or lead in 24 states for 206 electoral votes, and Democrats have or lead in 19 states for 247 electoral votes. That's why seven super-swing states with 85 electors will determine which party gets to the magic number of 270 electoral votes: Colorado (9), Florida (29), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18) and Virginia (13).

Prior to Obama's 2008 victories in each of these states, several had generally or firmly leaned Republican since 1980. Virginia, which hadn't voted Democratic since 1964, was the biggest surprise, and its Obama majority was larger than that of Ohio, which has frequently been friendly to Democrats in past decades. Massive Hispanic participation turned Colorado and Nevada to Mr. Obama, and it helped him in Florida.

The GOP has gotten a quiet advantage through the redistricting following the 2010 Census. The Republican nominee could gain about a half-dozen net electors from the transfer of House seats—and thus electoral votes—from the northern Frostbelt to the southern and western Sunbelt. Put another way, the Democrats can no longer win just by adding Ohio to John Kerry's 2004 total. The bleeding of electoral votes from Democratic states would leave him six short of 270.

Of course, the best-laid plans of Electoral College analysts can be undone overnight by the rise of one or more third-party or independent candidates, as shown by George Wallace from the right (1968), Ross Perot from the middle (1992), and Ralph Nader from the left (2000).

Right now, though, a troubled President Obama—so far unopposed for re-nomination—has the luxury of keeping both eyes on the Electoral College, planning his trips and policies accordingly. By contrast, the leading Republican contenders are forced to focus their gaze on delegate votes in a handful of early-voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Still, quietly they're already seeking admission to the only college that can give them the job they want.

Mr. Sabato is director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, author of Pendulum Swing (Longman, 2011), and editor of the Crystal Ball newsletter,

23940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Too small for too big a stage on: September 06, 2011, 08:14:39 AM
In everyday life, when you don't have something to say, you avoid the stage. In our nation's capital, by contrast, the world operates like the one Alice found behind the Looking Glass. That's a world where you have to run as hard as you can just to stay still. Which helps explain why President Obama will this week be addressing a joint session of Congress that doesn't really want to hear from him about a jobs plan that he doesn't really have.

Expectations are high, the byproduct of a highly publicized back and forth with Republican Speaker John Boehner over the date of the president's speech. If you're a White House with a message, that's a good thing. Unfortunately for President Obama, he doesn't have one.

How do we know he doesn't? We know it from the White House itself. On Friday, Ed Henry quoted an unnamed presidential aide telling Fox News that while he didn't want to "downplay the speech," he needed to shoot down "the idea that this is the be-all and end-all."

So if this is not the "be-all and end-all" we've been told it was for weeks, why the initial announcement it would be held the same night Republican presidential candidates were holding a televised debate? And why do it before a joint session of Congress?

The answer to the first is that the speech most probably did not start out as a calculated attempt to upstage the Republican candidates. More likely, Thursday night was what White House aides originally had in mind—until they realized it would clash with the NFL's opening day. So they moved it back a day. That backfired because it looked so ungracious, but if you were President Obama, whom would you rather go up against: the GOP or the Green Bay Packers?

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Barack Obama: Too small for the house?
.The answer to the other question has more to do with our Looking Glass Beltway. In this universe, a bigger stage is often the solution for a lack of substance. Put it this way: Without the backdrop of a joint session of Congress, how many networks would broadcast another Obama jobs speech?

You can't fault the logic. When Mr. Obama entered office, he told us unemployment would not rise over 8% if we passed his stimulus. Now his economic advisers have just told us that unemployment will not fall below the 9% mark through next year. As if to underscore the grim news, the latest jobs report—released in time for Labor Day weekend—shows zero net job growth for August.

The politics requires not only that the president address the economy's dismal jobs performance but that he be seen by the American people to be doing it. And that's where the teleprompter meets the road.

The truth is that there is practically nothing Mr. Obama could do to gin up better jobs numbers before next year's election without massively increasing the deficit—and the Republicans won't let him do that. Even with the word "stimulus" banished from his remarks this week, no one will be fooled by new calls to "invest" in roads and bridges and infrastructure. Or by the expected hodgepodge of other proposals from extending the payroll tax holiday to tax credits for new hires.

The irony is that the president has blown the one chance to do something of substance without looking weak. Back in July when he was negotiating with Speaker Boehner, the two had agreed on a grand bargain that would include real cuts in entitlements. The "give" on the Republican side was that the deal would address "revenues," which to the president means raising taxes and to the speaker means relying on growth to bring in more money to the Treasury's coffers.

For the president, that deal would have allowed him to do something serious about spending—in a highly public and bipartisan way. Even better for him, it might have split the opposition. For such a deal would likely have left Republicans bickering, with some arguing we should wait for a Republican president and others screaming "sellout."

The president, however, got greedy, and killed the deal when he asked for more. That's been his problem all along. Notwithstanding incessant calls to rise above politics, on issue after issue the president has proved himself incapable of matching his large rhetoric with equally large actions.

In music there's a saying about a performance that was "too small for the house." That's becoming true of the president. There was a day when Mr. Obama's taste for the marvelous—a campaign address in Berlin, the faux presidential seal, the Greek columns that surrounded him during his speech accepting the Democratic nomination—all seemed to herald something exciting and historic.

Even inside the Beltway, however, substance ultimately tells. Three years into his presidency, the grander the stage the smaller Mr. Obama comes across.

23941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Turkey-Israel relations continue to worsen desepite UN report on: September 06, 2011, 08:09:35 AM
By MARC CHAMPION in Istanbul and JOSHUA MITNICK in Tel Aviv
ISTANBUL—Turkey said Monday it would do nothing "for now" to change its economic relationship with Israel as a rift between Washington's two closest allies in the Middle East deepened.

What appeared to be a veiled threat from Turkish economy minister Zafer Caglayan came just hours after the governor of Israel's central bank warned that the cost of losing trade with Turkey would be far-reaching for the Jewish state.

Ties between Turkey and Israel, once strategic partners, reached a new low Friday when Ankara downgraded diplomatic relations and canceled all military agreements between the two states.

Turkish officials said they were responding to Israel's continued refusal to apologize for the deaths of eight Turkish citizens and an American of Turkish descent on board a Gaza-bound aid ship in May last year.

But tensions continued to escalate Monday when tourist groups from both countries were held temporarily for questioning at airports in Tel Aviv and Istanbul in apparent tit-for-tat actions. Meanwhile, Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, pledged at a news conference with a senior Palestinian official to secure the needed votes in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state at the United Nations this month.

Both Israel and the U.S. oppose such a U.N. recognition of Palestine, setting the scene for a potential diplomatic confrontation in New York.

Mr. Davutoglu's statement Friday said nothing about the growing trade relationship between the two countries—valued at nearly $3.5 billion last year and up by more than a quarter in the first half of 2011 from a year earlier. But reports in Turkish and Israeli media said economic sanctions would follow. "For now, there is no change in economic relations," Mr. Caglayan said Monday.

A spokesman for Mr. Davutoglu declined to comment on the media reports but noted that Friday's statement stressed that the measures it announced were only those to be taken "at this stage." Turkish leaders have said more punitive action will come unless Israel delivers an apology for the nine deaths, as well as compensation.

Speaking to a conference on regional cooperation in Tel Aviv, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer said the deterioration of ties with Turkey could hurt Israel, noting that Turkey's $700 billion economy was the largest in the region. "The consequences of not having trading relations with Turkey would be potentially expansive, particularly for us, because in terms of sophisticated economies in the region—which is where we export most successfully—[Turkey] is the most important," he said.

Mr. Caglayan acknowledged there also would be costs to Turkey in losing the relationship. Israel is one of the few significant trading partners with which Turkey enjoys a surplus, a boon at a time when Ankara is struggling to control a ballooning trade deficit.

Still, the potential economic impact of the rift appeared to be on display already Monday. Businesswoman Hayuta Leibovitch was among some 40 Israelis who landed in Istanbul in the morning and reported being detained by border police at the airport without explanation. Ms. Leibovitch, who imports fashion products from Turkey, told Israel Radio that the group had their passports taken away for 90 minutes before being allowed to proceed.

"I feel this is a point of no return. I am going to do what I've been mulling over for two years, and look for alternatives. This won't be easy," said Ms. Leibovitch, who told Israel Radio she had been visiting Turkey at least once every two months for 10 years. "The feeling was humiliating, like, 'You're not apologizing? We'll show you who the boss is here.' "

A Turkish tour group returning from Ramadan celebrations in Jerusalem said they also had been singled out—by Israeli security officials at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport. Members of the group told reporters they had been strip searched, were repeatedly questioned and had their bags pulled apart, before being allowed to fly home.

"There was a different treatment against Turkish people," the group's guide, Eyup Ansar Ugur told Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

Further tensions look likely. A spokesman for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that a long-planned trip to Egypt is now set, probably early next week, and that efforts to arrange a politically sensitive side trip to the Gaza strip were continuing. Israel fears that a visit to Gaza by so senior and popular a figure as Mr. Erdogan would help to legitimize Hamas, which governs the territory but is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the U.S.

Here's a story for the man-bites-dog folder: The United Nations has conducted another inquiry into an Israeli military operation—and produced a report that mainly vindicates the Jewish state. And here, alas, is a story for the dog-bites-man folder: The Turkish government has responded to the U.N. report by withdrawing its ambassador from Tel Aviv and expelling Israel's from Ankara.

The Palmer report—named for the inquiry's chairman, former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer—was commissioned by the U.N.'s Secretary General to investigate the May 2010 "flotilla incident," when six ships sailing from Turkey to Gaza on an alleged humanitarian mission were boarded by Israeli commandos enforcing a naval blockade of Gaza. Nine passengers were killed (and several Israeli soldiers badly beaten) in the ensuing melee, sparking a crisis in Jerusalem's already frayed relations with Ankara.

Given the U.N.'s track record on Israel, one might have expected this latest report to be a reprise of Richard Goldstone's notorious report alleging Israeli war crimes during its 2009 war with Gaza (charges later retracted by Mr. Goldstone). Instead, the Palmer report offers a point-by-point rebuttal to some of the most preposterous accusations leveled against Israel.

One such accusation from the Turks is that Israel's naval blockade of Gaza is illegal because blockades can only be legally imposed on another state, and Israel has never recognized Palestine as a state. The Palmer report dismisses that legal legerdemain, noting that "Hamas is the de facto political and administrative authority in Gaza," that "it is Hamas that is firing projectiles into Israel or permitting others to do so," that "law does not operate in a political vacuum" and thus "Israel was entitled to take reasonable steps to prevent the influx of weapons into Gaza."

Then there is the fiction that the flotilla had embarked on a "humanitarian mission." If that were true, its organizers would not have spurned Israel's offer to off-load their supplies in the nearby Israeli port of Ashdod. As the report acidly observes, the flotilla's largest ship and the site of the fighting—the Mavi Marmara—barely contained any humanitarian goods beyond "foodstuffs and toys carried in passengers' personal baggage."

The report also gives weight to the view that a "hardcore group of about 40 activists" from an Islamist NGO known as the IHH "had effective control over the vessel during the journey and were not subjected to security screening" when they boarded the ship in Istanbul. "It is clear to the Panel that preparations were made by some of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara well in advance to violently resist any boarding attempt."

Simply put, the flotilla's organizers were spoiling for the fight they later would claim as evidence of Israeli criminality. That's a fight Israel went out of its way to avoid, both through high-level diplomatic representations to Ankara and repeated warnings to the flotilla to turn away from the blockade. Too bad, then, that the report makes a weak stab at balance by chiding the conduct of Israeli soldiers in the heat of a battle against dozens of thugs armed with iron bars, chains, knives and—given that two of the Israeli commandos were shot—probably firearms as well.

All of this might have provoked a bit of soul-searching within the Turkish government, just as its once-warm embrace of Syria's Bashar Assad has. Instead, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has doubled down on his anti-Israel bets, insisting that Jerusalem apologize to Turkey, compensate the victims and lift its blockade of Gaza as the price for his forgiveness. The Palmer report is a fresh reminder—from the least likely of sources—of why Israel has no honorable choice but to spurn those demands. The Turks will learn in their own time that being Hamas's patron is a loser's game.

23942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: So, how we doin'? on: September 06, 2011, 08:06:29 AM
KABUL—Has the U.S. military surge in Afghanistan been a success?

As America begins to scale back its presence in the country, that question is generating diverging answers from U.S. military commanders and United Nations officials in Afghanistan.  American military commanders argue the infusion of 33,000 more American forces has helped change the tide of the war by driving down violence and reducing the number of civilian casualties this summer.  U.N. officials, along with independent security analysts in Afghanistan, contest that analysis and say violence and civilian deaths both hit record highs in recent months.

Somewhere between those contrasting interpretations of the strength of the insurgency is the question of whether the Afghan army and police will be able to protect their own people from the Taliban as the U.S. cedes security responsibility to local forces.

As the U.S. begins a phased withdrawal of the added forces who were deployed beginning early last year, American commanders say the surge has done exactly what was intended: dislodged Taliban fighters from southern sanctuaries and put insurgents on the defensive.

Coalition officials say insurgent attacks fell 20% in July from the same month in 2010. As of late August, violence was down 12 of the previous 16 weeks when compared with last summer, according to coalition officials, who declined to release specific numbers.

"Violence is down over the course of the last couple of months considerably from what it was this time last year," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Afghanistan this summer.

The drop in attacks, military officials say, is a sign the coalition has gained a decisive upper hand. "I think it's a leading indicator," a coalition official in Kabul said of the military analysis. "We believe we are making progress based on the numbers."

U.N. officials disagree, and say the coalition failed to achieve a counterinsurgency goal it set for itself ahead of the surge: protecting Afghan civilians.

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Close."The most important criteria for the average Afghan is whether civilians are dying, and whether their quality of life and capacity of moving around has increased or not," said Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan. "In terms of civilian casualties, all the reports we get are that they are not happy with this."

In the three months through July, the war claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Afghan civilians, according to U.N. statistics, the first time since U.N. investigators began tracking casualties in 2007 that they have documented more than 1,000 civilian deaths in a three-month period.

The U.N. charted a 15% rise in civilian casualties in the first six months of this year compared with the year-earlier period.

The single largest killer: Hidden explosives, a hallmark of the insurgency's summer campaign. Roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices planted by insurgents accounted for nearly half the civilian casualties recorded by the U.N. in the first six months of 2011.

U.N. officials said that May was the deadliest month for Afghan civilians since the international body started tracking the figures in 2007, and that June marked a high in security incidents.

Coalition officials disputed the U.N. estimates and said that they documented a 14% decrease in civilian deaths between the second quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2011.

August also marked a grim milestone for the U.S. as the most deadly month in nearly a decade of war: 69 American soldiers died last month, according to the iCasualties website, with nearly half killed when a Taliban insurgent shot down a Chinook helicopter in eastern Afghanistan. So far this year, 310 Americans and 111 other coalition forces have been killed.

While the U.N. and the U.S.-led military coalition confer on their numbers, they still rely on their own investigators, collect varied intelligence and sometimes draw different conclusions on civilian casualties.

Military commanders and U.N. officials expressed confidence that their differing analysis, interpretations and methods of collecting data were accurate reflections of the state of the conflict.

Some Afghan leaders worry that the debate about numbers may miss the point.

Shaida Mohammad Abdali, President Hamid Karzai's deputy national security adviser, said the issue isn't the amount of violence; it is the Taliban's increasing effectiveness in killing prominent Afghan officials.

Since May, the Taliban have taken credit for killing a string of Afghan leaders, including Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Karzai's half-brother who worked closely with U.S. officials to fight the Taliban in Kandahar, and Gen. Daoud Daoud, the powerful police commander for northern Afghanistan.

That has raised concerns that a decline in overall insurgent attacks might not be a sign that things are getting better.

"We have to think about the optimism that we show about the level of violence," said Mr. Abdali. "Yes we may have a much more quiet countryside than before, but generally I am more concerned about the strategic impact of this war."

Mr. Abdali said American and Afghan military leaders had to focus more efforts on countering the Taliban's targeted assassination campaign.

"I hope that, instead of speaking about the decrease in the level of violence, we think about how we can counter this new tactic of the Taliban, or the terrorists, who are simply looking for the high-profile targets."

Michael Capstick, a retired Canadian military officer who worked in Afghanistan as an officer and a civilian, said the trends are taking a toll on the faith of the Afghan people.

"The high-profile attacks and assassinations since the spring are really eroding whatever confidence the Afghan people might have had in their security forces and, by extension, the military coalition," Mr. Capstick said. "The prevailing view seems to be: 'If they…can't protect themselves, how can they protect us?'," he said.

U.S. military commanders say the assassinations are militarily insignificant. "Those are not going to be decisive," a senior U.S. military commander said. The Taliban "are not physically controlling the terrain, they're not retaking what they have lost. And I don't think they can."

The U.N. assessment is supported by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, which examines security risks for aid groups working in the country. While the military charted a 20% decline in insurgent attacks in July, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, or ANSO, documented a 7% rise.

The insurgency, the group concluded, has adapted to the surge, creating what it dubbed a "perpetually escalating stalemate."

The military's reports of progress against the Taliban are "at best misleading and at worst gravely irresponsible," says Nic Lee, director of the independent organization, which assesses security risks for scores of prominent aid groups in Afghanistan.

The coalition "is under a lot of pressure to demonstrate results ahead of transition, and this inevitably shapes the content of their data and the conclusions they draw from it," Mr. Lee said.

The U.S. military, when asked about ANSO's figures, said it stands by its analysis and sees it as the most comprehensive view of the conflict.

23943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US military seeking expanded options against Iran on: September 06, 2011, 07:54:48 AM

WASHINGTON—Military commanders and intelligence officers are pushing for greater authority to conduct covert operations to thwart Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq, according to U.S. officials.

The move comes amid growing concern in the Obama administration about Iran's attempts in recent months to expand its influence in Iraq and the broader Middle East and what it says is Tehran's increased arms smuggling to its allies.

Compounding the urgency is the planned reduction in the U.S. military presence in Iraq by the end of the year, a development that many fear will open up the country to more influence from Iran, which also has a majority Shiite population.

If the request is approved by the White House, the authorization for the covert activity in Iraq likely would take the form of a classified presidential "finding." But unlike the secret order that authorized the Central Intelligence Agency's campaign against al Qaeda in 2001, the current proposal is limited in scope, officials said.

Still, such a step would reflect the U.S.'s effort to contain Iranian activities in the region. Ending the U.S.'s involvement in the Iraqi conflict was a central promise of President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign, and the administration wants to ensure it doesn't withdraw troops only to see its main regional nemesis, Iran, raise its influence there.

Officials declined to provide details about the kinds of covert operations under consideration, but said they could include more aggressive interdiction efforts at the Iraq-Iran border and stepped-up measures to stop Iranian arms smuggling after the American drawdown.

The United Nations has blocked Iran from exporting sophisticated arms, guided missiles and nuclear technology. U.N. resolutions don't ban small arms exports or the kind of primitive weapons Tehran has provided Shiite militias in Iraq, defense officials said.

The U.S. has conducted secret operations against Iran in Iraq before. In recent months the U.S. military has quietly boosted efforts to capture Iranian agents and intercept Iranian munitions in Iraq.

The U.S. government conducts covert operations when it wants to maintain the ability to deny a secret mission took place for security or diplomatic reasons.

The White House has become more worried about Iranian meddling in Iraq, Syria and Bahrain in recent months and has pushed the military and intelligence communities to develop proposals to counter Tehran.

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U.S. soldiers searched a truck last month in Babil Province, Iraq. The U.S. says it has evidence Iran smuggles arms.
.In Iraq, U.S. officials say they have evidence that Iran has been providing Shiite militias with more powerful weapons and training, helping to increase the lethality of their attacks against U.S. forces—in particular, with the crude but deadly IRAM, or improvised rocket-assisted munitions.

Iran also has stepped up its support of the embattled Syrian government, providing equipment and technical know-how for the crackdown on antiregime protests, U.S. officials say. Tehran also has provided backing to Shiite protesters in Bahrain, though its support there has been limited, the officials say.

Iranian officials have repeatedly denied that they have played any role in arming militants in Iraq or worked to destabilize other Arab nations. Tehran has claimed the U.S. has leveled charges of arms smuggling to justify a continued American military presence.

Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the U.S. and Iranian competition for influence in Iraq was part of an attempt by both countries to preserve their interests in the Middle East amid a reordering of interests under the Arab Spring revolutions.

"From a U.S. viewpoint, containing Iran is critical and our strategic relationship with Iraq is critical," Dr. Cordesman said. "This is one set of moves in a much more complicated chess game."

In part, the proposal for new covert operations reflects a more hawkish attitude toward Iran within the Obama administration's reshuffled national security team. Leon Panetta, the former CIA director now leading the Pentagon, has pressed Iraq to deal more forcefully with the threat from Iran.

Many members of the national security team, such as recently retired Gen. David Petraeus, who assumes the role of CIA director on Tuesday, have served in the U.S. Central Command, where military leaders have long viewed Iran as a threat to America and its Arab allies.

Nonetheless, both military and senior Obama administration officials believe they must proceed cautiously to ensure that any expansion in covert action doesn't prompt Tehran to retaliate and inadvertently trigger a wider conflict.

 .While expanding covert activity, some government officials also want to improve communication with the Iranian military. Doing so could help ensure that Tehran doesn't misconstrue covert actions that the U.S. sees as self-defense.

Attacks by Iranian-backed Iraqi militias pose the most immediate concern for U.S. officials. In June, 15 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq, the highest monthly total in three years.

American officials blamed Iranian involvement for many of the deaths and the White House approved a counterterrorism campaign to defend American troops.

Senior U.S. officials said those missions, which included secret operations on the Iran-Iraq border, helped curb Iranian backed attacks. There were no American deaths in August.

But the U.S. military is slated to withdraw nearly all of its 47,000 forces from Iraq by the end of December. U.S. and Iraqi officials are negotiating over whether to allow some troops to remain, but even if Baghdad approves a small residual force, that effort could be restricted to training activities.

Top Iraqi officials visited Tehran this summer to ask Iran to stop supplying Shiite militias with arms, and officials have condemned such Iranian interference. But the government remains divided over whether to more closely ally itself with the U.S. or Iran.

After December, the job of ensuring that Tehran can't mount attacks in Iraq, arm militia groups or destabilize the government in Baghdad will fall more heavily on U.S. intelligence.

The CIA isn't expected to draw down in Iraq as quickly as the military after December.

It also is possible that the agency will need to work with the U.S. military's secretive special operations forces, as it did in the May raid in Pakistan resulting in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

If the presidential finding for an expansion of covert action is approved—and if some special operations forces remain in Iraq—they could be assigned to operate temporarily under CIA authority. The agency, under the National Security Act, is the only U.S. entity that can conduct covert operations.

Special operations forces would have the ability to carry out risky capture-or-kill missions that the CIA may not be able to conduct on its own.

Iran Cracks Down on Dissent
.A new finding also would ensure that the CIA and military special operations forces working for the agency have the legal ability under U.S. law to shut down the flow of arms from Iran to allied militia groups—even if those weapons aren't explicitly banned by the U.N.

Other officials, including some in Congress, favor a broader secret campaign against Iran to block its support to Syria or to other militant groups elsewhere in the Middle East.

But officials said the current proposals being considered by the administration are focused more on countering malign Iranian influence in Iraq.

23944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The CIA and Kadaffy on: September 06, 2011, 07:47:09 AM

The Central Intelligence Agency and Libyan intelligence services developed such a tight relationship during the George W. Bush administration that the U.S. shipped terror suspects to Libya for interrogation and suggested the questions they should be asked, according to documents found in Libya's External Security agency headquarters.

The Regime's Inner Workings
Reams of confidential documents reveal in vivid detail the desperation and disarray at the highest reaches of Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime this spring as power slipped through their fingers.

The relationship was close enough that the CIA moved to establish "a permanent presence" in Libya in 2004, according to a note from Stephen Kappes, at the time the No. 2 in the CIA's clandestine service, to Libya's then-intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa.

Libya's Revolution
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Alexandre Meneghini/Associated Press
People in the rebel-held town of Benghazi celebrated the news Aug. 22 of the capture of Moammar Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam.
.On Edge in Libya
Track fighting and city control around the country.

View Interactive
.Map: Regional Upheaval
Track events day by day in the region.

View Interactive
.More photos and interactive graphics
. Secret documents unearthed by human rights activists indicate the CIA and MI6 had very close relations with Libya's 2004 Gadhafi regime. Video courtesy of Reuters.
.The memo began "Dear Musa," and was signed by hand, "Steve." Mr. Kappes was a critical player in the secret negotiations that led to Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi's 2003 decision to give up his nuclear program. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Kappes, who has retired from the agency, declined to comment.

A U.S. official said Libya had showed progress at the time. "Let's keep in mind the context here: By 2004, the U.S. had successfully convinced the Libyan government to renounce its nuclear-weapons program and to help stop terrorists who were actively targeting Americans in the U.S. and abroad," the official said.

The files documenting the renewal of ties between the CIA and Libyan intelligence were reviewed and copied by researchers from Human Rights Watch during a tour of Libya's External Security agency headquarters in downtown Tripoli. Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert said he was touring the building on Friday as part of the group's effort to help the Libyan transitional authority secure sensitive documents left by the Gadhafi regime, which collapsed in August after a five-month rebellion.

Mr. Bouckaert said he discovered the files inside the complex in a room that guards described as the former office of Mr. Koussa, who became foreign minister in 2009. Mr. Bouckaert photographed the documents, leaving the originals in their place, and gave copies to The Wall Street Journal.

Human Rights Watch has been critical of the U.S. policy of sending terror suspects to third countries for interrogation, a practice known as rendition. The practice dates at least to 1995, when Egypt began aiding the U.S. with rendition.

U.S. officials say they obtained assurances from the recipient countries that the rendered detainees would be treated humanely. "There are lots of countries willing to take terrorists off the street who want to kill Americans," the U.S. official said. "That doesn't mean U.S. concerns about human rights are ignored in the process."

In an April 15, 2004 letter to Libyan intelligence, the CIA proposed the rendition of another man, saying, "We respectfully request an expression of interest from your service regarding taking custody."

Citing "recently developed agreements," the CIA asked the Libyans to "agree to take our requirements for debriefings of [the suspect], as well as a guarantee that [his] human rights will be protected."

The files also show the close relationship that some British intelligence officials had with Mr. Koussa.

With Libya's NTC in Place, Little Sign of Leading
Washington Says It Knew of Ex-Diplomat's Libya Meet

.Mr. Koussa, who defected from Col. Gadhafi's government in March, was credited with helping negotiate Libya's rapprochement with the international community and bartering an end to sanctions in return for Libya renouncing its weapons-of-mass-destruction program.

Yet he was also one of the stalwarts of the Gadhafi regime and headed the foreign intelligence service during a time when many Western officials believed Col. Gadhafi was funding and supporting international terrorist groups. In 1980, he was expelled from his diplomatic post in the U.K. after calling in a newspaper interview for the killing of Libyan dissidents in Great Britain. Libya later claimed he had been misquoted.

By the early years of the George W. Bush administration, however, as seen in the 2004 memo, Mr. Kappes was writing to Mr. Koussa: "Libya's cooperation on WMD and other issues, as well as our nascent intelligence cooperation mean that now is the right moment to move ahead."

The intelligence services had discussed the move for "quite some time" Mr. Kappes wrote.

The files provide an extraordinary window into the highly secretive and controversial practice of rendition, whereby the agency would send detainees to other countries for interrogation, including ones known for harsh treatment of detainees. The program was ramped up for terror detainees after the Sept. 11 attacks.

When taking over the CIA at the outset of the Obama administration, then-director Leon Panetta said the agency would continue to use rendition, but would seek assurances that the detainee wouldn't be tortured—which has been the standing U.S. policy. Mr. Panetta left the CIA two months ago to lead the Pentagon.

"We are eager to work with you in the questioning of the terrorist we recently rendered to your country," Mr. Kappes wrote in the memo, adding that he would like to send two more officers to Libya to question a suspect directly.

The documents show the logistical hurdles the rendition program experienced, such as Hong Kong's refusal to allow a Libyan aircraft to land, the requirements to show valid insurance documents, and certifications of airworthiness.

In some of the documents, the CIA provided Libyan intelligence with a long list of questions it wanted to have posed to one suspect in Tripoli's custody, a Libyan-Canadian who Western intelligence agencies accused of being a leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a now-defunct group the U.S. suspected of links to al Qaeda. The Americans wanted to know, among other things, whether the man had relationships with named individuals in Cincinnati, Seattle and Los Angeles or with companies across the U.S. from a Colorado auto-sales firm to a global shipping company in California.

Many of the questions U.S. intelligence officials wanted posed to the suspect were about other alleged members of the organization.

Another document said the CIA was aware that Libyan intelligence was cooperating with the British to bring to Tripoli a suspected militant leader who was being held in detention in Hong Kong for immigration violations.

An April 6, 2004 memo titled "Iraqi Scientists," the CIA asked Libyan intelligence to let U.S. agents interview several Iraqi scientists who were living in Libya, part of a postwar scramble to determine the fate of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

In one memo with the subject line "ALLEGED TERRORIST CELL WITHIN LIBYA PLANNING FOR ATTACKS AGAINST U.S. INTERESTS," the CIA asked for help tracking down a suspected "operational cell" in Libya suspected of being in contact with al Qaeda operatives in Iraq. The CIA said it feared U.S. government officials and commercial interests in Libya would be attacked.

"Thank you very much for your speedy assistance," the memo concluded.

—Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes contributed to this article.
23945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Huntsman on Piers Morgan on: September 06, 2011, 07:29:16 AM
I watched Huntsman on Piers Morgan the other day and saw much there to like.  Apart from the issues on which we disagree, he was absolutely horrendous on last month's game of chicken over the budget-- parroting hook, line, and sinker the Dem talking points about how the Tea Party and radical Republicans were willing for the US to default and how he was the only Rep candidate to oppose that.  There was something else that slips my mind at the moment that I also found quite bad, but overall his schpiel about Reps being too radical really grates for me.  The truth is that they are not radical enough-- as we are about to discover when Boener's "super committee" fails to come to terms leading to the gutting of US military , , , all for $21B in cuts this year.

PS:  On the human side I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he had dropped out of school to try to become a rock musician (keyboards) and that his favorite musician was , , , drum roll please , , , Captain Beefheart!-- about whom he spoke knowledgeably-- quite surprising for a Mormon!  Both Huntsman and his daughter played some piano and both are seriously good.

Last week, immediately after I announced my vision for economic revival in America, we saw the report that zero jobs were created during the month of August. Zero. This number isn't simply depressing. It's unacceptable. It represents the final verdict on this administration's failed policies and the overall lack of leadership in Washington.

Behind our nation's unemployment numbers are human tragedies: families torn apart, relationships pushed to the brink, and men and women struggling to maintain self-esteem and the pride that comes with self-sufficiency.

President Obama believes we can tax and spend and regulate our way to prosperity. We cannot. We must compete our way to prosperity. To do that, we must equip the American worker and the American entrepreneur with the tools to compete in the global economy.

Restoring our competitiveness will not be possible without first recognizing our constitutional commitment to limited government, a precondition for unleashing the spirit of American entrepreneurialism.

In the long term, this will mean dramatic education and immigration reform, but in the short term, tax simplification, regulatory reform, and changes in energy and trade policy will jump-start the American economy and allow us to export more and import less, creating sustainable growth and jobs.

We need a revenue-neutral tax overhaul modeled after Ronald Reagan's 1986 tax reform package—which will require taking on sacred cows. This means eliminating special interest carve-outs, loopholes and deductions while lowering rates across the board so our tax code is flatter, fairer, simpler and more conducive to growth.

This is similar to the reforms we implemented in Utah, which allowed our state to lead the nation in job creation and our economy to grow at triple the national rate.

For individual taxpayers, we will introduce three drastically lower rates of 8%, 14% and 23%. Eliminating deductions and credits in favor of lower marginal rates will yield a simpler and more efficient system, decreasing the taxpayer burden. We'll also use the increased revenue from closing loopholes to make business tax rates globally competitive and eliminate double taxes on investment, both measures that will encourage hiring.

Our entrepreneurs are harmed as much by overregulation as by overtaxation. One recent example is the National Labor Relations Board's effort to prevent our largest exporter, Boeing, from operating a plant in South Carolina because of its right-to-work law. As president, if the NLRB were to continue pursuing this antijobs policy, I would replace its general counsel, who has not been confirmed, and also its board if necessary. The Dodd-Frank financial regulation law is another regulatory sin—a 1,600 page monstrosity that creates massive compliance costs.

Dodd-Frank also perpetuates "too big to fail," all but guaranteeing more bailouts, massive regulatory oversight and preferential funding for the biggest banks. Protecting taxpayers, community banks and their small-business customers will ultimately require the biggest banks, which are in danger of becoming public utilities, to choose between downsizing or facing much higher capital ratios to fend off more public rescues and even more regulation.

We cannot stabilize our economy without stabilizing the housing market. Washington inflated the housing bubble in part through the misuse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Today, the White House continues to use these institutions to perpetuate a failed intervention in the housing market that is preventing a natural stabilization. As president, I will privatize Fannie and Freddie, and let the housing market clear in order to lay the groundwork for renewed growth.

With respect to energy independence, the Environmental Protection Agency can fulfill its mission of guarding America's clean air and water by increasing opportunities for clean, domestic fuels. Every year America sends more than $300 billion overseas for oil, much of it to unstable and unfriendly regimes. That accounts for half of our trade deficit. We can redeploy that capital in this country, immediately creating jobs by harnessing domestic energy opportunities and eliminating subsidies and regulations that discourage clean American energy sources and technologies such as natural gas, biofuels, coal-to-liquids and electric cars.

As president, I would expedite the approval process for safe, environmentally sound projects involving our oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska and appropriate federal lands. I would offer continued support for the Keystone Pipeline, which brings oil from Canada. We will also remove barriers between those resources and consumers such as the Obama administration's newly issued fuel economy regulations, which effectively bar heavy-duty trucks from converting to cleaner, domestic natural gas.

Despite the fact that 95% of the world's customers live outside our borders, the U.S. is party to only 17 of the more than 300 existing trade agreements world-wide. Opening more markets for American businesses will immediately spark growth. For two and a half years, the president has failed to act on trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. I'd make them a priority.

We must also seek new trade opportunities, giving American businesses and workers access to consumers around the world whom are eager for quality American products. We are right to pursue a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, but this is not ambitious enough. As president I will immediately start pursuing free-trade agreements with India, Japan and Taiwan and strengthen our relationship with our European trading partners, who will be critical to America's success in the years ahead.

Around the world, other nations are making the tough choices necessary to compete in the 21st century economy. America must do the same.

Mr. Huntsman, formerly a governor of Utah, Huntsman Corporation executive and ambassador to China and Singapore, is seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
23946  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 9/25/11 Benefit seminar for GM Bobby Taboada of Balintawak on: September 06, 2011, 07:03:16 AM


Hosted by: John Spezzano
Location: Five Star Martial Arts 4201 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 105, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Free parking at the back of the building
Date and time: Sept. 25, 20011; 2:30-5:30PM
Fees: $60.00

Featured Instructors:

GM Nene Gaabucayan of NNG Balintawak International
and GM Virgil Cavada of Applied Balintawak Eskrima


Demonstration by: Richard “Army” Maguire
of Ageless Strength

For your donations or payments, send check or money order to :
Nene Gaabucayan
1150 ½ N Mariposa Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
23947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: The construction of laws, 1823 on: September 06, 2011, 06:59:02 AM

"Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, 1823

23948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oy fg vey 2: Coming law on babysitters on: September 06, 2011, 06:51:26 AM
California regulating babysitters out of business
Posted on September 1, 2011 by PoliPunditWith millions of people fleeing the once-Golden State, California is focusing on what’s really important:

The nanny state impulse runs strong in the Golden State, where the State Assembly has passed a bill that would virtually regulate babysitting out of business. After 2 hours of babysitting, a mandatory 15 minute break must be give, meaning that a stand-by babysitter must be present. Then there are the paperwork requirements, and the severe penalties that kick in for any parents who fail to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. State Senator Doug LaMalfa writes:

The bill has already passed the Assembly and is quickly moving through the Senate with blanket support from the Democrat members that control both houses of the Legislature – and without the support of a single Republican member. Assuming the bill will easily clear its last couple of legislative hurdles, AB 889 will soon be on its way to the Governor’s desk.

Under AB 889, household “employers” (aka “parents”) who hire a babysitter on a Friday night will be legally obligated to pay at least minimum wage to any sitter over the age of 18 (unless it is a family member), provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks, in addition to workers’ compensation coverage, overtime pay, and a meticulously calculated timecard/paycheck.
23949  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NY Times: Time to Revive Home Economics on: September 06, 2011, 06:42:50 AM
Time to Revive Home EcBy HELEN ZOE VEIT
Published: September 5, 2011

NOBODY likes home economics. For most people, the phrase evokes bland food, bad sewing and self-righteous fussiness.

But home economics is more than a 1950s teacher in cat’s-eye glasses showing her female students how to make a white sauce. Reviving the program, and its original premises — that producing good, nutritious food is profoundly important, that it takes study and practice, and that it can and should be taught through the public school system — could help us in the fight against obesity and chronic disease today.

The home economics movement was founded on the belief that housework and food preparation were important subjects that should be studied scientifically. The first classes occurred in the agricultural and technical colleges that were built from the proceeds of federal land grants in the 1860s. By the early 20th century, and increasingly after the passage of federal legislation like the 1917 Smith-Hughes Act, which provided support for the training of teachers in home economics, there were classes in elementary, middle and high schools across the country. When universities excluded women from most departments, home economics was a back door into higher education. Once there, women worked hard to make the case that “domestic science” was in fact a scientific discipline, linked to chemistry, biology and bacteriology.

Indeed, in the early 20th century, home economics was a serious subject. When few understood germ theory and almost no one had heard of vitamins, home economics classes offered vital information about washing hands regularly, eating fruits and vegetables and not feeding coffee to babies, among other lessons.

Eventually, however, the discipline’s basic tenets about health and hygiene became so thoroughly popularized that they came to seem like common sense. As a result, their early proponents came to look like old maids stating the obvious instead of the innovators and scientists that many of them really were. Increasingly, home economists’ eagerness to dispense advice on everything from eating to sleeping to posture galled.

Today we remember only the stereotypes about home economics, while forgetting the movement’s crucial lessons on healthy eating and cooking.

Too many Americans simply don’t know how to cook. Our diets, consisting of highly processed foods made cheaply outside the home thanks to subsidized corn and soy, have contributed to an enormous health crisis. More than half of all adults and more than a third of all children are overweight or obese. Chronic diseases associated with weight gain, like heart disease and diabetes, are hobbling more and more Americans.

In the last decade, many cities and states have tried — and generally failed — to tax junk food or to ban the use of food stamps to buy soda. Clearly, many people are leery of any governmental steps to promote healthy eating; Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity has inspired right-wing panic about a secret food police.

But what if the government put the tools of obesity prevention in the hands of children themselves, by teaching them how to cook?

My first brush with home economics, as a seventh grader in a North Carolina public school two decades ago, was grim. The most sophisticated cooking we did was opening a can of pre-made biscuit dough, sticking our thumbs in the center of each raw biscuit to make a hole, and then handing them over to the teacher, who dipped them in hot grease to make doughnuts.

Cooking classes for public school students need not be so utterly stripped of content, or so cynical about students’ abilities to cook and enjoy high-quality food.

A year later, my father’s job took our family to Wales, where I attended, for a few months, a large school in a mid-size industrial city. There, students brought ingredients from home and learned to follow recipes, some simple and some not-so-simple, eventually making vegetable soups and meat and potato pies from scratch. It was the first time I had ever really cooked anything. I remember that it was fun, and with an instructor standing by, it wasn’t hard. Those were deeply empowering lessons, ones that stuck with me when I first started cooking for myself in earnest after college.

In the midst of contracting school budgets and test-oriented curricula, the idea of reviving home economics as part of a broad offensive against obesity might sound outlandish. But teaching cooking — real cooking — in public schools could help address a host of problems facing Americans today. The history of home economics shows it’s possible.

Helen Zoe Veit, an assistant professor of history at Michigan State University, is the author of the forthcoming “Victory Over Ourselves: American Food in the Era of the Great War.”

23950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Spying on Israel on: September 06, 2011, 06:39:25 AM

When Shamai K. Leibowitz, an F.B.I. translator, was sentenced to 20 months in prison last year for leaking classified information to a blogger, prosecutors revealed little about the case. They identified the blogger in court papers only as “Recipient A.” After Mr. Leibowitz pleaded guilty, even the judge said he did not know exactly what Mr. Leibowitz had disclosed.
“All I know is that it’s a serious case,” Judge Alexander Williams Jr., of United States District Court in Maryland, said at the sentencing in May 2010. “I don’t know what was divulged other than some documents, and how it compromised things, I have no idea.”
Now the reason for the extraordinary secrecy surrounding the Obama administration’s first prosecution for leaking information to the news media seems clear: Mr. Leibowitz, a contract Hebrew translator, passed on secret transcripts of conversations caught on F.B.I. wiretaps of the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Those overheard by the eavesdroppers included American supporters of Israel and at least one member of Congress, according to the blogger, Richard Silverstein.

In his first interview about the case, Mr. Silverstein offered a rare glimpse of American spying on a close ally.

He said he had burned the secret documents in his Seattle backyard after Mr. Leibowitz came under investigation in mid-2009, but he recalled that there were about 200 pages of verbatim records of telephone calls and what seemed to be embassy conversations. He said that in one transcript, Israeli officials discussed their worry that their exchanges might be monitored.

Mr. Leibowitz, who declined to comment for this article, released the documents because of concerns about Israel’s aggressive efforts to influence Congress and public opinion, and fears that Israel might strike nuclear facilities in Iran, a move he saw as potentially disastrous, according to Mr. Silverstein.

While the American government routinely eavesdrops on some embassies inside the United States, intelligence collection against allies is always politically delicate, especially one as close as Israel.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation listens in on foreign embassies and officials in the United States chiefly to track foreign spies, though any intelligence it obtains on other matters is passed on to the C.I.A. and other agencies. The intercepts are carried out by the F.B.I.’s Operational Technology Division, based in Quantico, Va., according to Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence writer who describes the bureau’s monitoring in a book, “Intel Wars,” scheduled for publication in January. Translators like Mr. Leibowitz work at an F.B.I. office in Calverton, Md.

Former counterintelligence officials describe Israeli intelligence operations in the United States as quite extensive, ranking just below those of China and Russia, and F.B.I. counterintelligence agents have long kept an eye on Israeli spying.

For most eavesdropping on embassies in Washington, federal law requires the F.B.I. to obtain an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which meets in secret at the Justice Department. If an American visiting or calling an embassy turns up on a recording, the F.B.I. is required by law to remove the American’s name from intelligence reports, substituting the words “U.S. person.” But raw transcripts would not necessarily have undergone such editing, called “minimization.”

Mr. Silverstein’s account could not be fully corroborated, but it fits the publicly known facts about the case. Spokesmen for the F.B.I., the Justice Department and the Israeli Embassy declined to comment on either eavesdropping on the embassy or Mr. Leibowitz’s crime. He admitted disclosing “classified information concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States,” standard language for the interception of phone calls, e-mails and other messages by the F.B.I. and the National Security Agency, which generally focuses on international communications.

Mr. Leibowitz, now in a Federal Bureau of Prisons halfway house in Maryland, is prohibited by his plea agreement from discussing anything he learned at the F.B.I. Two lawyers who represented Mr. Leibowitz, Cary M. Feldman and Robert C. Bonsib, also would not comment.

Mr. Silverstein, 59, writes a blog called Tikun Olam, named after a Hebrew phrase that he said means “repairing the world.” The blog gives a liberal perspective on Israel and Israeli-American relations. He said he had decided to speak out to make clear that Mr. Leibowitz, though charged under the Espionage Act, was acting out of noble motives. The Espionage Act has been used by the Justice Department in nearly all prosecutions of government employees for disclosing classified information to the news media, including the record-setting five such cases under President Obama.

Mr. Silverstein said he got to know Mr. Leibowitz, a lawyer with a history of political activism, after noticing that he, too, had a liberal-minded blog, called Pursuing Justice. The men shared a concern about repercussions from a possible Israeli airstrike on nuclear facilities in Iran. From his F.B.I. work from January to August of 2009, Mr. Leibowitz also believed that Israeli diplomats’ efforts to influence Congress and shape American public opinion were excessive and improper, Mr. Silverstein said.


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“I see him as an American patriot and a whistle-blower, and I’d like his actions to be seen in that context,” Mr. Silverstein said. “What really concerned Shamai at the time was the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran, which he thought would be damaging to both Israel and the United States.”

Mr. Silverstein took the blog posts he had written based on Mr. Leibowitz’s material off his site after the criminal investigation two years ago. But he was able to retrieve three posts from April 2009 from his computer and provided them to The New York Times.  The blog posts make no reference to eavesdropping, but describe information from “a confidential source,” wording Mr. Silverstein said was his attempt to disguise the material’s origin.
One post reports that the Israeli Embassy provided “regular written briefings” on Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza to President Obama in the weeks between his election and inauguration. Another describes calls involving Israeli officials in Jerusalem, Chicago and Washington to discuss the views of members of Congress on Israel. A third describes a call between an unnamed Jewish activist in Minnesota and the Israeli Embassy about an embassy official’s meeting with Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who was planning an official trip to Gaza.

Mr. Silverstein said he remembered that embassy officials talked about drafting opinion articles to be published under the names of American supporters. He said the transcripts also included a three-way conversation between a congressman from Texas, an American supporter of the congressman and an embassy official; Mr. Silverstein said he could not recall any of the names.

At his sentencing, Mr. Leibowitz described what he had done as “a one-time mistake that happened to me when I worked at the F.B.I. and saw things which I considered were violation of the law, and I should not have told a reporter about it.”

That was a reference to Israeli diplomats’ attempts to influence Congress, Mr. Silverstein said, though nothing Mr. Leibowitz described to him appeared to be beyond the bounds of ordinary lobbying.

Mr. Leibowitz, 40, the father of 6-year-old twins at the time of sentencing, seems an unlikely choice for an F.B.I. translation job. He was born in Israel to a family prominent in academic circles. He practiced law in Israel for several years, representing several controversial clients, including Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader convicted of directing terrorist attacks on Israelis, who Mr. Leibowitz once said reminded him of Moses. In 2004, Mr. Leibowitz moved to Silver Spring, Md., outside Washington, where he was a leader in his synagogue. Mr. Silverstein said Mr. Leibowitz holds dual American and Israeli citizenship.

In court, Mr. Leibowitz expressed anguish about the impact of the case on his marriage and family, which he said was “destitute.” He expressed particular sorrow about leaving his children. “At the formative time of their life, when they’re 6 years old and they’re just finishing first grade, I’ll be absent from their life, and that is the most terrible thing about this case,” he said.

While treated as highly classified by the F.B.I., the fact that the United States spies on Israel is taken for granted by experts on intelligence. “We started spying on Israel even before the state of Israel was formally founded in 1948, and Israel has always spied on us,” said Mr. Aid, the author. “Israeli intercepts have always been one of the most sensitive categories,” designated with the code word Gamma to indicate their protected status, he said.

Douglas M. Bloomfield, an American columnist for several Jewish publications, said that when he worked in the 1980s for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group, he assumed that communications with the embassy were not private.

“I am not surprised at all to learn that the F.B.I. was listening to the Israelis,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s a wise use of resources because I don’t see Israel as a threat to American security.”
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