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51  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 9/21/2014 Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack on: September 15, 2014, 05:10:30 PM
Woof All:

Due to a run of unfortunate circumstances, neither of our usual EMTs will be able to make it to the Gathering and at the moment we find ourselves in need of promptly recruiting someone.

Please email me at at your earliest convenience.

Thank you,
Crafty Dog

PS:  For some reason I cannot access FB.  Would someone please paste the above on DBMA FB?  Thank you very much.
52  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis responds on: September 15, 2014, 12:46:13 PM
Scott saw my previous post and brings this post of his to our attention:
53  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IRS goes after Breitbart on: September 15, 2014, 11:47:58 AM
54  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dems show allegiance to Mexico during parade on: September 15, 2014, 11:41:22 AM


Also see this:

Keeping Immigration Political

Another summer is over, and another Barack Obama pledge is broken. Remember when he vowed to address immigration reform by summer's end? Instead, the president announced last week that he will defer his action on deferred action for illegal immigrants until after the November election, hoping to stave off election losses for Democrat senators in difficult re-election fights. Since public perception on the issue is shifting in favor of the GOP, those desperate to hold the Senate prevailed on Obama to wait.

Of course, by playing to one side of the political arena, Obama has to soothe the bruised egos on the other side, the ones who believed he would follow through on their dream of allowing millions of undocumented Democrat voters across the border. So last week, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was dispatched to a meeting of members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to listen to their complaints and try and convince them whatever is up Obama's sleeve will be worth the wait, saying the president would “go as far as he could under existing law."

But at least one member was unconvinced. “I don’t want to go down this path come November and then for some other reason find that the immigrant community and the Latino community get thrown in the heap again,” grumbled Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

Signs abound that Obama is already placating the pro-amnesty side, though. For example, deportations continue to decline in part because the overwhelmed system cannot keep up with the demand of illegal immigrants for non-existent “permisos.” Out of an estimated 59,000 in the latest wave of border-crashers, just 319 have been returned to Central America, according to the Associated Press. There's no question word of this lax enforcement has spread to those countries.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department recently warned Yuma County, Arizona -- which has had a successful “get-tough” policy on illegals called Operation Streamline -- that it would no longer prosecute first-time border crossers. (Interestingly enough, Rep. Grijalva represents a portion of Yuma County, which is in the southwest corner of the state.) These actions further cement the pro-amnesty reputation Obama has earned thanks to his lack of action on securing the border.

Over the last half-century, multiple bipartisan attempts have been made to address the immigration issue, with the most radical being the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which eliminated quotas by nation in favor of the current family-based approach, and the Simpson-Mazzoli Act of 1986 that granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants who could prove they had been here and otherwise law-abiding since 1982. Those changes led to the current situation.

Earlier this summer, immigration looked like the biggest issue for November, but ISIL's entry into the Long War, Russian aggression and a stagnant economy also will have an impact.

Yet as we look forward to 2016, pushing back any executive action on amnesty beyond this year's midterms will obviously affect the presidential race, and a number of Democrats may be seeing this political football as one worth keeping around. It's another example of how our government works: Solving problems only means your reason for existence disappears, so the best course of action is to perpetuate your justification.
55  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Iran prepares for leadership transition on: September 15, 2014, 11:37:10 AM

Iran Prepares for a Leadership Transition
September 15, 2014 | 0436 Print Text Size

Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management of what has been described as a prostrate surgery suggests Tehran may be preparing the nation and the world for a transition to a third supreme leader. Iranian efforts to project an atmosphere of normalcy conceal concerns among players in the Iranian political system that a power vacuum will emerge just as the Islamic republic has reached a geopolitical crossroads.


Any transition comes at the most crucial time in the 35-year history of the Islamic Republic due to unprecedented domestic political shifts underway and, more importantly, due to international events.

Pragmatic conservative President Hassan Rouhani's election in June 2013 elections led to a social, political and economic reform program facing considerable resistance from within the hard-right factions within the clerical and security establishments. The biggest issue between the presidential camp and its opponents is the ongoing process of negotiations with the United States over the Iranian nuclear program.

Nuclear Talks and Syria

After an unprecedented breakthrough in November 2013 that saw an interim agreement, the negotiation process has hit a major snag, with a final agreement not reached by a July 20, 2014, deadline, though the deadline for negotiations was extended to Nov. 24, 2014. Some form of partial agreement had been expected, with talks kicking into high gear ahead of the opening session of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on Sept. 18.

A mood of pessimism in Tehran has since been reported, however, with senior Foreign Ministry officials prepping the media for the eventuality that the talks might fail. The risk of failure comes from the fact that Rouhani can only go so far in accepting caps on Iran's ability to pursue a civilian nuclear program before his hawkish opponents will gain the upper hand in Iran's domestic political struggle. Stratfor sources say Rouhani did not want to attend this year's General Assembly, but Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif reportedly convinced the president that his visit might help the negotiating process.

As if the negotiation itself was not enough of a problem for Rouhani, the U.S. move to support rebel forces in Syria that would fight both the Islamic State and Iran's ally, the Assad regime, is a major problem for Tehran. U.S. and Iranian interests overlapped with regard to the IS threat in Iraq. But in Syria, the United States must rely on anti-Iranian actors to fight IS and the Obama administration seeks to topple the Assad regime. Accordingly, less than a year after the two sides embarked upon a rapprochement, tensions seem to be returning.

A New Supreme Leader

On top of this stressor, uncertainties surrounding Khamenei's health have shifted Iran's priorities to the search for a new supreme leader. The unusual manner in which Tehran continues to telegraph Khamenei's hospitalization to show that all is well -- while at the same time psychologically preparing the country and the outside world for the inevitable change -- coupled with the (albeit unverified) 2010 release by WikiLeaks of a U.S. diplomatic cable reporting that the supreme leader was suffering from terminal cancer suggests the political establishment in Tehran is preparing for a succession. Khamenei himself would want to prepare a succession before he can no longer carry out his official responsibilities.

Before Khamenei was elected supreme leader in 1989, the idea of a collective clerical body was in vogue among many clerics. The country's second-most influential cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, on several occasions has proposed a "jurisprudential council" consisting of several top clerics as an alternative to the supreme leader's post. His proposal has not gained much traction, but with succession imminent, it might seem more attractive as a compromise should the competing factions prove unable to reach a consensus.

Constitutionally, an interim leadership council takes over should the incumbent supreme leader no longer be able to carry out his duties until the Assembly of Experts elects a successor. Considering the factionalized nature of the Iranian political elite, it is only normal to assume that the process to replace Khamenei will be marred by a major struggle between the various camps that make up the conservative establishment. After all, this is an extremely rare opportunity for those seeking change and for those seeking continuity to shape the future of the republic.

For the hardliners, already deeply unnerved by what they see as an extremely troubling moderate path adopted by Rouhani, it is imperative that the next supreme leader not be sympathetic to the president. From their point of view, Khamenei has given the government far too much leeway. For his part, Rouhani knows that if his opponents get their way in the transition, his troubles promoting his domestic and foreign policy agenda could increase exponentially.

Possible Successors

The country's elite ideological military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, will no doubt play a key role in who gets to be supreme leader. Likewise, the religious establishment in Qom will definitely have a say in the matter. The revolutionary-era clerics who have long dominated the political establishment are a dying breed, and the Assembly of Experts would not want to appoint someone of advanced age, since this would quickly lead to another succession.

Stratfor has learned that potential replacements for Khamenei include former judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a cleric close to Khamenei and known for his relative moderate stances. They also include Hassan Khomeini, the oldest grandson of the founder of the republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He is close to the president's pragmatic conservative camp and the reformists, but pedigree may not compensate for his relatively left-wing leanings and his relatively young age of 42. Finally, they include current judiciary chief Mohammed-Sadegh Larijani, the younger brother of Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani who some believe is the preferred candidate of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The key problem that has surrounded the post of the supreme leader since the death of the founder of the republic is the very small pool of potential candidates to choose a replacement from: Most clerics either lack political skills, while those that do have political savvy lack requisite religious credentials. Khamenei was a lesser cleric to the status of ayatollah shortly before assuming the role of supreme leader, though he has demonstrated great political acumen since then. Khomeini was unique in that he had solid credentials as a noted religious scholar, but also had solid political credentials given his longtime leadership of the movement that culminated in the overthrow of shah in 1979. Since Khomeini fell out with his designated successor, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, in 1987, no one has had both qualities. Whoever takes over from Khamenei will be no exception to this, even though he will need to be able to manage factional rivalries at one of the most critical junctures in the evolution of the Islamic Republic.

Read more: Iran Prepares for a Leadership Transition | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
56  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: September 15, 2014, 11:33:08 AM

The Rectification of the Names!

As the guy with the shovel despairingly said from the bottom of a deep pit in the woods, "How did I get started on this?"

Oh right. I meant to say earlier, I am crawling like Andy Dufresne on his exodus from Shawshank toward an idea for a new book. It's just an idea. As Marcus Aurelius (the Richard Harris version) might say, it's a dream. I can only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it might vanish.

In the course of my developing this whisper-of-an-idea for a book, my AEI colleague Michael Auslin pointed me to a Confucian concept called "the rectification of names." Maybe you know all about it because you're a smarty-pants Confucian scholar, which would be an interesting twist on who I imagine you, my "Dear Reader," to be. But it was new to me and it's really an exciting idea because it connects a lot of different exciting ideas into a potentially fully functional Death Star, I mean book, idea.

Anyway, the gist is that society goes ass-over-teakettle (to borrow a phrase from the academic literature) when names no longer describe the things they are assigned to.

Take it away Confucius:

"A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect."

Now, I'm just starting my reading on all of this and, so far, I don't much care for the way the concept was used to justify castes and classes in feudal China or any of that jazz. And, yes, I am aware that a similar concern was in fact a central point of my last book (Now out in paperback, noodle-salad-eaters). It's central to Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" — never mind to 1984 — and Ludwig Wittgenstein had much to say on the subject as well. And anyone who ate funny brownies in college has grooved on the relationship between words and reality (and the puzzle of the Skipper & Gilligan's limited wardrobe).

But I very much like the idea that societies get themselves into trouble when language becomes a tool not for describing reality but concealing it.

This is one of the many reasons I loathe the self-described pragmatists who insist they want to solve problems by getting "beyond labels." You cannot solve problems if you cannot describe the problem — and the solution — accurately. Try fixing a flat tire with a wet hamster. Now, call the hamster a "tire iron." Has it gotten any easier? Shakespeare tells us that a rose by another name will smell just as sweet, but if you can't tell sh*t from shinola, your shoes are going to smell awful.

When Facts Are Treason

The disconnect between names and the named becomes most pronounced in totalitarian societies where words become weapons of the State. When language ceases to be a tool for labeling reality and higher truths and becomes one for upholding the agenda of a regime, the society rots and invites revolt. Try as they might, tyrants rarely have much success at persuading miserable people they are happy or hungry people they are full. As a result, regimes feel required to tighten their grip on society even more. Use of the wrong word — or the right word the wrong way — becomes ever more damning evidence of disloyalty or treason. And you know what? The tyrants are right: It is disloyalty and treason to an evil regime to accurately tell the truth.

I think there's something very profound about the Chinese idea that revolutions are primarily an effort to bring about the rectification of names; that the demand for justice is first and foremost a demand that words and reality come back into alignment. Nothing is more infuriating than to be told not to believe your lying eyes — or your empty stomach. Take a moment to ponder various revolutions around the globe over history and ask yourself if there isn't something to that.

One last point before I fulfill my obligation to put some news-related content in this "news"letter: Free societies are not immune to this problem, it's just that we have better antibodies. We have more opportunities and mechanisms to get words and things lined up properly. In a society where children won't be beaten or executed for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, the nakedness of the emperor will be a much more frequent topic of conversation.

But that just means it takes longer — and more work — for names to get messed up. Who can dispute that political correctness is, to a large extent, an organized effort to keep truth from being applied to the problems of reality? Who can deny that our politics is shot through with words that don't line up properly with what they are supposed to describe?

They're Not Islamic, They're Not Even I-Curious

For instance, my column today is on the president's contention that the Islamic State is not Islamic. The assertion fits perfectly with the extended philosophical throat-clearing you just waded through. I mean talk about letting names and things wander off from each other!

Imagine, just for the sake of argument that, say, the State Department's Jen Psaki sat down to interview an Islamic State fighter over coffee.

Psaki: "Hi. What's your name?"

Mohammad: "Mohammed."

Psaki: "Were you named after your father?"

Mohammed: "No. I am named after the One True Prophet Mohammed."

Psaki: "Interesting. So what's the name of your organization?"

Mohammed: "The Islamic State."

Psaki: "Oh, that's exotic. What does that do?"

Mohammed: "We have sworn to Allah that we will bring about a global caliphate as he commands us through Mohammed and the Koran. Inshallah, we will kill the pagans, Jews, and infidels and convert the Christians to the one true faith.

Psaki: "Oh my, that sounds like quite a project. So, let me ask you, what religion should I put down here, Mohammed."

Mohammed: "I am Muslim. I will give my life for Islam. It's right there in the name: Islamic State."

Psaki: "Well, I can see that this will just remain one of those mysteries. I'll just put down agnostic."

Large-Scale Counterterrorism Operations Are Hell

Sadly, only after I wrote my column did I learn that not only does the administration insist that the Islamic State isn't even a smidgen Islamic — as the president might say — but we aren't at war with it either. "If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with [the Islamic State], they can do so, but the fact is that it's a major counterterrorism operation that will have many different moving parts," Secretary of State John Kerry explained yesterday.

"We're engaged in a major counterterrorism operation," he told CBS, "and it's going to be a long-term counterterrorism operation. I think war is the wrong terminology and analogy but the fact is that we are engaged in a very significant global effort to curb terrorist activity."

Okay, wait a second. I can understand — no matter how ridiculous I think the claim may be — the argument that we are not at war with the Islamic State. I can certainly understand the argument — again, even though I reject it — that we don't want to pay the terrorist group the "compliment" of saying we're at war with it.

But hold the phone. John Kerry is saying that "war" is the wrong analogy? Really? It is okay to analogize the fights against poverty, cancer, climate change etc., to war, but we can't analogize sustained bombing campaigns with coordinated ground offensives to it? Oh my stars and garters.  It's like the effort to get rid of the Islamic State is the Moral Equivalent of Pension Reform.

It gets worse. Olivier Knox of Yahoo News asked White House press secretary Josh Earnest, "What does victory [in the fight against the Islamic State] look like here?"
Earnest earnestly replied, "I didn't bring my Webster's dictionary with me up here." Meanwhile, the disconnect between names and things has gotten to the point where a senior administration official thinks Saudi Arabia is "galvanized" against the Islamic State because it has an "extensive border with Syria." Except for the fact that it doesn't, this is a very powerful point. So much for Mark Twain's observation that "God created war so that Americans would learn geography."

Of course, the administration is simply following the president's lead. Given how rabid Kerry, Hagel, and others were just a few weeks ago, it's pretty obvious that Obama has told his team "opstay ayingsay arway." In his heart the president just doesn't like words like "war" or "win." That's why he "ended" the Iraq War. That's why when asked to explain what "destroy" means he said it meant to reduce to a manageable problem. That's why the administration keeps talking about mitigation. That's why they long ago replaced the "War on Terror" with "overseas contingency operations" and rogue states with "states of concern." Hey, maybe we should just start calling it "the Islamic State of Concern"?

This of course reminds me of Winston Churchill's famous line, "We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall mitigate on the beaches, we shall degrade them on the landing grounds, we shall reduce them to manageable problems in the fields and in the streets. . ."

Really, anyone can play. Release the dogs of overseas contingency operations! Haven't you read Sun Tzu's "The Art of Mitigation"?

Look, as I suggest in my column, there's room in a war for bending the truth if it helps win the war. The problem here is that when you're bending the truth that you're even at war, what truths are worth telling? As I wrote last week , I still think Obama's greatest concern isn't how to conquer — or even "manage" — the Islamic State or terrorism in general but how to find the right words that will rescue him from political hassles, responsibility, and blame. Rather than say he misjudged the Islamic State, he told Chuck Todd he never even called them the "Jayvee" team, which was a lie.

If Obama's theory of the world is right, this may all work out for him. If jihadism is a minor nuisance that we can manage without much distraction or effort, then his word games might even make sense. But if we are really facing a more substantial and long-term threat, then his word games are not just stupid, they are dangerous because they put further distance between names and reality, between problems and solutions.

I am not a fan of the philosopher Carl Schmitt, but I always liked his line, "Tell me who your enemy is, and I will tell you who you are." I don't think it captures anything like the whole truth, but it does capture an important truth: To stand for something requires standing against something. If you stand for democracy, you must stand against tyranny. If you stand for truth, you must stand against lies. It is a tactical and strategic question whether we need to go to literal war against the Islamic State. But if we are not figuratively or spiritually at war with what the Islamic State stands for, then, my God, what do we stand for?
57  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Confucius on: September 15, 2014, 11:25:04 AM


A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.
58  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How to disappear records of $800 BILLION in spending! on: September 15, 2014, 11:19:30 AM

Among his first acts as president in 2009, Barack Obama pushed the so-called "stimulus" -- $800 billion in new spending to reinvigorate the economy after the recession. Predictably, it failed to do what he promised. But it did set a new, higher baseline for federal spending and jack up the federal debt. In selling his snake oil, Obama promised "unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my administration accountable," including, a website meant for tracking spending. Now, however, The Washington Post reports, "y the end of the month, the ability to see which entities received contracts and grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is going to vanish from, officials say, making it impossible to track where the more than $800 billion ended up." That's because the government "is not renewing its license with Dun & Bradstreet, a major U.S. financial firm that assigns an identification number to all entities doing business with the federal government. When the license expires at the end of this month, those identification numbers -- and other associated data -- will no longer be available to the government. No numbers, no way to track the money." It's just the price of Hope 'n' Change™. 

see more at
59  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington to PAtrick Henry 1795 on: September 15, 2014, 11:16:43 AM
"I want an American character, that the powers of Europe may be convinced we act for ourselves and not for others; this, in my judgment, is the only way to be respected abroad and happy at home." --George Washington, letter to Patrick Henry, 1795
60  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Govt of Baghdad says ISIS is spawn of Jews and Satan on: September 15, 2014, 11:11:37 AM
Yeah, let's spill our blood, sweat, tears, and treasures to put these fukkers back in charge , , ,
61  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strategy: Horowitz; WSJ on: September 15, 2014, 10:23:54 AM
The GOP’s Missing Electoral Link

Posted By David Horowitz On September 15, 2014
To order David Horowitz’s new book, Take No Prisoners, click here.

This article is reprinted from

Paul Ryan is a smart man, and probably represents the mainstream thinking of the Republican Party, though like every ambitious politician he likes to position himself as a critic of the crowd. But in a recent interview with Matthew Continetti, Ryan started out well by complaining about the GOP consultant class. “The consultant class always says play it safe, choose a risk-averse strategy. I don’t think we have the luxury of doing that.” But then when called on to provide a non-risk averse strategy, he comes up with this: “We need to treat people like adults by offering them alternatives.” But what Republican consultant would tell his candidate not to offer alternative policies and ideas? There is none.

Every Republican thinks that offering a positive vision and new policies is the key to winning elections. Of course sometimes, as in the midterms this fall, the Democrats have screwed up so big that they are practically handing Republicans a victory. Just don’t count on it for 2016. In fact, Ryan embraces the conventional GOP wisdom:

“The only way we beat an Obama third term is to offer a spirited alternative and bring it up to a crescendo where we’re really giving the country a very clear choice of policies and ideas.”

I wouldn’t bet on it. You can’t give the country a clear choice of policies and ideas when the Democrats are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to label you racists, sexists, homophobes enemies of the poor, selfish and uncaring. If Republicans are to win national elections they have to come up with an answer to these attacks. And the only answer is a counter-attack. I’ve laid out the basis for an effective counter-attack in my new book Take No Prisoners: The Battle Plan For Defeating the Left (Regnery 2014). But I’m not holding my breath that Republicans will embrace the strategy I recommend. More likely they will go into the next national election like crash-dummies as they usually do.

When you examine the Democrat attacks they are all moral indictments: racist, uncaring, anti-woman, selfish. In contrast, Republicans criticize Democrats for having unworkable policies. Who do you think is going to win this debate? If a voter thinks someone is a racist, how seriously are they going to take his policy ideas? The same reaction awaits candidates who are seen as selfish defenders of the greedy rich, namely, Republicans.

What’s the Republican counter-attack? There is none. But here’s how to think of one: Democrat policies are not merely wrong-headed, they’re destructive. Democrats control every major city in America – Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, New York, Minneapolis, Milwaukee – and I could go on and on. They’ve controlled these cities for 50 to 100 years. Everything that is wrong with the inner cities of America, every policy that adversely affects the impoverished minorities who live there, Democrats are responsible for.

Democrat policies, for example, have trapped millions of poor African American and Hispanic children in schools that don’t teach them, year in and year out, because they’re run for the benefit of the leftwing teacher unions and the Democratic Party. Democrats will fight to the death to keep these children from getting scholarships known as “vouchers” that would allow them to find private schools that would teach them. Yet Democrats, including the president himself, send their own children to private schools. How racist is that? Yet when did you ever hear a Republican call a Democrat a racist over this atrocity?

Consider the consequences of Democratic misrule: millions of poor African American and Hispanic children who will never be educated and never get a shot at the American dream. Instead they will be condemned to lives of poverty and crime. The Democratic colony of Chicago is a war zone. Who is responsible for all the lost young African American lives in Chicago? But Republicans are too polite to mention it.
In Ferguson, Missouri we have witnessed the month long spectacle of a Democratic lynch mob led by one of the nation’s leading racists, Al Sharpton, who just happens to be the President’s adviser on race. Rev. Sharpton has been mightily abetted by the Democratic Attorney General of the United States, who is conducting a witch-hunt against the Ferguson police force. The Democratic Party isthe party of racism, but Republicans are too timid to mention it.

As ever on national security, Democrats have disarmed us in the face of the Islamic crusade against the West, the greatest threat we have ever faced as a nation; they have attacked our borders so that we can’t prevent terrorists and criminals from crossing them; they have forced our retreat from Iraq and the Middle East creating a vacuum that has been filled by the armies of ISIS and other well-armed barbarians who have sworn to kill us. Democrats have betrayed our country and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Syrians and Libyans slaughtered by the terrorist armies their policies have unleashed. Yet where is the Republican voice using the language appropriate to these betrayals?

Yet it is precisely this moral language that Republicans must use to push back the Democrat slanderers who have been so effective in winning elections. Barack Obama is the most incompetent, anti-American, leftwing radical ever nominated by a major political party. Democrats did that. Hold them responsible.

Whatever words Republicans finally use, they have to 1) Get used to the fact that politics is a no-holds-barred street fight and nice guys finish last; 2) Get used to the fact that they are going to have to actually attack Democrats and make it hurt: and 3) Frame their attacks as a moral indictment – or else they will be pulverized by the moral indictments framed by their opponents.

This is my advice. My bet: Paul Ryan and the Republican Party will ignore it.



Jason L. Riley
Sept. 12, 2014 5:02 p.m. ET

There's a rift in the Republican Party, and I'm not referring to the one between Rand Paul isolationists and John McCain hawks.

The split is between those who think the GOP can rely on President's Obama unpopularity to win a Senate majority in November and those who think the party would do better to push a positive agenda. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is in the latter camp. In an interview this week, he told the Christian Science Monitor that if the GOP nets the six seat it needs to win control of the upper chamber, it would focus on four things: corporate tax reform, regulatory reform, giving Mr. Obama authority to fast-track trade deals and approving the final leg of a Keystone XL pipeline that would increase domestic energy production.

"By getting a Republican majority, I do believe it would get the president to the table on some of these issues," Mr. Portman told the paper. "I know I may sound naive, since everyone has decided that the next two years are going to be all about 2016," he added. "But I look at what's happened over the years. When we have divided government, that's when we've done tax reform, that's when we've done entitlement reform, that's when we've helped to move the economy forward when we take on these big issues."

The president has been very specific about his agenda, repeatedly calling for a minimum-wage increase and legislation aimed at closing a gender gap in pay that liberals believe is a reflection of employer discrimination. Republicans have made clear that they oppose such measures, but the party has failed to unite around a coherent agenda of its own.

Given the president's low approval rating, the sluggish economy and the fact that ObamaCare continues to poll poorly, many Republicans believe that a message of opposition will suffice in the fall. Politicians aren't the bravest bunch, and talking about what you're against is easier that explaining what you're for. If Republicans want a mandate from voters, they ought to follow Mr. Portman's lead and explain what they'd do with it.
62  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Venezuela Default coming? on: September 15, 2014, 07:22:28 AM
Mary Anastasia O'Grady

Sept. 14, 2014 5:01 p.m. ET

Venezuelan bond prices swooned last week on renewed speculation that the government of President Nicolás Maduro might soon default on as much as $80 billion of foreign debt. The yield on the government bond due in 2022 hit a six-month high of 15.8% on Sept. 9. David Rees of London-based Capital Economics, who last year warned of the risks of falling oil prices to Venezuelan solvency, told Bloomberg News by telephone that "the bond market is finally beginning to wake up."

That may be true. It's clear that the foreign exchange that Venezuela earns from oil exports cannot pay its import bills along with debt service. There are dire shortages of industrial and consumer goods as well as services. Something has to give and odds are that allowing the required adjustment to the economy won't be the government's first choice.
Enlarge Image

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro Reuters

Yet it is also in the interest of Wall Street investment banks to keep the borrow-and-spend pyramid scheme going. The yields are fat and underwriting fees really beef up the year-end bonus. As long as Venezuela can keep financing shortfalls, nobody loses money. That's why default may not be as imminent as some fear. Still, it may be inevitable.

When Hugo Chávez took power in 1999 PdVSA was producing 3.5 million barrels of crude per day (bpd). By 2004 another 900,000 bpd came on stream. Venezuela was unusual among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporters (OPEC) in that it also sold refined oil products on the world market.

But trouble was already brewing in 2002. That's when PdVSA purged some 20,000 employees for political reasons, replacing them with loyal chavistas not properly trained for oil work. Foreign-owned oil assets were nationalized. Investment slumped and accidents due to poor maintenance rose. In 2012 the huge Amuay refinery blew up. OPEC says Venezuela now produces 2.3 million barrels of crude daily.

More than half of this production does not generate foreign exchange. An estimated 700,000 barrels per day supply the domestic market and of that experts estimate that some 100,000 bpd are smuggled onto the Colombian free market by corrupt insiders. Cuba and other neighbors in the Caribbean don't pay cash for the 300,000 bpd they receive. An estimated 650,000 bpd are sent to China. But much of that is used to repay tens of billions of dollars in loans spent long ago.

The July issue of the newsletter Veneconomy Monthly, produced in Caracas, scrutinized PdVSA's 2013 annual report. The editors noted that even at 627 pages there was "little credible information about the goings on" inside the company. "Sadly, what information is available confirms perceptions that PdVSA is headed for insolvency."

Yet this does not explain the shortages. In consumer goods, for example, it is difficult to find everything from diapers, shampoo, meat, milk and bread to car parts and batteries, rubbing alcohol and medicines.

Domestic production has been crippled. According to the central bank, in 2013 69% of imports were inputs that local producers use to make finished products. But suppliers need to be paid.

The official exchange rate is 6.3 bolívars to the dollar. But because the central bank increased the money supply (M2) by 70% in the past 12 months and 63% in the 12 months before, the value of the bolívar has plummeted. The central bank would lose all its dollars overnight if it satisfied the demand for greenbacks at the official rate. Instead it sells a limited quantity of dollars at higher (but not market) rates. "Priority" businesses are allowed to buy some dollars every week at just under 12 bolívars to the dollar and some other lucky ones make purchases at 50:1.

Dollar liquidity is shrinking. One independent analyst tells me that government dollar sales in the first half of 2013 were down about 20% from the same period a year earlier and sales in first-half 2014 were some 30% lower than the same period in 2012.

The black-market exchange rate of 90:1, which those without connections must pay, is too much for producers subject to price controls on their finished products. Layer on labor laws that would make Mussolini blush, and Cuban-run ports through which goods move at a glacial pace, and it is easy to see why production has collapsed.

The worries about a default are exacerbated by the news this summer that PdVSA is putting Citgo Petroleum, valued around $10 billion, up for sale. Caracas may be trying to raise capital. But it also might be trying to minimize its exposure to asset seizures in the U.S. if it stiffs creditors.

Venezuela says it will pay its debts. But as the epidemic of inflation and poverty worsens, who doesn't believe that the 21st-century socialists will find it easier to blame the capitalists than to blame themselves?
63  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gen. Scales: Fighting the ISIL way of war on: September 15, 2014, 07:14:53 AM
The ISIS Way Of War Is One We Know Well
Like Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and Mao in Korea, the enemy is brutal, elusive and armed with good-enough weapons.
By Robert H. Scales
Sept. 14, 2014 5:06 p.m. ET

The images are frightening and the consequences dispiriting as the Islamic State rapes, tortures and murders its way across Syria and Iraq in some twisted version of black-clad blitzkrieg. President Obama was clearly caught off guard by this unexpectedly horrific enemy. Now he is trying to conduct a war against the Islamic State, or ISIS, by striking the terrorists with air power and seeking regional allies to do the dying for us.

Sadly, ISIS is the latest example of a behavior in wars against Western powers that has proven remarkably consistent regardless of region, intensity or level of conflict. From Mao in Korea to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam to Saddam Hussein and now Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Iraq, all act in fundamentally the same predictable manner.

The strategic ambitions of all our enemies have been the same. They have sought to exclude the West from interfering in their regional ambitions and have aimed to confront Western militaries below the nuclear threshold.
Enlarge Image

An image grab taken from a video released by the Islamic State (IS) and identified by private terrorism monitor SITE Intelligence Group on September 13, 2014 Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Their methods are much the same as well, often killing more for the psychological effect than military advantage. Western armies go into villages to win hearts and minds. ISIS storms villages intent on killing—local leaders, teachers, captured government officials and soldiers, the unbelievers, anyone who would oppose their ideological or religious ambitions. It's a method that has been used by guerrillas the world over for decades; the ISIS terrorists just seem more fanatical and better at it. They also murder Americans and amplify the acts on social media, hoping that the sight of our dead will wear us down and diminish our willingness to fight.

ISIS and other terrorists know that Western militaries fight short wars well and long wars poorly. Thus they employ a patient method of fighting that engages only when the odds are in their favor. When it goes badly, they look to any well-meaning international body to interfere long enough to regenerate their forces and return to the fight.

Seventy years of experience has taught them the folly of fighting using Western ways. Instead, they have adapted a way of war that avoids the killing effects of Western technology and firepower. They "spot" us control of the air, sea and space. They disperse, hide, dig in and go to ground. They seek shelter among the innocents and amplify any Western transgression with cameras thrust into the dead faces of women and children.

They fight with secondhand technology that's good enough. The Chinese and North Vietnamese did most of their killing with mortars and automatic rifles. Hezbollah and Hamas, in various clashes with Israel, have knocked out Israeli tanks with simple handheld anti-tank missiles. Command and control is by cell phone and courier. Americans died by the hundreds in Iraq and Afghanistan from the crude technology of shells and explosives buried along roads and trails.

A worrisome survey of contemporary history reveals that the enemy's strategies and tactics are both consistent and effective—and getting better. It will take more than a few bloody beheadings before we see American "boots on the ground" again. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that no U.S. combat troops would be deployed to Iraq "unless, obviously, something very, very dramatic changes." ISIS has already begun to disperse and dig in to obviate the effects of airstrikes. They will continue to brutalize the region and eventually threaten the American homeland. And, as always, ultimately we will confront them.

The enemy knows that while we may have the most sophisticated military in the world, it is a military that remains ill-suited to defeat them. The truth is that missiles, ships and planes are mostly irrelevant when not used against a traditional military foe. It was true in Vietnam, and in Afghanistan.

This kind of enemy truly fears us only when we meet them on their ground, with the will and conviction to kill them in large numbers.

Some day the brutality and successes of ISIS in Iraq and Syria will demand that we meet them on the ground; no other force in the region, and none likely to be convened, will have the capacity to vanquish them, even with U.S. air support.

When we do, the responsibility for defeating this foe will rest exactly where it has in the past: On the shoulders of men and women who are willing to kill in close. We have too few of them, and they are getting scarcer by the day. If the past is prologue—and I believe it is—then a combat force consisting of less than 4% of those in uniform and costing less than 2% of the national budget will be asked to do the job again. I suspect that the outcome, again, will be problematic.

Maj. Gen. Scales retired from active duty in 2000 as commandant of the Army War College.
64  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / California legislation to protect student privacy on: September 15, 2014, 07:05:12 AM
65  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kansas Gov. race on: September 15, 2014, 07:03:20 AM
Conservative Experiment Faces Revolt in Reliably Red Kansas
The New York Times

HUTCHINSON, Kan. — In his 40 years living in Kansas, Konrad Hastings cannot remember voting for a Democrat. He is the type who agonizes over big purchases, trying to save as much money as possible. He is against stricter gun laws, opposes abortion in most cases and prefers less government involvement in his life.

But when he casts his ballot for governor in November, he plans to shun the leader of this state’s conservative movement, the Republican incumbent, Sam Brownback, and vote for the Democratic challenger.

“He’s leading Kansas down,” said Mr. Hastings, 68, who said he voted for Mr. Brownback four years ago, when he easily won his first term. “We’re going to be bankrupt in two or three years if we keep going his way.”

Voters like Mr. Hastings are at the heart of Mr. Brownback’s surprising fight for political survival.

Although every statewide elected official in Kansas is a Republican and President Obama lost the state by more than 20 points in the last election, Mr. Brownback’s proudly conservative policies have turned out to be so divisive and his tax cuts have generated such a drop in state revenue that they have caused even many Republicans to revolt. Projections put state budget shortfalls in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually, raising questions of whether the state can adequately fund education in particular.
Gov. Sam Brownback greeted supporters at the Kansas State Fair after his first debate against State Representative Paul Davis. Credit Lindsey Bauman/The Hutchinson News, via Associated Press

This has boosted the hopes of the Democratic candidate, Paul Davis, the State House minority leader, who has shot up in the polls even though he has offered few specifics about how he would run the state. Many disaffected Republicans might give Mr. Davis their vote because, if nothing else, he is not Mr. Brownback.

“There’s just a lot of negative momentum behind Brownback, and Davis has been hammering that home,” said Chapman Rackaway, a political-science professor at Fort Hays State University.

The governor’s campaign has appeared so worried about his weak poll numbers that it took the unusual step last month of releasing an internal poll that showed the race to be essentially tied, hardly something that would usually be showcased.

In some ways, it is unsurprising that many Kansas Republicans have turned on Mr. Brownback. This is a state that once had a tradition of centrist Republicans, like former Senator Bob Dole, and has had five Democratic governors over the past half-century.

But much of this moderation went by the wayside as Mr. Brownback and conservative majorities in the Legislature turned the state into a laboratory for the policies they had run on. In addition to passing the largest income tax cuts in state history, they have made it easier to carry guns in public buildings, turned over management of Medicaid to private insurance companies, made it more difficult to get an abortion, and made it harder to qualify for public assistance.

Even some of Kansas’ staunchest Republicans have found some of these measures to be too far to the right. More than 100 current and former Republican elected officials have endorsed Mr. Davis.
Continue reading the main story

Mr. Brownback, 58, a former United States senator who grew up on a Kansas farm, has defended his record and is trying to force Mr. Davis, who is from Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas in one of the state’s most liberal regions, to define himself.

“He’s been mostly just hiding as a candidate,” Mr. Brownback said in an interview. “All his statements have been basically against me, and none of it has been what he would do.”

The governor has painted Mr. Davis as a supporter of President Obama who wants to raise taxes and force the president’s health care law on Kansans.

Mr. Davis has hammered away at the “governor’s economic experiment,” as he put it in a debate held at the State Fair, saying it had left Kansas with a vast budget deficit. “It’s damaging our schools. It’s hurting our economy. It’s jeopardizing our future,” he said.

Mr. Brownback has also been set back by matters unrelated to lawmaking. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported in April that federal authorities were investigating the fund-raising and lobbying activities of some of his associates.

As Election Day draws closer, both sides can expect an even tighter, and perhaps rougher, clash, with outside groups stepping up their involvement.

The Republican Governors Association has run television ads attacking Mr. Davis and linking him to Mr. Obama. The Brownback campaign’s ads have sought to paint a rosy financial picture for the state. Political analysts expect Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group founded by the Koch brothers, the Wichita-based billionaires, to step in, too.

The Kansas Values Institute, a left-leaning advocacy organization, has run negative ads about Mr. Brownback. Mr. Davis has run an ad that said Mr. Brownback was taking the state in the wrong direction. But he also had to pull one of his television ads after it was revealed that one of the actors had been arrested on charges of soliciting a prostitute.

Most criticism of Mr. Brownback has centered on the tax cuts, which slashed individual income tax rates and eliminated taxes on nonwage earnings for nearly 200,000 small businesses. The most recent fiscal year ended with state revenues more than $300 million short of expectations.
Continue reading the main story
Recent Comments
Kirk Tofte
9 minutes ago

Gosh, we have problems in this country. This article discusses the broad array of issues that Governor Brownback has caused--wisely or...
10 minutes ago

Maybe Brownback is a secret follower of Keynes. After all, tax cuts in a depressed environment is a form of stimulus.
r.j. paquin
10 minutes ago

"And because he has reduced the size of government and made it more efficient, he said, state revenues do not need to grow that much to...

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Based on decreased revenue from the tax cuts, the state’s nonpartisan legislative research department estimates that the budget will have to be adjusted by $1.3 billion, either through spending cuts or additional revenue, over the next five years in order to remain balanced.

Opponents of the governor have used this to stoke fears that he would cut vital services. Both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have downgraded Kansas’ credit rating.

Mr. Brownback said that the steps he had taken on Medicaid, on bolstering the teachers’ pension system and on cutting taxes had been needed to stabilize state finances, and that revenue growth would resume. The tax cuts will attract new businesses and residents — and, in turn, cash — to the state, he said. And because he has reduced the size of government and made it more efficient, he said, state revenues do not need to grow that much to fulfill budget obligations.
Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

As promising signs, the governor and his allies point to an increase in the number of private-sector jobs since the tax cuts went into effect in January 2013. They also promote a record number of new business filings — more than 15,000 — in the state last year as a sign that businesses were attracted to Kansas.

Spending is also an issue. Mr. Brownback said he would not cut funding for education or other essential services, and since taking office he has increased the total state dollars that go toward primary and secondary schools by more than $200 million. He has put tens of millions of dollars toward new programs for technical education and reading initiatives.

But most of the increase has gone toward things like teacher pensions and building maintenance. When adjusted for inflation, state spending on classroom-related expenses has remained flat, if not decreased slightly, each year, according to an analysis by Mark Tallman of the Kansas Association of School Boards.

So far, Mr. Davis, 42, the son of two teachers, has spoken mostly in broad terms about his priorities — improving public schools and investing in work force training and higher education. “We know that if we have a highly skilled work force, industry will come,” he said.

The only specific plan he has put forward is to freeze Mr. Brownback’s tax cuts next year and to appoint a commission to address tax issues.

“I’m not giving people the illusion that this is the magic bullet that’s going to fix the very, very deep financial problems that Governor Brownback has caused,” said Mr. Davis, a lawyer who joined the House in 2003 and has been minority leader since 2008. “But I think it is a good first step.”

Ray Merrick, the Republican speaker of the House, called freezing the tax cuts a nonstarter. “Right now, the Legislature on both sides, House and Senate, are on the side of the governor,” he said.

The question is whether most voters will stand with the governor. “I’m not sure that some of the tax policies have been as effective as we’d like them to be,” said Dianne Blick, a 58-year-old development officer from Hutchinson, who has usually voted for Republicans but is undecided in this race. “Either candidate has to really convince me that they can create positive change and can work across the aisle.”
66  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We're Number 32 out of 34! on: September 15, 2014, 06:57:32 AM
We're Number 32!
A new global index highlights the harm from the U.S. tax code.
Updated Sept. 14, 2014 7:23 p.m. ET

Any day now the White House and Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) will attempt to raise taxes on business, while making the U.S. tax code even more complex. The Obama and Schumer plans to punish businesses for moving their legal domicile overseas will arrive even as a new international ranking shows that the U.S. tax burden on business is close to the worst in the industrialized world. Way to go, Washington.

On Monday the Tax Foundation, which manages the widely followed State Business Tax Climate Index, will launch a new global benchmark, the International Tax Competitiveness Index. According to the foundation, the new index measures "the extent to which a country's tax system adheres to two important principles of tax policy: competitiveness and neutrality."

A competitive tax code is one that limits the taxation of businesses and investment. Since capital is mobile and businesses can choose where to invest, tax rates that are too high "drive investment elsewhere, leading to slower economic growth," as the Tax Foundation puts it.

By neutrality the foundation means "a tax code that seeks to raise the most revenue with the fewest economic distortions. This means that it doesn't favor consumption over saving, as happens with capital gains and dividends taxes, estate taxes, and high progressive income taxes. This also means no targeted tax breaks for businesses for specific business activities." Crony capitalism that rewards the likes of green energy with lower tax bills while imposing higher bills on other firms is political arbitrage that misallocates capital and reduces economic growth.

The index takes into account more than 40 tax policy variables. And the inaugural ranking puts the U.S. at 32nd out of 34 industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

With the developed world's highest corporate tax rate at over 39% including state levies, plus a rare demand that money earned overseas should be taxed as if it were earned domestically, the U.S. is almost in a class by itself. It ranks just behind Spain and Italy, of all economic humiliations. America did beat Portugal and France, which is currently run by an avowed socialist.

The Tax Foundation benchmark compares developed economies with large and expensive governments, but the U.S. would do even worse if it were measured against the world's roughly 190 countries. The accounting firm KPMG maintains a corporate tax table that includes more than 130 countries and only one has a higher overall corporate tax rate than the U.S. The United Arab Emirates' 55% rate is an exception, however, because it usually applies only to foreign oil companies.

The new ranking is especially timely coming amid the campaign led by Messrs. Obama and Schumer to punish companies that move their legal domicile overseas to be able to reinvest future profits in the U.S. without paying the punitive American tax rate. If they succeed, the U.S. could fall to dead last on next year's ranking. Now there's a second-term legacy project for the President.

The new index also suggests taxation is a greater burden on business in the U.S. than in countries that American liberals have long praised as models of enlightened big government. Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden, with their large social safety nets, all finish in the top 20 on the new ranking. The United Kingdom manages to fund socialized medicine while finishing 11 spots ahead of the U.S.

The new champion of tax competitiveness is Estonia, where—liberals may be astonished to learn—people enjoy the rule of law and even paved roads, despite reasonable tax rates. (See the list nearby.)

Liberals argue that U.S. tax rates don't need to come down because they are already well below the level when Ronald Reagan came into office. But unlike the U.S., the world hasn't stood still. Reagan's tax-cutting example ignited a worldwide revolution that has seen waves of corporate tax-rate reductions. The U.S. last reduced the top marginal corporate income tax rate in 1986. But the Tax Foundation reports that other countries have reduced "the OECD average corporate tax rate from 47.5 percent in the early 1980s to around 25 percent today."

This is also a message to self-styled conservative "reformers" who lecture that today's economic challenges aren't the same as they were under Reagan but propose to do nothing about the destructive U.S. corporate tax code. They're missing what could be the single biggest tax boost to economic growth and worker incomes. Abundant economic research, by Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur among others, has shown that higher corporate taxes lead to lower wages.

Rather than erecting an iron tax curtain that keeps U.S. companies from escaping, the White House and Congress should enact reform that invites more businesses to stay or move to the U.S.
67  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Obama plans major Ebola offensive on: September 15, 2014, 06:50:03 AM
I actually agree with Obama on this one!

Obama Plans Major Ebola Offensive
More Doctors, Supplies and Portable Hospitals Planned for West Africa
By Carol E. Lee and Betsy McKay
Updated Sept. 15, 2014 5:38 a.m. ET

Volunteers in Centennial, Colo., load medical supplies last week bound for Sierra Leone to combat Ebola. Associated Press

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama plans to dramatically boost the U.S. effort to mitigate the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, including greater involvement of the U.S. military, people familiar with the proposal said.

Mr. Obama is expected to detail the plan during a visit Tuesday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, these people said. Among the possible moves: sending additional portable hospitals, doctors and health-care experts, providing medical supplies and conducting training for health workers in Liberia and other countries.

Mr. Obama also is expected to urge Congress to approve the request he made last week for an additional $88 million to fund his proposal.

"There's a lot that we've been putting toward this, but it is not sufficient," Lisa Monaco, Mr. Obama's counterterrorism adviser, said in an interview Sunday. "So the president has directed a more scaled-up response and that's what you're going to hear more about on Tuesday."

The strategy has four components: control the outbreak at its source in West Africa; build competence in the region's public-health system, particularly in Liberia; bolster the capacity of local officials through enhanced training for health-care providers; and increase support from international organizations, such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

Mr. Obama plans to use a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations next week to seek commitments of funds, materials and health workers for a more robust international response.

The Ebola outbreak has infected at least 4,784 people as of Sept. 12, with 2,400 of them dying—a jump from 3,707 cases and 1,848 deaths as of Aug. 31. The true toll probably is much higher, the WHO says.

The Obama administration has grown increasingly concerned in the last two weeks, as infectious-disease and public-health experts warned that the global response is inadequate to subdue an epidemic that has spiraled out of control, and that it threatens the U.S. and other countries, not just West Africa.

Mr. Obama ordered a bolder U.S. effort about two weeks ago after CDC Director Tom Frieden briefed the White House on his findings from a trip to West Africa, senior administration officials said. Dr. Frieden said publicly on Sept. 2 that he saw dozens of patients lying on the ground in an Ebola treatment center because there weren't enough beds. "I could not possibly overstate the need for an urgent response," he said.

Mr. Obama's plan is a reaction to concern that the epidemic could significantly grow in West Africa, particularly in urban areas. Administration officials stress that the chances of an outbreak in the U.S. are low.

One rising concern among officials is the possibility that the virus could mutate in a way that would make it more dangerous.

The more the virus spreads from one human to another, the more opportunities it has to mutate, virologists say. While not all scientists agree that significant mutations that would change the way the virus is transmitted are likely, one recent study of virus samples over three weeks in Sierra Leone found many mutations.

While an administration official said a dangerous mutation of the virus is unlikely at this stage, "that is a concern that is motivating us to, and the international community more broadly, to get involved even more so now to bring this under control."

The CDC has at least 105 staff in West Africa—one of the largest deployments in CDC history—tracking down people who have been exposed to Ebola, conducting education campaigns, and other tasks. The government has spent more than $100 million on the outbreak since March, and recently committed an additional $75 million in funding, according to a U.S. Agency for International Development official. The money is used to deploy staff and deliver supplies, such as chlorine and water, as well as hospital beds.

The U.S. military has sent eight service members to the region, including doctors, a logistician and medical specialists. It also said it would send a 25-bed portable hospital unit to Liberia to help care for health workers, but it isn't planning to staff it. Many public-health and infectious disease experts have called for a greater U.S. military role, which is highly valued in humanitarian crises for its ability to command and control large operations, as well as its logistics expertise.

U.S. defense officials have ruled out sending hospital ships or the big-deck amphibious ships that frequently respond to humanitarian disasters. One official said if the virus got aboard one of those ships, it could quickly spread and would be difficult to stamp out.

These experts say that is what is needed in West Africa, because the governments of the three most affected countries—Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea —have been overwhelmed and their health-care systems have all but crumbled. The crisis also has become too large for aid organizations and health ministries to handle alone, they say. The current response, involving several local and international agencies and organizations, also lacks coordination.

The military could be used to direct supplies, set up tent hospitals, and tap the masses of medical personnel that are needed globally to get the sick into isolation and treatment, so they stop spreading the disease to others and improve their chances of recovery. Now, there are so few hospital beds that many are having to suffer through the disease at home, where they risk spreading it to loved ones.

And while hundreds of millions of dollars in aid have recently been pledged, under current circumstances it won't arrive in West Africa for weeks - by which time thousands more will be infected and dead.

Mr. Obama hopes to begin to turn the situation around with the rollout of his new strategy, administration officials said.

"We think these measures, this enhanced response, will help us bring this under control," an administration official said Sunday. "The military has unique capabilities in terms of logistical capacities, in terms of manpower, in terms of operating in austere environments."

The administration faces formidable challenges in carrying out any response plan. Not only is the virus now spreading fast, but health workers and epidemiologists have been physically attacked or run out of villages by angry or frightened locals. Some locals argue that Ebola is a bioweapon seeded by the West.

Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders, called earlier this month for governments to send in their militaries. The aid organization has led treatment efforts since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak and has been warning for months that a bigger response is needed.

"Without this deployment, we will never get the epidemic under control," she said.

—Julian E. Barnes contributed to this article.
68  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the left on: September 15, 2014, 06:43:12 AM
Good one Doug.

GM please post that in the First Amendment thread on the SCH forum as well-- that is a keeper.
69  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH gets it right: The ME's maze of alliances on: September 14, 2014, 05:09:49 PM

Try figuring out the maze of enemies, allies, and neutrals in the Middle East.

In 2012, the Obama administration was on the verge of bombing the forces of Syrian president Bashar Assad. For a few weeks, he was public enemy No. 1 because he had used chemical weapons on his own people and because he was responsible for many of the deaths in the Syrian civil war, with a casualty count that is now close to 200,000.

After Obama’s red lines turned pink, we forgot about Syria. Then the Islamic State showed up with beheadings, crucifixions, rapes, and mass murders through a huge swath of Iraq and Syria.  Now the United States is bombing the Islamic State. Sometimes Obama says that he is still seeking a strategy against the jihadist group. Sometimes he wants to reduce it to a manageable problem. And sometimes he says that he wants to degrade or even destroy it.

The Islamic State is still trying to overthrow Assad. If the Obama administration is now bombing the Islamic State, is it then helping Assad? Or when America did not bomb Assad, did it help the Islamic State? Which of the two should Obama bomb — or both, or neither?

Iran is steadily on the way to acquiring a nuclear bomb. Yet for now it is arming the Kurds, dependable U.S. allies in the region who are fighting for their lives against the Islamic State and need American help. As Iran aids the Kurds, Syrians, and Iraqis in the battle against the evil Islamic State, is Teheran becoming a friend, enemy, or neither? Will Iran’s temporary help mean that it will delay or hasten its efforts to get a bomb? Just as Iran sent help to the Kurds, it missed yet another U.N. deadline to come clean on nuclear enrichment.

Hamas just lost a war in Gaza against Israel. Then it began executing and maiming a number of its own people, some of them affiliated with Fatah, the ruling clique of the Palestinian Authority. During the war, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian state, stayed neutral and called for calm. Did he wish Israel to destroy his rival, Hamas? Or did he wish Hamas to hurt his archenemy, Israel? Both? Neither?

What about the Gulf sheikdoms? In the old days, America was enraged that some of the Saudis slyly funneled cash to al-Qaeda and yet relieved that the Saudi government was deemed moderate and pro-Western. But as Iran gets closer to its nuclear holy grail, the Gulf kingdoms now seem to be in a de facto alliance with their hated adversary, Israel. Both Sunni monarchies and the Jewish state in near lockstep oppose the radical Iran/Syria/Hezbollah/Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas axis.

But don’t look for understandable Shiite–Sunni Muslim fault lines. In this anti-Saudi alliance, the Iranians and Hezbollah are Shiites. Yet their allies, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, are Sunnis. The Syrian government is neither, being Alawite.

They all say they are against the Sunni-extremist Islamic State. So if they are enemies of the Sunni monarchies and enemies of the Islamic State, is the Islamic State then a friend to these Gulf shiekdoms?

Then there is Qatar, a Sunni Gulf monarchy at odds with all the other neighboring Sunni monarchies. It is sort of friendly with the Iranians, Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and Hamas — all adversaries of the U.S. Why, then, is Qatar the host of CENTCOM, the biggest American military base in the entire Middle East?

Is Egypt any simpler? During the Arab Spring, the Obama administration helped to ease former president and kleptocrat Hosni Mubarak out of power. Then it supported both the democratic elections and the radical Muslim Brotherhood that won them. Later, the administration said little when a military junta displaced the radical Muslim Brotherhood, which was subverting the new constitution. America was against military strongmen before it was for them, and for Islamists before it was against them.

President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan were said to have a special friendship. But based on what? Erdogan is strangling democracy in Turkey. He is a big supporter of Hamas and at times a fan of Iran. A NATO ally, Turkey recently refused to let U.S. rescue teams use its territory to stage a rescue mission of American hostages — two of them eventually beheaded — in Syria.

Ostensibly, America supports moderate pro-Western consensual governments that protect human rights and hold elections, or at least do not oppress their own. But there are almost no such nations in the Middle East except Israel. Yet the Obama administration has grown ever more distant from the Jewish state over the last six years.

What is the U.S. to do? Leave the Middle East alone, allowing terrorists to build a petrol-fueled staging base for another 9/11?

About the best choice is to support without qualification the only two pro-American and constitutional groups in the Middle East, the Israelis and Kurds.

Otherwise, in such a tribal quagmire, apparently there are only transitory interests that come and go.
70  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ebola-- A doctor friend writes on: September 14, 2014, 04:52:50 PM
The US is woefully unprepared for receiving Ebola patients on routine flights from Africa. All of NY city hospitals are preparing for such cases, but the readiness is not great. Hospitals and emergency departments are not equipped for handling of such patients. I can imagine the panic that will occur, if a case is diagnosed at any of the city hospitals. The hospital might even empty!..causing huge financial losses...and if the virus becomes airborne...the panic will be complete. We also have our southern border to think off...what with the declaration of war by Obummer.

On Fri, Sep 12, 2014 at 2:42 PM, , , , wrote:
71  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Punctuation website on: September 14, 2014, 03:53:23 PM
72  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Middle East Powers consider their roles against ISIL on: September 14, 2014, 12:15:32 PM

Middle Eastern Powers Consider Their Roles Against the Islamic State
September 14, 2014 | 0808 Print Text Size
Middle Eastern Powers Consider Their Roles Against the Islamic State
A video still shows Islamic State fighters with a tank. (Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama has committed the United States to the task of heading a multiyear international campaign to defeat the transnational jihadist movement the Islamic State. However, the U.S. contribution to this effort will be limited in that there will not be any major ground operations. More important will be the actions of regional players after the United States weakens the Islamic State. Countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar will have to take responsibility for any long-term management of the area given their geographical and historical connections to Iraq and Syria. Their conflicting interests probably will aggravate the regional situation.


Thirteen years after the start of the war against radical Islamism, the United States has embarked upon the mission to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State -- a transnational jihadist movement that has accomplished al Qaeda's goals of undermining Muslim regimes and re-establishing the caliphate. Fighting the Islamic State, which controls large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, will be much more difficult than combating al Qaeda's terrorism-based tactics, and this time around, Washington has said it will restrict itself to air operations. This means that the bulk of the struggle will fall to the actors within Syria and Iraq and, more important, to their patrons among the regional powers who will likely face a multidecade struggle in combating the Islamic State.

Air Base Locations of Core Coalition Countries
Click to Enlarge

Put differently, the U.S. role will be minor and limited in scope and time frame compared to that of the four main Middle Eastern countries -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. Any long-term balance in the region, whether peaceful or violent, is going to draw in these regional powers because of their ability to employ direct capabilities and the direct threat the Islamic State poses to their security and interests. Still, each country has different goals in reshaping the region with regard to the fight with the Islamic State and in the event of the group's defeat. Given that all main players, even the three Sunni states, disagree and compete significantly with one another, the Islamic State and other like-minded non-state actors will likely be able to endure into the foreseeable future.
Iran's Goals

For the Islamic republic, it is critical that its Shiite allies (working with the Kurds) continue to dominate Iraq and that the Alawite-led government in Syria not collapse. Toward this end, the Islamic State must be dislodged from Iraq. Iran faces a dilemma in Syria; the Islamic State must be weakened so that it cannot project power into Iraq, but it should not be eliminated because it keeps the main Sunni rebel groups from posing a threat to Bashar al Assad's regime in Damascus. Keeping the Islamic State in the mix serves Iran's objectives of keeping the rebels divided and portraying the rebellion as a jihadist enterprise which, in turn, would limit U.S. support for the rebels and deny its main regional rival, Saudi Arabia, the ability to use Syria as a launch pad for undermining Tehran's influence in Iraq and Lebanon. For this reason, while Iran is happy to see the United States strike at the Islamic State in Iraq, it is deeply concerned about any U.S. moves in Syria.
Saudi Arabia's Interests

The Saudis are in the worst position in the region. Between the Iranian/Shiite threat, the Arab Spring, the rise of republican Islamism in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State-led jihadist surge, Riyadh is in a geopolitical maelstrom. Ideally, the kingdom would like to harness the power of a virulently anti-Shiite group such as the Islamic State to topple the Syrian regime and weaken the Shia in both Iraq and Lebanon, thus forcing the Iranians back into their Persian core. The problem is that the Saudis do not control the Islamic State. Moreover, Riyadh is competing with groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda for a monopoly over the concepts of Salafism and jihad. This is why the Saudis have been putting together a coalition of Syrian rebels, many of whom are Salafist-jihadists who do not share the Islamic State's ambition to establish a caliphate and are willing to go only as far as the Saudis command them to. Saudi Arabia is thus hoping that U.S. military power will help neutralize the Islamic State and allow its proxies to take over the territories currently under the jihadist group's control. This way the transnational jihadist threat will be removed and the kingdom can make progress toward ousting al Assad.

Concentration of Activity by the Islamic State
Click to Enlarge

Turkey's Stakes

Turkey is the largest Muslim military power in the region and wants to see the al Assad regime replaced by a Sunni regime that can facilitate Ankara's ambition of regaining influence in the Arab world. However, the Turks do not share the sectarian zeal of the Saudis, nor are they as vulnerable to the Iranian threat as the kingdom is. In addition, Turkey has a unique geopolitical position: Iran holds the upper hand in the two Arab states it borders -- Iraq and Syria -- and on both borders there are Kurdish populations that embolden Kurdish separatism within Turkish territory. Moreover, since the eruption of the sectarian war in Syria that allowed for the emergence of the Islamic State, Turkey has been coping with jihadists on both borders. Knowing that Iraq's ethno-sectarian makeup gives Iran more influence there, the Turks are more interested in U.S. military action in Syria than in Iraq. Turkey would like to see Muslim Brotherhood-type Islamists and Syrian Sunni nationalists fill the vacuum created by the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State. However, it knows its interests will collide with those of Saudi Arabia, for whom the toppling of the al Assad regime would be a victory in its proxy war with Iran -- something the Turks have no interest in. Therefore, the Turks can be expected to work with the Qataris, given their shared outlook for the region.
Qatar's Position

Doha's strategic outlook is based on two principles: It does not want to accept Saudi hegemony of the Sunni Arab world, and Qatar wants to be a regional player. Doha's main instrument to achieve these ends has been its support for the Muslim Brotherhood groups throughout the region. Qatar and Turkey are in agreement on this issue, and they more or less would support the same types of actors in Syria. That said, Qatar also has influence over Salafist-jihadist groups including al Qaeda's Syrian node, Jabhat al-Nusrah. While Qatar is not as opposed to the Iranians as the Saudis are, it wishes to see the United States destroy the Islamic State so that nationalist Islamist forces can rise in Syria and eventually enter a power-sharing arrangement with the al Assad camp.

These competing visions for a post-Islamic State Syria show the complexity of the eventual tug-of-war among these four actors. The United States might be able to help loosen the Islamic State's grip in Syria and Iraq, but it is unlikely the regional players will simply move forward and seamlessly establish a new regional order to contain the sectarian conflict.

Read more: Middle Eastern Powers Consider Their Roles Against the Islamic State | Stratfor
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73  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Peace Process stumbles forward on: September 14, 2014, 12:12:04 PM

In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward
September 14, 2014 | 0811 Print Text Size
In the Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward
Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels attend a rally in support of the peace agreement with the government in Sultan Kudarat, Philippines, on March 27. (TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

Peace is not imminent in the predominantly Muslim areas of the southern Philippines, but government efforts to stabilize the archipelagic region took a major step forward this week. On Sept. 10, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III submitted to Congress a draft law creating a new autonomous government for the southern region, to be known as Bangsamoro, ending a tense three-month period of deliberations with rebel negotiators over the law's finer details. The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is the product of nearly two decades of violence-marred negotiations between the government and Moro rebels. It aims to address some of the underlying drivers of the violence by giving the region a greater share of resource and tax revenues, in addition to a largely independent parliament, police force and civil judiciary.

The draft still faces steep legislative and political hurdles, as well as lingering questions about its compliance with the Philippine Constitution. Even if fully implemented, the law wouldn't completely pacify the restive region, which is home to numerous other militant groups, clan-based blood feuds and entrenched criminal networks that will continue to deter the development of the region's vast economic potential. Nonetheless, mounting economic and political incentives, a decline in militant capabilities, and Manila's fundamental geopolitical imperatives will continue to generate momentum for a solution.

The peace process in Muslim Mindanao has been lurching forward for decades, despite routine disruptions by rebels seeking to gain leverage in negotiations or derail them altogether, as well as political and judicial complications. By hammering out an agreement on the law's most contentious details with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front -- the strongest group and the one most capable of governing the region -- Manila hopes that the peace process can finally move beyond negotiations, reducing the ability of holdout militants to influence the shape of the deal through violence. The primary obstacles to passage are now procedural: The Aquino administration is urging Congress to pass the law by early 2015, positioning it to be ratified in a referendum in Bangsamoro by the end of the president's term in 2016.

Constitutional Questions and Continuing Complications

A key remaining issue is constitutionality. In 2008, the Supreme Court invalidated a peace deal reached with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that was seen as nearly identical to a cease-fire agreement finalized in March. Rebel negotiators have long contended that charter change would be needed to allot Bangsamoro the level of autonomy agreed upon in cease-fire negotiations. The Aquino administration asserts that the constitution can accommodate the new law, but repeated delays in submitting the bill to Congress suggest a lack of confidence that it will pass Supreme Court inspection. For much of the past three months, the deal appeared on the brink of unraveling while the palace reviewed the draft, at one point revising or removing several key passages, forcing negotiators to reopen talks on contentious points that had already been settled. Philippine constitutional scholars are divided on the issue.

Should the Supreme Court invalidate the law, either the rebels would be expected to accept a diluted deal, or the Aquino administration would need to push for a charter change -- a daunting task that would face opposition from Philippine nationalists and tie the fate of the law to other political issues amid a campaign season. Similarly, Congress could demand changes that would complicate the Bangsamoro referendum. Any of these scenarios would increase the risk of violence, albeit not to the degree that followed similar setbacks in the past.

Even if the law clears these hurdles, autonomy alone will not stabilize Bangsamoro. Any new government would struggle to assert control over the fractious region, home to myriad ethno-linguistic groups and a geographic landscape ill-suited for unity. Militant groups sidelined during the recent peace negotiations are unlikely to recognize the legitimacy of a regional government led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, particularly in the Sulu archipelago, the stronghold of the rival Moro National Liberation Front (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's parent organization), which rejects the new law on grounds that it will abrogate its own agreement for semi-autonomy reached with the government in 1996. Meanwhile, more radical groups -- namely Abu Sayyaf and the communist New People's Army -- will continue attacks that will complicate the implementation of the law, irrespective of whatever progress is made between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Ultimately, major investment and development will be needed to build a sustainable peace, as the regional economy has floundered amid the insecurity. Muslim Mindanao has a per capita gross domestic product of around 40 percent of the nationwide average, with unemployment reaching 48 percent in 2012. The region regularly suffers from blackouts that make manufacturing unattractive, while the prevalence of kidnappings, bombings and extortion scares off foreign investors. In the late 1990s, for example, the Philippine National Oil Co. and Malaysia's Petronas withdrew from an oil and natural gas play in territory controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, reportedly due to threats from the rebel group and other local warlords. On Aug. 24, fighters with the New People's Army -- which routinely targets foreign companies in the region -- raided two Del Monte banana plantations. Any potential investor will also need to navigate unresolved clan conflicts and historical territorial disputes, pervasive corruption and entrenched criminal networks led by local warlords and political oligarchs.
Forces Compelling the Peace Process

Nonetheless, the peace process has repeatedly proved resilient to judicial and militant complications and will continue to do so. Violence spiked after the 2008 ruling, but within four years the two sides had inked another framework deal that laid the groundwork for the new Bangsamoro law. This, too, sparked violence, with the Moro National Liberation Front battling the military in Zamboanga City for three weeks in 2013, displacing more than 100,000 people. Simultaneously, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2008 in opposition to the cease-fire negotiations) and Abu Sayyaf launched attacks elsewhere. Those also failed to derail the talks, as have regular attacks since.
The Philippines' Geographic Challenge

The resilience of the stabilization process stems from several factors: First, there are indeed powerful economic incentives for peace. The region is home to as much as 70 percent of the country's untapped mineral sources -- upwards of $300 billion in gold, copper, nickel, manganese, lead, zinc and iron ore deposits. It also has oil and natural gas potential and is attractive for tourism. Development of these resources would fund the massive infrastructure investment needed for the Philippines to meet its long-term economic imperatives and take advantage of emerging regional opportunities. The resource wealth may intensify local rivalries, but it can also be used to win cooperation from local warlords and political oligarchs while isolating holdouts from patronage flows. To generate public backing for the law, Philippine leaders have been consistently touting the region's economic promise, including the fact that foreign direct investment has surged over the past year in Mindanao in anticipation of peace.

Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which dropped its demand for full independence in 2003 and has since evolved into a primarily political organization, cannot afford to miss even a fleeting chance to capitalize on its efforts. Its moderate leadership is aging, and it lacks the militant capabilities it once had. If pressed for further concessions, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front could seek leverage by aligning with its more radical rivals, particularly the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. However, the peace process has already sparked some development in areas controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, weakening public support for any potential return to violence. At this point, backing out of the deal would threaten an opportunity for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to deliver autonomy to the region while entrenching itself in power. This is why Aquino's alterations to the draft law did not sink it, despite generating a strong rhetorical backlash from rebel negotiators.

Divisions among the other various militant groups in Muslim Mindanao will make for a weaker rebel challenge overall, albeit one within which radical wings and shifting alignments pose continued challenges for Manila. Though the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters have become increasingly active since the beginning of the year, the group only controls a few hundred fighters. Abu Sayyaf has essentially evolved into little more than a kidnapping and extortion syndicate. For its part, the Moro National Liberation Front appears increasingly divided, isolated and irrelevant. While some Moro National Liberation Front leaders still refuse to negotiate, others (particularly those located in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-dominated central Mindanao) have been making conciliatory gestures. Indeed, were it to heed calls from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Manila and the international community to join the new Bangsamoro government, the Moro National Liberation Front would form a strong minority bloc with, by certain metrics, greater control over regional resources than it had under the 1996 deal.

For the Philippine government, progress in Mindanao has become increasingly imperative as the country gradually shifts its defense posture. The new law will free the military to focus its divide-and-conquer tactics on the holdout groups, while the opportunity to control local rebel-dominated industries will likely keep military leaders onboard. The government's ultimate imperatives are geopolitical: It is facing diplomatic pressure from regional allies such as Malaysia (which has its own security concerns about Philippine rebels) and the United States (which provides considerable military support) to implement a settlement. More important, with tensions in the South China Sea growing, the Philippines must find a way to shift its focus from internal stabilization to its external vulnerabilities and maritime position. Unchecked insurgencies would make Muslim Mindanao ripe for foreign exploitation and a perpetual drain on military resources while undermining the economic growth needed to fund military modernization and prepare the country for more critical threats.

Read more: In the Southern Philippines, the Peace Process Stumbles Forward | Stratfor
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74  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: September 14, 2014, 12:05:14 PM
BTW, the syllogism here is one that Dick Morris recommends for Rep electoral success:
75  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ebola projections getting much worse on: September 14, 2014, 11:44:42 AM
U.S. Scientists See Long Fight Against Ebola

The deadly Ebola outbreak sweeping across three countries in West Africa is likely to last 12 to 18 months more, much longer than anticipated, and could infect hundreds of thousands of people before it is brought under control, say scientists mapping its spread for the federal government.

“We hope we’re wrong,” said Bryan Lewis, an epidemiologist at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech.

Both the time the model says it will take to control the epidemic and the number of cases it forecasts far exceed estimates by the World Health Organization, which said last month that it hoped to control the outbreak within nine months and predicted 20,000 total cases by that time. The organization is sticking by its estimates, a W.H.O. spokesman said Friday.

But researchers at various universities say that at the virus’s present rate of growth, there could easily be close to 20,000 cases in one month, not in nine. Some of the United States’ leading epidemiologists, with long experience in tracking diseases such as influenza, have been creating computer models of the Ebola epidemic at the request of the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Department.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to comment on the projections. A spokesman, Tom Skinner, said the agency was doing its own modeling and hoped to publish the results soon. But the C.D.C. director, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, has warned repeatedly that the epidemic is worsening, and on Sept. 2 described it as “spiraling out of control.”

While previous outbreaks have been largely confined to rural areas, the current epidemic, the largest ever, has reached densely populated, impoverished cities — including Monrovia, the capital of Liberia — gravely complicating efforts to control the spread of the disease. Alessandro Vespignani, a professor of computational sciences at Northeastern University who has been involved in the computer modeling of Ebola’s spread, said that if the case count reaches hundreds of thousands, “there will be little we can do.”

What worries public health officials most is that the epidemic has begun to grow exponentially in Liberia. In the most recent week reported, Liberia had nearly 400 new cases, almost double the number reported the week before. Another grave concern, the W.H.O. said, is “evidence of substantial underreporting of cases and deaths.” The organization reported on Friday that the number of Ebola cases as of Sept. 7 was 4,366, including 2,218 deaths.

“There has been no indication of any downturn in the epidemic in the three countries that have widespread and intense transmission,” it said, referring to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The scientists who produced the models cautioned that their dire predictions were based on the virus’s current uncontrolled spread and said the picture could improve if public health efforts started to work. Because conditions could change, for better or for worse, the researchers also warned that their forecasts became shakier the farther into the future they went.
Continue reading the main story
Predicting Ebola’s Future Toll

Assuming current infection rates continue, a new model estimates there could be 20,000 Ebola cases by mid-October. The model’s estimate would nearly triple under deteriorating conditions and an increasing infection rate.

If conditions deteriorate

60 thousand







Cases and deaths

through Aug. 31



Aug. 1

Sept. 1

Oct. 1

At current infection rates



Aug. 1

Sept. 1

Oct. 1

If conditions improve


Aug. 1

Sept. 1

Oct. 1
Source: The Earth Institute, Columbia University

By The New York Times
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

Dr. Lewis, the Virginia Tech epidemiologist, said that a group of scientists collaborating on Ebola modeling as part of an N.I.H.-sponsored project called Midas, short for Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study, had come to a consensus on the projected 12- to 18-month duration and very high case count.

Another Midas participant, Jeffrey L. Shaman, an associate professor of environmental health sciences at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, agreed.

“Ebola has a simple trajectory because it’s growing exponentially,” Dr. Shaman said.

Lone Simonsen, a research professor of global health at George Washington University who was not involved in the modeling, said the W.H.O. estimates seemed conservative and the higher projections more reasonable.

“The final death toll may be far higher than any of those estimates unless an effective vaccine or therapy becomes available on a large scale or many more hospital beds are supplied,” she said in an email.
Continue reading the main story Video
Play Video|3:47
Dying of Ebola at the Hospital Door
Dying of Ebola at the Hospital Door

Monrovia, the Liberian capital, is facing a widespread Ebola epidemic, and as the number of infected grows faster than hospital capacity, some patients wait outside near death.
Video Credit By Ben C. Solomon on Publish Date September 11, 2014.
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Recent Comments
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If we do nothing, and a messy civil war in West Africa breaks out, then humanity will begin to lose our most valuable asset in this battle,...
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Lots of people in these countries DO NOT WANT to be helped. They accuse health care workers of spreading/giving them the disease, don't...
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Dr. Vespignani said that the W.H.O. figures would be reasonable if there were an effective campaign to stop the epidemic now, but that there is not.

The modeling estimates are based on the observed growth rate of cases and on factors like how many people each patient infects. The researchers use the past data to make projections. They can test their methods by, for instance, taking the figures from June, plugging them into the model to predict the number of cases in July, and then comparing the results with what actually happened in July.

Dr. Shaman’s research team created a model that estimated the number of cases through Oct. 12, with different predictions based on whether control of the epidemic stays about the same, improves or gets worse. If control stays the same, according to the model, the case count by Oct. 12 will be 18,406. If control improves, it will be 7,861. If control worsens, it will soar to 54,895.

Before this epidemic, the largest Ebola outbreak was in Uganda from 2000 to 2001, and it involved only 425 cases. Scientists say the current epidemic surged out of control because it began near the borders of three countries where people traveled a lot, and they carried the disease to densely populated city slums. In addition, the weak health systems in these poor countries were not equipped to handle the disease, and much of the international response has been slow and disorganized.

But questions have also been raised about whether there could be something different about this strain of Ebola that makes it more contagious than previous ones.

Researchers are doubtful, but Thomas W. Geisbert, an Ebola expert at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said it was important to keep an open mind about the possibility. During vaccine tests expected to start next month in monkeys, he said, he and his colleagues will monitor infected animals to see if they develop unusually high virus levels early in the disease that might amplify its infectiousness.

Some scientists have also suggested that as the outbreak continues and the virus spreads from person to person, it will have more opportunities to mutate and perhaps become even more dangerous or contagious. But Stuart T. Nichol, chief of the C.D.C.’s Viral Special Pathogens Branch, said that so far, researchers monitoring the mutations had seen no such changes.
76  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington, 5th Annual Message 1793; "Let us resolve"; Madison: govt limited on: September 14, 2014, 12:35:43 AM
"There is a rank due to the United States, among nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war." --George Washington, Fifth Annual Message, 1793

"We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die. ... Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble actions." --George Washington (1776)

"[T]his is not an indefinite government deriving its powers from the general terms prefixed to the specified powers -- but, a limited government tied down to the specified powers, which explain and define the general terms." --James Madison, Speech in Congress, 1792
77  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Immigration issues, jobs data, and political implications on: September 14, 2014, 12:33:50 AM

Jobs Data Signal GOP Victory
Published on on September 9, 2014
Amid the media focus on the basic data in the August jobs report -- that the economy "added" 143,000 jobs -- is the figure that will underscore the Republican efforts to take the Senate.

During the month of August, the economy added about 659,000 jobs that went to foreign-born Americans (naturalized citizens, green card holders and illegal immigrants combined). At the same time, it lost about 643,000 jobs that had been held by native-born Americans.

Indeed, since President Obama took office, the number of foreign-born Americans who have jobs has risen by 2.9 million while the number of domestically born Americans who are employed has grown by only 1.2 million.

In other words, about three out of four jobs created during the Obama presidency went to immigrants.

When the president was inaugurated in 2009, 14.9 percent of all employed Americans had been born outside of the 50 states. At this point, the number has risen to 16.8 percent.

The average American worker might not know these numbers (they are not publicized by the liberal media), but he feels the data in his gut. He is coming to realize that there will be no income growth or real employment increase, unless the U.S. limits immigration.

The immigration issue has now morphed into the economic issue and the terror issue.

Our wide-open back border is encouraging both wage stagnation and joblessness in the United States and inviting terrorists to cross over and to create havoc in our country.

Reports indicate a difference of opinion between leaders in the United Kingdom and the United States on how to cope with nationals who have left to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. News accounts suggest the British want to keep them out of their country lest they commit acts of terrorism, while our government would rather admit them, track their movements and interrogate them. Is the difference because we cannot keep them out? Is it because we don't really have a southern border, and there is no way to close a door that has been effectively removed?

Historically, it was Republicans who favored open borders in their effort to accommodate their robber baron patrons with an ongoing supply of cheap labor. It was that propensity, in part, that encouraged the growth of urban labor unions and led to their affiliation with the Democratic Party.

Now it is the Democratic Party that is opening the gates to foreign workers. Their unions remain opposed to bringing in low-wage workers, fearful that the competition will lower the incomes of their members. But no matter. The honchos of the Democratic Party, led by the president, could care less. They want Latino voters, and they are willing to make their union supporters walk the plank in order to get them into the country.

Any analysis of income inequality has to focus on the two factors that lower working-class incomes: immigration and foreign trade. Even as Obama protests inequality and highlights marginal remedies like raising the minimum wage, he turns a blind eye to China's currency manipulation, permitting artificially low-priced imports to undercut the price of products made in the USA.

For how long will America's workers let Obama get away with this game? How long will they tolerate Democratic policies that encourage immigration, legal or not, and do nothing to stop illegal currency manipulation to get us to buy foreign products?
78  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pravdas befuddled by Baraq's speech on: September 14, 2014, 12:14:16 AM
79  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / August Retail Sales on: September 14, 2014, 12:01:20 AM
Retail Sales Increased 0.6% in August To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 9/12/2014

Retail sales increased 0.6% in August, matching consensus expectations, but were up 1.0% including revisions to prior months. Sales are up 5.0% versus a year ago.
Sales excluding autos increased 0.3% in August, matching consensus expectations, but were up 0.6% including revisions to prior months. These sales are up 4.1% in the past year.

The increase in sales in August was led by autos and building materials. The weakest category was gas.
Sales excluding autos, building materials, and gas were up 0.4% in August. If unchanged in September, these sales will be up at a 4.7% annual rate in Q3 versus the Q2 average.

Implications: A very solid report out of the retail sector today. Retail sales rose 0.6% in August, increasing for the seventh consecutive month, and rising by the most in four months. Sales continue to grow at a healthy clip from a year ago, up 5%. Moreover, the “mix” of retail sales was even better news than the headline, as gas station sales dropped 0.8% due to lower gas prices. Gas prices are also down 0.8% from a year ago. The widespread use of fracking and horizontal drilling is making this possible, which means consumers can take the money they save on filling their tanks and spend it on other things. “Core” sales, which exclude autos, building materials and gas, increased 0.4% in August and 0.8% including upward revisions to June and July. “Core” sales have now been positive in eleven of the last twelve months. These sales are a key input into GDP calculations and, if unchanged in September, the sales will grow 4.7% at an annual rate in Q3 versus Q2. Once we include other spending (on services and durables), our expectation is that “real” (inflation-adjusted) consumer spending, goods and services combined, will grow at a 2% annual rate in Q3. We expect consumer spending to accelerate in the year ahead, as lower unemployment means an acceleration in income gains at the same time that consumer debt service is hovering near multiple-decade lows. In other news this morning, no consistent sign yet of inflation in trade prices. Import prices fell 0.9% in August, although they declined only 0.1% excluding oil. Export prices slipped 0.5% in August and declined 0.3% excluding agriculture. In the past year, import prices are down 0.4% while export prices are up 0.4%. In other recent news, new claims for unemployment insurance increased 11,000 last week to 315,000. Continuing claims rose 9,000 to 2.50 million. These figures are consistent with our early forecast that payrolls are growing roughly 200,000 in September.
80  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan on Baraq in 2006 on: September 13, 2014, 10:24:39 PM
'The Man From Nowhere'
What does Barack Obama believe in?

Friday, December 15, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST We are getting very excited. Barack Obama is brilliant, eloquent and fresh.
He is "exciting" (David Brooks), "charming" (Bob Schieffer), "my favorite guy" (Oprah Winfrey), has "charisma" (Donna Brazile), and should run now for president (George Will). Our political and media establishments, on the rebound from bad history, are sounding like Marlene Dietrich in her little top hat. Falling in luff again, vot am I to do, vot am I to do, kont hellllllp eet.

Well, down from your tippy toes, establishment.

He is obviously planning to run. This week he was in New Hampshire--rapturous reviews, sold-out fund-raisers--and before that, Iowa.
His second book is his second best seller and the biggest-selling nonfiction title in the nation. The intro he taped for "Monday Night Football"--in an Aaron Sorkin-like setting of gleaming desk and important lighting--showed he is an actor who can absorb the script and knows by nature what a camera is.
This is a compliment. All the great presidents of the media age, FDR, JFK and Reagan, were great actors of the presidency. (The one non-great president who was their equal in this, Bill Clinton, proved that acting is not enough.)

He has obvious appeal. I asked a Young Democrat college student why he liked him. After all, I said, he has little experience. That's part of what I like, he said. "He's not an insider, he's not just a D.C. politician."

He is uncompromised by a past, it is true. He is also unburdened by a record, unworn by achievement, unwearied by long labors.

What does he believe? What does he stand for? This is, after all, the central question. When it is pointed out that he has had almost--almost--two years in the U.S. Senate, and before that was an obscure state legislator in Illinois, his supporters compare him to Lincoln. But Lincoln had become a national voice on the great issue of the day, slavery. He rose with a reason. Sen. Obama's rise is not about a stand or an issue or a question; it is about Sen. Obama. People project their hopes on him, he says.

He's exactly right. Just so we all know it's projection.

He doesn't have an issue, he has a thousand issues, which is the same as having none, in the sense that a speech about everything is a speech about nothing. And on those issues he seems not so much to be guided by philosophy as by impulses, sentiments. From "The Audacity of Hope," his latest book:
  • ur democracy might work a bit better if we recognized that all of us possess values that are worthy of respect." "I value good manners." When not attempting to elevate the bromidic to the profound, he lapses into the language of political consultants--"our message," "wedge issues," "moral language." Ronald Reagan had "a durable narrative." Parts of the book, the best parts, are warm, anecdotal, human. But much of it pretends to a seriousness that is not borne out. When speaking of the political past he presents false balance and faux fairness. (Reagan, again, despite his "John Wayne, Father Knows Best pose, his policy by anecdote and his gratuitous assaults on the poor" had an "appeal" Sen. Obama "understood." Ronnie would be so pleased.)

The world is difficult now, unlike those days when America enjoyed "the near unanimity forged by the Cold War, and the Soviet threat." Near unanimity?
This is rewriting the past in a way that suggests a deep innocence of history, or a slippery approach to the facts.
Sen. Obama spent his short lifetime breathing in the common liberal/leftist wisdom, which he exhales at length. This is not something new--it's something old in a new package. And it is something that wins you what he has, a series of 100% ratings from left-liberal interest groups.

He is, clearly, a warm-blooded political animal, an eager connector, a man of intelligence and a writer whose observations suggest the possibility of an independence of spirit. Also a certain unknowability. Which may account for some of his popularity.

But again, what does he believe? From reading his book, I would say he believes in his destiny. He believes in his charisma. He has the confidence of the anointed. He has faith in the magic of the man who meets his moment.

He also believes in the power of good nature, the need for compromise, and the possibility of comprehensive, multitiered, sensible solutions achieved through good-faith negotiations. But mostly it seems to be about him, his sense of destiny, and his appreciation of his own particular gifts. Which leaves me thinking Oh dear, we have been here before. It's not as if we haven't already had a few of the destiny boys. It's not as if we don't have a few more in the wings.

It seems to me that our political history has been marked the past 10 years by lurches, reactions and swerves, and I wonder if historians will see the era that started in the mid-'90s as The Long Freakout. First the Clinton era left more than half the country appalled--deeply appalled, and ashamed--by its series of political, financial and personal scandals. I doubt the Democratic Party will ever fully understand the damage done in those days.

In reaction the Republican Party lurched in its presidential decision toward a relatively untested (five years in the governor's office, before that very
little) man whom party professionals chose, essentially, because "He can win" and the base endorsed because he seemed the opposite of Bill Clinton.

The 2000 election was a national trauma, and I'm not sure Republicans fully understand what it did to half the Democrats in the country to think the election was stolen, or finagled, or arranged by unseen powers. Then 9/11.

Now we have had six years of high drama and deep division, and again a new savior seems to beckon, one who is so clearly Not Bush.

We'll see what Sen. Obama has, what he is, what he becomes. But right now he seems part of a pattern of lurches and swerves--the man from nowhere, of whom little is known, who will bring us out of the mess. His sudden rise and wild popularity seem more symptom than solution. And I wonder if historians will call this chapter in their future histories of the modern era not "A Decision Is Made" but "The Freakout Continues."
81  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pesh Merga on: September 13, 2014, 09:27:45 AM
Second post

 Kurdish Peshmerga Forces Have Room to Grow
September 12, 2014 | 0456 Print Text Size

Though a limited force, the Kurdish peshmerga could prove critical against Islamic State


As the United States prepares for more aggressive action against the Islamic State, one of the key pillars of its strategy is to work with indigenous armed groups that can roll back the militant group's gains. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces, despite their fabled reputation, have diminished as a fighting force over the last decade of relative peace in Iraq's Kurdistan region. With serious training and significant foreign support, however, the Peshmerga fighters can still play a critical role in the overall strategy against the Islamic State.


Considerable divisions exist within the organizational framework of the Peshmerga forces. Indeed, to a large extent, the Peshmerga concept remains an idea based around a shared goal, rather than a single monolith. The term is essentially a catchall for the armed forces of the various Kurdish factions, rather than the name of a single army.

At the highest level, the Peshmerga forces can be primarily divided into two main factional fighting groups, one reporting to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the other to the Kurdistan Democratic Party. These factions operate in largely distinct territorial areas, and their command and control and logistics structures differ. Within the two broader groupings there are also many families, clans and individuals that invite their own loyalties. Estimates generally indicate that some 60,000 fighters fight under each party, with the Ministry of the Peshmerga Affairs claiming an additional 50,000 fighters. These estimates include a large number of veterans and untrained civilians who have rushed to the lines to repel the Islamic State.

The rivalries within the Peshmerga groups have led to poor coordination on the battlefield between Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party units. This has even been the case in the Regional Guard Brigades, a force that combines fighters from both factions into single units. In locations where Regional Guard Brigades have failed, less professional but more highly trusted Peshmerga units that remain under party control have performed better. No effective command structure exists across the entire Peshmerga force due to the split of prevailing loyalties among the two factions. There is also a marked divide in sharing logistics and supplies, which diminishes the effectiveness of both factions. The involvement of People’s Protection Unit forces from Syria as well as Kurdistan Workers' Party forces from Turkey, particularly in the north and northwest, has further complicated the situation on the ground, even though these fighters add considerable force and much-needed combat experience.

While most of the Peshmerga fighters (particularly those in the Regional Guard Brigades) have received some amount of training, the units as a whole are inexperienced. Many of the older commanders gained experience fighting former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s army. However, that fight involved using guerilla tactics against a mechanized conventional army. Those skills do not necessarily translate into an ability to operate against a fluid opponent that is proficient in light infantry maneuver warfare, or an ability to effectively carry out counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. In addition, the bulk of the ranks have very little combat experience and have mostly been involved in garrison duty over the last decade. U.S. Special Forces operating alongside Peshmerga forces in a more conventional way in 2003 also described them as "wild" and said they were forced to organize the Peshmerga fighters into assault units to prevent friendly fire incidents. Finally, none of the senior Peshmerga officers have experience with modern combined arms offensives.

As mentioned, the much younger rank-and-file fighters lack combat experience as a whole. They also lack Arabic language skills, adding to their alienation from Sunni tribes. These younger recruits have cultural backgrounds that differ from those of the once-fabled Peshmerga fighters, who were viewed as tough boys from the mountains born with rifles in their hands. Instead, the average Peshmerga fighter is now an urban youth with little to no experience in handling weapons or living in rough mountain terrain. In fact, notable portions of current Peshmerga fighters are volunteers from the Kurdish diaspora.
Logistical Shortfalls

Peshmerga equipment consists of significant amounts of heavy weaponry including tanks, rocket artillery and howitzers, but the force lacks the ammunition and the logistical and maintenance support required to sustain offensive operations. This is not the only shortfall; the level of sophistication of the weapons systems available to the Peshmerga fighters also poses a setback. The vast bulk of Peshmerga heavy weaponry derives from old Warsaw Pact supplies captured long ago from Hussein's forces. The deployed equipment's age and lack of maintenance have already resulted in a number of reported breakdowns and malfunctions.

Peshmerga forces also lack the appropriate communication tools to allow them to convey information within and among units. This limits fighters' ability to respond to Islamic State activities in a timely manner or to convey orders or intelligence in a secure manner.

On the whole, the Peshmerga forces remain particularly effective in core Kurdish areas, especially in defensive operations in the mountainous regions dominated by Kurdish populations with terrain that is well known to the Peshmerga fighters. The Peshmerga forces have not fared as well in the open plains, where the Islamic State's superior mobility has proved a key advantage against the slower-moving Kurds.

Indeed, considering all the challenges faced by the Peshmerga fighters, they have shown themselves to be an effective defensive force and have held back the Islamic State after initial tactical retreats in Arbil province. These tactical withdrawals have allowed Peshmerga forces to regroup and correct their dispositions, although in doing so they still have faced significant planning and management shortfalls.

The Peshmerga forces are far better prepared to carry out defensive operations than to take the fight to Islamic State militants. However, with adequate support -- air power, supplies, equipment and perhaps even advising -- they might be able to carry out effective offensive operations. The more time the Peshmerga fighters have to train, especially if they get foreign advisers, intelligence, and air support, the better they eventually will be able to operate. Training and foreign support are crucial to bolstering the force's offensive capabilities; even now, the Peshmerga forces can perform some offensive operations with proper support. This was evident during the Mosul Dam operation in which the Peshmerga fighters, led by the Iraqi Golden Brigades and supported by American air power, smashed through Islamic State defenses. Though the Peshmerga forces currently have some serious limitations in offensive operations beyond their core territory, their capabilities can grow with enough international support.

Read more: Kurdish Peshmerga Forces Have Room to Grow | Stratfor
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82  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Screw Turkey, go with Kurds on: September 13, 2014, 09:02:55 AM
Maybe the WSJ has been reading my posts here?

Our Non-Ally in Ankara
Turkey bugs out of the anti-ISIS coalition. Why not a base in Kurdistan?
Sept. 12, 2014 6:37 p.m. ET

Was it only a week ago that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listed a "core coalition" of 10 countries willing to join the U.S. effort to destroy the Islamic State? Since then Britain has categorically ruled out military strikes in Syria, while Germany has ruled out any use of force. Now Turkey is bugging out.

The Turkish abdication goes a step further than the Brits or Germans. Not only will Ankara take no military action, it will also forbid the U.S. from using the U.S. air base in Incirlik—located fewer than 100 miles from the Syrian border—to conduct air strikes against the terrorists. That will complicate the Pentagon's logistical and reconnaissance challenges, especially for a campaign that's supposed to take years.

The U.S. military will no doubt find work-arounds for its air campaign, just as it did in 2003 when Turkey also refused requests to let the U.S. launch attacks on Iraq from its soil in order to depose Saddam Hussein. Turkey shares a 750-mile border with Syria and Iraq, meaning it could have made a more-than-symbolic contribution to a campaign against ISIS. So much for that.

Harder to get around is the reality of a Turkish government that is a member of NATO but long ago stopped acting like an ally of the U.S. or a friend of the West. Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone declared this week that the Turkish government "frankly worked" with the al-Nusrah Front—the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria—along with other terrorist groups. Ankara also looked the other way as foreign jihadis used Turkey as a transit point on their way to Syria and Iraq. Mr. Ricciardone came close to being declared persona non grata by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government last December.

This history—along with the Erdogan government's long record of support for Hamas in Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt—explains why the excuses now being made for Turkey's nonfeasance ring hollow. ISIS has taken Turkish diplomats and their family members hostage in Mosul inside Iraq, but Turkey is not the only country whose citizens have been taken hostage. Ankara also fears that arms sent to ISIS opponents may wind up in the hands of the PKK, the Kurdish terrorist group. But that doesn't justify shutting down Incirlik for a U.S. operation.

The unavoidable conclusion is that the U.S. needs to find a better regional ally to fight ISIS. True to type, Arab states such as Saudi Arabia are proving to be reluctant partners, at least in public, and it's unclear how much the new government in Baghdad can contribute before its army regroups.

The better bet is with the Kurds, who have the most on the line and are willing to provide the boots on the ground that others can't or won't. Incirlik has been a home for U.S. forces for nearly 60 years, but perhaps it's time to consider replacing it with a new U.S. air base in Kurdish territory in northern Iraq. America may no longer have friends in Ankara, but that doesn't mean we don't have options in the Middle East.
83  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ISIS/ISIL documentary by embedded journalist on: September 12, 2014, 02:48:27 PM

Good post, but allow me to point out to you as a new member that around here we strive for "thread coherency" i.e. putting posts into existing threads where possible.

For example, your documentary here would belong well in the Middle East thread (SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR)

84  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bill MAher vs. Charlie Rose on: September 12, 2014, 02:42:47 PM
85  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 9/21/2014 Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack on: September 12, 2014, 10:43:55 AM
If anyone has any nominations to or within the Tribe please get them up right away on the Tribal forum!
86  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A fired up Sen.Ted Cruz takes on 49 Dem Senate's attack on the First Amendment on: September 12, 2014, 04:22:05 AM
87  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A fired up Sen.Ted Cruz takes on the Dem Senate's attack on the First Amendment on: September 12, 2014, 04:20:22 AM 
88  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / KS senate race up for grabs on: September 12, 2014, 04:11:03 AM
89  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muslims and Jews in Germany on: September 12, 2014, 04:00:17 AM

Germany Sees Rising Anti-Semitism Among Muslims
Merkel to Address Weekend Rally, German Jews Worry About Lack of Plan


Bertrand Benoit
Sept. 11, 2014 10:01 p.m. ET

Windows at a newspaper office in Spremberg, Germany, were sprayed with anti-Semitic grafitti this month, reading 'Jews' and 'We'll catch you all.' Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

BERLIN—On a recent Monday morning, two police officers stood guard outside the Lauder Nitzan Kindergarten, a white, three-story house marked by a discreet nameplate. Shortly after 9 a.m., a dozen children walked out and headed for the playground, minded by a nervous-looking civilian with a pistol protruding from a belt holster.

Most Jewish institutions in Germany have long had 24-hour police protection. Many, like the kindergarten, also employ private security. But such vigilance, usually intended to stave off neo-Nazis, has taken on fresh urgency amid an upsurge in anti-Semitic acts this year that some authorities and Jewish community leaders blame on Muslims.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will address a rally against anti-Semitismin Berlin on Sunday, underlining the government's concern. But many Jews in Germany are worried their country doesn't have a clear plan.

This summer, protesters against Israel's offensive in the Gaza Strip unleashed a barrage of abuse, calling Jews "cowardly pigs," "child murderers" and fodder for the gas chambers, according to witnesses and Jewish organizations. On the sidelines, a mob hounded a Jewish couple in Berlin and Jews were beaten in Hamburg and Frankfurt.

Similar incidents were taking place elsewhere in Europe, but in the country that masterminded the Holocaust, they evoked particularly painful memories.

"We haven't heard these things on German streets for 50, 60 years," said Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews, sitting in his office on a Frankfurt side street. "The fact that people on German streets are saying Jews should burn, Jews should be slaughtered, Jews should be gassed. It hits a particular nerve for us."

Through education and prevention, but also repression, successive German governments largely succeeded in banning anti-Semitic speech from the public domain. Yet these efforts focused on the far-right; anti-Semitism in Muslim communities was left unchecked, according to community activists and government officials.

"The protests got a lot of attention, but 'Jew' has been used as an insult by young Muslims in schoolyards, on sports grounds, for years," said Ahmad Mansour, an Israeli Arab who has led initiatives against prejudice and radicalization among Muslims in Germany since 2007. "There is a group of people that Germany's fight against anti-Semitism passed by."

Aiman Mazyek, president of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said that Islam forbids anti-Semitism, but that some Muslims blur the border between criticism of Israel and hate speech.

"It must be addressed, but community leaders can't do this on their own," he said. "The state must step in, too, as it has done against right-wing anti-Semitism."

In a radio interview two weeks ago, Hans-Georg Maassen, president of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, said "we've always associated anti-Semitism with national socialism [Nazis], the extreme right. We are now realizing that many immigrants who came to Germany harbor anti-Semitic prejudice."

Long-term studies by Bielefeld and Leipzig universities show anti-Semitic prejudice in Germany is less widespread today than it was 10 years ago. Police records of anti-Semitic acts show the same trend.

But starting in 2002, the year of the second intifada,, bouts of violence in the Middle East have coincided with spikes of anti-Semitism here, according to police, fanning fear among Jews.

"If you look back over 30 years, the statistics haven't changed that much," said Daniel Alter, a Berlin rabbi who survived a vicious attack in 2012 and now works with imams on outreach programs. "But anti-Semitism has become more visible, more accepted."

Mr. Alter now wears a cap over his yarmulke. "There are too many places in Berlin where it would be irresponsible to advertise yourself as a Jew," he said.

Esther Mizrahi, director of the Lauder Nitzan Kindergarten in central Berlin, said she doesn't feel comfortable taking her children to the kosher store. A 31-year-old woman from an Orthodox household said Lebanese boys threw a stone through her window last month after arguing with her children over the Gaza conflict.

One obstacle to combating anti-Semitism among Muslims has been reluctance among politicians and the police to stigmatize a community that faces racism itself. Last week, a study by the government's antidiscrimination watchdog showed far more antipathy in Germany against Gypsies and Muslims than against Jews. A mosque was burned in Berlin last month in a suspected arson attack.

Immigration from the former Soviet Union after the Berlin Wall fell saw Germany's Jewish community grow to about 130,000 from 30,000 in the late 1980s. That doesn't count an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Israelis living here.

The spread of anti-Semitic speech, from online forums to schoolyards, risks sending the community retreating in its shell, said Deidre Berger, director of the American Jewish Committee Berlin Office.

"Frictions with Muslims mean more and more Jewish families are deciding to send their children to Jewish schools," she said. "There's a tendency to seclude. If you can't send your child to the local school, it's a daunting challenge for society."

A year ago, Ms. Merkel said she was ashamed that Jewish institutions still required police protection. Mr. Graumann thinks it will be a long time before the guards become superfluous.

"I wish we no longer needed them," he said. "But that may have to wait until the Messiah comes."
90  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The man with the red bandana on: September 12, 2014, 03:57:05 AM
91  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: September 12, 2014, 03:45:32 AM

Economists See Overseas Risks as Growth Wild Card
WSJ Survey Shows Optimism on U.S. Economy, but Not So Much for Rest of World
By Nick Timiraos
Sept. 11, 2014 12:08 p.m. ET

After an uneven first half of the year, most economists are relatively sanguine about the U.S. economy's growth outlook. It's the rest of the world that's a concern, according to The Wall Street Journal's monthly forecasting survey.

More than 90% of the 48 surveyed economists—not all of whom answered every question—said they expect the U.S. economy to improve relative to the first half of 2014. None see the economic outlook deteriorating. The survey was conducted after last Friday's weaker-than-expected August jobs report.

The brighter outlook for the U.S., coming as the Federal Reserve gets set to end its bond-buying stimulus program next month and amid generally improving economic data, stands in contrast to economists' views toward other large economies.

Just one-third said their outlook for the eurozone had improved, roughly balanced with the share seeing a worse outlook for the currency union. One-quarter of economists said their outlook for China improved, while almost 40% said it had deteriorated slightly. About 40% said their outlook for Japan had improved, compared with 12% that said it had deteriorated.

"The U.S. cycle is well ahead" of Europe and Japan, said Joseph Carson, an economist at Alliance Bernstein. "We've taken the hits and restructured. The household sector has deleveraged, and the financial sector has re-liquefied. You've seen little progress in Europe."

The U.S. is also better off because of increasing domestic oil production and the potential for new industries to grow on the back of that cheaper energy supply, Mr. Carson said.

Indeed, a majority of economists don't believe global oil prices will change over the next six months as a result of turmoil in the Middle East. One-third said the instability might lead to a slight increase in oil prices.

Economists cited the situation in Ukraine as the largest threat to global growth, followed by monetary missteps by central bankers and structurally high unemployment.

James F. Smith, chief economist at Parsec Financial, is pessimistic about the threat of economic warfare between Russia and Europe over the unrest in Ukraine, including the prospect of a European banking crisis from a Russian debt default. He also worries about the implications of Japan's growing trade deficit.  Still, compared with the August survey, the latest consensus outlook for economic growth, unemployment and inflation for 2014 and 2015 was little changed.

The economists see gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, advancing at a 3% annual pace this quarter and next. Just three economists expected growth to exceed 3.7% in the third or fourth quarters, and only two see growth falling below 2%.  The economy expanded at a 4.2% pace in the second quarter after contracting 2.1% in the first quarter, according to the Commerce Department.  Forecasters in the Journal survey expect the U.S. economy to grow at a 2.8% annual pace in 2015, down slightly from last month's forecast of 2.9% annual growth.

Economists saying there is more upside to their near-term forecast outnumber those who say there is more downside by nearly 2 to 1. Economists cited stronger consumer spending and faster capital investment by businesses as their top upside surprises, while they flagged geopolitical risks, Europe's economy, and the soft U.S. housing market as their biggest concerns.

Nearly half of economists believe that the 10-year Treasury yield will end the year at or under 2.76%, compared with the median forecast of 3% in the August survey.
Most economists don't expect the Fed to raise short-term interest rates from near zero before June 2015, and the number of economists who believe the Fed will move early next year declined since the August survey.

Messrs. Carson and Smith say they believe better hiring and growth in the U.S. could force the Fed to raise rates during the first quarter of 2015. Despite the turmoil abroad, the U.S. has seen little impact so far, Mr. Carson said. Stock prices and durable-goods orders have advanced, while oil prices have declined.

Others believe overseas risks will provide further reasons for policy makers to tread carefully. "If the Fed moves too quickly to raise rates, we risk leveling the forest rather than just trimming the overgrowth," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial. The turmoil abroad only makes the central bank's task "much more precarious," she said.

The Fed would rather move too slowly than too quickly, "given the lack of safety nets if we were to stumble into a recession," Ms. Swonk said.
92  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Just revealed Yahoo faced big US fines over user data demands from NSA in 2008 on: September 12, 2014, 03:19:34 AM
Yahoo Faced Big U.S. Fines Over User Data
Government Wanted to Charge Internet Firm $250,000 a Day Fine If It Didn't Comply With NSA Request
By Danny Yadron
Updated Sept. 11, 2014 8:52 p.m. ET

The government wanted to charge Yahoo $250,000 a day if it didn't comply. Getty Images

A secret legal battle between the U.S. government and Yahoo Inc. YHOO +0.29% over requests for customer data became so acrimonious in 2008 that the government wanted to charge the Internet company $250,000 a day if it didn't comply.

Yahoo made the threat public Thursday after a special federal court unsealed 1,500 pages of legal documents from a once-classified court battle over the scope of National Security Agency surveillance programs. The documents shed new light on tensions between American technology companies and the intelligence community long before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began leaking in 2013.

The requests, and the long battles that can follow at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, traditionally are secret. Until last summer, Yahoo wasn't allowed to say that it had challenged government surveillance efforts—even without adding any other details. Google Inc. GOOGL -0.39% and Microsoft Corp. MSFT +0.34% have also challenged government records requests in court.

"The issues at stake in this litigation are the most serious issues that this nation faces today—to what extent must the privacy rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution yield to protect our national security," Marc Zwillinger, an outside counsel for Yahoo wrote in a legal brief in May 2008.

Court documents don't reveal exactly what the government wanted from Yahoo. In one brief, Yahoo states the main issue of the case is whether the Constitution protects the communications of U.S. citizens or legal residents believed to be outside the U.S.

Even after the documents were unsealed, portions were redacted, including the number of requests the government made of Yahoo.

The bulk collection of Internet records from U.S. companies can lead to the collection of data on people in the U.S.

In its legal response, the Justice Department said the government "employs extensive procedures to ensure that the surveillance is appropriately targeted."

Beginning in November 2007, the government began requesting "warrantless surveillance" of certain Yahoo customers, according to court records. Yahoo objected and asked the surveillance court to block the government request. A judge refused, and threatened Yahoo with a fine. The Justice Department had asked for at least $250,000 a day, though the judge was less specific. Yahoo complied with the order in May 2008.

"We refused to comply with what we viewed as unconstitutional and overbroad surveillance and challenged the U.S. Government's authority," Ron Bell, Yahoo's general counsel, said in a written statement. "Our challenge, and a later appeal in the case, did not succeed."

The dispute revolved around the Protect America Act, a 2007 law that allowed the government to eavesdrop, without a warrant, on people believed to be connected to terrorist groups. The law expired in 2008, but was replaced by other laws that grant the government essentially the same powers.

In a joint blog post, the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National intelligence said the court found that the government "has sufficient procedures in place to ensure that the Fourth Amendment rights of targeted U.S. persons are adequately protected" and that the requests were "reasonable."

The disclosure comes as some intelligence officials are pushing to declassify more of the legal reasoning for controversial surveillance programs. That doesn't mean the government has backed down in the use of such programs.

From January to June 2013, the most recent period for which Yahoo has released the data, the company previously said it fielded between zero and 999 foreign intelligence requests for user content covering between 30,000 and 30,999 accounts. It is unclear how many of those requests Yahoo fulfilled.

Yahoo and other tech firms have pushed to make public more information about government requests for user data.

Privacy advocates have long engaged in similar legal debates with the government. Until Mr. Snowden's leaks revealed details of government surveillance efforts, those debates were largely theoretical.

As Reggie Walton, an FISC judge, noted after his threat of a fine to Yahoo in 2008, "This order is sealed and shall not be disclosed by either party."

—Douglas MacMillan contributed to this article.
93  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Good reasons not to intervene on: September 11, 2014, 09:20:06 PM

External Powers Have Good Reason Not to Intervene in Libya
September 10, 2014 | 1108 Print Text Size
External Powers Have Good Reason Not to Intervene in Libya
A Libyan flag flutters under a bridge near Tripoli on Sept. 9. (MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)
France continues to focus attention on Libya. Most recently, on Sept. 9 the Elysee issued a call for joint international action in the North African country. While France stopped short of discussing military intervention, Stratfor sources say that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have approached Paris about just such an option, and they may also approach the United States.
Countries wanting to intervene in Libya face considerable constraints, and the objectives that could be attained are unclear. Regional actors will probably continue to be those most involved in direct and indirect interventions in Libya.
Egypt and the Emiratis have been the most overt supporters of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives that was elected in June and of retired Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who leads a coalition of Libyan troops, loyalists to former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi and a special operations forces unit against Islamist militias in eastern Libya. Saudi Arabia has also supported Hifter, but less visibly. Egypt wants to remove the Islamist threat on its western border, or at the very least ensure that Libya's Islamist actors only play a minimal role in the government. Cairo is wary of militancy spreading across its borders, and Egypt has propped up actors such as Hifter's Operation Dignity forces and the democratically elected House in an attempt to establish a buffer in eastern Libya. Egypt has a limited capacity to address Libyan unrest due to insecurity at home and a dire financial situation, so Cairo has come to depend on the Emiratis and Saudis to back its interests in Libya.
By backing Egypt in Libya, the United Arab Emirates is seizing an opportunity to prevent rival Qatar from regaining leverage in North Africa. Having solidified their influence in Cairo, the Emiratis would rather not see this undermined by instability generated by Islamists in neighboring Libya. Abu Dhabi has a tense relationship with its own domestic Muslim Brotherhood movement, al Islah, and would like to see Qatar's leverage with Islamist communities held to a minimum. The United Arab Emirates has also joined Egypt in limited airstrikes over Libya, deploying aircraft from Egyptian air bases. These airstrikes have had at best a minimal effect on the situation on the ground.
Striving to turn the security situation around in Libya, Abu Dhabi and Egypt have purportedly turned to Paris for help. France has notable interests in the region -- energy, military basing and arms trade -- and Cairo and Abu Dhabi are hoping the French are willing to consider a serious intervention. France has repeatedly pushed the issue before the U.N. Security Council, but so far France has stopped far short of anything that suggests a full-scale intervention. Paris did announce Sept. 9 that it could deploy forces based in countries bordering Libya in an attempt to shore up border security, but that would not be a substantial commitment.
France also has the ability to mount a wider air campaign over Libya, but the effects of this would likely be minimal and France would probably avoid carrying the full weight of such an intervention. Other Western allies, such as the United States, have announced support for the Libyan government but have been reluctant to match that support with direct military efforts -- anything beyond training elements of the Libyan armed forces. Even Italy -- which sits close to Libya, has direct energy interests there and is vulnerable to streams of immigrants seeking refuge on European shores -- doesn’t want to overcommit. During the air campaign in 2011, Rome only dedicated a portion of its full capabilities to operations in Libya.
Regional Actors' Limitations
Qatar has been active in Libya but has sought to support anyone who is not pro-Hifter or supportive of the elected House. Doha was the leading Arab force in toppling the Gadhafi regime in 2011, going so far as to deploy its highly trained special operations forces. Qatar's currency reserves have allowed Doha to funnel cash and weapons to militias in Libya.
The distance between Qatar and Libya limits Doha's involvement; there are no nearby friendly bases from which it could stage operations. Turkey has offered Qatar some limited backing because Ankara saw Egypt's deposed President Mohammed Morsi as a key ally and would prefer not to see Egypt dislodge another entrenched Islamist polity, this time in Libya. Access to cheap energy and potential infrastructure bids for the firms that support Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party have also compelled Turkish involvement, but Libya simply is not high enough of a Turkish priority to justify a level of engagement similar to that of Qatar.
Doha has also likely worked through Sudan to deliver arms to Libya, which puts it in direct competition with Egyptian and Saudi interests for influence in Khartoum. The Sudanese military industrial complex is useful in directing secondhand support of armed groups, but Sudan depends on investments and loans from both Qatar and Saudi Arabia to keep its economy going. Conflicting influences could therefore limit Sudan's usefulness in this particular situation.
Even if the actors backing Tobruk and Hifter's forces want to increase their active support, they would have to act cautiously because their assistance would undermine the credibility of the supported militias in Libya itself. Further, the effect of an air campaign would be fairly limited. Only a few Islamist groups would be targeted so as not to antagonize the Libyan population at large. While this could ease the pressure on Hifter's forces, targeting groups such as Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi would only have temporary benefits. The targeted militias could simply deploy forces that are being held back right now because they are not necessary. Any air campaign over Libya would thus be mostly a token intervention with little real chance of stabilizing Libya.
An airstrikes offensive against Islamist militias in cities such as Tripoli and Benghazi would be difficult, and to have a lasting effect it would need to be followed by intense state-building operations that would require a level of commitment nobody is willing to offer. External actors will remain reluctant to move forward with such a campaign.

Read more: External Powers Have Good Reason Not to Intervene in Libya | Stratfor
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94  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China takes a new Approach to India and South Asia on: September 11, 2014, 09:18:22 PM

Beijing Takes a New Approach to South Asia
Geopolitical Diary
Thursday, September 11, 2014 - 18:07 Text Size Print

China is beginning to view South Asia in a different light as the region becomes more economically and strategically valuable to Beijing. From Sept. 14 to Sept. 19, Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India after a stop in Tajikistan. This will make Xi the first Chinese president to visit the two island nations in nearly 30 years. Moreover, Xi's visit to India will be the first official visit between the two continental giants since Narendra Modi's government took office in May.
Interpreting China in South Asia

To some extent, the implications of China's presence in South Asia have often been outweighed by discussions of China's strategic intent, particularly regarding India. Geopolitical principles provided the explanation for these concerns, given the historical, economic and political proximity of South Asia's smaller nations to India, and given the rivalry between India and China, from disputes over their 4,000-kilometer (about 2,500 miles) land border and maritime boundaries to their competition over resources and energy. There is also Beijing's "iron" political and military relationship with Islamabad and New Delhi's ongoing search for bilateral and multilateral defense and strategic alignment with Japan, Vietnam and others, with an eye on China.

India's relative geographic isolation -- ringed by oceans and the Himalayas -- and its decadeslong foreign policy focus on its South Asian neighbors enabled China to continue to expand in its periphery, from Central Asia to Southeast Asia, with little meaningful interference from New Delhi. Despite India's allowances, however, China's South Asia strategy often lacked integral focus and remained a low priority.

Stretching along China's most restive areas, South Asia hosts the largest number of China's land neighbors and numerous important emerging economies. Yet, perhaps with the exception of Pakistan, high-level diplomatic exchanges have been rare in recent decades. Aside from a few eye-catching infrastructure projects -- especially the deep-water port facilities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and some transport construction in individual countries -- China's investments in South Asia are far smaller than its investment portfolios in North America, Southeast Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa.

The reasons for this are manifold. Before India began projecting power outside the region, South Asia was little more than the space between the Middle East's rich energy assets and the economic and manufacturing powers in East Asia. The region was constantly marred by political instability and internal chaos, and its limited strategic importance kept it low on China's priority list. Without substantial amounts of energy and resources -- two key priorities in China's strategy to fuel its export powerhouse -- the region is more of a long-term, gradual strategic matter than one of immediate significance. Additionally, more coherent relations with South Asian nations were often complicated by the distrust and rivalry between Beijing and New Delhi.
China's Strategic Needs

India's increasing economic heft, along with the integration of peripheral states such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka into the global manufacturing supply chain, could change China's assessment of the region. This change comes alongside Beijing's domestic economic and strategic recalculations and the shifting perception of its global position.

In recent years, Beijing has been attempting to chip away at the low-end exports economic model and move toward higher value-added manufacturing. It has pushed aggressively to expand China's global market share in strategic industries such as automobiles, electronics and telecommunications. It has provided options for cash-strapped South Asian states seeking alternative sources of capital, trade and technology while adding to their new manufacturing base.

Xi's visit to India will bring $7 billion of investment into two industrial parks in Maharashtra and Gujarat focusing on automobiles and electricity, in addition to trade and investment agreements for pharmaceuticals and information technology services, among others. New Delhi hoped that the investment would offset its trade deficit and help India emulate its neighbor's success as a manufacturing powerhouse. Likewise, China will finalize a free trade agreement with Sri Lanka, giving Colombo free access to China's vast market. The deal will help Sri Lanka capitalize on its shift to low-end manufacturing, especially in its garment industry. The Maldives and China will sign a series of cooperation agreements ranging from tourism to trade and infrastructure construction. In short, while the South Asian nations still have a way to go to show they are viable investment destinations, and although they remain a relatively low priority for China, the region's sizable and expanding consumer market is something that Chinese investors could not neglect.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Amid Beijing's global push, China increasingly perceives South Asia as an important component of its more comprehensive, integrated overland corridor across the Eurasian land mass that will include roads, expressways and potentially railway projects. Thus, South Asia will become more important as China pays more attention to its own underdeveloped interior regions and as Beijing's need to hedge against security risks and supply disruptions off its coast grows.

Beijing has begun shifting from its focus on individual countries in South Asia and is starting to view the region as a more integrated economic and strategic entity. A series of initiatives has been launched accordingly, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor, subcomponents of Beijing's envisioned Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road.

The centerpiece of Beijing's strategy is a more cordial relationship with New Delhi. Xi's visit will include a few landmark agreements that will allow China to assist with India's outdated railway system and potentially allow for an overland connection in the region. On many other fronts, although their competition endures, Beijing and New Delhi have appeared ready to move beyond decades of icy relations.

Notably, Xi's visit to South Asia followed a last-minute postponement of a trip to Pakistan, where domestic instability could delay $34 billion in much-needed investment deals for coal power, railways and road infrastructure. This is not to suggest that Sino-Pakistani relations are facing any challenges. Beijing simply seems to be signaling that its strong relationship with Islamabad will no longer override its desire to pursue more balanced connections in South Asia.

Read more: Beijing Takes a New Approach to South Asia | Stratfor
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95  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: September 11, 2014, 07:32:42 PM
Note that in his interview with Chris Wallace, Romney laid the black hole that Libya has become at her feet-- and correctly so.  While Baraq went on vacation to Brazil, Hillary, Susan Powers, and Samantha Wuzhername crafted the "Lead from behind strategy" for Libya.  Presumably the  presumed gun running operation in Benghazi supplying Syrian rebels was her idea too.  Now Libya is an anarchic wasteland of Islamo-fascism-- just what we went to Afpakia to prevent.

96  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: A New Threat Grows Amid Shades of 911 on: September 11, 2014, 01:58:01 PM
A New Threat Grows Amid Shades of 9/11
The nation remains largely unaware of the potential for disaster from cyberattacks.
By Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton
Sept. 10, 2014 7:03 p.m. ET

Ten years ago, the 9/11 Commission Report triggered the most significant reorganization of the U.S. intelligence community since 1947. Two months ago, the former members of the commission—we are among them—issued a new report assessing where national security stands, 13 years after the most devastating attacks on America's homeland.

Most of the new report's observations focused on counterterrorism, the central focus of the 9/11 Commission. But in speaking with many of the nation's most senior national-security leaders, we were struck that every one of these experts expressed concern about another issue: daily cyberattacks against the country's most sensitive public and private computer networks.

A growing chorus of national-security experts describes the cyber realm as the battlefield of the future. American life is becoming evermore dependent on the Internet. At the same time, government and private computer networks in the U.S. are under relentless cyberattack. This is more than an academic concern—attacks in the digital world can inflict serious damage in the physical world. Hackers can threaten the control systems of critical facilities like dams, water-treatment plants and the power grid. A hacker able to remotely control a dam, pumping station or oil pipeline could unleash large-scale devastation. As terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State grow and become more sophisticated, the threat of cyberattack increases as well.
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On a smaller scale, but equally unsettling, ordinary building systems like electronic door locks, elevators and video-surveillance cameras (today, present in many homes) are also vulnerable to penetration by hackers. Even life-sustaining medical devices, many of which contain embedded computer systems connected to the Internet, could be disabled by cyberattacks.

Others steal Americans' sensitive personal information and sell it to organized crime rings. The theft of credit- and debit-card numbers from tens of millions of Target customers last year is the most prominent example, but this happens every day. Home Depot HD -0.25% confirmed on Monday that it had been hit by a massive data breach.

Meanwhile, state-sponsored cyber intruders have stolen the plans to top-secret U.S. weapons systems, reducing America's technological advantage and putting military personnel and the homeland at risk. For example, Chinese hackers have used cyber infiltration to gain access to plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Global Hawk surveillance drone and other advanced systems. State-sponsored hackers have also made off with reams of American companies' intellectual property—business secrets worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Keith Alexander, the former National Security Agency director and retired Air Forcegeneral, has described the continued ransacking of American companies as "the greatest transfer of wealth in history."

We are at war in the digital world. And yet, because this war lacks attention-grabbing explosions and body bags, the American people remain largely unaware of the danger. That needs to change. Only public attention can create the political momentum for needed reform.

There are a number of cyber-related legislative initiatives pending in Congress. One of the most promising is legislation in the House and Senate that would encourage companies to share information about cyberattacks with the government, so that national-security agencies can analyze the attacks and respond to them. The former 9/11 commissioners' recent report endorsed such legislation, and it is an important first step. Given the dimension of the problem, however, a larger-scale effort is needed to elevate public awareness and get out in front of this rapidly changing threat. Simply put, the country needs a national cyber strategy, covering all aspects of the problem. This could be accomplished by taking two essential steps.

First, Congress should pass legislation creating a National Cyber Commission. The commission should be empowered to evaluate the cyber threat to the U.S., both to the government and private entities. It should also assess the capabilities that national-security agencies and the private sector possess today, and measure those capabilities against what will be needed as the threat grows. The commission should conduct its work as transparently as possible and should deliver unclassified findings and recommendations to Congress and the American people. The commission should be nonpartisan and should include experts in technology, law and national security.

Second, Congress should create a National Cyber Center, which would bring together government and private experts to ensure unity of effort on this crosscutting problem. The National Counterterrorism Center, created 10 years ago in response to a 9/11 Commission recommendation, is working well. At the NCTC, counterterrorism experts from federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies sit side-by-side, share terrorism-threat information and coordinate responses. There is no counterpart to this proven model for information-sharing in the cyber realm—a major gap in America's cyber defenses.

In recent months, we have heard time and again from leading experts that the cyber threat is serious—and that the government is not doing enough. One lesson of the 9/11 story is that, as a nation, we didn't awaken to the gravity of the terrorist threat until it was too late. We must not repeat that mistake in the cyber realm.

Messrs. Kean and Hamilton served as chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, respectively. They are co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Homeland Security Project.
97  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen.Ted Cruz on: September 11, 2014, 09:56:03 AM
Good for him!

BTW I see that he has proposed legislation for taking away the passports (and citizenship?) of those who go to fight for ISIL.
98  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Humbling of His Glibness on: September 11, 2014, 09:51:54 AM
The Humbling of a President
In the war with ISIS, the U.S. needs genuine presidential leadership, not a utility infielder playing everyone else's position.
By Daniel Henninger
Sept. 10, 2014 7:12 p.m. ET

Let us note briefly the commanding irony of Barack Obama delivering—hours before 9/11—the anti-terrorism speech that history required of his predecessor after September 11, 2001. There is one thing to say: If we are lucky, President Obama will hand off to his successor a terrorist enemy as diminished as the one George Bush, David Petraeus and many others left him.

If we're lucky.

There is a story about Mr. Obama relevant to the war, battle or whatever he declared Wednesday evening against the Islamic State, aka ISIS. It is found in his former campaign manager David Plouffe's account of the 2008 election, "The Audacity to Win."

Mr. Plouffe writes that during an earlier election race, Mr. Obama had a "hard time allowing his campaign staff to take more responsibility." To which Barack Obama answered: "I think I could probably do every job on the campaign better than the people I'll hire to do it." Audacity indeed.

In a 2008 New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza, Mr. Obama is quoted telling another aide: "I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors." Also, "I think I'm a better speechwriter than my speechwriters."

And here we are.

In the days before Mr. Obama's ISIS address to the nation, news accounts cataloged his now-embarrassing statements about terrorism's decline on his watch—the terrorists are JV teams, the tide of war is receding and all that.

Set aside that Mr. Obama outputted this viewpoint even as Nigeria's homicidal Boko Haram kidnapped 275 schoolgirls, an act that appalled and galvanized the world into "Bring Back Our Girls." No matter. Boko Haram slaughtered on, unabated.

Some of these gaffes came in offhand comments, but others were embedded in formal speeches from the presidential pen, such as the definitive Obama statement on terrorism last May at the National Defense University: "So that's the current threat—lethal yet less-capable al Qaeda affiliates." A year later, ISIS seized one-third of Iraq inside a week.

Worse than misstatements have been the misdecisions on policy: the erased red line in Syria, the unattainable reset with Vladimir Putin's brainwashed Russia, the nuclear deal with the ruling shadows in Iran. The first two bad calls have pitched significant regions of the world into crises of virtually unmanageable complexity.

What we now know is that Mr. Obama is not even close to being his own best Secretary of State, his own best Secretary of Defense, his own best national security adviser or his own best CIA director.

The question is: Does he know it?

Can a humbling experience of such startling proportions have sunk in? It had better. What the U.S. needs if it is to prevail in the battle Mr. Obama put forth Wednesday is the genuine article of presidential leadership. What the U.S. does not need in the Oval Office is a utility infielder playing everyone else's position. We are competing against global terrorism's heaviest hitters, who have established state seizure as a strategic goal.

If Mr. Obama still thinks he's better than Susan Rice, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and John Brennan, then he and the nation supporting his anti-ISIS effort are being poorly served. He should fire them all and bring in people who know more about fighting terrorists than he does. Barack Obama admires Abraham Lincoln. Act like him. Appoint the best people and let them win it.

Winning would also require a president willing to confront the political correctness that has undermined the U.S.'s battle against terror.

No more sophistry about whether a Benghazi qualifies as terrorism. After the videotaped beheadings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff, is anyone still lying awake at night worrying that their iPhone number is among millions of others in the National Security Agency's data mines?

Closing Gitmo goes on the backburner. "Boots on the ground"—kill that too. It has become code for boots going nowhere, as Mr. Obama's airpower-only campaign made clear Wednesday evening.

It has taken 13 years to this day, September 11, for the reality of global Islamic terrorism to finally sink in—here in the U.S. and everywhere else, including the ever-equivocal capitals of the Middle East.

In the years after 9/11 came London, Madrid, the Boston Marathon, multiple failed attempts to bomb New York City, Mumbai, Kenya, Boko Haram, the re-rocketing of Tel Aviv, Christian holy places destroyed, thousands of Arabs blown up in the act of daily life. That's the short list. ISIS is just the tip of the world's unstable iceberg. We're all living on the Titanic.

Now a reluctant progressive president goes to war without admitting it is war. It's even money at best that he or the Left will stay the course if the going gets tough beyond Iraq's borders.

A final irony. In that National Defense speech, Mr. Obama defended the drone killing in Yemen of the American-born jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki: "His citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a SWAT team."

If Barack Obama would put a plaque with those words on his Oval Office desk, the world's innocents may have a shot at defeating the world's snipers. A long shot.
99  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Japanese deflation? on: September 11, 2014, 09:30:10 AM
Interesting questions presented here:
100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Read: The Virtue of Subtlety on: September 10, 2014, 12:52:12 PM
The virtue of subtlety: a U.S. strategy against the Islamic State
The American strategy in the Middle East is fixed: allow powers in the region to balance against each other. When that fails, intervene.
George Friedman | 10 September 2014
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balance of power


U.S. President Barack Obama said recently that he had no strategy as yet toward the Islamic State but that he would present a plan on Wednesday. It is important for a president to know when he has no strategy. It is not necessarily wise to announce it, as friends will be frightened and enemies delighted. A president must know what it is he does not know, and he should remain calm in pursuit of it, but there is no obligation to be honest about it.

This is particularly true because, in a certain sense, Obama has a strategy, though it is not necessarily one he likes. Strategy is something that emerges from reality, while tactics might be chosen. Given the situation, the United States has an unavoidable strategy. There are options and uncertainties for employing it. Let us consider some of the things that Obama does know.

The Formation of National Strategy

There are serious crises on the northern and southern edges of the Black Sea Basin. There is no crisis in the Black Sea itself, but it is surrounded by crises. The United States has been concerned about the status of Russia ever since U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905. The United States has been concerned about the Middle East since U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower forced the British to retreat from Suez in 1956. As a result, the United States inherited -- or seized -- the British position.

A national strategy emerges over the decades and centuries. It becomes a set of national interests into which a great deal has been invested, upon which a great deal depends and upon which many are counting. Presidents inherit national strategies, and they can modify them to some extent. But the idea that a president has the power to craft a new national strategy both overstates his power and understates the power of realities crafted by all those who came before him. We are all trapped in circumstances into which we were born and choices that were made for us. The United States has an inherent interest in Ukraine and in Syria-Iraq. Whether we should have that interest is an interesting philosophical question for a late-night discussion, followed by a sunrise when we return to reality. These places reflexively matter to the United States.

The American strategy is fixed: Allow powers in the region to compete and balance against each other. When that fails, intervene with as little force and risk as possible. For example, the conflict between Iran and Iraq canceled out two rising powers until the war ended. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to overturn the balance of power in the region. The result was Desert Storm.

This strategy provides a model. In the Syria-Iraq region, the initial strategy is to allow the regional powers to balance each other, while providing as little support as possible to maintain the balance of power. It is crucial to understand the balance of power in detail, and to understand what might undermine it, so that any force can be applied effectively. This is the tactical part, and it is the tactical part that can go wrong. The strategy has a logic of its own. Understanding what that strategy demands is the hard part. Some nations have lost their sovereignty by not understanding what strategy demands. France in 1940 comes to mind. For the United States, there is no threat to sovereignty, but that makes the process harder: Great powers can tend to be casual because the situation is not existential. This increases the cost of doing what is necessary.

The ground where we are talking about applying this model is Syria and Iraq. Both of these central governments have lost control of the country as a whole, but each remains a force. Both countries are divided by religion, and the religions are divided internally as well. In a sense the nations have ceased to exist, and the fragments they consisted of are now smaller but more complex entities.

The issue is whether the United States can live with this situation or whether it must reshape it. The immediate question is whether the United States has the power to reshape it and to what extent. The American interest turns on its ability to balance local forces. If that exists, the question is whether there is any other shape that can be achieved through American power that would be superior. From my point of view, there are many different shapes that can be imagined, but few that can be achieved. The American experience in Iraq highlighted the problems with counterinsurgency or being caught in a local civil war. The idea of major intervention assumes that this time it will be different. This fits one famous definition of insanity.

The Islamic State's Role

There is then the special case of the Islamic State. It is special because its emergence triggered the current crisis. It is special because the brutal murder of two prisoners on video showed a particular cruelty. And it is different because its ideology is similar to that of al Qaeda, which attacked the United States. It has excited particular American passions.

To counter this, I would argue that the uprising by Iraq's Sunni community was inevitable, with its marginalization by Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite regime in Baghdad. That it took this particularly virulent form is because the more conservative elements of the Sunni community were unable or unwilling to challenge al-Maliki. But the fragmentation of Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions was well underway before the Islamic State, and jihadism was deeply embedded in the Sunni community a long time ago.

Moreover, although the Islamic State is brutal, its cruelty is not unique in the region. Syrian President Bashar al Assad and others may not have killed Americans or uploaded killings to YouTube, but their history of ghastly acts is comparable. Finally, the Islamic State -- engaged in war with everyone around it -- is much less dangerous to the United States than a small group with time on its hands, planning an attack. In any event, if the Islamic State did not exist, the threat to the United States from jihadist groups in Yemen or Libya or somewhere inside the United States would remain.

Because the Islamic State operates to some extent as a conventional military force, it is vulnerable to U.S. air power. The use of air power against conventional forces that lack anti-aircraft missiles is a useful gambit. It shows that the United States is doing something, while taking little risk, assuming that the Islamic State really does not have anti-aircraft missiles. But it accomplishes little. The Islamic State will disperse its forces, denying conventional aircraft a target. Attempting to defeat the Islamic State by distinguishing its supporters from other Sunni groups and killing them will founder at the first step. The problem of counterinsurgency is identifying the insurgent.

There is no reason not to bomb the Islamic State's forces and leaders. They certainly deserve it. But there should be no illusion that bombing them will force them to capitulate or mend their ways. They are now part of the fabric of the Sunni community, and only the Sunni community can root them out. Identifying Sunnis who are anti-Islamic State and supplying them with weapons is a much better idea. It is the balance-of-power strategy that the United States follows, but this approach doesn't have the dramatic satisfaction of blowing up the enemy. That satisfaction is not trivial, and the United States can certainly blow something up and call it the enemy, but it does not address the strategic problem.

In the first place, is it really a problem for the United States? The American interest is not stability but the existence of a dynamic balance of power in which all players are effectively paralyzed so that no one who would threaten the United States emerges. The Islamic State had real successes at first, but the balance of power with the Kurds and Shia has limited its expansion, and tensions within the Sunni community diverted its attention. Certainly there is the danger of intercontinental terrorism, and U.S. intelligence should be active in identifying and destroying these threats. But the re-occupation of Iraq, or Iraq plus Syria, makes no sense. The United States does not have the force needed to occupy Iraq and Syria at the same time. The demographic imbalance between available forces and the local population makes that impossible.

The danger is that other Islamic State franchises might emerge in other countries. But the United States would not be able to block these threats as well as the other countries in the region. Saudi Arabia must cope with any internal threat it faces not because the United States is indifferent, but because the Saudis are much better at dealing with such threats. In the end, the same can be said for the Iranians.

Most important, it can also be said for the Turks. The Turks are emerging as a regional power. Their economy has grown dramatically in the past decade, their military is the largest in the region, and they are part of the Islamic world. Their government is Islamist but in no way similar to the Islamic State, which concerns Ankara. This is partly because of Ankara's fear that the jihadist group might spread to Turkey, but more so because its impact on Iraqi Kurdistan could affect Turkey's long-term energy plans.

Forming a New Balance in the Region

The United States cannot win the game of small mosaic tiles that is emerging in Syria and Iraq. An American intervention at this microscopic level can only fail. But the principle of balance of power does not mean that balance must be maintained directly. Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia have far more at stake in this than the United States. So long as they believe that the United States will attempt to control the situation, it is perfectly rational for them to back off and watch, or act in the margins, or even hinder the Americans.

The United States must turn this from a balance of power between Syria and Iraq to a balance of power among this trio of regional powers. They have far more at stake and, absent the United States, they have no choice but to involve themselves. They cannot stand by and watch a chaos that could spread to them.

It is impossible to forecast how the game is played out. What is important is that the game begins. The Turks do not trust the Iranians, and neither is comfortable with the Saudis. They will cooperate, compete, manipulate and betray, just as the United States or any country might do in such a circumstance. The point is that there is a tactic that will fail: American re-involvement. There is a tactic that will succeed: the United States making it clear that while it might aid the pacification in some way, the responsibility is on regional powers. The inevitable outcome will be a regional competition that the United States can manage far better than the current chaos.

Obama has sought volunteers from NATO for a coalition to fight the Islamic State. It is not clear why he thinks those NATO countries -- with the exception of Turkey -- will spend their national treasures and lives to contain the Islamic State, or why the Islamic State alone is the issue. The coalition that must form is not a coalition of the symbolic, but a coalition of the urgently involved. That coalition does not have to be recruited. In a real coalition, its members have no choice but to join. And whether they act together or in competition, they will have to act. And not acting will simply increase the risk to them.

U.S. strategy is sound. It is to allow the balance of power to play out, to come in only when it absolutely must -- with overwhelming force, as in Kuwait -- and to avoid intervention where it cannot succeed. The tactical application of strategy is the problem. In this case the tactic is not direct intervention by the United States, save as a satisfying gesture to avenge murdered Americans. But the solution rests in doing as little as possible and forcing regional powers into the fray, then in maintaining the balance of power in this coalition.

Such an American strategy is not an avoidance of responsibility. It is the use of U.S. power to force a regional solution. Sometimes the best use of American power is to go to war. Far more often, the best use of U.S. power is to withhold it. The United States cannot evade responsibility in the region. But it is enormously unimaginative to assume that carrying out that responsibility is best achieved by direct intervention. Indirect intervention is frequently more efficient and more effective.

The Virtue of Subtlety: A U.S. Strategy Against the Islamic State is republished with permission of Stratfor.
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