Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100821

Financial Crisis
»Book Review: Prepare for ‘The Return of the Great Depression’
»Der Spiegel: US Middle Class Vanishing
»Record Number Raiding 401(k)s, Says Fidelity
»‘Wall Street Bankers Are Not Pure Evil’
»Dates That Destroyed America
»First They Came for the Terrorists
»Hardhats Vow Not to Work on Controversial Mosque Near Ground Zero
»Must Supreme Court Judges Obey the Constitution?
»Newly Discovered Tapes Reveal Imam Rauf’s Support of Wahhabism & Elimination of Israel
»NOAA Scientist: Release of Oil Spill Report Done by White House, Not NOAA
»Obama Makes Four Recess Appointments
»We’re Broke. Now What?
»Why is Ground Zero Mosque Connection to Sharia Law Push Being Ignored?
Europe and the EU
»How Winston Churchill Stopped the Nazis
»Netherlands: ‘CDA Party Has One Dissident’
»One German Town’s Fight Against CO2 Capture Technology
Israel and the Palestinians
»Amil Imani: The Spirit of Israel Lives On
»BBC’s Flotilla Film Slammed as ‘Biased’
»Competing World Views Tear a “Peace Process” To Pieces
Middle East
»The New World Expansion of Hezbollah
Far East
»North Korea Attacking U.S. With Fake $100 Bills
Latin America
»China Channeling Money Through Chavez to Drug Cartels
»Obama to Re-Clintonize Cuba Policy
Culture Wars
»Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Utah Memorial Crosses Along Highway

Financial Crisis

Book Review: Prepare for ‘The Return of the Great Depression’

Expert: We’re in ‘early stages of ongoing economic contraction of massive proportions’

In “The Return of The Great Depression,” Day explains how the world is still in the early stages of an ongoing economic contraction of massive proportions. In addition to providing 10 reasons the Great Depression 2.0 will be wider, deeper, and longer than its predecessor, he shows why most economists were unable to foresee the crisis unfolding — and why they remain incapable of recognizing its extent.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Der Spiegel: US Middle Class Vanishing

According to an article appearing in the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, the negative consequences of the global financial crisis include a widened social class rift and the elimination of the middle class in the US.

The article states that many Americans are beginning to realize that the American Dream has now become a nightmare as people are having to face the bitter reality of a shrinking job market along with decades of stagnating wages and dramatic increases in inequality.

More than a year after the official end of the recession, the overall unemployment rate remains consistently above 9.5 percent. But this is just the official figure. When adjusted to include the people who have already given up looking for work — or are barely surviving on the few hundred dollars they earn with a part-time job and having to use their savings to supplement their income — the real unemployment figure jumps to more than 17 percent.

[Return to headlines]

Record Number Raiding 401(k)s, Says Fidelity

Hardship withdrawals spike in troubling sign for economy

In the wake of news about a spike in new applications for unemployment benefits comes another potentially troubling sign: A record number of workers made hardship withdrawals from their retirement accounts in the second quarter.

What’s more, the number of workers borrowing from their accounts reached a 10-year high, according to a report issued Friday by Fidelity Investments.

The trends reflect the financial stress many workers find themselves in as the economy struggles to find sure footing, said Beth McHugh, Fidelity’s vice president of marketing insight.

High unemployment and companies cutting back on overtime or overall hours have reduced the take-home pay of many workers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Wall Street Bankers Are Not Pure Evil’

US journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin speaks to SPIEGEL about his book, “Too Big to Fail,” the inside story of Wall Street and the financial crisis. He talks about the lack of remorse on the part of many CEOs and addresses the question of whether he got too close to the country’s top bankers.

SPIEGEL: Mr Sorkin, in your book, former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is quoted as saying: “That makes me want to vomit!” And JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon you quote with: “There are not enough lifeboats. Someone is going to die. So you might as well enjoy the champagne and caviar!” The big shots of the financial world usually don’t give quotes like that. Why did they talk so openly to you?

Andrew Ross Sorkin: This is a question I have often asked myself. When I first started reporting the book, it was not easy. It was still very much an open wound for many and they did not want to come to the table at all. But once you spend a couple of months really digging on something and you’ve talked to dozens of people you start being able to piece a lot of the puzzle together. They realize that when everybody else is talking they should talk too, because you want to be able to tell your side of the story.

SPIEGEL: The classic game: You hint about how much you already know and thereby bait them to tell you what they know?

Sorkin: There was an executive I was trying to reach out to for months, who didn’t want to talk to me. Finally I get him on the phone. I say I have a scene here: you’re at Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack’s house, it’s July 12 or 13, you’re sitting on the couch on the right-hand side, it’s a green couch, you’re eating a chicken wrap sandwich, your son’s lacrosse game starts atha 1:30 p.m., you don’t show up till 2:30 p.m. There was a long pause on the phone.

SPIEGEL: And then he said I think we should talk.

Sorkin: And then he said I think we should talk…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Dates That Destroyed America

The decision by Congress to socialize medicine in the US ranks among the most draconian, most egregious, most horrific actions ever taken by the central government in Washington, D.C. This bill rocks the principles of liberty and constitutional government to the core. It changes fundamental foundations; it repudiates historical principle. Oh! The same flag may fly on our flagpoles, the same monuments may grace our landscape, and the same National Anthem may be sung during our public ceremonies, but it is not the same America. The Congress of the United States has now officially turned America into a socialist state.

On March 21, 2010, Congress passed, and on March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the dreaded national health care bill into law, and as such, these dates join a list of dates that have each inflicted unconstitutional, socialistic, and sometimes even tyrannical action against the States united and have, therefore, contributed to the destruction of a free America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

First They Came for the Terrorists

It’s a testament to the intelligence level of liberals that they prefer nursery rhymes to ideas. Whether it’s Auden’s “Those to whom evil is done, Do Evil in Return” (a verse from a Communist poet partially justifying Hitler’s invasion of Poland, that he later disavowed) or “What Would Gandhi Do?” (give up and hope his enemies felt bad while cutting off his head) or the most famous nursery rhyme of them all, “First they came for the Communists.”


So it’s completely unsurprising that the Ground Zero Mosque defenders have trotted out the “First they came for the Communists” nursery rhyme. Keith Olbermann did it, while suggesting that resisting the Ground Zero Mosque puts us on a path to the Holocaust. Olbermann went on to claim that Muslims in the US were at greater risk of terrorism than non-Muslims (which would be news to the actual recent targets of terrorism, who included soldiers in Fort Hood, airline passengers and anyone walking through Times Square.) And of course Olbermann hung it all on that infamous nursery rhyme and Martin Niemoller.

There are a number of problems with that. First Niemoller is not the author of the nursery rhyme, it’s loosely based on some of his statements. Secondly, Niemoller went from being a Nazi sympathizer, to being a Communist sympathizer. That incidentally is the same message implicit in the poem itself. A man who supported Hitler and then supported Communist tyrants, including Ho Chi Minh is a spectacularly bad choice as a moral guide.

Had Niemoller come out of the war with the understanding that supporting totalitarian movements is bad, he might have been passably worth paying attention to. But instead Niemoller switched from sympathizing with Nazism, because he thought it would make for a better world, to sympathizing with Communism, because he thought it would make for a better world. He accepted the Lenin Prize, joined the World Peace Movement, and did what he could to undermine NATO, Europe and the United States.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hardhats Vow Not to Work on Controversial Mosque Near Ground Zero

A growing number of New York construction workers are vowing not to work on the mosque planned near Ground Zero.

“It’s a very touchy thing because they want to do this on sacred ground,” said Dave Kaiser, 38, a blaster who is working to rebuild the World Trade Center site.

“I wouldn’t work there, especially after I found out about what the imam said about U.S. policy being responsible for 9/11,” Kaiser said.


Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, said unions have not yet taken a “formal position” on Park51, but he understands why members would be hesitant to work there.

“It’s a very difficult dilemma for the contractors and the organized labor force because we are experiencing such high levels of unemployment,” he said. “Yet at the same time, this is a very sacred sight to the union guys.”

“There were construction workers killed on 9/11 and many more who got horribly sick cleaning up Ground Zero,” Coletti said. “It’s very emotional.”

L.V. Spina, a Manhattan construction worker who created anti-mosque stickers that some workers are slapping on their hardhats, said he would “rather pick cans and bottles out of trash cans” than build the Islamic center near Ground Zero…

[Return to headlines]

Must Supreme Court Judges Obey the Constitution?

Will we restore the Rule of Law, which prevails when people in the federal government obey The Constitution? Or will we side with those who seek to expand the Rule of Men, where people holding Power do whatever they want?

1. The Federalist Papers were written during 1787-88 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to explain the proposed Constitution to The People and to induce them to ratify it. Thus, The Federalist is the most authoritative commentary on the genuine meaning of Our Constitution. And at a meeting of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia on March 4, 1825 at which Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were present, the following resolution selecting the texts for the Law school, was passed:

“ …on the distinctive principles of the government of our own state, and of that of the US. the best guides are to be found in 1. the Declaration of Independence, as the fundamental act of union of these states. 2. the book known by the title of ‘The Federalist’, being an authority to which appeal is habitually made by all, and rarely declined or denied by any as evidence of the general opinion of those who framed, and of those who accepted the Constitution of the US. on questions as to it’s genuine meaning… (page 83) [emphasis added]”

So! Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence, and James Madison, Father of The Constitution, acknowledged the high authoritative status of The Federalist Papers. They saw The Constitution as having a fixed meaning which one could learn by consulting The Federalist!

2. But supreme Court judges soon refused to submit to The Constitution as explained by The Federalist Papers. In 1907, former Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes said, “…the Constitution is what the judges say it is…”. Judges thus rejected the objective standard provided by The Federalist, and substituted their own subjective interpretations. Law schools embraced this subversion: Instead of teaching The Constitution as a set of fixed principles explained by The Federalist, they taught supreme Court opinions which say Congress may do whatever it pleases. They also taught that supreme Court judges have unbridled authority to say what the Constitution means. Law schools thus produced generations of constitutionally illiterate lawyers & judges who have been indoctrinated with the monstrous Lie that Our Constitution means whatever judges on the supreme Court say! And because these lawyers failed in their sacred duty to think, and uncritically accepted what they were told, Our Country is on the brink of destruction.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Newly Discovered Tapes Reveal Imam Rauf’s Support of Wahhabism & Elimination of Israel

Newly discovered tapes of Imam Rauf reveal a radical who supports wahhabism and the destruction of Israel.

Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs reported:

Steve Emerson has unearthed 13 hours of audio tape of Imam Rauf. Emerson and his team of investigators has spent the past four weeks going through the newly found material. Rauf is a “radical extremist cleric who cloaks himself in sheep’s clothing.”

Among the shocking revelations Emerson’s team will reveal next week — they found Rauf:

Defending wahhabism — a puritanical version of Islam that governs Saudi Arabia

Calling for the elimination of Israel by claiming a one-nation state, meaning no more Jewish State.

Defending Bin Laden’s violence

Demonstrating that there is a lot more to this man than merely a cleric.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

NOAA Scientist: Release of Oil Spill Report Done by White House, Not NOAA

by Darrell Issa, Ranking Member, US House

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

A NOAA scientist, Dr. Bill Lehr, yesterday told a group of Congressional staff investigators on a conference call that a controversial National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report claiming that nearly three-quarters of the oil from the Gulf oil spill has already been addressed was released by White House officials and not scientists at NOAA.

The NOAA scientist told congressional investigators that the data backing up the assertions made in the report is still unavailable and that peer review of the report is still not complete. Officials at an August 4 White House press briefing had said that the report had been thoroughly peer reviewed.

“This is yet another in a long line of examples where the White House’s pre-occupation with the public relations of the oil spill has superseded the realities on the ground…


[Return to headlines]

Obama Makes Four Recess Appointments

The most contentious of the appointments is Maria del Carmen Aponte, the administration’s pick for ambassador to El Salvador.


Aponte runs a consulting firm; previously ran the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration; and sat on the boards of the National Council of La Raza, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the University of the District of Columbia.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

We’re Broke. Now What?

Kotlikoff explained why most Americans have been unaware of how bad the situation was. “Based on the Congressional Budget Office’s data, I calculate a fiscal gap of $202 trillion, which is more than 15 times the official debt.”

“This gargantuan discrepancy between our ‘official’ debt and our actual net indebtedness isn’t surprising. It reflects what economists call the labeling problem. Congress has been very careful over the years to label most of its liabilities ‘unofficial’ to keep them off the books and far into the future.”

Well, guess what? The future has arrived and, for a generation or two of Americans, unless the debt is dramatically reduced, they will be little more than slaves of the federal government who exist to pay off all the borrowing and all the imploding social justice programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why is Ground Zero Mosque Connection to Sharia Law Push Being Ignored?

With the shocking report by Christine Brim revealing that the folks involved in planning the Ground Zero Mosque are heading a major push to get Shariah law forced upon the United States, one has to wonder why this startling fact has not become the talk of the town among the Old Media and the chattering classes? One would think that this news would be a final nail the coffin of legitimacy that this GZ Mosque plan ever had.

Brim asked an interesting question about the Ground Zero Mosque building’s actual blueprints. What are the six currently unassigned floors going to be dedicated to? Brim found that nine of the 15 floors seemed to have been assigned to some purpose or another but six have not been identified as going to any particular purpose. As Brim says, that’s an awful lot of empty office space.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

How Winston Churchill Stopped the Nazis

By Klaus Wiegrefe

Some 70 years ago, Hitler’s Wehrmacht was chalking up one victory after the next, but then Winston Churchill stood up to the dictator. Their duel decided World War II. The former British prime minister has been viewed as one of the shining lights of the 20th century ever since. Is the reputation justified?

Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill never met, and who knows how it might have changed the course of history in the 20th century if the Nazi had made a different decision in the spring of 1932.

He was already standing in the lobby of the Grand Hotel Continental in Max Joseph Strasse in Munich, unshaven, exhausted from his election campaign, wearing a shabby trench coat. In another room, Churchill was dining with his family and members of his entourage, waiting for Hitler.

The short, stout Briton, the scion of one of England’s most important families, was already famous. He was a successful journalist and author of bestsellers, and before World War I he had already served as home secretary, president of the board of trade and first lord of the admiralty (head of the navy). During World War I, he was appointed minister of munitions, then secretary of state for war and secretary of state for air. After the war, he became secretary of state for the colonies and, finally, served as chancellor of the Exchequer from 1924 to 1929. The British Isles had not seen someone with such an illustrious career in a long time.

Hitler Showed Little Interest

Of course, Churchill was a member of the opposition at the time. He had come to Munich to conduct research for a new book, and while he was there, he wanted to use the opportunity to meet the notorious Hitler, whose supporters were in the process of destroying the Weimar Republic. Churchill’s son and Hitler’s foreign press agent Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl arranged for the two men to meet over dinner at the Continental, although Hanfstaengl neglected to tell the Churchills that the Fuehrer had shown little interest and had left it open as to whether he would attend.

The evening progressed without Hitler. After the dessert, Hanfstaengl excused himself and hurried to the hotel telephone booth to call the Fuehrer and find out whether he still intended to show up. Suddenly he saw Hitler standing in the lobby. The Nazi had coincidentally met with a benefactor at the Continental.

Hanfstaengl took the Nazi party leader aside and told him that if Churchill saw him now, his failure to appear would be seen as an insult. And then he said: “Mr. Hitler, you should come. It’s truly important.” But the party leader remained obstinate, and said: “Hanfstaengl, you know perfectly well that I have a lot to do at the moment and that we plan to get an early start tomorrow. So — good night.”

Churchill put on a good face over the rejection. Later on, Hanfstaengl sat down at the piano in the hotel’s music room, and they sang Scottish songs together. But even in his memoirs, Churchill writes with regret that Hitler “lost his only chance of meeting me.”

If Hitler had met Churchill in Munich, would he have realized that he was facing a man who was every bit his match? A man who actually enjoyed the war? And who would eventually force Hitler to his knees?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: ‘CDA Party Has One Dissident’

THE HAGUE, 21/08/10 — Among the 21 Christian democratic (CDA) MPs, there is one that is not guaranteeing that he or she will back a coalition of the party with the conservatives (VVD) and Party for Freedom (PVV), Trouw newspaper reported Friday.

“It is no foregone conclusion that the entire CDA parliamentary party will vote for a coalition accord with the VVD that is given ‘tolerance support’ by the PVV. At least one CDA MP has made a reservation for reasons of principle against a coalition that depends on support from the PVV. Other CDA MPs have doubts. As a result, a coalition accord with the VVD and PVV already appears to be wobbly in advance,” according to the newspaper.

The three parties have already been negotiating for two weeks on a minority cabinet of VVD and CDA that would be supported from parliament by the PVV. The VVD-CDA-PVV coalition has a majority of one seat (76) in the 150-seat Lower House.

If one of the members of the parties involved withholds support in voting in the House, a definite majority will disappear, Trouw points out. The newspaper does not mention that the CDA has virtually never voted individually in the past, but always as a group, so that all MPs automatically vote unanimously for the party position.

“The dilemma of the MPs involved is, so they say anonymously, that they themselves can be against this coalition, but that at the congress promised by the party leadership, it can emerge that the members do support the coalition. In that case, they will face the choice of following their own views or the wishes of the party.”

Trouw is known for being strongly anti-PVV. It has lent itself several times as a platform for pamphlets against the party of Geert Wilders. Along with NRC Handelsblad and particularly, De Volkskrant it is among the newspapers that have been suggested since the negotiations between VVD, CDA and PVV began that this was leading to great tensions within the CDA.

De Volkskrant wrote Thursday that the three parties are “at loggerheads” and that “the formation has landed up in troubled waters.” But on the same evening, Ivo Opstelen, who is chairing the negotiations, said that the talks are “at full steam” and “proceeding in a very constructive atmosphere.”

CDA leader Maxime Verhagen sees no dissidents. “The entire parliamentary party — all members — voted unanimously for the conduct of these negotiations. At the same time, it applies to the whole party that the final result will be assessed on its contents,” he stated Friday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

One German Town’s Fight Against CO2 Capture Technology

By Jessica Donath in Beeskow, Germany

The next Chernobyl? A death blow to tourism? Poisoned drinking water? The residents of Beeskow, Germany worry that a planned CO2 storage facility under their town could end in disaster and are fighting the project. Europe, though, hopes the technology will drastically reduce emissions.

The signs are everywhere — on church towers, on fences surrounding private homes and in storefronts. At first glance, the scenes evoke the large-scale protests against nuclear power that rattled Germany in the 1970s and 1980s. The resemblance is no accident. Residents in the quiet town of Beeskow in the eastern German state of Brandenburg are gearing up for a fight. They fear the pollutants that are about to be pumped beneath their homes could become the next Chernobyl.

“A field trial under our community is not acceptable,” says Beeskow Mayor Frank Steffen.

The town’s residents are upset about plans by a German division of Swedish energy giant Vattenfall to build a carbon dioxide (CO2) storage facility in a saline aquifer far beneath Beeskow’s cobblestone roads. The site is one of a handful across Europe where companies and governments want to test a process known as carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that proponents say will massively reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants. Instead of belching the emissions into the sky, CCS technology would capture, liquefy and then pump the CO2 into underground storage sites.

CCS has been hailed by advocates as a way to greatly reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by pollution-heavy industry and help countries achieve their goals for limiting emissions of greenhouse gases in order to slow or stop global warming. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that wide-spread adoption of CCS would be the cheapest way to cut emissions by half by 2050, arguing that the technology could contribute nearly 20 percent of those cuts. Critics, however, note that CCS technologies also require significant amounts of energy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that power plants would need between 11 percent and 40 percent more fuel once CCS technology is installed.

Negative Impact on Tourism

The most vehement critics of CCS, though, have proven to be those living near the planned facilities. “They are experimenting with humans,” says local vacation home owner Mike Kess, the 38-year-old spokesman for a group of residents that formed to combat Vattenfall’s plans. If CO2 leaks from the aquifer, they fear, it could contaminate drinking water — or worse. Residents are also concerned the facility could negatively impact tourism in the economically volatile region. “Who wants to go on vacation in an area with this kind of stigma,” asks Kress?

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet is expected to approve legislation in September that would open the door to greater CCS research at different sites around the country. The bill is the implementation of a 2009 European Union directive establishing the legal framework for the “safe geological storage” of CO2 to contribute to the fight against climate chage.

Under the German bill, tests could be conducted in the country with a maximum total volume of 8 million tons per year, and mass quantities could only be stored after the technology’s “harmlessness has been demonstrated.” The government views CCS as a necessary step to secure the country’s long-term energy supply. Under the bill, each German state would be given greater freedom to issue permits for research at potential CO2 storage sites — in saline aquifiers like the one planned in Beeskow, or in empty oil and gas fields in other parts of the country.

Coal’s Role in Germany’s Energy Mix

“There is no way we can turn off all the coal-fired plants from one day to the next,” says Steven Bretz, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Brandenburg. His party is in the opposition in Brandenburg, the state that surrounds the German capital, but the CDU supports the government in its decision to allow the exploratory work in Beeskow and elsewhere.

Although CDU leaders in the area have promoted renewable energies, they also argue — in contrast to the opposition Green Party — that coal-fired plants must remain an essential part of the energy mix for the foreseeable future. And even if the number of coal plants doesn’t increase dramatically in industrialized countries like Germany, reliance on coal for power is growing massively in emerging economies like China and India. “We have a moral obligation to participate in CO2-reduction on a global level,” Bretz says. He feels the country has a duty to develop technologies for cleaner production of coal-based energy that can create a model for other countries and be exported.

In Beeskow, where permission to commence has already been granted by the state, locals are hoping that the national debate over CCS technology will give them the momentum they need to stop Vattenfall’s plans. Local officials have filed a petition with the state government in the hope of having the permit revoked. Instead, they are proposing that the site be used for a project to explore geothermics, the generation of heat and energy using naturally occurring heat from far below the earth’s surface…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Amil Imani: The Spirit of Israel Lives On

Sixty-two years ago, May 14, 1948, was the rebirth of one of the oldest nations in history, Israel. She is a unique and diverse Jewish state with a young viable democracy, in an unstable region. The circumstances surrounding Israel’s re-birth was anything but simple. Regrettably, Israelâ€(tm)s journey from her early beginning to the present has been fraught with great suffering. It is a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people that they persisted in their valiant struggle to re-gather again in the land of their birth. Some even go as far as saying that Israel’s renaissance — after 2,000 years or so— was nothing short of miraculous…

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]

BBC’s Flotilla Film Slammed as ‘Biased’

LONDON — A BBC documentary screened this week that investigated the Gaza flotilla incident on May 31 is causing a storm of protest — from critics of Israel, who are furious that the program was not as hostile to Israel as they thought it should be.

The critics, including an activist from the Free Gaza movement who was aboard the Mavi Marmara, are organizing demonstrations on Sunday outside the BBC’s London headquarters and other BBC offices, and are calling for a mass campaign of complaints to the BBC in general and the program makers in particular.


Using previously unseen video footage from the IDF and confiscated passenger tapes, mostly recorded by members of a group called Cultures of Resistance, the program concluded that the main aim of the activists had not been to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, but rather to orchestrate a political act designed to put pressure on Israel and the international community.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Competing World Views Tear a “Peace Process” To Pieces

by Barry Rubin

The U.S. announcement inviting Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) for direct talks shows quite clearly, though unintentionally, why the talks will fail.

Special Envoy George Mitchell explains:

“We are all well aware that there remains mistrust between the parties, a residue of hostility developed over many decades of conflict, many previous efforts that have been made to resolve the conflict that had not succeeded, all of which takes a very heavy toll on both societies and their leaders. In addition, we all know that, as with all societies, there are differences of opinion on both sides on how best to proceed, and as a result, this conflict has remained unresolved over many decades and through many efforts. We don’t expect all of those differences to disappear when talks begin. Indeed, we expect that they will be presented, debated, discussed, and that differences are not going to be resolved immediately.”

This is a good explanation that the administration knows how hard it is to bring peace, though it does not jibe well with his saying a few minutes later: “We believe that if those negotiations are conducted seriously and in good faith, they can produce such an agreement within 12 months. And that is our objective.”

Of course, Mitchell is right that the task’s difficulty shouldn’t preclude an attempt to negotiate and that understanding the difficulty is essential to doing a decent job. The one-year thing, though, is nonsense. If negotiations would be conducted seriously an agreement could be reached in a month but there are reasons this has never happened and won’t happen for a long time.

As an analyst not a diplomat, I can point out that the problem is not just “mistrust,” “residue of hostility,” and “differences of opinion,” but rather structural impediments to success. Western media and leaders are all too eager to point out alleged problems on the Israeli side-domestic politics-but never really discuss the same thing on the Palestinian side.

I have pointed out HERE that the problems posed by Israeli politics and public opinion for peacemaking is greatly exaggerated, sometimes due to ignorance and sometimes due to a malicious effort to make things seem Israel’s fault.

What is lacking, as I’ve pointed out HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE, is that there is a huge problem on the Palestinian side. This includes:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

The New World Expansion of Hezbollah

With the recent defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the distinction of being the world’s most sophisticated and globalized terrorist group has passed to the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. Yet many observers reasonably argue that this has always been more innovative and powerful than the LTTE. Moreover, the Tigers were a limited threat to the Western World, but this is not true of Hezbollah.

In the last fifteen years, Hezbollah — both on its own account and as a proxy of Iran — has undergone a rapid expansion beyond the Middle East. Its recent entry into the cocaine trade will make it more dangerous yet, particularly inside North America. The danger it poses must not be underestimated.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

North Korea Attacking U.S. With Fake $100 Bills

State Dept. charges Asian regime with sabotaging American economy

A New Jersey man was shocked when police informed him that the $100 bill he withdrew from his bank to pay taxes earlier this month was a masterfully made counterfeit.

What the man may not have realized is that the State Department has confirmed a rash of these almost undetectable counterfeits, called “supernotes,” have been flooding the U.S. from North Korea in a form of monetary sabotage one former FBI agent warns could constitute an act of war.

The existence of the supernotes was exposed in 2008, when several Chinese men were convicted of smuggling tens of millions of dollars worth of the counterfeit money into the U.S.

Originally, the supernotes fooled even state currency experts.

“It wasn’t until they took [a] bill back to Washington, D.C., and they examined it in the labs of the Secret Service … that they determined that in fact it was a supernote,” author and former FBI agent Bob Hamer explained to the Christian Broadcasting Network. “It’s a near-perfect replica of our $100 bill.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

China Channeling Money Through Chavez to Drug Cartels

‘Washington continues to ignore, misapprehend, or minimize threat’

China may be helping to bankroll plans by Venezuela’s leftist leader to back drug cartels and a terrorist group as they extend their influence into U.S. cities, and U.S. officials are remaining virtually silent about it, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The silence is attributed largely to an effort to prevent Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez from cutting off oil exports to the U.S., on which the American relies for a third of its daily consumption.

In an analysis entitled “Chavez and China: Challenging U.S. Interests,” the American Enterprise Institute, or AEI, has concluded that Chavez is relying heavily on money from China that is investing freely in Venezuela’s oil industry, “filling a void as Chavez muscles out U.S. and even local expertise.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama to Re-Clintonize Cuba Policy

“The Obama administration is planning to expand opportunities for Americans to travel to Cuba.,” reports the New York Times this week. “The (Obama) policy…is meant to loosen restrictions on academic, religious and cultural groups that were adopted under President George Bush and return to the “people to people” policies followed under President Bill Clinton…Those policies, officials said, fostered robust exchanges between the United States and Cuba, allowing groups … to share expertise as well as life experiences.”

In fact, these groups shared much more than “life experiences.” The New York Times is much; too bashful in detailing just how “robust” these exchanges with Cuba had gotten during the Clinton administration.

No mention by the NY Times, for instance, that the deepest and most damaging penetration of the U.S. Defense Department by an enemy agent resulted precisely from all that “sharing” by the Clinton administration with Stalinist Cuba, a regime Obama’s very State Department lists as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Schizophrenia by any other name.


Clinton Defense Department’s Ana Belen Montes passed some of our most sensitive information about Cuba back to Havana

Thus pampered, promoted and honored under Clinton, Montes today serves a 25 year prison sentence for “Conspiracy to Commit Espionage.” On September 20th 2001, (under Bush) Ms Montes was arrested by the FBI as a Castro spy and accused of the same crime as Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. After conviction, only a plea bargain allowed the Clinton Administration’s top “Cuba Expert” to escape the fate of the Rosenbergs.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Utah Memorial Crosses Along Highway

The 14 crosses erected along Utah roads to commemorate fallen state Highway Patrol troopers convey a state preference for Christianity and are a violation of the U.S. Constitution, a federal appeals court said Wednesday.

The ruling reverses a 2007 decision by a federal district judge that said the crosses communicate a secular message about deaths and were not a public endorsement of religion. It’s the latest in a recent rash of mixed-bag rulings on the public use of crosses.

A three-judge panel from Denver’s 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in its 38-page ruling that a “reasonable observer” would conclude that the state and the Utah Highway Patrol were endorsing Christianity with the cross memorials.


The 12-foot high white crosses with 6-foot horizontal crossbars are affixed with the patrol’s beehive logo and a biography of the deceased trooper.

First erected in 1998, monuments were paid for with private funds and erected only with the permission of the troopers’ families. Nearly all of the 14 crosses are on public land.

Two men behind the cross project have said they selected crosses for the memorials because the image of a cross can simultaneously convey a message of death, remembrance, honor, gratitude and sacrifice.

In 2006, the Utah Legislature passed a joint resolution declaring the cross a nonreligious secular symbol of death.

But American Atheists, Inc., the Texas-based group that sued to have the crosses removed from state property, argued that the crosses could imply that the trooper who died there was a Christian…

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