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 on: April 17, 2014, 09:13:17 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 Why Obama Can't Explain Himself
Global Affairs
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 16:28 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan

By Robert D. Kaplan

Secretary of State John Kerry evidently runs a tight ship, given the paucity of leaks that emerge from his office. So we know he is organized and disciplined. He is also an energetic risk-taker, jumping into high-wire negotiations with Iran, and forcing the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table -- enterprises that could likely end in failure and ruin his reputation. This is a man with character. By contrast, his predecessor at State, Hillary Clinton, appeared to take few risks and has been accused of using the position of secretary of state merely to burnish her resume in preparation for a presidential run.

But there is one thing that Kerry has not been good at: explaining what he is doing and why to the public. How do these high-wire negotiations fit into a larger strategic plan? What do the Iran talks have to do with those between Israel and Palestine? What is the relationship between the two sets of Middle East negotiations and American strategy in Asia and Europe? The Obama administration has provided the public with little insight on any of these matters.

Why can't the administration explain better what it is doing? I believe the reason is that the administration cannot own up to the philosophical implications of the very policy direction it has chosen. It is as though top officials are embarrassed by their own choices.

The administration has refused to intervene in Syria in a pivotal way, and it has very awkwardly still not managed to make its peace with Egypt's new military dictatorship -- though it does not oppose the new regime in Cairo outright. But it is embarrassed that it has done these things. The Obama team wants to pursue a foreign policy of liberal internationalism, in the tradition of previous Democratic administrations. It wants to topple a murderous dictatorship in Syria. It wants democracy in Egypt. But instead, it finds itself pursuing a foreign policy of conservative realism, in the tradition of previous Republican administrations, like those of Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush. It is doing so because realism is about dealing with the facts as they exist on the ground with the goal of preserving American power, whereas liberal internationalism is about taking risks with the facts on the ground in order to seek a better world.

President Barack Obama and Secretary Kerry are afraid that if they intervene militarily in Syria they will help bring to power a jihadist-trending regime there -- or conversely, Syria will disintegrate into even worse anarchy, with echoes of Afghanistan in the 1990s. So they do little. Obama and Kerry must know that the choice in Egypt is not simply between dictatorship and democracy, but between military authoritarianism that can be indirectly helpful to Western interests and an Islamist regime that would be hostile to Western interests. So they quietly, albeit angrily, accept the new order in Cairo. The administration knows that if it wants to pivot toward the Pacific, it must also attempt to put America's diplomatic house in order in the Middle East: thus, it seeks a rapprochement with Iran and a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.

All of this is reasonable, if uninspiring. But the Obama team has been relatively tongue-tied because it cannot admit to being a liberal Democratic administration pursuing a moderate Republican foreign policy. It is a shame because publicly explaining some of these actions should be relatively easy. In regards to Egypt, all the administration needs to say is, We support democracy where we can and stability where we must. In regards to Syria, it can warn about the unpredictable dangers that come with serious military intervention. It can explain Iran and Israel-Palestine in terms of America's larger goals in the Middle East and Asia. The more peace there is in the Middle East, the more that America can concentrate on Asia -- the geographic center of the world economy.

Though Hillary Clinton was risk averse, unlike Kerry, she did explain what she was doing. Her "pivot" to Asia may have been sniped at by some experts and pundits. But it was a strategic conception that was somewhat original, and she did, in fact, explain it better than Kerry has explained anything. In fact, she authored a long essay about the Asia pivot in the magazine Foreign Policy. That was rare, since original ideas ordinarily do not come out of government.

Obama has good realistic instincts, but thus far he doesn't have a strategy that he has been able to explain to the public. And without a strategy he loses influence, since power in the media age is not only about deeds and capabilities, but about what you rhetorically stand for. Ronald Reagan was a powerful president in significant part because of his soaring rhetoric. (After Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, Reagan would have flown to Poland or the Baltic states and declared, "Mr. Putin, I am standing on hallowed NATO ground!") George W. Bush was a weaker president than he might have been because he was perceived to be inarticulate. Obama is a fine speaker, but he has explained little in the foreign policy realm, and even when he does so he appears to lack passion, as if he is merely reading his lines. This makes his foreign policy weaker, regardless of the inherent strengths of it. And it makes his opponents overseas have less respect for him.

Once again, in a media age, presentation and branding can be 50 percent of everything -- especially if one is on the world stage. If this were not the case, political leaders in both democracies and dictatorships would never give speeches, but would confine their activities strictly to behind-the-scenes meetings.

Obama certainly has material with which to work. Just look at the world today. China and Russia, with all of their problems and limitations, have emerged as major geopolitical rivals of the United States in their respective regions. The Middle East is fundamentally more unstable than it has been in decades, with several state collapses having provided fertile breeding grounds for the most extremist groups. Of course, the United States cannot dominate the world. It cannot kick China out of Asia and Russia out of Europe. And it cannot fix societies like Syria and Libya. But it can intelligently maneuver, affecting power balances everywhere more often than not to its advantage. And one of the ways it can do this is by -- to repeat -- supporting democracy where we can and stability where we must. It can also do this by preserving a measure of global stability through air and sea deployments in the Pacific and Indian oceans. The United States can be the organizing principle for working with Europe against a revanchist Russia. All of these parts fit together. This and much more can be explained to the American people. And doing so would certainly enhance U.S. power, making it less likely to be tested in the first place.

Read more: Why Obama Can't Explain Himself | Stratfor

 on: April 17, 2014, 09:08:52 PM 
Started by Quijote - Last post by Crafty_Dog
 Finland and Sweden Debate NATO Membership
April 17, 2014 | 0435 Print Text Size
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Swedish soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force outside Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. (KAZIM EBRAHIMKHIL/AFP/Getty Images)

The West's standoff with Russia over Ukraine is triggering debate over the adequacy of defense spending and cooperation to confront a more assertive Russia across Europe. In Finland and Sweden, an important element in this debate is whether the two countries should join NATO.

While the events in Ukraine strengthen the argument for NATO membership, general support for the idea is still lacking in both countries -- such a step would represent a big shift from Finland's and Sweden's strategy of avoiding too strong a military alignment with the West in order to prevent any conflict with Russia.

Only if the crisis in Ukraine persists, and if Russia grows more assertive in the Baltics, might public opinion in Sweden and Finland shift strongly enough to make NATO membership likely. Before joining NATO, the two countries would try to strengthen regional collaboration and bolster their own national defenses.

The standoff between the West and Russia is increasingly affecting Nordic Europe. On April 15, the Barents Observer reported that politicians in Norway are debating whether plans to cooperate with Russia on hydrocarbons exploration along the countries' shared border should be put on hold in light of the events in Ukraine. In Finland and Sweden, the crisis is fueling the debate over eventual NATO membership. Finland and Sweden are both members of the European Union, and thus have tight economic and institutional bonds with the West, but both have stayed out of NATO.

Sweden, after suffering great territorial losses to Russia in the early 19th century, has abided by a neutrality policy since the end of the Napoleonic wars. It maintained that policy at least nominally throughout the two world wars, though it did provide economic and logistical assistance to the Germans, the Allies and the Finns in World War II. Neutrality was meant as a way to minimize the risk of further defeats comparable to the ones Sweden was dealt in the early 1800s.
The Nordic Countries and Russia
Click to Enlarge

Finland, the only Nordic eurozone member and a country that shares a long border with Russia, was once absorbed by the Russian Empire, remaining Russian territory for more than a century before declaring independence in 1917. Finland aligned with Germany during World War II to fight the Soviets but ultimately could not recover the territory it lost during the Winter War in 1939 and 1940.

These experiences strongly influenced the Finns' strategy in dealing with their eastern neighbor. During the Cold War, Finland and the Soviet Union had an understanding that Moscow would accept Finland's independence as long as Helsinki abstained from stronger military integration with the West. Finland, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, has integrated institutionally with Western Europe and has procured a growing proportion of its weapons from the West. Much like Stockholm, Helsinki has established strong ties with NATO through joint missions and training. Still, unwilling to sour its relationship with Russia, Finland has abstained from formally joining the military alliance.

As a result of the past decades of European integration and collaboration with NATO -- for example in Afghanistan -- the nonalignment policy in both countries has been a constant issue of debate and is drawing renewed attention as a consequence of the tensions with Russia.
Lacking Support

The Finnish and Swedish political elite has been split over the question of NATO membership for a long time. Governments, including those run by parties that advocate NATO membership, have refrained from holding a referendum on the question due to general public opposition in both countries to joining the military alliance.

In a poll carried out in late 2013, about one-third of Swedes supported NATO membership. In Finland, a poll carried out online of members of the Finnish Reservists' Association (conscripts who have finished their military service) in early April indicated that more than 40 percent would like Finland to join NATO within a few years. According to Finnish media, this is a 10 percentage point jump from a similar poll conducted a year ago. The increase was probably strongly influenced by the events in Ukraine. Polls from the general public give far lower numbers. A February poll, commissioned before Russia annexed Crimea, showed that less than 20 percent of Finns favored NATO membership, a percentage comparable to the levels in 2002, Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported.

A number of factors explain the middling support for NATO membership in Finland and Sweden. Russia is Finland's greatest security concern, but it is also an important economic partner -- one with which Helsinki hopes to maintain a stable relationship. According to Trade Map, Russia was Finland's second-largest import and export market in 2013, behind Sweden. Russia would not likely use its military to keep Finland from joining NATO, but Moscow would probably implement policies that would hurt Finland economically. With Europe going through a structural economic crisis and Finland itself caught in the midst of an economic crisis, keeping good economic ties with Russia is of particular importance. Sweden would face fewer repercussions than Finland, because it does not share a border with Russia. Sweden and Finland would likely coordinate efforts to join NATO, but membership remains unlikely until other revisions in defense policy have been made.

Debates over Swedish and Finnish defense policy are gaining more attention because of the crisis in Ukraine, but NATO membership is just one element. The core question under debate is whether the Swedish and Finnish governments should focus more on protecting their own borders after years of defense spending cuts and foreign engagement. While there is growing support for higher defense spending, this does not necessarily translate into greater enthusiasm to join NATO because it is debatable whether formal accession would add much in terms of national security.

The current status of Finland's and Sweden's relationships with NATO allows both to show their commitment to certain Western allies without having obligations toward all NATO members. Sweden and Finland, despite their nonalignment, could also likely count on material assistance from NATO and European partner countries in case of a military conflict because of their geographic position. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Sweden or Finland were attacked and the NATO members surrounding it simply stood by. Seeing security in the Baltic Sea region threatened, NATO member states would probably be drawn into any such conflict.

Before formally considering NATO membership, Sweden and Finland will seek stronger regional defense collaboration. The five Nordic countries -- Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland -- have a relatively long history of collaboration since they share similar geopolitical concerns. In the late 1940s, the Nordic countries considered forming a defense union, but differences among the countries, the presence of NATO and the strengthening of the European institutions weakened Nordic collaboration. However, in recent years, the will for stronger regional defense collaboration has seen somewhat of a revival through the establishment of the Nordic Defense Cooperation.

This collaboration could strengthen, but its growth will depend on how NATO evolves as a consequence of the current crisis in Ukraine. The difficulty for Sweden and Finland will be to get the other Nordic countries to commit to further regional collaboration. Norway, Iceland and Denmark already are NATO members and hence see less urgency to build an additional alliance. Such an alliance would be particularly de-emphasized if the United States made moves to strengthen NATO. Other regional defense cooperation initiatives, such as the cooperation among the Visegrad states, are dealing with similar issues -- countries see that NATO's weaknesses could be corrected through regional cooperation platforms, but the countries have different national security concerns, slowing efforts to build alliance mechanisms. Stalling collaboration among the Nordic countries would perhaps increase the support for NATO membership in Sweden and Finland.

Moscow is watching events in Nordic Europe with worry, although the debate over Finnish and Swedish NATO membership could quickly die down if the crisis in Ukraine does not escalate further. Russia knows there is a great risk that the more aggressive it is in its periphery, the more a rationale will exist for stronger U.S. military involvement in Eastern Europe, or for a strengthening of military alliances among European countries.

Read more: Finland and Sweden Debate NATO Membership | Stratfor

 on: April 17, 2014, 09:06:53 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: April 17, 2014, 08:40:30 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: April 17, 2014, 07:39:34 PM 
Started by The Tao - Last post by Crafty_Dog

 on: April 17, 2014, 06:13:25 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Review & Outlook
Opinion of the Year

You won't believe how the EEOC tried to prove racial bias.

April 16, 2014 7:19 p.m. ET

A big story of President Obama's second term is how federal courts are overturning executive abuses. But sometimes the prosecution is so outrageous, and the legal smackdown so sublime, that the episode deserves special recognition.

Such is the case with last week's hilariously caustic rebuke of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The EEOC had sued Kaplan, the for-profit education company, for using "the same type of background check that the EEOC itself uses," as Judge Raymond Kethledge cheekily put it in the first sentence of his ruling in EEOC v. Kaplan.

Despite its own practices, the Obama EEOC has made a cause of suing private companies because it claims that credit and criminal background checks discriminate against minorities. In 2012 the agency issued "guidance" to get companies to think twice before using criminal checks but stopped short of doing the same for credit checks.
That didn't stop it from suing Kaplan for using credit checks, which the EEOC claimed had no business necessity and resulted in a "disparate impact" on blacks. A federal judge tossed the case, but the EEOC is so convinced of its virtue that it appealed. Bad idea.

Judge Kethledge eviscerated the EEOC like a first-day law student, writing that Kaplan had good reason to conduct credit checks on "applicants for positions that provide access to students' financial-loan information" because employees had "stolen payments" and "engaged in self-dealing."

As for proving disparate racial impact, Judge Kethledge noted that "the credit-check process is racially blind; the [credit-check] vendor does not report the applicant's race with her other information." But the EEOC had relied entirely on Kevin Murphy, a consultant who assembled a team of five "race raters" to look at the drivers' licenses of a sample of applicants and then classify them by race. If four of the five agreed on the race of the individual, the applicant was classified by that race.

The district court had found that Mr. Murphy's methodology lacked, to put it mildly, "standards controlling the technique's operation." The EEOC "responds that the relevant standard was Murphy's requirement that four of five raters agree on an applicant's race," wrote Judge Kethledge. "But that response overlooks Murphy's own concession that the raters themselves had no particular standard in classifying each applicant; instead they just eyeballed the DMV photos."

Thus do President Obama's enforcement police attempt to prove discrimination—by pointing at photo IDs and guessing. As Judge Kethledge put it in closing: "We need not belabor the issue further. The EEOC brought this case on the basis of a homemade methodology, crafted by a witness with no particular expertise to craft it, administered by persons with no particular expertise to administer it, tested by no one, and accepted only by the witness himself."

The unanimous opinion was joined by Damon Keith, one of the most liberal judges on the entire federal bench. If government officials were accountable, EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez would be fired for losing in such humiliating fashion. But instead he wrote us in an email via a spokeswoman that while he is "disappointed" by the decision, it is "an evidentiary ruling that does not go to the merits of the underlying discrimination allegation made by the EEOC." He must be a glutton for legal punishment.

 on: April 17, 2014, 04:39:01 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by G M

If they can't get the law right, then the discussion on the elements of the law is also suspect. The law in question is HIPAA.

 on: April 17, 2014, 04:04:28 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
I support this site:

Patriots' Day
The Roots of the First American Revolution
By Mark Alexander • April 16, 2014   
"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!" --Samuel Adams (1776)

Each year on April 19th, we honor the anniversary of Patriots' Day with its inherent defense of Liberty, which is our inspiration to this day. In doing so, we mark the opening salvo of the first American Revolution in 1775, and the first step toward the establishment of an eternal declaration of human Liberty, subordinating the rule of men to Creator-inspired Rule of Law.

A quick search of Barack Hussein Obama's White House website reveals not a single reference to this most notable date in the history of our nation. Undoubtedly the statist regime currently occupying the Executive Branch prefers to ignore this formative event, as the historic call to arms ultimately turned back a growing tide of tyranny.
I invite you to share this brief treatise on the roots of the First American Revolution.

On December 16th, 1773, "rebels" from Boston, members of a secret organization of American Patriots called the Sons of Liberty, boarded three East India Company ships and threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. This iconic event, in protest of oppressive taxation and tyrannical rule, is immortalized as "The Boston Tea Party."
Resistance to the British Crown had been mounting over enforcement of the 1764 Sugar Act, 1765 Stamp Act and 1767 Townshend Act, which led to the Boston Massacre and gave rise to the slogan, "No taxation without representation."

But it was the 1773 Tea Act, under which the Crown collected a three pence tax on each pound of tea imported to the Colonies, which instigated the first Tea Party protest and seeded the American Revolution. Indeed, as James Madison noted in an 1823 reflection, "The people of the U.S. owe their Independence and their liberty, to the wisdom of descrying in the minute tax of 3 pence on tea, the magnitude of the evil comprised in the precedent."

The Tea Party uprising galvanized the Colonial movement opposing British parliamentary acts, as such acts were a violation of the natural, charter and constitutional rights of the British colonists.

In response to the Colonial rebellion, the British enacted additional punitive measures, labeled the "Intolerable Acts," in hopes of suppressing the burgeoning insurrection. Far from accomplishing their desired outcome, however, the Crown's countermeasures led colonists to convene the First Continental Congress on September 5th, 1774, in Philadelphia.

By the spring of 1775, civil discontent was at a tipping point, and American Patriots in Massachusetts and other colonies prepared to cast off their masters.

On the eve of April 18th, 1775, General Thomas Gage, Royal military governor of Massachusetts, dispatched a force of 700 British Army regulars, under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, with secret orders to capture and destroy arms and supplies stored by the Massachusetts militia in the town of Concord. Indeed, the first shots of the eight-year struggle for American independence were in response to the government's attempt to disarm the people.

Patriot militiamen under leadership of the Sons of Liberty anticipated this raid, and the confrontation between militia and British regulars en route to Concord ignited the fuse of the American Revolution.

Near midnight on April 18th, Paul Revere, who arranged for advance warning of British movements, departed Charlestown (near Boston) for Lexington and Concord in order to warn John Hancock, Samuel Adams and other Sons of Liberty that the British Army was marching to arrest them and to seize their weapons caches. After meeting with Hancock and Adams in Lexington, Revere was captured, but his Patriot ally Samuel Prescott continued to Concord and warned militiamen along the way.
In the early dawn of April 19th, the first Patriots' Day, 77 militiamen under the command of Captain John Parker assembled on the town green at Lexington, where they soon faced Smith's overwhelming force of British regulars. Parker did not expect shots to be exchanged, but his orders were: "Stand your ground. Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." A few links away from the militia column, the British Major John Pitcairn swung his sword and said, "Lay down your arms, you damned rebels!"

Not willing to sacrifice his small band of Patriots on the Green, as Parker later wrote in sworn deposition, "I immediately ordered our Militia to disperse, and not to fire." But the Patriots did not lay down their arms as ordered, and as Parker noted, "Immediately said Troops made their appearance and rushed furiously, fired upon, and killed eight of our Party without receiving any Provocation therefor from us."

The British continued to Concord, where they divided and searched for armament stores. Later in the day, the second confrontation between regulars and militiamen occurred as British light infantry companies faced rapidly growing ranks of militia and Minutemen at Concord's Old North Bridge. From depositions on both sides, the British fired first on the militia, killing two and wounding four.

This time, however, the militia commander, Major John Buttrick, yelled the order, "Fire, for God's sake, fellow soldiers, fire!" Fire they did, commencing with "the shot heard round the world," as immortalized by poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. With that shot, farmers and laborers, landowners and statesmen alike, were bringing upon themselves the sentence of death for treason. In the ensuing firefight, the British took heavy casualties and in discord retreated to Concord village for reinforcements, and then retreated back toward Lexington.

In retreat to Lexington, British regulars took additional casualties, including those suffered in an ambush by the reassembled ranks of John Parker's militia – "Parker's Revenge" as it became known. The English were reinforced with 1,000 troops in Lexington, but the King's men were no match for the militiamen, who inflicted heavy casualties upon the Redcoats along their 20-mile tactical retreat to Boston.

Thus began the great campaign to reject tyranny and embrace the difficult toils of securing individual Liberty. "[T]he People alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government and to reform, alter, or totally change the same when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it," wrote Samuel Adams.

Why would the first generation of American Patriots forgo, in the inimitable words of Sam Adams, "the tranquility of servitude" for "the animating contest of freedom"?
The answer to that question -- Liberty or Death -- defined the spirit of American Patriotism then, as it defines the spirit of American Patriots today. The ideological descendants of those who once pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor "today pledge to support and defend" Liberty as enshrined in our United States Constitution.

In 1776, George Washington wrote in his General Orders, "The time is now near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die."
Of that resolve, President Ronald Reagan said, "Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation..."

Indeed, the time is always at hand when American Patriots must reaffirm whether we are to be freemen or slaves. This November's midterm elections may seem trivial in comparison to the challenges faced by our Founders, but the results are critical to the future of Liberty.

Fellow Patriots, keep the torch of Liberty shining bright with your support for our 2014 Patriots' Day Campaign.  The Patriot Post is a touchstone for the growing ranks of American Patriots across our nation, and an effective recruiting tool for new Patriots of all ages. Please consider supporting The Patriot Post with a donation however large or small online, or print and mail our donor form.
Pro Deo et Constitutione -- Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis

 on: April 17, 2014, 01:11:07 PM 
Started by Dog Dave - Last post by bigdog

From the article:

Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to "register" with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Ukrainian and Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city's Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee "or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated," reported Ynet News, Israel's largest news website.

Or, perhaps not:

 on: April 17, 2014, 12:29:41 PM 
Started by G M - Last post by DougMacG
I don't have a citation for it, but I have seen in several usually sound sources reports that the Census Bureau is changing the questions it asks with regard to health care and that the net effect will be that it will eliminate a consistent basis for data with regards to how many people do not have health insurance and that Team Obama will be able to, yet again, lie.

In other words, yet again the non-political agencies of our government are being politicized.
WASHINGTON — The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said.

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