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24351  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 23, 2011, 08:19:54 AM
As I understand the argument by some lucid Isrealis, it is that holding on to Arab populated territory has considerable risks of its own.
24352  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Peru, elections on: May 23, 2011, 08:18:12 AM
Peruvian national-socialist Ollanta Humala and his center-right populist
rival Keiko Fujimori have finally agreed to a televised debate ahead of the
June 5 presidential runoff election. Perhaps the May 29 event will reveal
how genuinely committed each candidate is to preserving, refining and
strengthening the fragile democratic capitalism that has been moving the
country out of poverty for the past decade. This is, after all, the crucial
question for Peruvian voters.

Liberalization has been good for Peru. Its gross-domestic-product growth
averaged about 6.5% annually from 2002-2010. Poverty is half what it was 20
years ago. The government has opened markets, increased property-rights
protection, improved transparency in the state's fiscal accounts, and
restrained spending.

This success has helped sustain the case for Latin American freedom at a
time when Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and the Colombian terrorist group FARC are
using money, weapons and ideological outreach to try to overthrow democracy
and outlaw private property across the continent. Revolutionary ideals have
met with some success among the region's most vulnerable populations. Mr.
Chávez's Bolivarian movement was instrumental in bringing the antidemocratic
Evo Morales to power in Bolivia. Internal FARC documents indicate the
guerrillas helped finance the presidential campaign of Ecuadoran caudillo
Rafael Correa. In all three countries civil liberties, including free speech
and due process, have been dramatically abridged.

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Peruvian presidential candidates Keiko Fujimori and Ollanta Humala

Peru has mostly kept these destructive forces at bay. But the risk of a
revolutionary uprising, particularly in the southern sierra, remains real.
Discontent simmers in Peru's significant indigenous communities, where
people are less likely to be beneficiaries of economic modernization, and
where state inefficiency and corruption translate into abysmal public
services. Centuries of racial tension also persist in these areas, and the
U.S. war on drugs in the face of steady American demand has further
alienated the population.

This is the target market of Mr. Chávez, and it is also the stronghold for
Mr. Humala's national-socialist Gana Peru party.

A recent special-client report, "The Possibility of an Insurrection in the
Southern Andes" by the Peruvian security-consulting firm Peace Keeping
Solutions (PKS), lists 14 "acts of insurrection" since 2004, including one
led by Mr. Humala's brother Antauro on Jan. 1, 2005, that was supported at
the time by the candidate. The report points out that while Mr. Chávez's
political structures have played a role in fomenting this unrest, chavismo
"doesn't explain the existence of leftist and nationalist ideas among 40% or
more of the Peruvian population." That, PKS maintains, is a result of
ideological forces within national universities, professional organizations,
the Peruvian military and some political parties.

Chavismo has a limited capacity to "organize insurrection" in Peru, PKS
says. But that capacity is strengthened by the state's failure to counteract
radicalism. The army is "indifferent, bordering on complicity," the National
Intelligence Agency is "inefficient," police administration is deficient,
and police intelligence is starved for resources. Meanwhile, there has been
"a permissive attitude" in the prime minister's office and at times
cooperation with militant activists from regional authorities.

Mr. Humala's history is tied up in all this. He is an ex-army officer who
has built his political career by tapping into the resentment of the
disenfranchised with demagogic speeches against liberal economics and
threats of violence against the establishment. Mr. Humala even attempted his
own military coup in 2000, and there are credible allegations that he took
money from Mr. Chávez in his 2006 presidential bid.

Last week he tried to distance himself from this past by publicly swearing
on a Bible to refrain from dismantling the country's democratic institutions
if elected. His critics howled that it was pure theater and no more
believable than the recent rewrite of his policy agenda. The old one, dated
December 2010, was a 198-page anti-market, national-socialist rant. The new
one is eight pages of promises to "combat corruption," "reestablish public
ethics," and lay down the rule of law. It is as if Mr. Humala was knocked
off his horse on the road from Puno.

Either that or he has agreed to an image makeover so he can get elected. The
latter seems more likely. Nevertheless, he is being helped by a few Peruvian
elites who appear less enamored of him than they are obsessed with hatred
for Keiko Fujimori's father, former president Alberto Fujimori. Her defeat,
it seems, would be their long-sought revenge for his authoritarian style.
How else to explain so-called free-market types backing a national-socialist
who six months ago was pledging to eviscerate the liberal economic model?

Ms. Fujimori has a heavy responsibility to defend the measures that have
improved Peru's living standards and to explain how she would deepen
reforms. A lot is riding on how well she does in the debate. If the only
motivated voters come election day are those with scores to settle against
her father, the country is in deep trouble.
24353  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US draws a line in the silicon on: May 23, 2011, 08:09:09 AM
In the days immediately after 9/11, the U.S. sent tanks to surround the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and protect it from potential threats. In its basement is the largest depository of gold in the world, worth some $300 billion, almost all owned by foreign governments. The Fed's gold has only ever been stolen in the movies.

We know all about defending real-world treasure, but we are only beginning to understand threats to the 1s and 0s of the digital era. Vastly more capital and valuable information now flow digitally than through the real world, but Internet security is an afterthought

This month the White House issued a pair of reports on the problem, both years in the making. One includes proposals for new domestic rules to protect infrastructure and to give companies immunity for sharing information about data breaches with local and federal authorities.

The other report, "U.S. International Strategy for Cyberspace," is a warning shot directed at rogue countries and cyber terrorists. Released at an event with four cabinet secretaries present, the study defines the benefits of the Web as "prosperity, security and openness in a networked world." It warns countries that cut off their own citizens from the Web or use cyber weaponry against the U.S. or its allies. The goal is to make the Web secure "without crippling innovation, suppressing freedom of expression or association, or impeding global interoperability."

The report says that "hostile acts in cyberspace" are as much a threat as physical acts. "We reserve the right to use all necessary means," including military, to "defend our nation, our allies, our partners and our interests." It adds, "Certain hostile acts conducted through cyberspace could compel actions under the commitments we have with our military treaty partners."

This tough language would have been more forceful if the usual suspects, including China and Russia, had appeared by name somewhere in the 30-page document. It would also be helpful for the U.S. to disclose cyber attacks by the country of origin. But at least the White House pledges to "ensure that the risks associated with attacking or exploiting our networks vastly outweigh the potential benefits." The U.S. now spends some $16 billion a year for classified and unclassified work on cyber security, and this expense will grow.

There's a lot of catching up to do. There are constant cyber attacks against the Pentagon and other federal agencies, as well as against banks, electrical grids, dams and nuclear facilities. Over the past year, the U.S. failed to stop Chinese hackers from penetrating the Gmail accounts of American human rights activists. It also failed to prevent efforts to access Nasdaq's computers and a break-in at RSA, the cyber security company that provides SecurID access to private networks.

It's not surprising that our digital networks are vulnerable—they were planned to be. The Internet was created in the 1970s to solve the Pentagon problem of how to keep communications lines open during all-out war. The Darpanet-inspired Web moves packets of data around in an open, interconnected, decentralized and mostly unencrypted way. This is resilient, but also highly subject to infiltration.

There's cyber crime, such as the hacking of Sony PlayStations that revealed some 100 million accounts, including credit cards. Sony CEO Howard Stringer last week admitted he can't ensure the security of the videogame network, saying: "It's not a brave new world; it's a bad new world." There's also cyber war, which, at least so far, we seem to be winning. Israel apparently used the Stuxnet computer worm last year to undermine Iranian nuclear facilities, and in 2007 Israel may have activated a kill switch in Syrian air defenses before bombing Syria's nuclear facility.

The biggest unknown is cyber terrorism. The report doesn't say how many cyber attacks are by foreign governments as opposed to by terror groups, a dangerous known unknown.

The Washington response is the usual: too many agencies, more than a dozen, each claiming some cyber responsibilities. The result is that no one agency is being held accountable. There are proposals now to add the Securities and Exchange Commission to the bureaucracy by asking corporate lawyers to assess the materiality of data breaches by publicly traded companies.

A better approach includes proposals in "Cyber War," co-authored last year by former White House aide Richard Clarke. These include the U.S. maintaining its own "white hat" hackers tasked with trying to break into the grid. Another idea is to create a private government network for sensitive purposes accessible only by authorized officials.

Protecting the Web will never be as straightforward as dispatching tanks to protect gold bars. But it's progress for the U.S. to draw a line in the silicon warning enemies that digital attacks may be result in real-world responses.

24354  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: May 23, 2011, 08:02:18 AM
Good question. 

Coincidentally, Scott Grannis just responded to a similar question from me as follows:

Marc, of course it's impossible to rule out a catastrophic sequence of events. If everything goes the wrong way we will be in deep sh*t. But I would note that the market does not sit still when defaults loom. As I noted in a post about commercial real estate backed securities not too long ago, a year ago the market expected gigantic defaults. Actual defaults have been much lower than expected and feared, and the prices of those securities have soared in the past year. The market has already priced in a significant restructuring (a nice word for default) of Greek debt, with 2-yr Greek govt bonds now trading at a yield of 25%. The unknowns are not whether Greece will default, they are a) when will the default occur and b) how big will it be? If the actual default is equal to or less than the market expects already, then that will be good news.

I would further note that Euro swap spreads are only mildly elevated. If the european bond market suspected that a Greek default would precipitate and end-of-the-world scenario, I can assure you that swap spreads would be trading at multiples of their current level. Swap spreads are a measure of the likelihood that big banks will be unable to honor their obligations. 2-yr euro swaps are only 50 bps or so, with 25-30 being normal. The market is telling you that a Greek default is not going to be a big deal, believe it or not.

All of the things you worry about have been front and center for the markets for over one year now. I think it's reasonable to assume that the market, in its wisdom, has by now fully analyzed the risks and has priced them in.

I've responded to this with some probing questions about the validity of the efficient market hypothesis, which seems to inform his answer, and now await his response.
24355  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Misunderstood? on: May 23, 2011, 07:58:24 AM
Several key points not addressed by this piece, but , , ,

The reaction to President Barack Obama's speech on Thursday has largely focused on one line: "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." News outlets from across the political spectrum ran headlines highlighting Mr. Obama's demand that Israel return to the "1967 borders," referring to Israel's boundaries before it took control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the 1967 Six Day War.

Meantime, GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty condemned "President Obama's insistence on a return to the 1967 borders," calling it "a mistaken and very dangerous demand." Rep. Alan West (R., Fla.) described the position as "the beginning of the end as we know it for the Jewish state." The Republican Jewish Coalition deemed a return to such borders "unacceptable."

These individuals are absolutely correct that a return to the 1967 lines would be an unacceptable proposition for Israel. But Mr. Obama never said Israel should return to the 1967 lines. He said the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps should be the basis for negotiations. As Mr. Obama said yesterday at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, "it means that the parties themselves—Israelis and Palestinans—will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967." With this flexibility, Israel could incorporate, in internationally recognized borders, the vast majority of some 500,000 Israelis currently living beyond the 1967 lines. In effect, Mr. Obama met the Israeli demand that a future border reflect Israeli demographic and security concerns.

The concept of land swaps has served as the basis for every serious attempt to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past decade. For every piece of land beyond the 1967 lines that Israel wants to annex, it would give a piece of land to the Palestinians from within Israel proper.

President George W. Bush's 2004 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now insisting that Mr. Obama reaffirm, is based on this premise. Mr. Obama's Thursday speech formalizes into official U.S. policy the working assumption of every U.S. president and secretary of state since the 2000 Camp David negotiations, as well as former Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, Israel's most decorated soldier.

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Associated Press
Several riflemen and a machine gunner of the United Arab Republic Army are seen manning a trench somewhere in the Gaza Strip, along the border to Israel, in 1967.
.Since a large proportion of the Israeli settlers live in areas adjacent to and contiguous with the 1967 lines, there are multiple border scenarios that would allow Israel to annex the vast majority of Israelis living beyond the 1967 lines. The president's formulation encompasses solutions ranging from the Geneva Initiative (which brings into Israel 72% of Israelis living beyond the 1967 lines) to maps by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (which bring into Israel up to 80% of Israelis living beyond the 1967 lines).

There is a finite amount of land that would be reasonable for Israel to swap in exchange for this post-1967 territory. This land should be unpopulated, away from vital Israeli infrastructure, and should not interrupt Israel's geographic contiguity or the living patterns of Israelis. It also shouldn't be near central Israel's "narrow waist," the precariously thin strip of coastal plain—some nine miles wide—between the 1967 lines and the Mediterranean Sea. Fortunately, there is enough land within Israel proper that fits these conditions that would allow the Jewish state to include the vast majority of Israelis living beyond the 1967 lines, as well as to address Israeli security concerns.

By insisting that the 1967 lines be modified, Mr. Obama showed his paramount concern for Israel's security. "Every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself—by itself—against any threat," Mr. Obama said. Furthermore, he went beyond Mr. Bush's 2004 letter to Mr. Sharon by demanding a non-militarized Palestinian state, and conditioning Israeli withdrawal from any post-1967 territory on the demonstrated effectiveness of security arrangements.

He also shared Israel's fears about Hamas's participation in the Palestinian government, legitimizing Israel's reluctance to "negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize [Israel's] right to exist." And by insisting that Israel be recognized as "a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people"—meeting another Netanyahu demand—Mr. Obama effectively renounced any return of Palestinian refugees to Israel.

Based on the simplistic media coverage, it's easy to miss the distinction between "return to the 1967 lines" and the president's actual formulation of "based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps." The truth is that the president's vision ensures that Israel can remain a Jewish and democratic state, include within internationally recognized borders the vast majority of Israelis currently living beyond the 1967 lines, and keep its citizens safe.

Mr. Wexler, a former democratic member of Congress, is president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. Mr. Krieger is senior vice president of the center.

24356  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Mundell says on: May 23, 2011, 07:47:50 AM
Marc:  I'm not sure I really follow his logic here 100%, but Mundell is deep and IMHO his thoughts deserve considerable contemplation. 

Conservative economists have been raising alarms for months about the Federal Reserve's second quantitative-easing program, QE2. They argue it has lowered the dollar's value, leading to higher oil and commodity prices—a precursor to broader, more damaging inflation.

Yet the man many of them regard as their monetary guru—supply-side economics pioneer and Nobel Laureate Robert Mundell—says dollar weakness is not his main concern. Instead, he fears a return to recession later this year when QE2 ends and the dollar begins its inevitable rise. Deflation, not inflation, should be the greater concern. Avoiding the recession is simplicity itself: Just have the U.S. Treasury fix the exchange rate between the dollar and the euro.

Mr. Mundell's surprising statement came at a March 22 conference in New York sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, The Wall Street Journal and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. His economic predictions carry great weight because, unlike most economists of his generation, he is often right. His analysis of international economics has revolutionized the field, making him the euro's intellectual father and a primary adviser to China's economic policy makers.

Nevertheless, with gold around $1,500 and oil above $100 a barrel, supply-siders are scratching their heads: How can he possibly see deflation ahead? How can dollar weakness not be the problem?

The key to Mr. Mundell's view is that exchange rates transmit inflation or deflation into economies by raising or lowering prices for imported items and commodities. For example, when the dollar declines significantly against the world's second-leading currency, the euro, commodity prices rise. This creates U.S. inflationary pressure. Conversely, when the dollar appreciates significantly against the euro, commodity prices fall, which leads to deflationary pressure.

.From 2001-07, he argues, the dollar underwent a long, steady decline against the euro, tacitly encouraged by U.S. monetary authorities. In response to the dollar's decline, investors diverted capital into inflation hedges, notably real estate, leading to the subprime bubble. By mid-2007, the real-estate bubble had burst. In response, the Fed reduced short-term interest rates rapidly, which lowered the dollar further. The subprime crisis was severe, but with looser money, the economy appeared to stabilize in the second quarter of 2008.

Then, in summer 2008, the Fed committed what Mr. Mundell calls one of the worst mistakes in its history: In the middle of the subprime crunch—exacerbated by mark-to-market accounting rules that forced financial companies to cover short-term losses—the central bank paused in lowering the federal funds rate. In response, the dollar soared 30% against the euro in a matter of weeks. Dollar scarcity broke the economy's back, causing a serious economic contraction and crippling financial crisis.

In March 2009, the Fed woke up and enacted QE1, lowering the dollar against the euro, and signs of recovery soon appeared. But in November 2009, QE1 ended and the dollar soared against the euro once again, pushing the U.S. economy back toward recession. Last summer, the Fed initiated QE2, which lowered the value of the dollar, allowing a second leg of the recovery to take hold.

Nevertheless, Mr. Mundell views QE2 as the wrong solution for the problem. Instead, the U.S. and Europe simply should coordinate exchange-rate policies to maintain an upper and lower limit on the euro price, say between $1.30 and $1.40. Over time, the band would be narrowed to a given rate. Further quantitative easing would be off the table.

With a fixed exchange rate, prices could move free from the scourge of sudden deflation and inflation, allowing investment horizons and planning timelines to expand along with production levels on both sides of the Atlantic. To supercharge the U.S. recovery, he also recommends permanently extending the Bush tax rates and lowering the corporate income tax rate to 15% from 35%.

Above all, he made it clear that the volatile exchange rate is the responsibility of the U.S. Treasury, not the central bank. Without a breakthrough on exchange rates, he predicted another dollar appreciation following QE2, resulting in a return to recession and a worsening of the U.S. debt crisis. This would likely lead to a third round of quantitative easing, continuing the dysfunctional cycle.

Criticize the Fed all you like, Mr. Mundell says, but the key to recovery is to stabilize the dollar at a healthy level relative to the euro. Given his stellar track record, it's worth asking: Is anyone in Washington listening?

Mr. Rushton edits The Supply Side blog.

24357  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Syria on: May 23, 2011, 07:42:19 AM

One mystery of American foreign policy, in Administrations of either party, is the eternal hope that the Assad family dynasty in Syria will one day experience an epiphany and become a reforming, pro-Western government.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher visited Damascus more than 20 times in the 1990s in search of a concession to peace that never came from Hafez Assad. President George W. Bush refused to implement the stiffest sanctions on Syria legislated by Congress and sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to beseech current President Bashar Assad to stop being a highway for jihadists into Iraq. To no avail.

President Obama also bought into the illusion, sending emissaries to turn Mr. Assad away from Iran, stop serving as a conduit for heavy weapons into Lebanon, and other impossible dreams. Even after the regime's crackdown on political opponents and the murder of hundreds, Mr. Obama held out hope in his Mideast speech last week that Mr. Assad will come around: "The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: he can lead that transition, or get out of the way."

Mr. Assad long ago made his choice, and America's choice should be full-throated support for his democratic opponents.
24358  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Voter ID on: May 23, 2011, 07:40:32 AM
On Thursday, the Wisconsin legislature sent a bill requiring photographic identification for voting to Gov. Scott Walker's desk. This follows the enactment of an even stricter law in Kansas a few weeks ago.

Drafted by my office, Kansas's Secure and Fair Elections Act combined three elements: (1) a requirement that voters present photo IDs when they vote in person; (2) a requirement that absentee voters present a full driver's license number and have their signatures verified; and (3) a proof of citizenship requirement for all newly registered voters. Although a few states, including Georgia, Indiana and Arizona, have enacted one or two of these reforms, Kansas is the only state to enact all three.

Other states are moving in the same direction. The Texas legislature sent a photo-ID bill to Gov. Rick Perry's desk last Monday. And next year Missouri voters will get a chance to vote on a photo-ID requirement.

Immediately after the Kansas law was signed in April, critics cried foul. They argued that voter fraud isn't significant enough to warrant such steps, that large numbers of Americans don't possess photo IDs, and that such laws will depress turnout among the poor and among minorities. They are wrong on all three counts.

Voter fraud is a well-documented reality in American elections. To offer a few examples, a 2010 state representative race in Kansas City, Mo. was stolen when one candidate, J.J. Rizzo, allegedly received more than 50 votes illegally cast by citizens of Somalia. The Somalis, who didn't speak English, were coached to vote for Mr. Rizzo by an interpreter at the polling place. The margin of victory? One vote.

In Kansas, 221 incidents of voter fraud were reported between 1997 and 2010. The crimes included absentee-ballot fraud, impersonation of another voter, and a host of other violations. Because voter fraud is extremely difficult to detect and is usually not reported, the cases that we know about likely represent a small fraction of the total.

My office already has found 67 aliens illegally registered to vote in Kansas, but when the total number is calculated, it will likely be in the hundreds. In Colorado, the Secretary of State's office recently identified 11,805 aliens illegally registered to vote in the state, of whom 4,947 cast a ballot in the 2010 elections.

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 .Evidence of voter fraud is present in all 50 states, and public confidence in the integrity of elections is at an all-time low. In the Cooperative Congressional Election Study of 2008, 62% of American voters thought that voter fraud was very common or somewhat common.

Fear that elections are being stolen erodes the legitimacy of our government. That's why the vast majority of Americans support laws like Kansas's Secure and Fair Elections Act. A 2010 Rasmussen poll showed that 82% of Americans support photo ID laws. Similarly, a 2011 Survey USA poll of Kansas voters showed that 83% support proof-of-citizenship requirements for voter registration.

Critics of these laws nevertheless make outrageous arguments against them. New York University's Brennan Center, which stridently opposes all photo ID laws, claims that a whopping 11% of the American voting-age public—that means tens of millions of people—don't possess a photo ID. It bases this number on a survey it conducted in 2006.

However, we don't have to rely on implausible estimates when the actual numbers are readily available. In Kansas, my office obtained the statistics, and they tell a very different story. According to the 2010 census, there are 2,126,179 Kansans of voting age. According to the Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles, 2,156,446 Kansans already have a driver's license or a non-driver ID. In other words, there are more photo IDs in circulation than there are eligible voters. The notion that there are hundreds of thousands of voters in Kansas (or any other state) without photo IDs is a myth.

Carrying a photo ID has become a part of American life. You can't cash a check, board a plane, or even buy full-strength Sudafed over the counter without one. That's why it's not unreasonable to require one in order to protect our most important privilege of citizenship. But just in case any person lacks a photo ID, Kansas's law provides a free state ID to anyone who needs one. Other states have included similar provisions in their photo-ID laws.

Some opponents of election security laws also declare that they are part of a sinister plot to depress voter registration and turnout, especially among minority voters who are more likely to vote Democrat. Here too the facts do not support the claim. Georgia's photo ID requirement was in place for both the 2008 and 2010 elections, when turnout among minority voters was higher than average. Likewise, Arizona's proof-of-citizenship requirement for registration has not impeded minority voters from registering.

If election security laws really were part of a Republican scheme to suppress Democratic votes, one would expect Democrats to fight such laws, tooth and nail. That didn't happen in Kansas, where two-thirds of the Democrats in the House and three-fourths of the Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of the Secure and Fair Elections Act. They did so because they realize that fair elections protect every voter and every party equally.

No candidate, Republican or Democrat, wants to emerge from an election with voters suspecting that he didn't really win. Election security measures like the one in my state give confidence to voters and candidates alike that the system is fair.

Mr. Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state. He is also the co-author of Arizona's SB 1070 illegal immigration law and former Counsel to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

24359  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Time to roll back America's borders , , , on: May 23, 2011, 07:25:09 AM
Mike Adams   Time for America to Roll Back Its Borders
Email Mike Adams | Columnist's Archive  Share   Buzz 0diggsdigg
Sign-Up  Dear President Obama:

I am writing today with a somewhat unusual request. Actually, it is a series of requests. First and foremost, I will be asking that you return America to its August 20th, 1959 borders so that Hawaii is no longer a state and you are no longer a citizen.
24360  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Reps and Mediscare on: May 23, 2011, 07:19:09 AM
Underneath Newt Gingrich's rhetoric last week about Paul Ryan's "right-wing social engineering" was a common anxiety about the politics of Medicare: Is this the right moment for entitlement reform? Did the GOP endanger its House majority by giving Democrats a campaign strategy for 2012, and is Mr. Ryan's proposal really too "radical" after all?

Entitlement reform is the hardest challenge in politics, which is one reason we oppose all new entitlements. But Republicans now tempted to retreat at the first smell of cordite need to understand that they are taking even larger political and policy risks than Mr. Ryan is. The Medicare status quo of even two years ago, much less 20, is irretrievably gone, and anyone pining for its return is merely making President Obama's vision of government-run health care inevitable.

This reality is underscored in the just-released annual report of the Medicare trustees. Democrats sold ObamaCare as a way to slow the growth of costs, but the report shows that the program's finances have deteriorated even since last year. Medicare is carrying $24.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities through 2085, and chief actuary Richard Foster says even that does "not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations."

As a matter of simple arithmetic, this problem can't be solved with tax increases, because health costs and thus government spending on health care are rising so much faster than the economy as a whole is growing. The U.S. capacity to pay for Medicare on present trend diminishes every year.

With ObamaCare, Democrats offered their vision for Medicare cost control: A 15-member unelected board with vast powers to set prices for doctors, hospitals and other providers, and to regulate how they should be organized and what government will pay for. The liberal conceit is that their technocratic wizardry will make health care more rational, but this is faith-based government. The liberal fallback is political rationing of care, which is why Mr. Obama made it so difficult for Congress to change that 15-member board's decisions.

Republicans have staunchly opposed this agenda, but until Mr. Ryan's budget they hadn't answered the White House with a competing idea. Mr. Ryan's proposal is the most important free-market reform in years because it expands the policy options for rethinking the entitlement state.

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Associated Press
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan
."Premium support" is not a new idea, but it has long been dormant, and Republicans will need to continue their effort to reintroduce it to voters. Seniors would receive a fixed-dollar subsidy from the government to choose from private insurance options, with higher payments for the poor and sick. Consumers would make cost-conscious choices at the margin, and insurers and providers would compete on health-care value and quality.

Mr. Gingrich is right that reforms of this magnitude need to be grounded in a social consensus built over time. But that means the task for Republicans is to educate the public about market principles and more consumer choice. Mr. Ryan's model is flexible enough to adjust the level and rate of growth of the premium-support subsidy. The Ryan Medicare plan was never going to be adopted this year, but it is the first credible, detailed alternative to Mr. Obama's approach.

Some GOP critics, like Mr. Gingrich, claim that it would be politically safer to introduce premium support but give seniors a chance to keep traditional Medicare. The problem is that this leaves all of Medicare's distortions in place and does little to stop its explosive costs. As long as the major incentive in health care is Medicare's fee formula, very little will improve.

Republicans have been passing such reform quarter-measures for 20 years, with little to show for it. Medicare Advantage already offers private insurance options to one in four seniors, but this camel's nose hasn't led to a reconstruction of the larger Medicare tent. The same is true of health savings accounts in the 2003 prescription drug benefit, or the current Republican talking point that medical malpractice reform will somehow solve every problem in health care.

All of these are important but don't reach Medicare's core problem of government-controlled prices and regulation, and in any case Democrats always gut the reforms once they return to power. In retrospect, this play-it-safe strategy paved the way for ObamaCare.

The political forces unleashed by ObamaCare will grow unimpeded if Republicans now retreat from offering an alternative. Once the White House's efforts to limit costs by fiat fail—as they inevitably will—liberals will turn to even harsher controls. This future is already emerging in post-Mitt Romney Massachusetts, and also in Vermont, which wants to move to single government payer.

We wrote earlier this year that Republicans would get no objection from us if they postponed Medicare reform until they had a GOP President, but the House went ahead anyway. Far be it from us to criticize politicians for having too much courage. But having committed themselves, Republicans will appear (and will be) feckless if they abandon reform only weeks after voting for it. Trying to change entitlements can be agony, but it is fatal to try and fail. The voters will conclude the critics were right.

Mr. Gingrich has done great harm to his party and the cause of reform with his reckless criticism of Mr. Ryan, forfeiting any serious claim to be the GOP nominee. But equally as culpable are the self-styled conservative pundits who derided Republicans for dropping the reform mantle during the Bush years but now tremble that Mr. Ryan has gone too far.

The reality is that Medicare "as we know it" will change because it must. The issue is how it will change, and, leaving aside this or that detail, the only alternatives are Mr. Ryan's proposal to introduce market competition or Mr. Obama's plan for ever-tightening government controls on prices and care. Republicans who think they can dodge this choice are only guaranteeing that Mr. Obama will prevail.

24361  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: How it was done on: May 23, 2011, 07:11:07 AM
In January, the chief of the military's elite special-operations troops accepted an unusual invitation to visit Central Intelligence Agency headquarters. There, Adm. William McRaven was shown, for the first time, photos and maps indicating the whereabouts of the world's most wanted man.

Adm. McRaven—one of the first military officers to be brought into the CIA's latest hunt for Osama bin Laden—offered a blunt assessment: Taking bin Laden's compound would be reasonably straightforward. Dealing with Pakistan would be hard.

A Wall Street Journal reconstruction of the mission planning shows that this meeting helped define a profound new strategy in the U.S. war on terror, namely the use of secret, unilateral missions powered by a militarized spy operation. The strategy reflects newfound trust between two traditionally wary groups: America's spies, and its troops.

The bin Laden strike was the strategy's "proof of concept," says one U.S. official.

Last month's military strike deep inside Pakistan is already being used by U.S. officials as a negotiating tool—akin to, don't make us do that again—with countries including Pakistan thought to harbor other terrorists. Yemen and Somalia are also potential venues, officials said, if local-government cooperation were found to be lacking.

The new U.S. strategy has roots in a close relationship between CIA Director Leon Panetta and Adm. McRaven. In 2009, the two inked a secret agreement setting out rules for joint missions that provided a blueprint for dozens of operations in the Afghan war before the bin Laden raid.

The Long, Winding Path to Closer CIA and Military Cooperation
.The reshuffling of the Obama administration's national-security team will likely reinforce the relationship between the nation's spies and its top military teams. Mr. Panetta is expected to take over the Pentagon this summer armed with a strong understanding of its special-operations capabilities. Gen. David Petraeus, who is expected to become CIA director, made extensive use of special operations while running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This account of the planning of the raid on bin Laden's home in Abbottabad, Pakistan, is based on interviews with more than a dozen administration, intelligence, military and congressional officials.

Officials and experts say the new U.S. approach will likely be used only sparingly. "This is the kind of thing that, in the past, people who watched movies thought was possible, but no one in the government thought was possible," one official said.

View Full Image

Associated Press
CIA contractor Raymond Davis under arrest in Pakistan in January.
.Growing Closer: Spy, Military Ties Aided bin Laden Raid
2004 CIA learns the nom de guerre
of one of Osama bin Laden's trusted couriers.

2007 CIA learns the courier's real name.

2009 CIA and special-forces commanders ink a secret deal to conduct joint operations.

May 2009 CIA briefs President Obama on bin Laden.

Aug. 2010 Courier is tailed by the CIA to his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Sept. 2010 Mr. Panetta briefs Mr. Obama on the Abbottabad compound.

Dec. 2010 CIA station chief's cover is blown in Pakistan; U.S. blames Pakistan's intelligence agency

Dec. 2010 Mr. Panetta updates Mr. Obama, who calls for attack planning to begin.

Jan. 2011 CIA briefs Adm. William McRaven, commander of military special-operations troops.

Jan. 27 CIA contractor Raymond
Davis is charged in the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis.

Feb. 25 Select group of CIA and military officials meet to discuss intelligence and uncertainty regarding bin Laden's presence.

March 14 Obama decides on urgent unilateral action.

March 16 Mr. Davis is freed in Pakistan, easing the path to attack bin Laden's compound.

April 11 Mr. Panetta meets with Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha.

April 19 Mr. Obama gives provisional go-ahead for helicopter raid.

April 28 National Security Council meets to present final plans for helicopter raid to the president.

April 29 Mr. Obama authorizes raid on the Abbottabad compound.

April 30 Mr. Obama calls Adm. McRaven for final status check.

May 2 An early-morning raid kills bin Laden deep in Pakistani territory.

May 2 Adm. Mullen calls Pakistan
Army Chief Gen. Kayani to tell him of the raid.

May 7 Pakistan appears to out the CIA's station chief in Islamabad.

May 9 Pakistani Prime Minister
Yousuf Raza Gilani gives a speech saying Pakistan didn't harbor bin Laden and criticizing the U.S. strike on its territory.

May 16 Sen. John Kerry travels to Pakistan to smooth tensions.
.On Sunday, President Barack Obama said in an interview with the BBC that he would be willing to authorize similar strikes in the future. "Our job is to secure the United States," he said.

Salman Bashir, Pakistan's foreign secretary, said earlier this month in an interview that a repeat of the bin Laden raid could lead to "terrible consequences." Other officials have said Pakistan would curtail intelligence cooperation with the U.S. in the event of another such attack.

A more traditional approach would have been to simply bomb the bin Laden property using stealth aircraft, perhaps in cooperation with Pakistani troops. But from the outset, Mr. Obama decided to cut Pakistan out of the loop.

Top U.S. officials—in particular, Defense Secretary Robert Gates—worried how keeping Pakistan in the dark would affect relations with the country, a close but unstable ally. But mistrust of the Pakistani intelligence services drowned out that fear.

In the end, several hundred people in the U.S. government knew about the raid before it happened. But it didn't leak.

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Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Sen. John Kerry with Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik in May.
.U.S. officials took extraordinary measures to keep it quiet, often speaking in code to each other. One decided to refer to the operation as "the trip to Atlantic City" to avoid accidentally tipping off colleagues.

In August 2010, after 10 years of a largely fruitless hunt for the man who killed nearly 3,000 Americans, the CIA caught a break when it followed a courier believed to be working with bin Laden to a home in Abbottabad, about 40 miles from Pakistan's capital. After months of observation, the CIA eventually decided that one of the three families living there was most likely bin Laden's.

In December, Mr. Panetta laid out CIA's best intelligence case for Mr. Obama, which pointed to bin Laden's likely, but not certain, presence at the compound. The president asked Mr. Panetta to start devising a plan.

Mr. Panetta turned to Adm. McRaven. It was his visit to CIA headquarters in January, and his quick analysis of the pros and cons, that sealed the two men's partnership, officials say.

Their ties mark a significant historical shift. During the Cold War, there was little interaction between the Pentagon and CIA, as the military focused on planning for a land war with the Soviets and the spy community focused on analysis. That started changing in the 1990s, but only the past few years have the CIA and military begun working particularly closely.

Adm. McRaven assigned one senior special-operations officer—a Navy Captain from SEAL Team 6, one of the top special-forces units—to work on what was known as AC1, for Abbottabad Compound 1. The captain spent every day working with the CIA team in a remote, secure facility on the CIA's campus in Langley, Va.

On the evening of Feb. 25, several black Suburbans pulled up to the front of CIA's Langley headquarters. The meeting was planned after dusk, on a Friday, to reduce the chances anyone would notice. Around a large wooden table in the CIA director's windowless conference room, the Pentagon's chief counterterrorism adviser Michael Vickers, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. James Cartwright and senior CIA officials joined Adm. McRaven and Mr. Panetta. Over sandwiches and sodas, the CIA team walked through their intelligence assessment.

After the Raid in the Compound
While President Obama has decided not to release photographs of Osama bin Laden taken after the al Qaeda leader was shot to death by U.S. forces, other photos taken at the compound have been released by Reuters.

View Slideshow
.His Compound
Photos inside and out

View Slideshow

Anjum Naveed/Associated Press
U.S. forces found Osama bin Laden at this compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 40 miles outside Islamabad.
.America's Most Wanted
See a timeline about Osama bin Laden.

View Interactive
.More photos and interactive graphics
.In the middle of the conference table sat a scale model of the compound. Measuring four feet by four feet, it was built by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency based on satellite photos. It was accurate down to every tree.

Analysts told the group they had high confidence that a "high-value" terrorist target was living there. They said there was "a strong probability" it was bin Laden.

The planners reviewed the options they had developed. The first was a bombing strike with a B-2 stealth bomber that would destroy the compound and any tunnels under it. The second was a helicopter raid with U.S. special operations, which immediately evoked visions of "Black Hawk Down," the disastrous Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in which a U.S. helicopter was shot down and 19 U.S. soldiers killed.

The third option was to offer the Pakistanis an opportunity to assist in the raid, perhaps by forming a cordon around the compound to ensure U.S. forces could carry out the operation without obstruction.

Kicking planning into higher gear, the president reviewed these options at a March 14 meeting of the National Security Council. Among his first decisions was to scotch the idea of gathering more intelligence to make sure they had found bin Laden. The potential gain was outweighed by the risk of being exposed.

Mr. Obama also rejected a joint Pakistani operation, officials say. There was no serious consideration of the prospect, said one administration official, given the desire for secrecy.

Weighing on the minds of several officials was the fate of a CIA contractor, Raymond Davis, being held in a Lahore jail after having shot two Pakistanis in disputed circumstances. Mr. Panetta, pressing hard for his release, worried Mr. Davis might be killed if the U.S. couldn't spring him before the bin Laden raid.

The B-2 plan had many supporters, particularly among military brass. A bombing would provide certainty that the compound's residents would be killed, and it posed less risk to U.S. personnel. At the time, Mr. Gates, the defense secretary, was skeptical of the intelligence case that bin Laden was at the compound.

At the end of the meeting, officials believed Mr. Obama favored the bombing raid, too. Gen. Cartwright asked two Air Force officers to flesh out that proposal.

They immediately faced a challenge. CIA analysts couldn't tell if there was a tunnel network under the compound. Planners had to presume it existed, which meant the B-2 bombers would have to drop a large amount of ordinance. But a bombing raid of that magnitude would likely kill innocent neighbors in nearby homes.

Another other option would use less powerful ordinance, sparing the neighbors. But any tunnels would be spared, too.

Gen. Cartwright made no recommendations. But the team's PowerPoint presentation, created just after the meeting with the president, laid out plainly the disadvantages of the larger bombing run. It showed another house besides bin Laden's clearly in the blast radius and estimated that up to a dozen civilians could be killed. The ability to recover evidence of bin Laden's death was also minimal—meaning the U.S. wouldn't even be able to prove why they violated Pakistani airspace.

By the time the National Security Council gathered again March 29, the president had grown wary of the bombing-raid option. "He put that plan on ice," a U.S. official said.

Instead, Mr. Obama turned to Adm. McRaven to further develop the idea of a helicopter raid. Adm. McRaven assembled a team drawing from Red Squadron, one of four that make up SEAL Team 6. Red Squadron was coming home from Afghanistan and could be redirected with little notice inside the military.

The team had experience with cross-border operations from Afghanistan into Pakistan, and had language skills that would come in handy as well. The team performed two rehearsals at a location inside the U.S.

Planners ran through the what-ifs: What if bin Laden surrendered? (He likely would be held near Bagram Air Force base, a senior military official said.) What if U.S. forces were discovered by the Pakistanis in the middle of the raid? (A senior U.S. official would call Pakistan's chief military officer and try to talk his way out of it.)

The U.S. was pretty sure it could get in and out without alerting the Pakistanis. Officials say the choppers used in the raid were designed to be less visible to radar and, possibly, to make them quieter.

In addition, because the U.S. helped equip and train Pakistan's military, it had intimate knowledge of the country's capabilities—from the sensitivity of the radar systems deployed along the Afghan border to the level of alert for Pakistani forces in and around Islamabad and Abbottabad.

If Pakistan scrambled F-16s to investigate, the U.S. knew how long it would take the planes to reach the area, officials said. The U.S. supplies F-16s to Pakistan on the condition they are kept at a Pakistani military base with 24/7 U.S. security surveillance, according to diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

On April 11, Mr. Panetta had a high-stakes meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha. Ties between the U.S. and Pakistan were already chilly, partly due to the spat over Mr. Davis, the CIA contractor jailed in Lahore. But Mr. Davis had since been freed, and the high-profile event at Langley was intended to improve ties between the nations.

At the event, Gen. Pasha asked Mr. Panetta to be more forthcoming about what his agency was doing inside Pakistan. Gen. Pasha also voiced frustration that the CIA was operating in his country behind his back—not knowing, of course, of the planning for the bin Laden attack.

Mr. Pasha has said the meeting involved a shouting match; American officials say that didn't happen. Mr. Panetta promised to review Gen. Pasha's concerns, according to U.S. officials. His goal was to try to improve ties so the bin Laden takedown didn't occur when relations were at rock bottom.

When the National Security Council met again eight days later. Mr. Obama gave a provisional go-ahead for the helicopter raid. But he worried the plan for managing the Pakistanis was too flimsy.

The U.S. had little faith that, if U.S. forces were captured by the Pakistanis, they would be easily returned home. Given how difficult it had been to resolve the case of Mr. Davis—which took more than two months of heated negotiations—one U.S. official said: "How could we get them to uphold an incursion 128 miles into their airspace?"

Mr. Obama directed Adm. McRaven to develop a stronger U.S. escape plan. The team would be equipped to fight its way out and would have two helicopters on stand-by in case of an emergency.

On April 28, a few days before the attack on bin Laden's compound, Mr. Obama held a public event in the East Room of the White House to unveil his new national-security team. From there, Messrs. Obama and Panetta went to the Situation Room, where Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained the final plan to the National Security Council.

Only at that meeting did Mr. Gates come around to fully endorsing the operation, because of his skepticism of the intelligence indicating bin Laden was there.

Mr. Obama told his advisers he wanted to speak directly with Adm. McRaven before the raid was launched. The admiral was in Afghanistan preparing his strike team.

That call took place on Saturday afternoon, Washington time, over a secure phone line. Mr. Obama asked Adm. McRaven for an update on final preparations. Mr. Obama also asked the admiral if had learned anything since arriving in Afghanistan that caused him to alter his confidence in the mission.

Adm. McRaven told Mr. Obama the team was ready, and that his assessment remained unchanged.

24362  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Note the humor: This POTH report is filed from El Mirage , , , on: May 23, 2011, 06:52:49 AM

EL MIRAGE, Ariz. — The nation’s biggest banks and mortgage lenders have steadily amassed real estate empires, acquiring a glut of foreclosed homes that threatens to deepen the housing slump and create a further drag on the economic recovery.

All told, they own more than 872,000 homes as a result of the groundswell in foreclosures, almost twice as many as when the financial crisis began in 2007, according to RealtyTrac, a real estate data provider. In addition, they are in the process of foreclosing on an additional one million homes and are poised to take possession of several million more in the years ahead.
Five years after the housing market started teetering, economists now worry that the rise in lender-owned homes could create another vicious circle, in which the growing inventory of distressed property further depresses home values and leads to even more distressed sales. With the spring home-selling season under way, real estate prices have been declining across the country in recent months.

“It remains a heavy weight on the banking system,” said Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. “Housing prices are falling, and they are going to fall some more.”

Over all, economists project that it would take about three years for lenders to sell their backlog of foreclosed homes. As a result, home values nationally could fall 5 percent by the end of 2011, according to Moody’s, and rise only modestly over the following year. Regions that were hardest hit by the housing collapse and recession could take even longer to recover — dealing yet another blow to a still-struggling economy.

Although sales have picked up a bit in the last few weeks, banks and other lenders remain overwhelmed by the wave of foreclosures. In Atlanta, lenders are repossessing eight homes for each distressed home they sell, according to March data from RealtyTrac. In Minneapolis, they are bringing in at least six foreclosed homes for each they sell, and in once-hot markets like Chicago and Miami, the ratio still hovers close to two to one.

Before the housing implosion, the inflow and outflow figures were typically one-to-one.

The reasons for the backlog include inadequate staffs and delays imposed by the lenders because of investigations into foreclosure practices. The pileup could lead to $40 billion in additional losses for banks and other lenders as they sell houses at steep discounts over the next two years, according to Trepp, a real estate research firm.

“These shops are under siege; it’s just a tsunami of stuff coming in,” said Taj Bindra, who oversaw Washington Mutual’s servicing unit from 2004 to 2006 and now advises financial institutions on risk management. “Lenders have a strong incentive to clear out inventory in a controlled and timely manner, but if you had problems on the front end of the foreclosure process, it should be no surprise you are having problems on the back end.”

A drive through the sprawling subdivisions outside Phoenix shows the ravages of the real estate collapse. Here in this working-class neighborhood of El Mirage, northwest of Phoenix, rows of small stucco homes sprouted up during the boom. Now block after block is pockmarked by properties with overgrown shrubs, weeds and foreclosure notices tacked to the doors. About 116 lender-owned homes are on the market or under contract in El Mirage, according to local real estate listings.

But that’s just a small fraction of what is to come. An additional 491 houses are either sitting in the lenders’ inventory or are in the foreclosure process. On average, homes in El Mirage sell for $65,300, down 75 percent from the height of the boom in July 2006, according to the Cromford Report, a Phoenix-area real estate data provider. Real estate agents and market analysts say those ultra-cheap prices have recently started attracting first-time buyers as well as investors looking for several properties at once.


Page 2 of 2)

Lenders have also been more willing to let distressed borrowers sidestep foreclosure by selling homes for a loss. That has accelerated the pace of sales in the area and even caused prices to slowly rise in the last two months, but realty agents worry about all the distressed homes that are coming down the pike.

“My biggest fear right now is that the supply has been artificially restricted,” said Jayson Meyerovitz, a local broker. “They can’t just sit there forever. If so many houses hit the market, what is going to happen then?”
The major lenders say they are not deliberately holding back any foreclosed homes. They say that a long sales process can stigmatize a property and ratchet up maintenance and other costs. But they also do not want to unload properties in a fire sale.

“If we are out there undercutting prices, we are contributing to the downward spiral in market values,” said Eric Will, who oversees distressed home sales for Freddie Mac. “We want to make sure we are helping stabilize communities.”

The biggest reason for the backlog is that it takes longer to sell foreclosed homes, currently an average of 176 days — and that’s after the 400 days it takes for lenders to foreclose. After drawing government scrutiny over improper foreclosures practices last fall, many big lenders have slowed their operations in order to check the paperwork, and in two dozen or so states they halted them for months.

Conscious of their image, many lenders have recently started telling real estate agents to be more lenient to renters who happen to live in a foreclosed home and give them extra time to move out before changing the locks.

“Wells Fargo has sent me back knocking on doors two or three times, offering to give renters money if they cooperate with us,” said Claude A. Worrell, a longtime real estate agent from Minneapolis who specializes in selling bank-owned property. “It’s a lot different than it used to be.”

Realty agents and buyers say the lenders are simply overwhelmed. Just as lenders were ill-prepared to handle the flood of foreclosures, they do not have the staff and infrastructure to manage and sell this much property.

Most of the major lenders outsourced almost every part of the process, be it sales or repairs. Some agents complain that lender-owned home listings are routinely out of date, that properties are overpriced by as much as 10 percent, and that lenders take days or longer to accept an offer.

The silver lining for home lenders, however, is that the number of new foreclosures and recent borrowers falling behind on their payments by three months or longer is shrinking.

“If they are able to manage through the next 12 to 18 months,” said Mr. Zandi, the Moody’s Analytics economist, “they will be in really good shape.”
24363  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 23, 2011, 06:42:14 AM
A momentary tangent:

"Just because someone is wrong about some things doesn't make him wrong about everything."

Certainly this is true, but I for one prefer to note it when there are notorious aspects to someone I quote.

End of tangent. 

Carry on.
24364  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sam Adams, 1775 on: May 23, 2011, 06:35:06 AM

"No people will tamely surrender their liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffusd and virtue is preservd. On the contrary, when people are universally ignorant, and debauchd in their manners, they will sink under their own weight without the aid of foreign Invaders." --Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, 1775

24365  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 23, 2011, 06:07:55 AM
A bit of a tangent here, I just learned this about Gene Simmons:

Chaim Witz (later Gene Simmons) was born in Tirat Carmel, Haifa, Israel in 1949. The family emigrated to Jackson Heights, Queens in New York City when he was eight years old.[2] His mother Flóra Klein ( was born in Jánd, Hungary.[3]). Florence and her brother, Larry Klein, were the only members of the family to survive the Holocaust. His father, Feri Witz, also Hungarian-born remained in Israel. Simmons says the family was "dirt poor," scraping by on bread and milk.[4] In the United States, Simmons changed his name to Eugene Klein (later Gene Klein), adopting his mother's maiden name. He attended Yeshiva in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as a child from 7 in the morning up to 9:30 at night. [5]

Political views

While a self-described social liberal,[12] Simmons was a supporter of the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration.[13] He supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, writing on his website: "I'm ashamed to be surrounded by people calling themselves liberal who are, in my opinion, spitting on the graves of brave American soldiers who gave their life to fight a war that wasn't a country they've never been to... simply to liberate the people there in".[14] In a follow-up, Simmons explained his position and wrote about his love and support for the United States: "I wasn't born here. But I have a love for this country and its people that knows no bounds. I will forever be grateful to America for going into World War II, when it had nothing to gain, in a country that was far away... and rescued my mother from the Nazi German concentration camps. She is alive and I am alive because of America. And, if you have a problem with America, you have a problem with me".[14]

During the 2006 Lebanon War between Israel and Lebanon, Simmons sent a televised message of support (in both English and Hebrew) to an Israeli soldier seriously wounded in fighting in Lebanon, calling him his "hero."[15]

In 2010, Simmons said he regretted voting for Barack Obama and criticized the 2009 health care reforms.[16]

During his visit to Israel in 2011, he stated that the artists refusing to perform in Israel for political reasons are "stupid," referring to artists who canceled planned concerts in Israel.[17] [18]

24366  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 22, 2011, 07:50:16 PM
24367  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Bin Laden dead on: May 22, 2011, 12:29:17 PM
If this piece is true, then note the implications for the assertions of enhanced interrogation yielding the leads that led to the OBL kill.
24368  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 22, 2011, 12:27:48 PM
"Morally, I think as does most of the world think Israel's refusal to even discuss the "right of return" to be wrong.  However, perhaps for their own survival, they have no choice.  That doesn't make it morally right. "

JDN, I am sorry, but this is gibberish.  It is precisely the right to survival makes it morally right!!!

"And therefore Israel is losing friends in Europe and elsewhere."

Oh horsefeathers!  Where is the outrage at Saudi Arabia (and and and )for not allowing any of the rights enjoyed by Israeli Arabs?

24369  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ME Operational Codes on: May 22, 2011, 12:23:43 PM

Moving GM's post here from the Israel thread:

May 21, 2011
The Middle East Operational Codes: Five Keys to Understanding
 By David Bukay


Understanding the ME, as tumultuous, anarchist, and violent as it is, does not require complicated pundit analyses and convoluted explanations.  Rather, in light of last month's uprisings, simplicity is the key, with five variables serving as instrumental in understanding the ME operational code.

The first key to understanding is that the Middle Eastern state, with its political institutions being a Western import, is weak and ineffective compared to the indigenous Middle Eastern social institutions: the clan, the tribe, and the religious community.  The Arab states have emerged under European imperialistic rule, and their borders have been delineated without political, territorial, or functional logic.  All Arab states comprise violent, hostile tribes and rival religious communities that stick together only by coercion from an oppressive authoritarian regime.  In the absence of institutional legitimacy and participatory systems, order and stability are overturned by political decay and antagonistic politics.  This means that operationally, when there is a crisis and the authority of the patrimonial leader weakens, the tendency is to revert to the secure, well-established frameworks of the tribe, the clan, or the religious community, releasing ancient rivalries that lead to chaotic violence.

The second key to understanding is that Middle Eastern leaders are not secure in their offices.  Threatened by rivals from the political military elite and by Islamist movements (which are the only organized opposition groups), the leaders of authoritarian regimes cannot rule unless they are strong, violent, and patrimonial.  This also means that democracy, as a consensual system with developmental stages, cannot emerge or exist.  Therefore, when the authority of a ME regime disintegrates, the outcome is not democracy, but rather anarchy as the most likely replacement.

The third key to understanding, and perhaps the most important one, is the central role of the army, being the regime's principal power and political supporter.  One can safely adopt the rule: "You tell me what the attitude of the army is vis-à-vis the regime, and I will tell you the longevity and survivability of the regime in power."  This is exactly what is happening in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria.  This is exactly what will determine the fate of other regimes.  Indeed, the Arab military in politics holds the highest importance in the ME.

The fourth key to understanding is that the inhabitants -- the masses -- have never been a sovereign electing people; historically, they have been without influence in the political realm and the decision-making processes.  In the Arab world, there is no social contract based on trust and cooperation, as the foundation of Arab life is suspicion of the other and hatred of the foreigner.  The only thing that binds the population together is fear of and intimidation by the authoritarian ruler.  That is why the role of the ruler is so crucially important; one can say that it is almost demanded of him to conduct a reign of terror and intimidation on the population.  Otherwise, chaos and anarchy prevail.  Thus, when the barrier of fear is broken, as is happening now, the authority of the regime disintegrates.  The central state system is weakened, and the political process turns to the street.

The fifth key to understanding is that the alternative to the current regimes in power are other leaders coming from the same political elite or Islamic groups coming from the opposition.  Both are patrimonial, oppressive, and undemocratic.  It must be clearly stated that aside from anarchy, one of the most likely alternatives to the ME regimes is not democracy, but Islamism.  The Islamic phenomenon is not defensive and passive; it is an aggressive onslaught against modernism and secularism led by urban, educated, secular middle-class groups.  Western permissiveness and materialism are the forces leading to these groups' return to Islam and motivating them to bring the Islamic religion back to a hegemony (al-Islam Huwa al-Hall al-Waheed).

Examining these keys through a macro-level analysis enables us to understand the ME operational codes.  Thomas Friedman has praised the Arab revolution and accused Israel of being detached from the new realities (NYT, February, 2, 8, and 14, 2011).  In his delusions, Friedman has envisioned a revolution of the Facebook generation that leads to democracy and the denial of Islamism.  Likewise, other sources in Western media and many experts have celebrated the "emergence of the New ME," while in fact the opposite situation is the reality.  Now these same sources are lamenting that the democratic revolution went wrong and that all that remains is a violent power struggle.

We are witnessing the same old chaotic, anarchic ME, and the Arab people's uprisings will not lead to democracies and consensual regimes.  In fact, there is a high probability that the outcome of the uprisings will be either more oppressive authoritarian regimes and patrimonial leadership from the military or the emergence of Islamist groups under the Shari'ah.  The latter outcome would ultimately lead to the victory of either Iran and the Shiite version of Islam or al-Qaeda and the Salafi-Sunni version of Islam.

Regarding the ME, the next decade is more likely to witness the emergence of the Sunni Caliphate or the Shiite Imamate struggling for hegemony.  Both outcomes signal an imminent threat to the security of the West.  However, instead of concentrating on understanding the operational code of the ME, and instead of trying to maintain the status quo, Western leaders prefer to operate through delusional wishful-thinking policies.  This pattern is evidenced by Westerners' unwavering focus on the well-used scapegoat, the perhaps unsolvable "Palestinian question."  It is as if regional and international leaders are desperately trying to find comfort in this one easily characterized issue.

There are more than twenty-five current civil wars going on around the world; there are a billion poor, miserable and hungry people who earn a dollar a day; there are deep food crises and water shortages; there are huge unresolved political issues and hosts of nations without the opportunity to form an independent state (James Minahan, Nations without States, Westport, CT, 1996).  But the international community prefers to concentrate on the Palestinian issue.  Indeed, we can draw a direct line between the world's desperation to solve real problems and its eagerness to deliberately concentrate on the Palestine situation.

One can only marvel at how blessed the Palestinians are to have everybody dealing with their issue, as if they are the only orphans of the world.  One can only wonder how much political and financial support they receive at the expense of all those really in need.  One can only be amazed at the stupidity of the false belief that all other regional issues will disappear, will be gone with the wind, if only the Palestinian issue is solved.

The hard truth is that rather than heralding the dawn of democracy and prosperity, this misguided belief and the misunderstanding of the ME operational code are more likely the harbinger of the dark winter of Islam -- a catastrophic set of circumstances that may well lead to the demise of U.S. influence, the destruction of Israel, and general regional chaos besides.
24370  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ratted out? on: May 22, 2011, 12:13:34 PM

Did a Pakistani official sell info to CIA to settle in the West?

Wajid Ali Syed
Saturday, May 14, 2011


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WASHINGTON: Did a Pakistani intelligence official sell the information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden to the US last year to get millions of dollars and relocate to a western country with a new non-Pakistani passport? All those seeking to know the full facts of the Osama episode are looking for an answer to this question.

President Barack Obama would not have agreed to go forward with the mission to kill Osama bin Laden had it not been for intense pressure from CIA Director Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, administration sources have revealed. The advocates of the mission had “reached a boiling point”, because President Obama, hesitated for months and kept delaying the final approval. This delay was because of a close aide who suggested that this could damage him politically.

According to these sources, Administration officials were frustrated with the president’s indecisiveness and his orders not to carry out the mission in February. President Obama was “dragged kicking and screaming” to give the green light for the operation in the last week of April. By then, the US military and other high-level officials were so determined to launch the operation that they did not want to give the president the opportunity to delay or to call it off. President Obama reluctantly approved to go forward with the operation only if the CIA head agreed to take all the blame in case the mission failed. The planning for the operation underscores the deep divisions in the Obama administration, with President Obama and a close aide, Valerie Jarrett, procrastinating on making a decision and high-ranking officials and members of the cabinet pressing him to go ahead on the other. The chief architect of the plan to “take bin Laden out” was CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, US Commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper were part of the group that supported Panetta.

When asked to comment, the White House referred the question to the National Security Council. The NSC said the Department of Defence was fielding such inquiries. The Defence Department’s press office contact Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Robbins responded with this comment: “The Department of Defense is not giving out any further operational details of the mission.”

However, according to an informed official, the story that a courier helped track bin Laden is just a cover. The CIA actually learned of bin Laden’s whereabouts in August of 2010, when an informant associated with Pakistani intelligence walked into a US Embassy and claimed that bin Laden was living in a house in Abbottabad. The official, however, would not disclose whether the Embassy was located in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

After confirming that the information was somewhat accurate, the CIA set up a safe house in Abbottabad in September last year to monitor bin Laden’s compound.

As the intelligence collection proceeded, the CIA demanded that Pakistan come clean with what they knew about bin Laden, claims the official. In December of 2010, the CIA station chief’s identity was made public in the Pakistani press. The intelligence official says that the station chief’s cover was blown to retaliate against the CIA for pressing Pakistani intelligence for information about bin Laden. At the time, the speculation was that the move was in response to a civil suit accusing ISI officials of being involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Once it was clear that the information from the walk-in source was accurate, Panetta set up a reporting chain from the CIA’s Pakistan station direct to him, a highly unusual move that involved bypassing the normal official channels.

Again the US president was not informed of this progress. Meanwhile, the intelligence operatives learned that key people from an Islamic country friendly to Pakistan were sending Pakistan money to keep Osama out of sight and under virtual house arrest, claims the official.

By January of 2011 there was a high degree of certainty that bin Laden was in the house. In early February, Panetta suggested that the US should move on bin Laden. But Gates and Petraeus were determined to avoid the “boots on the ground” strategy at all costs. CIA chief Panetta was in favour of an invasion. But President Obama balked on the advice of Valerie Jarrett, a close aide.

The source maintains that Jarrett’s objection to the proposal was based on the worry that the mission could fail, further eroding Obama’s approval ratings and the strong likelihood that it would be interpreted as yet another act of aggression against the Muslims. The source explained that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played a crucial role to pressure President Obama to take action. In the last week of April, she met with White House Chief of Staff William Daley to request a meeting with the president to secure approval for the mission. Within hours, Daley called to say that Valerie Jarrett refused to allow the president to give that approval.

However, Clinton made sure that the vice president was made aware of the situation. The president was later approached by Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta and pressurised to order the mission.

Panetta was directing the operation with both his CIA operatives and the military. The plan was not to capture but to kill bin Laden on sight. Contrary to the news reports, it was Panetta and not President Obama who took the lead on coordinating the details of the mission.

According to the source, the White House staff has compromised the identity of the unit that carried out the mission. The source said the claim that the raid yielded a “treasure trove” of information about al-Qaeda is also exaggerated. Obama meanwhile is “milking” the mission as a tactic to better his chances of re-election in 2012. The concern in intelligence circles is that in his zeal to boost his approval ratings, the president is harming relations with Pakistan.

The writer is currently a freelance journalist based in Washington who has worked for foreign and Pakistani newspapers and TV channels.
24371  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 22, 2011, 11:41:21 AM
Good questions GM.

I couldn't keep track of the numbers of refugees claimed to the point where I could calculate the total number claimed (and note that it is a claim, not an established fact) but I wonder at the remarkable absence of any mention of all the hundreds of thousands (700,000?) of Jewish refugees from Arab lands to Israel.  Where is there "right of return"?  Where is the outcry for them to be paid for what they had to abandon?

As for the "reasonableness" of BO's speech , , ,

"Here are the facts we all must confront. First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This will make it harder and harder - without a peace deal - to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state."


"Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace."


"And third, a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region. A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders."

True, but lets look at this more clearly.  It is exactly right to question whether the peace with Egypt is going to last.  It is exactly right to question whether Hamas, or the majority that elected it in Gaza and may well may elect it in the West Bank next year will respect a deal made by Abbas. 

"Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained."

Although not stated clearly, it appears that the reference to "millions of Arab citizens" includes other Arabs in the area-- or perhaps throughout the entire middle east?-- not just the Palestinians.  So, exactly with whom is Obama saying Israel must come to terms?  And much more importantly, the entire world has seen that it is possible for peace to be sustained-- look at the deal with Egypt!!! So why the lack of intellectual honesty in saying so???

"Just as the context has changed in the Middle East, so too has it been changing in the international community over the last several years. There is a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process - or the absence of one. Not just in the Arab World, but in Latin America, in Europe, and in Asia. That impatience is growing, and is already manifesting itself in capitols around the world." 

Ummm , , , no, this is not right at all.   The so-called "world community" is perfectly content to trade "Jews for Oil"-- and in the case of demographically imploding Europe, it also is a matter of cravenly seeking to placate the Arabs within its midst.   The Palestinians have elected Hamas, which is dedicated to wiping out the Jews.  Calling any of this "impatience with the peace process" is an Orwellian joke.

"These are the facts. I firmly believe, and repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict. No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the UN or in any international forum. Because Israel's legitimacy is not a matter for debate."

And what of candidate Obama's repeated assertions about the status of Jerusalem, now mere dust in the wind-- along with the written commitments of the previous administration.  Does not the written word of the US require continuity across administrations?  Or are we to be held to a lower standard than the one that must be required of a Palestinian nation if/when an agreement is reached?

"Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner - which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist, and we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric."

No doubt everyone quakes in fear at being held accountable by President Obama, , , Furthermore, it is not enough for Israel to negotiate only with those who recognize its right to exist, it is also a matter of those who do recognize its right to exist controlling those who don't!  And what happens if a majority no longer favors peace?  Does a majority favor peace now?  If so, why is Hamas in power in Gaza?

"But the march to isolate Israel internationally - and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations - will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative."


"For us to have leverage with the Palestinians, with the Arab States, and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success."

This is utter gibberish.  The Palestinians can have peace any time they want.  Recognize Israel's right to exist and forget the right of return-- which is synonymous with the destruction of Israel.  Egypt recognized this, and got Sinai back.  This option has been available for decades now and continues to be available.

"So, in advance of a five day trip to Europe in which the Middle East will be a topic of acute interest, I chose to speak about what peace will require."

No, you lying sack of excrement, you did it because Netanyahu was coming to speak to the US Congress.

Then  there is the matter of a "contiguous" Palestine-- does this mean that Gaza and the West Bank are going to become connected?!?!?!?

24372  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: May 22, 2011, 10:58:52 AM
Shawn Zirger has chosen his name.  It is "C-Wandering Dog".
24373  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Not too much of this in Hollywood any more , , , on: May 22, 2011, 09:30:01 AM
24374  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: The promise of the Arab uprisings on: May 22, 2011, 08:52:28 AM
BEIRUT, Lebanon — The revolutions and revolts in the Arab world, playing out over just a few months across two continents, have proved so inspirational to so many because they offer a new sense of national identity built on the idea of citizenship.

But in the past weeks, the specter of divisions — religion in Egypt, fundamentalism in Tunisia, sect in Syria and Bahrain, clan in Libya — has threatened uprisings that once seemed to promise to resolve questions that have vexed the Arab world since the colonialism era.

From the fetid alleys of Imbaba, the Cairo neighborhood where Muslims and Christians have fought street battles, to the Syrian countryside, where a particularly deadly crackdown has raised fears of sectarian score-settling, the question of identity may help determine whether the Arab Spring flowers or withers. Can the revolts forge alternative ways to cope with the Arab world’s variety of clans, sects, ethnicities and religions?

The old examples have been largely of failure: the rule of strongmen in Egypt, Syria, Libya and Yemen; a fragile equilibrium of fractious communities in Lebanon and Iraq; the repressive paternalism of the Persian Gulf, where oil revenues are used to buy loyalty.

“I think the revolutions in a way, in a distant way, are hoping to retrieve” this sense of national identity, said Sadiq al-Azm, a prominent Syrian intellectual living in Beirut.

“The costs otherwise would be disintegration, strife and civil war,” Mr. Azm said. “And this was very clear in Iraq.”

In an arc of revolts and revolution, that idea of a broader citizenship is being tested as the enforced silence of repression gives way to the cacophony of diversity. Security and stability were the justification that strongmen in the Arab world offered for repression, often with the sanction of the United States; the essence of the protests in the Arab Spring is that people can imagine an alternative.

But even activists admit that the region so far has no model that enshrines diversity and tolerance without breaking down along more divisive identities.

In Tunisia, a relatively homogenous country with a well-educated population, fault lines have emerged between the secular-minded coasts and the more religious and traditional inland.

The tensions shook the nascent revolution there this month when a former interim interior minister, Farhat Rajhi, suggested in an online interview that the coastal elite, long dominant in the government, would never accept an electoral victory by Tunisia’s Islamist party, Ennahda, which draws most of its support inland.

“Politics was in the hands of the people of the coast since the start of Tunisia,” Mr. Rajhi said. “If the situation is reversed now, they are not ready to give up ruling.” He warned that Tunisian officials from the old government were preparing a military coup if the Islamists won elections in July. “If Ennahda rules, there will be a military regime.”

In response, protesters poured back out into the streets of Tunis for four days of demonstrations calling for a new revolution. The police beat them back with batons and tear gas, arrested more than 200 protesters and imposed a curfew on the city.

In Cairo, the sense of national identity that surged at the moment of revolution — when hundreds of thousands of people of all faiths celebrated in Tahrir Square with chants of “Hold your head high, you are an Egyptian”— has given way to a week of religious violence pitting the Coptic Christian minority against their Muslim neighbors, reflecting long-smoldering tensions that an authoritarian state may have muted, or let fester.

At a rally this month in Tahrir Square to call for unity, Coptic Christians were conspicuously absent, thousands of them gathering nearby for a rally of their own. And even among some Muslims at the unity rally, suspicions were pronounced.


Page 2 of 2)

“As Muslims, our sheiks are always telling us to be good to Christians, but we don’t think that is happening on the other side,” said Ibrahim Sakr, 56, a chemistry professor, who asserted that Copts, who make up about 10 percent of the population, still consider themselves “the original” Egyptians because their presence predates Islam.

In Libya, supporters of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi acknowledge that his government banks on fears of clan rivalries and possible partition to stay in power in a country with deep regional differences.

Officials say that the large extended clans of the west that contribute most of the soldiers to Colonel Qaddafi’s forces will never accept any revolution arising from the east, no matter what promises the rebels make about universal citizenship in a democratic Libya with its capital still in the western city of Tripoli.

The rebels say the revolution can forge a new identity.

“Qaddafi looks at Libya as west and east and north and south,” said Jadella Shalwee, a Libyan from Tobruk who visited Tahrir Square last weekend in a pilgrimage of sorts. “But this revolt has canceled all that. This is about a new beginning,” he said, contending that Colonel Qaddafi’s only supporters were “his cousins and his family.”

“Fear” is what Gamal Abdel Gawad, the director of the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, called it — the way that autocrats win support because people “are even more scared of their fellow citizens.”

Nowhere is that perhaps truer than in Syria, with a sweeping revolt against four decades of rule by one family and a worsening of tensions among a Sunni Muslim majority and minorities of Christians and heterodox Muslims, the Alawites.

Mohsen, a young Alawite in Syria, recounted a slogan that he believes, rightly or not, was chanted at some of the protests there: “Christians to Beirut and the Alawites to the coffin.”

“Every week that passes,” he lamented, speaking by telephone from Damascus, the Syrian capital, “the worse the sectarian feelings get.”

The example of Iraq comes up often in conversations in Damascus, as does the civil war in Lebanon. The departure of Jews, who once formed a vibrant community in Syria, remains part of the collective memory, illustrating the tenuousness of diversity. Syria’s ostensibly secular government, having always relied on Alawite strength, denounces the prospect of sectarian differences while, its critics say, fanning the flames. The oft-voiced formula is, by now, familiar: after us, the deluge.

“My Alawite friends want me to support the regime, and they feel if it’s gone, our community will be finished,” said Mohsen, the young Alawite in Damascus, who asked that only his first name be used because he feared reprisal. “My Sunni friends want me to be against the regime, but I feel conflicted. We want freedom, but freedom with stability and security.”

That he used the mantra of years of Arab authoritarianism suggested that people still, in the words of one human rights activist, remain “hostage to the lack of possibilities” in states that, with few exceptions, have failed to come up with a sense of self that transcends the many divides.

“This started becoming a self-fulfilling myth,” said Mr. Azm, the Syrian intellectual.

“It was either our martial law or the martial law of the Islamists,” he added. “The third option was to divide the country into ethnicities, sects and so on.”

Despite a wave of repression, crackdown and civil war, hope and optimism still pervade the region, even in places like Syria, the setting of one of the most withering waves of violence. There, residents often speak of a wall of fear crumbling. Across the Arab world, there is a renewed sense of a collective destiny that echoes the headiest days of Arab nationalism in the 1950s and ’60s and perhaps even transcends it.

President Obama, in his speech on Thursday about the changes in the Arab world, spoke directly to that feeling. “Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else. But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and strategies of diversion will not work anymore.”

But no less pronounced are the old fears of zero-sum power, where one side wins and the other inevitably loses. From a Coptic Christian in Cairo to an Alawite farmer in Syria, discussions about the future are posed in terms of survival. Differences in Lebanon, a country that celebrates and laments the diversity of its 18 religious communities, are so pronounced that even soccer teams have a sectarian affiliation.

In Beirut, wrecked by a war over the country’s identity and so far sheltered from the gusts of change, activists have staged a small sit-in for two months to call for something different, in a plea that resonates across the Arab world.

The Square of Change, the protesters there have nicknamed it, and their demand is blunt: Citizenship that unites, not divides.

“We are not ‘we’ yet,” complained Tony Daoud, one of the activists. “What do we mean when we say ‘we’? ‘We’ as what? As a religion, as a sect, as human beings?”
24375  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law on: May 22, 2011, 08:42:37 AM
Woof All

At the moment there is a conversation going on at the Science, Culture, Humanities forum that may find of interest concerning the right to resist unlawful police entry.  Please see  Begin with the entry by "bigdog":

Indiana court strips citizens of right to resist unlawful police entry
« Reply #275 on: May 16, 2011, 07:29:21 PM »

24376  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-- Europe on: May 22, 2011, 08:19:24 AM
Visegrad: A New European Military Force
May 17, 2011 | 0859 GMT PRINT Text Resize:   

By George Friedman

With the Palestinians demonstrating and the International Monetary Fund in turmoil, it would seem odd to focus this week on something called the Visegrad Group. But this is not a frivolous choice. What the Visegrad Group decided to do last week will, I think, resonate for years, long after the alleged attempted rape by Dominique Strauss-Kahn is forgotten and long before the Israeli-Palestinian issue is resolved. The obscurity of the decision to most people outside the region should not be allowed to obscure its importance.

The region is Europe — more precisely, the states that had been dominated by the Soviet Union. The Visegrad Group, or V4, consists of four countries — Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary — and is named after two 14th century meetings held in Visegrad Castle in present-day Hungary of leaders of the medieval kingdoms of Poland, Hungary and Bohemia. The group was reconstituted in 1991 in post-Cold War Europe as the Visegrad Three (at that time, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were one). The goal was to create a regional framework after the fall of communism. This week the group took an interesting new turn.

(click here to enlarge image)
On May 12, the Visegrad Group announced the formation of a “battlegroup” under the command of Poland. The battlegroup would be in place by 2016 as an independent force and would not be part of NATO command. In addition, starting in 2013, the four countries would begin military exercises together under the auspices of the NATO Response Force.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the primary focus of all of the Visegrad nations had been membership in the European Union and NATO. Their evaluation of their strategic position was threefold. First, they felt that the Russian threat had declined if not dissipated following the fall of the Soviet Union. Second, they felt that their economic future was with the European Union. Third, they believed that membership in NATO, with strong U.S. involvement, would protect their strategic interests. Of late, their analysis has clearly been shifting.

First, Russia has changed dramatically since the Yeltsin years. It has increased its power in the former Soviet sphere of influence substantially, and in 2008 it carried out an effective campaign against Georgia. Since then it has also extended its influence in other former Soviet states. The Visegrad members’ underlying fear of Russia, built on powerful historical recollection, has become more intense. They are both the front line to the former Soviet Union and the countries that have the least confidence that the Cold War is simply an old memory.

Second, the infatuation with Europe, while not gone, has frayed. The ongoing economic crisis, now focused again on Greece, has raised two questions: whether Europe as an entity is viable and whether the reforms proposed to stabilize Europe represent a solution for them or primarily for the Germans. It is not, by any means, that they have given up the desire to be Europeans, nor that they have completely lost faith in the European Union as an institution and an idea. Nevertheless, it would be unreasonable to expect that these countries would not be uneasy about the direction that Europe was taking. If one wants evidence, look no further than the unease with which Warsaw and Prague are deflecting questions about the eventual date of their entry into the eurozone. Both are the strongest economies in Central Europe, and neither is enthusiastic about the euro.

Finally, there are severe questions as to whether NATO provides a genuine umbrella of security to the region and its members. The NATO Strategic Concept, which was drawn up in November 2010, generated substantial concern on two scores. First, there was the question of the degree of American commitment to the region, considering that the document sought to expand the alliance’s role in non-European theaters of operation. For example, the Americans pledged a total of one brigade to the defense of Poland in the event of a conflict, far below what Poland thought necessary to protect the North European Plain. Second, the general weakness of European militaries meant that, willingness aside, the ability of the Europeans to participate in defending the region was questionable. Certainly, events in Libya, where NATO had neither a singular political will nor the military participation of most of its members, had to raise doubts. It was not so much the wisdom of going to war but the inability to create a coherent strategy and deploy adequate resources that raised questions of whether NATO would be any more effective in protecting the Visegrad nations.

There is another consideration. Germany’s commitment to both NATO and the EU has been fraying. The Germans and the French split on the Libya question, with Germany finally conceding politically but unwilling to send forces. Libya might well be remembered less for the fate of Moammar Gadhafi than for the fact that this was the first significant strategic break between Germany and France in decades. German national strategy has been to remain closely aligned with France in order to create European solidarity and to avoid Franco-German tensions that had roiled Europe since 1871. This had been a centerpiece of German foreign policy, and it was suspended, at least temporarily.

The Germans obviously are struggling to shore up the European Union and questioning precisely how far they are prepared to go in doing so. There are strong political forces in Germany questioning the value of the EU to Germany, and with every new wave of financial crises requiring German money, that sentiment becomes stronger. In the meantime, German relations with Russia have become more important to Germany. Apart from German dependence on Russian energy, Germany has investment opportunities in Russia. The relationship with Russia is becoming more attractive to Germany at the same time that the relationship to NATO and the EU has become more problematic.

For all of the Visegrad countries, any sense of a growing German alienation from Europe and of a growing German-Russian economic relationship generates warning bells. Before the  Belarusian elections there was hope in Poland that pro-Western elements would defeat the least unreformed regime in the former Soviet Union. This didn’t happen. Moreover, pro-Western elements have done nothing to solidify in Moldova or break the now pro-Russian government in Ukraine. Uncertainty about European institutions and NATO, coupled with uncertainty about Germany’s attention, has caused a strategic reconsideration — not to abandon NATO or the EU, of course, nor to confront the Russians, but to prepare for all eventualities.

It is in this context that the decision to form a Visegradian battlegroup must be viewed. Such an independent force, a concept generated by the European Union as a European defense plan, has not generated much enthusiasm or been widely implemented. The only truly robust example of an effective battlegroup is the Nordic Battlegroup, but then that is not surprising. The Nordic countries share the same concerns as the Visegrad countries — the future course of Russian power, the cohesiveness of Europe and the commitment of the United States.

In the past, the Visegrad countries would have been loath to undertake anything that felt like a unilateral defense policy. Therefore, the decision to do this is significant in and of itself. It represents a sense of how these countries evaluate the status of NATO, the U.S. attention span, European coherence and Russian power. It is not the battlegroup itself that is significant but the strategic decision of these powers to form a sub-alliance, if you will, and begin taking responsibility for their own national security. It is not what they expected or wanted to do, but it is significant that they felt compelled to begin moving in this direction.

Just as significant is the willingness of Poland to lead this military formation and to take the lead in the grouping as a whole. Poland is the largest of these countries by far and in the least advantageous geographical position. The Poles are trapped between the Germans and the Russians. Historically, when Germany gets close to Russia, Poland tends to suffer. It is not at that extreme point yet, but the Poles do understand the possibilities. In July, the Poles will be assuming the EU presidency in one of the union’s six-month rotations. The Poles have made clear that one of their main priorities will be Europe’s military power. Obviously, little can happen in Europe in six months, but this clearly indicates where Poland’s focus is.

The militarization of the V4 runs counter to its original intent but is in keeping with the geopolitical trends in the region. Some will say this is over-reading on my part or an overreaction on the part of the V4, but it is neither. For the V4, the battlegroup is a modest response to emerging patterns in the region, which STRATFOR had outlined in its 2011 Annual Forecast. As for my reading, I regard the new patterns not as a minor diversion from the main pattern but as a definitive break in the patterns of the post-Cold War world. In my view, the post-Cold War world ended in 2008, with the financial crisis and the Russo-Georgian war. We are in a new era, as yet unnamed, and we are seeing the first breaks in the post-Cold War pattern.

I have argued in previous articles and books that there is a divergent interest between the European countries on the periphery of Russia and those farther west, particularly Germany. For the countries on the periphery, there is a perpetual sense of insecurity, generated not only by Russian power compared to their own but also by uncertainty as to whether the rest of Europe would be prepared to defend them in the event of Russian actions. The V4 and the other countries south of them are not as sanguine about Russian intentions as others farther away are. Perhaps they should be, but geopolitical realities drive consciousness and insecurity and distrust defines this region.

I had also argued that an alliance only of the four northernmost countries is insufficient. I used the concept “Intermarium,” which had first been raised after World War I by a Polish leader, Joseph Pilsudski, who understood that Germany and the Soviet Union would not be permanently weak and that Poland and the countries liberated from the Hapsburg Empire would have to be able to defend themselves and not have to rely on France or Britain.

Pilsudski proposed an alliance stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and encompassing the countries to the west of the Carpathians — Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. In some formulations, this would include Yugoslavia, Finland and the Baltics. The point was that Poland had to have allies, that no one could predict German and Soviet strength and intentions, and that the French and English were too far away to help. The only help Poland could have would be an alliance of geography — countries with no choice.

It follows from this that the logical evolution here is the extension of the Visegrad coalition. At the May 12 defense ministers’ meeting, there was discussion of inviting Ukraine to join in. Twenty or even 10 years ago, that would have been a viable option. Ukraine had room to maneuver. But the very thing that makes the V4 battlegroup necessary — Russian power — limits what Ukraine can do. The Russians are prepared to give Ukraine substantial freedom to maneuver, but that does not include a military alliance with the Visegrad countries.

An alliance with Ukraine would provide significant strategic depth. It is unlikely to happen. That means that the alliance must stretch south, to include Romania and Bulgaria. The low-level tension between Hungary and Romania over the status of Hungarians in Romania makes that difficult, but if the Hungarians can live with the Slovaks, they can live with the Romanians. Ultimately, the interesting question is whether Turkey can be persuaded to participate in this, but that is a question far removed from Turkish thinking now. History will have to evolve quite a bit for this to take place. For now, the question is Romania and Bulgaria.

But the decision of the V4 to even propose a battlegroup commanded by Poles is one of those small events that I think will be regarded as a significant turning point. However we might try to trivialize it and place it in a familiar context, it doesn’t fit. It represents a new level of concern over an evolving reality — the power of Russia, the weakness of Europe and the fragmentation of NATO. This is the last thing the Visegrad countries wanted to do, but they have now done the last thing they wanted to do. That is what is significant.

Events in the Middle East and Europe’s economy are significant and of immediate importance. However, sometimes it is necessary to recognize things that are not significant yet but will be in 10 years. I believe this is one of those events. It is a punctuation mark in European history.

24377  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: May 21, 2011, 08:29:01 PM
Not really grin  but he did score major points with GT when he guessed his age to be 55-60 cheesy  I was glad he got to see GT move a bit-- THAT caught his attention.
24378  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: May 21, 2011, 06:20:50 PM
Had a chance to visit a bit with Grand Tuhon Gaje this afternoon at his seminar in Long Beach.  Very nice to see him (and pick up a few pointers!) and introduce my son to him.
24379  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 21, 2011, 06:17:06 PM
"If the ISI/Army generals, keeper of the crown jewels lose power..Pak is in essence one step away from being denuked."

This seems quite pertinent!

Any thoughts on how to go about disempowering ISI/Army generals?
24380  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 21, 2011, 06:14:03 PM
OK, but not sure how that connects to the question presented , , ,
24381  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 21, 2011, 03:54:07 PM
Well Terry is relevant to making the point that it is not always known what the law is until after the fact, but still the question presented remains.
24382  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Kettlebells y Artes Marciales on: May 21, 2011, 01:42:14 PM
El clip tiene buenos ejemplos.

Jueves yo hacia KBs por la primera vez en bastante tiempo y ayer y hoy me duele un poco mis "hamstrings" (como se dice?) pero en buena manera.  Creo que es tiempo que yo empiece un ciclo de KBs.
24383  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Israel's former UN ambassador, Gold on: May 21, 2011, 01:06:10 PM
It's no secret that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to lobby the U.N. General Assembly this September for a resolution that will predetermine the results of any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on borders. He made clear in a New York Times op-ed this week that he will insist that member states recognize a Palestinian state on 1967 lines, meaning Israel's boundaries before the Six Day War.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
24384  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 21, 2011, 12:23:42 AM
I heard it isn't viable any more , , ,
24385  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: BO, Democracy and the ME on: May 21, 2011, 12:21:26 AM

Obama, Democracy and the Middle East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24386  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: May 20, 2011, 10:44:52 PM
Regarding race baiting of conservative blacks and sexism against conservative women:  Yes of course this happens-- but my sense of things is that the rubber band on this sort of excrement is about to snap back-- people are getting fed up with this crap and Bachman and Cain are ideally suited to be the tip of the spear on this IMHO.
24387  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 20, 2011, 04:45:50 PM
YA, in the past you have shared with me and I have posted here writings by Indian intel folks based around the idea of dissembling Pakistan altogether:  Pashtunistan (peeling the western half off from Afghanistan), Balochistan, settling border issues in favor of India, and destroying/taking Pak's nuke program. (Well maybe the last one is my idea  grin ) or something like that. 

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

When you think outside the box, what do you think?
24388  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bachman-Cain on: May 20, 2011, 04:39:08 PM
Based upon what I have seen and heard so far I like Michelle Bachman quite a bit.  I wish she had executive experience and a sense of time and depth dedicated to thinking about foreign affairs.  That said, I find her articulate, and respect what it takes to get a masters degree it tax law and what it takes to be a federal tax litigation attorney.  These things bespeak a not common level of intellectual rigor and an ability to think mathematically as well as a certain level of killer instinct-- which I mean in a good way.   The 5 children and 23 foster children partenting is quite an immunization shot against many forms of Dem demogoguery, as is being a woman.   Morris's comment about a Bachman-Cain ticket is intriguing-- for Cain has formidable private sector executive experience, and is the immunization shot against Dem race-baiting.
24389  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Noonan on: May 20, 2011, 04:29:01 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lafayette would weep.

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

More Peggy Noonan
Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns

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

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

Their mindless snobbery is unworthy of them.

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

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

24390  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 20, 2011, 04:05:24 PM
Alliance with India makes a lot of sense to me.
24391  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: May 20, 2011, 11:55:07 AM
I'm still digesting the interview by Rush there , , , what do we make of it?

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

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

And that's when the fight started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for clearing that up, Newt.

(Hat tip: Wall Street Journal Political Diary)

Quote of the Week
"Debating the issues is perfectly fine. It's the way Gingrich talks about things that is so awful. He is incapable of disagreeing on any matter about anything without creating a whirlpool of negativity that ends up sucking in his own confreres while leaving his partisan and ideological antagonists amazingly untouched. In the end, then, no matter the issue, Gingrich somehow manages to turn the conversation away from the topic at hand and focuses it squarely on him -- what he said, what he meant, what he was doing, why he did it, what's the matter with him. The Ryan apology just added to the psychodrama of the last few days with Gingrich. The havoc generated by his narcissism will not abate. It can't. Alas." --columnist John Podhoretz
Anyway, what do we make of what he said with Rush?
24392  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 20, 2011, 10:58:55 AM

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

24393  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams, 1756 on: May 20, 2011, 10:56:28 AM
"It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives." --John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756
24394  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scaremongering? on: May 20, 2011, 10:54:54 AM
Glenn Beck talks about a spooky alliance between Islamists and leftists. Newt Gingrich calls sharia law abhorrent and urges the western world to ban it. Bill O’Reilly says that sharia law allows for things that most Americans think are illegal. Sean Hannity challenges Imam Rauf’s agenda of imposing sharia law on America. Are conservatives erecting a sharia bogeyman -- or is there a real threat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each accommodation of Islamist demands is costly beyond measure when translated to a significant symbolic victory. For what the Islamists propose as an isolated act of cultural sensitivity is interpreted when conceded without a fight as powerful evidence of a culture that is morally weak and historically disconnected. While there is no tangible threat to the American way of life, it is easy to rationalize that the gains being consolidated by Islamists are not compromising American liberties. The sacrifice of expressive rights and cultural identity for temporary relief from the charges of intolerance only telegraphs willing incremental capitulation. What is lost in the race to placate the political Islamists among us is the reality that moderate Muslims are learning whether liberty-loving Americans can be trusted to keep sharia hardliners at bay.
24395  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glick: BO abandons America and Isreal on: May 20, 2011, 10:38:12 AM
Caroline Glick   
Obama's Abandonment of America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irrelevant and untrue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It means we have to assume everything will be terrific.

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

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

24396  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) & the 4th Amendment on: May 20, 2011, 10:18:10 AM
"There are already legal disincentives for police misconduct,"

which as a practical matter are often meaningless

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

and sometimes they don't,

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

If a rogue cop is attacking you, you have a right to defend yourself.   In the American Creed, our rights come from our Creator.  Amongst these rights is the right to self-defense.  It IS that simple.
24397  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: MB on the March, cautiously on: May 20, 2011, 12:12:33 AM

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood on the March, but Cautiously

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24398  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Asymetric Actors on: May 19, 2011, 10:24:09 PM
 shocked shocked shocked

Any comments on the following YA?

Asymmetric Actors

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Larry P. Goodson is a Professor of Middle East Studies at the U.S. Army War College and author of the forthcoming book, Pakistan: Understanding the Dark Side of the Moon, to be published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2012. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Gov
24399  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: May 19, 2011, 08:24:47 PM
I am still digging my way through the pile of emails accumulated in the last few weeks, but in case I screwed up, please resend it.
24400  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: May 19, 2011, 04:07:52 PM
Good thing we Jews have them "surrounded", right AB?  evil cheesy rolleyes
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