Archive for April, 2013

China’s Future Oil Demand Will Tax All Reserves, New Oil Sources

April 30, 2013

By Brad Plumer
The Washington Post

Maybe you’ve heard that North America is producing a lot more oil these days, courtesy of fracking, tar sands and other new sources. The Atlantic has a nicely reported cover story on the whole phenomenon by Charles C. Mann. Headline: “We will never run out of oil.”

It’s a great article, but here’s an key bit of additional context. Stuart Staniford has some great charts looking at the rapid growth in Chinese oil consumption over the past few decades. He’s also done a simple extrapolation to see what China’s oil demand would look like if it kept growing at 7 percent annually for another decade — hardly a wild assumption:

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 11.18.29 AM

Things would get very interesting. By 2025, in this hypothetical, China would be consuming 15 million barrels per day more than it does today. “If you compare this to things like the extra 4 [million barrels per day] you might hope for from tar sands in this time frame, or the 2mbd that global crude supply has increased since 2005, you can see that this is going to stress the global oil system a lot,” Staniford writes.

China helps put everything in perspective. There’s a lot of hype, for instance, about the “tight oil” boom in North Dakota. At last count, the state now produces about 750,000 barrels of oil per day. But as analysts at Barclay’s have pointed out, tiny swings in China’s appetite for crude can easily gobble all of that up.

So what happens if oil supplies can’t keep up with the rise in Chinese demand in the decades ahead? Prices would start rising. And one of three things would have to happen, as Staniford explains: ”Either the global crude supply is going to grow a lot faster than it has been, or OECD oil consumers are going to have to consume a great deal less than they are now, or China (and other rapidly growing consumers) are going to have to slow down a lot.”

Pay attention to that middle option especially. In a recent interview, energy analyst Chris Nelder explained why growing oil demand from places like China and India would likely force Europe and the United States to curtail their own oil consumption:

Right now, all of the new oil consumption in the world is coming from outside the OECD and the developed world. It’s largely coming from in China and India. And that new oil demand is now being met, almost exactly, by declining demand in North American and Europe. …

… The growing economies of Asia get so much more marginal economic utility out of a gallon of fuel than we do. In a poorer country, you might have a couple guys on a moped, burning one gallon of fuel to get to the market and back. They get so much more economic value out of doing that than a construction worker in the U.S. gets in his pickup truck burning 5 gallons per day.

Now, obviously Staniford’s scenario might never come to pass. China’s economy could slow down further in the years ahead, which would cause its demand for oil to drop sharply. (A Chinese recession could create all sorts of other problems, but push those aside for now.) Or maybe some new energy source — electric cars? natural gas? — will put a major dent in oil consumption, either in China or the United States.

In theory, though, China still has plenty of room to grow and burn more oil. And that basic dynamic is worth watching closely. The world might not “run out of oil” anytime soon. But if supplies can’t expand quickly enough to keep up with growing demand, that will put a lot of strain on the system. At that point, we either find new sources of oil or we use less of the stuff — and the latter can happen either voluntarily or involuntarily, through slower economic growth.

Related: Peak oil isn’t dead: An interview with Chris Nelder

 

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, May 1, 2013 — “I am the vine, you are the branches”

April 30, 2013

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter Lectionary: 287

Reading 1 Acts 15:1-6

 .

.
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the Apostles and presbyters about this question.
 .
They were sent on their journey by the Church, and passed through Phoenicia and Samaria telling of the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brethren. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the Church, as well as by the Apostles and the presbyters, and they reported what God had done with them.
.
But some from the party of the Pharisees who had become believers stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and direct them to observe the Mosaic law.”
.
The Apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter.
.

Responsorial Psalm

PS 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5

.

 .

.R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
.
I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the LORD.” And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
.
Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity. To it the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
.
According to the decree for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD. In it are set up judgment seats, seats for the house of David. R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. or: R. Alleluia.
.

Gospel Jn 15:1-8

.
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
.
Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.
.
Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
 .
**************************************
 .

Some branches produce fruit and are pruned, cared for and nurtured. Some branches do not produce fruit and are removed, thrown away and burned.We are a people of productivity. It is, for the most part, the standard by how we live and the measure of our success. It is built into our lives everywhere. Productivity is the basis of our economic system. Those who produce are rewarded and get more. Those who do not produce are thrown out. Within our educational system the students who do well and produce are recognized and supported while those who do not produce get lost in the system. Professors know well the mantra, “Publish or perish.” Careers and promotions are based on productivity. Productivity at some level is at the core of the debates around poverty, welfare, healthcare, and the elderly. “They” do not produce and our care of and for them often reflects what we think of that.We have been convinced that productivity is the goal and only the fittest survive. I wonder if that isn’t how many of us live our spiritual lives. How many of us have been told, in some form or fashion, or come to believe that pruned branches go to heaven and removed branches go to hell? Pruned branches produced so they are rewarded while non-productive branches are punished.

In that (mis)understanding fruit is God’s demand upon our life and the means by which we appease God. If we are not careful we’ll get stuck categorizing ourselves and one another into fruit bearing or non-fruit bearing branches. There is, however, a deeper issue than the production of fruit. Productivity does not usually create deep abiding and intimate relationships. It creates transactions. Jesus is not talking about or demanding productivity. He wants and offers connectivity, relationship, and intimacy.

Fruit or the lack thereof is a manifestation of our interior life and health. It describes and reveals whether we are living connected or disconnected lives. Fruit production is the natural consequence of staying connected. You can see that in long-term friendships, marriages, community loyalty. We do not choose whether or not we produce fruit. We do, however, choose where we abide and how we stay connected.

You know how that is. Sometimes we lose touch with a particular person. We no longer know where he or she is, what she is doing, or what is happening in her life. One day we run into him or her. It’s a bit awkward. No one is sure what to say. There’s not much to talk about. There was no deep abiding presence, the connection is lost, and it seems as if what was has been thrown away. Other people we run into after five or ten years and the conversation immediately picks up where we left off those many years ago. Even though we were apart we never left each other. There was and remains a connection and mutual abiding that time, distance, and the circumstances of life cannot sever.

“What fruit am I producing?” “How much?” “Is it an acceptable quality?” Those are good questions if we understand and ask them diagnostically, as questions not about the quantity of our lives but the quality of our lives. That’s what Jesus is after. That is the deeper question he is asking. It is the invitation to join the conversation, jump into the game, to participate, and to live fully alive. That only happens when the life, the love, and the goodness and holiness of Christ flow in us. We become an extension of and manifest his life, love, and holiness.

It is a relationship of union even as a branch is united to the vine. We live our lives as one. This is not just about relationship with Jesus; it affects and is the basis for our relationships with one another. Love for Jesus, one another, and ourselves become one love. We soon discover we are living one life and the fruit of that life and love is abundant, overflowing, and Father glorifying.

http://interruptingthesilence.com/2012/05/07/the-fruitfulnes
s-of-staying-connected-a-sermon-on-john-151-8-easter-5b/

“Jesus is the True Fruit of the Vine” (Russian Icon)

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

.

Germany will think twice before saving France next time

April 30, 2013

By Economics

The Franco-German axis that has driven EU affairs ever since Schuman and Adenauer in the early 1950s is collapsing before our eyes.

The Telegraph

This was inevitable. Their interests have become incompatible under monetary union. The currency that was supposed to bind them is turning them into enemies, as this newspaper long warned.

The latest argument gaining traction – advanced by Prof Bernd Lücke and the German eurosceptic party AfD among others – is that the only way to save the Franco-German relationship and therefore the EU is to break up the euro before it does more damage. Interesting twist.

In the thirty or so years that I have been following EU affairs – or is it nearer 35 years now since I studied in French literature in Paris, and German philosophy in Mainz – I have never seen ties between Europe’s two great land states reduced so low.

The French Socialist Party crossed a line by lashing out at Chancellor Angela Merkel in person. It is one thing to protest “German austerity”, it is quite another to rebuke the “selfish intransigence of Mrs Merkel, who thinks of nothing but the deposits of German savers, the trade balance recorded by Berlin and her electoral future”.

There is no justification for such an ad hominem attack. German policy is indeed destructive, but that is structural. It is built into the mechanisms of EMU and the anthropological make-up of the enterprise.

The policy would not be greatly different even if a Social-Democrat/Green coalition were to win the elections in September, though this did not stop these two parties describing the French outburst as “legitimate and justified”.

German Vice-Chancellor Phillip Rösler has retaliated in kind against Paris. An internal paper by his Free Democrat Party (FDP) more or less ridicules France as a basket case, clinging to a statist welfare model doomed to failure in a Chinese world.

“France’s industry is losing competitiveness. Companies are continuing to relocate abroad. Corporate profit margins are thin,” it says.

Above: France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande

The paper said France has “highest tax and social security burden in the euro zone,” the “second lowest annual working time,” and has seen a “sharp rise in unit labour costs”.

A second FDP report entitled “France: Europe’s biggest problem child” said French President Francois Hollande was trifling with reform, scarcely making a dent on the sclerotic labour market.

All this is true of course. Hollande was elected in May 2012 on a campaign to preserve the status quo and protect the privileges of the French public services. The Socialist Party was in a dreamland. So were the French people.

As Jean Peyrelevade, ex-head of Credit Lyonnais, said at the time: “France is coddled with illusions. Economic decline is the brutal, hard, undeniable reality. We are consuming the leftovers of a past prosperity.”

The IMF’s Article IV Report on France published before the elections draws up the indictment charges: a state share of GDP above 55pc (or 56pc this year), higher than in Scandinavia, but without Nordic labour flexibility.

One of the rich world’s highest life expectancies but earliest retirement ages, a costly mix. Just 39.7pc of those aged 55 to 64 are working, compared with 56.7pc in the UK and 57.7pc in Germany. “French workers spend the longest time in retirement among advanced countries,” it said.

Professional services have become “more regulated” not less over the past decade. France’s “tax wedge” – or tax as a share of labour costs – is among the world’s highest near 50pc. France has raised job protection over the past 20 years, while Germany, Holland and Belgium have cut back.

The minimum wage is 0.6pc of the median wage, much higher than most OECD states. “These rigidities have led to loss of efficiency, inability to make a breakthrough in new markets and loss of technological edge,” it said.

So yes, Germany’s critique of the French Model is correct. But that merely complicates the politics of these pre-divorce tensions, allowing Berlin to persist with the self-serving illusion that the problem with EMU is the failure of others carry out reform.

The essence EMU crisis is the chasm in competitiveness that has arisen over fifteen years between North and South, and between Germany and the rest, and that is a much bigger and more complex story.

Professor Paul De Grauwe from the London School of Economics has largely debunked the myth that Germany achieved its miracle by carrying out the Hartz IV reforms under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. These labour reforms helped, but they were marginal. In some key respects Germany’s labour markets are more rigid today that those of Italy or Spain.

Germany’s gain in competitiveness was due to wage compression and higher productivity growth, compounded year after year. Unit labour costs in German manufacturing fell 4.4pc in the single year of 2005.

I see that EU employment commissioner Laszlo Andor accused Germany yesterday of “wage dumping” to gain export share. Others call it beggar-thy-neighbour policy.

As always in economics, there were many things going on. The euro was very weak a decade ago. The rise of China et al played to Germany’s strengths, since it was and still is producing the machinery that China needs for its catch-up growth. It played to Club Med weakness since Italy, Spain, and Portugal competed toe to toe with mid-tech Asian imports.

But the point is that Germany was able to turn itself around during a global boom, never losing the advantage of the lowest borrowing costs in EMU, and with no fiscal austerity – indeed Schröder said it was NECESSARY for Germany to violate the Stability Pact’s deficit limits in order to smooth the way for supply-side reforms.

To argue that the rest of the eurozone can replicate what Germany did in the midst of gruelling recession, debt-deflation, a credit crunch for small business, much higher corporate borrowing costs (than Germany today), and a strong euro, is to bark at the moon.

It always comes back to the same point. The North-South gap cannot be closed within EMU by imposing all the burden of adjustment on the deficit states, forcing them into “internal devaluations” without an “internal revaluation” Germany to meet them half way.

Such a policy has a contractionary bias and eventually drags everybody into vortex, as is now happening.

It happened in the early 1930s under the Gold Standard, when US creditors did to Germany, what Germany is now doing to Spain. And yes, crass American bankers and journalists even accused the Germans of being “lazy”, the sort of conclusion people reach when they when they don’t understand the structure of the global payments system and the power of credit cycles.

French and German leaders are now talking past each other. There is little common ground left on which they can find an understanding.

The French Socialist elites are lashing out because they at last grasp that there will be no cyclical recovery this time akin to Jospin years of the late 1990s. Unemployment will ratchet up to fresh records.

The penny has dropped that France is trapped in policy regime that will cripple the socialist party, just as it crippled Zapatero’s PSOE in Spain, or PASOK in Greece, and they will not take it meekly.

Germany’s rulers are in turn cleaving rigidly to their certitudes, unwilling to even start to analyse the core problems of EMU through any prism other than their own.

In 1992-1993, Germany ultimately blinked to save the Franco-German axis. It intervened to shore up the franc in the ERM in a way that it had refused to do for the lira and sterling.

Whether they will do so again when the time comes after the gratuitous insults of the French Socialists is an open question.

 

Jury weighs fate of abortion doctor in murder trial

April 30, 2013

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – Jury deliberations began on Tuesday in the murder trial of a Philadelphia doctor accused of killing babies and a patient during late-term abortions at a clinic serving low-income women.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, who ran the now-shuttered Women’s Medical Society Clinic, could face the death penalty if convicted by the jury in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia.

The case focuses on whether the infants were born alive and then killed.

The seven-woman, five-man jury began deliberations early in the afternoon on Tuesday after receiving instructions for about an hour and a half from Judge Jeffrey Minehart. The trial is in its sixth week.

The charges against Gosnell and nine of his employees have added more fuel to the debate in the United States about late-term abortions.

It is legal in Pennsylvania to abort a fetus up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Other states have recently put new restrictions on abortions, with Arkansas banning them at 12 weeks and North Dakota at six weeks.

Gosnell is charged with first-degree murder for delivering live babies during late-term abortions and then deliberately severing their spinal cords, prosecutors said.

His defense contends there is no evidence the babies were alive after they were aborted.

Defense lawyer Jack McMahon, in his closing argument on Monday, cited testimony by Medical Examiner Sam Gulino, who said none of the 47 babies tested randomly from the West Philadelphia clinic had been born alive.

“You may not like that evidence, but it is the evidence,” McMahon said.

Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron said in his closing argument that witnesses testified that one of the aborted babies was breathing before its neck was cut, another made a whining sound and another moved its arms and legs.

“You have three witnesses who saw a baby breathe and move, and he killed it,” Cameron said.

‘HOUSE OF HORRORS’

The clinic that prosecutors call a “house of horrors” has been cited as powerful evidence by both abortion and anti-abortion rights groups.

Reverend Frank Pavone, director of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life, said the often gory trial testimony “will change the conversation … It’ll help people engage and make them realize they’re not just talking about a theoretical idea.”

Abortion-rights activists said Gosnell was an outlier among predominantly safe and legal abortion providers.

“Gosnell ran a criminal enterprise, not a healthcare facility, and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Testimony has depicted a filthy clinic serving mostly low-income women in the largely black community. McMahon said Gosnell wanted to help the under-privileged community.

Gosnell is also charged with murdering Karnamaya Mongar, 41, of Virginia, who died from a drug overdose after going to him for an abortion, prosecutors said.

The defense lawyer said Mongar was given guideline amounts of the drug Demerol as an anesthesia during the abortion, as had hundreds of other women at the clinic.

Gosnell, who has been in jail since his January 2011 arrest, is being tried along with Eileen O’Neill, a medical graduate student accused of billing patients and insurance companies as if she had been a licensed doctor. Eight other defendants have pleaded guilty to a variety of charges and are awaiting sentencing.

(Additional reporting by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Scott Malone, Lisa Von Ahn and Ellen Wulfhorst)

ASEAN’s procrastination in the South China Sea

April 30, 2013

A South China Sea discussion was expected to be the highlight of the 22nd ASEAN Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan last week, considering the increased assertiveness of both China and claimant states from Southeast Asia, but the discussion did not materialize.

.

Yeremia Lalisang, Jakarta | Opinion | Tue, April 30 2013

.

.
The summit did not conclude with a strong statement on the issue, discouraging any future efforts to settle the dispute peacefully.

.
Scholars agree that ASEAN–China relations have never been better in the last 16 years. This is mainly a result of increased economic ties and the considerable growth in trade volume between the two parties.

.
Such a phenomenon is one of the most important pillars of both China and ASEAN member states’ economic growth. China is regarded as the new center of attraction, offering the member states wide-ranging flexibilities, fruitful economic relations and openness to multilateral frameworks that are significantly different from the US–Japan alliance model.

.
However, China’s engagement with ASEAN states has been continuously limited and filled with uncertainty. Until now, the region has not fallen within Beijing’s sphere of influence. In this regard, ASEAN has been successful in restraining China’s influence in the region. ASEAN has relentlessly engaged China through institutional involvements and multilateral frameworks.

.
Within such limitations, China’s objectives remain clear and consistent. Chinese officials aim at create a stable periphery that would contribute positively to its economic growth. The quest for a strong economy has encouraged China to offer flexibility and be more accommodating in its interactions with Southeast Asian states.

.
In doing so, China expects to counter the “China threat theory” that finds fertile ground as its economic and military capability continues to grow. As former premier Wen Jianbao once said, China should be viewed as a “friendly elephant”. Such an image will support China’s long-term interests as a potential superpower in the international system.

______________________
The South China Sea would certainly be regarded by China as a strategic interest in its energy security framework.

.

.

The image of a “friendly elephant”, however, fails to manifest in the case of South China Sea disputes. While both sides took the confidence-building measure of signing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties to the South China Sea in 2002, ASEAN states have been haunted by China’s pattern of assertiveness in managing the territorial disputes in which it is involved.

.
The Taiwan Missile Crisis in the mid-1990s and the occupation of Mischief Reef in 1995 and 1998 demonstrated the way an assertive China tends to deal with territorial disputes.

.
These examples suggest that it is even more plausible that a stronger China in the 21st century will use force as an instrument in the settlement of territorial disputes.

.
As if confirming such a belief, China declared in 2012 that the South China Sea was its “core interest”, meaning that China’s claim to the territory is non-negotiable. Beijing seems willing to use military force to respond to any party who challenges the status quo.

.
China’s policies and behavior in managing the recent disputes will prove how strong Beijing’s commitment is to maintaining stability in the region. In other words, they will test the lower limit of Beijing’s interest in its interactions with ASEAN.

.
The issue of national unity is frequently utilized by the nationalist faction in China’s domestic politics to push the government to be more assertive, which limits the flexibility of policymakers in Beijing. On the other hand, it is clear to them that such a move could be counterproductive to the country’s interests in advancing its national economy.

.
This highlights the urgency for ASEAN to push China to make significant progress in addressing the territorial disputes in the South China Sea for at least three reasons.

.
First, with regard to its slowing economic might, Beijing should be concerned with preventing any potential conflict on its periphery that could negatively impact its economic performance. In line with its significant role as a source of legitimacy, China’s economic development is still the priority of the Communist regime in Beijing.

.
Second, any non-cooperation measure leading to the failure of maintaining peace and stability in the region would allow other major powers, such as the US and Japan, to intensify their influence in the region, at the expense of Beijing’s leadership and position in the regional balance of power. Moreover, internationalizing the dispute is something that Beijing has always tried to avoid.

.
Finally, it would be better for ASEAN to accelerate its progress now before China grows even bigger, as its demand for energy will also increase to support its economic wheel. The South China Sea, with its potential energy reserves, would certainly be regarded by China as a strategic interest in its energy security framework.

.
In its relations with ASEAN, the way China manages the South China Sea issue will showcase how China, as a great power, treats its neighbors. Assertiveness and inflexibility would only create a negative image of China, which is projected to play a more considerable role in global affairs in the future.

.
On the other hand, how ASEAN proceeds in managing this dispute will show what kind of regional institution ASEAN is. Having failed to achieve any significant development last year in Phnom Penh with ASEAN unable to merge contending interests internally, less meaningful progress was made in Bandar Seri Begawan this year.

.
With both internal and external limitations facing policymakers in Beijing, ASEAN still appears reluctant to issue the kind of strong statements necessary to show its commitment to making significant progress in managing the dispute.

.
This strategy of buying time, from the perspective of ASEAN–China relations, will not result in peaceful dispute settlement. China is continuing to grow larger both militarily and economically.

.
Any further delay in settling this dispute will only allow China to raise its bargaining power relative to ASEAN’s.

.
When the situation arises in which ASEAN cannot catch up with China, that will be the time when peaceful dispute settlement is no longer plausible.

.
The writer is managing director of the ASEAN Study Center at the University of Indonesia’s (UI) school of social and political sciences in Depok, West Java.

.

China’s neighbors have rejected its map of the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest sea corridors. Pictured: China’s Maritime Surveillance Force on patrol

.

Below: graphic shows that China thinks it “owns” all the South China Sea inside the dashed red area….
Map locator
 *

Ron Paul slams Boston police. Has he gone too far? — Boston Police Want Drones for Next Marathon

April 30, 2013

Ron Paul, in a posting on the website of a libertarian activist, accused US law enforcement of ‘a military-style occupation of an American city’ in its response to the Boston bombing.

By Peter Grier | Christian Science Monitor

Former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul has slammed US law enforcement for responding to the Boston Marathon bombing with “police state tactics.”

In a post on the website of libertarian activist Lew Rockwell, Mr. Paul said Monday that the governmental reaction to the tragic explosions was worse than the attack itself. The forced lockdown of much of the Boston area, police riding armored vehicles through the streets, and door-to-door searches without warrants were all reminiscent of a military coup or martial law, Paul added.

“The Boston bombing provided the opportunity for the government to turn what should have been a police investigation into a military-style occupation of an American city,” according to Paul.

RECOMMENDED: Quiz: How much do you know about terrorism?

Furthermore, this response did not result in the capture of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Paul charged. He was discovered hiding in a boat by a private citizen, who called police.

“And he was identified not by government surveillance cameras, but by private citizens who willingly shared their photographs with the police,” Paul wrote on Lew Rockwell’s site.

Yikes. This isn’t going to go down well in Watertown, is it? Citizens there applauded when police finally carted off Tsarnaev alive. The Boston police commissioner told his troops over the radio that “it’s a proud day to be a Boston police officer.” In the wake of the suspect’s capture the media have generally portrayed law enforcement officers as heroes.

Want your top political issues explained? Get customized DC Decoder updates.

But Paul’s contrarian take perhaps should not be surprising. After all, he’s a committed libertarian who at one point in the GOP presidential debates said that the border fence with Mexico might at some point be used to keep US citizens penned in.

And while Paul’s position here is, um, not in the majority, there are other public figures who charge that the Boston response was overkill. In some ways this is one of those points in the circle of American politics were conservative libertarianism and liberal progressivism meet.

Boston Red Sox seem almost outnumbered by police. Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The generally left-leaning Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, for instance, told PBS host Bill Moyers over the weekend that the public lionization of police in the wake of the Boston bombing isn’t necessarily a good thing.

“The way in which Americans now related to their government, the way in which they get nationalistic pride is through the assertion of this massive military or police force, and very few other things produce that kind of pride,” Greenwald said. “I think [this] shows a lot about our value systems and what the government is failing to do. And that’s the way in which this culture becomes coarsened.”

However, state and local officials have continued to defend their decision to shut down much of Boston for the Tsarnaev manhunt. At the time they did not know whether the suspect had more explosives or fellow conspirators, and they did not want to risk another tragedy.

“I think we did what we should have done and were supposed to do with the always-imperfect information that you have at the time,” Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) said at a news conference last week.

And Paul in particular is now drawing criticism for the company he keeps. Lew Rockwell, Paul’s former congressional chief of staff, now heads the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a think tank with “deep ties to the neo-Confederate movement,” which believes the wrong side won the Civil War, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

As a Paul employee, Rockwell oversaw newsletters published under the former congressman’s name that contained controversial statements about race, homosexuality, and other hot-button topics.

Furthermore, Paul’s own new organization, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, has an advisory board that contains a “bevy of conspiracy theorists, cranks, and apologists for some of the worst regimes on the planet,” according to Daily Beast writer James Kirchik.

These include Southwestern Law School professor Butler Shaffer, who has written a post for the Lew Rockwell website titled “9/11 was a conspiracy,” notes the Daily Beast.

**************************************************

Boston Police May Use Drones For Next Marathon

Boston Police Drones

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis
canada-politics

Next year’s Boston Marathon could be watched over by drones.

The city’s police commissioner, Ed Davis, told the Boston Herald that using the aerial surveillance technology during next year’s race is “a great idea.”

“I don’t know that would be the first place I’d invest money, but certainly to cover an event like this, and have an eye in the sky that would be much cheaper to run than a helicopter is a really good idea,” Davis said.

Davis’ interest in drones comes after the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured more than 260 on April 15.

Davis also told WBZ NewsRadio that, “there are certainly serious privacy concerns that we have to consider before we do something like that.”

The Herald praised the idea in an editorial on Friday, arguing that “there may be no more useful tool” to help law enforcement prevent another attack:

.

Surveillance drones can be a useful tool for law enforcement, and like it or not they’re coming to a city near you. It is important that their use be restrained, with proper oversight to prevent abuse. But in an emergency situation, there may be no more useful tool.

Privacy advocates like the American Civil Liberties Union have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the growing use of domestic drones. The group argues that, because the technology is relatively inexpensive, drones are likely to be used more and more frequently across the country.

The ACLU also warns that, unlike police helicopters, drones pose unique and potentially dangerous privacy concerns if they aren’t tightly regulated.

Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald has expressed similar concerns:

The fact is that drones vest vast new powers that police helicopters and existing weapons do not vest: and that’s true not just for weaponization but for surveillance. Drones enable a Surveillance State unlike anything we’ve seen. Because small drones are so much cheaper than police helicopters, many more of them can be deployed at once, ensuring far greater surveillance over a much larger area. Their small size and stealth capability means they can hover without any detection, and they can remain in the air for far longer than police helicopters.

.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/27/bos
ton-police-drones-marathon_n_3169613.html
.
Related:
.
.
*

Police officers keep a man on the ground in Watertown, Massachusetts April 19, 2013 following the shooting of a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A police officer for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was shot to death on Thursday night at the school’s Cambridge campus, touching off a manhunt for a suspect or suspects in a community on edge just days after the Boston Marathon bombing. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

.

*

*

Police search for suspects in Watertown, Mass. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Armed and ready: Police officers aim their weapons as they close in on two suspects in the Boston bombings after a university officer at MIT was shot dead on campus.
.
Armed and ready: Police officers aim their weapons as  they close in on two suspects in the Boston bombings after a university officer  at MIT was shot dead on campus
Gun battle: Police officers draw weapons from behind a car during a dramatic shoot-out with two of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.
.
Gun battle: Police officers draw weapons from behind a  car during a dramatic shoot-out with two of the suspects in the Boston Marathon  bombings 

False alarm: A man lies spread out on the ground as police trains their weapons on him, however it is thought he is not of the suspects.
.
False alarm: A man lies spread out on the ground as  police trains their weapons on him, however it is thought he is not of the  suspects
.

Israel welcomes apparent Arab League softening of peace plan

April 30, 2013

A boy stands near a Palestinian flag placed near newly-erected tents in the West Bank village of Beit Iksa, between Ramallah and Jerusalem January 20, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

A boy stands near a Palestinian flag placed near newly-erected tents in the West Bank village of Beit Iksa, between Ramallah and Jerusalem January 20, 2013.  Credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel responded favorably on Tuesday to an apparent softening by Arab states of their 2002 peace plan after a top Qatari official raised the possibility of land swaps in setting borders between the Jewish state and an independent Palestine.

The original Arab League proposal offered full recognition of Israel but only if it gave up all land seized in the 1967 Middle East war and accepted a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees. Israel, which has long said it would never return to narrow pre-1967 war borders, rejected the plan at the time.

“Israel welcomes the encouragement given by the Arab League delegation and the (U.S.) Secretary of State to the diplomatic process,” a senior government official said after talks in Washington on Monday between an Arab League delegation and John Kerry on how to advance stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In the 1967 conflict, Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – areas Palestinians are now seeking for a state of their own. U.S.-hosted peace talks have been frozen since 2010 in a dispute over Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

After the meeting with Kerry, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, told reporters: “The Arab League delegation affirmed that agreement should be based on the two-state solution on the basis of the 4th of June 1967 line, with the (possibility) of comparable and mutual agreed minor swap of the land.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Thani’s statement reflected longstanding Palestinian positions.

“Upon Israel’s unequivocal acceptance of the two-state solution on the 1967 border, the State of Palestine as a sovereign country might consider minor agreed border modifications equal in size and quality, in the same geographic area, and that do not harm Palestinian interests,” he said.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, designated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be his chief peace negotiator with the Palestinians, described as “very positive” news of a possible shift in the Arab League position.

“It would allow the Palestinians to enter the room and make the needed compromise and it sends a message to the Israeli public that this is not just about us and the Palestinians,” she told Army Radio.

Israel has proposed land swaps with the Palestinians in the past – exchanges that would likely leave some settlements in place – but negotiators failed to clinch a final agreement.

Whatever the Arab League’s stance, internal Palestinian divisions pose a serious obstacle, however. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has negotiated with Israel, holds sway only in the West Bank, while Islamist rival Hamas controls Gaza and refuses to recognize Israel or renounce violence.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller, Ali Sawafta and Noah Browning; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Ron Paul objects to “military-style occupation of an American city” after Boston bombing

April 30, 2013

Former Rep. Ron Paul said the law enforcement  that swarmed around Boston in the days following the marathon bombings was  scarier than the actual terrorist attack.

By Cheryl K. Chumley

The Washington Times

Photo: Ron Paul. (Associated Press)

“The Boston bombing provided the opportunity for the government to turn what  should have been a police investigation into a military-style occupation of an  American city,” he said on the Lew Rockwell website, Politico reported. “This  unprecedented move should frighten us as much or more than the attack  itself.”

The terror attacks on April 15 in Boston killed three and injured 264.

Mr. Paul, a former libertarian political  candidate who served in Congress as a member of  the Republican Party, said the  door-to-door searches police conducted in Watertown for the bombing suspects  were particularly alarming.

They reminded of a “military coup in a far off banana republic,” he said,  Politico reported. “Force lockdown of a city. Militarized police riding tanks in  the streets. Door-to-door armed searches without warrant. Families thrown out of  their homes at gunpoint to be searched without probable cause. Businesses forced  to close. Transport shut down.”

Mr. Paul reminded the surviving suspect,  19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was  ultimately discovered by a civilian, and not due to police crackdown, Politico  reported.

“He was discovered by a private citizen, who then placed a call to the  police,” he said. “And he was identified not by government surveillance cameras,  but by private citizens who willingly shared their photographs with the  police.”

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/apr/29/ron-paul-police-manhunt-boston-marathon-bombing-su/#ixzz2Rxpt1zPH

.

Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

'Person of Interest': Police investigators leave an apartment complex in Revere, Massachusetts, USA, on 16th April 2013

*

Boston remains on high alert into the night after multiple explosions hit the Boston Marathon finish line area on Patriots Day. At least 140 people were injured and 3 confirmed dead in the explosions.

*

Closing in: Police run down a street in Watertown, Massachusetts on Friday screaming at members of the public and media to pull back as the hunt for terror suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev continues

Obama defends handling of Syria, Boston bombing, vows to close Gitmo, Obamacare’s future, Talks gays in pro sports

April 30, 2013

President Barack Obama on Tuesday forcefully defended his policy towards Syria, his handling of the Boston bombing, the future of Obamacare and even his political relevance on Tuesday in a wide-ranging press conference 100 days into his second term. Obama also made a passionate promise to try again to close the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison.

And Obama delivered an unprompted tribute to Jason Collins, the first openly gay active NBA player, calling him “a terrific young man” and a “role model” for gay youth who may be struggling.

By Olivier Knox and Rachel Rose Hartman | The Ticket 

“One of the extraordinary measures of progress that we’ve seen in this country has been the recognition that the LGBT community deserves full equality — not just partial equality, not just tolerance, but a recognition that they are fully a part of the American family,” the president said. “America should be proud.”

President Barack Obama arrives for a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, …

Obama batted down calls for America to escalate its role in Syria’s civil war after U.S. intelligence concluded that President Bashar al-Assad likely used the deadly nerve agent sarin on rebels seeking his ouster. Obama said proof that Assad unleashed chemical weapons would be a “game-changer” but warned that the United States cannot “rush to judgment.”

“We don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them, we don’t have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened,” Obama told reporters during the hastily announced question-and-answer session in the White House briefing room. “I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the facts.”

“If we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence” confirming the U.S. intelligence community’s preliminary finding that Assad likely used the deadly nerve agent sarin, then America may find it hard to rally support from the international community and even some partners in the region who support Assad’s ouster. So “it’s important for us to do this in a prudent way,” Obama said.

But the president repeated that the use of chemical weapons would be a game-changer “because what that portends is potentially even more devastating attacks on civilians, and it raises the strong possibility that those chemical weapons can fall into the wrong hands,.”

“By game changer I mean that we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us,” said Obama, who has sent aid to Syria’s opposition and neighboring countries like Turkey and Jordan but thus far resisted calls to arm the rebels or attack Assad’s forces directly.

Obama said there is “a spectrum of options” that are “on the shelf right now” but might be used because using chemical weapons would represent “an escalation, in our view, of the threat.”

Obama laughed off a question about whether the defeat of a bipartisan bill to enhance background checks of would-be gun buyers and other legislative struggles meant he lacked the political “juice” to advance his second-term agenda.

“If you put it that way,” the president said with a chuckle, “maybe I should just pack up and go home. Golly.”

Obama said he was “confident” that bipartisan efforts to overhaul America’s immigration policy would result in a bill that passes the Senate and House and “gets on my desk.”

But he had harsh words for the “dysfunctional” Congress and critics who suggest that his job is to get lawmakers to “behave.”

“That’s their job,” he said sternly.

Obama denied claims by some Republicans that the Boston Marathon bombings indicated an intelligence failure. He said investigators had worked in “exemplary” fashion to track down the perpetrators of the bombing and to determine what provoked two Russian-born brothers, Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, to detonate the two devices that killed 3 and injured hundreds.
.
Obama said the FBI had worked in concert with Russian officials to identify and question Tamerlan Tsarnaev but had determined nothing had indicted he would carry out an attack. He said US and Russian officials were still cooperating in the investigation.
.
Obama said Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s apparent embrace of radical Islam indicated a growing concern about “self-radicalized individuals” living in the United States and unconnected to any terror networks.
.
“Was there something that happened that triggered radicalization?” Obama asked. “Are there additional things that could have been done in the interim?”
.
Obama said DNI James Clapper was reviewing what happened to see if there were additional protocols to put in place to detect a potential attack.

And the president vowed to revisit one of the most high-profile promises from his history-making 2008 campaign: Closing the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility.

“I’m going to go back at this,” he said with evident passion. “It needs to be closed.

“It’s critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe,” it’s “expensive,” it’s “inefficient,” it “hurts us in terms of our international standing,” and it’s “a recruitment tool for extremists,” Obama said in his most forceful remarks on the issue in years. “I’m going to re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people.”

Obama said American could not be in the business of holding roughly 100 detainees in a “no man’s land in perpetuity” without trying them. “That is contrary to who we are.” But he acknowledged that “it’s a hard case to make” to the public.

Asked whether his administration would continue to force-feed hunger-strikers at the facility, Obama replied: “I don’t want these individuals to die.”

The president pushed back on comments by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat, who called the implementation of the Affordable Care Act a “train wreck.” Obama said most of the provisions of the new health care law were already in place.

“For the 85-90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they’re already experiencing most of the benefits,” Obama said, noting that under the new law, insurance companies cannot drop people because of pre-existing conditions and that young people up to age 26 can remain on their parents’ policies. Obama said the implementation challenges would mainly affect Americans currently without insurance who will now be required to enroll in healthcare exchanges to purchase coverage.

The challenge is that setting up a market based system … is a big, complicated piece of business,” Obama said, adding it was further complicated by Republican efforts to block or defund implementation.

Obama On Syria: U.S. Not Certain Who Used Chemical Weapons

April 30, 2013
By JULIE PACE AP White House CorrespondentWASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama strongly suggested Tuesday he’d consider military action against Syria if it can be confirmed that President Bashar Assad’s government used chemical weapons in the two-year-old civil war.

At a White House news conference, the president also defended the FBI in regard to its efforts before the deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon two weeks ago.

President Barack Obama pauses as he answers questions during his new conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 30, 2013 in Washington.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Asked about Syria, the president said that while there is evidence that chemical weapons were used inside the country, “we don’t know when they were used, how they were used. We don’t know who used them. We don’t have a chain of custody that establishes” exactly what happened.

If it can be established that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, he added, “we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us.”

“Obviously there are options to me that are on the shelf right now that we have not deployed,” he said, noting that he had asked Pentagon planners last year for additional possibilities.

On another topic, Obama responded with slight ridicule and humor when he was asked if he still had the political juice to push his agenda through Congress after an early second-term defeat on gun control legislation.

“Golly, I might just as well pack up and go home,” he parried his questioner. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, he said, “Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point.” And he expressed confidence that Congress would approve sweeping immigration legislation that he is seeking.

He also renewed his call for lawmakers to replace across-the-board federal spending cuts. The administration favors a comprehensive plan to reduce deficits through targeted spending cuts and higher taxes.

Asked about the FBI’s investigation into a possible terrorist threat posed in the past by Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings who died in an escape attempt, the president said, “Based on what I’ve seen so far, the FBI performed its duties , the Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing.”

“But this is hard stuff,” he said of the work needed to ferret out security threats at home.

He also said that “Russians have been very cooperative with us since the Boston bombing.”

The bombing suspects are Russian natives who immigrated to the Boston area. Russian authorities told U.S. officials before the bombings they had concerns about the family, but Moscow has revealed details of wiretapped conversations only since the attack.

Asked about a topic that links terrorism and his Obama’s legislative efforts, he said he would “re-engage with Congress” on the future of the prison for detainees at Guantanamo in Cuba. As a candidate for the White House in 2007 and 2008, Obama called for closing the base, which was set up as part of President George W. Bush’s response to the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Lawmakers objected and the facility remains open.

Asked about a hunger strike by some detainees, he said, “I don’t want these individuals to die,” and he said the Pentagon was doing what it could to manage the situation.

Related: