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24301  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Steven Seagal on: September 04, 2011, 09:42:36 PM
SS a puppy killer?
24302  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 04, 2011, 09:16:22 PM
A fair point, but my point remains.  If you vote for Baraq you send the message to the sluts that run for office that the fascist-socialist excrement is what wins.  By all means vote for third party, but don't vote for fascism-socialism
24303  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Extreme Sheepherding on: September 04, 2011, 01:30:52 PM

24304  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Marriage and Family on: September 04, 2011, 01:21:54 PM
Well, I'd like to see this thread go back to the subject matter of "Marriage and Family"  cheesy
24305  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Beach: Outside the Muslim Bubble on: September 04, 2011, 01:20:24 PM
Well, its the Left Angeles Times, so caveat lector:,0,2495732.story
24306  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: September 04, 2011, 01:08:18 PM
Agreed-- especially if you take the apostrophe out of "Visa's" and make the "V" lower case  cheesy
24307  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 911 on: September 04, 2011, 01:07:00 PM
JDN:  That belongs on the Homeland Security thread.  This thread is for matters and thoughts pertaining directly to 911.  Thank you.
24308  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: JSOC on: September 04, 2011, 01:05:54 PM
Top Secret America’: A look at the military’s Joint Special Operations Command
By Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, Published: September 2
The CIA’s armed drones and paramilitary forces have killed dozens of al-Qaeda leaders and thousands of its foot soldiers. But there is another mysterious organization that has killed even more of America’s enemies in the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

CIA operatives have imprisoned and interrogated nearly 100 suspected terrorists in their former secret prisons around the world, but troops from this other secret organization have imprisoned and interrogated 10 times as many, holding them in jails that it alone controls in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Since 9/11, this secretive group of men (and a few women) has grown tenfold while sustaining a level of obscurity that not even the CIA has managed. “We’re the dark matter. We’re the force that orders the universe but can’t be seen,” a strapping Navy SEAL, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said in describing his unit.

The SEALs are just part of the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command, known by the acronym JSOC, which has grown from a rarely used hostage rescue team into America’s secret army. When members of this elite force killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May, JSOC leaders celebrated not just the success of the mission but also how few people knew their command, based in Fayetteville, N.C., even existed.

This article, adapted from a chapter of the newly released “Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State,” by Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, chronicles JSOC’s spectacular rise, much of which has not been publicly disclosed before. Two presidents and three secretaries of defense routinely have asked JSOC to mount intelligence-gathering missions and lethal raids, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in countries with which the United States was not at war, including Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Nigeria and Syria.

“The CIA doesn’t have the size or the authority to do some of the things we can do,” said one JSOC operator.

The president has given JSOC the rare authority to select individuals for its kill list — and then to kill, rather than capture, them. Critics charge that this individual man-hunting mission amounts to assassination, a practice prohibited by U.S. law. JSOC’s list is not usually coordinated with the CIA, which maintains a similar but shorter roster of names.

Created in 1980 but reinvented in recent years, JSOC has grown from 1,800 troops prior to 9/11 to as many as 25,000, a number that fluctuates according to its mission. It has its own intelligence division, its own drones and reconnaissance planes, even its own dedicated satellites. It also has its own cyberwarriors, who, on Sept. 11, 2008, shut down every jihadist Web site they knew.

Obscurity has been one of the unit’s hallmarks. When JSOC officers are working in civilian government agencies or U.S. embassies abroad, which they do often, they dispense with uniforms, unlike their other military comrades. In combat, they wear no name or rank identifiers. They have hidden behind various nicknames: the Secret Army of Northern Virginia, Task Force Green, Task Force 11, Task Force 121. JSOC leaders almost never speak in public. They have no unclassified Web site.

Despite the secrecy, JSOC is not permitted to carry out covert action as the CIA can. Covert action, in which the U.S. role is to be kept hidden, requires a presidential finding and congressional notification. Many national security officials, however, say JSOC’s operations are so similar to the CIA’s that they amount to covert action. The unit takes its orders directly from the president or the secretary of defense and is managed and overseen by a military-only chain of command.

Under President George W. Bush, JSOC’s operations were rarely briefed to Congress in advance — and usually not afterward — because government lawyers considered them to be “traditional military activities” not requiring such notification. President Obama has taken the same legal view, but he has insisted that JSOC’s sensitive missions be briefed to select congressional leaders.

Lethal force

JSOC’s first overseas mission in 1980, Operation Eagle Claw, was an attempted rescue of diplomats held hostage by Iranian students at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It ended in a helicopter collision in the desert and the death of eight team members. The unit’s extreme secrecy also made conventional military commanders distrustful and, as a consequence, it was rarely used during conflicts.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, smarting from the CIA’s ability to move first into Afghanistan and frustrated by the Army’s slowness, pumped new life into the organization. JSOC’s core includes the Army’s Delta Force, the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, the Air Force’s 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and 75th Ranger Regiment.

The lethality of JSOC was demonstrated in the December 2001 mountain battle at Tora Bora. Although bin Laden and many of his followers eventually escaped across the border into Pakistan, an Army history said that on the nights of Dec. 13 and 14, JSOC killed so many enemy forces that “dead bodies of al-Qaeda fighters were carted off the field the next day” by the truckload.

It also made mistakes. On July 1, 2002, in what the Rand Corp. labeled “the single most serious errant attack of the entire war,” a JSOC reconnaissance team hunting Taliban came under attack and an AC-130 gunship fired upon six sites in the village of Kakarak. The estimates of civilian deaths ranged from 48 to hundreds. The “wedding party incident,” as it became known because a wedding party was among the targets accidentally hit, convinced many Afghans that U.S. forces disregarded the lives of civilians.

Nevertheless, on Sept. 16, 2003, Rumsfeld signed an executive order cementing JSOC as the center of the counterterrorism universe. It listed 15 countries and the activities permitted under various scenarios, and it gave the preapprovals required to carry them out.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, lethal action against al-Qaeda was granted without additional approval. In the other countries — among them Algeria, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia and Syria — JSOC forces needed the tacit approval from the country involved or at least a sign-off from higher up on the American chain of command. In the Philippines, for example, JSOC could undertake psychological operations to confuse or trap al-Qaeda operatives, but it needed approval from the White House for lethal action. To attack targets in Somalia required approval from at least the secretary of defense, while attacks in Pakistan and Syria needed presidential sign-off.

In the fall of 2003, JSOC got a new commander who would turn the organization into arguably the most effective weapon in the U.S. counterterrorism arsenal. From his perch as vice director of operations on the Joint Staff, Brig. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal had come to believe there was an aversion to decision making at the top of government. No one wanted to be wrong, so they asked more questions or added more layers to the process. The new emphasis on interagency cooperation also meant meetings were bigger and longer. Any one of a multitude of agencies could stifle action until it was too late.

McChrystal believed he had “to slip out of the grip” of Washington’s suffocating bureaucracy, he told associates. He moved his headquarters to Balad Air Base, 45 miles northeast of Baghdad, and worked inside an old concrete airplane hangar with three connecting command centers: one to fight al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, one for the fight against Shiite extremists in the country and a third for himself, so he could oversee all operations.

He coaxed the other intelligence agencies to help him out — the CIA presence grew to 100, the FBI and National Security Agency to a combined 80. He won their loyalty by exposing the guts of his operation to everyone involved. “The more people you shared your problem with, the better you’d do in solving it,” he would say.

McChrystal installed a simple, PC-based common desktop and portal where troops could post documents, conduct chats, tap into the intelligence available on any target — pictures, biometrics, transcripts, intelligence reports — and follow the message traffic of commanders in the midst of operations.

Then he gave access to it to JSOC’s bureaucratic rivals: the CIA, NSA, FBI and others. He also began salting every national security agency in Washington with his top commandos. In all, he deployed 75 officers to Washington agencies and 100 more around the world. They rotated every four months so none would become disconnected from combat.

Some thought of the liaisons as spies for an organization that was already too important. But those suspicions did little to derail JSOC or McChrystal.

Stories spread that he ate just one meal and ran 10 miles every day. He looked the part, with his taut face, intense eyes and thin physique. A sign inside the wire at Balad said it all: “17 5 2.” Seventeen hours for work, five hours for sleep, two hours for eating and exercise.

McChrystal’s legendary work ethic mixed well with his Scotch Irish exuberance and common-man demeanor. He viewed beer calls with subordinates as an important bonding exercise. He made people call him by his first name. He seemed almost naively trusting. (This trait would become McChrystal’s undoing in 2010, after he was promoted to commander of forces in Afghanistan. He and members of his inner circle made what were seen as inappropriate comments about their civilian leaders in the presence of a Rolling Stone reporter. McChrystal offered to resign, and Obama quickly accepted.)

Harnessing technology

The Iraqi insurgency’s reliance on modern technology also gave tech-savvy JSOC and its partners, particularly the National Security Agency, an advantage. The NSA learned to locate all electronic signals in Iraq. “We just had a field day,” said a senior JSOC commander, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe secret operations.

One innovation was called the Electronic Divining Rod, a sensor worn by commandos that could detect the location of a particular cellphone. The beeping grew louder as a soldier with the device got closer to the person carrying a targeted phone.

Killing the enemy was the easy part, JSOC commanders said; finding him was the hard part. But thanks to Roy Apseloff, director of the National Media Exploitation Center, the U.S. government’s agency for analyzing documents captured by the military and intelligence community, JSOC’s intelligence collection improved dramatically. Apseloff offered to lend McChrystal his small staff, based in Fairfax, to examine items captured in raids. Apseloff’s team downloaded the contents of thumb drives, cellphones and locked or damaged computers to extract names, phone numbers, messages and images. Then they processed and stored that data, linking it to other information that might help analysts find not just one more bad guy but an entire network of them.

The major challenge was how to find the gems in the trash quickly enough to be useful. The key was more bandwidth, the electronic pipeline that carried such information as e-mail and telephone calls around the world. Luckily for the military and JSOC, the attacks of 2001 coincided with an unrelated development: the dot-com bust. It created a glut in commercial satellite capacity, and the military bought up much of it.

Within a year after McChrystal’s arrival, JSOC had linked 65 stations around the world to enable viewers to participate in the twice-daily, 45-minute video teleconferences that he held. By 2006, JSOC had increased its bandwidth capability by 100 times in three years, according to senior leaders.

The other challenge JSOC faced was a human one: Ill-trained interrogators had little information about individual detainees and didn’t know what questions to ask or how to effectively ask them. Worse, some members of the JSOC’s Task Force 121 were beating prisoners.

Even before the Army’s Abu Ghraib prison photos began circulating in 2004, a confidential report warned that some JSOC interrogators were assaulting prisoners and hiding them in secret facilities. JSOC troops also detained mothers, wives and daughters when the men in a house they were looking for were not at home. The report warned these detentions and other massive sweep operations were counterproductive to winning Iraqi support.

An investigation of JSOC detention facilities in Iraq during a four-month period in 2004 found that interrogators gave some prisoners only bread and water, in one case for 17 days. Other prisoners were locked up in cells so cramped they could not stand up or lie down while their captors played loud music to disrupt sleep. Still others were stripped, drenched with cold water and then interrogated in air-conditioned rooms or outside in the cold.

Eventually, 34 JSOC task force soldiers were disciplined in five cases over a one-year period beginning in 2003.

McChrystal ordered his intelligence chief, Michael Flynn, to professionalize the interrogation system. By the summer of 2005, JSOC’s interrogation booths at Balad sat around the corner from the large warren of rooms where specialists mined thumb drives, computers, cellphones, documents to use during interrogations. Paper maps were torn down from the walls and replaced with flat-panel screens and sophisticated computerized maps. Detainees willing to cooperate were taught how to use a mouse to fly around their virtual neighborhoods to help identify potential targets.

JSOC had to use the rules laid out in the Army Field Manual to interrogate detainees. But its interrogators were — and still are — permitted to keep them segregated from other prisoners and to hold them, with the proper approvals from superiors and in some case from Defense Department lawyers, for up to 90 days before they have to be transferred into the regular military prison population.

The new interrogation system also included an FBI and judicial team that collected evidence needed for trial by the Iraqi Central Criminal Court in Baghdad. From early 2005 to early 2007, the teams sent more than 2,000 individuals to trial, said senior military officials.

Body counts

Al-Qaeda used the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a call to arms to terrorists and recruits throughout the Middle East who flooded in from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — as many as 200 of them a month at the high point. By the end of 2005, a shocking picture emerged: Iraq was rife with semiautonomous al-Qaeda networks.

Al-Qaeda had divided Iraq into sections and put a provincial commander in charge of each. These commanders further divided their territory into districts and put someone in charge of each of those, too, according to military officials. There were city leaders within those areas and cells within each city. There were leaders for foreign fighters, for finance and for communications, too.

By the spring of 2006, using the expanded bandwidth and constant surveillance by unmanned aircraft, JSOC executed a series of raids, known as Operation Arcadia, in which it collected and analyzed 662 hours of full-motion video shot over 17 days. The raid netted 92 compact discs and barrels full of documents, leading to another round of raids at 14 locations. Those hits yielded hard drives, thumb drives and a basement stacked with 704 compact discs, including copies of a sophisticated al-Qaeda marketing campaign. Operation Arcadia led, on June 7, 2006, to the death of the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, when JSOC directed an airstrike that killed him.

JSOC’s lethality was evident in its body counts: In 2008, in Afghanistan alone, JSOC commandos struck 550 targets and killed roughly a thousand people, officials said. In 2009, they executed 464 operations and killed 400 to 500 enemy forces. As Iraq descended into chaos in the summer of 2005, JSOC conducted 300 raids a month. More than 50 percent of JSOC Army Delta Force commandos now have Purple Hearts.

The most intense Iraqi raids reminded McChrystal of Lawrence of Arabia’s description of “rings of sorrow,” the emotional toll casualties take on small groups of warriors. Greatly influenced by T.E. Lawrence’s life story, McChrystal thought of his JSOC troops as modern-day tribal forces: dependent upon one another for kinship and survival.

If killing were all that winning wars was about, the book on JSOC would be written. But no war in modern times is ever won simply by killing enough of the enemy. Even in an era of precision weaponry, accidents happen that create huge political setbacks.

Every JSOC raid that also wounded or killed civilians, or destroyed a home or someone’s livelihood, became a source of grievance so deep that the counterproductive effects, still unfolding, are difficult to calculate. JSOC’s success in targeting the right homes, businesses and individuals was only ever about 50 percent, according to two senior commanders. They considered this rate a good one.

“Sometimes our actions were counterproductive,” McChrystal said in an interview. “We would say, ‘We need to go in and kill this guy,’ but just the effects of our kinetic action did something negative and they [the conventional army forces that occupied much of the country] were left to clean up the mess.”

In 2008, Bush also briefly sent JSOC into Pakistan. To soothe the worries of U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson about the mounting civilian deaths from JSOC raids in other countries, commandos brought her a Predator console so she could witness a raid in real time. Because of public outcry in Pakistan, U.S. officials canceled the mission after only three raids. The CIA has continued to conduct drone strikes there.

Targeting bureaucracy

The Defense Department has given JSOC a bigger role in nonmilitary assignments as well, including tracing the flow of money from international banks to finance terrorist networks. It also has become deeply involved in “psychological operations,” which it renamed “military information operations” to sound less intimidating. JSOC routinely sends small teams in civilian clothes to U.S. embassies to help with what it calls media and messaging campaigns.

When Obama came into office, he cottoned to the organization immediately. (It didn’t hurt that his CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, has a son who, as a naval reservist, had deployed with JSOC.) Soon Obama was using JSOC even more than his predecessor. In 2010, for example, he secretly directed JSOC troops to Yemen to kill the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Arab Spring forced the White House to delay some JSOC missions. In the meantime, the organization is busy with its new 30,000-square-foot office building turned command center. Unlike previous offices, it is not in some obscure part of the world. It sits across the highway from the Pentagon in pristine suburban splendor, just a five-minute drive from McChrystal’s civilian office and the former general’s favorite beer-call restaurants.

As its name implies, the focus of Joint Special Operations Task Force-National Capital Region is not the next terrorist network but another of its lifelong enemies: the Washington bureaucracy. Some 50 battle-hardened JSOC warriors and a handful of other federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies work there.

Mexico is at the top of its wish list. So far the Mexican government, whose constitution limits contact with the U.S. military, is relying on the other federal agencies — the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement — for intelligence collection and other help.

But JSOC’s National Capital task force is not just sitting idly by, waiting to be useful to its southern neighbors. It is creating targeting packages for U.S. domestic agencies that have sought its help, including the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the second-largest federal law enforcement agency and the latest to make a big play for a larger U.S. counterterrorism role.

From the book “Top Secret America.” Copyright 2011 by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Co., New York, N.Y. All rights reserved.
24309  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 04, 2011, 10:39:54 AM

To quote my 1992 Congressional campaign slogan as a Libertarian candidate, "If you continue to vote for the lesser of two evils, you will continue to get the evil of two lessers" so I get what you are saying , , , in part.    Where I think you go off course though is in saying that you would vote for Obama.   On the whole, politicians are whores who go where the votes are.  To vote for the anti-American liberal fascist crap of His Glibness is to feed the system a profoundly wrong signal.  If you can't bring yourself to vote for a particular Republican, then at least vote for a third party candidate whose positions on the whole you do respect.

Concerning Bachman and Perry:  I like Michele a lot.  The utter lack of executive experience is a real problem though and it is why Perry is sucking up her oxygen.  Not only is it quite sound, but I think Perry's Tenth Amendment strategy has the potential to be rather , , , crafty; it allows him to finesse contentious issues that in some states could be a problem for a conservative Republican candidate e.g. leave gay marriage to the states (though I gather he has waffled on this a bit.)
24310  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: September 04, 2011, 10:13:52 AM
Good catch of my glitch  embarassed  Thank you for posting the complete version.
24311  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Marriage and Family on: September 04, 2011, 12:28:54 AM

A fascinating piece on RP and the Nazis, but one with de minimis connection with this thread.  May I ask you to post it either in the Presidential 2012 thread or the Anti-semitism thread please?

Thank you,
24312  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 04, 2011, 12:23:29 AM
"Buraq must have been stoned out of his gourd in some undergrad cultural anthopology 101 course and developed this delusional behavior thinking somehow it demonstrated his cultural sensitivity."

Inuitively to me this seems pretty close to the mark.

"The mayor of Tampa at that time was Pam Iorio, a daughter of an Italian immigrant father. That makes sense, we all know how the Italians are big on ceremonial bowing."

She looks Asian in the picture with Obowma, but not in the headshot provided by GM.

All in all, WEIRD-- and , , , out of character for what we want in a President of the United States of America.  cry angry angry
24313  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 03, 2011, 09:33:18 PM
I think we are getting on a tangent here gentlemen.  Let's return to the merits please.   My point with the multiple bowing clips is that they seem to reveal something about Obama himself. JDN, For the sake of argument, lets put aside the bows to the Chinese leader, the emperor of Japan, and the King of Saudi Arabia-- why on earth would he bow to the mayor of Tampa?!? As one of the clips clearly shows, he greeted several people normally, then, when he got to the Asian woman, he bowed.  Does this not seem weird too you?
24314  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: September 03, 2011, 09:19:47 PM
We also need to remember that, as reported here, F&F is but one operation and that there were others of similar characteristics.
24315  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 911 on: September 03, 2011, 05:11:21 PM

Critic’s Notebook
Amid the Memorials, Ambiguity and Ambivalence
Published: September 2, 2011
Has any attack in history ever been commemorated the way this one is about to be? What might we have anticipated, that morning of Sept. 11, as we watched the demonically choreographed assault unfold? What could we have imagined when New York City was covered in the ashes of the twin towers and their dead, or when a section of the Pentagon — the seemingly invulnerable core of the world’s most powerful military — was reduced to rubble? Or when we finally understood that but for the doomed bravery of several heroes, the destruction of the Capitol or the White House was assured?

Enlarge This Image

InterRelations Collaborative
“9/11 Peace Story Quilt,” at the Met Museum.

Enlarge This Image

Marcus Yam/The New York Times
Seen from ground zero, the twin beams of the “Tribute in Light,” which conveyed the absence of the World Trade Center during last year's Sept. 11 anniversary.

Would we have conjured up anything like the “9/11 Peace Story Quilt,” now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with children’s drawings and words emphasizing the need for multicultural sensitivity? Or a book paying tribute to “Dog Heroes of September 11th”? Would we have predicted that the performance artist Karen Finley would impersonate Liza Minnelli at the West Bank Cafe for the occasion, supposedly to champion her spunky spirit (though Ms. Finley will probably be far more mischievous)? Or that a Film Forum festival would pay tribute to the N.Y.P.D. with 19 movies, some unflattering (like “Serpico”)?

The cultural commemorations scheduled for this anniversary will also include compositions that have been associated with death (Brahms’s “Requiem”) and the overcoming of death (Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony), as well as a “Concert of Peace” that will offer music from the cultures out of which the attackers arose.

And while the hours of television broadcasts will include documentaries and interviews with first responders, families of victims, political leaders and the players of the New York Mets, they will also encompass “The Suze Orman Show,” focusing on the money and investment lessons of Sept. 11; a show about messages received from the dead of Sept. 11; and a chronicle of Paul McCartney’s experiences on Sept. 11. There are plays about the rescuers, the rescued and the witnesses; symposiums about American political malfeasance; analyses of the ethics of the attack and the response.

The sheer quantity of cultural events is overwhelming; so is their scattered miscellany, a potpourri of sentiment and argument, memorialization and self-criticism, reflection and political polemic. It seems as if every cultural institution, television network and book publisher feels duty-bound to produce some sort of Sept. 11 commemoration. Is there a precedent for this almost compulsive variety show about an attack on a nation’s people?

No examples suggest themselves. And in the United States, the attack on Pearl Harbor — the only incident remotely comparable — doesn’t seem to have inspired anything similar, even though that surprise assault initiated one of the most traumatic and transformative decades in this nation’s history. Did anybody think to have children make a “peace quilt” after that attack, as a war raged?

Of course Sept. 11 is something different. Most of us didn’t think we had such enemies or were subject to such an assault (though the accumulated evidence was clear enough). And reactions to Sept. 11 still depend on the extent to which we are thought to be in anything like a war, or precisely what the nature of its battles are. But the crossing of an American version of the Maginot Line undermined our implicit sense of the geographic exceptionalism of the United States, whose mainland has not been subjected to the bombardment or devastation known by nearly every other major nation of the modern world.

Had a bomb fallen on the twin towers, though, even that would have been less traumatic. This was something unforeseen, expertly planned, a jarring demonstration of vulnerability. So otherworldly did it seem when those planes were flown into their targets that their collapse came like a thunderclap of judgment. And that is how many immediately took it. “Why do they hate us?” was asked again and again.

And like theologians after the catastrophic 18th-century Lisbon earthquake, who saw the wages of sin in the disaster, many intellectuals didn’t wait long to assert that this blowback was payback. This is why this attack is often mischaracterized as tragedy, a drama that unfolds out of the flaws or failings of its victim.

That impulse of self-blame still runs through many cultural commemorations. Indeed, because little during the past decade was an unmitigated triumph, the impulse has even grown stronger. A poll from the Pew Charitable Trust this week shows that while in September 2001, 33 percent of those asked thought United States wrongdoing might have motivated the attacks, now 43 percent hold that belief. Many of the Sept. 11 books now being published are sentimental recollections of loved ones; another hefty segment is about criticism of American policy before and after Sept. 11.

This means that memorialization, rather than simply recalling the dead, or strengthening the resolve to pursue an enemy, becomes an opportunity to push these arguments further. Disaster becomes ambiguously commemorated. Any victory is also ambiguously celebrated because it is seen as scarred by sin (though surely no victory is ever unmarred). The delays in the reconstruction at ground zero are as much a result of these tensions as anything else.

You can see the same conflicts in the White House “talking points” for Sept. 11 commemorations that The New York Times reported on this week. The memos don’t suggest any cheering for successes of the last decade; there is even a hesitation to attract much attention, as if the White House were feeling ambivalent about the whole business, haunted perhaps by guilt. The memos also minimize any suggestion that military force had something to do with Al Qaeda’s suffering severe setbacks.

Moreover, they stress that commemorations here and abroad should “emphasize the positive.” The implication is made that at one time “fear” was the response to Sept. 11; now “resilience” is. And resilience implies a kind of firm passivity. This is strange, because anyone who has spent time undressing in snaking airport lines before undergoing the kinds of screenings once associated with convicted felons knows full well that this has little to do with resilience.

The memos almost treat Sept. 11 as if it weren’t Sept. 11. It is certainly not about Islamist extremism or the jihadist proclamations by its aspirants. It isn’t even really about us. We are told: “We honor all victims of terrorism, in every nation of the world. We honor and celebrate the resilience of individuals, families and communities on every continent, whether in New York or Nairobi, Bali or Belfast, Mumbai or Manila, or Lahore or London.” (Is it just an accident of alliteration that crucial cities torn by terror have been omitted, because that would have required acknowledging that Jerusalem or Tel Aviv faces something similar?)

Indeed, so anxious is the White House to filter out any historical aspects of Sept. 11 that it proclaims this anniversary “the third official National Day of Service and Remembrance.” It should be used to encourage “service projects” and a “spirit of unity.” Through such demonstrations, the memos affirm, our communities can withstand “whatever dangers may come — be they terrorist attacks or natural disasters.”

If that is the sense the national leadership finds in that day, why should we expect much more from cultural commemorations than miscellany, euphemism, self-effacement and self-blame?

But what might such commemorations look like if approached with more clarity? Some aspects would stay very much the same: this week’s miscellany, after all, is partly a reflection of the world that has provoked our enemies. For the Sept. 11 attacks were not just inspired by Islamist extremism. There are similarities in the motivations behind diverse acts of recent terror, including those of Timothy J. McVeigh, the bomber of the federal office building in Oklahoma City, and Theodore J. Kaczynski, the Unabomber. They all involved a disgust with modernity in the West and tried, in different ways, to destroy its culture and institutions. Democratic culture might seem innocuous to us, but it assaults fundamentalisms with its variety, unpredictability, contradiction, dissipation and possibility.

As many commemoration plans suggest, though, democratic culture also finds it difficult to conceive of this kind of enmity, overlooking, like the White House memos, the fact that Islamist extremism is one of the most powerful and dangerous manifestations of such passions. And that strain is not diminishing. The Pew survey found that 21 percent of all Muslim Americans now believe there is either a fair amount or a great deal of support for extremism in their own communities.

So a Sept. 11 commemoration might well be a celebration of democratic culture’s enduring presence. It might include the wide range of what we see before us: Noam Chomsky’s fulminations (“Ten Years of Terror” at the Guggenheim Museum) and an interview with former President George W. Bush (“The 9/11 Interview,” on National Geographic television); multicultural bridge-making; and lines in the sand. But is it impossible to imagine that in the midst of concerts and quilts for peace, communications with the spirit world and varied forms of political and psychological exorcisms, there might also be a recognition of what was at stake that day, and what, to a great extent, still is?

24316  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / President Obowma on: September 03, 2011, 05:08:58 PM
As is well documented here, I had and have a rather low opinion of McCain.   That said, concerning "War Hero" IMHO it is something that shows character and character is more important than IQ.

For example, here are some indications of something quite distinctive about Baraq's character:

To the King of Saudi Arabia:
To the Emperor of Japan with comparisons of how leaders of other countries handle introduction:

To Chinese leader  and a second occasion with the Chinese Leader
To the Mayor of Tampa FL: this one contains clear shot as a still photo   and one in context leaving now doubt of the bow
24317  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Night Owl's idea on: September 03, 2011, 04:37:56 PM

Woof All:

Night Owl has commented to me that with the large number of fighters now at the Gatherings the day can get rather long and the audience really starts thinning out.  Given the increase of knife play during the stickfights (either hidden knives being brought into play, or full on stick & knife fights) his idea is that knife will not be lost, but that the tempo of things will be picked up.

Putting this up for discussion.

Crafty Dog
24318  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Marriage and Family on: September 03, 2011, 03:16:26 PM
Woof Oh Snarky One cheesy

I voted for him when he ran for President back in the 1980s and I would suspect that it would have been possible for an Ohioan to have voted for him in a Presidential Primary.

24319  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 03, 2011, 01:57:36 PM
PC:  You surprise me man  shocked shocked shocked

GM, JDN:  While I'm willing to not place much importance on screw-ups on the campaign trail (it is a humanly exhausting experience) I do find credibility in the notion that affirmative action in conjunction with progressive "teamwork" explains more than a little of Baraq's resume and I think it a fair point to note just how much of it we don't really know.   More to the point, apart from my profound differences on the merits of the issues, I'm not seeing that much proof of intelligence in his performance as President, unless one subscribes, as I confess I am sometimes tempted to do, to the idea of him as some sort of agent of malevolent forces.

Concerning Columbia, I am no longer particularly proud of that.  On the whole I find the institution riddled with offensive levels of anti-Americanism.
24320  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The New Race for the Arctic: on: September 03, 2011, 01:47:00 PM
BTW, see the post that opens this thread.
24321  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survivalist issues on: September 03, 2011, 12:45:15 PM
Not sure I follow here.  Aren't these people as disconnected from the matrix as can be?
24322  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / LA County's war on those living off the grid in Antelope Valley on: September 03, 2011, 11:10:39 AM
24323  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Good point. on: September 03, 2011, 11:09:58 AM
Once stated, the point is an obvious one, but I must confess one of which I had not thought.  Thank you.
24324  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: September 02, 2011, 09:46:45 PM
Good point.  Would you please post that on the Survival thread on the SCH forum too please?
24325  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Citizen-Police interactions and bestiality on: September 02, 2011, 09:44:09 PM
24326  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: September 02, 2011, 09:28:44 PM
Grateful for a cagey BB showing me tonight a slick move from a control position that I use a lot in DLO.
24327  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 02, 2011, 09:25:55 PM
And in the debates Baraq would whip out his ass-kissing letters to Baraq, , ,
24328  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China (and South China Sea-- Vietnam, Philippines, etc) on: September 02, 2011, 03:17:51 PM
This is but one step towards making the South China Sea their lake, setting up the day they back us off from supporting Taiwan, restricting the movements of our Navy and much more.
24329  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ likes Huntsman's economic plan on: September 02, 2011, 03:14:35 PM

Republican Presidential candidate and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is lagging in the polls, but the economic agenda he rolled out this week may start getting him more attention. And deservedly so.

The heart of the plan lowers all tax rates on individuals and businesses. Mr. Huntsman would create three personal income tax rates—8%, 14% and 23%—and pay for this in a "revenue-neutral" way by eliminating "all deductions and credits." This tracks with the proposals of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson commission and others for a flatter, more efficient tax system.

That means economically inefficient tax carve outs for mortgage interest, municipal bonds, child credits and green energy subsidies would at last be closed. The double tax on capital gains and dividends would be expunged as would the Alternative Minimum Tax. The corporate tax rate falls to 25% from 35%, and American businesses would be taxed on a territorial system to encourage firms to return capital parked in overseas operations.

Mr. Huntsman would repeal two of President Obama's most economically debilitating creations, ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law. Mr. Huntsman has it right when he says, "Dodd-Frank perpetuates 'too big to fail' by codifying a regime that incentivizes firms to become too big to fail." He'd also repeal a Bush-era regulatory mistake, the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules, which have added millions of dollars of costs to businesses with little positive effect.

Mr. Huntsman says he'd also bring to heel the hyper-regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and the National Labor Relations Board, all of which are suppressing job-creation. The Huntsman energy policy promises to block impediments to producing oil in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska (see editorial above), while encouraging the safe deployment of fracking for natural gas in the states. Mr. Huntsman dabbled with green energy subsidies as Governor when those were the political fashion, but perhaps he's learned watching the failures of the last two years.

Mr. Huntsman's proposal is as impressive as any to date in the GOP Presidential field, and certainly better than what we've seen from the front-runners. Perhaps Mr. Huntsman should be asked to give the Republican response to the President's jobs speech next week. The two views of what makes an economy grow could not be more different.

24330  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Hezbollah prepares for Assad's fall on: September 02, 2011, 01:18:12 PM

Continuing unrest in Syria is driving Hezbollah to prepare for a worst-case scenario in which it loses a key patron in Damascus and is left to fend for itself against a host of Lebanese factions that share an interest in undermining Hezbollah’s — and by extension, Iran’s — influence in the Levant.

Related Links
Making Sense of the Syrian Crisis

The inability of Syria’s al Assad regime to contain unrest across the country is naturally of great concern to Hezbollah and its patrons in Iran. The geopolitical reality of this region dictates that any consolidated regime in Syria will also be the preeminent power in Lebanon. Should Syria’s majority Sunni community succeed in splitting the Alawite-Baathist regime, it is highly unlikely that a re-emerging Sunni elite would be friendly to Iranian and Hezbollah interests. On the contrary, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and others would have an opportunity to severely undercut Iran’s foothold in the Levant and dial back Hezbollah’s political and military influence in Lebanon.

This is not to say that the al Assad regime has reached the brink of collapse, or even that Syria’s Sunnis have the tools, backing and unity they need to fill a power vacuum in Damascus without first undergoing a protracted struggle with Syria’s minority factions (including Alawites, mainstream Shia, Ismailis, Christians and Druze who would much rather see Damascus in the hands of a minority government than under Sunni control). But the more vulnerable the al Assad government appears, the more likely Lebanon is to bear the brunt of the sectarian spillover from this conflict.

The Basics of Levantine Conflict
Whereas Syria’s current conflict can be described broadly as a struggle between the country’s majority Sunni population and a group of minorities, the sectarian landscape in Lebanon is far more complex. On one side of the political divide, there is the Shiite group Hezbollah, which is backed by Syria and Iran and allied politically with select Shiite, Christian and Druze forces. Collectively, this group is known as the March 8 coalition. On the other side is the Sunni-majority March 14 coalition, which is backed by the West and the key Sunni states in the region (most notably Saudi Arabia) and is also allied with select Christian and Druze forces. Hezbollah forcibly collapsed the Lebanese government in January, and since June the Iran- and Syria-backed Hezbollah-led coalition has maintained a high degree of influence in the Lebanese Cabinet led by Prime Minister Nijab Miqati (a Sunni who is known to have deep business links with the al Assad regime).

(click here to enlarge image)
However, Lebanese politics is anything but static. The Saudi-backed Lebanese Sunni community sees an opportunity to tilt the power balance now that Hezbollah’s Syrian patrons are absorbed with a domestic crisis. In the middle of the broader Shiite-Sunni divide in Lebanon, the country’s Maronite Christian and minority Druze factions can be expected to shift between these two poles as they try to assess which direction the political winds are blowing.

Lebanon cannot escape either the volatility of sectarian politics or the shadow of its Syrian neighbor. So long as the government in Syria is secure enough to devote attention beyond its borders, Lebanon will be saturated with Syrian influence in everything from its banking sector to its militant factions to the highest echelons of the government. This also means that whenever Lebanon reverts to its arguably more natural state of factional infighting, Syria is the best positioned to intervene and restore order, relying on Lebanese fissures to consolidate its own authority in the country.

The picture changes dramatically, however, if Syria becomes embroiled in its own sectarian struggle and is thus unable to play a dominant role in Lebanon. In that case, Lebanon’s factions would be left to defend their interests on their own, and this is exactly the scenario that Hezbollah appears to be preparing for.

Hezbollah Prepares for the Worst
Because of what is at stake for Iran should the al Assad regime collapse, Hezbollah has been instructed by its patrons in Tehran to do what it can to assist the Syrian regime. STRATFOR has received indications that Hezbollah has deployed hundreds of fighters in the past several months to assist Syrian security forces — who are also being aided by Iran’s growing Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) presence in the country — in cracking down on anti-government protesters. As signs of Hezbollah’s assistance to an increasingly repressive Syrian regime grew more visible in the region, Hezbollah suffered considerable damage to its political image.

A STRATFOR source close to the organization claims that a split is emerging within Hezbollah over the group’s Syria dilemma. Older Hezbollah members apparently want Hezbollah to take a more prominent political role in Lebanon so the group can operate more autonomously and thus try to insulate itself from its external patrons, while the younger members are adamantly calling on the leadership to stand by Syrian President Bashar al Assad. The source added that many Hezbollah youth, who are heavily influenced by Iran’s IRGC, believe the Syrian president will survive because they also believe Iran will not abandon him. Many within the older Hezbollah generation, however, appear to be more skeptical of al Assad’s long-term chances for political survival.

While waiting for the situation in Syria to crystallize, the Hezbollah leadership has chosen to make a short-term tactical change in its operations. The group’s greatest concern at this point is that Lebanon’s Sunni, Maronite Christian and Druze communities, with Saudi and possibly Western and Turkish backing, could work together in trying to confront Hezbollah militarily should they feel confident that Syria and its proxies will be too distracted to intervene decisively. Weapons flows in Lebanon are already abundant, but as the situation in Syria has worsened, there have been increasing signs of Lebanese Sunnis, Maronite Christians and Druze bolstering their arsenals in preparation for a possible military confrontation. Hezbollah appears to be most closely watching the actions of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, as Hezbollah believes his Christian militia is most likely to lead an armed conflict in Lebanon against Hezbollah.

It is impossible to tell at this point which side would be more interested in provoking such a confrontation. Just as forces looking to weaken Hezbollah could attempt to trigger a conflict, Syria is also interested in instigating sectarian clashes in Lebanon to distract from its domestic crisis (the urgency for Syria to do so will increase the more Syria feels that NATO countries will have more resources to expend as the military campaign in Libya winds down). Toward this end, Syrian intelligence chief Ali Mamluk recently summoned Jamil al-Sayyid, former Lebanese director of public security (and a Shiite) to Damascus, and instructed him to revive his intelligence apparatus and prepare himself for action against Syria’s adversaries in Lebanon. According to a source, al-Sayyid has been given the task of targeting leaders in the anti-Syrian March 14 coalition and instigating Sunni-Shiite armed conflict. The source claims Mamluk issued similar instructions to Mustafa Hamdan (a Sunni), another former officer who was jailed with al-Sayyid. Hamdan currently commands the al Murabitun movement, which has a small presence in Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon, and allegedly has orders to challenge Saad al-Hariri’s Future Movement in Sunni areas.

The rising threat of armed civil conflict in Lebanon has led Hezbollah to turn its focus inward. According to a source close to Hezbollah, the group has shifted the bulk of its operations from the South Litani conflict area with Israel northward to the Shiite-concentrated Bekaa Valley, where Hezbollah is busy developing an extensive communications network in the northern and central parts of the area. Hezbollah appears to be setting up its defense line in the Upper Matn and Kisirwan mountain peaks to protect the central and northern Bekaa against a ground attack from the Christian heartland to the west. Hezbollah is hoping to complete much of this construction by the end of October.

Hezbollah and its Lebanese pro-Syrian allies are also attempting to build up their defense in the predominantly Sunni Akkar area in northern Lebanon, where Sunni-Shiite tensions are on the rise following a deadly shootout at a Ramadan iftar dinner Aug. 17. The dinner, organized by the pro-Syrian head of the Muslim Clerics Association in Akkar Sheikh Abduslam al Harrash, was interrupted when unknown assailants opened fire and killed an attending member of the Alawite Islamic Council. Lebanese army forces then killed Sunni lawmaker Khalid al Daher’s driver. Al Daher responded by condemning the Lebanese military and accusing soldiers of operating as armed gangsters under the influence of Syria and Hezbollah. It is highly possible that the episode in al Ayyat was part of a Syrian covert strategy to instigate sectarian conflict.

The growing stress on the Syrian regime is, for a number of reasons, raising the threat of civil war in Lebanon. The range of political, religious, ideological and business interests that intersect in Lebanon make for an explosive mix when an exogenous factor — like the weakening of the Syrian regime — is introduced. Outside stakeholders like Iran will be doing everything they can to  sustain a foothold in the region while Saudi Arabia and Turkey will be looking for a strategic opportunity to bring the Levant back under Sunni authority. Caught in this broader struggle are the Lebanese themselves, whose preparations for a worst-case scenario are ironically driving the country closer to a crisis.

Read more: How a Syrian Crisis Will Affect Lebanon | STRATFOR
24331  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China seeks leverage over Philippines on: September 02, 2011, 01:14:57 PM

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III is leading a delegation of businessmen on a state visit to China from Aug. 30 to Sept. 3. Manila appeared to have toned down its criticisms of Beijing ahead of the visit, hoping to secure more Chinese investment in the country. But China has warned the Philippines that its cooperation in the current context has a cost, namely a bigger hand in the Philippine mining sector and more restraint from Manila in the South China Sea.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III began his first-ever state visit to China on Aug. 30, a long-delayed trip that will conclude Sept. 3. Relations between the countries have been tense since March because of their ongoing dispute over the South China Sea, and have been compounded by the fact that the visit comes a week after the one-year anniversary of the hostage crisis in Manila that killed eight people, mostly tourists from Hong Kong, not to mention that Aquino openly refused to apologize a week before his visit for the botched rescue by Philippine security forces during that incident.

However, prior to the visit, Manila appeared to tone down its public criticism of China’s assertiveness and incursions into the disputed sea, instead relying on conciliatory rhetoric in a bid to garner Chinese investment. The Philippines traditionally has played China and the United States off one another, reaping the benefits of economic cooperation with Beijing while protecting itself with security guarantees from Washington. Beijing recognizes this — and that the recent accommodative rhetoric from Manila is hollow — and will try to use Aquino’s request for investment to extract concessions and restrain the Philippines’ behavior in the South China Sea.

Manila’s Need for Investment

With the Philippine economy signaling slower growth, Aquino is in a tough spot. More than a year into his presidency, he is far from fulfilling a number of campaign promises and is facing a declining popularity rating. As a result, the Philippines is increasingly in need of external investment, and Aquino is looking to Beijing to provide it.

China has become the Philippines’ third-largest trade partner. But Chinese investment in the Philippines was only around $100 million in 2010, a tiny portion of the $59 billion of total overseas investment in the country that year and even lower than China’s investment there five years ago. In other words, there is a great deal of room for Chinese investment to grow in the investment-strapped country.

A delegation of 300 businessmen is accompanying Aquino on the five-day trip to China. According to reports, Aquino wants to double bilateral trade (from about $28 billion to $60 billion) with China by 2016. Meanwhile, he is seeking up to $7 billion worth of deals from China, promising that the investment-hungry country is “open for business.” In particular, Aquino is campaigning for Chinese investment in the automobile industry; shipbuilding, railway and agriculture projects; and his government’s public-private partnership program, the centerpiece of the Aquino administration’s push to restructure the economy and generate employment opportunities.

The Philippine Balancing Act

China’s rapid economic growth and expanding influence in the region, in conjunction with reduced investment and aid from Japan, has drawn more and more Southeast Asian countries into China’s economic sphere. Beijing has leveraged this economic influence to gain political influence and to help address diplomatic disputes.

However, unlike other countries in the region, the Philippines enjoys a security alliance with the United States, which provides Manila with alternative options to counterbalance China’s growing influence and maximize its own interests. In fact, Manila has proved capable of balancing the two powers, gaining U.S. defense guarantees while reaping the benefits of economic cooperation with China. However, with the U.S. re-engagement policy, competing interests in the South China Sea and other regional matters, Manila needs to walk a more careful line to balance the two powers and continue to secure the respective benefits of cooperation with each.

China’s Demands

Beijing has responded coldly to Manila’s latest overtures. The Global Times, a state-run Chinese newspaper, clearly suggested in a recent editorial that Beijing would not easily fulfill Manila’s request for investment, especially following the latest tension over the South China Sea during which Beijing saw the Philippines as using U.S. backing to its advantage. The editorial went on to say Beijing would not put its own interests at risk and encourage Manila’s game between China and the United States by granting easy access to investment. It also said China should use its economic leverage over the Philippines to address bilateral disputes and shape Manila’s behavior. Simply put, China has warned the Philippines that its cooperation in the current context will come with a price, namely a bigger hand in the Philippine mining sector and more influence in the South China Sea.

Beijing has long been interested in engaging the  Philippines’ rich resource and energy sectors. In fact, shortly before Aquino’s visit, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao called on Manila to liberalize its economic policies in order to facilitate Chinese investments, particularly in mining. But resistance within the Philippines has hampered China’s efforts.

China’s interest in the Philippine mining sector stems from its need to meet its growing energy and resource demand over the long term, but for the Philippines, mining is a politically controversial issue. The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 essentially allows 100 percent foreign ownership for large-scale mining and limited equity for smaller operations. Attempts to open mining to foreign investors has been impeded, however, by opponents ranging from Catholic bishops, indigenous groups, environmentalists and the leftist political group known as the New People’s Army. Aquino has been under pressure to revoke the government’s mining policy, so acceding to China’s demand for more access to the Philippine mining sector will be difficult for him to do.

Meanwhile, Beijing may also pressure Manila to exercise more restraint in the South China Sea, emphasizing China’s preferred approach of bilateral dialogue and joint exploration projects. Still, the latest disagreement over potential joint exploration efforts shows that both sides are unlikely to abandon their positions. The Philippines will not make concessions on its territorial integrity, and thus it continues military purchases and calls for more assistance from Washington despite its moderated rhetoric. Indeed, just before Aquino’s visit, Manila made a show of its recently acquired patrol ship from the United States, the refurbished 115-meter (377-foot) BRP Gregorio del Pilar, and indicated that more purchases would be made.

Despite reduced tensions during the Philippine president’s visit, Beijing’s and Manila’s competing interests in the South China Sea continue to inhibit closer relations. Beijing expects concessions from Manila, particularly in the South China Sea, in return for investment. However, China also understands not to push the pro-U.S. administration in Manila too far, which would likely bring more attention from Washington to the disputed South China Sea region.

Read more: China Seeks Increased Leverage over the Philippines | STRATFOR
24332  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 21 minutes w George Gilder on: September 02, 2011, 01:11:27 PM
24333  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 02, 2011, 01:10:10 PM
Agreed, but I continue to post them because:

a) he is a good economist with a very good track record
b) we here tend strongly to the bear camp and we need to hear the bull case
c) contraryianism is often a good way to bet-- "buy when the streets are running red" etc.

24334  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Water shortages, Kadaffy not done yet? on: September 02, 2011, 01:07:57 PM

Water shortages began in the Libyan capital the day after rebel forces entered the city. The shortages have been attributed to a cutoff in supplies from the Great Man-Made River (GMR) in an area near one of the last strongholds of Moammar Gadhafi’s power. Technicians have not been able to visit the infrastructure to make repairs due to the security situation in the area. Thus, it seems the water supply from the GMR will not begin flowing to Tripoli again until the rebels have cleared out the remaining Gadhafi loyalists.

Because of a supply cutoff, water shortages began in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, the day after rebel forces entered the city Aug. 21. So far, there have not been signs of any unrest in the affected areas of Tripoli as a direct result; most people seem willing to tolerate the inconvenience of water shortages as long as the situation is not life threatening.

Humanitarian aid and a decrease in water use are helping to keep the situation from becoming hazardous, but the National Transitional Council (NTC) still has two concerns about the water shortage: first, that it will not be able to restore the flow of water to Tripoli quickly, and second, that even if water is restored soon it will not be able to prevent supply cuts from becoming a perpetual problem. The NTC is already facing several challenges as it tries to establish its political authority in Tripoli, and it does not want to add another problem to its list.

Multiple explanations have been offered for the water shortages, which are affecting more than 3 million people in Libya’s western coastal region. The cause appears to be a cutoff of the flows from the western system of the Great Man-Made River (GMR), a huge subsurface water pumping and transport system that taps aquifers deep in the Sahara and transports the water to Libya’s coast. Approximately three-fourths of Tripoli’s municipal water resources come from the GMR, with the rest coming from seawater desalinization plants, local wells and sewage treatment plants. The system has changed the face of modern Libya; since the first phase of the GMR’s construction in 1991, Libya’s population has increased by almost 50 percent, from around 4.5 million to approximately 6.5 million. Without this source of water, the population would be pressured to return to earlier levels.

The GMR is a vital piece of infrastructure for any administration trying to govern Tripoli and has many vulnerable points along its nearly 600-kilometer (370-mile) path. The GMR has an eastern system and a western system that draw water from different well fields. In the western system, water originates in 580 wells, only around 30 of which currently are online, according to reports. NTC officials and the European Commission’s humanitarian organization ECHO claim that pro-Gadhafi forces have sabotaged the system, creating the water cutoff. There are also reports of empty storage tanks and pipeline damage on the GMR between 40 and 100 kilometers from Tripoli, and the International Committee of the Red Cross has reported that the primary regional reservoir at Gharyan (the easternmost point of the Nafusa Mountains, connected to the GMR western system) has dried up.

An Aug. 30 Reuters report citing a report prepared by ECHO claimed the water cutoff had occurred in the coastal city of Sirte, Gadhafi’s hometown and a remaining stronghold for his forces. An interconnector between the GMR’s eastern and western systems runs through the city; if Gadhafi loyalists had cut off the water flow via the GMR to Tripoli, it would only increase the impetus for NTC forces to seize the city, which is situated between the NTC’s zones of control in western and eastern Libya.

However, ECHO claims that its report was misquoted and denies that activity in Sirte has anything to do with the shortages in Tripoli, insisting instead that the disruption in flow is from an area known as the Jebel Hassouna. This area is deep in the Sahara, south of Tripoli, and close to another Gadhafi stronghold: Sabha.

Securing Water Amid ‘Uncertain’ Conditions
NTC forces firmly control the territory ranging from the Nafusa Mountains northward to Tripoli but have yet to extend a strong presence into the desert regions to the south (as evidenced by the ability of several members of Gadhafi’s family to safely reach the Algerian border Aug. 29). ECHO, however, says rebel forces have been in control of the wellheads and flow stations in the Jebel Hassouna area since Aug. 24. This is unconfirmed, but even if it is true, forces loyal to Gadhafi are still a threat near Sabha. That no technical teams have been able to travel to the area to bring the wells back online — which ECHO admits is because of the “uncertain” security situation — indicates how vulnerable Tripoli’s GMR water supplies are. Linear infrastructure like this is difficult for even coherent governments to defend. Gadhafi loyalists currently retain immense freedom of action and possess both the capability and incentive to attack targets affiliated with the GMR. This will not change so long as the NTC lacks the ability to drive them out.

(click here to enlarge image)
The military situation in both the northern population centers and the desert areas to the south therefore directly affects the water shortages in the capital. As of Aug. 31, four key Gadhafi strongholds remain in Libya. Tarhouna, Bani Walid and Sirte are all to the east of Tripoli along the coastal region. Sabha is hundreds of kilometers south, in the heart of the Sahara, and connects to Sirte via a single paved road. NTC forces still do not control the area in between, and control of such an open space is never easy to maintain.

There are two main routes for NTC forces to get to Sabha: From the Nafusa Mountains or through Sirte. If ECHO’s claims about rebel forces controlling the wellfields at Jebel Hassouna are true, they likely reached the area from the mountains. NATO planes, meanwhile, have bombed Sirte continuously for the past week while the NTC keeps negotiating with the city’s remaining holdouts until a recently imposed Sept. 3 deadline passes. Meanwhile, the NTC allegedly is considering launching a military assault on Sabha in response to the reports that Gadhafi-ordered sabotage is causing the water shortages. An NTC official said the only reason for a delay in the attack is a concern over the potential to seriously damage the GMR infrastructure in the process. In reality, there is every indication that the NTC continues to lack the logistical capability to reach Sabha from its current zones of control, so an attack on Sabha is highly unlikely while Sirte remains beyond NTC forces’ grasp.

The Humanitarian Situation in Tripoli
Meanwhile, the water shortages have not yet created a crisis in Tripoli. Area residents have ramped up withdrawals from local wells, which can supply roughly one-quarter of Libya’s municipal water needs. Much of this water is being trucked in and distributed from surrounding areas, though the potability of this water is questionable, as heavy use over decades has made many wells brackish and the water suitable only for washing. In addition, freshwater wells in such close proximity to the sea are more prone to this phenomenon, which could create problems for Libya — the majority of its population resides in the coastal regions.

International organizations are scrambling to mitigate a looming humanitarian crisis, with groups such as the European Union, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) sending water rations and mobilizing experts to assess and repair the damage. Supplementing Tripoli’s water supply is the most pressing issue. UNICEF and the World Food Program have so far delivered 213,000 liters (56,300 gallons) of water and are in the process of procuring a total of 5 million liters. The World Food Program reported on Aug. 30 that a vessel was en route from Malta to Tripoli carrying 500,000 liters of water. Greece and Turkey are also being tapped for emergency deliveries of potable water. But these deliveries, while significant, provide only a fraction of a single day’s drinking water consumption for Tripoli.

Distributing water supplies large enough to begin alleviating the shortages poses a significant logistical hurdle for the NTC. Simply loading water onto a major oil tanker would not work; Tripoli’s port is limited in the size of ships it can receive, and those tankers are too large. So far, the limited amounts of water arriving have been moved in more modular containment — such as water bottles — and distributed by truck and by hand.

The residents of Tripoli have exhibited resilience in the face of the shortages, however. Part of the solution has been a mass tactical shift in the allocation of potable water. The GMR allowed pre-war daily water use to average more than 200 liters per capita. The amount of water needed per capita for survival is much lower — humanitarian agencies have been placing the figure at 3-4 liters (assuming low activity levels) — meaning that even a massive decrease in the flow of water to Tripoli does not automatically create the danger of large numbers of deaths, so long as the situation does not deteriorate further.

None of this is to say that the situation in Tripoli is sustainable should it last for too long — at least in the eyes of the NTC. There will be a limit to the amount of goodwill the people of Tripoli hold toward the NTC, whose fight against Gadhafi has led to the current situation. At a certain point, continued water shortages in Tripoli will create rising anger toward the rebel council, and toward NATO as well, as people will begin to point fingers at those who led them into their current plight. Governing is often harder than rebellion, and the logistical challenges of bringing order to Tripoli while continuing to fight Gadhafi’s remaining forces have the potential to become a major burden. The NTC will thus seek to ensure that the GMR is brought back online as soon as possible. Experts estimate repair time to be anywhere from three days to more than a week, but this assumes technicians can reach the area without coming under attack, which will depend on the NTC’s ability to minimize the strength of the last vestiges of Gadhafi’s forces.

Read more: Libya: Water Cutoffs to Tripoli Tied to Security Situation | STRATFOR
24335  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Exxon and the Russians on: September 02, 2011, 01:01:19 PM
Few companies wring more earnings from a dollar of investment than Exxon Mobil, so we assume CEO Rex Tillerson knows the risks he's taking by getting into business with Vladimir Putin to explore for oil in the Russian Arctic. Exxon's official partner may be Rusneft, the Russian oil company, but in Moscow the de facto chairman of every board is Mr. Putin. If he turns against you, your investment may vanish faster than you can say Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

That well-known political risk makes it all the more disconcerting to see a U.S. oil company committing to invest billions of dollars in Russia's Arctic Sea, while much of America's own Arctic territories remain off-limits for political reasons. Exxon has long experience drilling in Alaska, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is less risky or costly than drilling in the Arctic Sea will be. But Democrats in Washington have barred that and elsewhere in Alaska from energy exploration.

The Obama Administration is using regulations to thwart development in the American far north. The primary gambit is to sit on lease permits. Conoco spent five years to get at one of its leases in the National Petroleum Preserve, only to be denied by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps denied an Exxon permit on the North Slope. Shell this year threw in the towel in the Beaufort Sea after a five-year fight for a permit with the EPA. No wonder Exxon Mobil decided to do business with the Russians. What's the alternative?

24336  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Hezbollah en Cuba on: September 02, 2011, 12:49:24 PM
24337  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah sets up shop in Cuba on: September 02, 2011, 12:48:42 PM
24338  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury and Beck (!) on August non-farm payrolls on: September 02, 2011, 12:30:34 PM
First Wesbury

Non-farm payrolls were unchanged in August To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 9/2/2011

Non-farm payrolls were unchanged in August but down 58,000 including revisions to June/July. The consensus expected a gain of 68,000.

Private sector payrolls increased 17,000 in August.  Revisions to June/July subtracted 3,000, bringing the net gain to 14,000.  August gains were led by health care (+29,700) and professional & business services (+28,000). The biggest decline was in telecommunications (-47,300), due to the Verizon strike.

The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1% in August (9.094% unrounded) from 9.1% in July (9.092% unrounded).
Average weekly earnings – cash earnings, excluding benefits – fell 0.4% in August but are up 1.9% versus a year ago.
Implications:  The employment report for August was ugly but does not indicate a recession. Private-sector payrolls increased only 14,000 including revisions to June and July and wages fell. Average hourly earnings declined 0.1% and the length of the workweek dipped by 0.1 to 34.2 hours. Controlling for a Verizon strike, now over, that temporarily sidelined 46,000 workers, private payrolls would have been up 60,000 including revisions.   We think August’s weakness was largely due to financial turmoil in Europe and large swings in the stock market.  This has brought much uncertainty to the hiring arena.  In the past year private sector payrolls have still increased 142,000 per month, and this trend will accelerate in the second half of the year as the economy continues to recover, and businesses realize a “double dip” is not going to happen.  The biggest positive news in today’s report was that civilian employment, an alternative measure of jobs that includes start ups, increased 331,000 in August. In other recent news, despite Hurricane Irene, same-store chain store sales were up 4.6% in August compared to a year ago, no different than in July and much better than if the US were entering  recession. Also, autos and light trucks were sold at a 12.1 million annual rate in August, as the consensus expected, down 0.8% from July but up 5% versus a year ago.
Now Beck:
24339  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: September 02, 2011, 12:24:56 PM
We, even JDN!  grin, are agreed  cool
24340  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Investors- please say no to int'l standards on: September 02, 2011, 12:22:47 PM
Emily ChasanSenior Editor.When SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro said in June that investors aren’t clamoring for International Financial Reporting Standards, she may have been understating things… a bit. Now, some of the biggest U.S. investor groups are letting the SEC know in no uncertain terms that it should postpone its decision on IFRS and even stop the convergence process between U.S. GAAP and IFRS.

In comment letters to the SEC this week, some big investors and analyst groups had some scathing words about IFRS, claiming, among other things, that the International Accounting Standards Board isn’t independent enough from political interference to set accounting rules for the United States.

Capital Research and Management Co, which manages over $1 trillion, wrote that U.S. GAAP was “clearer, more effective and more advanced” than IFRS in providing the information it needs to make investments. CRMC Chairman Paul Haaga wrote in the letter:

While we support the idea of a consistent set of high quality accounting standards for companies worldwide, unfortunately we do not believe IASB has been effective in achieving this objective. Moreover, IASB’s ability to achieve this objective has been gravely diminished by political influence.

CRMC, which is the investment advisor to the American Funds mutual funds, said it doesn’t expect to benefit from the more comparable reporting IFRS is supposed to provide because the standard is applied so inconsistently around the world, and urged the SEC to retain U.S. GAAP. It also said the convergence process between U.S. accounting rule makers isn’t working and should be stopped.

Investors, analysts, and others, who use financial statement, are the purported beneficiaries of a switch to IFRS, as a single set of accounting rules should make it easier to compare publicly-traded companies around the world. Many CFOs are on record saying they would bear the cost of an IFRS switch if they think investors would benefit.

But even the CFA Institute, which represents over 100,000 portfolio managers, investment analysts and advisors throughout the world expressed doubts, saying it would be “premature” for the SEC to inject IFRS into the U.S. financial system. The CFA Institute said its continued support for IFRS is not unconditional, and that the International Accounting Standards Board needs to ensure its independence and more consistent application of its rules before U.S. companies are required to use them.

After abandoning an earlier plan that would have had U.S. companies using IFRS as soon as 2014, the SEC has said it would make a decision this year about whether companies in the U.S. should move toward the international standard, which is used in more than 100 other countries around the globe.

24341  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: This could be awkward , , , on: September 02, 2011, 10:56:40 AM

Note that the piece is written by Pravda on the Hudson, so caveat lector.  That said, ironies abound , , ,
TRIPOLI, Libya — Abdel Hakim Belhaj had a wry smile about the oddity of his situation.

Yes, he said, he was detained by Malaysian officials in 2004 on arrival at the Kuala Lumpur airport, where he was subjected to extraordinary rendition on behalf of the United States, and sent to Thailand. His pregnant wife, traveling with him, was taken away, and his child would be 6 before he saw him.
In Bangkok, Mr. Belhaj said, he was tortured for a few days by two people he said were C.I.A. agents, and then, worse, they repatriated him to Libya, where he was thrown into solitary confinement for six years, three of them without a shower, one without a glimpse of the sun.

Now this man is in charge of the military committee responsible for keeping order in Tripoli, and, he says, is a grateful ally of the United States and NATO.

And while Mr. Belhaj concedes that he was the emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was deemed by the United States to be a terrorist group allied with Al Qaeda, he says he has no Islamic agenda. He says he will disband the fighters under his command, merging them into the formal military or police, once the Libyan revolution is over.

He says there are no hard feelings over his past treatment by the United States.

“Definitely it was very hard, very difficult,” he said. “Now we are in Libya, and we want to look forward to a peaceful future. I do not want revenge.”

As the United States and other Western powers embrace and help finance the new government taking shape in Libya, they could face a particularly awkward relationship with Islamists like Mr. Belhaj. Once considered enemies in the war on terror, they suddenly have been thrust into positions of authority — with American and NATO blessing.

In Washington, the Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment on Mr. Belhaj or his new role. A State Department official said the Obama administration was aware of Islamist backgrounds among the rebel fighters in Libya and had expressed concern to the Transitional National Council, the new rebel government, and that it had received assurances.

“The last few months, we’ve had the T.N.C. saying all the right things, and making the right moves,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the matter’s delicacy.

Mr. Belhaj, 45, a short and serious man with a close-cropped beard, burst onto the scene in the mountains west of Tripoli only in the last few weeks before the fall of the capital, as the leader of a brigade of rebel fighters.

“He wasn’t even in the military council in the western mountains,” said Othman Ben Sassi, a member of the Transitional National Council from Zuwarah in the west. “He was nothing, nothing. He arrived at the last moment, organized some people but was not responsible for the military council in the mountains.”

Then came the push on Tripoli, which fell with unexpected speed, and Mr. Belhaj and his fighters focused on the fortified Bab al-Aziziya compound of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, where they distinguished themselves as relatively disciplined fighters.

A veteran of the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, Mr. Belhaj has what most rebel fighters have lacked — actual military experience. Yet he has still not adopted a military rank (unlike many rebels who quickly became self-appointed colonels and generals), which he said should go only to members of the army.

Dressed in new military fatigues, with a pistol strapped backward to his belt, Mr. Belhaj was interviewed at his offices in the Mitiga Military Airbase in Tripoli, the site of what had been the United States Air Force’s Wheelus Air Base until 1970.

Last weekend, Mr. Belhaj was voted commander of the Tripoli Military Council, a grouping of several brigades of rebels involved in taking the capital, by the other brigades, a move that aroused some criticism among liberal members of the council.

However, his appointment was strongly supported by Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of the council, who said that as Colonel Qaddafi’s former minister of justice he got to know Mr. Belhaj well during negotiations leading to his release from prison in 2010. Mr. Belhaj and other Islamist radicals made a historic compromise with the Qaddafi government, one that was brokered by Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the Qaddafi son seen then as a moderating influence.


Page 2 of 2)

The Islamists agreed to disband the Islamic Fighting Group, replacing it with the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change, and renounced violent struggle. “We kept that promise,” Mr. Belhaj said. “The revolution started peacefully, but the regime’s crackdown forced it to become violent.”


Mr. Belhaj conceded that Islamists had no role in creating the revolution against Colonel Qaddafi’s rule; it was instead a popular uprising. “The February 17th revolution is the Libyan people’s revolution and no one can claim it, neither secularists nor Islamists,” he said. “The Libyan people have different views, and all those views have to be involved and respected.”
Forty-two years of Qaddafi rule in Libya had, he said, taught him an important lesson: “No one can make Libya suffer any more under any one ideology or any one regime.” His pledge to disband fighters under his command once Libya has a new government was repeated to NATO officials at a meeting in Qatar this week.

Some council members said privately that allowing Mr. Belhaj to become chairman of the military council in Tripoli was done partly to take advantage of his military expertise, but also to make sure the rebels’ political leaders had him under their direct control.

Many also say that Mr. Belhaj’s history as an Islamist is understandable because until this year, Islamist groups were the only ones able to struggle against Colonel Qaddafi’s particularly repressive rule.

After Mr. Belhaj and a small group of Libyan comrades returned from the jihad against the Soviets, they formed the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and had a secret base in the Green Mountain area of eastern Libya, until it was discovered and bombed, and many of its followers rounded up.

Mr. Belhaj escaped Libya in the late 1990s and, like many antigovernment exiles, was forced to move frequently as Libya used its oil resources as a way to pressure host countries.

“We focused on Libya and Libya only,” he said. “Our goal was to help our people. We didn’t participate in or support any action outside of Libya. We never had any link with Al Qaeda, and that could never be. We had a different agenda; global fighting was not our goal.”

He said that America’s reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks led to his group’s classification as terrorist.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the rapprochement between Libya and Western countries led to the apprehension of several anti-Qaddafi activists, who were returned to Libya by the United States.

While Mr. Belhaj insisted that he was not interested in revenge, it is not a period of his life that he has altogether forgotten. “If one day there is a legal way, I would like to see my torturers brought to court,” he said.
24342  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender, Gay, Lesbian on: September 02, 2011, 10:38:42 AM
I am.
24343  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Essential Question on: September 01, 2011, 10:54:53 PM

Alexander's Essay – September 1, 2011

The Essential Question in Any Political Debate

The most important inquiry conservatives must posit in every policy debate: "What does our Constitution authorize and mandate?"

"The Constitution which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all." --George Washington

The most vital debate of the 2012 political cycle, indeed the essential question in any political debate, is one that you will not hear much about unless you are represented by one of the authentic conservatives who have carried the banner of the Reagan Revolution into the 21st century, or you are represented by one of those much-maligned Tea Party "radicals."

One unifying characteristic of the old guard and the new breed of senators and representatives is that they insist upon establishing the Essential Liberty and Rule of Law precedents as prerequisites for any political policy debate.

Our Constitution, as written and ratified, stipulates in its preface that it is "ordained and established" by the People in order to "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." To that end, it established a representative republic, not a popular democracy, which is to say it affirmed the primacy of Rule of Law over rule of men.

Our Founders understood that the Rule of Law enshrined in our Constitution was the fundamental guarantee to protecting and sustaining Liberty for their, and our, posterity. Consequently, they prescribed that all elected officials be bound by Sacred Oath to "support and defend" our Constitution.

For presidents, Article II, Section 1, specifies: "Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: 'I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'"

Likewise Article VI, Clause 3 specifies: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution."

However, in the current political era, the vast majority of those elected to national office have abandoned their oaths in deference to political expediency and constituency. For this they should be duly prosecuted, one and all, for breach of oath and trust.

Are oaths binding? Post your opinion
Democrats deign to trace their party lineage to the father of classical libertarianism, Thomas Jefferson, yet they utterly reject questions about constitutional authority. So archaic do they believe such queries to be that when asked, they insist, in the words of Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, "Nobody questions that."

But if Liberty is to be sustained by ballots rather than bullets, every conservative candidate must base his or her campaign platform upon restoration of our authentic Constitution and wholly reject the so-called "living constitution upon which Democrats have constructed their socialist empire.

For much of our nation's history, election cycles have been filled with rancorous political debates. Like today, many of those debates were focused on personalities and motivated by power seekers. The consequence has been an incremental erosion of constitutional authority, particularly by the Judicial Branch, which has amended our Constitution by judicial diktat rather than by the legitimate method prescribed in Article V.

James Madison wrote, "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." However, the "gradual and silent" erosion has been punctuated with periodic landslides. Today, tyranny is hovering on the immediate horizon.

In the decades following our nation's founding, many of the great debates were centered on Liberty. The notions of containing the power of the central government and promoting individual freedom were fervently tested. But four major events in the years after 1850 altered the political debate and, tragically, increased the power of the central government far beyond its constitutional limits.

The first of those events was the War Between the States which cost 600,000 American lives and annulled the authority of our Constitution's mandate for Federalism. Unfortunately, today's "Republicans" tie their lineage to Abraham Lincoln, the man who engineered that frontal assault on states' rights.  (Sorry, not buying this one at all.  Slavery is not a right.  Period.)

The second major insult to Liberty came during the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt and his "useful idiots" used the fear generated by economic crisis to implement his "New Deal," an explosive expansion of central government power that came at enormous offense to the authority of our Constitution.

The third colossal affront to our Constitution occurred under another Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, who implemented his "Great Society" programs in response to fears about social and economic inequality.

The fourth and final nail in the coffin of American Liberty is being hammered in by Barack Hussein Obama and his Leftist cadres. They are determined to replace our republican government with European-style Democratic Socialism, and they have made significant strides toward that terrible goal.

The only way to re-establish the primacy of Rule of Law over rule of men and reinstate limits upon our government and its controllers is to restore the authority of our Constitution. Only then will we ensure that Liberty prevails over tyranny.

Does constitutional authority matter? Post your comments
That authority was, and remains, clearly defined by our Founders who, though they might have differed modestly on the question of constitutional interpretation, universally agreed with George Washington: "The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People is sacredly obligatory upon all."

Washington also wrote, "Should, hereafter, those incited by the lust of power and prompted by the supineness or venality of their constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to show, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction and sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable, and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no mound of parchment can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other."

What did other Founders write about Rule of Law and the authority of our Constitution?

James Madison: "I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that is not the guide in expounding it, there may be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers. ... If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions."

Thomas Jefferson: "Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction. ... To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. ... The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots. ... The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch. ... On every question of construction carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed. ... [C]onfidence is every where the parent of despotism; free government is founded in jealousy and not in confidence; it is jealousy & not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power ... in questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution."

Alexander Hamilton: "[T]here is not a syllable in the [Constitution] which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution, or which gives them any greater latitude in this respect than may be claimed by the courts of every State. ... The Judiciary ... has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society, and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither force nor will. ... If it be asked, 'What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic?' The answer would be, an inviolable respect for the Constitution and Laws -- the first growing out of the last. ... A sacred respect for the constitutional law is the vital principle, the sustaining energy of a free government. ... [T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments."

John Adams: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. ... The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People. ... [T]hey may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. ... A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever."

Article VI of our Constitution proclaims: "This Constitution ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land."

The definitive reflection on constitutional authority comes from Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, a Madison appointee, in his "Commentaries on the Constitution" (1833): "The constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language, and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes for which those powers were conferred. By a reasonable interpretation, we mean, that in case the words are susceptible of two different senses, the one strict, the other more enlarged, that should be adopted which is most consonant with the apparent objects and intent of the Constitution. ... Temporary delusions, prejudices, excitements, and objects have irresistible influence in mere questions of policy. And the policy of one age may ill suit the wishes or the policy of another. The constitution is not subject to such fluctuations. It is to have a fixed, uniform, permanent construction. It should be, so far at least as human infirmity will allow, not dependent upon the passions or parties of particular times, but the same yesterday, to-day, and forever."

The last best hope for the restoration of our Constitution's original intent is upon us. Accordingly, a revival of its prescribed limits on the central government rests on the shoulders of those wise enough to educate themselves to the principles of Essential Liberty and bold enough to make constitutional authority the centerpiece of any political debate.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a citizen asked Benjamin Franklin what form of government the Founders had created. He responded, "A republic, if you can keep it." The question for American Patriots today: "Can we keep it?"

Well, can we? Tell me what you think
Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post
24344  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Early Obama letter confirms inability to write. on: September 01, 2011, 08:08:40 PM
August 29, 2011
Early Obama Letter Confirms Inability to Write
By Jack Cashill
On November 16, 1990, Barack Obama, then president of the Harvard Law Review, published a letter in the Harvard Law Record, an independent Harvard Law School newspaper, championing affirmative action.

Although a paragraph from this letter was excerpted in David Remnick's biography of Obama, The Bridge, I had not seen the letter in its entirety before this week.  Not surprisingly, it confirms everything I know about Barack Obama, the writer and thinker.

Obama was prompted to write by an earlier letter from a Mr. Jim Chen that criticized Harvard Law Review's affirmative action policies.  Specifically, Chen had argued that affirmative action stigmatized its presumed beneficiaries.

The response is classic Obama: patronizing, dishonest, syntactically muddled, and grammatically challenged.  In the very first sentence Obama leads with his signature failing, one on full display in his earlier published work: his inability to make subject and predicate agree.

"Since the merits of the Law Review's selection policy has been the subject of commentary for the last three issues," wrote Obama, "I'd like to take the time to clarify exactly how our selection process works."

If Obama were as smart as a fifth-grader, he would know, of course, that "merits ... have."  Were there such a thing as a literary Darwin Award, Obama could have won it on this on one sentence alone.  He had vindicated Chen in his first ten words.

Although the letter is fewer than a thousand words long, Obama repeats the subject-predicate error at least two more times.  In one sentence, he seemingly cannot make up his mind as to which verb option is correct so he tries both: "Approximately half of this first batch is chosen ... the other half are selected ... "

Another distinctive Obama flaw is to allow a string of words to float in space.  Please note the unanchored phrase in italics at the end of this sentence:

"No editors on the Review will ever know whether any given editor was selected on the basis of grades, writing competition, or affirmative action, and no editors who were selected with affirmative action in mind."  Huh?

The next lengthy sentence highlights a few superficial style flaws and a much deeper flaw in Obama's political philosophy.

I would therefore agree with the suggestion that in the future, our concern in this area is most appropriately directed at any employer who would even insinuate that someone with Mr. Chen's extraordinary record of academic success might be somehow unqualified for work in a corporate law firm, or that such success might be somehow undeserved.

Obama would finish his acclaimed memoir, Dreams from My Father, about four years later.  Prior to Dreams, and for the nine years following, everything Obama wrote was, like the above sentence, an uninspired assemblage of words with a nearly random application of commas and tenses.

Unaided, Obama tends to the awkward, passive, and verbose.  The phrase "our concern in this area is most appropriately directed at any employer" would more profitably read, "we should focus on the employer." "Concern" is simply the wrong word.

Scarier than Obama's style, however, is his thinking.  A neophyte race-hustler after his three years in Chicago, Obama is keen to browbeat those who would "even insinuate" that affirmative action rewards the undeserving, results in inappropriate job placements, or stigmatizes its presumed beneficiaries.

In the case of Michelle Obama, affirmative action did all three.  The partners at Sidley Austin learned this the hard way.  In 1988, they hired her out of Harvard Law under the impression that the degree meant something.  It did not.  By 1991, Michelle was working in the public sector as an assistant to the mayor.  By 1993, she had given up her law license.

Had the partners investigated Michelle's background, they would have foreseen the disaster to come.  Sympathetic biographer Liza Mundy writes, "Michelle frequently deplores the modern reliance on test scores, describing herself as a person who did not test well."

She did not write well, either.  Mundy charitably describes her senior thesis at Princeton as "dense and turgid."  The less charitable Christopher Hitchens observes, "To describe [the thesis] as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be 'read' at all, in the strict sense of the verb.  This is because it wasn't written in any known language."

Michelle had to have been as anxious at Harvard Law as Bart Simpson was at Genius School.  Almost assuredly, the gap between her writing and that of her highly talented colleagues marked her as an affirmative action admission, and the profs finessed her through.

In a similar vein, Barack Obama was named an editor of the Harvard Law Review.  Although his description of the Law Review's selection process defies easy comprehension, apparently, after the best candidates are chosen, there remains "a pool of qualified candidates whose grades or writing competition scores do not significantly differ."  These sound like the kids at Lake Woebegone, all above average.  Out of this pool, Obama continues, "the Selection Committee may take race or physical handicap into account."

To his credit, Obama concedes that he "may have benefited from the Law Review's affirmative action policy."  This did not strike him as unusual as he "undoubtedly benefited from affirmative action programs during my academic career."

On the basis of his being elected president of Law Review -- a popularity contest -- Obama was awarded a six-figure contract to write a book.  To this point, he had not shown a hint of promise as a writer, but Simon & Schuster, like Sidley Austin, took the Harvard credential seriously.  It should not have.  For three years Obama floundered as badly as Michelle had at Sidley Austin.  Simon & Schuster finally pulled the contract.

Then Obama found his muse -- right in the neighborhood, as it turns out!  And promptly, without further ado, the awkward, passive, ungrammatical Obama, a man who had not written one inspired sentence in his whole life, published what Time Magazine called "the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician."

To question the nature of that production, I have learned, is to risk the abuse promised to Mr. Chen's theoretical employer.  After all, who would challenge Obama's obvious talent -- or that of any affirmative action beneficiary -- but those blinded by what Obama calls "deep-rooted ignorance and bias"?

What else could it be?

24345  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stealth Boat on: September 01, 2011, 04:53:57 PM
24346  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / GB's must reads of the day on: September 01, 2011, 04:48:20 PM
24347  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gibson guitar case: If only he had used Madagascar labor??? on: September 01, 2011, 04:45:47 PM
second post of afternoon:

Feds raid Gibson Guitar:

Caveat: I've only read what is at this page and not yet listened to the clips.
24348  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Maxine Waters: Tax them out of existence! on: September 01, 2011, 04:40:16 PM
24349  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: September 01, 2011, 12:55:45 PM

In Brandon Lee's movie ("In the Line of Fire"?) one bad guy says to another bad guy "Don't ask for what you can't take." 

24350  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: September 01, 2011, 11:24:51 AM
Thanks for that JDN, I heard on one of the FOX shows that Huntsman had the misfortune to announce his plan on a day when something else sucked the oxygen from the room , , , and given his polling number of 1% he doesn't get much oxygen to begin with.  cheesy

As I read the plan my reaction is "Not bad!" thought I didn't really care for the Simpson-Bowles Commission stuff.   

That said Huntsman simply is not the man to lead the charge against Bankruptcy Baraq.
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