Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: September 25, 2010, 02:01:51 PM
See the recent posts in the CyberWar thread about Stuxnet.
In a possibly related vein here are some comments yesterday from Stratfor:
Ahmadinejad Reaches Out to Washington
While in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad worked the U.S. media circuit, spreading his views on subjects including the Holocaust, human rights and — of particular interest to STRATFOR — the potential for U.S.-Iranian negotiations.
Rumors are buzzing around Washington over what appears to be a fresh attempt by the Iranian president to establish a backchannel link to the U.S. administration. The latest communiques that we at STRATFOR have received from Iranian officials close to Ahmadinejad have been unusually pleasant in tone, highlighting the various areas where Tehran may be prone to a compromise with Washington. Even in commenting on an unusual bombing that took place Wednesday in the Kurdish-populated northwestern Iranian city of Mahabad, Iranian officials seemed to have focused their blame on Israel as opposed to the United States. Ahmadinejad and his associates appear to be making a concerted effort to create an atmosphere for a more substantial dialogue with the United States on everything from Iraq to the nuclear issue to Afghanistan.
Back in Tehran, Ahmadinejad’s rivals are fuming over what they view as a unilateral attempt by the president to pursue these negotiations. Some of the more hardline figures don’t feel current conditions are conducive to talks while others simply want to control the negotiations themselves and deny Ahmadinejad a claim to fame in the foreign policy sphere.
“Negotiating games aside, there seems to be a legitimate sense of urgency behind Iran’s latest appeal for talks.”
This has always been the United States’ biggest issue in trying to negotiate with the Islamic republic. Since the 1980s, it has been a labyrinthine and often futile process for most U.S. policymakers who have attempted to figure out whom to talk to in Tehran and whether the person they’re talking to actually has the clout to speak for the Iranian establishment. Can the United States be confident, for example, that any message carried by an Ahmadinejad emissary won’t be immediately shut down by the supreme leader? Will one faction be able to follow through with even the preliminary step of a negotiation without another faction scuttling the process? At the same time, Iran is notorious for obfuscating the negotiations to its advantage by dropping conciliatory hints along the way and then catching the United States off guard when it needs to make a more aggressive move.
Negotiating games aside, there seems to be a legitimate sense of urgency behind Iran’s latest appeal for talks. When else will Iran have the United States this militarily and politically constrained across the Islamic world (especially in countries where Iran carries substantial clout)? Meanwhile, with U.S. patience wearing thin in Afghanistan, countries like Russia and China are racing to reassert their influence in their respective peripheries before the window of opportunity closes and the United States recalibrates its threat priorities. These states will do whatever they can to keep that window of opportunity open (for example, by supplying Iran with gasoline at albeit hefty premiums to complicate the U.S. sanctions effort and by keeping open the threat of strategic weapons sales), but their time horizon is still hazy. None of these states want to wake up one day to find the haze cleared and the United States on their doorstep.
But for Iran, the United States is already on its doorstep and the main issue standing between them — Iraq and the broader Sunni-Shia balance in the Persian Gulf — will remain paralyzed until the two can reach some basic level of understanding. The will to reopen the dialogue may be there, but the United States is waiting to see whether Iran will be able to negotiate with one voice.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: September 25, 2010, 02:00:56 PM
Excellent work here GM.
In support of GM's analysis "My money says Japan folded after the US told them that we don't have their back" while flying back to LA from Dulles/DC airport today this morning's Pravda on the Potomac (a.k.a. the WaPo) quoted some Under Secretary of State saying that Japan had done the right thing, that is was the sort of thing that "mature" nations did or something like that.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns!
on: September 25, 2010, 01:53:10 PM
Our man in Iraq is back there again and we begin anew an intermittent sharing of his slice of real life observations:
24 Sep 2010 02:13:01 +0000
Well the young folks in Amman sure love their night life. Since I was last here they opened a disco near the hotel I stayed at. The line was like something from the old Studio 54 days. Plenty of girls wearing head scarves. And tight jeans. The music emanating from that place was very loud and booming. I'm gonna go ahead and say that place was smokin' last night. Thursday night in Amman is like Friday night in USA. They are off Friday and Saturday. Friday is religious day. Saturday is family day.
I got up at 02:45 because my internal clock is messed up. And I couldn't get my mind off of the fact that in this part of the world hotels occasionally go boom. Plus I didn't work out yesterday so I was obsessing over that.
Fisticuffs at Amman airport
, , , It took 4 lame ass cop/guard types to drop a guy. I came close to jumping in and taking him down and out because it was taking them forever. I have no idea what it's about. This guy had numerous opportunities to grab a gun from a holster, if any were present because they could not easily take him out
One of the first thing somebody who has been to Baghdad before will notice is the essential lack of air assets moving all about. I am out at BIAP right now. Several years aho the whine of USAF aircraft engines, and the taking off and landing of choppers, was almost non-stop (especially at night). It now seems eerily quiet of such background noise. I am told that the several times a week embassy flights often have only 15-25 people on them, whereas they were packed to the gills back in the day. The pervasive sound of non-stop generators also seems somewhat lessed as well.
If one saw the feeble patdowns that were given to guys in Amman who triggered the magnetometer at the airport, one might not want to get on a commerical airliner.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT/POTH Japan buckles (due to REM?)
on: September 25, 2010, 03:35:29 AM
TOKYO — A diplomatic showdown between Japan and China that began two weeks ago with the arrest of the captain of a Chinese trawler near disputed islands ended Friday when Tokyo accepted Beijing’s demands for his immediate release, a concession that appeared to mark a humiliating retreat in a Pacific test of wills.
Japan freed the captain, Zhan Qixiong, 41, who left Saturday on a chartered flight sent by the Chinese government to take him home. Mr. Zhan had been held by the Japanese authorities since his boat collided with Japanese patrol vessels on Sept. 7 near uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, and Japan had insisted that he would be prosecuted.
His release handed a significant victory to Chinese leaders, who have ratcheted up the pressure on Japan with verbal threats and economic sanctions.
“It certainly appears that Japan gave in,” said Hiroshi Nakanishi, a professor of international relations at Kyoto University. “This is going to raise questions about why Japan pushed the issue in the first place, if it couldn’t follow through with meeting China’s challenges.”
The climb down was the latest indicator of the shifting balance of power in Asia. China this year surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy and had already become Japan’s biggest export market. Japan, mired in extended political uncertainty and economic malaise, has had a succession of weak prime ministers who have struggled to assert its interests in a region focused mainly on a resurgent China.
China on Saturday restated its claims to the disputed islands and in a statement demanded an apology and compensation. “Such an act seriously infringed upon China’s territorial sovereignty and violated the human rights of Chinese citizens,” the statement said.
At the outset, Japan had made an uncharacteristic display of political backbone by detaining the captain, when in the past it had simply chased away Chinese vessels that approached too close to the islands, which are claimed by both countries but administered by Japan. Apparently angered by a rising number of incursions by Chinese fishing boats in recent years, Tokyo initially appeared determined to demonstrate to Beijing its control of the islands, analysts and diplomats said.
Instead, the move unleashed a furious diplomatic assault from China. Beijing cut off ministerial-level talks on issues like joint energy development, and curtailed visits to Japan by Chinese tourists. The fact that the detention took place on Sept. 8, the anniversary of Japan’s 1931 invasion of northeast China, spurred scattered street protests and calls by nationalistic Chinese bloggers to take a firm stand against Tokyo.
In recent days, China stepped up its intimidation. Chinese customs officials appeared to block crucial exports to Japan of rare earths, which are metals vital to Japan’s auto and electronics industries. Then on Thursday, four Japanese construction company employees were detained in the Chinese province of Hebei.
In the end, diplomats and analysts said Japan was forced to recognize that taking the next step of charging the captain and putting him on trial would result in a serious deterioration of ties with China, Japan’s biggest trading partner.
“At this point, Japan had only one choice,” said a Western diplomat in Beijing, who spoke on the usual diplomatic condition of anonymity. “It had to charge the captain, or it would have to climb down.”
It chose the latter. On Friday, prosecutors on the island of Ishigaki, where the captain was held, cited diplomatic considerations in their decision to let him go, and suspended their investigation into charges of obstructing officials on duty.
“Considering the effect on the people of our nation and on China-Japan relations, we decided that it was not appropriate to continue the investigation,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
Until Japan’s sudden reversal on Friday, the tussle had grown to dominate both nations’ diplomatic agendas, including during the United Nations development summit meeting this week in New York.
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China had refused to meet on the sidelines of the meeting with Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, and instead threatened additional actions if Japan did not release the captain.
(Page 2 of 2)
The Japanese used the summit meeting to seek American support for its position. They seemed to get it when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Japan’s new foreign minister, Seiji Maehara, that America’s treaty obligations to defend Japan from foreign attack would include any moves against the islands where the Chinese captain had been arrested.
The islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese or Diaoyu in Chinese, are also claimed by Taiwan.
The fact that Japan seemed to back down after escalating the situation brought an outpouring of criticism of Mr. Kan, who was re-elected prime minister just two weeks ago. On Friday, members of his own governing Democratic Party joined opposition lawmakers in condemning the decision to release the captain.
“I’m flabbergasted that this was resolved with such a clear diplomatic defeat for Japan,” said Yoshimi Watanabe, leader of the opposition Your Party.
The setback appears likely to raise new concerns about the leadership of the Democrats, who took power in a landslide election victory last year with promises to improve ties within Asia and reduce Japan’s dependence on the United States.
However, the standoff underscored how sentiment in Japan had hardened against China, even in recent months. Ever more frequent movements by Chinese warships into Japanese waters have stirred fears here that fast-growing China will become more aggressive in pushing its territorial claims.
However, there were also growing calls in Japan for a quick resolution to the standoff, particularly by the business community, which has become increasingly reliant on China for trade and investment. On Friday, the president of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, Atsushi Saito, told reporters he welcomed the release.
“As a Japanese, I have mixed feelings about appearing so weak-kneed,” Mr. Saito said, “but realistically speaking, we had to put this problem behind us.”
In China, the captain’s release appeared to be a victory for the leadership, and particularly the prime minister, Mr. Wen. The Communist Party is keen to show itself as defending China’s territorial claims, which enjoy strong emotional support from the Chinese people. China also views itself as geopolitically hemmed in by Japan and other cold war-era American allies as it tries to take its place as a regional power.
Chinese analysts agreed that Japan had appeared to fold, but said Tokyo had no choice if it wanted to avoid a continued escalation with China.
“This was a move that Japan had to make or China would have taken further steps,” said Wang Xiangsui, a foreign policy analyst at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “Now the two sides can discuss this more calmly.”
Mr. Zhan, the trawler captain, arrived in the Chinese coastal city of Fuzhou at 4 a.m. local time, according to the official Xinhua news agency. He was met at the airport by senior officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry, which had chartered a plane to pick him up after his release in Japan.
When the door of the plane opened, Mr. Zhan was carrying flowers and immediately was greeted with hugs by relatives waiting for him, Xinhua reported.
“Being able to return safely this time, I thank the party and government for their care,” Mr. Zhan said. “I also thank the Chinese people for their concern.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why did Obama go to church?
on: September 24, 2010, 08:46:30 PM
Why did Obama go to Church? To Listen to a Muslim Speak!
September 21, 2010 by Roberto Santiago
Filed under Islam
And embrace your future!
So, why do you think Barack Obama and family really went to church on
The mainstream media won't tell you, but Obama went to St. John's Episcopal
Church to hear a MUSLIM GUEST SPEAKER!
via Bare Naked Islam ( you are the best! )
The Post Email Yesterday, on Sunday, September 19, 2010, the Obama family
attended church for only the third time in a year. They went on foot to the
St. John's Episcopal Church situated across the Lafayette Park.
But what is widely not reported by the White House and the MSM is that on
that particular Sunday in that particular church, Dr. Ziad Asali, M.D., a
Muslim, founder and president of the American Task Force on Palestine, was
the guest speaker. He was there to speak on the subject of "Prospects of the
two-state solution in the Middle-East."
According to the website of the American Task Force on Palestine, it is a
"non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, DC." The
organization describes itself as "dedicated to advocating that it is in the
American national interest to promote an end to the conflict in the Middle
East through a negotiated agreement that provides for two states - Israel
and Palestine - living side by side in peace and security."
Dr. Ziad J. Asali is described as "a long-time activist on Middle East
issues" who has testified to both chambers of Congress about Palestinian
interests, increased U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority, and "Israel's
disproportionate use of force" in Gaza. A retired physician, Asali received
his early medical training at the American University of Beirut. He
previously served as President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee (ADC) and Chairman of the American Committee on Jerusalem (ACJ),
which he also co-founded He also served as the President of the
Arab-American University Graduates (AAUG). H/T Another Infidelhttp://www.chroniclewatch.com/2010/09/21/why-did-obama-go-to-church-to-listen-to-a-muslim-speak/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: The Enraged vs. the Exhausted
on: September 24, 2010, 08:38:15 PM
DECLARATIONSSEPTEMBER 25, 2010
The Enraged vs. the Exhausted
If you thought the 1994 election was historic, just wait till this year.
By PEGGY NOONAN
All anyone in America who cares about politics was talking about this week was the
searing encounter that captured, in a way that hasn't been done before, the essence
of the political moment we're in. When 2010 is reviewed, it will be the clip
producers pick to illustrate the president's disastrous fall.
It is Monday, Sept. 20, the middle of the day, in Washington. CNBC is holding a town
hall for the president. A woman stands—handsome, dignified, black, a person with
presence. She looks as if she may be what she turns out to be, an Obama supporter
who in 2008 put up street signs, passed out literature and tried to win over
co-workers. As she later told the Washington Post, "I was thinking that the people
who were against him and didn't believe in his agenda were completely insane."
The president looked relieved when she stood. Perhaps he thought she might lob a
sympathetic question that would allow him to hit a reply out of the park. Instead,
and in the nicest possible way, Velma Hart lobbed a hand grenade.
"I'm a mother. I'm a wife. I'm an American veteran, and I'm one of your middle-class
Americans. And quite frankly I'm exhausted. I'm exhausted of defending you,
defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and
deeply disappointed with where we are." She said, "The financial recession has taken
an enormous toll on my family." She said, "My husband and I have joked for years
that we thought we were well beyond the hot-dogs-and-beans era of our lives. But,
quite frankly, it is starting to knock on our door and ring true that that might be
where we are headed."
View Full Image
What a testimony. And this is the president's base. He got that look public figures
adopt when they know they just took one right in the chops on national TV and cannot
show their dismay. He could have responded with an engagement and conviction equal
to the moment. But this was our president—calm, detached, even-keeled to the point
of insensate. He offered a recital of his administration's achievements: tuition
assistance, health care. It seemed so off point. Like his first two years.
But it was the word Mrs. Hart used that captured everything: "exhausted." From what
I see, that's how a lot of Democrats feel. They've turned silent, too, like people
who witnessed a car crash and can't talk anymore about the reasons for the accident
or how many were injured.
This election is more and more shaping up into a contest between the Exhausted and
In a contest like that, who wins? That's like asking, "Who would win a sporting
event between the depressed and the anxious?" The anxious are wide awake. The wide
But Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee suggests I have the wrong word for the
Republican base. The word, she says, is not enraged but "livid."
The three-term Republican deputy whip has been campaigning in Alabama, Colorado,
Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. We
spoke by phone about what she is seeing, and she sounded like the exact opposite of
There are two major developments, she says, that are new this year and
insufficiently noted, but they're going to shape election outcomes in 2010 and
First, Washington is being revealed in a new way.
The American people now know, "with real sophistication," everything that happens in
the capital. "I find a much more knowledgeable electorate, and it is a real-time
response," Ms. Blackburn says. "We hear about it even as the vote is taking place."
Voters come to rallies carrying research—"things they pulled off the Internet,
forwarded emails," copies of bills, roll-call votes. The Internet isn't just a tool
for organization and fund-raising. It has given citizens access to information they
never had before. "The more they know," Ms. Blackburn observes, "the less they like
Second is the rise of women as a force. They "are the drivers in this election
cycle," Ms. Blackburn says. "Something is going on." At tea party events the past 18
months, she started to notice "60% of the crowd is women."
She tells of a political rally that drew thousands in Nashville, at the State
Capitol plaza. She had brought her year-old grandson. When the mic was handed to
her, she was holding him. "I said, 'How many of you are grandmothers?' The hands!
That was the moment I realized that the majority of the people at the political
events now are women. I saw this in town halls in '09—it was women showing up at my
listening events, it was women talking about health care."
Why would more women be focusing more intently on politics this year than before?
Ms. Blackburn hypothesizes: "Women are always focusing on a generation or two down
the road. Women make the education and health-care decisions for their families, for
their kids, their spouse, their parents. And so they have become more politically
involved. They are worried about will people have enough money, how are they going
to pay the bills, the tuition, get the kids through school and college."
More Peggy Noonan
Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns
click here to order her new book, Patriotic Grace
Ms. Blackburn suggested, further in the conversation, that government's reach into
the personal lives of families, including new health-care rules and the prospect of
higher taxes, plus the rise in public information on how Washington works and what
it does, had prompted mothers to rebel.
The media called 1994 "the year of the angry white male." That was the year of the
Republican wave that yielded a GOP House for the first time in 40 years. "I look at
this year as the Rage of the Bill-Paying Moms," Ms. Blackburn says. "They are saying
'How dare you, in your arrogance, cap the opportunities my child will have? You'll
burden them with so much debt they won't be able to buy a house—all because you
can't balance the budget.'"
How does 2010 compare with 1994 in terms of historical significance? Ms. Blackburn
says there's an unnoted story there, too. Whereas 1994 was historic as a party
victory, a shift in political power, this year feels more organic, more
from-the-ground, and potentially deeper. She believes 2010 will mark "a
philosophical shift," the beginning of a change in national thinking regarding the
role of the individual and the government.
This "will be remembered as the year the American people said no" to the status quo.
The people "do not trust" those who make the decisions far away. They want to
What is the mainstream media getting wrong about this election, and what is it
getting right? The media, Ms. Blackburn says, do not fully appreciate "how livid
people are with Washington." They see the anger but don't understand its
implications. "They're getting right that people want change, but they're wrong
about what that change is going to be." The media, she said, "are going to be amazed
when Carly Fiorina and Sharron Angle win."
The mainstream media famously like the horse race—red is up, blue is down; Smith is
in, Jones is out. But if Ms. Blackburn is right, the election, and its meaning, will
be more interesting than the old, classic jockeying. And the outcomes won't be
controlled by the good ol' boys but by those she calls "the great new gals."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Contemptible!
on: September 24, 2010, 08:33:18 PM
Pasting BBG's post in the Immigration thread here as well.
An U.N.-Conscionable Act
Published on September 22, 2010 by Edwin Feulner, Ph.D.
Thanks to a certain immigration law, the Obama administration isn’t very happy with Arizona these days. But did you know the White House has gone so far as to put Arizona “on report”? And to the United Nations, no less.
That’s right. Apparently the federal government can’t handle this dispute alone. It needs to elevate it to the world stage, encouraging international criticism of the offending state. So Arizona’s alleged transgression comes up in a report the administration submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council:
“A recent Arizona law, S.B. 1070, has generated significant attention and debate at home and around the world. The issue is being addressed in a court action that argues that the federal government has the authority to set and enforce immigration law. That action is ongoing; parts of the law are currently enjoined.
“President Obama remains firmly committed to fixing our broken immigration system, because he recognizes that our ability to innovate, our ties to the world, and our economic prosperity depend on our capacity to welcome and assimilate immigrants. The Administration will continue its efforts to work with the U.S. Congress and affected communities toward this end.”
No wonder Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called this “downright offensive.” If the administration felt compelled to mention an unsettled legal dispute in a report to an international body, it should have at least adopted a more neutral tone. Instead, it sounds like the administration is saying, “Don’t worry, world; we’re doing all we can to show this slow, backward child of ours the error of its ways.”
Here’s a larger question, one worth considering as the United Nations gathers for its annual General Assembly meeting: Should the United States even have joined the Human Rights Council, whose membership roll includes such blatant human-rights tramplers as China and Cuba?
The HRC was created in 2006 as a replacement for the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. For years, the commission had failed to hold governments accountable for violating basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Unfortunately, the HRC’s track record has been no better. In theory, it “offers an unprecedented opportunity to hold the human rights practices of every country open for public examination and criticism,” as Heritage Foundation experts Brett Schaefer and Steven Groves have noted. But in practice, the HRC “has proven to be a flawed process hijacked by countries seeking to shield themselves from criticism.”
Consider Cuba’s report to the HRC. It turns out its “democratic system is based on the principle of ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’.” And guess what? Its citizens enjoy the right to “freedom of opinion, expression and the press.” I’m sure that will surprise the thousands of Cubans who have risked life and limb to escape the island nation, and the thousands more who remain locked in Castro’s jails for political “crimes.”
China made similarly laughable assertions in its report to the HRC. It even claimed its citizens enjoy a right to religious freedom. North Korea, too, is a downright utopia, judging from its report to the U.N.
It’s bad enough these countries lie. But it’s not unexpected. What’s worse is that the U.N. accepts these demonstrably false claims at face value. The majority of member states approve these reports.
To avoid becoming a party to this charade, the Bush administration wisely declined membership in the HRC. The Obama administration reversed that policy. So we have a situation where the U.S., just by being a member, lends legitimacy to a U.N. farce on human rights. And now the administration is compounding the error by offering up a state for criticism by a body that includes some of the world’s most egregious human-rights offenders.
Talk about “downright offensive.”
Dr. Edwin Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation.http://www.heritage.org/Research/Commentary/2010/09/An-UN-Conscionable-Act
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Investigation sought for apparent violatiom of tax status secrecy
on: September 24, 2010, 08:27:10 PM
Moving a post by BBG to here:
Senators Seek Investigation of Obama Administration for Discussing Koch Tax Status
BY John McCormack
September 24, 2010 5:38 PM
Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking Republican of the Finance Committee, has requested a formal investigation of the Obama administration over a senior administration official's comments on the tax status of Koch Industries--a private company targeted by Democrats, including President Obama himself, for funding libertarian and conservative causes.
Grassley and six other Republican senators on the Finance Committee sent a letter today to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, in which they asked the inspector general to investigate "a very serious allegation that Administration employees may have improperly accessed and disclosed confidential taxpayer information. As you know, section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code protects the privacy of federal tax returns and return information. This law was enacted as a result of the use of tax information for political gain during the Watergate scandal."
At an August 27 press briefing, a senior administration official, who appears to be Austan Goolsbee, said:
in this country we have partnerships, we have S corps, we have LLCs, we have a series of entities that do not pay corporate income tax. Some of which are really giant firms, you know Koch Industries is a multibillion dollar businesses. So that creates a narrower base because we've literally got something like 50 percent of the business income in the U.S. is going to businesses that don't pay any corporate income tax.
"[T]he statement that Koch is a pass-through entity implies direct knowledge of Koch’s legal and tax status, which would appear to be a violation of section 6103," the senators wrote in their letter today. "Alternatively, if the statement was based on speculation, it raises the question of whether the Administration speculating about any specific taxpayer’s liability is appropriate."
Grassley and his colleagues don't necessarily buy the Obama administration's claim that the information about Koch came from publicly available sources.
The senators write that the senior administration official "comments on the legal structure of Koch Industries, Inc. (Koch) and its impact on the group’s tax liability. While Koch’s website indicates some of the Koch companies are limited liability companies (LLC) or limited partnerships, there is no indication that Koch itself is a Subchapter S Corporation, which is one type of flow through entity, or a Subchapter C corporation. In addition, an LLC can choose to be taxed as Subchapter C corporation."
The senators conclude their letter with these requests to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration:
we ask that you obtain and review a transcript of the August 27, 2010, press briefing to determine the basis for the Administrations employees’ statements and review the PERAB’s work in preparing its report on corporate tax reform. In particular, we ask you to address the following questions.
1) Did Administration employees, including PERAB employees, have access to tax returns and return information in compiling the PERAB report?
2) If yes, how many companies’ tax returns did the PERAB employees review and did they follow the procedures prescribed under the regulations governing section 6103 for accessing and protecting taxpayer information?
3) Did Administration employees, including PERAB employees, violate section 6103 when they discussed the tax status of Koch Industries, Inc. and its related companies?
4) If violations of 6103 did not occur, what was the basis for the statement regarding Koch’s legal and tax status and was the statement appropriate?
Source URL: http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/senators-seek-investigation-obama-administration-discussing-koch-tax-status
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Krgyzstan
on: September 24, 2010, 04:05:08 PM
An agreement likely to be signed Sept. 24 by Russian and Kyrgyz military delegations comes amid continued unrest in Kyrgyzstan and fresh tensions in its southern neighbor, Tajikistan. Moscow has planned for years to increase its military presence in the Central Asian core, but these recent events have accelerated that plan. However, the region comes with its own share of geographic and demographic challenges, and it is unclear how involved Russia wants to become in its attempts to enforce stability there.
A Russian military delegation led by Col. Gen. Valery Gerasimov, deputy commander of the Armed Forces General Staff, has been in Kyrgyzstan since Sept. 19, holding talks with its Kyrgyz defense counterparts. The delegation is set to sign an agreement Sept. 24 to create a unified Russian base structure in Kyrgyzstan. This will consolidate Russia’s four military facilities in the country — an air base in Kant, a naval training and research center at Lake Issyk-Kul, and seismic facilities in the Issyk-Kul and Jalal-Abad regions — under a single, joint command.
It remains unclear what this unified Russian base structure in Kyrgyzstan will actually entail; officials from both countries have been vague on its format and purpose. But what is clear is that Russia, which has been undergoing a reorganization of its military command structure this year, is laying the groundwork for a more pronounced and efficient military presence in a region that faces its fair share of geographic and security challenges.
Kyrgyzstan has seen much turmoil over the past several months, most notably a Russian-backed uprising in April that ousted former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Bakiyev had been using the U.S. Transit Center at Manas, a key logistical hub in Kyrgyzstan for U.S. operations in Afghanistan, as leverage to get more money out of both Russia and the United States. This was a key factor that led to the Kyrgyz president’s ouster and the ushering in of a more Russia-friendly interim government led by Roza Otunbayeva. Pacifying the country after the coup has been a challenge for the interim leadership. Violence broke out again in June in the southern regions of Osh and Jalal-Abad, prompting Bishkek to request that Russia increase its military presence in the country.
Russia has thus far not made any major military moves in the country beyond temporarily reinforcing its Kant air base with a company of 150 paratroopers, which have since been withdrawn. But according to STRATFOR sources, Moscow is considering a major infusion of up to 25,000 troops into Central Asia in the next few months and through 2011. These troops previously served in the North Caucasus but have since been withdrawn and are waiting to redeploy elsewhere.
This comes amid heightened security concerns in neighboring Tajikistan after the escape of 25 high-profile Islamist militants from a Dushanbe prison. The escapees sought refuge in the mountainous Rasht Valley, which has become the scene of continuing clashes between security forces and militants. This violence has caused much worry in Kyrgyzstan, which borders the Rasht area, prompting Bishkek to close the border between the two countries.
Tensions in Tajikistan and continuing uncertainty in Kyrgyzstan have lent new urgency to Moscow’s long-term plan to consolidate its presence in these former Soviet states by boosting its military footprint in the region. But 25,000 troops, especially Russian troops intended to establish a sustained presence, are not deployed quickly or easily. Significant logistical and infrastructural preparations are required.
Hence the discussions this week between the Russian and Kyrgyz military delegations. The agreement likely will see Russia increase the length of its leases on bases in the country to 49 years. There are also unconfirmed rumors that it could open a new facility in Osh. In exchange, Russia would pay more to lease these facilities, likely at least partially in the form of military hardware and small arms (Russia currently pays Kyrgyzstan $4.5 million annually for its military facilities, compared to the $60 million per year the United States pays for the U.S. Transit Center at Manas). There are also discussions of Russian state-owned energy firm Gazpromneft’s participating in a joint venture with a Kyrgyz state company to supply jet fuel to aircraft at Manas, providing Russia with yet more potential leverage over the U.S. presence in Central Asia.
It is notable that Russia is making such agreements with Kyrgyzstan — and Tajikistan — just as security tensions in the countries are on the rise. However, the protocols to be signed on Sept. 24 will be just that, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said there would not be any conclusive deals until Kyrgyzstan holds its parliamentary elections in October and ushers in a permanent government rather than the interim government that currently leads the country.
Ultimately, while Russia is clearly looking to move a big contingent of troops to the region, it remains unclear just how deeply entangled in the region Russia wants to become. Moscow has a strong national interest in ensuring that it dominates Central Asia and keeps out other powers, particularly the United States. But that need not necessarily entail major military engagement. Stationing troops there is an important step. Having those troops become directly and actively involved in the militant landscape — facilitated by complex demography, Islamist ideology and rugged geography — is another step entirely. Russia has exceptionally long borders and interests far beyond Central Asia. While it looks poised to commit multiple divisions to the region, the Kremlin will remain wary of becoming bogged down in intractable, insurgent conflict.
Read more: Russia Prepares for Military Consolidation in Kyrgyzstan | STRATFOR
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer: Visigoths at the Gate
on: September 24, 2010, 03:27:38 PM
Visigoths at the gate?
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, September 24, 2010
When facing a tsunami, what do you do? Pray, and tell yourself stories. I am not privy to the Democrats' private prayers, but I do hear the stories they're telling themselves. The new meme is that there's a civil war raging in the Republican Party. The Tea Party will wreck it from within and prove to be the Democrats' salvation.
I don't blame anyone for seeking a deus ex machina when about to be swept out to sea. But this salvation du jour is flimsier than most.
In fact, the big political story of the year is the contrary: that a spontaneous and quite anarchic movement with no recognized leadership or discernible organization has been merged with such relative ease into the Republican Party.
The Tea Party could have become Perot '92, an anti-government movement that spurned the Republicans, went third-party and cost George H.W. Bush reelection, ending 12 years of Republican rule. Had the Tea Party gone that route, it would have drained the Republican Party of its most mobilized supporters and deprived Republicans of the sweeping victory that awaits them on Nov. 2.
Instead, it planted its flag within the party and, with its remarkable energy, created the enthusiasm gap. Such gaps are measurable. This one is a chasm. This year's turnout for the Democratic primaries (as a percentage of eligible voters) was the lowest ever recorded. Republican turnout was the highest since 1970.
True, Christine O'Donnell's nomination in Delaware may cost the Republicans an otherwise safe seat (and possibly control of the Senate), and Sharron Angle in Nevada is running only neck-and-neck with an unpopular Harry Reid. On balance, however, the Tea Party contribution is a large net plus, with its support for such strong candidates as Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Joe Miller of Alaska, Mike Lee of Utah. Even Rand Paul, he of the shaky start in Kentucky, sports an eight-point lead. All this in addition to the significant Tea Party contribution to the tide that will carry dozens of Republicans into the House.
Nonetheless, some Democrats have convinced themselves that they have found the issue with which to salvage 2010. "President Obama's political advisers," reports the New York Times, "are considering a range of ideas, including national advertisements, to cast the Republican Party as all but taken over by Tea Party extremists."
Sweet irony. Fear-over-hope rides again, this time with Democrats in the saddle warning darkly about "the Republican Tea Party" (Joe Biden). Message: Vote Democratic and save the nation from a Visigoth mob with a barely concealed tinge of racism.
First, this is so at variance with reality that it's hard to believe even liberals believe it. The largest Tea Party event yet was the recent Glenn Beck rally on the Mall. The hordes descending turned out to be several hundred thousand cheerful folks in what, by all accounts, had the feel of a church picnic. And they left the place nearly spotless -- the first revolution in recorded history that collected its own trash.
Second, the general public is fairly evenly split in its views of the Tea Party. It experiences none of the horror that liberals do -- and think others should. Moreover, the electorate supports by 2-to-1 the Tea Party signature issues of smaller government and lower taxes.
Third, you would hardly vote against the Republican in your state just because there might be a (perceived) too-conservative Republican running somewhere else. How would, say, Paul running in Kentucky deter someone from voting for Mark Kirk in Illinois? Or, to flip the parties, will anyone in Nevada refuse to vote for Harry Reid because Chris Coons, a once self-described "bearded Marxist," is running as a Democrat in Delaware?
Fourth, what sane Democrat wants to nationalize an election at a time of 9.6 percent unemployment and such disappointment with Obama that just this week several of his own dreamy 2008 supporters turned on him at a cozy town hall? The Democrats' only hope is to run local campaigns on local issues. That's how John Murtha's former district director hung on to his boss's seat in a special election in Pennsylvania.
Newt Gingrich had to work hard -- getting Republican candidates to sign the Contract with America -- to nationalize the election that swept Republicans to victory in 1994. A Democratic anti-Tea Party campaign would do that for the Republicans -- nationalize the election, gratis -- in 2010. As a very recent former president -- now preferred (Public Policy Polling, Sept. 1) in bellwether Ohio over the current one by 50 percent to 42 percent -- once said: Bring 'em on.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT/POTH on Stuxnet
on: September 24, 2010, 03:25:36 PM
September 23, 2010
Cyberwar Chief Calls for Secure Computer NetworkBy THOM
FORT MEADE, Md. — The new commander of the military’s cyberwarfare
operations is advocating the creation of a separate, secure computer network
to protect civilian government agencies and critical industries like the
nation’s power grid against attacks mounted over the Internet.
The officer, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, suggested that such a heavily
restricted network would allow the government to impose greater protections
for the nation’s vital, official on-line operations. General Alexander
labeled the new network “a secure zone, a protected zone.” Others have
nicknamed it “dot-secure.”
It would provide to essential networks like those that tie together the
banking, aviation, and public utility systems the kind of protection that
the military has built around secret military and diplomatic communications
networks — although even these are not completely invulnerable.
For years, experts have warned of the risks of Internet attacks on civilian
networks. An article published a few months
the National Academy of Engineering said that “cyber systems are the
‘weakest link’ in the electricity system,” and that “security must be
designed into the system from the start, not glued on as an afterthought.”
General Alexander, an Army officer who leads the military’s new Cyber
Command, did not explain just where the fence should be built between the
conventional Internet and his proposed secure zone, or how the gates would
be opened to allow appropriate access to information they need every day.
General Alexander said the White House hopes to complete a policy review on
cyber issues in time for Congress to debate updated or new legislation when
it convenes in January.
General Alexander’s new command is responsible for defending Defense
Department computer networks and, if directed by the president, carrying out
computer-network attacks overseas.
But the military is broadly prohibited from engaging in law enforcement
operations on American soil without a presidential order, so the command’s
potential role in assisting the Department of Homeland
the Federal Bureau of
the Department of Energy in the event of a major attack inside the United
States has not been set down in law or policy.
“There is a real probability that in the future, this country will get hit
with a destructive attack, and we need to be ready for it,” General
Alexander said in a roundtable with reporters at the National
here at Fort Meade in advance of his Congressional testimony on Thursday
“I believe this is one of the most critical problems our country faces,” he
said. “We need to get that right. I think we have to have a discussion about
roles and responsibilities: What’s the role of Cyber Command? What’s the
role of the ‘intel’ community? What’s the role of the rest of the Defense
Department? What’s the role of D.H.S.? And how do you make that team work?
That’s going to take time.”
Some critics have questioned whether the Defense Department can step up
protection of vital computer networks without crashing against the public’s
ability to live and work with confidence on the Internet. General Alexander
said, “We can protect civil liberties and privacy and still do our mission.
We’ve got to do that.”
Speaking of the civilian networks that are at risk, he said: “If one of
those destructive attacks comes right now, I’m focused on the Defense
Department. What are the responsibilities — and I think this is part of the
discussion — for the power grid, for financial networks, for other critical
infrastructure? How do you protect the country when it comes to that kind of
attack, and who is responsible for it?”
As General Alexander prepared for his testimony before the House Armed
Services Committee, the ranking Republican on the panel, Howard P. McKeon of
California, noted the Pentagon’s progress in expanding its cyber
But he said that “many questions remain as to how Cyber Command will meet
such a broad mandate” given the clear “vulnerabilities in cyberspace.”
The committee chairman, Rep. Ike Skelton, Democrat of Missouri, said that
“cyberspace is an environment where distinctions and divisions between
public and private, government and commercial, military and nonmilitary are
blurred.” He said that it is important “that we engage in this discussion in
a very direct way and include the public.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on Rare Earth Minerals
on: September 24, 2010, 02:58:31 PM
China increasing economic leverage by limiting 'rare earths' exports
, , ,that it will hold a Chinese fishing boat captain for another
By John Pomfret
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2010; 10:36 PM
China's recent move to limit exports of minerals critical in the manufacture of a vast array of products such as missiles, car batteries, cellphones, lasers and computers is stoking alarm that its domination of the industry could give it enhanced leverage over the United States.
On Thursday, some traders of "rare earths," 17 minerals that are used in small portions in almost every advanced industrial product, reported that China, which controls 97 percent of the industry, had halted the export of anything that contained traces of the minerals to Japan. The Chinese government denied the allegation.
The purported export ban was linked to a dispute between the two countries over an island chain called the Senakus in Japanese and Diaoyu islands in Chinese. Japan has detained the captain of a Chinese fishing vessel over a collision at sea with a Japanese coast guard ship. On Thursday, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao demanded that Japan release the boat captain immediately. China also announced that it had arrested four Japanese near a Chinese military installation.
Analysts and manufacturers said regardless of whether China has indeed blocked these exports to Japan, the incident underscored China's increasing economic leverage and its seeming willingness to try to translate that into political power.
This summer, China's Commerce Ministry said that total exports of rare earths would be capped at about 30,300 metric tons - a 40 percent drop compared with last year. Most of that tonnage has already been shipped.
"The most important issue here is that China is able to wield power like this," said Ed Richardson, the vice president of Thomas & Skinner, a magnet maker in Indianapolis. "Just the reports that they might have done something like this has sent a chill through the industry. Here you have an incident over a fishing boat and this topic comes up. It's startling."
Only in the past year has the issue begun to receive significant attention in Washington. In April, the Government Accountability Office reported that it could take as long as 15 years to rebuild the U.S. rare earth industry. The GAO report also found components in U.S. defense systems that use Chinese sources for rare earth materials. And it determined that the Defense Department had "not yet identified national security risks or taken departmentwide action to address rare earth material dependency." The Defense Department, however, is studying this issue, and a report is slated to be delivered this month.
On Thursday, the House Committee on Science and Technology approved legislation that would provide funds for research and development of rare earths technologies as a first legislative step to break China's monopoly.
"Rare earth materials are essential for our country's technological competitiveness and our national security, yet China is cornering the market and we are falling behind," said Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.), who wrote the legislation.
For years, China has worked to dominate the rare earths industry. Starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, China flooded the world with cheap rare earths. It sold neodymium and samarium, which form the basis of extraordinarily powerful magnets needed for precision-guided missile systems and the batteries used in hybrid or electric vehicles. It mined europium, which forms the basis of the high-efficiency lighting industry; lanthanum, without which it would be difficult to refine gas; and cerium, which is used to polish the glass on computer screens and cellphones.
China's prices were so low that it led the once-biggest mine in the world - Mountain Pass in California - to shut its operations in 2002 after allegations of environmental violations at the facility.
"In the Western world, people were happy to give the Chinese this job," said Jaakko Kooroshy, an analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. "Mining rare earths is a dirty business. It is environmentally really dangerous. There's radioactivity involved."
From mining, China moved up to refining and advanced metallurgy. They drove rare earths refiners out of the market. They obtained patents for downstream work. They bought magnet makers around the world. They offered to massively overpay for three Japanese firms that dominate the production of magnets for computer hard drives. They made a run at Richardson's firm as well.
"We're an employee-owned operation," Richardson said, "so if they'd bought us up and shipped us to China . . . well, let's just say it wouldn't have sat well with the employees here."
Today, China dominates not just the mining but also the refining of rare earths, and the profits are enormous. Prices of several minerals have jumped 200 percent in the months since China announced it was limiting exports.
Western countries and firms have been slow to respond to the challenge that China posed to key industries from defense to energy to information technology, said Jon Hykawy, an analyst at Byron Capital.
In the 1990s, as China sold cheap rare earths around the world, the United States, which used to stockpile rare earths for its defense industry, sold off its stocks and watched as its industry dismantled what was once a complete supply chain. Europe never maintained a strategic stash. Only Japan understood the challenge and several years ago began setting aside significant quantities of the minerals.
"We never really acknowledged that the Chinese were in a race to dominate this industry even though they publicly stated it," Hykawy said.
China is already being sued at the World Trade Organization by the United States, the European Union and Mexico for export restrictions on raw materials, including some rare earth minerals. The U.S. trade representative is also considering filing a separate case purely on rare earths, U.S. officials said. And in industry, Molycorp Metals is working to reopen the California mine.
In June, the European Union issued its own report on rare earths that predicted that the minerals would become increasingly rare. While the United States has focused on China's increasing leverage over its national defense, the EU report reflected worries that China would control the core of green technology in the future.
"This is the first time that the Chinese openly used rare earths as a geopolitical bargaining chip," said Kooroshy in a telephone interview from The Hague. "They have built up a monopoly until now, but they have been very civil about it. They say things like, 'You don't need to be afraid. We're a reliable supplier.' But now the message is clear. It's: 'Look, guys, we're your most important economic partner, and we want you to change the way you deal with us.'"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fallout from Draw Muhommad Day
on: September 24, 2010, 02:47:25 PM
A Tale of Two Journalists
Molly Norris used to have a life and a career in Washington, as a cartoonist for
Seattle Weekly, an alternative paper. But not any longer. She has now -- at the
urging of the FBI -- gone underground, forfeiting her identity and her job. Is
Norris a criminal? No. She just had the poor judgment to draw a cartoon entitled
"Everybody Draw Muhammad Day," which led to the issuance of a fatwa -- or Islamic
death sentence -- against her. Perhaps she had forgotten the 11th Commandment: Make
fun of Christians and Jews all you want, but thou shall not inflame Muslim ire.
The fatwa was issued by imam Anwar al-Awlaki, a man The New York Times described in
October 2001 as "a new generation of Muslim leader capable of merging East and
West." Al-Awlaki, who was born in the United States and headed a mosque in Virginia,
is now conducting his dirty work from a hiding place in Yemen.
Barack Obama has remained silent on this matter, conspicuously so because only
recently he lectured all of us on the freedoms afforded by this country. Of course
that was in relation to the building of the Cordoba House mosque two blocks from
Ground Zero (http://patriotpost.us/edition/2010/08/20/digest/
). When it comes to
the injustice that has befallen an average American like Molly Norris, he has
nothing to say.
While some in the field of journalism are threatened with death for making a joke,
others are rewarded for their hatred. Recall Helen Thomas, the poster child for
women in journalism, who was canned after making incendiary comments at a conference
celebrating Jewish heritage. Thomas' statement that Jews should "get the hell out of
) and "go home" to
Poland, Germany, America and "everywhere else" was caught on tape so that not even
leftists could defend her.
Even after her weak apology, no one would touch her with a 10-foot pole. No one,
that is, except the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Next month the
90-year-old Thomas will be given a lifetime-achievement award at CAIR's Leadership
Conference & 16th Annual Fundraising Banquet in Arlington, Virginia. Clearly, her
final flourish as a "journalist" was appreciated by someone.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO job creation program at work
on: September 24, 2010, 02:45:59 PM
Income Redistribution: Cost per Job 'Created' Is Sky High
History shows that there are two foolproof ways to drive up costs: increase demand
or involve the government. For the latest illustration of the latter, just look
west. According to reports recently released by Los Angeles City Controller Wendy
Greuel, for the $111 million in stimulus funds received by two L.A. departments,
only 55 jobs have been created. That's a whopping $2 million spent per job. Greuel
says that eventually the departments will create or save (those infamous words
again) 264 jobs, but even that would still keep the price per job at $420,000, far
higher than what the workers will receive.
Explaining the preposterous price tags, Investor's Business Daily
) notes that
part of the money "goes to the capital costs and profit of the contractors. But much
of it also gets absorbed into the normal process of government contracting" (read:
bureaucracy). Even Greuel admits
) the numbers are
disappointing, stating, "With our local unemployment rate over 12 percent we need to
do a better job cutting the red tape and putting Angelenos back to work."
Of course, the Obama administration still wants to convince us that the stimulus is
working. It seems that while Americans are stretching dollars to make ends meet,
Washington is stretching our patience with its tales of economic growth, job
creation and recovery.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: September 23, 2010, 09:57:42 PM
China says 4 Japanese filmed military targets
From Associated Press
September 23, 2010 9:32 PM EDT
BEIJING (AP) — China is investigating four Japanese suspected of illegally filming military targets and entering a military zone without authorization, state media reported amid a tense diplomatic spat between Beijing and Tokyo over a fishing boat collision near disputed islands.
China's state-run Xinhua News Agency cited state security authorities in the northern city of Shijiazhuang as saying they had "taken measures" against the four Japanese "after receiving a report about their illegal activities." There was no elaboration.
The authorities accuse the Japanese of entering a military zone without authorization in Hebei province, the capital of which is Shijiazhuang.
The brief report late Thursday night did not say whether the four Japanese are in detention.
The four men are believed to be employees of Fujita Corp., a Tokyo-based construction and urban redevelopment company.
"We are pretty certain they are our employees," said Fujita spokesman Yoshiaki Onodera. "But we have not spoken with them, so we don't know how they came to be questioned."
Onodera said he could not confirm Japanese media reports saying that the men were preparing a bid on a project to dispose of abandoned chemical weapons from World War II.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry confirmed that it had received word from the Chinese government Thursday night about the incident. It did not have further details, including whether the men had been arrested or merely questioned.
The news could further sour relations that have deteriorated badly since earlier this month when Japan arrested a Chinese captain whose fishing boat collided with Japanese coast guard vessels near a string of islands in the East China Sea. Called Diaoyu or Diaoyutai in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, the islands are controlled by Japan, but are also claimed by China. They are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are regularly occupied by nationalists from both sides.
Japan extended the detention of the Chinese captain Sunday, and Beijing reacted quickly, suspending high-level contacts with Tokyo and ruling out a meeting between Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan during U.N. meetings in New York this week.
On Tuesday, Wen threatened "further action" against Japan if it did not release the Chinese captain immediately.
Meanwhile, the United States on Thursday urged the two powers to quickly resolve the dispute and a military official said that Washington was committed to strongly supporting Japan, one of America's closest allies in the Pacific.
At a Pentagon news conference, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen said the U.S. was tracking the situation closely and hoped that diplomatic efforts would ease tensions soon.
"And obviously we're very, very strongly in support of ... our ally in that region, Japan," Mullen told reporters.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates added "and we would fulfill our alliance responsibilities," without offering more specifics.
But besides hoping that tensions ease between China and Japan, Mullen said "we haven't seen anything that would, I guess, raise the alarm levels higher than that."
The dispute faces a test on Sept. 29, the deadline by which Japanese prosecutors must decide whether to charge the Chinese captain. Fourteen crew members and the boat have been returned.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Zuchinni vs. bear
on: September 23, 2010, 09:42:34 PM
Montana woman fends off bear attack with zucchini
This image provided by the Missoula County Sheriff's Office shows the zucchini used by a Montana woman to fend off a bear attack Thursday Sept. 23, 2010 in Frenchtown, Mont. The woman was stirred after midnight by a tussle in the backyard of her home near Frenchtown, Missoula County Sheriff's Lt. Rich Maricelli said. She went to investigate and found a 200-pound black bear attacking one of her two dogs, a 12-year-old collie.
From Associated Press
September 23, 2010 8:06 PM EDT
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana woman fended off a bear trying to muscle its way into her home Thursday by pelting the animal with a large piece of zucchini from her garden.
The woman suffered minor scratches and one of her dogs was wounded after tussling with the 200-pound bear.
The attack happened just after midnight when the woman let her three dogs into the backyard for their nighttime ritual before she headed to bed, Missoula County Sheriff's Lt. Rich Maricelli said. Authorities believe the black bear was just 25 yards away, eating apples from a tree.
Two of the dogs sensed the bear, began barking and ran away, Maricelli said. The third dog, a 12-year-old collie that wasn't very mobile, remained close to the woman as she stood in the doorway of the home near Frenchtown in western Montana.
Before she knew what was happening, the bear was on top of the dog and batting the collie back and forth, Maricelli said.
"She kicked the bear with her left leg as hard as she could, and she said she felt like she caught it pretty solidly under the chin," Maricelli said.
But as she kicked, the bruin swiped at her leg with its paw and ripped her jeans.
The bear then turned its full attention to the woman in the doorway. She retreated into the house and tried to close the door, but the bear stuck its head and part of a shoulder through the doorway.
The woman held onto the door with her right hand. With her left, she reached behind and grabbed a 14-inch zucchini that she had picked from her garden earlier and was sitting on the kitchen counter, Maricelli said.
She threw the vegetable. It bopped the bruin on the top of its head and the animal fled, Maricelli said.
The woman called for help from a relative staying with her. They found the collie outside, unable to move, and took it to a veterinarian.
The dog appeared to be fine on Thursday, but the vet was keeping it for observation, Maricelli said.
The woman did not need medical attention for the scratches on her leg, though she got a tetanus shot as a precaution, Maricelli said.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials set up a trap in an attempt to capture the bear, the agency said in a statement.
Besides the nearby fruit trees, there wasn't anything on the woman's property that would attract a bear into the backyard, like garbage or livestock feed, wildlife officials said.
Maricelli interviewed the woman, but said the sheriff's office was complying with her wish not to identify her.
"She was very, very shaken, and it kind of took the humor portion out of it for me," Maricelli said. "She said it had this horrific growl and was snarling.
"(But) she can see the humor in it, and she wanted the story put out so the local residents can take precautionary measures," he added.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GM continues to make me money
on: September 23, 2010, 09:23:44 PM
As predicted by GM:
China Blocks Export of Crucial Minerals to Japan as Dispute Escalates
Sharply raising the stakes in a dispute over Japan’s
detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain, the Chinese
government has placed a trade embargo on all exports to Japan
of a crucial category of minerals used in products like
hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles.
Chinese customs officials are halting all shipments to Japan
of so-called rare earth elements, industry experts said on
GM is the one who got me looking into the Rare Earth Metals hypothesis (e.g. the Dines Newsletter) and I have positions in PALL (up roughly 20%, TIE up roughly 70%, MCP up roughly 65% in only a few weeks, and REE up 12% in three days. Today's news probably caused the strong pops in REE and MCP and these pops will ratchet back as the situation with the Japanese presumably clarifies, but nonetheless the thesis that China will use its powerful leverage with these indispensable minerals seems now to be proven.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nudge
on: September 22, 2010, 08:53:19 PM
Glenn has been on a kick about Cass Sunstein being the most dangerous man in America because of his notion that "We are all Homer Simpson and need the State to nudge us into what is good for us" and CS writes a goodly amount of the regulations and that the net result is a tremendous threat to freedom
I just wish he would come up with better examples than Michelle Obama calling for carrots or fruit to be the default side order to protein instead of french fries. Lets face it, America is a seriously FAT FAT FAT country and defending stupidity in eating is not really a very shrewd tip of the spear for the cause against being manipulated and controlled by the State.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan
on: September 22, 2010, 08:48:29 PM
Afghanistan is Iran's Mexico
We travel low profile and today I went without my good camera gear. Was told that the Iranians sometimes shoot into Afghanistan and that my big camera might draw fire. Iranians have a huge opium addiction which is not helped by the fact that their neighbor is the biggest drug dealer on the planet. The Iranians have built a wall. I was told that they some times chase smugglers a short distance into Afghanistan and that Afghan border guards will fire back when Iranians fire in. My Afghan cell phone connection dropped but I picked up an Iranian cell carrier.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness
on: September 22, 2010, 06:34:52 PM
I am in West Virginia at the moment on a hotel business center connection i.e. I do not have my usual time and resources available. I just watched today's Brett Baier Report and I gather that Woodward has a new book out called "Obama's Wars" and in it the President is quoted directly as demanding a two year exit strategy from the generals lest he "lose the Democratic Party". In other words the Dems yowls against Bush in 2004, and BO's martial cries that Iraq was the wrong war and Afg the right and good war were an utter crock of excrement.
Of course this comes as no surprise to readers and players in this forum, but BO has now been caught in his own words that all his declarations that Afg is an essential war of national defense are either a lie to get him elected or that he is willing to lose this essential war of national defense in order to keep the support of the Democratic Party.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Cuba, Venezuela, and China
on: September 21, 2010, 07:08:06 AM
A Change of Course in Cuba and Venezuela?
September 21, 2010
By George Friedman and Reva Bhalla
Strange statements are coming out of Cuba these days. Fidel Castro, in the course of a five-hour interview in late August, reportedly told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Julia Sweig of the Council on Foreign Relations that “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”
Once that statement hit the headlines, Castro backtracked. Dressed in military uniform for the first time in four years (which we suspect was his way of signaling that he was not abandoning the revolution), he delivered a rare, 35-minute speech Sept. 3 to students at the University of Havana. In addition to spending several minutes on STRATFOR’s Iran analysis, Castro addressed his earlier statement on the Cuban model, saying he was “accurately quoted but misinterpreted” and suggesting that the economic model doesn’t work anymore but that the revolution lives on.
Castro, now 84, may be old, but he still seems to have his wits about him. We don’t know whether he was grossly misinterpreted by the reporter during the earlier interview, was acknowledging the futility of the Cuban model and/or was dropping hints of a policy shift. Regardless of what he did or did not say, Castro’s reported statement on the weakness of the revolution was by no means revolutionary.
Sustaining the Revolution
There is little hiding the fact that Cuba’s socialist economy has run out of steam. The more interesting question is whether the Cuban leader is prepared to acknowledge this fact and what he is prepared to do about it. Castro wants his revolution to outlive him. To do so, he must maintain a balance between power and wealth. For decades, his method of maintaining power has been to monopolize the island’s sources of wealth. All foreign direct investment in Cuba must be authorized by the government, the most important sectors of the economy are off-limits to investors, foreign investors cannot actually own the land or facilities in which they invest, the state has the right to seize foreign assets at any time and foreign investors must turn to the government for decisions on hiring, firing and paying workers. Under such conditions, the Cuban leadership has the ultimate say on the social welfare of its citizens and has used that control to secure loyalty and, more important, neutralize political dissent.
But that control has come at a cost: For the revolution to survive — and maintain both a large security apparatus and an expensive and inefficient social welfare system — it must have sufficient private investment that the state can control. That private investment has not been forthcoming, and so the state, unable to cope with the stresses of the economy, has had to increasingly concern itself with the viability of the regime. Since Soviet subsidies for Cuba (roughly $5 billion per year) expired in the early 1990s, Cuba has been seeking an injection of capital to generate income while still trying to leave the capitalists out of the equation in order to maintain control. There is no easy way to resolve this paradox, and the problem for Castro in his advanced age is that he is running out of time.
Many Cubans, including Castro, blame the island’s economic turmoil on the U.S. embargo, a politically charged vestige of the Cold War days when Cuba, under Soviet patronage, actually posed a clear and present danger to the United States. There is a great irony built into this complaint. Castro’s revolution was built on the foundation that trade with the imperialists was responsible for Cuba’s economic turmoil. Now, it is the supposed lack of such trade that is paralyzing the Cuban economy. History can be glossed over at politically opportune times, but it cannot so easily be forgotten.
What many seem to overlook is how Cuba, in spite of the embargo, is still able to receive goods from Europe, Canada, Latin America and elsewhere — it is the state-run system at home that remains crippled and unable to supply the island’s 11 million inhabitants. And even if U.S.-Cuban trade were to be restored, there is no guarantee that Cuba’s economic wounds would be healed. There are a host of other tourist resorts and sugar and tobacco exporters lining the Caribbean coastlines aside from Cuba, which has largely missed the boat in realizing its economic potential. In other words, the roots of Cuba’s economic troubles lie in Cuba, not the United States.
But Cuba is in the midst of a political transition, and Fidel will eventually pass the revolution on to his (not much) younger brother, Raul. If Fidel is the charismatic revolutionary, able to sustain a romanticized political ideology for decades in spite of its inherent contradictions, Raul is the bureaucratic functionary whose primary purpose at this point is to preserve the regime that his brother founded. This poses a serious dilemma for 79-year-old Raul. Not only does he lack the charisma of his older brother, he also lacks a strong external patron to make Cuba relevant beyond Cuba itself.
It must be remembered that the geographic location of Cuba, which straddles both the Yucatan Channel and Straits of Florida, gives it the potential to cripple the Port of New Orleans, the United States’ historical economic outlet to the world. If these two trade avenues were blocked, Gulf Coast ports like New Orleans and Houston would be, too, and U.S. agricultural and mineral exports and imports would plummet.
Cuba has been able to pose such a threat and thus carry geopolitical weight only when under the influence of a more powerful U.S. adversary such as the Soviet Union. Though the Castros maintain relations with many of their Cold War allies, there is no middle, much less great, power right now with the attention span or the will to subsidize Cuba. Havana is thus largely on its own, and in its loneliness it now appears to be reaching out to the United States for a solution that may not hold much promise.
While Fidel has been making statements, Raul has been fleshing out a new economic strategy for Cuba, one that will lay off 500,000 workers — 10 percent of the island’s workforce. The idea is to develop private cooperatives to ease a tremendous burden on the state and have implementation of this plan in progress by March 2011. This is an ambitious deadline considering that Cuba has little to no private industry to speak of to absorb these state workers. The feasibility of the proposed reforms, however, is not as interesting as the message of political reconciliation embedded in the plan. Alongside talk of Raul’s economic reforms, Cuba has been making what appear to be political gestures to Washington through the release of political prisoners. But these gestures are unlikely to be enough to capture Washington’s attention, especially when Cuba is neither a significant geopolitical threat nor a great economic opportunity in the eyes of the United States. Cuba needs something more, and that something could be found in Venezuela.
The Cuban-Venezuelan Relationship
Cuba and Venezuela face very similar geographic constraints. Both are relatively small countries with long Caribbean coastlines and primarily resource-extractive economies. While Venezuela’s mountainous and jungle-covered borderlands to the south largely deny the country any meaningful economic integration with its neighbors, Cuba sits in a sea of small economies similar to its own. As a result, neither country has good options in its immediate neighborhood for meaningful economic integration save for the dominant Atlantic power, i.e., the United States. In dealing with the United States, Cuba and Venezuela basically have two options: either align with the United States or seek out an alliance with a more powerful, external adversary to the United States.
Both countries have swung between these two extremes. Prior to the 1959 revolution, the United States dominated Cuba politically and economically, and although relations between the two countries began to deteriorate shortly thereafter, there were still notable attempts to cooperate until Soviet subsidies took hold and episodes like the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco sunk the relationship. Likewise, until the 2002 coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela had long maintained a close, mutually beneficial relationship with the United States. With U.S. urging, Venezuela flooded the markets with oil and busted the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, helping bring about the fall of the Soviet Union. That energy cooperation continued with the U.S. sale of Citgo in the 1990s to Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA, a deal designed to hardwire Venezuela into the U.S. energy markets. Venezuela obtained a guaranteed market for its low-grade crude, which it couldn’t sell to other countries, while the United States acquired an energy source close to home.
For most of the past decade, Cuba and Venezuela have found themselves in a unique position. Both now have adversarial relationships with the United States, and both lack strong allies to help them fend off the United States. As a result, Cuba and Venezuela have drawn closer together, with Cuba relying on Venezuela primarily for energy and Venezuela turning to Cuba for its security expertise.
In trying to rebuild its stature in the region, Cuba has taken advantage of the Venezuelan regime’s rising political and economic insecurities as it set about entrenching itself in nearly all sectors of the Venezuelan state. Cuban advisers, trainers and protectors can be found everywhere from the upper echelons of Venezuela’s military and intelligence apparatus to the ports and factories. Therefore, Cuba has significant influence over a Venezuela that is currently struggling under the weight of stagflation, a precarious economic condition that has been fueled by an elaborate money-laundering racket now gripping the key sectors of the state-run economy. With the country’s electricity, food, energy and metals sectors in the most critical shape, power outages, food shortages and alarmingly low production levels overall are becoming more difficult for the regime to both contain and conceal. This might explain why we are now seeing reports of the Venezuelan regime deploying military and militia forces with greater frequency, not only to the streets but also to the dams, power plants, warehouses, food silos and distribution centers.
Venezuela’s open-door policy to Cuba was intended to bolster the regime’s security, but Cuba’s pervasiveness in Venezuela’s government, security apparatus and economy can also become a threat, especially if Cuba shifts its orientation back toward the United States. Cuba may now be in a position to use its influence in Venezuela to gain leverage in its relationship with the United States.
Washington’s Venezuela Problem
The list of U.S. complaints against Venezuela goes well beyond Chavez’s diatribes against Washington. Venezuela’s aggressive nationalization drive, contributions to narco-trafficking (in alleged negligence and complicity) and suspected support for Colombian rebel groups have all factored into the United States’ soured relationship with Venezuela. More recently, the United States has watched with growing concern as Venezuela has enhanced its relationships with Russia, China and, especially, Iran. Venezuela is believed to have served as a haven of sorts for the Iranians to circumvent sanctions, launder money and facilitate the movement of militant proxies. The important thing to note here is that, while Cuba lacks allies that are adversarial to the United States, Venezuela has them in abundance.
For the United States to take a real interest in signals from Havana, it will likely want to see Cuba exercise its influence in Venezuela. More precisely, it will want to see whether Cuba can influence Venezuela’s relationship with Iran.
We therefore find it interesting that Fidel Castro has been making moves recently that portray him as an advocate for the Jews in opposition to the Iranian regime. Castro invited Goldberg, an influential member of the Jewish lobby in the United States, to his hacienda for an interview in which he spent a great deal of time criticizing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his insensitivity to the Jewish people and their history. “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews,” Castro said. “I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.” He added: “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.” Then, Castro asked Goldberg and Sweig to accompany him to a private dolphin show at the National Aquarium of Cuba in Havana. They were joined by local Jewish leader Adela Dworin, whom Castro kissed in front of the cameras.
Following Fidel’s uncharacteristically pro-Jewish remarks, Chavez, who has echoed his Iranian ally’s vituperative stance against Israel, held a meeting with leaders of Venezuela’s Jewish community on Sept. 18 in which he reportedly discussed their concerns about anti-Semitic remarks in the media and their request for Venezuela to re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel. That same week, Venezuela’s state-run Conviasa Airlines, which has had an unusually high number of accidents and engine failures in recent days, cancelled its popular Tuesday roundtrip flight route from Caracas to Damascus to Tehran. This is a flight route frequented by Iranian, Lebanese, Syrian and Venezuelan businessmen and officials (along with other sorts trying to appear as ordinary businessmen). The route has come under heavy scrutiny by the United States due to a reinvigorated U.S. sanctions campaign against Iran and U.S. concerns over Hezbollah transit through Latin America. When STRATFOR inquired about the flight cancellations, we were told by the airline that the cancellations were due to maintenance issues but that flights from Caracas to Damascus would be re-routed through Madrid. The Iran leg of the route, at least for now, is out of operation. Whether Cuba is intending to reshape Venezuela’s relationship with Iran and whether these Venezuelan moves were taken from Cuban cues is unknown to us, but we find them notable nonetheless.
A Chinese Lifeline for Caracas?
Each of these seemingly disparate developments does not make much sense on its own. When looked at together, however, a complex picture begins to form, one in which Cuba, slowly and carefully, is trying to shift its orientation toward the United States while the Venezuelan regime’s vulnerabilities increase as a result. An insecure and economically troubled Venezuela will need strong allies looking for levers against the United States. Russia will sign a defense deal here and there with Venezuela, but it has much bigger priorities in Eurasia. Iran is useful for hurling threats against the United States, but it has serious economic troubles of its own that rival even those of Venezuela. China so far appears to be the most promising fit, although that relationship carries its fair share of complications.
China and Venezuela have signed a deal for Beijing to loan $20 billion to Caracas in exchange for crude-oil shipments and stakes in Venezuelan oil fields. The two are also discussing multibillion-dollar deals that would entail China investing in critical areas, such as Venezuela’s dilapidated electricity grid. China doesn’t have much interest in paying the exorbitant cost of shipping low-grade Venezuelan crude halfway around the world, but it is interested in technology to develop and produce low-grade crude. In many ways, China is presenting itself as the lifeline to the Venezuelan regime. Whether all these deals reach fruition remains a big question, and how far Beijing intends to go in this relationship with Caracas will matter greatly to the United States. A Chinese willingness to go beyond quid pro quo deals and subsidize Venezuela could lead to Chinese investments threatening existing U.S. energy assets in Venezuela, potentially giving Beijing leverage against Washington in the U.S. backyard. But subsidizing countries is not cheap, and China has not yet shown a willingness to take a more confrontational stance with the United States over Venezuela.
After claiming to have received the first $4 billion installment of the $20 billion loan from China, Chavez said China is lending the money because “China knows that this revolution is here to stay.” Like Cuba, Venezuela may not have the economic heft to back up its revolutionary zeal, but it is finding useful friends of the revolution in China. In this time of need, Venezuela’s challenge lies in finding allies willing to cross the threshold from economic partner to strategic patron.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan: Time for Tea
on: September 20, 2010, 03:00:55 PM
This fact marks our political age: The pendulum is swinging faster and in shorter arcs than it ever has in our lifetimes. Few foresaw the earthquake of 2008 in 2006. No board-certified political professional predicted, on Election Day 2008, what happened in 2009-10 (New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts) and has been happening, and will happen, since then. It all moves so quickly now, it all turns on a dime.
But at this moment we are witnessing a shift that will likely have some enduring political impact. Another way of saying that: The past few years, a lot of people in politics have wondered about the possibility of a third party. Would it be possible to organize one? While they were wondering, a virtual third party was being born. And nobody organized it.
PM Report: How the Tea Party Is Shaking Up the GOP
News Hub: Tea Party Considers Future
Tea Party Movement's Risks for Republicans
.Here is Jonathan Rauch in National Journal on the tea party's innovative, broad-based network: "In the expansive dominion of the Tea Party Patriots, which extends to thousands of local groups and literally countless activists," there is no chain of command, no hierarchy. Individuals "move the movement." Popular issues gain traction and are emphasized, unpopular ones die. "In American politics, radical decentralization has never been tried on such a large scale."
Here are pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen in the Washington Examiner: "The Tea Party has become one of the most powerful and extraordinary movements in American political history." "It is as popular as both the Democratic and Republican parties." "Over half of the electorate now say they favor the Tea Party movement, around 35 percent say they support the movement, 20 to 25 percent self-identify as members of the movement."
So far, the tea party is not a wing of the GOP but a critique of it. This was demonstrated in spectacular fashion when GOP operatives dismissed tea party-backed Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. The Republican establishment is "the reason we even have the Tea Party movement," shot back columnist and tea party enthusiast Andrea Tantaros in the New York Daily News. It was the Bush administration that "ran up deficits" and gave us "open borders" and "Medicare Part D and busted budgets."
Everyone has an explanation for the tea party that is actually not an explanation but a description. They're "angry." They're "antiestablishment," "populist," "anti-elite." All to varying degrees true. But as a network television executive said this week, "They should be fed up. Our institutions have failed."
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.I see two central reasons for the tea party's rise. The first is the yardstick, and the second is the clock. First, the yardstick. Imagine that over at the 36-inch end you've got pure liberal thinking—more and larger government programs, a bigger government that costs more in the many ways that cost can be calculated. Over at the other end you've got conservative thinking—a government that is growing smaller and less demanding and is less expensive. You assume that when the two major parties are negotiating bills in Washington, they sort of lay down the yardstick and begin negotiations at the 18-inch line. Each party pulls in the direction it wants, and the dominant party moves the government a few inches in their direction.
But if you look at the past half century or so you have to think: How come even when Republicans are in charge, even when they're dominant, government has always gotten larger and more expensive? It's always grown! It's as if something inexorable in our political reality—with those who think in liberal terms dominating the establishment, the media, the academy—has always tilted the starting point in negotiations away from 18 inches, and always toward liberalism, toward the 36-inch point.
Democrats on the Hill or in the White House try to pull it up to 30, Republicans try to pull it back to 25. A deal is struck at 28. Washington Republicans call it victory: "Hey, it coulda been 29!" But regular conservative-minded or Republican voters see yet another loss. They could live with 18. They'd like eight. Instead it's 28.
For conservatives on the ground, it has often felt as if Democrats (and moderate Republicans) were always saying, "We should spend a trillion dollars," and the Republican Party would respond, "No, too costly. How about $700 billion?" Conservatives on the ground are thinking, "How about nothing? How about we don't spend more money but finally start cutting."
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.What they want is representatives who'll begin the negotiations at 18 inches and tug the final bill toward five inches. And they believe tea party candidates will do that.
The second thing is the clock. Here is a great virtue of the tea party: They know what time it is. It's getting late. If we don't get the size and cost of government in line now, we won't be able to. We're teetering on the brink of some vast, dark new world—states and cities on the brink of bankruptcy, the federal government too. The issue isn't "big spending" anymore. It's ruinous spending that they fear will end America as we know it, as they promised it to their children.
So there's a sense that dramatic action is needed, and a sense of profound urgency. Add drama to urgency and you get the victory of a tea party-backed candidate.
That is the context. Local tea parties seem—so far—not to be falling in love with the particular talents or background of their candidates. It's more detached than that. They don't say their candidates will be reflective, skilled in negotiations, a great senator, a Paul Douglas or Pat Moynihan or a sturdy Scoop Jackson. These qualities are not what they think are urgently needed. What they want is someone who will walk in, put her foot on the conservative end of the yardstick, and make everything slip down in that direction.
Nobody knows how all this will play out, but we are seeing something big—something homegrown, broad-based and independent. In part it is a rising up of those who truly believe America is imperiled and truly mean to save her. The dangers, both present and potential, are obvious.
A movement like this can help a nation by acting as a corrective, or it can descend into a corrosive populism that celebrates unknowingness as authenticity, that confuses showiness with seriousness and vulgarity with true conviction. Parts could become swept by a desire just to tear down, to destroy.
But establishments exist for a reason. It is true that the party establishment is compromised, and by many things, but one of them is experience. They've lived through a lot, seen a lot, know the national terrain. They know how things work. They know the history. I wonder if tea party members know how fragile are the institutions that help keep the country together.
One difference so far between the tea party and the great wave of conservatives that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 is the latter was a true coalition—not only North and South, East and West but right-wingers, intellectuals who were former leftists, and former Democrats. When they won presidential landslides in 1980, '84 and '88, they brought the center with them. That in the end is how you win. Will the center join arms and work with the tea party? That's a great question of 2012.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Taranto on useful idiot Kristof
on: September 20, 2010, 02:53:06 PM
By JAMES TARANTO
It would appear that the New York Times's Nicholas Kristof read our column Thursday on "Islamic affirmative action," thought the concept might be unclear to some people, and decided to offer himself up as an example. If we had wanted to satirize the attitude, we could hardly have done better than his column in yesterday's Times titled "Message to Muslims: I'm Sorry."
Here's how it begins:
Many Americans have suggested that more moderate Muslims should stand up to extremists, speak out for tolerance, and apologize for sins committed by their brethren.
That's reasonable advice, and as a moderate myself, I'm going to take it. (Throat clearing.) I hereby apologize to Muslims for the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness that has lately been directed at you. The venom on the airwaves, equating Muslims with terrorists, should embarrass us more than you. Muslims are one of the last minorities in the United States that it is still possible to demean openly, and I apologize for the slurs.
Kristof's central example of "the wave of bigotry and simple nuttiness" is the wave of reader complaints against the Portland (Maine) Press Herald over a Sept. 11 human-interest story on local Muslims celebrating Eid, the end of Ramadan, which led to a groveling apology from the paper's editor-publisher.
As we noted Thursday, there is no reason to think that the complaining readers were bigots or nuts. The worst that can be said about them is that they were a bit ignorant: They mistook a coincidence of timing for Islamic affirmative action. (This misunderstanding might have been avoided if the Press Herald's Eid story had explained the workings of the Islamic calendar and this coincidence with Sept. 11.)
James Taranto on Kristof's apology.
.Kristof draws a false and offensive equivalence between Islamic extremists and American "extremists." The latter, when something in the newspaper offends them, complain in a "courteous and polite" fashion, according to the Portland editor. The former, as in the case of cartoonist Molly Norris, issue religious edicts threatening death. (President Obama, champion of the First Amendment for Muslims, remains conspicuously silent about Norris's plight.)
We agree with Kristof that the Portland publisher's apology was a pathetic overreaction. But no one is in hiding as a result of the complaining Mainers--not the publisher, not the reporter who wrote the story, not the Muslim leader who was profiled in the Sept. 11 piece and "said that as an American Muslim, he has a sense of belonging that eclipses the hostility of the Rev. Terry Jones, the pastor in Florida who threatened to burn copies of the Quran," according to the Press Herald.
The important thing to understand here is that Islamic affirmative action only incidentally concerns Islam or Muslims. It is really about the moral exhibitionism of liberal elitists like Kristof, who love trumpeting their enlightenment and open-mindedness and sneering at the sensibilities of ordinary Americans. It never occurs to them that in doing so, it is they who are acting like bigots.
Like moral idiots, too. Consider this passage from Kristof's column:
Radicals tend to empower radicals, creating a gulf of mutual misunderstanding and anger. Many Americans believe that Osama bin Laden is representative of Muslims, and many Afghans believe that the Rev. Terry Jones (who talked about burning Korans) is representative of Christians.
How balanced, how even-handed. Kristof condemns extremists on both sides! Except that "their" extremist is a mass murderer, while "ours" merely talked about engaging in offensive symbolic speech. Kristof doesn't note that Jones's Koran-burning plan was condemned by almost all Americans, or that whatever harm it did could have been ameliorated had the media--including Kristof's paper--refrained from publicizing it.
In another attempt at balance, Kristof acknowledges a string of Islamic outrages: "theocratic mullahs oppressing people in Iran; girls kept out of school in Afghanistan in the name of religion; girls subjected to genital mutilation in Africa in the name of Islam; warlords in Yemen and Sudan who wield AK-47s and claim to be doing God's bidding." He does not list any comparable actions by American "extremists," because there aren't any.
But I've also seen the exact opposite: Muslim aid workers in Afghanistan who risk their lives to educate girls; a Pakistani imam who shelters rape victims; Muslim leaders who campaign against female genital mutilation and note that it is not really an Islamic practice; Pakistani Muslims who stand up for oppressed Christians and Hindus; and above all, the innumerable Muslim aid workers in Congo, Darfur, Bangladesh and so many other parts of the world who are inspired by the Koran to risk their lives to help others. Those Muslims have helped keep me alive, and they set a standard of compassion, peacefulness and altruism that we should all emulate.
I'm sickened when I hear such gentle souls lumped in with Qaeda terrorists, and when I hear the faith they hold sacred excoriated and mocked. To them and to others smeared, I apologize.
Fair enough. But what about gentle American souls--the kind of people who take offense at the idea of building a fancy "Islamic center" adjacent to the site of an Islamic supremacist atrocity, or who complain politely to a newspaper that offends their sensitivities? In slandering them as bigots, nuts and extremists, Kristof lumps them in with al Qaeda. He owes Americans, not Muslims, an apology.
Islamic Group Honors Non-Muslim Jew-Hater
While Molly Norris lives in fear for her life, Helen Thomas is set to make a public appearance next month, the Hill reports:
[American journalism's crazy old aunt in the attic] will receive a lifetime achievement award from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR is honoring Helen Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent and now 90 years old, at its Leadership Conference and 16th Annual Fundraising Banquet on Oct. 9 in Arlington, Va.
Helen Thomas is not Muslim; like President Obama, she is reported to be a Christian. So why is CAIR honoring her lifetime of "achievement"? Well, remember her parting message to Jews: "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. . . . They should go home." It is difficult to understand CAIR's decision to honor Thomas as anything other than an endorsement of these hateful views.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed
on: September 20, 2010, 10:36:36 AM
Brief · September 20, 2010
"When the government fears the people there is liberty; when the people fear the government there is tyranny." --Thomas Jefferson
"We are faced today with two different roads, one of which follows the path of liberty set
by our Founders in the Constitution, and one of which diverges from that path and leads us down the road to tyranny. There are two different warring camps within our society, and the ongoing battle between those camps has been graphically illustrated in recent primary elections and by the vicious fight over the nationalization of our healthcare system. On one side are those of us, including the members of the Tea Party movement, who work hard to support their families, who love their country, and who understand and revere a document that has stood firm for 223 years to guide us. These ordinary, everyday Americans rightly fear the unprecedented growth in the size and power of the federal government. They are angry over the unsustainable and uncontrollable growth of federal spending and the federal deficit that will inevitably lead to financial ruin. They are appalled over the contempt shown by so many in the other camp for our governing document, the Constitution. ... That other camp is made up of politicians who recognize no limits on their power, their liberal activist allies in the judiciary, and members of the media, Hollywood, and academia, who have been stretching, bending, and chipping away at the Constitution for decades. They welcome a tyranny of elites who can govern however they see fit without being checked and limited by what they view as an 'anachronistic' document and the parochial views of the American people. After all, they know what is best for all of us. They should control our lives and our economy. ... There is a growing movement throughout America to reinvigorate the tree of liberty, a tree whose trunk is the Constitution, whose limbs are the Bill of Rights, and whose leaves are the new sons and daughters of liberty who embody the same spirit that infused our Founders. On Constitution Day, let Americans rededicate themselves to securing 'the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity' by actively working to preserve the Constitution of the United States." --former Attorney General Edwin Meese
"We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, 'The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.' We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth." --Ronald Reagan
Opinion in Brief
"[One of the] central reasons for the Tea Party's rise ... is the yardstick. ... Imagine that over at the 36-inch end you've got pure liberal thinking -- more and larger government programs, a bigger government that costs more in the many ways that cost can be calculated. Over at the other end you've got conservative thinking -- a government that is growing smaller and less demanding and is less expensive. You assume that when the two major parties are negotiating bills in Washington, they sort of lay down the yardstick and begin negotiations at the 18-inch line. Each party pulls in the direction it wants, and the dominant party moves the government a few inches in their direction. But if you look at the past half century or so you have to think: How come even when Republicans are in charge, even when they're dominant, government has always gotten larger and more expensive? It's always grown! It's as if something inexorable in our political reality -- with those who think in liberal terms dominating the establishment, the media, the academy -- has always tilted the starting point in negotiations away from 18 inches, and always toward liberalism, toward the 36-inch point. Democrats on the Hill or in the White House try to pull it up to 30, Republicans try to pull it back to 25. A deal is struck at 28. Washington Republicans call it victory: 'Hey, it coulda been 29!' But regular conservative-minded or Republican voters see yet another loss. They could live with 18. They'd like 8. Instead it's 28. ... What they want is representatives who'll begin the negotiations at 18 inches and tug the final bill toward 5 inches. And they believe Tea Party candidates will do that." --columnist Peggy Noonan
"Writing in 1962, [economist Milton Friedman] noted that 'conditions have changed,' as we 'now have several decades of experience with governmental intervention.' Indeed, it was clear then, way back in 1962, that free economies vastly outperform managed economies. And that was before the collapse of the Soviet/central-planning model, the economic explosion resulting from the Reagan-Thatcher tax cuts, the repudiation of Keynes even in Britain, the bankruptcy of the European welfare state, the rise of the Asian Tigers, and more. What was obvious in 1962 was beyond obvious in 2008 -- or should have been. And yet, Friedman sensed a lingering threat, one that hadn't sauntered off into the night. It was a 'subtle' threat, not from enemies outside but from do-gooders inside. He warned of an 'internal threat' from those professing 'good intentions and good will who wish to reform us,' who 'are anxious to use the power of the state to achieve their ends and confident of their own ability to do so.' It's so subtle that Americans voted for such reform, or 'change,' decisively, on November 4, 2008, without even knowing it, giving the threat vigor. Thus, the managers and planners are in charge, with their hands on the ship of state, seizing the resources that feed the most dynamic, prosperous engine that capitalism and freedom ever produced. The Invisible Hand has been waved off by the visible hands of the reformers. And they are spending us into oblivion." --author and professor Dr. Paul Kengor
"From 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed, until 1940, when the first Social Security checks were paid out, Americans did not receive income from the federal government unless they were pensioned veterans or employees of the government itself. For 164 years, Americans took care of themselves and their own families. With the Social Security Act, they began to slide into government dependency. Today, thanks to Social Security, a majority of Americans over 65 rely on the federal government for a majority of their income. Thanks to Medicare, enacted in 1965, American seniors now rely on the federal government for their health care, too. If Congress does not repeal Obamacare, virtually all Americans will soon depend on government for their health care. We will no longer be a free and self-reliant people -- we will be a government-dependent people." --CNSNews editor Terrence Jeffrey
Re: The Left
"U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently claimed: 'Districts around the country have literally been cutting for five, six, seven years in a row. And, many of them, you know, are through, you know, fat, through flesh and into bone....' Really? They cut spending five to seven consecutive years? Give me a break! Andrew Coulson, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, writes that out of 14,000 school districts in the United States, just seven have cut their budgets seven years in a row. How about five years in a row? Just 87. That's a fraction of 1 percent in each case. Duncan may be pandering to his constituency, or he may actually be fooled by how school districts (and other government agencies) talk about budget cuts. When normal people hear about a budget cut, we assume the amount of money to be spent is less than the previous year's allocation. But that's not what bureaucrats mean. 'They are not comparing current year spending to the previous year's spending,' Coulson writes. 'What they're doing is comparing the approved current year budget to the budget that they initially dreamed about having.' So if a district got more money than last year but less than it asked for, the administrators consider it a cut. 'Back in the real world, a K-12 public education costs four times as much as it did in 1970, adjusting for inflation: $150,000 versus the $38,000 it cost four decades ago (in constant 2009 dollars),' Coulson says. Taxpayers need to understand this sort thing just to protect themselves from greedy government officials and teachers unions." --columnist John Stossel
Faith & Family
"Surrender on gay marriage is surrender on marriage -- which is surrender on the family and, ultimately, surrender on civilization. ... This unwillingness to fight for the family, on which civilization depends, is another sign of the failure of modern conservatism. The right can win a thousand battles against big government and lose the war for America's future, if it surrenders on marriage and the family. America's social traumas -- illegitimacy, juvenile crime, drug abuse, female-headed-households -- can all be traced back to the decline of the family: which started with the Great Society in the '60s, accelerated with no-fault divorce in the '70s, continued with the rise of cohabitation, and reached its culmination with strange-sex marriage. ... Unfortunately, many conservative intellectuals have lost sight of a crucial fact: American exceptionalism rests on three pillars -- faith, family and freedom. Remove any one, and the entire structure collapses. ... Without the family, it doesn't matter how many times we defeat socialism (nationalized health-care, government take-over of business, soaring deficits, redistributionism), in the end, we lose -- which is why the left has made same-sex marriage its priority, and why it is less tolerant of dissent here than anywhere else. Conservatives who don't understand this, understand nothing." --columnist Don Feder
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Survey by Elaph shows surprising results
on: September 20, 2010, 08:58:22 AM
Islam's Encounters With America
A survey by Elaph, the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world, saw 58% object to the building of the WTC mosque.
By FOUAD AJAMI
From his recent travels to the Persian Gulf—sponsored and paid for by the State Department—Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf returned with a none-too-subtle threat. His project, the Ground Zero Mosque, would have to go on. Its cancellation would risk putting "our soldiers, our troops, our embassies and citizens under attack in the Muslim world."
Leave aside the attempt to make this project a matter of national security. The self-appointed bridge between America and the Arab-Islamic world is a false witness to the sentiments in Islamic lands.
Deputy Editorial Page Editor Bret Stephens and Editorial Board member Matthew Kaminski on the plan for a 'Mosque at Ground Zero,' and Senior Editorial Writer Joseph Rago reports on the Missouri results.
The truth is that the trajectory of Islam in America (and Europe for that matter) is at variance with the play of things in Islam's main habitat. A survey by Elaph, the most respected electronic daily in the Arab world, gave a decided edge to those who objected to the building of this mosque—58% saw it as a project of folly.
Elaph was at it again in the aftermath of Pastor Terry Jones's threat to burn copies of the Quran: It queried its readers as to whether America was a "tolerant" or a "bigoted" society. The split was 63% to 37% in favor of those who accepted the good faith and pluralism of this country.
This is remarkable. The ground burned in the Arab-Islamic world over the last three decades. Sly preachers and their foot soldiers "weaponized" the faith and all but devoured what modernists had tried to build in the face of difficult odds. The fury has not burned out. Self-styled imams continue to issue fatwas that have made it all but impossible for Arabs and Muslims to partake of the modern world. But from this ruinous history, there has settled upon countless Muslims and Arabs the recognition that the wells are poisoned in their midst, that the faith has to be reined in or that the faith will kill, and that the economic and cultural prospects of modern Islam hang in the balance.
To this kind of sobriety, Muslim activists and preachers in the diaspora—in Patterson, N.J., and Minneapolis, in Copenhagen and Amsterdam—appear to be largely indifferent. They are forever on the look-out for the smallest slight.
Islam in America is of recent vintage. This country can't be "Islamic." Its foundations are deep in the Puritan religious tradition. The waves of immigrants who came to these shores understood the need for discretion, and for patience.
It wasn't belligerence that carried the Catholics and the Jews into the great American mainstream. It was the swarm of daily life—the grocery store, the assembly line, the garment industry, the public schools, and the big wars that knit the American communities together—and tore down the religious and ethnic barriers.
There is no gain to be had, no hearts and minds to be won, in Imam Rauf insisting that Ground Zero can't be hallowed ground because there is a strip joint and an off-track betting office nearby. This may be true, but it is irrelevant.
A terrible deed took place on that ground nine years ago. Nineteen young Arabs brought death and ruin onto American soil, and discretion has a place of pride in the way the aftermath is handled. "Islam" didn't commit these crimes, but young Arabs and Muslims did.
There is no use for the incantation that Islam is a religion of peace. The incantation is false; Islam, like other religions, is theologically a religion of war and a religion of peace. In our time, it is a religion in distress, fought over, hijacked at times, by a militant breed at war with the modern world.
Again, from Elaph, here are the thoughts of an Arab writer, Ahmed Abu Mattar, who sees through the militancy of the religious radicals. He dismisses outright the anger over the "foolish and deranged" Pastor Terry Jones who threatened to burn copies of the Quran. "Where is the anger in the face of dictatorships which dominate the lives of Arabs from the cradle to the grave? Would the Prophet Muhammad look with favor on the prisons in our midst which outnumber the universities and hospitals? Would he take comfort in the rate of illiteracy among the Arabs which exceeds 60%? Would he be satisfied with the backwardness that renders us a burden on other nations?"
The first Arabs who came to America arrived during the time of the Great Migration (1880-1920). Their story is told by Gregory Orfalea in his book, "The Arab Americans: A History" (2006). The pioneers were mostly Christians on the run from the hunger and the privations of a dying Ottoman empire. One such pioneer who fled Lebanon for America said he wanted to leave his homeland and "go to the land of justice." Ellis Island was fondly named bayt al-hurriya (the house of freedom). It was New York, in the larger neighborhood of Wall Street, that was the first home of the immigrants.
Restrictive quotas and the Great Depression reduced the migration to a trickle. This would change drastically in the 1950s and '60s. The time of Islam in America had begun.
It was in 1965, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf tells us, that he made his way to America as a young man. He and a vast migration would be here as American identity would undergo a drastic metamorphosis.
The prudence of days past was now a distant memory. These activists who came in the 1990s—the time of multiculturalism and of what the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the "disuniting of America"—would insist on a full-scale revision of the American creed. American liberalism had broken with American patriotism, and the self-styled activists would give themselves over to a militancy that would have shocked their forerunners. It is out of that larger history that this project at Ground Zero is born.
There is a great Arab and Islamic tale. It happened in the early years of Islam, but it speaks to this controversy. It took place in A.D. 638, the time of Islam's triumphs.
The second successor to the Prophet, the Caliph Omar—to orthodox Muslims the most revered of the four Guided Caliphs for the great conquests that took place during his reign—had come to Jerusalem to accept the city's surrender. Patriarch Sophronius, the city's chief magistrate, is by his side for the ceremony of surrender. Prayer time comes for Omar while the patriarch is showing him the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The conqueror asks where he could spread out his prayer rug. Sophronius tells him that he could stay where he was. Omar refuses, because his followers, he said, might then claim for Islam the holy shrine of the Christians. Omar stepped outside for his prayer.
We don't always assert all the "rights" that we can get away with. The faith is honored when the faith bends to necessity and discretion.
Mr. Ajami is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Part of struggle against corrupt officials in Bell CA
on: September 20, 2010, 08:53:08 AM
By TAMMY AUDI
BELL, Calif.—Infuriated residents of this small southern California city made a national name for themselves when they ousted three municipal officials after revelations of high six-figure salaries. Lesser known is that Bell's citizen revolution is being run from an Islamic community center.
Taxpayer outrage has washed away the wariness that once separated the working-class Roman Catholic and Protestant Latinos who make up Bell's majority and a quietly flourishing minority of Shi'ite Muslims. The nascent unity in Bell—where 100 people meet regularly at the El-Hussein Center about the ongoing scandal—comes amid controversies in other U.S. cities over the construction or expansion of Islamic institutions.
More than 100 residents met last week in Bell, Calif.'s El-Hussein center. The banner in back, in Arabic, proclaims love for and acceptance of God.
"We're all victims here," said Ali Saleh, a Muslim resident and member of the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which hosts the community meetings. "Sad to say, but that's what's bringing us together."
A Pew Research report released last month showed 30% of Americans have a positive view of Islam, compared with 42% who held a positive view in 2005. Muslim-American leaders have urged Muslims to counter that image by becoming more visibly involved in political life, but with limited success. Bell has the potential to become the kind of turnaround Muslim-Americans are after as the nation debates their place in American society.
Bell's former city manager, one of the officials forced out, took home nearly $800,000 a year in pay, and some part-time city council members earned $100,000. Alleging fraud and conspiracy, the state is suing current and former Bell officials.
Tightly packed across just two square miles, Bell is among several small cities tucked amid the sprawling industrial areas southeast of Los Angeles. It's wedged between four freeways, commercial railway lines and a concrete-lined stretch of the Los Angeles River. In the 1950s and '60s, Bell's population exploded.
Longtime Bell residents say white residents began to leave Bell in the 1960s for more spacious suburbs in neighboring Orange County. Race riots in Los Angeles drove more whites away. By 2000, says the U.S. Census, 90% of Bell's 37,000 population identified as Latino.
For most Bell residents, the community meetings that started at the Islamic center in early August are the first real contact they've had with a Muslim community that has been in the city for at least four decades.
"Since I was a little girl, I remember going to school with the Muslim children and they really kept to themselves," said Cynthia Rodriguez, a 29-year-old mother and lifelong resident of Bell.
She was nervous the first day she walked into the El-Hussein Center, unsettled by the unfamiliar images and Arabic writing. But "disgust and fury" at city officials outweighed her fear.
Then someone offered her a chair. Now, she attends every meeting and is getting to know some of her Muslim neighbors for the first time.
Bell's Muslims, numbering between 1,000 and 2,000, are Lebanese immigrants who fled civil war in their country in the 1970s and began arriving from the same village, called Yaroun.
They took jobs in the garment industry, bought homes, and built the mosque and community center. Some Lebanese immigrants opened clothing shops in the area and picked up Spanish to communicate with their largely Latino customer base.
Bell's Muslims said they felt an affinity with their Latino neighbors, if not a closeness. Both groups are immigrants who worked at low-wage jobs or opened small businesses, and both groups sent money to family in their home countries. Even soccer connected them "They work hard, we work hard. Everybody is just working and taking care of their kids" said Mr. Saleh. Bell's Muslims didn't get involved with local politics because "we just concentrated on our families and work," Mr. Saleh said.
But some began to feel it was time for a change in Bell. Last year, another local Muslim named Ali Saleh ran for city council. Then anonymous fliers appeared with images of the candidate's head on the body of a radical Muslim cleric, with New York's burning Twin Towers and a message: "Vote NO Muslims." Mr. Saleh lost.
At a recent city council meeting, the 35-year-old Mr. Saleh, who was born and raised in Bell, stood in front of the city council and a packed house of rowdy Bell residents.
"You told me you were running to protect your people from people like me," Mr. Saleh said, addressing Luis Artiga, a former opponent in the city council race who won the seat. "Let me tell you, these are all my people!" Mr. Saleh shouted to sustained cheering and applause. "Whether they're Arab, whether they're Mexican, whether they Salvadoran, Guatamalan, we are all one." He then repeated his words in Spanish.
After attending the most recent meeting at the El-Hussein Center, Mr. Artiga, a local pastor of a Southern Baptist church, said he regretted what he said during the campaign and that he had nothing to do with the fliers portraying Mr. Saleh as a terrorist. He and Mr. Saleh shook hands.
The new unity in Bell may soon be tested, however. The community association faces some criticism for its political ties and motives.
But as they have opened up to Bell, Muslim community members said, the response has been mostly positive. Recently a local grocer that caters to Latinos called the Islamic center to ask about stocking Halal items— food that meets Islamic dietary standards.
Muslim leaders say no one has bothered them about their mosque or community center until recently, when they received a letter that read "All I need to know about Islam I learned from 9-11"—from an anonymous sender in Texas.
The meetings at the center are conducted in Spanish and English, with the doors to the center thrown open to the evening air. At a recent meeting, more than 150 residents filled rows of green plastic chairs. Their bored children fidgeted in the back of the room, munching on churros and sipping hot chocolate under stacks of the Quran.
Meanwhile, 76-year-old Robert Mackin, who has lived in Bell since 1941, angry that city council members hadn't stepped down, shouted at the interim city attorney: "What about the crooks you still work for?"
Unsatisfied, Mr. Mackin walked toward a row of bearded Muslim men and shook their hands. "Good question, good question," one of the men told him.
Mr. Mackin said he has learned a few things about Islam as he had attended the meetings at the community center. He said he wasn't sure about one photograph on the wall until one young Muslim man told him it was Mecca. The same young man had asked him whether he was "Christian or Catholic."
"Well I laughed and said 'I'm Catholic but Catholics are Christians'," recalled Mr. Mackin. "He was young, and I guess he didn't know. Anyway, we're all learning."
Write to Tammy Audi at Tamara.Audi@wsj.com
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010
on: September 20, 2010, 02:07:18 AM
An outstanding day!!! 45 fighters; the Gathering went over four hours-- without having kept count I am quite positive that this Gathering had the largest number of fights ever/highest number of fights per fighter ever.
So much to say that , , , I am speechless in the wordless state for now , , , and so will remain silent for now.
"Higher consciousness through harder contact."(c)
PS: Those who were accepted into or ascended within the Tribe, please post on the Dog Brothers Tribe thread reminding me.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Balkans, Macedonia, Bulgaria
on: September 18, 2010, 11:48:39 PM
Radical Islam on rise in Balkans, raising fears of security threat to Europe
Published September 18, 2010
| Associated Press
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) — An online music video praising Osama bin Laden has driven home a troubling new reality: A radical brand of Islam embraced by al-Qaida and the Taliban is gaining a foothold in the Balkans.
"Oh Osama, annihilate the American army. Oh Osama, raise the Muslims' honor," a group of Macedonian men sing in Albanian, in video posted on YouTube last year and picked up by Macedonian media this August. "In September 2001 you conquered a power. We all pray for you."
Although most of Macedonia's ethnic Albanian minority are Muslims, they have generally been secular. But experts are now seeing an increasing radicalization in pockets of the country's Islamic community, particularly after armed groups from the ethnic Albanian minority, which forms a quarter of the population of 2.1 million, fought a brief war against Macedonian government forces in 2001.
It's a trend seen across the Balkans and has raised concerns that the region, which includes new European Union member Bulgaria, could become a breeding ground for terrorists with easy access to Western Europe. Many fear that radicalized European Muslims with EU passports could slip across borders and blend into society.
At the center of the issue is the Wahhabi sect, an austere brand of Islam most prevalent in Saudi Arabia and practiced by bin Laden and the Taliban.
"Wahhabism in Macedonia, the Balkans and in Europe has become more aggressive in the last 10 years," said Jakub Selimovski, head of religious education in Macedonia's Islamic community. He said Wahhabis were establishing a permanent presence in Macedonia where none existed before, and that "they are in Bosnia, here, Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia and lately they have appeared in Bulgaria."
It is the first time a high-ranking official in the former Yugoslav republic's Islamic community has agreed to speak openly about the presence and threat of radical Islam.
In Bulgaria, nearly one-sixth of the population of 7.6 million are Muslims who adhere to conventional Sunni beliefs. Ethnic peace has been maintained in the last 20 years. As elsewhere in the Balkans, however, Wahhabi incursions have led to a struggle for control of religion and Islamic community-owned property.
Large amounts of money, allegedly from Muslim organizations abroad, have been spent in Bulgaria since the mid-1990s for more than 150 new mosques and so called "teaching centers" to spread Wahhabism.
According to Bulgaria's former chief mufti, Nedim Gendzhev, some Muslim organizations were aiming to create a "fundamentalist triangle" formed by Bosnia, Macedonia and Bulgaria's Western Rhodope mountains. Local newspaper reports say radical Islam is being preached in different cities and villages in southern and northeastern Bulgaria.
In 2003, Bulgarian authorities shut down a number of Islamic centers on the grounds they allegedly belonged to Islamic groups financed mainly by Saudi Arabians that possibly also had links to "radical organizations" such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Official statements said that the centers were shut down "to prevent terrorists getting a foothold in Bulgaria."
However, centers where radical brands of Islam are preached continue to to crop up in the country, said political analyst Dimitar Avramov.
"Along with the three official Muslim schools, there are at least seven other which are not registered and not controlled by the state," he said, adding that in the last 20 years some 3,000 young Muslims have graduated from these schools.
In neighboring Serbia last year, 12 Muslims — allegedly Wahhabis — from the tense southern Sandzak region were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for planning terrorist attacks, including on the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade. The presence of radical Muslims in Sandzak, the poorest region of Serbia, is linked to the advent of mujahedeen foreign fighters who joined Bosnian Muslims in their battle against the Serbs in Bosnia's 1992-95 independence war.
In Bosnia, the issue of Wahhabi influence is one of the most politically charged debates, with Bosnian Serbs maintaining there is a huge presence of Wahhabis in the country and Muslim Bosniaks downplaying the issue and at times claiming it does not exist.
Juan Carlos Antunez, a Spanish military specialist in religious extremism with years of experience in Bosnia, estimates there are about 3,000 people in Bosnia who have embraced this interpretation of Islam and only a small fraction of them are a potential security threat.
In a study prepared for the Sarajevo-based Center for Advanced Studies in May, Antunez argued that Bosnia's official Islamic Community has been successful in curbing Wahhabi influence. Although it did not aggressively ostracize the Wahhabis, it strictly controls the appointments of imams in mosques and lecturers in Islamic educational institutions in the country.
Ahmet Alibasic, a lecturer at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo, said most Wahhabis in Bosnia refrain from criticizing the Islamic Community and were even calling for unity among Muslims.
"Their influence reached its peak in 2000, but it has since started falling and it continues to fall," Alibasic said, adding that measures taken by Bosnian authorities after 9/11 had a significant effect as the movement began to lose power after the closure and banning of several Islamic, mostly Saudi-backed, charities which funded the movement.
In Albania, the issue is also charged. Ilir Kulla, former head of the government's department on religious issues, insisted the Wahhabis had not caused any problems in Albania.
Kulla said hundreds of young Albanian men had been educated in universities in the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia, and were now mosque leaders, but that there had been no attempt by Wahhabis to challenge the leadership of the country's Muslim Community, which he insisted was still moderate.
But in Macedonia, the increasing clout of radical Islam is causing a rift in the country's Muslim community, with a power struggle developing within the country's official Islamic Religious Community between the moderate mainstream and the emerging Wahhabi wing.
"A destructive, radical and extremist current has appeared with an intention of taking over the lead of the Islamic religious community," Selimovski said.
Authorities in Macedonia are reluctant to confirm any threat of radical Islam in the country. But a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic, did acknowledge that "radical groups and their followers are being closely observed."
Last year, three ethnic Albanian brothers originally from Macedonia were implicated — along with a Jordanian, a Turk and a Kosovo Albanian living in the U.S. — in an alleged plot to attack the U.S. Army's Fort Dix military base in New Jersey. No attack was ever staged on the base, which is used largely to train U.S. reservists bound for Iraq.
"Macedonia is part of the international coalition in the fight against terrorism and it cannot be excluded from the responsibility to observe and respond to any possible activity or emerging of terrorists," Interior Ministry spokesman Ivo Kotevski told the AP.
Moderate Muslims say the Wahhabi sect now controls five mosques in Skopje even though the Islamic Religious Community has suspended the man they claim is the sect's leader, Ramadan Ramadani, as imam of the Isa Beg mosque in Skopje, and prohibited him from organizing prayers.
But Ramadani, who has launched a petition seeking supporters to overturn the current Community leadership, rejects any accusation of radicalism, saying his opponents are scaremongering.
"They need my name to have somebody to frighten people," Ramadani said. "I do not know any individuals or structures here that could be defined as Wahhabi. It is the attempt of political labeling and stigmatizing people who want reforms."
Ramadani insisted that Macedonia's Islamic community had nothing to do with the online song supporting bin Laden, and denied Macedonian media reports that it had been played in mosques there.
"Bin Laden is nothing for the Muslims in Macedonia," Ramadani said. "He is not our hero."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A thoughtful read sent by an Indian friend
on: September 18, 2010, 11:45:05 PM
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, September 18, 2010 4:39 AM
Subject: fak-ap solution ?
An Afghan bone for Obama to chew on
By M K Bhadrakumar
When Robert Blackwill, who was former United States secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's deputy as national security adviser and George W Bush's presidential envoy to Iraq, took the podium at the International Institute of Strategic Studies think-tank in London on Monday to present his "Plan B" on Afghanistan, readers of the Wall Street Journal would have wondered what was afoot.
Blackwill is wired deep into the bowels of the US establishment, especially the Pentagon headed by Robert Gates. And the IISS prides itself as having been "hugely influential in setting the intellectual structures for managing the Cold War". Thus, the setting on Monday was perfect.
Blackwill has remarkable credentials to undertake exploratory
voyages into the trajectory of US foreign policy. In a memorable opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal in March 2005 titled "A New Deal for New Delhi", he accurately predicted the blossoming of the US-India strategic partnership. He wrote:
The US should integrate India into the evolving global non-proliferation regime as a friendly nuclear weapons state ... Why should the US want to check India's missile capability in ways that could lead to China's permanent nuclear dominance over democratic India? ... We should sell advanced weaponry to India ... Given the strategic challenges ahead, the US should want the Indian armed forces to be equipped with the best weapons systems ... To make this happen, the US has to become a reliable long-term supplier, including through co-production and licensed manufacture arrangements.
Blackwill's construct almost verbatim did become US policy. Again, in December 2007 he penned a most thoughtful article titled "Forgive Russia, Confront Iran". He wrote:
To engage Russia, we need to substantially change our current policy approach to Moscow ... This is not to underrate the difficulties of interacting with Moscow on its external policies and its often-raw pursuit of power politics and spheres of influence ... But there are strategic priorities, substantive trade-offs and creative compromises that Western governments should consider. The West needs to adopt tactical flexibility and moderate compromise with Moscow.
Again, he hit the bull's eye in anticipating the US's reset with Russia. So, an interesting question arises: Is he sprinting indefatigably toward a hat-trick?
There can be no two opinions that the crisis situation in Afghanistan demands out-of-the-box thinking. Blackwill's radically original mind has come up with an intellectual construct when hardly 10 weeks are left for US President Barack Obama to take the plunge into his Afghanistan strategy review.
Blackwill foresees that the US's Afghan counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy is unlikely to succeed and an accommodation of the Taliban in its strongholds becomes inevitable in the near future. The current indications are that the process is already underway. (See Taliban and US get down to talks Asia Times Online, September 10, 2010.)
The Blackwill plan probes the downstream of this "accommodation". Blackwill flatly rules out a rapid withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan as that would be a "strategic calamity" for regional stability, would hand over a tremendous propaganda victory to the world syndicate of Islamist radicals, would "profoundly undermine" the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and would be seen as a failure of US leadership and strategic resolve.
Therefore, he proposes as a US policy goal a rationalization of the tangled, uneven Afghan battlefield so that it becomes more level and predictable and far less bloody, and enforcement of the game can come under new ground rules.
Prima facie, it appears scandalous as a plan calling for the "partition" of Afghanistan, but in actuality it is something else. In short, US forces should vacate the Taliban's historic strongholds in the Pashtun south and east and should relocate to the northern, central and western regions inhabited by non-Pashtun tribes.
Blackwill suggests the US should "enlist" the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras to do more of the anti-Taliban resistance, instead of COIN. And the US should only take recourse to massive air power and the use of special forces if contingencies arise to meet any residual threats from the Taliban after their politicalaccommodation in their strongholds.
A striking aspect of the Blackwill plan is that it is rooted in Afghan history and politics, the regional milieu and the interplay of global politics. Since 1761, Afghanistan has survived essentially as a loose-knit federation of ethnic groups under Kabul's notional leadership. The plan taps into the interplay of ethnicity in Afghan politics. The political reality today is that the Taliban have come to be the best-organized Afghan group and they are disinterested in a genuinely broad-based power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.
Unsurprisingly, the non-Pashtun groups feel uneasy. Their fears are not without justification insofar as the erstwhile anti-Taliban Northern Alliance has disintegrated and regional powers that are opposed to the Taliban, such as Russia, Iran and India, have such vastly divergent policy objectives (and priorities) that they cannot join hands, leave alone finance or equip another anti-Taliban resistance.
The Kabul government headed by President Hamid Karzai is far too weak to perform such a role. (Blackwill, curiously, doesn't visualize Karzai surviving.) According to Blackwill's plan, the US offers itself as the bulwark against an outright Taliban takeover. It envisages the US using decisive force against any Taliban attempt to expand beyond its Pashtun strongholds in the south and east, and to this end it promises security to non-Pashtun groups.
If it works, the plan could be a geopolitical coup for the US. It quintessentially means the US would hand over to the Taliban (which is heavily under the influence of the Pakistani military) the south and east bordering Pakistan while US forces would relocate to the regions bordering Central Asia and Iran.
The US would be extricating itself from fighting and bloodshed, while at the same time perpetuating its military presence in the region to provide a security guarantee to the weak Kabul government and as a bulwark against anarchy and extremism - on the pattern in Iraq.
The US's and NATO's profile as real-time providers of regional security and stability can only boost their influence in Central Asian capitals.
Seemingly recent random "happenings" mesh with Blackwill's plan, including:
A base to be built for US special forces in Mazar-i-Sharif.
The expansion of the air bases at Bagram and Shindand.
The overhaul of the massive Soviet-era air base in Termez by the US and NATO.
An agreement between the German Bundeswehr and the Uzbek government regarding Termez as a stop-off point for NATO military flights.
Fresh deployments of US special forces in Kunduz.
The US's parleys with non-Pashtun leaders in Berlin.
Mounting pressure on Hamid Karzai's brother Ahmed Wali Karzai to vacate Kandahar
(Blackwill said in an interview with the British Telegraph newspaper last week, "How many people really believe that Kandahar is central to Western civilization? We did not go to Afghanistan to control Kandahar.")
As a seasoned diplomat, Blackwill argues that China and Russia will choose to be stakeholders in an enterprise in which Washington underwrites Central Asia's security. True, China and Russia will be hard-pressed to contest the US's open-ended military presence in Afghanistan that is on the face of it projected as the unfinished business of the "war on terrorism". Central Asian states will be delighted at the prospect of the US joining the fight against creeping Islamism from Afghanistan.
The Blackwill plan brilliantly turns around the Taliban's ascendancy since 2005, which had occurred under Pakistani tutelage and, in retrospect, thanks to US passivity.
Blackwill admits that his plan "would allow Washington to focus on four issues more vital to its national interests: the rise of Chinese power, the Iranian nuclear program, nuclear terrorism and the future of Iraq".
Without suffering a strategic defeat, the US would be able to extricate itself from the war while the drop in war casualties would placate US opinion so that a long-term troop presence (as in Iraq) at the level of 50,000 or so would become sustainable. This was exactly what General David Petraeus, now the top US man in Afghanistan, achieved in Iraq.
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Attention Fighters: Shirt colors
on: September 18, 2010, 01:01:45 AM
I know lots of us like black shirts, but if both fighters are wearing a black shirt it makes the fight footage very hard to follow if the range closes. If you can, please wear some other color, or bring a non-black shirt as well as a black shirt.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: How many jobs does $111million create?
on: September 17, 2010, 05:28:15 PM
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Left Angeles Times (POTB) GOP ditches CO gov. candidate
on: September 16, 2010, 04:20:05 PM
Republican Party ditches GOP nominee for Colorado governor
Dan Maes won the primary, but the party is withdrawing its support, saying the 'tea party' candidate is not running a professional campaign.
Reporting from Denver —
The Republican Party is walking away from Dan Maes, a small-time businessman and political novice with "tea party" backing who captured Colorado's GOP gubernatorial nomination, scrambling the race less than seven weeks before election day.
Maes has been disavowed by pillars of the Republican establishment — including former Sen. Hank Brown and current U.S. Senate candidate Ken Buck. The chairman of the state Republican Party flatly said Maes is not running a professional campaign and called on him to drop out before ballots were printed Sept. 3. The Republican Governors Assn. refuses to help fund his campaign.
Several tea party groups have withdrawn their backing after it was revealed that Maes misrepresented how he left a Kansas police department, incurred record campaign fines and called Denver's bike-swap program a United Nations plot.
The question now is who will benefit from Maes' hemorrhaging support — his Democratic opponent, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, or former GOP Rep. Tom Tancredo, who is running as a third-party candidate because he thinks Maes is unelectable?
"What may happen is that, with a bit of time, Tancredo becomes viewed as the other major candidate," said Kenneth Bickers, a political scientist at the University of Colorado, who added that he is still reeling from the latest twists in the race. "I didn't see this coming 10 days ago."
Janet Rowland, a Mesa County commissioner who is active in the tea party movement, was one of nearly two dozen Republicans who announced recently that they were switching allegiance to Tancredo.
She said in an interview that this is the first time she hasn't backed a GOP nominee. The entire saga, she added, is a cautionary tale for the insurgent tea party.
"There is a belief by people who are fed up with government that, if they get somebody who hasn't been in politics, they will somehow be more pure," Rowland said.
Maes spokesman Nate Strauch said the establishment's abandonment of the candidate was worrisome.
"The Republican Party in the state has a very specific process for how it chooses its nominees," Strauch said. "It's a process that Dan Maes won fair and square." To turn around and say the votes of those 200,000 people who voted for him "don't count, to reward someone who circumvented the process, sets a dangerous precedent."
Strauch added that many tea party groups still supported Maes.
Maes was a long shot in the Republican primary, up against former Rep. Scott McInnis. He touted himself as a successful businessman, but tax records showed that some years he made little money. A supporter said Maes asked her for help paying his mortgage. He received a record $17,000 campaign fine for paying himself more than $40,000 from his campaign contributions for mileage.
Still, when McInnis acknowledged that he plagiarized a paper on water issues that he was paid $300,000 to write, Maes' support surged. He won the nomination by about 1% of the primary vote.
Two weeks later, the Denver Post reported that Maes' story about how he left a small-town Kansas police department was false. Maes had said he was fired because he had been working undercover for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, but Kansas officials said Maes never worked for them.
Right away, prominent Republicans began calling for Maes to drop out of the race before ballots were printed, including state party Chairman Dick Wadhams. Maes refused. He raised only $50,000 in August — less than a quarter of Tancredo's haul and an eighth of Hickenlooper's.
In an interview, Wadhams noted that Maes is still the party's nominee but worried that he has yet to assemble a professional campaign team. "To run a real, competitive race in Colorado, you have to have a real campaign," Wadhams said.
Strauch said Maes was not planning to hire any political professionals: "He won the nomination on a shoestring and he's using a similar strategy in the general."
Bay Buchanan, a veteran Washington, D.C.-based operative who is now Tancredo's campaign manager, contended that the onetime congressman, best known for his hard-line stance against illegal immigration, is the only real conservative opposition to Hickenlooper. "We've had enormous movement in the last five to six days," she said last week.
Hickenlooper spokesman George Merritt said the Democratic nominee "is focused on creating jobs, finding ways to support Colorado business, and promoting education."
Former Democratic Sen. Gary Hart, who teaches at the University of Colorado-Denver, said that as the GOP nominee, Maes will inevitably receive a large number of votes in November and split the conservative electorate, handing Hickenlooper a victory.
"Tancredo is whistling past the graveyard," Hart said. "What's interesting about the race is the disarray in the [Republican] party in general. It sought to embrace the tea party movement. When it did, it bought a whole lot of trouble."email@example.com
Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove on Delaware's O'Donnell
on: September 16, 2010, 02:23:03 PM
Karl Rove: “I think the questions about why she had a problem for five years with paying her federal income taxes, why her house was foreclosed on and put up for a sheriff’s sale, why it took 16 yers for her to settle her college debt and get her diploma after she went around for years claiming she was a college graduate — these and other troubling sort of personal background things, she thinks she has explained them. I think she’s got to — I think a lot of voters in Delaware are going to want more than she’s offering to them right now.”