"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

The Emerging Axis of Iran and Venezuela

From Robert M. Morgetnheu writing for the Wall Street Journal.

The diplomatic ties between Iran and Venezuela go back almost 50 years and until recently amounted to little more than the routine exchange of diplomats. With the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, the relationship dramatically changed.

Today Mr. Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez have created a cozy financial, political and military partnership rooted in a shared anti-American animus. Now is the time to develop policies in this country to ensure this partnership produces no poisonous fruit.

Why should we be concerned?

The public needs to be aware of Iran's growing presence in Latin America. Moreover, the U.S. and the international community must strongly consider ways to monitor and sanction Venezuela's banking system. Failure to act will leave open a window susceptible to money laundering by the Iranian government, the narcotics organizations with ties to corrupt elements in the Venezuelan government, and the terrorist organizations that Iran supports openly.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Capitalism After the Crisis

From Luigi Zingales writing for National Affairs.

The economic crisis of the past year, centered as it has been in the financial sector that lies at the heart of American capitalism, is bound to leave some lasting marks. Financial regulation, the role of large banks, and the relationships between the government and key players in the market will never be the same

Mr. Zingales goes on to discuss the difference between a pro-business and a pro-market approach to capitalism. America, for the most part, has favored pro-market capitalism vice pro-business capitalism despite lobbiest being pro-business. It is an important distinction as pro-business lobbiest tend to lobby for established businesses whereas pro-market forces tend to favor newly established businesses' ability to compete equally with established businesses.

Capitalism has long enjoyed exceptionally strong public support in the United States because America's form of capitalism has long been distinct from those found elsewhere in the world — particularly because of its uniquely open and free market system. Capitalism calls not only for freedom of enterprise, but for rules and policies that allow for freedom of entry, that facilitate access to financial resources for newcomers, and that maintain a level playing field among competitors. The United States has generally come closest to this ideal combination — which is no small feat, since economic pressures and incentives do not naturally point to such a balance of policies. While everyone benefits from a free and competitive market, no one in particular makes huge profits from keeping the system competitive and the playing field level. True capitalism lacks a strong lobby.

That assertion might appear strange in light of the billions of dollars firms spend lobbying Congress in America, but that is exactly the point. Most lobbying seeks to tilt the playing field in one direction or another, not to level it. Most lobbying is pro-business, in the sense that it promotes the interests of existing businesses, not pro-market in the sense of fostering truly free and open competition. Open competition forces established firms to prove their competence again and again; strong successful market players therefore often use their muscle to restrict such competition, and to strengthen their positions. As a result, serious tensions emerge between a pro-market agenda and a pro-business one, though American capitalism has always managed this tension far better than most.

Needless to say for somebody attempting to understand the current financial issues and what can and should be done about them, Mr. Zingales' article functions as an exceptional primer to understand the American form vice the European form of capitalism.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Afghan war reaches a tipping point

Below is a great article from Asia Times Online which not only discusses the tactical implications of the airstrike against the Taliban in Kunduz, but also the strategic implications for NATO as a whole. For strategic implications we have:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) handed down to the Taliban a big political victory as a result of the air strikes in the northern province of Kunduz on Friday, which left over 100 people dead and injured. The Taliban propaganda portrayed the incident as "an intentional massacre".

However, the political impact is felt on several planes. These include, first and foremost, the sense of shock in Germany, where well over two-thirds of people already favor a withdrawal of the 4,500-strong German contingent from Afghanistan. Given the burden of history that Germany is fated to carry, the mere suggestion of the Bundeswehr having committed a war crime abroad becomes a sensitive issue. The political class in Berlin will keenly watch how the groundswell of public opinion pans out in the federal election due on September 27.

On the tactical/operational level, we have:

On the other hand, the Taliban are spreading their wings in the northern provinces, all according to a plan. The stage has come when it is important for the Taliban to demonstrate in political terms that they can expand the war to places of their choice. In military terms, the Taliban tactic aims at overstretching NATO....

No one needs to explain to the Taliban the strategic importance of Kunduz, which used to be center of their military command in northern Afghanistan before their ouster in October 2001. The demographic structure of the region provides an ideal platform for the Taliban's political work.

Finally, Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar discusses what is really at stake during the war in Afghanistan.

Germany is well aware that wars abroad are a serious business. In Afghanistan, in particular, the war has far-reaching consequences, being vastly more than a mere fight against international terrorism; it is also about NATO's future role as a global political organization and the "unfinished business" of the Cold War, as well as about defining the new world order.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Afghan Provincial Governor Praises German Army

From Der Spiegel.

The German army has been inundated with international criticism for ordering an air strike on two hijacked fuel tankers in Afghanistan. But the governor of Kunduz province where the attack happened has now praised the German forces. "They made the right decision at the right time," Mohammed Omar told SPIEGEL.

If you find this interesting, look at this.

German soldiers had always been criticized in the past for not taking robust enough action, he said. "They either flee back to their camp or they sit around crying," said Omar. The population had gotten the impression that the Germans were working together with the Taliban, he added. Now a gang of criminals had been caught in the act, he said.

Omar visited the German military base in Kunduz on Monday. He said he didn't know how many civilians were killed in the air strike. "But the Germans have the support of the population. We didn't receive any of the complaints one usually gets in cases where civilians are killed."

Eyewitnesses said there were 60 armed Taliban on the scene along with 15 to 20 other people. "But at half past two at night, no normal civilians would dare to go out in this area, which is more than four kilometers from the nearest village," said Omar.

Anyone in the vicinity of the fuel tankers must have been criminal or a supporter of the Taliban, he said. The US criticism of the attack appeared to be a gut reaction, he added. "The Americans probably didn't eat well and had bad dreams."

So, the attack was at 0230 in the morning. I agree with this article. Anybody 4 kms from their village at 0230 in the morning must have been supporting the insurgents.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Sharia-Sanctioned Death Vs. Western Toleration

From the Wall Street Journal.

"I don't know if you know about honor killings? But this faith—you guys don't understand, Islam is very different than you guys think." So avows runaway apostate Rifqa Bary, the focus of a so-called dependency battle that is expanding into a national debate on the conflict between Islamic mores and American freedom.

The 17-year-old had been practicing Christianity in secret for four years when she fled her home in central Ohio in July, fearing for her life after her parents discovered her defection. The Sri Lankan Bary family has been in the U.S. since 2000.

Having been in Iraq for the last year, I have adopted many Iraqi customs to include giving kisses to males on their cheek as a greeting, putting my hand over my heart when saying hi, and shaking everybody's hand in a room upon entering. I believe it shows a sense of understanding and acceptance of a country's culture.

I have also witness Muslim cultural norms which are as foreign to me, a Christian, as night is to day. While in this country, I accept and practice many Iraqi cultural norms. It is their country. One's which are harmless, like putting a hand over the heart during a greeting, I practice to fit in. One's that are harmful, I do not condone Iraqis for practicing them, nor do I condemn them for practices which, in America, are outright illegal. It is their country. I explain my norms and seek to understand theirs and occassionally get in good debates about both country's norms and practices.

However, just as I do not condone nor condemn their cultural norms in their country, I would not expect Muslims to practice their cultural rituals in an Christian society which are clearly illegal. We cannot have two laws in a country, one for this religion and one for that religion. It would lead to anarchy.

They saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" goes both ways. I have accepted many cultural customs during my stint in Iraq which do not conflict with my Christian beliefs. I would expect Muslims to do the same in my Christian dominated country.

This article is insightful for that reason, but never gets to the heart of the question.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Maliki to send several senior officers to early retirement

From Iraq the Model.

There are unconfirmed reports that Prime Minister Maliki has issued orders to send several top security officials to early retirement. The list includes the chief of the explosives department and the director of internal affairs at the ministry of interior (MOI). The news came only a day after Maliki fired the director of operations at the MOI. Less than two weeks ago, the director of the national intelligence service was also fired, or made to resign his position.

To read the complete article, click here.

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An oft-told tale of job survival

From Terry Savage writing for the Chicago Sun-Times.

In honor of this Labor Day holiday, here is a little fable. And like all fables, it comes with a moral at the end.

Once upon a time, in a beautiful city by a lake, there was a company that was in the business of building outboard engines for boats. It had prospered in this town for 70 years. The factory employed 850 workers, and the world headquarters building employed an equal number of people.

Ms. Savage tells the story like a fable. But it isn't. It is a true, current story. To see how it ends, click here.

But like a fable, it has a mean old wolf. Is the wolf the company, the workers, or the union?

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Barack Obama accused of making 'Depression' mistakes

From Edmund Conway writing for the Telegraph.

Barack Obama is committing the same mistakes made by policymakers during the Great Depression, according to a new study endorsed by Nobel laureate James Buchanan.

This article provokes some interesting discussion points. It ends with a recommendation to let capitalism work and to keep politicians out of the mix. An iteresting idea which worked for most of this country's history.

The paper, which recommends that the US return to a more laissez-faire economic system rather than intervening further in activity, has been endorsed by Nobel laureate James Buchanan, who said: "We have learned some things from comparable experiences of the 1930s' Great Depression, perhaps enough to reduce the severity of the current contraction. But we have made no progress toward putting limits on political leaders, who act out their natural proclivities without any basic understanding of what makes capitalism work."

One thing the article does not site is the affect of winning or losing a war has on a recession in a capitalistic society.

To read the complete article, click here.

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By the Book: How Democracies Perish

From the American Thinker.

Exaggerated self-criticism would be a harmless luxury of civilization if there were no enemy at the gate condemning democracy's very existence. But it becomes dangerous when it portrays its mortal enemy as always being in the right. Extravagant criticism is a good propaganda device in internal politics. But if it is repeated often enough, it is finally believed. And where will the citizens of democratic societies find reasons to resist the enemy outside if they are persuaded from childhood that their civilization is merely an accumulation of failures and a monstrous imposture?

- Jean Francois Revel, How Democracies Perish

Sounds like a good book to read, understand, and examine how political entities use exaggerated self-criticism and extravagant criticism to undermine a democracy from within. I have often seen both of these traits among Americans. In the last year, I have also seen it among Iraqis. It is an interesting premise worth reading, understanding, and debating.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Poll: Hamas approval rating extremely low

From The Jerusalem Post.

Hamas's approval rating has sunk to significantly low levels in the West Bank and even lower levels inside the Gaza Strip, according to a recent poll for The Israel Project that gathers Arab public opinion on a number of key issues.

This entire article is a good read. It provides some striking poll numbers not only against Hamas but also Arafat and appears to show Palestinians are ready to negotiate with Israel for peace and security. The time may be right for continued negotiations, unless of course Hamas, seeing their sinking poll numbers decides once again to thwart the will of the people.

To read the complete article, click here.

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After Baitullah, TTP loses support at home and abroad

From Shaukat Qadir writing for The National.

More than a month after Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a US drone strike at his father-in-law’s house, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) remains a diminished force. Not that the death of one man can spell the end of the organisation – many of the Mehsud tribe would say Baitullah was a CIA agent anyway – but the TTP has lost both support inside Pakistan and a connection to al Qa’eda’s foreign forces.

Shaukat Qadir provides and interesting prespective, backed by the history of tribes in the region, and an even more interesting conclusion.

While the struggle against US occupation is unlikely to diminish in intensity, military operations in Waziristan may not even be necessary. If a ground attack proceeds, it is likely to be much easier than it would have been were Baitullah alive and supported by his foreign troops. Has the tide turned? The anti-Taliban feeling in mainland Pakistan certainly seems to have become more unanimous than the anti-American feeling, at least for the time being.

To read the complete article, click here.

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