Wednesday, December 17, 2008
What’s the worst that could happen?
That’s a question that James Rickards spends a lot of time pondering these days, as he sifts through the national security implications of the financial crisis facing the United States.
Rickards will lay out his worst case scenarios in a lecture sponsored by the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy tonight. And his forecasts aren’t for the faint of heart.
Rickards calls it the “A to Z” problem: What are the threats that could make the U.S. economy look less like America and more like Zimbabwe? He sees them everywhere – in the Chinese ownership of vast amounts of American debt, in Russia’s increased centralization of its economy, in Al Qaeda’s long-established fascination with damaging the U.S. economy.
In many ways, Rickards is the ultimate bear. He’s not just thinking about whether the stock market will decline, but whether or not the stock market will survive.
All that puts Rickards decidedly outside mainstream economic and political thinking in America. But he does have an influential audience: the United States intelligence and defense communities.
Rickards is a regular adviser on financial issues to the director of national intelligence's office, and he lends his financial advice to the national security community.
His lecture comes as part of an annual “Rethinking Seminar” produced by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Rickards argues that government is not doing nearly enough to prepare for the worst. “Here’s the policy problem for the United States,” he said in an interview. “We have experts in defense and intelligence, and huge depth in capital markets experience at the Fed and at Treasury. But they’re separated by the Potomac River. And they’re not talking to each other.”
Rickards came by his economic experience the hard way. He was the general counsel at Long Term Capital Management, the hedge fund that collapsed in spectacular fashion in the late 1990s and nearly took the global economy along with it. That near-economic death experience gave him a healthy appreciation for risk. Today, he’s the senior managing director for research at Omnis, an applied research firm.
Four of the scenarios keep him up at night:
The Bait Effect
Terrorists, and al Qaeda in particular, are fascinated with the idea of destroying the U.S. economy. Rickards worries that the economic meltdown in the United States could serve as bait of sorts for a terrorist attack, as plotters calculate that a strike now could have a “force multiplier” effect because of the already skittish U.S. stock market.
The China Syndrome
The Chinese own more than $500 billion worth of U.S. Treasury bonds, and billons more in the debt of other U.S. entities such as those held by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. And a general sense of mutually assured financial destruction keeps them from wielding that debt like a weapon: if the Chinese dumped U.S. debt on the global market, their own holdings of U.S. debt would decline in value, the U.S. economy would be damaged, ultimately harming the Chinese economy by reducing American ability to buy more Chinese goods.
They’d have to be crazy to try it. But Rickards points out that governments don’t always do the rational thing. And in the meantime, their holdings give the Chinese incredible power over American decision making.
“It gives the Chinese de facto veto power over certain U.S. interest rate and exchange rate decisions,” Rickards explained. “For example, there’s a limit to how much dollar depreciation the Chinese would tolerate.”
That potentially closes off one American economic strategy: allowing the dollar to decline in value in order to help boost U.S. exporters. And China’s leverage is only growing as each federal bailout adds to the U.S. deficit.
The Existential Crash
A pessimist by nature, Rickards believes that many economic forecasters are wrong, and the recession will get far worse than predicted.
He sees an epic disaster scenario in which the U.S. gross domestic product declines by a staggering 35 percent over the next six to seven years. Crippling deflation could take hold. Unemployment, he says, could approach 15 percent.
That’s a calamitous rate, but it would not be an all-time high: unemployment hit 25 percent during the Great Depression.
“The national security community needs to be conversant with this,” Rickards said. “In defense, intelligence, and national security, you earn your money by preparing for things that may be remote, but pose an existential threat if they come to pass.”
In this scenario, the possibilities for global unrest increase dramatically as a staggering United States retreats from foreign aid and global diplomacy and the list of dangerous failed states grows sharply.
The Alternate-Dollar Nightmare
“The Number One vulnerability is the dollar itself,” Rickards concluded. “We’re printing them and shoving them out the door, and the Fed is basically out of bullets. So why hasn’t the dollar collapsed? The short answer is, global investors don’t have any other choice.” That is, there simply aren’t enough Euro- or Yen-backed securities for investors to shift their money out of dollars and into some other currency.
But what if some kind of global coalition – say a trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund allied with several countries around the world – banded together to create a gold-backed alternative to the dollar?
Rickards says investors – many of whom already resent that they have no alternative to the dollar – would sell American currency in huge numbers to take advantage of the new opportunity. “If that happens, that’s the end of the dollar,” Rickards said. “You’d have high unemployment, deflation, and interest rates would go up. It would take what already looks like a strong recession and make it a Great Depression or worse.”
Still, even Rickards sees a silver lining to all this. He looks around the world to the problems facing other countries such as Russia, China, Iran, and those in the Middle East.
“There are vulnerabilities for the United States, but also opportunities,” he said. “I’d rather be the United States than any of these other countries.”
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
It's quite unsettling to talk to members of Barack Obama's transition teams these days, especially those who are helping with the economics portfolio. Without going into details, the sense I get from them is that they are very worried that the economy will get a lot worse before it gets better. Not just worse... a lot worse. As in -- double digit unemployment without the wiggle factors. Huge declines in aggregate demand. Significant, persistent deficits. That's one reason why the Obama administration seems to be open to listening to every economist with an idea and is stocking the staff with the leading lights of the field. In one sense, the general level of concern among Obama advisers and transition staffers is reassuring; they get the magnitude of the problems, and they're not going to assume that, just because the bottom has never dropped out before -- certainly not in the lifetimes of most people doing policy these days, the bottom will never drop out.
Where the discussion isn't going, at least in public, (or the PR level), is the possibility that the first foreign policy crisis the administration will face will be the complete economic collapse of a large, unstable nation. To be sure, Pakistan is nearly broke, and U.S. policy makers seem to be aware of that; but a worldwide demand crisis could lead to social unrest in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, Singapore, the Ukraine, Japan, Turkey or Egypt (which is facing an internal political crisis of epic proportions already). The U.S. won't have the resources to, say, engineer the rescue of the peso again, or intervene in Asia as in 1997.
The public rhetoric from Team Obama seems to treat history as having ended in early October, which is understandable; the priority right now is on the liquidity crisis, the structure of government and the peopling of the administration and the domestic economy. Most of the administration's major policy voices don't have the luxury of time to game out scenarios. Now -- it can fairly be said that Treasury nominee Tim Geithner, himself an assistant secretary for international economic affairs during the Clinton administration, is aware of the precarious state demand in certain critical countries, as is Larry Summers. The question: what's the administration's policy in this area? Which countries can we afford to let fail? Which unstable states would concern us the most? Is there something the U.S. can do, in advance, should do, in advance, to forestall the collapse of other economies?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
this is really the first abundant exposure i've had to Peter Schiff, but this above video really made me investigate his analysis. the video above contains footage from '06 and '07 and it is just amazing how spot on he is.
so, after seeing this, we have been provided the following analysis about what the obama administration will bring to the table and the overall outlook for the next 4 years.
i'm pretty sure that his fundamentals sound right - and the scoffers sure don't seem to have a very good track record at this point.
This Saturday, November 29, will mark the 61st anniversary of the adoption of a UN resolution calling for the partition of the portion of the British mandate that is west of the Jordan River into a Jewish and a 'Palestinian' state. The Jews accepted the resolution; the Arabs rejected it. As a result, the State of Israel was born nearly six months later and was immediately attacked by five Arab armies.
The day is mourned by the United Nations each year as a day of solidarity with the 'Palestinian people.' This year, the festivities are starting early. On Monday, the chairman of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, called Israel an 'apartheid state' and called on UN member nations to destroy it the way the apartheid state of South Africa was destroyed 20 years ago (Hat Tip: Red Tulips).
Brockmann made the apartheid allegation twice in one day, once in the morning at the annual meeting of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and again in the General Assembly in the afternoon. In his words:
"I spoke this morning about apartheid and how Israeli policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories appear so similar to the apartheid of an earlier era, a continent away. I believe it is very important that we in the United Nations use this term. We must not be afraid to call something what it is. It is the United Nations, after all, that passed the International Convention against the Crime of Apartheid, making clear to all the world that such practices of official discrimination must be outlawed wherever they occur."
Bayefsky notes: "His remarks are especially offensive since the facts indicate the complete reverse. One-fifth of Israel's population is Arab with more democratic rights than in any Arab state. Arab states have been essentially rendered Judenrein since the creation of Israel. UN resolutions denounce Jews living in Arab-claimed territory as "Judaization," and no mention is ever made of "apartheid Palestine."""Brockmann's call," said Bayefsky, "was in effect, a call for the political destruction of Israel by means of the same strategy adopted against apartheid South Africa."
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Al-Qaeda No. 2 Calls Obama Dishonorable 'House Negro'
Mitt Romney is spot on:
IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye. It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.
Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.
I love cars, American cars. I was born in Detroit, the son of an auto chief executive. In 1954, my dad, George Romney, was tapped to run American Motors when its president suddenly died. The company itself was on life support — banks were threatening to deal it a death blow. The stock collapsed. I watched Dad work to turn the company around — and years later at business school, they were still talking about it. From the lessons of that turnaround, and from my own experiences, I have several prescriptions for Detroit’s automakers.
First, their huge disadvantage in costs relative to foreign brands must be eliminated. That means new labor agreements to align pay and benefits to match those of workers at competitors like BMW, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Furthermore, retiree benefits must be reduced so that the total burden per auto for domestic makers is not higher than that of foreign producers.
That extra burden is estimated to be more than $2,000 per car. Think what that means: Ford, for example, needs to cut $2,000 worth of features and quality out of its Taurus to compete with Toyota’s Avalon. Of course the Avalon feels like a better product — it has $2,000 more put into it. Considering this disadvantage, Detroit has done a remarkable job of designing and engineering its cars. But if this cost penalty persists, any bailout will only delay the inevitable.
Second, management as is must go. New faces should be recruited from unrelated industries — from companies widely respected for excellence in marketing, innovation, creativity and labor relations.
The new management must work with labor leaders to see that the enmity between labor and management comes to an end. This division is a holdover from the early years of the last century, when unions brought workers job security and better wages and benefits. But as Walter Reuther, the former head of the United Automobile Workers, said to my father, “Getting more and more pay for less and less work is a dead-end street.”
You don’t have to look far for industries with unions that went down that road. Companies in the 21st century cannot perpetuate the destructive labor relations of the 20th. This will mean a new direction for the U.A.W., profit sharing or stock grants to all employees and a change in Big Three management culture.
The need for collaboration will mean accepting sanity in salaries and perks. At American Motors, my dad cut his pay and that of his executive team, he bought stock in the company, and he went out to factories to talk to workers directly. Get rid of the planes, the executive dining rooms — all the symbols that breed resentment among the hundreds of thousands who will also be sacrificing to keep the companies afloat.
Investments must be made for the future. No more focus on quarterly earnings or the kind of short-term stock appreciation that means quick riches for executives with options. Manage with an eye on cash flow, balance sheets and long-term appreciation. Invest in truly competitive products and innovative technologies — especially fuel-saving designs — that may not arrive for years. Starving research and development is like eating the seed corn.
Just as important to the future of American carmakers is the sales force. When sales are down, you don’t want to lose the only people who can get them to grow. So don’t fire the best dealers, and don’t crush them with new financial or performance demands they can’t meet.
It is not wrong to ask for government help, but the automakers should come up with a win-win proposition. I believe the federal government should invest substantially more in basic research — on new energy sources, fuel-economy technology, materials science and the like — that will ultimately benefit the automotive industry, along with many others. I believe Washington should raise energy research spending to $20 billion a year, from the $4 billion that is spent today. The research could be done at universities, at research labs and even through public-private collaboration. The federal government should also rectify the imbedded tax penalties that favor foreign carmakers.
But don’t ask Washington to give shareholders and bondholders a free pass — they bet on management and they lost.
The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.
In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
The world has never seen such freezing heat
A surreal scientific blunder last week raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming. On Monday, Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record.
This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its "worst snowstorm ever". In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.
So what explained the anomaly? GISS's computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.
The error was so glaring that when it was reported on the two blogs - run by the US meteorologist Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre, the Canadian computer analyst who won fame for his expert debunking of the notorious "hockey stick" graph - GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new "hotspot" in the Arctic - in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year.
A GISS spokesman lamely explained that the reason for the error in the Russian figures was that they were obtained from another body, and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with. This is an astonishing admission: the figures published by Dr Hansen's institute are not only one of the four data sets that the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relies on to promote its case for global warming, but they are the most widely quoted, since they consistently show higher temperatures than the others.
If there is one scientist more responsible than any other for the alarm over global warming it is Dr Hansen, who set the whole scare in train back in 1988 with his testimony to a US Senate committee chaired by Al Gore. Again and again, Dr Hansen has been to the fore in making extreme claims over the dangers of climate change. (He was recently in the news here for supporting the Greenpeace activists acquitted of criminally damaging a coal-fired power station in Kent, on the grounds that the harm done to the planet by a new power station would far outweigh any damage they had done themselves.)
Yet last week's latest episode is far from the first time Dr Hansen's methodology has been called in question. In 2007 he was forced by Mr Watts and Mr McIntyre to revise his published figures for US surface temperatures, to show that the hottest decade of the 20th century was not the 1990s, as he had claimed, but the 1930s.
Another of his close allies is Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, who recently startled a university audience in Australia by claiming that global temperatures have recently been rising "very much faster" than ever, in front of a graph showing them rising sharply in the past decade. In fact, as many of his audience were aware, they have not been rising in recent years and since 2007 have dropped.
Dr Pachauri, a former railway engineer with no qualifications in climate science, may believe what Dr Hansen tells him. But whether, on the basis of such evidence, it is wise for the world's governments to embark on some of the most costly economic measures ever proposed, to remedy a problem which may actually not exist, is a question which should give us all pause for thought.
Zogby Poll: Almost No Obama Voters Ace Election Test
Survey finds most Obama voters remembered negative coverage of McCain/Palin statements but struggled to correctly answer questions about coverage associated with Obama/Biden
UTICA, New York -- Just 2% of voters who supported Barack Obama on Election Day obtained perfect or near-perfect scores on a post election test which gauged their knowledge of statements and scandals associated with the presidential tickets during the campaign, a new Zogby International telephone poll shows.
The 12-question, multiple-choice survey found questions regarding statements linked to Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his vice-presidential running-mate Sarah Palin were far more likely to be answered correctly by Obama voters than questions about statements associated with Obama and Vice-President–Elect Joe Biden. The telephone survey of 512 Obama voters nationwide was conducted Nov. 13-15, 2008, and carries a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points. The survey was commissioned by John Ziegler, author of The Death of Free Speech, producer of the recently released film "Blocking the Path to 9/11" and producer of the upcoming documentary film, Media Malpractice...How Obama Got Elected.
"After I interviewed Obama voters on Election Day for my documentary, I had a pretty low opinion of what most of them had picked up from the media coverage of the campaign, but this poll really proves beyond any doubt the stunning level of malpractice on the part of the media in not educating the Obama portion of the voting populace," said Ziegler.
Ninety-four percent of Obama voters correctly identified Palin as the candidate with a pregnant teenage daughter, 86% correctly identified Palin as the candidate associated with a $150,000 wardrobe purchased by her political party, and 81% chose McCain as the candidate who was unable to identify the number of houses he owned. When asked which candidate said they could "see Russia from their house," 87% chose Palin, although the quote actually is attributed to Saturday Night Live's Tina Fey during her portrayal of Palin during the campaign. An answer of "none" or "Palin" was counted as a correct answer on the test, given that the statement was associated with a characterization of Palin.
Obama voters did not fare nearly as well overall when asked to answer questions about statements or stories associated with Obama or Biden -- 83% failed to correctly answer that Obama had won his first election by getting all of his opponents removed from the ballot, and 88% did not correctly associate Obama with his statement that his energy policies would likely bankrupt the coal industry. Most (56%) were also not able to correctly answer that Obama started his political career at the home of two former members of the Weather Underground.
Nearly three quarters (72%) of Obama voters did not correctly identify Biden as the candidate who had to quit a previous campaign for President because he was found to have plagiarized a speech, and nearly half (47%) did not know that Biden was the one who predicted Obama would be tested by a generated international crisis during his first six months as President.
In addition to questions regarding statements and scandals associated with the campaigns, the 12-question, multiple-choice survey also included a question asking which political party controlled both houses of Congress leading up to the election -- 57% of Obama voters were unable to correctly answer that Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate.
DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report that US president-elect Barack Obama, European and Russian heads of state in Washington for the G20 conference over the weekend were briefed about a probable early al Qaeda attack.
Obama and his team have been advised that a new al Qaeda strike is highly probable in the United States or against a key US target in Europe, North Africa or the Middle East.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly 372 of Nov. 14 disclosed that al Qaeda’s Yemen base, a reliable barometer for Osama bin Laden’s schemes, issued a Directive to All Fighters in Arabia on Nov. 9 presaging a major operation in the United States that will “change the political and economic world” and be “far bigger than 9/11.”
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The notice said “the operation is very near” and “precise instructions were in the hands of “the fighters, who are already on their way to America” armed with bin Laden’s orders. The pretext offered for the attack is the rejection by the US and Europe of al Qaeda’s four-year old truce offer whose original pre-condition was the withdrawal of their armies from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The day after the new president’s election, al Qaeda issued a little-noticed statement declaring Barack Obama a murtad, i.e. an apostate whose betrayal of Islam is judged the most heinous. Believers have the duty to execute a murtad unlike other non-believers whose death sentence is optional.
Thursday night, Nov. 14, Central Intelligence Director Gen. Michael Hayden said: “Al Qaeda, operating from its safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal areas, remains the most clear and present danger to the United States.” He was addressing a Washington think-tank.
“Today, virtually every major terrorist threat that my agency is aware of has threads back to the tribal areas. Whether it is command and control, training, direction, money, capabilities, there is a connection to the FATA (Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.)”
Hayden also mentioned Yemen and Somalia as important al Qaeda theaters of operation.
In private, most heads of the intelligence agencies fighting al Qaeda admit that an attack on the United States or major American interest outside is only a matter of time.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
'Why Believe in a God?' Ad Campaign Launches on D.C. Buses
WASHINGTON, D.C. — You better watch out. There is a new combatant in the Christmas wars.
Ads proclaiming, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," will appear on Washington, D.C., buses starting next week and running through December. The American Humanist Association unveiled the provocative $40,000 holiday ad campaign Tuesday.
In lifting lyrics from "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," the Washington-based group is wading into what has become a perennial debate over commercialism, religion in the public square and the meaning of Christmas.
"We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you," said Fred Edwords, spokesman for the humanist group. "Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion."
To that end, the ads and posters will include a link to a Web site that will seek to connect and organize like-minded thinkers in the D.C. area, Edwords said.
Edwords said the purpose isn't to argue that God doesn't exist or change minds about a deity, although "we are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people's minds."
The group defines humanism as "a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity."
Last month, the British Humanist Association caused a ruckus announcing a similar campaign on London buses with the message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
In Washington, the humanists' campaign comes as conservative Christian groups gear up their efforts to keep Christ in Christmas. In the past five years, groups such as the American Family Association and the Catholic League have criticized or threatened boycotts of retailers who use generic "holiday" greetings.
In mid-October, the American Family Association started selling buttons that say "It's OK to say Merry Christmas." The humanists' entry into the marketplace of ideas did not impress AFA president Tim Wildmon.
"It's a stupid ad," he said. "How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world."
Also on Tuesday, the Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group, launched its sixth annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign." Liberty Counsel has intervened in disputes over nativity scenes and government bans on Christmas decorations, among other things.
"It's the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ," said Mathew Staver, the group's chairman and dean of the Liberty University School of Law. "Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want but this is insulting."
Best-selling books by authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have fueled interest in "the new atheism" — a more in-your-face argument against God's existence.
Yet few Americans describe themselves as atheist or agnostic; a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll from earlier this year found 92 percent of Americans believe in God.
There was no debate at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority over whether to take the ad. Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said the agency accepts ads that aren't obscene or pornographic.
People threw fliers, shouted slogans at Delta Township church
DELTA TWP. - A radical gay rights group is claiming responsibility for a protest Sunday at Mount Hope Church in Delta Township.
Protesters who entered the Creyts Road church along with worshippers surprised the congregation when they stood up during the service, threw fliers at churchgoers and shouted slogans such as "It's OK to be gay," and "Jesus was a homo," according to David Williams, communications director at the church. His father, Dave Williams, is the church's longtime pastor. He was not preaching at the church Sunday.
Another group of protesters demonstrated outside the church at the same time as the indoor protest.
The Eaton County Sheriff's Department responded to the scene Sunday but no arrests were made.
In a released statement, David Williams said churchgoers were unclear as to the purpose of the demonstration.
A Lansing group affiliated with a radical gay organization known as Bash Back, formed to protest the Republican and Democratic national conventions earlier this year, put out a call on the Internet on Oct. 7 for activists to come to a "radical queer convergence" in Lansing on Nov. 7-9.
A posting on its MySpace page declared the convergence a "fierce success."
Fire alarm pulled
According to a report on the Bash Back group's news site, protesters inside the church pulled a fire alarm, unfurled a banner from the church balcony, shouted and threw fliers to the worshippers.
Outside the church, protesters carried picket signs and an upside-down, pink cross.
The conservative RightMichigan Web site posted an account of the incident Monday, and a number of conservative bloggers had picked up on the item by Tuesday.
Williams said the church had received 80 to 85 e-mails and phone calls by Tuesday, "from churches and individuals around the country to express their concern and general disgust for what happened on Sunday."
Nick De Leeuw of RightMichigan said he got his account of the incident from a church member who was there.
However, he said, the photo along with his report - of protesters dressed in black with their faces covered by pink, Middle-Eastern style headcoverings - was not from the protest at the church but from an earlier Bash Back protest elsewhere.
No arrests made
Mount Hope Church, affiliated with the Assemblies of God denomination, teaches followers that homosexuality is a sin.
However, "Mount Hope Church strives to follow Jesus' example of loving the sinner but not the sin," Williams said.
The Eaton County Sheriff's Department got a call regarding the protest at about noon Sunday, said Lt. Jeff Warder.
Warder said protesters outside the church left peacefully when someone from the team of pastors came outside and told them they were not welcome on church property.
Warder said deputies did not handle the protest inside the building.
No arrests were made.
In New York City on Tuesday, the conservative Catholic League said it would ask Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox to investigate the protest.
Typically, the sheriff's investigation would be turned over to the county prosecutor if the sheriff felt charges were warranted, said Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the attorney general's office. He said it would be rare for the attorney general's office to get involved in such a case.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Obama’s Road to Damascus
By John PerazzoFrontPageMagazine.com Tuesday, November 11, 2008
History will record that Barack Obama’s first act of diplomacy as America’s president-elect took place two days after his election victory, when he dispatched his senior foreign-policy adviser, Robert Malley, to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—to outline for them the forthcoming administration’s Mideast policy vis-à-vis those nations. An aide to Malley reports, “The tenor of the messages was that the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests” than has President Bush. The Bush administration, it should be noted, has rightly recognized Syria to be not only a chief supporter of the al Qaeda insurgency in Iraq, but also the headquarters of the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the longtime sponsor of Hamas—the terrorist army whose founding charter is irrevocably committed to the annihilation of Israel. Yet unlike President Bush, Obama and Malley have called for Israel to engage in peace negotiations with Syria.
A Harvard-trained lawyer and Rhodes Scholar, Robert Malley is no newcomer to the Obama team. In 2007, Obama selected him as a foreign policy adviser to his campaign. At the time, Malley was (and still is today) the Middle East and North Africa Program Director for the International Crisis Group (ICG), which receives funding from the Open Society Institute of George Soros (who, incidentally, serves on the ICG Executive Committee).
In his capacity with ICG, Malley directs a number of analysts who focus their attention most heavily on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the political and military developments in Iraq, and Islamist movements across the Middle East. Prior to joining ICG, Malley served as President Bill Clinton’s Special Assistant for Arab-Israeli Affairs (1998-2001), and as National Security Adviser Sandy Berger’s Executive Assistant (1996-1998).
Robert Malley was raised in France. His lineage is noteworthy. His father, Simon Malley (1923-2006), was a key figure in the Egyptian Communist Party. A passionate hater of Israel, the elder Malley was a close friend and confidante of the late PLO terrorist Yasser Arafat; an inveterate critic of “Western imperialism”; a supporter of various revolutionary “liberation movements,” particularly the Palestinian cause; a beneficiary of Soviet funding; and a supporter of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. According to American Thinker news editor Ed Lasky, Simon Malley “participated in the wave of anti-imperialist and nationalist ideology that was sweeping the Third World [and] … wrote thousands of words in support of struggle against Western nations.”
In a July 2001 op-ed which Malley penned for the New York Times, he alleged that Israeli—not Palestinian—inflexibility had caused the previous year’s Camp David peace talks (brokered by Bill Clinton) to fall apart. This was one of several controversial articles Malley has written—some he co-authored with Hussein Agha, a former adviser to Arafat—blaming Israel and exonerating Arafat (the most prolific Jew-killer since Adolph Hitler) for the failure of the peace process.
Malley’s identification of Israel as the cause of the Camp David impasse has been widely embraced by Palestinian and Arab activists around the world, by Holocaust deniers like Norman Finkelstein, and by anti-Israel publications such as Counterpunch. It should be noted that Malley’s account of the Camp David negotiations is entirely inconsistent with the recollections of the key figures who participated in those talks—specifically, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton, and then-U.S. Ambassador Dennis Ross (Clinton’s Middle East envoy).
Malley also has written numerous op-eds urging the U.S. to disengage from Israel to some degree, and recommending that America reach out to negotiate with its traditional Arab enemies such as Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah (a creature of Iran dedicated to the extermination of the Jews and death to America), and Muqtada al-Sadr (the Shiite terrorist leader in Iraq). In addition, Malley has advised nations around the world to establish relationships with, and to send financial aid to, the Hamas-led Palestinian government in Gaza. In Malley’s calculus, the electoral victory that swept Hamas into power in January 2006 was a manifestation of legitimate Palestinian “anger at years of humiliation and loss of self-respect because of Israeli settlement expansion, Arafat’s imprisonment, Israel’s incursions, [and] Western lecturing …”
Moreover, Malley contends that it is both unreasonable and unrealistic for Israel or Western nations to demand that Syria sever its ties with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or Iran. Rather, he suggests that if Israel were to return the Golan Heights (which it captured in the 1967 Six Day War, and again in the 1973 Yom Kippur War—two conflicts sparked by Arab aggression which sought so permanently wipe the Jewish state off the face of the earth) to Syrian control, Damascus would be inclined to pursue peace with Israel.
Malley has criticized the U.S. for allegedly remaining “on the sidelines” and being a “no-show” in the overall effort to bring peace to the nations of the Middle East. Exhorting the Bush administration to change its policy of refusing to engage diplomatically with terrorists and their sponsoring states, Malley wrote in July 2006: “Today the U.S. does not talk to Iran, Syria, Hamas, the elected Palestinian government or Hezbollah…. The result has been a policy with all the appeal of a moral principle and all the effectiveness of a tired harangue.”
This inclination to negotiate with any and all enemies of the U.S. and Israel—an impulse which Malley has outlined clearly and consistently—has had a powerful influence on Barack Obama.
It is notable that six months ago the Obama campaign and Malley hastily severed ties with one another after the Times of London reported that Malley had been meeting privately with Hamas leaders on a regular basis—something Obama had publicly pledged never to do. At the time, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt minimized the significance of this monumentally embarrassing revelation, saying: “Rob Malley has, like hundreds of other experts, provided informal advice to the campaign in the past. He has no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future.”
But indeed, within hours after Obama’s election victory, Malley was back as a key player in the president-elect’s team of advisors—on his way to Syria. Mr. Obama, meanwhile, received a most friendly communication from Hamas, congratulating him on his “historic victory.”
A senior Vienna-based diplomat reported Monday, Nov. 10, that the latest findings are significant enough for the nuclear watchdog to place Syria right after North Korea and Iran on its agenda for further investigation. Last June, UN inspectors collected the soil samples which yielded the uranium traces from al Kibar in northern Syria, where a nuclear reactor under construction was razed by Israel in Sept. 2007.
DEBKAfile’s sources report that even if the uranium traces found at bombed site were slight, they are damning because they were clearly man-made – not natural ore - and must have been brought in by an outside source, possibly North Korean visitors. These outsiders would have had only one reason to be there: to assist in the construction of a nuclear facility for Syria and inspect the work in progress.
The IAEA’s conclusion refutes claims by Damascus, including president Bashar Assad, that the installation at Al Kibar was an agricultural research station. Syria has denied allegations that it was building a reactor with North Korean expertise to produce plutonium for an atom bomb.
Soon after the Israeli bombing, DEBKAfile disclosed that the reactor was destined to manufacture nuclear fuel to help Iran accelerate its enrichment program and plutonium for radioactive bombs.
On Oct. 4, we revealed that, a year after the Syrian reactor was destroyed, Syria had gone back to its military nuclear projects in conjunction with North Korea and Iran. This time they were scattered across the country at three or four sites.
Syria has ignored recent requests from the IAEA to inspect three military sites suspected of housing nuclear facilities. Although Damascus is alleged to be manufacturing weapons of mass destruction for use against Israel, transitional prime minister Ehud Olmert persists in pushing for peace talks with the Syrian regime and far-reaching territorial concessions by Israel.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Planning under way for Obama holiday
Published Sunday, November 09, 2008
Plans are being made to promote a national holiday for Barack Obama, who will become the nation's 44th president when he takes the oath of office Jan. 20.
"Yes We Can" planning rallies will be at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. every Tuesday at the downtown McDonald's restaurant, 1100 Kansas Ave., until Jan. 13. The goals are to secure a national holiday in Obama's honor, to organize celebrations around his inauguration and to celebrate the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, who was born on Feb. 12 1809.
At 7:30 a.m. on Inauguration Day, Obama Cake will be served at the downtown McDonald's, and a celebration is scheduled for 8 p.m. to midnight Jan. 20 at the Ramada Hotel and Convention Center, 420 S.E. 6th.
For more information, contact Sonny Scroggins, (785) 232-3761, 845-6148 or at firstname.lastname@example.org; Lamont Lassiter, McDonald's general manager, 608-2739; Ava Chander-Beard, (785) 234-9138, email@example.com; or Rhoda Carr, (785) 220-5883.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
The politically clever way to get special privileges is to call them "rights"— especially "equal rights."
Some local election campaigns in various states are using that tactic this year, trying to get special privileges through affirmative action quotas or through demands that the definition of marriage be changed to suit homosexuals.
Equality of rights does not mean equality of results. I can have all the equal treatment in the world on a golf course and I will not finish within shouting distance of Tiger Woods.
When arbitrary numerical "goals" or "quotas" under affirmative action are not met, the burden of proof is put on the employer to prove that he did not discriminate against minorities or women. No burden of proof whatever is put on the advocates of "goals" or "quotas" to show that people would be equally represented in jobs, colleges or anywhere else in the absence of discrimination.
Tons of evidence from countries around the world, and over centuries of history, show that statistical disparities are the rule, not the exception— even in situations where discrimination is virtually impossible.
Anonymously graded tests do not show the same results from one group to another. In many countries there are minorities who completely outperform members of the majority population, whether in education, in the economy or in sports, even when there is no way that they can discriminate against the majority.
Putting the burden of proof on everybody except yourself is a slick political ploy. The time is long overdue for the voting public to see through it.
Another fraud on the ballot this year is gay "marriage."
Marriage has existed for centuries and, until recent times, it has always meant a union between a man and a woman. Over those centuries, a vast array of laws has grown up, all based on circumstances that arise in unions between a man and a woman.
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that law has not been based on logic but on experience. To apply a mountain of laws based specifically on experience with relations between a man and a woman to a different relationship where sex differences are not involved would be like applying the rules of baseball to football.
The argument that current marriage laws "discriminate" against homosexuals confuses discrimination against people with making distinctions among different kinds of behavior.
All laws distinguish among different kinds of behavior. What other purpose does law have?
While people may be treated the same, all their behaviors are not. Laws that forbid bicycles from being ridden on freeways obviously have a different effect on people who have bicycles but no cars.
But this is not discrimination against a person. The cyclist who gets into a car is just as free to drive on the freeway as anybody else.
The question is not whether gays should be permitted to marry. Many gays have already married people of the opposite sex. Conversely, heterosexuals who might want to marry someone of the same sex in order to make some point will be forbidden to do so, just as gays are.
The real issue is whether marriage should be redefined— and, if for gays, why not for polygamists? Why not for pedophiles?
Despite heavy television advertising in California for "gay marriage," showing blacks being set upon by police dogs during civil right marches, and implying that homosexuals face the same discrimination today, the analogy is completely false.
Blacks had to sit in the back of the bus because they were black. They were doing exactly what white people were doing— riding a bus. That is what made it racial discrimination.
Marriage is not a right but a set of legal obligations imposed because the government has a vested interest in unions that, among other things, have the potential to produce children, which is to say, the future population of the nation.
Gays were on their strongest ground when they said that what they did was nobody else's business. Now they are asserting a right to other people's approval, which is wholly different.
None of us has a right to other people's approval.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Report: Obama voiced support for Palestinians' right to Jerusalem
Obama campaign denies report by Lebanese newspaper saying Democratic presidential hopeful told Abbas, Fayyad he would support their right to stable sovereign state
11.04.08, 11:59 / Israel News
The Palestinian Authority has refrained from officially declaring its support for one of the US presidential hopefuls, claiming this was an "internal American issue", but a Lebanese newspaper reported Tuesday that Palestinian leaders in the West Bank are hoping for Democrat Barack Obama's victory.
Sources in Ramallah told the al-Akhbar daily that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are expecting Obama to win, "despite his leaning towards Israel," which they said was aimed at gaining the support of the Israel and the Jewish lobby in the United States.
The sources said that during a recent meeting with Obama, the two Palestinian leaders "heard the best things they ever heard from an American president."
According to the report, the Democratic senator told Abbas and Fayyad that he "supports the rights of the Palestinians to east Jerusalem, as well as their right to a stable, sovereign state", but asked them to keep the remarks a secret.
Monday, November 3, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Nov. 3 /PRNewswire--USNewswire/ -- Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association (OCA), today issued the following statement in response to just-released remarks from Senator Barack Obama about the nation's coal industry.
"Regardless of the timing or method of the release of these remarks, the message from the Democratic candidate for President could not be clearer: the Obama-Biden ticket spells disaster for America's coal industry and the tens of thousands of Americans who work in it.
"These undisputed, audio-taped remarks, which include comments from Senator Obama like 'I haven't been some coal booster' and 'if they want to build [coal plants], they can, but it will bankrupt them' are extraordinarily misguided.
"It's evident that this campaign has been pandering in states like Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana and Pennsylvania to attempt to generate votes from coal supporters, while keeping his true agenda hidden from the state's voters.
"Senator Obama has revealed himself to be nothing more than a short- sighted, inexperienced politician willing to say anything to get a vote. But today, the nation's coal industry and those who support it have a better understanding of his true mission, to 'bankrupt' our industry, put tens of thousands out of work and cause unprecedented increases in electricity prices.
"In addition to providing an affordable, reliable source of low-cost electricity, domestic coal holds the key to our nation's long-term energy security - a goal that cannot be overlooked during this time of international instability and economic uncertainty.
"Few policy areas are more important to our economic future than energy issues. As voters head to the polls tomorrow, it is essential they remember that access to reliable, affordable, domestic energy supplies is essential to economic growth and stability."
The Ohio Coal Association (OCA) is a non-profit trade association representing the interests of Ohio's underground and surface coal mining producers. The OCA represents nearly 40 coal producing companies and more than 50 Associate Members, which include suppliers and consultants to the mining industry, coal sales agents and brokers and allied industries. The Ohio Coal Association is committed to advancing the development and utilization of Ohio coal as an abundant, economic and environmentally sound energy source.
SOURCE Ohio Coal Association
Friday, October 31, 2008
By Thomas Sowell
Chief Justice John Marshall said it all in one sentence: "The power to tax is the power to destroy."
It is not the money that is taxed away that is destroyed. What is destroyed is the wealth that does not get produced in the first place, because high taxes make its production not worthwhile.
Those who are receptive to Senator Barack Obama's plan to increase taxes on "the rich" seem not to understand that the issue is the nation's loss of wealth. Today, wealth can leave the country when heavy taxes threaten it— instantly, in an age of electronic financial transfers— and create jobs and economic growth overseas, instead of at home.
The two months between the time of a presidential election and the time when the new president takes office is an eternity in terms of how much money can be transferred out of the country electronically before any new high-tax laws can be enacted.
Like so much that is said glibly by Barack Obama, raising taxes on "the rich" has serious— and potentially disastrous— implications for the whole country that have been ignored amid the political euphoria.
Moreover, like so much that is proposed under the magic mantra of "change," it is something that has been tried before in many countries and failed before in many countries.
Much wealth from Third World countries flows out to richer countries like Switzerland or the United States, where it is safer from confiscation. Jack up the capital gains tax rate in the United States and more Americans can be expected to send their capital elsewhere.
That means sending jobs elsewhere, so that even people with no capital to invest lose employment opportunities.
Economists have trouble determining how many people are affected by a tax increase because those affected extend far beyond those who write the checks to pay the government.
Taxes on businesses can get passed along to consumers, in whole or in part, even though it is only the business that writes the check to the government.
Payroll taxes or government-mandated employee benefits may be paid for directly by the employer, but these costs reduce the value of an employee to the employer. If these costs add up to $10,000, for example, employers bidding for labor may bid $10,000 less in salary than they would have otherwise.
As in other cases, who writes the checks does not tell you who really pays the costs, since the worker is now $10,000 worse off. The idea that you can single out one segment of society to be taxed or mandated, for the benefit of the rest of society, is reminiscent of a San Francisco automobile dealer's sign: "We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you."
The economy is not a zero-sum game where someone gains what others lose. The whole economy can lose when ill-considered policies gain political popularity and stifle economic growth.
People who do not own a single share of corporate stock can still lose big time when capital gains taxes are raised— not only because jobs can follow capital out of the country, but also because millions of working people's pension plans own corporate stock, and those people's retirement incomes will depend on the value of those stocks, which is reduced by capital gains taxes.
One of the biggest taxes is one that is not even called a tax — inflation. When the government spends money that it creates, it is transferring part of the value of your money to themselves. It is quiet taxation but often heavy taxation, falling on everyone, no matter how low their incomes might be.
By the end of the 20th century, a $100 bill would not buy as much as a $20 bill would buy in the middle of that century. For people who saved cash, inflation amounted to an 80 percent tax. For others, it was an 80 percent tax minus whatever cumulative interest or dividends they received on the money they invested.
Given the staggering cost of the government's financial bailouts, there is no way that Barack Obama's grandiose spending plans can be carried out without inflation.
When politicians start talking about taxing "the rich," remember the old saying: "Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee."
A perfect storm
By Thomas Sowell
Some elections are routine, some are important and some are historic. If Senator John McCain wins this election, it will probably go down in history as routine. But if Senator Barack Obama wins, it is more likely to be historic— and catastrophic.
Once the election is over, the glittering generalities of rhetoric and style will mean nothing. Everything will depend on performance in facing huge challenges, domestic and foreign.
Performance is where Barack Obama has nothing to show for his political career, either in Illinois or in Washington.
Policies that he proposes under the banner of "change" are almost all policies that have been tried repeatedly in other countries— and failed repeatedly in other countries.
Politicians telling businesses how to operate? That's been tried in countries around the world, especially during the second half of the 20th century. It has failed so often and so badly that even socialist and communist governments were freeing up their markets by the end of the century.
The economies of China and India began their take-off into high rates of growth when they got rid of precisely the kinds of policies that Obama is advocating for the United States under the magic mantra of "change."
Putting restrictions on international trade in order to save jobs at home? That was tried here with the Hawley-Smoot tariff during the Great Depression.
Unemployment was 9 percent when that tariff was passed to save jobs, but unemployment went up instead of down, and reached 25 percent before the decade was over.
Higher taxes to "spread the well around," as Obama puts it? The idea of redistributing wealth has turned into the reality of redistributing poverty, in countries where wealth has fled and the production of new wealth has been stifled by a lack of incentives.
Economic disasters, however, may pale by comparison with the catastrophe of Iran with nuclear weapons. Glib rhetoric about Iran being "a small country," as Obama called it, will be a bitter irony for Americans who will have to live in the shadow of a nuclear threat that cannot be deterred, as that of the Soviet Union could be, by the threat of a nuclear counter-attack.
Suicidal fanatics cannot be deterred. If they are willing to die and we are not, then we are at their mercy— and they have no mercy. Moreover, once they get nuclear weapons, that is a situation which cannot be reversed, either in this generation or in generations to come.
Is this the legacy we wish to leave our children and grandchildren, by voting on the basis of style and symbolism, rather than substance?
If Barack Obama thinks that such a catastrophe can be avoided by sitting down and talking with the leaders of Iran, then he is repeating a fallacy that helped bring on World War II.
In a nuclear age, one country does not have to send troops to occupy another country in order to conquer it. A country is conquered if another country can dictate who rules it, as the Mongols once did with Russia, and as Osama bin Laden tried to do when he threatened retaliation against places in the United States that voted for George W. Bush. But he didn't have nuclear weapons to back up that threat— yet.
America has never been a conquered country, so it may be very hard for most Americans even to conceive what that can mean. After France was conquered in 1940, it was reduced to turning over some of its own innocent citizens to the Nazis to kill, just because those citizens were Jewish.
Do you think our leaders wouldn't do that? Not even if the alternative was to see New York and Los Angeles go up in mushroom clouds? If I were Jewish, I wouldn't bet my life on that.
What the Middle East fanatics want is not just our resources or even our lives, but our humiliation first, in whatever sadistic ways they can think of. Their lust for humiliation has already been repeatedly demonstrated in their videotaped beheadings that find such an eager market in the Middle East.
None of this can be prevented by glib talk, but only by character, courage and decisive actions— none of which Barack Obama has ever demonstrated.
By Thomas Sowell
Although Senator Barack Obama has been allied with a succession of far left individuals over the years, that is only half the story. There are, after all, some honest and decent people on the left. But these have not been the ones that Obama has been allied with — allied, not merely "associated" with.
ACORN is not just an organization on the left. In addition to the voter frauds that ACORN has been involved in over the years, it is an organization with a history of thuggery, including going to bankers' homes to harass them and their families, in order to force banks to lend to people with low credit ratings.
Nor was Barack Obama's relationship with ACORN just a matter of once being their attorney long ago. More recently, he has directed hundreds of thousands of dollars their way. Money talks — and what it says is more important than a politician's rhetoric in an election year.
Jeremiah Wright and Michael Pfleger are not just people with left-wing opinions. They are reckless demagogues preaching hatred of the lowest sort — and both are recipients of money from Obama.
Bill Ayers is not just "an education professor" who has some left-wing views. He is a confessed and unrepentant terrorist, who more recently has put his message of resentment into the schools — an effort using money from a foundation that Obama headed.
Nor has the help all been one way. During the last debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, Senator McCain mentioned that Senator Obama's political campaign began in Bill Ayers' home. Obama immediately denied it and McCain had no real follow-up.
It was not this year's political campaign that Obama began in Bill Ayers' home but an earlier campaign for the Illinois state legislature. Barack Obama can match Bill Clinton in slickness at parsing words to evade accusations.
That is one way to get to the White House. But slickness with words is not going to help a president deal with either domestic economic crises or the looming dangers of a nuclear Iran.
People who think that talking points on this or that problem constitute "the real issues" that we should be talking about, instead of Obama's track record, ignore a very fundamental fact about representative government.
Representative government exists, in the first place, because we the voters cannot possibly have all the information necessary to make rational decisions on all the things that the government does. We cannot rule through polls or referendums. We must trust someone to represent us, especially as President of the United States.
Once we recognize this basic fact of representative government, then the question of how trustworthy a candidate is becomes a more urgent question than any of the so-called "real issues."
A candidate who spends two decades promoting polarization and then runs as a healer and uniter, rather than a divider, forfeits all trust by that fact alone.
If Ronald Reagan had attempted to run for President of the United States as a liberal, the media would have been all over him. His support for Barry Goldwater would have been in the headlines and in editorial denunciations across the country.
No way would he have been able to get away with using soothing words to suggest that he and Barry Goldwater were like ships that passed in the night.
If Barack Obama had run as what he has always been, rather than as what he has never been, then we could simply cast our votes based on whether or not we agree with what he has always stood for.
Some people take solace from the fact that Senator Obama has verbally shifted position on some issues, like drilling for oil or gun control, since this is supposed to show that he is "pragmatic" rather than ideological.
But political zig-zags show no such moderation as some seem to assume. Lenin zig-zagged and so did Hitler. Zig-zags may show no more than that someone is playing the public for fools.
Some people who see the fraud in what Obama is saying are amazed that others do not. But Obama knows what con men have long known, that their job is not to convince skeptics but to enable the gullible to continue to believe what they want to believe. He does that very well
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
from the wapo:
Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.
Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.
The Obama organization said its extensive review has ensured that the campaign has refunded any improper contributions, and noted that Federal Election Commission rules do not require front-end screening of donations.
In recent weeks, questionable contributions have created headaches for Obama's accounting team as it has tried to explain why campaign finance filings have included itemized donations from individuals using fake names, such as Es Esh or Doodad Pro. Those revelations prompted conservative bloggers to further test Obama's finance vetting by giving money using the kind of prepaid cards that can be bought at a drugstore and cannot be traced to a donor.
The problem with such cards, campaign finance lawyers said, is that they make it impossible to tell whether foreign nationals, donors who have exceeded the limits, government contractors or others who are barred from giving to a federal campaign are making contributions.
"They have opened the floodgates to all this money coming in," said Sean Cairncross, chief counsel to the Republican National Committee. "I think they've made the determination that whatever money they have to refund on the back end doesn't outweigh the benefit of taking all this money upfront."
The Obama campaign has shattered presidential fundraising records, in part by capitalizing on the ease of online giving. Of the $150 million the senator from Illinois raised in September, nearly $100 million came in over the Internet.
Lawyers for the Obama operation said yesterday that their "extensive back-end review" has carefully scrubbed contributions to prevent illegal money from entering the operation's war chest. "I'm pretty sure if I took my error rate and matched it against any other campaign or comparable nonprofit, you'd find we're doing very well," said Robert Bauer, a lawyer for the campaign. "I have not seen the McCain compliance staff ascending to heaven on a cloud."
The Obama team's disclosures came in response to questions from The Washington Post about the case of Mary T. Biskup, a retired insurance manager from Manchester, Mo., who turned up on Obama's FEC reports as having donated $174,800 to the campaign. Contributors are limited to giving $2,300 for the general election.
Biskup, who had scores of Obama contributions attributed to her, said in an interview that she never donated to the candidate. "That's an error," she said. Moreover, she added, her credit card was never billed for the donations, meaning someone appropriated her name and made the contributions with another card.
When asked whether the campaign takes steps to verify whether a donor's name matches the name on the credit card used to make a payment, Obama's campaign replied in an e-mail: "Name-matching is not a standard check conducted or made available in the credit card processing industry. We believe Visa and MasterCard do not even have the ability to do this.
"Instead, the campaign does a rigorous comprehensive analysis of online contributions on the back end of the transaction to determine whether a contribution is legitimate."
Juan Proaño, whose technology firm handled online contributions for John Edwards's presidential primary campaign, and for John F. Kerry's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee in 2004, said it is possible to require donors' names and addresses to match those on their credit card accounts. But, he said, some campaigns are reluctant to impose that extra layer of security.
"Honestly, you want to have the least amount of hurdles in processing contributions quickly," Proaño said.
Sen. John McCain's campaign has also had questionable donations slip through.
Dan Pfeiffer, Obama's communication's director, said that "no organization can fully insulate itself from these problems. The McCain campaign has accepted contributions from fraudulent contributors like 'A for You,' 'Adorable Manabat,' 'The Gun Shop,' and 'Jesus II' and hundreds of anonymous donors."
But R. Rebecca Donatelli, who handles online contributions for the McCain operation and the RNC, said security measures have been standard in the GOP nominee's fundraising efforts throughout the campaign. She said she was "flabbergasted" to learn that the Obama campaign accepts prepaid cards.
"Yes, a gift card would go through the same process as a regular credit card and be subject to our same back-end review," the Obama campaign said in its response to questions about the use of such cards.
Campaign finance lawyers said there is a long history of debate within the FEC about how to ensure that donors use their own credit cards.
Election lawyer Brett Kappel said the FEC has never grappled with the question of cash cards. "The whole system is set up for them to accept the payment, then determine whether it is legal or not. And if it's not, send it back. That's what the statute requires," he said.
and now this from CNN - i can't really believe they are calling the obamessiah out, but they are. calling him out for lying. calling him out for being a hypocrite.
Report: Hijacked Iranian Ship Contained 'Dirty Bomb' for Israel
(IsraelNN.com) Web blogs all over the Internet are continuing to buzz about an Iranian ship that was hijacked last August by Somali pirates and which Russian sources warned contained a dirty bomb intended for Israel.
The hijacking passed largely unnoticed in the mainstream media, save a brief mention in the news on August 22 that reported that three vessels – Iranian, Japanese and German – and their 57 crew members were hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia. Several pirates died after they forced open part of the cargo.
The waterway connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Somalia, host to the longest coastline in Africa (1,880 miles), is an international piracy and terrorist hotspot. Foreign vessels are often seized by pirates in the area, who hold the ships and their crews for ransom.
According to its manifest, the MV Iran Devant had departed Nanjing, China on July 28 and was headed to Rotterdam to deliver 42,500 tons of iron ore and "industrial products" to an unidentified "German client." But the Iranian bulk carrier with 29 crew members, owned and operated by the U.S.-sanctioned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), was apparently transporting cargo considerably more significant than the average contraband.
The 40 pirates, armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) brought the ship to Eyl, a fishing village in northeastern Somalia, according to numerous bloggers. There a larger contingent of pirates took control of the vessel – 50 on board and 50 patrolling on the beach.
Initial attempts to inspect the ship's seven cargo containers failed. The pirates could not break into the holds and the crew swore they did not have access codes to the locks. The captain and engineer of the vessel evaded answering questions about the contents of the holds, despite threats by the pirates to blow up the ship. They first said the containers held crude oil, but then changed the story to say there were "minerals" in the holds.
When at last the pirates succeeded in opening one of the containers, they allegedly discovered packets of what they later reported to be "a powdery fine sandy soil." The pirates who had any exposure to the powder were reportedly struck down by illness and within days began to exhibit strange symptoms, including skin burns and hair loss. Sixteen of them died. Andrew Mwangura, director of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program, was quoted by the South Africa Sunday Times in a September 28 interview, "There is something very wrong about that ship."
The vessel was released by the pirates on October 10, announced the IRISL public relations office, "after seven weeks of negotiations with Somali pirates." All 29 members of the crew were reported safe. Iran criticized world powers for its indifference toward the lack of security in international waters. IRISL, which is run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, added in its statement that the vessel was sailing towards international waters and it is not clear where the ship has gone since the report.
Russian Intelligence: Ship Was a Dirty Bomb Sent to Israel
U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials maintained a tight-lipped silence on the alleged incident. However, Russian intelligence sources reportedly said the ship was "an enormous floating dirty bomb, intending to detonate after exiting the Suez Canal at the eastern end of the Mediterranean and in proximity to the coastal cities of Israel.
"The entire cargo of radioactive sand," said the Russian sources, " [was] obtained by Iran from China (the latter buys desperately needed oil from the former) and sealed in containers which, when the charges on the ship are set off after the crew took to the boats, will be blasted high into the air where prevailing winds will push the highly dangerous and radioactive cloud ashore."
Several military web blogs have noted that had the ship's crew succeeded in reaching Israel's coastal waters with their deadly cargo, it would have been quite easy to escape the vessel in small boats and then detonate explosives on the vessel. The radioactive powder, which would have been blown into the air, would have been carried by the wind straight to Israel.
'Logically Not Reliable, But Nothing Impossible in the Middle East'
Dr. Ephraim Kam, deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), told Israel National News that the entire incident could easily have been a fiction -- or not. "Nothing is impossible in this region," said Kam, an IDF Colonel (res.) and former deputy director of the Research Division in the IDF's Military Intelligence, "but logically [the report] doesn't seem to be very reliable."
The reason, he said, is that such an attack on Israel would cost the Iranians dearly -- and he said they know it.
"First of all, because it could fail, and this would be the worst thing for them. I think that if at all, the timing is very bad for them, while they are trying to acquire their own nuclear weapons, when there is international pressure on them on that issue… It could give Israel the best excuse to attack their nuclear facilities.
"Also, if such an operation is successful, the outcome could be an Israeli strategic attack against the Iranians, which could be very costly for the Islamic Republic. Since the Iranians believe that Israel does have a nuclear arsenal, they have to take into account that Israel would respond by nuclear attack," he pointed out.
"If it is true, this incident could give Israel the best pretext to attack an Iranian nuclear site," said Kam. "Rationally, I tend to think it is no more than a good story."
Israeli government officials could not be reached for comment.
Diplomats in Vienna said Tuesday, Oct. 28, that freshly evaluated soil and air samples provide enough evidence to warrant a follow-up probe by the UN nuclear watchdog at the suspected Syrian nuclear site at El Kibar bombed by Israel in September 2007.
IAEA experts want to revisit the site and also follow up on US, Israeli and other intelligence allegations that North Korea had been helping Syria build a plutonium reactor there.
Damascus has denied running a covert program.
DEBKAfile’s military sources reported exclusively on Oct. 4 that Syria had resumed its nuclear program at installations scattered across the country and that North Korean nuclear experts were back.
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According to recent American reports, a Syrian military delegation visited Pyongyang to find out whether their arms deals and nuclear collaboration were at risk as a result of Kim Jong-il’s ill health.
Our sources also disclosed that IAEA director Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei and his deputy Dr. Olli Heinonen have been at odds for months over whether the UN watchdog should push ahead with its probe against Syria.
ElBaradai argued there was no evidence to support US and Israel claims that Syria had been building a reactor, but Heinonen, who led an agency inspection in Syria last June differed and wants to go on with the investigation. According to our sources, Heinonen as demanded access to the west bank of the Euphrates River opposite the El Kibar site, where Syria is believed to have cleared the ground of the debris left by the Israeli bombardment.
He also wants to question named army officers, engineers and technicians alleged to have been engaged in the program. Heinonen submitted to the government in Damascus a list of Syrian officials with dates on which they are suspected of having met secretly with North Korean nuclear physicists. He has asked for clarifications on the subject of those encounters.
On Oct. 3, Damascus offered to continue to cooperate with the IAEA but stated that no more inspections would be allowed because the locations requested were restricted military areas.
The deputy director’s dossier will be submitted to the agency’s board meeting next month. If further probes are recommended and Syria stalls, the way will be opened for a complaint to the UN Security Council and possible sanctions against Damascus.