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26651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The ICE agents shooting on: February 16, 2011, 11:31:07 AM

Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart examines the attack on two Immigration and Custom agents in Mexico on Feb. 15 and explains why the case is not likely to cause a strong response from the U.S. Government.

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

Here at STRATFOR we’re closely watching an incident that happened on Feb. 15 in which two special agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, were shot in an incident in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

The incident occurred yesterday afternoon as the two agents were traveling in a late-model suburban north of Mexico City in the state of San Luis Potosi, very close to the city by that same name. the reports that we’ve received so far indicate that the two agents were stopped at what they thought was a military checkpoint along the road, and as they pulled their armored vehicle over to the side of the road and rolled down their window, one of the gunmen who was manning the checkpoint opened fire on them, killing the driver and wounding the second agent.

Many people and the press are going to make parallels between this case and the case of Kiki Camarena, a DEA agent who was killed back in 1985. However the circumstances surrounding these two incidents are quite different. The Camarena case was very intentional and the bosses of the Guadalajara cartel had Camarena specifically targeted and kidnapped. Once he was kidnapped then they tortured him, revived him using a medical doctor, and tortured him some more in order to try to get information pertaining to the source network he was running in Mexico. The Camarena case was very brutal, very intentional and of course raised a lot of ire on the American side of the border. The DEA launched a huge operation called Operation Leyenda, or legend, to go after the jefes of the Guadalajara cartel.

Now in this current case it appears that what we had, were two ICE agents who were traveling in a vehicle that was very attractive for the cartels. We know really that the vehicles the cartels covet the most for their operations are the large crew cab pickup trucks. Indeed we saw some missionaries attacked a couple weeks ago, as they were traveling on a highway and they tried to escape a carjacking attempt by the cartels who wanted that vehicle.

As we look at the circumstances surrounding this case it really appears that it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time for the agents and that it was really a case of cartel, low-level cartel gunmen responding to encountering two U.S. law-enforcement agents inside that vehicle when they stopped at the checkpoint. Therefore we don’t think that it was an intentional case planned by high-level cartel planners. Certainly there’s always more that the U.S. government can do in Mexico, but they’re restrained by the sovereignty of Mexico and really the sensibilities of the Mexican people to American incursion, they really see Americans as a threat. So the bottom line is while the U.S. will respond to this case, we really don’t think we will see the urgency and severity of the U.S. response that we did in the Camarena case.

26652  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A little help please? on: February 16, 2011, 11:27:07 AM
Glenn is doing some really interesting work.  If I had the time I would love to write up a little (or not so little) summary of each day's show -- but I don't have the time.

Is there someone here willing to step forward on this?
26653  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on: February 16, 2011, 11:24:45 AM
Industrial production fell 0.1% in January To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/16/2011

Due to a 0.7% decline in mining and a 1.6% drop in utilities, industrial production fell 0.1% in January. Including upward revisions to prior months, production increased 0.2%. The consensus expected a gain of 0.5%. Production is up at a 5.1% annual rate in the past year.

Manufacturing, which excludes mining/utilities, was up 0.3% in January (+0.8% including upward revisions to previous months). The gain in January was led by auto production, which increased 3.2%. Non-auto manufacturing increased 0.1% and was revised upward for prior months. Auto production is up 5.4% versus a year ago while non-auto manufacturing has risen up 5.5%.

The production of high-tech equipment was up 1.1% in January, was revised up for prior months, and is up 13.7% versus a year ago.
Overall capacity utilization slipped to 76.1% in January. Manufacturing capacity use increased to 73.7%, the highest since August 2008.
Implications:  Today’s headline decline of 0.1% for industrial production is not something to worry about. The fall was largely due to a decline in mining (which is normally volatile) and utilities (January was not as unusually cold as December). Including revisions to prior months, industrial production was up 0.2%.  Manufacturing is still a bright spot, expanding for the 7th consecutive month at a healthy 0.3% pace in January (+0.8% including upward revisions to prior months). Auto manufacturing surged and should continue to add to production growth in the coming year as autos sales rise. Industrial production is going to continue to move higher and will likely keep being led by business equipment. Corporate profits are approaching a new record high and cash on the balance sheets of non-financial companies – earning nearly zero percent interest – had already reached a record high. Now, finally, Bloomberg is reporting that S&P 500 companies are starting to reduce their cash hordes and increase capital spending more rapidly. It makes sense that these larger companies take the lead given that they have access to the capital markets (through bond sales) and are better able to get a bank loan when they need one. Commercial and industrial lending is now up three straight months, a far cry from the 20% year-over-year declines of early 2010.
26654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Newt Gingrich on: February 16, 2011, 11:01:26 AM
The Nattering Nabobs of Negativism Strike Again
by Newt Gingrich

In a speech he wrote for Vice President Spiro Agnew, the late William Safire coined a memorable term to describe the Washington press corps. He called them "the nattering nabobs of negativism." This timeless description was on my mind this weekend while reading the mainstream media's coverage of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

During my speech to CPAC, I tried to lay out a substantive and compelling alternative to Obama and the Democrat's left wing governance, focusing on American energy and environmental policies. I proposed an aggressive, all-American energy strategy that would dramatically boost all sources of energy production in our country.

I also proposed replacing the Environmental Protection Agency with a new Environmental Solutions Agency which would focus on technological solutions to our environmental challenges and adopt a collaborative approach with business and local government, instead of the command and control regulatory model of the EPA.

(You can watch my speech at and let me know what you think.)

The record crowd of over 11,000 attendees reacted strongly to this vision for lower energy prices, more jobs, better environmental outcomes and a safer America. It was clear watching the crowd's reaction to my speech and the speeches of others that the conservative movement is energized by the possibility of winning an epic election in 2012. It's also clear they expect real conservative reform from a new conservative president and Congress.

Maybe that optimism and energy made some people nervous.

Before the event was even over, the mainstream media was hard at work trying to pour cold water on the fire that has been lit across this nation.

This article from the Associated Press sums up the doubt and skepticism that so many in our elite media seem intent on sewing amongst the American people.

The not-too-subtle message from these guardians against high expectations is crystal clear: Don't get your hopes up. Real change isn't possible in America. You might as well stay home.  In fact, this piece of conventional wisdom is both historically wrong and insidious.

History shows that real change is possible, but only if the American people are informed and engaged.



Power Resides with the American People, Not in Washington

There are two great examples of successful conservative reform from the past thirty years.

The first was the Presidency of Ronald Reagan. The second was the new Republican majority after the Contract with America campaign of 1994. Both were able to deliver because they understood that real power resides with the American people, not in Washington.

If You Respect the American People, You Can Rely on the American People

Ronald Reagan had a rule of thumb when negotiating with the Democratic Congress.

This rule was described to me by an associate of Reagan's as, "I show the American people the light. They turn up the heat on Congress."

Ronald Reagan was known as the Great Communicator, but he can better be understood as a great educator. He thought that if he could use his platform as a national figure to inform the American people, they would provide the pressure to implement conservative reform.

That's how Ronald Reagan was able to cut taxes, reduce spending, and reform burdensome regulations to revive the American economy despite having to deal with a Democratic Congress that was opposed to his agenda. Reagan understood that the American people would pressure the Congress into doing the right thing. All Reagan had to do was champion policies that reflect American values and treat the American people with respect by being honest and clear about the facts.

Reagan's great foreign policy achievement was defeating the Soviet Union. Here too he relied on the American people for backup. He understood that his vision for victory – as opposed to détente – would be opposed by much of the establishment, within the news media and diplomatic corps, but supported by the American people.

Similarly, when I was Speaker, the Republican Congress was able to achieve its principal goals despite having to work with a liberal Democratic President. We balanced the budget while cutting taxes and increasing military and defense spending. It is a historic fact that Clinton never proposed a balanced budget. It was the Republican House that made it happen. (In this blog post at American Solutions, Peter Ferrara argues that President Obama is stealing a page from Clinton's playbook.)

All this was possible because we understood that President Clinton would eventually yield to the demands of the American people. That's why after twice vetoing another one of our principal goals, welfare reform, Clinton eventually signed it in 1996, before he ran for reelection. He knew he wouldn't be able to stand the heat from the American people if he didn't.

Campaigns on the Issues, Not Personalities
Ronald Reagan and the Republican Congress under my Speakership also delivered on our goals because the preceding election campaigns focused on the issues, not on personalities.

In 1980, Reagan offered a bold, competing vision for America's future that outshone the malaise and weakness of Jimmy Carter. He promised to cut taxes to boost economic growth, to renew America's strength in the world by standing up to the Soviet Union, and to restore America's civic confidence in its founding and unique purpose (American exceptionalism).

With a weak economy and the hostage crisis in Iran in 1980, Reagan could have simply run as "not Carter" and emerged victorious. But then he would not have had a mandate to govern, and would never have been able to achieve his principal goals.

Similarly, in 1994, we explicitly crafted the Contract with America campaign around conservative reforms that we understood had overwhelming support in America (if not in the editorial pages of the NY Times) but had nonetheless been blocked by the Democratic House.

Consequently, despite having a liberal Democrat in the White House, we still managed to achieve a balanced budget, welfare reform, tax cuts, increased military and defense spending, and more.

Perhaps Republicans could have won control of the House in 1994 by simply running against Clinton. However, the Republican landslide would not have been as large, and we certainly would not have had the mandate necessary to enact real change.

Contrast these elections and subsequent real reforms to the 2004 and 2008 elections.

I wrote a white paper in 2004 pointing out that on over 70 key issues, John Kerry was on the wrong side of public opinion by larger than a 70-30 margin. An election campaign run on these issues would put John Kerry at an impossible disadvantage and could have led to a landslide result with a true mandate for President Bush to govern.

However, the choice in the minds of most American voters in the fall of 2004 wasn't over two competing visions for America; it was between forged National Guard papers and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth commercials. Accordingly, more people turned out to vote against John Kerry than to vote against George W. Bush. With no mandate to govern, is it any wonder that Bush's subsequent attempt to reform social security was dead on arrival?

In 2008, President Obama won an enormous victory. He carried states that had not voted Democrat in a long time. Democratic majorities in the House and Senate were increased. It seemed that he would have free reign to accomplish any number of liberal priorities.

However, because he had run a personality-focused, shallow campaign about "change" without clearly defining what that change meant for the American people, President Obama's political capital quickly ran dry. The only way he was able to pass the stimulus and health care bills was through brute force and political backroom dealing. His signature achievements were passed despite the will of the American people, not because of their support. That's why he was massively rebuked during the 2010 elections and much of his agenda is now being unwound.

A Contract with America in 2012
The lessons from past successes in achieving real change – and past failures – are clear.

Because power ultimately resides in the people, achieving real reform requires the expressed consent and engagement of the American people.

That means if America really is ever going to see that conservative future of freedom, faith and prosperity we heard at CPAC, we will need a campaign in 2012 that is waged on the great issues of the day.

We will need candidates that have a clear and substantive plan to govern and who can explain conservative solutions to the American people in a way that gets them excited and engaged.

We will need a new Contract with America in 2012.

A new Contract with America with specific, substantive, conservative solutions to the great challenges facing our nation is the only way to gain the mandate from the American people needed to bust through all the embedded interests in Washington and the state capitals that will oppose change.

If a new conservative President and Congress develop and win based off of a new Contract with America in 2012, there is nothing that can stand in the way of true conservative reforms that will create jobs, make America safer, and maximize individual freedom and dignity for all Americans.

Not even the nattering nabobs of negativism in the press corps.

Your Friend,
26655  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Lets do lunch on: February 16, 2011, 10:55:04 AM
Stratfor Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton describes how U.S. operatives are kept safe during meetings with informants, and what happens when things go wrong.

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

In this week’s “Above the Tearline,” we’re going to discuss how agents or informants are met in hostile countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Russia in response to many questions that have been posed by STRATFOR members.

Informants are met in hostile countries by an officer in a face-to-face meeting most of the time. And if you think about that, it sounds relatively simple, but it’s not. There are a lot of things that take place behind the scenes. Depending upon the city that you’re operating in, your meeting locations can be something as simple as a coffee shop, or a restaurant, or it could be an actual U.S. government safe-house, or a hotel. Large Western hotels are perfect stops for these kinds of meets.

In most cases a two-man security team is deployed (it can be larger), and their job is to do a recon of the location to make sure that the intelligence officer is not being set up by a double agent, or that the informant that’s coming to the meeting is not dragging surveillance to the location, and to make sure that that meeting location is not compromised by host government intelligence or terrorists who may be planning an attack. The security team is a laser focus looking for — for the most part — demeanor. For example they’re looking for individuals that appear out of place, or individuals that are talking on a cell phone when the informant shows up or the actual intelligence officer arrives at the meeting site. They’re looking for operational acts such as video or photography that’s taking place. It’s really a very unique skill set and the individuals that are performing this duty are highly trained and probably some of the most skilled operators we have in our tool kit. The actual intelligence officer that’s going to the meet is going to run what is called a surveillance detection route, or an SDR, to ensure that he is not being followed.

The difficulty with this kind of meeting in a hostile country is that when things go wrong, they really go wrong. Things tend to spiral out of control — you either have some sort of violent action take place, or the people involved with the meeting are arrested by the local authorities. Unlike in the movies, or in shows like “Mission: Impossible,” when these individuals are arrested they typically have diplomatic immunity and the individuals are very quietly whisked out of the country, while the intelligence heads of the U.S. and the local government come to meetings and all agree that this kind of action won’t take place again.

26656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: How Mubarak shut down Egypt's internet on: February 16, 2011, 07:16:12 AM
26657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Disputed islands on: February 16, 2011, 07:06:28 AM
By Yuri Tomikawa
Japan thought it had enough problems with its separate territorial issues with China and Russia. Now, the two countries it was dealing with are blurring lines—and other neighbors may be joining the ruckus too.

According to Japanese media, Russia’s Federal Agency for Fishery announced Tuesday that Chinese and Russian fishery companies had reached a basic agreement to farm sea cucumbers in the islands north of Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido—islands still claimed by Japan but controlled by Moscow since Soviet troops occupied them in the last days of World War II.

Coming just days after the unfruitful weekend meeting between Japan’s Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, the announcement wasn’t welcome at all in Japan. Prime Minister Naoto Kan decried the development as “incompatible with our country’s position.” Mr. Maehara said, “If the news is true, we cannot accept it at all,” reiterating Japan’s unchanging position: The islands are Japanese territory.

The tension over the islands had already reached new heights, with Mr. Kan last week condemning as “an unforgivable outrage” the November visit to one of the islands by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a remark Mr. Lavrov declared “undiplomatic.”

And what of China? It did shift to a pro-Russian stand from a neutral position on the islands after last September’s collision between a Japanese and a Chinese boat near another set of disputed islands, claimed by both China (which calls them Diaoyu) and Japan (which calls them Senkaku). But Beijing claims it is not involved in the fisheries agreement and has no knowledge of the venture—a break for Japan, now that metaphorical waters churned up by the September collision are finally calming. It certainly doesn’t want any fresh causes for tension with its neighbor, the No. 2 global economy.

But Beijing’s assurances are not enough to allow Japan to relax. Russia is outlining plans to expand and upgrade military bases and equipment on those northern islands—and inviting not just China, but all regional countries to join in the islands’ development.

“We will be glad to see there both Chinese and Korean investors,” Mr. Lavrov said Friday, according to the Russian information service Interfax. And Alexander Savelyev, a spokesman for Russia’s Federal Fisheries Agency, told Japanese news agency Nikkei that “Korean companies are especially showing interest” already.

26658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Pressure building, additional details on detained US govt employee on: February 16, 2011, 06:58:47 AM
LAHORE, Pakistan—U.S. President Barack Obama called for Pakistan to release a government employee who killed two men last month, as Sen. John Kerry arrived here for talks aimed at ending the diplomatic standoff.

The man, Raymond Davis, has been in custody in Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, since the incident on Jan. 27. The U.S. says he is covered by diplomatic immunity and should be released.

Mr. Obama weighed in on the row Tuesday, saying Pakistan must release Mr. Davis under its commitments as a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a pact from the 1960s that guarantees diplomats immunity from prosecution. "If it starts being fair game on our ambassadors around the world, including in dangerous places…it means they can't do their job," Mr. Obama told a news conference.

The comments escalated a diplomatic dispute over Mr. Davis's detention. Public anger over the shooting and demands for Mr. Davis's prosecution make it difficult for Pakistan's central government—an ally of the U.S.—to order his release.

A court in Lahore is expected to begin hearing a case Thursday on whether Mr. Davis has immunity from prosecution.

Mr. Kerry, at a news conference in Lahore, promised the U.S. Justice Department would conduct its own "thorough criminal investigation" if Pakistan were to release Mr. Davis.

"It is a strong belief of our government that this case does not belong in the court," Mr. Kerry said Tuesday. "And it does not belong in the court because this man has diplomatic immunity."

Mr. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has made four trips to Pakistan in the past two years and was instrumental in co-writing in 2009 a five-year, $7.5 billion civilian aid package, part of a strategy to help counter Islamic radicalism in the country. Despite closer ties, many here remain wary of the U.S., which is viewed as building strategic alliances with Pakistan's traditional rivals, notably India.

Washington, too, has been disappointed with Pakistan for failing to clamp down on Taliban havens on its soil.

The incident involving Mr. Davis has added a further level of mistrust to the relationship.

The U.S. last week canceled a meeting scheduled for late February in Washington, involving Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the foreign ministers of Pakistan and Afghanistan, in protest against Mr. Davis's detention. Washington has also scaled back other routine bilateral contacts.

According to the U.S. version of events, Mr. Davis, 36 years old, opened fire on two armed men in self-defense after they attempted to stop his white Honda Civic car at a busy intersection in broad daylight. U.S. officials say the two men, who were on a motorbike, had earlier in the day robbed other people in the area.

The U.S. has said Mr. Davis is a "technical and administrative" staff of the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, but hasn't said what his role was or whether he was authorized to carry a weapon. The U.S. confirmed Mr. Davis's identity Friday, two weeks after Pakistani authorities released his name.

Lahore police officers say they recovered a number of effects from Mr. Davis's car after the incident, including two Glock pistols and more than 70 rounds of ammunition. Officials say they also found a metal detector, a latex face mask with a beard and headpiece, and a make-up kit.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad declined to comment on Mr. Davis's effects.

Pakistani officials appear to be angered by what they say was Mr. Davis's covert role in Pakistan. A senior official with Inter-Services Intelligence, the military's spy agency, said the organization was unaware of Mr. Davis. "Apparently he was working behind our backs," the official said.

The U.S. Embassy denied this and said it notified Pakistan's Foreign Ministry of Mr. Davis's arrival in the country in January 2010, which, the U.S. says, means he is covered by diplomatic immunity.

Senior Pakistani officials have made contradictory statements in recent weeks over whether, in their view, Mr. Davis is covered by immunity from prosecution.

Pakistani police investigating the incident have yet to formally charge Mr. Davis, but say they are treating the case as murder. If the high court finds Mr. Davis isn't covered by immunity, state prosecutors must bring his case to court by Feb. 25.

In Lahore's British-era town center, placards put up by an Islamist group show a photo of Mr. Davis's head with a hangman's noose superimposed around it.

Two Lahore police officers involved in the case say the two men who confronted Mr. Davis were likely armed due to a dispute with another family. One of the men's elder brothers had been killed in December in a row over a girl. They denied the men, who resided in Lahore, had earlier robbed others in the area.

Witnesses say the men were circling around Mr. Davis's car, which he was driving himself, according to the police officers.

What happened next is unclear. Mr. Davis fired nine bullets from inside the car, seven of which hit the men in various parts of their bodies. He got out of the car to photograph the dead men on his cellphone and then fled an angry crowd that was forming, the officers said. Police arrested him in his car a few miles from the scene.

Another vehicle from the consulate, which came to rescue Mr. Davis, ran over and killed a bystander. The driver of that car wasn't taken into custody and hasn't been identified.

Authorities had previously detained Mr. Davis for a few hours two years ago, the two police officers said.

In that incident, police stopped the car in which Mr. Davis was traveling in Lahore during a routine check in a posh part of town and found a number of weapons in the car, the officers said. But they let Mr. Davis go after orders from the central government, they added.

The U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said reports about this detention were "unsubstantiated."

—Shahnawaz Khan contributed to this article.
26659  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Administration was warned for a year of coming problems on: February 16, 2011, 06:49:04 AM
WASHINGTON—Early last year, a group of U.S.-based human-rights activists, neoconservative policy makers and Mideast experts told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that what passed for calm in Egypt was an illusion.

"If the opportunity to reform is missed, prospects for stability and prosperity in Egypt will be in doubt," read their April 2010 letter.

The correspondence was part of a string of warnings passed to the Obama administration arguing that Egypt, heading toward crisis, required a vigorous U.S. response. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's 82-year-old dictator, was moving to rig a string of elections, they said. Egypt's young population was growing more agitated.
The bipartisan body that wrote to Mrs. Clinton, the Egypt Working Group, argued that the administration wasn't fully appraising the warning signs in Egypt. Its members came together in early 2010, concerned that the Arab world's biggest country was headed for transition but that the U.S. and others weren't preparing for a post-Mubarak era.

The Cairo uprising has so far had a more orderly outcome, and one better for U.S. interests, than might have been the case. But the U.S.'s hesitant initial embrace of the revolt could reverberate as a democratic wave surges across the Arab world. The U.S. at first alienated protesters—and then alienated the Mubarak regime, a longtime ally, sparking concern from other regional friends.

U.S. officials say the Obama administration focused from the beginning on promoting democracy in Arab states and was aware of the deep problems in Cairo. The administration generally chose not to deliver its message through tough public rhetoric, contending such language alienates foreign governments.
The administration of George W. Bush, by comparison, at times publicly pressed Mr. Mubarak for political reforms, identifying democracy promotion in the Middle East as a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy.

Officials said President Barack Obama and Mrs. Clinton regularly raised democracy issues with their counterparts in private. Mr. Obama focused during three meetings over 18 months with Mr. Mubarak on ending Egypt's 30-year state of emergency, press freedoms and elections. Mrs. Clinton pushed Egypt and other Arab countries to allow the free flow of information, urging them to lift blocks on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Moreover, Mr. Mubarak had survived challenges before, and few took seriously the idea he could be toppled. "This type of movement simply never happened before in the Middle East," said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator.

"In a complicated situation, we got it about right," Mr. Obama told reporters Tuesday. The U.S. now faces "an opportunity as well as a challenge" in the broader regional movement.

As a candidate, Mr. Obama campaigned against aggressively intervening in the affairs of other states, largely in response to the Iraq war. His State Department cut funding for civil-society support in Egypt to $9.5 million in 2009 from nearly $30 million a year earlier, although this funding line would later rise.

Washington's ambassador to Cairo, Margaret Scobey, agreed to an Egyptian demand that all grants to civil-society groups from the U.S. Agency for International Development be distributed only to those registered with the Mubarak government.

When Mr. Obama chose Egypt as the venue for his much-anticipated June 2009 speech to the Muslim world, he refrained from specifically pressing Mr. Mubarak on democracy.

The Obama administration reaped strategic gains from this outreach. Cairo embraced Mr. Obama's initiative to accelerate Arab-Israeli peace talks, hosting meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and attempting to broker a unity government between feuding Palestinian factions.

By early 2010, Mr. Mubarak's government began taking steps widely viewed as aimed at extending his rule or that of his anointed successor. In May, he extended martial law in his country by two years.

The Egypt Working Group sent a letter to the State Department even more alarmist than the one it dispatched in April. "The renewal...heightens our concern that the administration's practice of quiet diplomacy is not bearing fruit," it read.

Following June elections for the lower house of parliament, Egyptian and American nongovernmental organizations reported to State Department contacts a crackdown on anyone seeking to bring transparency to the next set of elections, for Egypt's upper house of parliament, in November. The National Democratic Institute, a U.S. organization that was training Egyptians to be election monitors, saw its Egyptian staff regularly interrogated by Cairo's intelligence services.

"The families of our workers grew terrified about retaliation by the regime," said Les Campbell, who heads NDI's Mideast programs. Mr. Campbell said he held regular meetings with U.S. officials to discuss the problems as the crisis in Egypt worsened.

To try to stop the intimidation tactics, the NDI's chairman—former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright—and Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.), chairman of the International Republican Institute, jointly wrote to Mr. Mubarak in late July asking him to allow international monitors to observe the November vote. They say the Egyptian leader didn't respond.

Sen. McCain sought to pass, with then-Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, a Senate resolution formally censuring Egypt's human-rights record. Egypt persuaded the two senators to anonymously place a hold on the resolution, according to congressional officials. Sen. McCain blamed the Obama administration for not publicly backing the bill.

"I was disappointed that we didn't get administration support," Sen. McCain said in an interview. "To think this would have changed things fundamentally at the time in Egypt? I don't know. But we at least should have tried."

Senior U.S. officials said they weren't opposed to Mr. McCain's resolution. They said both the White House and State Department repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness and openness of November elections with their Egyptian counterparts.

For analysts tracking Egypt, the risks inherent in the elections were clear. "If the ruling party plops someone in as president…then you really have the possibility of the lid popping off in Egypt," Robert Kagan, a Working Group member and conservative foreign-policy analyst, said in a November interview. "We're playing this Cold War game of clinging to the dictator for fear of something more radical."

Weeks later, Mrs. Clinton met Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in Washington and didn't mention the need for transparent elections during their public remarks. Instead, she praised Cairo as the "cornerstone" of Middle East stability.

In the late 2010 upper-house election, Mr. Mubarak's party won 93% of the seats. It was widely viewed as the most corrupt in the country's history.

That prompted the Obama administration to take a harder line on Mr. Mubarak and other regional strongmen. Mrs. Clinton, on a swing through Gulf states in early January, echoed the sharp rhetoric of the Bush years by telling a gathering of Arab leaders in Qatar that their countries risked "sinking into the sand" if they didn't change.

But even in the final stages of Egypt's unrest, the U.S. went back and forth. On Jan. 30—days after protests broke out on Egyptian streets—Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D., Mass.) called Vice President Joe Biden to say he had written an opinion piece for the New York Times calling on Mr. Mubarak to resign.

Mr. Biden offered encouragement, Mr. Kerry said in an interview. "My instincts and feeling was the thing was broken with Mubarak," he said.

Just a few days later, the administration's chosen envoy, former ambassador Frank Wisner, delivered a much more tepid message to the Egyptian president, according to people familiar with the matter.

In the end, Mr. Obama took increasingly strident tones that all but called for Mr. Mubarak's removal. As protests continue to roil the region, administration officials say they will stick to basic principles: supporting the core rights of people to assemble and protest peacefully.
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan on Friday suffered a "brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating" after being separated from her crew in the midst of a crowd in Egypt, the CBS Corp. news unit said Tuesday.

At the time of the incident, Ms. Logan, a veteran war reporter, was covering the celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down. Ms. Logan was separated from her colleagues by a large "mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy," CBS said.

CBS News correspondent Lara Logan suffered a "brutal and sustained sexual assault" last week while reporting in Cairo's Tahrir Square, CBS said Tuesday. Video courtesy of Fox News and photo courtesy of Associated Press/CBS News.

The separation and assault lasted for roughly 20 to 30 minutes, said a person familiar with the matter, who added that it was "not a rape." A CBS News spokesman declined to comment beyond the statement.

CBS said Ms. Logan was rescued by a group of women and roughly 20 Egyptian soldiers, and reunited with her team. She flew back to the U.S. on the first flight Saturday morning, and is now in the hospital recovering, CBS said.

The assault follows a rash of violence against journalists during the uprising in Egypt. In multiple instances, reporters were detained by security forces, or beaten by angry mobs, often described as supporting now-ousted Mr. Mubarak.

In a Feb. 7 interview on public-affairs talk show "Charlie Rose," while Mr. Mubarak was still in power, Ms. Logan said her team had been "heavily, heavily intimidated" while reporting in Egypt. She said they were detained for 16 hours, and their Egyptian driver was badly beaten.

"It was really the first sign of the strategy of the Mubarak regime. They want the spotlight turned off," she said. "It was an instant crackdown."

It is unclear whether Friday's assault against Ms. Logan had political aims. In its statement, CBS News statement said only that Ms. Logan and her team were "surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration."
26660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 16, 2011, 06:45:17 AM
The Iranian government threatened opposition leaders with execution and made a fresh wave of arrests, a day after the largest protests in a year prompted clashes in which at least two people were killed and dozens injured.

Tehran and other Iranian cities quieted down on Tuesday as the opposition regrouped and assessed the impact of the rallies that brought tens of thousands of people into the streets across the country.

A hard-line group of conservative members of the Iranian parliament, on the podium, called for the execution of opposition leaders on Tuesday, a day after protests across the country.
The protesters, buoyed by activism across the Middle East, were confronted forcefully by police and antiriot forces, which used guns, tear gas and electric prods to disperse them. The demonstrators had called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.

Two college students in their 20s, Sanah Jaleh and Mohamad Mokharti, were killed by gunshots, said the government and opposition. Dozens of people were injured and 1,500 people have been arrested in connection with the demonstrations, the government and protestors said.

Iranian government warns against U.S. meddling as it tries to quell opposition protests in support of Egypt. Video courtesy of Reuters and photo courtesy of AP.

Mr. Mokharti's last Facebook message on Monday morning, hours before he joined the protests, was "Happy Valentine's Day," next to the green ribbon that symbolizes the opposition.

Antigovernment activists said they planned to attend a funeral procession on Wednesday morning for Mr. Jaleh, who was a student activist as part of the pro-democracy Islamic Student Union and part of the minority Sunni Kurd community, his friends said on the student website Daneshjoo.

The funeral, which will take place in front of Tehran University, could become the next flashpoint between pro-government forces and the opposition. "We will not allow them to kill us and then shamelessly take advantage of our martyrs," said a student activist from Tehran.

Mr. Jaleh's friends said he was shot dead Monday by a member of Basij, a volunteer plainclothes militia. In his honor, students waved green banners at the campus of Tehran University, videos show.

Paradoxically, the government cast Mr. Jaleh as a Basij militiaman. The opposition tried to discredit that claim by circulating on websites and blogs a picture of Mr. Jaleh with the late reformist Islamic cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a spiritual guide for opposition Green Movement.
In the U.S., President Barack Obama spoke on Tuesday in support of the protesters in Iran and condemned the violence.

"I find it ironic that you've got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully," Mr. Obama said at a White House news conference.

But Mr. Obama, whose administration has pushed for economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, said the U.S. "cannot ultimately dictate what happens inside of Iran."

It was too early to say whether the protests will gain momentum, analysts said. But Iran's leaders—who claimed they had quashed the movement that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in 2009 and early 2010 to protest what they said was a flawed election that unfairly returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to office—seemed shaken by the rallies on Monday.

Mr. Ahmadinejad on Tuesday blamed the protests a day earlier on "enemies" of the government.

Ali Larijani, speaker of the parliament, on Tuesday accused the U.S. for fomenting the protests and said the legislative body must quickly form a panel "to investigate the antirevolutionary movement" brewing in Iran. The session turned rowdy when a group of hard-line conservatives began pumping their fists in the air and shouting that prominent opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi "must be executed."

The two men have been under house arrest since Friday and were unable to attend the demonstrations, but had called for supporters to take to the streets Monday in solidarity with the movements in Egypt and Tunisia that had deposed their own leaders.

Mousavi adviser Ardeshir Amir Arjemand said the opposition wasn't surprised at the government's reaction to Monday's protests. "Their violence and brutal crackdowns against the public are not up for dispute, these officials have to be held accountable," he said, according to the website Kalame.

Write to Farnaz Fassihi at

26661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: February 16, 2011, 06:41:57 AM
WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House on Tuesday took up legislation to make unprecedented cuts in federal spending this year, opening a freewheeling debate that will showcase the two parties' views on the size of government in an era of budget deficits.

In early action on the bill, which would cut domestic programs by $61 billion this year, Republicans showed little appetite for making cuts in the Pentagon. The House rejected four amendments to cut defense programs, including one small cut to get rid of some Pentagon advisory commissions.

"If we cannot do this on defense...where can we do it?" asked Rep. Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who sponsored the amendment to cut $19 million for commissions.

That was just the beginning of a spending debate that is expected to extend through the week. Lawmakers filed hundreds of amendments seeking even deeper cuts after GOP leaders made an unusual decision to lift restrictions on proposing changes to the legislation.
Most of the amendments would cut domestic programs, but another big defense-spending fight loomed Wednesday, when the House was expected to vote on an amendment to strip from the bill $450 million in funding for an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter.

The Republican bill would cut spending in domestic non-entitlement programs such as high-speed high-speed rail construction, water projects and job training far more deeply and quickly than President Barack Obama and most Democrats favor. The White House issued a veto threat immediately after the bill came to the House floor.

The debate marks the most serious legislative effort yet by the new Republican majority to make good on its campaign promise to slash government spending. It also tests the commitment of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to allow a more open legislative process than have other House leaders, who in recent years routinely imposed strict limits on amendments to major bills.
Among the amendments were proposals to block the new health care law, clean air regulations, prisoner transfers from Guantanamo Bay, regulation of the Internet, and on topics that appeared far afield, such as one on the corralling of wild horses and burros.

Mr. Boehner acknowledged that an unpredictable legislative bazaar lay ahead. "We are in some uncharted waters," he said. "I'm ready to expect—whatever."

Mr. Boehner received a quick lesson in the challenges of holding a wide-open floor debate. Faced with the long list of amendments awaiting debate, Democrats systematically delayed a vote on even the first one. For hours, Democrats exercised their right to speak for five minutes each.

The amendment on the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, which was introduced in debate Tuesday night, would hit Mr. Boehner close to home and illustrated the unpredictable nature of leading the conservative freshmen. The alternate engine would be built in part near Mr. Boehner's district at a General Electric Co. plant in the suburbs of Cincinnati.

The Pentagon has opposed the second engine, as have budget watchdogs who call it wasteful. But a similar effort to kill the project was defeated last year by a 231-193 vote.

A government-wide spending bill is needed because federal operations are currently being funded through a short-term measure that expires March. 4. The Democratic-controlled Senate must also act and is expected to push for a compromise that does not cut so deeply.

The bill does not tackle Social Security or Medicare, the fast-growing entitlement programs. Still, the bill's proposal to set 2011 spending at a level $61 billion below 2010 levels marks the biggest cut in discretionary spending Congress has ever made in one piece of legislation, according to House Appropriations Committee staff.

Democrats have said that, faced with a deficit that the White House estimates will grow to $1.6 trillion this year, Congress needs to curb spending. But they say cuts as quick and deep as the Republicans propose would hurt the economy.

"We all understand we have to get spending under control," said Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington. "When you cut this much spending, you are going to hurt the fragile recovery."

Democrats cited a new report by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute that concluded that the spending cuts would result in the loss of 800,000 public and private jobs. They derided a statement by Mr. Boehner seeming to shrug off the prospect of job losses.

"In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs," Mr. Boehner told reporters. "If some of those jobs are lost, so be it. We're broke."

Mr. Flake's amendment to cut $19 million for Pentagon commissions met with bipartisan opposition from senior members of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees defense programs. But Mr. Flake, one of the most conservative members of the House, found allies in a parade of liberals.

Other defense-spending cut amendments, which were defeated Tuesday by wider margins, would have cut money for the V-22 Osprey helicopter; for grants to encourage innovation and research by small businesses, and for the Pentagon to develop alternative energy sources.

Democrats have said that, faced with a deficit that the White House estimates will grow to $1.6 trillion this year, Congress needs to curb spending. But they say cuts as quick and deep as the Republicans propose would hurt the economy.

"We all understand we have to get spending under control," said Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington. "When you cut this much spending, you are going to hurt the fragile recovery."

Democrats cited a new report by the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute that concluded that the spending cuts would result in the loss of 800,000 public and private jobs. They derided a statement by Mr. Boehner seeming to shrug off the prospect of job losses.

"In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs," Mr. Boehner told reporters. "If some of those jobs are lost, so be it. We're broke."

Republicans argued that Democrats were exaggerating the impact, noting that the $61 billion is a small part of a $3 trillion federal budget. "Democrats don't like it, but don't call it slashing and burning," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R., Ga.).

——Nathan Hodge, Corey Boles and Naftali Bendavid contributed to this article.
26662  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Two ICE agents shot on: February 16, 2011, 06:37:26 AM
MEXICO CITY—An agent for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was shot and killed and another agent wounded by unknown gunmen in central Mexico on Tuesday, according to U.S. officials.

The men were driving from Mexico City to Monterrey in the central state of San Luis Potosi when they were attacked.
(Marc: This is the major north-south road of Mexico)  U.S. officials condemned the attack and said they would work with Mexican counterparts to bring the assailants to justice.

"Let me be clear: any act of violence against our ICE personnel…is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement.

The wounded agent was shot in the arm and leg and was in stable condition, Ms. Napolitano said. U.S. officials would not speculate about the motive for the attack.

The incident is sure to raise fresh concerns about Mexico's deteriorating security in Washington and elsewhere. Drug-related violence in Mexico has claimed at least 34,000 lives in the past four years as rival drug gangs have fought for control of lucrative drug-smuggling routes.

Video Archive: Turmoil in Mexico

Deadly Party in Mexico
Drive-by Killings at Mexico Car Wash
Shootout at Mexico Rehab Center
Police Chief Killed in Mexico
."In terms of the U.S. law enforcement community, this will greatly raise the significance of Mexico," said George Grayson, an expert on Mexico and drug trafficking at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

In a statement, Mexico's foreign ministry said that Mexico's federal police were working with San Luis Potosi state authorities to bring the crime's perpetrators to justice. Mexico "energetically condemns this grave act of violence and expresses its solidarity with the government of the United States and with the families of the attacked persons," the statement said.

Attacks on U.S. officials are rare.

In 1985, the torture-murder of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique Camarena, strained bilateral ties and ultimately led to the arrest of several high-ranking Mexican drug lords.

More recently, in December, a U.S. border patrol agent was fatally shot just north of the border in Arizona while trying to catch bandits who target illegal immigrants cross the border.

And three people with ties to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juárez, including a pregnant consular employee, were killed in March, prompting the State Department to tighten security at its diplomatic missions in northern Mexico.

View Full Image

Pulso Newspaper, San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Mexican federal police vehicles at the scene where two ICE agents traveling in a car were shot Tuesday.
.The U.S. provides equipment and some training to Mexican security forces under the $1.4 billion Merida Plan, and U.S. intelligence is credited with helping Mexico catch a score of leading drug kingpins in the past two years.

ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, routinely investigates narcotics smuggling as well as money laundering, organized crime and human smuggling.

Violence between organized crime gangs in Mexico is spreading far beyond northern states where most of the killings take place, affecting Mexico's northern business capital of Monterrey, Mexico's second city of Guadalajara, and even into tourist resorts like Acapulco.

San Luis Potosi has also gotten caught up in the violence, with a spate of recent drug-related killings. A shootout in a major supermarket as well as a leading university in the state capital caused panic among residents last week.

Drug gangs have also branched out into activities like human smuggling. Last year, a gang massacred 72 Central and South American migrants who were on their way to the U.S.
26663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Libya on: February 16, 2011, 06:33:04 AM
WSJ: Bahrain

MANAMA, Bahrain—Protests in Bahrain entered their third day on Wednesday, as tens of thousands continued to occupy a major intersection in the capital and thousands more marched to mourn a second man killed in Tuesday's clashes with security forces.

A committee set up by seven opposition groups to coordinate the protests called for a massive demonstration on Saturday, forecasting a gathering of at least 50,000 people.

Crowds massed at the hospital morgue, as the body of the man killed on Tuesday was ferried out on top of a land-cruiser in a coffin covered with green satin. Thousands of men followed the coffin, many holding pictures of the deceased, beating their chests and chanting "God is great" and "Death to the Al Khalifa," a reference to the country's ruling family. Security forces remained withdrawn from protest areas, stationed in large battalions around a kilometer away.

At the Pearl roundabout, a central traffic circle in the financial district of the capital which has been claimed by the protesters, more tents and makeshift food stalls sprung up Wednesday, with those who spent the night there in a festive mood. Young men, many carrying Bahraini flags, chanted and danced, while a loudspeaker broadcasted a steady stream of speeches from activists.

The mourners are expected to march to the central roundabout later in the day, further swelling the numbers there.

"It was cold last night, but we'll be here until the government meets our demands or the police come to send us to hell. More people are coming now...All of Bahrain is here," said Jelal Niama, an unemployed university graduate.

WSJ's Charles Levinson and Jerry Seib report on how public protests in Egypt have sparked protests throughout the Middle East, namely Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Yemen and Iran.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, in a rare television address, offered condolences for the two deaths on Tuesday. He promised a probe into the killings and into the security-services' response to the protests, and pledged to make good on previous promises of reforms, including loosening media controls and providing special social-welfare payments.

Seven political opposition groups, including the leading Shiite bloc Al Wafaq, announced Wednesday that they have formed a committee to help coordinate protest activity and unify the demands of the protesters. The committee, which includes Sunni as well as Shiite politicians, will meet at least once a day starting Wednesday.

"We need to unify the demands of the people on the square without telling the protesters what to do...In its objectives this is a national unity movement, we have to convince citizens on the sidelines to join us," said Ebrahim Sharif, a Sunni Muslim and former banker who heads the secularist National Democratic Action society.

On Tuesday, Al Wafaq suspended its participation in Bahrain's parliament, where it holds 18 of the 40 seats, in solidarity with the protesters.

The protests and clashes that erupted on Sunday have turned Bahrain into the latest flashpoint in a wave of Arab rebellion that has already unseated regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and has triggered large protests in Algeria, Jordan and Yemen. It has also raised wider worry about the rapid spread of the unrest, and sharpened the dilemma for the Obama administration as it struggles to shape events in ways that don't harm U.S. interests in the region.

Bahrain is a tiny, island kingdom in the oil-rich Persian Gulf, best known for its banking prowess and bars that cater to nationals from alcohol-free Saudi Arabia next door. While it pumps little crude itself, its neighbors are some of the world's biggest petroleum producers.

Its position straddling the Gulf has made it a longtime, strategic ally of Washington. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain, though no American warships are actually home-ported here.

Bahrain's Sunni Muslim rulers have long faced a restive Shiite population that alleges economic and political discrimination. Shiite leaders have pushed, sometimes violently, for more political rights over the years, though they have stopped short of trying to remove the ruling family from power.

Not all the protesters are unemployed or poor. Some of Bahrain's young professionals have joined the gatherings, vowing to keep numbers high. "I will go to work for a few hours then come back to the roundabout," said Jelal Mohammed, a 25-year-old who works as a banker at the local office of France's BNP Paribas. "We can get our rights."

But some Bahrainis are unnerved by the protests, fearing that instability could lead to economic difficulties and to further violence. "These people want the same as in Egypt. They want to destroy this country," said an elderly lady who declined to be named.

Although the latest protests often have an overtly Shia choreography, with chanting, chest slapping and references to martyrdom, some activists are eager to stress that the movement is not linked to Iran, the most populous Shia nation. "There is no single pro-Iran statement or slogan. This is people from both sects. We want genuine democracy, not clerical," said Abdulnabi Alekry, chairman of Bahrain Transparency Society.
26664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A small moment of civic duty on: February 16, 2011, 06:19:51 AM
Yesterday a special election was held to fill the position of State Senator for our district.  Alerted by an email from the Tea Party Republican candidate for Assembly who just ran a very good but ultimately losing campaign about the vote (which would otherwise have not even crossed my radar screen) Cindy and I formed an opinion about for whom to vote and went to vote.  The poll workers told us that about of about 2,500 potential voters, about 76 had voted.
26665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Silencing the opposition on: February 16, 2011, 06:14:34 AM
Second post of the morning

On Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011, Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, the impresario of the ACORN scandal and a growing investigative force in the conservative media, held a press conference at the Conservative Political Action Conference. At that press conference, he laid out evidence of a concerted effort by government officials, race-baiting lawyers and certain black non-farmers to defraud the federal government of millions of dollars by exploiting a legal settlement called Pigford. On Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011, Shirley Sherrod, the single largest recipient of cash from the Pigford settlement, filed a lawsuit against Breitbart for defamation.

Sherrod, you may remember, was a ranking Department of Agriculture official in Georgia. Breitbart released a video of Sherrod speaking to the NAACP, where she told a story about discriminating against a white farmer before realizing that such discrimination was wrong. The purpose of releasing the video, as Breitbart clearly stated, was to demonstrate that the same NAACP that labeled the tea party racist tolerated racism within its own ranks. The video accomplished that purpose -- members of the NAACP cheer and laugh as Sherrod describes her past racism in the video.

After the video broke, due to pressure from the Obama administration, Sherrod resigned; the NAACP also condemned her. Shortly thereafter, the NAACP released the full tape, which showed that Sherrod had in fact helped the white farmer at issue. In full attack mode, the leftist media went after Breitbart, accusing him of selectively editing the tape in order to target Sherrod. This despite the fact that Breitbart himself said he cared nothing about Sherrod and that his actual target was the NAACP; this despite the fact that Sherrod herself said the real problem was the Obama administration.

No matter what you think of the original Sherrod incident, Breitbart's commentary falls squarely within the protections of the First Amendment. Freedom of political speech lies at the core of the Constitution; we attack our political officials all the time without fear of reprisal. Sherrod was an outspoken public figure, one that unapologetically stated that she saw the world through the framework of Marxism.

Sherrod had indeed made racist statements in the past. In June 2009, for example, she explained to a group of college students that school integration was one of the "worst things that happened to black people" because integration undermined black self-sufficiency. She was quoted in 1996 as explaining that the federal government's role was "to be a force for keeping blacks on the land." Even in the NAACP speech at issue, she explained, "it is about black and white, but it's not."

Whether Breitbart is wrong isn't the issue here. It's whether Shirley Sherrod and her group of well-funded thug lawyers should be able to silence political opposition. Let's be frank: Sherrod's lawsuit is probably being backed by someone larger than Sherrod. Her lawyers are the famed law firm of Kirkland & Ellis. They wrote a 40-page complaint to lead things off. If Kirkland & Ellis charge Sherrod their usual rates, such a complaint probably would cost a minimum of $40,000 to produce. A full-scale lawsuit would cost Sherrod hundreds of thousands of dollars -- if she were paying.

In all likelihood, she isn't. Kirkland & Ellis just happens to be the second largest donor, through its employees, to President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign committee and leadership political action committee. Its lawyers are committed liberals, and as a Chicago-based firm, it is heavily tied in to the Democratic Party. As Andrew Breitbart drew the left's spotlight in 2009 and 2010 by defending the tea party, intensely pursuing Obama administration corruption and exposing liberal allies from unions to Hollywood, the left took notice. And they went to their favorite firm, Kirkland & Ellis, to deliver the knockout punch.

Unfortunately for the left, the Constitution stands in the way of such efforts. Sherrod's lawsuit is frivolous in the extreme. She can demonstrate no malice, because no malice existed; she can demonstrate no libel, because Breitbart's writings were fair comment on matters of public interest. Further, Sherrod has no damages -- she has been offered a promotion and made a cottage industry out of playing the victim.

The incredible cynicism of this lawsuit is obvious. The real culprits here are the members of the Obama administration who forced Sherrod's resignation -- and Sherrod even acknowledges that inconvenient fact in her lawsuit. Yet nobody in the Obama administration is a named defendant.

Andrew Breitbart has vowed that he will not be silenced. Thank God for the Constitution, which will allow him to continue his work, despite the legal bills he will have to incur. And shame on Shirley Sherrod for allowing herself to be used as a pawn in a chess match designed to shut down conservative criticism of the Obama administration once and for all.
26666  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jeffrey on: February 16, 2011, 06:08:47 AM
Anyone who doubts the trend toward socialism is pushing America toward ruin should examine the historical tables President Obama published Monday along with his $3.7 trillion budget.

In fiscal 2011, according to these tables, the Department of Health and Human Services will spend $909.7 billion. In fiscal 1965, the entire federal government spent $118.228 billion.

What about inflation? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' inflation calculator, $118.228 billion in 1965 dollars equals $822.6 billion in 2010 dollars. In real terms, the $909.7 billion HHS is spending this year is about $87.1 billion more than the entire federal government spent in 1965.

1965 was a key year in the advancement of socialism in the United States.

From 1776 until 1965, Americans generally did not rely on the federal government for health care unless they served in the military or worked in some other capacity for the federal government.

But in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson and a Democratic Congress enacted two massive federal entitlement programs -- Medicare and Medicaid -- that fundamentally altered the relationship between Americans and the federal government by making tens of millions dependent on the government for health care.

Prior to 1937, the Supreme Court correctly understood the Constitution to deny the federal government any power to create and operate social-welfare programs. The Constitution held no such enumerated power, and the 10th Amendment left powers not enumerated to the states and the people.

From George Washington's administration to Franklin Roosevelt's, Americans took care of themselves and their own communities without resorting to federal handouts.

FDR sought to change what he believed was an unrealistic reliance on families in American life.

He used the crisis of the Great Depression to pass the Social Security Act of 1935, compelling Americans to pay a payroll tax in return for the promise of a federal old-age pension. This was blatantly unconstitutional. That same year, in Railroad Retirement Board v. Alton, the Supreme Court had justly slapped down a law mandating what amounted to a Social Security program for the railroad industry alone.

FDR attempted to defend the railroad pension law as a legitimate regulation of interstate commerce, justifiable under the Commerce Clause -- the same argument the Obama administration has used to defend the individual mandate in Obamacare.

The Court scoffed, suggesting that if the federal government could mandate a federal pension for railroad workers, the next thing it would do would be to mandate health care.

"The question at once presents itself whether the fostering of a contented mind on the part of an employee by legislation of this type is, in any just sense, a regulation of interstate transportation," the Court said answering FDR's argument. "If that question be answered in the affirmative, obviously there is no limit to the field of so-called regulation. The catalogue of means and actions which might be imposed upon an employer in any business, tending to the satisfaction and comfort of his employees, seems endless. Provision for free medical attention and nursing, for clothing, for food, for housing, for the education of children, and a hundred other matters, might with equal propriety be proposed as tending to relieve the employee of mental strain and worry."

When Social Security went to the Court in 1937, FDR used a different strategy. He argued that Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution, which gave Congress the power to levy taxes to "provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States," meant the federal government could do virtually anything it deemed in the "general welfare" of Americans even if it was otherwise outside the scope of the Constitution's other enumerated powers.

FDR's interpretation of the General Welfare Clause effectively rendered the rest of the Constitution meaningless.

To persuade the same court that ruled against him in the railroad case to rule for him in the Social Security case, FDR proposed the Judicial Reorganization Act. This would allow him to pack the court by appointing an additional justice for each sitting justice who had reached age 70 and six months and not retired.

Faced with a potential Democratic takeover of the court, and thus a federal government controlled entirely by FDR's allies, Republican Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes and Associate Justice Owen J. Roberts flip-flopped from their position in the railroad case. They quietly voted in favor of Social Security and took the steam off FDR's court-packing plan.

That year, federal spending was 8.6 percent of gross domestic product, according to President Obama's historical tables.

When LBJ enacted Medicare and Medicaid -- and began fulfilling the court's prophecy in the 1935 railroad-pension case -- federal spending was 17.2 percent of GDP.

When George W. Bush expanded Medicare with a prescription drug benefit in 2003, federal spending was 19.7 percent of GDP.

This year, federal spending will be 25.3 percent of GDP.

In 2014, when Obamacare is scheduled to be fully implemented, HHS will become the first $1-trillion-per year federal agency. That year, Medicare and Medicaid will cost $557 billion and $352.1 billion respectively, or a combined $909.1 billion -- about what all of HHS costs this year.

In other words, when Obamacare is just getting started, Medicare and Medicaid will cost more than the $822.6 billion in 2010 dollars than the entire federal government cost in 1965 when LBJ signed Medicare and Medicaid into law.
26667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris on: February 16, 2011, 06:05:23 AM
Morris often gets outside of his true lane of expertise, but here he is back in it, dead center:

So what happens if the cuts proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., prove unacceptable to the Senate and the president? What if there is no compromise? What if nobody gives in?

A budget deadlock, played out over months, will doom President Obama and assure his defeat. But an easily won compromise will help him get re-elected.

The central question in Obama's bid for a second term is: Will the issues that doomed his party in 2010 still be the key questions in 2012? If they are, we already know how the election will come out. If they are not, Obama can win.

When the president says he does not "want to re-fight the battles of the past two years," he means that he embraces this reality. He doesn't want Obamacare, high spending, huge deficits, cap and trade, card check and the like to be the items of discussion in the 2012 election.

But he has failed to put forward a compelling agenda for the next two years. That was the essential defect of his State of the Union speech. Nobody is going to storm any barricades for high-speed rail and more R&D spending.

If the Republicans hold firm in demanding huge spending cuts and Obama does not give in, the question of whether or not to cut spending will dominate the nation's political discourse for months on end and will spill over into the 2012 election.

To assure that it will, the Republicans should hold firm to their budget spending cuts without surrender or compromise. If necessary, it is OK to vote a few very short term continuing resolutions to keep the government open for a few weeks at a time, always keeping on the pressure.

hen the debt limit vote comes up, they should refuse to allow an increase without huge cuts in spending. If the debt limit deadline passes, they should force the administration to scramble to cobble together enough money to operate for weeks at a time.

If Obama offers a half a loaf, the GOP should spurn it for weeks and months. Then, rather than actually shut down the government, let them accept some variant of their proposed cuts but only give in return a few more weeks time, at which point the issue will be re-litigated. Don't go for Armageddon. Just keep fighting the battle.

Same with the debt limit. Extend it for a few hundred billion dollars and then go back for more cuts in return for a further extension. Make Obama pay for each continuing resolution and each debt limit hike with more cuts to spending.

Always avoid cuts in Medicare and Social Security. Save those for after 2012. For now, focus on Medicaid block granting and discretionary spending (including some modest cuts in defense).

Like a guerilla army, never go to a shutdown (a general engagement), but keep coming up with cuts, compromising, letting the government stay open for a few more weeks, letting the debt limit rise a few hundred billion, and then come back for more cuts and repeat the cycle.

And don't just demand spending cuts. Go for defunding of Obamacare, blocking the EPA from carbon taxation and regulation, a ban on card check unionization, and constraints on the FCC's regulation of the Internet and talk radio. Put those items on the table each time, each session.

Every time the issues come up, every time the cuts are litigated, Obama's efforts to appear to be a centrist will be frustrated. Time and again, he will have to oppose spending cuts. Over and over, he will come across as the liberal he is, battling for each dime and opposing any defunding.

Obama's campaign strategy has two elements: Change the subject from the 09-10 agenda, and move to the center. A tough, determined Republican budget offensive, embracing all these elements and fought in this guerilla style, will frustrate both and lead to his defeat.
26668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Mr. Peabody on: February 16, 2011, 12:43:16 AM
26669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: February 15, 2011, 04:58:40 PM
Nonetheless, if the accusation is true then Justice Thomas acted inappropriately by failing to disclose.
26670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reagan on: February 15, 2011, 04:55:32 PM
I would add that
a) Reagan understood being in the public eye due to his acting career; and
b) There is perhaps no better preparation for the socializing, schmoozing, politicking, lying, and backstabbing of Washington than being President of the Screen Actors Guild.
26671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Overview on: February 15, 2011, 04:51:53 PM
Analyst Reva Bhalla takes a closer look at the unique factors afflicting each of the Middle Eastern countries currently experiencing unrest.

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

With protests breaking out everywhere from Yemen to Bahrain to Algeria to Iran, everyone is asking themselves who’s next in the so-called wave of revolutions. Now while there are some common trends in each of these countries, this can’t be seen as some sort of domino effect where revolutions will spread everywhere in sight. Each of these countries are living in very unique circumstances, and understanding those factors are important in understanding which of these regimes are really at risk.

There are common threads to many of the countries experiencing unrest right now. First, most obviously, you have severe socio-economic conditions where you have high rates of youth unemployment in particular, inflationary pressures driving up the price of food and fuel, lack of basic services. Overall, you see a general reaction to decades of crony capitalism that really built up during the Nasserite era in this region.

Exacerbating matters in places like Algeria and Yemen are these illegitimate succession plans. So for example, in Yemen, the president has already announced that he is not going to run again for president in 2013, nor will his son, and that was designed to appease the political opposition. So far it seems to have worked, and the political opposition has dropped out of the demonstrations, leaving those on the streets more and more divided.

Now, in Algeria, the main concern is not so much the civil unrest in the streets, although that’s notable. The real concern is who is manipulating that unrest behind the scenes. So in Algeria, you have an intense power struggle that’s been playing out between an increasingly embattled president, who has wanted to hand the reins over to his brother, and a powerful intelligence minister, who is hotly opposed to those plans. So as these demonstrations play out, it’s extremely important to take a look at what quiet concessions are being offered behind the scenes as this power struggle plays out.

Another key theme is that many of these countries face the dilemma of how to integrate Islamists in the political system. Now, countries like Jordan have a better relationship with the Islamists in the opposition; there, they actually have the ability to participate in the political system, albeit not to the levels they want. In other countries — like Algeria, Syria and, of course, Egypt — these are the countries that continue to struggle with this Islamist dilemma.

One thing is clear to us: In Egypt, we did not see a popular revolution in the true sense of the word; what we saw was a carefully and thoughtfully managed succession by the military. In Algeria, you’re mostly seeing a power struggle play out. In places like Jordan, Yemen and Bahrain, you’re seeing opposition groups and tribes start to seize the opportunity to press for their demands, but they are still operating under great constraints, and, in many cases, they know their limits.

In other words, while this latest unrest is a wake-up call for many regimes in the region, we are not seeing a wave of revolutions spread throughout the region. And where you do see things flare up, like we might see in Algeria this coming Friday, you have to take a closer look at the political intrigue behind the demonstrations to really understand the true risk to the regime.

26672  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: May 14-15: "Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering of the Pack" on: February 15, 2011, 01:42:47 PM
For cherries, this is my parable:

Do you remember the first time you had sex?

Were you any good at it?

Have you gotten better since then?

26673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Retail Sales on: February 15, 2011, 10:55:09 AM
Doug:  Interesting circles you travel in!


Retail sales and sales excluding autos both increased 0.3% in January To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/15/2011

Retail sales and sales excluding autos both increased 0.3% in January. Both fell slightly short of consensus expectations.

Including revisions to November/December, sales were up 0.2% in January while sales ex-autos were unchanged. Retail sales are up 7.8% versus a year ago; sales ex-autos are up 6.2%.
The increase in retail sales for January was led by grocery stores, gas stations, department stores and warehouse clubs, internet/mail-order, and autos. The weakest category of sales, by far, was building materials.
Sales excluding autos, building materials, and gas increased 0.4% in January, but were unchanged including downward revisions for November/December. These sales are up 5.1% versus last year. This calculation is important for estimating GDP.
Implications:  Today’s report on retail sales was lukewarm. Sales increased less than the consensus expected and were revised down slightly for prior months. However, the modest growth in sales in January was primarily due to one category – building materials – which was held down by the unusually harsh winter weather in much of the country. Most major categories of sales increased in January. Despite this, “core” sales, which exclude autos, gas, and building materials (all of which are volatile from month to month) increased a healthy 0.4% and were up for the 15th time in the last 18 months. We expect consumer spending to continue to move higher. Worker earnings are up, consumer debt has stabilized at much lower levels, and consumers’ financial obligations are now the smallest share of income since the mid-1990s. In other news this morning, the Empire State Index, a measure of manufacturing activity in New York, increased to +15.4 in February from +11.9.  On the inflation front, import prices increased 1.5% in January and are up 5.3% in the past year.  Excluding petroleum, import prices increased 1.1% in January and are up 3.2% versus a year ago.   Export prices rose 1.2% in January and are up 6.8% in the past year.  Excluding farm products, export prices still gained 0.9% in January and are up 5.3% from a year ago.  These widespread gains in trade prices are a leading sign of higher inflation that will ultimately hit the US consumer.
26674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 15, 2011, 10:38:49 AM

OTOH the question of how he operates in the civilian political system remains to be seen.  One term in the House of Representatives is a REALLY thin resume in this regard.
26675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 15, 2011, 10:19:55 AM
I wonder if Baraq will support them this time around , , ,
26676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Lost Cause Scenario on: February 15, 2011, 10:14:50 AM
The Lost Cause Scenario Adar I 11, 5771 · February 15, 2011
By Yanki Tauber Print this Page

Much is made of Abraham's valiant efforts to save the wicked city of Sodom. We read how Abraham virtually went to battle with G-d on behalf of these very sinful people, contesting the divine decree that Sodom (and its four sister cities, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar) be destroyed. "It behooves You not to do such," Abraham challenged, "to kill the righteous together with the wicked . . . Shall the Judge of the entire world not do justice?!" "If there be found fifty righteous people in the city," Abraham bargained, "would You not spare the place because of the fifty righteous ones who are in it?" "What if there be five less than fifty?" Abraham persisted. "What if there be forty? . . . Thirty?"

But something about the story doesn't add up. Why should the wicked people be spared "because of the righteous"? If there are some righteous people left in Sodom, G-d obviously doesn't have to "kill the righteous together with the wicked"-He can airlift them outta there before He wrecks the place. Indeed, G-d sent two angels to rescue Lot and his family, the only righteous people in Sodom, before overturning the city. So where's the injustice? What's the logic in Abraham's argument?

Also: every good salesman has more than one pitch up his sleeve; when one line of reasoning fails to elicit the desired response, the seasoned marketer will quickly shift to another tack. Yet Abraham (a pretty good salesman, actually) seems to have only this one argument to make. When it turns out that there's not even ten righteous folk in any of the cities, Abraham drops the case.

One of the explanations offered by the commentaries is that as long as there are righteous people in a place, there remains the possibility and hope that they will have a positive influence on their community. So it makes sense to spare the entire city because of the righteous people in it-it's not a lost cause yet. When Abraham learns, however, that there are no righteous people remaining in Sodom (or not enough righteous people to make a difference), he has nothing further to say on their behalf.

This suggests a deeper meaning to Abraham's argument. When Abraham says to G-d, "Do not destroy the city because of the righteous who are in it," he's not just speaking about Sodom as a city, but also about its individual sinners. The chassidic masters refer to the human being as a "city in miniature": each of us is a virtual metropolis populated by numerous organs and limbs, traits and faculties, drives and desires, thoughts and actions. Even a thoroughly wicked "city" is bound to have a few righteous "inhabitants"-a few remaining enclaves of purity, a few pinpoints of goodness. To destroy a person-even a most wicked person-is also to destroy the latent tzaddik within him, to reject not only his negative actuality but also his positive potential.

The question, however, is: does there remain enough potential goodness to exert a positive influence on the "city" and perhaps effect a transformation? If this were the case, it would indeed be a grave injustice, unbehooving the Judge of the entire world, to "kill the righteous together with the wicked." But what if we are dealing with a "lost cause"? What if we have before us a person or community in which the "tzaddik within" is so completely overwhelmed that one can see no possibility of it ever asserting itself? When there is no salvageable goodness remaining in the person, what can be said to protest the Divine decree?

Abraham, who in the course of his lifetime had converted many thousands to the ethos and morals of monotheism, was quite the expert at identifying and activating the "hidden tzaddik" in the most corrupt environments. But when confronted with an evil as impregnable as Sodom's, even Abraham fell silent.


But Moses did not.

Four hundred years after Abraham approached G-d to plead on behalf of the wicked of Sodom, Moses had a "lost cause scenario" of his own on his hands, when the Children of Israel sinned by worshipping a Golden Calf. What can be said in defense of a people who succumb to idolatry a mere forty days after experiencing the greatest Divine revelation of all time-a revelation bearing the message "I am the L-rd your G-d . . . you shall have no other gods before Me"?

The Divine anger seethed. Like his great-great-great-great-grandfather before him, Moses stepped in to stave off a decree of annihilation.

But Moses took a different approach. He didn't say, "But there are many who didn't sin." He didn't say, "Spare the wicked because of the righteous," or "spare the wicked because of the potential for righteousness within then." Instead he said: "Forgive them, G-d. If you won't, blot me out of your Torah."

Moses demanded an unconditional forgiveness, a forgiveness without a "because." If you are a G-d who forgives without cause, Moses said, I'm prepared to be part of your Story. If not, edit me out; I'll have no part in it.

Abraham was a great lover of humanity. He loved his fellow man because he saw the potential for goodness in him or her, even when the rest of the person didn't look that great. But Moses' love was greater: Moses loved his people regardless of whether he could or could not discern the hidden tzaddik in their city.

And the amazing thing was, in the end Moses did turn his errant people around. In the end, their supposedly irredeemable potential came to glorious light.

For such is the paradox of love. If you care for someone because you see in him a potential for improvement and wish to have a positive influence on him, that's really great of you, but there will be times when you'll find that potential inaccessible and your positive influence rebuffed. But if you care for him irrespective of whether you can see anything good in him, and regardless of whether you can reasonably hope to influence him in any way-if you love him even if he is a "lost cause"-then you will end up having a profound influence on his life.

26677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 15, 2011, 09:51:07 AM
He has my interest for sure, but a lot remains to be seen.   Getting things done in the political system requires the ability to herd cats, which is quite unlike the military. 
26678  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: February 15, 2011, 09:48:42 AM
Iranian police used tear gas and electric prods to crack down on the country's biggest antigovernment protests in at least a year, as demonstrators buoyed by activism across the Middle East returned to the country's streets by the tens of thousands Monday.

The day of planned antigovernment rallies began largely peacefully, according to witnesses, with protesters marching silently or sitting and chanting. But as demonstrators' ranks swelled, police and antiriot forces lined the streets, ordered shops to shut down and responded at times with force, according to witnesses and opposition websites, in a repeat of the official crackdown that helped snuff out months of spirited opposition rallies a year ago.
By day's end, online videos showed garbage bins on fire, protesters throwing rocks at the police and crowds clashing with motorcycle-mounted members of the pro-regime Basij militia.

Thousands of Iranians gathered in several locations across Tehran Monday, heeding calls in recent days by opposition leaders to demonstrate in solidarity with Egyptian and Tunisian protesters. Farnaz Fassihi has details.
Monday's protests come as calls for regime change have led to the popular ousters of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. They mark a broadening from Iranian rallies that drew hundreds of thousands through 2009 and early 2010.

Those rallies targeted what opposition leaders said was a flawed presidential election that they say unfairly returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Monday's protests, by comparison, demanded that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the core of power in the Islamic Republic, step down.

"Mubarak! Ben Ali! It's now the turn for Seyed Ali!" people chanted, according to witnesses and videos, referring to the country's spiritual head.

In Tehran's Enghelab Avenue, the main route for the rally, a crowd of young men and women on Monday evening stomped on a giant banner depicting Mr. Khamenei and set it on fire, a sign of deepest disrespect in the Muslim world. Videos of the scene showed crowds cheering in response.

Iran's government and its opposition alike have sought to identify themselves with the mood of change sweeping the Middle East. Iranian officials sought to paint this year's Arab revolts as Islamic uprisings like the Iranian revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi more than 30 years ago.

Iran's opposition protesters, meanwhile, have renewed their challenge to the government, emboldened by rallies led by a similar cadre of educated, tech-savvy youth seeking better economic opportunity and more political freedoms.

Those who saw the rallies in Tehran placed the number of protesters in the capital in the tens of thousands. Witnesses in the cities of Mashad, Isfahan and Tabriz saw crowds they estimated at thousands of demonstrators each, with blog reports and other online dispatches placing overall participation in such cities at over 10,000 each.

Iranian officials have all but banned reporting on anti-regime protests, making it difficult to estimate not only the size of crowds, but the number of casualties, fatalities and arrests.

Iran's protests coincided with a visit Monday by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who briefly addressed the unrest sweeping the Mideast at a joint press conference with Mr. Ahmadinejad. "We see that sometimes when the leaders and heads of countries do not pay attention to the nations' demands, the people themselves take action," Mr. Gul said. He didn't mention Iran.

Iranian officials didn't comment on Monday's protests. The Fars News Agency, affiliated with the country's Revolutionary Guards, reported that a "group of thugs" commissioned by the U.S. and Israel had taken to the streets to cause riots. Fars News said protestors had shot and killed one person and injured several others.

Iran's government "over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt, and now, when given the opportunity to afford their people the same rights…once again illustrate their true nature," Mrs. Clinton told reporters in Washington. "We wish the opposition and the brave people in the streets across cities in Iran the same opportunity that they saw their Egyptian counterparts seize in the last week."
To support Iranian protestors, the State Department began using social media, particularly Twitter—sending its messages, for the first time, in Farsi—in calling on Iran's government to allow protestors to freely assemble and communicate.

Separately, an online collective known as "Anonymous" said it had launched so-called denial of service attacks on a number of high-profile Iranian government sites. In a DOS attack, computers flood a server to prevent it from displaying a web page.

The group, which has attacked a number of corporate and other websites in apparent retaliation for moves against the document-leaking organization WikiLeaks, targeted the websites of Iran's state news broadcaster and the website of President Ahmadinejad, among others. It is unclear how successful the attacks were, but those two sites weren't accessible late Monday.

This year's uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired populations across the Middle East, showing how rulers once thought invulnerable could be toppled in a wave of popular discontent. Iran's regime has so far provided a counterexample, as it has shown less reluctance to take a violent line against its people. Opposition groups and human-rights organizations say more than 100 people were killed and more than 5,000 jailed in Iran's demonstrations of late 2009 and early 2010.

Opposition leaders in Iran started with relatively modest goals after the 2009 election, including nullifying the election results, which they said were rigged. Iranian officials said the results reflected the will of the people.

Now, analysts say, revolts in Egypt and Tunisia have galvanized Iranian protesters around the goal of regime change. "It's very clear that we are now way beyond a post-election crisis," said Hamid Dabashi, professor of Iranian studies at Columbia University. "People are going after the regime."

Monday's protests began peacefully in the early afternoon as men and women streamed on foot along pre-designated routes in multiple cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Mashad and Shiraz. Drivers honked in support. Shopkeepers waved the victory sign.

In response, the government deployed heavy security. Cellphone and text-messaging service was down along the protest routes, Iranians reported.

As the afternoon waned, crowd swelled and began chanting against Mr. Khamenei, according to eyewitnesses and reports posted on the Internet. Security forces attacked people with electric prods and tear gas. Protesters ran and hid, and then regrouped defiantly a few feet away.

One witness described a scene in which a flower-decorated car in a bridal convoy became stuck in the protests. With security forces in pursuit of demonstrators, a bride in full regalia stepped out of the car and helped shove protesters inside to protect them, this person said.
Witnesses said the plain-clothes Basij militia were dispatched on motorbikes and vans later in the evening. They took position in side streets and beat protesters with sticks and batons, witnesses said.

Various observers reported several injuries and arrests. Their accounts weren't possible to verify.

"I saw a young woman thrown to the sidewalk, her head split open and she was bleeding, but the guy kept kicking her," a young man from Tehran said via Internet chat.

A young female activist said by telephone from the city of Isfahan that plain-clothes Basij militia had attacked a group of young men and women and dragged them into a parking lot on Revolution Avenue. They locked the gate and began beating them with wooden sticks and electric batons as the protesters fell to the ground and screamed, the activist said.

"Everyone was terrified and we felt helpless. All we could do was shout 'Death to the Dictator,' but the police chased us," said the activist.

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi had called the protest and vowed to participate. But they were put under house arrest all day, according to opposition web sites. When Mr. Mousavi and his wife attempted to leave the house, security forces stopped them, and blocked their street with multiple police cars, according to the website.

As darkness fell on Tehran, the city was rocked again by the chants from residents on rooftops across the capital: "God is great," and "Death to the dictator," according to witnesses. The Facebook page of the protest, 25 Bahman, said it would soon announce further plans for demonstrations in the following days.

—Jay Solomon in Washington and Cassell Bryan-Low in London contributed to this article.
Write to Farnaz Fassihi at
26679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The two faces of the MB in Egypt on: February 15, 2011, 08:33:54 AM
CAIRO—Moaz Abdel Karim, an affable 29-year-old who was among a handful of young activists who plotted the recent protests here, is the newest face of the Muslim Brotherhood. His political views on women's rights, religious freedom and political pluralism mesh with Western democratic values. He is focused on the fight for democracy and human rights in Egypt.

A different face of the Brotherhood is that of Mohamed Badi, 66-year-old veterinarian from the Brotherhood's conservative wing who has been the group's Supreme Guide since last January. He recently pledged the Brotherhood would "continue to raise the banner of jihad" against the Jews, which he called the group's "first and foremost enemies." He has railed against American imperialism, and calls for the establishment of an Islamic state.
After Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Friday amid the region's most dramatic grassroots uprising since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the Brotherhood became poised to assume a growing role in the country's political life. The question for many is: Which Brotherhood?

The Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed Egyptian Islamist opposition group is plagued by rifts between young and old, reformist and hard-liner, and between big city deal-making politicians, and conservative rural preachers. Charles Levinson explains.
It was Mr. Karim and his younger, more tolerant cohorts who played a key role organizing the protests that began on Jan. 25 and ultimately unseated a 29-year president. But it's the more conservative, anti-Western old guard that still make up by far the bulk of the group's leadership.

Mr. Badi, the current leader, wrote an article in September on the group's website in which he said of the U.S. that "a nation that does not champion moral and human values cannot lead humanity, and its wealth will not avail it once Allah has had His say."

He wrote in that same article that "resistance is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny, and all we need is for the Arab and Muslim peoples to stand behind it and support it... We say to our brothers the mujahideen in Gaza: be patient, persist in [your jihad], and know that Allah is with you..."

On Monday, meanwhile, Mr. Karim stood shoulder to shoulder at a press conference with youth leaders from half a dozen mostly secular movements, to lay out their vision for how Egypt's transition to democracy should proceed and to praise the Army for cooperating. Their top demand: a unity government that includes a broad swath of opposition forces.

The Brotherhood, whose leaders Mr. Karim butted heads with in recent weeks, put out a similar message on Saturday calling for free and fair elections. Seeking to allay fears that it would make a power grab, the Brotherhood also said it wouldn't run a candidate in presidential elections or seek a majority in parliament.

Both Egyptians and outsiders, however, remain wary. They are unsure about how the group will ultimately harness any newfound political gains and whether its more-moderate wing will, in fact, have lasting clout.

"It's never entirely clear with the Brothers," says Josh Stacher, a political science professor at Kent State University who spent years in Egypt studying the organization. "It's a big group, with lots of different points of view. You can find the guy always screaming about Israel and then you got the other guys who don't care about Israel because they're too busy worrying about raising literacy rates."
Israel, which shares a long and porous border with Egypt, fears that if a moderate wing of the Brotherhood exists—and many in Israel's leadership are skeptical that it does—it could be shoved aside by more extreme factions within the group.

The Brotherhood's conservative wing has for years put out anti-Israel comments and writings, and helped fund Hamas, the Palestinian militant group. It has also spoken out in support of attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"If the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power, through elections or some other way, that would be a repeat of 1979 in Iran," when moderate governments installed after the shah gave way to the ayatollahs, says a senior Israeli official. "It's something we're looking at with great caution."

The U.S. appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach, with officials saying in recent days it should be given a chance. President Barack Obama, in an interview with Fox News, acknowledged the group's anti-American strains, but said it didn't enjoy majority support in Egypt and should be included in the political process. "It's important for us not to say that our only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed Egyptian people," he said.
The outlawed Islamist opposition group is plagued by rifts between young and old, reformist and hard-liner. There are big city deal-making politicians, and conservative rural preachers who eschew politics in favor of proselytizing Islam.

Egypt's government has long highlighted the group's hard-line wing as a threat to the country. Yet its selective crackdowns have historically empowered the very hard-liners it has sought to undermine, analysts and Brotherhood members say.

The conservative leadership's autocratic leadership style within the movement, its lack of tolerance for dissenting opinions and its preference to conduct business behind closed doors have all contributed to deep skepticism among outsiders about the Brotherhood leadership's stated commitment to democracy.

In recent years, meanwhile, the group's pragmatic wing has forged a historic alliance with secular opposition activists. Their role in the unseating of Mr. Mubarak appears to have given them a boost in a struggle for influence with the Brotherhood's fiery old guard.

"The Muslim Brotherhood as a whole doesn't deserve credit for this revolution, but certain factions within the movement absolutely do, generally those that have more modern views," says Essam Sultan, a former member of the group who left in the 1990s to form the moderate Islamist Wasat, or Centrist, Party. "That wing should get a massive bounce out of this."

Whether that bounce will be enough to propel the more-moderate Brothers to a permanent position of influence—or what their legislative agenda would actually be—is one of the key unknowns in Egypt's political evolution.

In many ways, this faction resembles conservative right-of-center politicians elsewhere in the Arab world. They espouse a view of Islam as a part of Egyptian heritage and argue that democracy and pluralism are central Islamic values. They are pious and socially conservative, and reject the strict secularism that is a feature of most Western concepts of liberal democracy.

On Wednesday, when it was still unclear whether Mr. Mubarak would step down, Essam el-Eryan, one of the only reformists currently on the group's 12-member ruling Guidance Council, said in a statement that the group didn't seek the establishment of an Islamic state; believed in full equality for women and Christians; and wouldn't attempt to abrogate the Camp David peace treaty with Israel—all tenets espoused by Brotherhood leaders over the decades. Mr. el-Eryan said those Brothers who had suggested otherwise in their writings and public comments in recent days and years had been misunderstood or weren't speaking for the organization.

Founded in the Suez Canal town of Ismailiya in 1928 by a 22-year-old school teacher, the organization used violence to battle the British occupation in the 1940s.

The group allied with some young officers to overthrow the king in 1952 and bring Gamal Abdel Nasser to power, only to become implicated in an assassination attempt on Nasser two years later. He responded with a fierce crackdown, sending the group's leadership to prison for years, and its membership ranks into exile.

The Muslim Brotherhood abandoned violence in the years that followed, formally renouncing it as a domestic strategy in 1972. But some of its offspring have taken a bloodier path. Some former members established the group responsible for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Al-Sadat in 1981, and others have allied with Al Qaeda.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, an older generation of leftist and Islamist student activists battled each other violently on college campuses. Egypt's opposition grew increasingly ineffective, partially as a result of those rifts.

"We saw three successive generations of Brotherhood leaders fail to bring change, and we learned from their mistakes," says Mr. Karim, one of the leaders of the group's youth wing.

Brotherhood and secular leaders say the seeds of the cooperation that drove this year's protests were planted in the early 2000s when Israel's crackdown on the second Palestinian uprising and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq brought secularists and Islamists alike into the streets to protest a common cause.

Then, in 2005, the Brotherhood struck a key victory in the parliamentary elections, winning an all-time high of 88 seats. Though officially banned, the organization is tolerated and allowed to put up candidates as independents.

Many of the Brotherhood lawmakers were pragmatists compared to the hard-line members of the group who preferred to stay out of politics. They were more open to working with other groups to forge compromises, and won plaudits from secular opposition leaders by focusing their legislative efforts on fighting an extension of the country's emergency law.

They also stood up for the independence of the judiciary and pushed for press freedoms, and didn't work to ban books or impose Islamic dress on women—moves many critics had feared.

"In the past, Muslim Brothers in parliament sometimes made noise about racy books or the Ms. Egypt beauty pageant, and it made a lot of us uncomfortable," says Osama Ghazali Harb, head of the National Democratic Front, a secular opposition party. "They didn't do this in the last five years."

The regime responded to the Brothers' newfound parliamentary prowess with one of the most brutal crackdowns in the group's history. Instead of coming down on the organization's hard-line leaders, it focused on the movement's moderates.

"The government wants them to be secretive, hard-line, because it makes them fulfill the role of the bogey man that they're propped up to be," says Kent State's Mr. Stacher. "You don't want soft and squishy huggable Islamists, and you don't want sympathetic characters. You want scary people who go on CNN and rail against Israel."

Eighteen Brotherhood legislative staffers drafting education and health-care reform bills were among hundreds arrested. So, too, were the leading pragmatists on the movement's 12-man leadership bureau.

The power vacuum was quickly filled by conservatives, who in 2007 put out a platform paper walking back many of the group's more-moderate views.

It stated, for example, that neither women nor Christians were qualified to run for president. Casting further doubts on the organization's commitment to the separation of church and state, the paper called for a religious council to sign off on laws.

Rifts between conservatives and reformers in the group began to flare into the open. The group's moderates argued that the paper was only a draft and never officially adopted.

In the 2008 elections to the Brotherhood's Guidance Council, hard-liners nearly swept the field, according to people familiar with the group. Only one seat on the leadership council is held by a consistent reformist, say these people, as well as one of the two alternate members who would step in should someone be arrested or die.

During this same period, Mr. Karim, from the Brotherhood's youth wing, says his relationships with activists in other groups were being cemented through online networks. "The new media allowed me to connect with the other" activists in Egypt, he says. "And I realized that there are things we agree on, like human-rights issues and political issues."

Past partnerships between the Brotherhood and secular parties had been top-down short-lived agreements born of political necessity.

This latest alliance formed more organically, say several young activists who are working with the Brotherhood.

"We just got to know, trust and like each other, even—believe it or not—the Brothers," says Basim Kamel, a 41-year-old leader in Mohamed ElBaradei's secular movement.

As conservatives were gaining influence within the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership ranks, Mr. Karim and his fellow youth cadres were growing impatient.

He says they began arguing with their superiors, saying the group was losing credibility in the street because they weren't out protesting for democracy like the secular activists were.

In November 2008, the Brotherhood's then-leader Mahdy Akef called for "establishing a coalition among all political powers and civil society" to challenge the "tyranny that Egypt is currently witnessing."

Mr. Akef couldn't be reached for comment, but those familiar with the group's inner workings say the shift came as the leadership realized they risked losing their youth cadres, particularly after a series of high-profile defections by young Brotherhood activists.

When Mr. ElBaradei returned to Egypt in February 2010 to lead an alliance of opposition groups, many of them youth-driven, the Muslim Brotherhood backed him, formalizing a partnership that had already gelled among the rank and file.

The alliance was uneasy at times. When other opposition groups voted to boycott November's parliamentary elections, for example, the Brotherhood broke ranks and ran.

After the uprising in Tunisia in January, Brotherhood youth, including Mr. Karim, met with the leaders of other youth movements and decided to plan a similar uprising in Egypt.

A group of about 12 youth leaders, including Mr. Karim, met secretly over the course of two weeks to figure out how to plot a demonstration that would outfox security forces.

The Brotherhood's senior leadership refused to endorse their efforts at first. They ultimately agreed to allow members to participate as individuals—and to forgo holding up religious slogans that the Brotherhood might have used in the past, such as "Islam is the solution," or waving Korans.

—Summer Said in Cairo and Richard Boudreaux in Jerusalem contributed to this article.
26680  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 15, 2011, 08:24:58 AM
Grateful for a walk on the beach with my son, a wonderful Valentine's Day dinner with my family prepared by my wife, and grateful that my wife married me  smiley
26681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Common Cause continues efforts to silence conservative justices on: February 15, 2011, 08:20:31 AM
The motivation here is, as previously noted, unprincipled and political.  However, has Common Cause found a chink in Thomas's armor?

===========Common Cause Asks Court About Thomas Speech
Published: February 14, 2011
WASHINGTON — Discrepancies in reports about an appearance by Justice Clarence Thomas at a political retreat for wealthy conservatives three years ago have prompted new questions to the Supreme Court from a group that advocates changing campaign finance laws.

When questions were first raised about the retreat last month, a court spokeswoman said Justice Thomas had made a “brief drop-by” at the event in Palm Springs, Calif., in January 2008 and had given a talk.
In his financial disclosure report for that year, however, Justice Thomas reported that the Federalist Society, a prominent conservative legal group, had reimbursed him an undisclosed amount for four days of “transportation, meals and accommodations” over the weekend of the retreat. The event is organized by Charles and David Koch, brothers who have used millions of dollars from the energy conglomerate they run in Wichita, Kan., to finance conservative causes.

Arn Pearson, a vice president at the advocacy group Common Cause, said the two statements appeared at odds. His group sent a letter to the Supreme Court on Monday asking for “further clarification” as to whether the justice spent four days at the retreat for the entire event or was there only briefly.

“I don’t think the explanation they’ve given is credible,” Mr. Pearson said in an interview. He said that if Justice Thomas’s visit was a “four-day, all-expenses paid trip in sunny Palm Springs,” it should have been reported as a gift under federal law.

The Supreme Court had no comment on the issue Monday. Nor did officials at the Federalist Society or at Koch Industries.

Common Cause maintains that Justice Thomas should have disqualified himself from last year’s landmark campaign finance ruling in the Citizens United case, partly because of his ties to the Koch brothers.

In a petition filed with the Justice Department last month, the advocacy group said past appearances at the Koch brothers’ retreat by Justice Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia, along with the conservative political work of Justice Thomas’s wife, had created a possible perception of bias in hearing the case.

The Citizens United decision, with Justice Thomas’s support, freed corporations to engage in direct political spending with little public disclosure. The Koch brothers have been among the main beneficiaries, political analysts say.
26682  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 15, 2011, 08:00:43 AM
The Allen West clip has been removed huh My first listen was rather casual (I was doing emails at the same time) and I wanted to give it another listen   cry
26683  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: February 15, 2011, 07:57:24 AM
Interesting idea.

Here's this:  I very much consider myself a Tea Party man, but disagree with the not insignificant faction within the movement that tends towards isolationism and Fortress America.  Yes we are evolving from the unipolar moment of America in the world but that needs to be thought out on its own terms-- not undercut our troops actively defending us in hard fighting and unprepare for the Chinese challenge simply in order to have cuts that enable BO to continue to piss away our country's future.

February 14, 2011
Gates Sees Crisis in Current Spending
WASHINGTON — Even as the Obama administration on Monday rolled out its budget for 2012, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was dueling with Congress over military spending for this year, saying the Pentagon cannot do its job with cuts of more than $9 billion.

Mr. Gates said restrictions on spending “may soon turn into a crisis” for the military, as Congress, deadlocked over the politics of passing a federal budget for 2011, placed the government on a “continuing resolution” that has limited Pentagon spending since last autumn.

If that stopgap budget stays in place for the entire fiscal year, it would result in military spending of $526 billion, not counting the costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or a cut of $23 billion from the administration’s request of $549 billion. Mr. Gates demanded that Congress approve 2011 spending of at least $540 billion.

“Suggestions to cut defense by this or that large number have largely become exercises in simple math, divorced from serious considerations of capabilities, risk, and the level of resources needed to protect this country’s security and vital interests around the world,” Mr. Gates said in a Pentagon news conference.

Congressional leaders now say they plan to attach a full military appropriations bill to the continuing resolution that would finance the rest of the government. While that bill would impose cuts of $16 billion, this at least could allow the Pentagon to award new contracts and shift some money around among programs.

But Congress could make some of these allocations, and Mr. Gates said that despite the Pentagon’s reservations, he would continue money for an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter until Congress acted. The bill being drafted, for example, could include $450 million to keep the engine project alive. Pentagon officials have estimated that it could cost $2 billion to $3 billion to finish developing the engine, which Mr. Gates and President Obama say the military cannot afford.

The dispute has drawn attention recently because the engine work provides jobs in Ohio, the home state of the new House speaker, John A. Boehner. But Democrats in both houses have also repeatedly voted to save the second engine, partly to provide competition for contracts that could ultimately be worth up to $100 billion.

For next year, the Pentagon is requesting $670.6 billion for the 2012 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. That includes $553 billion for its base budget and $117.8 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a result, the total of $693 billion in 2010 might have represented the peak for the surge in military spending that began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And Congressional leaders say that new members from the Tea Party movement may try to cut military spending even more.

The biggest cuts for next year would come in the war budget with most of the troops returning from Iraq. The overseas spending would drop by $41.4 billion from the $159.3 billion that the administration proposed for 2011, and it would fall to the lowest level since 2006.

All six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also weighed in to the coming budget debate on Monday, signing a letter expressing support for what they described as “modest and manageable” increases in fees for working-age military retirees who have chosen to remain on the Defense Department’s Tricare medical insurance program.

Total health care costs for the Pentagon, which is the nation’s single largest employer, top $50 billion a year, one-tenth of its budget. A decade ago, health care cost the Pentagon $19 billion; five years from now, without changes, it is projected to cost $65 billion. Tricare fees have not increased since 1995.

“We will continue to provide the finest health care benefits in the country for our active and retired military service members and their families while continuing to serve as responsible financial stewards of the taxpayers’ investment in our military,” the letter said.

All six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, each a four-star officer, have not signed such a correspondence, known as a “24-star letter,” since 2006. Congress has voted down other plans to increase Tricare fees, which veterans groups oppose.

As pressure mounted to reduce the deficits, Democratic lawmakers began planning last summer to trim the Pentagon’s request for 2011. The Republicans have added to the proposed cuts since they took control of the House last month.

Under the latest proposal, which could be voted on this week, House Republicans would cut about $15 billion from the Pentagon’s main operating accounts. That would include $11 billion in cuts that the Democratic lawmakers had settled on before the midterm elections.

The reductions would also include $2 billion to $3 billion in lawmakers’ pet projects known as earmarks and more than $1 billion in unspent money from various programs. Other cuts would come in military construction and energy projects.

26684  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Self Defense Laws of all 50 States on: February 14, 2011, 10:42:47 PM

Woof all:

In the real world, our Rules of Engagement (ROE) and our environmental awareness usually are more important than our physical fighting skills. Some of us have clearly worked out our ROE already.   This is good.   Having a sense of what one is and is not willing to fight for is an essential ingredient of not getting started in matters for which one is not willing to fight.

He who has not really thought about it may find himself having to work things out on the fly while under duress-- not good!!!

For example, someone barks and instinctively he barks back as a matter of self-respect and/or the respect of onlookers.  Sometimes all is well-- the situation subsides.  But sometimes, the situation escalates and a terrible problem arises-- in this moment he must determine whether to fight.  If not, then he may fear installing a backdown from an adrenal escalation into his self-programming.  He may fear that this is very bad for future response to adrenal dumps.  He may fear looking or feeling like a coward.  As a result he may decide to fight-- that is to say he agrees to fight for , , , for what? Certainly not for anything which he would have fought if he had lready
worked out his thinking!

For me, and your mileage may vary, a fundamental principle is "What you think of me is none of my business".  Of course there may be variations, but on the whole if someone barks at me it is very simple: according to the physical realities of the situation I can leave or respond with verbal judo/de-escalation techniques.  If these fail, then I can be clear both to myself and to any witnesses that may be present that I sought to avoid the fight and now must act.  This makes for an unencumbered mind and a superior level of action-- and better testimony should it ever come to that.

My next rule of engagement is to "Avoid the Three Ss".  That is to say, avoid Stupid people in Stupid places doing Stupid things.

Putting these three rules together (Environmental awareness; What you think of me is none of my business; and Avoid the Three Ss) will prevent most problems before they even get started.

Still, the flying fickle finger of fate can reach out and tap us with
difficult situations.

Certainly environmental awareness includes being aware of what is going on in your physical awareness.  Certainly you should have skills for "Managing Unknown Contacts"  See for example the "Practical Unarmed Combat" DVD in our catalog for some outstanding material by undercover LEO, highly regarded LEO trainer and my friend "Southnark"-- but today I want to talk about a particular aspect of environmental awareness which is off most people's radar screens -- the legal jungle in which we find ourselves.

As my criminal law professor in law school said to me "We don't have a justice system. We have a legal system."  Be very clear that its rules and values may be very different from your sense of Natural Law!!!  You need to be very, very clear that witty heuristics to be found on internet forums may have little or no basis in fact for where you may be when the excrement hits the fan.

Furthermore, worth noting is that few of us find ourselves in only one legal jurisdiction over time or even at the same time-- within America think municipal, state, and federal all covering you in one place at one time and that as you move around you find yourself under the different laws of the various states.  Indeed, we have fifty different sets of state law and there can be substantial differences amongst them.  THIS DIVERSITY IS A GOOD THING.  In the wisdom of our Founding Fathers (divinely inspired in my humble opinion) our federal system is a laboratory of freedom so that we can try different approaches and move away from ones that do not suit us to ones that do suit us.

REGARDLESS, BE CLEAR THAT THE LAW OF WHERE YOU ARE AT A GIVEN MOMENT ALSO NEEDS TO BE PART OF YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS.  If you are to walk as a warrior for all your days you should know how you are and aren't you allowed to be armed; if you are required to retreat and if so, under what circumstances; what the rules are concerning the coming to the aid of another; when may you use deadly force; what is considered deadly force; what you can and
can't do to fleeing felons, what the criminal  consequences possible are for your actions, as well as other things.

Typically the reality of it is that we DO NOT really know the answers to these questions.  I know I don't, at least not to my satisfaction! We may have read the heuristics of some seemingly knowing poster on a forum, but is that really going to give us a clear and systematic sense of what the law of the legal jungle in which we operate may be?  Not when the adrenaline is flowing! The district attorney is not going to care what we say we read on the internet, nor is our lawyer as we pay his fee or the judge and jury as they decide our fate.

So, what to do if we do want to be aware of our legal environment?

Funny you should ask wink

As some of you may know, a long, long time ago in a universe far, far away for one year (1982) I was an attorney in Washington DC where I did first year associate drone work for a law firm that had absolutely nothing to do with criminal law-- so my formal connection with law in general and criminal law in particular, is essentially that of a  semi-educated layman.   Of course, the effects of that education and experience linger and given my current line of work it is only natural that I have been paying attention to these self-defense legal and criminal law issues along the way.

It is from that perspective that I say that I have found what I am going to use in my own life from here forward.  It is a book called "Self-Defense Laws of All 50 States" by Attorney Mitch Vilos and Evan Vilos.

In my opinion, this book is simply outstanding.  As the attorney that I am (technically speaking I still am one, albeit "inactive status" for the last 29 years) I appreciate the thorough nature of the work that has gone into this book.  The citations of legal authority readily enable well targeted additional research, should, God forbid, such become necessary.  The quality of the citations also give me confidence in the quality and level of research that has gone into this book.

Although the statutes and citations are present, the deeper worth of the book can be found in the simple yet suitably nuanced examples that effectively communicate to real people wanting a practical sense of the laws and rules. This is much more than "here's the statute and a simple explanation that is so vague as to be useless".

For example, in my home state of California simply reading the statute would give the impression that I was in 19th century Texas, but with commendable thoroughness the authors go beyond the statute itself to explain how the real standards applied to your behavior are to be found in the jury instructions. In other words, as part of doing the work they realized that California required something more and different for the reader to get a good sense of
the true reality.

In all states various sample stories are given to illustrate the laws and
questions presented; my sense of things is that without compromise in quality of analysis, the material is readily understood by real people.  I would add that in contrast to other articles and books I have seen wherein the author is rather prissy, these authors seem to me to be quite comfortable with the idea that some good people have guns and knives and that there are situations where that is a good thing.

After a few broad overview chapters, each chapter is dedicated to a
particular state and answers the same matrix of questions:

Defense of Self and Others
    Non-Deadly Force
    Deadly Force
Use of Deadly Force to Prevent Serious Felonies
Defense of Third Persons
Exceptions to Justifiable Self-Defense
   Initial Aggressors
   Committing Felony or Unlawful Act
   Mutual Combat
   Exceptions to the Exceptions
      Withdraw and communicate
Duty or No Duty to Retreat-- Generally
Defense of Person(s) in Special Places (home, business, occupied vehicle)
   Duty or No Duty to retreat from Special Places
      Co-habitants, co-employees- duty to retreat
   Presumption of reasonableness in public places
Responsibility to Innocent Third Parties
Civil Liability
Defense of Property
Helpful Definitions Relating to Self-Defense Statutes
Topics not explained in statutes of cases

Thus no matter the state, the matrix is the same.   This is very valuable--our knowledge instead of being random, now becomes systematic!  If I am going on a trip to a certain state, all I need to do is read that chapter and I will be informed as to the laws of the legal jungle in which I will be!  Furthermore simply reading the material is a good exercise in clarifying your own thinking and thinking about things that may not have otherwise occurred to you.

As you may have noticed, we do not clutter our catalog with lots of items. If something is there, it is there for a reason.  I was so impressed with this book that I called up author Mitch Vilos and told him about who we are and how we look to help people walk as warriors for all their days.  I am delighted to report that we now offer it in our catalog for $30.

I know $30 can seem like a lot of money for one book, but I would point out that this book is, in considerable measure, a labor of passion by two men who want you to know your rights and to avoid the abundant pitfalls faced by those of us who look to take responsibility for the defense of ourselves, our family, and the innocent.  As you can imagine, the work going into getting all 50 States in one coherent, well-organized, well-told book is considerable and the volume of sales is such that the price is what it is--which in my opinion is quite a bargain in terms of what is delivered.

Buy it. Learn the law of where you live, work, study, and play.  Have it on your shelf for reference before you travel or bring it with you.  This too is part of walking as a warrior for all your days.

The Adventure continues,
Guro Crafty
26685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury on BO's budget on: February 14, 2011, 05:34:08 PM
As evinced by my posts of his work in the Political Economics thread, Wesbury is no doom and gloom bear-- so his words may carry extra weight when it comes to the budget:

The Federal Budget: It's a Mess To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 2/14/2011

If the US federal government were a bank, the FDIC would close them down this Friday night. Earlier today, President Obama submitted next year’s budget. The new budget, despite “cutting” the deficit by $1.1 trillion, will require Congress to pass a large increase in the “debt ceiling.”

In February 2010, the US raised the debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion (up $1.9 trillion) and then promptly borrowed every dime it could. Even with the “cuts” proposed by the President (or those being talked about by Congress), the government will spend roughly $7 trillion more than it receives in income over the next 10 years. Bottom line: The US federal budget is a mess. It’s on an unsustainable course. And that’s a view that takes all the “spin” at face value.
And believe us, there is a ton of spinning taking place. The president’s budget director Jacob Lew says the new budget will “save” $1.1 trillion over the next ten years. But about 1/3 of the “savings” will come from higher taxes. Under this budget, spending will be 49% higher in 2021 than it is in 2011.
 In other words, even after tightening its fiscal belt and confiscating more private resources, the federal government will remain huge and out of control. The President’s budget for 2012-2021 forecasts that federal spending will never fall below 22.3% of GDP. Never before in history has the level of non-defense spending been so high for so long.
In effect, the budget proposed by President Obama locks in, like many European states, a deficit of at least 3% of GDP for as far as the eye can see. As a result, growing spending more slowly than GDP or freezing spending is no longer enough. The only way to get government under control is to cut spending outright.
The last time spending grew more slowly than GDP was under President Clinton, when spending fell from over 22% of GDP in 1992 to 18.2% in 2000. The end of the Cold War gave the US a peace dividend, which allowed for defense cuts.
But since President Bush took power in 2000, federal spending has increased by 93% and if we can believe the budgets being proposed in recent days, this spending binge will be locked in place and not reversed.
That’s why we’re cheered by the open rebellion of many newly elected members of the House to both their leadership’s plan and Obama’s plan to slow spending. They know that, after the government binge of the past decade, simply slowing the growth of spending or even “freezing” it is not good enough. They are not looking for excuses to cut spending slowly.
Claiming budget savings by freezing spending at today’s levels is like an alcoholic who says he’s sober because he’ll never drink more than yesterday’s bender. Trouble is, this alcoholic doesn’t even pay his own tab.
26686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman on Egypt on: February 14, 2011, 12:51:18 PM
By George Friedman
This seems very sound to me:

On Feb. 11, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned. A military council was named to govern in his place. On Feb. 11-12, the crowds that had gathered in Tahrir Square celebrated Mubarak’s fall and the triumph of democracy in Egypt. On Feb. 13, the military council abolished the constitution and dissolved parliament, promising a new constitution to be ratified by a referendum and stating that the military would rule for six months, or until the military decides it’s ready to hold parliamentary and presidential elections.

What we see is that while Mubarak is gone, the military regime in which he served has dramatically increased its power. This isn’t incompatible with democratic reform. Organizing elections, political parties and candidates is not something that can be done quickly. If the military is sincere in its intentions, it will have to do these things. The problem is that if the military is insincere it will do exactly the same things. Six months is a long time, passions can subside and promises can be forgotten.

At this point, we simply don’t know what will happen. We do know what has happened. Mubarak is out of office, the military regime remains intact and it is stronger than ever. This is not surprising, given what STRATFOR has said about recent events in Egypt, but the reality of what has happened in the last 72 hours and the interpretation that much of the world has placed on it are startlingly different. Power rests with the regime, not with the crowds. In our view, the crowds never had nearly as much power as many have claimed.

Certainly, there was a large crowd concentrated in a square in Cairo, and there were demonstrations in other cities. But the crowd was limited. It never got to be more than 300,000 people or so in Tahrir Square, and while that’s a lot of people, it is nothing like the crowds that turned out during the 1989 risings in Eastern Europe or the 1979 revolution in Iran. Those were massive social convulsions in which millions came out onto the streets. The crowd in Cairo never swelled to the point that it involved a substantial portion of the city.

In a genuine revolution, the police and military cannot contain the crowds. In Egypt, the military chose not to confront the demonstrators, not because the military itself was split, but because it agreed with the demonstrators’ core demand: getting rid of Mubarak. And since the military was the essence of the Egyptian regime, it is odd to consider this a revolution.

Mubarak and the Regime

The crowd in Cairo, as telegenic as it was, was the backdrop to the drama, not the main feature. The main drama began months ago when it became apparent that Mubarak intended to make his reform-minded 47-year-old son, Gamal, lacking in military service, president of Egypt. This represented a direct challenge to the regime. In a way, Mubarak was the one trying to overthrow the regime.

The Egyptian regime was founded in a coup led by Col. Gamal Abdul Nasser and modeled after that of Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, basing it on the military. It was intended to be a secular regime with democratic elements, but it would be guaranteed and ultimately controlled by the military. Nasser believed that the military was the most modern and progressive element of Egyptian society and that it had to be given the responsibility and power to modernize Egypt.

While Nasser took off his uniform, the military remained the bulwark of the regime. Each successive president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, while formally elected in elections of varying dubiousness, was an officer in the Egyptian military who had removed his uniform when he entered political life.

Mubarak’s decision to name his son represented a direct challenge to the Egyptian regime. Gamal Mubarak was not a career military officer, nor was he linked to the military’s high command, which had been the real power in the regime. Mubarak’s desire to have his son succeed him appalled and enraged the Egyptian military, the defender of the regime. If he were to be appointed, then the military regime would be replaced by, in essence, a hereditary monarchy — what had ruled Egypt before the military. Large segments of the military had been maneuvering to block Mubarak’s ambitions and, with increasing intensity, wanted to see Mubarak step down in order to pave the way for an orderly succession using the elections scheduled for September, elections designed to affirm the regime by selecting a figure acceptable to the senior military men. Mubarak’s insistence on Gamal and his unwillingness to step down created a crisis for the regime. The military feared the regime could not survive Mubarak’s ambitions.

This is the key point to understand. There is a critical distinction between the regime and Hosni Mubarak. The regime consisted — and consists — of complex institutions centered on the military but also including the civilian bureaucracy controlled by the military. Hosni Mubarak was the leader of the regime, successor to Nasser and Sadat, who over time came to distinguish his interests from those of the regime. He was increasingly seen as a threat to the regime, and the regime turned on him.

The demonstrators never called for the downfall of the regime. They demanded that Mubarak step aside. This was the same demand that was being made by many if not most officers in the military months before the crowds gathered in the streets. The military did not like the spectacle of the crowds, which is not the way the military likes to handle political matters. At the same time, paradoxically, the military welcomed the demonstrations, since they created a crisis that put the question of Mubarak’s future on the table. They gave the military an opportunity to save the regime and preserve its own interests.

The Egyptian military is opaque. It isn’t clear who was reluctant to act and who was eager. We would guess that the people who now make up the ruling military council were reluctant to act. They were of the same generation as Hosni Mubarak, owed their careers to him and were his friends. Younger officers, who had joined the military after 1973 and had trained with the Americans rather than the Soviets, were the likely agitators for blocking Mubarak’s selection of Gamal as his heir, but there were also senior officers publicly expressing reservations. Who was on what side is a guess. What is known is that many in the military opposed Gamal, would not push the issue to a coup, and then staged a coup designed to save the regime after the demonstrations in Cairo were under way.

That is the point. What happened was not a revolution. The demonstrators never brought down Mubarak, let alone the regime. What happened was a military coup that used the cover of protests to force Mubarak out of office in order to preserve the regime. When it became clear Feb. 10 that Mubarak would not voluntarily step down, the military staged what amounted to a coup to force his resignation. Once he was forced out of office, the military took over the existing regime by creating a military council and taking control of critical ministries. The regime was always centered on the military. What happened on Feb. 11 was that the military took direct control.

Again, as a guess, the older officers, friends of Mubarak, found themselves under pressure from other officers and the United States to act. They finally did, taking the major positions for themselves. The demonstrations were the backdrop for this drama and the justification for the military’s actions, but they were not a revolution in the streets. It was a military coup designed to preserve a military-dominated regime. And that was what the crowds were demanding as well.

Coup and Revolution

We now face the question of whether the coup will turn into a revolution. The demonstrators demanded — and the military has agreed to hold — genuinely democratic elections and to stop repression. It is not clear that the new leaders mean what they have said or were simply saying it to get the crowds to go home. But there are deeper problems in the democratization of Egypt. First, Mubarak’s repression had wrecked civil society. The formation of coherent political parties able to find and run candidates will take a while. Second, the military is deeply enmeshed in running the country. Backing them out of that position, with the best will in the world, will require time. The military bought time Feb. 13, but it is not clear that six months is enough time, and it is not clear that, in the end, the military will want to leave the position it has held for more than half a century.

Of course, there is the feeling, as there was in 2009 with the Tehran demonstrations, that something unheard of has taken place, as U.S. President Barack Obama has implied. It is said to have something to do with Twitter and Facebook. We should recall that, in our time, genuine revolutions that destroyed regimes took place in 1989 and 1979, the latter even before there were PCs. Indeed, such revolutions go back to the 18th century. None of them required smartphones, and all of them were more thorough and profound than what has happened in Egypt so far. This revolution will not be “Twitterized.” The largest number of protesters arrived in Tahrir Square after the Internet was completely shut down.

The new government has promised to honor all foreign commitments, which obviously include the most controversial one in Egypt, the treaty with Israel. During the celebrations the evening of Feb. 11 and morning of Feb. 12, the two chants were about democracy and Palestine. While the regime committed itself to maintaining the treaty with Israel, the crowds in the square seemed to have other thoughts, not yet clearly defined. But then, it is not clear that the demonstrators in the square represent the wishes of 80 million Egyptians. For all the chatter about the Egyptian people demanding democracy, the fact is that hardly anyone participated in the demonstrations, relative to the number of Egyptians there are, and no one really knows how the Egyptian people would vote on this issue.

The Egyptian government is hardly in a position to confront Israel, even if it wanted to. The Egyptian army has mostly American equipment and cannot function if the Americans don’t provide spare parts or contractors to maintain that equipment. There is no Soviet Union vying to replace the United States today. Re-equipping and training a military the size of Egypt’s is measured in decades, not weeks. Egypt is not going to war any time soon. But then the new rulers have declared that all prior treaties — such as with Israel — will remain in effect.

What Was Achieved?

Therefore, we face this reality. The Egyptian regime is still there, still controlled by old generals. They are committed to the same foreign policy as the man they forced out of office. They have promised democracy, but it is not clear that they mean it. If they mean it, it is not clear how they would do it, certainly not in a timeframe of a few months. Indeed, this means that the crowds may re-emerge demanding more rapid democratization, depending on who organized the crowds in the first place and what their intentions are now.

It is not that nothing happened in Egypt, and it is not that it isn’t important. It is simply that what happened was not what the media portrayed but a much more complex process, most of it not viewable on TV. Certainly, there was nothing unprecedented in what was achieved or how it was achieved. It is not even clear what was achieved. Nor is it clear that anything that has happened changes Egyptian foreign or domestic policy. It is not even clear that those policies could be changed in practical terms regardless of intent.

The week began with an old soldier running Egypt. It ended with different old soldiers running Egypt with even more formal power than Mubarak had. This has caused worldwide shock and awe. We were killjoys in 2009, when we said the Iranians revolution wasn’t going anywhere. We do not want to be killjoys now, since everyone is so excited and happy. But we should point out that, in spite of the crowds, nothing much has really happened yet in Egypt. It doesn’t mean that it won’t, but it hasn’t yet.

An 82-year-old man has been thrown out of office, and his son will not be president. The constitution and parliament are gone and a military junta is in charge. The rest is speculation.

26687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: February 14, 2011, 12:10:26 PM
Brief · February 14, 2011

The Foundation
"We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt." --Thomas Jefferson

For the Record

Obama's $3.73 trillion budget is the biggest everThe White House released its 2012 budget proposal Monday morning and the damage is staggering: $3.73 trillion. The budget deficit will be $1.65 trillion for fiscal 2011, up from $1.29 trillion in fiscal 2010. The deficit will represent 10.9 percent of gross domestic product, a post-World War II record. "My budget makes investments that can help America win this competition and transform our economy, and it does so fully aware of the very difficult fiscal situation we face," Obama said. In other words, eat, drink and be merry because our children and grandchildren will pay the bill.

Political Futures
"At Philadelphia's 30th Street Station on Tuesday, lifelong government rail promoter Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a $53 billion high-speed train initiative and half-joked: 'I'm like the ombudsman for Amtrak.' As with most gaffetastic Biden-isms, the remark should prompt more heartburn than hilarity. Just who exactly is looking out for taxpayers when it comes to federal rail spending? Vigorous independent oversight of public infrastructure binges is especially critical given the nation's long history of mass transit slush funds, cost overruns and union-monopolized construction projects to nowhere. ... When Biden talks about 'seizing the future,' he's talking about seizing your wallets for his party's electoral security. ... [T]he Obama administration's political abuse of the Amtrak inspector general's office, still under congressional investigation, is a recipe for yet more porkulus-style waste." --columnist Michelle Malkin

"House Republicans have promised major spending reforms, but GOP leaders are tongue-tied when they are asked which specific programs they want to cut. The GOP wants to cut domestic spending to 2008 levels, but that's just an accounting goal. The GOP needs a larger vision to guide their reforms. Republicans need to communicate to the public how a smaller government would benefit America and what federal agencies and activities are damaging and counterproductive. A key part of this strategy should be to revive a central theme of the 1981 and 1995 budget-cutting drives -- getting the federal government out of what are properly state and local activities. Constitutional federalism has taken a beating as federal aid to the states has doubled over the last decade to $646 billion this year. ... The federal-aid system does not deliver high-quality and cost-efficient services to citizens. It delivers bureaucracy, overspending, and regulatory micromanagement from Washington. In addition to helping balance the budget, Republicans can start a national debate about the proper role of the federal government by pushing to terminate the vast array of costly state aid programs." --Cato Institute's Chris Edwards

Reader Comments
"I was surprised to hear Mark Alexander call Sen. Bob Corker a friend. He has disappointed me, as a conservative, at most turns. I am not alone in this opinion. 'Bailout Bob' is on every Tea Party list I've seen as a one term senator. Perhaps you are simply golfing buddies and do not discuss the Fed or the importance of paring down this government while on the links." --Cathy

Editor's Reply: First, I do not play golf. Second, while Bob and I do not agree on everything, that does not mean we can't agree on anything. The "all or nothing" litmus test is a losing formula for any party, particularly the Tea Party. What I can tell you is that Bob is a self-made individual of very high character and faith, a very smart Patriot who is not a typical Beltway egomaniacal politico.
"Regarding Mark Alexander's essay, The Debt Bomb Showdown, it's too bad you litter an otherwise fine piece ... claiming to know something that you cannot know -- the truth of what goes on in Obama's mind and his motives. This used to be called lying and bearing false witness. Divining something by dint of your gigantic intellect or unparalleled mastery of grand strategic skullduggery does not qualify as knowing something in any actual sense. Again, it was a good piece otherwise." --Joe

Editor's Reply: I "divine" nothing when asserting Obama is an ideological Socialist who would, if unabated by wiser minds, reduce the USA to the USSA. I draw my conclusions from his words and deeds prior to being elected to the Senate, and since. I have read his books and studied the records of his associations with Leftist mentors such as Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pfleger, William Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Khalid al-Mansour, Rashid Khalidi, Bob Creamer and others. He is a disciple of uber-Leftist Saul Alinsky, whose "Rules for Radicals" is the "bible" of "community organizers." His short record as part time Senator yielded the most radical Left voting record of any Senate member. His record as president has done much the same. Oh, but maybe Obama is now reformed? "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclination, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." --John Adams
"In Friday's 'Obama's Instruction Manual for Business' it illustrates how Obama is now trying to cozy up with the Chamber of Commerce and get business to jump 'back in the game.' Does he forget the first eight months of his term when he constantly harangued that the sky was falling and there was nothing but doom and gloom until the economy was in shambles? He painted such a nightmarish picture so he could ram thru his emergency measures. Then he expected the world to turn on a dime because HE said it was OK. The world, the economy and the public do not respond well to such bipolar behavior in the White House. The steady positive faithful outlook Ronald Wilson Reagan served us well during very trying times. Oh that we had such a man in public service today." --Greg

"It really bothers me that The Patriot Post used Mr. Rogers' photo as you did Friday. He is one of my heroes and IMHO to see Obama's head photoshopped in is in poor taste and insulting to the memory of a great man. This is the first time I have ever felt that you went over the line." --Joy

Editor's Reply: King Friday said he thought it was funny...

"ack in 1942, the Supreme Court said that because the federal government has the right to regulate interstate commerce, the Department of Agriculture could tell a farmer how much wheat he could grow, even if the wheat never left his farm and was consumed there by his family and their farm animals. That case was a landmark, whose implications reached far beyond farming. ... ObamaCare is another piece of Congressional legislation for which there is no federal authority in the Constitution. But when someone asked Nancy Pelosi where in the Constitution there was any authority for passing such a law, her reply was 'Are you kidding?' Two federal courts have now said that they are not kidding. The ultimate question is whether the Supreme Court of the United States will back them up. That may depend on how soon the case reaches the Supreme court. If the issue wends its way slowly up through the Circuit Courts of Appeal, by the time it reaches the Supreme Court, Obama may have put more of his appointees there -- and, if so, they will probably rubberstamp anything he does. He would therefore have done a complete end-run around the Constitution and be well on his way to becoming the Hugo Chavez of North America." --economist Thomas Sowell

Opinion in Brief
"Here's a chunk of the problem with the proposed reconciliation of business and the Obama administration. 'We're trying,' the president said, in addressing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce [last] week, 'to run the government like you run your businesses -- with better technology and faster services.' ... What the president left out was imagination. And creativity. And a spirit of to-hell-with-it-let's-see-if-this-thing-works. ... The president used one word familiar to patrons of the marketplace -- 'invest.' That's what he wants business to do -- 'invest in America' for the sake of jobs, etc. He used the same word in the State of the Union message with a different spin. The idea there was Spend Taxpayer Money on Green Energy and the Like. The difference? Business ... pours money into a project with a clear, distinct idea of profits to come. A government 'investment'? You equate that kind of money transfer with bridges to nowhere and ethanol subsidies: things government does inasmuch as from those things government expects voter gratitude. The Chamber of Commerce and the president don't talk the same language. To them the same words mean different things." --columnist William Murchison

The Gipper
"We do have a rendezvous with destiny. Either we will preside over the great nightfall for all mankind, or we will accept the leadership that has been thrust upon us. I believe that is the obligation and responsibility of the Republican party today." --Ronald Reagan

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 Willa's Chocolate Covered Shortbread
These buttery concoctions, dipped in dark chocolate, are incredibly delicious and passed our staff's taste test with flying colors! We can't get enough of them and know you'll enjoy these treats as much as we do. Packaged in a beautiful silver tin and excellent for gift-giving, each tin weighs 13 oz.

Faith & Family
"It is difficult to explain to a culture rapidly forgetting its foundation why that foundation matters. While churches and schools have left instruction in Western Civilization behind, the recipients of its strong underpinnings float aimlessly trying to redefine the definite and ignore the irrefutable. And here it is: Western Civilization in general and America in particular was built on Judeo-Christian values. Those values shaped every area of life from government to finance to family. They brought order to all three. Government was no longer top-down, but of the people. People were free to 'pursue happiness' in part by choosing their own work. Judeo-Christian teaching taught them to work hard, make and keep contracts, treat employees fairly, pay an honest day's wage, and keep their word. Prosperity followed from those foundational principles." --President of Culture Campaign Sandy Rios

"One of liberalism's many problems is that once an idea or program is proved wrong and unworkable, liberals rarely acknowledge their mistake and examine the root cause of their error so they don't repeat it. Take multiculturalism... In a speech to a security conference in Munich, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared state multiculturalism a failure. For good measure, Cameron said Britain also must get tougher on Islamic extremists. Predictably, this has angered Islamic extremists. A genuinely liberal country, he said, 'believes in certain values and actively promotes them. ... Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law, equal rights, regardless of race, sex or sexuality.' ... It may be too late for Britain, as it may be too late for France and Germany. It isn't too late for the United States, though it is getting close. Too many American leaders suffer from the same weak-kneed syndrome that has gripped Britain. Who will tell immigrants to America that the days of multiculturalism are over and if they want to come to America, they must do so legally and expect to become Americans with no hyphens, no allegiance to another country, and no agenda other than the improvement of the United States?" --columnist Cal Thomas

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 Taste of Tennessee
We have searched high and low to find a delightful sampling of delicious products made in The Patriot Shop's home state. Enjoy!

The Last Word
"A lot of people in America are elated by the sight of mobs gathering in the streets of Egypt. They view it as an oppressed people longing for liberty. They rejoice at the prospect of a dictator being dumped in favor of democracy. That is because a lot of people who are forever quoting Santayana's quip, 'Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,' have apparently remembered precious little themselves. It would seem that the extent of their historical knowledge begins and ends with the final score of the recent Super Bowl. The thing to keep in mind is that Cairo and Alexandria are not to be confused with Concord and Lexington, and nobody in the streets lobbing rocks and burning bottles is named Washington, Adams, Madison or Jefferson. Then there are those simpletons whose eyes begin to twinkle at the mere mention of the word 'revolution.' But comparing most revolutions to our own is sheer insanity. The French Revolution led to Robespierre and the Reign of Terror. The Russian Revolution led to Stalin and the gulags. China's Revolution brought us Mao and the slaughter of millions, Cuba's Revolution brought us Castro and the Iranian Revolution brought forth the Ayatollah Khomeini. ... Those good-hearted chumps who insist that democracy is the end-all and be-all are sadly misguided. Hitler won a popular election, as did Hamas in Gaza, as did Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, in America. Just because folks are allowed to vote is no guarantee that they can always be trusted to do the right thing." --columnist Burt Prelutsky

26688  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: February 14, 2011, 10:51:33 AM
Lets be precise:  It remains to be seen whether the closing was a temporary (and rational!) security measure, or is a permanent state of affairs.  MB is simply reporting here, yes?
26689  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Islamo terrorist trial on: February 14, 2011, 03:43:13 AM
Associated Press
JAKARTA—Indonesia's best-known radical cleric went on trial Monday on fresh terrorism charges as the predominantly Muslim nation grappled with a jump in religious tensions and violence.

Abu Bakar Bashir, a spiritual leader of the al-Qaeda-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah, faces a maximum penalty of death if found guilty of helping fund a new terror cell in Aceh province and mobilizing foot soldiers.

The 72-year-old has denied all links to extremist activity, saying as he arrived at the tightly guarded South Jakarta District Court that charges filed against him were "fabricated."

"All I ever wanted to do was defend Islam," he said, as more than 100 supporters shouted "Allah Akbar."

The trial is expected to last one month.

Jemaah Islamiyah was blamed for a string of suicide bombings, including the 2002 attacks on Bali island that killed 202 people, most of them Western tourists. Authorities discovered the new cell in Aceh province a year ago.

Mr. Bashir, who has been arrested twice before in the past decade and spent 26 months in prison on terrorism charges, is known for his fiery sermons.

He is seen by many experts as a driving force behind the country's small but increasingly vocal hardline fringe.

In the last week, Islamic militants have carried out bloody attacks on Christians and members of a minority Islamic sect, raising concerns about escalating religious intolerance.

26690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The end of FM? on: February 14, 2011, 03:28:58 AM

It's enough to make you believe in miracles: The Obama Administration is now on record as saying that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should go out of business. It took a global financial panic and $140 billion in taxpayer losses, but on Friday there it was in black-and-white in the U.S. Treasury's report to Congress on reforming the mortgage market: The Administration will "ultimately . . . wind down both institutions."

This marks a break with decades of bipartisan support and protection for the two government-sponsored giants of mortgage finance. Fannie Mae has its roots in the Roosevelt Administration, and a phalanx of bankers, mortgage lenders, homebuilders and Realtors worked together to keep the companies growing and federal mortgage subsidies flowing. Now even some Democrats—though not yet those on Capitol Hill—admit their business model was a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Under the Administration's proposals, Fan and Fred wind down over five to seven years. The two mortgage giants would, in effect, gradually price themselves out of the mortgage finance market by raising guarantee prices and down payment requirements, while lowering the size of the mortgages they could securitize and guarantee. This sounds like a plausible set of first steps to lure private capital back into the mortgage market, where some 92% of all new mortgages are currently underwritten or guaranteed by the government.

The $5 trillion question, however, is what would replace Fan and Fred. And here the Obama Administration has punted, offering the "pros and cons" of three broad proposals without endorsing any one of them.

Door No. 1 is the best of the lot by our lights. Under this option, federal guarantees would be limited to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans for lower-income buyers and VA assistance for veterans and farm programs—each a narrowly targeted market segment. A Treasury official says this would reduce the taxpayer backstop over time to about 10% to 15% of the mortgage market.

The Administration puts the case for federal withdrawal from the broader housing market in compelling terms: "The strength of this option is that it would minimize distortions in capital allocation across sectors, reduce moral hazard in mortgage lending and drastically reduce direct taxpayer exposure to private lenders' losses." Bravo.

Treasury points to other benefits: "With less incentive to invest in housing, more capital will flow into other areas of the economy, potentially leading to more long-run economic growth and reducing the inflationary pressure on housing assets. Risk throughout the system may also be reduced, as private actors will not be as inclined to take on excessive risk without the assurance of a government guarantee behind them. And finally, direct taxpayer risk exposure to private losses in the mortgage market would be limited to the loans guaranteed by FHA and other narrowly targeted government loan programs: no longer would taxpayers be at direct risk for guarantees covering most of the nation's mortgages."

Those two paragraphs more or less sum up 20 years of Journal editorials on housing.

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 .So what's not to like? The Administration says this option could reduce access to credit for some home buyers, and that it would leave the government without the tools to intervene in a future crisis. As for the credit point, other countries have high rates of home ownership with far less government support. If the government stands aside, it would open the way for alternative forms of finance, such as covered bonds, that now can't compete in the U.S. because of government favoritism for the 30-year mortgage model. This would open options for borrowers by increasing the diversity of financing.

As for a future crisis, government intervention is less likely to be needed if the market isn't distorted by government subsidies in the first place.

Behind Door No. 2 is a rump Fan or Fred, one that would stay small in "normal" times but stand ready to step in with Uncle Sam's firepower in a future housing-finance crisis. But as the Administration acknowledges, it would be difficult both to stay small and retain the capacity to go large when needed. We'd add that the political pressure to expand any federal mortgage-lending program would be too great for lawmakers to resist. Within a generation, the winding down of Fan and Fred would be unwound.

But the greatest danger lies behind Door No. 3, which looks like Fannie in a new suit. Under this last option, the Administration envisages a group of tightly regulated, well-capitalized private mortgage insurers whose policies would be backstopped by government reinsurance. The government would charge premiums for this insurance, "which would be used to cover future claims and recoup losses to protect taxpayers." This reintroduces the lethal mix of private profit and public risk by other means.

The problem with Fan and Fred from the beginning was not—despite the Administration's claims—that the profit motive corrupted their benign goals. Rather, the political influence and financial power of the housing lobby ensured that the companies operated outside the normal rules of politics and financial discipline. Thanks to an implicit government guarantee, the market never put any limit on their growth, even as their liabilities climbed into the trillions. Few politicians had the nerve to challenge a housing lobby that would attack them for opposing home ownership. The same political flaws would afflict a future reinsurer and its coterie of putatively private insurers.

The power of the housing lobby is implicit even in the Treasury's refusal to pick a preferred reform. As with entitlement reform, the Administration is leaving the hard work to House Republicans, who will bear the brunt of the political blowback. A reasonable GOP fear is that the Administration, whatever its rhetoric now, will pounce with a veto when it's politically advantageous—in, say, 2012.

Our view is that there should be no federal housing guarantee. If Congress wants to subsidize housing for the poor, it ought to do so explicitly through annual appropriations. One lesson—perhaps the most important—of the financial crisis is that broad policy favors for housing hurt every American by misallocating capital and credit. The feds created incentives to pour money into McMansions we didn't need while robbing scarce capital from manufacturing, biotech and other uses that might have created better jobs and led to a more balanced and faster growing economy.

We realize this is political heresy, but it is the beginning of wisdom in getting government out of the mortgage market. We're glad to see the Administration concede this rhetorically, even if it lacks the courage to embrace its logical policy conclusions.

26691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion and theocratic politics on: February 14, 2011, 03:04:59 AM
Yes, yes I know Geraldo is an idiot , , ,
26692  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 2/27/11 Guro Crafty in Manhattan Beach on: February 13, 2011, 09:58:10 PM
Woof All:

For Those of you in the Los Angeles area:

L.A. Budo of Manhattan Beach is proud to host Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny, the Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers and Head Instructor Dog Brothers Martial Arts.  No experience needed; stick or BJJ experience will be a plus

Topics Covered:

*Intro to DMA Basic stick work
* Closing the distance from weapon range to grappling range
* Sticks on the ground

Sunday Feb 27
11:00-14:00 a.k.a. 11AM-2 PM   
David Dow
L.A. Budo
1809 Manhattan Beach Blvd. (west of Aviation Bl)
Manhattan Beach CA 90266
tel: (310) 798-2010
26693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 13, 2011, 09:48:44 PM
Herman Cain at CPAC
26694  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 13, 2011, 09:26:04 PM

That was very interesting commentary.  It gives me a sense of things that I did not have before.   That said, am I missing the mark when I wonder where the sense of responsibility is for refuge being given to those who launch attacks on the US from their territory?
26695  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA School Program on: February 13, 2011, 08:18:39 PM
Yes indeed, thank you Dog Howie.

Guro Boo Dog is hard at work on the DBMA SP website.
26696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 13, 2011, 06:47:36 PM

What do you make of this piece?
26697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Boot: We could still lose Iraq on: February 13, 2011, 06:44:27 PM
By Max Boot
February 13, 2011

My kids — the oldest is 13 — seem to think that anything that happened in the pre-iPad era is ancient history and therefore of little relevance to them. The American public and politicos must tacitly agree. How else to explain the sudden disappearance of Iraq from our public discourse?

Remember Iraq? That country we invaded in 2003? The one where more than 4,400 American soldiers have lost their lives and more than 32,000 have been wounded? The one where we've spent nearly $800 billion?

As recently as 2008, Iraq dominated American politics. But now it's a nonstory. Other subjects have pushed it off the front page, from the economy and healthcare to Afghanistan, Tunisia and Egypt.  In a way, Iraq has been a victim of its own success. Because it seems to be doing relatively well, policymakers have shifted their attention to more urgent concerns. But there is a danger that our present inattention could undo the progress that so many have struggled so hard to attain.

Iraq has made impressive gains since 2006, when it was on the brink of all-out civil war. Violence is down more than 90% even as the number of U.S. troops has fallen to 50,000 from 170,000. The Iraqi political system continues to function with the recent inauguration of a new coalition government led by returning Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. And the economy is picking up steam, as contracts are signed with foreign companies that can tap the country's vast oil reserves.

But there remain disquieting reminders of darker days. More than 250 Iraqis died in terrorist attacks in January, up from 151 in December, with most of those attacks attributed to Al Qaeda in Iraq, a group whose obituary has been written more than once. Roughly as many civilians died in Iraq last year as in Afghanistan — about 2,400. Remind me again which country is at peace?

The political situation remains as uncertain as the security situation; indeed, the two are closely connected. The formation of a new government occurred only after an agonizing nine-month deadlock in 2010. Iyad Allawi, who won the most votes, lost the prime minister's office and accepted as a consolation prize leadership of a new strategic policy council with undefined powers. His primarily Sunni Muslim backers remain convinced they will be frozen out of power by the Shiite prime minister. Maliki, in turn, is deeply suspicious of Sunni groups such as the Sons of Iraq, as well as of his Shiite rivals in cleric Muqtada Sadr's movement and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. Shiites and Sunnis are united chiefly by their desire to curb Kurdish autonomy, a prospect that fills the Kurds with understandable dread.

In short, Iraq remains a volcano. It has been capped for the moment but could erupt again. Especially because the most effective cap — a U.S. military presence — is due to be removed at the end of the year.

Prospects of a security accord that would keep American forces in Iraq past 2011 are rapidly dimming. Maliki, who spent long years of exile in Syria and Iran — no fans of the United States — has always been suspicious of America. He would certainly prefer not to have tens of thousands of U.S. troops under a four-star general looking over his shoulder. President Obama, for his part, came to office pledging to withdraw from Iraq and, judging by his State of the Union address, appears determined to do just that.

Unless both men change course and soon, the mission now performed by 50,000 U.S. troops will be left to about 1,000 diplomats and perhaps 100 soldiers in an Office of Security Cooperation, with thousands of mostly non-American contractors providing security and logistical support.

The State Department plans to set up a network of consulates, training centers and branch offices throughout Iraq, but a new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warns that it will be very difficult to maintain much of a presence outside Baghdad without the support currently of the U.S. military, which provides everything from helicopters to "quick reaction forces" in case of trouble.

Even if the embassy carries out the current plan perfectly, many of the important functions still performed by the American troops will fall into abeyance. For example, U.S. troops conduct joint patrols with Iraqi troops and Kurdish peshmerga fighters along the ill-defined border with the Kurdish region to prevent an outbreak of fighting. That is not a role the State Department can or will perform.

All of this is worrisome because if there is any lesson in American military history, it is that the longer U.S. troops stay in a post-conflict area, the greater the odds of a successful transition to democracy. The iconic examples are Germany, Japan and South Korea. When U.S. forces leave prematurely, on the other hand, the odds of a bad outcome greatly increase, whether in the post-Civil War South, post-World War I Germany, Haiti in the 1930s and 1990s, or Somalia in the 1990s. Foreign peacekeepers are still in Bosnia and Kosovo long after the end of their conflicts. Does anyone think that Iraq is more stable than those postage-stamp-size countries on the periphery of Europe?

Iraq may very well muddle through no matter what. It has so far. But I would be a lot more confident about its future if we were making a bigger commitment. It would be a tragedy if, after years of struggle and sacrifice, we were to lose Iraq now — when we are so close to a successful outcome — because of our own attention deficit disorder.

Max Boot is a contributing editor to Opinion and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is writing a history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.
26698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Commentary: Tea Party: 2 on: February 13, 2011, 03:26:02 PM
American liberty is more fragile than we are inclined to suppose. The Framers of the Constitution were well aware that the republics of ancient Greece and those of medieval and early modern Italy were situated on diminutive territories. They knew that Rome's expansion had eventuated in Rome's loss of liberty, and they understood why Montesquieu had initially argued that a republic could not be sustained on an extended territory. A government set at a considerable distance from the people over whom it rules is apt to become a despotism, for it is out of sight and out of mind, beyond reach and beyond control. This the Framers understood. They took heart, however, from the French philosopher's suggestion that a federation of small republics could overcome this geographical imperative. They were reassured by his tacit acknowledgement that, by way of the separation of powers, the "republic concealed under the form of a monarchy" that had emerged in Great Britain had overcome this imperative as well. And they themselves observed that the religious and economic diversity that had followed from America's territorial extension were successfully subverting the force of faction.

In the early 1790s, however, when James Madison began thinking about the political consequences inherent in the ambitious program of economic development charted by Alexander Hamilton, he had occasion to reconsider Montesquieu's warning. He believed that "a consolidation of the States into one government" was implicit in Hamilton's assertion of federal prerogatives. And he feared that such a consolidation would neutralize the expedients suggested by Montesquieu and instituted by the Framers and leave "the whole government to that self directed course, which, it must be owned, is the natural propensity of every government."

First, Madison thought, the separation of powers could give way to centralized administration of the sort that typified despotism. If federalism were subverted in this way and the national government by one means or another took over the prerogatives of the states and the localities, the legislature situated in the new nation's capital would quickly prove to be incompetent "to regulate all the various objects belonging to the local governments," and this "would evidently force a transfer of many of" those objects "to the executive department."

Second, Madison contended, because the state and local governments are close to the people—in sight and in mind, within reach and control—they and not the federal government are the natural instruments of civic agency. If, however, they were made to be dependent on and subject to the national government, they would cease to serve this function, and the sheer size of the country would stand in the way of concerted popular political action. It would prevent the exercise of "that control" on the national legislature "which is essential to a faithful discharge of its trust, [since] neither the voice nor the sense of ten or twenty millions of people, spread through so many latitudes as are comprehended within the United States, could ever be combined or called into effect, if deprived of those local organs, through which both can now be conveyed." In such circumstances, Madison warned prophetically, "the impossibility of acting together, might be succeeded by the inefficacy of partial expressions of the public mind, and this at length, by a universal silence and insensibility." It was the absence of effective popular checks that would leave the national government to a "self directed course."

Madison, Jefferson, and their heirs in the Jacksonian period were arguably wrong about the political consequences implicit in the program proposed by Hamilton in the 1790s and revived by Henry Clay in the late 1820s. Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans implemented a policy indistinguishable from Hamilton's program and Clay's American System, and that policy did not have the consequences that Madison, his associates, and their heirs feared. But the prospect that Madison imagined is, in fact, the prospect the world's most venerable democratic republic now faces.

Over almost a century, under the influence of the Progressives and their heirs—the proponents of the New Deal, the Great Society, and Barack Obama's New Foundation we have experienced a gradual consolidation of power in the federal government. Legislative responsibilities have been transferred to administrative agencies lodged within the executive—such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Communications Commission, and the vast array of bodies established under the recent health-care reform—and these have been delegated in an ever increasing number of spheres the authority to issue rules and regulations that have the force of law.

In the process, the state and local governments have become dependent on federal largesse, which always comes with strings attached in the form of funded or unfunded "mandates" designed to make these governments fall in line with federal policy. Civic agency, rooted as it normally is in locality, has withered as the localities have lost their leverage. The civic associations so admired by Alexis de Tocqueville have for the most part become lobbying operations with offices in Washington focused on influencing federal policy, and many of them have also become recipients of government grants and reliable instruments for the implementation of federal policy.

The Tea Party movement is, however, testimony to the fact that all is not lost. When confronted in a brazen fashion with the tyrannical impulse underpinning the administrative state, ordinary Americans from all walks of life are still capable of fighting back. It is easy enough to mock. Like all spontaneous popular movements, the Tea Party has attracted its fair share of cranks: it would have been a miracle if it had not attracted those who are obsessed with the question of Barack Obama's birth certificate or the heavy-handed and ineffective procedures adopted by the Transportation Security Agency.


But it should be reassuring rather than frightening to the American elite that at the dawn of the third millennium, Americans know to become nervous and watchful when a presidential candidate who has presented himself to the public as a moderate devotee of bipartisanship intent on eliminating waste in federal programs suddenly endorses "spreading the wealth around" and on the eve of his election speaks of "fundamentally transforming America." It should be of comfort to them that a small-business owner in Nebraska believes he has reason to express public qualms when a prospective White House chief of staff, in the midst of an economic downturn, announces that the new administration is not about to "let a serious crisis go to waste" and that it intends to exploit that crisis as "an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before." And it should be a source of pride to elites that the philosophical superstructure of the United States demonstrated extraordinary durability when a significant number of their fellow citizens refused to sit silent after an administration implied the inadequacy of the founding by promoting itself as the New Foundation, and after the head of government specifically questioned the special place of the United States in the world by denying "American exceptionalism."

Most important, it should be humbling to those elites that ordinary American citizens choose spontaneously to enter the political arena in droves, concert opposition, speak up in a forthright manner, and oust a host of entrenched office holders when they learn that a system of punitive taxation is in the offing, when they are repeatedly told what they know to be false—that, under the new health-care system that the administration is intent on establishing, benefits will be extended and costs reduced and no one will lose the coverage he already has—and when they discover that Medicare is to be gutted, that medical care is to be rationed, and that citizens who have no desire to purchase health insurance are going to be forced to do so.

In 1776, when George Mason drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, he included a provision reflecting what the revolutionaries had learned from the long period of struggle between Court and Country in England and in America: "that no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles." What we are witnessing with the Tea Party movement is one of the periodic recurrences to fundamental principles that typify and revivify the American experiment in self-government.

These developments are never exclusively salutary. The people sometimes err, as Montesquieu understood and as, I believe, has happened with considerable frequency in our nation's past. But as Thomas Jefferson observed in the wake of the rebellion mounted by Daniel Shays in 1786, if the "turbulence" to which popular government is "subject" is regrettable, "even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs." In Europe, Jefferson explained, "under the pretence of government, they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep." He feared that the same would in time happen in America. If the people in the United States should ever "become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I," he wrote to one correspondent, "and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves."From the outset, Jefferson feared that in this country the government would eventually find its way to what his friend James Madison would later call a "self directed course." It was with this unwelcome prospect in mind that he asked, "What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve their spirit of resistance?" In the end, then, one does not have to agree with the Tea Party movement in every particular to welcome its appearance.
26699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Commentary: Tea Party: Looking into the past in order to understand the present on: February 13, 2011, 03:24:18 PM
Looking into the past in order to understand the present.....
(link at the bottom)


How to Think About the Tea Party « Commentary Magazine

Paul A. Rahe is a professor of history at Hillsdale College and the author, most recently, of Montesquieu and the Logic of Liberty and Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift."

On February 19, 2009, when the finance commentator Rick Santelli indulged in a rant against the newly unveiled "stimulus" bill on the CNBC cable network and called for a demonstration in Chicago modeled on the Boston Tea Party, he fired a shot heard round the country. Santelli's diatribe was focused on the fact that Americans who had played by the rules, had saved much of what they had earned, and had paid their bills on time were being required to bail out fellow citizens who had gotten caught short in purchasing a domicile they could not afford or while speculating in real estate. In the weeks that followed, ordinary citizens spontaneously gathered in towns and cities across the continent to organize Tea Parties in protest against what they took to be an unjust redistribution of wealth from the industrious and the rational to the greedy and improvident. The mainstream media treated them with contempt, and most Republicans kept their distance. Leading Democrats denounced them as frauds and ignoramuses and sought to brand them as racists. Even when the president of the United States used the obscene epithet "teabaggers" to refer to them, however, the adherents of what was coming to be a full-fledged movement—the Tea Party movement—stood firm. And in the course of the summer of 2009, as Americans began to grow fearful of the scope and intrusiveness of the Obama administration's health-care proposal, that movement's numbers grew. In August 2009, when congressmen and senators held town halls to discuss the proposed bill, ordinary Americans showed up in droves; and, to the evident dismay of their representatives, they bluntly spoke their minds.

By January 2010, when the unknown Republican Scott Brown defeated the well-known Democrat Martha Coakley in the Massachusetts race for the seat in the Senate once occupied by Ted Kennedy, it was clear that the Tea Party movement was destined to become a powerful force not only within the Republican Party but in the country as a whole, and patronage-minded Republican senators and congressmen who hoped to be re-elected in 2010 began to get with the program. Republican candidates who were not quick to do so soon came under fire. A three-term senator from Utah who failed to take note was denied his party's nomination for re-election at the state's Republican convention. A senator from Alaska, the scion of an entrenched political dynasty and a member of the Republican leadership, suffered the same fate in her party primary. In Delaware, a popular nine-term congressman who had served two terms as governor lost his party's senatorial primary to an insurgent who had never held political office. In Kentucky, the same fate met its secretary of state. In Florida, a former state senator came from nowhere (the first poll had him at three percent) to force a popular sitting governor to abandon his quest for the Republican senatorial nomination. And in the Republican senatorial primaries in Colorado and Nevada, Tea Party–backed insurgents defeated a lieutenant governor and a former party chairman.

It is perfectly understandable that Republican regulars thwarted in the primaries, Democrats defeated in the midterm elections, and adherents of both parties who found themselves suddenly deprived of political influence should find these developments disconcerting. It is equally understandable that those who find unpalatable either the Tea Party's approach or some of the more colorful and/or questionable candidates to emerge victorious as a consequence of its rise might consider this leaderless and inchoate force's impact worrisome or even frightening. In point of fact, however, this sort of upheaval is nothing new. Such forces have risen periodically throughout the history of the United States and have their antecedents in 17th- and 18th-century England.


In his 1748 Spirit of Laws, the great political philosopher Montesquieu attributed the recurring turmoil that had long beset England to the separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. The Tudors for the most part had been able to sidestep the problem in the 16th century because Henry VIII and his children had sufficient wealth in the lands he had seized from the Catholic Church to cover most of their needs. But their Stuart successors in the 17th century found that those resources had been largely exhausted; and to cover their expenses and those of the government they directed, they were compelled to have frequent recourse to Parliament for revenue.

To their dismay and that of their ministers, what soon came to be called "the Country" rose up in high dudgeon time and time again to denounce on the floor of the House of Commons what was perceived as favoritism, corruption, arbitrary rule, conspiracy, and papist predilections on the part of a Court thought to be intent on encroaching on the rights of ordinary Englishmen and the prerogatives possessed by Parliament. These tensions produced the English civil war of the 1640s, the execution of Charles I in 1648, the rule of the Rump Parliament and the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell in the 1640s and 1650s, followed by the Restoration of the monarchy in 1658, which was in turn followed 30 years later by the Glorious Revolution.

By the time Montesquieu arrived in England, things had settled down. The political tensions that had periodically given rise to turbulence and bloodshed were now being resolved peacefully through electioneering and balloting, and monarchs now found themselves forced to appoint as ministers those who had the confidence of Parliament and were not simply tools of the Crown.

Montesquieu found the dynamics of English politics both instructive and amusing. "The hatred" that had long existed between Court and Country he regarded as a permanent feature. This hatred "would endure," he observed, "because it would always be powerless," and it would be powerless because "the parties" inspired by the separation of powers would be "composed of free men" who would be inclined to switch sides if either the executive power or the legislative power appeared to have "secured too much."

The English were a commercial people who lived in what Montesquieu called "a republic concealed under the form of a monarchy." The regime under which they were reared, being neither republican in the classical sense nor genuinely monarchical, did little to inculcate in them a spirit of self-sacrifice and even less to inspire in them a love of honor and glory. Instead, it left Englishmen to their own devices; and in the absence of direction from above, they tended to succumb to the restlessness and anxiety that Montesquieu called inquiétude. In such a nation, he remarked, the charges lodged by the party that stood in opposition to the executive branch "would augment even more" than usual "the terrors" to which a people so disposed were naturally prone, for they "would never know really whether they were in danger or not."

Ordinarily the legislature, which enjoyed the confidence of the people, would be in a position to moderate their fears. "In this fashion," Montesquieu noted, when "the terrors impressed" on the populace lacked "a certain object, they would produce nothing but vain clamors & name-calling; & they would have this good effect: that they would stretch all the springs of government & render the citizens attentive."

And if the terrors fanned by the party opposed to the English executive were ever "to appear on the occasion of an overturning of the fundamental laws," he observed, "they would be muted, lethal, excruciating & produce catastrophes: before long, one would see a frightful calm, during which the whole would unite itself against the power violating the laws."

Moreover, he added, if such "disputes took shape on the occasion of a violation of the fundamental laws, & if a foreign power appeared," as happened when the arrival of the Dutch political and military leader William of Orange in 1688 triggered the Glorious Revolution, "there would be a revolution, which would change neither the form of the government nor its constitution: for the revolutions to which liberty gives shape are nothing but a confirmation of liberty."

Over the past generation, historians have tended to interpret the American Revolution similarly as a clash between Court and Country. The pattern described by Montesquieu was duplicated in colonies such as Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York in the 17th and 18th centuries. Moreover, the charges leveled against King and Parliament by the American colonists in the period stretching from 1762 to 1776 were a compendium of those lodged long before by the critics of James I and Charles I; the opponents of the Long Parliament, the Rump Parliament, and Oliver Cromwell; the proponents of the Glorious Revolution; and those who subsequently became disgruntled under the rule of William of Orange following his installation as William III and those who followed him over the next century culminating in the reign of George III.

The same pattern manifested itself also in the political disputes that followed the founding of the United States. To be sure, when Thomas Jefferson and James Madison organized the first American political party, they did not accuse Alexander Hamilton and those who came to be called the Federalists of papist predilections. But they did assert that the economic program proposed by Hamilton in his capacity as George Washington's secretary of the treasury amounted to a conspiracy to overthrow republicanism in America and consolidate power in the hands of an irresponsible executive indistinguishable from a monarch. That is why Jefferson spoke of the election of 1800 and his own ascendancy to the presidency as a second American revolution.

Similar rhetoric was deployed by the movement that sprang up against the so-called "Tariff of Abominations" shortly after its passage in 1828. Andrew Jackson articulated much the same argument in the battle he undertook in his second presidential term (1832-36) against Nicholas Biddle's proposal for a rechartering of the Second Bank of the United States, and so did Abraham Lincoln and his fellow Republicans in their quest in the late 1850s against what they called "the slave-power conspiracy."

One could hear echoes of these earlier controversies in the campaign mounted against the railroads and banks by the People's Party in 1892 (the force widely considered the originator of what has come to be called "populism"), in the presidential campaign undertaken by the insurgent Democrat William Jennings Bryan in 1896 against the tight-money fiscal policies that he said were crucifying America on a "cross of gold," and in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's assertion at the Democratic Convention in 1936 that "a small group" of economic royalists was intent on concentrating "into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor—other people's lives." And, of course, it is a similar suspicion that has given rise to the Tea Party movement.

Consider what Barack Obama and the Democrats did over the past two years—with their so-called stimulus, health-care reform, and reform of financial regulation. Each initiative involved the passage of a bill more than a thousand pages in length that virtually no one voting on could have read, and no one but those who framed it could have understood. Each involved a massive expansion of the federal government and massive payoffs to favored constituencies. And each was part of a much larger project openly pursued by self-styled progressives in the course of the last century and aimed at concentrating in the hands of "a small group" of putative experts "an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor—other people's lives." Without quite knowing whom they are evoking, Tea Partiers are inclined to say, as FDR said in 1936, that if they do not put a stop to what is going on, "for too many of us life" will be "no longer free" and "liberty no longer real"—for otherwise the bureaucratic busybodies ensconced in Washington will deprive us of the means by which to "follow the pursuit of happiness" as we see fit.

The only difference is that FDR's assertions demonizing the "economic royalists" were demonstrably false, and when the Tea Partiers make comparable claims today, they are, alas, telling the truth.

26700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: February 13, 2011, 12:53:41 PM
So, the answer to my question is "No"?
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