Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Into Libya

The birth of an Obama doctrine

by Lexington

Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States. Ultimately, it is that faith – those ideals – that are the true measure of American leadership.

THUS President Barack Obama tonight, speaking to the American people directly for the first time since launching Operation Odyssey Dawn and unleashing American missiles in Libya. He had received a great deal of criticism—for “dithering”, for failing to consult Congress, for going too far and doing too little. Now he has answered back—and provided, at the same time, the clearest explanation so far of an “Obama doctrine” of humanitarian military intervention.

Far from “dithering”, goes the White House line, pushed subtly in the speech and explicitly in briefings by senior officials, Mr Obama’s handling of the Libyan crisis has been “relatively extraordinary”. He has in a mere 31 days since the protests started imposed powerful sanctions, frozen Colonel Qaddafi’s assets, secured a robust Security Council resolution, organised an international coalition, executed a near-flawless military campaign, rolled Colonel Qaddafi’s forces back to the west, taken out the colonel’s air defences and knocked out a good deal of his ground forces. All this has been done without having to put American boots on the ground, without American military casualties and with precious few Libyan civilian casualties. Better still, with all this now done, America’s own contribution can decline, NATO can assume command (under an American general but with a Canadian deputy) and the European allies will take on more of the burden. Compare that, say senior administration officials, to the years it took to intervene in Bosnia in the 1990s.

To those hyper-realists who ask why it was necessary for America to entangle itself in Libya at all, the president’s answer appears to run as follows. First, he will never hesitate to use military power, unilaterally if necessary, in defence of the nation’s core interests. No such core interests were at risk in Libya, but some interests were. For example, the unrest in Libya might have disrupted the far more consequential democratic revolutions in Tunisia and especially Egypt, where America has a good deal more at stake. Moreover, it would not have been right to turn a blind eye to the possibility of Colonel Qaddafi carrying out his blood-curdling threats to show “no mercy” to the inhabitants of Benghazi. In such cases, however, it makes powerful sense, when possible, for America to share the burden with allies under the authority of the United Nations. This is how he put it in his speech:

It is true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what’s right. In this particular country – Libya; at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground. To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and – more profoundly – our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as President, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.

To critics on the opposite side of the argument, who ask why Mr Obama does not just finish the job by killing the colonel himself, the White House’s answer is that this would not only exceed the mandate of UN Resolution 1973, which calls only for protecting the civilian population, but risk splintering an artfully assembled alliance. That would leave America “owning” the resulting mess. The administration acknowledges that the denouement in Libya is likely to be messy anyway, but would prefer an internationalised mess to one for which America alone is held responsible. Might this American restraint enable Colonel Qaddafi to hang on for months, even longer, in spite of all the other efforts to squeeze and isolate him? Perhaps: but even if he holds out in some bunker in Tripoli, surrounded by human shields, the White House does not see how he could continue to govern Libya in any practical sense.

Another criticism of Mr Obama is that his policy is inconsistent. Why batter Colonel Qaddafi and not intervene on the side of the opposition in Yemen, Bahrain, perhaps even Syria? Mr Obama is thought to be preparing another speech, some time in the next month or two, that will set out his broader thinking on what the Arab awakening means to Arabs and the wider world, and spell out how America might be able to help nudge it in a favourable direction. Yet the president plainly believes that there are so many variables in the present fast-moving circumstances that it is not possible to adopt a single doctrine that fits each case. Bahrain has cracked down forcibly on the opposition but not in the manner of a Qaddafi—and both America, with its naval base, and Saudi Arabia have a powerful strategic interest in the country. Ditto Yemen, a hodge-podge of tribes and factions with a dangerous al-Qaeda presence.

Until Mr Obama gives his larger speech on the significance of the Arab awakening, much of the White House’s focus will continue to be on developments on the ground in Libya. The next tactical steps are supposedly to be decided by the wider alliance talks taking place this week in London. But senior White House officials say that they will continue to push for military action against the colonel’s military forces whenever they can be construed to be posing a threat to the civilian population. The United States is already in direct contact with the opposition forces, who will also be represented in London. Though not yet ready to recognise them as the Libyans’ legitimate government (as the French already have), it is edging in this direction. Crucially, the administration does not think that Resolution 1973 prevents outsiders from arming the opposition. Mr Obama described the next steps like this:

As the bulk of our military effort ratchets down, what we can do – and will do – is support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We have intervened to stop a massacre, and we will work with our allies and partners as they’re in the lead to maintain the safety of civilians. We will deny the regime arms, cut off its supply of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Qaddafi leaves power. It may not happen overnight, as a badly weakened Qaddafi tries desperately to hang on to power. But it should be clear to those around Qaddafi, and to every Libyan, that history is not on his side. With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be.

It is a good case—and it was a good speech. If Colonel Qaddafi is swept quickly from power, or reduced to impotence in some bunker, nobody will care very much about the manner in which Mr Obama put together his alliance and campaign. It might indeed be remembered as an extraordinary foreign-policy success. After the rescue of Kuwait in 1991, however, the first President George Bush also expected Saddam Hussein's regime to collapse in short order. Mr Obama's team says the circumstances this time are entirely different. They had better be right.

Peculiar people


Peculiar people

How far should one push the idea that companies have the same rights as ordinary people?

OVER the past year and a bit the United States Supreme Court has produced two landmark rulings on the metaphor at the heart of corporate law: the idea that companies are legal persons. Unfortunately, the rulings point in opposite directions. In Citizens United (2010) the court ruled that the constitution’s first amendment guarantees companies the same right to free speech as flesh-and-blood people. This means they have the same right as individuals to try to influence political campaigns through advertisements. But in a case involving AT&T the court ruled this month that the company has no right to personal privacy.

The legal conceit that companies are natural persons is vital to capitalism. It simplifies litigation greatly: companies can act like individuals when it comes to owning property or making contracts. Timur Kuran of Duke University argues that the idea of corporate personhood goes a long way to explaining why the West pulled ahead of the Muslim world from the 16th century onwards. Muslim business groups were nothing more than temporary agglomerations which dissolved when any partner died or withdrew. Legal personhood gave Western firms longevity.

The concept of companies as people became ever more vital as capitalism developed. Until the mid-19th century companies (as opposed to partnerships) were regulated by corporate charters which laid down tight rules about what they could do. But reformers used the idea that companies, like people, should be captains of their own souls, to free them from these restrictions. The result of this liberation was an explosion of energy: Western companies turbocharged the industrial revolution and laid the foundations for mass prosperity.

America’s legal system has been forced to grapple with the meaning of corporate personhood more thoroughly than other countries’ courts have done, because the constitution is so specific about the rights it bestows on people. And for the most part the Supreme Court has been generous in extending the rights of flesh-and-blood people to artificial persons (which include trade unions and other collectives as well as corporations). In Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad in 1886, for example, it ruled that companies enjoy the protections of the 14th amendment (including due process and equal protection under the law).

Yet these artificial persons have always provoked worries, too. Aren’t they likely to use their collective muscle to trample over the little people? And won’t they invoke the rights of ordinary people without burdening themselves with the responsibilities? These worries started in Britain in the age of chartered corporations. In the 17th century Sir Edward Coke, a jurist, complained that “they cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed, nor excommunicated, for they have no souls.” But the complaints have grown louder as companies have been freed from their charters and the Supreme Court has reinforced their rights.

Some critics of corporations have also put the idea of corporate personhood to their own uses. Joel Bakan, a legal academic, has produced a book and a film—both called “The Corporation”—which argue that, if companies are people, they are particularly dysfunctional and irresponsible ones. In the film, he even consults a psychiatrist who argues that companies display all the characteristics of a psychopath: callous disregard for others’ feelings, inability to maintain relationships, a willingness to bend any rule and break any law if it advances their interests, and an obsession with amassing power and money.

This is overheated rhetoric, to be sure. But you do not have to be a radical to worry about the might of organisations that can live for ever and take up residence in dozens of countries at once. Nor is it unreasonable to wonder why the idea of corporate personhood should only cut one way: if companies enjoy the same rights as flesh-and-blood humans then shouldn’t they be under the same obligations? The conservative majority on the Supreme Court is in danger of digging a trap for itself: strengthening the arguments of people who insist that companies have a moral duty to pursue social rather than merely business ends.

Don’t take it personally

The court knows it can take the analogy too far. It has ruled against companies being allowed to take the fifth amendment (against self-incrimination). It has restricted companies’ rights to make political contributions: for example, they cannot give donations directly to individual candidates. In the AT&T decision John Roberts, the chief justice, devoted a lot of effort to demonstrating that “personal” is more than an adjectival offshoot of “person”: when a company’s boss asks his finance director a “personal” question he is not likely to be asking about the company’s balance-sheet. Indeed, the term “personal” is frequently used to mean the very opposite of “corporate”. But all this umming and erring confuses more than it clarifies.

What would help is if the Supreme Court (and indeed corporate law in general) adopted a clear principle when it comes to the analogy between artificial persons and real ones: that companies should be treated as people only in so far as it is expedient. They clearly need to be able to enter into contracts just like individuals. But they should not be treated as if they experience such essentially human emotions as embarrassment and a desire for self-expression. Thus they should not have the same rights to privacy and political freedom as a citizen, but should have only as much of a right to confidentiality and political participation as is helpful for the efficient functioning of business (including letting firms contribute to the public debate on the regulation of business). Companies—or rather their bosses and owners—should welcome such constraints: any further “rights” would, sooner or later, be matched by onerous responsibilities.

Any last requests?

Any last requests? Judge offers to let Willie Nelson off drugs jail sentence . . . so long as he sings her favourite song in court

By Simon Neville

Singer-songwriter and marijuana enthusiast Willie Nelson could have faced a lengthy jail term after he was arrested for possession in November.

But perhaps the Texas prosecutor has been smoking some of Willie’s special cigarettes, because he has agreed to let the 77-year-old legend avoid prison but only if he gives the court a song.

Hudspeth County Attorney Kit Bramblett said: ‘I’m gonna let him plead, pay a small fine and he’s gotta sing “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” with his guitar right there in the courtroom.’

Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson

Free Willie: Nelson was arrested in November, right, but the marijuana advocate will be freed if he pleads guilty and sings 'Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain' in court

He added: ‘You bet you’re a** I ain’t gonna be mean to Willie Nelson.’

Nelson was arrested in November his tour bus was crossing the Mexican border into Hudspeth County, Texas on its way to Los Angeles when officers smelled cannabis coming from inside.

The bus was searched and six ounces was discovered, which Nelson said was his.

He posted a $2,500 bail and the bus was allowed to go on its way.

Nelson is a keen advocate of legalising the drug and is co-chair of the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Local laws say that anything below three ounces is considered a misdemeanour, which Bramblett usually pushes for a fine and court costs, which are paid through the mail.

Willie Nelson's sympathetic judge

County Judge Becky Walker and prosecutor "Kit" Bramblett were easy on Nelson and he got off with a song

When Nelson’s papers came to County Judge Becky Walker’s desk, she told Bramblett to call the singer to her court, which he promptly did.

Although initially stopped with 6 ounces, with packaging removed the weight was less than three.

Bramblett, who prosecutes between 10 and 12 marijuana possession cases a month joked: ‘Between me and the sheriff, we threw out enough of it or smoked enough so that there’s only three ounces, which is within my jurisdiction.’

It is understood the singer will agree to the demand when his tour is next in town.

It is not the first time the singer has been arrested for drug possession.

In January of this year, six of Nelson's band and crew members were stopped in North Carolina for allegedly possessing moonshine and cannabis in a vehicle they travelling in. They were issued with citations.

And back in 2006 Louisiana authorities searched Nelson's tour bus and found about a pound-and-a-half of marijuana and magic mushrooms.

'It’s a matter of time, a matter of education, a matter of people finding out what cannabis, marijuana is for, why it grows out of the ground and why it’s prescribed as one of the greatest stress medicines on the planet,' he said during an interview in 2008.

Peter Schiff on Dateline Australia - ( 2 of 2)

Peter Schiff on Dateline Australia - ( 1 of 2)

Obama, Libya and the GOP

Obama, Libya and the GOP

How Republicans can behave like a constructive opposition.

President Obama made a substantial case for his Libya intervention for the first time Monday evening, and however overdue and self-referential ("I refused to let that happen"), we welcome the effort. Perhaps it will give Republicans a reason to emerge as constructive, rather than partisan, foreign-policy critics as well.

We say "perhaps" because the instinctive temptation for some Republicans has been to oppose the Libyan mission led by a Democratic Commander in Chief. Some object to the operation's cost amid record deficits, others gripe about Mr. Obama's reflexive bow to the "international community," while still others are responding to a part of the GOP cable-TV and Internet base that wants fewer foreign interventions after Iraq and Afghanistan.

A few prominent Republicans are already throwing out that last pitch. "What are we doing in Libya?" asked Mississippi Governor and possible Presidential candidate Haley Barbour last week in Iowa. "I mean, we have to be careful in my mind about getting into nation-building exercises, whether it's in Libya or somewhere else. We've been in Afghanistan 10 years."

Yes, America has, and for national security reasons that the last two Presidents have found persuasive. As for "nation-building" in Libya, we have yet to notice a U.S. official who has advocated the deployment of American ground troops, much less a long-term mission rebuilding a Libyan state.

Mr. Barbour's glib resort to this trope of the isolationist left suggests he hasn't thought very hard about foreign policy. It is the kind of politics Americans have come to expect from Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid—"this war is lost"—not Republicans who have since Reagan been the party of robust nationalism.

AFP/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about US and NATO involvement in military action against Libya during a speech at the National Defense University.

This is not to say that Mr. Obama's policy is above criticism, which he invites by so overtly disavowing American global leadership. Republicans instinctively recoil when they hear a President put greater moral stock in the Arab League and U.N. than in Congress before using military force.

House Speaker John Boehner's questions to Mr. Obama last week concerning the Libyan mission's goals are certainly appropriate, and it was clear from Monday night's speech that they have influenced the Administration's argument. Mr. Obama was at pains to portray the Libyan effort as the product of U.S. leadership, though the French, Arabs and Libyan rebels all had to plead the U.S. to act.

This is what we mean by constructive criticism by a loyal opposition whose goal is to help the U.S. succeed in its mission—as the American military is well on its way to doing, by the way. Despite the diplomatic confusion of last week, the expansion of a no-fly zone to target Moammar Gadhafi's forces is already paying benefits on the ground. The rebels have retaken several cities and yesterday were moving on the Gadhafi hometown of Sirte. Gadhafi's loyalists must be recalculating the cost of their allegiance.

Republicans ought to prod Mr. Obama to push for a faster resolution that ends with the toppling of Gadhafi and his sons from power. Any result short of that guarantees a divided Libya that may well require international peacekeepers to separate the warring factions. If there's any leader whose terrorist nature the American people understand, it is Gadhafi. Rather than predict doom for the Libyan exercise, Republicans should insist that Gadhafi must go for it to be successful.

Republicans also have a chance—and for GOP Presidential candidates the obligation—to put Libya in the context of the larger changes in the Middle East. One reason to intervene in Libya is to show the Assads and Ahmadinejads that the West is willing and able to act against tyrants who slaughter their own people and foment terrorism. Hillary Clinton's weekend howler that Syria's Bashar Assad is different from Gadhafi because he is a "reformer" is the kind of thinking that deserves rebuttal, if not ridicule.

The credibility of U.S. power is essential to maintaining our influence in a Middle East that is erupting in popular revolt against decades of injustice. The U.S. should be working actively to influence events so that the Middle East that emerges is freer and less hostile to American purposes. Yet our sense is that President Obama has been needlessly, and perhaps dangerously, passive in the face of this major strategic upheaval. Republicans should challenge Mr. Obama on the subject of U.S. leadership, especially in the Middle East.

We understand the instinctive mistrust of this most political of Presidents, a man whose every decision now is rooted in his desire for re-election. This is not a President who leads from the front—on the budget, or on Libya. But that doesn't mean that Republicans should wash their hands of American global leadership. Their opportunity is to make the case for what American leadership should look like.

U.S. Stocks Advance

U.S. Stocks Advance as Home Depot, AK Steel Help Offset Europe

U.S. Stocks Decline, Portugal, Greece Ratings Reduced

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York. Photographer: Ramin Talaie/Bloomberg

U.S. stocks advanced, trimming yesterday’s loss, as rallies by Home Depot Inc. and AK Steel Holding Corp. helped offset a Standard & Poor’s downgrade of Portugal and Greece’s credit ratings.

Home Depot rose 2.8 percent, leading gains by consumer companies, after the largest U.S. home-improvement retailer sold $2 billion in bonds to raise cash and finance buybacks. AK Steel climbed 4.9 percent after SAC Capital Advisors LP reported a 4.8 percent stake. Apollo Group Inc. (APOL) dropped 7.3 percent after reporting less student enrollment. The S&P 500 Index (SPX) rebounded after falling below its average level from the prior 50 days.

The S&P 500 increased 0.3 percent to 1,313.54 at 11:12 a.m. in New York. It rose after falling to 1,305.26, compared with yesterday’s 50-day average of 1,306.11. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 42.99 points, or 0.4 percent, to 12,240.87, led higher by Home Depot.

“The bounce off the 50-day moving average today shows that the market trend is still up,” said Christopher Verrone, head of technical analysis at New York-based Strategas Research Partners. “The market is exhibiting a healthy bull trend, where pullbacks to key levels should be bought, not sold.”

The S&P 500 fell as much as 0.4 percent earlier after S&P reduced Portugal and Greece’s debt ratings, bolstering speculation Europe’s debt crisis will hamper the global economy. Portugal’s sovereign credit ratings were cut to the lowest investment grade of BBB- and Greece was shifted to BB- at S&P, which said more reductions are possible.

Clinton Meets Libyan Opposition

U.S. Envoy to Visit Libya; Clinton Meets Libyan Opposition

The U.S. will send its special envoy for Libya to Benghazi within the next week for talks with rebel opposition leaders, an administration official said.

The announcement came as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jebril before a London conference today to discuss political and military progress in Libya.

The meeting, attended by more than 30 foreign ministers, comes as the U.S.-led coalition hands over command of military operations to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron proposed creation of a steering group to work on all aspects of Libya’s political transition in remarks before the gathered ministers.

The London meeting takes place as the battle over Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte intensified, with government troops digging in as rebels extended their offensive along the coast.

Clinton told allied foreign ministers that the coalition against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is “at a turning point” as NATO takes command of air strikes.

Clinton said the allies must deliver needed humanitarian assistance, pressure Qaddafi’s regime with international sanctions, and support moves toward democratic government in the North African nation.

‘Unified Front’

“All of us must continue to increase the pressure on and deepen the isolation of the Qaddafi regime,” Clinton said. “This includes a unified front of political and diplomatic pressure that makes clear to Qaddafi that he must go.”

She laid out three goals for the countries gathered in the British capital. They must work together on “delivering desperately needed humanitarian assistance; pressuring and isolating the Qaddafi regime through robust sanctions and other measures, and supporting efforts by Libyans to achieve their aspirations through political change,” Clinton said.

Military measures will not stop until Qaddafi fully complies with UN Resolution 1973, “ceases his attacks on civilians; pulls his troops back from places they have forcibly entered; and allows key services and humanitarian assistance to reach all the people of Libya,” Clinton said.

Clinton also called on those gathered to “deepen the isolation of the Qaddafi regime” through non-military measures, including the enforcement of UN sanctions against Libya.

Determining Libya’s Destiny

“We cannot and must not impose our will on the people of Libya, but we can and must stand with them as they determine their own destiny,” the top U.S. diplomat said. “All of us seated around this table must speak with one voice in support of a transition that leads to a brighter future for Libya.”

Clinton met with the Libyan opposition’s special envoy Jebril to build on their previous meeting in Paris two weeks ago, an administration official said . The official spoke on condition of anonymity. The U.S. hasn’t formally recognized Jebril’s National Transition Council.

The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, has praised the group’s efforts to be broadly representative of Libya. “They’re off to a good start,” he said March 25.

So far France and Qatar have formally recognized the rebels.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced that the organization’s envoy for Libya, former Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah Al-Khatib, will travel to Benghazi. Al- Khatib will look at the political process that will affect transition to a more democratic system.

Frozen Assets

The steering group proposed by the British would enforce all non-military aspects of UN Resolution 1973, including the distribution of humanitarian aid and the enforcement of sanctions. The U.S. has frozen $33 billion in Libyan assets.

Turkey and the European Union will take on a large role in the humanitarian effort to help Libya, which will be a central focus of today’s meeting, the official said.

Libya’s opposition estimates that as many as 12,000 people have died in the fighting to date.

Obama Left Libya Questions Unanswered

Obama Left Libya Questions Unanswered, Some Critics in U.S. Congress Say

U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama. Photographer: Dennis Brack/Pool via Bloomberg

President Barack Obama’s defense of the U.S. military mission in Libya failed to allay the concerns of critics in both parties, who said he fell short of explaining the costs, goals and time frame for the operation.

Republicans who favored strong U.S. intervention, antiwar Democrats, and some in between said Obama’s televised speech last night left them confused about what it would take to bring an end to U.S. involvement in Libya.

A spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who wrote to Obama last week pressing for answers on the operation, said the president’s remarks didn’t provide “much clarity” on costs, objectives or how the operation supports U.S. policy goals.

“Nine days into this military intervention, Americans still have no answer to the fundamental question: What does success in Libya look like?” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement after the speech.

Obama said the U.S. and its allies faced a choice between taking military action in Libya or letting Muammar Qaddafi massacre civilians. The president spoke a day after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization agreed to take full control of the campaign.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee and his party’s 2008 presidential nominee, said Obama failed to articulate a strategy for ousting Qaddafi, leaving open the possibility of a “long and bloody stalemate” in Libya.

Welcome ‘Clarity’

“I welcome the president’s clarity that the U.S. goal is for Qaddafi to leave power,” McCain said in a statement. “But an equal amount of clarity is still required on how we will accomplish that goal. We have chosen a side against Qaddafi, and now we must help the opposition succeed.”

While leaders of his party praised Obama’s speech, Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, a war critic who is seeking to defund the Libya operation, said Obama is taking the nation down a dangerous foreign policy road.

“The president enunciated a new Obama doctrine” that includes “war based on threats,” Kucinich said in an interview. “It’s a doctrine for preemptive war, and this is a dangerous standard -- it’s what took us into Iraq.”

Democratic Representative Bruce Braley of Iowa said he wants answers from administration officials, who are to brief lawmakers on Capitol Hill later this week, about costs and “their strategy for moving forward in Libya.”

Cost to Taxpayers

“I’m concerned, and I know many Americans are concerned, that tonight we didn’t get a clear and accurate accounting from the president on how much this conflict in Libya is going to cost American taxpayers,” Braley said in a statement.

Democratic leaders said Obama laid out a compelling case for intervention.

“Action was taken to stave off a humanitarian crisis saving thousands of lives,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said in a statement. “I commend the president for his courage in taking this action and salute our men and women in uniform for their part in saving lives.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said Congress will carry out its oversight role as provided in the Constitution.

Stand With Libyans

“America and its allies stand alongside the Libyan people as they determine their future,” Reid said in a statement.

Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said Obama’s critics are trying to have it both ways.

“Many who urged the administration to act are now criticizing the administration for its actions,” Smith said.

While Obama’s team “could have done a better job of working with Congress in the days prior to taking action, it is clear that U.S. leadership prevented this humanitarian crisis from getting worse and saved thousands of lives,” Smith said. “As a nation, that is something we should be proud of.”

Critics said Obama overstepped his constitutional bounds and ignored foreign policy concerns such as whether Libyan rebels had ties to al-Qaeda and who might succeed Qaddafi.

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said in a statement that while Obama raised the question of what would happen if the U.S. did nothing, “a better question might be, ‘What if helping Libya’s interest actually hurts America’s interests?’”

Paul said Congress will soon “force President Obama to confront these questions.”

Next U.S. Terror Attack Might Come From New Toys

Next U.S. Terror Attack Might Come From New Toys: Amity Shlaes


Editors: [bn:PRSN=1708158] Charles W. Stevens []

The U.S. ended the Cold War the way a master pilot lands a fighter jet, in a sort of ecstasy of precision and the gradual reduction of force. Today that same jet is screeching around the runway, as our capacity for messy outcomes (Iraq, Libya, Egypt) expands before our eyes.

All of us have less faith in precision these days. Events such as Japan’s nuclear plant crisis or the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have proven that even in the private sector, technicians are far less masters of their situations than many believed.

One place where the potential for unparalleled damage has increased is the U.S. That’s because there are more tools available to terrorists, extremists or just plain kooks now than in 2001. As John Geis, director of the Air Force Center for Strategy and Technology has been saying, people looking to make trouble have a least four new technologies at their disposal.

“As nuclear proliferation was to the 1950s, the proliferation of lasers, microwaves and bioengineered disease is to coming decades,” Geis told me in an interview.

The military has worked for years on an airborne laser. The chemical oxygen iodine laser, known as COIL, uses chemical reactions to generate intense beams. But these lasers remain unwieldy. It’s a different story for private industry, which is developing electric lasers the size of a flashlight.

Products such as the handheld Spyder III Pro-Arctic can blind pilots, temporarily or permanently, from more than 100 feet. The device can also pop balloons and melt Dixie cups, as fans have demonstrated in YouTube videos.

Targeting Cockpits

People are already using such devices to disrupt air travel. Federal Aviation Administration officials reported 2,836 incidents of lasers pointed by people at aircraft cockpits last year, compared with fewer than 300 in 2005. Last year there were 102 laser incidents at Los Angeles International Airport, 98 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and 38 at Newark Liberty International.

The Spyder is cool. It so resembles a “Star Wars” light saber that filmmaker George Lucas threatened to sue unless its maker, Hong Kong-based Wicked Lasers, publicly stated the device has no connection to Lucas’s products. However, the Spyder is a Class IV laser, which means it shouldn’t be available, and various state and federal rules seek to block civilian use. But the reality is that people can buy them. An NBC reporter who placed an order had no trouble and produced a segment featuring burning cups and paper.

Pulse Attacks

A second advance, that of microwave pulse systems, is also a threat. A microwave pulse system induces a current into the circuitry of a microprocessor, frying the computer chip. The technology has gained so much power that it can disable an entire computer network.

The hazard has increased because computers are much denser than they were even a few years ago, Geis says. Here, Moore’s Law, the rule about how rapidly computer chips grow in speed and capability, does double damage. With each doubling of transistors per chip, the weapon becomes more powerful and the target more vulnerable.

What might a microwave pulse terror attack look like? A truck driving up next to the back of a power plant.

A third vulnerability is in the area of cyberterror. It used to be that companies and government offices could isolate their computers from the world. Today that is much harder to do because systems are almost always exposed to the Internet in some way or another.

A fourth vulnerability involves the human genome. In 15 years, scientists will be able to engineer a disease that will kill an entire population, according to Geis. Soon after that, it may even be possible to use viruses or other diseases that target a specific ethnic group, while leaving another healthy, he says.

Big Bang Theory

How might a terror attack play out? Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonprofit research group in Washington, modeled such an attack in his book, “7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century.” Nuclear explosions are the main feature of his scenario for a terror attack in the U.S. But he foresees threats as large as nuclear attacks coming from other types of weapons.

The point is not for Americans to scare themselves silly. It is to reconsider the antidotes.

One may well be to increase defense spending, which is still at about 5 percent of gross domestic product, or half the presence in the economy that it was in the 1950s. But cooperation among agencies to an extent that goes beyond the creation of the unifying Department of Homeland Security is probably also needed. Too, government must spend more flexibly, and the old 10- or 20-year cycles for new weapons must become shorter.

On the civilian side this means more restrictions, less- happy Internet shopping and more security lines. It’s not pleasant to contemplate, given the battle fatigue most Americans feel a decade into the War on Terror. But the reality is that just when we want to downgrade defense in our lives, the technology that can be used against us is relentlessly upgrading.

Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Fell 3.1%

Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Fell 3.1% From Year Earlier


(Updates with consumer confidence in fifth paragraph.)

March 29 (Bloomberg) -- Residential real estate prices dropped in January by the most in more than a year, raising the risk that U.S. home sales will keep slowing.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities fell 3.1 percent from January 2010, the biggest year-over-year decrease since December 2009, the group said today in New York. The decline was in line with the 3.2 percent median forecast by economists in a Bloomberg News survey.

Rising foreclosures are swelling the number of houses on the market, which may put additional pressure on prices in coming months. At the same time, a further decline in home values may keep potential buyers on the sidelines as they foresee better deals, hurting construction and consumer spending as owners’ equity evaporates.

“Prices will continue to move downward probably for the rest of the year,” said David Semmens, a U.S. economist at Standard Chartered Bank in New York, who correctly forecast the drop. “They won’t turn around until you have consumers feel that housing is genuinely cheap and until they feel a lot more secure in their labor-market position.”

Another report showed consumer confidence dropped in March ad Americans grew more concerned about the economic outlook. The New York-based Conference Board’s sentiment index fell to 63.4 this month from 72 in February, the research group said.

Shares Fall

Stocks fell after S&P cut debt ratings for Portugal and Greece. The S&P 500 Index fell 0.2 percent to 1,307.29 at 10:01 a.m. in New York. Treasury securities were little changed, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year note at 3.43 percent, the same as late yesterday.

Estimates for the price change ranged from declines of 3.7 percent to 2.4 percent, according to the forecasts of 29 economists in the Bloomberg survey.

Home prices fell 0.2 percent in January from the prior month after adjusting for seasonal variations, following a 0.4 percent December decrease. Unadjusted prices dropped 1 percent from the prior month as 19 of 20 cities showed declines.

The year-over-year gauge provides better indications of trends in prices, the group has said. The panel includes Karl Case and Robert Shiller, the economists who created the index.

The Case-Shiller gauge is based on a three-month average, which means the January data was influenced by transactions in December and November.

Broad-Based Drop

Eighteen of the 20 cities in the index showed a year-over- year decline, led by a 9.1 percent drop in Phoenix. In January, prices in 11 markets dropped to fresh lows from their 2006, 2007 peaks, the same as in December.

“The housing market recession is not yet over,” David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P, said in a statement. “At most, we have seen all statistics bounce along their troughs; at worst, the feared double-dip recession may be materializing.”

Washington showed the biggest year-over-year increase, with prices rising 3.6 percent in the 12 months to January.

Unemployment at 8.9 percent indicates the number of distressed properties may increase, leading to more price declines as homeowners struggle to make mortgage payments. About 8.2 percent of loans outstanding were delinquent in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to Mortgage Bankers Association data.

Foreclosure filings may climb about 20 percent in 2011, reaching a peak for the housing crisis, according to RealtyTrac Inc. The Irvine, California-based data seller said foreclosures dropped in February to a 3-year low as lenders under legal scrutiny struggled to process a backlog of defaults and put new systems in place for home seizures.

More Foreclosures

A filing influx could add to the surplus of unsold properties and lead to more declines in home values. Other measures last week showed home prices fell to the lowest levels since the previous expansion’s early stages.

The median price of existing homes, which make up more than 95 percent of the market, slid 5.2 percent from a year earlier, erasing all gains made after February 2002, according to the National Association of Realtors. New-home prices dropped to the lowest level since December 2003, a Commerce Department report showed.

Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian T. Moynihan said the housing slump is the biggest challenge limiting the U.S. economic recovery.

‘Damaging’ Problem

“The problem of delinquent mortgages and falling home values is the most stubborn, entrenched and damaging economic problem our country faces today,” Moynihan said March 23 in Detroit, at a meeting of the city’s Economic Club.

Faced with declining home prices and the growing glut of unsold homes, residential real estate developers are reluctant to boost construction. Housing starts in the U.S. dropped more than forecast in February to the slowest pace since April 2009 and building permits slumped to a record low, the Commerce Department reported March 16.

“Builders just can’t make a profit by competing in this market where prices are dropping,” said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. “The pickup in housing starts that we were expecting to happen this year may be delayed by quite a while, maybe a year or so.”

*T Bloomberg Table  ==============================================================                   Current Previous 3-Mth   YoY%    Index                    MoM%    MoM%   Annual% Change   Level ============================================================== US Composite-20    -1.04%  -0.98% -11.50%  -3.06%  140.86 -------------------------------------------------------------- Washington DC       0.10%  -0.20%  -2.82%   3.58%  183.75 San Diego          -1.22%  -0.69%  -7.20%   0.05%  157.03 Boston             -0.30%  -0.16%  -5.75%  -0.61%  152.07 San Francisco      -1.95%  -0.92% -14.85%  -1.67%  133.37 Los Angeles        -0.65%  -1.32%  -9.24%  -1.79%  169.88 Denver             -1.10%  -0.74% -11.62%  -2.28%  122.73 Dallas             -0.52%  -0.19%  -6.84%  -2.75%  114.07 New York           -0.88%  -0.97% -11.51%  -2.97%  166.30 Cleveland          -0.85%   0.18% -10.42%  -3.80%   99.36 Las Vegas          -0.25%  -1.10%  -6.72%  -4.42%   99.23 Miami              -1.26%  -0.49%  -7.37%  -4.73%  141.30 Charlotte          -1.11%  -0.62%  -8.87%  -4.83%  111.50 Seattle            -2.37%  -2.03% -19.89%  -6.67%  135.41 Atlanta            -0.44%  -0.79% -13.61%  -6.96%   99.59 Tampa              -1.04%  -2.70% -17.67%  -6.99%  128.52 ==============================================================                   Current Previous 3-Mth   YoY%    Index                    MoM%    MoM%   Annual% Change   Level ============================================================== Chicago            -1.76%  -1.43% -19.63%  -7.46%  115.78 Minneapolis        -3.43%  -1.55% -24.62%  -7.62%  113.21 Portland           -1.76%  -1.21% -16.73%  -7.80%  135.80 Detroit            -1.71%  -1.37% -17.34%  -8.10%   66.02 Phoenix            -1.51%  -1.67% -15.70%  -9.14%  101.54 ============================================================== *T

--Editors: Carlos Torres, Vince Golle

U.S. deploys low-flying attack planes in Libya

U.S. deploys low-flying attack planes in Libya

/ ASSOCIATED PRESS - An AC-130 gunship is shown in this undated photo provided by the U.S. Air Force.

The U.S. military dramatically stepped up its assault on Libyan government ground forces over the weekend, launching its first missions with AC-130 flying gunships and A-10 attack aircraft designed to strike enemy ground troops and supply convoys.

Gallery: Conflict and chaos in Libya: As international airstrikes continue against forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, rebel fighters push forward.

The use of the aircraft, during days of heavy fighting in which the momentum seemed to swing in favor of the rebels, demonstrated how allied military forces have been drawn deeper into the chaotic fight in Libya. A mission that initially seemed to revolve around establishing a no-fly zone has become focused on halting advances by government ground forces in and around key coastal cities.

The AC-130s, which fly low and slow over the battlefield and are typically more vulnerable to enemy fire than fast-moving fighter jets, were deployed only after a week of sustained coalition attacks on Libyan government air defenses and radar sites. These aircraft, armed with heavy machine guns and cannons that rake the ground, allow strikes on dug-in Libyan ground forces and convoys in closer proximity to civilians.

The planes are being used to step up pressure on Libyan ground troops, who have retreated from the rebel’s advance and fortified around several cities east of Tripoli, the capital. “Our strategy continues to be to pressure them where we think it’s going to give us the best effect,” said Vice Adm. William Gortney, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, referring to the use of the new aircraft. “The number of the strike sorties that you saw, I think, is a direct result of that.”

Gortney emphasized that the military was not using the planes to facilitate a rebel advance. The Washington Post learned of their deployment last week but withheld reporting the information until their first missions at the request of U.S. military officials.

Military officials consider AC-130s and A-10s well suited to attacks in built-up areas, although their use has led to civilian deaths. Unlike fighter jets and bombers, which typically carry 500- or 1,000-pound bombs, the AC-130s and A-10s deliver more discriminate but still devastating machine-gun fire. “They offer weapons that you can meter against a much smaller area and not risk as much collateral damage,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, who played a key role in overseeing the initial U.S. attack on Afghanistan in 2002.

AC-130s were used to great effect during the two U.S. offensives in Fallujah, a stronghold of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq in the early days of the Iraq war. In Afghanistan, the military considers them particularly effective against entrenched militants, and commanders have frequently complained that they are in too short supply. The gunships, developed from a Hercules C-130 transport plane for use in Vietnam, put pilots at greater risk than fighter jets, but they have been used in virtually every U.S. military combat operation since then.

In Libya, “we are determined to step up the mission, to attack his tanks and [troop] columns every day until he withdraws,” a French official said of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and the forces loyal to him.

The AC-130s, which are flying from a base in Italy, were requested by Gen. Carter Ham, the senior U.S. general overseeing the operation, and are likely to continue flying over Libya in the coming days as allied forces attempt to increase the pressure on Gaddafi’s ground forces.

“The longer it lasts, the more danger of civilian casualties,” said a Western diplomat whose country is involved in the attacks. He warned that one errant missile strike against a hospital or a house full of children could have a deeply polarizing effect on the fragile alliance of NATO and Arab nations.

The tougher and more risky mission to stop Gaddafi’s ground troops from attacking key cities has quickly overshadowed the less challenging task of stopping the Libyan dictator from launching his aircraft to attack rebels. The ground attack mission also opened up some rifts among coalition partners in NATO and Arab nations, which were reluctant to support attacks that could cause civilian casualties. And it has led some U.S. lawmakers to accuse the Obama administration of inserting the U.S. military in the middle of a complex ground fight between rebels and loyalist forces without a clear exit strategy.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said strikes on Gaddafi’s forces would amount to taking sides in what he called a civil war. He said such attacks would breach a U.N. mandate authorizing intervention in Libya that was initially envisaged as establishing a no-fly zone only to protect civilians.

In discussions that began in late February, NATO planners focused primarily on providing humanitarian support, enforcing an arms embargo and establishing the no-fly zone to prevent Gaddafi from using his aircraft to attack his people, according to a senior NATO diplomat.

Separately, the United States, Britain and France made preparations for stopping a ground assault by Libyan forces. There was little support within President Obama’s national security team for a mission that revolved solely around a no-fly zone seen as likely to do too little to protect civilians against Gaddafi’s forces.

Some administration officials, with memories of enforcing no-fly zones over Bosnia while civilians were being exterminated on the ground, said the United States should not participate in such a limited operation. At the Pentagon, there was concern about plunging U.S. forces into a conflict without a clear goal, and there was worry that chaos would ensue if Gaddafi fell too quickly and the loosely organized, tribally divided rebels tried to govern the country.

But by March 12, the Arab League had formally backed the imposition of a no-fly zone, after a similar move by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which consists of several of the United States’ closest Arab allies.

Until the week of March 13, the rebels seemed to be making progress. Then Gaddafi unleashed his military, taking towns that the opposition had won and heading toward the de facto rebel capital, Benghazi.

Pushed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice, the administration took control of a British-French draft resolution for a no-fly zone and began making the case to the rest of the Security Council that stronger action was needed. The resolution passed March 17, authorizing the use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and civilian areas under threat.

“In an ideal world, we would sit down with a blank sheet of paper and say, ‘Let’s get rid of Gaddafi.’ That’s not the way it unfolded,” said the Western diplomat whose country is involved in the Libya mission.

Syrian president accepts cabinet's resignation

Syrian president accepts cabinet's resignation

/ REUTERS - Tens of thousands of Syrians gather for a pro-government rally at the central bank square in Damascus March 29, 2011. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accepted his government's resignation.

CAIRO — President Bashar al-Assad accepted the resignations of his cabinet ministers on Tuesday as some protesters began demanding that he also leave, in the most serious threat to his rule since he assumed power a decade ago.

Gallery: Egypt- and Tunisia-inspired protests spread through Middle East, North Africa: Motivated by recent shows of political strength by neighbors in Egypt, demonstrators in the Middle East and North Africa are taking to the streets of many cities to rally for change.


Middle East and North Africa in turmoil

Graphic: Middle East and North Africa in turmoil

The action, reported on state TV, marks the latest concession by Assad since protesters forced a string of political promises from his government, including a pledge to lift a 48-year-old emergency law. On Saturday, Assad released hundreds of political prisoners and pulled back security forces from the southwestern city where Syria’s burgeoning unrest began earlier this month.

Along with those concessions, anti-government activists are calling on Assad to rescind limits on civil rights, including the right to free assembly.

As the resignations were announced, tens of thousands of pro-government demonstrators took to the streets of the capital, chanting, “The people want Bashar al-Assad,” in support of the president. Activists reached by phone and Internet said the government had closed its offices so that workers could attend the demonstration in downtown Damascus.

College students said that staff in their dormitories confiscated their identification cards and told the students they could retrieve them after they attended the rally, the activists said. Parents also reported that their children were told by schoolteachers to attend the rally.

The turmoil in Syria began in the southwestern Sunni town of Daraa after 15 children were arrested for spray-painting anti-government slogans on walls.

The 45-year-old president was expected to speak to the nation of 23 million people Tuesday for the first time since the unrest began.

In the past week, at least 61 people have been killed in swift, violent government crackdowns on protesters. The repression seems to have emboldened the hesitant movement. Demonstrators, who first asked for government reforms, are now seeking Assad’s ouster.

The Assad family has controlled Syria for four decades, crushing any opposition. Along with last week’s security crackdown, however, Assad, who took power in 2000, has added a new tactic to quell the unrest — trying to appease anti-government activists by means of concessions.

The dissent has spread through towns in western and southern Syria and to Damascus. But it is not comparable in scale or intensity to the turmoil in the Middle East countries of Libya, Egypt or Tunisia.

Foreign journalists’ access to Syria has been severely restricted.

Opposition members say talk is no longer enough to appease the protesters.

“The issue is not what Assad will say, it is what will he apply?” said Ammar Qurabi, who head Syria’s National Organization for Human Rights. “We are tired of all this talk that the Syrian people have heard from the government for 11 years.”

Rebels advance halted

Rebels advance halted, fighting intense as world leaders meet on Libya

BENGHAZI—A rebel push that had been aided by international airstrikes was struggling and under heavy attack in Libya Tuesday, as senior diplomats from 40 countries met in London to consider their next steps

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is imploring the world to speak with a single voice to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and tell him to leave power. (March 29)

Video: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is imploring the world to speak with a single voice to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi and tell him to leave power. (March 29)

The United States, NATO and its allies are exploring ways to ratchet up the pressure on Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, 10 days after launching an air campaign to enforce a no-fly zone and arms embargo on the Libyan government.

But even as British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others launched their talks, the opposition in Libya reported setbacks and grim fighting in contested areas.

Libyan government tanks and rockets drove back rebels who attempted an assault on Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, the Assocated Press reported, with some fleeing fighters pleading fruitlessly for foreign warplanes to protect them.

The fighters were pushed east toward the hamlet of Bin Jawwad, which was also under heavy fire from government loyalists. There were reports that the town had been wrested from rebel control, but an opposition spokeswoman said at least some fighters were hanging on.

“There aren’t a lot of us in Bin Jawwad right now,” Faisal Ali, a 20-year-old-rebel who had retreated, told the Associated Press.

Cars and trucks of fleeing fighters filled both lanes of the highway east to the oil port of Ras Lanuf, the Associated Press reported. Some fighters shouted “Sarkozy, where are you?” — a reference to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the biggest supporters of the air campaign.

Al Jazeera’s English-language television station broadcast live footage of the rebels also leaving Ras Lanuf--which they had seized early in the revolt, only to be driven out by government loyalists last week. The rebels retook control days ago, after foreign airstrikes cleared the way.

West of Sirte, on the road to Tripoli, strong attacks were also reported in the contested city of Misurata, where fighting has been underway for weeks.

In London, the United States and its partners, including Arab states, are seeking to coordinate military strategy and humanitarian efforts for the weeks ahead, while also discussing how to help the rebels form a transitional government.

“The reason for being here is because the Libyan people cannot reach that future on their own,” Cameron said in his opening remarks. “We are all here in one united purpose, that is to help the Libyan people in their hour of need.”

Among the thornier issues is whether to provide weapons and other practical aid to a diffuse and ill-coordinated rebel army.

Clinton told the conference that the international effort was “at a turning point,” with a united NATO now in charge of a military mission that included protection of Libyan civilians.

Echoing President Obama, who gave a televised address on Libya Monday night, the chief U.S. diplomat ticked off a list of what the coalition had accomplished:

“We’ve prevented a potential massacre, established a no-fly zone, stopped an advancing army, added more partners to this coalition and transferred command of the military effort to NATO,” she said. “That’s not bad for a week’s work.”

Clinton said military and political pressure against Gaddafi would continue until the Libyan dictator complied with all U.N. resolutions. She also outlined a strategy for forcing Gaddafi out of power in the coming weeks, starting with robust sanctions and other measures to isolate the Libyan leader, and including unspecified support for the opposition.

Before speaking, Clinton met with Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril.

“As President Obama said last night, while our military mission is focused on saving lives, we must continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people,” Clinton said. “We cannot and must not impose our will on the people of Libya — but we can and must stand with them as they determine their own destiny.”

But with continued ground fighting in contested areas, helping the rebels remains a challenging and complicated goal. The coalition is already facing criticism from Russia and others about expansive nature of coalition attacks on Libyan ground troops. Intervening further in close combat would both increase the risk of civilian deaths and make the mission far more dangerous for coalition troops.

A senior U.S. official attending the London talks said said no decision has been made yet on whether to release billions of dollars in frozen Libyan assets to rebel groups.

“There is no evidence that Gaddafi is taking the kinds of steps the president has called for … including a cease-fire, withdrawal of forces and restoration of gas and electricity,” the official said.

Unity among world leaders in London would send a strong message, not only to Gaddafi but also to senior aides to the dictator who might be leaning toward defecting, the official said. “This is a moment when people around Gaddafi need to think very carefully about what’s in their interest,” he said.

Wilgoren reported from Washington. Warrick reported from London. Correspondent Liz Sly in Tripoli contributed to this report.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Obama Adminstration Is Following the 'Detroit Pattern'

Thomas Sowell

Obama Adminstration Is Following the 'Detroit Pattern'

Obama Adminstration Is Following the 'Detroit Pattern'

Random thoughts on the passing scene:

They say that records are made to be broken. President George W. Bush set a record by adding $3.2 trillion to the national debt over the course of his eight years in office. But Barack Obama has already beaten that record with $4.4 trillion in just his first three years in office.

People who thoughtlessly give money to panhandlers on the street seem not to realize that this is making installment payments on the degeneration of America.

Don't mention "municipal golf courses" to me. It sends my blood pressure up through the roof. What earthly excuse is there for spending the taxpayers' money subsidizing a golf course? Politicians can't even invoke "the poor," as they do when trying to justify other government boondoggles.

The vocabulary of the political left is fascinating. For example, it is considered to be "materialistic" and "greedy" to want to keep what you have earned. But it is "idealistic" to want to take away what someone else has earned and spend it for your own political benefit or to feel good about yourself.

Lou Gehrig was probably the greatest clutch hitter of all time. Although his career was cut short by the disease that bears his name, in 7 of his 14 full seasons he had over 150 runs batted in. (Babe Ruth was second with 5 seasons.) And Gehrig still holds the career record for home runs with the bases loaded.

Economists are often asked to predict what the economy is going to do. But economic predictions require predicting what politicians are going to do-- and nothing is more unpredictable.

An e-mail from a perceptive reader points out that, although Congressional "earmarks" represent a very small part of federal spending, they can be used as bribes to buy the votes of members of Congress on bills involving the spending of vastly larger sums of the taxpayers' money.

When political commentators from the Fox News Channel had books whose sales would normally make the New York Times' non-fiction best-seller list, the New York Times changed the rules for putting books on that list. Thus best-selling political books by Mike Huckabee and Dick Morris appeared last Sunday on a more obscure list of miscellaneous personal advice and how-to books, such as "Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook."

When the Federal Reserve cites statistics to claim that there is not much evidence of inflation, we need to keep in mind that the statistics they rely on exclude food and energy prices. The cost of living is no sweat if you can do without electricity and food.

Even if it could be proved that judges who are making rulings that go counter to the written law produce better results in those particular cases than following the letter of the law would have, that does not make society better off. When laws become unreliable and judges unpredictable, lawsuits become a bonanza for charlatans, who can force honest people to settle out of court, for fear of what some judge might do.

The mainstream media never expressed half the outrage about Mao Zedong as they did about Ronald Reagan. Yet, when it came to killing millions of innocent civilians, even Hitler was an amateur compared to Mao.

The Obama administration seems to be following what might be called "the Detroit pattern"-- increasing taxes, harassing businesses, and pandering to unions. In the short run, it got mayors re-elected. In the long-run, it reduced Detroit from a thriving city to an economic disaster area, whose population was cut in half, as its most productive citizens fled.

Safety advocates who say that we shouldn't take chances, but should ban things that might be unsafe, don't seem to understand that if we banned every food to which somebody had an allergy we could all starve to death.

The vile people who picket the funerals of American soldiers killed in action are far away enough from the mourners not to be heard. It is media attention that magnifies their sick message.

Intolerance may not promote progress but it can promote survival. An intolerant Islamic world may outlast the Western world that seems ready to tolerate anything, including the undermining of its own fundamental values and threats to its continued existence

Message Of Hope Steve Eichler

Deputy Commander of the Israeli Navy Addresses "Victoria" Incident

The Comin is Upon Us - Translation by Reza Kahlili - www.Atimetobetray.com

Middle East/North Africa Uprisings are Iran’s Plan

Middle East/North Africa Uprisings are Iran’s Plan to Return “the Messiah”

By Jane Jamison

The hand of Iran, directly and indirectly through various Islamic “splinter” groups, is steering all of the current uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Believe it.

To understand WHY Iran would be doing this, leaders of the West must delve into mystic Islamic beliefs and writings. One must understand that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Khamanei believe in the coming of the Islamic “Messiah,” the 12th imam, Mahdi. Understand also that destruction of the state of Israel is a necessary precursor to the Messiah’s return.

Along with the unrest in Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Algeria, mortars and shelling have recently intensified against Israel. As Aaron Klein has reported for World Net Daily, Iran was behind the recent mortar attacks from Gaza. Just prior to this, recall that the Israeli Defense Force had intercepted a shipload of advanced weapons headed for Gaza, which were shipped from Iran.

Iranian analyst Reza Khalili has just found a new video being circulated in Islamic countries by Iran, to herald an “imminent” return of the Messiah. This should be a warning to the West, but instead we have a U.S. president who is enabling the Islamic interests in Libya.

By Reza Khalili, author of “A Time to Betray” via Pajamas Media

Several months ago, I was informed by my contacts in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard that the Basij had started work on a film that had the approval of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The purpose of the project: to inform Muslims across the globe of the immediate coming of the last Islamic messiah. As my English translation of the film makes clear the Iranian leaders, now more than ever, feel that all the stars are aligned for such event.

Ever since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Islamic rulers of Iran have declared themselves representatives of God on Earth, believing their mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the Shiites’ 12th imam, Mahdi.

Their belief is based on the centuries-old Hadith by Prophet Mohammad and his descendants, who have provided clear guidance as to the timing of The Coming.

According to the Hadith, in the age of The Coming a revolution takes place in Iran. This is a key sign indicating that the reappearance is near, and serves as the initial preparation in the worldwide movement for The Coming of the last messiah. Based on this belief, the leaders of Iran see it as their duty to prepare the ground for The Coming.

One of the most important keys to securing the reappearance of the last messiah — as called for in the Hadith — is the annihilation of Israel, and the conquering of Beitol Moghadas (Jerusalem). They state with conviction that Islam will soon conquer the world, and that all infidels will be destroyed.

The pursuit of nuclear bombs by the radicals ruling Iran is directly connected to this belief: war, chaos, and lawlessness must engulf the world to pave the way for Imam Mahdi’s reappearance.

This movie has been produced in Iran by an organization called Conductors of The Coming, in collaboration with the Iranian president’s office and the Basij (Iranian paramilitary force). Also, reports indicate that Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, President Ahmadinejad’s top adviser and chief of staff, was directly involved with this project. The movie was completed a few months ago and was recently screened for the high clerics by the Iranian president’s office, with one of its high-ranking official analyzing it.

Mashaei reflects the Iranian leaders’ belief very clearly:

Therefore let us shout out loud that The Coming is soon and that evil should be fearful. We live with these thoughts every day and our lives are filled with The Coming of the last imam. That human will reappear and fill the world with justice and establish his promised governance on earth. The very world has witnessed too much bloodshed of the innocent for others to build their palaces. The very world is filled with shouts for justice. The innocent and the oppressed are losing their lives to world powers. It is in this very world where the oppressors rule and this world that Allah will command the last imam to appear and forever put an end to injustice. At that time the world will belong to the righteous.

Currently this movie is being distributed throughout the Basij and Revolutionary Guards’ bases. The producers are in the middle of translating it into Arabic, with the purpose of mass distribution throughout the Middle East. Their intention is to incite further uprisings, with the hopes of motivating Arabs to overthrow U.S.-backed governments.

The final goal? The annihilation of Israel and Allah’s governance of the world.

Editor’s note:
We can’t overstate the importance of the English translation of this film.

Read also:

“Divine Mission Inspires Iran’s New Leader”

Jeff Dunetz: “Ahmadinejad Believes Egyptian Riots are the work of the 12th Imam-Messiah”

Glenn Beck: “Who is the 12th Imam?”

Lions and Lambs: “An Evaluation of The Muslim Anti-Christ Theory”

Some of the portents of the coming of the Mahdi:

  • Before his coming will come the red death and the white death. The red death is the sword and the white death is plague.
  • Several figures will appear: the one-eyed Antichrist (Masih ad-Dajjal), the Sufyani and the Yamani.
  • The Muslims will throw off the reins and take possession of their land, throwing out the authority of the foreigners.
  • There will be a great conflict in the land of Syria, until it is destroyed.
  • Death and fear will afflict the people of Baghdad and Iraq. A fire will appear in the sky and a redness will cover them.

More about the 12th imam:

The 12th Imam: What Is An Imam?
What is the 12th Imam? According to Islamic belief, an Imam is an anointed leader or ruler. Especially among the Shia beliefs an Imam is thought (though not required), to be a prayer leader or cleric when the word is capitalized. Sunnis too believe an Imam may be a prophet; Shiites believe not all prophets can be an Imam but an Imam can also be a prophet. An Imam is said to be anointed by Allah and a perfect example of leading mankind in every way.

The Shiite interpretation is that only Allah can appoint an Imam and no man has the power to do so. The 12th Imam is said to be a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, having divine status as did each of this succession of sons. The 12th Imam is also called the Hidden Imam and the Mahdi (guided one).

The 12th Imam: Who Is The 12th Imam?
Within the Shiite, (which is predominate in Iran), it is prophesied that there is a coming 12th Imam who is the great spiritual savior. This Imam is named Abu al-Qasim Muhammad or also called Muhammad al Mahdi. He is said to have been born the son of the 11th Imam, Hasan Al-Askari and his wife, the granddaughter of an Emperor. There are conflicting statements of her name being either Fatima or Nargis Khatoon.

Most accounts of the story say that al Mahdi went into hiding as a child around the age of 5 years (about 13th Century). It said he has been ‘in hiding’ in caves ever since but will supernaturally return just before the Day of Judgment. According to the Hadith the criteria for the Hidden Imam are:

  • He will be a descendant of Muhammad and the son of Fatima
  • Will have a broad forehead and pointed nose
  • Will return just before the end of the world
  • His appearance will be preceded by a number of prophetic events during 3 years of horrendous world chaos, tyranny and oppression
  • Will escape from Madina to Mekkah, thousands will pledge allegiance to him
  • Will rule over the Arabs and the world for 7 years
  • Will eradicate all tyranny and oppression bringing harmony and total peace
  • Will lead a prayer in Mekkah which Jesus will be at his side and follow in

Remarkably, the 12th Imam theory plays heavily into the world’s current concerns with Iran. The Shiite Muslim President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, is deeply committed to the Islamic Messiah, al Mahdi. There have been many through the years claiming to be the Hidden Imam but Ahmadinejad believes he is yet to come. He claims that he is to personally prepare the world for the coming Mahdi. In order to save the world, it must be in a state of chaos and subjugation. Ahmadinejad claims he was “directed by Allah to pave the way for the glorious appearance of the Mahdi”. This apocalyptic directive includes some very scary proclamations.

The 12th Imam: Why Is This Especially Important Now?
While Christians look for Jesus’ 2nd coming, the Jews await the Messiah and Muslims await the 12th Imam. However, of the three, Allah’s designated Mahdi is the only one who demands a violent path to conquer the world. Mr. Ahmadinejad, and his cabinet, say they have a ‘signed contract’ with al Mahdi in which they pledge themselves to his work. What does this work involve? In light of concerns over Iran’s nuclear capabilities, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reportedly stated Israel should be wiped off the map. He spoke to the United Nations in September ’05. During that speech he claims to have been in an aura of light and felt a change in the atmosphere during which time no one present could blink their eyes. Iran’s PM is also said to have spoken in apocalyptic terms and seems to relish conflict with the West whom he calls the Great Satan. This is while he proclaims he must prepare the world for the coming Mahdi by way of a world totally under Muslim control. He is working hard to bring about the world-wide horrors that must be in place for their al Mahdi to bring peace.

This notion and goal, along with a violent hatred of infidels, America and Israel reminds us of Biblical prophecies of the coming anti-Christ and the pledges of millions to a deceiving False Messiah who will claim to bring peace. Could this 12th Imam Mahdi and his servant Ahmadinejad spark the last days of the coming true Savior?

Obama’s Meglomania

Obama’s Meglomania: What He Should Say Tonight About Libya

President Barack Obama is likely to speak tonight about how the humanitarian crisis in Libya compelled him to commit American resources to stop Gaddafi. (Never mind that there are humanitarian crises all over the Middle East right now.) He’s also likely to say that this is America’s responsibility as part of the international community. (Never mind that this coalition is the smallest in a very long time–much smaller that either Gulf War coalition.) Obama will stick to script and attempt to justify a policy that is broken, goals that are vague, allies that are Islamists, and the lack of any exit-strategy.

What I suggest instead is that he tell the truth: He got played. Obama got maneuvered into getting involved in Libya because the Europeans, particularly the French and Italians, were concerned about their access to oil and a refugee crisis. And as much as Obama wants to believe that he can “hand over” the Libyan operation to the Europeans, the Colin Powell Rule in International Affairs still applies: ”If you break it, you fix it.” The United States can’t just bomb Libya and then walk away.

The Europeans played Obama so easily because they appealed to his guilt instincts. Obama sincerely believes that under Bush the United States was a Cowboy Empire, insensitive to the sophisticates in Europe. He has been all to eager to demonstrate that he’s different and willing to allow them to lead. What Obama failed to take into account is that Europe has a history of wanting the fruits of military power without actually having military power. It’s the same with Libya. If things go awry, you can bet that the French will gripe and blame the Americans, cajoling the White House to get more firmly involved.

The Europeans no doubt played on Obama’s meglomania and presented this as an opportunity for him to appear both strong and selfless. Strong because he could use military power! ”Selfless” because there are exactly no American interests at stake.

Our enemies and allies are both very shrewd at figuring out what personal qualities they can manipulate in our leaders and using them to their advantage. Sarkozy played Obama perfectly.

Obama, of course, is not going to say any of this tonight. But we can always dream.

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