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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring | Danger Room |

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase
Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring | Danger Room |

The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.

Which naturally makes the 16-person Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm attractive to Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment division, and to In-Q-Tel, which handles similar duties for the CIA and the wider intelligence community.

It’s not the very first time Google has done business with America’s spy agencies. Long before it reportedly enlisted the help of the National Security Agency to secure its networks, Google sold equipment to the secret signals-intelligence group. In-Q-Tel backed the mapping firm Keyhole, which was bought by Google in 2004 — and then became the backbone for Google Earth.

This appears to be the first time, however, that the intelligence community and Google have funded the same startup, at the same time. No one is accusing Google of directly collaborating with the CIA. But the investments are bound to be fodder for critics of Google, who already see the search giant as overly cozy with the U.S. government, and worry that the company is starting to forget its “don’t be evil” mantra.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Newt Gingrich has become, frankly, a hate-mongering bigot | Jay Bookman

Newt Gingrich has become, frankly, a hate-mongering bigot | Jay Bookman

Newt Gingrich went on Fox last night to peddle more of his hateful, vile garbage regarding the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” which is not at ground zero and is not a major mosque, but an Islamic community center.

“The idea of a 13-story building set up by a group many of whom, frankly, are very hostile to our civilization — and I’m talking now about the people who organized this, many of whom are apologists for sharia, which is a form of law that I think we cannot allow in this country, period,” Gingrich said.

Once again, my longstanding Gingrich Rule proves valid. Whenever the man utters the word “frankly,” what follows is almost always the opposite of frank speech. It is instead absolute baloney. In this case, he alleges that many of the people involved in the proposal to build the Islamic center “frankly, are very hostile to our civilization.”

That’s a serious charge, and neither Gingrich nor anyone else has provided any evidence whatsoever that it is true. With inflammatory remarks of this sort, Gingrich makes Joe McCarthy look measured and responsible.

Any grudging respect I once held for the man is now gone.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

WikiLeaks Secret Records Dump Stays in Legal Clear: Ann Woolner - Bloomberg

WikiLeaks Secret Records Dump Stays in Legal Clear: Ann Woolner - Bloomberg

With his prematurely white hair and his Australia-tinged English, 39-year-old Julian Assange has become the face and voice of what is surely the most massive leak of U.S. classified documents in history.

His online organization, WikiLeaks, devotes itself to government and corporate whistle-blowers and the documents they offer. It stands as a buffer between them and whomever had the secrets being bared, whether documents on Cayman Islands bank accounts, video showing Americans firing on civilians in Baghdad or Sarah Palin’s e-mail.

But none of that came close to this week’s disgorgement of classified military documents. WikiLeaks served as conduit for 92,000 pages of material from a military insider to the New York Times, the Guardian of London and der Spiegel magazine in Germany.

Those three published front page analyses and excerpts, which give on-the-ground accounts of the war in Afghanistan, its failings, its brutality and its corruption.

Assange acts as a document launderer of sorts, an intermediary between the gatherer of the documents, who faces prosecution, and news organizations, which don’t.

What about the man in the middle? His organization? Can they be prosecuted?

Better Safe

Assange has been staying out of the U.S., just in case. But it’s probably unnecessary. The First Amendment’s free-press protection shields those who merely publish classified documents that others take.

The need for that protection should be obvious.

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government,” the Supreme Court said in 1971 in the Pentagon Papers case.

Prosecutors charged the leaker, military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, but had to drop the case because of government misconduct, like breaking into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. And the New York Times was free to publish the 7,000-page internal history of the Vietnam War, revealing that president after president had lied about what the U.S. was doing in the region and the chances for success.

It helped turn the tide of public opinion.

The Obama administration has decried the possibility that the document dump could expose those cooperating with the U.S. to retaliation from the Taliban. WikiLeaks and the news organizations say they scrubbed the material to rid it of that risk.

Field Reports

No big lies have fallen out of the mega-load of field reports WikiLeaks made public this week, although it looks like two administrations have made the war sound more winnable than it probably is.

“This material shines light on the everyday brutality and squalor of war,” Assange told der Spiegel. It “will change public opinion and it will change the opinion of people in positions of political and diplomatic influence.”

As he makes clear, WikiLeaks is more an advocacy group than traditional news organization. Its chief aim is to make governments and corporations more transparent, and it is especially eager to unveil possible abuses of power.

But that doesn’t weaken its First Amendment protection.

“We are a publication,” Daniel Schmitt, a WikiLeaks spokesman said in a telephone interview yesterday from Berlin. However different from a newspaper, “We are a publishing organization.”

U.S. Criminal Law

Unless the group or someone inside it solicited the documents or helped the insider obtain them, they probably have little to fear from U.S. criminal law.

Nor could WikiLeaks be forced to disclose its sources. The group located its headquarters in Sweden because it has one of the world’s strongest shield laws to protect confidential source-journalist relationships.

“We have been legally challenged in various countries,” Assange said in the interview with der Spiegel. “We have won every challenge.”

Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd., based in Basel, Switzerland, sued because WikiLeaks posted accountholder information from its Cayman outpost amid allegations of money laundering and tax evasion. The bank filed suit in San Francisco against California-based Dynadot, WikiLeaks’ domain registrar.

The bank won a short-lived court ruling that attempted to shut WikiLeaks, which had sent no lawyer to argue. Once it did, and once free-speech groups intervened to tell the judge the First Amendment forbids such an order, the judge dissolved his earlier decision and the bank abandoned the case.

WikiLeaks says it doesn’t dig for dirt or urge others to. “We do not solicit any information,” Schmitt says.

Don’t Ask

If they did, they could find themselves in a conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act of 1917. That is the law that bans the release of confidential military and national security information. News organizations are exempt, but only if they don’t solicit.

Still, the organization may begin skating closer to the edge. It’s planning an educational effort for would-be leakers that will say “why leaking is a useful thing” and “how to do it properly,” Schmitt says.

And last year the group compiled a list of the “Most Wanted” documents, based on suggestions from people around the word.

Among the entries: the East German secret police file on Federal Chancellor Angela Dorothea Merkel and a list of all political prisoners in Egypt.

Suspected Source

For now, at least, Assange and WikiLeaks seem to be in the clear. Not so for the 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst, Private First Class Bradley Manning, suspected as a source.

Already in custody and blamed for an earlier submission to WikiLeaks, Manning is a “person of interest” in the recent disgorgement of secret Afghanistan reports, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Assange, meanwhile, isn’t taking any chances. He recently canceled an appearance in Las Vegas and said at a news conference in London this week he had been told he would be arrested if he came to the U.S.

No doubt authorities would like to invite him in for a chat. But jail him? Not likely.

(Ann Woolner is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Ann Woolner in Atlanta at

WikiLeaks and the Afghan War | STRATFOR

WikiLeaks and the Afghan War | STRATFOR

By George Friedman

On Sunday, The New York Times and two other newspapers published summaries and excerpts of tens of thousands of documents leaked to a website known as WikiLeaks. The documents comprise a vast array of material concerning the war in Afghanistan [2]. They range from tactical reports from small unit operations to broader strategic analyses of politico-military relations between the United States and Pakistan. It appears to be an extraordinary collection.

Tactical intelligence on firefights is intermingled with reports on confrontations between senior U.S. and Pakistani officials in which lists of Pakistani operatives in Afghanistan are handed over to the Pakistanis. Reports on the use of surface-to-air missiles by militants in Afghanistan are intermingled with reports on the activities of former Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, who reportedly continues to liaise with the Afghan Taliban in an informal capacity.

The WikiLeaks

At first glance, it is difficult to imagine a single database in which such a diverse range of
intelligence was stored, or the existence of a single individual cleared to see such diverse intelligence stored across multiple databases and able to collect, collate and transmit the intelligence without detection. Intriguingly, all of what has been released so far has been not-so-sensitive material rated secret or below. The Times reports that Gulʼs name appears all over the documents, yet very few documents have been released in the current batch, and it is very hard to imagine intelligence on Gul and his organization, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate [4], being classified as only secret. So, this was either low-grade material hyped by the media, or there is material reviewed by the selected newspapers but not yet made public. Still, what was released and what the Times discussed is consistent with what most thought was happening in Afghanistan.
The obvious comparison is to the Pentagon Papers, commissioned by the Defense Department to gather lessons from the Vietnam War and leaked by Daniel Ellsberg to the Times during the Nixon administration. Many people worked on the Pentagon Papers, each of whom was focused on part of it and few of whom would have had access to all of it.

Ellsberg did not give the Times the supporting documentation; he gave it the finished product. By contrast, in the WikiLeaks case, someone managed to access a lot of information that would seem to have been contained in many different places. If this was an unauthorized leak, then it had to have involved a massive failure in security. Certainly, the culprit should be known by now and his arrest should have been announced. And certainly, the gathering of such diverse material in one place accessible to one or even a few people who could move it without detection is odd.
Like the Pentagon Papers, the WikiLeaks (as I will call them) elicited a great deal of feigned surprise, not real surprise. Apart from the charge that the Johnson administration contrived the Gulf of Tonkin incident, much of what the Pentagon Papers contained was generally known. Most striking about the Pentagon Papers was not how much surprising material they contained, but how little. Certainly, they contradicted the official line on the war, but there were few, including supporters of the war, who were buying the official line anyway.

In the case of the WikiLeaks, what is revealed also is not far from what most people believed, although they provide enormous detail. Nor is it that far from what government and military officials are saying about the war. No one is saying the war is going well, though some say that given time it might go better.
The view of the Taliban as a capable fighting force is, of course, widespread. If they werenʼt a capable fighting force, then the United States would not be having so much trouble defeating them. The WikiLeaks seem to contain two strategically significant claims, however. The first is that the Taliban [5] are a more sophisticated fighting force than has been generally believed. An example is the claim that Taliban fighters have used man- portable air defense systems (MANPADS) against U.S. aircraft. This claim matters in a number of ways. First, it indicates that the Taliban are using technologies similar to those used against the Soviets. Second, it raises the question of where the Taliban are getting them — they certainly donʼt manufacture MANPADS themselves.
If they have obtained advanced technologies, this would have significance on the battlefield. For example, if reasonably modern MANPADS were to be deployed in numbers, the use of American airpower would either need to be further constrained or higher attrition rates accepted. Thus far, only first- and second-generation MANPADS without Infrared Counter-Countermeasures (which are more dangerous) appear to have
been encountered, and not with decisive or prohibitive effectiveness. But in any event, this doesnʼt change the fundamental character of the war.

Supply Lines and Sanctuaries

What it does raise is the question of supply lines and sanctuaries. The most important charge contained in the leaks is about Pakistan. The WikiLeaks contain documents that charge that the Pakistanis are providing both supplies and sanctuary to Taliban fighters while objecting to American forces entering Pakistan to clean out the sanctuaries and are unwilling or unable to carry out that operation by themselves (as they have continued to do in North Waziristan).
Just as important, the documents charge that the ISI has continued to maintain liaison and support for the Taliban in spite of claims by the Pakistani government that pro-Taliban officers had been cleaned out of the ISI years ago. The document charges that Gul, the director-general of the ISI from 1987 to 1989, still operates in Pakistan, informally serving the ISI and helping give the ISI plausible deniability.
Though startling, the charge that Islamabad is protecting and sustaining forces fighting and killing Americans is not a new one. When the United States halted operations in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviets in 1989, U.S. policy was to turn over operations in Afghanistan to Pakistan. U.S. strategy was to use Islamist militants to fight the Soviets [6] and to use Pakistani liaisons through the ISI to supply and coordinate with them. When the Soviets and Americans left Afghanistan, the ISI struggled to install a government composed of its allies until the Taliban took over Kabul in 1996. The ISIʼs relationship with the Taliban — which in many ways are the heirs to the anti-Soviet mujahideen — is widely known. In my book, “Americaʼs Secret War,” I discussed both this issue and the role of Gul. These documents claim that this relationship remains intact. Apart from Pakistani denials, U.S. officials and military officers frequently made this charge off the record [7] , and on the record occasionally. The leaks on this score are interesting, but they will shock only those who didnʼt pay attention or who want to be shocked.
Letʼs step back and consider the conflict dispassionately. The United States forced the Taliban from power. It never defeated the Taliban nor did it make a serious effort to do so, as that would require massive resources the United States doesnʼt have. Afghanistan is a secondary issue for the United States, especially since al Qaeda has established bases in a number of other countries, particularly Pakistan, making the occupation of Afghanistan irrelevant to fighting al Qaeda.
For Pakistan, however, Afghanistan is an area of fundamental strategic interest. The regionʼs main ethnic group, the Pashtun, stretch across the Afghan-Pakistani border. Moreover, were a hostile force present in Afghanistan, as one was during the Soviet occupation, Pakistan would face threats in the west as well as the challenge posed by India in the east. For Pakistan, an Afghanistan under Pakistani influence or at least a benign Afghanistan is a matter of overriding strategic importance.
WikiLeaks and the Afghan War

It is therefore irrational to expect the Pakistanis to halt collaboration with the force that they expect to be a major part of the government of Afghanistan when the United States leaves. The Pakistanis never expected the United States to maintain a presence in Afghanistan permanently. They understood that Afghanistan was a means toward an end, and not an end in itself. They understood this under George W. Bush. They understand it even more clearly under Barack Obama , who made withdrawal a policy goal
Given that they donʼt expect the Taliban to be defeated, and given that they are not interested in chaos in Afghanistan, it follows that they will maintain close relations with and support for the Taliban. Given that the United States is powerful and is Pakistanʼs only lever against India, the Pakistanis will not make this their public policy, however. The United States has thus created a situation in which the only rational policy for Pakistan is two-tiered, consisting of overt opposition to the Taliban and covert support for the Taliban.

This is duplicitous only if you close your eyes to the Pakistani reality, which the Americans never did. There was ample evidence, as the WikiLeaks show, of covert ISI ties to the Taliban. The Americans knew they couldnʼt break those ties. They settled for what support Pakistan could give them [12] while constantly pressing them harder and harder until genuine fears in Washington emerged that Pakistan could destabilize altogether. Since a stable Pakistan is more important to the United States than a victory in Afghanistan — which it wasnʼt going to get anyway — the United States released pressure and increased aid. If Pakistan collapsed, then India would be the sole regional power, not something the United States wants.

The WikiLeaks seem to show that like sausage-making, one should never look too closely at how wars are fought, particularly coalition warfare. Even the strongest alliances, such as that between the United States and the United Kingdom in World War II, are fraught with deceit and dissension. London was fighting to save its empire, an end Washington was hostile to; much intrigue ensued. The U.S.-Pakistani alliance is not nearly as trusting. The
United States is fighting to deny al Qaeda a base in Afghanistan while Pakistan is fighting to secure its western frontier and its internal stability. These are very different ends that have very different levels of urgency.

The WikiLeaks portray a war in which the United States has a vastly insufficient force on the ground that is fighting a capable and dedicated enemy who isnʼt going anywhere. The Taliban know that they win just by not being defeated, and they know that they wonʼt be defeated. The Americans are leaving, meaning the Taliban need only wait and prepare.

The Pakistanis also know that the Americans are leaving and that the Taliban or a coalition including the Taliban will be in charge of Afghanistan when the Americans leave. They will make certain that they maintain good relations with the Taliban. They will deny that they are doing this because they want no impediments to a good relationship with the United States before or after it leaves Afghanistan. They need a patron to secure their interests against India. Since the United States wants neither an India outside a balance of power nor China taking the role of Pakistanʼs patron, it follows that the risk the United States will bear grudges is small. And given that, the Pakistanis can live with Washington knowing that one Pakistani hand is helping the Americans while another helps the Taliban. Power, interest and reality define the relations between nations, and different factions inside nations frequently have different agendas and work against each other.

The WikiLeaks, from what we have seen so far, detail power, interest and reality as we have known it. They do not reveal a new reality. Much will be made about the shocking truth that has been shown, which, as mentioned above, shocks only those who wish to be shocked. The Afghan war is about an insufficient American and allied force fighting a capable enemy on its home ground and a Pakistan positioning itself for the inevitable outcome. The WikiLeaks contain all the details.
We are left with the mystery of who compiled all of these documents and who had access to them with enough time and facilities to transmit them to the outside world in a blatant and sustained breach of protocol. The image we have is of an unidentified individual or small group working to get a “shocking truth” out to the public, only the truth is not shocking — it is what was known all along in excruciating detail. Who would want to detail a truth that is already known, with access to all this documentation and the ability to transmit it unimpeded? Whoever it proves to have been has just made the most powerful case yet for withdrawal from Afghanistan sooner rather than later.
This is a superb analysis of the Wikileaks Afganistan War papers putting the information released into an easily understandable explanation of the context of the war and the interests of all parties involved. This article is must reading for anyone with even the most cursory interest in this war. Don't miss it. This is not a conservative or liberal piece. This is pure analysis. Conservative firebrand Bill O'Reilly has even posted this piece to his blog. This is the first time that I know I have agreed with O'Reilly. Something must be wrong here but I have not found out what's wrong yet. Please help me.

John H. Armwood

News Analysis - Ruling Against Arizona a Warning for Other States -

News Analysis - Ruling Against Arizona a Warning for Other States -

A federal judge in Arizona on Wednesday broadly vindicated the Obama administration’s high-stakes move to challenge that state’s tough immigration law and to assert the primary authority of the federal government over state lawmakers in immigration matters.

The ruling by Judge Susan R. Bolton, in a lawsuit against Arizona brought on July 6 by the Justice Department, blocked central provisions of the law from taking effect while she finishes hearing the case.

But in taking the forceful step of holding up a statute even before it was put into practice, Judge Bolton previewed her opinions on the case, indicating that the federal government was likely to win in the end on the main points.

The decision by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to throw the federal government’s weight against Arizona, on an issue that has aroused passions among state residents, has irritated many state governors, and nine states filed papers supporting Arizona in the court case.

But Judge Bolton found that the law was on the side of the Justice Department in its argument that many provisions of the Arizona statute would interfere with federal law and policy.

Gov. Jan Brewer said the state would appeal the decision.

Although Judge Bolton’s ruling is not final, it seems likely to halt, at least temporarily, an expanding movement by states to combat illegal immigration by making it a state crime to be an immigrant without legal documents and by imposing new requirements on state and local police officers to enforce immigration law.

“This is a warning to any other jurisdiction” considering a similar law, said Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund , which brought a separate suit against the law that is also before Judge Bolton.

The Arizona law stood out from hundreds of statutes adopted by states in recent years to discourage illegal immigrants. The statute makes it a state crime for immigrants to fail to carry documents proving their legal status, and it requires state police officers to determine the immigration status of anyone they detain for another reason, if there is a “reasonable suspicion” the person is an illegal immigrant.

The mere fact of being present without legal immigration status is a civil violation under federal law, but not a crime.

Arizona’s lawyers contended that the statute was written to complement federal laws. Judge Bolton rejected that argument, finding that four of its major provisions interfered or directly conflicted with federal laws.

The Arizona police, she wrote, would have to question every person they detained about immigration status, generating a flood of requests to the federal immigration authorities for confirmations. The number of requests “is likely to impermissibly burden federal resources and redirect federal agencies away from priorities they have established,” she wrote.

While opponents of the Arizona law had said it would lead to racial profiling, the Justice Department did not dwell on those issues in its court filings. But Judge Bolton brought them forward, finding significant risks for legal immigrants and perhaps American citizens. There is a “substantial likelihood that officers will wrongfully arrest legal resident aliens,” she wrote, warning that foreign tourists could also be wrongly detained.

The law, she found, would increase “the intrusion of police presence into the lives of legally present aliens (and even United States citizens), who will necessarily be swept up” by it. Judge Bolton was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 2000.

Hannah August, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said, “While we understand the frustration of Arizonans with the broken immigration system, a patchwork of state and local policies would seriously disrupt federal immigration enforcement.”

Some critics said Judge Bolton had decided too quickly. Peter Schuck, a professor of immigration law at Yale, said Judge Bolton should have allowed the law to go into effect, which it was scheduled to do on Thursday, before issuing an order that curbed the power of a state legislature.

“She rushed to judgment in a way I can only assume reflects a lot of pressure from the federal government to get this case resolved quickly,” he said.

Now Judge Bolton’s ruling has shifted the political pressure back onto President Obama to show that he can effectively enforce the border, and to move forward with an overhaul of the immigration laws, so that states will not seek to step in as Arizona did.


The federal government has already regulated in the area of immigration law triggering the U.S. Constitutions preemption provisions. which prohibits state regulation in an area of law where the federal government both has the power to regulate and has chosen to regulate. Secondly the Arizona statute raises serious 14 Amendment due process issues because it creates a subclass of people who may be targeted by this law. The inherent racial profiling built into the enforcement features of this statute are counter to the very purpose of the 14 Amendment which was put in place during Reconstruction in an attempt to end the denial of equal civil rights and disparate treatment of African Americans based upon their race.

This ruling was a victory for the United States Constitution and a defeat for demagoguery. We do have a border security problem but ill conceived and racially discriminatory statutes like the one adopted in Arizona are not the answer to this problem nor are they the American way. We do not have to sacrifice our values and moral principles to secure our borders. Thank goodness this federal court agreed.

John H. Armwood

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Judge Blocks Key Parts of Immigration Law in Arizona -

Judge Blocks Key Parts of Immigration Law in Arizona -

PHOENIX — A federal judge, ruling on a clash between the federal government and a state over immigration policy, has blocked the most controversial parts of Arizona’s immigration enforcement law from going into effect.

In a ruling on a law that has rocked politics coast to coast and thrown a spotlight on the border state’s fierce debate over immigration, United States District Court Judge Susan Bolton in Phoenix said some aspects of the law can go into effect as scheduled on Thursday.

The parts of the law that the judge blocked included the sections that called for officers to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and that required immigrants to carry their papers at all times. Judge Bolton put those sections on hold until the issues are resolved by the courts.

The judge’s decision, which came as demonstrators opposed and supporting the law gathered here and after three hearings in the past two weeks in which she peppered lawyers on both sides with skeptical questions, seemed unlikely to quell the debate.

The ruling came four days before 1,200 National Guard troops are to report to the Southwest border to assist federal and local law enforcement agencies there, part of the Obama administration’s response to growing anxiety over the border and immigration that has fed support for the law.

Lawyers for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican who signed the law and is campaigning on it for election, were expected to appeal, and legal experts predict the case is bound for the United States Supreme Court.

The korean Herald - Palin shows limits of female intuition

Sarah Palin in Savannah, Georgia, Dec 1, 2008 ...Image via Wikipedia

Korea Herald

Women just feel it. They sense trouble and will instinctually right it. They’re like mama grizzly bears, “who kind of just know when something’s wrong” and when to raise a paw to stop it. So women should get to govern now. Or else.

That’s the message of Sarah Palin’s latest video, “Mama Grizzlies.” She isn’t the only woman who is finding feminine judgment to be a selling point.

Unlike Palin, Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren doesn’t choose to play up her gender. But it is clear that one reason she was able to push the Consumer Finance Protection Agency into being is that she presents herself as a refreshing picture of maternal common sense.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair likewise doesn’t play the mama card. But she has won approval of what might be called the nanny solution to the too-big-to-fail challenge posed by the largest banks.

Rather than let them fail like big boys and girls, Bair’s solution, and our new law, monitors banks so that they never get close to collapsing. Like a terrified mom with a 180-pound 17-year-old to discipline, Bair seems to think upping the punishments and scaring her charges will give her continued control. She recently warned banks that if they misbehaved they would face federal retribution equivalent to “the nuclear bomb that you hope you never have to use.”

Shirley Sherrod, another name in the news, fits in here, too. The Agriculture Department official came into the news because a right-wing blogger posted selected excerpts of an acceptable speech she gave to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, making it seem unacceptably racist.

But the flap over race obscured another feature of Sherrod’s speech: a Palin-esque emphasis on personal discretion. A farmer, she said, had “come to me for help.” But “what he didn’t realize what I was trying to decide just how much help I was going to give him.” Somehow, this line drew laughs of support from Sherrod’s audience, in part, one senses, because Sherrod is a woman.

The womanly wisdom theme also came up last year in the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It emerged that Sotomayor had mentioned that one of her qualifications was that of a “wise Latina” who might make better legal decisions than a white man.

Whence the premium on female wisdom? The first source is obvious. Women, especially Alaskan women, Latina women and black women, count as diverse. And geographic, racial and gender diversity are believed to be a requirement of American politics. That “Mama Grizzly” advertisement comes straight out of ancient playbooks of some masculine people, like Karl Rove and Dick Morris.

But the second reason for the popularity of feminine instinct is newer. Masculine discretion has failed the country so monumentally recently, whether in economics or politics. It was men at the Treasury or Federal Reserve who scanned the charts and opted to tell us that housing prices could only go up. Men headed -- and still run -- the investment banks, and men placed bets on toxic derivatives and credit default swaps.

Men, mostly, sold the subprime mortgages. Men chose a man, John McCain, who promptly led the Republican Party to a defeat mitigated only by his XX-chromosome running mate, Sarah Palin. Maternal instinct is supposed to be change we can believe in.
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I.H.T. Op-Ed Contributor - Dangerous Waters in Korea -

I.H.T. Op-Ed Contributor - Dangerous Waters in Korea -

For those who survived the Korean War, the sight of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier George Washington leading a fleet of U.S. and South Korean ships along the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula on the 57th anniversary of the temporary armistice is alarming indeed. In a move intended to punish North Korea for its alleged sinking of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, the United States and South Korea are flexing their military might by mobilizing American and South Korean ships, over 200 aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor fighters, and 8,000 troops.

If anything, the military provocation by all sides demonstrates the frailty of the Korean armistice agreement, which was signed by North Korea, China and the United States on July 27, 1953. It shows how much the absence of a peace treaty could trigger another war, not just between the two Koreas, but between the United States and China.

To be clear, contrary to the rhetoric of promises of engagement emanating from the White House, President Barack Obama is continuing his predecessor’s hard-line policies of sanctions and military posturing. These have been counterproductive and have done nothing to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation. Worse, they are actually increasing the chances of military conflict in northeast Asia.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced last week during a visit to the demilitarized zone that the United States plans to impose greater sanctions on North Korea. Although Secretary Clinton asserts that “[t]hese measures are not directed at the people of North Korea,” it is in fact the North Korean people who will suffer from U.S. sanctions.

The freezing of North Korean assets, in particular, restricts the country’s ability to purchase the materials it needs to meet the basic food, healthcare, sanitation and educational needs of its people. Moreover, sanctions have not succeeded in pressuring North Korea to disarm. To the contrary, North Korea considers economic sanctions to be an act of war, and has responded by accelerating its nuclear weapons program.

History has taught us that military posturing, such as the current military exercises, do not change North Korea’s policies. Instead, Pyongyang views the maneuvers as a test of its will, and has warned that it will counter them with “a physical response” of its own. Worse, Beijing now views the U.S.-South Korea military exercises as too close to its own shores and as a threat to China’s security and that of the region.
This op-ed reflects the most common South Korean view of American policy towards North Korea that I encountered during my more than two years living in that country. South Koreans seem to have an infinite capacity to forgive North Korean provocations and seem very protective of North Korea, as if that country is a wayward brother or sister. It is a position difficult for non Koreans to understand given the reality of the North Korean regime and its history of brutal internal repression and provocations towards the south but it is essential that American policy makers understand this viewpoint. The strong stance against North Korean taken by current South Korean conservative President Lee Myung-bak is not the majority view in the country. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discovered this fact during her early 2009 speech, at Seoul's Ewha Womans University, where her comments on North Korea were coldly received.

John H. Armwood
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Remembering the Forgotten War: U.S. presence draws mix of opinions - YNN, Your News Now

The coat of arms of South KoreaImage via Wikipedia
Remembering the Forgotten War: U.S. presence draws mix of opinions - YNN, Your News Now

SOUTH KOREA -- In the Myeong Dong section of Seoul, there are so many protests the police just wait for the demonstrators, especially on a day when American military presence was front and center. Recent tensions between North Korea and South Korea are accentuating the issue. The deaths of two women killed by a U.S. military vehicle in 2002 also made things rough for a while.
"Those are short term backlashes. People get emotional when an incident occurs but for the most part we are very well-received here," said Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Buczkowski of the United States Army.

"Honestly I feel they understand there is a military presence here. There's a lot of actually Americans that are here teaching. Very small world. I bumped into a couple of Americans on the train. I was like 'Oh, hi. How are you,'" said U.S. Army Specialist Johnathon Elkaim.

More than two million people a day pass through Myeong Dong, one of the most expensive shopping districts in the whole world. But it's also a popular place for protests, which is why NY1 had no problem finding people with an opinion on whether U.S. troops should even be there.

"I think it is a very positive thing because stationary troops in South Korea bring peace to Asia," said one South Korean.

"Two Korean girls were killed by American soldiers and because of those events people really go against the U.S. troops in Korea. But personally I think they are needed in Korea," said another.

"I think it is necessary at this time. I don't necessarily agree with it but I think we have no other choice because our country is still divided," said a third.

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Jim Webb and the Myth of White Privilege?

Jim Webb, United States Senator.Image via Wikipedia
Jim Webb and the Myth of White Privilege?

By: Terence Samuel

Here is what I anticipate: Jim Webb, the senior senator from Virginia, will soon be both vilified and lionized in the ''media'' for attacking affirmative action as wrong-headed and divisive. And one result is that the intense conversation we've endured in recent days about race in the wake of the sacking of Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod is now headed for overtime.
Another take in Jim Webb's Friday July 23, 2010 Op Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. Terence Samuel, the writer is more tolerant of Jim Webb than I am. Read this for a slightly different perspective. You may read my comments below a portion of Webb's original piece here.

John H. Armwood
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Gibbs: WikiLeaks not comparable to 'Pentagon Papers' - Ben Smith -

Gibbs: WikiLeaks not comparable to 'Pentagon Papers' - Ben Smith -

The White House is doing its best to quash the idea that WikiLeaks' Afghanistan logs are in any way comparable to the Pentagon Papers — even as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's claims they are "the nearest analogue" to the explosive Vietnam-era revelations.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs brushed aside the notion, telling reporters just now that the 1971 leak of the Pentagon's Vietnam strategy deliberations was "policy" as opposed to the 91,000-plus Afghanistan reports, which were "a series of one-off documents."

"I don't see they are in any way comparable," Gibbs told reporters at today's briefing.

Daniel Ellsberg, the former US military analyst who released the pentagon papers in 1971, appeared on MSNBC today with Dylan Ratigan.  He said he fears for the safety of Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, who is reportedly on the verge of leaking secret State Department cables.  The Daily Beast reports that Assange is currently being sought by the Pentagon, and Ellsberg advises him not to reveal his whereabouts. (via WikiLeaks)

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