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24401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gaffney: The Tipping Point- Embracing the Muslim Brotherhood on: July 03, 2011, 11:21:20 AM
The Tipping Point: Embracing the Muslim Brotherhood
Frank j. gaffney, jr.
The Obama administration chose the eve of the holiday marking our Nation's birth to acknowledge publicly behavior in which it has long been stealthily engaged to the United States' extreme detriment:  Its officials now admit that they are embracing the Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikhwan in Arabic).  That would be the same international Islamist organization that has the destruction of the United States, Israel and all other parts of the Free World as its explicit objective.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to downplay the momentousness of this major policy shift by portraying it during a stopover in Budapest as follows:  "The Obama administration is continuing the approach of limited contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood that have existed on and off for about five or six years."  In fact, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy points out in a characteristically brilliant, and scathing, dissection of this announcement, Team Obama's official, open legitimation of the Brotherhood marks a dramatic break from the U.S. government's historical refusal to deal formally with the Ikhwan.
To understand why the Obama administration's embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood is so ominous, consider three insights into the organization's nature and ambitions:
First, here's the MB's creed:  "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope."  (Source: Husain Haqqani and Hillel Fradkin, "Islamist Parties: Going Back to the Origins.")
Second, here's the Ikwhan's mission in America:
"A kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within, sabotaging its miserable house with their [i.e., Americans'] hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions." (Source: Muslim Brotherhood's "Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goals of the Group," entered into evidence by the Department of Justice in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation terrorism-finance trial. Archived at the NEFA Foundation.)               
Third, here are excerpts from the Muslim Brotherhood's "phased plan" for accomplishing that mission:
Phase One: Discreet and secret establishment of leadership.
Phase Two: Phase of gradual appearance on the public scene and exercising and utilizing various public activities. It greatly succeeded in implementing this stage. It also succeeded in achieving a great deal of its important goals, such as infiltrating various sectors of the Government.     
Phase Three:  Escalation phase, prior to conflict and confrontation with the rulers, through utilizing mass media. Currently in progress.
Phase Four:  Open public confrontation with the Government through exercising the political pressure approach. It is aggressively implementing the above-mentioned approach. Training on the use of weapons domestically and overseas in anticipation of zero-hour. It has noticeable activities in this regard.
Phase Five:  Seizing power to establish their Islamic Nation under which all parties and Islamic groups are united. (Source: Undated Muslim Brotherhood Paper entitled, "Phases of the World Underground Movement Plan." Archived at Shariah: The Threat to America.)
In short, the Muslim Brotherhood is deadly serious about waging what it calls "civilization jihad" against the United States and other freedom-loving nations in order to secure their submission to the Islamic totalitarian political-military-legal doctrine called shariah.  The MB's goal in this country is to replace our Constitution with theirs, namely the Koran.  And they regard this task as one commanded by none other than Allah.  (For more details on the nature, ambitions and modus operandi of the Ikhwan, see the Team B II Report, Shariah: The Threat to America).  To this end, as Andy McCarthy notes in the aforementioned essay, the MB's senior official, Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi, has effectively declared war on the United States.
Were there any doubt that legitimacy is what the Ikhwan is taking away from this gambit, consider this assessment from an expert in Islamic groups, Ammar Ali Hassan, cited by Associated Press:  "...The Brotherhood will likely try to float ‘conditions' or ‘reservations' on any dialogue to avoid a perception that it is allowing the U.S. to meddle in Egypt's internal affairs. But in the end, the talks will give a boost to the group, he said, by easing worries some in the Brotherhood and the public have of a backlash if the Brotherhood becomes the dominant player in Egypt. ‘Now the Muslim Brotherhood will not have to worry [about] moving forward toward taking over power,' Hassan said."         
Unfortunately, the U.S. government's dangerous outreach to the Ikhwan is not confined to Egypt but is systematically practiced inside the United States, as well.  For example:
Muslim-American organizations identified in court by the U.S. government - and, in many cases, by the Muslim Brotherhood itself - as MB fronts are routinely cultivated by federal, state and local officials. Representatives of homeland security, Pentagon, intelligence and law enforcement agencies frequently meet with and attend functions sponsored by such groups.
MB-associated individuals are sent as our country's "goodwill ambassadors" to foreign Muslim nations and communities. MB-favored initiatives to insinuate shariah into the United States - notably, the Ground Zero Mosque and shariah-compliant finance, conscientious objector status for Muslim servicemen and stifling of free speech in accordance with shariah "blasphemy" laws - are endorsed and/or enabled by official institutions.
A blind eye is turned to the presence across the country of shariah-adherent mosques that incubate jihadism. A peer-reviewed study published last month in Middle East Quarterly determined that 81% of a random sample of 100 mosques exhibited such qualities - constituting an infrastructure for recruitment, indoctrination and training consistent with the Brotherhood's phased plan.
Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, individuals with family and other ties to the Muslim Brotherhood have actually given senior government positions. The most recent of these to come to light is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff, Huma Abedin (who also happens to be former Rep. Anthony Weiner's wife).
It seems a safe bet that, as Team Obama legitimates Muslim Brotherhood organizations and groups overseas, it will feel ever less constrained about further empowering their counterparts in the United States.  If so, the MB will come to exercise even greater influence over what our government does and does not do about the threat posed by shariah, both abroad and here.
The absolutely predictable effect will be to undermine U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East and further catalyze the Brotherhood's campaign to insinuate shariah in the United States and, ultimately, to supplant the Constitution with Islamic law.  Consequently, the Obama administration's efforts to "engage" the Muslim Brotherhood are not just reckless.  They are wholly incompatible with the President's oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" and the similar commitment made by his subordinates.
These officials' now-open embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood constitutes a geo-strategic tipping point, one that must catalyze an urgent national debate on this question:  Does such conduct violate their oath of office by endangering the Constitution they have undertaken to uphold?
At a minimum, such a debate would afford a much-needed opportunity to examine alternatives to the administration's present course - as well as the real risks associated with that its intensifying pursuit.  For instance, one of the most astute American authorities on the Middle East in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, Dr. Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a posting at The American blog yesterday:
"Rather than embrace the Brotherhood, the Obama administration should be seeking to ensure that the group cannot dominate Egypt. Most analysts agree that the Muslim Brotherhood is by far the best organized group in Egypt, but that it only enjoys perhaps 25 or 30 percent support. The secular opposition remains weak and fractured. If the Obama administration wishes to remain engaged in Egypt's future and shape the best possible outcome for both U.S. national security and the Egyptian people, it should be pushing for electoral reform to change Egypt's dysfunctional system to a proportional representation model in which the secular majority can form a coalition to check a Muslim Brotherhood minority for which true democracy is anathema."
The same goes for the enemy within.  Instead of relying upon - let alone hiring - Muslim Brotherhood operatives and associates, the United States government should be shutting down their fronts, shariah-adherent, jihad-incubating "community centers" and insidious influence operations in America.  By recognizing these enterprises for what they are, namely vehicles for fulfilling the seditious goals of the MB's civilization jihad, they can and must be treated as prosecutable subversive enterprises, not protected religious ones under the U.S. Constitution.
Let the debate begin.

This article can be found here:
24402  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man fomerly in Iraq comments on: July 03, 2011, 10:04:22 AM

I highlighted a section below, which I found to be the biggest problem there as regards training and standing up Iraqi security forces.  Long term mentoring.  Or the lack thereof.  This is not a couple of years project.  Change is slow, but of the places I went to the ones that had come the longest way were those where the day in/day out, leadership by example mentoring process was of a longer duration.  Too often we trained them and then expected they would like suddenly change their thousands of years culture to suddenly be like us.  Because some fat, cigar in the mouth gringo trainer yelling at them told them this was the way they should be.

> But Iraqi and American commanders worry that this crucial military legacy of
> the war may be at risk now that American forces are withdrawing this year
> under an agreement between the countries.
24403  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravda on the Hudson: Reinstating gun rights on: July 03, 2011, 09:25:56 AM

A major piece on restoring gun rights to people who rights were terminated due to mental illness.

Yes, it is POTH, but it does seem like some people who should not have their rights restored are getting their rights restored.
24404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Iraqis hope US SOC sticks around on: July 03, 2011, 09:18:44 AM
BAGHDAD — In darkness and dressed in black, the American and Iraqi Special Operations commandos navigated the dense urban neighborhood here in the capital and approached a house they believed to be a hide-out for two brothers suspected of carrying out assassinations and car-bomb attacks. As the Iraqis bashed in the door, the sound of glass shattering and screams pierced the nighttime stillness.

The Americans, having spent years taking the lead on such missions, waited outside until the house was secure.
The important thing, an American sergeant said after the raid was completed, is that the Iraqis took the lead on this mission. He spoke on the condition that he be identified only by rank to comply with the ground rules allowing a reporter access to an Army Special Forces unit. “They are the ones doing the dirty work,” he said.

But Iraqi and American commanders worry that this crucial military legacy of the war may be at risk now that American forces are withdrawing this year under an agreement between the countries. Americans say the Iraqi special operations force, which was deliberately balanced with the country’s main sects and ethnicities, is more capable than the Iraqi Army and may be critical in preventing a resilient insurgency from exploding into a sectarian civil war. Even as few Iraqi politicians are willing to admit publicly that they need American help, Iraqi soldiers say that American troops must stay longer to continue training and advising.

“The Americans need to stay because we don’t have control over our borders,” said Maj. Gen. Fadhel al-Barwari, commander of the Iraq Special Operations Force.

The commandos make up a tightknit community where relationships between Iraqis and Americans are especially strong, having been nurtured over multiple deployments. In some cases the Americans here are on their eighth or ninth rotation. “Would we hope after spending eight years in this country, sharing blood, sweat and tears, dying side by side, working with each other, that we would maintain a relationship?” Col. Scott E. Brower, commander of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula, said in an interview at a base north of Baghdad. “Of course we would.”

The senior Iraqi military leaders have advised Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki that some troops should stay. American officials have said they would agree to a such a request.

Even though combat has officially been declared over, Iraq still looks like a war to the Special Operations units scattered around the country.

“Yeah, anytime a guy’s got a loaded gun and he’s going out at midnight in a helicopter, you’ve got to treat it that way,” said an American Special Forces major. Even so, he said, the risks of such work have diminished greatly. “It’s been awhile since we’ve gotten in a good firefight,” he said.

As the major spoke at a picnic table in Victory Base Complex, the vast American complex near the Baghdad airport, several American helicopters took off nearby, ferrying a team of Iraqi and American Special Forces troops on their way to capture a Shiite militiaman suspected of firing rockets at an American base.

On the recent nighttime raid organized to seize the two brothers, the commandos did not get their men, but they said that a vast majority of their raids ended with the capture of suspects. Shots are rarely fired.

There were about six Iraqis on the mission for each American, who were dressed in the same black fatigues the Iraqis wore. After the house was secured, several team members went to the roof, where an Iraqi commando rooted through a storage bin looking for explosives, repeatedly kicking a plastic cassette player that turned out not to be an improvised explosive device. Others monitored rooftops next door for threats.

Eleven family members were in the house, but not the suspects. As the relatives were questioned, several versions of the brothers’ whereabouts emerged. According to one version, they had left that afternoon. In another, they had not been in the home for a year and a half.

“No bad guys tonight,” said one American soldier, a chief warrant officer.


Page 2 of 2)

No weapons caches or explosives were found either. “Usually they don’t keep the materials in the house,” said the American chief warrant officer, who explained that they were often stored with a neighbor. “With the laws, we can’t search the neighbor’s house,” he said.

American Special Operations units have been training and equipping an Iraqi counterterrorism force almost from the beginning of the war in 2003. General Barwari was made to do push-ups eight years ago by some of the Americans who still advise his unit. Today he lives in a palace once owned by Saddam Hussein, where he shares living space with peacocks, ostriches, pigeons, an alligator and two monkeys. From the palace, he directs near-nightly raids with the help of the Americans.
General Barwari, whose relationship with the American military began in 1991 in northern Iraq, benefited greatly from America’s war here, and in its closing days he frets about what will become of his country without the American troops.

If Americans stay, he said, “He won’t be fighting beside me, but he will give us air support.”

“There are many things we don’t have knowledge about,” he added.

Some of the Iraqi units remain outside the regular military chain of command, and report directly to Mr. Maliki. This has proved to be fodder for the prime minister’s critics who believe he has amassed too much power, and removing the units from his direct control was part of an American-backed power-sharing agreement last year that ended months of political stalemate after parliamentary elections. But that agreement has never been completed and is now threatening to come apart amid political discord. Mr. Maliki has yet to name ministers of defense and the interior, and the counterterrorist units remain under his control.

The American Special Operations advisers worry about what will happen to their Iraqi counterparts without their American relationships — and largess, evident in the Special Operations headquarters on Victory Base. The complex, paid for with $32 million of American money, includes $2 million for an indoor training ground the commandos refer to as the “shoot house.” They note that many of the nighttime missions are carried out with American helicopters.

The American government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars training and arming these forces, yet the exact amount is unknown because the military has not fully accounted for it, according to a report late last year by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which reported that only $237 million had been directly attributed to support for the Iraqi special forces.

The future of the American military here is a political decision in the hands of the government of Iraq, which must formally ask to modify the security agreement to allow some troops to stay.

The American “S.F. guys always believe we’ll be back,” said the American major.

24405  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 03, 2011, 09:01:02 AM
Grateful to have been born in America.
24406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, US Dollar, & Gold/Silver on: July 03, 2011, 09:00:13 AM
I would also submit that the 2.1% inflation number is complete and utter bull excrement.
24407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: A American Seder for Indendence Day, July 4, 1776 on: July 03, 2011, 08:57:15 AM
Amen to that GM.

Now here's a surprise:
24408  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: July 02, 2011, 08:01:09 PM
You're on! grin
24409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / North Korea now heads , , , wait for it , , , on: July 02, 2011, 02:41:14 PM
the Nuclear Disarmament Committee.  Sorry no citation, but I'm pretty confident of this one.
24410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ICE adds Israel to list on: July 02, 2011, 02:29:03 PM


"As a matter of policy, according to the inspector general’s report, citizens of Israel and other “specially designated countries” are subjected to a special security screening called a “Third Agency Check” (TAC) when they are actually detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the division of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for enforcing the immigration laws. ICE officers are supposed to check all aliens they take into custody against the Terrorist Watchlist, which includes the identities of individuals the U.S. government knows or reasonably suspects to be terrorists. When ICE holds a citizen from a “specially designated country” in its own detention facilities, according to the agency’s standing policy, the individual is also supposed to be run through a TAC. In addition to the Terrorist Watchlist screening, ICE uses a Third Agency Check (TAC) to screen aliens from specially designated countries (SDCs)...The purpose of the additional screening is to determine whether other agencies have an interest in the alien,” says the report."

Israel has a substantial Arab population which is obviously a terrorist threat. The only thing this designation means is that if an Arab Israeli on our terror watchlist gets caught, instead of being handled solely by ICE, other agencies, like State, CIA or FBI, will be notified about the detainee. Why?

“The U.S. does not and never has considered Israel to have links to terrorism, but rather they are a partner in our efforts to combat global terrorism,” Christensen said in a written statement. “Countries may have been included on the list because of the backgrounds of arrestees, not because of the country’s government itself. The United States maintains close intelligence-sharing relationships with many of these countries in order to address security issues within their own borders and in our mutual pursuit of safety and security around the globe,” said Christensen."

The ultimate purpose is to HELP Israel by insuring that if we snag one of their Arab citizens on a terror watchlist, intelligence will be shared. It does NOT mean that Israelis in general are going to be subjected to heightened scrutiny. Please note the obvious fact that Israel HAS NOT ISSUED ANY FORMAL PROTEST. Bibi was more than willing to bitch-slap Obama when he was here; if this was something Israel didn't want, we would have heard about it by now. The website for the Isreali Ministry of Foreign Affairs, complete with up to the minute press releases, is here;


Marc:  By this logic Great Britain and its Copmmonwealth should be on the list too.   Why would North Korea be removed?   Seems like somebody is up to something nefarious. 
24411  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Time Zone changes on: July 02, 2011, 11:28:17 AM
Sometimes I have to cross many time zones.  A month or so ago it was 10 time zones to Israel.  On Wednesday it will be 8 times zones as I travel to Bern, Switzerland.

I have read articles which say that time zone changes becomes harder as we get older.

Many years ago I asked Guro Inosanto how he managed a far, far tougher travel schedule than mine.  Here is a part of his answer:

Yoga headstands:  He felt that blood to the brain was a very good way to get the body to WAKE UP when it was the local time to do so.
24412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: South China Sea Flashpoint on: July 02, 2011, 11:14:43 AM

One of the world's flashpoints is the disputed waters of the South China Sea. The Philippines and Vietnam want explicit U.S. support against Chinese incursions, and the U.S. Senate passed a nonbinding resolution Monday deploring Chinese actions. But China is hardly backing down. Last week, Deputy Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai warned that "the individual countries are actually playing with fire, and I hope the fire will not be drawn to the United States."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is so far holding to the line she laid down last July in Hanoi: The U.S. doesn't take sides on the territorial disputes, but it wants to play a role in their peaceful resolution because of its interests in the region and support for freedom of navigation. As China ratchets up tension, it's time for something stronger.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario was in Washington last week seeking to clarify the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries. In case of an attack on the Philippines, that agreement only obligates Washington to "consult" and "act to meet the common dangers." The Philippine media has been chasing its tail trying to figure out whether Mrs. Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas firmed up this U.S. commitment.
The real news is that the Philippines is coming back into the U.S. orbit. As recently as early this year, Manila seemed to be courting Beijing—for instance, by extraditing Taiwanese citizens to the mainland without consulting Taipei. Mr. Aquino's predecessor scuttled the efforts of Southeast Asian nations to negotiate as a bloc with China over the South China Sea, instead opting to cut a separate deal in late 2004 to sacrifice some Philippine claims so that joint oil exploration could go ahead.

The current about-face is the result of China overplaying its hand. Especially alarming is that the People's Liberation Army seems to be calling China's shots on the South China Sea. China's navy vessels have been involved in confrontations even as its diplomats sound conciliatory. While it is too early to say that Beijing is going down the militarist road, all of this has concentrated minds in Southeast Asian capitals.

The U.S. and its regional friends have two main objectives. The first is to upgrade the 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which China has routinely violated, to a more rigorous code of conduct that spells out how ships and aircraft must behave. Beijing seems to be resuming its policy of "creeping assertiveness" by which it makes the area a Chinese lake by fait accompli.

The second is to convince China to spell out the basis of its claims to the islands and waters surrounding them. Singapore, which has no territorial dispute with China, recently called on Beijing to "clarify its claims with more precision as the current ambiguity as to their extent has caused serious concerns in the international maritime community."

This is important because Beijing has long claimed the South China Sea as its "historical waters" apparently on the basis of a 1947 map showing a dotted U-shaped line around 90% of the area, including the coastal waters of other nations. Customary law, to which Beijing is a signatory through the Law of the Sea treaty, does not recognize such expansive claims. But the Chinese position can't be subject to rigorous scrutiny until it is stated definitively.

No doubt Beijing would like to avoid that. Its preference has been to negotiate on a bilateral basis with each Southeast Asian neighbor, so that it can bring its superior economic and military power to bear. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) had some brief success in getting China to take multilateral negotiations seriously in the early 2000s, until the Philippines bugged out.

Now that Asean is united again, U.S. involvement is an important bargaining chip. Should China continue to preach peace while its military harasses other vessels, Asean nations will be driven to tighten their security arrangements with the U.S. Indications from Washington that it will be a willing partner should put Beijing on notice that its civilian leaders need to rein in the military and put the dispute on track for a negotiated solution.

24413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pamela Geller on: July 02, 2011, 11:02:24 AM
24414  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Future still belongs to America on: July 02, 2011, 11:00:33 AM

It is, the pundits keep telling us, a time of American decline, of a post-American world. The 21st century will belong to someone else. Crippled by debt at home, hammered by the aftermath of a financial crisis, bloodied by long wars in the Middle East, the American Atlas can no longer hold up the sky. Like Britain before us, America is headed into an assisted-living facility for retired global powers.

This fashionable chatter could not be more wrong. Sure, America has big problems. Trillions of dollars in national debt and uncounted trillions more in off-the-books liabilities will give anyone pause. Rising powers are also challenging the international order even as our key Cold War allies sink deeper into decline.

But what is unique about the United States is not our problems. Every major country in the world today faces extraordinary challenges—and the 21st century will throw more at us. Yet looking toward the tumultuous century ahead, no country is better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities or manage the dangers than the United States.

Geopolitically, the doomsayers tell us, China will soon challenge American leadership throughout the world. Perhaps. But to focus exclusively on China is to miss how U.S. interests intersect with Asian realities in ways that cement rather than challenge the U.S. position in world affairs.

China is not Germany, the U.S. is not Great Britain, and 2011 is not 1910. In 1910 Germany was a rising power surrounded by decline: France, Russia, the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary were all growing weaker every year even as Germany went from strength to strength. The European power system grew less stable every year.

In Asia today China is rising—but so is India, another emerging nuclear superpower with a population on course to pass China's. Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and Australia are all vibrant, growing powers that have no intention of falling under China's sway. Japan remains a formidable presence. Unlike Europe in 1910, Asia today looks like an emerging multipolar region that no single country, however large and dynamic, can hope to control.

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 .This fits American interests precisely. The U.S. has no interest in controlling Asia or in blocking economic prosperity that will benefit the entire Pacific basin, including our part of it. U.S. policy in Asia is not fighting the tide of China's inexorable rise. Rather, our interests harmonize with the natural course of events. Life rarely moves smoothly and it is likely that Asia will see great political disturbances. But through it all, it appears that the U.S. will be swimming with, rather than against, the tides of history.

Around the world we have no other real rivals. Even the Europeans have stopped talking about a rising EU superpower. The specter of a clash of civilizations between the West and an Islamic world united behind fanatics like the unlamented Osama bin Laden is less likely than ever. Russia's demographic decline and poor economic prospects (not to mention its concerns about Islamic radicalism and a rising China) make it a poor prospect as a rival superpower.

When it comes to the world of ideas, the American agenda will also be the global agenda in the 21st century. Ninety years after the formation of the Communist Party of China, 50 years after the death of the philosopher of modern militant Islam Sayyid Qutb, liberal capitalist democracy remains the wave of the future.

Fascism, like Franco, is still dead. Communism lingers on life support in Pyongyang and a handful of other redoubts but shows no signs of regaining the power it has lost since 1989 and the Soviet collapse. "Islamic" fanaticism failed in Iraq, can only cling to power by torture and repression in Iran, and has been marginalized (so far) in the Arab Spring. Nowhere have the fanatics been able to demonstrate that their approach can protect the dignity and enhance the prosperity of people better than liberal capitalism. The heirs of Qutb are further from power than they were during the first Egyptian Revolution in 1953.

Closer to home, Hugo Chavez and his Axis of Anklebiters are descending towards farce. The economic success of Chile and Brazil cuts the ground out from under the "Bolivarean" caudillos. They may strut and prance on the stage, appear with Fidel on TV and draw a crowd by attacking the Yanquis, but the dream of uniting South America into a great anticapitalist, anti-U.S. bloc is as dead as Che Guevara.

So the geopolitics are favorable and the ideological climate is warming. But on a still-deeper level this is shaping up to be an even more American century than the last. The global game is moving towards America's home court.

The great trend of this century is the accelerating and deepening wave of change sweeping through every element of human life. Each year sees more scientists with better funding, better instruments and faster, smarter computers probing deeper and seeing further into the mysteries of the physical world. Each year more entrepreneurs are seeking to convert those discoveries and insights into ways to produce new things, or to make old things better and more cheaply. Each year the world's financial markets are more eager and better prepared to fund new startups, underwrite new investments, and otherwise help entrepreneurs and firms deploy new knowledge and insight more rapidly.

Scientific and technological revolutions trigger economic, social and political upheavals. Industry migrates around the world at a breathtaking—and accelerating—rate. Hundreds of millions of people migrate to cities at an unprecedented pace. Each year the price of communication goes down and the means of communication increase.

New ideas disturb the peace of once-stable cultures. Young people grasp the possibilities of change and revolt at the conservatism of their elders. Sacred taboos and ancient hierarchies totter; women demand equality; citizens rise against monarchs. All over the world more tea is thrown into more harbors as more and more people decide that the times demand change.

This tsunami of change affects every society—and turbulent politics in so many countries make for a turbulent international environment. Managing, mastering and surviving change: These are the primary tasks of every ruler and polity. Increasingly these are also the primary tasks of every firm and household.

This challenge will not go away. On the contrary: It has increased, and it will go on increasing through the rest of our time. The 19th century was more tumultuous than its predecessor; the 20th was more tumultuous still, and the 21st will be the fastest, most exhilarating and most dangerous ride the world has ever seen.

Everybody is going to feel the stress, but the United States of America is better placed to surf this transformation than any other country. Change is our home field. It is who we are and what we do. Brazil may be the country of the future, but America is its hometown.

Happy Fourth of July.

Mr. Mead is a professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of the American Interest.

24415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Eurozone crisis and Europe's financial institutions on: July 02, 2011, 09:51:11 AM
The Eurozone Crisis and the History of Europe's Financial Institutions

German financial institutions will contribute 3.2 billion euros ($4.7 billion) to the second Greek bailout, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble announced Thursday. The banks involved in the deal will roll over all Greek debt holdings scheduled to mature by 2014. Schaeuble added that 55 percent of the estimated 10 billion euros of Greek debt held by German financial institutions mature after 2020. German financial institutions have therefore joined their French counterparts in expressing a willingness to participate in a voluntary rollover of Greek debt.

The news from Germany and France is a positive sign for Greece and follows a successful vote in Athens to implement new austerity measures and to privatize state assets. At the press conference in Berlin, executives from Deutsche Bank and the insurer Allianz stood next to Schaeuble and offered their support to Greece. While the details of the agreements have to be settled, the overall congratulatory tone of the announcement has generated optimism that when eurozone finance ministers meet on Sunday, July 3, Greece will be offered a bailout package with terms that will include private-sector participation.

That Germany and France have managed to cajole their financial institutions to participate in the rescue of Greece is not surprising. In Europe, banks and states have historically had a close relationship. Europe’s geography naturally fosters competition — a considerable number of powerful political entities are packed into a small space. Europe is essentially overpopulated, not with people, but with countries.

The French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars kicked off a race to establish political systems based on the nation-state concept — a process that required the borders of new states not only to conform to a particular linguistic and cultural agglomeration but also to contain a substantial capital pool, preferably one that captured a key European financial center. This evolution established a break from Europe’s past, when a hegemon like Hapsburg Spain could depend on Dutch bankers for capital.

“That Germany and France have managed to cajole their financial institutions to participate in the rescue of Greece is not surprising. In Europe, banks and states have historically had a close relationship.”
State building in the mid-to-late 19th century placed great strains on European governments because of the intensity of competition between rival states in such close proximity. Germany, for example, was born in 1871 following a short but intense war against France. Although Germany emerged from the war a united empire — and with a piece of France as a trophy, — it also understood that it had made a very dangerous enemy with which it had to compete to survive. Germany was under pressure to consolidate not only politically and militarily but also economically. Berlin, as well as its rivals, became obsessed with how much steel, coal and railway mileage they could produce.

Building railways, canals, schools, factories and navies requires capital. While coal and steel fueled late 19th-century industrialization, the common denominator for state building is ultimately capital. Therefore, as continental European states developed state champions of industry, they needed to create complementary state champions of finance and encourage relationships between the two. Rather than making a lot of money, the goal was to direct capital into the industries that would best ensure the state’s survival and independence.

The relationship between German industrial giant Siemens and the country’s largest financial institution, Deutsche Bank, is one of the most instructive in this regard. Executives of one often sat on the board of the other and their relationship was coordinated by the interests of the state for more than100 years.

The historical relationship between European states and financial institutions stands in contrast to the development of the United States. While the United States also faced security concerns (the threat of a British invasion) and incredible infrastructural challenges (such as the difficulty of crossing the Appalachians), these issues had either abated or been resolved by the mid-19th century. Europe was in the throes of post-Napoleonic competition and its states posed no threat to the United States. American railroad development was largely a private affair, and — while there was a geostrategic impetus to connect the coasts — the endeavor was not conducted in the atmosphere of the intense interstate competition that Europe experienced.

American financial institutions were therefore allowed to operate in almost ideal conditions for free-market competition. The main objective was to make money, not develop an economy that can defeat a neighbor in a war. It is no surprise that two of the world’s main three credit rating agencies — Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s — grew out of this era of American capitalism. Investors wanted an independent perspective of which railroad bonds and banks in which to invest. In Europe, the choice was clear — whichever institutions had the state’s backing.

The resulting differences in American and European financial systems therefore come with positive and negative attributes. One major drawback of European financial systems is that to this day many banks are thought of as social welfare institutions more than profit-driven businesses. German landesbanken and Spanish cajas come to mind as examples. Not surprisingly, these institutions are some of the most troubled banks in Europe. The second problem for Europe is that businesses have become dependent on bank lending for capital, whereas American businesses have traditionally looked to access the corporate bond market and raise capital through the stock market. The problem with the European approach is that it often stifles innovation. Companies with close relationships with financial institutions have greater access to financing than innovative start-ups. This approach also leaves corporations exposed to financial crises when banks stop lending.

However, benefits also exist. In the present case, Berlin and Paris managed to mobilize their financial institutions to help bail out a foreign state in a very short amount of time. The downside is that suspicions between EU member states remain, and the eurozone’s banking problems are somewhat a product of these suspicions. European states have jealously guarded their financial institutions for centuries. Europe needs an unified, eurozone-wide oversight mechanism presiding over the Continent’s banks to ensure that if a bank in Ireland needs to be closed, Dublin can’t stop it from happening. The fundamental difficulty is that banks are state-building tools. For states to allow a supranational entity to control these tools would be tantamount to handing over control of their destinies.

24416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: 6th circuit says color blind is C'ly impermissable on: July 02, 2011, 09:42:25 AM

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down Michigan’s 2006 ban on the consideration of race and gender in public-university admissions and government hiring in the latest round of the decade-long fight over the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies.

Affirmative ActionThe 2-to-1 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, said the voter-approved ban “unconstitutionally alters Michigan’s political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities.”

“This is a tremendous victory,” said George B. Washington, who represented the coalition challenging the ban. “We think we’ll win in the end, however many appeals there are.”

But Michigan’s attorney general, Bill Schuette, promised Friday that he would indeed appeal the decision overturning the ban — known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative — through a formal request for rehearing en banc, by all 16 judges of the court.

“The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative embodies the fundamental premise of what America is all about: equal opportunity under the law,” he said. “Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit, and I will continue the fight for equality, fairness and rule of law.”

Kelly Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the university, said it was too soon to know whether the ruling would lead to a change in admissions policies. “The university is reviewing the possible implications of the court’s decision, and recognizes that there may be further legal steps as well,” she said.

Affirmative action got a lift in Texas last month, when the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals voted, 9 to 7, not to hear an appeal of a three-judge panel’s decision upholding the use of race as a “plus factor” in admission to the University of Texas. And another case is pending before the Ninth Circuit in California, where Mr. Washington predicted Friday’s ruling would “have a big impact.”

In the end, the issue is likely to return to the United States Supreme Court, which last considered the question in two 2003 cases involving the University of Michigan.

Michigan’s ban on affirmative action — covering both government hiring and admission to public colleges and universities — was made part of the State Constitution after a 2006 voter initiative that passed by 58 percent to 42 percent. It was known as Proposal 2 and prohibited public institutions from giving “preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”

The voter initiative followed the Supreme Court decisions, which found that while the University of Michigan could not set quotas for certain racial groups, or give them extra points, in undergraduate admissions, it could consider race as one factor in the holistic law school admissions process.

Jennifer Gratz, a white student who was wait-listed at the University of Michigan in 1995 and was the lead plaintiff in one of the Supreme Court cases, led the campaign for the voter initiative to amend the State Constitution. She was backed by Ward Connerly, a wealthy black Republican who was a former regent of the University of California, and had successfully campaigned for a similar anti-affirmative-action proposition in California in 1996.

The following year, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the California ban. But in 2010, based on the ruling in the University of Michigan law school case, Mr. Washington filed another case challenging the California ban, the one now on appeal to the Ninth Circuit.

Bans like Michigan’s are currently on the books in California, Nebraska and Washington. But the Sixth Circuit decision is binding only in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Judge R. Guy Cole and Judge Martha Daughtrey of the Sixth Circuit issued the majority opinion on Friday in the case. Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote a dissent.

Legal experts said it was extremely difficult to predict how the Sixth Circuit, ruling en banc — or, for that matter, the United States Supreme Court — would vote on the Michigan ban.

“That circuit is very divided on social issues like the death penalty and affirmative action” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond law school. “And the Supreme Court split 5-4 in the Michigan law school case. Of course, the composition of the court has changed, but we’re still fighting these questions out.”
24417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Russia to send two brigades on: July 02, 2011, 09:33:52 AM
MOSCOW—Russia plans to deploy two army brigades in the north to defend its interests in the Arctic regions, where governments citing climate change have made competing claims over natural resources.

Russia's defense minister said officials haven't yet worked out the details of troops or weaponry, but that the brigades, which usually number a few thousand troops, would be cobbled together with an eye toward the experience of Russia's northern neighbors—Finland, Norway and Sweden—which already have such northern forces.

"The location will be determined, as well as weapons, numbers and infrastructure for the brigades," said Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, according to Russian news agencies. "They could be put in Murmansk, Archangelsk or another place."

Russia has staked a claim to a large part of the Arctic, which is thought to hold as much as a quarter of the world's oil and gas reserves, arguing that an underwater ridge running from its northern Siberian shores leads directly to the North Pole.

As Arctic ice melts amid rising global temperatures—surface temperatures in 2010 tied those of 2005 as the warmest on record, according to NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies—countries abutting the Arctic Circle are vying for new shipping routes and fishing grounds, as well as oil and gas drilling opportunities.

To cap its claim, Russia floated a small submarine under the ice caps four years ago and planted a titanium flag on the ocean floor, an act that had more symbolic than legal significance.

Lately Moscow has been resounding its claims, and on Thursday Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a pro-Kremlin party congress in the Ural Mountains that Russia would build a $33 billion year-round port on the Yamal Peninsula, in the Russian Arctic.

Mr. Putin said Russia was "open to dialogue" with its northern neighbors, but will "strongly and persistently" defend its interests in the region.

Russia's claims mostly antagonize Canada and Denmark, whose ambitions most closely overlap Russia's in the region.

By deploying forces in the north, Moscow is again sending a message, mostly symbolic, that its claim to the Arctic regions is serious, said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the Moscow-based Russia in Global Affairs magazine.

"The Russian position is that in order to be respected they need to have some forces there," said Mr. Lukyanov. But he added, "I don't think that Russia feels it will ever need these forces to defend its interests."

In May, the eight nations abutting the Arctic Circle, the Arctic Council, tried to sound a note of civility by signing an agreement to coordinate search-and-rescue missions in the region. At its meeting in Greenland, the council tiptoed around the tougher issue of territorial claims. But the U.S. said it hopes the agreement could be a template for solving future security issues.

The council is comprised of Russia, the U.S., Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.

24418  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iran steps up arming our enemies in Iraq and Afpakia on: July 02, 2011, 09:30:13 AM
Iran steps up the pressure on Baraq.

One wonders, will there be a last flight out of Baghdad from the roof of the American Embassy?


TEHRAN—Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has transferred lethal new munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months, according to senior U.S. officials, in a bid to accelerate the U.S. withdrawals from these countries.

The Revolutionary Guard has smuggled rocket-assisted exploding projectiles to its militia allies in Iraq, weapons that have already resulted in the deaths of American troops, defense officials said. They said Iranians have also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit U.S. and other coalition positions from a safer distance.

Such arms shipments would escalate the shadow competition for influence playing out between Tehran and Washington across the Middle East and North Africa, fueled by U.S. preparations to draw down forces from two wars and the political rebellions that are sweeping the region.

The U.S. is wrestling with the aftermath of uprisings against longtime Arab allies from Tunisia to Bahrain, and trying to leave behind stable, friendly governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran appears to be trying to gain political ground amid the turmoil and to make the U.S. withdrawals as quick and painful as possible.

"I think we are likely to see these Iranian-backed groups continue to maintain high attack levels" as the exit date nears, Maj. Gen. James Buchanan, the U.S. military's top spokesman in Iraq, said in an interview. "But they are not going to deter us from doing everything we can to help the Iraqi security forces."

In June, 15 U.S. servicemen died in Iraq, the highest monthly casualty figure there in more than two years. The U.S. has attributed all the attacks to Shiite militias it says are are trained by the Revolutionary Guards, rather than al Qaeda or other Sunni groups that were the most lethal forces inside Iraq a few years ago.

In Afghanistan, the Pentagon has in recent months traced to Iran the Taliban's acquisition of rockets that give its fighters roughly double the range to attack North Atlantic Treaty Organization and U.S. targets. U.S. officials said the rockets' markings, and the location of their discovery, give them a "high degree" of confidence that they came from the Revolutionary Guard's overseas unit, the Qods Force.

U.S. defense officials are also increasingly concerned that Iran's stepped-up military activities in the Persian Gulf could inadvertently trigger a clash. A number of near misses involving Iranian and allied ships and planes in those waters in recent months have caused Navy officials to call for improved communication in the Gulf.

Iran's assertive foreign policy comes amid a growing power struggle between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Many of the president's closest aides have been detained on alleged corruption charges in recent weeks, raising questions as to whether Mr. Ahmadinejad will serve out his term.U.S. and European officials also say Iran has grown increasingly aggressive in trying to influence the political rebellions across the Middle East and North Africa. Tehran is alleged to have dispatched military advisers to Syria to help President Bashar al-Assad put down a popular uprising.

In recent months, according to U.S. officials, Iran has also increased its intelligence and propaganda activities in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, countries where pro-U.S. leaders have either fallen or come under intense pressure.

Iranian officials denied in interviews and briefings this week that the Revolutionary Guard played any role in arming militants in Iraq and Afghanistan. They charged the U.S. with concocting these stories to justify maintaining an American military presence in the region.

"This is the propaganda of the Americans. They are worried because they have to leave Iraq very soon, according to the plan," said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast. "They are better off going home and sorting out their own domestic problems."

Iranians officials have also accused the U.S. and Israel of interfering in Iranian affairs, including assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists and supporting opposition groups. The U.S. and Israel have denied this.

In recent weeks, Iran's leadership invited the presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to Tehran to discuss regional affairs. Senior Iranian officials made it clear during those meetings that they wanted an accelerated exit of American forces from the region.

"Americans want to have permanent bases in Afghanistan, and this is dangerous because the real security will not be established as long as the American military forces are present," Ayatollah Khamenei told Afghan President Hamid Karzai last week, according to Iranian state media.

Iraq has in recent years been a proxy battlefield for the U.S. and Iran. U.S. officials in Iraq said the Qods Force is training and arming three primary militias that have in recent months attacked U.S. and Iraqi forces. Kata'ib Hezbollah, or Brigades of the Party of God, is viewed as the one most directly taking orders from Revolutionary Guard commanders in Iran. Two others, the Promise Day Brigade and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, are offshoots of the Mahdi Army headed by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who currently lives in Iran.

Over the past six months, Kata'ib Hezbollah has escalated attacks on U.S. forces employing weapons called IRAMs, or improvised rocket-assisted munitions. The weapons are often propane tanks packed with hundreds of pounds of explosives and powered by rockets. Militiamen launch the weapons from the backs of flatbed trucks.

Kata'ib Hezbollah claimed credit for a June 6 IRAM attack that killed six American troops at Camp Victory, near Baghdad International Airport. This week, three more Americans were killed when an IRAM struck a desert base just a few miles from the Iranian border in Iraq's Wasit Province, according to U.S. officials.

"We believe the militias see themselves as in competition with each other," said Gen. Buchanan. "They want to claim credit for making us leave Iraq."

The U.S. believes Iranian involvement in Afghanistan is significantly lower than in Iraq. But U.S. officials said they have seen clear evidence that the Revolutionary Guard has transferred longer-range rockets to elements of the Taliban that significantly enhance their ability to target U.S. and other NATO forces.

In February, British forces intercepted a shipment of four dozen 122-millimeter rockets moving through Afghanistan's desolate Nimruz Province near the Iranian and Pakistan borders. The rockets have an estimated range of about 13 miles, more than double the distance of the majority of the Taliban's other rockets.

"It was the first time we've seen that weapon," said a senior U.S. defense official in Afghanistan. "We saw that as upping the ante a bit from the kind of support we've seen in the past."

U.S. officials stressed that most of Iran's influence in Afghanistan is channeled through "soft power"—business, aid and diplomacy. But these officials said the deployment of more U.S. and NATO forces along the Afghan-Iranian border as part of the Obama administration's Afghanistan "surge" appears to have raised Iran's sense of insecurity.

These officials said Iran's support for the Taliban appears to wax and wane in relation to how successful Washington and NATO appear to be in stabilizing Afghanistan. Shiite-majority Iran has traditionally viewed the Taliban, a Sunni group, with trepidation. The two sides nearly fought a war in 1998 after the Taliban executed Iranian diplomats based in the central Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

"They're supporting the Taliban because they want us out of here," said the U.S. official in Afghanistan. "If we're making gains, I can see them upping their support. If they're making gains, they'll probably stay quiet."

In large part because of the growing wariness over Iran's backing of Shiite militias in Iraq, the U.S. is considering altering its withdrawal plans from the country, say administration and defense officials.

All U.S. forces are due to depart at the end of the year, but senior American officials have hinted loudly that they would like Baghdad to ask the U.S. to keep a viable force in the country beyond that date. Some administration and military officials have talked about retaining 10,000 troops in Iraq.

Military officials and defense analysts cite Iran as a prime justification for extending the U.S. presence. They say Iran is trying to use its military, which is much more powerful than Iraq's, and Shiite proxy militias inside Iraq to pressure Baghdad to maintain close ties with Tehran.

Adm. William McRaven, the administration's nominee to lead Special Operations Command, told a Senate panel this week that he favors keeping a commando force in Iraq that would be available to counter threats.

—Julian E. Barnes contributed to this article.
Write to Jay Solomon at

24419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Indendence Day, July 4, 1776 (An American Seder and more) on: July 02, 2011, 09:00:56 AM
Four years ago, I wrote a column titled "America Needs a July Fourth Seder." In it, I explained that "national memory dies without national ritual. And without a national memory, a nation dies." Many readers and listeners to my radio show responded by creating their own rituals to make the day far more meaningful than watching fireworks and eating hot dogs.

I now present a simple 10-minute ceremony that every American can easily use on July Fourth. It is a product of the Internet-based Prager University that I founded nearly two years ago. We call it the Fourth of July Declaration, and here it is. (A paginated and printed version can be downloaded at the website

It begins with a note to the individual leading the ritual, the "host."


We hope this day finds you, your family and your friends in good health, enjoying another glorious Fourth together. We all love barbecues, parties and fireworks, but if that's all the Fourth of July is about, the day has lost its meaning and we lose a vital connection to our American past.

Welcome to our Fourth of July Declaration!

We have modeled this Declaration on the best-known commemoration of a historical event in the world -- the Jewish Passover meal. It has successfully kept the memory of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt alive for over 3,000 years.

As Americans, we need to reconnect with our Founding. We need to rediscover the meaning of our country's creation. And we need to do it every year. That is the reason for ritual -- to enable us to remember. Without ritual, the memory fades. And without memory, life -- whether of the individual or of a nation -- loses its meaning.

That's where this Fourth of July Declaration comes in.

In keeping with the philosophy of Prager University that profound concepts can be taught in five minutes, this Declaration is brief.

If you follow this simple ceremony, this holiday will not just be another barbecue. It will be the meaningful day it was meant to be: a celebration of the birth of our exceptional country, the United States of America.

You are encouraged to add more to your Fourth of July Declaration. This ceremony is only a starting point. But even doing this minimum will mean a lot -- to you, to your family and friends, and to the nation.

* Feel free to read this "note to host" to those assembled at your celebration of the day.


-- Iced Tea

-- Salty pretzels

-- Strawberries and blueberries and whipped cream. (But any goodie colored red, white and blue will do.)

-- A small bell

The ringer on your cell phone will do in a pinch

-- An American coin

The bigger, the better. A half-dollar is ideal, but a quarter will do.

-- A printed (unsigned) Declaration of Independence.

-- Lyrics to "God Bless America" for all your guests. Download the lyrics. (


DIRECTION: Everyone gathers around the table.

HOST SPEAKS: Today, we take a few minutes to remember what the Fourth of July is about and to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to be Americans.

Before America was a nation, it was a dream -- a dream shared by many people, from many nations, over many generations.

It began with the Pilgrims in 1620, who fled Europe so that they could be free to practice their religion. It continued through the 17th century, as more and more people arrived in a place that came to be known as the New World. In this new world, where you were from didn't matter; what mattered was where you were headed.

As more and more people settled, they started to see themselves as new people -- Americans.

They felt blessed: The land was spacious. The opportunities limitless.

By 1776, a century and a half after the first Pilgrims landed, this new liberty-loving people was ready to create a new nation.

And on July 4 of that year, they did just that. They pronounced themselves to be free of the rule of the English king. We know this statement as the Declaration of Independence.

DIRECTION: Host invites the young people (generally ages 7 and older) present to read and to answer the following:


Q: Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July?

A: Because the Fourth of July is the birthday of the American people -- the day we chose to become the United States of America, a free nation.

Q: Why was America different from all other countries?

A: Because in 1776, all countries were based on nationality, religion, ethnicity or geography. But America was created on the basis of a set of ideas. This is still true today.

Q: What are those ideas?

A: Three ideas summarize what America is all about. They are engraved on every American coin. They are "Liberty," "In God We Trust" and "E Pluribus Unum."

DIRECTION: Host passes around an American coin and chooses readers from the group to read the following:

READER No. 1: "Liberty" means that we are free to pursue our dreams and to go as far in life as hard work and good luck will take us.

READER No. 2: "In God We Trust" means that America was founded on the belief that our rights and liberties have been granted to us by the Creator. Therefore they cannot be taken away by people.

READER No. 3: "E Pluribus Unum" is a Latin phrase meaning "From Many, One." Unlike other countries, America is composed of people of every religious, racial, ethnic, cultural and national origin -- and regards every one of them as equally American. Therefore, "out of many (people we become) one" -- Americans.

HOST: We have on our table items that symbolize the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War that won our freedom.

DIRECTION: Host holds up each symbolic item as he explains its symbolic meaning.

-- We drink iced tea to remember the Boston Tea Party. "No taxation without representation" was the patriots' chant as they dumped British tea into the Boston Harbor.

-- We eat a salty pretzel to remember the tears shed by the families who lost loved ones in the struggle for freedom in The Revolutionary War and all the wars of freedom that followed.

-- We ring a bell to recall the Liberty Bell, which was rung to announce the surrender of the King's army. On the bell are inscribed these words from the Book of Leviticus: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof."

-- We eat strawberries and blueberries dipped in whipped cream to celebrate the red, white and blue of our flag.

HOST: We celebrate America's greatness without denying its flaws. There are no perfect individuals, so there can certainly be no perfect country. Our national history has its share of shame. The greatest of these is the shame of slavery, which existed at our founding, as it existed throughout the world at that time.

But let it never be forgotten that we fought a terrible civil war in which hundreds of thousands of American died. And the reason for that war was slavery.

Let it also not be forgotten that America has fought in more wars for the freedom of other peoples than any nation in history.

America's history is one that we can be proud of.

DIRECTION: Host holds up a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

We now close with one more ritual. Let each of us sign our names to the Declaration of Independence. While it is a replica of the one our founders signed, the words and sentiments are eternal.

DIRECTION: Everyone present signs their name to the Declaration of Independence. As each one signs, the host hands each person the lyrics to "God Bless America."

HOST: Everyone sing with me.

DIRECTION: Everyone sings (hopefully).

HOST: Happy Birthday, America. Happy Fourth of July. Now let's eat.
24420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: July 02, 2011, 08:46:19 AM
Thank you for those specific examples of the standard of proof required GM. (As usual, the post would be helped by some introductory words by you as to why you are posting it wink )  That said, one suspects it is relatively easy for a smarter-than-stupid dealer to not get caught -- which I think is JDN's point.

Which I think, brings us to my point-- that the government itself has been a far bigger source of the guns used by the Narco Gangs than anyone else-- yet the Obama Gang continues to use dishonest data in order to attack the American people's right to bear arms.   When viewed in conjunction with the President's very curious statement about "working under the radar" the reasonable yet admittedly circumstantial inference is that the President, AG Holder, and all his people involved are some seriously cold, and IMO criminal people.
24421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: July 01, 2011, 11:00:31 PM
I'd say GM's example is relevant because it is of a gun store owner getting in trouble, which is contrary to your apparent suggestion that for practical purposes the statute is useless.

I will give you another example.  "Operation Fast and Furious" started with gun dealers approaching the BATF about what they saw as illegal purchases.   It was the BATF that told the dealers to proceed.  This struck the dealers as so odd that some (or all? not sure) of them said "You better give me that in writing!"

Net result?  Some 2,000 to 2,500 guns were deliberately sold in violation of US Federal Law to narco gangs in Mexico.  By way of reference, and I believe I have my data correct here, at the request of the Mexican government the US has traced 5,100 guns as coming from the US.  In other words, some 40-50% of the guns traced back to the US were the result of Operation Fast and Furious.  Let us also note that the Zetas were Mexican Special Forces trained by the US Army at Fort Bragg-- until they went rogue.  Feel free to research the point further, but it is quite clear that a goodly portion of narco armament is of the sort not available to US civilians under any conditions-- but it is of the sort that our government has sold to the Mexican military, or other Latin militaries.  In other words, the US government is responsible for quite a bit more than the 40-50% of guns traced as originating in the US.
24422  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chickens coming home to roost on: July 01, 2011, 04:53:55 PM
This is what comes of Baraq, Hillary, the rest of the Pooh Bahs of the Demogogue Party, and their running dogs in the Pravdas, sabotaging our efforts in Iraq under Bush.  angry angry angry

STRATFOR analyst Reva Bhalla discusses the emerging dynamics in the Middle East, where Iran waits to exploit the power vacuum left in Iraq by the U.S. withdrawal, while unrest simmers in Syria and Bahrain.

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

Colin: As the Obama administration frets about the prospects for Afghanistan, its relations with Pakistan, the diminishing options for NATO in Libya, the negative Israeli response to peace proposals and, of course, the U.S. deficit, a power vacuum is emerging in the Middle East. Unrest is simmering in many countries, especially Syria and Bahrain, and as Iran prepares to take advantage, countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey are uneasy.

Welcome to Agenda, and to look at the problematic power vacuum in more detail, I’m joined by Reva Bhalla, STRATFOR’s senior Middle East analyst. Reva, let’s start with Bahrain. More than three months ago, when the Shiite-led protests reached their peak, it looked as if there was a very serious confrontation building up between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Bahrain as the main proxy battleground. Where does that situation stand today?

Reva: Well if you look at the situation in Bahrain today as compared to, say, in mid-March, things certainly look a lot calmer, but the Bahraini government is certainly walking a political tightrope. Coming up we have a national dialogue that the Bahraini government is initiating on July 2 where it’s trying to show that it’s reaching out the opposition, bringing them into the political fold, and at the very least, listening to their demands. But, we are also seeing protests continue. On Thursday, tear gas was used against protesters. There are plans for more protests, and these are led by the majority Shiite opposition. This is especially concerning not only to Bahrain, but also to the Saudis who lead the GCC force that has a military presence currently in the island country. Now, going back to the origin of these protests, there are legitimate Shiite grievances there, but the real fear of these Sunni royal families is that Iran could bring its covert assets to bear and initiate larger uprisings that could seriously undermine the authority of these Sunni royal governments. That’s something that would certainly work in favor of the Iranians as they’re trying to expand their sphere of influence in eastern Arabia. Now while Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies were very quick to clamp down in Bahrain in mid-March and arrest most of the unruly elements that were tied to Iran, there is some indication that Iran has exercised some constraint and that they still have some assets that they could bring to the table and further destabilize these Sunni royal regimes, and so the GCC states are very wary of the fact. They’re also looking ahead at Ramadan, which begins in August, and you know, at this time you have an opportunity for Shiite opposition groups to organize. You have religious tensions particularly high at this time and the Bahrainis do not want to see a situation escalate that Iran could exploit further down the line.

Colin: So, what happens now?

Reva: We’re looking at a situation now where the rumors are circulating that the GCC forces are drawing down their military forces in Bahrain, saying that the situation is calm enough for us to be able to do this. Now, what we’re really interested in at STRATFOR is whether this drawdown of forces is a limited concession by the Saudis to initiate a dialogue with the Iranians. We’ve seen over the past couple weeks in particular the Iranians putting out feelers for negotiations with the Saudis, and the reason for that is because the Iranians want to show its Arab adversaries that it can compel them into negotiations and those negotiations would be all about getting them to recognize the Iranian sphere of influence in exchange for Iran taking a step back and putting an end to, or at least a cessation to, its meddling in internal Arab affairs. Now, whether this dialogue actually produces some results remains to be seen — we’re watching this very closely. But the Iranians made a point today to announce that they are very happy to see the drawdown of Saudi forces in Bahrain, so this could be the beginning of a broader negotiation there.

Colin: Right. Let’s move west to the Levant region where Syria is continuing its crackdowns: how does this fit into the Persian-Arab struggle you’ve just been describing to me?

Reva: Well you can see why Iran would be so worried about Syria right now. We don’t believe that the Syrian regime is on the verge of collapse, and that’s because we don’t see serious splits within the army. As long as the Alawites remain together in Syria, as long as the army holds together, we don’t see the type of splits that would indicate that this regime is in very serious trouble, at least in the near future. Now, the regime has a lot of complications moving ahead as it tries to pull out of this crisis, as it tries to manage its opposition. Especially as you have outside forces — like Turkey, like Saudi Arabia, like the United States — thinking about the alternatives to the al Assad regime. And that alternative would most likely be a Sunni entity, and you can see Turkey wanting to restore Sunni influence in the Levant region and, over time, allowing for such a political transformation. That is something that would work directly against Iranian interests because, remember, Iran, to maintain its foothold in the Levant, needs a crucial ally in Syria so that it can support its main militant proxy, Hezbollah, in Lebanon. And the Alawite Baathist regime in Damascus today, which has been in power now for the last four decades, allows Iran to do so. But if that regime falls, with time, Iran loses that very crucial leverage, and that is a key pillar in its overall deterrent strategy.

Colin: Let’s talk about Turkey. Its government is now at the start of its third term. George Friedman and I discussed the challenges for the foreign minister in a broad sense. But more specifically, does Turkey now have the ability to effect any kind of change in Syria?

Reva: Well it’s an interesting question and I think that’s one that Turks are actually asking themselves right now. You know, for a long time as Turkey has been coming out of its geopolitical shell in many respects, it’s been out of the game for the past 90-odd years. It’s now starting to see again what kinds of influence it can project in the region, and it’s starting to see that its zero-problems-with-neighbors policy is grinding against reality. And Syria is probably the best case example of this. In Syria, again, you have a situation where Iran is very worried about the sustainability of the Syrian regime, even if that regime is not about to collapse right away. The Turks have an interest in restoring Sunni authority in Syria and projecting its influence in that country. Whether Turkey acknowledges this public or not, it has a problem with its neighbors — it has a problem with Syria — and Syria is, in effect, an indirect confrontation between the Turks and the Persians. And so this is a very interesting dynamic, one that we’ve been expecting to come to light for some time as Turkey is the natural counter-balance to Iranian power in this region. And Syria is really not the only point of contention there. Really, the crucial area that we want to look at is Mesopotamia, and that’s where we have the U.S. withdrawing from Iraq leaving open a power vacuum that the Iranians have been waiting a very long time to fill, and then the Turks have been working very quietly to bolster the Sunni forces to balance against the Iranians. That’s sort of the natural proxy battleground between these two powers. So while publicly Turkey’s still trying to show that it does not have these big problems with its neighbors, that it’s downplaying any sort of confrontation, at a certain point it becomes very hard to hide the fact that these problems are coming to the fore.

Colin: Now, you mention the power vacuum as the Americans leave Iraq. In Washington, President Obama has much in his mind: Afghanistan of course, NATO’s problems in Libya, the deficit. So how much focus is there on the triangular issue that we’ve just been talking about?

Reva: I really don’t think that the U.S. can devote that much attention to these issues, as important as they are. And really the crucial issue for the United States is the future of Iraq, and what to do about the impending withdrawal there. How do you create an efficient blocking force against Iran, and if you can’t, can the U.S. actually engage in a fruitful negotiation with the Iranians, however unsavory that may be, to form some sort of understanding on a balance of power in the Persian Gulf region. Now that is something that, of course, is going to alarm the Saudis greatly. And that’s why, again, we’re looking at these hints of concessions in Bahrain to see if the Saudis are going to try to preempt the U.S. When the Saudis can’t depend on the U.S. fully right now to play that blocking role against the Iranians, and if the Turks aren’t quite ready completely fulfill that role, then will the Saudis try to move ahead and try to work out at least some sort of limited understanding for the short term to secure its interests at least until the U.S. can turn its attention back to these very important issues.

Colin: Reva, thanks. Reva Bhalla there, STRATFOR’s senior Middle East analyst. And in next week’s agenda, I’ll be talking to George Friedman about Iran — the first in a series of Agenda specials on world pressure points. I’m Colin Chapman. Until next time, goodbye.

24423  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: July 01, 2011, 03:58:59 PM
Beck noted in his closing comments that if he had been fired, they would not have trusted him with a Live show, which they did.  He also noted various points well before the announcement that the show was coming to an end that he clearly stated that he was not interested in doing what he was doing for much longer and would be moving on to the next chapter in his life/mission.

Given the pressure of the Soros conspiracy on advertisers and Fox, I would not be surprised if Fox did not beg him to stay, but that is different than Fox firing him.

As for how long his next venture will last or how successful it will be, time will tell.  GB's trust in his own instincts to go well outside the box have served him pretty far so far.  It took extraordinary vision and huge testicles to call for that 8/28 rally in DC -- and look how that turned out.  Look how his ratings, even after their decline from their peak, turned out.  And, if we judge a man by his enemies, GB is a class act and a great American.

24424  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: July 01, 2011, 02:35:08 PM
Fox couldn't take him being 2.5 times the size audience of his nearest competitor?  Sure , , ,  rolleyes

IMO Beck is quite a remarkable man, someone whom I respect greatly.
24425  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: July 01, 2011, 10:25:01 AM
24426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Men & Women on: July 01, 2011, 10:18:31 AM
24427  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: July 01, 2011, 10:13:13 AM

24428  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Security, Surveillance issues on: July 01, 2011, 10:08:57 AM
Here's the clip of it:
24429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: NY Frack you! on: July 01, 2011, 09:58:57 AM
A proposal by state regulators to allow hydraulic fracturing drilling for gas will likely fuel a new burst of lobbying on the polarizing issue.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation said a draft report to be released Friday will recommend barring the process called fracking in areas that provide drinking water.

The DEC recommendations will ultimately land on the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who has tried to carefully navigate the issue. The dispute often splits rural communities in which fracking is alternately seen as an economic windfall or an environmental hazard. Public opinion on drilling also tends to fall along geographic lines, with much of the opposition centered around New York City and downstate, with the biggest supporters tending to be upstate.

The document is seen as a key starting point for months of debate over fracking in the state. New Jersey's Legislature decided to ban the practice.

The Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, has estimated that ending New York's moratorium on fracking would mean a $11.4 billion boost in economic output, though that calculation did not assume the limitations in the new proposal.

New York City officials had sought to protect their expansive watershed, and were pleased by the proposal announced Thursday in Albany.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the proposal "the right decision'' because it would ban fracking in major watersheds and create a system of regulations to "allow drilling in a rigorously protective and environmentally responsible way....These new recommendations appear to adopt the restrictions we sought.''

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement that he was happy aquifers and drinking water supplies would be protected.

Roger Downs, legislative director for the Atlantic chapter of the Sierra Club, said he had not expected a complete statewide ban on the practice, but said the DEC's proposal is still weak on allowing for future analysis and data.

The DEC would bar hydrofracking in the aquifers for New York City and the upstate Syracuse area, and would create a series of restrictions aimed at keeping the practice—which involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to free reserves of natural gas—away from drinking water.

Under the proposal, no permits would be issued for sites within 500 feet of a private water well or domestic-use spring. Nor would permits be issued for a site within 2,000 feet of a public drinking water supply well or reservoir until three years or more of further data collection. And no permits would be issued for well sites within a 100-year floodplain.

The governor may not necessarily have the last word on the issue. The Legislature, which previously passed its own moratorium on drilling, could decide to revisit fracking. And the state attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is also active on the issue, having filed a lawsuit accusing federal agencies of not conducting necessary study of the issue before allowing drilling in the Delaware River basin.

While the proposal announced Thursday echoes many of the points Mr. Schneiderman made, the entire issue of fracking has elicited significant differences in federal and state approaches to the burgeoning industry.

24430  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck bids adieu on: July 01, 2011, 09:41:57 AM
Beck Bids Adieu

Posted By Arnold Ahlert On July 1, 2011 @ 12:13 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 5 Comments

Yesterday was Glenn Beck’s last day on Fox. In his run there, which began in 2008 after Fox hired him away from rival network CNN, Mr. Beck was a lighting rod for relentless progressive vitriol. Perhaps only George W. Bush and Sarah Palin have been subjected to more criticism than the controversial TV and radio host. Yet despite the controversy, Beck leaves behind a solid legacy in two arenas: his attention to the far-left’s alliance with Islamic radicalism, and his exposure of the breathtaking degree of leftist radicalism that permeates the Democratic Party.

Beck has done yeoman’s work with regard to exposing radical Islam, as demonstrated by a a six-part series of videos (available here, here, here, here, here and here). In fact, Beck’s ongoing exposés of that radicalism remain unmatched by most in the mainstream media. Yet when Beck offered his rationale connecting Muslim radicals with the “hard-core socialist Left,” he was not only taken on by the Left, but conservatives as well. For instance, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol accused Beck of “hysteria,” and National Review’s Rich Lowry called it a “well-deserved shot.”

The leftist/Islamist alliance is in fact quite ubiquitous and there are many disturbing examples of it that Beck took care to document. The radical leftist group Code Pink, which has forged ties with Hamas, did indeed spend time in early 2011 agitating in Cairo and at the Egyptian Rafah crossing, a border which many Egyptians believe Mubarak closed because he was a pawn of the Israelis. It was Code Pink founder Jodie Evans, along with leftist Weather Underground terrorists Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, who helped organize last year’s Free Gaza Movement which launched the “peace” flotilla attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. This year’s 11-ship flotilla, with the same objective, includes a boat named the “Audacity of Hope” and carries American leftists, including author Alice Walker, who this week called Israel and America “terrorist states” (as the Iranians do). Beck also created a video montage of leftist organizations mingled with Islamic radicals, all promoting the same anti-Semitic message. Ironically, that video begins with Chris Matthews mocking Beck for making the connection.

Yesterday, on the same day Beck’s Fox career was coming to an end, he may have received one of the more satisfying vindications of his assertions: Commentary Magazine reported that the Obama administration is reversing a five-year ban on contact with the Muslim Brotherhood. That would be the same Muslim Brotherhood which spawned Hamas, whose charter is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and calls for the extermination of Jews. “We believe, given the changing political landscape in Egypt, that it is in the interests of the United States to engage with all parties that are peaceful, and committed to non-violence, that intend to compete for the parliament and the presidency,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps Beck is equally vindicated by another revelation which occurred recently. Left-wing Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), despite assertions that his statements had been “mischaracterized” by the Syrian media, was caught praising President Bashar Assad as a man “thinking about the different ways that would be the best way to address the needs of the people…And frankly, that’s a positive development.” How has Assad been addressing the needs of his people? By gunning them down in the streets for daring to stand against his thug regime. Over 1,400 men, women and children have been murdered so far.

Glenn Beck also made the Left hysterical when he took on one of its cherished icons, George Soros. Beck contended that Soros has a five-step plan to bring down America, a charge which was greeted with contempt. One of those steps, according to Beck, was to “control the airwaves.” Once again, Beck was vindicated when an in-depth Fox report revealed that Soros “has ties to more than 30 mainstream news outlets–including The New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press, NBC and ABC.”  The breadth of Soros’ media connections are explained in great detail, but nothing sums up his influence better than this:

Readers unhappy with Soros’ media influence might be tempted to voice concerns to the Organization of News Ombudsmen–a professional group devoted to ‘monitoring accuracy, fairness and balance.’ Perhaps they might consider a direct complaint to one such as NPR’s Alicia Shepard or PBS’s Michael Getler, both directors of the organization. Unfortunately, that group is also funded by Soros.

The response to Beck’s efforts to expose Soros were characterized as anti-Semitic, with Daily Beast columnist Michelle Goldberg calling them an “updated Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” ADL leader Abraham Foxman piled on as well, calling Beck’s coverage of Soros’ actions as a boy during the Holocaust (when he aided Nazis in the confiscation of Jewish property) as “completely inappropriate, offensive and over the top.” Yet a 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft is where this information originated, and most of the controversy surrounding the interview has to do with Soros’ near-sociopathic lack of guilty for his conscription: “No feeling of guilt?” asked Kroft. “No,” said Soros. “There was no sense that I shouldn’t be there. If I wasn’t doing it, somebody else would be taking it away anyhow. Whether I was there or not. So I had no sense of guilt.”

Of course, Beck’s exposure of the control of the far-left over what’s left of the Democratic Party, facilitated immensely by Soros, was monumental. From Obama’s czars, such as dedicated Marxist Van Jones and the FCC’s chief diversity czar and Hugo Chavez sympathizer Mark Lloyd, to the president’s spiritual advisor and self-admitted Marxist Rev. Jim Wallis, Beck has sought to shine the light on the assortment of radical elements that form the basis of this administration and its defenders.

For that he has been routinely excoriated by the American Left, various elements of which have actively worked toward or endorsed the abridgment of Beck’s free speech. Even to the end, as yesterday’s piece in the Baltimore Sun indicated, there will be no letup. Writer David Zurawik stated that Glenn Beck ”will leave a TV legacy of reckless, divisive and ugly speech in his wake,” and that “he and Fox News should both feel some shame for the harm they have done to the national political discourse — how they have taken an hour of dinnertime each weeknight and used it to help polarize us with paranoid and angry words.”

Despite such obtusely hyperbolic detractors — who consistently and bizarrely level more vitriol and hysteria toward Beck than the very “hate” they purport to despise him for — Beck remains popular.  Even with a forty percent drop-off from his ratings high-water mark, Beck’s remained the most popular show on cable news in his time slot, with almost two and a half times the number of viewers as his closest rivals, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. And contrary to published reports that he was fired, Beck is leaving Fox because his contract is up, and his business and creative teams at Mercury Radio Arts prefer to get out from under the grind of producing his 5 p.m. show amid the corporate bureaucracy “where most ideas must be generated, spelled out in pitches, run by producers, budgeted, then run by more producers, approved by senior executives, etc.”

His next venture, GBTV, will be a web-based TV network, with two hour shows broadcast on weekdays from 5-7 PM EST, beginning on Sept. 12th. The show will also be available on demand. Subscriptions will cost $4.95 per month for access just to the show, or $9.95 for premium member access to all of the site’s programming. Advertising will provide additional revenue. “Lots of people are talking about the digital content revolution, but few are willing to risk it all and place a huge bet on the future,” said Christopher Balfe, President & COO of Mercury Radio Arts in a statement. “With GBTV, Mercury is doing just that. Fortunately, our incredible team at Mercury, as well as our industry-leading business partners, makes me confident that we will once again build something extraordinary.”

On his last show, Beck explained the reasons for his success. “I contend that is the reason we are successful here…because it’s true,” he said last night. “It seems as though there’s no truth anywhere anymore. We’ve made a lot of enemies on this program. We’ve taken on every single person we’ve been told not to take on…because the truth has no agenda. It will lead us where it leads us. This show has not only survived; we have thrived.” He then explained where he was going. “I have given up on admiring the problem. I am focused solely on the solution…I’m running to something. I know exactly where I’m supposed to be.”

Will Beck remain a controversial figure? Undoubtedly. Yet despite his well-publicized foibles, Beck was more than willing to take on the sacred cows of political correctness and their defenders, often by the most devastating method possible:

Their own words.

Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website

24431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson 1791 on: July 01, 2011, 09:35:13 AM
"It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please. Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. [The Constitution] was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect." --Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on a National Bank, 1791
24432  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: July 01, 2011, 12:56:02 AM
A New Wave of Rage in Cairo

Clashes between anti-regime demonstrators and Egyptian security forces erupted again in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Tuesday night and continued through the following morning. Although exact numbers are unconfirmed, Reuters reported that more than 1,000 people were injured in the incident. A leading pro-democracy activist group is now calling on supporters to return to the square early Thursday morning with tents and reenact the sit-ins that took place in January and February. The military has not said how it will respond but it will likely find a way to effectively handle this resurgence of unrest, triggered in large part by political divisions within the Egyptian opposition.

For a few hours on June 28, the Egyptian capital resembled a much milder version of Cairo on Jan. 28, the original “Day of Rage” which saw protests that would eventually help lead to the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak. Far fewer people were on the streets this time around — estimates ranged from several hundred to a few thousand — and no confirmed deaths. However, the clashes delivered a stark reminder that the political situation in Egypt is far from settled.

“All segments of the opposition know a great deal rides on what lies ahead. Whoever has a greater say in the constitutional process will largely set the course for the next phase in Egyptian politics.”
The immediate trigger for this case of unrest was a minor scuffle Tuesday night involving alleged “families of martyrs” and Egyptian police in a neighborhood on the west bank of the Nile. The turmoil quickly gathered momentum and culminated with a crowd of people coming together in Tahrir Square. They eventually clashed with Interior Ministry security forces in front of the ministry’s headquarters. This latest outbreak of dissent is attributed to a range of causes — unhappiness over the slow pace of reforms since Mubarak’s ouster, continued economic hardships, ongoing military trials of dissidents and many more complaints. The fundamental issue driving those calling for regime change in Egypt is the timing of the upcoming elections — namely, whether they should occur before or after the writing of the new constitution. All segments of the opposition know a great deal rides on what lies ahead. Whoever has a greater say in the constitutional process will largely set the course for the next phase in Egyptian politics.

The Egyptian military has been governing Egypt since February and is eager to hand over the day-to-day responsibilities of running the country so that it can return to its former role of ruling from behind the scenes. This is why the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has agreed to hold elections in September. Ironically enough, this timeline puts the interests of the military in line with those of their erstwhile enemies, Egypt’s Islamists — most notably, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Such a brief elections timetable benefits the Islamists more than it helps those the SCAF has blamed for orchestrating the clashes last night in Tahrir Square. The Islamists are much more politically organized, and thus don’t need extra time to prepare.

The people chanting for the “downfall of the Field Marshall,” a reference to SCAF head Gen. Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, feel that the only way to pressure the military into acceding to their demands is to prove they retain the ability to summon large crowds back to Tahrir Square. Demonstrations had already been publicly planned for July 8, a day dubbed in activist circles as the “Second Day of Rage” (even though this should technically be the “Third Day of Rage,” since May 27 had already been named the second). However, in an effort to capitalize on the events of Tuesday and Wednesday, the leading pro-democracy activist group, the April 6 Movement, called for the sit-in to begin early, after dawn prayers on Thursday morning.

Whether anyone shows up and whether the military permits the establishment of another tent city in Tahrir Square will reveal how much support the political camp known collectively as the January 25 Movement really has on the Egyptian street. Despite the hype that surrounded the last round of demonstrations in February, only a few hundred thousand demonstrators ever came to Tahrir Square at one time — an impressive number, but not one that denotes widespread revolutionary fervor in a country of more than 80 million. The MB — and the other Islamist groups and parties — have made a calculated decision to abstain entirely from the planned demonstrations, feeling it would not benefit them to anger the SCAF when their interests are already aligned.

For the military, allowing the protests to occur could be a politically astute way of helping the January 25 Movement hurt its own image in the eyes of much of the Egyptian public. Most Egyptians want only a return to normalcy in a country that has seen its economy and internal security significantly degrade over the last five months. Alternately, the military may also simply decide that it is tired of dealing with demonstrations and order a crackdown. A SCAF statement issued Wednesday afternoon stated that “the blood of the martyrs of the revolution is being used to cause a rift between the people and the security institution,” an intimation that the clashes in Tahrir Square have been carefully orchestrated as a way to discredit the SCAF.

24433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: President Coolidge on: June 30, 2011, 08:42:36 PM
second post of day:

Parades. Backyard barbecues. Fireworks. This is how many of us will celebrate the Fourth of July. In earlier times, the day was also marked with specially prepared orations celebrating our founding principles, a practice that has disappeared without notice.

It is a tribute to a polity dedicated to securing our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we can enjoy our freedoms while taking them for granted, giving little thought to what makes them possible. But this inattention comes at a heavy price, paid in increased civic ignorance and decreased national attachment—both dangerous for a self-governing people.

For an antidote to such thoughtlessness, one cannot do better than President Calvin Coolidge's remarkable address, delivered to mark the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1926. While he celebrated the authors of our founding document, Coolidge argued that it "represented the movement of a people . . . a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them."

History is replete with the births (and deaths) of nations. But the birth of the United States was unique because it was, and remains, a nation founded not on ties of blood, soil or ethnicity, but on ideas, held as self-evident truths: that all men are created equal; they are endowed with certain inalienable rights; and, therefore, the just powers of government, devised to safeguard those rights, must be derived from the consent of the governed.

What is the source of these ideas, and their singular combination in the Declaration? Many have credited European thinkers, both British and French. Coolidge, citing 17th- and 18th-century sermons and writings of colonial clergy, provides ample evidence that the principles of the Declaration, and especially equality, are of American cultural and religious provenance: "They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit." From this teaching flowed the emerging American rejection of monarchy and our bold embrace of democratic self-government.

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Associated Press
Calvin Coolidge: 'If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it.'
.Coolidge draws conclusions from his search into the sources. First, the Declaration is a great spiritual document. "Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man . . . are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. . . . Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish."

He also observes that the Declaration's principles are final, not to be discarded in the name of progress. To deny the truth of human equality, or inalienable rights, or government by consent is not to go forward but backward—away from self-government, from individual rights, from the belief in the equal dignity of every human being.

Coolidge's concluding remarks especially deserve our attention: "We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. . . . If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things which are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshipped."

Coolidge was no religious fanatic. He appreciated our constitutional strictures against religious establishment and religious tests for office, limitations crucial to religious freedom and toleration, also principles unique to the American founding. But he understood that free institutions and economic prosperity rest on cultural grounds, which in turn rest on religious foundations.

Like Tocqueville, who attributed America's strength to its unique fusion of the spirit of liberty and the spirit of religion, Coolidge is rightly concerned about what will happen to the sturdy tree of liberty should its cultural roots decay. It is a question worth some attention as we eat our barbecue and watch the fireworks.

Mr. Kass, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is a co-editor of "What So Proudly We Hail: The American Story in Soul, Speech and Song," published last month by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

24434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Corruption in the FCC? on: June 30, 2011, 08:37:36 PM
A reliable friend sends me the following:

A start up company called Lightsquared has managed to get a waiver  from the FCC to move forward with a mobile phone network.  Preliminary tests have shown interference with the GPS system despite protests from government agencies and others concerned about integrity of the GPS system.  Why have they  got so far with the FCC in spite of tests showing clear damage to the GPS system?  Payoffs, of course.  The following from an Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association blog following the issues.  http://Http://
I’m really curious as to the background relationships between President Obama, Julius Genachowski (FCC chairman, recess appointment by Barack Obama), Philip Falcone (Manager at Harbinger Capital Partners who have a 40% venture interest in LightSquared). Seems like some aggressive investigative reporting would likely turn up some unsavory facts, particularly in light of the huge amount of money involved – likely trillions in the long term.

Response by someone who is doing his homework:
A commentator expressed his curiosity about the relationships between the White House, the FCC, and Philip Falcone. They have an interesting history.

Phil Falcone, the founder of hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners, is currently under criminal and civil investigations by the Security Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan for allegedly failing to disclose $113 million in personal loans he took from his hedge fund to pay personal taxes. The Wall Street Journal has also reported that investigators are looking into allegations that Mr. Falcone allowed some clients to redeem funds from his hedge fund during the financial crisis of 2008, while preventing others from doing so.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Falcone and Harbinger scored big gains for investors in 2007, but the fund has since shrunk from $26.5 billion to $9 billion from losses and client withdrawals. As of last November, the fund was off 15% for the year, and investors like Goldman Sachs and Blackstone Group had put in requests to withdraw funds.

Also important, investors have expressed increasing concerns over Falcone’s plans to launch the LightSquared venture. The majority of Harbinger’s declining assets are pledged to this venture, which many believe is risky and underfunded. Experts believe that building this network can require as much as $40 billion, but there is a credible report that “Harbinger reckons with a suitable flexible FCC… it can get the network operable for something in the region of $6 billion.”

None of Falcone’s plans would be successful, however, unless the Administration and the FCC intervened on his behalf. Over the past year, a series of unusual decisions, questionable meetings, and procedural anomalies at the FCC and the White House highlight Falcone’s growing influence in the government.

Without going into pages of detail here, the FCC delayed publicly disclosing some of its dealing with Harbinger/LightSquared for weeks or months, and still has not disclosed some of them at all. An April 21, 2010 letter to FCC Chairman Genachowski from Senators Hutcinson, DeMint, Vitter and Brownback resulted in nothing more than a non-responsive letter from Genachowski on May 10. (Some of that has to do with a Harbinger/SkyTerra merger that is a critical piece of the LightSquared venture.)

Meanwhile, Falcone developed his government influence. According to White House visitor access logs, on September 22, 2009, Falcone and LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja personally visited the White House and met with the Chief of Staff at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). One day later, the Harbinger/SkyTerra merger agreement was signed.

On September 30, 2009, one week after his September 2009 White House visit, Falcone contributed $30,400 to the DSCC, the maximum legal individual contribution limit to a party committee. His wife, Lisa Falcone, contributed an additional $30,000 to the DSCC on the same day. LightSquared’s CEO Sanjiv Ahuja also contributed $30,000 to the DNC in September 2010.

On January 21, 2010, Falcone visited the White House again, this time for an appointment with John Holdren, the Director of the OSTP.

In addition to well-timed political contributions to the DSCC at the height of merger review discussions, Falcone/Harbinger also secured the assistance of a lobbying firm, the Palmetto Group, via Harbinger’s legal counsel, to lobby Congress and the FCC. Steve Glaze, lobbyist with the Palmetto Group, was registered to lobby the FCC directly on mobile satellite services on Falcone’s/Harbinger’s behalf. Steve Glaze is married to Terri Glaze, a senior staffer at the FCC.

On January 12, 2011, the National Telecommunications and Information Authority (housed within the Department of Commerce) sent a letter to FCC Chairman Genacholski objecting to the waiver. There was also a letter from Danny Price, Director of Spectrum and Communication Policy at the Department of Defense, stating that the FCC should defer action on the waiver request and place the application under a Notice of Prosed Rule-Making (NPRM).

The United States GPS Industry Council (USGPSIC) also raised concerns in a letter. Notable, that letter included serious concerns about interference with E911 and law enforcement GPS applications.

Nonetheless, the FCC, on delegated authority, officially granted LightSquared’s request for a waiver. In granting the waiver, the FCC chose to issue a license modification for LightSquared because of what they term “unique” circumstances, instead of modifying its rules to apply to all providers. That essentially guarantees that Falcone, and only Falcone, receives this special treatment.

We can only speculate whether or not these “unique” circumstances are related to Falcone’s September 30, 2009 meeting with the White House, and subsequent political contributions to the DSCC. But the outcome of the FCC’s action means that other companies will not be able to take advantage of the same loophole.

In addition to the GPS issue, the ramifications of the FCC’s favoritism to Falcone and LightSquared are enormous. Consider other competitive nationwide mobile providers. Take Clearwire, for example. They purchased terrestrial spectrum at auction for substantial sums, and they have invested millions more to build out their 4G network. And now, thanks to the FCC, their competitor LightSquared is given the same terestrial spectrum for free, and is essentially exempt from requirements to invest and build out a competing network. The message to companies like Clearwire is clear: Companies who play by the rules, create jobs, and invest in building out competing networks are now at risk of seeing their plans entirely upended by the FCC’s arbitrary “unique” circumstances in favor of a competitor who developed the right political influence and who made the right political financial contributions.

Federal agencies have a special responsibility to not only avoid conflicts of interest, but to avoid even the appearance of conflicts. No fair-minded person could look at the record so far and not believe that intervention and investigation are not warranted.
24435  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Praise for Gov. Brown on Card Check veto on: June 30, 2011, 08:23:46 PM

California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has always been one to surprise. His latest is this week's veto of card-check legislation, which would have allowed agricultural workers to unionize if a simple majority sign an authorization card.

As we wrote last month ("Forgetting Cesar Chavez," May 14), the bill would have denied employers the ability to demand a secret ballot election if labor organizers wanted to unionize through card check. This would have made it easier for organizers to intimidate workers into joining a union since workers' selections would no longer be concealed.

The United Farm Workers union has been losing members for years as workers have chosen to decertify the union. For many workers the cost of their dues exceeds the benefits they gain through collective bargaining. Labor leaders hoped card check would shore up their dwindling rolls and give them more money to spend on elections. Mr. Brown's predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, vetoed earlier versions of the legislation, but union leaders figured they had an ally in the Democrat. It seems they misread history.

In 1975, during his first stint as Governor, Mr. Brown signed a law guaranteeing workers' right to a secret ballot. Labor leader Cesar Chavez fought hard for this right in the 1960s and '70s, and in his veto message Mr. Brown said card check would have altered "in a significant way the guiding assumptions" of state agricultural labor law.

It also could have killed thousands of jobs in the state's San Joaquin Valley, where unemployment exceeds 15%. Rigid union work rules and high labor costs have already driven many growers to Mexico.

Labor leaders and Democrats tried to pressure Mr. Brown into signing the bill by camping outside his office and chanting "Sí se puede." Their antics may have given the Governor some sympathy for the farm workers whose only protection against such hounding is the secret ballot.
24436  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTB: A sense of humor seems to be MIA , , , on: June 30, 2011, 08:09:18 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

24437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rove: GOP can blow it on: June 30, 2011, 05:49:54 PM
High unemployment, anemic growth, defections in key groups such as independents and Hispanics, and unpopular policies are among the reasons President Obama is unlikely to win re-election. But likely to lose is far from certain to lose. If Republicans make enough unforced errors, Mr. Obama could win.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: June 30, 2011, 05:45:26 PM
President Obama was right about his audacity, if not always the hope. Six months after he agreed to a bipartisan extension of current tax rates, he is now insisting on tax increases as part of the debt-ceiling talks. At his press conference yesterday he repeated this demand, as well as his recent talking point that taxes are lower than they've been in generations. Let's examine that claim because it explains Washington's real revenue problem—slow economic growth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US reaches out to Islamist parties on: June 30, 2011, 05:37:04 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Keith Johnson in Washington and Amina Ismail in Cairo contributed to this article.
24440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Does it still matter? on: June 30, 2011, 05:30:55 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

24441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Flotilla 2, the prequel on: June 30, 2011, 11:34:49 AM
24442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Venezuela Oil on: June 30, 2011, 11:32:13 AM
Vice President of Analysis Peter Zeihan examines the challenges faced by the Venezuelan oil industry regardless of who holds political power in Caracas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24443  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: June 30, 2011, 11:31:44 AM
Vice President of Analysis Peter Zeihan examines the challenges faced by the Venezuelan oil industry regardless of who holds political power in Caracas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24444  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams, 1781 on: June 30, 2011, 11:23:31 AM

"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual - or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country." --Samuel Adams, in the Boston Gazette, 1781
24445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: An Exceptional Fourth on: June 30, 2011, 11:22:16 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no rational reason why a small republican experiment in 1776 grew to dominate global culture and society -- except that America is the only nation, past or present, that put trust in the individual rather than in the state and its elite bureaucracy. Such confidence in the average free citizen made America absolutely exceptional -- something we should remember more than ever on this Fourth of July.
24446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Seattle Plot on: June 30, 2011, 11:19:28 AM
By Scott Stewart

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

A New Twist

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

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

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

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

24447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glenn's last night on Fox tonight, and what comes next on: June 30, 2011, 11:14:17 AM
second post of the morning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to GBTV. The Truth Lives Here
24448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coulter on the mob harassment of Beck on: June 30, 2011, 11:13:13 AM
Of all the details surrounding the liberal mob attack on Glenn Beck and his family in New York's Bryant Park last Monday night, one element stands out. "No, it won't be like that, Dad," his daughter said when Beck questioned the wisdom of attending a free, outdoor movie showing in a New York park.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believe me, liberal mobbings will stop very quickly after the first toilet-training champion takes his inaugural punch.
24449  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Greater Game in Bahrain on: June 30, 2011, 10:58:02 AM
The Greater Game in Bahrain

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

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

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

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

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

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

24450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: June 30, 2011, 10:34:59 AM
Umm , , , very interesting of course, but why is this in this thread instead of Nuclear War or Iran?
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