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51  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ummmm , , , Teddy? on: December 15, 2014, 06:35:01 PM 
52  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oil/gold ratio on: December 15, 2014, 04:38:44 PM
Oil Price: Looks Reasonable To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 12/15/2014

A former economic colleague, and mentor, used to say: “In the Bible, it says an ounce of gold will buy a fine suit of clothing.” We have read the Bible, and we haven’t found this, although there could be some high-powered math, using talents, cubits, frankincense and myrrh that make it true.

Nonetheless, the point stands – over long periods of time, relative value remains somewhat constant. Gold is trading at $1,210/oz. today and that’s about the cost of a fine suit.
There are suits that cost more, and less, but, well, you get the point.

The reason we bring this up, is that the same “relative price relationship” should hold true for other commodities over time. The gold-oil ratio (using West Texas Intermediate crude prices) has averaged 15.8 over the past 30 years – meaning one ounce of gold would buy 15.8 barrels of oil.

In 2005, the ratio reached a low of 6.7; in 1986, it hit a high of 30.1. From 1990-1999 oil prices averaged $19.70/bbl and gold prices averaged $351/oz – a ratio of 17.8. Today, oil is $57/bbl and gold is $1,210/oz., meaning an ounce of gold will buy 21.2 barrels of oil.

In other words, relative to history, either oil is cheap or gold is expensive. Looking at other commodity price relationships, like silver, shows the same thing. One interesting fact is that in the past 30 years, the CPI is up 126%, while oil is up 116%, showing that, right now, with oil prices down almost $50 from their recent peak, oil has risen about the same as a broad basket of consumer goods.

This doesn’t mean that oil prices can’t fall further. After all, markets do what markets do. What it does mean is that the recent collapse in oil prices is not a sign of broad deflation. It is result of a shift in the “oil supply curve” to the right, due to new technologies in energy – horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Remember, the supply curve slopes upward from the lower left to the upper right. When a new technology increases supply at any price, like the invention of the tractor did with crops, the entire supply curve shifts. When this happens, output rises and prices fall, unless there is a shift in demand.

These days, two things are happening to keep a lid on demand. First, developing economies, like China and Russia are experiencing slower growth. Second, new technologies – like LED lighting, more efficient computer chips and less waste in office buildings, homes and manufacturing – are reducing energy consumption. For example, an iPad uses $1.36 of electricity every year, while a desktop computer uses $30 of electricity per year.

So, a right-ward shift in the supply curve is occurring at the same time demand is falling short of what was previously expected. In other words, the decline in oil prices is due to macro-economic forces, and those forces are mostly good, not bad. As a result, the drop in oil prices is a good sign, not one that indicates economic problems. The drop in stock prices last week, if it was based on the idea that falling oil prices are a negative thing, is temporary.

More importantly, most relative price indicators suggest the oil price decline has gone too far. Using the current price of gold, a barrel of oil is fairly valued near $77. Alternatively, comparing oil to multiple different prices, including a fine suit of clothing, oil is fairly valued somewhere between $55 and $70/bbl.

Bottom line: stocks and oil have fallen too much. Stocks should rebound soon and, barring a collapse in gold, we look for stability and then rising prices for oil in the years ahead.
53  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Israeli nat. gas offers lifeline for peace? on: December 15, 2014, 11:55:34 AM
54  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Grannis and I were right, you DBMA guys were wrong on: December 14, 2014, 02:37:14 PM

Monday Morning Outlook
The Myth of QE: Why Rates Are Headed Higher To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 12/8/2014

It’s a myth; an abused narrative. Those who disagree are called economic heretics. What are we talking about? The idea that Quantitative Easing (QE) drives interest rates down. This myth has a fervent following even though virtually no evidence supports it. 

Yes, the Federal Reserve has done a massive amount of QE. And, yes, interest rates have been low. But, correlation does not equal causation. Just look at Europe, where the European Central Bank (ECB) has allowed its balance sheet to contract in recent years – Quantitative Tightening. Yet, interest rates are even lower than they are in the U.S. Not just German and French 10-year bond yields, but Italian and Spanish as well.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen understood this back in December 2008, when she said, “As Japan found during its quantitative easing program, increasing the size of the monetary base above levels needed to provide ample liquidity to the banking system had no discernible economic effects aside from those associated with communicating the Bank of Japan’s commitment to the zero interest rate policy.”

In other words, by ending QE, the Fed is implicitly ending its commitment to low rates. As a result, the 2-year Treasury yield has jumped from 0.31% in mid-October to 0.64%. Not because of tapering, but because rate hikes are now expected.

There is no mystery here. QE signals a low interest rate policy. In Europe, the ECB keeps threatening to start QE again, which is the same thing as saying don’t expect rate hikes.

It’s the promise to hold interest rates low that matters, not the actual bond buying. When the Fed (or any central bank) indicates it will hold overnight rates at zero for one year, then 1-year yields will be close to zero. The same holds true if the promise is for two years.

In other words, QE is just another version of “forward guidance.” As that guidance shifts, interest rates will rise. That’s happening in the U.S. right now.

Since mid-October, the Fed has increased its holdings of bonds with 1 to 5-year maturities by $58 billion. At the same time it has decreased its holdings of Treasury bonds with maturities five years and longer by $52 billion.

Nonetheless, the 2-year Treasury bond yield is soaring, while the 10-year Treasury bond yield has remained stubbornly stable. The yield curve is flattening – exactly the opposite result that supporters of QE have claimed would happen.

It’s a magic elixir. In Europe, by not doing enough QE, the ECB is supposedly causing deflation, which, in turn, holds bond yields down. In the U.S., QE itself was supposedly holding interest rates down. In Japan, interest rates were already low, and QE was supposed to boost growth, but instead a renewed recession is underway. It’s the Wizard of Oz. Please don’t look behind the curtain.

What does all this mean? Well, first it means QE isn’t magical. We do not believe QE boosted economic activity or equity values in the US, nor did it keep interest rates down. All it did was boost bank holdings of excess reserves.

This is why tapering has not hurt the U.S. economy or equities. Job growth has accelerated, GDP, too, and the stock market has reached record highs.

What’s missing from just about every conversation about central banks is their inability to offset the damage done by excessive taxes, government spending, or regulation. Europe and Japan will continue to underperform the U.S. as long as their governments spend more as a share of GDP.

The bottom line: The U.S. has turned the corner. Government policy is headed in a better direction, growth is picking up and interest rates are now headed higher, probably for quite some time. But, it’s not because QE is over, it’s because the Fed can no longer justify a zero percent overnight interest rate. “Forward guidance” is kaput. That means higher interest rates are on their way.
55  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Congress secretly OKs NSA spying domestic criminal cases on: December 14, 2014, 09:21:48 AM
56  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Crimson Permanent Assurance on: December 13, 2014, 07:36:59 PM
57  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Graham vs. Connor on: December 13, 2014, 12:25:22 PM
58  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: December 13, 2014, 10:36:48 AM
Thank you Doug.
59  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: December 12, 2014, 07:44:48 PM
Looking for a post along the lines of "What if the Palestinians had chosen peace?" but not finding it so far.
60  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: December 12, 2014, 11:41:30 AM
"Crafty, her separation of these events is technically valid"

How , , , Clintonesque of her  cheesy

"but her effort to merge them is pathological IMHO."

I would say it is amorally purposeful.

"It took me multiple readings of this to see that separation as she stood over the caskets from Benghazi."

Precisely her intention I suspect.

"She reportedly told the victims families, we will get the people responsible for this video. No separation there."

EXACLTY SO!!!  I have hammered this point for quite some time now.


"If this isn't smoking gun material,"

It is.

"it is at least a peak into a character flaw you wouldn't want (again) in a President."

EXACTLY SO.  For me, this is the ideal point o the spear to use on her with regard to Benghazi.

61  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PPI declines .2% in November on: December 12, 2014, 11:37:26 AM
The Producer Price Index (PPI) declined 0.2% in November To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Dep. Chief Economist
Date: 12/12/2014

The Producer Price Index (PPI) declined 0.2% in November, coming in below the consensus expected decline of 0.1%.  Producer prices are up 1.4% versus a year ago.
Energy and food prices led the index lower, down 3.1% and 0.2% respectively.  Producer prices excluding food and energy were unchanged in November (-0.1% among just goods).
In the past year, prices for services are up 1.9%, while prices for goods are up 0.4%. Private capital equipment prices rose 0.2% in November and are up 1.4% in the past year.
Prices for intermediate processed goods declined 1.0% in November, and are down 0.3% versus a year ago.  Prices for intermediate unprocessed goods fell 1.3% in November, and are down 1.7% versus a year ago.
Implications:  Still no sign of inflation in producer prices. After a surprise to the upside in October, producer prices declined 0.2% in November coming in slightly lower than the consensus expected. The decline in overall producer prices was all due to the goods sector, where prices fell 0.7%, primarily due to energy. Energy prices fell 3.1% in November and are down 6.7% in the past three months (-24% at an annual rate), a testament to fracking and horizontal drilling. Although energy prices have dropped further in December and may decline into early 2015, that trend won’t last forever. As a result, our forecast is that the US suffers neither hyperinflation nor deflation for the next few years. Instead, it’s going to be a slow slog upward for inflation. Prices further back in the production pipeline (intermediate demand) show that it will take a while for inflation to move up. Prices for intermediate processed goods are down 0.3% in the past year while prices for unprocessed goods are down 1.7%. Regardless, with the labor market improving rapidly now that extended unemployment benefits are done, the Fed is still on track to start raising rates around the middle of next year. These rate hikes will not hurt the economy; monetary policy will still be loose and will likely remain that way for the first couple of years of higher short-term rates. Counterintuitively, higher short term rates may boost lending as potential borrowers hurry up their plans to avoid even higher interest rates further down the road. In other words, the Plow Horse economy won’t stop when the Fed shifts gears.
62  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson calls for time lapse before law kicks in on: December 12, 2014, 11:33:15 AM
The prescience of our Founding Fathers was truly extraordinary.

"The instability of our laws is really an immense evil. I think it would be well to provide in our constitutions that there shall always be a twelve-month between the ingross-ing a bill & passing it: that it should then be offered to its passage without changing a word: and that if circumstances should be thought to require a speedier passage, it should take two thirds of both houses instead of a bare majority." --Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison, 1787
63  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: December 11, 2014, 08:12:29 PM
I'm saying that your quote of her is in reference to Yemen and other countries.

SOMEONE got the idea that this meme could be blended into the Benghazi cover up, but this quote, as best as I can tell, proves nothing with regard to whom that may have been.
64  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Senate pass bill providing weapons and other aid to Ukraine on: December 11, 2014, 07:42:36 PM

See today's entry in the Ukraine thread for closely related analysis

On Dec. 11, the U.S. Senate passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which provides defensive weapons to Ukraine and expand sanctions against Russian defense firms, RFE/RL reported. The bill also authorizes $350 million to provide Ukraine with defensive weaponry but not defensive lethal aid, grants Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia major non-NATO ally status and authorizes $50 million in short-term energy assistance to Ukraine. It is unclear whether the U.S. House of Representatives will have time to bring the bill up for a vote before lawmakers leave for the year.

Read more: U.S.: Senate Passes Bill Providing Weapons, Aid To Ukraine | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

With the sharp decline in oil prices, this could be a propitious moment for this move.  Wonder what Obama-Kerry will say?
65  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why Russia would intervene in Ukraine on: December 11, 2014, 07:39:07 PM
Note date

Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene in Ukraine
August 6, 2014 | 22:04 GMT Print Text Size
Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene in Ukraine
Ukrainian soldiers patrol Debaltseve, a city in the eastern region of Donetsk, on Aug. 3. (ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor's Note: The following is an internal Stratfor document produced to provide high-level guidance regarding the conflict in Ukraine. This document is not a forecast but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions for areas of focus.

With 20,000 troops positioned on its border with Ukraine, Russia has all the pieces in place to launch a direct, limited ground intervention in eastern Ukraine without having to make any additional preparations. Of course, that kind of military invasion would cost Moscow a lot of political capital, but Russian policymakers may believe the high price of intervention is justified in certain scenarios. Those scenarios are as follows:
The Humanitarian Crisis Worsens

On Aug. 5, Russia officially requested to lead a humanitarian mission in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide aid for civilians in eastern Ukraine. Parts of Donetsk and Luhansk are experiencing food, water and electricity shortages, but so far Kiev has rejected Russia's offers of assistance, arguing there is no humanitarian crisis to end. The civilian death toll has increased steadily as fighting moved from the countryside into the cities. If more civilians die, Russia may decide to intervene.
The Ukrainian Military Threatens Rebel Strongholds

Over the past few weeks, the Ukrainian military has tallied several notable victories in its fight against the rebels, one of many factors that guided Russia's decision to amass troops along the border. However, Ukrainian forces have not been able to move into the urban areas surrounding the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk; in addition to general difficulties associated with urban warfare, some rebels have already started a counteroffensive. If the Ukrainian military seriously threatens to take these important rebel strongholds, Russia may intervene.
Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene In Ukraine
Click to Enlarge
NATO Deploys More Assets

After Russia's annexation of Crimea, NATO initiated new rotational exercises in Poland and the Baltics; however, no additional measures have been taken since then to increase the security of the alliance's members in the region. Any serious push to build up combat power in areas adjacent to Ukraine — including Poland, Romania, the Baltics and Turkey — may indicate that NATO and the United States believe a Russian intervention is imminent. (Meanwhile, Russia could see the congregation of NATO and U.S. forces as a sign that the West plans to intervene.) U.S. naval movement in the Mediterranean or Black seas is also important to watch.
The United States Arms the Ukrainian Military

U.S. aid to Ukraine has been limited to nonlethal equipment and rations, but many in Russia attribute the Ukrainian military's recent gains to advising from the U.S. military. If Washington supplies the Ukrainian military with weapons or trains or assists soldiers more overtly, Russia may respond by intervening.
More Sanctions Are Imposed

The Kremlin has reacted to the latest round of Western sanctions by restricting some food and agricultural imports from the United States and the European Union. But the application of additional, more severe sanctions, especially those targeting Russia's financial and energy sectors, could provoke Russia to invade Ukraine, especially if Moscow believes it has nothing else to lose.
Russian Public Opinion Changes

The majority of Russians oppose direct military intervention into Ukraine. The factions within the Kremlin, including the typically hawkish security circle, are divided on the issue, too. This opposition has constrained the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who wants to maintain his popularity levels among his constituents and retain the loyalty of his supporters within the government. If Putin can disguise the intervention as a peacekeeping or humanitarian mission, he may be able to sell it to the Russian public more effectively, giving him more freedom to act.
The Ukrainian Government Collapses

The Kremlin's goal is for Ukraine, an important buffer state, to become at least a neutral territory between Russia and the West. After the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and Ukraine's decision to sign the EU association and free trade agreements, the Kremlin hoped that the new government in Kiev would be unable to remain stable and united and fail to implement the International Monetary Fund-mandated austerity and reform measures. So far, internal divisions have not affected the government's ability to implement reforms and make military decisions. But the emergence of more significant internal divisions over policy, especially security policy, is key to watch. If the government in Kiev fails on its own, Russia will have no need to intervene. 

Read more: Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene in Ukraine | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
66  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia uses competition over resource to increase leverage in Central Asia on: December 11, 2014, 07:37:04 PM
Second post.  Note date.

Russia Uses Competition Over Resources to Increase Leverage in Central Asia
August 4, 2014 | 09:12 GMT Print Text Size
Russia Uses Competition Over Resources to Increase Leverage in Central Asia

The borders of modern-day Central Asian states were drawn by Soviet policymakers under the direction of Josef Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s. Soviet officials sought to prevent each republic from becoming too independent or powerful within the region. As a result, today's Central Asian states depend highly on one another for key natural resources such as water and natural gas.

While Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan enjoy significant energy wealth, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan rely on imports for most of their oil and natural gas. Conversely, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are located at the headwaters of two of the region's major rivers, giving them access to ample water resources as well as the ability to reduce water flows to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, which are situated downstream. The strong interdependencies among Central Asian states have contributed to a rise in tensions since the countries became independent in 1991. The population of Central Asia has nearly doubled since that time, further straining the supply of natural resources. As it did during the Soviet era, the Kremlin is now using the divisions among Central Asian states to prevent a single nation or group of states from dominating the others, something that could threaten Russia's position as the regional power.

Since mid-April, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have been embroiled in yet another dispute over natural gas supplies. Tensions between the two countries have also run high over Kyrgyzstan's plans for constructing new hydroelectric dams, which could periodically reduce water flows to Uzbekistan throughout the year. Russia is quietly using the two conflicts to enhance its own position while gaining leverage over Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. At a time when Kyrgyzstan is hesitantly beginning to pursue Customs Union membership and Uzbekistan is in the midst of an internal power struggle over President Islam Karimov's succession plans, the Kremlin is trying to put Russia in a better position to shape the political evolutions of both countries.
Kyrgyzstan's Natural Gas Woes

Northern Kyrgyzstan, home to its capital, Bishkek, is connected to major natural gas pipelines linking the region to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Southern Kyrgyzstan, including its cities Osh and Jalal-Abad, are connected to pipelines running east to west from Uzbekistan. But Kyrgyzstan does not have a pipeline connecting its north to its south, meaning that although northern Kyrgyzstan has been able to diversify its imports, southern Kyrgyzstan has remained highly dependent on natural gas flowing from Uzbekistan. On April 14, four days after Russian state energy company Gazprom officially took over Kyrgyz energy firm KyrgyzGaz, Uzbekistan cut off natural gas deliveries to Kyrgyzstan. The company argued that its contract needs to be renegotiated with Gazprom. As a result, southern Kyrgyzstan, including the city of Osh, has lost its access to natural gas supplies. 
Russia Uses Competition Over Resources To Increase Leverage In Central Asia
Click to Enlarge

Russia is taking advantage of the situation by brokering a solution that enhances its leverage over Kyrgyzstan's leaders. As the new owner of KyrgyzGaz, Gazprom is responsible for negotiating with Uzbekistan. But so far it has not used its influence to compel Uzbekistan to resume natural gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan. The Kremlin means to keep Kyrgyz loyalty and eventually absorb it into its Customs Union. However, Kyrgyzstan's accession has stalled as the country's leaders ask Russia for more financial aid and exemptions from Customs Union rules. Moreover, Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Taiyrbek Sarpashev said July 24 that the country may attain full membership only after several transitional phases, a process that could take five years, starting in 2015.

The natural gas shortage in southern Kyrgyzstan will only put more pressure on Bishkek throughout its accession talks, particularly as natural gas demand increases ahead of the cold winter months. In May, protesters blocked a highway in Osh. Small protests have taken place in Bishkek, and Stratfor sources say southerners are traveling north to protest. If shortages continue into the fall and winter, protests will likely become larger and more disruptive. In the past, mass protests have toppled Kyrgyz governments. To forestall such an outcome, the government will likely make more concessions to Russia in its Customs Union negotiations. And if Bishkek does in fact cater to Moscow's wishes, Russia will probably encourage Uzbekistan to start exporting natural gas to Kyrgyzstan again.
Kyrgyzstan's Electricity Ambitions

In addition to using its influence over natural gas flows, Russia is also trying to use the region's water issues to its advantage. For several decades, Kyrgyz leaders have pushed for the construction of large hydroelectric dam projects, which would enable Kyrgyzstan to become a major exporter of electricity, rather than a country suffering from chronic electricity shortages. The Kyrgyz government is currently working on a feasibility study for exporting electricity to China's Xinjiang province, and it also has aspirations for exporting electricity to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

There are currently at least five major proposed hydroelectric dam projects for the Naryn River. With a gross domestic product of just $7.2 billion, Kyrgyzstan cannot afford to construct the new hydroelectric plants without significant financial assistance from foreign investors. So far, Russia has been the only country to offer large-scale financial assistance and political support for the projects, meaning that they hinge completely on Moscow. As a result, progress has stalled as Russia has failed to deliver much of its pledged funding.
Click to Enlarge

The largest of the projects is the 1,900-megawatt Kambarata-1 hydroelectric dam project, but it has remained in the planning stage since the Soviet era. A feasibility study conducted by Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin International Inc. found that the estimated cost of the project is $3 billion, a sum Kyrgyzstan cannot afford on its own. Though Moscow pledged $2 billion for the project in 2009 and came to an official agreement regarding the dam during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Kyrgyzstan in 2012, major funding from Russia has yet to materialize. Moreover, once the dam is constructed, Kyrgyzstan will likely need Russian financial and technical support for the dam's maintenance. Another project, the 350-megawatt Kambarata-2, has seen limited progress. It opened its first section in 2010 with the help of a small Russian loan and currently generates 50 to 70 megawatts hours.

Russia says it will continue to commit money to the Kyrgyz projects. But it has deliberately neglected to honor those commitments because the outstanding water issues give Moscow power over Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, so long as they remain unresolved.
Leverage Over Uzbekistan

Just as the Kremlin wants to pressure Kyrgyzstan to join the Customs Union, it also wants to gain leverage in Uzbekistan. Unlike Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan is the most independent country in Central Asia; it seeks to become a leader in the region after leaving Russia's sphere of influence. In 2012, Uzbekistan suspended its membership in the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, demonstrating Uzbekistan's willingness to chart its own course away from Russia-sponsored regional integration projects. Therefore, the Kremlin has prioritized establishing the kind of influence in Uzbekistan that it has in other post-Soviet states

To that end, supporting Kyrgyzstan's hydroelectric projects benefits Russia. Agriculture makes up about 28 percent of the Uzbek economy. Cotton exports remain vital, accounting for roughly 17 percent of export revenue. If Kyrgyzstan completes work on its large hydroelectric projects, its reservoirs will need to be filled completely in order to feed the dams. The timeline for completing this process, which could range from months to years, will determine the impact on the downstream countries. Once the reservoirs are filled, Kyrgyzstan will also be able to have some control over the flow of the river, allowing more water through when more electricity is needed and less when the demand is lower.

However, Kyrgyzstan's decisions regarding water levels may not necessarily line up with agricultural demands in downstream countries such as Uzbekistan. The construction of the projects would therefore give Kyrgyzstan significant leverage over Uzbekistan; Kyrgyz officials would have the power to reduce water flows at will.

Unsurprisingly, Uzbekistan strongly opposes Kyrgyzstan's hydroelectric projects. Russia's repeated public commitment to help Kyrgyzstan finance the construction of new hydroelectric plants thus gives the Kremlin additional influence and leverage in Bishkek and Tashkent. For Kyrgyzstan, Russia's pledge to finance large-scale hydroelectric plants offers hope for solving the country's electricity problems. It also offers hope for helping the country harness its only abundant natural resource — water — to become a profitable electricity exporter. For Uzbekistan, Russia's promises to fund or withhold funding from Kyrgyz projects are a reminder that Russia has can still undermine country's water security significantly.

Kyrgyzstan has long been a largely pro-Russia state. While the country's leaders have decided to apply for Customs Union membership, social tensions and the unpopularity of some Customs Union regulations are presenting a challenge for the Kyrgyz government. Uzbekistan, on the other hand, has been one of the more independent-minded post-Soviet states. Nevertheless, the Kremlin may see the country's ongoing power struggle as an opportunity for gaining future influence. Russia will continue using those tensions so long as it benefits it to do so.

Read more: Russia Uses Competition Over Resources to Increase Leverage in Central Asia | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
67  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia-NATO competition mounts in Georgia on: December 11, 2014, 07:31:26 PM
 Russia-NATO Competition Mounts in Georgia
December 8, 2014 | 10:02 GMT Print Text Size
Georgian troops parade at a ceremony to mark independence day in Tbilisi on May 26. (VANO SHLAMOV/AFP/Getty Images)

In the ongoing competition between Russia and the West over the former Soviet periphery, the Caucasus nation of Georgia has long been a significant site of tension. With the crisis in Ukraine grinding on, Georgia is pushing to more closely integrate with both NATO and the European Union. For its part, Moscow is working to establish a bigger footprint in the pro-Russia breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These integrations increase the risk of escalation on the security front. A return to full-scale conflict, however, is unlikely. Instead, tensions in the trilateral relationship between Georgia, Russia and NATO will mount and continue to play a key role in influencing the broader standoff between Moscow and the West.

In the decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia has played a pivotal role in the competition for influence between Russia and the West over what was once Soviet territory. In 2003, Georgia underwent a Western-supported transition, known as the Rose Revolution, which brought the pro-European Union and pro-NATO government of Mikhail Saakashvili. In 2008, Russia responded by initiating the Russo-Georgia War. With this, Moscow intended to both counter Georgia's Western orientation and make plain NATO's unwillingness to come to Tbilisi's defense. This strategy worked. The Saakashvili government had failed in its bid to seriously integrate Georgia into NATO and provoked Russia's ire. This failure led, in 2012, to the emergence of Bidzina Ivanishvili's more pragmatic Georgian Dream government, which favored maintaining a cooperative approach toward Moscow.
Collective Defense Blocs USE ME
Click to Enlarge

This past year has seen yet another swing in the competition over Georgia. The crisis in Ukraine has pulled a number of countries closer to the West — Georgia among them. Along with Ukraine and Moldova, Georgia has signed the key Association and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. Tbilisi has also continued to pursue NATO membership. At the beginning of the 2000s, NATO was divided and Russia was resurgent. This is no longer the case. Today, the military alliance is more interested in directly engaging with Georgia.

The Dec. 4 visit of NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai to Georgia made these changes apparent. Appathurai met with Georgian leaders, including Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Defense Minister Mindia Janelidze, and said that significant progress had been made in implementing the cooperation package, which Georgia endorsed at the most recent NATO summit in September. This package includes plans to engage in joint exercises, embed trainers to assist in building Georgia's defense capacity and to establish a NATO training center. Although Appathurai said training center details are still under discussion, plans could be finalized by the next NATO ministerial meeting in February 2015.

Russia has long viewed Georgia's receiving membership in NATO to be a red line. At the moment, Georgia's moves still fall far short of actual membership; NATO would first have to grant a membership action plan, something that it has not been willing to do. Regardless, the recent developments are a concern for Moscow, particularly when placed the context of the Ukraine crisis.
Georgia and Kyrgyzstan: Similar States, Worlds Apart
Click to Enlarge

Russia has responded by building its ties to the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared independence from Georgia after the 2008 war. Moscow has increased the scope and frequency of military exercises in both territories. It even launched large-scale drills in South Ossetia on Dec. 2 just as Georgian officials were meeting with NATO representatives in Brussels. Russia has also signed a new integration treaty with Abkhazia that expands Moscow's military and security influence in the territory. A similar treaty with South Ossetia is likely to follow in the near future.

These developments have led to increased friction between Moscow and Tbilisi. They have also contributed to Russia's broader standoff with the West — a standoff that shows no signs of abating. Fresh memories of open conflict between Russia and Georgia have given rise to concerns that this might once again come to pass. Russian military forces are stationed less than 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Tbilisi and, with both countries more active when it comes to training and exercises, the risk of escalation does seem quite real.

This perception is deceptive. A number of factors stand in the way of a return to full-scale war. Unlike in Ukraine, Russia already holds a strong position in Georgia's breakaway territories. Moving forces deeper into Georgia would take Russia out of the politically supportive environment of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and risk a bloody and costly war of attrition. A renewed military conflict would only galvanize Western and NATO support for Georgia, compounding the situation for Russia. Although troubling for Moscow, Tbilisi's cooperation with the security bloc has been relatively limited. Many NATO members are still opposed to incorporating the small and distant country. An aggressive Russian military action could potentially change that equation. And, at the moment, Russia does not need to intervene to prevent NATO integrations. Furthermore, Georgia's current government is internally divided, as seen in recent dismissals and resignations of high-ranking Cabinet members. This division could stop the country's NATO integration plans — something that Appathurai noted on his visit.

Still, Tbilisi has continued in its efforts to get closer to the security bloc. In the context of the Ukrainian crisis, NATO appears to be taking these ties more seriously. A number of factors still stand in the way of full integration. Regardless of the outcome, Georgia's ambitions will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping Russia's planning of its future relationships around the region.

Read more: Russia-NATO Competition Mounts in Georgia | Stratfor
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68  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's South Stream Decsion changes regional dynamics on: December 11, 2014, 07:19:32 PM
I have drawn attention to this matter of Russia, natural gas, and Europe many times:

 Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics
December 4, 2014 | 10:30 GMT Print Text Size
Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics
A construction worker stands in front of two giant pipes arranged to be welded together near the Serbian village of Sajkas on Nov. 24, 2013. (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

The fallout from Russia's decision to abandon its ambitious South Stream pipeline deal continued Dec. 3, as Italian energy services firm Saipem announced that it would lose almost $2 billion because of Moscow's move. On Dec. 2, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev called for the South Stream project's European partners to have a say in its future. The head of Serbia's Gas Association, Vojislav Vuletic, said his country is still interested in South Stream, while Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said his country will have to look for alternative natural gas sources to replace South Stream supplies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision to abandon the pipeline deal on Dec. 1, while visiting Turkey. Putin publicly blamed the European Commission's opposition to the planned pipeline, though the project faced other growing constraints (mainly financing). At the same time, Putin announced that Russia would instead build a pipeline similar to South Stream but ending in Turkey, which could then become a hub for Russia's natural gas exports. The decision changes not only the dynamics of energy in the region, but also many relationships in Europe, Turkey and Russia.

South Stream was a large pipeline project by Russian natural gas behemoth Gazprom to export Russian natural gas from the Russian mainland, under the Black Sea, to Southern and Central Europe — Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria. The primary purpose of the pipeline was to connect Europe to Russia directly without transiting Ukraine, which previously transported 80 percent of Russian natural gas to Europe. Gazprom held 50 percent of the project, Italy's ENI held 20 percent, Germany's Wintershall held 15 percent and France's EDF held 15 percent. The initial plan was for the South Stream pipeline to reach a capacity of 63 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2018, which would accommodate approximately 40 percent of Russia's natural gas exports to Europe if run near capacity.

The project became increasingly important to Moscow over the past year as the crisis in Ukraine threatened the reliability — both politically and technically — of Russian natural gas exports to Europe through Ukraine. However, the project has encountered a string of obstacles since its conception in 2007.
Russian-European Natural Gas Networks
Click to Enlarge

First, the European Union has contested the pipeline, saying it violates the Third Energy Package, European legislation that splits energy production and transmission. The European Commission has used the legislation to pressure all of the EU states that had signed agreements with Russia for the construction of the pipeline. As a result, Bulgaria halted the construction of its section of the pipeline in June.

The second constraint was the rising cost of the pipeline. Gazprom projected a $10 billion price tag in 2007, but projected costs grew to $30 billion in 2014 and likely would have risen further. In mid-November, ENI CEO Claudio Descalzi warned that ENI would leave the project if prices continued to rise. Gazprom is relatively healthy financially, unlike its oil company sister, Rosneft. However, with many large and costly projects lined up for the next few years, including the Yamal natural gas project and the Power of Siberia pipeline to China, Gazprom most likely would not be able to foot most of the bill for South Stream without financial assistance from the Kremlin. And with Russia in a sharp economic decline and oil prices falling, the Kremlin has refrained from handing out large sums of money like it has in the past.

Gazprom has already spent $4.5 billion on South Stream, mostly on 300,000 tons of underwater trunk pipelines that have been delivered to the Black Sea coastline. However, these pipes could still be of use in the construction of Russia's new proposed pipeline to Turkey. According to Gazprom chief Alexei Miller, the alternative pipeline could have a capacity of 63 bcm, of which Turkey could purchase 14 bcm of natural gas and transit the rest to southeastern Europe to the same countries that would have received natural gas from South Stream. In short, the change in the pipeline projects is merely one of route; the outcome would be nearly the same. However, the way that natural gas would be transported is in question, since any new pipeline infrastructure reaching into Europe would be subject to the same EU regulations that haunted South Stream.
The Political Aftermath

By scrapping South Stream and proposing a Russo-Turkish pipeline, Russia has shifted the political and energy dynamics of the region. First, Russia had been using South Stream as leverage over Ukraine and several southeastern European countries. Russia offered Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary investment sweeteners — promises of energy security, construction jobs and transit revenues — for their support of the South Stream project. For example, Bulgaria was set to receive an estimated $500 million annually for transiting natural gas from South Stream. Moscow also used the potential for natural gas transit alternatives in its energy negotiations with Kiev. With South Stream abandoned, Russia's leverage has diminished.

Russia's decision to abandon South Stream also damages Moscow's political ties with some of its European partners in the project. Countries such as Hungary and Serbia spent a great deal of political capital in defying the European Union to support the pipeline's construction. Now some of these same countries are saying they will have to look to the European Union to help secure energy supplies.
Changing Energy Relationships

Should the proposed Russo-Turkish pipeline be constructed, Russia will add capacity to directly supply Turkey, its largest natural gas customer, much like Russia's Nord Stream pipeline connects Russia to Germany, its second-largest customer. Moreover, Turkey is likely to receive a 6 percent discount on its current natural gas supplies as part of the construction deal. With Turkey connected directly to Russia, natural gas supplies will not rely on politically prickly transit states such as Ukraine. Turkey currently receives approximately half of its natural gas supplies from routes going to Europe.

However, the Russo-Turkish pipeline would introduce yet another transit state into Russia's export routes to Europe. The point of South Stream was to directly supply southeastern Europe with Russian natural gas, bypassing Ukraine. Under the new plan, energy supplies would still bypass Ukraine, but would now be contingent on Turkey transiting the supplies. Russia does not hold the influence over Turkey that it has held in Ukraine, meaning that Moscow will be less able to politicize natural gas supplies going to the Continent.

Yet adding a natural gas supply route through Turkey would give Moscow more flexibility in supplying Europe. Russia already has pipelines running to Europe through Belarus, Ukraine and Germany. Adding another major route through Turkey would give Russia a greater ability to shift supplies from one route to another, targeting specific European countries for cutoffs depending on how Moscow wants to shape the political climate.

The proposed Turkish energy connection also adds complexity to other energy projects involving Turkey. The Trans-Anatolian Pipeline has been proposed to move Turkmen natural gas across the Caucasus to Turkey and Europe. Turkey is already moving forward with a similar connection, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will carry Azerbaijani natural gas. Discussions have gone on for a long time about the possibility of natural gas giant Turkmenistan supplying these routes via the proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline. Just as the South Stream project competed with these plans, so will the proposed pipeline to Turkey. Ankara will continue to try to balance Moscow with alternative suppliers such as Azerbaijan. However, with natural gas coming straight from Russia, the incentive to continue wooing Turkmenistan for supplies could be reduced.

All of this said, Russia's announcement that it is abandoning South Stream was contingent on the current political tension between Moscow and the European Union. Russia could revisit its plans for South Stream should this relationship change. For now, the abandonment of South Stream looks like a major setback for Russia's energy strategy in Europe, but Russia could simply be playing the similar projects off each other to shape its overall energy and political discussions in the region.

Read more: Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics | Stratfor
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69  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia refocuses on Middle East on: December 11, 2014, 07:13:53 PM
 Russia Refocuses on the Middle East
Geopolitical Diary
December 11, 2014 | 02:49 GMT Text Size Print

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has maintained an active travel schedule in the Middle East recently. Bogdanov, a career Russian diplomat with decades of experience in the Middle East, coordinates closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and is considered a serious behind-the-scenes player in terms of Russia's diplomatic efforts in the region. (Putin named him as his special envoy to the Middle East on Nov. 1.) This is why we took note of Wednesday's announcement by the Russians that they are ready to host a meeting between the United States and Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government in Moscow if both sides request it, although serious impediments to such a scenario remain.

The announcement comes on the heels of high-level Russian moves in Turkey and Iran. Moscow's announced plans to abandon the South Stream natural gas project in favor of a pipeline running directly though Turkey, along with Russia's involvement in the P-5+1 nuclear talks with Tehran in recent weeks, reflect a resurgence of Russian diplomatic activity in the Middle East.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Russia's complicated relationship with Iran limits the role Moscow can play in Iranian diplomatic efforts — a reality reinforced by Tehran's announcement on Wednesday that it would not be entering an oil bartering deal with Moscow, despite a recent flurry of Russian media reports claiming that such a deal is imminent.

Moscow understands the limits of reaching a lasting strategic accord with Iran, but Russia's primary goals in its Middle East strategy are not necessarily better bilateral relations with individual states such as Iran, Egypt or Syria. Rather, Russian activities in the Middle East are meant to augment its global strategies, especially with regard to directing U.S. attention away from areas that the Kremlin considers threatened by Washington's actions, such as Ukraine. Russia has been successful in its Middle East activities, most notably in negotiating a chemical weapons destruction plan that deterred direct U.S. military strikes against Syria in 2013.

Russia also aims to limit U.S. opportunities for building more stable relationships in the Middle East. Moscow has been successful in this regard, as illustrated most recently by Turkey and Russia's plans to transit natural gas to Europe, circumventing Ukraine, and in a more limited sense with Moscow's relationship with Tehran. A meeting between the United States and al Assad also risks alienating the United States from regional allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which strongly oppose any policy that could result in the al Assad government staying in place as part of a negotiated settlement.

Over the past month traveling across the Middle East, Bogdanov has hosted representatives from Syria in Moscow and met with the Qataris in Bahrain. Amid mounting domestic economic difficulties and ongoing tensions with the West over Ukraine, Moscow is reverting to what has become a familiar and successful tactic in recent years.

Russia's intentions in the Middle East are hardly altruistic. If Russia wants to mediate for the motley crew of combatants and foreign nations playing supporting roles in the Syrian conflict, the primary goal is unlikely to be peace. However, by refusing to be sidelined in global discussions and by continuing to draw U.S. attention and effort into the traditional quagmire of Middle Eastern conflict, Russia hopes to better secure its own interests in its strategic periphery. Moscow has faced a strong challenge to its position in Ukraine, and its energy-dependent economy will struggle to adjust to the current downtown in global oil prices. Russia is far from down for the count, however, and recent diplomatic moves in the Middle East show that Moscow is still a formidable geopolitical player.

Read more: Russia Refocuses on the Middle East | Stratfor
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70  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Keystone Pipeline Facts on: December 11, 2014, 07:05:37 PM
This struck me as well-balanced and fair.
71  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor in 2009: Torture and the US Intel failure on: December 11, 2014, 05:27:53 PM
Second post:

 Torture and the U.S. Intelligence Failure
Geopolitical Weekly
April 20, 2009 | 17:47 GMT Print Text Size
Dissecting the Chinese Miracle

By George Friedman

The Obama administration published a series of memoranda on torture issued under the Bush administration. The memoranda, most of which dated from the period after 9/11, authorized measures including depriving prisoners of solid food, having them stand shackled and in uncomfortable positions, leaving them in cold cells with inadequate clothing, slapping their heads and/or abdomens, and telling them that their families might be harmed if they didn't cooperate with their interrogators.

On the scale of human cruelty, these actions do not rise anywhere near the top. At the same time, anyone who thinks that being placed without food in a freezing cell subject to random mild beatings — all while being told that your family might be joining you — isn't agonizing clearly lacks imagination. The treatment of detainees could have been worse. It was terrible nonetheless.
Torture and the Intelligence Gap

But torture is meant to be terrible, and we must judge the torturer in the context of his own desperation. In the wake of 9/11, anyone who wasn't terrified was not in touch with reality. We know several people who now are quite blasé about 9/11. Unfortunately for them, we knew them in the months after, and they were not nearly as composed then as they are now.

Sept. 11 was terrifying for one main reason: We had little idea about al Qaeda's capabilities. It was a very reasonable assumption that other al Qaeda cells were operating in the United States and that any day might bring follow-on attacks. (Especially given the group's reputation for one-two attacks.) We still remember our first flight after 9/11, looking at our fellow passengers, planning what we would do if one of them moved. Every time a passenger visited the lavatory, one could see the tensions soar.

And while Sept. 11 was frightening enough, there were ample fears that al Qaeda had secured a "suitcase bomb" and that a nuclear attack on a major U.S. city could come at any moment. For individuals, such an attack was simply another possibility. We remember staying at a hotel in Washington close to the White House and realizing that we were at ground zero — and imagining what the next moment might be like. For the government, however, the problem was having scraps of intelligence indicating that al Qaeda might have a nuclear weapon, but not having any way of telling whether those scraps had any value. The president and vice president accordingly were continually kept at different locations, and not for any frivolous reason.

This lack of intelligence led directly to the most extreme fears, which in turn led to extreme measures. Washington simply did not know very much about al Qaeda and its capabilities and intentions in the United States. A lack of knowledge forces people to think of worst-case scenarios. In the absence of intelligence to the contrary after 9/11, the only reasonable assumption was that al Qaeda was planning more — and perhaps worse — attacks.

Collecting intelligence rapidly became the highest national priority. Given the genuine and reasonable fears, no action in pursuit of intelligence was out of the question, so long as it promised quick answers. This led to the authorization of torture, among other things. Torture offered a rapid means to accumulate intelligence, or at least — given the time lag on other means — it was something that had to be tried.
Torture and the Moral Question

And this raises the moral question. The United States is a moral project: its Declaration of Independence and Constitution state that. The president takes an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. The Constitution does not speak to the question of torture of non-citizens, but it implies an abhorrence of rights violations (at least for citizens). But the Declaration of Independence contains the phrase, "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." This indicates that world opinion matters.

At the same time, the president is sworn to protect the Constitution. In practical terms, this means protecting the physical security of the United States "against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Protecting the principles of the declaration and the Constitution are meaningless without regime preservation and defending the nation.

While this all makes for an interesting seminar in political philosophy, presidents — and others who have taken the same oath — do not have the luxury of the contemplative life. They must act on their oaths, and inaction is an action. Former U.S. President George W. Bush knew that he did not know the threat, and that in order to carry out his oath, he needed very rapidly to find out the threat. He could not know that torture would work, but he clearly did not feel that he had the right to avoid it.

Consider this example. Assume you knew that a certain individual knew the location of a nuclear device planted in an American city. The device would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, but the individual refused to divulge the information. Would anyone who had sworn the oath have the right not to torture the individual? Torture might or might not work, but either way, would it be moral to protect the individual's rights while allowing hundreds of thousands to die? It would seem that in this case, torture is a moral imperative; the rights of the one with the information cannot transcend the life of a city.
Torture in the Real World

But here is the problem: You would not find yourself in this situation. Knowing a bomb had been planted, knowing who knew that the bomb had been planted, and needing only to apply torture to extract this information is not how the real world works. Post-9/11, the United States knew much less about the extent of the threat from al Qaeda. This hypothetical sort of torture was not the issue.

Discrete information was not needed, but situational awareness. The United States did not know what it needed to know, it did not know who was of value and who wasn't, and it did not know how much time it had. Torture thus was not a precise solution to a specific problem: It became an intelligence-gathering technique. The nature of the problem the United States faced forced it into indiscriminate intelligence gathering. When you don't know what you need to know, you cast a wide net. And when torture is included in the mix, it is cast wide as well. In such a case, you know you will be following many false leads — and when you carry torture with you, you will be torturing people with little to tell you. Moreover, torture applied by anyone other than well-trained, experienced personnel (who are in exceptionally short supply) will only compound these problems, and make the practice less productive.

Defenders of torture frequently seem to believe that the person in custody is known to have valuable information, and that this information must be forced out of him. His possession of the information is proof of his guilt. The problem is that unless you have excellent intelligence to begin with, you will become engaged in developing baseline intelligence, and the person you are torturing may well know nothing at all. Torture thus becomes not only a waste of time and a violation of decency, it actually undermines good intelligence. After a while, scooping up suspects in a dragnet and trying to extract intelligence becomes a substitute for competent intelligence techniques — and can potentially blind the intelligence service. This is especially true as people will tell you what they think you want to hear to make torture stop.

Critics of torture, on the other hand, seem to assume the torture was brutality for the sake of brutality instead of a desperate attempt to get some clarity on what might well have been a catastrophic outcome. The critics also cannot know the extent to which the use of torture actually prevented follow-on attacks. They assume that to the extent that torture was useful, it was not essential; that there were other ways to find out what was needed. In the long run, they might have been correct. But neither they, nor anyone else, had the right to assume in late 2001 that there was a long run. One of the things that wasn't known was how much time there was.
The U.S. Intelligence Failure

The endless argument over torture, the posturing of both critics and defenders, misses the crucial point. The United States turned to torture because it has experienced a massive intelligence failure reaching back a decade. The U.S. intelligence community simply failed to gather sufficient information on al Qaeda's intentions, capability, organization and personnel. The use of torture was not part of a competent intelligence effort, but a response to a massive intelligence failure.

That failure was rooted in a range of miscalculations over time. There was the public belief that the end of the Cold War meant the United States didn't need a major intelligence effort, a point made by the late Sen. Daniel Moynihan. There were the intelligence people who regarded Afghanistan as old news. There was the Torricelli amendment that made recruiting people with ties to terrorist groups illegal without special approval. There were the Middle East experts who could not understand that al Qaeda was fundamentally different from anything seen before. The list of the guilty is endless, and ultimately includes the American people, who always seem to believe that the view of the world as a dangerous place is something made up by contractors and bureaucrats.

Bush was handed an impossible situation on Sept. 11, after just nine months in office. The country demanded protection, and given the intelligence shambles he inherited, he reacted about as well or badly as anyone else might have in the situation. He used the tools he had, and hoped they were good enough.

The problem with torture — as with other exceptional measures — is that it is useful, at best, in extraordinary situations. The problem with all such techniques in the hands of bureaucracies is that the extraordinary in due course becomes the routine, and torture as a desperate stopgap measure becomes a routine part of the intelligence interrogator's tool kit.

At a certain point, the emergency was over. U.S. intelligence had focused itself and had developed an increasingly coherent picture of al Qaeda, with the aid of allied Muslim intelligence agencies, and was able to start taking a toll on al Qaeda. The war had become routinized, and extraordinary measures were no longer essential. But the routinization of the extraordinary is the built-in danger of bureaucracy, and what began as a response to unprecedented dangers became part of the process. Bush had an opportunity to move beyond the emergency. He didn't.

If you know that an individual is loaded with information, torture can be a useful tool. But if you have so much intelligence that you already know enough to identify the individual is loaded with information, then you have come pretty close to winning the intelligence war. That's not when you use torture. That's when you simply point out to the prisoner that, "for you the war is over." You lay out all you already know and how much you know about him. That is as demoralizing as freezing in a cell — and helps your interrogators keep their balance.

U.S. President Barack Obama has handled this issue in the style to which we have become accustomed, and which is as practical a solution as possible. He has published the memos authorizing torture to make this entirely a Bush administration problem while refusing to prosecute anyone associated with torture, keeping the issue from becoming overly divisive. Good politics perhaps, but not something that deals with the fundamental question.

The fundamental question remains unanswered, and may remain unanswered. When a president takes an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," what are the limits on his obligation? We take the oath for granted. But it should be considered carefully by anyone entering this debate, particularly for presidents.

Read more: Torture and the U.S. Intelligence Failure | Stratfor
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72  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Why Torture is Counterproductive on: December 11, 2014, 05:25:23 PM

 Why Torture Is Counterproductive
December 10, 2014 | 02:13 GMT Print Text Size
Torture is Counterproductive
Military police process incoming Taliban and al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray in Cuba in 2002. (Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government had very little intelligence on al Qaeda's plans and capabilities. There was a tremendous amount of fear that the strikes were only the first of many large-scale attacks to come, and reports even circulated that the group had nuclear weapons planted in U.S. cities. The public as well as government officials were in shock and caught off guard. In hindsight, it is easy to understand how extreme fear of the unknown compelled some elements of the intelligence community to embrace the idea that harsh interrogation measures were required to understand the urgent and nebulous threat the nation was facing.

Indeed, the sense of fear and panic was significant enough to cause personnel in some agencies to override the moral objections associated with extreme interrogation tactics, which is also to ignore the widely regarded fact that torture does not produce reliable intelligence. Yet, the Senate report released Dec. 9 makes it clear that, from a purely pragmatic point of view, the results of the United States' enhanced interrogation program were negligible, and as the final analysis shows, the morally objectionable means of this program were not justified by its paltry results.

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report highlights and describes certain techniques in great detail — including the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, slapping, shaking, water boarding and induced hypothermia — but does not reveal any techniques that were not already publicly known. The CIA began implementing these techniques, deemed torture by opponents and enhanced or harsh interrogation techniques by supporters, in 2002. The aim was to improve the chances of acquiring time-sensitive information from high value-targets that would be critical to national security. The thinking of the time was to employ more robust methods to uncover impending catastrophic attacks against U.S. citizens, the "ticking time bomb scenario" as it is commonly referred to.

In 2004, the revelations of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq at the hands of U.S. military personnel garnered widespread coverage by domestic and international media. Images of military police harassing and violating prisoners were circulated, sparking significant controversy over whether the U.S. government employed torture against its enemy combatants, a stark violation of human rights for many as well as an infringement of the Geneva Conventions. Though the media focused on the actions of the military police, rather than interrogators, the revelations quickly led to further inquiries and deep scrutiny over the interrogation practices conducted at the prison and across the intelligence community.
Conversation: Putting the CIA Interrogation Report Into Context

The scandal led the Defense Department to quickly tighten its policies on interrogations, while each military branch emphatically trained its personnel on operating in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. However, the CIA continued to use enhanced interrogation techniques, though only for a short period and on relatively few combatants. In January 2009, President Barrack Obama signed an executive order that restricted all U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct interrogations strictly in accordance with the methods described in the U.S. Army Field Manual 2-22.3, a publication that is readily available to the public.

Whether the enhanced interrogation techniques implemented by the CIA equate to torture still remains a hotly contested issue in the United States. It is true that all the methods detailed in the report are intended to inflict substantial emotional or physical pain on detainees. Aside from the serious ethical concerns surrounding the techniques detailed in the Senate report, the use of torture or any technique designed to inflict some measure of pain or duress upon a detainee makes for a poor, if not counterproductive, strategy in gaining actionable intelligence. The reasons for this include the inherent nature of the interrogation process as well as the inadvertent psychological consequences of torture or harsh techniques on the detainee.
Defining Interrogation

The sole objective of an intelligence-driven interrogation is to acquire actionable information through direct questioning or elicitation of a detainee. In this sense, actionable intelligence is any piece of information, by itself or as a factor in analysis, that military commanders or policymakers can use in making decisions. If an interrogator fails to obtain such information, the sole objective was not achieved, and the process was a failure. Likewise, if the intent of an interrogation was not to gain actionable intelligence, the interrogation becomes something entirely different.

Despite dramatic Hollywood portrayals of the intelligence-gathering process, interrogating a detainee is actually a very simple process. It can be looked at as an interview, though a major difference between an interrogation and an interview is that many subjects are unwilling to provide answers to pertinent questions at first. As a result, the first step in an interrogation is convincing the subject to cooperate. It is this critical phase, which the U.S. Army Field Manual 2-22.3 refers to as an "approach," that often receives the most attention from the public and, sometimes, even from the interrogator.

Setting aside legal and moral considerations, there is a wide variety of conflicting approaches that can be used to encourage a detainee to provide actionable intelligence. It should be noted that not all approaches are necessarily designed to evoke negative feelings in a detainee. In fact, the Field Manual 2-22.3 details several methods designed to do the opposite. The U.S. intelligence community mostly relies on approaches that generate positive feelings within the detainee, such as "emotional love" and "pride and ego up," in addition to incentive-based approaches. Outside of inflicting emotional or physical harm on a detainee, all approaches are simply conversations guided by the interrogator that would lead the detainee to willingly provide information of intelligence value. A prime example of an incentive-based approach convincing a detainee to talk is when the Detroit underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, cooperated with U.S. authorities after they brought in two of his family members from Nigeria.

These conversations can take time for an interrogator, however, and often span multiple sessions that are carried out over the course of days, weeks or even years. While the time devoted to garner actionable intelligence can be substantial, the interrogator's chance of successfully completing the objective is slim. The vast majority of detainees who are initially uncooperative will remain so, or at least never become cooperative in full. The necessary time to run approaches and the slim odds of success are critical barriers in an interrogation that seeks to discover imminent attacks against U.S. citizens. It is because of these obstacles — that is, to save time and force cooperation — that interrogators sought to employ enhanced interrogation techniques.
The Limits of Enhanced Interrogations

As a potential source of intelligence, interrogations are one of the least reliable and least timely methods employed by the various intelligence disciplines. While inflicting emotional or physical pain on a subject as an interrogation approach will likely elicit a quick response, those responses are not necessarily truthful or accurate, and thus the interrogation can still be a failure.

Whether looking for information on potential attacks or other, less perishable intelligence, an interrogator can gather actionable intelligence only if the subject is telling the truth and answers the questions to the best of his ability. Even if the subject is cooperating, the information he shares is not always accurate. By virtue of placing the detainee under extreme stress, torture can make it difficult for the detainee to accurately recall information from memory. Detainees may misremember details and will often fabricate information they think will end the interrogation.

All information of intelligence value, particularly any information about an impending attack, is time sensitive. For the vast majority of interrogations, the information acquired can only be as recent as the date when the subject was detained, and it begins losing value immediately. A detainee who has been in detention for years will not have intelligence on a pending attack — even information that is a few days old could very well be useless. The capture of an insurgent or terrorist leader could place any attack plans on hold, or the remaining leaders could redraw them, thus making the detainee's knowledge outdated and less valuable. For this reason, when compared to the numerous other means by which the intelligence community collects intelligence, an interrogation makes a poor source of intelligence when attempting to thwart attacks.

To understand why torture provides little benefit over approaches permissible under Field Manual 2-22.3, it is important to consider the perspective of the interrogator and the detainee.
The Process

Before entering the booth with a detainee, every interrogator is armed with a dossier on his subject and a list of collection requirements — broad, open-ended questions on an array of subjects that policymakers, military commanders or others in the intelligence community may have. Background information about the detainee can range from a complete lack of knowledge to an enormous collection of various intelligence reports that collectively proves the detainee's role within an enemy organization as well as the likely topics on which the detainee will have information. Regardless how much information an intelligence agency has on a detainee, there is always a high degree of uncertainty as to what the detainee actually knows.

Many detainees choose not to cooperate at first. They employ interrogation-resistance strategies of some fashion to avoid divulging pertinent information. These methods vary and are taught and shared by militants inside and out of detention facilities. Even before meeting their interrogator for the first time, most detainees are aware of what information they need to safeguard, often having an expectation of what questions they will be asked during the interrogation.

Sometimes it is obvious when a detainee chooses to remain uncooperative; the detainee may remain completely silent, respond to questions with inappropriate answers or attempt to take charge of the conversation. Even when they appear to be cooperating, the interrogator can never be entirely confident the detainee is responding to questions to the best of his ability or, more important, accurately sharing his information. Fortunately, interrogators are trained in numerous tactics to assess the truthfulness of a detainee's stories, but even when skillfully employed, such techniques do not provide guarantees, nor do they help build cooperation.

There are many reasons for a detainee to resist direct questioning. Whether such reasons are ideological in nature or based on fear of reprisals, a detainee must actively make the decision to provide his interrogator with accurate information. Without the desire, the detainee simply will not respond, regardless of any interrogation approach. Many advocates of enhanced interrogation techniques believe the detainee will choose to provide accurate information to stop the pain.
Establishing Rapport

In order to help an approach, an interrogator must build rapport with the subject. They must develop a relationship where credibility exists in both the interrogator and the detainee. It is only after doing this that an interrogator can accurately assess the truthfulness of a detainee's responses. Rapport helps the interrogator establish a baseline for the detainee and understand his typical behavior and mannerisms, developed through conversations discussing pertinent and non-pertinent matters. Likewise, building rapport helps bolster the credibility of the interrogator. It is particularly helpful when using incentive-based approaches and makes the interrogator's other planned approaches more effective. Using harsh techniques or torture complicates the rapport-building process, making it harder for an interrogator to discern between lies and truth.

Building rapport does not always mean the detainee will develop positive feelings toward the interrogator, and even some approved approaches require developing an uncordial relationship. However, placing the detainee under the stress of extreme emotional or physical pain will halt any relationship building as the detainee focuses on his pain. Because an interrogator is never quite certain of what a detainee knows, the detainee under duress or pain may be subjected to questions he may truthfully not know the answers to. In this situation, a detainee will be pushed to say anything necessary to stop the pain, including lies.

Even if the detainee actually has an answer that would satisfy his interrogator, he can still use resistance techniques. Resisting subjects often provide a detailed response that barely answers a given question. They also provide harmless nuggets of truth in hopes of persuading the interrogators of their full cooperation. Again, having prior intelligence on the detainee and building rapport is crucial to spotting these resistance techniques.

Not all inaccurate information provided by the detainee is necessarily a result of his being uncooperative. When being questioned under duress or pain, a detainee may simply lie to make up for a lack of knowledge. More common, however, is that all people have varying abilities to accurately recollect events, descriptions and conversations. Interrogators, particularly those tasked with gathering information on pending attacks, must strive to obtain the smallest details from the detainee. This can significantly challenge any person's memory, especially someone under extreme stress. Details of a story may become more difficult to remember, and if under extreme stress, the detainee may fabricate a critical detail, even when largely telling the truth, in order to satisfy the interrogator. 

While the need to uncover imminent terrorist attacks in the chaos directly after 9/11 was clear, several years of results have made it obvious that using enhanced interrogation techniques is not reliable. Other interrogation approaches, specifically those still permitted by FM 2-22.3, in concert with building a rapport with a detainee, yield far more reliable results. Additionally, using other intelligence-gathering methods under the human intelligence discipline, or methods from other disciplines such as signals intelligence, have proved more productive. The Senate Intelligence Committee's report only confirms this fact, acknowledging what the intelligence community already knows.

Read more: Why Torture Is Counterproductive | Stratfor
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73  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sphere of the States, sphere of the Feds on: December 11, 2014, 04:20:06 PM
"[T]he States can best govern our home concerns and the general government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore ... never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold at market." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge William Johnson, 1823
74  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Education on: December 11, 2014, 02:48:44 PM
Well, from the age of 15 to about the age of 38 every single one of my dreams had a policeman in it somewhere , , ,
75  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Police profiling on basis of race on: December 11, 2014, 02:47:36 PM
76  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: December 11, 2014, 02:05:17 PM
Ummm , , , wouldn't this be legit with regard to events in countries other than Libya?
77  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Moses parts the Red Sea on: December 10, 2014, 10:57:41 PM

How Did Moses Part the Red Sea?
The science of tides may have saved the Israelites from the Egyptians
Moses had lived nearby and knew where caravans crossed the Red Sea at low tide. Pictured, a scene from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’
By Bruce Parker
Dec. 5, 2014 9:37 a.m. ET

Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which opens in movie theaters across the country Dec. 12, will include, of course, the most famous of all biblical miracles: the parting of the Red Sea. But its depiction will look quite different from the one in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 classic “The Ten Commandments.” In the earlier movie, Charlton Heston as Moses parted the sea into two huge walls of water, between which the children of Israel crossed on a temporarily dry seabed to the opposite shore. Pharaoh’s army of chariots chased after them only to be drowned when Moses signaled for the waters to return.

Mr. Scott has said that his new version of the story will have a more realistic and natural explanation of what happened and won’t rely on Moses to bring forth God’s miraculous intervention. He has decided to have the waters “part” as the result of a tsunami caused by an earthquake. Before a tsunami strikes, coastal waters often recede, leaving the seabed dry before the giant wave arrives.

But there are problems with this version of the story, too. The period during which coastal waters draw back before a tsunami usually lasts only 10 or 20 minutes, too little time to get all the children of Israel across the temporarily dry seabed. Also, there would have been no way for Moses to know that the earthquake and tsunami were going to happen, unless God told him. That’s fine, but then the story would retain some element of the miraculous.

There is a much better natural explanation for how a temporary path across the Red Sea could have been revealed. It involves the tide, a natural phenomenon that would have fit nicely into a well-thought-out plan by Moses, because Moses would have been able to predict when it would happen.

In certain places in the world, the tide can leave the sea bottom dry for hours and then come roaring back. In fact, in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte and a small group of soldiers on horseback were crossing the Gulf of Suez, the northern end of the Red Sea, roughly where Moses and the Israelites are said to have crossed. On a mile-long expanse of dry sea bottom exposed at low water, the tide suddenly rushed in, almost drowning them.

In the biblical account, the children of Israel were camped on the western shore of the Gulf of Suez when the dust clouds raised by Pharaoh’s chariots were seen in the distance. The Israelites were now trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. The dust clouds, however, were probably an important sign for Moses; they would have let him calculate how soon Pharaoh’s army would arrive at the coast.

Moses had lived in the nearby wilderness in his early years, and he knew where caravans crossed the Red Sea at low tide. He knew the night sky and the ancient methods of predicting the tide, based on where the moon was overhead and how full it was. Pharaoh and his advisers, by contrast, lived along the Nile River, which is connected to the almost tideless Mediterranean Sea. They probably had little knowledge of the tides of the Red Sea and how dangerous they could be.

Knowing when low tide would occur, how long the sea bottom would remain dry and when the waters would rush back in, Moses could plan the Israelites’ escape. Choosing a full moon for their flight would have given them a larger tidal range—that is, the low tide would have been much lower and the sea bottom would have stayed dry longer, giving the Israelites more time to cross. The high tide also would have been higher and thus better for submerging Pharaoh’s pursuing army.
In ‘The Ten Commandments,’ Charlton Heston as Moses parted the sea into two huge walls of water, between which the children of Israel crossed on a temporarily dry seabed to the opposite shore. ENLARGE
In ‘The Ten Commandments,’ Charlton Heston as Moses parted the sea into two huge walls of water, between which the children of Israel crossed on a temporarily dry seabed to the opposite shore. Everett Collection

Timing would have been crucial. The last of the Israelites had to cross the dry sea bottom just before the tide returned, enticing Pharaoh’s army of chariots onto the exposed sea bottom, where they would drown as the returning tidal waters overwhelmed them. If the chariots were expected to arrive before the tide came back in, Moses might have planned some type of delaying tactic. If the chariots were expected to arrive after the tide came back in, he could have gotten the Israelites across and then, at the next low tide, sent a few of his best people back onto the temporarily dry sea bed to entice Pharaoh’s chariots to chase them.

The Bible mentions a strong east wind that blew all night and pushed back the waters. Ocean physics tells us that wind blowing over a shallow waterway pushes back more water than a wind blowing over a deep waterway. If a wind did by chance fortuitously blow before the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, it would have had more effect at low tide than at any other time, uncovering even more sea bottom.

Such a wind would surely have been assigned to divine intervention, and over the centuries, as the story of the Exodus was retold, that aspect would have overshadowed Moses’ careful planning to take advantage of the low tide. But Moses couldn’t have predicted the suddenly beneficial wind, so he couldn’t have based his plan on it. His timing had to be based on a tide prediction.

When Napoleon and his forces almost drowned in 1798 at the northern end of the Gulf of Suez, the water typically rose 5 or 6 feet at high tide (and up to 9 or 10 feet with the wind blowing in the right direction). But there is evidence that the sea level was higher in Moses’ time. As a result, the Gulf of Suez would have extended farther north and had a larger tidal range. If that was indeed the case, the real story of the Israelites’ crossing wouldn’t have needed much exaggeration to include walls of water crashing down on the pursuing Egyptians.

One more piece of evidence is worth citing. As it turns out, my suggestion that Moses could have planned to cross the Red Sea at low tide isn’t entirely new. The ancient author Eusebius of Caesarea (263–339 A.D.) cites two versions of the story of the crossing of the Red Sea as related by the Hellenistic historian Artapanus (80–40 B.C.). One version, told by the people of Heliopolis, is similar to the account in the Bible. But in the second version, told by the people of Memphis, “Moses, being acquainted with the country, waited for the ebb and took the people across the sea when dry.”

If the tide was indeed involved in Moses’ “parting” of the Red Sea, it has to qualify as the most dramatic and consequential tide prediction in history.

—Dr. Parker is the former chief scientist of NOAA’s National Ocean Service and is currently a visiting professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology. He is the author of “The Power of the Sea: Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters.”
78  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Power of the Purse on: December 10, 2014, 10:14:04 PM

The Power of the Purse
The ‘omnibus’ bill is no way to govern, but it offers hope for 2015.
Dec. 10, 2014 8:16 p.m. ET

The 113th Congress is sprinting to a finish, and few besides Harry Reid will lament its passing. In its final budget splurge, however, Congress is at least showing hints of better governance and how a Republican majority might effectively use the power of the purse next year.

House and Senate appropriators late Tuesday unveiled a $1.01 trillion bill to fund the federal government through September. Its 1,600 pages contain thousands of spending and policy changes that deserve more time to assess. Yet the House plans to vote Thursday.

Blame for this rush job is bipartisan, starting with Mr. Reid, who six years ago shut down regular appropriations to shield Democrats and the White House from having to make spending choices. Government has lurched from one short-term funding bill to the next, and an important measure of the new GOP majority will be if it returns to regular budget order.

We’ll also be watching Speaker John Boehner to see if he honors his promises to give the House and the public 72 hours to review legislation. The Dec. 11 deadline for government funding has been known for months, yet Mr. Boehner is now presenting his Members with a choice of passing his bill or shutting down the government. He owes voters better.

This Gargantua is nonetheless giving Republicans a chance to press some of their priorities. The bill funds 11 of 12 parts of the government through September and generally stays within the spending caps laid out in last year’s budget agreement—providing $521 billion to defense and $429 billion for domestic discretionary programs. It funds the Department of Homeland Security only through February, when Republicans will tee up a debate over President Obama’s immigration decree.

Some on the right are calling the caps a sham, and that’s partly true, since the bill adds $64 billion to fight Islamic State and $5.4 billion for Ebola that are outside the caps. Then again, the war has to be funded and defeating Ebola should be a priority.

More encouraging is that Republicans are showing how they can use Congress’s spending power to steer policy. Most of government has been on autopilot since 2010. This week’s bill starts to set new spending priorities.

The bill cuts nearly $350 million from an Internal Revenue Service that targeted conservative nonprofits and is acting as tax collector for ObamaCare. It slices $60 million from the imperial Environmental Protection Agency, whose budget is 21% below 2010 levels and will soon have as many employees as it did in 1989. The bill even does the unheard of and eliminates funding for programs, including Mr. Obama’s Race to the Top initiative that has stopped pushing useful education reform.

There are also useful policy riders, notably on regulation. Republicans began to reform the Dodd-Frank financial law by amending a rule that threatened to raise costs on Main Street businesses. They are also banning the Fish and Wildlife Service from placing the sage grouse on the Endangered Species list, ending the threat of a government land grab in 11 states. They are sparing farmers from an EPA plan to apply the Clean Water Act to small ponds and irrigation ditches, and truckers from new rules that slash their work weeks.

School districts will soon have more flexibility in implementing Michelle Obama’s proscriptive school-lunch menus. Failing multi-employer pension plans will be able to reduce benefits to reduce the chances that the plans are dumped on taxpayers.

And Republicans are helping taxpayers and the cause of free speech by raising the contribution limits to political parties. The higher limit, which will increase by 10 times to $324,000, is designed to allow the parties to fund their conventions with private dollars, since Republicans have eliminated taxpayer funds for those political shindigs.

Republicans were forced to concede on some of their highest priorities, such as the Keystone XL pipeline and substantive changes to ObamaCare, and they also gave in to Democratic spending increases for financial regulators, college loans, mass transit and federal employees, among other things. But Democrats still control the Senate, and Mr. Obama has the veto pen.

The omnibus nonetheless shows that Republicans can use the power of the purse if they pick the right fights and don’t insist on strategy of their-way-or-a-shutdown. Some breathless Beltway conservatives don’t seem to understand the difference.

Democrats like Henry Waxman used their majorities to build the entitlement and administrative state in increments year after year even with Republicans in the White House. Their method was to press small but notable liberal initiatives on so many fronts that the President’s men couldn’t stop them all. If the GOP brings along some Democrats in Congress, Mr. Obama find it even harder to veto. The mistake is portraying anything less than total victory as surrender.

The omnibus bill has plenty of barnacles, and its rush-to-a-vote is a disgrace, but Republicans are using it to make more policy progress than they have in four years. Next year they can make even more, if they understand that their spending power is formidable but not unlimited.
79  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / White SC LEO fired and charged for shooting unarmed black man on: December 10, 2014, 12:37:46 AM
80  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Larry Elder on "The Black Man is under attack" on: December 10, 2014, 12:35:33 AM
81  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the left on: December 09, 2014, 07:37:38 PM
I like that.
82  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Citizen demands ID of cop, threatens to issue citation on: December 09, 2014, 07:02:43 PM
83  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / At the other end of the spectrum, there's this: on: December 09, 2014, 01:26:05 PM 
84  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cong. Trey Gowdy anally rapes Prof. Gruber on: December 09, 2014, 01:21:21 PM

I'd say the Joint Committee that will be investigating Benghazi is in good hands  grin
85  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Meet the Mormons on: December 09, 2014, 12:21:01 PM
86  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / An interesting discussion of marriage and its criteria in Judaism on: December 09, 2014, 11:46:24 AM
87  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist 34, 1788: War and Peace on: December 09, 2014, 11:29:45 AM
"To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude that the fiery and destructive passions of war reign in the human breast with much more powerful sway than the mild and beneficent sentiments of peace; and that to model our political systems upon speculations of lasting tranquillity would be to calculate on the weaker springs of human character." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34, 1788
88  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / German protests against ISIS and AQ on: December 09, 2014, 10:40:12 AM
89  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Three articles on race, police, and the legal system on: December 08, 2014, 02:12:55 PM
90  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Washington's Farewell Address, 1796 on: December 08, 2014, 12:01:51 PM

"There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. 'Tis an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard." --George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
91  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: December 08, 2014, 11:52:09 AM
In response to this article   (previously posted around Oct. 12th), an Special Forces friend with personal experience writes:


As I reviewed the recommended article, many of Mr. Hall’s comments relate directly to what many U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have experienced in some form or factions. Since September 11, 2001, military and governmental organizations have shifted operations in effort of addressing the unique circumstances in regions such as Afghanistan and Iraqi. What are these unique circumstances that exist? Well, first the U.S. had to address the fundamental issue of sharing of information among it’s military and civilian organizations. Military branches such as Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines now acknowledged the extreme importance of sharing of information and operations. In military terms, this means nothing more than “deconfliction” among ALL military branches with the intent of successfully initiating joint operations. In addition, joint operations among military units does not necessarily solve the information sharing issues. Therefore, joint environments now included more civilian governmental organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGO) within the battle space.

As Mr. Hall explains, ground truth always paints the picture of reality. Although much of my time was spent detailing “ground truth”, I learned early on that things are much different within specific regions and cultures. From ideology, beliefs and discontent to the outside world, people have their own specific reasons for their actions. In many ways, it is as simple as “people have their own map of reality”. In regards to Iraqi and Afghanistan, people function based on tribes, culture and their own reality or view of the world. Hall discusses ethnic cleansing within his writings, however, many of rural tribal leaders in select areas solely function from enforcing their beliefs or customs amongst its members. Furthermore, in the case of Afghanistan, many of the extremely rural areas are still influenced by Taliban leaders or lower ranking members. Why is this an important issue to analysis? Well, it’s fairly simple. If U.S. forces conduct combat operations in select areas without a follow-on Civil Affairs campaign, the creditability and efforts of the U.S. may be damaged by virtue of combat operations, and not winning the hearts and minds of the local populace. Moreover, the Taliban influence increases due to US or coalition combat efforts.
War or military campaigns will never be considered a pretty or well-balanced operation that meets the approval of all political parties, nor will it ever meet the 100% approval rating for the civilian or military members. However, any campaign that has been waged, whether with United Nations (UN) or North AtlanticTreaty Organization (NATO) approval requires in-depth political, economic and financial risk analysis at the least. These styles of risk analysis are important by virtue of organizations such as the Islamic State of Syria’s (ISIS) ability to successfully fund it’s organization and continue it’s growth through political, economic and financial gain. Under the UN Charter, Article 51, members are authorized self-defense against any threat against a region. With regards to Iraqi, the sole purpose of the war was allegedly justified to remove Saddam Hussein and the alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In this case of the UN Charter, Article 51, President Bush framed the invasion as an act of self-defense. Hall mentions the arming of so called “moderate” rebels. Although this strategy may have been successful in past campaigns, today’s conflicts do not necessary arrange agreements with U.S. allies, nor does it guarantee allegiance by any coalition that is not part of the UN or European Union (EU). Additionally, Hall discusses strategies that outline borders for Syria and Iraqi. Although this strategy may produce a border that allows a State to operate as a solidified belligerent State, it does not address the long-term allegiance by any given State. As the U.S. and the international community moves forward, at what point may ISIS contend for belligerency status. Although ISIS is considered a terrorist organizations, belligerent status means rights or duties, therefore, this action would alter all interactions with this organization and cause a major shift in the Middle East. In contrast, ISIS’s ability for belligerency is really not a question; however, if the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) can claim belligerency status, what would prevent ISIS from claiming the same status?

Moving forward, the U.S. strategy for the war on terror has to shift to a “must win” campaign. ISIS has made critical threats against the U.S. and it’s allies; therefore, the U.S. must adapt it’s strategy to an advanced Unconventional Warfare (UW) campaign that incorporates unique non-traditional tactics against an unpredictable adversary. Traditional operations or reactive campaigns against an enemy that is well-advanced in their own technology, tactics and overall strategy, its not the way to eliminate an impeding threat to U.S. national security. 

92  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: US Tax Policy causing some overseas Americans to give up citizenship on: December 08, 2014, 09:27:16 AM
93  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bush appointee judge to hear EO case on: December 08, 2014, 09:10:10 AM
94  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the left on: December 08, 2014, 12:45:00 AM
The reification of John Edwards "two Americas"  cry
95  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China (& Japan, South China Sea-- Vietnam, Philippines, etc) on: December 08, 2014, 12:39:35 AM
"As recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese."

If I am not mistaken, that is since 1990, not 2000.

Regardless, the larger point remains.
 cry cry cry
96  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Letters of Marque on: December 08, 2014, 12:22:16 AM
97  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israeli jets hit Assad? on: December 07, 2014, 02:40:40 PM
'Israeli Jets' Pound sites near Damascus


Click here to watch: 'Israeli Jets' Pound sites near Damascus
Israeli fighter jets launched airstrikes on two military sites outside Damascus, Syrian state media and local activists reported Sunday. Israel made no official comment on the reports. Israeli media speculated that missiles intended by Syria for delivery to Hezbollah were targeted. The Israeli jets hit military sites at Damascus’s main airport and at the town of Dimas on a key road near the Syrian-Lebanese border, the reports stated. The alleged attack was reported by Syria’s official SANA news agency and by Shiite terror group Hezbollah’s official television station al-Manar, as well as the the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria. “The Israeli enemy attacked Syria by targeting two security areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and the area of Damascus International Airport,” said SANA, adding that no casualties were reported. SANA called the attack “an aggression against Syria.” Syrian TV and Hezbollah media outlets said the attack was intended by Israel to “help the terrorists” against whom the Assad regime is engaged in a bitter war. The Syrian armed forces’ general command said Sunday’s “flagrant attack” caused material damage, but did not provide any details.

Watch Here

“This aggression demonstrates Israel’s direct involvement in supporting terrorism in Syria along with well-known regional and Western countries to raise the morale of terrorist groups, mainly the Nusra Front,” the military said in a statement carried by SANA. There is no evidence Israel has provided any support to the Nusra Front, which is al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria. Israeli officials did not respond to the reports or make any comment on the alleged attack. Israel’s policy has been to prevent the transfer from Syria of long-range missiles to Hezbollah. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Dimas was a military position. The Observatory also said the strike near the Damascus airport hit a warehouse, although it was unclear what was in the building. Operations at the Damascus international airport are both civilian and military. According to the Observatory, around 10 explosions could be heard outside a military area near Dimas. It had no word on casualties in either strike. Israel has carried out several airstrikes in Syria since the revolt against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. Most of the strikes have targeted sophisticated weapons systems, including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles, believed to be destined for Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist group. Other strikes have been attributed to the IDF, though officials in Jerusalem have not confirmed them. Several videos uploaded to YouTube Sunday purported to show the alleged Israeli strikes. During a cabinet meeting earlier Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed that Israel was prepared to “deal” with ongoing “threats and challenges,” though he did not specify which threats he was referring to. “We are closely monitoring the Middle East and what is happening with open eyes and ears, and a lot is happening,” Netanyahu said. “We will stay informed and we will deal with these unremitting threats and challenges. We will deal with them with the same responsibility that we have up until now.” Netanyahu’s comment was interpreted in some quarters as a hint at the imminent alleged Israeli action.

Source: Times of Israel

98  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941 on: December 07, 2014, 02:03:13 PM

We meant to have a photo up on the front page, but the date snuck up on us.  embarassed
99  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A World Without Israel part one on: December 07, 2014, 10:15:07 AM
Haven't watched this yet but it seems promising.
100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The fiery underground oil pit eating LA on: December 07, 2014, 10:10:56 AM
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