“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cyber Czar, national security or a massive assault against personal liberty?

"The Cybersecurity Act is just a wolf in sheep's clothing, much in the way that the USA Patriot Act was an encroachment on our freedoms," said John W Whitehead, the founder and President of the Rutherford Institute, a non-profit conservative legal organization.

"It is being sold to us as a way to protect America against the next generation of terrorist attacks - cyber attacks. But all it will do is enable the government to finally turn the lock on this technological prison it has built," stated Mr Whitehead


Statement for the Record

Lieutenant General Keith Alexander
Commander, Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare

Before the:

House Armed Services Committee
Terrorism, Unconventional Threats, and Capabilities

5 May 2009

Chairman Smith, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the military’s cyberspace mission and some of the challenges we face executing the responsibilities assigned to us by United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).

As you are all well aware, our economy, the nation’s critical infrastructure, and many of our military operations depend on unfettered access to cyberspace. Cyberspace has clearly changed the way we interact as a global community. More than that, it has influenced business processes, the management of critical infrastructure, and human interaction in ways that were not foreseeable just 15 years ago. However, this advancement in technology comes with vulnerabilities for our nation that have not been adequately addressed.

The vast array of electronic devices populating the global information infrastructure today remain the functional tools of cyberspace, and any of these devices, or the underlying software, can be used for both beneficial or malicious purposes. As cyberspace continues to evolve and grow in complexity and importance, our nation must vigilantly maintain technological dominance and freedom to maneuver within this global domain. This statement will focus on the latter in an attempt to provide this Committee insight into how the DoD is organizing to operate in the cyber domain, how we operate in the environment and some initial thoughts regarding deterrence.

JFCC-NW Organization Overview
As the Commander, Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare
(JFCC NW), it is my responsibility to support USSTRATCOM’s mission to plan, coordinate, and conduct offensive and defensive cyberspace operations. Executing this mission requires assembling and maintaining a force capable of adapting to, and operating in, a complex and continually evolving and expanding environment. Unlike the land, sea, air and space where the laws of physics do not change, cyberspace is a man-made creation that continually changes and evolves – operating effectively in this kind of environment requires that we leverage the expertise from a wide variety of disciplines. Moreover, we must close the seams between information assurance, network operation and defense, intelligence collection and offensive operations.

Recently the Commander, USSTRATCOM, placed the Joint Task Force – Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO), which directs the operation and defense of DoD’s networks under my operational control in order to better integrate and synchronize defensive cyber operations. This necessary initial realignment is a significant step towards the establishment of a command that is organized to operate and defend vital networks and project power in cyberspace.

The next steps in this transformation will require a more substantial reorganization, which is one reason why the DoD is considering the establishment of a new sub-unified command for Cyber, under USSTRATCOM, that would be headquartered at Fort Meade.

The creation of a single, sub-unified cyber command would provide the DoD with a command comprised of forces and capabilities better aligned to conduct cyber operations and capable of evolving to meet and overcome challenges presented by operating in cyberspace at the speed of cyber.

Operating in Cyberspace
Maintaining freedom of action in cyberspace in the 21st Century is as inherent to U.S. interests as freedom of the seas was in the 19th Century, and access to air and space in the 20th Century. This is especially true since the United States is committed to leading international and domestic efforts to ensure the security of global information infrastructures upon which cyberspace depends; maintaining the capabilities to use cyberspace as a medium to deter, deny, or defeat any adversary seeking to harm U.S. national and economic security; while ensuring actions are undertaken in a manner that protects our Constitutional liberties. The ability to operate freely within cyberspace poses a number of unique challenges.

The rapid expansion and global dependence upon cyberspace required the Defense Department to evolve its warfighting doctrine to include cyberspace as a viable domain on par with the domains of the land, sea, air and space. As I have mentioned, cyberspace is unlike the other warfighting domains, it is a man-made technological phenomenon solely reliant upon human activity. The Department of Defense defines cyberspace as “a global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processes and controllers.”1

The uniqueness of cyberspace can best be described by three attributes: volume, speed, and convergence.

Perhaps the characteristics of volume and speed are best known, as the truly unprecedented volumes of data and speed at which communications occur in cyberspace are demonstrated daily. More than the speed of the communications, the rate of change of cyberspace, and the applications that use it, is continuous, making this domain ever evolving. However, the convergence of communications devices being driven by cyberspace is fueling an integration that has far reaching consequences, both positive and negative, that must be appreciated if one is to understand this domain.

The integration taking place in communication devices is easy to see in our daily lives. What were once separate communications means such as telephones, cell phones, television, radio and computers are increasingly being combined into single devices, allowing us to watch video or send email on our cell phone or use the telephone over the Internet. Fundamentally, this is only possible because of a much greater integration occurring behind the scenes, the increasing merger of what were once separate communication networks into one network-of-networks. Accordingly, what were once distinct networks carrying the communications of our adversaries, allies and ourselves have also merged into one network-of-networks – “cyberspace”.

And while it may be hard to believe for something that has become so important and so much a part of the fabric of our lives, cyberspace largely “happened.” It was not planned or designed to serve the purposes for which it is being used today. And while the concept to make it easier for people to communicate by connecting networks was conceived and given life in the United States, it resulted in a global domain that knows no geographical boundaries, is largely unregulated and impossible to fully secure. There is no one entity, be it from the private sector or from the community of nations, “in charge” of cyberspace, which means that there is no one entity that can change cyberspace to eliminate the negatives while keeping the benefits. Thus, cyberspace is a perfect environment for United States adversaries to thrive and a domain that the United States must vigilantly protect.

Deterrence Strategies
Robust information assurance and securing vital networks must be our first priority.
Our people play an important role in preventing unauthorized access to the critical systems in cyberspace. The cyber security training provided to our service men and women, and the civilian and contractor workforce is inadequate and must be improved.

Secondly, the defense of our networks must be accountable to the highest levels, and managed as such. It is imperative that all commanders enforce measures to ensure the readiness of networks managed by personnel under their purview. Our adversaries are taking advantage of this lack of assiduousness and discipline that ultimately costs hundreds of millions of dollars in lost information and work hours.

Finally, we must leverage the power of automated security protocols to effectively manage these threats we face every day. For example, deploying a host based security system will provide a level of security that potentially will operate at the speed of the network, and centrally update systems to a trusted baseline.

Cyberspace is a uniquely complex domain absolutely vital to the nation. For the Department of Defense to operate freely within the cyber domain it must devote sufficient resources and personnel to ensure mission success. This includes creating an organizational construct that aligns and synchronizes forces so that they are able to operate and defend the military’s network and project power at “network speed”.

Traditionally, military action is an option of last resort that should complement deterrence strategies. Within the DoD, deterrence can be partially achieved through the creation and maintenance of a cyber force capable of freely operating within cyberspace.

Thank you for providing me with this opportunity and I will try to answer any questions that you may have.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

2009 Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport

I wonder what Hans Blix thinks about the Nuclear Norks?

Why? I have a suspicion that what Blix thinks is close to what the international community leader Obama thinks and will say so in a much less guarded manner.


U.S., Japan, S Korea reaffirm position on DPRK's nuclear issue 2009-05-30

SINGAPORE, May 30 (Xinhua) --
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reaffirmed here on Saturday that the United States, Japan and South Korea, along with some other countries, will strengthen cooperation to try to resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue.

Speaking at a joint press briefing on the sidelines of the 8th Asia Security Summit, Gates said that the United States' policy has not changed. Washington's goal is complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and will not accept the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) as a nuclear weapon state.

Gates said that the DPRK's programs and actions constitute a threat to regional peace and security.

"We unequivocally reaffirm our commitment to the defense of our allies in the region. The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by the DPRK to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States and our allies. And we would hold the DPRK fully accountable for the consequences of such action," Gates said.

On the same occasion, Japan's Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada and South Korea's Minister of National Defense Lee Sang Hee stressed the significance of the trilateral meeting, saying that the three parties will further exchange views and enhance cooperation to solve the problem.

The annual Asia Security Summit, organized by the London International Institute for Strategic Studies, is being held in Singapore from May 29 to 31.

The forum brings together about 22 ministerial-level guests, along with parliamentarians, military leaders and security experts from more than 27 countries and regions for discussions on regional security issues and defense cooperation.

Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, the tale of the tape.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Market chokes on treasury $100bn offering, $900bn more by September.

The global bond markets are beyond the ability of any one government to control for more than a short period of time. That period is rapidly ending for the US. A few months ago long term bond yields were less than half of what they are today. The fed is monetising debt faster than the world is willing to accept, except at higher and higher pricing.

The current economic crisis started with housing. Yesterday, the US Mortgage Bankers Association reported that 12pc of homeowners are either behind on their payments or facing foreclosure, the highest level since records began.

I cannot guess as to the number of posts made on this subject. Most were met with a damn the consequences, let them lose their homes. Very few people understood the far reaching consequences to the banking system, the economy and ultimately themselves.

Mortgage rates will follow raising bond rates. Housing will continue the decline because of lack of leadership, vision and understanding of the peril to everyone because of the damage done to and by a few.

That will teach them a lesson.


Bond markets defy Fed as Treasury yields spike

The US Federal Reserve may soon be forced to launch fresh blitz of quantitative easing whatever the consequences for the US dollar, or risk seeing economic recovery snuffed out by the latest surge in long-term borrowing costs.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Telegraph
Last Updated: 5:51AM BST 29 May 2009

Yields on 10-year Treasury bonds have risen relentlessly since March when the Fed first announced its plan to buy $300bn (£188bn) of US government debt directly, a move that briefly forced rates down to nearly 2.5pc, a level thought to be the Fed's implicit target.

Yields have jumped to 3.69pc – after spiking as high as 3.74pc on Wednesday – pushing up the standard 30-year mortgage loan to 5.08pc and lifting the borrowing cost for corporations.

"The Fed is going to have to consider doubling its purchases of Treasuries," said Ashraf Laidi, from CMC Capital Markets. "We could be nearing the end-game for the US dollar but the Fed has little choice at this point. We're in a vicious circle where any policy aimed at supporting the US economy must be at the expense of the dollar."

The US Mortgage Bankers Association yesterday highlighted the fragility of the US housing market, reporting that 12pc of homeowners are either behind on their payments or facing foreclosure, the highest level since records began.

Almost 6pc of "prime" borrowers are in arrears, showing how far the crisis has moved beyond the sub-prime. Most arrears are caused by job losses. The US unemployment rate has reached 8.1pc, and is even higher under older definitions, running at 15.8pc under Clinton-era metrics.

It is unclear why US bond yields have spiked so violently, with spill-over effects on gilts and bunds. One camp of investors is worried that inflation is rearing its ugly head again: others fear a sovereign debt crisis as over-extended states loses their AAA ratings.

What is clear is that the market choked on $100bn of US Treasury debt issued in three auctions this week, and on the knowledge that Washington must raise a further $900bn by September. Governments around the world must fund $6 trillion of deficits this year, exhausting the capital markets.

The US is at the front of the firing line. Beijing is clearly losing its patience with the Fed's policy of printing paper, seen as a form of stealth default. There is some risk that further moves to step up quantitative easing could cause China to boycott US Treasury auctions. China and Japan together hold 23pc of all US federal debt.

Dallas Fed chief Richard Fisher said his recent trip to Asia was an eye opener. "Chinese government senior officials grilled me about whether or not we are going to monetise the actions of our legislature.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What does North Korea want? Wrong Question. What does China want?

Obama and and his party apparatchiks are busy trying not to waste the crisis/opportunity in North Korea. First we get the blather about the "international community."

The "international community" if it really were a community, would call in the police. I assume that they would be the"international police" but we all should know that is absurd. The last time that happened, American pilots were bombing hapless civilians in Belgrade and we aced the Chinese Embassy. So we can forget precision targeting of the Norks. There is no international community that will approve that and there are no international cops. I suppose we could form a posse of the willing, but why bother?

The question that needs to be asked is not what North Korea wants, but what does China want? The Norks have already exchanged missile technology for nuclear technology with our good friends the Pakis. I have no doubt that was not the full extent of their trading. The criminal family business of North Korea Inc. exists because the Chinese tolerate it. North Korea collapses without Chinese tolerance.

China wants a new world order, here is their chance.


Diplomats have lost the plot over North Korea
Posted By: Con Coughlin at May 26, 2009 Telegraph

Am I missing something, or has a mood of complacency settled on the international diplomatic community regarding North Korea's latest nuclear test?

Despite the fact the latest nuclear device tested by the highly secretive regime in Pyongyang is said to be equivalent in size to the atom bomb the Americans dropped on Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War, the general message emanating from international diplomats is that there is no need to worry because North Korea has no intention of using the device, and that the North Koreans are too isolated to constitute a threat to the outside world.

What nonsense. Irrespective of what the North Koreans intend to do with their nuclear arsenal once they have mastered the technology, the very fact that an unstable regime like Pyongyang has access to weapons of mass destruction constitutes a major threat to world peace.

North Korea is one of the world's key proliferators. It attempted to provide Syria - another rogue regime - with nuclear technology, and works closely with Tehran to develop ballistic missile systems capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

To my mind, the more progress North Korea makes on its nuclear programme, the more afraid the world should be. So my message to the diplomatic corps is: snap out of it. There are many reasons to be worried by the latest developments in North Korea, and rather than taking the sanguine attitude that it doesn't really matter, let's see some robust action that will bring the North Koreans to their senses.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nancy Pelosi, Pussy Galore, really, is GOP a frat-boy institution?

Pelosi Galore

A new ad released by the Republican National Committee has reignited charges the party is acting in a sexist manner to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Prompting the latest round of criticism is a new RNC Web video that compares the speaker to "Bond girl" Pussy Galore, portraying Mrs. Pelosi as a crafty villainess and pitting her against the CIA by using clips from a news conference that accuses the CIA of misleading Congress over its interrogation policies.

Mrs. Pelosi is shown on a split screen with the "Goldfinger" villainess, while the tagline says "Starring Nancy Pelosi, the speaker." The ad closes with an image of a woman's barely clothed back and the tagline "Democrats Galore."

This ad was created in the midst of a barrage of criticism from the left that conservative pundits and talk-radio hosts were unfairly making fun of Mrs. Pelosi's purported Botox use and describing her as a "hag."

The RNC's comparison provided yet more grounds for liberals to chastise the Republicans, flying around the liberal blogosphere and prompting a great deal of both eye-rolling and delight as the Republicans have appeared to step into trouble again with women.

Liberal blogger Taylor Marsh wrote, "if the RNC doesn't have women in their leadership ranks or men who get this stuff and know bad taste when they see it, the Rush, Newt and Cheney Party (as they were aptly called on 'Hardball' yesterday) is truly nothing more than a frat boy institution. No offense to fraternities meant."
- Washington Times blog.

The Obama response has been confused, inadequate, unfocused and inept.

May 26, 2009, 12:02 a.m. EST
Show me the money
Commentary: Little of the federal stimulus funds are making it into the economy
Irwin Kellner, MarketWatch

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. (MarketWatch) -- Three months after the passage of a much ballyhooed stimulus package aimed at resuscitating the economy and creating jobs, precious little federal money has actually been paid out.

Recently, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that only 15% of the $787 billion bill that President Obama signed into law in February would reach the economy this year.

In and of itself, this is too little money to handle the massive job of turning the economy around this year, as Washington had hoped. But it looks as though the amount of federal cash actually reaching state and local governments and the private sector this year may well be even smaller than this measly sum.

Something less than 6%, or $50 billion, in federal funds has hit the economy so far. It appears to be mainly in the form of assistance to states to cover the cost of Medicaid, as well as the one-time checks for $250 that were sent this month to recipients of Social Security benefits.

Even less can be said about the administration's efforts to help troubled homeowners.

February's stimulus package called for the government to spend enough in incentives for mortgage lenders to spare as many as four million homeowners from foreclosure. But the Treasury admits that so far this year, fewer than 55,000 home loans have been modified.

The Obama administration says it will spend 70% of the stimulus money, or $550 billion, not more than two years after passage of the law. But, hopefully, the economy won't need these funds by early 2011 the way it does now.

Although politicians agreed that the intent of the stimulus program was to pump money into the economy as fast as possible, the way this package was constructed makes it virtually impossible to achieve this objective.

This is because the stimulus package as conceived and passed tried to do too many things at the same time.

For example, it relied on states and local governments to use these funds to upgrade the nation's infrastructure, while both the public and the private sectors tried to develop alternate sources of energy that are "clean." And let's not forget fixing the country's health-care system.

As you can imagine, the amount of paperwork at the federal level alone is daunting. Add in the documents needed from state and local governments, as well as from the private sector, and you can see why little federal money has gone out the door at a time when it is really needed.

And while many locales say that they have "shovel ready" projects that they can implement once they get federal funds, the fact remains that you can't spend what you don't have -- even if the federal checks are in the mail.

A better solution would have been my idea of sending everyone over the age of 16 a federal gift card loaded with $3,000. It would have gone to 235 million people, putting the cost at $705 billion, which had to be spent, not saved or used to pay off debt. ( See my Jan. 19 column.)

Had this been implemented, lots more federal money would be in circulation by now, buying goods and services that the private sector needs, without endless paperwork and layers of bureaucrats telling people what to do.

And the end of the recession would be more than a hope.

Irwin Kellner is chief economist for MarketWatch, and is Distinguished Scholar of Economics at Dowling College in Oakdale, N.Y.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What is more worrisome, blowing up our currency or a NORK nuclear test?

The usual suspects are deploring and rejecting, shocked and dismayed at the nuclear shenanigans of Heaven on Earth, North Korea. The newest rookie, Barack is desperately seeking international consensus. However the country that actually has an attached border with North Korea seems to be even less amused by the detonation of the US dollar.

Everyone knew that hyper inflation was possible and likely when the fed started a program of buying US treasuries, but few thought a calamity would start soon. The Obama solution is to keep spending and taxing.  That is barely possible when things are going well but has been sustained by an excess pool of savings coming from Asia and Germany. That pool is shrinking along with  the international appetite for US debt. 

Washington has not  diminished its appetite for deficit spending and has done its own financial nuclear test by going from borrow and spend to print and spend. 

The Chinese are not happy:


China warns Federal Reserve over 'printing money'

China has warned a top member of the US Federal Reserve that it is increasingly disturbed by the Fed's direct purchase of US Treasury bonds.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard Telegraph
Last Updated: 9:19PM BST 24 May 2009

Asia's "Confucian" culture of right action does not look kindly on the insouciant policy of printing money by Anglo-Saxons

Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, said: "Senior officials of the Chinese government grilled me about whether or not we are going to monetise the actions of our legislature."

"I must have been asked about that a hundred times in China. I was asked at every single meeting about our purchases of Treasuries. That seemed to be the principal preoccupation of those that were invested with their surpluses mostly in the United States," he told the Wall Street Journal.

His recent trip to the Far East appears to have been a stark reminder that Asia's "Confucian" culture of right action does not look kindly on the insouciant policy of printing money by Anglo-Saxons.

Mr Fisher, the Fed's leading hawk, was a fierce opponent of the original decision to buy Treasury debt, fearing that it would lead to a blurring of the line between fiscal and monetary policy – and could all too easily degenerate into Argentine-style financing of uncontrolled spending.

However, he agreed that the Fed was forced to take emergency action after the financial system "literally fell apart".

Nor, he added was there much risk of inflation taking off yet. The Dallas Fed uses a "trim mean" method based on 180 prices that excludes extreme moves and is widely admired for accuracy.

"You've got some mild deflation here," he said.

The Oxford-educated Mr Fisher, an outspoken free-marketer and believer in the Schumpeterian process of "creative destruction", has been running a fervent campaign to alert Americans to the "very big hole" in unfunded pension and health-care liabilities built up by a careless political class over the years.

"We at the Dallas Fed believe the total is over $99 trillion," he said in February.

"This situation is of your own creation. When you berate your representatives or senators or presidents for the mess we are in, you are really berating yourself. You elect them," he said.

His warning comes amid growing fears that America could lose its AAA sovereign rating.

Danica Patrick, number three at Indy, still number one at the bar.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Madam Speaker Quits Speaking

"I have made the statement I am going to make on this. I don't have anything more to say about it."

Republicans have asked for the interrogation briefing memos to be declassified. Obama has selectively declassified some. Thursday, House Democrats blocked a Republican effort to form a special committee to investigate Pelosi's allegation that CIA officials misled her.

The speaker said she does not intend to continue discussing the matter publicly. At the end of a news conference on accomplishments of the Democratic Congress, she stammered her way to her newly found rectitude.

Pelosi then decide to get 12 time zones removed from Washington and go for a week-long trip to China. No doubt the air force will be flying her there.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Sure bring the worst of the worst Islamic terrorists to US jails so that they can become stars to the tens of thousand of blacks who annually convert to Islam in US prisons. That will help our standing with the left in Europe.

Plot renews fears of radical Islam in prison
The arrest of four Muslim ex-convicts in an alleged homegrown terror plot in the Bronx is renewing fears about the spread of Islamic extremism in the nation's prisons.
At least two of the four men suspected of plotting to bomb synagogues and shoot down military airplanes converted to Islam behind bars. The alleged mastermind is also a convert, and the fourth man identified himself as a Muslim when he entered prison.

Islam has had a strong presence in U.S. prisons for decades, and many chaplains and corrections officials credit the faith, when taught properly, with being a stabilizing force that can help inmates turn their lives around.

But this week's foiled plot is not the first terror scheme implicating Muslim convicts, and it comes despite reports of progress in screening chaplains and materials on Islam in the prison system.

"Basically, the threat is real," said Paul Rogers, past president of the American Correctional Chaplains Association. "Prisons have unstable people and people who are on the edge of a lot of different things. The radical elements of any religion can be emphasized."

Those fears were heightened this week as lawmakers debated the fate of detainees if President Barack Obama shutters the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

FBI Director Robert Mueller said terror suspects brought to the U.S. could end up "radicalizing others" or plan attacks on the country. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Obama would do nothing to endanger the public and decried "fear-mongering about this."

The four defendants in the New York terror case had been in and out of prison.

Laguerre Payen said he converted to Islam in prison, but a Muslim prayer leader who counseled him when he got out said he had a poor understanding of the faith. Onta Williams had registered as a Baptist in prison, but his uncle said he converted to Islam inside. David Williams and James Cromitie had registered as Muslim in prison, according to correction officials.
Payen appears to be a Haitian citizen, while the three others are Americans. The Williamses are not related.

Mitch Silber, a top New York Police Department intelligence analyst, said inmates converting to Islam are so common that he and his colleagues call it "Prislam." Though many drop the faith once they are out, for some "the conversion sticks" and can fuel anger toward the United States, said Silber, co-author of the 2007 NYPD report "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat."

Just as young people can be radicalized by "cut-and-paste" readings of the Quran on the Internet, new inmates may get a distorted view of Islam from gang leaders or other influential inmates, according to "Out of the Shadows: Getting Ahead of Prison Radicalization," a 2006 report by the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute and the University of Virginia Critical Incident Analysis Group.

Several imams used the term "Jailhouse Islam" to describe a form of Islam in prison that incorporates gang loyalty and violence, the report said.

Many states are doing a better job of screening the reading material that comes into prisons, Rogers said. But other problems arise when there are no qualified chaplains or volunteers.

"Sometimes inmates rely on other inmates, and it's sort of the prison way," Rogers said. "They turn to someone they trust, their 'celly' or someone in their cellblock, and put them on a pedestal as someone who has more knowledge about the religion. He could be spreading knowledge, or could be spreading ignorance."
Inmates who were radicalized in prison include:

_ Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member, who converted to Islam behind bars and was recruited at a mosque to become a mujahedeen fighter, authorities said. Prosecutors accused him of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb," but he was convicted of unrelated terror support charges.

_ Richard Reid, a British citizen and follower of Osama bin Laden, who was a prison convert in England and became involved with militants after he was freed. He pleaded guilty in 2002 to trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives hidden in his shoes. He is now serving a life sentence at a maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo.

_ A group of prisoners in California who converted to Islam and were arrested in 2005 on charges of plotting behind bars to attack military sites, synagogues and other targets.

Islam took hold in U.S. prisons in the 1940s, when members of the Nation of Islam were held for refusing to fight in World War II. Malcolm X was one of their most famous prison recruits.

The religion spread when Muslim inmates successfully sued for more freedom to practice their faith. Get-tough sentencing laws enacted in the 1980s filled prisons with large numbers of blacks and led to another spike in conversion. By this time, many blacks who once were in the Nation of Islam embraced mainstream Islam instead.

Some inmates gravitate toward Islam out of resentment over being locked up, said Jimmy Jones, a Muslim chaplain and volunteer in Connecticut prisons.

"The argument being made is that some people are being taught core values in jail that are turning them into jihadists. This is outrageous," Jones said. "It's not Islam that turns them against America. If you track them back, they had some resentment already going on."

Jones said Connecticut and New York correction officials have barred "The Noble Quran," a Saudi translation of the Muslim holy book. An appendix in the book is titled "The Call to Jihad (Holy Fighting in Allah's Cause)."
But Jones argued that the threat of extremism from prison conversions has been exaggerated.

"I think this is another form of fear-mongering," he said. "The guys I know who come out of prison, they have many issues, and that's not one of them."

Harry Dammer, a criminologist at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania who studies religion in prisons, said there is no clear evidence that the Islam taught or spread in U.S. prisons are the forms of Islamic militancy on display in the Bronx case.
"I would say that yes, of course, there are extremists around, but they are few and far between," Dammer said, "and they are not supported by imams and chaplains in prisons."

Associated Press Writers Michael Hill in Newburgh, N.Y., and Tom Hays in New York contributed to this story. Gorski reported from Denver and Zoll from New York.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cheney Strikes Back at Pelosi-Obama

Right on. (I hate that affected Britishism,"spot-on")

UPDATE: Cheney cleaned Obama's Mickey Mouse watch. The press is in high gear defending Obama, but they know Cheney nailed his skinny ass. The beat goes on.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

California Contitutionally Rebuffs Their Rulers and Masters. New York Times Calls for Constitutional Reform.

As goes California, so goes the nation? There may be lessons on health care as well.

Remember a couple of years ago when the EU masters and rulers were shocked and dismayed that the voters in France and Holland had the lack of political sophistication to accept the constitution beginning crammed down their throats? The statists went near hysterical in trying to comprehend the rejection and plotted to go around the voters. History is repeating itself in California.

The left is mobilizing to undo votes it does not like. No pictures of purple fingers here. You cannot get much further away from California than New York City and still be in the US, but the New York Times realizing the political impact of voter rejection of more and more taxes, jumps into the fray. Read it.


May 21, 2009
California, a Broke State, Reels as Voters Rebuff Leaders

Direct democracy has once again upended California — enough so that the state may finally consider another way by overhauling its Constitution for the first time in 130 years.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returned home from a White House visit on Wednesday to find the state dangerously broke, his constituents defiant after a special election on Tuesday and calls for a constitutional convention — six months ago little more than a wonkish whisper — a cacophony.

As the notion of California as ungovernable grows stronger than ever, Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has expressed support for a convention to address such things as the state’s arcane budget requirements and its process for proliferate ballot initiatives, both of which necessitated Tuesday’s statewide vote on budget matters approved months ago by state lawmakers.

“There could not be more of a tipping point,” said Jim Wunderman, chief executive of the Bay Area Council, a business group that moved forward on Wednesday with plans to push for a constitutional convention. “We think the interest is going to grow by orders of magnitude now.”

More immediately, Mr. Schwarzenegger met with legislative leaders to begin the painful process of slashing state spending after voters rejected five ballot measures intended to balance the budget through a combination of tax increases, borrowing and the reallocation of state money.

The only ballot measure to succeed was one that prevented lawmakers and constitutional officers from getting raises in times of fiscal distress, a sort of chin-out electoral scowl by voters, who will now probably see their health care systems, schools and other services erode. On Friday, the state controller, John Chiang, and the treasurer, Bill Lockyer, are expected to appear before lawmakers and warn them that the state is nearly unable to pay its bills.

With the special-election results in, the California Citizens Compensation Commission moved Wednesday to impose an 18 percent pay cut for all elected officials, while the Bay Area Council began its campaign to rewrite the Constitution to address some of its more crippling rules and give more financial control to localities. The constitutional effort was immediately embraced by the San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who is a 2010 candidate for governor, and some political experts suggested that the movement might be perfectly timed.

“The majority of Californians say the state is headed in the wrong direction,” said Mark Baldassare, the president of the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan polling organization. In a March poll of 2,004 residents, two-thirds said the Constitution should be altered, Mr. Baldassare said.

“I think that we could be at a crossroads here, “ Mr. Baldassare said. “People in California don’t feel they have the government we need in the 21st century.”

The last time California held a constitutional convention was in 1878-79 when the state’s founding constitution was rewritten, though a state commission made revisions to the document in the 1960s and 1970s. Such a convention would have to be done, of course, through a ballot initiative.

In the meantime, the unpleasant exercise of renegotiating the state budget — the third time this fiscal year — must be done by June 30 in order to realize the full value of any cuts.

Facing a $21.3 billion budget deficit, Mr. Schwarzenegger is requesting a $6 billion loan from the federal government, and has proposed a variety of politically unpalatable cuts, including commuting prisoners’ sentences, taking away health insurance from some poor children, reducing aid to community colleges and eliminating a large chunk of financing for shelters that serve children and women who have been abused.

The Legislature, controlled by Democrats, will hold public hearings on the governor’s proposals next week and come up with its own suggestions, which would probably affect fewer vulnerable residents and avoid jeopardizing the loss of federal education and health care money that requires a state match.

While California has suffered the same fate as much of the nation — high unemployment, large numbers of foreclosures, general economic sluggishness — its budget woes are greatly exacerbated by its odd and in many ways outmoded way of doing business.

The ballot initiative process — in which legislators or independent groups ask voters to mandate how the state’s money is spent or not spent — has become at times an exercise in fiscal self defeat, with voters moving to earmark money for one special program one year, only to contemplate undoing their own will a few elections later.

The state’s legislative districts are highly gerrymandered, leaving the Legislature influenced by the political fringe of both parties and unable to agree on practical budget matters or much else. State senators represent roughly a million people each, larger than most Congressional districts, leaving them out of touch with local needs. Further, the state is one of only three requiring a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature on taxes and budgets, which leads to partisan fighting and long delays.

All of this came into play in the special election on Tuesday.

“There was a both-sides-against-the-middle aspect,” said Bruce Cain, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, “reflecting the wide differences between Democrats and Republicans on the budget; a general disgust with the Legislature and the governor; ballot fatigue; and weariness with voting for yet another budgetary patch.”

California passed a budget in February contingent on the ballot measures’ winning approval. Even before Tuesday’s vote, the state was $5.8 billion newly in the hole because revenues had continued to plummet over the spring. Institutions that rely on state money have already begun to adjust in ways large and small.

The Los Angeles Superior Court will now close once a month. Dental care at Feather River Hospital in Paradise, near Sacramento, will cease on July 1. The Santa Clarita fireworks show this Fourth of July will be 10 minutes shorter.

“The state funds 94 domestic violence emergency shelter programs,” said Nicole Shellcroft, a former director of a targeted shelter in the Antelope Valley. “With this cut, the majority of them disappear.”

When he took office six years ago, Mr. Schwarzenegger promised to bring badly needed systemic change to state government. Though he has not delivered on that promise, he has laid more groundwork for it than his predecessors. He persuaded voters to let an independent panel redraw the legislative districts, which may well erode the partisan chokehold many candidates have had on parts of the state.

Also, if his ballot proposal to conduct open primaries in the state prevails at the polls next month, political change in Sacramento could be profound.

Taliban claim a Chinook Helicopter kill. Look closely.

Talk about being a lucky looks like the Taliban missile hit the hummer in the sling and the helicopter and crew skated.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Innovation will help pay for health care

Here is a modest suggestion. It has been reported that China is engaging with Brazil to discriminate against the free use of US currency in their mutual trade. China is all for the idea and there are several other countries with similar notions. 

It seems as if the Chinese  have too many dollars. I want to help.

Being a big picture kind a guy I was just thinking, why not expand the deal to health care. Here is how.

Let any country that engages in trade that overtly discriminates against the free flow of US dollars earn the privilege of paying a 25% tariff on all of their goods and services that enter the US. The tariff will be in place for one year and will increase by an additional 5% for each year the practice continues. It will decrease by 5% each year after the practice stops. The proceeds will go for supplemental health insurance for the needy. 

China will soon enough not have to worry about excess dollars.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Should American, well-armed with 12 aircraft carrier battle groups, retreat into its vast home market and rebuild its industrial base?

Any of this sound familiar?

I would make the move. Only with increased domestic industrial activity can America end dependancy on foreign capital and perpetual deficits. The money merchant model of Wall Street assumed ever expanding technology innovation and the recycling of the excess savings of Germany, Japan and China. That era has ended. The US can re-industrialize rapidly and do so behind selective tariffs if necessary.

The carriers are there to remind people who is boss.


Asia will author its own destruction if it triggers a crisis over US bonds
Japan beware, crashes have a habit of bringing regime change

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
Last Updated: 6:03PM BST 17 May 2009

ET TU TOKYO? If Washington is counting on Japan to act as last-resort buyer of US dollar bonds, it may have to think again. Masaharu Nakagawa, finance chief of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), told the BBC that his country should not purchase any more US debt unless issued in yen as "Samurai" bonds, akin to "Carter bonds" in 1978.
This is the sort of petulance that tends to emerge in the late phase of slumps (1840s, early 1930s) when mass lay-offs provoke a populist backlash and hotheads run away with the agenda. Mr Nakagawa later played down the comments, calling them private thoughts, but the genie is out of the bottle.

We have come to assume that Japan under the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will always cleave to America, if only to safeguard US protection against Chinese naval expansion. Backed by Washington after the war as a rural counterweight to the urban left, the LDP has held an almost unbroken grip on power since 1955.

But crashes have a habit of bringing regime change. Brian Reading, a Japan veteran at Lombard Street Research, predicts a "seismic shock" over the next four months as voters rebel.

"With unemployment heading for 5 million by end-year, something must happen," he said.

The tremors from Japan follow near-weekly fulminations from Beijing, which suspects that Washington is engineering a stealth default on America's debt by the trickery of quantitative easing. This was put bluntly in February by Luo Ping, head of China's banking commission: "We hate you guys. Once you start issuing $1 trillion-$2 trillion, we know the dollar is going to depreciate." Premier Wen Jiabao picked up the theme more politely, asking whether the "massive amount of capital" lent to the US was still safe. Since then the People's Bank has floated ideas for a world currency.

China and Japan together hold 23pc of America's $6,369bn federal debt. This has caused alarm on the US talk radio circuit, but fears of imminent "dollardämmerung" and a collapse of American economic power may prove far off the mark. Who ultimately holds a gun to the head of whom?

If Asia's leaders give free rein to frustrations and crater the US bond market, they will ensure their own political destruction. Japan already risks descent into demographic death, deflation, and debt atrophy (its public debt is nearing 200pc of GDP). China's regime depends on perma-boom for post-Maoist legitimacy. Could it survive the wrath of jobless graduates and rural migrants if it provokes America into erecting trade barriers, killing the globalisation goose that lays the golden egg?

American can if necessary retreat into its vast home market and rebuild its industrial base, well-armed with 12 aircraft carrier battle groups.

The last 12 months should be lesson enough that Asia cannot yet stand on its own two feet. Its mercantilist export model remains a "high-beta" play on the West, to use trader parlance.

Japan's industrial output has fallen 34pc. China's exports are down 23pc.

Ray Maurer, from Qatar's QNB Capital, said China may be too busy closing factories it should never have built to challenge US primacy over coming years.

"China is not going to be a juggernaut until it creates a viable economy based on home consumption. It's just a tiger, living a myth," he said.

Lombard's Charles Dumas says the "super-savers" (China, Japan, Germany) have warped their own economies by relying on exports and, therefore, on perpetual debt build-up by the West.

"Their currencies are due to decline against the dollar as weak US recovery throws a few scraps from its table, over which the world's exporters will have to scrabble, cutting their prices and currencies in the process. The US is not, and is not about to become, Argentina or Zimbabwe," he said.

Let us not forget how we got here. Japan amassed a quarter trillion dollars of US bonds from January 2003 to March 2004 in a frantic effort to drive down the yen and stave off deflation. It has not yet won that battle. Producer prices fell to minus 3.8pc in April, a 22-year low.

China's holdings of US bonds are a consequence of its own policy of holding down the yuan to boost exports. Beijing may rage about America's "helicopter" stimulus, but what would have happened to the factories of Guangdong if the Fed had not taken emergency action or if the US Treasury had allowed the banks to collapse? China wants it both ways.

The world economy has long been running on fumes. The debt appetite of the Anglo-sphere and Club Med kept demand afloat, concealing excess capacity. The deformed interplay of Asia's Confucian model and Western consumption ran unchecked, until the imbalances blew up.

Yet it is easier to blame Uncle Sam, subprime, and friendless bankers. A folk tale has captured political discourse everywhere, from Beijing, to Tokyo, Moscow, and Berlin. If they are foolish enough to act on this self-serving illusion, they will pay the higher price.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Non-crisis of Health Care.

Everyone in the United States, every illegal immigrant, every visitor to the US, every child, and every old person has health care. Everyone of the alleged forty million uninsured will get free medical care if they need it and show up at a hospital. 85% of all Americans have a paid insurance plan. 85% is a big number. Imagine being right in the market 85% of the time, or have an 85% chance of recovering from cancer, or a president with an 85% approval rating.

Many of the uncovered 15% have made the economic decision not to pay for insurance because they do no want to. They know they will be covered in an emergency. I pay for my own insurance and pay 100% of the policy for everyone who works for me. That is my choice. It gives me an advantage to get people who I want to work for me. If the government wants to coerce the remaining 15% to get insurance that is fine with me.

They could start by deducting premium payments from any and all government assistance payments being made to the uncovered individual.

I would wager that many of the uninsured drive without auto insurance. It would take little to put insurance information on a drivers license and have all licenses swiped at the pump at the time of purchase. No insurance on the driver and/or the car, let them pay an extra buck or two or three per gallon, and be insured for the time it takes them to use a tank of gas. They will soon see the value of a private insurance plan.

Other than that let the lying bastards in the government mind their own business and leave the rest of us alone.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Joie de Vivre in bad times.

The joy of living this particular life...

"They are the architects of greatness, their vision lies within their souls, they peer beyond the veils and mists of doubt and pierce the walls of unborn Time. Makers of Empire, they have fought for bigger things than crowns and higher seats than thrones. Your homes are set upon the land a dreamer found. The pictures on its walls are visions from a dreamer's soul. They are the chosen few - the blazers of the way. Walls crumble and Empires fall, the tidal wave sweeps from the sea and tears a fortress from its rocks. The rotting nations drop off from Time's bough, and only things the dreamers make live on." ~ Herbert Kaufman, American Writer, 1878-1947

The best of all possible worlds.

If you believe in windmills, smart cars, elevated trains, election financing reform, cap and trade, balanced budgets, tort reform and Santa Claus, you will love the idea that health care reform will pay for more deficit spending. It is too absurd to waste time stating what should be obvious. It will not happen.

I have come to the conclusion that General Motors is the model for the US government. The government, as is GM, simply cannot reform itself. As GM will need to be dismantled with large parts of it liquidated, the same will be true for the government. It will take longer, be more painful and come with many unexpected consequences. The corrupted system has proven itself incapable of sensible and planned reform. Too many lobbyists. Too many lawyers. Too many alliances. Two many voters that do not pay federal taxes. All in all, too bad.

Obama inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit and pushed it up to $1.8 trillion. The best is yet to come.


May 15, 2009

Fiscal Suicide Ahead


Barack Obama came to office with a theory. He believed that the country was in desperate need of new investments in education, energy and many other areas. He also saw that the nation faced a long-term fiscal crisis caused by rising health care and entitlement costs. His theory was that he could spend now and save later. He could fund his agenda with debt now and then solve the long-term fiscal crisis by controlling health care and entitlement costs later on.

In essence, health care became the bank out of which he could fund the bulk of his agenda. By squeezing inefficiencies out of the health care system, he could have his New New Deal and also restore the nation to long-term fiscal balance.

This theory justified the tremendous ramp-up of spending we’ve seen over the last several months. Obama inherited a $1.2 trillion deficit and has quickly pushed it up to $1.8 trillion, a whopping 13 percent of G.D.P. The new debt will continue to mount after the economy recovers. The national debt will nearly double over the next decade. Annual deficits will still hover around 5 percent or 6 percent of G.D.P. in 2019. By that year, interest payments alone on the debt are projected to be $806 billion annually, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Obama believes these deficit levels are tolerable if he can fix the long-term fiscal situation, but he hasn’t been happy about them. He’s been prowling around the White House prodding his staff to find budget cuts. Some of the ideas they have produced have been significant (Medicare reforms), some have been purely political (asking cabinet secretaries to cut $100 million in waste, fraud and abuse), and many have been gutted on Capitol Hill (cap and trade, proposed changes in charitable deductions, proposed changes to the estate tax).

In any case, these stabs at fiscal discipline haven’t come close to keeping up with the explosion in spending. The government now borrows $1 for every $2 it spends. A Treasury bond auction earlier this month went poorly, suggesting the world’s hunger for U.S. debt is not limitless. President Obama has been thrown back on his original theory. If he is going to sustain his agenda, if he is going to prevent national insolvency, he has to control health care costs. Health care costs are now the crucial issue of his whole presidency.

Obama and his aides seem to understand this. They have gone out of their way to emphasize the importance of restraining costs. The president has held headline-grabbing summits with business and union leaders. Unlike just about every other Democrat on the planet, he emphasizes cost control as much as expanding health coverage.

So what exactly is the president proposing to help him realize hundreds of billions of dollars a year in savings?

Obama aides talk about “game-changers.” These include improving health information technology, expanding wellness programs, expanding preventive medicine, changing reimbursement policies so hospitals are penalized for poor outcomes and instituting comparative effectiveness measures.

Nearly everybody believes these are good ideas. The first problem is that most experts, with a notable exception of David Cutler of Harvard, don’t believe they will produce much in the way of cost savings over the next 10 years. They are expensive to set up and even if they work, it would take a long time for cumulative efficiencies to have much effect. That means that from today until the time President Obama is, say, 60, the U.S. will get no fiscal relief.

The second problem is that nobody is sure that they will ever produce significant savings. The Congressional Budget Office can’t really project savings because there’s no hard evidence they will produce any and no way to measure how much. Some experts believe they will work, but John Sheils of the Lewin Group, a health care policy research company, speaks for many others. He likes the ideas but adds, “There’s nothing that does much to control costs.”

If you read the C.B.O. testimony and talk to enough experts, you come away with a stark conclusion: There are deep structural forces, both in Medicare and the private insurance market, that have driven the explosion in health costs. It is nearly impossible to put together a majority coalition for a bill that challenges those essential structures. Therefore, the leading proposals on Capitol Hill do not directly address the structural problems. They are a collection of worthy but speculative ideas designed to possibly mitigate their effects.

The likely outcome of this year’s health care push is that we will get a medium-size bill that expands coverage to some groups but does relatively little to control costs. In normal conditions, that would be a legislative achievement.

But Obama needs those cuts for his whole strategy to work. Right now, his spending plans are concrete and certain. But his health care savings, which make those spending plans affordable, are distant, amorphous and uncertain. Without serious health cost cuts, this burst of activism will hasten fiscal suicide.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nancy Pelosi, for it before against it.

The undying narcissism of Farrah Fawcett and the boomers.

Sorry baby, but we are all going to die.

Farrah Fawcett video details cancer struggle

A documentary that details Farrah Fawcett's cancer struggle drew applause and tears from an audience that included Ryan O'Neal.

The boomers started off never trusting anyone over thirty. They were after all the first generation of humanoids ever to discover sex, and we had to hear about it in graphic detail.

It has always been all about them.

They entered stage left with a self importance of mission and with the glaring benefit of an explosion of media. Finally there is an end in sight. They are dying off. However, and there is always a however, the Hollywood boomers truly believe that they need to educate the world about the simple and natural human act of dying. No quiet dignity please. And how fitting that the dying and filming comes complete with a lawsuit. They cannot even die without a lawyer.


"Farrah's Story," a candid account of her medical treatments and efforts to maintain her dignity, was shown in Beverly Hills on Wednesday night. Telegraph

Fawcett's friend Alana Stewart called it "truly Farrah's evening".

The former "Charlie's Angel" star wasn't well enough to attend. Fawcett was diagnosed in 2006 with anal cancer that has spread to her liver.

Stewart was a producer on "Farrah's Story," which airs Friday on NBC.

O'Neal, who remains close to Fawcett although their long romance ended in the 1990s, said he plans to watch the film with her.

However, a producer who collaborated with Fawcett is suing over the documentary.
Craig Nevius filed a lawsuit in Santa Monica on Wednesday – the same day "Farrah's Story" was screened for friends and reporters.

His lawsuit states he is seeking to regain creative control over the documentary and unspecified damages against several of the project's key players.

The lawsuit does not name Fawcett as a defendant, nor seeks to block NBC's prime-time airing of "Farrah's Story," scheduled for Friday.

Instead, the suit claims Fawcett's former boyfriend, Ryan O'Neal, his business manager and longtime friend Alana Stewart interfered with his role in the documentary. He also claims O'Neal physically threatened him.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How did Obama come to be President of The United States?

Obama in 2003

Doug said...

"Obama wisely changed his mind about releasing them. That in itself differentiated himself from the inflexible and sometime stubbornness of George Bush. Obama has been persuaded by argument and logic. That is hopeful. Next."----
Panetta, the Military, CIA, and etc no doubt forcefully expressed their opinion.

I find it bizarre to credit him for taking a position that only a hateful, self-centered, immature and inexperienced jerk would take to start with, because he then reversed himself when he became convinced it would be harmful to his popularity ratings.

Like crediting someone who planned on raping a 14 year old child, but then thought better of it when he noticed a police car down the block, for acting like an upstanding moral agent.

Thu May 14, 07:31:00 AM EDT

President Obama acting presidential.

Obama clearly is a work in action undergoing the metamorphosis from a college professor to being POTUS. This is a good thing for several reasons.

I was stunned when he speculated about releasing photos in the first place. There was no news about the existence of the photos, nor the questionable practice of humiliating prisoners of war.

In my book, being humiliated is preferable to being shot. The military was idiotic in allowing soldiers to have cameras and taking photos inside US military prisons. The officers that permitted that should have been fired. All of them. The NCO's and enlisted men involved should have had torn threads on sleeves where stripes were once posted.

Published photos would be inflammatory  and problematic for the US military and grist for America's enemies.

Obama wisely changed his mind about releasing them. That in itself differentiated himself from the inflexible and sometime stubbornness of George Bush. Obama has been persuaded by argument and logic. That is hopeful. Next.


Reasons behind Obama's U-turn
By Jonathan Beale
BBC News, Washington
The word "U-turn" may be unfamiliar in Barack Obama's White House, but the practice is not.

One week, the US president signals that the Pentagon will release photographs showing more abuse of American detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a new era of transparency.

The next he has announces that the White House will block their release and defend that decision in court - this time it is all about the vital importance of national security.

When a politician is caught red-handed doing a U-turn, the first question to ask is why?

This time it is not hard to find an answer. Just cast your mind back to those graphic images of US abuse in Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail.

Remember the hooded detainee standing on top of a box, as if about to be electrocuted? Or the faces of the US soldiers enjoying the humiliation? Or the fear of a detainee inches away from the teeth of a snarling dog?

“ President Obama has clearly concluded that - in this instance - national security trumps transparency ”
And then it is worth recalling the response and outrage right around the world.

America's image was more than tarnished. The photos became a recruiting tool for extremists.

Barack Obama says these new pictures are not as "sensational" as those of Abu Ghraib. But they are clearly bad enough for his generals to raise objections.

The current US commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan - Gens Odierno, and McKiernan - both told their commander-in-chief that publication would endanger the lives of US troops.

The president has apparently been persuaded by the power of that argument.

'Double standards'

It is perhaps harder to understand why Mr Obama thought it was a good idea to release the photos in the first place.

True, it was not his idea. It was the American Civil Liberties Union that took this issue to court, claiming it was in the public interest and would prove there had been a culture of abuse.

But the president seemed persuaded by the need for transparency. Openness has been a leitmotif of this administration - but easier to promise than practice.

There may have been other reasons that made it initially seem appealing. Releasing the photos would help break with the past - this after all did not happen on Barack Obama's watch.

The second question when examining a U-turn is what will be the political fallout?

President Obama has clearly concluded that - in this instance - national security trumps transparency.

There is no doubt that President Obama will have disappointed some of his supporters - and, let us be honest, they are those on the left.

But he will have reassured many more that his prime concern is the nation's security and the lives of US troops.

You do not have to be a political genius to work out where the sympathies of the mainstream lie.

America is hardly crying out for the release of more photographs that detail the abuse of detainees. It has still not recovered from the last lot.

This decision will inevitably bring with it charges of double standards.

After all the president was happy to release classified documents detailing interrogation techniques - the so-called "torture memos".

Pragmatic decision?

But the publication of the memos brought a firestorm of criticism. Most notably from Dick Cheney - who has never spent so much time in front of the cameras.

The former vice-president is touring TV studios, accusing his nemesis of making America less safe.

The publication of the photos would make that charge seem more convincing. Not publishing them, and the accusation is less likely to stick.

Barack Obama once again seems to have made a pragmatic decision. He can be accused of compromising his principles.

But this time most Americans will believe that its for the greater good.

As for his supporters on the left, it looks as though there will be more heartbreak ahead.

Hopes that the president would completely abandon the controversial military commissions to try terrorist suspects are slowly fading. An announcement may be made later this week.

This is not the last time that we will be hearing the word "U-turn" in connection with the Obama White House.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"You can't swing a cat without hitting a barrel of crude."

How dead is the world's economy? From Singapore, here's another illustration:
SINGAPORE — To go out in a small boat along Singapore’s coast now is to feel like a mouse tiptoeing through an endless herd of slumbering elephants.

One of the largest fleets of ships ever gathered idles here just outside one of the world’s busiest port, marooned by the receding tide of global trade. There may be tentative signs of economic recovery in spots around the globe, but few here.

Hundreds of cargo ships — 100,000 to 300,000 tons each, with the larger ones weighing more than the entire 130-ship Spanish Armada — bob so empty that they seem to perch on top of the water rather than in it, their red rudders and bulbous noses, submerged when the vessels are loaded, sticking a dozen feet out of the water.
According to the author, the actual number of cargo ships bobbing at anchor is 735. He reports that eight container shipping companies have gone bankrupt in the last year and another large company is in imminent danger.

Earlier this month, it was reported that there is no excess crude oil storage capacity. Every available container is full and US refineries are operating at 85% capacity.

Revenue reports show that, thanks to the $4.00 per gallon pump prices, the American public seems to have permanently changed its driving habits and gas tax receipts are trending downward. State transportation budgets are taking huge hits and everyone is scrambling to find new taxing options such as taxing you for the miles you have driven instead of the number of gallons of gas you pump.

So, in light of the current economic conditions, why is crude oil heading towards the $60 per barrel range? The simple answer might be found in this article, Energy prices fall before crude
storage report.

Dour economic reports have outweighed the positive for months, however, and part of the reason energy prices have been sustained at the current level is the weak dollar. Crude is priced in dollars, which makes it cheaper to buy when the dollar falls.

The U.S. currency has been weakened by the massive government bailout of banks and automakers.

The dollar fell less than a penny against the euro Tuesday, but is down about 6 cents compared with the beginning of the year.

“Maybe it as simple as the fact that oil has more dollar value in a world where the U.S. government is running up a debt of historic proportions,” analyst Phil Flynn said in a client note.

That would go a long way to explain why energy prices are not falling even further.

Economic chaos reigns in a whirled gone topsy turvy. Nothing is certain in the wake of a spectacular seismic economic event. Confidence in the US as the whirled's economic engine has gone up in the smoke of the flameout. Remember the comment of our well educated, young Asian visitor, Wobbly Guy? He has decided to cast his lot with the Chinese instead of looking in our direction. That tells the story.

Go east young man.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Obama will not cede a strong defense to the Republicans

General George B. McClellan, fired by a previous President from Illinois.

Brits beware: Obama means business in Afghanista
Posted By: Con Coughlin at May 12, 2009 telegraph

Con Coughlin opines about the firing of General David McKiernan as a warning to the Western Alliance. It is also a warning to the Republican party that Obama will not be seen as weak on defense. We live in interesting times.


The summary dismissal of General David McKiernan, the American commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, by American President Barack Obama will send shock waves throughout the entire Western alliance.

Gen McKiernan was removed from his post after Robert Gates, the U.S. Defence Secretary, concluded that American forces based in the country "can and must do better".

Mr Obama's decision to dismiss Gen McKiernan is a bold move, and suggests that the new American president is determined to make a success of the military campaign in Afghanistan.

If Iraq was President George W. Bush's war, Afghanistan is Obama's war, and the U.S. president is clearly determined that this military campaign does not suffer the same setbacks as American forces experienced in Iraq.

By the time next year's mid-term elections are held Mr Obama wants to be in a position to demonstrate that tangible progress is being made.

The timing of Gen McKiernan's removal is also significant, for a number of reasons. Mr Obama has already given his approval to a mini-surge strategy aimed at finally destroying the threat posed by the Taliban to Afghanistan's slow and painful transition to democratic government.

It will also send a warning to Downing Street, which has just refused to approve a request by British commanders to send extra combat troops to bolster the British force in Helmand province. Gordon Brown's failure to provide British commanders with the forces they need to do the job properly in Helmand means that they will now have to rely on the Americans to help them out, which will not exactly help to improve the transatlantic alliance.

There's no point Downing Street making a song and dance about being Washington's closest ally in the global campaign against Islamist terrorism if it does not deliver on its commitments, which now appears to be the case in Afghanistan.