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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Tin-Foil Fedora

June 30th, 2012 - 3:08 pm

Edward J. Epstein, author of James Jesus Angleton: Was He Right? frequently sends me links to his newest articles. Epstein has been interested in the Kennedy Assassination for nearly 50 years. On a recent blog post he reviews the movements of Lee Harvey Oswald prior to that fatal day in Dallas.

But it’s not just ancient history that concerns him.  Epstein was also one of the few who believed from the first that there was more to the Dominique Strauss Kahn case than a lecher in search of a quickie. Epstein wrote Three Days in May: Sex, Surveillance, and DSK and reprised his ideas in what Martin Peretz of the New Republic called a “truly dazzling take-up of the entire case. It was published in the December 22, 2011 issue of The New York Review of Books“. The Amazon blurb of Three Days in May sums up Epstein’s thesis.

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Reset

June 29th, 2012 - 5:08 pm

Belmont Club readers will be familiar with the themes in this Foreign Policy article: Putin’s Got America Where He Wants It. The first point it makes is that Russia has checkmated America in Syria, where the administration continues to “lead from behind”.

Let’s start with Syria, where Moscow has vetoed two attempts to pass a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Assad regime. In the case of the May 25 Houla massacre, where over 100 civilians were murdered in cold blood, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed that “both sides evidently had a hand in the deaths of innocent people.” This injected moral equivalence where none existed, since U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said that pro-regime shabbiha militias were likely responsible.

The source of US weakness has been described here before.  But let us hear it from Foreign Policy. America, which was the dominant power in the region, shipped all its muscle to Southwest Asia where the force can only be supplied at Putin’s sufferance. As Foreign Policy explains this rather limits the administration’s ability to play hardball with Putin.

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The War Unseen

June 29th, 2012 - 11:50 am

Back in 2009 analysts put a name to a style of warfare that has emerged in response to asymmetrical threats: they called it diffused warfare — “where small units fight independently over a large area. Higher headquarters largely stay out of the way, providing brigades and battalions all of the supporting intelligence, surveillance and indirect fire assets they need.”

RAND analyst and historian David Johnson …  says leaders in the Israeli Defense Forces are pointing to “Operation Cast Lead,” that targeted Hamas in Gaza, as the new way to battle irregular enemies. …

Surprise Israeli precision air strikes took out hundreds of Hamas leaders and other high value targets in the operation’s early hours …  drones, attack helicopters and fighter jets were assigned directly to the maneuver brigades, Johnson said, a key element that ensured close coordination and a very short sensor-to-shooter cycle. This was critical as Hamas fighters presented fleeting targets as they used civilians for cover and bounded between buildings.

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Nurse Rachet

June 28th, 2012 - 1:18 pm

US stocks sag on healthcare rule, euro dips — “(Reuters) – U.S. stocks fell on Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Obama administration’s healthcare overhaul law … U.S. healthcare sector stocks were generally weaker after the ruling, while stocks that stand to benefit from more government business rallied.” (more…)

A Republic if You Can Keep It

June 28th, 2012 - 10:48 am

The Supreme Court has upheld the healthcare individual mandate as a tax. “Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion, joined by the court’s four liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.”

The chief justice wrote that the penalty’s “practical characteristics pass muster as a tax under our narrowest interpretations of the taxing power.” He said a person who does not wish to carry health insurance is left with a “lawful choice to do or not do a certain act, so long as he is willing to pay a tax levied on that choice.”

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Wires Crossed

June 26th, 2012 - 5:41 am

Guy Sorman at the City Journal looks at the question of restoring economic confidence. Reviewing Paul Krugman’s book End This Depression Now!, Sorman examine the Nobel Prize winning economist’s — now turned pundit — argument that confidence can be restored by injecting a stimulus of government spending into the economy. Such a jolt would send a signal to producers and consumers: happy days are here again. Since the only thing to fear is fear itself, once the pump was primed the mechanism would keep on going and the economic downturn would be over.

“‘Ending the depression should be incredibly easy,’ Krugman asserts. The government must simply spend more, because the American consumer is spending less. Borrowing from Keynes, Krugman argues that the crisis, having been provoked by a decline in private demand, can only be solved by an increase in public demand.” The maneuver crucially depended on sending a signal to the market to both produce and consume.

But what if, Sorman asks, the market does not receive the signal as intended? Suppose that instead of stimulating production and demand the Keynesian spending had the opposite effect? Nonsense, Krugman says. The trick aways works.

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There’s convergence in the air.  Not long after reviewing James DeLong‘s book, Ending ‘Big SIS’ (The Special Interest State) and Renewing the American Republic, Leo Linbeck III has sent a link to his new article in the American Conservative, Why Congress Doesn’t Work.  The article gathers many of the themes Linbeck has made in this and other places into a single coherent whole.

Readers of this site can probably guess what it says. Linbeck’s article argues that the incumbents have captured the government and through it the special interests have captured the purse and power over the nation, a conclusion he shares with James DeLong. Where the two works are different (apart from length as DeLong’s piece is a book) is that Linbeck provides a far more detailed action plan that does DeLong, who in turns provides a far more extensive scholarly and philosophical discussion than does Linbeck for the actions proposed.

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The Fourth Wave

June 24th, 2012 - 9:03 am

News reports that Jerry Sandusky, the Penn State assistant coach who is facing 442 years in jail for molesting at least 10 boys was being watched against a possible suicide attempt raises the question: what goes through a man’s mind when the gates of darkness open up underneath him? How do people make the transition between the ordinary world and the cell that will be all they will know for the remainder of their days?

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Trouble Along the Med

June 23rd, 2012 - 3:58 pm

The shootdown of a Turkish F4 in the waters off the Syrian coastal town of Latakia raises tensions in a country already at the boiling point. But the Syran air defense is not the only one watching the skies. Bill Gertz writes that “U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching Israel’s military for signs it will conduct strikes on Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, amid concerns the deadly nerve agents could fall under the control of Hezbollah or al Qaeda terrorists, U.S. officials said.”

However, other U.S. officials said special operations forces are prepared to take action inside Syria in the event the regime falls and the country spirals further into chaos. The teams would seek to secure or destroy stockpiles of chemical arms to keep them from being taken over by terrorists. Hezbollah has been very active in Syria, and there are reports that al Qaeda terrorists have moved into Syria during the current crisis …

The New York Times reported Thursday that CIA operatives are working in southern Turkey to coordinate foreign assistance to Syrian rebel forces.

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The Permanent Campaign

June 22nd, 2012 - 6:27 pm

Did you ever wonder why President Obama wants your birthday, wedding or anniversary money? He does. ABC News reports describes the newest fundraising vehicle: an event register, just like the Bed, Bath and Beyond listing that lets you donate money to him instead of your wife or bride on that special day.”You’ve dreamed of this day. Your life partner is there, your family and friends have gathered from far and wide, and all that’s left to do before you share that first married kiss is …” give to the Obama campaign.

Yes, give to the Obama campaign.

The Obama campaign, which has made political fundraising into an art form, rolled out yet another option on Friday for Americans who want to help give Barack Obama another four years in the White House: the Obama event registry.

“Got a birthday, anniversary, or wedding coming up?” the campaign asks on its official Web site. “Let your friends know how important this election is to you—register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift.

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