Dog Brothers Public Forum
Return To Homepage
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
May 25, 2015, 02:46:27 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Search:     Advanced search
Welcome to the Dog Brothers Public Forum.
86271 Posts in 2275 Topics by 1068 Members
Latest Member: cdenny
* Home Help Search Login Register
  Show Posts
Pages: 1 [2] 3 4 ... 665
51  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / On Michelle Obama's speech on: May 20, 2015, 10:37:32 AM

Harvey Mansfield
May 19, 2015 6:59 p.m. ET

Conservatives have been giving first lady Michelle Obama a hard time over her commencement speech at Tuskegee University on May 9. They denounce her complaints of continuing racism in America while recalling outrages long past. They wonder why she said nothing of the problem of black criminality. They scorn her unwillingness to acknowledge the privilege she enjoyed from attending Princeton and Harvard. Yet the speech had much merit that conservatives should appreciate.

The speech was given at the university founded as a school for teachers in 1881 in Tuskegee, Ala., by Booker T. Washington, the most conservative of black thinkers. Tuskegee University was not built with government funding or private donation but by blacks themselves under Washington’s direction. Michelle Obama paid tribute to him with the story that he pawned his watch to buy a kiln so that the students could fashion the bricks they needed to build the school but couldn’t afford to buy. George Washington Carver, she added, came to Tuskegee to do his research and had to search trash piles to equip his laboratory.

These facts—or legends, it doesn’t matter which—are faithful to Booker T. Washington’s central thesis that blacks should not depend on the white majority to improve their lives. They should rise “up from slavery,” the title of Washington’s autobiography, on their own. They had of course been liberated by the Civil War, but he said they needed also to make themselves fit for freedom, thus freeing themselves, through stages of self-education and hard work. His stirring program was the very antithesis of today’s racial preferences.

Washington’s thesis was opposed by another great black thinker, W.E.B. DuBois, and the two had a grand battle in the early 20th century. DuBois despised the passivity of Washington’s approach, blaming his isolation from politics and lack of outrage. “Demand your rights” was the gist of DuBois’s message, not “earn your rights,” as for Washington.

Here we have the essential, abiding question for black politics facing a white majority: Which is better, the civil-rights strategy of anger and agitation or the quiet, composed policy of pursuing American happiness like everyone else, if with fewer advantages? The first can lead to rioting, the second to accusations of being an Uncle Tom.

Michelle Obama, avoiding the battle, rather skillfully blended the two sides in her speech. She referred to “the bloody clubs and the tear gas at Selma,” bringing drama to her praise for the Tuskegee graduates with their worthy but unexciting accomplishments. She spoke too of the noted black airmen of Tuskegee, trained there during World War II, who went on “to show the world” what they could do.

The airmen, one could say, practiced the Booker T. Washington strategy. Instead of demanding benefits from the government, demand the right to serve in its military. Worthy military service by blacks in World War II prepared the decision to desegregate the military, which in turn led the way to desegregation in civilian life. But of course one can hardly overlook the civil-rights revolution that intervened in the 1960s, an event suggesting that it was necessary for blacks to protest as well as study and work.

Mrs. Obama assumed both outlooks as if there were no problem in doing so: the liberal way of protest and the conservative way of lawful virtue. At least it is clear, though, that she appreciates the conservative way. She wants for her children what the parents at the Tuskegee commencement wanted for theirs. This means, as she proclaimed, that she is “first and foremost a mom.” A prominent and successful woman who talks like that deserves at least a nod of approval from conservatives. Her emphasis on motherhood, she said, may not be “the first thing that some folks want to hear from an Ivy-League-educated lawyer,” but “it is truly what I am.” The “some folks” who might disagree with her are obviously not conservatives.

True, the first lady came to this sensible conclusion after voicing liberal gush about authenticity of the sort that reduces solutions for life’s problems to arbitrary personal choice. It is as if choosing well doesn’t matter. But she chose well to come to Tuskegee to praise its graduates, who also had chosen well so as to be there. She also found a moment of contrast between the graduates at Tuskegee and the rioters in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo.

The frustrations evident in those places “are not an excuse to just throw up our hands and give up,” she said. Then she added a message worthy of Booker T. Washington: The history of black Americans “teaches us that when we pull ourselves out of those lowest emotional depths, and we channel our frustrations into studying and organizing and banding together—then we can build ourselves and our communities up.”

As for Mrs. Obama’s complaints about racism, who can deny that for blacks, as she said, “the road ahead is not going to be easy”? Liberals and conservatives can argue over whether blacks are helped or hurt by government, but either way she is right. Would it were otherwise, but our black citizens despite their gains still have a harder time of it than the rest of us.

Mr. Mansfield is a professor of government at Harvard University and a senior fellow of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
Popular on WSJ

    Bob Seger’s ‘Night Moves’
    Bob Seger’s ‘Night Moves’
    Clinton’s State Department Staff Kept Tight Rein on Records
    Clinton’s State Department Staff Kept Tight Rein on Records
    ATM Debit-Card Data Theft Soars
    ATM Debit-Card Data Theft Soars
    Who Is Sidney Blumenthal?
    Opinion: Who Is Sidney Blumenthal?
    Four Cancer Charities Accused of Fraud
    Four Cancer Charities Accused of Fraud


    Rescued Migrants: "It Was Hell"
    Oil From Burst Pipeline Spills Off California Coast
    BASE Jumping Star Dies at Yosemite
    Three Shots You Can’t Take With an iPhone
    Crowd-Sourced Time-Lapse Reveals Changing Earth

Set your profile to public to comment
There are 356 comments.

All comments will display your real name. Read our commenting rules.
NewestOldestReader Recommended
STEPHEN FULTON 1 minute ago

Manfield is actually quite right. The lethal combination of a monopolistic teachers union that has 0% interest in teaching and their liberal lapdogs that fight charter schools at every turn giving those in the inner city no chance to escape + the progressives unwillingness to insist on responsible behavior in return for welfare payments + insane drug laws that ensure that drug distribution remains the best paying job in the hood = no education, fatherless "families" and high rates of incarceration in prisons better thought of as gladiator school where violence and intimidation are practiced and absorbed to the point where 90% recidivism is standard operation procedure. How many of "us" would revert to "lord of the Flies" behavior if we had no education, no role model, no job possibilities except slingin crack and a war like neighborhood? Our inner cities are past the tipping point and the best we can do is keep their pathologies from spreading.
Flag ButtonShare
BOB DENBY 1 minute ago

How refreshing (and honest) it would have been if she had simply stepped up to the lectern and said, "Dear graduates, congratulations on qualifying to attend this momentous occasion.  I'm not going to bore you with a lot of platitudes but I just want you to know this, and know it well -- EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT THE WEATHER BUT NOBODY DOES ANYTHING ABOUT IT!  Now get out there and make your way in this great country.
Flag ButtonShare
Anthony Alfero
Anthony Alfero 2 minutes ago

I don't think that anyone can say that "blacks" will have a more difficult road. Which ones? Some will be accepted to schools, be hired (and not fired) and promoted because of their privilege. Others will suffer from the effects of a perception of fear, created by the outrageous levels of crime and violence in many black communities. Some will still see discrimination but seeing the blatant discrimination today against whites, conservatives and the religious, I feel little empathy. What goes around, comes around.
Flag ButtonShare
Brian Charles
Brian Charles 2 minutes ago

So she continues with legitimizing the frustration of rioters and looters but without correctly assigning blame and we are supposed to applaud her?  Isn't this what Middle East despots do when they blame the West for their economic status without acknowledging they've enslaved their people?

Then she calls America racist despite the fact that in 2008 we elected a rookie Senator from Illinois President in no small part because he is black. 

She and her family have been handed and will be handed millions of dollars (see the Clintons) over the coming years and she still criticizes this country as racist?

If we are racist, how did the Obamas succeed?  Did they act white?  Were they lucky?  Was it the ladder of affirmative action?  Are they "special"?

Lousy piece.
Flag ButtonShare
Thomas Jones
Thomas Jones 2 minutes ago

It's been said here I'm sure, but I will say it again.  If the commencement speech was full of merit why, then, did Ms. Obama have to put racial tension into it?  What is it about this administration that they have to create divides rather than bring people together like true leaders do?
Flag ButtonShare
Stuart Baxter
Stuart Baxter 11 minutes ago

She should kiss the ground that she and her whiny husband walk on every day for the opportunity they have been afforded and proudly hold themselves up as an example that everyone in this country can rise to wherever they want instead of continuing the race baiting and divisive rhetoric they insist on doing almost daily.
Flag ButtonShare
TIM LUKER 15 minutes ago

I recommend for her next inspirational commencement address - she presents a slide show of all her fabulous taxpayer funded vacations.
Flag ButtonShare
Sanjay Saxena
Sanjay Saxena 16 minutes ago

The Asian and Jewish people in US have shown the way to succeeding in US.  It is hard (er) but it can be done.
Flag ButtonShare
52  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Some of Bin Ladens' papers released on: May 20, 2015, 10:33:40 AM
Damian Paletta
Updated May 20, 2015 11:02 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration on Wednesday released details on more than 400 letters, books, news articles, research reports and even software manuals it seized during the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden at his secret compound in Pakistan, offering a fresh view into the interests and correspondence of the former head of al Qaeda.

The declassified material, which the Office of the Director of National Intelligence labeled “Bin Laden’s Bookshelf,” shows a number of interests—ranging from a Noam Chomsky book on “thought control” to how-to books on terrorist attacks.

    What Osama Bin Laden Was Reading in Abbottabad
    “Bin Laden’s Bookshelf” Website from the Office of Director of National Intelligence
    White House Denies Report That Pakistan Helped in Bin Laden Hit
    U.S. Forces Kill Osama bin Laden

It included, for example, a 2001 document from the U.S. military on “instruction on aircraft piracy and destruction of derelict airborne objects” and numerous records about how to obtain a U.S. passport. The compound also contained numerous world maps.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said “it is in the interest of the American public for citizens, academics, journalists, and historians to have the opportunity to read and understand bin Laden’s documents.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the records, said analysts were still reviewing more information seized during the raid and that “hundreds more” records could be declassified in the future.

The intelligence agency declassified the names of 39 English-language books seized at bin Laden’s compound. These included books about the Central Intelligence Agency; Christianity and Islam in Spain from 756 until 1031; and Bob Woodward’s 2010 book, “Obama’s Wars.”

In addition to the books, the documents seized at bin Laden’s compound included 35 items published by other extremist groups, most of which came from Khalifah Publications.

The documents also included numerous items related to France. These included a list of French shopping companies and a 2009 document called “Nuclear France Abroad.”

But perhaps the most intelligence-rich items collected in the raid were the numerous letters that the U.S. government is now declassifying and has likely scrutinized for years to try to track down terrorists.

One letter discusses terror operations in Somalia and mentions an effort to kill the president of Uganda. “Please talk to the Somali brothers about reducing the harm to Muslims at Bakarah Market [in Mogadishu] as result of attacking the headquarters of the African forces,” the 2010 letter reads, according to a translation by the U.S. government.

The 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act required the U.S. government to review documents obtained during the raid on the compound and determine what records could be released.

Another Bin Laden letter remarked on the “revolutions” that took place during the 2010 and 2011 Arab Spring. The revolutions seemed to catch al Qaeda leaders by surprise, but they quickly debated how to take advantage of the volatility.

“These are gigantic events that will eventually engulf most of the Muslim world, will free the Muslim land from American hegemony, and is troubling America whose secretary of state declared that they are worried about the armed Muslims controlling the Muslim region.”

In that letter, he described Egypt as “the most important country, and the fall of its regime will lead into the fall of the rest of the region’s tyrants.”

“All of this indicates that the Western countries are weak and their international role is regressing,” the letter says.

Write to Damian Paletta at
53  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams presidency on: May 19, 2015, 09:07:46 PM
On this day in 1828, John Quincy Adams signs legislation that would come to be known as the Tariff of Abominations. The law was one of the early dominoes that fell and eventually pushed our nation toward Civil War.

The legislation came at the end of Adams’s single term in office. He’d been elected in somewhat unusual circumstances. The Electoral College vote did not produce a majority winner; thus, the election was pushed into a secondary procedure known as the House contingent election. Adams was selected by congressmen! His opponent, Andrew Jackson, was livid.

Adams did not make life any easier for himself during his presidency. He wasn’t good at playing political games. Instead, he hoped that his “upright and pure” intentions and a “heart devoted to the welfare of our country” would carry him through the presidency.

That didn’t work out so well for him!

During his administration, Adams advocated for internal improvements such as roads, canals, a national university, and a national naval academy. He thought these improvements would spur the national economy. Of course, he needed funding, too, and it was expected that he would get the money from tariffs. Tariffs had long been a tricky business, though. Tariffs on most goods had started out at only 5 percent in 1789, but rates had been raised a few times since then. Would tariffs now be raised again?

Then, as now, some people argued that raising tariffs would be good for the country and good for the economy. Others disagreed! Southerners tended to be especially prickly about raising tariffs.

Things got worse for Adams in 1826. His father passed away. He lost control of Congress. He could not obtain sufficient appropriations for his proposed improvements. Jacksonians were gearing up for a new presidential election battle in 1828. All of these factors added up to a President that did not have enough influence in Congress to appropriately moderate a tariff bill that was making its way through the legislative process. In the meantime, one Jackson supporter, Senator Martin Van Buren, had more influence and managed to usher a protectionist bill through the Senate. Thus, the tariff that was eventually approved by Congress protected northern and western products from foreign competition, even as it raised the cost of doing business in the South.

You can see why Southerners were upset!

Adams had reservations, but he signed the bill on May 19. His decision put the nail in the coffin of his 1828 reelection campaign. The South hated the Tariff, calling it the “Tariff of Abominations.” At a public meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, protestors objected vehemently, declaring that the tariff was designed to benefit “one description of citizens at the expense of every other class” and to “enrich some States to the injury of others.” One southern legislator called the bill “a species of oppression little less than legalized pillage.”

Interestingly, even back then, events could get spun in such a way as to not exactly reflect reality. Jackson’s supporters had helped to push the hated tariff through Congress, yet somehow Southerners became convinced that Jackson would reform the tariffs if he were elected to office. They were also fearful of Adams’s internal improvement plans, thinking that Adams meant to nationalize functions that should remain local. They ended up throwing their support behind Jackson.

Jackson was elected in 1828, but he never did reform the tariff, of course. His failure to do so would later lead to the so-called Nullification Crisis. But that is a story for another day! wink emoticon

If you enjoyed this post, please don't forget to “like” and SHARE. Our schools and media don’t always teach the stories of our founding! Let’s do it ourselves.

Gentle reminder: History posts are copyright © 2013-2015 by Tara Ross. I appreciate it when you use the FB “share” feature instead of cutting/pasting.

54  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US changes tactics on: May 19, 2015, 08:53:18 PM
 The U.S. Changes Its Tactics With Russia
Geopolitical Diary
May 19, 2015 | 00:31 GMT
Text Size

On Monday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland met with Russian deputy foreign ministers Sergei Ryabkov and Grigory Karasin in Moscow. The Russian reaction to Nuland's visit has been mixed. Karasin called his discussions with the assistant secretary "fruitful" but also said he is not in favor of the United States' joining the Normandy talks on Ukraine, which include representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France. Ryabkov noted that the current state of the U.S.-Russia relationship is not conducive to moving forward. Nevertheless, Nuland's visit is the latest indicator that the U.S. role in the negotiations over Ukraine's future and the U.S. administration's position on Ukraine may be shifting.

During the past week, U.S. officials have been shuttling between meetings with Russian and Ukrainian leaders, inserting the United States directly into the complex negotiations. Last week, Nuland met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk after accompanying Secretary of State John Kerry on his trip to Sochi, Russia, on May 12. Kerry's meetings in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were inconclusive but elicited positive public feedback from the Kremlin.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

For the past year and a half, Germany and France have been at the forefront of Western negotiations with Russia. However, differences between the German and U.S. views of events in eastern Ukraine and interpretations of the Minsk agreement have come to the fore. Germany has taken a more favorable view of progress in implementing the Minsk agreement, while the United States has maintained a hard line, emphasizing continued active Russian military support for the separatist forces.

Moreover, members of the European Union are divided over how to approach Russia, especially regarding sanctions. Poland and some Baltic states have sought to increase pressure on Russia, while countries such as Greece, Italy, Hungary and Spain are seeking to protect their trade ties and have indicated that they would consider voting to ease sanctions down the line. As a result, Germany is having an increasingly difficult time maintaining a hard line in dealing with Russia.

Nonetheless, Germany would rather remain at the forefront of the negotiations with Russia and avoid a scenario in which the United States forces Russia into a confrontation that Berlin does not want. Although U.S. officials have been involved in discussions with their Russian and Ukrainian counterparts throughout the conflict, the recent direct high-level negotiations — without the participation of European leaders — signal that Washington wants a larger and more direct role in discussions regarding Ukraine.

At the same time, Russia's negotiating position has changed since the beginning of the conflict. Low energy prices and sanctions have contributed to economic troubles in Russia. Simultaneously, Putin's temporary disappearance from public view in March, as well as the Federal Security Service's efforts to boost its influence relative to competing Kremlin factions, could have affected the U.S. strategy for negotiating with the Kremlin.

There are indications that U.S. demands for Russia in the Ukraine crisis are evolving as well, possibly as a part of negotiations. In contrast to previous statements from U.S. officials, both Kerry and Nuland refrained from publicly discussing the status of Russian-annexed Crimea over the past week. Though the Minsk agreements envision Ukraine retaking control of its border with Russia, in both Kiev and Moscow Nuland merely spoke about the necessity for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to have a presence on the border and the ability to inspect cargo moving into Ukraine. Nevertheless, while in Moscow, Nuland did note Russian support for the separatists and, in a symbolic move, met with Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a human rights activist critical of the Kremlin.

Russian negotiators would like to elicit several key concessions from the United States. The first concerns U.S. military support for Ukraine. U.S. trainers are in western Ukraine on a six-month mission, but Russia wants to ensure that U.S. forces do not extend or expand this mission. Thus far, the United States has refrained from providing significant military support to Kiev. The Kremlin is likely pushing its U.S. counterparts not to provide weapons to Ukraine and to end training activities there and in other countries in Russia's periphery such as Georgia.

Another key Kremlin demand is curbing U.S. and NATO activity along the alliance's eastern edge, in countries such as the Baltics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Further, Russian negotiators are pressing for the United States and the European Union to lift sanctions imposed on Russian firms and citizens.

The United States probably is unwilling to compromise on its military training mission to Ukraine, but the U.S. administration could, as it has thus far, avoid providing Ukraine with weapons that add to the country's military capabilities. Creating an alliance along NATO's eastern edge is likewise a part of the U.S. strategy in the region for countering Russia.

But when it comes to sanctions, Washington may be open to compromising. U.S. sanctions were imposed in spring and summer 2014 using executive orders and can be lifted should the U.S. administration decide to do so, unlike EU sanctions, whose fate depends on decisions by all the bloc's members. If it occurs, the lifting of U.S. sanctions would take place piecemeal, beginning with lighter sanctions such as travel bans on individuals, since the administration would likely work to ensure that it still has some means of pressuring Russia as negotiations continue. In order to begin lifting some sanctions, the United States will likely demand a full cease-fire along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, as well as greater access for international observers.

The United States and Russia have been in close contact regarding the situation in Ukraine since the beginning of the crisis. But Nuland's visit, as well as Kerry's trip to Sochi and meeting with Putin, could signal a shift in U.S. strategy in talks with the Kremlin. The latest flurry of meetings likely does not herald an end to the crisis. For Russia, rendering Ukraine at least neutral is still a strategic goal. However, greater direct U.S. involvement in the negotiations could change the dynamics of the talks. The United States does not necessarily want a neutral Ukraine, but it appears more open to directly negotiating with Russia and keeping potential compromises on the table
55  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Sid Vicious Blumenthal on: May 19, 2015, 08:41:37 PM
second post
56  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Why was the Clinton Foundation paying Sid Vicious Blumenthal? on: May 19, 2015, 08:37:43 PM
Why Was The Clinton Foundation Paying Sidney Blumenthal While Hillary Was Secretary Of State?
Published on on May 19, 2015
Foundation Claims Hillary Hitman Helped Plan "Commemorative Events"
The New York Times reported that Hillary Clinton received more than thirty detailed "intelligence briefings" from long-time Clinton lieutenant Sidney Blumenthal about Libya and Syria while she was Secretary of State. The memos did not disclose Blumenthal's business ties to parties in Libya.

While a casual reader might have laughed at them, Hillary circulated the memos to her top staff and even asked for comments.

And, at the same time that he was churning out the "intelligence reports" to Hillary, Blumenthal was being paid by the Clinton Foundation. For what?

A Clinton Foundation spokesman told the Times that "Blumenthal would help with research, "message guidance" and the planning of commemorative events, according to foundation officials."

Oh, right, Sidney was an event planner? Are they kidding? What did he do -- look for the caterers and decide on the font size for the invitations? And, by the way, the only "commemorative event" on the Foundation schedule was the "10th Anniversary of the Clinton Library" which was celebrated on November 14, 2014. So it's doubtful that he was working on the hors d'oeuvres three years earlier. No, he was doing something else.

As for research, the Clinton Foundation employs thousands of people who are familiar with their programs and really didn't need Sidney's talents. His forte is negative research, character assassination, hit jobs to destroy any Clinton opponents.

As for "message guidance," whose message are we talking about here? Hillary's or the Foundation's?

So what was he doing for the Foundation? Did Hillary use the "charitable" Clinton Foundation to pay for advice to her? Political advice? And did she pay Sidney for the "intelligence reports" through the Foundation?

And maybe for advice on how to finesse the Benghazi mess after she left the State Department?

What's going on here?

Blumenthal has always been one of Hillary's closest confidants feeding her innate paranoia. It was Sidney who originated Hillary's favorite phrase "the vast right wing conspiracy." During the impeachment process he was also the source of a false media campaign (at Hillary's behest) accusing Monica Lewinsky of being a "stalker" of an innocent President who was only trying to "minister" to her. That earned him big points with Hillary.

Sidney is no foreign policy expert. He has absolutely no experience in that realm. And, the White House had refused to allow Hillary to hire him.

So why did Hillary get the Foundation to hire Blumenthal? Was she using the Foundation as her secret political arm - putting Blumenthal on the payroll to advise her on her presidential campaign and on how to spin Benghazi? Was that part of a pattern?

Remember that Huma Abedin was also paid by the Foundation while she worked at the State Department and at Teneo. Was anyone else?

With Hillary in hiding and the Foundation in panic mode, we're not likely to see answers anytime soon.
57  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Baltimore surges in murders and shootings on: May 19, 2015, 08:35:25 PM
58  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Obama's bungled internet surrender on: May 19, 2015, 08:18:50 PM
Obama’s Bungled Internet Surrender
The group the White House favors for online oversight is turning into an abusive monopolist.
By L. Gordon Crovitz
May 17, 2015 5:39 p.m. ET

President Obama’s plan to give up protection of the open Internet is wreaking havoc even though it will probably never be carried out. In anticipation of the end of U.S. stewardship, the organization the White House wants to give more power has become an abusive monopolist, refusing to be held accountable by the Internet’s stakeholders.

The administration last year announced its intention to abandon the contract the Commerce Department has held since the beginning of the Web with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann. Congress used its power of the purse to block the move, which had been set for September this year.

But the prospect of escaping U.S. oversight led Icann to deny accountability even for its core duty of keeping its monopoly over Web addresses working smoothly. The House Judiciary Committee last week held a hearing titled “Stakeholder Perspectives on Icann: The .Sucks Domain and Essential Steps to Guarantee Trust and Accountability in the Internet’s Operation.”

The .sucks domain was one of hundreds of new top-level domains Icann added beyond the original .com, .org and .gov. Icann, organized as a nonprofit, collects a fee each time it approves a new top-level domain and gets a cut of the registration charge for individual domain names. The corporation’s total take so far from the new domains is more than $300 million.

The Intellectual Property Constituency, an Icann stakeholder group, calls the .sucks domain “predatory, exploitative and coercive.” Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte says trademark holders are “being shaken down”—compelled to buy new addresses defensively to prevent their use.

Apple bought Gmail, Sam’s Club, Uber and Yahoo registered .sucks addresses, as did celebrities including Taylor Swift and Kevin Spacey. The standard price: $2,499, versus $10 for unclaimed .com addresses.

Mr. Goodlatte says the approval of .sucks “demonstrates the absurdity and futility of Icann’s own enforcement processes.” Instead of policing itself, Icann asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether the .sucks domain is abusive. Philip Corwin, a lawyer for the Internet Commerce Association, wrote on the CircleID website: “This is the equivalent of sending a message stating: ‘Dear Regulator: We have lit a fuse. Can you please tell us whether it is connected to a bomb?’ ”

Mr. Corwin told lawmakers the U.S. has been a “useful and corrective restraint on Icann” and a “first line of defense against any attempt at multilateral takeover and conversion to a government-dominated organization,” so “should exercise strong oversight in support of Icann’s stakeholders” in any transition of the contract.

The Internet ain’t broke, and Mr. Obama shouldn’t have tried to fix it. Icann and its stakeholders have spent the past year exhausting themselves on the impossible mission the White House set for them. They were tasked with finding some way to keep Icann operating with accountability but without U.S. oversight. Unsurprisingly, no one found a viable alternative.

Mr. Obama may be uncomfortable with American exceptionalism, but the Internet since its launch has reflected U.S. values of free speech and open innovation. That is why China, Russia and other authoritarian regimes lust for the power to control it.

Some stakeholders proposed a new institution to oversee Icann, while others wanted to build more accountability within Icann.

Last week Icann chief Fadi Chehade told the French news agency AFP that China and Brazil agreed with Icann’s proposals to end U.S. oversight and let Icann oversee itself: “It is now up to the community to wrap them up, put them in a nice little box with a bow and ship them to Washington.”

Even the Obama administration knows Mr. Chehade’s nonaccountability approach is a nonstarter. The .sucks saga shows that Icann won’t protect the Internet from unscrupulous business practices, never mind authoritarian regimes.

The Commerce Department recently asked several stakeholder groups how far past the original September date it would take to propose and implement alternatives to U.S. protection. The Obama administration still acts as if it can give up the contract overseeing Icann, but it can’t. Congress banned any steps by Commerce to give up the contract before the date in September, when the agreement must be renewed for two more years. This means Mr. Obama’s successor will decide.

The administration should tell Icann and the stakeholders to use the next two years to focus on creating accountability for Icann. If the White House persists in its wrongheaded idea to give up U.S. protection for the Internet, it should take the precaution of buying up
59  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Montana Tragedy on: May 19, 2015, 05:15:04 PM
60  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Garbage In, Benghazi Out on: May 19, 2015, 04:43:19 PM

Garbage In, Benghazi Out
The hrod17 approach to intelligence.
by James Taranto
May 19, 2015 2:31 p.m. ET

What happens when top foreign-policy officials make life-or-death decisions based on faulty intelligence from self-interested sources? The example we have in mind is less than a decade old.

In March we wrote that while she was secretary of state, Hillary Clinton “appears to have relied on not only a private communication network but a private intelligence network.” Sidney Blumenthal—a longtime Clinton crony who specializes in character assassination, hence the nickname “Sid Vicious”—had been sending Secretary Clinton intelligence briefings about Libya.

“The reports appear to have been gathered and prepared by Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of the CIA’s clandestine service in Europe,” according to a March 27 report by Jeff Gerth and Sam Biddle, published jointly by ProPublica and Gawker. Gerth and Biddle admitted they didn’t know what Blumenthal, Drumheller and their associates “were up to in 2011, 2012, and 2013 on Clinton’s behalf,” but a report in the New York Times answers that question:

    While advising Mrs. Clinton on Libya, Mr. Blumenthal . . . was also employed by her family’s philanthropy, the Clinton Foundation, to help with research, “message guidance” and the planning of commemorative events, according to foundation officials. During the same period, he also worked on and off as a paid consultant to Media Matters [sic] and American Bridge, organizations that helped lay the groundwork for Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

    Much of the Libya intelligence that Mr. Blumenthal passed on to Mrs. Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates he was advising as they sought to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government. The venture, which was ultimately unsuccessful, involved other Clinton friends, a private military contractor and one former C.I.A. spy seeking to get in on the ground floor of the new Libyan economy.

    The projects—creating floating hospitals to treat Libya’s war wounded and temporary housing for displaced people, and building schools—would have required State Department permits, but foundered before the business partners could seek official approval.

The Times answers another, more important question the ProPubGawk team had left unresolved: Yes, Mrs. Clinton did read the Blumenthal-Drumheller memos, and she took them seriously. She “circulated them, frequently forwarding them to Jake Sullivan, her well-regarded deputy chief of staff, and requesting that he distribute them to other State Department officials.” Sullivan obliged, telling colleagues the memos “had come from an anonymous ‘contact’ of Mrs. Clinton.”
Best of the Web Columnist James Taranto on the former White House aide’s business interests and his political influence on the Secretary of State. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Some of the memos peddled “rumors that other American diplomats knew at the time to be false,” to which department officials often responded with “polite skepticism.” In April 2012, the ambassador to Tripoli, Chris Stevens, “took issue with a Blumenthal memo raising the prospect that the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood was poised to make gains in the coming parliamentary elections.” That didn’t happen. Another diplomat attributed the errant prediction to the Blumenthal’s having “confused Libyan politicians with the same surname.”

Five months after that memo, Stevens and three other Americans were dead at the hands of terrorists in Benghazi.

Judicial Watch announced yesterday that it had obtained new Benghazi documents in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the state and defense departments:

    \A Defense Department document from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), dated September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attack, details that the attack on the compound had been carefully planned by the BOCAR terrorist group “to kill as many Americans as possible.” The document was sent to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Obama White House National Security Council. The heavily redacted Defense Department “information report” says that the attack on the Benghazi facility “was planned and executed by The Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman (BCOAR).” The group subscribes to “AQ ideologies:”

    [quoting the DOD document verbatim:] The attack was planned ten or more days prior on approximately 01 September 2012. The intention was to attack the consulate and to kill as many Americans as possible to seek revenge for U.S. killing of Aboyahiye ((ALALIBY)) in Pakistan and in memorial of the 11 September 2001 atacks on the World Trade Center buildings.

Mrs. Clinton, of course, repeated the administration’s line that the attack was a spontaneous reaction to a haram video. Perhaps she was simply lying, but the combination of the Times’s and Judicial Watch’s findings suggest an alternative explanation: that she was distracted from the official intelligence by the junk her pal Sidney was peddling.

This morning in response to reporters’ questions, Mrs. Clinton opened her mouth and words came out. One word, “unsolicited” actually answered a question—that is, Mrs. Clinton denied that she had taken the initiative to employ Blumenthal as her de facto Libya desk. It was more of a leading-from-behind situation.

Another obvious question is whether Mrs. Clinton was relying on Blumenthal’s intelligence in February and March 2011, when she was reportedly a leading advocate within the administration of military intervention against Moammar Gadhafi. The answer here is a provisional “no”: Of the Blumenthal emails on which the Times reported, the earliest is dated April 8 of that year.

Still more questions arise from the email address Mrs. Clinton used in forwarding the emails:, not, the one that had been previously revealed. When Mrs. Clinton admitted that she ignored standard procedure and used a private email server for official communications, she claimed it was because using multiple devices was too inconvenient. How is it that she was able to manage multiple accounts? And were there more than two?

The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes makes another excellent point:

    That the DIA report [which Judicial Watch obtained] was not released as a result of any previous Benghazi investigations raises additional questions about the administration’s unwillingness to turn over documents related to the attacks and how comprehensive those previous investigations have been. Many of the revelations that have undermined administration claims about Benghazi have come outside of the regular congressional oversight efforts, in part because of the administration’s disinclination to cooperate and in part because of the half-hearted inquiries led by the committees of jurisdiction.

    Administration defenders and many in the media claimed that an additional investigation of Benghazi would be unnecessary because of these previous efforts. But these recent revelations validate the decision of House speaker John Boehner to create a select committee and make clear that there is still much more to learn.

Which is the answer to a question—meant to be rhetorical—that a central figure in the Benghazi scandal asked a couple of years ago: “What difference . . . does it make?”
61  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Everything is awesome on: May 19, 2015, 04:39:10 PM
Everything Is Awesome, Mideast Edition
It takes a special innocence to imagine that the chaos unfolding in the Middle East can be put right.
By Bret Stephens
May 18, 2015 7:08 p.m. ET

Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, has been offering a reassuring view of the Iranian nuclear deal in the face of some Arab skepticism. “If you can diplomatically and peacefully resolve the nuclear issue in a way that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he told reporters last week, “we believe that will lead to a much more stable region.” Mr. Rhodes also contends that with a deal “there will be no need to see [a] regional arms race.”

So what’s more frightening: That Mr. Rhodes believes what he’s saying? Or that he does not?

Just for Mr. Rhodes’s benefit, here’s a refresher course on stability and the arms race in the Middle East since April 2, 2015, the day Mr. Obama announced his framework nuclear agreement with Iran.

April 2: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif immediately accuses the U.S. of “spin” and contradicts Mr. Obama’s key claims regarding the terms of the deal.

April 12: A Swedish think tank reports that Saudi Arabia registered the biggest increase in defense spending in the world.

April 13: Moscow says it will deliver the S-300 air-defense system to Tehran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei later boasts that the U.S. “can’t do a damn thing” militarily against Iran.

April 14: Iran announces agreements with Russia and China to build additional nuclear reactors.

April 17: Iran dispatches an armed convoy of ships, believed to be destined to resupply pro-Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen in contravention of a U.N. arms embargo. The convoy turns back after the U.S. deploys an aircraft carrier to the region to shadow the ships.

April 20: Jason Rezaian, the American-born Washington Post reporter imprisoned in Iran since July, is charged with espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment.”

April 20: The British government informs the U.N. panel monitoring sanctions on Iran that it “is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network” associated with two Iranian companies that are under international sanctions.

April 22: Saudi Arabia resumes airstrikes in Yemen despite administration pressure to maintain a cease fire.

April 28: Iran seizes the 837-foot long Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands flagged cargo ship with 34 sailors aboard, as it transits the Strait of Hormuz along an internationally recognized route. The ship is released a week later after Maersk pays a fine of $163,000.

April 29: Former Saudi Intelligence Minister Turki al Faisal tells a conference in Seoul that the kingdom will match Iran’s nuclear capabilities with its own. “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.” The prince also accuses Mr. Obama of going “behind the backs of the traditional allies to strike the deal.”

May 8: Reuters reports that inspectors have discovered traces of sarin gas at an undeclared military research site near Damascus. The report puts paid to administration boasts that its diplomacy effectively solved the Syrian chemical crisis.

May 11: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman withdraws from the Arab summit meeting with Mr. Obama. The king of Bahrain follows suit, preferring instead to attend a horse show with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

May 13: Reuters reports “the Czech Republic blocked an attempted purchase by Iran this year of a large shipment of sensitive technology usable for nuclear enrichment after false documentation raised suspicions.”

May 14: Iranian patrol boats fire upon a Singapore-flagged oil tanker with machine guns as it transits the Strait of Hormuz. The ship makes it safely to Dubai.

May 17: Citing senior U.S. officials, the Sunday Times reports that “Saudi Arabia has taken the ‘strategic decision’ to acquire ‘off-the-shelf’ atomic weapons from Pakistan.”

Also on May 17, Islamic State fighters in Iraq seize the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. This is after Mr. Obama crowed in February that “our coalition is on the offensive, ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.” Now the Iraqi government will turn to Shiite paramilitaries under Iranian control to try to retake the city, further turning the Baghdad government into an Iranian satrap.

I recount these events not just to illustrate the distance between Ben Rhodes’s concept of reality and reality itself. It’s also a question of speed. The Middle East, along with our position in it, is unraveling at an astonishing pace. Reckless drivers often don’t notice how fast they’re going until they’re about to crash.

We are near the point where there will be no walking back the mistakes we have made. No walking away from them, either. It takes a special innocence to imagine that nothing in life is irreversible, that everything can be put right, that fanaticism yields to reason and facts yield to wishes, and that the arc of Mideast history bends toward justice.

Ben Rhodes, and the administration he represents and typifies, is special.

Write to
62  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Extenuating variable in IRS affair? on: May 19, 2015, 01:30:18 PM
63  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: May 19, 2015, 01:14:09 PM
 evil evil evil
64  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary got DIA memo within hours describing B. as jihadi attack. on: May 19, 2015, 08:56:15 AM
65  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I can't say he's implausible , , , on: May 19, 2015, 08:31:17 AM
66  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / SCOTUS overrules 9th circuit on "Innocence of Muslims" on: May 19, 2015, 08:28:51 AM
67  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anti-BDS measures gaining ground on: May 19, 2015, 08:16:51 AM
68  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Two gay men campaigning against same sex marrigage referendum in Ireland on: May 18, 2015, 01:22:12 PM
69  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Al Sis reinvents himself as bulwark against terrorism on: May 18, 2015, 01:17:39 PM
Egypt’s Leader Reinvents Himself as Bulwark Against Terrorism
Abdel Fatah Al Sisi, criticized for cracking down on his Islamist opponents, is embraced for his stand against Islamic State
By Tamer El-Ghobashy
May 18, 2015 5:30 a.m. ET

CAIRO—The specter of an expanding Islamic State has alarmed leaders across the Middle East. But for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, that threat has become an opportunity to transform himself from an international outcast to an ally in the regional war against terrorism.

Since Mr. Sisi came to power in a coup two years ago, his government has criminalized street protests, sentenced hundreds to death in mass trials and, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, imprisoned some 40,000 political opponents and their supporters, drawing widespread international criticism.

He also has declared his main political opponent, the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization, despite its explicit denunciation of violence, putting the popular Islamist organization in the same category as avowedly militant groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda.

On Saturday, a special court set up in the police academy in Cairo sentenced to death ousted President Mohammed Morsi, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader, and more than 100 other leaders and members of the organization, underscoring the breadth of Mr. Sisi’s crackdown.
Egypt's deposed President Mohammed Morsi in a defendant's cage as a judge sentences him and more than 100 others to death on Saturday. ENLARGE
Egypt's deposed President Mohammed Morsi in a defendant's cage as a judge sentences him and more than 100 others to death on Saturday. Illustration: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The Egyptian leader’s tough response to the emergence of Islamic State coupled with Iran’s expanding sway in traditionally Sunni Muslim spheres of influence have boosted the 60-year-old retired army general’s stock in the region as a bulwark against extremism.

At the same time, his declarations about the need to “revolutionize” Islam to increase tolerance in the Arab and Islamic world have helped his image in Washington, opening the way for the Obama administration’s cautious embrace of the Egyptian leader.

The administration lifted a ban on arms sales to Cairo in March and promised to restore a $1.3 billion aid package, an annual commitment set forth in the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

The aid was withheld after Mr. Morsi—Egypt’s first freely elected president—was deposed in a military coup led by Mr. Sisi in 2013, while he was still defense minister and head of the armed forces.

In renewing normal aid ties, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said, the U.S. would seek to balance vital U.S.-Egyptian security ties with meaningful Egyptian political overhauls.

A State Department official on Sunday said the mass death sentences were deeply troubling.

    ‘‘Sisi played this card very well by convincing the administration that the main objective is to fight terrorism. A common enemy brings the countries together again.’’
    —Khalil al-Anani, Middle East scholar

“We have consistently spoken out against the practice of mass trials and sentences, which are conducted in a manner that is inconsistent with Egypt’s international obligations and the rule of law,” the official said.

Despite criticism of his methods, Mr. Sisi’s strategy of emphasizing the threat of terrorism, while selectively committing resources to fighting it, has paid off, said Khalil al-Anani, a Middle East scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

“Sisi played this card very well by convincing the administration that the main objective is to fight terrorism,” Mr. Anani said. “A common enemy brings the countries together again.”

The cautious U.S. embrace of Mr. Sisi hasn’t appeared to markedly shift perceptions of him in Egypt.

To his supporters, he has brought welcome stability to Egypt following the upheavals of the Arab Spring, the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak and the brief, turbulent presidential tenure of Mr. Morsi.

The death sentence imposed on Mr. Morsi on Saturday is subject to review by the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious authority, whose opinion isn’t legally binding but is often adopted by the court. A final verdict will be delivered June 2 but will be open to appeal, which can take years in Egypt’s clogged judicial system.

The former Egyptian president was among 106 members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood sentenced to death on Saturday, including the group’s spiritual guide, Mohammed Badie, and prominent Islamic scholar, Youssef al-Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar.

If the verdicts are confirmed, the entire top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood will be facing either life in prison or execution stemming from trials that began under Mr. Sisi’s leadership. The sentences represent the most comprehensive crackdown on the group since the modern Egyptian state was founded.

In statements released from the group’s media offices overseas, the Brotherhood condemned the judge’s decision, calling it illegitimate and politically driven.

Amnesty International called the trial “grossly unfair,” saying “the death penalty has become the favorite tool for the Egyptian authorities to purge the political opposition.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a close ally of Mr. Morsi, slammed the court’s decision and criticized Western governments for not speaking forcibly enough against the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

The defendants were accused of breaking out of Wadi al Natroun prison days after the 2011 uprising began. Mr. Morsi and other senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood had been ordered jailed by then-President Mubarak, whose rule was being undermined by massive street protests that resulted in his resignation 18 days after they began on Jan. 25, 2011.

Two days after being detained, the prison was raided by armed groups who clashed with jail guards, beating the authorities into retreat.

In a phone call to Al Jazeera Arabic broadcast on the day of his escape, a panicked Mr. Morsi is heard saying he and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues were freed by unknown men in both prison uniforms and in civilian clothes, and urged authorities to instruct him on how to proceed, vowing not to leave the prison without official permission.

For his domestic critics, the warming U.S. attitude to Mr. Sisi has potentially damaging consequences for peaceful opponents of his government. They worry that it will give Egyptian authorities further license to treat the nonviolent opposition as harshly as those armed militants who have carried out sporadic attacks against police and security forces in Egypt.

“We are as exposed as we’ve ever been without even Western rhetoric suggesting that human rights in Egypt are a major concern,” said one activist whose colleagues are serving prison terms.

Hazem Abdel Azim, a top official in the Egyptian leader’s presidential campaign last year, announced on April 27 that he was withdrawing from politics indefinitely.

“I feel the political climate isn’t less dangerous than Mubarak’s days if one speaks freely,” Mr. Abdel Azim tweeted, referring to the long periods of authoritarian rule by the ex-Egyptian president. He didn’t respond to requests for further comment.

In Washington, congressional supporters of the Egyptian leader said he is a mainstay of international efforts to combat terrorism.

“They still have a way to go with their democratic reforms, but America needs strong allies like Egypt in the region,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R., Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Other members of Congress, however, voiced doubts over the wisdom of renewed arms sales to Mr. Sisi’s government.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), co-author of a provision in the 2015 appropriations bill that now links continued U.S. military aid for Egypt to its progress on improving human rights and democracy, said this isn’t the time to hand Egypt a blank check.

“The United States should defend principles of democracy and human rights, and President al-Sisi’s government has systematically and flagrantly trampled on both,” Mr. Leahy said in an email.

Mr. Anani, the Middle East scholar, said he believes there is a long-term cost for both Egypt and its allies in making the military campaign against Islamist militants their central focus.

“It is back to the old days where security trumps everything else,” he said. “It is a shortsighted policy that can become counterproductive, increasing the kind of extremism that has created this regional instability.”

—Dahlia Kholaif in Cairo
contributed to this article.

Write to Tamer El-Ghobashy at
70  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / FYI: Crowd prevents arrest on: May 18, 2015, 01:00:41 PM
71  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China: Lawsuit seeks damage for pollution on: May 18, 2015, 12:48:45 PM

Te-Ping Chen
May 18, 2015 4:54 a.m. ET

BEIJING—An environmental dispute involving a stone quarry in southeastern China marks the first test of a new Beijing effort to use the courts to help clean up the country’s massive pollution problems.

In a lawsuit that began trial on Friday in a court in China’s southeastern Fujian province, environmental groups accused four mine operators of stripping a mountainous area of trees and causing about two hectares’ worth of damage. They are suing the defendants to either restore the area themselves or pay 1.1 million yuan ($177,000) for a third party to do so. For their part, the defendants have said that the group doesn’t have the right to sue and disputed the sum requested, saying that the way it was calculated was flawed. They also said the damage caused wasn’t intentional.

Experts say the case, brought by environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Fujian Green Home, is the country’s first public-interest suit lodged under its new environmental law. Revised for the first time since 1989, the revamped environmental law came into effect in January and gave nonprofit groups greater ability to sue on behalf of the public for environmental damages.

While Chinese official statistics show that regulators have pursued more criminal cases against alleged polluters, experts say private lawsuits haven’t yet caught up. To help private citizens, separate new rules that went into effect in May have made filing private lawsuits easier. Already, a Chinese court earlier this month accepted a series of suits from tourism groups seeking 40 million yuan in damages from ConocoPhillips over alleged damages from the 2011 Bohai Bay oil spill in the waters off northeastern China. ConocoPhillips didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The test in the case in Fujian is whether more nonprofit groups will be encouraged to make use of the new rules enacted in January despite remaining hurdles that include high fees and lack of experienced legal personnel. “Just because a group is qualified to sue doesn’t mean they have the ability to bring a suit, much less that they have that aspiration,” said environmental lawyer Xia Jun. “The law can’t force people to sue.”

In 2014, the number of criminal actions related to the environment totaled about 16,000 cases, according to a government judicial work report released in March. The official news agency Xinhua said that marked a rise of more than eight times from 2013. The number of civil cases involving damages from pollution rose by 51% to 3,331, the agency said, though Zhang Bao of the Central South University School of Law said that the numbers have fluctuated in recent years without an obvious increase.

Prior to the new environmental law, courts rarely accepted environmental suits brought by nonprofits. Even when government-backed groups such as the All-China Environment Federation brought suits, they faced serious barriers. In 2013, the federation attempted to lodge eight cases, and all were rejected by the courts, it said.

Since the new law went into effect in January, the number of cases accepted by the courts on environmental issues has remained in the single digits, environmentalists say. In part, that is because few nonprofits have been trying, said Wang Canfa, founder of the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims. “Before, some expected that there’d be a great surge in cases. In fact, that didn’t happen,” he said.

The new law requires nonprofits to have worked in the environmental sector for five years and to be registered with the government. According to the government, several hundred nonprofits are eligible to bring suits under the new law.

Bringing a case can rack up thousands of dollars in legal bills—a challenge in a climate in which nonprofits’ ability to fundraise is already strictly curtailed. Courts often require plaintiffs to hire independent bodies to help appraise the monetary value of the environmental damage claimed, compounding the expense. The number of nonprofits with the interest and ability to bring such suits, said Mr. Xia, the environmental lawyer, is “pitifully small.”

A traditional Chinese reluctance to bring lawsuits is also a factor, says Ge Feng of Friends of Nature. The group recently set up a 300,000 yuan legal fund backed by the Alibaba Foundation, which was founded by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. , to help support lawsuits.

Lawyers said they were cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the case in Fujian, saying that several of the individuals being sued had already been sentenced to prison stints of about a year.

In addition to empowering nonprofits to sue polluters, the government has also set up hundreds of environmental courts specializing in the issue across the country in recent years. Many environmental courts have languished, though, with some judges even transferred to assist with regular cases due to their low caseload, lawyers say.

—Lilian Lin contributed to this article.

Write to Te-Ping Chen at
72  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Lindsay Graham: Much more is needed to stop Iran from going nuke on: May 18, 2015, 12:16:51 PM

Lindsey Graham
May 17, 2015 5:53 p.m. ET

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act is now on its way to the White House for a reluctant signature by President Obama. He was forced to accept, by overwhelming votes in both chambers, Congress’s constitutional role in reviewing any nuclear deal with Iran and the lifting of any congressionally imposed sanctions. Now the hardest work begins.

The president must either negotiate an agreement that will permanently prevent an untrustworthy Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons—or walk away. If he instead commits to a plan that will lead to a nuclear Iran, Congress must stop it.

Iran is the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and the world. It is openly committed to the destruction of Israel. It sits at the nexus of nearly every major global threat: the Syrian crisis, the rise of ISIS, the resurgence of al Qaeda, the crisis in Iraq that threatens gains won with U.S. blood, the chaos in Yemen that is adding to the threat of an all-out regional war, and renewed weapons trade with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

To allow this pariah nation to acquire nuclear weapons and the ability to deploy them against us and our allies—and to share them with radical Islamic organizations—would constitute an incalculable threat to our national security and an existential threat to Israel. It would set off a nuclear-arms race that would virtually guarantee a regional war with global implications.

Alarmingly, our negotiators and the Iranians have offered wildly differing interpretations of the negotiated framework. On every principle, Iran insists it will never accept our terms. Serious questions remain about how this deal can prevent a nuclear Iran.

Will international sanctions be lifted before proof that Iran is in compliance? How and when would sanctions be restored if there are violations? Can we have a good faith agreement with a regime that for decades has lied and cheated, and still has never come clean about its past efforts to weaponize nuclear technology? Will Iran be required to demonstrate changed behavior—with respect to its nuclear ambitions and its sponsorship of terrorism?

I am proposing eight principles to ensure we get the right answers and achieve a sound, enforceable deal.

• Iran must not be allowed an enrichment capability greater than the practical needs to supply one commercial reactor. The Iranians should have access to peaceful nuclear power, but the infrastructure should be aligned to support the needs of a single nuclear reactor.

• Closure of all hardened and formerly secret sites. Iran must come clean on all outstanding issues raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), particularly concerning the possible military dimensions of Iran’s civilian nuclear program. The history of Iran’s nuclear program has been marked by deception. Sites like Fordow have no role in an Iranian civilian program. Iran must account for the full inventory of centrifuges, production facilities for components, the total number of components, assembly workshops and storage depots for centrifuges.

• Anytime, anywhere inspections of all Iranian military and nonmilitary facilities. Iran shouldn’t have veto power over when inspectors visit its facilities, including the ability of independent parties to monitor and report on Iran’s compliance.

• Sanctions relief and access to funds currently in escrow must be phased in and fully conditioned on IAEA certification that Iran is in full compliance and has demonstrated sustained compliance over time. Allowing Iran access to these tens of billions of dollars in funds before it has fulfilled its portion of the agreement is unacceptable.

• There must be an explicit process for the “snapback” re-imposition of sanctions if Iran violates the deal. It took years to impose the sanctions, which brought Iran to the negotiating table.

• Iran must not be allowed to conduct research and development on advanced centrifuges. Mastery of this technology will allow Iran to reduce its breakout time toward a nuclear weapon.

• Removal of all enriched uranium from Iran. There is no need for Iran to possess a large stockpile of low enriched uranium or any highly enriched uranium. With the exception of the small amounts enriched to 3.5% that will be created as part of Iran’s civilian enrichment process, all enriched uranium must be shipped out of Iran.

• Certification by the president that, before any restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program are lifted, Iran has changed its aggressive behavior in the region and no longer meets the qualifications to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.

These eight principles have bipartisan support and largely reflect President Obama’s negotiating position at the start of the process (demonstrating how far he has strayed from his original intentions). Adhering to these eight principles will ensure that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons or has the means to spread nuclear technology to radical Islamic groups.

Above all, they will reassert American leadership in the Middle East, and preserve our national security, and the security of Israel and other allies in the region. Any deal that does not adhere to them will fail, with dire consequences for global security.

Mr. Graham, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from South Carolina.
Popular on WSJ


There are 141 comments.

All comments will display your real name. Read our commenting rules.
NewestOldestReader Recommended
Peter Maggio
Peter Maggio 7 minutes ago

I wonder. Is Lindsey Graham a warmonger because he was teased all his life about his first name?
Flag ButtonShare
Robert Grow
Robert Grow 26 minutes ago

Obama and his many fans want a planet where power is more evenly distributed, and western nations, particularly the US, no longer can exercise dominance. We need to empathize more with the aspirations of the third world and the Islamic world. We also need to accept responsibility for our many sins and do penance. If this means the destruction of our country, well, we had it coming. It's what our fellow Americans voted for, twice!

The next election can't come soon enough, but there's no guarantee much will change.
Flag ButtonShare
William Schmauss
William Schmauss 28 minutes ago

And Senator, what are you going to do when the Iranians don't agree, or agree and then cheat as they have on everything else?  Are you willing to bomb their sites or help  the Israelis bomb  them?  Invade? exactly how are you going to stop them, as sure as the sun comes up tomorrow they will never willingly let go of their nuclear ambitions.
Flag ButtonShare
73  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Hole in the Rooftop Solar-Panel Craze on: May 18, 2015, 12:13:28 PM

The Hole in the Rooftop Solar-Panel Craze
Large-scale plants make sense, but panels for houses simply transfer wealth from average electric customers.
Photo: Getty Images
By Brian H. Potts
May 17, 2015 5:52 p.m. ET

Most people buy rooftop solar panels because they think it will save them money or make them green, or both. But the truth is that rooftop solar shouldn’t be saving them money (though it often does), and it almost certainly isn’t green. In fact, the rooftop-solar craze is wasting billions of dollars a year that could be spent on greener initiatives. It also is hindering the growth of much more cost-effective renewable sources of power.

According to a recent Energy Department-backed study at North Carolina State University, installing a fully financed, average-size rooftop solar system will reduce energy costs for 93% of the single-family households in the 50 largest American cities today. That’s why people have been rushing out to buy rooftop solar panels, particularly in sunny states like Arizona, California and New Mexico.

The primary reason these small solar systems are cost-effective, however, is that they’re heavily subsidized. Utilities are forced by law to purchase solar power generated from the rooftops of homeowners and businesses at two to three times more than it would cost to buy solar power from large, independently run solar plants. Without subsidies, rooftop solar isn’t close to cost-effective.

Recent studies by Lazard and others, however, have found that large, utility-scale solar power plants can cost as little as five cents (or six cents without a subsidy) per kilowatt-hour to build and operate in the sunny Southwest. These plants are competitive with similarly sized fossil-fueled power plants. But this efficiency is possible only if solar plants are large and located in sunny parts of the country. On average, utility-scale solar plants nationwide still cost about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour, versus around six cents per kilowatt-hour for coal and natural gas, according to the Lazard study.

Large-scale solar-power prices are falling because the cost to manufacture solar panels has been decreasing and because large solar installations permit economies of scale. Rooftop solar, on the other hand, often involves microinstallations in inefficient places, which makes the overall cost as much as 3½ times higher.

So why are we paying more for the same sun?

There are lots of reasons. Well-meaning—but ill-conceived—federal, state and local tax incentives for rooftop solar give back between 30% and 40% of the installation costs to the owner as a tax credit. But more problematic are hidden rate subsidies, the most significant of which is called net metering, which is available in 44 states. Net metering allows solar-system owners to offset on a one-for-one basis the energy they receive from the electric grid with the solar power they generate on their roof.

While this might sound logical, it isn’t. An average California resident with solar, for example, generally pays about 17 cents per kilowatt-hour for electric service when the home’s solar panels aren’t operating. When they are operating, however, net metering requires the utility to pay that solar customer the same 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. But the solar customer still needs the grid to back up his intermittent solar panels, and the utility could have purchased that same solar power from a utility-scale solar power plant for about five cents per kilowatt-hour.

This 12-cents-per-kwh cost difference amounts to a wealth transfer from average electric customers to customers with rooftop solar systems (who also often have higher incomes). This is because utilities collect much of their fixed costs—the unavoidable costs of power plants, transmission lines, etc.—from residential customers through variable-use charges, in other words, charges based on how much energy they use. When a customer with rooftop solar purchases less electricity from the utility, he pays fewer variable-use charges and avoids contributing revenue to cover the utility’s fixed costs. The result is that all of the other customers have to pick up the difference.

The California Public Utilities Commission projects that net metering will cost the state $1.1 billion a year by 2020. Arizona Public Service Company calculates that if the current rate of rooftop-solar installations continues through mid-2017, its nonsolar customers will pay close to $800 million in higher rates to subsidize rooftop-solar customers over the next 20 years. The total costs nationwide are unknown. On May 5, however, an interdisciplinary group of researchers and professors at MIT released a study about the future of solar energy and concluded that net metering is inefficient and should be redesigned.

Large-scale solar power generally doesn’t get these same hidden-rate subsidies. When utilities build or buy output from large solar facilities, they spread the costs out evenly to customers. Every dollar spent on rooftop solar is a dollar not spent on other, more productive renewable sources.

Increasingly, utilities across the country have been calling attention to the problems with rooftop solar. They’ve been urging the pursuit of large-scale solar and other renewables, the moderation of rooftop-solar subsidies, and a restructuring of electric rates to encourage new technologies. They’ve been vilified by armies of PR consultants armed with sound bites about how utilities want to kill solar.

Yet the federal subsidies for solar amount to about $5 billion a year, with more than half of that amount going to rooftop and other, more expensive, non-utility solar plants. If the federal government spent the $5 billion instead subsidizing only utility-scale solar plants, I estimate that it could increase the amount of solar power installed in this country every year by about 65%. And without net metering and all of the other nonsensical state and local subsidies for rooftop solar, we could save this country billions of dollars every year.

It is time to stop encouraging people to pick a losing technology merely because it makes them feel good. There are greener, more cost-effective solutions.

Mr. Potts, a utility lawyer, is a partner and member of the Energy Industry Team at the international law firm Foley & Lardner LLP.
74  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: May 18, 2015, 11:10:41 AM
Gerald F. Seib
May 18, 2015 11:37 a.m. ET

The political world was obsessed last week with Jeb Bush’s problems in saying whether he would or wouldn’t have ordered the invasion of Iraq. But a more provocative statement about projection of American power actually came from a fellow presidential contender, Marco Rubio, in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“As president, I will use American power to oppose any violations of international waters, airspace, cyberspace, or outer space,” Sen. Rubio declared. “This includes the economic disruption caused when one country invades another, as well as the chaos caused by disruptions in chokepoints such as the South China Sea or the Strait of Hormuz.”

That expansive formula for using American power to protect economic and well as national-security interests was, in turn, followed over the weekend by Sen. Rand Paul staking out a far less aggressive position at a Republican candidate forum in Iowa. He questioned whether ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a good idea under any conditions: “Is Iraq more stable or less stable after Saddam?”

Combine all that with the fact that Democrat Hillary Clinton seems inclined to show that she would be more aggressive than President Barack Obama has been abroad, while also trying to avoid alienating her party’s liberal (and largely anti-interventionist) base, and you can see something very significant breaking out: a wide-open 2016 debate over American intervention in the world.

In this emerging debate, there are no clear lines in either party. “It’s not terribly useful to speak of a Democratic foreign policy or a Republican foreign policy because essentially you have Republican foreign policies, plural, and Democratic foreign policies, plural,” says Richard Haass, a former State Department and White House aide who now is president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

This debate is the logical extension of a tumultuous decade and a half since the terror attacks of 9/11, when the old rule book about American intervention was thrown out without a new one to take its place. Fair or not, a common rap on President George W. Bush was that he was too eager to intervene abroad, and a common rap on President Barack Obama is that he hasn’t been eager enough.

On one level, this isn’t a new debate. “American history has been one of oscillation between two extremes: Pulling back from everything or getting involved in everything as if it’s our fight,” says James Steinberg, former deputy secretary of state who now is dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.

But the backdrop has changed significantly. We now are in a post-Cold War world, where the threats to American security lie as much in nonstate actors as in hostile nations, where economic competition weighs as heavily as military competition, and where the searing experience of long and unresolved wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has shaken easy assumptions about America’s ability to steer events.

On the Republican side, those circumstances have opened a path for the arguments of Mr. Paul, who has found some traction within his usually hawkish party with his argument that the U.S. has been too eager to intervene around the world, especially in the Middle East. In essence, he seeks to take the GOP back to its early 20th century skepticism of America as global cop.

But the same circumstances also have produced the diametrically opposed views Mr. Rubio expressed in his speech last week. He laid out perhaps the most aggressive view of American power projection of any of the 2016 contenders. He said he would be guided as president by three “pillars”—a more robust military, use of American power to guard the global economy and use of that same power to promote American values.

In a question-and-answer session after his speech, Mr. Rubio said his formula referred to diplomatic power as much as military power, and the role he envisions “is not world’s policeman.” Still, his is an aggressive view of using American muscle by any standard. Other Republican candidates fall somewhere in between the Paul and Rubio poles.

For her part, Mrs. Clinton faces some tough decisions. As secretary of state, she pushed for intervention in the civil war in Syria, and, ultimately, became an advocate of an multinational military move into Libya to get rid of Moammar Gadhafi. She’s also been a proponent of keeping military options on the table in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

But she’ll also have to defend herself against Republican charges that she and her Obama administration colleagues were too eager to withdraw troops from Iraq, as well as the jibe Mr. Paul delivered from the opposite direction this weekend, that the Libya intervention was misguided.

In short, the debate over global intervention is on. You’ll need a new scorecard to keep it all straight.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at
Popular on WSJ

75  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WSJ: Obama calls for restricting military gear to local police on: May 18, 2015, 11:06:35 AM
Obama Calls for Restricting Military Gear to Local Police
In effort to improve relations between police and communities, White House has announced new standards for federal programs in the aftermath of the Ferguson protests
By Colleen McCain Nelson
May 18, 2015 6:03 a.m. ET

The White House on Monday announced stricter standards for federal programs that equip local law-enforcement agencies with military gear and released a blueprint aimed at building trust between police and communities, as part of an array of prescriptions to improve policing.

The new reports, which lay out dozens of recommendations from a presidential task force on policing and call for halting the transfer of certain military gear to law-enforcement agencies, represent the White House’s most robust response yet to recent police killings of unarmed people. Mr. Obama will highlight his administration’s efforts Monday when he travels to Camden, N.J., a city that has struggled with violent crime and poverty but now has overhauled its police department, improved schools and jump-started economic development initiatives.

    Percentage of African-Americans in U.S. Police Departments Remains Flat Since 2007
    Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson Resigns
    U.S. Split Along Racial Lines on Backlash Against Police, Poll Finds

As controversial deaths at the hands of police officers have sparked outrage across the country, Mr. Obama has pledged to address the distrust between many police departments and minority communities and to tackle opportunity gaps that compound over time and can give rise to violence and civil unrest.

After protests last year in Ferguson, Mo., spurred criticism of federal programs that outfit local police departments with military gear, the president said his administration would develop new rules and improve oversight. A monthslong review found a lack of coordination among federal agencies and no consistent standards for police departments seeking the equipment.

The report that will be released Monday calls for a prohibition on federal programs providing certain types of equipment to law-enforcement agencies, citing a substantial risk of misuse. The list of prohibited gear includes tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, large-caliber firearms, grenade launchers and some camouflage uniforms.

Such equipment, which is seen as militaristic in nature, “could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement,” the report says.

More stringent controls for other types of equipment should be implemented, the report says. And law-enforcement agencies requesting certain gear will be required to seek the consent of local government and submit detailed justification explaining their need for equipment such as unmanned aerial vehicles and wheeled tactical vehicles.

Mr. Obama’s response to last year’s fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson also included the creation of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The group’s final report includes a call for expanded efforts to connect officers with neighborhoods and outlines strategies for increasing the use of body cameras and other technology. The task force, which emphasized the value of bolstering community policing, also offered recommendations for improving policies and oversight, strengthening training and education for law enforcement and promoting the wellness and safety of officers.

Ron Davis, director of the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office, said the report details reasonable and attainable recommendations to enhance public trust in the police.

“It is clear that this report will not sit on a shelf,” Mr. Davis said. “In fact, I believe it will be the transformational document that will help guide the over 16,000 police agencies to advance policing in the 21st century.”

Most of the proposals aren’t expected to be controversial, and some have been discussed by law enforcement for years.

On Monday, the administration plans to announce a grant program that will provide funds to some local law-enforcement agencies that commit to implementing the task force’s recommendations.

In Camden, Mr. Obama also will shine a spotlight on a transformed police force that has bolstered its ranks and brought down crime rates while focusing on community policing. The city, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, has been designated by the Obama administration as a “Promise Zone,” which allows local leaders to partner with the federal government on revitalization initiatives.

Administration officials have hailed Camden’s efforts to build trust between the police and the community, reduce violent crime, create jobs, and address opportunity gaps for minority boys and young men.

“From our perspective, Camden is an example of a community that is on the right track,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

The overhaul of Camden’s police department has been controversial, though, spurring complaints from civil-liberties groups that police have used excessive force and have been too aggressive in issuing summons for minor infractions. The decision to dissolve the city’s unionized police force and create a county-led division also has been criticized as union busting.

Write to Colleen McCain Nelson at
76  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Who is your teacher? on: May 18, 2015, 10:42:44 AM
You are my very good friend Benji and I am quite proud to have you as such. Our Adventure continues!!!
77  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: May 18, 2015, 10:00:40 AM
By Paul McLeary with Ariel Robinson

Things fall apart. Iraqi forces broke and fled the city of Ramadi in the face of a renewed assault by the Islamic State on Sunday, recalling the full-fledged retreat from Mosul last summer that gave the extremist group access to whole divisions’ worth of American-supplied Iraqi military equipment.

Despite a top U.S. military official’s contention late last week that most of Ramadi was still solidly in government hands and that the Islamic State was “on the defensive,” the latest defeat heaps fresh doubt on Iraqi forces' ability  to hold ground, and the speed with which the 3,000 U.S. trainers there can churn out effective troops.

And in another echo of last summer, there have also been reports that the Iraqi Army has lost Camp Ar Ramadi just west of the city, home to the 8th brigade, leaving behind heavy weapons and scores of military vehicles.

Airstrikes and Iranian fighters. American air power – to the tune of over 165 airstrikes around Ramadi over the past month – has proven unable to prevent the Anbar provincial capital from falling. The loss has caused the local Sunni tribes to petition Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to again call for the assistance of Shiite militias (including some backed by Iran) to stem the losses.

The Shiite fighters were a key player in this spring's battle for the city of Tikrit, but have raised fears among some Sunnis of increased Iranian influence over the country’s security forces. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan arrived in Baghdad for talks on Sunday.

Remember, the U.S. suspended airstrikes around Tikrit last month when the Iranian-backed militias were in the thick of the fight. Only when Abadi convinced them to back off did American bombs begin falling again.

Let the dominoes fall. The next major prize for the Islamic State is the massive oil refinery at Baiji. The refinery remains mostly in government hands, despite weeks of ferocious assaults. Reflecting Washington’s scattershot policy in Iraq, there has been a real back and forth among American defense officials over Baiji's importance.

In April, chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey claimed that Baiji was critical to Iraq’s security, followed just weeks later by Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren claiming that the refinery wasn’t actually all that crucial.

With Fallujah and Ramadi in the hands of the Islamic State, and the Baiji assault still very much underway, it’s safe to assume that the refinery is next. Watch this space to see how important it really is to U.S. and Iraqi planners moving forward.

Read FP’s Colum Lynch and Sean Naylor on how the intelligence gathered during the weekend raid by Delta Force operators on the Syrian compound of the Islamic State’s “oil emir” Abu Sayyaf may lead to more strikes in the future.

Still on top. From drone strikes to secret prisons to torture, the CIA has been pulling the strings on American foreign policy in the Middle East since 9/11. In a new story in the latest issue of Foreign Policy, Yochi Dreazen and Sean Naylor report that despite complaints from Congress and others in government, the arrangement likely won’t change anytime soon.
78  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Clinton--Castro? on: May 18, 2015, 09:37:29 AM
Really? We Can Pencil It In Already? Clinton-Castro 2016?
If you were a clear-thinking Democrat, this is the sort of news that would make you burst into tears of despair:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is likely to choose Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julián Castro or another Hispanic politician to be her running mate, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros said in an interview that will air Sunday.
“What I am hearing in Washington, including from people in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, is that the first person on their lists is Julián Castro, the . . . Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who use[d] to be the Mayor of San Antonio,” he said in an interview with Univision’s “Al Punto.”
“They don’t have a second option, because he is the superior candidate considering his record, personality, demeanor and Latin heritage.”
“I think there is a very high possibility that Hillary Clinton may choose Julián Castro,” he said.”
A one-option veep list? That Democratic bench isn’t just thin, it’s anorexic. And do Democrats really want to put the 40-year-old Castro a heartbeat away from the presidency? If this pans out, we’ll get to watch Democrats and the media insisting that Castro’s time as mayor of San Antonio and two years at HUD represented some sort of American policy renaissance and an era of bold leadership.
Back in 2012, when Castro was giving the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, I pointed out that San Antonio hadn’t gotten much better on his watch, particularly in the areas he claimed to emphasize, education and crime. By 2014, as he was joining HUD, his record as mayor included a few more local political scandals and a barely-budging poverty rate, even as the area economy soared from the shale boom. Castro left San Antonio in roughly the same shape as it was before he became mayor – and yet somehow became one of the Democratic party’s biggest stars and, if Cisneros is right, the only serious option to be Hillary’s running mate.
As I summarized last year:
Castro leveraged his rise-from-humble-roots narrative and the occasional wacky joke into national press coverage that most senators and governors would envy — major national-magazine profiles, a TED talk, an appearance on Meet the Press, a six-figure memoir deal. It’s fair to wonder whether Castro would get the same attention if he were not a member of a demographic increasingly important for national politics.
Cisneros’s appearing on the ticket would demonstrate that identity politics is to Democrats like that old quote about winning is to sports coaches: It’s not everything, it’s the only thing.
79  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: May 18, 2015, 01:07:51 AM
80  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China activates MIRV program on: May 17, 2015, 07:14:06 PM
China Making Some Missiles More Powerful
WASHINGTON — After decades of maintaining a minimal nuclear force, China has re-engineered many of its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple warheads, a step that federal officials and policy analysts say appears designed to give pause to the United States as it prepares to deploy more robust missile defenses in the Pacific.
What makes China’s decision particularly notable is that the technology of miniaturizing warheads and putting three or more atop a single missile has been in Chinese hands for decades. But a succession of Chinese leaders deliberately let it sit unused; they were not interested in getting into the kind of arms race that characterized the Cold War nuclear competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Now, however, President Xi Jinping appears to have altered course, at the same moment that he is building military airfields on disputed islands in the South China Sea, declaring exclusive Chinese “air defense identification zones,” sending Chinese submarines through the Persian Gulf for the first time and creating a powerful new arsenal of cyberweapons.

Many of those steps have taken American officials by surprise and have become evidence of the challenge the Obama administration faces in dealing with China, in particular after American intelligence agencies had predicted that Mr. Xi would focus on economic development and follow the path of his predecessor, who advocated the country’s “peaceful rise.”

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Beijing on Saturday to discuss a variety of security and economic issues of concern to the United States, although it remained unclear whether this development with the missiles, which officials describe as recent, was on his agenda.

American officials say that, so far, China has declined to engage in talks on the decision to begin deploying multiple nuclear warheads atop its ballistic missiles.
“The United States would like to have a discussion of the broader issues of nuclear modernization and ballistic missile defense with China,” said Phillip C. Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at National Defense University, a Pentagon-funded academic institution attended by many of the military’s next cadre of senior commanders.

“The Chinese have been reluctant to have that discussion in official channels,” Mr. Saunders said, although he and other experts have engaged in unofficial conversations with their Chinese counterparts on the warhead issue.

Beijing’s new nuclear program was reported deep inside the annual Pentagon report to Congress about Chinese military capabilities, disclosing a development that poses a dilemma for the Obama administration, which has never talked publicly about these Chinese nuclear advances.

President Obama is under more pressure than ever to deploy missile defense systems in the Pacific, although American policy officially states that those interceptors are to counter North Korea, not China. At the same time, the president is trying to find a way to signal that he will resist Chinese efforts to intimidate its neighbors, including some of Washington’s closest allies, and to keep the United States out of the Western Pacific.

Already, there is talk in the Pentagon of speeding up the missile defense effort and of sending military ships into international waters near the disputed islands, to make it clear that the United States will insist on free navigation even in areas that China is claiming as its exclusive zone.

Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, a policy research group in Washington, called the new deployments of Chinese warheads “a bad day for nuclear constraint.”

“China’s little force is slowly getting a little bigger,” he said, “and its limited capabilities are slowly getting a little better.”

To American officials, the Chinese move fits into a rapid transformation of their strategy under Mr. Xi, now considered one of the most powerful leaders since Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping. Vivid photographs, which were released recently, of Chinese efforts to reclaim land on disputed islands in the South China Sea and immediately build airfields on them, underscored for White House policy makers and military planners the speed and intensity of Mr. Xi’s determination to push potential competitors out into the mid-Pacific.

That has involved building aircraft carriers and submarines to create an overall force that could pose a credible challenge to the United States in the event of a regional crisis. Some of China’s military modernization program has been aimed directly at America’s technological advantage. China has sought technologies to block American surveillance and communications satellites, and its major investments in cybertechnology — and probes and attacks on American computer networks — are viewed by American officials as a way to both steal intellectual property and prepare for future conflict.

The upgrade to the nuclear forces fits into that strategy.

“This is obviously part of an effort to prepare for long-term competition with the United States,” said Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who was a senior national security official in the George W. Bush administration. “The Chinese are always fearful of American nuclear advantage.”
American nuclear forces today outnumber China’s by eight to one. The choice of which nuclear missiles to upgrade was notable, Mr. Tellis said, because China chose “one of few that can unambiguously reach the United States.”

The United States pioneered multiple warheads early in the Cold War. The move was more threatening than simply adding arms. In theory, one missile could release warheads that adjusted their flight paths so each zoomed toward a different target.

The term for the technical advance — multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle, or MIRV — became one of the Cold War’s most dreaded fixtures. It embodied the horrors of overkill and unthinkable slaughter. Each re-entry vehicle was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb. Each, by definition, was many times more destructive than the crude atomic weapon that leveled Hiroshima.

In 1999, during the Clinton administration, Republicans in Congress charged that Chinese spies had stolen the secrets of H-bomb miniaturization. But intelligence agencies noted Beijing’s restraint.

“For 20 years,” the C.I.A. reported, “China has had the technical capability to develop” missiles with multiple warheads and could, if so desired, upgrade its missile forces with MIRVs “in a few years.”

The calculus shifted in 2004, when the Bush administration began deploying a ground-based antimissile system in Alaska and California. Early in 2013, the Obama administration, worrying about North Korean nuclear advances, ordered an upgrade. It called for the interceptors to increase in number to 44 from 30.

While administration officials emphasized that Chinese missiles were not in the system’s cross hairs, they acknowledged that the growing number of interceptors might shatter at least some of Beijing’s warheads.

Today, analysts see China’s addition of multiple warheads as at least partly a response to Washington’s antimissile strides. “They’re doing it,” Mr. Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists said, “to make sure they could get through the ballistic missile defenses.”

The Pentagon report, released on May 8, said that Beijing’s most powerful weapon now bore MIRV warheads. The intercontinental ballistic missile is known as the DF-5 (for Dong Feng, or East Wind). The Pentagon has said that China has about 20 in underground silos.

Private analysts said each upgraded DF-5 had probably received three warheads and that the advances might span half the missile force. If so, the number of warheads China can fire from that weapon at the United States has increased to about 40 from 20.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on Chinese nuclear forces at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. In an interview, he emphasized that even fewer of the DF-5s might have received the upgrade.

Early last week, Mr. Kristensen posted a public report on the missile intelligence.

Beijing’s new membership in “the MIRV club,” he said, “strains the credibility of China’s official assurance that it only wants a minimum nuclear deterrent and is not part of a nuclear arms race.”
81  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The JV is coming for President Obama on: May 17, 2015, 07:05:35 PM
82  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: May 17, 2015, 02:22:38 PM
That the looters were unemployed.
83  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A factoid in contradiction of a theory on: May 17, 2015, 11:44:44 AM
84  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Clinton Foundation tithed 10% on: May 17, 2015, 11:39:12 AM

85  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Judge gets 28 years for selling kids to private prisons on: May 17, 2015, 11:21:37 AM
86  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: May 17, 2015, 11:12:36 AM
87  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Exxon CEO sues against fracking near his home on: May 17, 2015, 10:59:55 AM
88  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China's edebt crisis: addressing the problem but missing the mark on: May 16, 2015, 10:51:42 PM
 China's Debt Crisis: Addressing the Problem but Missing the Mark
May 15, 2015 | 09:15 GMT
Text Size
A Chinese commuter rides past the CCTV office in the Central Business District in Beijing. (AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON)

    China is granting local governments greater autonomy by allowing them to swap up to $160 billion in outstanding loans for lower-interest, slow-maturing government bonds.
    The program will provide a crucial buffer against local government debt crises in 2015 and beyond.
    The initiative may reduce economic stress in the near term but fails to address the largest contributor to China's crisis: corporate debt.

A significant evolution is underway in how China manages its rising levels of local government debt. On May 14, the Chinese government announced that by September, it would complete the first phase of a new plan that allows local governments to swap outstanding loans for low-yield, slow-maturing local bonds. Under the plan, localities would have a steady and stable repayment path for the more than $3 trillion in local government debt accumulated during the past six years of rapid, post-financial crisis spending. It will also have the added benefit, Beijing hopes, of lowering local government debt-servicing costs, thus freeing up tens of billions of yuan in liquidity in the short run. For now, local governments will be able to exchange only a small portion of outstanding loans (about $160 billion) for local bonds, but if successful, the program will likely expand substantially in the years to come.

The debt swap plan comes at a crucial time for China's economy. In recent years, the country's slowing growth rate has steadily eroded the local governments' abilities to service outstanding debts, much less sustain the level of investment needed to keep the economy humming. By allowing localities to swap 50 percent or more of maturing outstanding debts this year, the new plan will provide a much-needed buffer against local government debt crises in the near term — and beyond, if the program expands as Beijing intends. Although the plan is a welcome departure from the Chinese government's previous ad hoc methods of managing local government debt maturation, it fails to address the most pressing problem: outstanding corporate debt.

At the end of 2014, Chinese businesses owed more than $16 trillion, accounting for 61 percent of China's total outstanding debt and equal to nearly 180 percent of the country's gross domestic product. That compares with $3.38 trillion owed by local government financing vehicles (LGFVs), the means through which local governments raise virtually all of their cash.

Local Bonds

The idea of allowing local governments to issue their own bonds is not new to China. Until recently, central government leaders consistently rejected the idea of granting localities greater autonomy. For most of the 2000s, the central government opted to keep virtually all financing under the control of a handful of major state-owned commercial banks and their local affiliates. When the global financial crisis forced Beijing to rapidly ramp up spending and investment after 2008, the central government refused to allow localities to issue their own debt and created a legal framework for LGFVs to operate and draw capital from state-owned banks, ultimately falling under the central government's control.

In 2008, when the country was facing a potentially destabilizing economic crisis, the decision to bind local government finances to the state-owned banking system via LGFVs was reasonable. Beijing was worried that economic imbalances between coastal and inland provinces could fuel political instability and fragmentation. From the vantage of 2008, LGFVs seemed to provide the central government a means to dramatically expand local governments' spending capacity — local governments cover 85-90 percent of all government expenditures, including for infrastructure development and social services — while retaining a degree of control over how and when that money was spent.

This state-controlled strategy, however, began to break down after 2010, when Beijing attempted to ease lending to LGFVs. The decrease in loans from state-owned banks resulted in the creation of "shadow lending" tools thanks to a persistent demand from businesses and LGFVs. By 2013-2014, shadow lending — some of it in the form of off-balance sheet lending by state-owned banks themselves — accounted for an uncomfortably large share of China's total outstanding debt and new credit creation. The new economic reality forced the central government to clamp down and correct the growing reliance on shadow lending, a process that partly explains the timing of the start of China's real estate and broader economic slowdowns in early 2014.

Even in the face of declining economic growth, Beijing is loath to reverse the trend. For one, the slowdown — and the reform and restructuring it implies — is a crucial step on the path to rebalancing China toward an economic growth model grounded in private consumption, high value-added manufacturing and services. More to the point, the sheer scale of outstanding credit and industrial overcapacity, combined with the rapid deterioration in credit's return on investment, means that reversing the current decline would require unsustainable levels of new spending. With little option but to allow the economy to falter, the Chinese government has instead turned its focus to managing the slowdown. Enabling local governments to repay their old debts while maintaining a baseline of spending is central to this effort.

Enter the new debt swap program. By exchanging higher-interest, fast-maturing loans for low-interest, slow-maturing bonds, Beijing aims to prolong but soften the pain of repaying those debts and free more cash for local governments to spend in the near term. In short, Beijing hopes that this new process of gradually granting autonomy to the local governments will cut down on a number of entrenched problems and force the localities to think more carefully about how they spend their money going forward. The simple fact that Beijing is proceeding with the creation of local bond markets suggests that the central government understands it no longer has any choice but to allow greater local fiscal autonomy. It is no coincidence that this process coincides with a sharp consolidation of the central leadership's powers in other spheres of Chinese political and economic life. China's leaders are aware that the country is moving toward a consumption-driven economic growth model. To mitigate future challenges posed by this transition, the government is moving rapidly to ensure maximum control over central party, government and security apparatuses.
The Elephant in the Room

The debt swap program has gotten off to a somewhat choppy start. In late April, Jiangsu province delayed an 81 billion-yuan ($13 billion) bond issuance, likely because of a lack of interest among commercial banks in purchasing the low-yield, slow-maturing securities. In response, the central government allowed commercial banks to use bonds bought from local governments as collateral for low-cost loans from the central bank, thus offsetting the impact of swapping higher-interest loans for low-interest local bonds on commercial banks' balance sheets. As the program expands, bonds will become an increasingly viable alternative financing route, and the room for error will grow. In the near term, local government debt defaults remain a real risk, especially in areas where growth is slowing the most and LGFV reliance on shadow lending is highest. But the debt swap program provides a viable and likely stable blueprint for metabolizing the debts accumulated by local governments over the past decade or so.

However, this plan does not address the larger and more pressing issue of corporate debt, and no comparable plan for managing corporate debt exists. The corporate debt is more than four times the size of local government debt and is also that which sustains the vast majority of employment in China. For the time being, Beijing seems to be counting on the ability of service industries and agriculture, with financial help from the banking sector, to absorb the employment leftover from industrial consolidation — both government-driven and economically induced — and corporate closures. As the slowdown continues, the rate and scale of corporate debt crises is likely to grow substantially. Unemployment among manual laborers and manufacturing is also expected to grow. Although a plan to improve local government solvency and boost local governments' liquidity could provide a buffer against social and political instability in the near term, the corporate debt must be addressed and eased to ensure China's long-term prosperity.
89  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bush blows it. on: May 16, 2015, 10:39:20 PM
Good comments on the tax proposals Doug.

I think Bush has made what will turn out to be a fatal error with his failure to assert the ultimate success of Iraq due to the surge.  Obama was handed a winning hand, and threw it away.

Rubio has missed a big opportunity in not taking the initiative here.

Instead, the Reps are accepting the meme that "Iraq was an error".   

It might be politically scary, but IMHO asserting the defeat of AQ and the success of establishing a democratic government and that leaving troops was no different than what we did in Germany, Japan, and Korea is the way to go.  As the fustercluck in the Middle East continues to spiral out of control, this doubling down on our part would prove to be politically wise as well.
90  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Norks: The shortcomings of a successful missile test on: May 16, 2015, 08:37:04 PM
 North Korea: The Shortcomings of a Successful Missile Test
May 15, 2015 | 14:38 GMT
Text Size
A man watches a report on a North Korean missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station in March 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

On May 9, North Korea tested its new KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile under the watchful gaze of U.S. satellites, aircraft and observation ships. North Korea’s launch was successful: military personnel ejected the missile from underwater, its engine ignited at the surface and it flew about 150 meters (490 feet) before crashing into the sea. Fully developing this technology would extend the reach of North Korean nuclear missile systems and improve the country's second-strike capability in case its ground-based facilities are taken out. The smoothness of the test and the resulting media attention, however, obscure the major obstacles to developing this capacity. Developing the missile technology is one step, but Pyongyang also needs a suitable ballistic missile submarine of the requisite size, endurance and stealth — something that it does not have and will find challenging to develop.

Pyongyang is naturally secretive about its submarine-launched ballistic missile program and has carefully guarded the details of it. Because of this, post-test estimates of the program’s progress have varied. An anonymous South Korean defense official told the media that North Korea could develop a fully operational system within two to three years. U.S. officials, however, believe a fully functional system is far from completion and allege the test was not actually carried out from a submarine. Instead, they suggest it was a simulated firing to test an underwater ejection system, perhaps from a towed launch pad.

Fielding a submarine-launched ballistic missile is difficult. The technology is much more complex than land-based missile technology, which itself has already proved challenging for North Korea. Underwater launch first requires a successful ejection system and a gas generator for reducing hydrodynamic resistance. Still, a reliable submarine-launched ballistic missile is not completely out of North Korea’s reach. With time, continuous tests and the necessary resources, the North Koreans could eventually develop a successful system.
North Korea's Geographic Challenge

The technology for the missile system itself, however, is just one aspect of a successful system. A sea-based nuclear missile capability hinges on developing an adequate carrier vessel — a ballistic missile submarine. Without a large, stealthy and long-range submarine, the North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile effort will simply consume significant resources without altering the nuclear equation.

On paper, North Korea’s submarine fleet is quite large, comprising around 70 vessels. But the majority of these are mini-submarines that displace about 300 tons of water and are unsuited for operations beyond littoral waters. The North Korean navy’s largest submarines at the moment are Chinese Type 033 vessels. These are copies of Russia’s 1950s-era Romeo-class submarines and displace 1,830 tons. Rumors suggest North Korea is developing a replacement for these submarines: the Sinpo-class. These new vessels, however, are unlikely to exceed the capabilities of the improved Type 033 variants currently in use and will be of around the same size, displacing approximately 1,500 tons.

Unfortunately for Pyongyang, the Sinpo-class submarines under development simply do not meet the requirements to be an adequate ballistic missile launching platform. In order to function in this capacity, a submarine would need to be of sufficient size to carry a ballistic missile. The smallest submarine to ever carry a submarine-launched ballistic missile is the Soviet Zulu IV-class, which carried one to two nuclear ballistic missiles, displaced approximately 2,000 tons and was a full quarter heavier than North Korea’s Chinese Type 033 or Sinpo-class submarines. Pyongyang will need bigger vessels in the future to carry one to two missiles in an operational capacity. To carry more would require a new and entirely different class of submarine.

Despite these challenges, the benefits of a fielded submarine-launched ballistic missile are substantial. This capability would give North Korea two advantages not offered by ground-based missiles. First, it would extend the reach of North Korea's missile systems and theoretically enable it to strike targets outside of ground-based missile range. Second, submarine-launched missiles, because they are offshore and mobile, would give North Korea a second-strike capability, allowing it to retaliate against attacks on its land-based nuclear bases and launch pads. These benefits assume, however, that North Korea’s submarines have an adequate level of endurance, the amount of time a vessel can remain at sea unsupported. Submarines would need to be able to remain unsupported long enough to reach targets beyond the range of land-based missiles. In order to fulfill a second-strike role, vessels would need to be deployed for months far from vulnerable ports and remain ready for counterattack.

North Korea’s current Type 033 submarines, even with modifications, cannot meet these endurance requirements. A fully functioning KN-11 missile would have a range of approximately 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles). The Type 033 submarine has a range of around 15,000 kilometers. This is not enough to approach within 2,500 kilometers of the U.S. mainland and return without at-sea refueling. Were North Korea to refuel these vessels at sea, it would significantly degrade the stealth variable of these vessels.

Stealth would be essential in order to avoid being detected and neutralized by an enemy in long patrols at sea or a mission to the U.S. mainland. The Type 033 is a diesel electric boat and can be stealthy in short missions within littoral waters. Beyond these near-shore environments, however, the submarine would have a more difficult time concealing itself without the noise or clutter typically found in littoral waters. The Type 033 would also be forced to spend significant time at the surface to recharge its batteries by running its diesel engines, a process for which they need atmospheric oxygen. Many of the latest conventional submarines, by contrast, are equipped with air-independent propulsion, which means they do not need to surface to run their engines.

Without an adequate submarine, the resources Pyongyang is investing in new missile technology will not improve the capability of its existing land-based missile program. The missiles in the current KN-08 program will still have greater range and will be able to be more rapidly dispersed in large numbers and in difficult terrain. Eventually, North Korea could develop a suitable ballistic missile submarine, but it would take several years to complete. Such a development would truly change the nuclear equation. For now, however, the successful test conducted May 9 is not going to alter North Korea’s nuclear capability.
91  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: May 16, 2015, 08:32:36 PM
A very clever analysis, and one in line with previous (and outside the box) Stratfor predictions, but for me the omission of the nuclear variable from the equation leads to GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

At any rate, here's what Iran makes of it:
92  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: May 16, 2015, 05:54:54 PM
 Camp David and the U.S. Power of Choice in the Middle East
Geopolitical Diary
May 14, 2015 | 22:45 GMT
Text Size

U.S. President Barack Obama's Camp David retreat for Sunni Gulf leaders will not be remembered for the diplomatic snubs, defense deals or even the nuclear proliferation threats. It will be remembered as the most vivid illustration of a changing balance of power in the Middle East after three and a half decades of acrimonious U.S.-Iran relations

The last major shift in the U.S. relationship with the Persian Gulf states took place in the 1970s, in the thick of the Cold War. The 34-year-old deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and the 55-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, may be too young to fully understand what their royal elders struggled with in trying to ensure that the global hegemon would not sacrifice the House of Saud to its Persian allies. After all, an entire generation has only known a world in which U.S. support for Saudi Arabia and hostility toward Iran were a given. But the mandate of King Salman's successors at Camp David was clear: to prevent history from repeating itself.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Thanks to a wealth of declassified information from the Nixon-Kissinger years, we now have a much more colorful view of how the White House managed its relationships in the Persian Gulf at the time. The Shah of Iran sold himself to the Americans as the Guardian of the Gulf, worthy of an exorbitant amount of military toys, including squadrons of F-14 fighter jets fresh off the assembly line. The Nixon White House indulged the shah in most of these requests. The logic was that Iran, as a steadfast and modernized partner of the United States in contrast to the House of Saud and the arcane Wahhabism it practiced, would help the United States carry the burden of ensuring freedom of navigation through the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran also would help keep the Soviets at bay, and it would do all of this while serving as a reliable oil supplier to the West.

While Iran sat on a pedestal in Washington, the Saudis were of course more than unnerved. With Soviet-backed militant groups operating across the region and multiple eyes set on Saudi oil fields, the last thing the House of Saud needed was for Washington to place its trust in Riyadh's historical enemy to secure the Gulf. An account by U.S. Ambassador to Iran James Akins on a conversation he had with Saudi Oil Minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani in 1975 is particularly revealing of the Saudi perception of what they viewed as an intolerable U.S. foreign policy. Akins claimed that an infuriated Yamani confronted him about an alleged set of military contingency plans outlined by the shah and the White House. From the Saudi point of view, the Americans were effectively arming Iran to enable an Iranian invasion of the Arabian oil fields and the occupation of the "entire Arabian littoral of the Persian Gulf."

Though Riyadh certainly felt it had to compete for Washington's attention, the House of Saud and Washington also took important steps to build up their own strategic relationship. The United States needed Saudi Arabia to balance against Iran in OPEC policy and bankroll regional governments and proxies in a broader battle against Soviet influence. At Camp David 44 years ago, Nixon devised a plan to break from the gold standard, which relied heavily on Saudi cooperation. As Nixon sought to ensure global demand for the dollar for many decades to come, the House of Saud made a deal with Washington to price oil sales in dollars only and buy up billions of U.S. treasuries with surplus petrodollars. Thanks to the Saudis and Nixon's geopolitical backroom deals, the U.S. dollar has been able to build and preserve its position as the world's reserve currency, enabling the United States to spend beyond its means as any global empire would.

But it was not until the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the shah and elevated the mullahs that the U.S.-Saudi relationship really took off. From that point onward, the House of Saud and the White House forgave and forgot their many differences and remade the security architecture of the Persian Gulf to put the United States firmly behind the Sunni bloc while Iran remained isolated. However, that alliance structure started to crack in 2003, when the United States toppled the Sunni government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and wittingly opened the door for Iran to anchor itself in Mesopotamia through a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.

The Gulf state leaders gathered at Camp David on Thursday may feel betrayed by the United States, but they cannot be surprised by the evolution of U.S. relations in the Persian Gulf. This shift was triggered a dozen years ago, even if it is only fully materializing now. Saudi editorials in the days leading up to the summit were full of contempt. Some argue that Obama's outreach is an admission that he made a losing bet on Iran and is now groveling for reacceptance by Gulf leaders. Another claims that Obama may want special relations with both Iran and the Gulf states at the same time, but that he simply cannot have it both ways.

But in fact, he can. A U.S. detente with Iran does not mean that Washington's relationship with the Sunni states of the Gulf is swept to the side. On the contrary, the United States will be working to build up these states, along with Turkey, to counterbalance Iran in the region. The chessboard is also somewhat simpler for the United States this time around. The United States and Russia may be experiencing Cold War nostalgia today, but Russia's influence in the Middle East is far more limited today than it was a couple of decades ago. That means the proxy battles in the region will primarily involve the local players rather than the overarching superpowers. Instead, the United States will be there when it comes to securing energy chokepoints and neutralizing jihadist threats, picking and choosing its battles wisely along the way.

And that is where the core frustration in Saudi Arabia will fester. The United States has revived the power of choice for itself in the Persian Gulf. When it comes to finding another security guarantor in the region, the Saudi royals will inevitably find themselves back in Washington in their time of need.
93  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: May 16, 2015, 02:59:36 PM
"Note that the white guy looks clean cut, middle class while the black guy is in standard issue gangstawear w/cornrows. Put a black male in a clean cut middle class clothes and use a white male with arms sleeved in prison ink and see how that changes things."

Now we are playing the game!
94  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China (& Japan, South China Sea-- Vietnam, Philippines, etc) on: May 16, 2015, 12:53:44 PM
The lack of attention to China seizing control of the open seas wherein 40% of the world's trade transits boggles the mind.
95  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: May 16, 2015, 12:51:15 PM
Of course not, this is FB level debate, and frankly we need to be able to play this game too.
96  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary took money personally (while out of office) on: May 16, 2015, 12:47:14 PM
97  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Did we just concede the South China Sea to China?!? on: May 16, 2015, 12:41:15 PM
U.S. Seeks Calmer Waters
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calls for reduced tensions over China’s building of artificial islands
Photos by satellite-imagery provider DigitalGlobe shows what is believed to be Chinese vessels dredging sand at Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. ENLARGE
Photos by satellite-imagery provider DigitalGlobe shows what is believed to be Chinese vessels dredging sand at Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Jeremy Page
May 16, 2015 8:33 a.m. ET

BEIJING—Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing is determined to protect its sovereignty in the South China Sea as his visiting U.S. counterpart John Kerry called for efforts to reduce tensions over China’s stepped-up building of artificial islands.

At a joint news conference Saturday, Mr. Kerry briefly expressed concern about the land reclamation in the South China Sea and urged China to take steps to defuse the situation. He tried to emphasize other positive aspects of bilateral relations, such as cooperation on climate change.

Mr. Kerry didn’t respond to a reporter’s question on whether the U.S. military is planning to send warships or planes within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

Mr. Wang took up the question, however, saying the structures fall within the scope of China’s sovereignty.

“The determination of the Chinese side to safeguard our own sovereignty and territorial integrity is as firm as a rock and it is unshakable,” Mr. Wang said. “It is the demand of our people on our government as well as a legitimate right of ours.”

Mr. Wang said China is committed to resolving territorial disputes peacefully and would continue ongoing talks about the artificial islands with the U.S. and other nations.

The two men had met earlier for talks on the first day of Mr. Kerry’s weekend visit to Beijing, which officials say is designed to lay the ground for high-level meetings by senior officials in Washington in June, and a state visit to the U.S. by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September.

Mr. Kerry was due to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday afternoon and Mr. Xi on Sunday before moving on to South Korea.

The visit to Beijing has been overshadowed by differences on the South China Sea, where Beijing’s extensive land reclamation in the past year has raised fresh concerns in Asia and the U.S. that it plans to use force to assert its sweeping territorial claims.

China’s claims cover almost all of the South China Sea—one of the world’s busiest shipping routes—and overlap with those of several neighboring countries, including the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally.

The U.S. military is now considering sending navy ships and aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands to demonstrate that the U.S. doesn't believe China can claim territorial seas around them, U.S. officials say.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a joint news conference in Beijing on Saturday, May 16, 2015. ENLARGE
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a joint news conference in Beijing on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Photo: Zuma Press

Ahead of Mr. Kerry’s visit, U.S. officials had said that he would take a tough line on the issue in Beijing.

At the news conference, Mr. Kerry said the U.S. had already expressed its concern over the pace and scope of China’s island-building.

“I urged China through Foreign Minister Wang to take actions that will join with everybody in helping to reduce tensions and increase the prospect of a diplomatic solution,” he said. The region, he said, needs “smart diplomacy” to achieve a code of conduct for the South China Sea rather than “outposts and military strips.”

Mr. Kerry also played down other points of recent tension, saying the U.S. welcomed China’s establishment of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The Obama administration at first tried to discourage allies from joining, U.S. officials and diplomats from allied countries have said, but switched to a more cooperative position when the bank, which is due to start operating this year, attracted many prospective members.

Mr. Wang said the infrastructure bank and other recent Chinese initiatives weren't aimed at reducing U.S. influence in Asia, noting that 23 of the 57 founding members of the new bank were not Asian nations.

“When we talk about openness and inclusiveness, we’re not simply talking the talk—we’re actually walking the walk,” Mr. Wang said.

Write to Jeremy Page at
Popular on WSJ


It seems China has won a battle without firing a shot.  US appears to be fully confused and disoriented as "loopholes" in the global order are ruthlessly exploited by many who like to serve and eat salami slices.
Flag ButtonShare

98  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morsi sentenced to death on: May 16, 2015, 12:24:08 PM
CAIRO—An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced ousted President Mohammed Morsi to death for breaking out of prison during the height of the nation’s uprising in 2011, the latest blow against Islamist critics of the government.

The decision is the harshest of multiple sentences given to Mr. Morsi and underscores the breadth of current President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s crackdown on his chief political opponents, the Muslim Brotherhood.  The court’s preliminary verdict Saturday is subject to review by the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious authority, whose opinion isn’t legally binding but is traditionally adopted by the court.  A final verdict based his opinion will be delivered June 2 but will be open to appeals, which can take years in Egypt’s clogged judicial system.

Mr. Morsi has already been sentenced to 20 years in prison last month in a separate case in which he was found guilty of fomenting violence during a series of protests in 2012 that dogged his year in office.

The former Egyptian president was among 106 members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood sentenced to death on Saturday, including the group’s spiritual guide Mohammed Badie and prominent Islamic scholar, Youssef al-Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar.

The decision—broadcast on state television as Mr. Morsi and some of co-defendants smiled defiantly from inside the caged dock used to hold the accused—was received quietly in Egypt. However, authorities said it may have inspired a violent response in the restive Sinai Peninsula where security forces have struggled to contain a low-level Islamist insurgency.

Hours after the verdict was delivered, unknown gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying several judges and aides in the northern Sinai town of al-Arish, killing three judges, a driver, and wounding three others, according to Egypt’s state news agency.  There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the state news agency quotes unnamed security officials saying the attack may have been retaliation for the verdict against Mr. Morsi.

Saturday’s decision is latest in a series of mass trials that have led to death penalty verdicts against the leadership and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Human rights organizations have criticized the mass sentences, while some Western governments, including the U.S., have expressed concern over the apparent lack of due process. 
If Saturday’s verdicts are confirmed, the entire top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood will be facing either life in prison or execution stemming from trials that began under Mr. Sisi’s leadership. The sentences represent the most comprehensive crackdown of the group since the modern Egyptian state was founded.

“The death penalty has become the favorite tool for the Egyptian authorities to purge the political opposition,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Saturday, calling Mr. Morsi’s trial “grossly unfair.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a close ally of Mr. Morsi, slammed the Egyptian court’s decision and criticized western governments for not speaking forcibly enough against the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Unfortunately, they decided to execute Morsi. Egypt is turning to ancient Egypt,” Mr. Erdogan said, highlighting that Cairo could hang a leader elected democratically with 52% support.

Amr Darrag, a former cabinet minister under Mr. Morsi, said the verdict marks “one of the darkest days in Egypt’s history” in a statement from Turkey, where he remains in exile.

The defendants were accused of breaking out of Wadi al Natroun prison days after the 2011 uprising first began. He and other senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood had been ordered jailed by then president Hosni Mubarak , whose rule was being undermined by massive street protests that resulted in his resignation 18 days after they began on Jan. 25, 2011.  Two days after being detained, the prison was raided by armed groups who clashed with jail guards, ultimately beating the authorities into retreat.

In a phone call to Al Jazeera Arabic broadcast on the day of his escape, a panicked Mr. Morsi is heard saying he and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues were freed by unknown men in both prison uniforms and in civilian clothes, and urged authorities to instruct him on how to proceed, vowing not to leave the prison without official permission.  In 2013, months after he had been deposed and arrested by Mr. Sisi, prosecutors charged Mr. Morsi with breaking out of the prison with the help of Hamas operatives they alleged had infiltrated Egypt during the chaotic uprising.

Mr. Al Sisi later became president after winning in a landslide against a weak opponent in 2014.

In a statement, Hamas said some of the defendants found guilty in the case are members of their organization who had died before the 2011 uprising or who were serving lengthy prison sentences in Israel.

Critics of the regime have drawn comparisons between Mr. Morsi’s legal fate and that of Mr. Mubarak who has had nearly every legal case against him dismissed or has resulted in acquittal. On May 9, Mr. Mubarak was sentenced to three years in a retrial for corruption, but legal experts said he is unlikely to serve any of the time in prison owing to several years of detention—mostly in a military hospital—since his ouster in 2011.

—Emre Peker in Istanbul contributed to this article.

Write to Tamer El-Ghobashy at
99  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Did we almost lose NY? on: May 16, 2015, 12:13:22 PM
100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US SF kill senior ISIS leader in Syria, capture wife on: May 16, 2015, 12:01:06 PM
second post:

U.S. Special Forces Kill Senior ISIS Leader in Syria, Capture His Wife

Officials say Abu Sayyaf helped direct group’s oil, gas and financial arms, was emerging as a leader of military operations
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, shown here on May 1, on Saturday said a special forces raid that killed a senior Islamic State leader Abu Sayyaf and captured his wife was a significant blow to the militant group. ENLARGE
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, shown here on May 1, on Saturday said a special forces raid that killed a senior Islamic State leader Abu Sayyaf and captured his wife was a significant blow to the militant group. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press
Gordon Lubold
Updated May 16, 2015 12:29 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—A senior Islamic State leader was killed, and his wife captured, in a raid in eastern Syria by U.S. Special Operations, the first mission in that country targeting wanted ISIS militants, defense officials said early on Saturday.

The operation was conducted on the ground in Al-Amr near the eastern Syrian city of Deir-Ezzour to capture Abu Sayyaf and his wife, Umm Sayyaf, also thought to be part of the organization, Pentagon officials said.

During the mission late Friday, Abu Sayyaf “engaged U.S. forces” and was killed. Special Operations forces, however, captured Umm Sayyaf, the Pentagon said.  No American forces were injured or killed, the Defense Department said.  The mission was a rare example of U.S. forces conducting an operational maneuver on the ground. Last year, Special Operations forces conducted a risky but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to rescue American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and other hostages in eastern Syria.

“The operation represents another significant blow to ISIL, and it is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies,” according to a statement issued by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Islamic State is sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL.

Abu Sayyaf was said to have helped direct the terrorist organization’s illicit oil gas and some financial operations that help fund Islamic State’s operations. He was also emerging as a leader of the group’s military operations.  Umm Sayyaf was captured during the operation and is now being held by U.S. officials in Iraq. She is thought to have been holding a young Yazidi woman as a slave. The Yazidi woman was freed and will be reunited with her family in coming days, according to U.S. officials.

    ‘The operation represents another significant blow to ISIL.’
    —U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in discussing Friday’s raid.

“We suspect that Umm Sayyaf is a member of ISIL, played an important role in ISIL’s terrorist activities and may have been complicit in the enslavement of the young woman rescued last night,” according to National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan.

The White House has been reluctant to send U.S. forces into harm’s way in Syria and in Iraq, maintaining the pledge President Barack Obama have no “combat boots” on the ground in either country.  Mr. Obama authorized Friday’s raid with what the White House described as the unanimous recommendation of his national security team as well as the consent of Iraqi authorities.  The mission came after U.S. military officials had developed enough intelligence using drones and other means to be confident enough that the mission could be successful, likely taking extra precautions after the failed rescue attempt for Messrs. Foley and Sotloff last year.

—Carol E. Lee and Adam Entous contributed to this article.
Pages: 1 [2] 3 4 ... 665
Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.19 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!