Sunday, July 25, 2010

Political Digest July 25, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article. Nor that I disagree with them, of course.
New N. Korean Leader Could Rule by September
Excerpt: As N. Korea rattles its saber at the U.S., American intel agents are racing to learn more about Kim Jong Un, who may succeed his ailing father as leader within weeks. Philip Shenon reports on the wave of executions that has Korea watchers on edge. The CIA is scrambling to gather every scrap of information it can find on the youngest son of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il in the belief that the Swiss-educated, Hollywood-loving, Nike-wearing son could take over for his ailing father within weeks, American officials say. They tell The Daily Beast the recent execution of three top Pyongyang officials—a former top negotiator with South Korea and two senior economic officials, all killed by firing squad—suggests brutal internal maneuvering ahead of the succession of “Beloved Comrade” Kim Jong Un, believed to be in his late 20s and just as ruthless as his father. (Just what we need: an inexperienced kid with a chip on his shoulder, a need to make a name for himself, and a nuclear arsenal. Tough times ahead. Ron P. – On the other hand, we could offer to buy him Playboy Magazine to run and he might surrender the country. ~Bob)

North Korea Vows 'Nuclear' Response to US Drills
Excerpt: North Korea threatened today to use its "nuclear deterrent" in a "retaliatory sacred war" against military drills by the U.S. and South Korea, set to kick off this weekend in retaliation for Pyongyang's alleged role in the suspicious sinking of a South Korean warship. The military exercises are slated to begin Sunday in the Sea of Japan, involving 20 ships – including the USS George Washington, one of the world's largest aircraft carriers – plus 100 aircraft and about 8,000 American and South Korean troops. Lasting through Wednesday, the drills demonstrate tight military cooperation between Seoul and Washington, who blame North Korea for torpedoing the Cheonan warship in March, killing 46 sailors. The U.S. has also announced new sanctions against the North. For Pyongyang, the drills are an "unpardonable provocation," its state media reported today. The communist North denies any role in the Cheonan's demise, and has threatened all-out war if it's punished.

Doubts surface on North Korea's role in ship sinking,0,4196801,full.story
Excerpt: Armed with dossiers of their own scientific studies and bolstered by conspiracy theories, critics dispute the findings announced May 20 by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, which pointed a finger at Pyongyang. They also question why Lee made the announcement nearly two months after the ship's sinking, on the very day campaigning opened for fiercely contested local elections. Many accuse the conservative leader of using the deaths of 46 sailors to stir up anti-communist sentiment and sway the vote. The critics, mostly but not all from the opposition, say it is unlikely that the impoverished North Korean regime could have pulled off a perfectly executed hit against a superior military power, sneaking a submarine into the area and slipping away without detection. They also wonder whether the evidence of a torpedo attack was misinterpreted, or even fabricated. "I couldn't find the slightest sign of an explosion," said Shin Sang-chul, a former shipbuilding executive-turned-investigative journalist. "The sailors drowned to death. Their bodies were clean. We didn't even find dead fish in the sea." Shin, who was appointed to the joint investigative panel by the opposition Democratic Party, inspected the damaged ship with other experts April 30. He was removed from the panel shortly afterward, he says, because he had voiced a contrary opinion: that the Cheonan hit ground in the shallow water off the Korean peninsula and then damaged its hull trying to get off a reef. (We seem to have taught the South Korean politicians well. Their leftists are doing all they can to throw dust into the air to obscure what seems obvious. One of the spokesmen named below said they found no dead fish--he doesn't mention they started looking more than a month later. Maybe Neptune broke the ships into pieces with his hands--but I doubt it. Expect trouble from the NKs. Ron P.)

House Democrat calls on Rep. Rangel to resign
Gotta dump him before the campaign! Excerpt: In a major development, Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) on Friday night called on beleaguered Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to resign. Sutton's statement comes one day after the House ethics committee charged the 80-year-old Democrat with multiple violations. In a statement to The Hill, Sutton stated, "It is regrettable, but Charlie Rangel needs to resign from his seat in Congress. This isn’t about being a Democrat or Republican, this is about preserving the public trust. Our nation is facing extraordinary challenges and we must be focused on building a sustainable economy that will allow our workers and businesses to flourish." Sutton has built a reputation as a crusader for congressional ethics. In 2008, she led the fight to pass legislation creating the Office of Congressional Ethics, which now serves as an independent ethics body within the House of Representatives.

Tenure: An Idea Whose Time Has Gone
Excerpt: The arguments for academic tenure have always struck me as pretty weak, and more to the point, transparently self-serving. The best you can say of the system is that it preserves a sort of continuity in schools that is desirable for the purposes of cultivating alumni donations. But the cost of such a system is simply staggering. Consider what the academic job market now looks like. You have a small elite on top who have lifetime employment regardless of how little work they do. This lifetime employment commences somewhere between 35 and 40. For the ten-to-fifteen years before that, they spend their lives in pursuit of the brass ring. They live in poverty suck up to professors, and publish, for one must publish to be tenured. It's very unfortunate if you don't have anything much worth saying; you need to publish anyway, in order to improve your chances. Fortunately, for the needy tenure seeker, a bevy of journals have sprung up that will print your trivial contributions. If nothing else, they provide a nice simple model which helps introductory economics professors explain Say's Law. (Interesting. Tenure certainly has protected some academics who did not deserve protection. But should it really be abolished, or maybe just reworked somehow? --Del)

Three-Quarters of Congressmen Support Auditing the Federal Reserve, so Why Isn't It Law?
When you consider that 2/3rd of the voters couldn’t say which party controlled Congress in November 2008, it’s no wonder things are screwed up. Most probably thought the GOP was in control because Bush was president. Plus just signing on doesn’t mean they REALLY support it. You get the government you deserve. Excerpt: You would think that a bill supported by nearly three-quarters of the legislature should be a breeze to become law. Not so in today's House of Representatives. The legislative system has become so convoluted and corrupted that not even the legislators know what is in the bills, where the bills are being written, or what bills are pending. Given the current system, it should come as no surprise that a bill which would allow the Congress to audit the Federal Reserve should be stalled in a committee and will soon die. H.R. 1207, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009, was introduced in February of 2009 by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and has gained an astonishing 320 cosponsors, which represents just over 73% of the 435 members of the House of Representatives -- a number sufficient to surpass even a presidential veto. The bill is atypical of most congressional legislation in that it is just three pages with a single goal, devoid of pork, side projects, or other unsavory trappings of the legislative process. The bill simply requires the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve to submit a full audit of their activities to Congress before the end of 2010. This is in stark contrast to the very limited audit powers that the General Accounting Office (GAO) has currently over the Federal Reserve. Knowing the simplicity and the obvious support the bill has, it should be a breeze to zip through Congress -- but Congress simply no longer functions.

Police in modern, moderate Indonesia tear down house church
Excerpt: Dhimmis in the Islamic state "are forbidden to build new churches" ('Umdat al-Salik O11.5(7)) "Indonesian police tears down house church," from Asia News, July 23 (thanks to C. Cantoni): Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Police demolished a residential building in Bogor (West Java) that regularly hosted a house church. Police also detained, interrogated and released ten people, Compass Direct News (CDN) reported. Last Monday, police raided a house used for worship by Narogong Pentecostal Church in the village of Limusnunggal, Cileungsi sub-district. The action was followed by clashes between agents and worshippers. The building was eventually torn down and ten people arrested. "Local residents, including non-Christians, had accepted the presence of the church," said local Block Captain Junaedi Syamsudin, "but a group called the Forum of the Muslim Brotherhood of Limusnunggal has worked since 2008 to have the church eliminated."

Disappearance of Priest's Wife Leads to Coptic Demonstrations in Egypt
Excerpt: The unexplained disappearance of a Coptic priest's wife in Upper Egypt has led today a sit-in staged by thousands of Copts at the Coptic Patriarchate in Cairo, to protest what they consider "collusion by the state security services." There are rumors that Islamists have abducted her. They promised to continue with their sit-in until the state security divulges her whereabouts. Nearly three thousand demonstrators, joined by clergy, protested the lack of protection for Copts by state security, chanting "They abducted the wife of our priest, tomorrow they will abduct us" and "Where are our abducted girls or is it because they are Christians?"

France and Mauritania raid Al-Qaeda kidnap gang
Vive le France! Excerpt: French-backed Mauritanian forces attacked and killed six members of an Al-Qaeda affiliated gang allegedly holding a French hostage in the North African desert, officials said Friday. The French defence ministry said the group was refusing to negotiate the release of a 78-year-old French aid worker kidnapped four months ago, and had been responsible for the murder of a British hostage last year. Asked about the raid -- which some French and Spanish media portrayed as a failed hostage rescue bid -- President Nicolas Sarkozy refused to comment. There was no word on the fate of the French captive, who does not appear to have been present when Thursday's pre-dawn assault was launched, and Mauritania said that the operation was not intended as a rescue. In the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, Interior Minister Mohamed Ould Boilil thanked France for its support, particularly in intelligence gathering, and said the operation had been a success.

Iran supports three insurgent groups in Iraq: US general
How’s that open handed policy towards Iran working out for you, Barack? Excerpt: Iran is supporting three Shiite extremist groups in Iraq that have been attempting to attack US bases, General Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, said Wednesday. For the past four years the US military has blamed Iran for supporting violent anti-US groups operating in Iraq, but has been unable to establish a clear link with the government in Tehran. "The Iranians... continue to fund, train and provide weapons and ammunition to Shiite extremist groups," Odierno told reporters here. The Iranians have "gone to a more sophisticated program with a smaller set of extremists" and are now focusing on three groups, which he identified as Ketaib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), and the Promise Day Brigade.

Interesting column from Turkey: Where Islamists and post-modern Islamists come together
Excerpt: When I wrote that piece, I was hoping that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could perhaps explain the distasteful discrepancy between his selective caring for Muslims and Turks who suffer all around the world and his muteness on the tragedy of an Iranian woman of Turkish descent who was awaiting execution by stoning under a Sharia ruling. Instead, Mr. Akyol appeared on the scene in defense of the Islamic cause with the generously common rhetoric Islamists and post-modern Islamists share to, borrowing Mr. Akyol’s description, ‘whitewash Islam’ i.e., the Islamist’s reflexive habit of going for a literalist interpretation of the Koran when in question are commandments like abstinence from pork and alcohol and his apologetic inclination toward a figurative interpretation when he thinks ‘the cause’ needs to look pretty to western friends. Islamist Muslims (Muslims with a political agenda for the advancement of Islam both regionally and globally) have that bad habit: The perpetual feeling of fear that the western powers they need as tactical (not strategic) allies may view them with suspicion because a Muslim with a literalist interpretation of most verses of Islam’s holy book may do the same with other verses – verses that, for instance, command amputations, lashes, two women equal one man jurisprudence, sexually discriminative inheritance laws and, most importantly, hostility against other monotheistic religions, especially Judaism. In his weekend piece, Mr. Akyol accused me for having an ad hominem attack on him probably because I asked him a few theological questions on subjects the Islamists prefer to bury deep under ground – and wrote that I did not believe Mr. Akyol was a jihadist. I was wrong to expect a more powerful text from him since his comrades have been ‘spinning better’ – an essential effort in Islamists’ global ambition to play the modern day, Muslim Trojan Horse at the gates of western civilization.
Ibn Warraq: "It's no good pretending that somehow the real Islam is tolerant, the real Islam is feminist, and so on"
Excerpt: Here, from a lengthy and fascinating discussion featuring Paul Berman, Judith Miller, Fred Siegel, Lee Smith, Ibn Warraq, is my friend Ibn Warraq's take on a question that has been much discussed here and elsewhere, and is often obscured and confused: the distinction between Islam and "Islamism," and that between the teachings of Islam and Muslims as individuals. "Modernity and the Muslims: A transcript of a discussion at St. Francis College," at City Journal, July 15:

Key Mexican official among 43 charged in drug case
Does anyone ever ask why Mexico, with great natural resources, founded about the same time as the US, is still a third world country? Could it be culture? And that begs the question of what happens to the US if we allow these failed, backward cultures to be imported and rooted here? Excerpt: A law enforcement official from Mexico who worked closely with U.S. police agencies was among 43 people charged Friday in a massive federal case aimed at crippling a drug gang formed from the remnants of the once-mighty Arellano Félix cartel. The charges cap a months-long investigation by a task force of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Since late 2009, authorities have conducted surveillance, wiretapped phones to capture some 50,000 conversations among the conspirators and relied on a confidential informant who for months secretly recorded his interactions with members of the group. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said that the charges struck at the Fernando Sánchez organization, whose members and associates were living in local communities from Imperial Beach to Poway.

NAS wants “better communications, reliable data” on Climate
We should get together with the other planets, like Mars, etc. that are also warming and report the sun to the UN! Excerpt: A comprehensive national response to climate change should be informed by reliable data coordinated through climate services and a greenhouse gas monitoring and management system to provide timely information tailored to decision makers at all levels, says a report by the National Research Council. The report recommends several mechanisms for improving communication about climate science and responses and calls for a systematic framework for making and evaluating decisions about how to effectively manage the risks posed by climate change. “Global climate change is a long-term challenge that will require all of us to make many decisions about how to respond,” said Diana Liverman, co-chair of the panel that wrote the report, co-director of the Institute of Environment at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and a senior research fellow at Oxford University. “To make choices that are based on the best available science, government agencies, the private sector, and individuals need clear, accessible information about what is happening to the climate and to emissions. We also need information on the implications of different options — especially to assess whether policies are effective.”

Rauf’s Dawa from the World Trade Center Rubble
Excerpt: Meet the Ground Zero Mosque imam’s Muslim Brotherhood friends. Feisal Abdul Rauf is the imam behind the “Cordoba Initiative” that is spearheading plans to build a $100 million Islamic center at Ground Zero, the site where nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by jihadists on 9/11. He is also the author of a book called What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America. But the book hasn’t always been called that. It was called quite something else for non-English-speaking audiences. In Malaysia, it was published as A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11. Now it emerges that a “special, non-commercial edition” of this book was later produced, with Feisal’s cooperation, by two American tentacles of the Muslim Brotherhood: the Islamic Society of North America and the International Institute of Islamic Thought.

CBO Report: The Role of Immigrants in the U.S. Labor Market: An Update
Excerpt: The CBO points out some information about immigrants and their role in the U.S Labor market. Below is the summary from the CBO report. People born in other countries represent a substantial and growing segment of the U.S. labor force—that is, people with a job or looking for one. In 2009, 24 million members of the labor force—more than one in seven—were foreign born, up from 21 million in 2004. However, the growth of the foreign-born labor force was much slower between 2004 and 2009 than between 1994 and 2004. In that earlier period, the size of the foreign-born labor force grew at an average annual rate of more than 5 percent, whereas from 2004 to 2009, the rate was about 2 percent. As a share of the total, the foreign-born labor force grew from 10.0 percent in 1994 to 14.5 percent in 2004 and to 15.5 percent in 2009. Among members of the foreign-born labor force in the United States in 2009, about half came to this country before 1994. In 2009, 40 percent of the foreign-born labor force was from Mexico and Central America, and more than 25 percent was from Asia. In 2009, over half of the foreign-born workers from Mexico and Central America did not have a high school diploma or GED credential, as compared with just 6 percent of native-born workers. In contrast, nearly half of the foreign-born workers from places other than Mexico and Central America had at least a bachelor’s degree, as compared with 35 percent of native-born workers. Over time, participants in the U.S. labor force from Mexico and Central America have become more educated. In 2009, they had completed an average of 9.8 years of schooling— up from 9.5 years in 2004; 55 percent lacked a high school diploma or GED credential — down from 59 percent in 2004; and among 16- to 24-year-olds, 50 percent were not in school and were not high school graduates — down from 60 percent in 2004. Nevertheless, those born in Mexico and Central America are constituting an increasingly large share of the least educated portions of the labor force. For example, in 2009 they made up 64 percent of labor force participants with at most an 8th grade education — a figure that was 58 percent in 2004. To a considerable extent, educational attainment determines the role of foreign-born workers in the labor market. In 2009, 70 percent of workers born in Mexico and Central America were employed in occupations that have minimal educational requirements, such as construction laborer and dishwasher; only 23 percent of native-born workers held such jobs. On average, the weekly earnings of men from Mexico and Central America who worked full time were just over half those of native-born men; women from Mexico and Central America earned about three-fifths of the average weekly earnings of native-born women.

Science article has implications for all rapidly developing fields
Excerpt: At the dawn of human genome research two decades ago, more than 1,000 researchers were working around the globe. To facilitate knowledge sharing, the U.S. government sought to coordinate their efforts. In the past, government-funded human genome researchers had a 12-to-18 month latency period between the generation of data and its required release. In 1992, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy (DOE) reduced that period to six months. Four years later, government and scientific leaders determined that six months was still too large a gap. They then decided that human genome research findings must be released prior to publication, within 24 hours after generation. The legacy of that determination, called the “Bermuda Accord,” still affects genomic research projects today and makes it difficult for data generators to publish their findings before competitors who have free access to their data. “While it would be preferable, from a pure scientific advancement standpoint, to have every piece of data released immediately to the public, that doesn’t give data-generating scientists the opportunity to publish and advance their careers through publication,” Contreras says. The agreement also inhibits the ability of researchers to obtain patents, as patents cannot be obtained on information that is already known to the public. (It will be interesting to see what effect--if any--this has on climate science. The only drawback I see is making it difficult or impossible to get a patent on application developments once the "knowledge" has entered the public domain. In the case of genetics, this may not be entirely a bad thing, but bio-ethics is still a developing area of philosophy and its debates are best left for another day. Ron P.)

"Los Zetas" Draw Concern Of U.S. Government
Excerpt: The U.S. Justice Department is warning local police in Arizona and California a group of rogue Mexican military commandos may be headed this way. They're thought to be setting up new drug smuggling routes and it could bring new violence to the border area. They are elite "special forces" of the Mexican military trained in the U.S. at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia and sent to "wipe out" one of the most powerful Mexican drug cartels. But these soldiers deserted and became the muscle for the very cartel they were supposed to destroy. According to this Department of Justice "Intelligence Bulletin" obtained by the 5i-Team, these rogue commandos now known as "Los Zetas" may be heading our way.
The normally busy streets and busy stores in Nogales Sonora have been a little less bustling lately. Caesar Fierro says, "It's been slow this year." Caesar Fierro says his empty store is the result of rumors about a drug war. Tourists are scared.

Choppers in Vietnam

Dashcam footage of officer being shot
Have to be careful when you stop undocumented workers. They can be touchy.

Man Killed in Bizarre Custody Plot
Darwin Award Winner! Excerpt: A Dallas man died while executing a twisted plot to win custody of his child, Dallas police said. According to investigators, 20-year-old Dwayne Lamont Moten hired a friend to shoot him, intending to blame the crime on his wife's boyfriend and gain custody of his 3-year-old son, Dwayne Jr. "[This] was two individuals trying to frame a third individual," Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse said. Janse said the plan was that Jacob Wheeler, also 20, would shoot Moten but only injure him. However, the bullets that struck Moten on Saturday mortally wounded the forlorn father.

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