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24601  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.
24602  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.
24603  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.
24604  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.

24605  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.

24606  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.
24607  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
24608  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Men & Women on: July 01, 2011, 10:18:31 AM
24609  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: July 01, 2011, 10:13:13 AM

24610  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:
24611  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.

24612  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

24613  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
24614  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.

24615  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.

24616  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.
24617  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.
24618  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

24619  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.

24620  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.

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 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.

24621  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.
24622  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

24623  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Flotilla 2, the prequel on: June 30, 2011, 11:34:49 AM
24624  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.

24625  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.

24626  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
24627  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.
24628  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.

24629  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
24630  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.
24631  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.

24632  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?
24633  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afpakia: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: June 30, 2011, 01:37:24 AM
Lets see if we can continue the relevant points on the foreign affairs thread please.

Regarding Afpakia:

Baraq ran on a platform of Iraq being the wrong war and Afpakia being the right war.   Once elected he put his own man in, then ignored the war altogether until his own man said he hadn't heard from the President but once in six months and the military began a leak campaign that they needed more troops-- lots more.  Finally the Pravdas bestirred themselves a bit and thus provoked Baraq into months of Hamlet like dithering which yielded an even more incoherent policy than the one he inherited (and Bush's Afpakia strategy was pretty bad).  Solution:  Both surge and withdraw rolleyes rolleyes rolleyes leaving "an essential war of self-defense" in the hands of Karzai, the Afgan Army, and the Afghan police.  Of course, knowing we were leaving wouldn't affect anybody's behavior in the meantime , , ,  rolleyes   Despite what normal folks might consider an act of war by harboring OBL (and many, many other deeds of similar character) Pakistan is our ally , , , but we have kowtowed to Russia in numerous ways (e.g. abandoning eastern Europe) so we can depend on them as a supply line to Afghanistan and depend on them should we ever need to get into outer space.

Seen in this light, I can readily understand people saying "You've been dithering and fg up for 10 years and Baraq has already told everyone we are leaving-- just like we are leaving Iraq (begun by candidates Baraq and Hillary et al), and the middle east altogether.  We don't see a point in staying.  Whenever we leave it will be a clusterfcuk.  NO ONE is calling for going after Pak's nukes.  NO ONE is bringing to the table the level of understanding that our YA does.  Does anyone here see anyone whom they wish to follow in all this?

Then there are the points Stratfor makes about our overloaded bandwidth.  Of course Baraq will use the stampede for the exits as an exucse to get Panetta to further gut our capabilities in an increasingly likely to go sideways world.

And so the gathering clusterfcuk develops momentum , , ,
24634  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: June 30, 2011, 01:22:21 AM
Grateful for a nice day of teaching.
24635  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: June 29, 2011, 09:15:02 PM
Just watched the Allen West speech of my previous post-- well worth the time and quite relevant to this thread-- including the political dimension.
24636  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 29, 2011, 09:13:24 PM
I saw a snippet yesterday where the question of his "low macho factor" came up.  His answer"

"You've got to be kidding.  I used to play hockey and I probably have been in more fights than the rest of the candidates combined."

I liked him in that moment  grin
24637  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Older Warrior on: June 29, 2011, 09:02:46 PM
a) "Intelligence is the amount of time it takes to forget a lesson."

b) "Knees are escape valves for hips."
24638  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack 9/18/11 on: June 29, 2011, 09:00:56 PM
New registrations:

C-Mighty Dog
Nathan Carlen
Katherine Waruszewski-- our first woman registered for this Gathering-- someone let "Bitch" know!
Alex Bondarenko
Robert Neal
24639  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: June 29, 2011, 12:33:35 PM
Back before I was married and getting more , , , selective in my social life, there was a time , , , Myself, I was happy with a magazine dedicated to "All "Natural' Women" (i.e. no silicon breasts).
24640  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: June 29, 2011, 12:30:53 PM
Thoughtful piece by Pawlenty.  Would you please post in the Foreign Affairs thread as well?  I would like to discuss it there in the context of that thread instead of in the context of the 2012 campaign.
24641  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Unprotected candidates on: June 29, 2011, 11:34:56 AM

In this week’s Above the Tearline, we’re going to look at the period of time when individuals running for President of the United States are not afforded U.S. Secret Service protection. In the protection business this is called either the “assassin’s window” or the “Robert F. Kennedy (or R.F.K) window.”

In 1968, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Los Angeles by a Palestinian assassin by the name of Sirhan Sirhan. At the time of Kennedy’s murder, he was not afforded U.S. Secret Service protection. What most people don’t realize is U.S. Secret Service protection is afforded the leading candidate after that person is selected at the party convention. At that point in time, the U.S. Secret Service assumes responsibility for the candidate running for President of the United States. We are in a very interesting period of time which happens every four years at presidential election time in that you have numerous candidates running for President of the United States that have various levels of protection. For example, Congresswoman Bachmann, who announced her candidacy for presidency; She will have U.S. Capitol Police protection because of her official position as a U.S. congresswoman, and all members of Congress are afforded protection by the U.S. Capitol Police. On the other hand, former governor Romney and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich are private citizens and therefore do not have official government protection, so their campaigns will either have to hire off-duty police officers or utilize private executive protection security.

An interesting parallel is that Senator Obama was afforded U.S. Secret Service protection earlier than any other person running for presidential office based predominantly upon the white hate threat to him. The Above the Tearline aspect of this is as you look at this period of time in the assassin’s window where some candidates have protection 24 x 7 and other candidates do not. In some cases you will have the kind of individual — the stalker — that will take the path of least resistance and focus his energy and efforts towards those individuals that do not have protection.

24642  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: June 29, 2011, 11:30:19 AM
As noted, the parent can buy for his/her child what he/she wishes to.  This completely meets the point raised by JDN.  Furthermore, the parent should be able to let a child go unattended into a store which sells magazines and not have to worry about the child (e.g. a 12 year old) buying "Big Dick Dwarves Anally Rape Anal Virgins and Shoot Jizz all over their Faces".
24643  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post Chronicle on: June 29, 2011, 11:18:17 AM
Chronicle · June 29, 2011

The Foundation
"Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness." --George Washington

Editorial Exegesis

Rather than drill, Obama plays games with the Strategic Petroleum Reserve"President Barack Obama has chosen a curious moment to release 30 million barrels of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The president initially justified the release as protection against disruptions in supply caused by the conflict in Libya. Later, the administration changed the explanation, saying Obama hopes to stabilize gasoline prices going into the summer vacation driving season. Libya is an important source of oil. But the fighting there has not had a major impact on supplies. And oil prices have fallen back in recent weeks from their yearly highs. ... As we've said when previous presidents considered using the reserve to influence short-term prices, that's not what the stockpile is there for. The reserve is designed to shield the American economy from dramatic disruptions in the oil supply. Such a major cutoff hasn't happened. Using the reserve to manipulate market prices is a futile enterprise. ... The president's decision to release oil reserves, coming at a time when his approval rating is sinking, opens him to criticism that his re-election campaign is driving his economic and energy decisions. He can claim credit for future declines in gasoline prices that may have occurred naturally. If the priority of the administration is now to keep gasoline cheap, it should also drop its opposition to increased domestic oil production, which would have a larger impact on long-term oil prices than would tapping into the reserve. Likewise, that goal should also inform its current considerations of sharply higher fuel economy standards for the automotive fleet. ... In any case, the release of the oil reserves in response to fluctuations in the market is not sound policy." --The Detroit News

"On economic growth, real GDP has risen 0.8% over the 13 quarters since the recession began, compared to an average increase of 9.9% in past recoveries. From the beginning of the recession to April 2011, real personal income has grown just .9% compared to 9.4% for the same period in previous post 1960 recessions. The standard response from Obama apologists is that recession of 2008 and 2009 was different because, as former Clinton administration economist Robert Shapiro puts it, 'this was a financial crisis, and these take longer to recover from.' In fact, in most cases, the deeper the recession, the stronger the recovery to make up for lost ground." --columnist Stephen Moore

"Right now America is nothing more than Greece with better PR. And note I said right now, because at the rate we're going, we're well on our way to making that country look like amateurs by comparison." --columnist Arnold Ahlert

"The salient feature of America in the Age of Obama is a failed government class institutionally committed to living beyond its means, and a citizenry too many of whom are content to string along." --columnist Mark Steyn

"A recent poll showed that nearly half the American public believes that the government should redistribute wealth. That so many people are so willing to blithely put such an enormous and dangerous arbitrary power in the hands of politicians -- risking their own freedom, in hopes of getting what someone else has -- is a painful sign of how far many citizens and voters fall short of what is needed to preserve a democratic republic." --economist Thomas Sowell

24644  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: Farewell Address 1796 on: June 29, 2011, 10:00:32 AM

"The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position." --George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
24645  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Adams: Betting on the Bad Guys on: June 29, 2011, 09:58:34 AM
Betting on the Bad Guys
Cartoonist Scott Adams's personal road to riches: Put your money on the companies you hate the most

When I heard that BP was destroying a big portion of Earth, with no serious discussion of cutting their dividend, I had two thoughts: 1) I hate them, and 2) This would be an excellent time to buy their stock. And so I did. Although I should have waited a week.

People ask me how it feels to take the side of moral bankruptcy. Answer: Pretty good! Thanks for asking. How's it feel to be a disgruntled victim?

I have a theory that you should invest in the companies that you hate the most. The usual reason for hating a company is that the company is so powerful it can make you balance your wallet on your nose while you beg for their product. Oil companies such as BP don't actually make you beg for oil, but I think we all realize that they could. It's implied in the price of gas.

Scott AdamsI hate BP, but I admire them too, in the same way I respect the work ethic of serial killers. I remember the day I learned that BP was using a submarine…with a web cam…a mile under the sea…to feed live video of their disaster to the world. My mind screamed "STOP TRYING TO MAKE ME LOVE YOU! MUST…THINK…OF DEAD BIRDS TO MAINTAIN ANGER!" The geeky side of me has a bit of a crush on them, but I still hate them for turning Florida into a dip stick.

Apparently BP has its own navy, a small air force, and enough money to build floating cities on the sea, most of which are still upright. If there's oil on the moon, BP will be the first to send a hose into space and suck on the moon until it's the size of a grapefruit. As an investor, that's the side I want to be on, with BP, not the loser moon.

I'd like to see a movie in which James Bond tries to defeat BP, but in the end they run Bond through a machine that turns him into "junk shot" debris to seal a leaky well. I'm just saying you don't always have to root for Bond. Be flexible.

Perhaps you think it's absurd to invest in companies just because you hate them. But let's compare my method to all of the other ways you could decide where to invest.

Technical Analysis
Technical analysis involves studying graphs of stock movement over time as a way to predict future moves. It's a widely used method on Wall Street, and it has exactly the same scientific validity as pretending you are a witch and forecasting market moves from chicken droppings.

Investing in Well-Managed Companies
When companies make money, we assume they are well-managed. That perception is reinforced by the CEOs of those companies who are happy to tell you all the clever things they did to make it happen. The problem with relying on this source of information is that CEOs are highly skilled in a special form of lying called leadership. Leadership involves convincing employees and investors that the CEO has something called a vision, a type of optimistic hallucination that can come true only in an environment in which the CEO is massively overcompensated and the employees have learned to be less selfish.

Track Record
Perhaps you can safely invest in companies that have a long track record of being profitable. That sounds safe and reasonable, right? The problem is that every investment expert knows two truths about investing: 1) Past performance is no indication of future performance. 2) You need to consider a company's track record.

Right, yes, those are opposites. And it's pretty much all that anyone knows about investing. An investment professional can argue for any sort of investment decision by selectively ignoring either point 1 or 2. And for that you will pay the investment professional 1% to 2% of your portfolio value annually, no matter the performance.

Invest in Companies You Love
Instead of investing in companies you hate, as I have suggested, perhaps you could invest in companies you love. I once hired professional money managers at Wells Fargo to do essentially that for me. As part of their service they promised to listen to the dopey-happy hallucinations of professional liars (CEOs) and be gullible on my behalf. The pros at Wells Fargo bought for my portfolio Enron, WorldCom, and a number of other much-loved companies that soon went out of business. For that, I hate Wells Fargo. But I sure wish I had bought stock in Wells Fargo at the time I hated them the most, because Wells Fargo itself performed great. See how this works?

Do Your Own Research
I didn't let Wells Fargo manage my entire portfolio, thanks to my native distrust of all humanity. For the other half of my portfolio I did my own research. (Imagine a field of red flags, all wildly waving. I didn't notice them.) My favorite investment was in a company I absolutely loved. I loved their business model. I loved their mission. I loved how they planned to make our daily lives easier. They were simply adorable as they struggled to change an entrenched industry. Their leaders reported that the company had finally turned cash positive in one key area, thus validating their business model, and proving that the future was rosy. I doubled down. The company was Webvan, may it rest in peace.

(This would be a good time to remind you not to make investment decisions based on the wisdom of cartoonists.)

But What About Warren Buffett?
The argument goes that if Warren Buffett can buy quality companies at reasonable prices, hold them for the long term and become a billionaire, then so can you. Do you know who would be the first person to tell you that you aren't smart enough or well-informed enough to pull that off? His name is Warren Buffett. OK, he's probably too nice to say that, but I'm pretty sure he's thinking it. However, he might tell you that he makes his money by knowing things that other people don't know, and buying things that other people can't buy, such as entire companies.

People Love Berkshire Hathaway And That Has Done Great
I'm not saying that the companies you love are automatically bad investments. I'm saying that investing in companies you love is riskier than investing in companies you hate.

Second, take a look at Berkshire Hathaway's holdings. It's a rogue's gallery of junk food purveyors, banks, insurance companies and yes, Goldman Sachs and Moody's. The second largest holding of Berkshire Hathaway is…wait for it…Wells Fargo.

(Disclosure: I own stock in Berkshire Hathaway for the very reasons I'm describing. And my first job out of college was at Crocker National Bank, later swallowed by Wells Fargo.)

Let's talk about morality. Can you justify owning stock in companies that are treating the Earth like a prison pillow with a crayon face? Of course you can, but it takes some mental gymnastics. I'm here to help.

If you buy stock in a despicable company, it means some of the previous owners of that company sold it to you. If the stock then rises more than the market average, you successfully screwed the previous owners of the hated company. That's exactly like justice, only better because you made a profit. Then you can sell your stocks for a gain and donate all of your earnings to good causes, such as education for your own kids.

Having absorbed all of the wisdom I have presented here so far, you are naturally wondering if I have any additional investment tips. Yes, and I will put my tips in the form of a true story. Recently I bought something called an iPhone. It drops calls so often that I no longer use it for audio conversations. It's too frustrating. And unlike my old BlackBerry days, I don't send e-mail on the iPhone because the on-screen keyboard is, as far as I can tell, an elaborate practical joke. I am, however, willing to respond to incoming text messages a long as they are in the form of yes-no questions and my answer are in the affirmative. In those cases I can simply type "k," the shorthand for OK, and I have trained my friends and family to accept L, J, O, or comma as meaning the same thing.

The other day I was in the Apple Store, asking how to repair a defective Apple laptop, and decided, irrationally, that I needed to have Apple's new iPad. The smiling Apple employee said she would be willing to put me on a list so I could wait an indefinite amount of time to maybe someday have one. I instinctively put my wallet on my nose and started barking like a seal, thinking it might reduce the wait time, but they're so used to seeing that maneuver that it didn't help.

My point is that I hate Apple. I hate that I irrationally crave their products, I hate their emotional control over my entire family, I hate the time I waste trying to make iTunes work, I hate how they manipulate my desires, I hate their closed systems, I hate Steve Jobs's black turtlenecks, and I hate that they call their store employees Geniuses which, as far as I can tell, is actually true. My point is that I wish I had bought stock in Apple five years ago when I first started hating them. But I hate them more every day, which is a positive sign for investing, so I'll probably buy some shares.

Again, I remind you to ignore me.

24646  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on Harold Koh's testimony; Stratfor on: June 29, 2011, 09:50:18 AM
I note that, as I have said here before, Harold Koh is IMHO an enemy of American sovereignty and is well positioned at the State Dept to do major damage-- but that is not the point here-- here he stands for an imperial presidency:
WASHINGTON — A resolution authorizing American intervention in Libya was approved on Tuesday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hours after members skeptically grilled the administration’s legal adviser over his assertion that airstrikes and other military measures did not amount to hostilities.

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Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times
Harold H. Koh, a legal adviser to the State Department, testified on Tuesday.
Libyan Base Falls to a Rebel Ambush in the West (June 29, 2011)

The resolution, approved 14 to 5, would allow President Obama to continue for one year the involvement of United States military forces in the NATO-led operation in Libya; it now heads to the full Senate. A similar measure failed in the House last week, underscoring that even in a divided government, the Senate remains a more interventionist body while the House is increasingly dubious about foreign ventures and their cost.

For weeks, tensions have escalated between members of Congress and the Obama administration over the president’s decision not to seek Congressional authorization for the mission in Libya. The Vietnam-era War Powers Resolution stipulates that presidents must terminate unauthorized deployments into what the law calls hostilities 60 days after notifying Congress that they have begun.

In testimony before the committee Tuesday, Harold H. Koh, the legal adviser to the State Department, insisted that the resolution did not apply to Libya, a position that the administration has expressed repeatedly.

“From the outset, we noted that the situation in Libya does not constitute a war,” Mr. Koh said. He cited four factors — ground troops and significant non-air forces have not been involved, the lack of American casualties or a significant threat of them, a limited risk of escalation, and the limited use of military means — as the central points of logic in the administration’s decision to essentially ignore Congress beyond providing largely perfunctory information.

That logic was rejected by many members of the committee.

Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, a Democrat, said, “When you have an operation that goes on for months, costs billions of dollars, where the United States is providing two-thirds of the troops, even under the NATO fig leaf, where they’re dropping bombs that are killing people, where you’re paying your troops offshore combat pay and there are areas of prospective escalation — something I’ve been trying to get a clear answer from with this administration for several weeks now, and that is the possibility of a ground presence in some form or another, once the Qaddafi regime expires — I would say that’s hostilities.”

A Republican senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee, went further, accusing the administration of “sticking a stick in the eye of Congress” and saying it had done “a great disservice to our country.”

Mr. Koh did concede that the administration could have handled the situation differently. “If we had to roll the tape back, I’m sure there are many places where some would have urged — and I would have been among them — coming up with, coming up earlier for more briefings and to lay out these legal positions,” he said. Officials from the Department of Defense and Department of Justice declined to provide witnesses for the hearing.

The resolution that the committee voted on was sponsored by Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the committee, and Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. In arguing for its passage, Mr. Kerry pressed his colleagues to look beyond the issue of how the White House had conferred with Congress and to support the mission, which he said was largely aimed at saving Libyan civilians from massacre. “The rationale for being there is compelling,” he said.

Several amendments attached to the resolution were also adopted, including one offered by Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the committee, which explicitly prohibits the use of ground forces in Libya.

Other approved amendments included provisions stating that any war reconstruction costs in Libya should be borne by that government and the Arab League nations, which requested American assistance in the region, and another that would reopen an inquiry into the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. The Libyan government took responsibility for the bombing in 2003 as part of a broader settlement in which Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi agreed to give up his nuclear and chemical weapons programs.

Another amendment offered by Mr. Lugar, which failed, would have further restricted the United States’ role in Libya, essentially ending airstrikes and the use of drones.

In the end, he voted against the entire resolution, as did Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, James Risch of Idaho and Mr. Corker.

Mr. DeMint said in an interview after the vote that he based his decision on the cost of the American operations in Libya, which are expected to reach $1 billion this fiscal year, and the lack of the administration’s earlier involvement with Congress.


As the intervention in Libya continues, the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. This may embolden NATO to continue using airstrikes in an attempt to assassinate Gadhafi quickly, especially as domestic considerations could cause coalition partners to begin to lose their will to carry out the mission. Should this short-term push fail, however, the inevitable track will be one that leads to a negotiated settlement, first dealing with Gadhafi’s inner circle and, failing that, eventually with the Libyan leader himself.

As the Libyan intervention exceeds 100 days, there is still no end in sight. A military stalemate persists in the east, while rebels from Misurata are struggling to push much farther west than Zlitan, and Nafusa Mountain guerrillas face a difficult task in advancing toward the coast. Moreover, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on June 27, rendering his prospects for exile all the more unlikely.

The warrant, however, provides added impetus to NATO’s current strategy of using airpower to try to assassinate the Libyan leader as a means of accomplishing the mission: regime change. The three countries currently leading the Libyan intervention — the United States, the United Kingdom and France — are also increasing their efforts to induce people close to Gadhafi to betray him. But the longer the operation continues, the higher the chance that the West will begin to grow weary of another drawn-out war, at which point NATO will find it increasingly difficult to effect regime change. At some point, reaching a negotiated settlement will become the best of a number of unattractive options. Negotiations have already begun in an unofficial capacity, but the fact that no country involved wants to deal with a side that includes the Libyan leader will only prolong the process.

The Coalition: Weary of War?

NATO jets continue to bomb targets across Libya. In doing so, however, the coalition has run into the inevitable problem of civilian casualties. This has yet to make any demonstrable impact on public opinion of the war in countries leading the campaign, which remains consistently in favor of regime change in Libya, though against an escalation that includes the use of ground troops. For example, a poll published June 20 regarding Western countries’ opinion of regime change in Libya showed a consistently high level of approval. The longer the conflict continues, however, the higher the chance for public opinion to turn against the war.

Notably, the country whose public is most opposed is Italy, which also happens to be the first NATO country on the verge of withdrawing from the operation. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini first intimated this June 22. In response to multiple reports of civilian casualties due to NATO airstrikes, he called for an immediate halt to the campaign so that humanitarian aid could be deployed. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reaffirmed the shift in the Italian position away from the airstrikes June 24, when he told an EU summit that Italy was “pushing for political mediation which will deliver a final solution.”

Rome’s true motivation has more to do with domestic political pressures placed upon the Berlusconi government by its main coalition partner, Lega Nord, over the cost of the intervention rather than the fear of civilian casualties. But the reason for Italy’s objections is less important than their potential consequence: The coalition of NATO countries that have signed up to participate in Operation Unified Protector is in danger of fracturing, albeit slowly, and the Italian exit could represent the first crack.

The United Kingdom’s discourse on Libya is emblematic of a deep-rooted debate over the proper level of funding its military should receive. Recent budget cuts to the armed forces have exacerbated the United Kingdom’s inability to spread its forces across multiple theaters, and the military is using the conflict in Libya — and more specifically, the argument that its forces are overstretched — as a political tool to justify its public criticism of the budget cuts. Several leading military officials have made public statements to this effect over the past three weeks, and Prime Minister David Cameron has been quick to quash any rumors that these statements reveal a faltering will to continue the mission. However, Defense Secretary Liam Fox on June 27 admitted that the United Kingdom may have to re-prioritize some of its armed forces to see the Libyan operation through. This indicates that the complaints from the military have substance.

In the United States, Congress rather than the military is showing its resistance to the operation in Libya. The U.S. House of Representatives made its stance known June 24 by voting down a bill that would have given U.S President Barack Obama authority to wage war in the North African country. Despite the fact that the House — paradoxically, perhaps — voted down a separate proposal on the same day to restrict funding for the operation, the fact that there is widespread opposition to the Libya intervention within both the Republican and Democratic parties sent a clear message: The indefinite deployment of U.S. troops will cost Obama political capital at home.

Another factor the White House may be contemplating concerns the June 23 U.S. announcement regarding the release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and other International Energy Agency countries, which both cited the loss of oil output from Libya as the primary factor in their decision to pre-empt an anticipated price increase in the summer. Washington, as well as the other countries involved, thus has an interest in ending the conflict soon, but only in a way that would allow oil production to resume as soon as possible. (An anonymous British diplomat leaked to the media June 24 details of a British Foreign Office assessment that claimed that eastern Libyan oil infrastructure had not been that badly damaged and that it would take three to four weeks for oil exports to resume after Gadhafi’s fall. It is unclear whether this is true or whether it is simply intended to serve as an incentive for countries to keep pushing through until the end.)

France has the least domestic opposition toward regime change in Libya, and it is one of the leaders of the air campaign as well.  France was the first country to recognize the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council, and Paris would likely be the last country to abandon the mission that has become, among other things, a point of personal pride for President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy wants to avoid being perceived as weak ahead of the 2012 presidential election, especially as the race is beginning to heat up. One of the main Socialist presidential nominee candidates, Martine Aubry, is set to announce her candidacy June 28, and the Socialists may decide to put the Libya intervention — and the way it is being conducted — at the forefront of their anti-Sarkozy campaign.

A Failing Trust in the Rebels

The once-touted option of arming the rebel opposition to fight the Libyan army on the ground has lost traction in NATO. The monthslong stalemate in the east shows no signs of changing, while Misurata remains an island of rebellion in the western coastal region — though some of the rebel fighters from the city have been trying to push westward toward Tripoli despite currently being blocked outside of the city of Zlitan. Nafusa Mountain guerrillas, meanwhile, are making slight progress in terms of advancing northward, with some fighters having descended from the mountains to battle Libyan forces, but their chances of ever taking the capital are slim.

The real problem continues to lie in the uncertainty that surrounds the rebel council, which is officially recognized by a handful of countries as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people — it is recognized by even more countries in the West and by Russia and China as the de facto government of eastern Libya. All of the countries that have begun to develop ties with the council realize they will need to maintain good relations with Benghazi if they want to conduct business in Libya in the future, namely in the oil sector. Yet the West has been hesitant to fully arm the rebels or deliver on the hundreds of millions of dollars of aid that has been promised them in various international conferences since April. This suggests a general lack of trust for the council that prevents full-scale Western support, a distrust perhaps stemming from prior connections many of its leaders held with the Gadhafi regime, the potential existence of jihadist elements within the council, or the disbelief that any one faction truly speaks for all of Libya’s rebels.

NATO thus has few good options. The most attractive option, from NATO’s perspective, is to fulfill the mission as quickly as possible, while there is still resolve in the West. This means it will either convince regime insiders to push Gadhafi out, or increase its attempts to assassinate Gadhafi from the air, dealing with the resulting power vacuum later. Whether this strategy will work is unknown. But the longer it takes, the higher the chance that a coterie of NATO countries will eventually be forced to fully support a negotiated settlement to end the conflict.

The council is opposed to any outcome that does not include Gadhafi’s ouster. For months, it was even opposed to any solution that did not involve Gadhafi’s being forced to leave the country. But as cracks within the NATO countries participating in the bombing began to emerge, the rebels’ negotiating position began to weaken because their leverage with countries such as Qatar does not provide them much help in a military conflict with Gadhafi. This has led to a slight easing of the council’s position. During a June 24 interview in French media, a rebel spokesman said the council would be satisfied with Gadhafi’s retiring to a “Libyan oasis under international control,” provided he and his family are barred from participating in any future government. The spokesman also said the council would be willing to discuss the formation of an interim government with “any technocrat or Libyan official who does not have any blood on their hands.”

The Beginning of Negotiations

It is under these circumstances that official negotiations will likely begin. Such a path will not immediately lead to talks between the rebels and Gadhafi himself, however. The first attempt will be to separate Gadhafi’s inner circle from the regime, offering those without “blood on their hands” a share of power in the new Libya in exchange for betraying their leader. (Deciding who does and does not fall in this category will most likely be subject to negotiation, not based upon a true examination of the personal records of various regime officials.) Best positioned to lead any future negotiations will be the Russians (via the African Union), who have deep-rooted relations with both the West and Gadhafi and who have balanced their support of Tripoli and Benghazi to ensure a future presence throughout Libya.

The rebel spokesman who broached the topic of negotiations said negotiations have, in fact, already begun through intermediaries in countries such as France and South Africa. No country, however, wants to negotiate with Gadhafi himself unless all other options have been exhausted. If NATO jets are unable to kill the Libyan leader, then the alliance will attempt to undermine him from within.

The problem with this approach is embodied in the ICC warrants. Though Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and his long-time intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sannousi have been the only specific targets of this round of ICC warrants, no one connected to the regime will enjoy a guarantee of continued immunity from prosecution. This makes it difficult, though not impossible, to incentivize a deal for them, especially when the rebel military threat is low, and the NATO countries participating in the operations in Libya — which are hesitant to deploy ground troops — have yet to show that their attempts at assassinating Gadhafi will prove successful.

Read more: NATO's Diminishing Options in Libya | STRATFOR
24647  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Allen West: First Principles on: June 29, 2011, 09:34:55 AM

Haven't had a chance to watch this yet-- it is 35 minutes long-- but it is Allen West, so it promises to be lively wink
24648  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shapiro: Treating children as adults on: June 29, 2011, 09:31:55 AM

This week, the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision, ruled that the state of California could not bar the sale of violent video games to minors. The majority opinion, written by quasi-originalist Justice Antonin Scalia, argued that the First Amendment requires that government not mandate that minors be controlled by their parents. Purer originalist Judge Clarence Thomas took the opposite view. "Although much has changed in this country since the Revolution," he wrote, "the notion that parents have authority over their children and that the law can support that authority persists today."

This is the debate that defines our time. The treatment of minors as tiny adults is a dangerous move that threatens the foundations of our society. Civilized societies have always recognized that parents must control their children until the kids reach maturity -- that's how we've historically passed along morals and information. If we left children to their own devices, there is little doubt that they would engage in every selfish pursuit they could -- kids aren't the naturally altruistic folks non-parents seem to think they are -- and hurt themselves in the process. They wouldn't go to school, they wouldn't go to church, and they certainly wouldn't embrace their parents' value systems.

But today's left, and many on the libertarian right, have embraced the concept of children making their own decisions. Paternalism has become a dirty word, even though parents are supposed to be paternal. New generations should not have to rediscover old truths -- reinventing the wheel takes time, effort and pain. They should be able to inherit the received wisdom of the past, glean from it, and then make their own decisions.

Historically, this has meant that parents control what their children see and hear. To a point, the more control parents have had, the better. There is a reason that unwed motherhood is the leading indicator of many of our most pressing social problems: Without a father in the home, children often run out of control and grow into irresponsible adults. Government should do its utmost to maintain enough respect for the family unit to allow adults to raise their children.

Now, however, we've moved into a brave new world in which children are thought to be adults who are far away. The left has pushed for lowered age of consent; they've pushed for children to be able to attain abortions without parental permission; they've pushed for heightened sex education, so children can make "informed" decisions without the input of their guardians.

This is not only scientifically inaccurate, but it's also morally incoherent. Children are children because they are not fully developed human beings. Science tells us that adolescents are biologically driven to embrace risky and stupid behavior. The part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which actually controls for risky behavior, isn't fully developed until children are fully grown. Leave children and adolescents to their own devices, and they will not make good decisions -- they will attack any boundaries and cross any lines.

What is government's role in all of this? Justice Scalia believes that government should not put more power in the hands of parents -- government should essentially be neutral between children and those who raise them. Justice Thomas believes that government should create a system wherein parents get the last word. In today's world, more than ever, it is important that children not be treated with libertarian casualness requiring parents to be all-knowing and all-seeing. Instead, government should place control firmly in the hands of parents, requiring children to go to their parents for advice and guidance.

Freedom and responsibility for actions go hand in hand; only adults can be held responsible for their actions and the actions of their children. Therefore, only adults should have the freedom to choose on behalf of their children. Any other moral system is a fundamental rejection of the superstructure of civilization in favor of a moral chimera.
24649  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shedlock: China Bubble? on: June 29, 2011, 09:25:45 AM
Lost in the worry over Greek debt defaults, China Daily reports on a default story of more significance. Please consider Local governments run up huge debts, risk defaulting

Local governments had an overall debt of 10.7 trillion yuan ($1.65 trillion) by the end of 2010, said China's top auditor on Monday in a report to the National People's Congress.

He warned that some were at risk of defaulting on payments.

It was the first time the world's second-largest economy publicly announced the size of its local governments' debts. The scale amounts to more than one-quarter of its GDP in 2010, which stood at 39.8 trillion yuan.

Concerns are rising that the problem of local government debt could destabilize the financial system of the country if it is not managed properly, especially after the central government's tightening of the housing market, which could affect local fiscal revenue that is highly dependent on land sales and make debt repayment more difficult.

In addition, China's ambitious plan to construct 36 million affordable homes during the coming five years, including 10 million in 2011 and 10 million in 2012, added to worries about increasing capital tension and rising non-performing loans in commercial banks.

About 79 percent of the local government loans were made by banks across the country, according to the NAO.

Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at the Industrial Bank, said the figures released were moderate compared with previous estimates, and risks lying in these loans are quite limited.

"Overdue loans take up only a small proportion of the total lending and local governments didn't pay them in a timely way mainly because deadlines were too concentrated, not because of deteriorated ability to repay."
$1.65 Trillion is a mountain of cash even to the US. How much of that is at risk is the question, but even 10% would be significant.

Moreover, it is certain that what cannot be paid back, won't be paid back. As in the US, once assets backing loans crash, so will willingness and ability to pay back the loans. Thus, efforts by some to downplay the odds should fall on deaf ears.

Speculation in China is as least as rampant as it was in the US. For example, please consider Ponzi Financing Involving Copper Trade Gone Wild In China.

Also consider Wave of Violent Protests, Rioting, Bombings Hits China; Expect More Riots When China's Credit Bubble Pops, Exposing Mountains of Fraud

Finally, please consider World's Biggest Property Bubble: China's Ghost Cities Revisited; 64 Million Vacant Properties

As long as credit bubbles expand, no one heeds warnings like that issued by China's top auditor. Then when the bubble bursts, everyone cries they were not warned, they were taken advantage of, and they deserve a bailout.

One thing's for certain, when China's credit bubble pops, it will rock the world.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
Also see
24650  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama lied while our men die on: June 29, 2011, 09:13:41 AM
Uh oh: White House caught lying about Petraeus’s withdrawal recommendations?
Share280 posted at 9:16 pm on June 28, 2011 by Allahpundit
printer-friendly Terrific catch by Stephen Hayes from this afternoon’s Afghanistan testimony by Lt. Gen. John Allen. I can’t help but wonder: Why would the White House lie and claim that Obama’s withdrawal plan was within the range of options presented to him by Petraeus? I thought the next 18 months were going to be all about Obama going with his gut. Wingin’ it, if you will.
His gut told him that he needs to get reelected, and the easiest way to do that was to yank as many troops as possible out of the country no matter what it might mean for the war. That was the only “range of options” that mattered.
So he winged it.
In response to questioning from Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Allen testified that Obama’s decision on the pace and size of Afghanistan withdrawals was “a more aggressive option than that which was presented.”
Graham pressed him. “My question is: Was that a option?”
Allen: “It was not.”
Allen’s claim, which came under oath, contradicts the line the White House had been providing reporters over the past week—that Obama simply chose one option among several presented by General David Petraeus. In a conference call last Wednesday, June 22, a reporter asked senior Obama administration officials about those options. “Did General Petraeus specifically endorse this plan, or was it one of the options that General Petraeus gave to the president?”
The senior administration official twice claimed that the Obama decision was within the range of options the military presented to Obama.
Follow the link up top for a full transcript of what that senior administration official said last week. Are Hayes and I missing some nuance in the quotes? It’s one thing if the White House wants to squander the surge in the name of winning next year, but at least own it. Don’t use Petraeus as the fig leaf for a terrible, electorally motivated war “strategy.” Good lord.
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