Thursday, June 30, 2011

Comma or Not. Oxford Says YES to Comma. AP says NO.

June 30, 2011
1:25 PM

Report of Oxford comma demise punctuated by fact

(AP) LONDON - A report that Oxford University had changed its comma rule left some punctuation obsessives alarmed, annoyed, and distraught. Passions subsided as the university said the news was imprecise, incomplete and misleading.

Catch the difference between the two previous sentences? An "Oxford comma" was used before "and" in the first sentence, but is absent in the second, in accordance with the style used by The Associated Press.

Guides to correct style differ and the issue became heated on Twitter after reports of the Oxford comma's demise.

But have no fear, comma-philes: the Oxford comma lives.

Oxford University Press, birthplace of the Oxford comma, said Thursday that there has been no change in its century-old style, and jumped into the Twittersphere to confirm that it still follows the standard set out in "New Hart's Rules."

The only explicit permission to dispense with the Oxford comma — apparently the cause of the alarm — was in a guide for university staff on writing press releases and internal communications. "It's not new, it's been online for several years already," said Maria Coyle in the university press office.

Yet the report caused a Twitterstorm.

"For teaching me that the Oxford comma resolves ambiguity, I'd like to thank my parents, Sinead O'Connor and the Pope," said Twitter user Aaron Suggs ((at)ktheory), deftly illustrating the potential damage that can be caused to a sentence's meaning.

The kerfuffle at least answered the musical question posed by indie band Vampire Weekend: "Who gives a —— about an Oxford comma?"

Well, people like Heather Anne Halpert ((at)blurryellow): "Are you people insane? The Oxford comma is what separates us from the animals."

Some style guides advocate the comma, others advise against it. Most also counsel using common sense to make the meaning clear.

William Strunk, Jr., who has guided generations of writers through "The Elements of Style," wrote in the book's first edition of 1918: "In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last."

That position is backed by "The Chicago Manual of Style" and the style manual of the U.S. Government Printing Office. The style guide of the British Broadcasting Corp. also commends liberal use of commas "in those pesky lists," and advises a comma to separate each item.

But style guides from The Associated Press and the London newspapers The Times and The Guardian dispense with a comma before the conjunction. The Queen's English Society agrees that "there is no need for a comma before the 'and' unless the sense demands it."

And there is even a third school, exemplified by Henry W. Fowler. In "The King's English" (2nd edition), published in 1908, he gave this example his approval: "Industry, honesty, and temperance, are essential to happiness."

"We unhesitatingly recommend the original and fully stopped form, which should be used irrespective of style, and not be interfered with by rhetorical considerations; it is the only one to which there is never any objection," Fowler said.

Students at Oxford University are free to choose a style in writing their papers. "They are just expected to use proper spelling and punctuation," Coyle said.

British writer Lynn Truss observed in her popular style guide, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" — another example of how a comma or no comma changes meaning — that there are strong opinions on both sides.

"I'll just say this: never get between these people when drink has been taken," she advised.


Child Soldiers

A few are missing - Uganda, although not the state use of children, but entities within Uganda use and recruit children to fight in Sudan.

US: Press Allies to End Use of Child Soldiers

Report Lists Repeat Offenders, but Military Aid Continues

June 27, 2011

(New York) - The United States should suspend military assistance to countries using child soldiers, Human Rights Watch said today.

On June 27, 2011, the US State Department released a list of six governments that use child soldiers in violation of US legislation adopted in 2008: Burma, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Five of the countries - excluding Burma - receive US military assistance.

"The US strategy of just telling countries to stop using child soldiers is not working," said Jo Becker, children's rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. "So long as they keep getting US military assistance, these countries have little incentive to stop recruiting children."

The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 prohibits governments using child soldiers from receiving US foreign military financing, military training, and several other categories of US military assistance. The six countries identified in the new 2011 Trafficking in Persons report for using child soldiers were all included in the first State Department list in June 2010. In October, President Barack Obama issued national interest waivers to allow Chad, Congo, Sudan, and Yemen to continue to receive military aid despite their use of child soldiers.

Human Rights Watch called on the Obama administration not to issue blanket waivers to countries violating the Child Soldiers Prevention Act unless the governments sign agreements with the United Nations to end their use of child soldiers and take concrete steps to implement these agreements.

The administration contends that the military assistance it provides to Somalia is peacekeeping assistance that is not covered by the law. On June 22, Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and John Boozman of Arkansas introduced legislation that would amend the Child Soldiers Prevention Act to prohibit peacekeeping operations assistance to governments of countries that recruit and use child soldiers.

In Congo, government forces actively recruit children and have hundreds of children in their ranks. The government has promoted military officers who have been charged - or even convicted - with using child soldiers and has failed to cooperate with the United Nations in finalizing a plan to end its recruitment and use of child soldiers.

In Southern Sudan, which will gain independence from Sudan in July, the Sudan People's Liberation Army has continued to recruit children, according to credible reports received by Human Rights Watch. It has also failed to carry out fully a 2009 agreement to demobilize all children from its ranks.

Yemeni government forces have recruited children as young as 14 and government-affiliated militia have also used children as soldiers.

In Chad, a February 2011 report issued by the UN secretary-general documented ongoing recruitment of children by the Chadian army, including the recruitment of Sudanese refugee children. The government signed an agreement with the UN on June 14 committing itself to end all child recruitment, to release all children from its military and security forces, and to allow UN monitoring of its military installations.

The Chad agreement is a positive step, but progress in other countries has been too slow, Human Rights Watch said.

"Congress was clear in its intent that the US should not be militarily assisting governments that use child soldiers in their forces," Becker said. "Last year the administration gave these governments a pass. It shouldn't do so again."

human rights

Obama: To Boldly Go Where No President Has Gone Before

Saudi Arabia - A Nuclear State ?

Admittedly this is not an Obama creation.  It has been festering for about four years, and was allowed to fester by the Bush administration, and now given voice under an Obama administration unconcerned with a nuclear Iran and the impact on Israel and the world.

Riyadh will build nuclear weapons if Iran gets them, Saudi prince warns

Prospect of a nuclear conflict in the Middle East is raised by senior diplomat and member of the Saudi ruling family

Jason Burke in Riyadh
Wednesday 29 June 2011

Prince Turki al-Faisal: he said that if Iran came close to developing nuclear weapons Riyadh would not stand idly by.

A senior Saudi Arabian diplomat and member of the ruling royal family has raised the spectre of nuclear conflict in the Middle East if Iran comes close to developing a nuclear weapon.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, warned senior Nato military officials that the existence of such a device "would compel Saudi Arabia … to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences".

He did not state explicitly what these policies would be, but a senior official in Riyadh who is close to the prince said yesterday his message was clear.

"We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't. It's as simple as that," the official said. "If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit."

Officials in Riyadh said that Saudi Arabia would reluctantly push ahead with its own civilian nuclear programme. Peaceful use of nuclear power, Turki said, was the right of all nations.

Turki was speaking earlier this month at an unpublicised meeting at RAF Molesworth, the airbase in Cambridgeshire used by Nato as a centre for gathering and collating intelligence on the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

According to a transcript of his speech obtained by the Guardian, Turki told his audience that Iran was a "paper tiger with steel claws" that was "meddling and destabilising" across the region.

"Iran … is very sensitive about other countries meddling in its affairs. But it should treat others like it expects to be treated. The kingdom expects Iran to practise what it preaches," Turki said.

Turki holds no official post in Saudi Arabia but is seen as an ambassador at large for the kingdom and a potential future foreign minister,

Diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian last year revealed that King Abdullah, who has ruled Saudi Arabia since 2005, had privately warned Washington in 2008 that if Iran developed nuclear weapons "everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia".

Saudi Arabian diplomats and officials have launched a serious campaign in recent weeks to rally global and regional powers against Iran, fearful that their country's larger but poorer regional rival is exploiting the Arab Spring to gain influence in the region and within the kingdom itself.

Turki also accused Iran of interfering in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and in the Gulf state of Bahrain, where Saudi troops were deployed this year as part of a Gulf Co-operation Council force following widespread protests from those calling for greater democratic rights.

Though there has previously been little public comment from Riyadh on developments in Syria, Turki told his audience at Molesworth that President Bashar al-Assad "will cling to power till the last Syrian is killed".

Syria presents a dilemma for Saudi policymakers: although they would prefer not to see popular protest unseat another regime in the region, they view the Damascus regime, which is dominated by members of Syria's Shia minority, as a proxy for Iran.

"The loss of life [in Syria] in the present internal struggle is deplorable. The government is woefully deficient in its handling of the situation," Turki said at the Molesworth meeting, which took place on 8 June.

Though analysts say demonstrations in Bahrain were not sectarian in nature, two senior Saudi officials in Riyadh said this week that Tehran had mobilised the largely Shia protesters against the Sunni rulers of the Gulf state. Iran has a predominantly Shia population. Around 15% of Saudis are Shia. The officials described this minority, which suffers extensive discrimination despite recent attempts at reform, as "vulnerable to external influence".

Though there has been negligible unrest internally, Saudi Arabia has been shaken by the events across the Arab world in recent months and has watched anxiously as a number of allies – such as President Hosni Mubarak – have been ousted or have found themselves in grave difficulties. President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen is being treated in a Saudi Arabian hospital for wounds caused by a mysterious blast that forced him to leave his country this month.

The former Tunisian ruler Zine al-Abedine ben Ali, whose relations with Riyadh were complex, is reported to have been housed in a luxurious villa in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah after he fled his homeland for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi officials admitted that decision-makers in Saudi Arabia were "not keen" on demonstrators ousting governments, but said they were "even less keen on killing and massacres".

Turki also warned that al-Qaida has been able to create "a sanctuary not unlike Pakistan's tribal areas" in Yemen.

Saudi Arabian foreign policy historically has been pro-western, although differences have emerged with the United States in recent years. The Arab Spring has also caused some tension, with the deployment of troops in Bahrain opposed by Washington.

There has also been conflict following western charges that the kingdom has exported radical strands of Islam around the Muslim world.Turki said that "in all areas, Islam must play a central yet development role" and insisted that "closer monitoring" now ensured that funds raised in the kingdom "were not misused".

Internally, Saudi Arabia faced problems because of the youthfulness of its population, radicalism and different sectarian identities, Turki said.

Senior officials at the ministry of interior in Riyadh said that Iran was using ideology to "penetrate" the Arabian peninsula "in the same way al-Qaida did".

Turki also reiterated a long-standing Saudi call for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, which would include both Iran and Israel and would be enforced by the United Nations security council.

The prince said sanctions against Iran were working. He welcomed the consensus in Washington that military strikes against Tehran would be counterproductive.

Analysts said that Turki's words about developing nuclear arms may have been intended to focus western attention on Saudi concerns about their regional rival rather than to indicate any kind of definite decision by Riyadh because the practical and diplomatic obstacles of doing so would be immense.

William Hague, Britain's foreign secretary said that Iran has recently conducted covert tests of ballistic missiles as well as at least three secret tests of medium-range ballistic missiles since October.

Iran and the west remain in dispute over its nuclear programme. The US and its allies insist Tehran aims to develop atomic weapons, a charge that Iran rejects.


July 4th, Fireworks, Parades, and Right-Wing Extremists

Harvard: July 4th Parades Are Right-Wing

By Paul Bedard
June 30, 2011
US News

Democratic political candidates can skip this weekend's July 4th parades. A new Harvard University study finds that July 4th parades energize only Republicans, turn kids into Republicans, and help to boost the GOP turnout of adults on Election Day.

"Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation's political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican Party," said the report from Harvard. [See political cartoons about the 2012 GOP field.]

"The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century. Survey evidence also confirms that Republicans consider themselves more patriotic than Democrats. According to this interpretation, there is a political congruence between the patriotism promoted on Fourth of July and the values associated with the Republican party. Fourth of July celebrations in Republican dominated counties may thus be more politically biased events that socialize children into Republicans," write Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott and Bocconi University Assistant Professor Andreas Madestam.

Their findings also suggest that Democrats gain nothing from July 4th parades, likely a shocking result for all the Democratic politicians who march in them.

"There is no evidence of an increased likelihood of identifying as a Democrat, indicating that Fourth of July shifts preferences to the right rather than increasing political polarization," the two wrote.

The three key findings of those attending July 4th celebrations:

•When done before the age of 18, it increases the likelihood of a youth identifying as a Republican by at least 2 percent.

•It raises the likelihood that parade watchers will vote for a Republican candidate by 4 percent.

•It boosts the likelihood a reveler will vote by about 1 percent and increases the chances they'll make a political contribution by 3 percent.

What's more, the impact isn't fleeting. "Surprisingly, the estimates show that the impact on political preferences is permanent, with no evidence of the effects depreciating as individuals become older,"said the Harvard report.

Finally, the report suggests that if people are looking for a super-patriotic July 4th, though should head to Republican towns. "Republican adults celebrate Fourth of July more intensively in the first place."


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Of Democrats and Jews: Obama is Losing

On the great issues of our time, when those issues involve our nation's future (and by extension the future of 300 million Americans and billions worldwide), a question of whether we stand with or against our country is relevant to ask - do we believe in a strong United States, able to stand up to an enemy or belligerent and force them to stand down if need be, do we believe the United States should and must act to prevent genocide whenever and wherever it may occur, in whatever form we need to act, do we believe that the United States has been the greatest harbinger of peace and hope the world has ever witnessed, do we believe not everyone wants to have tea and crumpets - some people and some cultures want to utterly and totally destroy us and anyone who disagrees with them.  These are pretty simple statements of belief, and not exhaustive by any means.

Either we do believe or we do not.  There is no sort of.  The sort of answers / questions were not included to avoid such distinctions.  If you do not accept the premise - I do not believe you are a positive influence on our country and our future, and may in fact be a negative - more harmful than positive. 

We can have differences of opinion, but not on issues as clear cut as those listed above.  We can disagree on how great and how positive, not on whether we have been a positive influence.  Likewise, on an issue like Israel - we can have a range of opinions, but as Americans, our first loyalty must be to the United States, and then to any other state - including Israel.  Therefore the question of Jews always voting for or against a candidate they believe supports or does not support Israel is simplistic and hopefully Americans, whether Jewish or not, recognize the failure of such a policy and vote for or against a candidate, based upon more than just one value.

It may be less simple and more complicated than it appears on its face - an administration supportive of Israel is an administration that stands against values and ideas antithetical to the West.  Perhaps Jews understand this better than many other Americans.

Ben Smith
June 29, 2011 

David Ainsman really began to get worried about President Barack Obama’s standing with his fellow Jewish Democrats when a recent dinner with his wife and two other couples — all Obama voters in 2008 — nearly turned into a screaming match.

Ainsman, a prominent Democratic lawyer and Pittsburgh Jewish community leader, was trying to explain that Obama had just been offering Israel a bit of “tough love” in his
May 19 speech on the Arab Spring. His friends disagreed — to say the least.

One said he had the sense that Obama “took the opportunity to throw Israel under the bus.” Another, who swore he wasn’t getting his information from the mutually despised Fox News, admitted he’d lost faith in the president.

If several dozen interviews with POLITICO are any indication, a similar conversation is taking place in Jewish communities across the country. Obama’s speech last month seems to have crystallized the doubts many pro-Israel Democrats had about Obama in 2008 in a way that could, on the margins, cost the president votes and money in 2012 and will not be easy to repair. (See also:
President Obama's Middle East speech: Details complicate 'simple' message)

“It’s less something specific than that these incidents keep on coming,” said Ainsman.

The immediate controversy sparked by the speech was Obama’s statement that Israel should embrace the country’s 1967 borders, with “land swaps,” as a basis for peace talks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seized on the first half of that phrase and the threat of a return to what Israelis sometimes refer to as “Auschwitz borders.” (Related:
Obama defends border policy)

Obama’s Jewish allies stressed the second half: that land swaps would — as American negotiators have long contemplated — give Israel security in its narrow middle, and the deal would give the country international legitimacy and normalcy.

But the
noisy fray after the speech mirrored any number of smaller controversies. Politically hawkish Jews and groups such as the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Emergency Committee for Israel pounded Obama in news releases. White House surrogates and staffers defended him, as did the plentiful American Jews who have long wanted the White House to lean harder on Israel’s conservative government.

Based on the conversations with POLITICO, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that some kind of tipping point has been reached.

Most of those interviewed were center-left American Jews and Obama supporters — and many of them Democratic donors. On some core issues involving Israel, they’re well to the left of Netanyahu and many Americans: They refer to the “West Bank,” not to “Judea and Samaria,” fervently supported the Oslo peace process and Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and believe in the urgency of creating a Palestinian state. (
Arena: Are Jewish voters still pro-Obama?)

But they are also fearful for Israel at a moment of turmoil in a hostile region when the moderate Palestinian Authority is joining forces with the militantly anti-Israel Hamas.

“It’s a hot time, because Israel is isolated in the world and, in particular, with the Obama administration putting pressure on Israel,” said Rabbi Neil Cooper, leader of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Philadelphia’s Main Line suburbs, who recently lectured his large, politically connected congregation on avoiding turning Israel into a partisan issue.
Some of these traditional Democrats now say, to their own astonishment, that they’ll consider voting for a Republican in 2012. And many of those who continue to support Obama said they find themselves constantly on the defensive in conversations with friends.

“I’m hearing a tremendous amount of skittishness from pro-Israel voters who voted for Obama and now are questioning whether they did the right thing or not,” said Betsy Sheerr, the former head of an abortion-rights-supporting, pro-Israel PAC in Philadelphia, who said she continues to support Obama, with only mild reservations. “I’m hearing a lot of ‘Oh, if we’d only elected Hillary instead.’”

Even Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who spoke to POLITICO to combat the story line of Jewish defections, said she’d detected a level of anxiety in a recent visit to a senior center in her South Florida district.

“They wanted some clarity on the president’s view,” she said. “I answered their questions and restored some confidence that maybe was a little shaky, [rebutted] misinformation and the inaccurate reporting about what was said.”

Wasserman Schultz and other top Democrats say the storm will pass. (Related:
Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Jewish voters will stick with Obama)

They point out to anyone who will listen that beyond the difficult personal relationship of Obama and Netanyahu, beyond a tense, stalled peace process, there’s a litany of good news for supporters of Israel: Military cooperation is at an all-time high; Obama has supplied Israel with a key missile defense system; the U.S. boycotted an anti-racism conference seen as anti-Israel; and America is set to spend valuable international political capital beating back a Palestinian independence declaration at the United Nations in September.

The qualms that many Jewish Democrats express about Obama date back to his emergence onto the national scene in 2007. Though he had warm relations with Chicago’s Jewish community, he had also been friends with leading Palestinian activists, unusual in the Democratic establishment. And though he seemed to be trying to take a conventionally pro-Israel stand, he was a novice at the complicated politics of the America-Israel relationship, and his sheer inexperience showed at times.

At the 2007 AIPAC Policy Conference, Obama professed his love for Israel but then seemed, - to some who were there for his informal talk - to betray a kind of naivete about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians: “The biggest enemy” he said, using the same rhetoric he applied to American politics, was “not just terrorists, it’s not just Hezbollah, it’s not just Hamas — it’s also cynicism.”

At the next year’s AIPAC conference, he again botched the conflict’s code, committing himself to an “undivided Jerusalem” and then walking it back the next day.

Those doubts and gaffes lingered, even for many of the majority who supported him.

“There’s an inclination in the community to not trust this president’s gut feel on Israel and every time he sets out on a path that’s troubling you do get this ‘ouch’ reaction from the Jewish Community because they’re distrustful of him,” said the president of a major national Jewish organization, who declined to be quoted by name to avoid endangering his ties to the White House.

Many of Obama’s supporters, then and now, said they were unworried about the political allegiance of Jewish voters. Every four years, they say, Republicans claim to be making inroads with American Jews, and every four years, voters and donors go overwhelmingly for the Democrats, voting on a range of issues that include, but aren’t limited to Israel.

But while that pattern has held, Obama certainly didn’t take anything for granted. His 2008 campaign dealt with misgivings with a quiet, intense, and effective round of communal outreach.
“When Obama was running, there was a lot of concern among the guys in my group at shul, who are all late-30s to mid-40s, who I hang out with and daven with and go to dinner with, about Obama,” recalled Scott Matasar, a Cleveland lawyer who’s active in Jewish organizations.

Matasar remembers his friends’ worries over whether Obama was “going to be OK for Israel.” But then Obama met with the community’s leaders during a swing through Cleveland in the primary, and the rabbi at the denominationally conservative synagogue Matasar attends — “a real ardent Zionist and Israel defender” — came back to synagogue convinced.

“That put a lot of my concerns to rest for my friends who are very much Israel hawks but who, like me, aren’t one-issue voters.”

Now Matasar says he’s appalled by Obama’s “rookie mistakes and bumbling” and the reported marginalization of a veteran peace negotiator, Dennis Ross, in favor of aides who back a tougher line on Netanyahu. He’s the most pro-Obama member of his social circle but is finding the president harder to defend.

“He’d been very ham-handed in the way he presented [the 1967 border announcement] and the way he sprung this on Netanyahu,” Matasar said.

A Philadelphia Democrat and pro-Israel activist, Joe Wolfson, recalled a similar progression.

“What got me past Obama in the recent election was Dennis Ross — I heard him speak in Philadelphia and I had many of my concerns allayed,” Wolfson said. “Now, I think I’m like many pro-Israel Democrats now who are looking to see whether we can vote Republican.”

That, perhaps, is the crux of the political question: The pro-Israel Jewish voters and activists who spoke to POLITICO are largely die-hard Democrats, few of whom have ever cast a vote for a Republican to be president. Does the new wave of Jewish angst matter?

One place it might is fundraising. Many of the Clinton-era Democratic mega-donors who make Israel their key issue, the most prominent of whom is the Los Angeles Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, never really warmed to Obama, though Saban says he will vote for the Democrat and write him a check if asked.

A top-dollar Washington fundraiser aimed at Jewish donors in Miami last week raised more than $1 million from 80 people, and while one prominent Jewish activist said the DNC had to scramble to fill seats, seven-figure fundraisers are hard to sneer at.

Even people writing five-figure checks to Obama, though, appeared in need of a bit of bucking up.

“We were very reassured,” Randi Levine, who attended the event with her husband, Jeffrey, a New York real estate developer, told POLITICO.

Philadelphia Jewish Democrats are among the hosts of another top-dollar event June 30. David Cohen, a Comcast executive and former top aide to former Gov. Ed Rendell, said questions about Obama’s position on Israel have been a regular, if not dominant, feature of his attempts to recruit donors.

“I takes me about five minutes of talking through the president’s position and the president’s speech, and the uniform reaction has been, ‘I guess you’re right, that’s not how I saw it covered,’” he said.

Others involved in the Philadelphia event, however, said they think Jewish doubts are taking a fundraising toll.

“We’re going to raise a ton of money, but I don’t know if we’re going to hit our goals,” said Daniel Berger, a lawyer who is firmly in the “peace camp” and said he blamed the controversy on Netanyahu’s intransigence.


Lennon was a closet Republican: Assistant

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 6:35:03 EDT PM

John Lennon was a closet Republican, who felt a little embarrassed by his former radicalism, at the time of his death - according to the tragic Beatles star's last personal assistant.

Fred Seaman worked alongside the music legend from 1979 to Lennon's death at the end of 1980 and he reveals the star was a Ronald Reagan fan who enjoyed arguing with left-wing radicals who reminded him of his former self.

In new documentary Beatles Stories, Seaman tells filmmaker Seth Swirsky Lennon wasn't the peace-loving militant fans thought he was while he was his assistant.

He says, "John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter.

"He'd met Reagan back, I think, in the 70s at some sporting event... Reagan was the guy who had ordered the National Guard, I believe, to go after the young (peace) demonstrators in Berkeley, so I think that John maybe forgot about that... He did express support for Reagan, which shocked me.

"I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who's an old-time communist... He enjoyed really provoking my uncle... Maybe he was being provocative... but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.

"He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he'd been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy's naivete."


Strange Things Happen in the Porta Potty

There are weird people everywhere and even if Russia has more than its fair share, and Germany a whole nut box of fruit loops, the US has some serious nut cases also.

Poopy peeper explains why he's not a perv

Monday, June 27, 2011 3:39:55 EDT PM
Luke Chrisco. (Eagle County Sheriff/HO)

A man accused of hiding out in porta-potties to watch women doing their business at a Colorado yoga festival told a local TV station the experience wasn't as bad as people think.

"It seems terrible, but it didn't actually smell that bad or anything," Luke Chrisco told FOX31 Denver during an interview from jail.

"There's bacteria in there, but to me it's just normal ... we all have bodily fluids," he told the station. "I still would have done it even if it smelled a little weird, because where there is muck, there is gold."

Police arrested the 30-year-old man after a woman at a Boulder yoga festival on June 17 noticed "movement in the tank" of a porta-potty, investigators said.

A nearby man confirmed that he saw a man in the waste tank, covered in a tarp. He locked himself inside the toilet tank, until he flung the door open and ran.

A security guard tried to stop the feces-covered man, but he got away.

Police said Chrisco was arrested nearly a week later, on Thursday, as he panhandled at a gas station.

Chrisco admitted that he moved from the waste tank of a vacant porta-potty to a "busy one" to watch women above him.

"I was at the yoga festival, doing a little bit of yoga, and I'm just seeing all these goddesses," Chrisco said. "It seems crazy, but I just felt like I was being blessed by their energy, even though it was unintentional."

Chrisco admitted to police that he has spied on as many as 200 women, including through bathroom peepholes at businesses and restaurants. Police said they contacted business owners to seal the holes.

Chrisco is charged with unlawful sexual contact and criminal invasion of privacy.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Heroes of Afghanistan Standing up to the Cowardly Americans

Hard to fight cowards who use women and children to hide behind.  We had this problem in Iraq and also in Afghanistan.  They have always denied they hide behind women, and or dress up like women.

June 28, 2011 9:51 AM

Militant caught in Afghanistan dressed as woman

KABUL, Afghanistan — A senior leader of an al Qaeda-linked terror group has been captured in northern Afghanistan dressed up like a woman — the latest in a recent series of cases involving male militants disguised as females, the U.S.-led military coalition said Tuesday.

A joint Afghan and coalition force apprehended a leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and two of his associates during a nighttime operation Monday in Kunduz city, NATO said.

It said the militant, who also supported the Taliban network, had planned attacks against the Afghan National Police, various suicide bombings and assaults against other Afghan security forces.

NATO did not release the names of the three suspects caught in Kunduz.

"The leader attempted to disguise himself as a female by wearing a burqa, which is an all-enveloping cloak worn by some Muslim women," the coalition said in a statement. "In the last two months there have been several instances of targeted males wearing burqas in attempts to disguise themselves in order not to be caught by Afghan-led forces."

The coalition said there also have been a handful of recent reports of female combatants in burqas.

Kunduz and surrounding provinces are known hide-outs for the Taliban, al Qaeda and fighters from militant factions that include the Haqqani network, Hizb-i-Islami and the IMU, which aims to create an Islamic state across Central Asia. The IMU was formed in 1991, originally aiming to set up an Islamic state in Uzbekistan, which neighbors Afghanistan, but later expanded its goal to seeking one across Central Asia.

Aligning itself with al Qaeda, it has been most active in the north where violence has been on the rise.

Earlier this month, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque in Kunduz where a remembrance ceremony was being held for a slain Afghan police commander. The blast killed four police officers. This spring, a suicide bomber killed 35 people at an Afghan army recruitment center and at least 30 others died when another suicide bomber blew himself up at a government office where Afghans were waiting in line for identification cards.

In October, a bomb killed Kunduz Gov. Mohammad Omar and 19 others in a crowded mosque in neighboring Takhar province. Omar was killed just days after he warned of escalating threats from Taliban and foreign fighters in the north.

In other incidents across Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed two women and injured a child who were walking in Panjwai district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, said district police chief Mohammad Azeem.

Separately, the coalition said two NATO service members had been killed in the south. One was killed Monday by a roadside bomb and the other died Tuesday in an insurgent attack. No other details were released.

The deaths bring to at least 55 the number of NATO service members killed in June in Afghanistan, including at least 34 Americans.


al qaida

Monday, June 27, 2011

Egypt: Extremists Surround Church, Threaten to Kill Priest

I know I hate it when Christian mobs rampage across the countryside threatening Jews and Muslims and Buddhists.  Absolutely no difference.  I run when I see Christians coming, they are bound to skin me alive and stone me to death.   Unlike the religion of peace.

Egypt: Muslim extremists 'surround church and threaten to kill priest'

June 24, 18:13

Minya, 24 June (AKI) - Hundreds of Muslim extremists surrounded a church in central Egypt and threatened to kill the local priest, the Assyrian International News Agency reported. The extremists began targeting the church in a village 7 kilometres south of the city of Minya in March after renovation work began, threatening to demolish the church.

AINA Friday cited eyewitnesses as saying that the Muslim mob, dressed in white robes and long beards, chanted: "We will kill the priest, we will kill him and no one will prevent us."

One of their leaders was cited as saying they would "…cut him to pieces," AINA reported.

The priest Father George Thabet, who was holding morning mass and was locked in the church with several parishioners. Security forces arrived five hours later and escorted the priest away in a police car to the Coptic Diocese in Minya.

Coptic youths who were attending mass remained inside St George's church to defend it from Muslim attacks.

No police or security of any kind was present during the standoff, according to reports.

The archdiocese of Minya issued a statement deploring the incident and the "return of the Salafists to besiege St. George's church again, some carrying weapons, threatening to kill the priest unless he leaves the village."

The statement called on government officials and security authorities uphold rule of law and maintaining security in the country.

On 23 March, hardline Muslims had surrounded the 100-year old church, which was granted a renovation licence, and ordered the church officials to stop construction immediately and undo what they had completed, threatening to demolish the church if their demands were not met.

The extremists also ordered church authorities removed Thabet from Beni Ahmad village and gave him and his family a time limit of 35 days, later extended to 50 days, to leave.

The Muslims accused him of making extensions to the church and of causing sectarian strife.

The Coptic Christians account for about 10 percent of Egypt's population and have been repeatedly targeted by Muslim extremists.

Twenty-four people were killed and around 100 injured in a New Year's Eve bombing of a Coptic church in the northern Egyptian port city of Alexandria .


Sunday, June 26, 2011

In the place known as Afghanistan ........

 There is not much that can be said about the article below.  Origin is the BBC from 2010.  It has not changed unless it has worsened.  There is a Frontline documentary on this issue that can be accessed by clicking on this link.  Watching the documentary and thinking back on what is written/stated in this article shows a contrast in the reality or lack of reality many people live with each day in the place called Afghanistan.  There was a time I did support our actions in that place, more than most even.  That time passed quickly when I read and saw crap like this.  They are not worthy of anything but scorn and maybe desolation.  Evil comes to mind.

Californexico ? There are moments when one might wonder.

This may be preferable to the Mexicans chanting support for Osama bin Laden during a soccer match a few years ago.  Mexico was an oddly split country - 20-30% believed the US government had destroyed the WTC.  Maybe they are getting better now that bin Laden is dead.  A few days ago three trucks carrying Mexican soldiers crossed the US border (their government, which lies almost every time they speak, told the US the soldiers were confused) - maybe they were on the way to the soccer game.

In Gold Cup final, it's red, white and boo again

Mexico rallies for a 4-2 win over U.S. behind overwhelming support at Rose Bowl. In what other country would the visitors have home-field advantage?

By Bill Plaschke

June 25, 2011, 10:15 p.m.

It was imperfectly odd. It was strangely unsettling. It was uniquely American.

On a balmy early Saturday summer evening, the U.S soccer team played for a prestigious championship in a U.S. stadium … and was smothered in boos.

Its fans were vastly outnumbered. Its goalkeeper was bathed in a chanted obscenity. Even its national anthem was filled with the blowing of air horns and bouncing of beach balls.

Most of these hostile visitors didn't live in another country. Most, in fact, were not visitors at all, many of them being U.S. residents whose lives are here but whose sporting souls remain elsewhere.

Welcome to another unveiling of that social portrait known as a U.S.-Mexico soccer match, streaked as always in deep colors of red, white, blue, green … and gray.

"I love this country, it has given me everything that I have, and I'm proud to be part of it," said Victor Sanchez, a 37-year-old Monrovia resident wearing a Mexico jersey. "But yet, I didn't have a choice to come here, I was born in Mexico, and that is where my heart will always be."

[to read the rest of the article, click the title link above]

Saturday, June 25, 2011

'The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe'


VATICAN CITY — God's mind was behind complex scientific theories such as the Big Bang, and Christians should reject the idea that the universe came into being by accident, Pope Benedict said Thursday.

"The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe," Benedict said on the day Christians mark the Epiphany, the day the Bible says the three kings reached the site where Jesus was born by following a star.

"Contemplating it (the universe) we are invited to read something profound into it: the wisdom of the creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God," he said in a sermon to some 10,000 people in St. Peter's Basilica on the feast day.

While the pope has spoken before about evolution, he has rarely delved back in time to discuss specific concepts such as the Big Bang, which scientists believe led to the formation of the universe some 13.7 billion years ago.

Researchers at CERN, the nuclear research center in Geneva, have been smashing protons together at near the speed of light to simulate conditions that they believe brought into existence the primordial universe from which stars, planets and life on earth — and perhaps elsewhere — eventually emerged.

Some atheists say science can prove that God does not exist, but Benedict said that some scientific theories were "mind limiting" because "they only arrive at a certain point ... and do not manage to explain the ultimate sense of reality."

He said scientific theories on the origin and development of the universe and humans, while not in conflict with faith, left many questions unanswered.

"In the beauty of the world, in its mystery, in its greatness and in its rationality ... we can only let ourselves be guided toward God, creator of heaven and earth," he said.

Benedict and his predecessor John Paul have been trying to shed the Church's image of being anti-science, a label that stuck when it condemned Galileo for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun, challenging the words of the Bible.

Galileo was rehabilitated and the Church now also accepts evolution as a scientific theory and sees no reason why God could not have used a natural evolutionary process in the forming of the human species.

The Catholic Church no longer teaches creationism — the belief that God created the world in six days as described in the Bible — and says that the account in the book of Genesis is an allegory for the way God created the world.

But it objects to using evolution to back an atheist philosophy that denies God's existence or any divine role in creation. It also objects to using Genesis as a scientific text.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Zero Tolerance

If we want a no tolerance policy on anything - this is one of those areas.  Branding these women, like cattle.  The law should account for this - say 10 years minimum for the very act of having branded another human.  5 years minimum for using her for the sex trade.  5 years minimum for anyone in a gang.  20 years sounds good.  They can learn the sex trade up close - in prison.  Between 14,000 and 17,000 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year, according to a 2005 report from the U.S. State Department.  This must be stopped.  We must make the laws so aggressive as to reduce the incentive.  And then we must seek out these vultures and put them in prison with the other vultures.  This is a blight, a shame upon the United States.

June 24th, 2011
08:09 AM ET

Gangs join forces to prostitute women

Each day, a woman we'll call Jessica, spent hours on the internet posting provocative photos of herself and fishing for clients who would pay her to have sex.

Jessica worked as a prostitute in the booming internet sex trade. But she didn't work for herself. She says she had a pimp who set a quota of $1,000 a day – money that took about 10 dates to earn.

Jessica told me she was afraid of her pimp who is a gang member. If she didn't work, she didn't eat, saying she once went 5 days without food.

Two years ago, when she was a 19-year-old runaway, she says she became the physical property of a California gang, where prostitutes, many of them under age, are often branded with tattoos bearing gang insignias or their pimps' name.

Lt. Valencia Saadat with the Oceanside, California Police Department says law enforcement is beginning to look at prostitutes as potential victims of sex trafficking.

Three warring gang factions in Oceanside laid down their weapons to form what investigators say is a profitable business enterprise to traffic and prostitute women and girls throughout California.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Whose side are you on? With us or against us.

Wait, for over five years we were under a constant barrage of insults from liberals about how Bush qualified his war on terror - you are with us or against us, which liberals boiled down to an attack on the patriotism of Americans.  This was intolerable everywhere - on college campuses, Jon Stewart, Bill Mahrer, MSNBC, and everywhere else ...

Clinton asks Congress, whose side are you on?

Jun 22, 10:16 PM (ET)

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (AP) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is questioning the priorities of lawmakers criticizing the U.S. intervention in Libya.

She's asking bluntly, "Whose side are you on?"

Setting up a showdown on Libya, House Republicans agreed Wednesday to vote on dueling measures, one to give President Barack Obama limited authority to continue U.S. involvement in the NATO-led operation against Moammar Gadhafi and the other to cut off funds for military hostilities.

The measures reflect widespread dissatisfaction with Obama's decision not to seek congressional consent for the 3-month-old war.

Clinton says Congress is free to raise objections but questions the priorities of the critics. She says the Obama administration and its partners are rightly siding with the Libyan people.

She spoke about Libya during a brief stop in Jamaica.


Obama Overrules the Military: As is the right of any President to do.

Commanders say Obama overruled them on Afghanistan

By Dan De Luce (AFP) – 2 hours ago

WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama's military commanders have said he ignored their advice for a more modest drawdown from Afghanistan and warned his decision carries risks for the war effort.

Both General David Petraeus and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Obama's plan to withdraw 33,000 surge troops by the end of next summer was more "aggressive" than they had recommended.

Asked by Senator Carl Levin if he was prepared to resign over the war policy, Petraeus said: "I don't think it's the place for the commander to consider that kind of step unless you are in a very, very dire situation."

Petraeus, who indicated that he had received emails suggesting he should quit in protest, said: "This is an important decision, it is again a more aggressive approach than the chairman (Admiral Mullen), (Central Command chief General James) Mattis and I would have, indeed certainly, put forward.

"But this is not something where one hangs up the uniform in protest or something like that."

The four-star general, who is due to step down in weeks as Obama's top commander in the fight against the Taliban-led insurgency and take over as CIA director, is credited by many as having salvaged the war in Iraq.

His testimony in Congress provided more ammunition to Obama's critics on the right who accuse the president of approving an overly hasty withdrawal plan for political motives ahead of presidential elections in 2012.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in an interview with AFP, endorsed Obama's plan but acknowledged that waning political support for the grinding counter-insurgency campaign was an important factor in the decision.

The "advantages and disadvantages" of a range of options were debated at three White House meetings, including "not only the situation on the ground in Afghanistan but also political sustainability here at home," Gates said.

He suggested Petraeus had advocated a slower timetable with more troops in place through next summer's fighting season.

"Obviously he had preferred options that gave more time," said Gates, who according to some reports brokered the compromise drawdown plan.

The military's top officer, Mullen, offered a qualified endorsement of Obama's decision, telling lawmakers that he had initially favored a more modest drawdown.

Mullen said "the president's decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept."

But he said that keeping more forces in place also carried risks, including enabling Kabul to become more dependent on the American military presence.

"Let me be candid, however. No commander ever wants to sacrifice fighting power in the middle of a war.

"And no decision to demand that sacrifice is ever without risk," he warned.

Both Mullen and Petraeus said the president had to take into account other considerations beyond military conditions, a clear reference to political and fiscal pressures.

The American public is increasingly impatient with a war that has dragged on nearly a decade. In a new Pew Research Center poll, 56 percent of respondents -- the highest ever -- said American troops should be brought home as soon as possible.

White House officials insist Obama's move was based on military strategy -- not politics -- and that progress on the battlefield and the killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had made the drawdown possible.

Petraeus promised the military nevertheless would carry out Obama's plan, saying it is "the responsibility, needless to say, of those in uniform to salute smartly and to do everything possible to execute it."


Geithner: Push us over the economic precipice and finish us off quickly

This guy wants to destroy the US economy.

The majority of workers in this country are NOT employed by Fortune 500 / industrial / major corporations.  The majority of workers in this country are employed in SMALL businesses of around 10 or less workers.  And you want to tax these people!  These 'people' - the owners, more often than not, file their business and personal together which shows they make over $200,000 a year (their personal/business income).  And when you tax them you take away from both their personal and business income.  They do not have the capital to invest, to grow to hire to .... do anything.  They will hire fewer, fire more, close up shop ... and our economy will fail.  We won't be 3rd in economic trade we will be 23rd behind Bangladesh and this fool is pushing us toward the cliff from which he and Obama will push us over if they are given the chance.

Geithner: Taxes on ‘Small Business’ Must Rise So Government Doesn’t ‘Shrink’

Thursday, June 23, 2011
By Terence P. Jeffrey

( - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told the House Small Business Committee on Wednesday that the Obama administration believes taxes on small business must increase so the administration does not have to “shrink the overall size of government programs.”

The administration’s plan to raise the tax rate on small businesses is part of its plan to raise taxes on all Americans who make more than $250,000 per year—including businesses that file taxes the same way individuals and families do.

Geithner’s explanation of the administration's small-business tax plan came in an exchange with first-term Rep. Renee Ellmers (R.-N.C.). Ellmers, a nurse, decided to run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 after she became active in the grass-roots opposition to President Barack Obama’s proposed health-care reform plan in 2009.

“Overwhelmingly, the businesses back home and across the country continue to tell us that regulation, lack of access to capital, taxation, fear of taxation, and just the overwhelming uncertainties that our businesses face is keeping them from hiring,” Ellmers told Geithner. “They just simply cannot.”

She then challenged Geithner on the administration’s tax plan.

“Looking into the future, you are supporting the idea of taxation, increasing taxes on those who make $250,000 or more. Those are our business owners,” said Ellmers.

Geithner initially responded by saying that the administration’s planned tax increase would hit “three percent of your small businesses.”

Ellmers then said: “Sixty-four percent of jobs that are created in this country are for small business.”

Geithner conceded the point, but then suggested the administration’s planned tax increase on small businesses would be “good for growth.”

“No, that's right. I agree with that,” said Geithner. “But just to put it in perspective, it's important to recognize why are we doing this. You know, our deficits are 10 percent of GDP, higher than they've been since any time in the postwar period really. We have a big hole to dig out of, and we have to figure out how to do that in a way that's balanced, good for growth, fair to people as a whole.”

Geithner, continuing, argued that if the administration did not extract a trillion dollars in new revenue from its plan to increase taxes on people earning more than $250,000, including small businesses, the government would in effect “finance” what he called a “tax benefit” for those people.

“We're not doing it because we want to do it, we're doing it because if we don't do it, then, again, I have to go out and borrow a trillion dollars over the next 10 years to finance those tax benefits for the top 2 percent, and I don't think I can justify doing that,” said Geithner.

Not only that, he argued, but cutting spending by as much as the “modest change in revenue” (i.e. $1 trillion) the administration expects from raising taxes on small business would likely have more of a “negative economic impact” than the tax increases themselves would.

“And if we were to cut spending by that magnitude to do it, you'd be putting a huge additional burden on the economy, probably greater negative economic impact than that modest change in revenue,” said Geithner.

When Ellmers finally told Geithner that “the point is we need jobs,” he responded that the administration felt it had “no alternative” but to raise taxes on small businesses because otherwise “you have to shrink the overall size of government programs”—including federal education spending.

“We're not doing it because we want to do it, we're doing it because we see no alternative to a balanced approach to reduce our fiscal deficits,” said Geithner.

“If you don't touch revenues and you leave in place the tax cuts for the top 2 percent that were put in place by President Bush, if you leave those in place and you're trying to bring our deficits down over time, then you have to do exceptionally deep cuts in benefits for middle-class Americans and you have to shrink the overall size of government programs, things like education, to levels that we could not accept as a country,” said Geithner.

“So to do a balanced approach to reduce our deficits you have to make modest changes in revenues,” he said. “There's no realistic opportunity to do alternatives to doing that.”

According to historical budget tables published by the White House Office of Management and Budget, federal spending has climbed from $2.89 trillion in 2008—the year President Obama took office—to $3.82 trillion this year, an increase of approximately $930 billion.

Meanwhile, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, although federal education spending in inflation-adjusted dollars has jumped from $71.64 billion in 1995—when Bill Clinton was president--to $163.07 billion in 2009—when Barack Obama was president—federal spending still accounted for only 8.2 percent of spending for public primary and secondary education in America in the 2007-2008 school year. Historically and presently in the United States, local and state governments have funded the cost of public education.


Gert Wilders, Fitna, Islam and Free Speech

Dutch populist Geert Wilders acquitted of hate speech

12:38pm EDT
By Gilbert Kreijger and Aaron Gray-Block

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders was acquitted of inciting hatred of Muslims in a court ruling on Thursday that may strengthen his political influence and exacerbate tensions over immigration policy.

The case was seen by some as a test of free speech in a country which has a long tradition of tolerance and blunt talk, but where opposition to immigration, particularly from Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries, is on the rise.

Instantly recognizable by his mane of dyed blond hair, Wilders, 47, is one of the most outspoken critics of Islam and immigration in the Netherlands.

His Freedom Party is now the third-largest in parliament, a measure of support for its anti-immigrant stance, and is the minority government's chief ally. But many of Wilders' comments -- such as likening Islam to Nazism -- are socially divisive.

The presiding judge said Wilders's remarks were sometimes "hurtful," "shocking" or "offensive," but that they were made in the context of a public debate about Muslim integration and multi-culturalism, and therefore not a criminal act.

"I am extremely pleased and happy," Wilders told reporters after the ruling. "This is not so much a win for myself, but a victory for freedom of speech. Fortunately you can criticize Islam and not be gagged in public debate."

The ruling could embolden Wilders further. He has already won concessions from the government on cutting immigration and introducing a ban on Muslim face veils and burqas.

"This means that his political views are condoned by law, his political rhetoric has been legalized," said Andre Krouwel, a political scientist at Amsterdam's Free University.

"This has made him stronger politically. He is needed for a political majority, he is basically vice prime minister without even being in the government."

Some Dutch citizens have started to question their country's traditionally generous immigration and aid policies, worried by the deteriorating economic climate, higher unemployment, incidence of ethnic crime and signs that Muslim immigrants have not fully integrated into Dutch society.

Similar concerns have helped far-right parties to gain traction elsewhere in Europe, from France to Scandinavia.

Farid Azarkan of the SMN association of Moroccans in the Netherlands said he feared the acquittal could further split Dutch society and encourage others to repeat Wilders's comments.

"You see that people feel more and more supported in saying that minorities are good for nothing," Azarkan said.

"Wilders has said very extreme things about Muslims and Moroccans, so when will it ever stop? Some will feel this as a sort of support for what they feel and as justification."

Minorities groups said they would now take the case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, arguing the ruling meant the Netherlands had failed to protect ethnic minorities from discrimination.

"The acquittal means that the right of minorities to remain free of hate speech has been breached. We are going to claim our rights at the U.N.," said Mohamed Rabbae of the National Council for Moroccans.

Wilders, who has received numerous death threats and has to live under 24-hour guard, argued that he was exercising his right to freedom of speech when criticizing Islam.

The Amsterdam court had used a Supreme Court ruling -- that an offensive statement about someone's religion was not a criminal offence -- as the basis of its decision, leading to acquittal, the judge said.

Unusually, the prosecution team had also asked for an acquittal, arguing that politicians have the right to comment on problem issues and that Wilders was not trying to foment violence or division.

"I think it is good that he has been acquitted," said Elsbeth Kalff, an 83-year-old retired sociologist in Amsterdam.

"He has been told that he has been rude and offensive but it is on the border of what the criminal law allows. It is good, the Netherlands is, after all, a tolerant country and we should keep it that way."


Bin Laden linked to Pakistani ISI ? Inconclusive, like death and taxes.

Of course nothing is conclusive, ever.  His death is not conclusive.  The moonwalk is still wondered about by a few die-hard souls, even Bigfoot is a question mark, aliens most assuredly are viable.  But this - this is not conclusive.

June 23, 2011 10:24 PM

Cellphone links Bin Laden to Pakistan intelligence agency asset

A cellphone taken by U.S. commandos during the raid last month that killed Osama bin Laden points to contacts between Pakistan's intelligence agency and a militant group used by the al-Qaeda leader "as part of his support network inside the country," according to a report in The New York Times.

However, the sources who briefed the Times said that the group, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeenn, were in contact with Pakistani intelligence and may have also met in person. There was no indication that the contacts were necessarily about Bin Laden, the story noted, adding that there "was no "smoking gun" showing that Pakistan's spy agency had protected Bin Laden."

Still, the disclosure is bound to raise more questions about how much Pakistan knew about Bin Laden's presence on its soil and whether it extended a protective umbrella. The topic has been another irritant in the increasingly fragile relationship between the United States and Pakistan, which was further frayed by fallout from the secret bin Laden raid in Pakistan. For their part, the Pakistanis have bridled at American suggestions they looked the other way.

For U.S. investigators, seeking to learn why Pakistani authorities failed to detect Bin Laden's arrival in Abbottabad, where the military has a major presence, it's another clue - and potentially a big one.

"It's a serious lead," according to an unnamed American official, who spoke with the TImes. "It's an avenue we're investigating."

Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, which has strong support in the region, is believed to have several thousand armed supporters. The United States has designated the group, which has tight links with Pakistani intelligence, as a foreign terrorist organization.

The story notes that the group's leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, described as having a longstanding and close relationship with Bin Laden, "lives unbothered by Pakistani authorities on the outskirts of Islamabad."


New way Greece will raise money: Massive Yard Sale: Selling Everything including the Kitchen Sink at cut Rate Prices. No Price to Slow. You thought Thermopalaye was a slaughter - we are willing to slaughter every price on every property. No price too low to walk away happy!

Europe is about to be swallowed up?  About to be?  It has been slowly sinking into the quagmire from which it will never return.  A sand so deep and so quick in swallowing up everything they have called it the Blacksand after the blackhole.

Greece, Ireland, Portugal - all have sunk.  Spain is failing fast.  Italy is on top of Spain as it sinks.  Austria is quickly closing the gap.  Sweden not far behind.

Europe is folding in on itself.

Papandreou Budget Hole Threatens to Swallow Europe, Defies Debt-Crisis Fix

By James G. Neuger
Jun 22, 2011

It’s common for freshly minted leaders to discover that there’s not enough money to pay for their campaign promises. So when Papandreou’s new Greek government woke up to a looming budget disaster within days of taking office in October 2009, the alarm bells were slow to ring in European capitals.

Don’t “overrate” the problem, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, later to play a pivotal role in the debt saga that continues to rock the 17-nation euro area. “There are deficits in other parts of the world as well.”

That initial reaction foreshadowed European leaders’ failure to tame a crisis that is entering its 21st month and has world leaders growing anxious over the prospect of a new financial tsunami as they shake off the effects of the last one. On June 7, President Barack Obama told Merkel it was her job to stop an “uncontrolled spiral of default.” China’s central bank warned on June 14 of a “major risk” incubating in Europe.

“This has unravelled badly,” said Paul de Grauwe, an economics professor at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and a two-time candidate for a European Central Bank post. “The most favorable scenario is that we can bridge the next six months. The less favorable scenario is this gets out of control.”

The 256 billion euros in aid committed to Greece, Ireland and Portugal have done little more than buy time against a looming default, says Andrew Balls, Pacific Investment Management Co.’s head of European portfolio management. The cost to insure senior debt of 25 banks and insurers has climbed to 162 basis points from 120 on April 8, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. prices. Insurance against a sovereign default, the most expensive in the world, indicates a chance of more than three in four that Greece will be forced to restructure its debt.

‘Pretty Hopeless’

[I happen to believe if there is any good news about the US economy sinking, it is that Europe will fail (as a whole) first, and we will have made several efforts to (yet again) pull them out of the pit they have climbed into so willingly.]

“If you just look at the economics, it looks pretty hopeless for Greece. It would make you think that a default would already have happened,” Balls told Bloomberg Television June 21. “If you can quarantine Greece, Ireland and Portugal, take these countries out of the market, have them do their adjustments, then you can buy time for Spain, buy time for banks to recapitalize.”

At a Brussels summit tonight and tomorrow, the stewards of the world’s second-largest economy will have another go at the Greek dilemma, debating the size of new loans to the Athens government and how to get holders of Greek bonds to chip in.

Already, European Union leaders are playing down the prospects of a lasting fix at the summit -- and this, three months after proclaiming a “comprehensive” solution to a crisis that, for all the angst, has been limited to countries with a combined 6 percent of the euro area’s gross domestic product.

‘Reform Fatigue’

“Times are difficult,” EU Economic and Monetary Commissioner Olli Rehn said on June 20. “Reform fatigue is visible in the streets of Athens, Madrid and elsewhere, and so is the support fatigue in some of our member states.”

Police in Athens used tear gas to break up protests against austerity measures last week. Demonstrators who have camped in front of the Greek parliament for four weeks have labelled a poster of Papandreou as the International Monetary Fund’s “employee of the year.”

Europe’s debt chain reaction exposed what Romano Prodi, who as Italian prime minister shepherded Italy into the euro, called a “half-baked” setup. The monetary half run by the European Central Bank has delivered low inflation. The fiscal and economic management half has been all over the map.

North-South Split

Another split is emerging, between the wealthier, more export-driven and fiscally restrained north and the poorer south, now facing years of subpar growth, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

“Euro to break up -- not this week but probably by 2013,” the London-based CEBR headlined on June 20, adding a voice to those who have been wrong so far. Greece will be the first to go, opting for growth and jobs over euro-mandated austerity, the research firm predicted.

The accident that Merkel didn’t see coming -- and the EU still sees as a cash squeeze, not an existential matter of solvency -- intruded on the EU leaders’ agenda for the first time on Feb. 11, 2010, in the century-old Solvay Library in Brussels at what was billed as a brainstorming session on a 10- year economic strategy, focused on productivity and innovation.

At the time, Greek 10-year bonds yielded 6.03 percent. The extra yield over German bonds, a measure of the risk of investing in Greece, was 283 basis points.

Emergency Lender

Three months later, with the risk spread nearing 1,000 basis points, jousting among Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet yielded a decision to establish an emergency lender to prop up debt-wracked states. In so doing, the leaders set aside a core euro principle that each country was the master of its own finances.

At 2 a.m. on May 10, as markets opened in Asia, the details were set. Europe created two funds, of 60 billion euros and 440 billion euros, and the IMF put up 250 billion euros. The ECB went into the bond-buying business.

The first phase of the crisis was over and the markets settled down.

In October, they awoke with a clatter. In an Oct. 18 tete- a-tete in Deauville, on France’s English Channel coast, Merkel and Sarkozy decided it was time to shift the costs of saving the euro from taxpayers to bondholders. Merkel won French backing for a permanent rescue fund with the option of putting states into default.

Investor Flight

Investors didn’t like what they heard. While Merkel’s “private investor participation” provisions wouldn’t kick in until mid-2013, the mere floating of the idea made bonds of deficit-plagued states such as Ireland, Portugal and Spain less attractive.

Phase two of the crisis was under way, with a front opening over how creditors would contribute to the rescues.

From the latter half of October into November, investors dumped bonds of countries on Europe’s periphery. Ten-year Irish yields rose from 6 percent on Oct. 18, the date of the Merkel- Sarkozy beachside promenade, to 9.2 percent on Nov. 26, prompting Ireland’s capitulation. The yield is now 11.7 percent.

Ireland’s 67.5 billion-euro bailout package on Nov. 28 came along with what Trichet called a “useful clarification”: chastened by the plunge in Irish, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Belgian securities, Germany diluted demands for a future “orderly default” procedure.


What at first looked like peace with the bond markets turned out to be a short-lived armistice. In Brussels and European capitals, work proceeded on upgrading the temporary rescue fund, setting up the permanent one and tightening the “stability pact” that had proven toothless in enforcing the euro area’s deficit and debt rules.

Politics in Germany and Finland delayed agreement on the strengthened rescue mechanism until June. Each country now plans to boost its guarantee, enabling the fund to tap the full 440 billion euros promised on the dramatic May weekend, and to buy bonds directly from straitened governments.

“Crises thrive on uncertainty, and the officials are providing that in large doses,” Alessandro Leipold, a former acting director of the IMF’s European department, said on Bloomberg Television. “The decisions are too politicized. It really is time for once for them to surprise us on the upside and actually anticipate the market.”

All the while, there was a slow burn in Portugal, the originator of Europe’s “Lisbon agenda” of 2000 that set the goal of turning the EU into the world’s most competitive economy by 2010.

Portugal’s Miss

Few countries landed wider of that mark. Portugal’s GDP per capita, a measure of wealth and productivity, was 81 percent of the EU average in 2010, the lowest in western Europe and barely ahead of the ex-communist Czech Republic, at 80 percent.

Portugal’s implosion ended the taboo against European authorities intervening in national politics. With the crisis triggering early elections, the euro area and IMF forced both main parties to sign up to budget cuts in the heat of the campaign as a condition for 78 billion euros in loans.

By then, Germany and the bond market were falling out. It began April 14 when Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble hinted at the need for a Greek debt restructuring in a Die Welt newspaper interview. A day later, Deputy Foreign Minister Werner Hoyer told Bloomberg News that a restructuring “would not be a disaster.”

Germany’s thrust came with Greece’s 10-year yield premium at 948 basis points, virtually unchanged since New Year’s Day. It quickly deteriorated. By May 16, the day of Portugal’s bailout, it was 1,250 basis points. It peaked last week at 1,503 basis points.

Germany Yields

German musings about shoving Greece into default met pushback from the ECB and France, the country most exposed to Greek debt. A new confrontation over bond contracts and market psychology played out, ending in a German climbdown.

Merkel blinked on June 17. With Sarkozy at her side, she dropped the idea of a compulsory Greek debt exchange that would lead rating companies to place Greece in default. “Let me make that perfectly clear,” Merkel said. The ECB now had a veto over the method for getting bondholders to roll over Greek debt.

It was the squabble and not the agreement, though, that raised eyebrows.

“It’s very hard for people to invest in Europe, within Europe and outside Europe, to understand what the strategy is when you have so many people talking,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said June 21. “It would be very helpful to have Europe speak with a clearer, more unified voice.”

Falling Short

In the meantime, Greece was failing to keep up its end of the bargain. While Papandreou delivered 20 billion euros of EU- and IMF-ordained budget cuts in 2010, the resulting 4.5 percent economic slump squeezed tax revenue, leaving the deficit above target and debt on an upward trajectory.

Already at a European record of 142.8 percent of GDP, Greek debt is set to rise to 157.7 percent this year and 166.1 percent next year, the EU predicts. It prodded Greece to get serious about selling 50 billion euros of state assets to pay off creditors, pushing the government to the breaking point.

Unable to lure the opposition into a unity coalition, Papandreou, 59, the Minnesota-born scion of a political dynasty, replaced his finance minister last week, stiff-armed an inner- party rebellion and staked his future on a confidence vote.

Papandreou Hangs On

The interim climax came early yesterday. As 10,000 protesters besieged the parliament in Athens, hurling bottles and fruit at riot police, the Socialist convert to spartan economics warned the assembled lawmakers that Greece had run out of alternatives.

The government survived, by a margin of 155 to 143. Votes next week will determine the fate of 78 billion euros in budget cuts, the price demanded by the EU and IMF in exchange for a 12 billion-euro loan installment to banish the specter of default, at least through August.

Risks are rising of “a Lehman-esque event rippling out from Europe,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics Ltd. in Valhalla, New York. “Things are out of control. We’ve been reduced to a game of chicken between Greece and the governments of Europe to see who blinks first.”


Make Mine Freedom - 1948

American Form of Government

Who's on First? Certainly isn't the Euro.