The blog is a view of life, science, politics and education from an engineering perspective. As engineers, we are taught to view the world objectively. We can hope, believe and calculate a particular outcome, but natural laws are inflexible and pay no heed to who we are or what we believe. We must approach the objective dispassionately, while compensating for our own distorted perceptions. Balance is also a key element; balancing between the ideal and the pragmatic, balancing cost and functionality, balancing analysis with action, etc.
Scheduling routine critical self-analysis is the foundation to objectivity. If we do not fully understand and compensate for our own failures, tendencies, habits and skewed thought processes, we will not see the world as it is. Without a regular critical self-analysis we will see the world as we are and then fall prey to self-delusion.
Failure is a great teacher. When failure is coupled with perseverance, it produces the fruit of patience and humility. An engineer, fresh out of engineering school is typically set up for failure early and often. The failure breaks the new engineer of any ideas of self-importance, arrogance and book smarts. Only then can the new engineer be formed and molded into a productive element in the industry.
Laurence Allen "Larry" Elder is a lawyer, columnist, author, actor, political commentator and a radio and television personality who calls himself the "Sage of South Central" and the "Prince of Pico Yoon" , both districts of Los Angeles, California. His radio program ‘The Larry Elder Show’ airs on talk radio 790 KABC in Los Angeles. He spent some time acting in Hollywood; playing himself on the sitcoms Spin City and The Hughleys.
He generally leans libertarian, with a strong belief in limited government, de-centralized power, self-reliance and self-discipline. He supports free trade, school choice, same-sex marriage, legalized drugs and abortion rights. He opposes the income tax and supports the Second amendment.
Generally, he attacks politicians on both sides of the isle.
Recently he had an exchange on Facebook with a liberal former classmate; member of the NAACP. Elder produced a response that was firm, thought provoking, non defensive and gracious.
Ex-Classmate: “Uncle Tom in its purest form, that’s Larry Elder, you hate your own people, need your a– kicked. … I remember you from Crenshaw High. Your politics are so predictable. Man, you’re such a phony. White folks don’t accept you like you assume. When I lived in Orange County, you were kind of a joke.”
Elder: “Generally, I don’t respond to insults, but since you are a fellow Crenshaw Cougar, I’m giving you a little time.
“Funny, I don’t remember you. What that says about the impression you made, I’ll leave up to you.
“What do I care if ‘white folks don’t accept me’ – whatever that means? I’m not running for president of ‘white folks.’ I have friends, relatives and co-workers who manage to tolerate me.
“I’m sure you’ve done well in life, well enough to take time to tell me how I’ve mismanaged mine.
“Nor does it hurt my feelings to hear what you’ve said about me. I look at people like you the way I look at an otherwise friendly dog, taught viciousness by its owner. You’ve been trained to see disagreement over the kind of issues I discuss as somehow threatening to your well-being.
“That I see the world differently from you warrants the kind of silly put-downs in your post? Really? You say, ‘When I lived in OC, you were kind of a joke.’ Meaning, exactly what? That when you said my name out loud people fell down in laughter? Meaning, a scientific poll was conducted by field researchers showing that OC residents considered Larry Elder a ‘joke’? (For the record, my highest program ratings are in OC.)
“The formula for life – to me and my parents – is simple, if hard to implement. Work hard. Don’t make excuses. When things go wrong, ask whether I could have done something different, something better.
“Now, you’ll write back. Everybody does. And when I don’t respond – because of how I choose to invest my valuable time – you’ll call me another series of juvenile names and tell your friends and relatives that Elder’s not responding because you ‘won the argument.’ Hey, if it makes you feel better, go for it.
“You can always call in to my show, and we can do this for real – if you have the cashews. Call from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays to Fridays. Tell my screener that we’ve chatted on Facebook.
“Take care, Bro. Too bad they indoctrinated you and turned you into a sad, simple, sputtering name-caller. Winners don’t see a need to put others down to elevate themselves.
“That’s a job for victicrats – those who blame others for their ‘plight.’ To find the real source of your plight, report to the nearest mirror.”
This provoked interesting Facebook comments.
TG: “Larry, I’m white and live in Orange County. And to be honest I read your posts all the time and always watch when you’re on TV. I truly didn’t realize or even give it a second thought that you were black. Does it matter? I like your views and think you’re an intelligent man. Would truly like to see you in politics. Keep up the good work, we need more people like you. Regardless of color.”
KV: “Is that why we have ‘Larry Elder for President’ bumper-stickers on our cars? I would give five years of my life to have Larry even one term as president. May God bless Larry and all who try to make sense to a twisted liberal world.”
ML: “That reply rocked, Larry. And surprise, surprise, to your former racist classmate, there are many white people who could care less that you are black. I care that you recognize the Democratic Party is the party of social enslavement and social injustice all hidden underneath their plastic self-righteous smiles and slanderous anti-Republican rants. You, sir, speak for Americans – not just a race – and your values are the same as mine. … You are like a drink of clear, fresh, cool water in this age of media lies and censorship! Thanks for keeping it real!”
LP: “So sick of the black and white thing. Tired of blacks who see what is really happening and speaking out, being reduced to ‘Uncle Toms’ because they think for themselves. I admire the man or woman who can discern the depth of the crushing politics that is being played out here in America no matter their origin, race or religion.”
Several hundred comments later, he still hadn’t heard back from my former classmate. He wrote again.
This time his Ex-classmate replied, but the tone of his voice had changed.
Ex-Classmate: “I apologize, for the name calling, Mr. Elder. I’ve had cancer. It’s left me somewhat bitter. Man, I’m sorry for coming at you like that.”
Elder: “Apology accepted. Be well.”
Revised, based on old information that was new to me.
I haven't posted anything in a while and I thought of launching my 2014 blogs with commentary on an old story.
American Atheists’ Pennsylvania State Director Ernest Perce was assaulted for wearing a “zombie Muhammad” costume and proclaimed that he was the Prophet Muhammad risen from the dead at the Oct, 11, 2011, Zombie event in Mechanicsburg, Pa. A “zombie pope” was also featured in the parade that night.
The Scranton Atheism Examiner reports that Perce participated in the event when Talaag Elbayomy, a Muslim, stormed out of the crowd and assaulted Perce, grabbing a sign around his neck and pulling until the strings choked him.
Talaag Elbayomy was pulled off of Perce and arrested by nearby officers. Elbayomy – who said he believed it was illegal to mock Muhammad – was charged with harassment. He denied touching Perce at trial, but Officer Bryan Curtis said Elbayomy admitted grabbing Perce’s sign and beard the night of the incident. Witnesses also claim seeing Elbayomy attack Perce.
Mechanicsburg Police Officer Bryan Curtis told Pennsylvania’s WHTM-TV, “Mr. Perce has the right to do what he did that evening, and the defendant in this case was wrong in what he did in confronting him.”
The case of Perce vs Elbayomy was brought before District Judge Mark Martin. Following a short trial, Judge Martin dismissed the case against Elbayomy.
The lawyer for Perce was shocked by the verdict. He said, “I believe that I brought a case that showed proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and the case was dismissed, and I was disappointed.”
At the reading of the final verdict, the judge took the opportunity to lecture Perce, Officer Bryan Curtis and the prosecuting attorney.
"Well, having had the benefit of having spent over two-and-a-half years in predominantly Muslim countries, I think I know a little bit about the faith of Islam. In fact, I have a copy of the Quran here, and I would challenge you, Sir, to show me where it says in the Quran that Muhammad arose and walked among the dead. I think you misinterpreted a couple of things. So before you start mocking somebody else’s religion, you might want to find out a little more about it. It kind of makes you look like a doofus. …
In many other Muslim-speaking countries, err, excuse me, many Arabic-speaking countries, predominantly Muslim, something like this is definitely against the law there, in their society. In fact, it could be punished by death, and frequently is, in their society.
Here in our society, we have a Constitution that gives us many rights, specifically First Amendment rights. It’s unfortunate that some people use the First Amendment to deliberately provoke others. I don’t think that’s what our forefathers intended. I think our forefathers intended to use the First Amendment so we can speak with our mind, not to p— off other people and cultures – which is what you did.
I don’t think you’re aware, Sir, there’s a big difference between how Americans practice Christianity – I understand you’re an atheist – but see Islam is not just a religion. It’s their culture, their culture, their very essence, their very being. They pray five times a day toward Mecca. To be a good Muslim before you die, you have to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, unless you’re otherwise told you cannot because you’re too ill, too elderly, whatever, but you must make the attempt. Their greeting is ‘Salam alaikum, wa-laikum as-Salam,’ uh, ‘May God be with you.’
Whenever it is very common, their language, when they’re speaking to each other, it’s very common for them to say, uh, Allah willing, this will happen. It’s, they’re so immersed in it. And what you’ve done is, you’ve completely trashed their essence, their being. They find it very, very, very offensive. I’m 'NOT' a Muslim. I find it offensive. I find what’s on the other side of this [sign] very offensive. (Editor’s note: Reverse of sign said, “Only Muhammad can rape America!) But you have that right, but you are way outside your bounds of First Amendment rights. …
I’ve spent about seven years living in other countries. When we go to other countries, it’s not uncommon for people to refer to us as ‘ugly Americans.’ This is why we hear it referred to as ‘ugly Americans,’ because we’re so concerned about our own rights, we don’t care about other people’s rights. As long as we get our say, but we don’t care about the other people’s say."
The judge later added, “Because there was not, it is not proven to me beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant is guilty of harassment, therefore, I am going to dismiss the charge.”
Carl Silverman of the Parading Atheists of Central Pennsylvania told WHTM-TV, “We understand that Muslims are extremely sensitive. But this is America, and you need to get over the sensitivity and take out your opposition in peaceful ways – not by attacking people physically.
Officer Curtis is Catholic and claims he didn’t even consider attacking the person wearing the ‘Zombie Pope’ costume. “But if I did assault that person, I would not have received the preferential treatment that Mr. Elbayomy had received… even if the Judge was Catholic.”
This judge did Muslims no favor by removing any standard of basic human conduct. By allowing objectivity to be trampled and excusing conduct that is below expectations of human decency and civility, he is encouraging more of that behavior.
Life lesson: The greatest gift that you can give your fellow man is to hold them to high standards of behavior, thought and conduct.
Some of the comments on YouTube were insightful. To paraphrase: Tthe judge would have been compelled to do the same as the defendant did in this case. His closing statement celebrates the assault and justifies violence in the name of Islam. It belittles the victim and praises all those who are terminally incapable of critical judgment and self-restraint. Why didn't the Judge ask the Muslim, “why did you, a devout Muslim, go to a pagan parade and not expect to end up religiously insulted?” It’s like hanging out at a bar and then claiming to be offended by alcohol and attacking the bartender.
Nelson Mandela passed away with great fanfare earlier this month. Since then the media and pundits have combed through his beliefs, statements and actions that have set him apart from others.
One of the sources of great anguish for Mandela was dealing with a Johannesburg media that was sympathetic to apartheid and politically attached to the Botha and De Klerk governments. The abuses by the government were not covered by the media and anyone who protested against the apartheid government was demonized by the media.
Mandela did not receive fair treatment by the South African media. As a result of his experiences, he made a statement that should be hung in the office of every TV, radio or newspaper.
“A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.”
If you had the misfortune of watching ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews’ doing the interview of president Obama you will come to inescapable conclusion that this news program represents political pandering at its very worst. It is not critical, independent or investigative. The sole purpose of the broadcast is to gain favor with this administration.
Yes, that Obama thrill is still running up Chris' leg.
In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) technique, developed by Edwards and his colleague Dr Patrick Steptoe, resulted in the birth of the first "test-tube baby" in 1978. The technique has since become commonplace and is now used in the conception of some one to two per cent of babies in the Western world. IVF was once considered to be controversial.
Britain plans to lead the world again in embryo development and is set to become the first country in the world to allow a controversial IVF technique that produces embryos with DNA from three people in an attempt to rid some affected families of serious genetic disorders. If Parliament gives the go-ahead, it would mean that Britain would also be the first nation to allow a form of “germ-line gene therapy”, where the DNA of all subsequent generations within a family is changed in order to eradicate inherited diseases.
The rate of rise in genetics defects is alarming. Changes in embryo development are needed; the changes to existing law are paramount to clear a path to promote healthy mitochondrial DNA. With a larger group of people contributing to the gene pool, the chances of reproducing faulty (mutated) DNA is small. All participants in the gene pool may have faulty DNA, but the faults are not all in the same areas. The Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, said that legislation to allow the use of mitochondrial replacement could be passed by Parliament at the end of next year with the first IVF babies resulting from the technique being born within two years.
Alison Murdoch, professor of reproductive medicine at Newcastle University, which is pioneering mitochondrial replacement in IVF procedures, welcomed the decision to introduce legislation to allow it.
“This is great news for UK science and gives hope to women who just want a healthy baby. The UK government has made a moral decision,” Professor Murdoch said.
“What we are starting to do now is to develop the regulations, consult on these regulations and then to take them into Parliament… I hope then to go forward and we’ll be the first country if we do,” Dame Sally said.
Inherited defects within the mitochondria – the tiny “power packs” of the cells – affect about one in 6,500 people. “Mitochondrial diseases can have a devastating impact on the people who inherit it,” she said.
However, a more mild form of defective mtDNA affects 1 in 15 people. These defects include bi-Polar disorders, OCD, autism, mental health, gastro-intestinal defects, asthma, allergies and other quality of life issues.
“People who have it live with debilitating illness, and women who are affected face passing it on to their children. Scientists have developed ground-breaking new procedures which could stop these diseases being passed on,” she added.
The technique involves transferring the nuclear material of an affected mother’s egg cell into the donor egg of an unaffected woman, whose healthy mitochondria will then be passed on to the IVF baby.
This means that the baby will inherit DNA from three biological “parents” – the mother, the father and the donor woman – but scientists emphasized that less than 0.1 per cent of the baby’s genes will come from the donor in the form of mitochondrial DNA.
Children born from the technique will not be given the right to know the identity of the individuals who had donated to the DNA and they will not be officially recognized as a parent, Dame Sally said.
The technique will also mean that all subsequent generations of children born to girls resulting from the procedure would also carry the mitochondrial changes. In Britain, such germ-line gene therapy has been banned and Dame Sally emphasized that there are no plans to lift this ban in the case of nuclear DNA.
“It is the germ-line of your mitochondria that goes down [the generations] but that is quite separate from the DNA of the nucleus which is what makes us what we are… There is no intention of doing anything with the nuclear DNA,” Dame Sally said.
“I am comfortable with this. I think we will save the babies born with ghastly diseases and [to an] early death without changing how they look or behave, and it will allow mothers to have their own babies, which at the moment they cannot.”
She added that all children born from the technique will be closely monitored by doctors during their lives for signs of any ill-effects resulting from the IVF procedure, although she emphasized that there is no evidence from animal studies that it can cause medical problems.
“I have to rely on the advice of scientists and what I hear from scientists whom I can trust is that this looks pretty safe. We have no evidence that it is unsafe,” she said. More importantly, science must find a way to stem the avalanche of mtDNA mutations to preserve a quality of life for our children and grandchildren.
DNA, the string of nucleic acids found in and essential to all living cells, contains more than just the information necessary to code for various metabolic proteins. DNA holds information capable of delineating its own history. Not only can DNA show relationship between two individuals or species, it can provide the information necessary to estimate how long ago the two individuals or species in question shared a common ancestor. The method by which DNA is duplicated and passed on to daughter cells makes it ideal for tracing this history.
Ideally, after a cell has replicated its DNA, each chromosome will have produced another identical chromosome. For the most part, this is true; the machinery used to replicate DNA strands is exceedingly accurate. However, the machinery occasionally makes a mistake. The likelihood that a mistake will be made in the same spot the next time replication occurs is incredibly small. Thus, the error will be passed along to subsequent generations of daughter cells. Over time, DNA will accumulate more and more errors, which have two uses for genetic researchers. The first is that they can be used to establish relatedness between individuals or species. The second is that assuming a constant rate of error, or mutation, the amount of time required for a certain number of mutations to accumulate can be calculated, and therefore, the time since the two species diverged can also be calculated.
mtDNA can be used to count the generation by the markers that remain in the inherited mtDNA. The proposed method of embryo fertilization will alter the markers typically used to determine ancestries and family line.
The preferred method of determining the generations between common ancestors to all humans lies in the mutation rate of mtDNA. The DNA found in mitochondria has several advantages over nuclear DNA. First, mtDNA is inherited maternally. A direct maternal inheritance easily allows relationships to be established. Also, mitochondrial genes do not undergo a shuffle with each generation as nuclear chromosomes do (Zimmer 2001:32). This means that the differences between the mtDNA of a mother and her offspring can only be due to random mutation, which, as stated above, can be used to establish relatedness when the rate is taken to be constant.
There is debate over the ethics of this new therapy. A common protest, "This is messing with mother nature." But I am of the opinion that if we can use technology to improve the lives of people, then it would be immoral not to use technology.
This isn’t a current news story, but after waiting for this story to break in the US (unfortunately in vain) I thought to write on it.
On July 20th, the Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) (British version of the NSA) had raided the Guardian office, smashed computers and stole hard drives. The Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, was warned to cease and desist from printing any information that is related to the GCHQ surveillance programs.
The raid came after a few weeks of pressure and intimidation. Between July 16th and 19th government pressure intensified and, in a series of phone calls and meetings, the threat of legal action or even a police raid became more explicit.
Glenn Greenwald was the focus of government ire. He was threatened with imprisonment on returning to Britain and has been forced to remain in Brazil.
On August 18, UK authorities detained Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, at Heathrow Airport.
He was held incommunicado for nine hours. He was denied legal counsel. A counterterrorism law pretext was used to do so.
He was in transit from Berlin to Rio de Janeiro. His laptop, cell phone, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and game consoles were confiscated.
London’s Observer said Miranda was detained “for promoting ‘political’ causes.” His detention shone “new light on the Metropolitan police’s explanation for invoking terrorism powers – a decision critics have called draconian.”
The Guardian’s crime is that it is reporting on the surveillance culture of the GCHQ and NSA.
But Rusbridger will not be bullied.
Rusbridger wrote Monday that the destruction of the computers “felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age.”
Indeed, The Guardian has continued reporting on surveillance since the computers were smashed, publishing a deeply reported piece 12 days later on the GCHQ that was based on files leaked by Snowden.
Rusbridger wrote that the paper will “continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won't do it in London.”
That’s not as big an obstacle as it may seem. Much of The Guardian’s NSA coverage has been run through the paper’s New York office. Not to mention the fact that Greenwald lives and works in Brazil.
London’s Mirror headlined “David Miranda detention shows UK is becoming a police state.” Targeting him “shows just how determined the security services are to get the upper hand.”
“Big Brother isn’t just watching you. He knows which plane you’re on, where you’re traveling, and he’s in close contact with Big Daddy across the water in Washington.”
The Mirror also added that it “illustrates the general point that we are now living in a security state.”
Over the past year reporters at the Guardian have complained that their sources are drying up. Intimidation of the reporters hasn’t been successful and as a result the government agencies have cracked down on any ‘leaks’ or informants. The GCHQ has been running sting operations, wire taps and surveillance to find the leaks.
If the government is successful in shutting down all opposing voices, all that will remain are the stenographers at the government approved propaganda tabloids. Dissention is a right, not a privilege.
Some conservatives believe that these Gestapo tactics are coming to the US. It will be done under the guise of national security or civil discourse, but as many Tea Party groups, Constitutional groups or Gun rights groups already know, the attack may not be as direct as the Guardian raid, but may come through trumped up charges by the IRS, OSHA, BATF, EPA or other agencies.
Add the lie of this administration being the most open and transparent administration in the history of the US to the ever growing heap of lies.
Obamacare was sold to the American people with several promises and expectations. One of the sales pitches was that with everyone contributing to health care, the costs to the infirmed and elderly would be manageable. About a third of the participants would be in the 18-35 range. The people in this age range typically use very little in the way of healthcare costs. The administration told us that if the younger healthy people buy the insurance, it will be available for them when the next crop of young healthy people enters the system.
We were also told that if we like our current plan or doctor we would be able to keep them. In essence we were told that the vast majority of American would not be affected by Obamacare and therefore there is no reason to vote against it or not like. Obamacare was sold as a program to primarily care for the uninsured. About 10 to 20 millions were not insured, but if everyone contributes, the cost for these uninsured people would be minimal.
The plan was sold as a cheaper alternative to private insurance. The average family of four would save $200 per month under Obamacare, according to those pushing the plan.
None of the promises came close to hitting the mark.
Now that Obamacare is being implemented we find that so far about 4 million existing insurance policies have been canceled, affecting about 15 million people. These policies were individual-based catastrophic policies. The premiums were low, deductibles were high, contained a health savings account and were generally purchased by middle income self-insured individuals and families. These policies did not fit the new requirements for health care coverage.
Representative Hoyer claims that when drafting the program, they knew that the loss of insurance was a possibility. He now claims that everyone was aware that people could lose their existing plan and doctor.
We also found out that the idea of forcing the 18-35 demographic to sign up en masse to subsidize the elderly, is not realistic. First, a person up to 26 years old can stay on their parent’s insurance plan. Second, the younger demographic is not in the higher income bracket and their insurance rates would be low. Third, many in 18-35 age group would prefer to pay the $150 fine rather than spend $320 per month for insurance.
Of the thousands that have signed up for Obamacare, my guess is that the percentage of individuals in the 18-35 range is quite low; far less than the anticipated 30%.
Obamacare is significantly more costly than advertised. The Society of Actuaries projects a 79.5 percent average hike in the first two to three years of full national health care in the insurance that Wisconsin residents will buy on the exchanges the law creates — an increase from an average of $258 per month to $463.
A young, healthy person buying insurance on the exchanges will see up to a tripling of health insurance costs. Meanwhile, someone in his late 50s might see a slight cost reduction. Example: A 25-year-old who might have paid about $100 per month pre-ACA could see his monthly rate skyrocket to about $300. But a man in his late 50s who might have been paying $1,000 monthly would see his rate decline to $900, because the ACA does not allow more than a three-to-one spread in rates between young and old.
My prognosis is that relatively few people will participate in Obamacare, the rest will prefer to pay the fines. Those who do participate in it are those with pre-existing conditions and will drain the program.
The system, as designed, can not be self-sustaining and will collapse. A new system will rise featuring a single payer, more intrusive monitoring and regulation and push the elimination of all private insurance.
The program that was sold to the American never existed, but relied on strident deception to get the minimal amount of buy-in that it did receive.
Obama’s response was, in essence, “Stop whining and get with the program. We know better about what you need than you do.” What ever was sold to us 3 years ago is irrelevant.
When I can’t make sense of what is happening in the administration, I go back to the play book written by Saul Alinsky. I found a concept that might explain some of it. Alinsky said that anything that promotes the cause is true. Of course, I think if anyone promises things they know that can’t deliver, I consider it a lie or deception. Alinsky believes that if the deception is used to promote an agenda, then it is good.
Russia’s support of Syria has put it at odds with the Oil producing nations; Saudi Arabia in particular.
A meeting between Saudi Arabia and Russia was held in July, in which Saudi's influential intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan met with Putin and regaled him with gifts, including a multi-billion arms deal and a promise that Saudi is "ready to help Moscow play a bigger role in the Middle East at a time when the United States is disengaging from the region", if only Putin would agree to give up his alliance with Syria's al-Assad and let the Free-Syria rebels take over, ostensibly including control of the country's all important natgas transit infrastructure.
Putin didn’t simply say, “Nyet’, he was infuriated at the suggestion.
Regarding the Syrian issue, the Russian president responded to Bandar, saying, “Our stance on Assad will never change. We believe that the Syrian regime is the best speaker on behalf of the Syrian people, and not those liver eaters. During the Geneva I Conference, we agreed with the Americans on a package of understandings, and they agreed that the Syrian regime will be part of any settlement. Later on, they decided to renege on Geneva I. In all meetings of Russian and American experts, we reiterated our position. In his upcoming meeting with his American counterpart John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will stress the importance of making every possible effort to rapidly reach a political settlement to the Syrian crisis so as to prevent further bloodshed.”
Prince Bandar’s attempt to persuade Putin with gifts and multi-billion dollars deals were quickly replaced by threats at Putin’s obstinance.
Bandar told Putin, “There are many common values and goals that bring us together, most notably the fight against terrorism and extremism all over the world. Russia, the US, the EU and the Saudis agree on promoting and consolidating international peace and security. The terrorist threat is growing in light of the phenomena spawned by the Arab Spring. We have lost some regimes. And what we got in return were terrorist experiences, as evidenced by the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the extremist groups in Libya. ... As an example, I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi on the Black Sea next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us, and they will not move in the Syrian territory’s direction without coordinating with us.”
Clearly, Prince Bandar was threatening the security of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, if Russia did not play along with the Saudis.
In a subsequent statement the head of the Saudi intelligence services said that the dispute over the approach to the Syrian issue leads to the conclusion that “there is no escape from the military option, because it is the only currently available choice given that the political settlement ended in stalemate. We believe that the Geneva II Conference will be very difficult in light of this raging situation.”
On Monday, October 21st, a suicide bomber blew up a bus just a few kilometers outside of Sochi.
Monday's bombing in southern Russia was carried out by a 30-year-old woman from Dagestan, authorities said, who was reportedly married to an explosives expert in the Islamic insurgency in the North Caucasus. The blast killed seven people including the bomber, according to Russian investigators.
The Russians so far are downplaying the event to the rest of the world, hoping not to cast a pall over the Olympics.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, a member of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee told ABC News that American athletes' safety and wellbeing is "always [its] highest priority."
"No matter the event... we work diligently to keep our athletes safe," the committee said. "As with previous events, for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi, we will work closely with the International Olympic Committee, the organizing committee, our State Department and all other relevant government and law enforcement agencies to ensure that our entire delegation is safe while in Russia."
However, they know that this is not an isolated event. The coordination of this terrorist bombing reaches the highest levels of the Saudi government.
“We can draw the conclusion that this is just the start of a planned chain of terror attacks,” Russian security analyst Ruslan Milchenko told state-run media.
The Russian security has already foiled a previous plan for a terrorist attack.
About a month ago, Federal Security Service (FSB) agents announced that they had detained three suspected militants and seized a weapons cache in Abkhazia, the Georgian breakaway republic just across the border from Sochi. Investigators said the extremists had been planning to move the weapons, which included surface-to-air missiles and grenades, to Sochi to carry out attacks during the Winter Olympics.
The world is waiting with baited breath to see what Russia's response will be. The one thing we know is that Putin isn’t passive.
The “I Pledge” video was produced by Oprah Winfrey’s production company after President Obama took office in 2009.
The video features a group of celebrities telling viewers all the good they promise to do for humanity. But toward the end, it drifts into a pledge of support for Obama.
Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer Anthony Kiedis says, “I pledge to be of service to Barack Obama.”
After a number of other celebs staring in the video invoking their intentions to “be the change” in keeping with the campaign motto of 'hope and change', Demi Moore finishes things by saying, “I pledge to be a servant to our president.”
Hudson (Wis.) School District unearthed the “I Pledge” video for its middle school’s Peace One Day event on September 25th, and a number of parents in attendance were outraged.
District and school officials made a quick backpedal, apologizing to those offended by the video.
“The reason the video was used was to show students small ways to make a difference in their communities,” the district wrote in its apology. “Unfortunately, the video also had a political slant. The district is non-partisan and does not endorse the political messages found in this video. This video will not be used in the district again.”
Middle School Principal Dan Koch this announcement to students Thursday afternoon:
“The ‘I Pledge’ video we viewed yesterday included some messages about serving President Barack Obama. We apologize for any part of the video that was offensive to students, their families and staff. The video conveyed a message that people serve the presidency when in fact our elected officials serve the people. We respect the Office of the President of the United States but like all of our other elected officials, that office serves each of us as well. I sincerely hope that as participants in Wednesday’s event what you took away from the experience was to choose to make a difference in your world.”
The district wouldn’t disclose whose idea it was to show the “I Pledge” video to students, but parents weren’t thrilled by offering the video’s message to middle schoolers.
“It looks a little like 1940s Germany,” says one parent, who agrees that it’s essentially propaganda. Another adds, “It doesn’t seem right.
One of the first bits of advice about politics from my dad was that I was never to pledge to follow a person or party. If you must say a pledge, it should be in regards to an idea. To me, that concept was so basic and simple. I remember thinking that no one in their right minds would pledge to follow a person. But it's clear from 'I pledge" that some people are more comfortable following a person than an idea.
Now, I would like to propose a hypothetical scenario.
Suppose the middle school kids, teachers and parents were exposed to a video in which the message was, “I pledge to be a servant to the National Rifle Association.” This story would make headlines around the nation, not just in a small community paper. The middle school principal would be fired. The district superintendent would be fired and the outrage would be immense.
But since this propaganda video had a Democratic bend to it, no one was reprimanded, no complaints (other than a few parents) and there is no news about it. Why not? It doesn’t fit the typical liberal template about what news should be.
It’s no wonder that most newspapers are facing a declining readship.
Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, or CAP, appeared on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” when she was asked by another guest, James Poulos of the Huffington Post, whether she read the text of Obamacare.
“Yes,” she replied. “I helped write the bill. So yes, I read the bill. I read all 2,200 pages of the bill.”
CAP was created by John Podesta in 2003 to combat the influence of the Heritage Foundation. Its board of directors have included Van Jones, Aryeh Neier (Open Society), Carol Browner and Peter Lewis.
A Time magazine article profiled the influence of the Center for American Progress in the formation of the Obama administration, stating that “not since the Heritage Foundation helped guide Ronald Reagan’s transition in 1981 has a single outside group held so much sway.”
Primary funding for CAP comes from the Tides Foundation, MoveOn.org, Media Matters for America and the Ford Foundation.
In my previous blog, I had posted a depiction of the human condition. Although it was not a flattering depiction, it was an honest assessment of who we are. This assessment drives my world view, it dictates my response to people and it guides me through inter-personal relationships. But most of all, it helps me to love and care for people; allowing me to give people what they need, not necessarily what they want.
In the Biblical story of the prodigal son, the young, wild and restless son makes bad decisions, rebels against his father and family, yields to the temptation of immediate self-gratification and end up in a dump; scrounging for food. When the man hit rock bottom, what he wanted is for his father to give him money so that he could exist at rock bottom. The man wanted to stay at rock bottom and didn’t want to come out and face his family or himself. He could hide there at rock bottom; hide from his shame and guilt.
His father loved him too much to leave him there and gave him nothing, but encouraged him to leave his condition and come back home. But pride, the fear of public perception and humiliation held the man as a prisoner at rock bottom. Only after the pain of hunger and the condition at rock bottom overwhelmed his pride, he would never leave that condition to get help.
All humans, who give way to immediate self-gratification, find enjoyment in it for a short period of time, but it doesn’t last. Soon, we hit rock bottom. I love people too much to let them stay there. I will not enable people to let them wallow in their self-deception and pride at rock bottom, but encourage them to step out into the light. The light exposes all things, but it also sanitizes and heals. The light is uncomfortable to those who have been living in darkness for a long time, but once you accept the light, it provides comfort and warmth.
The truth is counter-intuitive. Inner peace is not found in money, fame, fortune or power. It is found in self-denial, humility, honesty and relationships.
The first step to real life is an honest assessment of who you are. And in every case, you will find that it is not a pleasant assessment, but that will put you on your path to healing.
The human condition
The integrity of a human is determined by the person's ability to fight the basic instincts of greed, lust, self-gratification, laziness and irresponsibility. From birth to death, we are engaged in a war against self. We lose a battle on occasion, but it doesn't mean that we should surrender to basest demands of self.
- The human condition is one of complete depravity; driven by immediate self-gratification. The natural tendency of humanity is fattening, illegal, or immoral. No one has had to teach a child how to lie.
- We over-react to past hurts.
- We, as humans, will rationalize or deny that we made bad choices
- We look for excuses and blame others for our failures.
- We, as humans, know very little about ourselves, the universe, the spiritual realm, etc. But even worse, we are incapable of knowing much.
- We, as humans, will take as much rope as we are given.
- Within every person is a longing for security and liberty, but every person will normally favor security over liberty. Over time, citizens will one day wake up to find that they have voted away all of their liberties for the sake of security.
- We, as humans, mistakenly believe that love, joy, and peace come with power, fame, fortune, admiration, prestige, and influence. That stuff only temporarily mitigates our misery. Exhibit A: Marilyn Monroe, she had it all and still committed suicide. She had conquered the world then turned to drugs because she was still miserable. She couldn’t conquer herself.
- We, as people, are very lazy and will abuse the graces of everyone or everything that intends to help us.
- We only find ourselves (and our purpose) through a process of brokenness, self-denial, self-discipline and courage.
- We are easily corrupted by power; absolute power corrupts absolutely.
- Humans can achieve great things, but normally need to be pushed, given high expectations and no second option.
- Humans are easy susceptible to group think and a mob mentality
- To find real love, joy, and peace, humanity needs to think counter-intuitively, with a long-term others-interest, seek to serve rather than being served, and to strive for humility, hard work, and self-denial.
- No one can make you angry, hateful, bitter, etc. You can choose to follow the path of anger, hatred, and bitterness when someone provides the opportunity. But you are not a slave to your emotions. Exhibit A: Cory Ten Boom; a holocaust survivor who chose to love her captors even after they tortured her and killed her sister.
- Only good people can truly enjoy liberty, the rest do not; they just use the liberty as a license for their corruption.
- Human excel at self-deception. We create a false reality to help us cope with the pain of our bad choices.
Goethe summed up the human condition, “If you ever sit down to contemplate your spiritual, physical, emotional and mental condition, you will come to the conclusion that you are, indeed, sick.”
The fact is that we are desperately sick with no cure in sight. Few choose to acknowledge it. But so often I hear the comparison, “but I am no worse than that person.” To which I respond that yes it is true, you are not any sicker than that person who is also thoroughly sick, corrupt, selfish, lazy and cowardly.
I ask people one question: How could OJ Simpson look at the camera and claim that he was innocent, while the rest of the world (the jury not withstanding) knew with certainty that OJ was guilty? Does OJ know that he is guilty? Of course. Deep down he knows that what he did was horrible and devastating. But he had to follow that human drum beat of deny, deny, deny. He was not morally strong enough to carry the responsibility of his actions and was forced to blame external factors to avoid the pain of a critical self-analysis.
At moments of impropriety you have two options as well; blame or accepting the responsibility of a poor decision. Blame is the easy choice; it causes us to avoid the pain of a critical self-analysis, it gives us victim status, it helps us rationalize our behavior and it supports an inflated self-perception. But the acceptance of responsibility will develop a mindset of maturity. It will cause us to critically evaluate our mindset and cause change. It will create a realistic self-image and produce humility and courage.
Insights to compensate for humanness:
- Know your strengths and limitations; they dictate the level of your response.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt, but withdraw that benefit if it is unwarranted.
- The people who are caustic and prickly have been wounded. Look past the fault to see the need.
- I am a serial offender against what is good, pure, and holy. I need grace and forgiveness; just like everyone else.
- Push yourself to the point of breaking; physically, mentally, emotionally. Just as a horse needs to be broken before it is useful, the principle also applies to people. The wild nature of both horses and people does little that is productive.
- Don’t chase ‘get rich quick’ schemes. All wealth is built slowly through hard work, creativity and persistence. Be reasoned and fair in your approach with an eye on long-term relationship building not on revenue generation. Any money received that is not the direct result of hard work, creativity, investment and persistence is poison and should be returned.
- Be compassionate with those who are less fortunate. Giving them hand-outs is not compassion. Hand-outs are a cruel form of enablement. Instead, give opportunity and education. You are your brother’s keeper.
- Practice tough love. Don't give people what they want. Give them what they need.
- Live a life of submission to authority. Honor all authority; police, boss, teacher, mayor, governor, president, not only when the authority does the right thing but also when the authority is cruel and makes horrible decisions.
- Leave more than you take. Spend less than you make. For brief periods of time you may take more than you leave, but then over compensate for taking. When you give, don’t expect anything in return. Give with a gracious and generous heart.
We need to set high expectation for ourselves. Actually, we need to set the expectation of perfection, while fully understanding that we will never achieve it. Some day I will die knowing that I had never achieved my goal, but I also know that I pushed myself towards that goal with great zeal and ambition. I did not dwell on my numerous failings, but I took responsibility for them and tried to learn from them.
How do you know if your actions are harmful or helpful? That requires a long term analysis; does the patient get better or worse. I could cut someone with a knife, cause the person that I cut great pain, but yet do ‘good’ for that person; long term. The ‘good’ depends on what my intentions are, my ability to carry through on my intentions and the wisdom with which I approach the situation. If I attempt to surgically remove cancer from someone, without the skill or wisdom to do it, I am not doing ‘good’, despite my best intentions.
It is my experience that 99% of the people are well-intentioned, but they don’t have the skill or wisdom to understand the situation and end up doing great harm.
I was thoroughly depressed when faced with my own humanness and depravity. But I found hope, peace and joy through complete surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It doesn't mean that I am no longer human; it means that I have direction, life and hope. I have someone to join me in the struggle.
No one cares as much about your future as you do. Take control of your own destiny.
The picture of two young children standing near a dead body outside of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, is a startling image. In the report from The Daily Mail the small boy wearing an “I (heart) NY” shirt said “you’re a very bad man,” to the gunman during Saturday’s attack, which killed dozens and injured more than 100.
The gunman was a bit stunned by the words of boy and responded “Please forgive me, we are not monsters,” the Sun reported the gunman saying.
If every non-gunman at the Westgate Mall was polled, I believe the poll results would be overwhelmingly indicative of the opinion that the gunman IS a monster. His opinion therefore is an outlier and not grounded in fact.
How could this gunman believe that he wasn’t a monster? Did he believe that he was doing good? If so, who was he benefiting by shooting innocent women and children?
The statement by the gunman caused me to try to understand the mindset of this gunman.
- This gunman joined an al Qaeda affiliate despite knowing that al Qaeda exists only to kill, steal and destroy. (see the world trade center) This gunman must also have had an insatiable desire to kill, steal and destroy.
- al Qaeda must be able to brainwash or delude its followers into believing that there is some greater cause for which they are to kill, steal and destroy. They must teach that the ends justify the means. But what are the ends that al Qaeda is hoping to achieve?
- This gunman, from his response, is not a psychotic crazy person who just enjoys killing. He was apparently remorseful for his actions, but not remorseful enough to stop killing.
- The self-delusion that this gunman possessed is absolutely astounding. He had lied to himself in believing that he wasn’t a bad person, while being internally conflicted between his actions and the lies that he was believing.
- From the latest Kenyan news released, the Kenyan military has taken full control of the mall and killed all of the gunmen. Presumably, it also includes this particular gunman.
- He gave his life for his cause, but what did he really accomplish? He gave the sane people in this world more reason to hate al Qaeda and radical Islam. He has destroyed countless families and scarred numerous others. The incident has given the rest of the world more reason to question even moderate Islam, which is strangely quiet following this event.
- The gunman clearly had an inability to think long term and was not able to contemplate the consequences of his actions.
- The gunman obviously could not differentiate between the lies he was being told and reality.
- The followers of al Qaeda are incapable of thinking for themselves and are easily led. It preys on the weak minded and convinces them to do terrible things.
- Self-rationalizing is the strongest human drive and I would really like to know how this gunman could rationalize this barbaric brutal despicable behavior, especially considering that he had some remnants of a conscience.
There is an unescapable conclusion that this type of barbaric behavior can't be understood or rationalized. Evil is not rational.
Note: While enjoying a Chipotle chicken Panini at Panera’s, I had overheard the conversation at the next table in which 4 men were discussing the events at the Westgate Mall in Kenya. One person had the opinion that there are no moderates in Islam. There is only one brand of Islam, but some are too cowardly to wear a suicide belt.
About 35 years ago, the separation clause took root in the US and most vestiges of religion were removed from anything with the appearance of being public. Most notably Zion Illinois, Antioch Illinois and Wauwatosa Wisconsin had to make change to the city seals, water towers, property and any stationary to remove religious symbols.
Back then it was the ACLU and liberal Democrats who were challenging the municipalities to remove religious symbols from public properties. Now it is the conservative Christians who are raising the issue; trying to remove religious funding from the public coffers.
The National Park Service is spending money to promote Islam. The Park Service reportedly hired a media person to visit the AnNur Islamic School in Schenectady, NY, to interview students about their experiences as Muslims in America.
After a great deal of talk about how Muslims feel discriminated against in the United States, a surprising anecdote makes its way into the video: Islam is very kind to women.
From the video:
"People think that Islam oppresses women and there’s no equality, but they’re wrong – there’s equity… 7th century A.D. Islam gave women the right to be involved in politics, the right to earn and keep her own money. Islam gave women the right to work outside of the home, Islam gave women the right to own property, Islam gave women the right to divorce, Islam gave women the right to choose who she marries. Islam gave women a whole bunch of rights that Western women acquired later in the 19th and 20th centuries and we’ve had these rights since the 7th century A.D. and it’s just not acknowledged worldwide."
“Islam within itself, Islam itself means peace,” the government video states. “Islam brings nothing but peace if you truly look into it.”
According to the park’s website, the three-part series features children as they “discuss their experiences and challenges with negative Muslim stereotypes and assumptions.” And it shows American Muslim students blaming hatred against their faith on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Conservative Christian groups and Tea Party Groups are petitioning the government to stop the Park Service from promoting Islam.
But the National Park Service is not the only government agency that has received funding to promote Islam. NASA has also been tasked with promoting Islam.
"When I became the NASA administrator, Obama charged me with three things," NASA head Charles Bolden said in an interview with the Middle Eastern news network al-Jazeera. "One, he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; two, he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science, math, and engineering."
Obama appointed Egyptian-American scientist Ahmed Zewail as the first science envoy to the Middle East. Zewail argues that the U.S. can build better relations with the Muslim world by "harnessing the soft power of science in the service of diplomacy." The NASA initiative is part of that.
NASA had spent about $70,000 to fund an organization, ‘Islamic Study Group of GEWA’ in 2012 at the Goddard space center.
The mission of GEWA
“To provide a medium by which members can share, promote, and disseminate Islamic knowledge. This sponsoring organization will arrange social events and lectures to increase Islamic awareness and understanding within the membership and in the general Goddard community.”
The department of Education is also promoting Islam. Arne Duncan claims that a bias exists against Islam and a part of the task of the department of education is to overcome that bias through education. Part of the educational efforts includes distributing banners containing the 5 pillars of Islam.
Children in Wichita, Kan., returned to school for the 2013/2014 school year to find a giant wall display inside their children’s elementary school that was erected to promote the Five Pillars of Islam.
The display was reportedly part of a religion component being taught at Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet School, a school district spokesperson told Fox News’ Todd Starnes.
“The bulletin board that originally caused the concern does represent the 5 Pillars of Islam — in a historical context of their studies,” the spokesperson said.
School officials said the study of Islam is part of their “Core Knowledge” magnet curriculum.
The curriculum, CSCOPE, is being used in 70 percent of K-12 public school classes. The "comprehensive, customized, user-friendly curriculum support system" was developed by the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative.
But critics like Ginger Russell, a member of the tea party group, are finding that the program teaches that "Allah alone is the Creator" as fact, without any opposing viewpoint.
"They had a PowerPoint presentation on there on Islam, and it did say that -- that 'Allah is the Almighty God,'" Russell accounts. "It doesn't give any controversial view to it or disprove of that."
However, the bigger point is that CSCOPE is a pro-Islam program that is being funded and pushed by the department of education. It is intermingling church and state. In 1988 we lost a federal law suit and had to remove the words ‘Christmas’, ‘Easter’ and any other reference to Christianity from the public schools or curriculum. Now, Islamic symbols are found in the public school, promoted by the government and the ACLU is nowhere to be found.
In Minnesota, the ALCU had surfaced to file a lawsuit against the state’s department of education for using tax dollars to promote Islam.
The ACLU claims the school endorses the Muslim religion over other religions or nonsectarian approaches by sharing space with the Muslim American Society, promoting prayer and endorsing Muslim clothing rules and dietary practices.
"This is not a sectarian school that focuses on Middle Eastern culture," said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU's Minnesota chapter. "This is a pervasively Muslim school that teaches religion."
Charters are publicly funded schools that operate outside the traditional school district system. They must find a sponsor and get approval by the state education department.
The Minnesota Department of Education was named in the suit because it failed to oversee the goings-on at the school, Samuelson said.
"We're doing their job," he said. "We shouldn't have to be filing this lawsuit."
The department of education had created the Bureau of Islamic and Arabic Education. Part of their task was to create a new pledge of allegiance for Islamic students.
The State Department is also in the act.
The U.S. State Department -- working through American embassies and consulates in Europe -- has been stepping-up its efforts to establish direct contacts with largely unassimilated Muslim immigrant communities in towns and cities across Europe.
U.S. State Department is now spending millions of dollars each year actively promoting Islam -- including Islamic Sharia law -- on the continent.
In Ireland, for example, the U.S. Embassy in Dublin recently sponsored a seminar ostensibly designed to help Muslim immigrants increase their influence within the Irish business and financial communities.
Ambassador William Eacho, an Obama campaign fundraiser turned political appointee, awarded the first prize to a group of students in the northern Austrian town of Steyr who produced a one-minute silent film promoting tolerance for Muslim women who wear Islamic face-covering veils such as burkas in public spaces.
The State Department created a salute to Islam. It's the only religion promoted on their website. Other religions don't merit the same treatment:
“Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States today. According to one recent survey, there are 1,209 mosques in America, well over half founded in the last 20 years. Between 17 and 30 percent of American Muslims are converts to the faith.
At the center of both traditional American life and the lives of the generally more recent Muslim immigrants is the family. As Shahed Amanullah, an engineer who lives in San Franciso, California, puts it, " American values are, by and large, very consistent with Islamic values, with a focus on family, faith, hard work, and an obligation to better self and society."
This booklet is a brief introduction to a complex subject, an attempt to explore in words and images the extraordinary range and richness of the way American Muslims live. That point of cross-cultural commonality -- the family -- is where we begin.”
- State Department brochure
In Minnesota, the ACLU is being consistent with its prior stance on the separation of church and state, but elsewhere the ACLU and ‘The People for the American Way’ have shown tremendous hypocrisy and are failing to take action over very blatant examples of the state sponsoring and promoting a religion.
It appears that the separation clause is dead; or it’s solely dependent on the religion being promoted.
The other obvious issue is that if the government is spending millions of dollars to promote relgion, it has too much money. Along with defunding ObamaCare, the house of representatives needs to defund proselytizing by the Federal government.
Over the weekend, Nancy Pelosi made the statement that the Federal government has been cut to the bone, there is nothing left to cut. I guaranty that I can find significant spending that could be cut.
The original idea of providing low-income individuals with subsidized phones had its origins in the Reagan administration in 1984 following the break-up of AT&T. AT&T was deemed to be a monopoly and broken into multiple segments. Prior to the break-up, they had, as a public service, provided low cost phone service to low income customers. The Reagan administration wanted that program continued.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 formalized the discount service based on land lines. In section 104, under the ‘Non-discrimination principle’ heading, all individuals, regardless of the ability to pay, would be able to make emergency or essential calls.
In 2008, FCC expanded the LifeLine program, to offer one hour’s worth of calling time per month, and other wireless services like voice mail to eligible low-income households. Applicants have to apply and prove that they are either receiving certain types of government benefits, such as Medicaid, or have household incomes at or below 135 percent of the poverty line. Using 2009 poverty guidelines, that’s $14,620 for an individual and a little under $30,000 for a family of four.
TracFone Wireless, Inc., America’s leading prepaid cell phone provider, announced the launch of SafeLink Wireless in 2009. SafeLink Wireless is the first and only completely free offering of LifeLine.
The SafeLink Wireless service will provide eligible low-income households a free cell phone valued at $120, mobile access to emergency services and free 60 minutes of airtime, monthly, for one year. The cell phone offers in-demand features: voicemail, text, call waiting, international calling to more than 60 destinations and caller ID.
The program has exploded in growth. In 2011, LifeLine accounted for 20% of the $8.1 billion Universal Service Fund distributed to support connections for rural areas, schools, hospitals and low-income individuals.
There are 17 million households currently signed up for the program, up from under 1 million just four years ago when $772 million was distributed by USF.
The program is paid primarily through service fees to the wireless service providers.
For example: A Verizon Wireless bill will include the following language
Our Surcharges include:
· A Regulatory Charge (which helps defray various government charges we pay including government number administration and license fees)
· A Federal Universal Service Charge (and, if applicable, a State Universal Service Charge) to recover charges imposed on us by the government to support universal service.
· Taxes, governmental surcharges and fees include sales, excise and other taxes and governmental surcharges and fees that we are required by law to bill to customers. These taxes, surcharges and fees may change from time to time without notice.
In my bill (family plan), these charges add up to $31 per month.
There is a political connection to the service provider. TracFone Wireless CEO F.J. Pollak “has donated at least $156,500 to Democratic candidates and committees this cycle (2012), including at least $50,000 to the Obama campaign,” while his wife Abigail has bundled over $632,000 in Obama donations during this campaign cycle. In return Tracfone maintains an exclusive contract through LifeLine. (Of course, the campaign cash did not overtly buy political favors, but I am sure that there is some link between the money and the contract.)
From the Huffington Post, “The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, is apparently making a lot of money off a government program aimed at helping the poor Americans. Every time someone gets a phone through LifeLine, a government program that gives phones to low-income Americans, Tracfone, a company in which Carlos Slim has a controlling stake, nets $10.” With tens of millions of phone already handed out, Carlos Slim has been able to add to his net worth of $67 billion.
The LifeLine program came under scrutiny when Jillian Kay Melchior, a reporter with The National Review received three brand new phones, though her income completely disqualified her. She also signed up for two different phones, from two different vendors, who shared the same vending spot, outside of a welfare office.
With such little scrutiny welfare recipients can receive more phones than they need. Some use these benefits for illegal activity, reports The Daily Mail. One video, taken by an undercover reporter shows an actor asking a vendor in Philadelphia if he can sell the phone for drugs. The vendor’s reply was, “Hey, I don’t judge.”
According to the Washington Times, 50 congressional members have signed on to legislation that would put a stop to the government's free phone program, citing up to $1 billion in fraud in the program. But this is not a real effort. The program is safe and no measures will be taken to curb any of the excesses.
In truth, this program is no different than Social Security, Medicare, Public housing, Food Stamps, etc in that the program starts small and innocently, but grows rapidly and is soon over run by fraud and corruption. In each case, the well-meaning government entity is at a loss to explain what had happened to the program and then scrambles to manage the expectations and fraud. However, there is one thing that the government never takes into account when creating these programs: human nature. Human nature is hard to quantify and objectify.
- We will take as much rope as we are given (no rope is left over, even if it is not needed)
- We will push the envelope of what we are given (initially a $30k cap was imposed on the participants, it was pushed to $35k very quickly and now there are apparently no caps on the income levels for the participants)
- Government imposes little accountability (since someone else is paying for it, the scope of cost matters little)
- Politically connected individuals always profit nicely from government programs
- Once the program has gained a foot hold it will never die (the free phone program is here to stay and no politician will make a real attempt to kill it; the recipients, politicians and providers will insure that it remains viable)
- We are lazy and want to take as little responsibility for ourselves as possible, while demanding more rights (why work for something when we can get it for free, i.e. someone else pay for it)
- We want to make all the poor choices that are available to us and have someone else suffer with the consequences of our poor choices
- Self-governance without self-restraint will lead to self-destruction
In 2011, about 16.8 million phones were handed out through the LifeLine programs. A substantial percentage of these new phones made their way onto Ebay and Craig’s list, effectively driving down the cost of new phones being sold through retailers. The supply of new phones on these sites outpaced the demand. Carlos Slim made his $10 and the phone recipient also profited from the sales, but the retailer was forced to sell at a loss in order to compete.
Part of the reason for the wide spread usage of this Federal program is the heavy advertizing and easy access to stores handing out the product. From the SafeLink website: 'How to qualify: If you already participate in other state or federal assistance programs such as federal public housing,' you're qualified.
The advertisement goes on to say, "You can get an additional free 100 minutes if you recommend a friend. Pay nothing! No bills, no contracts, no credit checks, no hidden fees."
In the end the rich get richer, the poor get something for nothing and the middle class ends up paying for all of it.
The Syria quagmire seems to be bringing out the worst in everyone.
On Wednesday, the administration made a pitch to the Senate to take action in the Syrian conflict. The Obama administration made a forceful statement that the US would aid the al Qaeda-led rebels in the conflict by ‘degrading Assad’s ability to wage war’. Note: This happens to be the same al Qaeda that killed over 3000 US citizens on 9/11.
The Obama plan: to take action in Syria.
This is not a real plan.
There is no mission objective.
There is no contingency.
There is no big picture.
There is no national interest involved.
There is no response analysis of the neighboring nations.
There is no plan to defend
There is no method of supplying Europe with natural gas, if
There is no analysis on how this conflict will impact the flow of oil.
There is no succession plan should Assad be overthrown.
There is no timetable.
There is no stated credible reason for entering this conflict.
There is no stated end game.
There is no contribution to peace and liberty in this action.
There is no answer to whether or not it will escalate into a larger conflict.
There is no effort to curb the genocide being committed by the ‘Free Syria’ rebels. If the rebels kill tens of thousands of people with conventional means (guns, knives, clubs) there are no consequences. But if the Assad regime is found to be guilty of killing 1200 people with Chemical weapons, then
And yet worse than this plan of action was Secretary Kerry’s performance in front the Senate. He did not present evidence that the Assad regime did, indeed, use chemical weapons. Nor did he provide a general picture of what he wanted to accomplish. He came to the Senate to ‘brainstorm ideas’. When asked if there would be boots on the ground, his answers were less than vague. He would prefer not to have boots on the ground but doesn’t want to rule out the possibility. On the question of this military action being a shot across the bow, he said that it could be quick strike or it could be more protracted. Kerry simply wanted to kick around ideas with the Senate and did not come prepared to present anything.
But even worse than Kerry’s performance was the behavior of the Senate Republicans. They agreed to go along with this non-plan. This is the same Republican party that is helping push Obamacare through congress. This is the same Republican party that is supporting Obama’s vision of NSA surveillance and immigration.
There are no political options available to the American people. The only option is the Democrats with only a slight variation in the Democrat –lite Party.
And then there is president Obama who insists on distancing himself from his own words and policies. He claims that he didn’t set the red line at chemical weapons. The red line was created by the media and the ‘world’. Obama claims that he didn’t threaten action if the red line was crossed; he was simply expressing grave concerns over the possible use of chemical weapons.
Where is the clarity?
Why has nothing been asked of Obama or Kerry?
Where is the debate?
Where is the accountability for this disaster?
Where are the anti-war activists; Cindy Sheehan, Gwen Moore, John Murtha, Russ Feingold, MSNBC and others who protested the Iraq war? How do they resolve the fact that Saddam Hussein killed over 100,000 Kurds in 1988 in which chemical weapons were used? (see Halabja chemical attack)
The media and American people are simply AWOL. We have received nothing but pap and praddle and we have not demanded good coherent answers.
Gregory III, the leader of the Greek Catholic Church in Syria spoke to AsiaNews. on Aug. 28. “Who created this hell in which our people have been living for months? Every day, Islamic extremists from all over the world are pouring into Syria with the sole intent to kill and not one country has done anything to stop them, even the U.S. has decided to send in more weapons.” “I state the categorical rejection … of any foreign intervention in Syria and any attack or intervention of any sort whatsoever,” Gregory continued. He said that armed intervention in Syria was “fueling hatred, fueling criminality, fueling inhumanity, fueling fundamentalism, terrorism – all these things are the fruit of intervention.”
“Our community dwindles every day,” he said. “Young people are fleeing, dying, families leave their homes and villages.” Foreign nations need to stop the flow of weapons and fighters into the country and replace it with humanitarian aid.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in a report released on August 20 that the Pentagon has estimated it would take “over 75,000 troops on the ground” to secure Syria’s chemical weapons.
In a speech at the National Defense University on December 3, 2012, President Obama stated, perhaps in reaction to recent reports of chemical weapon preparations: “I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you will be held accountable.”
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reiterated this policy to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 18, 2013, that there are “plans in place to respond to the full range of chemical weapon scenarios.”
President Obama told reporters on April 26, 2013, that Syrian use of chemical weapons “crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues.”
On Wednesday, August 21st, a chemical weapon was unleashed in the outskirts of Damascus. This is the second documented chemical weapons attack in Syria this year.
Medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said three hospitals it supported in the Damascus area had treated about 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms", of whom 355 had died.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was no evidence yet that Syria had used chemical weapons against rebels.
The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, said Western powers were rushing to conclusions about who may have used chemical weapons in Syria before UN inspectors had completed their investigation.
Both the Syrian government and rebels have blamed each other for last Wednesday's attacks.
Syrian foreign minister Walid Mualllem said no country in the world would use "a weapon of ultimate destruction against its own people". He has said he rejects "utterly and completely" that Syrian government forces used chemical weapons.
The US, Britain and France claim that the chemical attacks were carried out by the Assad regime. The US has responded by moving warships off of the coast of Syria to strike if necessary.
Who was responsible for the chemical attacks? I think that a case could be made for either party; the Assad regime or the ‘Free Syria’ rebels. Who would stand to benefit the most by the chemical attack? Clearly, the rebels.
Both parties control vast amounts of chemical weapons. In fact, the rebels may have more access to chemical weapons than the Assad regime. Military sources report that, after three days of fierce fighting, Syrian rebel units earlier this year seized control of the small southwestern Syrian town of El Saphira. This site had significant military value because it held the Syrian army’s largest chemical weapons store.
The rebels have a history of deception and blame. Early in the Syrian revolution, the rebels wore Syrian military uniforms and then video taped themselves committing extreme acts of violence and cruelty against the Syrian civilians. One of the most prominent videos shows the uniformed rebels throwing civilians off of a 7 story building. This was done to gain support from both the Syrian people and from other nations.
The rebels also have had a history of exterminating all non-Sunni Muslims in regions that they have captured.
The Britain-based Observatory said it had obtained a photograph showing the execution of Alawite cleric Badr Ghazal by hardline Islamist Sunni rebels, highlighting the growing sectarian bloodshed of the 2-1/2-year conflict in Syria.
Also in July the video of the beheading of a Catholic priest, Father Franҫois Mourad, was posted on Youtube by the proud rebels who want to eliminate all Christians and non-Sunnis. According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency, the Syrian rebels are sacking churches and issuing threats that all Christians, Shiites and Alawites will be cleansed from rebel-held territory.
In November of 2012, the ‘Free- Syria’ rebels used dual car bombs to kill 44 and injure hundreds in Jaramana. Jaramana is a predominately Christian town near Damascus with strong loyalties to the Assad regime.
Within the US, Senator John McCain, John Kerry and President Obama have strongly sided with the Syrian rebels. And the rebels are anxious to get the US involved in the war effort. The stalemate in the civil war has shown a dramatic decline in the enthusiasm by the rebels. Something dramatic is needed to fire up the troops and draw the US into the conflict.
The Assad regime would like to keep the rest of the world out of the conflict and is actively working to cut the supply lines from Turkey to the rebels.
The reasons why the Free Syria rebels have the most to gain by using Chemical weapons:
- Draw the US into the conflict (US has strong sympathies with the rebels)
- Create chaos and destabilize the region
- Exterminate the non-Sunnis in a large scale attack
- Rally the ‘rebel’ troops
- The chemical weapons would most likely be blamed on the Assad regime
It appears that the rebels may have been successful in their goals. Secretary Kerry said, “There was no debate at the Saturday meeting that a military response is necessary.” Obama ordered up legal justifications for a military strike, should he order one, outside of the United Nations Security Council. That process is well underway, and particular emphasis is being placed on alleged violations of the Geneva Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention.
"What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world," Kerry said. "It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable and -- despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured -- it is undeniable."
Why does the US want to jump into the Syrian conflict? All of the US lawmakers that are in support of the war effort are also heavily supported by the military industrial complex. Also, the US has typically opposed dictatorships; Mubarak, Hussein, Qaddafi all fell as a result of US opposition. The other reason is political. After Obama gave his ‘red line’ speech, he needs to back it up with some action.
About 2 years ago, a Mid East Analyst, Guenther Meyer, stated that Syria would fall. The only question was when; not if. The ‘Free Syria’ rebels have too much backing; including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, US, Europe, Turkey and al Qaeda. All are providing arms, intelligence and political backing to the rebels. Assad is receiving support from Russia, China and Iran, but that support is not nearly to the same degree or as active as the support for the rebels.
Syria was targeted along with Egypt and Libya for revolution during the Arab Spring in which those three dictatorships were to be replaced by radical Islamist Sunni governments. But the pesky Assad regime and its supporters will not quit.
Any action by the US in this conflict is groundless. There is no prevailing national interest in this conflict. And US participation is sure to spark a wider conflict. I see no upside to an involvement in the Syrian conflict.
The CIA has declassified some of their activities and research from the 1970s and 1980s. The declassification includes the revelation of an Area 51 in Nevada.
The CIA has also declassified and approved the release of documents revealing its involvement in a remote viewing program conducted at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, CA. These declassified documents reveal a program that is extremely troubling for me. The program was designed to determine if agencies like the CIA could use such non-physical phenomena for “intelligence collection.” The research conducted by Stanford University and the CIA lasted for decades and confirmed the fact that the intelligence community has a high interest and involvement in para-psychological phenomena. The study was compromised of department of defense personnel and an individual named Ingo Swann -just to name one of the many. Research was conducted by Russel Targ and Harold E. Puthoff, the Doctors who founded the 23 year long study at Stanford University alongside Defense Intelligence Agencies and Army Intelligence.
One of the remarkable areas of research was Remote Viewing. This para-normal activity has been criticized by many scientists and psychologists; claiming that those who believe that this is credible exist only on the fringes of humanity. They are one step from the asylum. According to Dr Puthoff, he was leery of entering that field of research, “by Western scientific standards the field [Remote Viewing] was considered nonsense by most working scientists.” But the CIA documents reveal that there was enough interest within the department to fund studies conducted by researchers.
The results were not as expected but very intriguing.
“The tests were simple, the visitors simply hiding objects in a box and asking Swann to attempt to describe the contents. The results generated in these experiments are perhaps captured most eloquently by the following example. In one test Swann said "I see something small, brown and irregular, sort of like a leaf or something that resembles it, except that it seems very much alive, like it's even moving!" The target chosen by one of the visitors turned out to be a small live moth, which indeed did look like a leaf.” –Dr Harold E Puthoff.
After confirming the reality using objects hidden in envelopes and identifying physical characteristics at locations a few hundred kilometers away, a participant in the study at Stanford suggested carrying out an experiment to remote view the planet Jupiter.
The Jupiter experiment was wrapped up in very stringent protocols. But the remote viewing raw data had to be recorded somehow, so that it could be established that it existed prior to the NASA vehicles getting to the planet. The raw data were circulated far and wide, offered to and accepted by many respected scientists in the Silicon Valley area, including two at Jet Propulsion Laboratories - Ingo Swann
It just so happens that the NASA Pioneer 10 was about to make a flyby of the planet. Before the flyby, Ingo was able to view a specific ring around Jupiter before NASA was able to take pictures of it. Mr. Swann was correct in his descriptions. As he had claimed, he successfully remote viewed the ring around Jupiter. This result was published by Stanford University in advance of the rings’ discovery. Many other anomalies of Jupiter were described before being given scientific substantiation.
"The intelligence services are heavy players, they required an active picture of PSI potentials somewhat larger than standard parapsychology could provide. Because of these unusual circumstances, I got dragged into realms of often idiotic secrecy, into endless security checks conducive of paranoia, into all kinds of science fiction dreamworks, into intelligence intrigues who’s various formats were sometimes like toilet drains, and into quite nervous military and political ramifications." - Ingo Swann
Ingo Swann was pulled into an intensive questioning session by NASA officials regarding the condition of equipment on the moon from the Apollo missions. He successfully remote viewed objects, structures and bases on the dark side of the moon and was able to provide details such as the thickness of the layer of dust on the moon rover.
Successful replication of this type of remote viewing in independent laboratories has yielded considerable scientific evidence for the reality of the (remote viewing) phenomenon. Adding to the strength of these results was the discovery that a growing number of individuals could be found to demonstrate high-quality remote viewing, often to their own surprise. The CIA even participated as remote viewers themselves in order to critique the protocols. CIA personnel generated successful target descriptions of sufficiently high quality to permit blind matching of descriptions to targets by independent judges. - Harold E. Puthoff
The concept of Remote Viewing is so bizarre that I can’t comprehend what it is or how it is done. In fact, I think that it embraces forces that we don’t understand. I liken it to playing with radioactive materials. At best, it may be fascinating, but the effects can be long-lasting and harmful.
We can’t know much about the non-material, non-physical world, because we are not alive to the non-physical world. This doesn’t mean that the non-physical world doesn’t exist, but we should use great caution when handling things that we don’t understand.
The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in a decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence – Nikola Tesla
What happens when we come across information that goes beyond matter and into the realm of reality we can’t sense with our eyes, can’t feel with our hands, can’t hear with our ears or can’t smell with our nose? Does it cease to become scientific? Absolutely not, quantum physics has confirmed the non-physical reality in years past, and the human race is beginning to acknowledge these realities in its continual examination of the make-up of our reality.
But there is tremendous resistance to the study of the non-physical phenomena. People who show interest into this, like Art Bell, are ridiculed and mocked. Society is just not comfortable with the ideas that are presented, and rightly so. Many of the people who espouse these views have experimented with LSD and their grip of reality is in question; Timothy Leary comes to mind.
“Societal resistance to PSI breaks neatly into two aspects: to prevent PSI development; and the keep obscure the actual reasons for doing so.
One reason for the blanket suppression which has been offered up by many before me is that effective formats of PSI would disturb any number of social institutions. Those institutions would feel ‘threatened’ by development formats of, say, telepathy, which might thereafter be utilized to penetrate their secrets.” – Ingo Swann
When the Stanford studies reached and exceeded the expectations of the CIA, a second set of studies was conducted to confirm the results of the first study. Two separate groups were selected to replicate the Stanford results; Princeton and a consortium of UC/Davis and the University of Oregon. In the studies conducted by the Princeton University researcher, Brenda Dunn, the Remote Viewers needed some mental/emotional conditioning prior to the viewing session. One of the Viewers that that she found it helpful to spend about 10 minutes before the trial putting herself into a mind altered state which she achieved by relaxing physically, breathing deeply and visualizing herself descending a spiral staircase.
The conditioning and training of the viewers dictated the level of success. It was vital to ‘turn off’ the left brain influence of the viewer. The descriptions had to be described in metaphorical terms rather than specifically accurate. Nonlinguistic, non-intellectual mental activity appeared to be an asset to the participant’s performance level.
Each viewer had perceived a slightly different set of coordinates when performing an ordinate/coordinate viewing session. Five of six viewers were able to accurately describe the building at the described coordinates while one described the building next to the one in question. Much of the information gathered was dependent on the abilities of the viewer to separate from his left brain and tune to the flow of energy.
The prior knowledge of the object in question extremely hampered the success rate of the viewing session. For example, a viewer who might perceive a shape which reminds him of a castle might be tempted to include a description of a mote and draw bridge when none existed.
Using a post hoc analysis, Dr. May concluded that in one of the cases the remote viewer was able to describe a microwave generator with 80 percent accuracy. But standard statistical methods cannot be used in these cases because there is no standard for probabilistic comparison. But evidence gained from applied remote viewing cannot be dismissed as inconsequential just because we cannot assign specific probabilities to the results.
Despite the high rate of success by several different studies, I am amazed that the Federal government would spend millions of dollars on research into Remote Viewing, telepathy and other paranormal activities. Until some of this was declassified, I truly believed that anyone who believed this stuff or saw UFOs were in a drug induced state of delusion. Part of reason for my denial of any such activity or occurrences is that I have not seen or experienced anything like this…nor did any of my family or close friends. UFOs also have no place in my world view.
As a sociological aside, we note that the overall efficacy of remote viewing in a program like this was not just a scientific issue. For example, when the Semipalatinsk data [high rate of accuracy regarding a Russian military site] described earlier was forwarded for analysis, one group declined to get involved because the whole concept was deemed unscientific nonsense, while a second group declined because, even though it might be real, it was possibly demonic; a third group had to be found. –Dr Harold E Puthoff
A third group could not be found and the research programs were halted by the CIA in 1977. Either of two camps existed; camp 1: the high rate of success was irrelevant since this is nonsense and therefore the results must have been fabricated or camp 2: the results were deemed to be real, but the source of that reality is a dark spiritual place and is not to be messed with.
Note: The DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) picked up the Remote Viewing program in 1985. Since 1986 more than 50 independent programs have been funded. Most notably was the 'Star Gate' program initiated in the early 90s.
I am still highly skeptical of Remote Viewing, paranormal activity and UFOs. But the door is opening very slightly to the possibility that it indeed exists. It appears that national and world leaders certainly believe in it. The CIA, Stanford University, Yale University, University of California/Davis, University of Oregon and the military believe enough of it to spend a great deal of resources in it and then classify the findings.
When Henry Kissinger talked about an extraterrestrial invasion, I doubt that it was a response to the movies that he was watching. One must come to the conclusion that Kissinger either was delusional or he has information that I am not aware of.
“Today, America would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order [referring to the 1991 LA Riot]. Tomorrow they will be grateful! This is especially true if they were told that there were an outside threat from beyond [i.e., an "extraterrestrial" invasion], whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence. It is then that all peoples of the world will plead to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this ‘scenario’, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well-being granted to them by the World Government.”
Dr. Henry Kissinger
Bilderberger Conference, Evians France, 1992
Upon concluding the CIA portion of the program, the final footnotes were added and the program was classified.
“The statistical results were so overwhelming that results that extreme or more so would occur only about once in every 1020 such instances if chance alone is the explanation (i.e., the p-value was less than 10-20 )," according to Dr. Michael Mumford of the IFR. The difficulties were encountered when attempting to explain the source of the statistical success.
However, the results were primarily a function of the quality of the individual viewer. Of the hundreds of viewers used through the various studies, six of them produced performances which far outpaced the remainder of the viewers.
“Regardless of one's a priori position, however, an unimpassioned observer cannot help but attest to the following fact. Despite the ambiguities inherent in the type of exploration covered in these programs, the integrated results appear to provide unequivocal evidence of a human capacity to access events remote in space and time, however falteringly, by some cognitive process not yet understood. My years of involvement as a research manager in these programs have left me with the conviction that this fact must be taken into account in any attempt to develop an unbiased picture of the structure of reality.”
Based on the recent ‘chatter’ that the US and Western intelligence sources have received over the past few weeks, the US state department has issued warning against travel abroad and has taken security precautions regarding foreign based employees.
From Tunisia to Bangladesh, about two dozen U.S. embassies and consulates across North Africa and the Middle East are closed following the identification of a significant threat from an al Qaeda affiliate, a senior U.S. official is providing new details about the communications intercepted from the terrorists, telling ABC News that al Qaeda operatives could be heard talking about an upcoming attack. The official described the terrorists as saying the planned attack is “going to be big” and “strategically significant.”
“The part that is alarming is the confidence they showed while communicating and the air of certainty,” the official said, adding that the group — al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — appeared to have a media plan for after the attack.
Authorities do not know the exact target of the planned attack, according to the official.
“We do not know whether they mean an embassy, an airbase, an aircraft, trains,” the official said.
Today on “This Week,” Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, (D-MD) — the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee — said the intercepted communications called for a “major attack.”
“We received information that high level people from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are talking about a major attack,” Ruppersberger said. “And these are people at a high level.”
Peter King, (R. New York) stated that throughout the monitoring of al Qaeda, it appears that the organization has seen a tremendous resurgence after the Benghazi attack. Since then, they have received funding and new recruits. Benghazi seems to be the trigger that has rejuvenated their activity.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R. SC) made a similar claim that Benghazi was steroids for al Qaeda.
When asked about the possible link between the al Qaeda resurgence and Benghazi, Aaron Klein, a journalist based in Jerusalem, said that during his discussions with al Qaeda operatives that Benghazi was seen as a recruiting tool for two reasons; first, it was a successful, highly visible assault on a Western target signaling that al Qaeda was back in business. Second, the radical Islamists smell blood in the water. There has been no response to the attack signaling weakness or an inability to respond.
An interview with an al Qaeda leader by CNN last week underscored the idea that there will be no response to the Benghazi attack. CNN's recent interview with Ahmed Abu Khattala, the Benghazi leader of the al Qaeda-affiliated militia group Ansar al-Sharia, was not unique. Khattala has been granting interviews to Time, Reuters and foreign media. The CNN interview with Khattala was conducted at a popular coffee shop in Benghazi.
Khattala does not appear to be a man who is in hiding. He had a calm demeanor with no security detail. And he claimed that no one in the last ten months had contacted him from the CIA or State Department regarding the details of the attack.
"Rumors continue to swirl about the whereabouts of suspects involved in the attack," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah and 7 other lawmakers wrote in their letter to Comey, who will replace Robert Mueller as FBI director in September.
"The FBI continues to add pictures of potential assailants to its website and asks the Libyan people to assist with identifying the alleged perpetrators. We struggle to understand why we don't know more about those who attacked two U.S. compounds and murdered four brave Americans. "
"News out today that CNN was able to go in and talk to one of the suspected terrorists, how come the military hasn't been able to get after them and capture or kill the people? How come the FBI isn't doing this and yet CNN is?"
Al Qaeda has coordinated attacks on US interests in multiple locations prior to Benghazi, but the Benghazi attack was the first to get major news coverage.
Other previous attacks:
September 12, 2006. Damascus, Syria. Four armed gunmen shouting "Allahu akbar" storm the U.S. Embassy using grenades, automatic weapons, a car bomb and a truck bomb. Four people are killed, 13 are wounded.
January 12, 2007. Athens, Greece. Members of a Greek terrorist group called the Revolutionary Struggle fire a rocket-propelled grenade at the U.S. Embassy. No fatalities.
March 18, 2008. Sana'a, Yemen. Members of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Jihad of Yemen fire a mortar at the U.S. Embassy. The shot misses the embassy, but hits nearby school killing two.
July 9, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey. Four armed terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Six people are killed.
September 17, 2008. Sana'a, Yemen. Terrorists dressed as military officials attack the U.S. Embassy with an arsenal of weapons including RPGs and detonate two car bombs. Sixteen people are killed, including an American student and her husband (they had been married for three weeks when the attack occurred). This is the second attack on this embassy in seven months.
There was also no US response to these attacks.
The ‘chatter’ that the CIA has been tracking revealed the desire for another 9/11 type of event in scope and impact. Why do the Feds think that the attack will be against US interests on foreign soil? My guess is that al Qaeda is planning an attack against the US on US soil, similar to 9/11. Yet the US embassies and consulates have been the primary focus of security. There may be a heightened alert for domestic terrorism, but the FBI/CIA may not want to divulge the contents of all of the ‘chatter’ that has been monitored.
Is this threat real or is it a fabricated threat to drum up support for continued NSA monitoring of metadata? I believe that this threat is real for a number of reasons.
- No one would be brazen enough to fabricate this type of threat, especially to bolster the highly unpopular NSA activity.
- Benghazi is a sore spot and the administration would like to prevent another Benghazi-type of incident. At the first sign of a threat, the appropriate embassies and consulates were evacuated.
- Other intelligence agencies in other countries have also raised their security levels based on their intelligence.
- The US has been weeding out the al Qaeda element from the free Syria rebel troops. This has freed them up for other activity.
- There is a pattern of al Qaeda activity with ‘chatter’ prior to the event.
Right now, we are in a waiting pattern while hoping that the threats do not materialize. But we also know that hope is not a strategy. Eventually, we will need to show some resolve and prosecute the perpetrators behind the Benghazi attack.
President Obama had promised Americans that he would find out who did it and bring them to justice, “Make no mistake, justice will be done.”
In a separate statement Obama said, “What happened in Benghazi is a tragedy. We’re investigating exactly what happened.I take full responsibility for that fact. I send these folks in harm’s way, I want to make sure they’re always safe and when that doesn't happen, that we figure out what happened and make sure that doesn't happen again. But my biggest priority now is bringing those folks to justice and I think the American people have seen that’s a commitment I'll always keep.”
“I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished,” Obama said. That may still be the case, but justice seems to be moving at a snail’s pace, if at all.
Items of note regarding Detroit
Total revenues for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012 were $2.3 billion; a decrease of $170.5 million from the prior fiscal year.
Total expenditures for the fiscal year ending in June 2012 were $2.9 billion, a decrease of $111.8 million from the prior fiscal year.
The decreases in the net assets (net deficits) were $680 million for fiscal year 2012 and $538 million for fiscal year 2011.
At the end of the current fiscal year, the City had total bonded debt of $6.4 billion outstanding.
Detroit faces $20 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities.
More than half of the owners of Detroit's 305,000 properties failed to pay their 2011 tax bills.
Over a ten year period (2001 to 2011) about 47% of business jobs moved out of the city or closed, causing a drop in tax revenue and an increase in unemployment.
The property tax rate (mill rate) is $84.5/thousand of assessed value; about $52/thousand higher than some surrounding suburbs.
All corporations in Detroit are assessed an additional 5% fee on water, electrical and gas services. Corporations are also charged a 2% income tax rate by the city; apart from the state and Federal income taxes.
About 2/3 of all homicides in the state of Michigan occur in the city of Detroit. Detroit also leads the nation in the rate of violent crime.
According to Forbes Magazine, Detroit was the most dangerous city in the United States in 2011 for the fourth consecutive year.
The population declined from a peak of 1.8 million in the 1950’s to 701,000 in 2013.
Kwame Kilpatrick resigned as mayor in 2008 after a scandal plagued term in office. The scandal that brought him down was when he used $9 million of city assets as hush money to cover up an affair. This came on the heals of reports of mayor Kilpatrick throwing lavish multi-million dollar parties yearly for his staff at the Manoogian Mansion…at the tax payers expense.
The city of Detroit has a payroll of 12,000 active employees and 22,000 retirees. Many of the retirees were able to retire at 52 years with lavish benefits.
In 2011, the Post-Employment Benefits (POEBs) cost Detroit $5.7 billion.
Detroit is carrying $3.5 billion in pension liabilities.
In April 2012 the city counsel voted to double the corporate tax rates to deal with the massive deficits along with a 10% cut in pay for the municipal employees.
Tom Nardone started a business in Detroit in 1994, but after staying as long as he could, he moved to the city of Troy in 2010. “There were multiple causes for the move”, he said.
Detroit has "very high property taxes, there's an income tax in the city and then the police claim that they really don't have time to enforce property crimes against businesses," said Nardone. "So if you owned a business — like I do — and you had a couple hundred thousand in inventory, which was your livelihood, would you move to a city where the police tell you they can't defend it?"
He added, “In addition, the city services are terrible, the streets have decayed to the point that I wouldn’t consider them paved, I get shot at on my way to work, my business is covered with graffiti and it’s like being in a bombed out city of Europe after WWII. Just coming to work is so depressing.”
“I had stayed based on false promises. There's a certain group of people that have always talked about how 'Detroit's coming back, Detroit's coming back, it's a renaissance, it's rebirth'," he said. "I think those people might be embarrassed because Detroit's never been coming back... It's been declining for 20 straight years so I think those people might have finally gotten the wake-up call that there's no rebirth happening here."
Democratic assessment of Detroit
MSNBC has devoted much of their coverage to the bankruptcy filing by Detroit. The hosts on MSNBC offered various reasons for the bankruptcy. Ed Schultz claims that Detroit is the culmination of Republican ideology and the decline of Detroit started when Romney was the governor of Michigan. Schultz referred to Detroit as the Republican Utopia.
Pundit Sally Kohn stated that Detroit went bankrupt because it was trying to implement austerity measures pushed on it by the state of Michigan. Detroit needed more government spending not less.
Republican assessment of Detroit
Charles Krauthammer claims that Detroit was run into the ground through 60 years of unanimous Democratic rule. Without a voice of opposition, it voted through all of the spending that it wanted. Instead of spending on tangible assetts, it spent on benefits for themselves.
The media was not an independent watchdog and was more concerned with maintaining Democratic power and staying in the graces of the ruling elite so that it saw and heard no evil.
My assessment of Detroit
At one point in 1961, Detroit boasted the highest per capita income of any major city in the country. It was flourishing. The unemployment rate was less than 2% and it became the hub of cultural activity.
With plenty of money in the coffers, Detroit was able to create a lavish system of benefits, pensions and pay for its employees. Also, many new agencies and offices were opened to service Motown.
Note: Milwaukee County executive Tom Ament created a pension system in Milwaukee based on the Detroit pension model.
As the city began to decline, it was forced to raise their property tax rates and fees significantly higher than the surrounding communities to maintain the status quo. People and businesses couldn’t rationalize spending thousands of dollars to stay in Detroit and left for lower cost areas. The flight from the city only served to produce a severe increase in taxes and fees, causing even more people and businesses to leave.
Detroit did very little to combat the culture of corruption and crime; both in government and on the streets.
Detroit did not respond to the changing demographics and should have cut the number of employees and services. It maintained the infrastructure for a city of 1.8 million people although it only had 700,000 people.
The current mayor, Dave Bing, is pushing to restructure and re-organize the city. He claims that too many council people and board members are looking only to preserve their own turf and not looking out for the best of the city. The city council did not want to change despite knowing that bankruptcy was imminent. Each council member was hoping to ride out their term before the wheels fell off of the wagon.
People will do what they can get away with. Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr said that he had found ten of millions of dollars in fraud and corruption in a cursory financial review of the city’s records. Detroit politicians had no accountability for their actions…and it showed.
Crime will produce poverty; not immediately but in the long term.
On July 2nd, I headed north to the great
I spent time re-evaluating my thoughts, actions and attitudes. My world view was reviewed and rewritten. The topic that I had focused on was love; not the sensual kind, but the self-denying compassion that acts in the other person’s best interest. This type of love does not act as the other person desires, but as the other person needs.
A pamphlet that I had read contained a story which painted a picture of love. The author thinks that this is just a story that had been down through the ages, but it paints a beautiful picture of the attitudes that we all need.
The story takes place in the Dakota territories in the 1870s. A woman and infant had left
The carriage driver was an old grizzled mountain man who was conditioned to the cold but also was keenly aware of the effects of the cold and had witnessed a person freezing to death. He had noticed the young woman shivering and then getting sleepy. He was fearful that she would die of hypothermia. At several occasions, the driven stopped the carriage and forced the young woman to move around and warm up, but within a few minutes she was nodding off again. The driver knew that something needed to be done. It was still about 4 hours to their destination and at this rate the woman would not survive. The next time that the woman became drowsy, he stopped the carriage, took the baby from the woman’s arms, pushed the woman off of the carriage and then took off. The woman got up and chased after the carriage for about 10 minutes before the carriage stopped and the woman was allowed to get aboard.
The woman had not only lost any drowsiness, she was burning with anger. She assaulted the driver verbally for the next 4 hours, until they got to their destination. In her mind, this driver was probably the most rude and obnoxious person that she had ever met. In the driver’s mind, he had felt that the woman was ungrateful and naïve. But he also knew that he did the right thing. The driver kept quiet knowing that some day the woman would realize that he had actually done her a favor and her attitude towards him would change.
The driver had demonstrated love for the young woman by giving her what she needed…not what she wanted. If he had given her what she wanted, she would have frozen to death, leaving the child motherless.
My initial thought after reading this is to analyze my interaction with people to determine whether or not I give people what is best for them and not necessarily what they want.
Do I love people enough to make the tough choices? I really think that I love my family, neighbors and church family enough to make the self-sacrificing tough choices. But that is not really a difficult decision. They also love and support me through self-sacrifice and encouragement. Loving those people is easy and enjoyable. But do I love people with a different world view; those who are religiously, politically, culturally opposed to my world view?
When I give to charities and do volunteer work, do I do it out of love or obligation?
When I argue with people, will they benefit from my advice or will I benefit? Have I found the right balance between love and truth?
Of course, self-analysis can only take me so far. I am limited by my own perceptions and vantage point. I decided to open myself to honest and frank feedback.
I know that I have a natural tendency towards judgmentalism (and I am working on breaking myself from that). One of the questions that I had put forth to my acquaintances is; “Am I warm, inviting and accepting or am I judgmental?” The responses were intriguing. I was deemed as judgmental by my family as well as those who I barely knew but were on the other side of the political, cultural and religious divide. The people in my neighborhood and church thought that I was warm and accepting.
This told me that when I am in agreement with people and enjoy a nice casual relationship, I am perceived as warm and accepting. But when I am in conflict and arguments (occur most often with family and those I disagree with), I am perceived as judgmental. (I really didn’t need to ask some of my family members, I already knew the answer deep down.)
I had four options to consider;
1. My family and those on the other side of the divide are wrong.
2. My family and those on the other side of the divide are insane.
3. The people in my neighborhood and church don’t want to offend me or don’t know me well enough.
4. I have an argumentative spirit and I am willing to sacrifice love and acceptance for the sake of being ‘right’. When the surface is scratched, there is some judgmentalism under the surface.
After looking at the options, I knew what the real answer was. I was left with the only question of how do I change.
Borrowing from Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step is to acknowledge the problem and admit to myself that I am powerless to change myself.
I have followed the first step with the next steps.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
I am currently at step 4.
I am currently at step 4.
I freely admit to a lack of warmth, grace and humility and many times I had wrongly chosen the path of defensiveness and argumentation.
My attitude and behavior will change, but I may stumble on the journey to where I am going, but I will get there.
Where do I draw my balance? I need to stand for something and hold fast to things that I know to be true, but I need to demonstrate love while standing firm.
I can’t look too far down the road, I need to concentrate on the step that I am about to take.
Interestingly, when looking at Jesus, who is love, he accepted and loved the downtrodden and outcasts, such as thieves and prostitutes. He also actively opposed the leaders, teachers and priests of his day, calling them “children of the devil.” Is it lovely to call someone a child of the devil? It depends on your definition of love and your perspective.
I try not to spent too much time in critical self-analysis and prefer to balance the outward and inward analysis. I have taken the advice of a good friend, Andy Horn, and cut down on my 'naval gazing', but I have a tendency get out of balance.
Opposition groups are planning for June 30th mass demonstration to promote a political change in the administration of
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The largest objection to the Morsi administration is its violently aggressive persecution of
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The Pope politely informed her that his spiritual authority over the Copts does not extend to political matters.
Regardless, many Egyptian activists are condemning Patterson for flagrantly behaving like the Muslim Brotherhood’s stooge. Leading opposition activist Shady el-Ghazali Harb said Patterson showed “blatant bias” in favor of Morsi and the Brotherhood, adding that her remarks had earned the
Ramses Naggar also believes that Patterson has asked the other secular and Shiite groups also to show restraint.
I find this action by the
An investor business news release reveals that a battalion task force from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team will be part of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) peacekeeping contingency based along the southeast coast of the Sinai Peninsula between
In May, Secretary of State John Kerry released $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to the Morsi regime, despite a law that requires him to certify that the Egyptian government ”is supporting the transition to civilian government, including holding free and fair elections, implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion, and due process of law.” Kerry waived that restriction–despite writing a May 9 memo indicating that ”we are not satisfied with the extent of Egypt’s progress and are pressing for a more inclusive democratic process and the strengthening of key democratic institutions.”
The abuses of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in
The Obama administration’s doctrine is to encourage Islamists to wage jihad on secular leaders and the
I don’t think that Obama will send troops to
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