TBR News December 14, 2012

Dec 13 2012

The Voice of the White House


Washington, D.C. December 14, 2012: “Here we have some interesting, and real, information that is not spoken of. According to official, and published, FBI statistics, almost 800,000 people are reported as missing each year and have been for at least three decades. Of these missing people, about 75% are rapidly solved within a day. These are runaway young people, unhappy spouses trying to start another life with someone else, parental kidnappings, people wanted for crimes or simply running away from overwhelming bills.


The remaining 25% of the vanished are another matter entirely. These usually consist of people with no financial or domestic problems and absolutely no reason for disappearing. Happy husbands, or wives, driving to a nearby convenience store for milk, people walking down to the edge of their property to check out a mail box, a teenager walking to school, a young couple out for a picnic at a deserted beach, a farmer walking out into his fields to check on a fence problem and many, many other such situations.


These people simply vanish without a trace and are never heard from again. Their bodies are not found in a local woods and relatives or loved ones never hear from them again. Bank accounts are never touched, cell phones are never used and, in fact, the missing person stays missing.


A quick study of the FBI statistics, easily found on their official site, shows that every year, at least a hundred thousand Americans just disappear forever. And other countries have similar problems and have had for a number of years.


Bloggers love such information and will breathlessly inform you that huge spaceships that hover invisibly over the country, vacuum up tens of thousands of people and take them to the equally lunatic Scientologists Planet Xenu to be roasted in volcanoes or similar idiocy.


But the question remains as to where these hordes of the missing go and who, or what, has taken them off?”

Rising number of soldiers being dismissed for failing fitness tests

December 10, 2012

by Ernesto Londoño,

The Washington Post


Under intense pressure to trim its budget, the Army is dismissing a rising number of soldiers who do not meet its fitness standards, drawing from a growing pool of troops grappling with obesity.


Obesity is now the leading cause of ineligibility for people who want to join the Army, according to military officials, who see expanding waistlines in the warrior corps as a national security concern.


Between 1998 and 2010, the number of active-duty military personnel deemed overweight or obese more than tripled. In 2010, 86,186 troops, or 5.3 percent of the force, received at least one clinical diagnosis as overweight or obese, according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.


The trend has prompted the military to reexamine its training programs and is driving commanders to weed out soldiers deemed unfit to fight. “A healthy and fit force is essential to national security,” said Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman. “Our service members must be physically prepared to deploy on a moment’s notice anywhere on the globe to extremely austere and demanding conditions.”


During the first 10 months of this year, the Army kicked out 1,625 soldiers for being out of shape, about 15 times the number discharged for that reason in 2007, the peak of wartime deployment cycles.


Under a mandate to reduce the force by tens of thousands in coming years, the Army has instructed commanders to make few exceptions when it comes to fitness, a strategy it also employed during the period after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.


“During a war period, when we were ramping up, the physical standards didn’t have a lot of teeth because we needed bodies to go overseas, to fill platoons and brigades,” said Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL and fitness expert who has designed workout routines for service members and law enforcement personnel struggling to meet workplace fitness standards. “During a period of drawdown, everything starts getting teeth, and that’s kind of where we are again.”


The Army dismissed thousands of soldiers for being overweight after Desert Storm ended in 1991. The following year, it discharged more than 3,000, the highest number removed on those grounds since 1984. The practice dropped dramatically as the Iraq war raged. In 2007, the most violent year of the war, 112 soldiers were let go for being overweight.


Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said he was floored by what he found in 2009 when he was assigned to overhaul the Army’s training system. Seventy-five percent of civilians who wanted to join the force were ineligible, he said. Obesity was the leading cause.


“Of the 25 percent that could join, what we found was 65 percent could not pass the [physical training] test on the first day,” he said in a recent speech. “Young people joining our service could not run, jump, tumble or roll — the kind of things you would expect soldiers to do if you’re in combat.”


As the Iraq and Afghanistan wars strained the military, the Army granted waivers to recruits who would normally not be eligible — for example, people who were overweight or who had criminal records. But now, under orders to reduce the active-duty force from 570,000 to 490,000 by 2017, the Army has ordered commanders to weed out substandard troops. “We will use the drawdown as an opportunity to shape our Army by ensuring that we retain only the very best soldiers,” Army Secretary John M. McHugh wrote in a Feb. 2 memo on retention initiatives.


The Navy, Marines and Air Force did not provide data on dismissals for failing to meet fitness standards. Those services, which are far smaller than the Army, are not being forced to shrink as quickly and drastically as the Army.


The strict enforcement of fitness requirements in the Army has cast a spotlight on its fitness test, which some soldiers say unfairly labels strong, capable soldiers as unfit. The two-pronged test involves a physical endurance portion during which troops must do sit-ups, push-ups and a brief run. The second phase is a height and weight measurement. The criteria for both vary depending on age.


Some soldiers who are muscular are astonished to fail the height-weight standard. The first time he took the test, Staff Sgt. Ammiel Banayat was surprised to find that he was over the limit. He is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs just more than 160 pounds. To override the standard, he was subjected to a body-fat index test that takes into account tape measurements of the neck and waistlines.


“The first time it happened, I was petrified,” the Arizona National Guardsman said. “Even though I still passed the test, just the fact that I didn’t pass the height and weight test was terrifying.”


Smith, the former Navy SEAL, said the bulk of people struggling with weight issues are simply the product of a generation that has become increasingly sedentary and accustomed to large food portions. Some of the soldiers fighting for their jobs, however, have gained weight at least in part as a result of injuries, he said.


On blogs and forums, military personnel and spouses have been critical of the dismissals, arguing that soldiers who put their lives on the line in combat are being treated as expendable.


A writer using the screen name Army Mom complained on a court-martial defense lawyer’s blog that her son was being kicked out for being overweight despite having suffered a knee injury in Iraq. “My son fought for this country and has a wife and 3 young children, the youngest a month old and they are now homeless,” she wrote in September.


A soldier, writing anonymously in the comments section of the blog, sought advice, saying he was being dismissed for putting on weight after surgery. A second soldier posted a comment saying he gained weight after 19 years in the service when he started taking medicine for depression.

“The Army doctor swears that the medicine does not make [me] gain weight and it is the depression that made me get careless and gain the weight,” the soldier wrote. “The company commander wants to separate me and really there is nothing I can do — just to lose the weight.”


US military ‘kept Bradley Manning on suicide watch against medical advice’

Manning lawyer says in closing arguments that military’s refusal to listen to experts amounted to unlawful pre-trial treatment


December 11, 2012

by Ed Pilkington in New York



The defence lawyer for the WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning has accused the US military of intentionally keeping the soldier on extreme suicide-prevention restrictions while at Quantico marine brig, even though they knew that he was not a risk of self-harm.


Giving his closing arguments to the the judge at Fort Meade in Maryland, David Coombs said that from the very highest military levels down, there had been a resistance to listening to medical advice and a determination to subject Manning to sustained restrictions. The defence is claiming that amounted to unlawful pre-trial punishment, and are calling for all charges against the soldier to be dismissed as a result.


Coombs rejected arguments given by prosecution witnesses that the enduring silence that Manning had maintained for much of his nine months in Quantico that this was a sign of his potential suicidal state of mind. “It’s clear Manning does the only sane thing, and that’s to stop communicating with these people, because when he says anything it’s used against him,” Coombs said, according to a courtroom report by Kevin Gosztola of Firedoglake.


Prosecution lawyers for the US government will give their closing arguments on Tuesday afternoon at the end of an epic court battle that has seen the internal workings of the Marine decision-making machine laid bare.


The hearing has lasted far longer than intended – amid intense testimony about Manning’s handling while detained at the Quantico base in Virginia between July 2010 and April 2011. His defence motion calls for all 22 charges against him to be dismissed on grounds that he was subjected to unlawful pre-trial punishment.


Manning has been accused of “aiding the enemy” – in effect al-Qaida – by passing hundreds of thousands of confidential US documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He faces possible life in military custody with no chance of parole.


The US government has been attempting to justify the treatment that was meted out to Manning in Quantico. Throughout the nine months he spent in the brig there, he was held in maximum security status and subjected to harsh restrictions under a “suicide watch” or “prevention of injury” regime designed to protect the soldier against himself.


In his closing words, Coombs said the most astonishing thing about Manning’s time in the Quantico brig was not his suicidal tendencies, but quite the opposite: the fact that he remained sane and did not completely lose his mental composure despite the severe conditions in which he was held. To be kept on suicide-prevention restrictions for nine months, as Manning was, is virtually unheard of in military jails.


Over 10 days of proceedings, a clear picture emerged of how Manning was trapped in a Kafkaesque paradox in which whatever he did – or didn’t do – was taken as proof of his suicidal tendencies. Psychiatrists reported virtually every week that he was in good mental health and no risk to himself, yet every week they were overruled by military officers at the brig.


A three-member panel of officers considered Manning’s regime every month in a so-called classification and assignment board. The court learned that the form used to make the assessment of his mental condition was filled out in advance of the meetings, making a mockery of the safeguards that they were supposed to uphold.


The court also heard from chief warrant officer Denise Barnes, who was commander of the Quantico brig during part of Manning’s captivity there. In her testimony, she blamed the exceptionally long period in which the soldier was held on extreme suicide-prevention restrictions on Manning’s own reticence – if he had come forward and explained to her that he was not intending to harm himself instead of remaining silent she would have listened.


Yet the court also learned that when Manning did speak out about his conditions, that too was taken as evidence of suicidal risk. When he protested about the absurdity of his situation, observing that if he wanted to commit suicide he could do it using the elastic from his underpants, Barnes took him literally and ordered that he strip naked every night as a precautionary measure.


“There was never an intent to punish Manning,” Barnes testified.


The intelligence analyst’s experiences at Quantico provoked an international outcry and prompted the UN rapporteur on torture to denounce it as a form of torture. After the UN began raising the alarm the head of marines’ corrections, chief warrant officer Abel Galaviz, was sent to the brig to investigate.


He told the court that he had concluded that military corrections policy had been broken on numerous occasions in regard to the inmate. Manning had been kept on suicide watch – the most extreme form of restrictions – longer than he should have been.


“I felt that although he was removed [from suicide watch], it could have been done in a more timely manner than it was,” Galaviz said.


Manning’s underpants should not have been removed in the circumstances in which they were, Galaviz also testified.

John Boehner Has No Mandate

December 11, 2012

by John Nichols

The Nation


House Speaker John Boehner has grown increasingly belligerent in his “fiscal cliff” fight with the Obama administration. Struggling to hold together a caucus that never really respected his “leadership,” Boehner is trying to rally his troops by ripping President Obama’s supposed disregard for Republican control of the House of Representatives.


Arguing that the Obama White House must meet his demands for deep cuts in programs that benefit the elderly and the disabled, Boehner griped on Fox News this week that “they must have forgotten Republicans continue to hold a majority in the House.”


It is unlikely that the president and his aides have forgotten that Boehner and his crew continue to control one chamber of the Congress. But they also recognize that President Obama won a clear mandate—a 332-206 advantage in the Electoral College, a 4.7 million popular vote margin for a 51-47 percent victory—on November 6.


In July, Boehner said the November 6 election would be a “referendum on the president’s economic policies.” On November 6, Obama won that referendum.


The president was not the only winner.


Beyond Obama’s personal mandate, Democrats can point to a clear signal from the voting for the US Senate. The Democratic caucus added two new members—despite the fact that the pattern of contests was overwhelmingly favorable to the Republicans—for a clear 55-45 advantage in the chamber.


Notably, the Democratic mandate extends to the House.


How’s that? Doesn’t John Boehner have a mandate of his own?


Not if we’re counting actual votes.


In the 2012 voting for US House seats that formally finished Saturday with a runoff in Louisiana, 59,262,059 Americans voted Democratic, while only 58,105,500 voted Republican.


It is true, of course, that Boehner and his caucus control the majority of seats. While their numbers are diminished from where they were in 2010, the Republicans still maintain a 234-201 advantage in the chamber. But that advantage in not based on the popular will; it is based on the manipulated maps created by the redrawing of congressional districts following the 2010 Census, and on the fact that Democratic votes are concentrated in urban and college-town districts, as well as those with substantial minority populations.


While the maps didn’t favor the Democrats on November 6, the voters did. Indeed the national popular-vote margin for the Democrats in the race for the House was substantial: a 1,156,550 advantage.


It has been seventy years since the party that controlled the Congress did not win the most votes.


Usually, the party that wins the House wins it with a solid popular-vote majority—even if the president is of the other party. Consider what happened when Democrats won control of the House during George W. Bush’s second term. They prevailed in the 2006 elections by 6.4 million votes.


Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats did not just win control of the House in 2006, they won an overwhelming popular-vote mandate to challenge a sitting president of the other party.


John Boehner and House Republicans won no such mandate on November 6. In fact, they lost the popular vote, and with it the claim that President Obama—who so overwhelmingly won the popular vote—should bend to Boehner’s belligerence.


Putin launches construction of South Stream pipeline


December 7, 2012



President Vladimir Putin on Friday launched construction of the long-awaited South Stream pipeline that the Kremlin hopes will pump Russia?s gas to Europe while avoiding its unpredictable neighbour Ukraine.


The pipeline will flow underneath the Black Sea and through the Balkans to supply energy giant Gazprom?s big European clients with Russian gas and ensure the security of its energy exports.


At the ceremony held at gas giant Gazprom’s compressor station outside the Black Sea city of Anapa Putin promised unconditional deliveries to energy consumers before a crew symbolically welded two pieces of the pipeline together.


“South Stream creates conditions for stable, unconditional deliveries of Russian gas to our main consumers in Southern Europe,” the Russian president said.


“This event is important not only for Russia’s energy market, but for the entire European energy market,” he told an audience that included ENI chief executive Paolo Scaroni and EDF head Henri Proglio, Gazprom’s main partners.


South Stream was lobbied as an alternative to the conventional gas route to Europe through Ukraine, and EU clients are keen to avoid a repeat of the winter of 2009 when a bitter spat between Moscow and Kiev over gas prices caused cutoffs.


The project is of huge personal importance for Putin and in a sign of his serious intent he ordered Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller to bring the launch date forward to 2012 from 2013.

Putin promised that the project would not harm the Black Sea, one of Russia’s prime resort destinations.


“I have no doubt that there will be no damage to the Black Sea, while research will help safeguard the environment,” he said.


Environmental groups have criticised the placement of Gazprom’s station near Anapa, whose sand beaches are a traditional retreat destination for children.


South Stream has also faced criticism for taking the ambitious option of building an entirely new pipeline rather than upgrading existing infrastructure in Ukraine.


Kiev’s political relations with Moscow have fluctuated wildly in recent years while analysts say the Ukrainian gas transit network is in urgent need of modernisation.


South Stream is estimated to cost 16.5 billion euros ($21.5 billion). Its planned capacity is 63 billion cubic meters per year, with the underwater part of the pipeline spanning 900 kilometres.


Gazprom said Russia would be paying around 7.5 billion euros of the pipeline’s construction given that state-controlled Gazprom has a 50 percent share in the project.


Gazprom’s Miller said that the first gas deliveries via the pipeline were planned for December 2015, calling the launch a “historic event”.


The EU is also backing a rival project called Nabucco, a planned pipeline project to bring Caspian gas to Europe and regarded with the greatest of suspicion by Russia.


Gazprom’s project was originally conceived jointly with the Italian energy firm ENI and they were later joined in the consortium by Germany’s Wintershall and the French power producer EDF.


Russia also won crucial approval from Ankara to construct the South Stream pipeline through its waters.


After exiting the Black Sea, the pipeline is due to cross Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia and then Austria to connect with the main European pipeline network.


South Stream is being built by a consortium owned 50 percent by Gazprom, 20 percent by ENI, 15 percent by EDF and 15 percent by Wintershall.


Russian gas deliveries currently represent a quarter of the European Union’s total gas needs.


Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, praised Russia for undertaking the project in a fast-changing environment.


“Investing in a major new infrastructure project on the promise of a brighter future for European gas could be seen as a brave choice,” she told reporters in Russia late Thursday.


“South Stream represents many things to many people, but it would also be a vote of confidence in the future of European gas.”



Israel provokes a Doomsday test
by Nicola Nasser

December 7, 2012

Asia Times

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crossed an international red line, vindicating a swift and firm rejection from Israel’s closest allies, when he announced plans to build a new settlement on a corridor of occupied Palestinian land in East Jerusalem, which will render any prospective Palestinian contiguous state territorially impossible. Daniel Seidemann, the Israeli founder of Terrestrial Jerusalem, has condemned it as “the
Doomsday settlement” and “not a routine” one.

            Netanyahu risks a diplomatic confrontation that will not develop into a diplomatic isolation of Israel because its allies have decided to pressure him to backtrack by “incentives and disincentives” instead of “sanctions”, in the words of the British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

            Summoning Israeli ambassadors to protest Netanyahu’s plans by Australia, Brazil, France, UK, Sweden, Denmark and Spain was nonetheless an unusual international outcry because “if implemented”, his “plans would alter the situation, with Jerusalem as a shared capital increasingly difficult to achieve”, according to Hague. French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said the plan is “seriously undermining the two-state solution”, without which, according to the Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, ” … there will never be security in Israel”.

            The international outcry is not against the Israeli policy of settlements on Palestinian occupied land per se, but against this one particular settlement, known as East One (E-1), and Netanyahu’s answer to the overwhelming recent recognition of Palestine as a non-member state by the UN General Assembly.

            On the ground, the site of some 4.6 square miles (12 square kilometers) on the easternmost edge of eastern Jerusalem will close the only link between the north and south of the West Bank. Therefore it would sever the territory from East Jerusalem, the prospective capital of the State of Palestine, thus undermining any viable and contiguous Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 and turning the recognition of the UN General Assembly on November 29, 2012, as merely a Palestinian achievement on paper.

The US and the EU have opposed the E-1 plan since it was taken out of Israeli drawers in 2005 because they were alert to its potential undermining effect on the “peace process”. Now, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the United Nations have all warned against the E-1 plan.

            The White House and US State Department described the plan as “unilateral”, “counterproductive”, a “set back” to peace efforts, “especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution”, and said that it would “complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations” and “risk prejudging the outcome” of such negotiations, and therefore be “contrary to US policy”.

            The EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on December 2 said she was “extremely concerned”, described the plan as “an obstacle to peace”, condemning “all settlement construction” as “illegal under international law”, a judgment shared by UK’s William Hague who added that the plan “would undermine Israel’s international reputation and create doubts about its stated commitment to achieving peace”. Italian Premier Mario Monti and French President Francois Hollande in a joint statement said they were “deeply worried” by the plan. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said his country was “deeply concerned”. Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the plan was “extremely worrying”.

            China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said his country “has always firmly opposed Israel’s construction of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory of East Jerusalem and the West Bank”. Russia “views” the plan “with the most serious concern” because it “would have a very negative effect”. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the plan “would represent an almost fatal blow to remaining chances of securing a two-state solution”.

            All the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the United Nations called on Israel to “rescind”, “reconsider”, “reverse” its plans, “go back on them”, “exercise restraint” and “eliminate obstacles to the peace talks with Palestine”.

            However, when it comes to translating their words into action they stand helpless, to render all their statements “an audio phenomenon” as described by Abdul Bari Atwan, editor- in-chief of the London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, and a hollow outcry short of an overdue action by the world community.

            It is no surprise therefore that Netanyahu is encouraged enough to insist on pursuing his plans.

            The international community’s inaction could not but vindicate the expected Palestinian reaction. President Mahmoud Abbas late on December 4 chaired a Palestinian leadership meeting in Ramallah, attended for the first time by the representatives of the rival Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements. They decided to ask the UN Security Council to adopt a binding resolution obliging Israel to stop all settlement activities in the occupied State of Palestine, concluding that Israel “is forcing us to go to the International Criminal Court”.

            Netanyahu’s defiance and the Palestinian leadership’s decision will both put the credibility of all the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to an historic test: They either decide to act on their own words or their inaction will inevitably leave the Palestinians with the only option of defending their very existence by all the means available to them.

            For Palestinians, to be or not to be has become an existential issue that can no longer be entrusted to the international community.

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, and may be reached at nassernicola@ymail.com

Gmail disruption sets tech types atwitter

December 12, 2012


SAN FRANCISCO — Gmail service was beset by disruptions on Monday, prompting users to flock to Twitter to express dismay and seek information about the Web-based email service run by Google.

“We are currently experiencing an issue with some Google services, the California-based Internet giant said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“For everyone who is affected, we apologize for any inconvenience you may be experiencing.”

An online “dashboard” that provides real-time updates regarding the status of Google services showed disruptions to both Gmail and Google Drive, which lets people store data on servers in the Internet “cloud.”

People thwarted in accessing Gmail took to Twitter for information about the situation and to vent frustration.

“This is why I love Twitter,” read a message from a Twitter user with the name Katherine Hurd. “I can confirm that #gmail is down within seconds and see rage-tweets from all over the world.”

Senate moves to block Pentagon plans to increase number of spies overseas

December 10, 2012

by Greg Miller,

The Washington Post


The Senate has moved to block a Pentagon plan to send hundreds of additional spies overseas, citing cost concerns and management failures that have hampered the Defense Department’s existing espionage efforts.


A military spending bill approved by the Senate last week contains language barring the Pentagon from using funds to expand its espionage ranks until it has provided more details on what the program will cost and how the extra spies would be used.


The measure offers a harsh critique of the Pentagon’s espionage record, saying that the Defense Department “needs to demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine [human intelligence] before undertaking any further expansion.”


The action is a setback for the Pentagon’s main spy service, the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has embarked on a five-year plan to assemble an espionage network overseas that is more closely modeled on the CIA and would rival that agency in size.


The plan is part of a broader effort to focus the DIA on broader threats — such as emerging al-Qaeda offshoots in Africa and Chinese military advances — after it spent the past decade concentrating on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The DIA has about 500 undercover operatives engaged in spying work overseas, but the plan calls for that total to climb to between 800 and 1,000 by 2018, officials said in an article published in The Washington Post on Dec. 2. The new operatives would be trained by the CIA and coordinate their assignments with CIA station chiefs overseas, but their main assignments would be determined by the Department of Defense.


Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, director of DIA, has touted the plan in a series of recent speeches, saying it represents “a major adjustment for national security.”


Pentagon officials stressed that DIA has not been given additional authorities or permission to expand its total payroll. Instead, officials said, the extra spy slots would come by cutting or converting other positions.


The Senate measure, which was included in the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, signals deep skepticism on Capitol Hill that the Pentagon can execute the plan.


The provision blocks the DIA from going beyond the number of human intelligence officers the agency had in place last April. It requires the Pentagon to produce “an independent estimate of the costs” of the new clandestine service, as well as a blueprint for where and when the newly hired spies would be deployed.


The language, drafted by the Senate Armed Services Committee, also instructs the Defense Department to turn over any agreements it has reached with other agencies — including the CIA — that would be involved in creating the Defense Clandestine Service.


The measure cites a litany of problems with existing Pentagon intelligence efforts, including “poor or non-existent career management” for operatives who have been trained but were given “unproductive” assignments overseas or were often transferred back to regular military units.


If the Pentagon could use existing resources more effectively, the measure concludes, ”the case could be made that investment in this area could decline, rather than remain steady or grow.”



The Botox Solution: Why the Formerly Grand Old Party Needs to Change and Wont


December 13, 2012

by Jeremiah Goulka

Tom Gram


Mitt Romney had hardly conceded before Republicans started fighting over where to head next.  Some Republicans — and many Democrats — now claim that the writing is on the wall: demography is destiny, which means the GOP is going the way of the Whigs and the Dodo.  Across the country, they see an aging white majority shrinking as the U.S. heads for the future as a majority-minority country and the Grand Old Party becomes the Gray Old Party.  Others say: not so fast.


In the month since 51% of the electorate chose to keep Barack Obama in the White House, I’ve spent my time listening to GOP pundits, operators, and voters.  While the Party busily analyzes the results, its leaders and factions are already out front, pushing their own long-held opinions and calling for calm in the face of onrushing problems.


Do any of their proposals exhibit a willingness to make the kind of changes the GOP will need to attract members of the growing groups that the GOP has spent years antagonizing like Hispanics, Asian Americans, unmarried women, secular whites, and others?  In a word: no.


Instead, from my informal survey, it looks to this observer (and former Republican) as if the party is betting all its money on cosmetic change.  Think of it as the Botox Solution.  It wants to tweak its talking points slightly and put more minority and female Republicans on stage as spokespeople.  Many in the GOP seem to believe that this will do the trick in 2014 and beyond. Are they deluded?


You’ve heard the expression “putting lipstick on a pig,” haven’t you?


The Blame Game and the Short-Term Outlook


Although most Republicans see hints of future demographic challenges in the exit polls, many prefer to focus on other factors to explain Romney’s loss out of a desire not to “blow up the party if there are less radical solutions.”  (Hence, the delusional quality of so many of their post-mortems and the lack of interest in meaningful change.)


First, they cite the Romney factor: a weak candidate, too moderate — or too conservative — who failed to fight the Obama campaign’s early efforts to paint him as an out-of-touch plutocrat.  In other words, his history (Bain Capital and Romneycare) depth-charged him before demographics could even kick in.  He was, unfortunately, the perfect quarter-billionaire candidate for a Democratic narrative that the GOP is only out for the rich and doesn’t “care about people like me.” (He predictably lost that exit poll question by a margin of 81% to 18%).  Running a “vulture capitalist” (and a Mormon) drove a number of Republican voters to stay home or even — gasp! — vote for Obama. It’s a mistake that won’t be repeated in 2016.


Second, they point to the Obama factor.  In both 2008 and 2012, he attracted unprecedented levels of minority and young voters, a phenomenon that might not be repeated in 2016.  Some Republican operatives are also convinced that his campaign simply had a much better “ground game” and grasp of how to employ technology to turn out voters. (Half of self-identifying Republican voters think, as they did in 2008, that Obama simply stole the election through registration fraud involving African Americans.)


Third, they emphasize the powers of incumbency.  Romney only became the presumptive front-runner because the GOP’s A-list — mostly too young in any case — feared the huge advantage an incumbent president enjoys and stayed home. 2016, they swear, will be different.  Nor do they seem to fear a reprise of the 2008 and 2012 primary circuses because the A-listers in 2016, they insist, will all have well-established conservative bona fides and won’t have to bend over backwards to cultivate the conservative base.


Trying to appeal to the Right while facing various nutcase candidates, Romney shot himself in both feet, labeling himself a “severe conservative” and staking an extreme anti-immigration position.  George W. Bush, on the other hand, could run as a “compassionate conservative” in 2000 because his street cred on the Right was unchallengeable.  Indeed, Paul Ryan is already talking up “compassion,” while Ted Cruz, the new (extreme) senator from Texas, is hawking “opportunity conservatism.”


Fourth, there is the perceived success of Republicans other than Romney, particularly in what white Republicans call the “Heartland.”  GOP operatives are still angry at Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock for losing two gimme Senate seats to the Dems by “saying stupid things” (in the words of Bobby Jindal, Louisiana governor and frequent visitor to Iowa), and they wonder how they lost in Montana and North Dakota.


Still, they kept their majority in the House of Representatives, losing only a handful of seats.  (That the GOP lost the majority of total votes cast gets less attention.)  The Party also added a 30th governor to its roster, and held onto its control of the majority of top offices and legislative chambers in the states.  Come 2014, GOP operatives expect the Party to do quite nicely, as the opposition party often does in midterm elections, especially if turnout demographics look like 2006 and 2010.  Another lesson many movement conservatives have learned is that the more they pound away on their issues, the more they shift American politics rightward even when they lose. 


All of this suggests to anxious Republicans that they are not crazy for seeing no immediate need to make big changes to appeal to demographic groups outside the Party’s aging white base.  But the short term is likely to be short indeed.  Think of them, then, as the POD or the Party of Denial.


Meanwhile, on the Bridge of the Titanic


Avoid it as they may, the long-term picture couldn’t look grimmer for the Party.  Demographics may well be destiny.  Even a cursory look at the numbers exposes the looming threat to the Party’s future prospects.


* Whites: About three-quarters of the electorate (and 88% of Romney’s voters) this year were white, but their numbers are steadily sinking — by 2% since 2008.  Yes, many whites may have stayed home this year, turned off by Mr. Car Elevator, but whites are projected to become a demographic minority by 2050 — or possibly even before 2040 — and minority births are now outpacing white births.  


* White Christians: The bulk of Romney’s supporters (79%) were white Christians (40% of whom were evangelicals), but this is an aging and shrinking group. Three-quarters of senior voters but only a quarter of millennial voters are white Christians, and the generations in between are much less likely to consider themselves “strong” members of their religion than seniors. (Non-white Christians, Jews, observers of other faiths, and the growing number of the religiously-unaffiliated all overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.)


* Hispanics: According to the Washington Post exit polls, Obama received 71% of the Hispanic vote in 2012 (67% in 2008).  Already 10% of this year’s voters (9% in 2008), the Hispanic population is exploding, accounting for half of U.S. population growth.


* Asian Americans: The nation’s fastest growing demographic group — now 3% of this year’s voters (2% in 2008) — gave Obama 73% of its vote in 2012 (62% in 2008).


* Unmarried Women: The percentage of unmarried women has been growing slowly since the 1970s, up to 53% of women as of last year.  Even among subgroups favoring Obama, there was a marriage gap in which unmarried women (23% of this year’s voters) favored Obama by huge margins.  Despite winning 53% of (mostly white) married women, 31% of this year’s voters (down from 33% in 2008), Romney lost women overall by 11 points.


* The Young: The millennial generation (born between 1978 and 2000) has been voting overwhelmingly for Democrats (66% for Obama in 2008, 60% this year).  They are projected to be 40% of the eligible voting pool by 2020.  Because they are relatively diverse and secular, the GOP cannot assume that enough will emulate previous generations and swing to the right as they age.


Such polling figures should frighten GOP leaders.  There’s no reason to believe that what we saw on November 6th was anything but the tip of the iceberg.


The factions in the party that are not socially conservative see these looming threats as an opportunity to get the GOP to drop the social stuff. But movement conservatives aren’t going to cede ideological ground, not when they (correctly) think it’s a necessity if they are to attract their base voters. “This country doesn’t need two liberal or Democratic parties,” is the way Bobby Jindal puts it, typically enough.


Like right-wing pundit Fred Barnes, many movement conservatives and Tea Party leaders will continue to insist that whites are going to remain “the nation’s dominant voting bloc… for many elections to come.”  Hedging their bets, they have decided to become more “inclusive” or at least just inclusive enough in these days of micro-targeting and razor-thin election margins.  After all, Romney would have won New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado if he had captured even slightly higher shares of the Hispanic vote and he could have won in the Electoral College if fewer than 200,000 voters in key states had switched their votes.


To get more inclusive, however, these leaders offer an entirely cosmetic approach: emphasize the Party’s middle-class message, increase outreach or “partnership” with Hispanics and Asian Americans, back off the anti-immigration message a tad, say fewer stupid things à la Akin and Mourdock, cross your fingers, and hope for the best.


A Nonsense Strategy


When it comes to why this won’t work down the line, it’s hard to know where to start.  Take that middle-class message.  Many Republicans think that it should offer “crossover appeal” on its own, so long as it’s said loudly enough.


But what exactly is it?  After all, it’s never about jobs going abroad, retirement worries (except insofar as the GOP wants to increase insecurity by privatizing Social Security), underwater mortgages, missing childcare for working families, exploding higher education costs, or what global warming is doing to the Midwestern breadbasket and coastal agriculture (much less the long-term capability of the planet to sustain life as we know it).  Instead, it remains about “choice,” lowering taxes (again), “entitlement reform,” and getting the government out of the way of economic growth.


As if what the middle class really wants or needs is “choice” in education (Jindal’s plan to divert tax funds to private and parochial schools through vouchers was just ruled unconstitutional); “choice,” not affordability, in health care (the #1 cause of personal bankruptcy in America); and ever more environmental pollution, as well as further challenges to getting workman’s comp if you get injured on the job.


Studies have repeatedly shown that most Americans are “operationally” liberal on the substance of most policy issues.  In other words, Republicans will support “small government,” until you ask about cutting spending on anything other than anti-poverty programs.  In fact, less than a third of self-identifying Republicans surveyed by Reuters/Ipsos this year “somewhat” or “strongly” disagreed with the proposition that the wealthiest Americans should pay higher tax rates.


As a counter to the charge that the GOP is the party of the rich, Jindal offered this on Fox News: “We… need to make it very clear… that we’re not the party of Big: big businesses, big banks, big Wall Street, big bailouts.”


Um… who other than Republican true believers will buy that?


The Jerk Factor


As for those demographic groups the GOP needs to start winning over in the medium- and long-term, putative 2016 A-lister Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants to see a middle class “message of prosperity and freedom for all” communicated loudly to immigrants and the young.  But as one astute Republican insider said to me, “Hispanics won’t hear our message so long as they think our immigration platform says, ‘We hate Mexicans.’”


Bobby Jindal was right to say, “If we want people to like us, we have to like them first.” But the Party hasn’t truly begun to grasp what might be called the liking gap between the GOP and the groups it needs to cultivate.  It’s time for Republicans to take a long, hard look in the mirror.  It’s not just recent anti-immigration fervor that repels Hispanics and others from the party.  The GOP needs to internalize the fact that the dead bird hanging from its neck is its entire modern history. 


It’s true that the Democrats were once the segregationists and Abraham Lincoln and the conservationist, trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt were Republicans, as Republicans are fond of pointing out.  But that’s ancient history.


The Party’s modern history began when business leaders got politicized in response to the New Deal and then the GOP began courting the Dixiecrats after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 (despite knowing that he had “just delivered the South to the Republican Party”). The white South started voting for GOP presidential candidates in the Nixon years and would soon become solidly Republican.  At 70% of the electorate (nearly 90% in Mississippi), it remains so today.


White-flight suburbs around the country followed suit.  Add in the fervent cultivation of evangelical Protestant Christians — anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-evolution, anti-science — and the various modern incarnations of nativist Know Nothings.  Don’t forget the ejection of moderates from the Party, and you have the essential history of the modern GOP in two paragraphs.


So the GOP can say that it wants to and plans to like Hispanics, Asian Americans, unmarried women, and secular youth, but to be believable, merely easing off on its anti-immigration message or going quiet on abortion won’t do the trick.  And if it wants to prove that it cares, it will have to put some real money where its mouth is.


What the Party Should Do — and Wont


Here’s an idea: how about some “extraordinary financial gifts like the ones Mitt Romney denounced just days after his loss! 


To really go after the groups it needs, the GOP would have to do the inconceivable: drop the “entitlement reform” racket, open the wallet, and reach below a restrictive definition of the middle class.  It might, for instance, mean adding more money to Food Stamps, rather than poking fun at the “food stamp president,” because a full quarter of Hispanics and 35% of Hispanic children are poor.


According to the Census, the median income for Hispanics in 2009 was $38,039 versus $51,861 for whites.  The difference is far starker when you compare median net worth: Thanks to the economic crisis, Hispanic households lost 66% of their median net worth, falling to $6,325 in 2009, compared to $113,149 for white households (a 16% loss).


It would undoubtedly mean supporting equal pay for equal work, which the GOP has consistently opposed.  It would mean working to make healthcare more affordable for everyone. That’s how you prove you care in politics — and it would also be good for the nation.


Similarly, if the Republicans want to be taken seriously as “defenders” of the middle class, they would need to do something to defend it from its predators.  No, not the lower class but the upper class, the predatory lenders and speculators, the fraudsters, the manipulators of the financial system, the folks who got bailed out while everyone else shouldered the risk.


It hardly needs to be said that this isn’t likely to happen in any of our lifetimes.


So far the only Republican suggestion I’ve heard that seems more than (barely) cosmetic is for the Party to drop its aversion to gay marriage.  That would, at least, be a beneficial, if cynically motivated, move to look less hateful. 


Hesitation in the Face of Change


It is, of course, theoretically possible that Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) could attract enough Hispanic and other voters in 2016 to win the presidency.  Provided that the primaries don’t turn into another bizarro battle.  Provided that the tone set by Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, or fringe candidates of their ilk doesn’t sink the A-listers.  Provided that not too many “stupid” things are said — on abortion, immigration, evolution, or global warming.  (Rubio has already gotten to work on that one by punting on a question about the Earth’s age to keep the creationists happy.)


But come 2020, 2024, or 2028, whatever’s left of the GOP is going to be kicking itself for not having built a foundation of anything other than words that no one outside its rank-and-file actually believed.  Texas, after all, could go purple by 2020 or 2024.


Of all the signals emanating from the GOP since Election Day, perhaps the most significant came last week when the socially and fiscally conservative Tea Party kingmaker Jim DeMint voted with his feet.  The man who would rather have “30 Republicans in the Senate who believe in principles of freedom than 60 who don’t believe in anything” is leaving that body for the Heritage Foundation — a hint about the future of what is arguably the most important GOP organization in the country.


It looks like the GOP is at the wheel of the Titanic, sailing toward that iceberg, while the band plays “Nearer My God to Thee” for all it’s worth.


Senate legislation targets cyberstalking software


December 13, 2012



            Associated Press= WASHINGTON (AP) — For around $50, a jealous wife or husband can download software that can continuously track the whereabouts of a spouse better than any private detective. It’s frighteningly easy and effective in an age when nearly everyone carries a cellphone that can record every moment of a person’s physical movements. But it soon might be illegal.

The Senate Judiciary Committee was expected Thursday to approve legislation that would close a legal loophole that allows so-called cyberstalking apps to operate secretly on a cellphone and transmit the user’s location information without a person’s knowledge.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., would update laws passed years before wireless technology revolutionized communications. Telephone companies currently are barred from disclosing to businesses the locations of people when they make a traditional phone call. But there’s no such prohibition when communicating over the Internet. If a mobile device sends an email, links to a website or launches an app, the precise location of the phone can be passed to advertisers, marketers and others without the user’s permission.

The ambiguity has created a niche for companies like Retina Software, which makes ePhoneTracker and describes it as “stealth phone spy software.”

“Suspect your spouse is cheating?” the company’s website says. “Don’t break the bank by hiring a private investigator.”

An emailed statement from Retina Software said the program is for the lawful monitoring of a cellphone that the purchaser of the software owns and has a right to monitor. If there is evidence the customer doesn’t own the phone, the account is closed, the company said. The program is not intended or marketed for malicious purposes, the statement said.

But Franken and supporters of his bill said there is no way to ensure the rules are followed. These programs can be installed in moments, perhaps while the cellphone’s actual owner is sleeping or in the shower. The apps operate invisibly to the cellphone’s user. They can silently record text messages, call logs, physical locations and visits to websites. All the information is relayed to an email address chosen by the installer.

Even if people do discover the software is installed on their phones, they often don’t know what to do about it, said Rick Mislan, a professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology who specializes in mobile security and forensics. “Law enforcement usually won’t help them because they’ve got bigger fish to fry,” he said.

Victim’s advocacy groups said Franken’s bill is a common-sense step to curb stalking and domestic violence by weakening a tool that gives one person power over another.

“It’s really, really troubling that an industry would see an opportunity to make money off of strengthening someone’s opportunity to control and threaten another individual,” said Karen Jarmoc, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

A domestic violence case in St. Louis County, Minn., helped persuade Franken to introduce his bill. A woman had entered a county building to meet with her advocate when she received a text message from her abuser asking her why she was there, according to congressional testimony delivered last year by the National Network to End Domestic Violence. Frightened, she and her advocate went to the local courthouse to file for a protective order. She got another text demanding to know why she was at the courthouse. They later determined her abuser was tracing her movements with an app that had been placed on her cellphone. The woman was not identified by name in the congressional testimony.

Franken’s proposal would make companies subject to civil liability if they fail to secure permission before obtaining location information from a person’s cellphone and sharing it with anyone else. They also would be liable if they fail to tell a user no later than seven days after the service begins that the program is running on their phone. Companies would face a criminal penalty if they knowingly operate an app with the intent to facilitate stalking.

The bill includes an exception to the permission requirement for parents who want to place tracking software on the cellphones of minor children without them being aware it is there.

An organization representing software companies opposes Franken’s bill because it said the user consent requirement would curb innovation in the private sector without adequately addressing the problem of cyberstalking. Voluntary but enforceable codes of conduct for the industry are more effective methods for increasing transparency and consumer confidence, said David LeDuc, senior director for public policy at the Software & Information Industry Association.

Israel vs the United States and Iran


September 10, 2010

by Dr. Phillip L. Kushner



The current opinion in some circles, mostly in the United States, is that at some point in the near future , the growing  imposition of devastating economic sanctions on Iran will hopefully convince its radical religious leaders to terminate their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Also, there is the growing hope that the CIA- funded Iranisn Green Movement will overthrow, a la the Ukrainian Orange Revolution’ and replace the Muslim fundamentalist  regime, or at the very least find the means to modify and secularize the regime’s ideological extremism. It is also possible that disrupting operations  now being implemented by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through physical sabotage and, upon occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have derailed Iran’s progress towards achieving the capacity to produce nuclear weapons.


It is now planned in Tel Aviv that senior Israeli officials, representing both their political and military establishments, will come to Washington for conferences both with their American counterparts and, eventually, with President Obama. These conversations, which have been carefully planned and scripted, will have the Israelis advising their American counterparts that they are planning an attack, nuclear or non-nuclear as the situation develops, on Iran because a nuclear Iran poses the ‘gravest threat since Hitler’ to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe that  by launching a preemptive strike at all possible Iranian sites suspected of participation in their nuclear program they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years,. Further, talking-point secret Israeli memos state: Israel will inform their American counterparts that Israel has no other choice than to launch this attack. They will not ask for permission for this attack, because it will soon be too late to ask for permission.


Insofar as President Obama is concerned, the Israelis are considering the most important point of these interviews would be to discover as to what would be the circumstances under which President Obama would move to halt the Iranian projects. The primary point, then,  is to convince the Americans that only military force, i.e., heavy bombing raids, would be able to “totally obliterate Iran’s attempts to get a nuclear weapon and, further, to prevent them from rebuilding their infrastructure in the foreseeable future.” From the Israeli point of view, all of their future actions, which also include the use of their own nuclear weapons on Tehran depends entirely upon the answers, primarily of the President but also of the American military leadership.


Also, in the possible event that the American President were to agree fully with Israeli wishes, i.e., to use American aircraft to obliterate the perceived Iranian threat by bombing specific, and even general, Iranian targets, could an Israeli-sponsored domestic American propaganda campaign to encourage sections of the American public, outside of the fully-cooperative Jewish community, to support such an American attack.


At the present time, it is well-established that Israeli agents, Mossad and others, have inserted themselves into all the instruments of power and propaganda in the United States where they have sent any pertinent information to Israel and kept up a steady offensive against the minds, and wills, of the American people. Also, many of the more prominent American newspapers, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post are entirely Jewish-owned, the former is stated to be the most receptive to the needs of both Washington and Tel Aviv.


Israel is fully prepared to take a chance on permanently alienating American affection in order to make a high-risk attempt at stopping Iran. If Iran retaliates against American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, the consequences for Israel’s relationship with America’s military leadership could be catastrophic.

It has been seriously discussed in Tel Aviv and in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, that probably the best way to compel the American public and through them, the President, to unilateral action,would not be to launch an attack on Tehran  but instead, attack America through a false-flag operation. This would consist of a believable attack, or attempted attack, on a major American target a la the 9/11 Saudi-supported attacks.


The most current plan would be for a known militant Arab anti-Israel group, Hezbollah, to actually deliver an atomic device to the city of New York, or, alternatively, to Washington.


The American Central Intelligence Agency, now seeking to reshape its negative image, would report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation the exact details of the arrival and placement of the bomb.


The actual bomb would be genuine but would have a part that was malfunctioning, thus rendering the weapon impossible to detonate. The Arabs involved in this delivery would have in their number, a Yemeni Jew, such as the ones that instigated the 9/11 Saudi attacks, and this sleeper would carry numerous forged documents “proving” that Tehran was directly behind this planned attack.

Revelation of these documents by the fully-supportive New York Times and Washington Post would immediately swing a significant bulk of the American public behind an immediate attack on Tehran with the purpose of neutralizing its atomic weapons capacity.


This program is now on the table and undercover Israeli agents, posing as top-level Iranian operatives, have located a small group of Hizbollah in Lebanon who would be willing to deliver and prepare this device in New York or, as an alternative, Washington itself. Israeli intelligence feels that the use of Hizbollah personnel would entirely justify their obliterating Hizbollah-controlled territory in southern Lebanon that now house many thousands of long-range surface to surface missiles that could easily reach Tel Aviv and other vital Israeli targets.


This action, which has already been planned in detail, would be conducted by Israel alone and would compliment the projected American attack on Tehran. Israel stresses the fact that both attacks must be simultaneous lest a forewarned  Hezbollah launch rocket attacks on Israel upon hearing of the American attack. Timing here is considered to be absolutely vital. 


Both Israel and Hezbollah have accused UNIFIL of bias. Israel again accused them of failing to prevent, and even collaborating with, Hezbollah in its replenishment of military power. Hezbollah, in turn, said “certain contingents” of UNIFIL (i.e., the French)are spying for, if not assisting, Israel.


Israel has long been a serious planning for a future invasion of Lebanon and such an assault would continue attacking until both Hezbollah’s membership and their system of tunnels and bunkers was completely destroyed, because Israel will never tolerate a “zone of invulnerability” occupied by a sworn enemy, or a double threat posed by Hezbollah’s rockets.


In the event that Israeli military aircraft attack Tehran, there is the vital necessity that these Israeli military aircraft would be under great pressure to return to base at once because Israeli intelligence believes that Iran would immediately order Hezbollah to fire rockets at Israeli cities, and Israeli air-force resources would be needed to hunt Hezbollah rocket teams.


Israel’s Northern Command, at his headquarters near the Lebanese border, is ordered that in the event of a unilateral Israeli or American strike on Iran, their mission would be to attack and completely destroy any and all identified Hezbollah rocket forces, by any and all means necessary, to include small nuclear devices that could destroy a number of square miles of what is called ‘terrorist territory’ and render it useless as any future base of attack against Israel. At the present time the Iranians are keeping their Hezbollah firm ally  in reserve until Iran can cross the nuclear threshold.


During  the four years since the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon Hezbollah has greatly increased its surface-to-surface missile capability, and an American/Israeli strike on Iran, would immediately provoke all-out retaliation by Iran’s Lebanese subsidiary, Hezbollah, which now possesses, by most Israeli/American intelligence estimates, as many as 45,000 surface-to-surface rockets—at least three times as many as it had in the summer of 2006, during the last round of fighting between the group and Israel. It is further known that  Russia has sent large numbers of longer range surface-to-surface missiles to Syria which has, in turn, shipped them to Hezbollah forces in southern Lebanon. These missiles have the capacity to easily reach Tel Aviv and Israelis are very concerned that a massive rocket barrage deep into Israel could not only do serious damage to their infrastructure but could easily provoke a mass immigration of Israelis to other areas, thus depriving Israel of both civilian and military personnel it would certainly need in the event of increased Arab military actions against Israel.


Even if Israel’s Northern Command successfully combated Hezbollah rocket attacks in the wake of an Israeli strike, which American experts have deemed to be “nearly impossible” political limitations would not allow Israel to make repeated sorties over Iran. “America, too, would look complicit in an Israeli attack, even if it had not been forewarned. The assumption—that Israel acts only with the full approval of the United States is a feature of life in the Middle East, and it is one the Israelis are taking into account. A serious danger here to Israeli attack plans would be if the United States got wind of the imminence of such an attack and demanded that Israel cease and desist in its actions. Would Israel then stop? Though highly unlikely, this is an unpleasant and unacceptable.


At this time, the Israelis have drawn up specific plans to bomb the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz, the enrichment site at Qom, the nuclear-research center at Esfahan, and the Bushehr reactor, along with four other main sites of the Iranian nuclear program that have been identified by joint past and present Israeli-American aerial surveillance.


If Israeli aircraft succeed in destroying Iran’s centrifuges and warhead and missile plants, all well and good but even if  they fail to damage or destroy these targets ,such an attack is feared by American and other nations as risking a devastating change in the Middle East. Such an attack could initiate immediate reprisals such as a massed rocket attack by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon as well as other actions from neighboring Muslim states.


This could become a major diplomatic crisis for Barack Obama that will dwarf Afghanistan in significance and complexity; of rupturing relations between Jerusalem and Washington, which is Israel’s only meaningful ally; of inadvertently solidifying the somewhat tenuous rule of the mullahs in Tehran; of causing the international price of oil to spike to cataclysmic highs, launching the world economy into a period of turbulence not experienced since the autumn of 2008, or possibly since the oil shock of 1973; of seriously endangering Jewish groups around the world, and especially in the United States by making them the targets of Muslim-originated terror attacks and most certainly accelerating the growing immigration of many Israelis to what they felt might be much safer areas.


An Israeli political and military consensus has now emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by December of 2010. (Of course, it is in the Israeli interest to let it be known that the country is considering military action, if for no other reason than to concentrate the attention of the Obama administration. The Netanyahu government is already intensifying its analytic efforts not just on Iran, but on a subject many Israelis have difficulty understanding: President Obama.


The Israelis argue that Iran demands the urgent attention of the entire international community, and in particular the United States, with its unparalleled ability to project military force. This is the position of many moderate Arab leaders as well. if America allowed Iran to cross the nuclear threshold, the small Arab countries of the Gulf would have no choice but to leave the American orbit and ally themselves with Iran, out of self-protection. Several Arab leaders have suggested that America’s standing in the Middle East depends on its willingness to confront Iran. They argue, self-interestedly, that an aerial attack on a handful of Iranian facilities would not be as complicated or as messy as, say, invading Iraq. The basic question then is,why the Jewish state should trust the non-Jewish president of the United States to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold.


For more than a year, these White House officials have parried the charge that their president is unwilling to face the potential consequences of a nuclear Iran, and they are frustrated by what they believe to be a caricature of his position. It is undeniably true, however, that the administration has appeared on occasion less than stalwart on the issue.


The current French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, himself a Hungarian Jew,has criticized Obama as a purveyor of baseless hope. At the UN Security Council last September, Sarkozy said, “I support the extended hand of the Americans, but what good have proposals for dialogue brought the international community? More uranium enrichment and declarations by the leaders of Iran to wipe a UN member state off the map,” he said, referring to Israel. At Sarkozy’s demand, French UN forces in southern Lebanon are now “fully cooperative” with Israeli intelligence, passing to them any and all important information about current Hezbollah positions, personnel and residences.


Obama administration officials, particularly in the Pentagon, have several times signaled unhappiness at the possibility of military preemption. In April, the undersecretary of defense for policy, Michele Flournoy, told reporters that military force against Iran was “off the table in the near term.” She later backtracked, but Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has also criticized the idea of attacking Iran. “Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be incredibly destabilizing. Attacking them would also create the same kind of outcome,” he said in April. “In an area that’s so unstable right now, we just don’t need more of that.”


One question no administration official seems eager to answer is this: what will the United States do if sanctions fail?


In Israel, of course, officials expend enormous amounts of energy to understand President Obama, despite the assurances they have received from Emanuel, Ross, and others. Delegations from Netanyahu’s bureau, from the defense and foreign ministries, and from the Israeli intelligence community have been arriving in Washington lately with great regularity. As an alternative to cooperation by Obama, Israel, through her supporters and lobbyists in the United States are preparing to offer extensive financial and other incentives to political opponents of Obama, mostly the right-wing Republicans and American Christian groups and cults. Both of these groups are being cultivated currently with the idea that if Obama will not cooperate, the Republicans will in the future as they always have before. Also to consider is the current antipathy of American Jews for Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and these American Jews, who are, like the president they voted for in overwhelming numbers, generally supportive of a two-state solution, and dubious about Jewish settlement of the West Bank.


Both Israeli and American intelligence agencies are of the firm belief that Iran is, at most, one to three years away from having a breakout nuclear capability, which is the capacity to assemble more than one missile-ready nuclear device.. The Iranian regime, by its own statements and actions, has made itself Israel’s most zealous foe; and the most crucial component of Israeli national-security doctrine, a tenet that dates back to the 1960s, when Israel developed its own nuclear capability as a response to the Jewish experience during the Holocaust, is that no regional adversary should be allowed to achieve nuclear parity with the reborn and still-besieged Jewish state. the Iranian desire for nuclear weapons and the regime’s theologically motivated desire to see the Jewish state purged from the Middle East.


If Iran crossed the nuclear threshold, the very idea of Israel as a Zionist entity would be endangered. Instead of a gathering-in of Jews as Zionists desire, there would be growing exodus of Jews for safer areas.


Most critically if a Zionist Israel is no longer seen by its 6 million Jewish inhabitants and also by the approximately 7 millions of Jews resident outside of Israel that because of continuing threats from outside the country as no longer a natural safe haven for Jews then the entire concept of a Zionist haven/state is destroyed.


To understand why Israelis of different political dispositions see Iran as quite possibly the most crucial challenge they have faced in their 62-year history, one must keep in mind the near-sanctity, in the public’s mind, of Israel’s nuclear monopoly. The Israeli national narrative, in shorthand, begins with shoah, which is Hebrew for “calamity,” and ends with tkumah, “rebirth.” Israel’s nuclear arsenal symbolizes national rebirth, and something else as well: that Jews emerged from World War II having learned at least one lesson, about the price of powerlessness.


If Israel is unable to change Obama’s mind, they will continue to threaten to take unilateral action against Iran by sending approximately one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran—by crossing Saudi Arabia, and along the border between Syria and Turkey, and, without consulting the Americans or in any way announcing their missions  by traveling directly through Iraq’s airspace, though it is crowded with American aircraft. (It’s so crowded, in fact, that the United States Central Command, whose area of responsibility is the greater Middle East, has already asked the Pentagon what to do should Israeli aircraft invade its airspace. According to multiple sources, the answer came back: do not shoot them down.)


The first belief by Israeli military planners is that Israel would get only one try. Israeli planes would fly low over Saudi Arabia, bomb their targets in Iran, and return to Israel by flying again over Saudi territory, possibly even landing in the Saudi desert for refueling, according to a U.S. DIA analysis, with secret Saudi cooperation.


Israel has been working through the United States to procure Saudi cooperation with an Israeli air strike against Tehran and other targets inside Iran.. The Saudis are treating this subject with great caution lest other Arab states learn of their putative cooperation in an Iranian attack with over flights of Saudi territory by Israeli military aircraft.


The current American/Israeli military plans are for the Saudis to turn off their radar after they have been noticed by the American embassy that an Israeli attack is imminent and also to permit the Israeli aircraft to land in their country for refueling The Israelis are not concerned with any kind of Iranian aircraft resistance because their airfields have been pinpointed by American satellites and one of the attacking groups would use low-yield atomic rocketry on all the identified Iranian bases. It is obvious that when, not if, the Saudis part in this becomes public, it will create immense ill-will in neighboring Muslim states, an impression the Saudi government is most anxious not to deal with. 


Israel has twice before successfully attacked and destroyed an enemy’s nuclear program. In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak, halting—forever, as it turned out—Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions; and in 2007, Israeli planes destroyed a North Korean–built reactor in Syria. An attack on Iran, then, would be unprecedented only in scope and complexity.


The reasoning offered by Israeli decision makers was uncomplicated: At the present moment, Israel possesses 135 nuclear weapons, most of them  mainly two-stage thermonuclear devices, capable of being delivered by missile, fighter-bomber, or submarine (two of which are currently positioned in the Persian Gulf). Netanyahu is worried about an entire complex of problems, not only that Iran, or one of its proxies, would, in all probability, destroy or severely damage Tel Aviv; like most Israeli leaders, he believes that if Iran gains possession of a nuclear weapon, it will use its new leverage to buttress its terrorist proxies in their attempts to make life difficult and dangerous; and that Israel’s status as a haven for Jews would be forever undermined, and with it, the entire raison d’être of the 100-year-old Zionist experiment.


Another question Israeli planners struggle with: how will they know if their attacks have actually destroyed a significant number of centrifuges and other hard-to-replace parts of the clandestine Iranian program? Two strategists told me that Israel will have to dispatch commandos to finish the job, if necessary, and bring back proof of the destruction. The commandos—who, according to intelligence sources, may be launched from the autonomous Kurdish territory in northern Iraq—would be facing a treacherous challenge, but one military planner I spoke with said the army would have no choice but to send them.


Netanyahu’s obvious course is to convince the United States  that Iran is not Israel’s problem alone; it is the world’s problem, and the world, led by the United States, is obligated to grapple with it, not Israel alone. It is well-known that Israel by itself could not hope to deal with a retaliation against it by Iran and other Arab states but that a confederation of other nations, led, of course, by the United States could defend Israel against her enemies. The Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, does not place and credence in the current sanctions against Iran, even the ones initiated by the United States at Israel’s urgent request. Is it known that Netanayahu is not happy with President Obama’s reluctance to support an Israeli attack on Iran and has brought a great deal of political pressure to bear on the President by American Jewish political and business groups.   


Recently, the chief of Israeli military intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, paid a secret visit to Chicago to meet with Lester Crown, the billionaire whose family owns a significant portion of General Dynamics, the military contractor. Crown is one of Israel’s most prominent backers in the American Jewish community, and was one of Barack Obama’s earliest and most steadfast supporters. According to the highest level intelligence sources both in America and Israel, General Yadlin asked Crown to communicate Israel’s existential worries directly to President Obama.


Those close to him say that Netanyahu understands, however, that President Obama, with whom he has had a difficult and intermittently frigid relationship, believes that stringent sanctions, combined with various enticements to engage with the West, might still provide Iran with a face-saving method of standing down.


Israel’s current period of forbearance, in which Israel’s leadership waits to see if the West’s nonmilitary methods can stop Iran, will come to an end this December. Robert Gates, the American defense secretary, said in June at a meeting of NATO defense ministers that most intelligence estimates predict that Iran is one to three years away from building a nuclear weapon.


One of the consistent aims of Israel is to pressure President Obama, who has said on a number of occasions that he finds the prospect of a nuclear Iran “unacceptable,” into executing a military strike against Iran’s known main weapons and uranium-enrichment facilities. Barack Obama is steadfastly opposed to initiating new wars in the Middle East and an attack by U.S. forces on Iran is not a foreign-policy goal for him or his administration. The Israeli goal is to compel him by public, and private, pressure to order the American military into action against Iran


Barack Obama has said any number of times that he would find a nuclear Iran “unacceptable.” His most stalwart comments on the subject have been discounted by some Israeli officials because they were made during his campaign for the presidency, while visiting Sderot, the town in southern Israel that had been the frequent target of rocket attacks by Hamas. “The world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said. “I will take no options off the table in dealing with this potential Iranian threat. And understand part of my reasoning here. A nuclear Iran would be a game-changing situation, not just in the Middle East, but around the world. Whatever remains of our nuclear nonproliferation framework, I think, would begin to disintegrate. You would have countries in the Middle East who would see the potential need to also obtain nuclear weapons.”


But the Israelis are doubtful that a man who positioned himself as the antithesis of George W. Bush, author of invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq, would launch a preemptive attack on a Muslim nation.


If the Israelis reach the firm conclusion that Obama will not, under any circumstances, launch a strike on Iran, then the countdown will begin for a unilateral Israeli attack.

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