12/4/12

Presumption of Guilt

By: T F Stern
T F Stern’s Rantings

It used to be that you were presumed innocent until proven guilty; at least that’s the way it was for most of my life. Apparently that is no longer true, at least not in Texas.

There’s an article by David Moye at the Huffington Post which explains that a locksmith in Kerrville, Texas had his locksmith license suspended; but he hasn’t even been to court or had a hearing in front of a judge regarding a bizarre set of circumstances.

Elvis Hernandez, a licensed locksmith, rescued a small dog with no collar or identifying tags that was in the middle of a busy roadway. Hernandez left his contact information with the customer he’d serviced regarding where to find him, but was not contacted by its owner that day. He eventually gave the dog away because it didn’t get along with his own dogs.

When the dog’s owner eventually came around to retrieve their pet, it was too late since Hernandez didn’t even know who had the animal at the time.

“The owner filed a police report, a warrant was issued and Hernandez was arrested and charged with theft of property.

While the case is pending, he’s legally unable to work as a locksmith.”

Instead of thanking Hernandez for rescuing their pet from the possibility of getting run over, these folks got him arrested as if he’d stolen their dog, a dog which was running loose without a collar and without proper tags. (Does a person who is stealing a dog leave his name and number? Just thinking out loud.)

Beyond that, Hernandez apparently had his locksmith license suspended by the State of Texas making it impossible for him to apply his skills to support his family. The State of Texas didn’t wait for Hernandez’ case to go to trial; instead they acted quickly to safeguard the public from a person of dubious character, a person who shouldn’t be trusted because he… saved a puppy from getting run over?

I got a letter several years ago advising me my locksmith license had been suspended. According to the letter I was to cease working immediately because the State of Texas had not received proof that I’d renewed my mandatory insurance policy.

Interestingly, I had renewed my insurance policy as mandated by the State of Texas, had mailed them a copy of that renewal and had a signed United States Post Office form indicating the Department of Public Safety had received it prior to the deadline date. It didn’t matter how inefficient the folks at the DPS were; no, I was found guilty of violating a mandate and my license was immediately suspended. There was no hearing; you’re out of business until the State of Texas says otherwise.

It was almost rich hearing the folks stammer and stutter when confronted with the fact that I had a signed US Postal form showing they had received the required renewal of insurance. They never apologized for suspending my locksmith license; instead they simply said to “disregard the letter of suspension” and said, “It happens sometimes.”

Do these…, I had to stop and change a word; both started with the letter B; do these Bureaucrats, that’s much better; do these Bureaucrats understand they hold a person’s livelihood in their hands and yet, “It happens sometimes,” is their way of saying it’s no big deal.

I’m here to tell you, it is a big deal! When the State of Texas can presume you’re guilty of not following some arbitrary regulation and suspend your license without a hearing or a court’s adjudication; at that time the foundations of our society, foundations based on individual liberties and the rule of law have all been thrown away.

This is a big deal and I’m hoping others feel the veins swelling in their necks and turn that frustration into action. Guilty until proven innocent is not acceptable!

This article has been cross-posted to The Moral Liberal, a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government & The American Constitution.”

12/4/12

Ukraine Crushed in $1.1bn Fake Gas Deal

By: Jen Alic of Oilprice.com

Certainly the folks at Gazprom are having a good snicker, reveling in the mockery that has been made of what should have been a landmark Ukraine-Spain gas deal that would have loosened Russia’s gas grip on Kiev.

Everyone wondered how Russia would respond to Ukraine’s attempt at gas independence. But this is what happens when you mess with Gazprom.

It was a horrible moment for Ukraine last Monday—all the more horrible because the whole event was televised—when the historical $1.1 billion deal it was about to sign with Spain’s Gas Natural Fenosa turned out to be fake.

Why was the deal historical? It would have secured $1.1 billion in investment for the construction of Ukraine’s first liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal on the Black Sea and a pipeline connecting the country’s vast gas network to the terminal.

More to the point, this would enable Ukraine to import by tanker up to 10 billion cubic meters of European gas at a price 20% cheaper than Gazprom. Even more to the point, it would be a major first step toward reducing Ukraine’s dependence on Russia.

The deal was that investors had apparently signed agreements through a newly formed consortium for the construction of the $1.1 billion LNG terminal.

Here’s how the ill-fated signing ceremony went down:

While Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and Energy Minister Yuriy Boyko were cutting the ribbon on the construction of the terminal in a live televised ceremony, the country’s investment chief, Vladislav Kaskiv, was attending the official investment signing ceremony elsewhere, also via live video feed. This is where walls caved in very suddenly.

Signing on behalf of Fenosa was one Jordi Sarda Bonvehi. At the 11th hour, Fenosa let it be known that they have no idea who Bonvehi is and that he certainly does not represent the company in any way. Fenosa apparently had no idea it was signing a landmark agreement with Ukraine.

Kiev was necessarily taken aback, and Bonvehi remained conveniently silent at the signing ceremony once the news broke out.

Of course, what no one knows is how Ukrainian authorities were led to believe—during multiple rounds of negotiations—that Bonvehi was a Fenosa representative.

The story being bandied about by authorities in Kiev is now that Bonvehi was under the impression that Fenosa would sign the deal with Ukraine and that he would be given the authority to sign the deal retroactively.

But Fenosa denies it has ever considered such a deal and continues to deny any relationship at all with Bonvehi.

So where does that leave us? It leaves Ukraine in the lurch. There is no way it can fund this terminal on its own, despite its claims to the contrary. We probably don’t have to look much further than Gazprom and the Ukrainian oligarchy to find where this beautifully crafted charade was hatched.

In the meantime, Bonvehi—if such a person of that name even exists—remains elusive. No one knows who he really is or who he really works for.

More than anything, it’s an advertisement for due diligence.

Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Natural-Gas/Ukraine-Crushed-in-1.1bn-Fake-Gas-Deal.html

By: Jen Alic of Oilprice.com

12/4/12

Obama leading from behind on ‘Fiscal Cliff’ claims more victims

By: Jeffrey Klein
Political Buzz Examiner

Now that President Barack Obama has secured his second, and last, term in office, he seems to have a pathological view of himself and the Democrat party being somehow insulated from the day-to-day anxiety of the much talked about ‘Fiscal Cliff,’ which threatens to explode the level of pain that continues to grip the 15 percent of Americans who remain un-, or under-, employed across the nation–who wonder how much longer it may be until their lives get back to ‘normal.’

However, standing in the way of any sound, sustainable resolution, is the president’s [false] perception of having been given a ‘mandate’ by the 50.8% of Americans who voted for him, to ‘dictate terms’ to Republicans, and fully institutionalize his promise to ‘fundamentally transform’ our country into a European-like, big government, socialistic society.

The pathology of President Obama and the Democrats is manifest in their publicly declaring they will not support any meaningful restructuring or reform of our already ‘bloated’ entitlement programs, particularly Medicare and Medicaid, which even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) identified as being the ‘driver’ of our growing, trillion dollar plus annual budget deficits and national debt.

In fact, our national debt level of $16.3 Trillion–nearly double what it was just four years ago when Barack Obama was inaugurated–is so precarious, that even a 100 basis point increase in our borrowing [interest] rate (which could easily be caused by another [threatened] ‘debt down-grade’), would send our debt service skyrocketing by 33 percent, and thereby render the United States functionally insolvent.

And, it has claimed more ‘victims.’

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) index of manufacturing conditions fell to a reading of 49.5 for November, down from 51.7 in October, the weakest that it has been since July 2009, according to an Associated Press article today.

Any reading above 50 signals expansion, while readings below 50 indicate contraction.

In a note to clients, Jeremy Lawson, an economist at BNP Paribas, wrote:

Today’s report suggests that the manufacturing sector is likely to remain a weak point in the recovery for a few months yet.

In another ISM survey hiring fell to 48.4–the lowest reading since September 2009.

Bradley Holcomb, chairman of the ISM’s survey committee, stated that companies:

Are just backing off, and not making any moves until things clear up a bit.

Although the ‘second estimate’ of U.S. GDP showed the economy grew at a 2.7 percent annual rate in the 3rd (July-September) quarter, which is nearly where the 2nd (April-June) quarter began, before being revised down to just 1.3 percent in the third, and final, estimate.

Now, most economists expect 4th (October-December) quarter growth to also fall below 2 percent–primarily due to [Hurricane] Sandy and the ‘Fiscal Cliff.’

Finally, U.S. consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy, fell last month, while their income remained flat–which is also a strong negative signal.

But, no worries for clan Obama, as they are heading to Hawaii for another three week, all [$4 million] expense [taxpayer] paid ‘Christmas’ vacation, to soak up the sun and drink Pina Coladas.

12/4/12

Netanyahu Is Saying No!

Arlene from Israel

Credit: enduringamerica

There is a paucity of good news in this part of the world right now. But this qualifies. As I face down the bitter truths of what the governments of the Western world (Canada excepted) want from us, I know there is recourse only to Heaven, and to our own strength.

What the world demands of us is neither rational, nor fair, nor benign.

And so, when our prime minister faces the governments of the US and Britain and France, and refuses to back down, I feel a gladness. And, as always, I pray that this strength should continue and grow.

From a source in the Prime Minister’s Office has come this statement:

Israel will “continue to stand up for its vital interests even in the face of international pressure.

“The Palestinian unilateral moves at the UN are a blatant and fundamental violation of agreements to which the international community was a guarantor. No one should be surprised that Israel is not sitting with its arms folded in response to the unilateral Palestinian steps.”

What is more, the source stated that Israel would take further steps if the Palestinians went ahead with more unilateral moves.

According to Yisrael Hayom, Netanyahu said that “those who had voiced their opposition should have considered the ramifications before allowing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to embarrass Israel at the United Nations.”

http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=6622

All in all, members of the Israel government do not seem unduly distressed by the international furor.

~~~~~~~~~~

The foreign ministries of Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark, as well as of Brazil and Australia, have called in their respective ambassadors from Israel to protest what Israel is doing.

White House spokesman Jay Carny said that Israel’s actions are “counterproductive.” “We reiterate our long-standing opposition to Israeli settlement activity and east Jerusalem construction.”

East Jerusalem? There is only ONE Jerusalem and the US doesn’t get it yet, that it is under full Israeli sovereignty and will not be divided again.

~~~~~~~~~~

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said his government was “very worried…now is the time to make possible a renewal of the negotiations.”

He’s smoking something, right?

Siebert further observed that, “What Israel is doing sends a negative message [and] undermines faith in Israel’s intention to negotiate.”

EXCUSE ME? After Abbas’s vile and inciteful speech in the UN, he dares to talk about losing faith in ISRAEL’s intentions?

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Alistair Burt, Minister for the Middle East in Britain’s Foreign Office, lamented that (emphasis added);

“The settlements plan in particular has the potential to alter the situation on the ground on a scale that threatens the viability of a two-state solution.”

But the “two-state solution” has no viability.

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I think what most enrages these governments is that Israel is not jumping to their demands. Their frustrated, angry comments simply underscore what I said above:

What the world demands of us is neither rational, nor fair, nor benign.

According to one Israeli official cited in Israel Hayom, the Europeans understood that Israel had to respond, and had we not responded at all the damage to Israel would have been greater than it is now (i.e., we would have been seen as weak and vulnerable). That said, however, they weren’t happy with the form our response took.

~~~~~~~~~~

There are rumors floating about Britain recalling its ambassador to Israel for consultations. And, says Israel Hayom:

“The British satellite news agency Sky News reported on Monday that Britain was considering imposing sanctions against Israel if it went through with the expansion plan…and submitting a request to the EU to consider postponing commercial agreements with Israel, which provide Israel access to European markets.”

It’s important to remember, I think, that Britain today, in all but name is now a Muslim nation. And that these are, after all, not “done deals,” but rather talk.

The foreign ministers of the 27 nations of the EU will be meeting on Monday and discussing this issue. We have not heard the last yet.

On Thursday, Netanyahu is meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. (See below on Germany.) Hold tight, Bibi!

~~~~~~~~~~

I have the sense that all of the pressure has simply stiffened Netanyahu’s back.

What is more, European attempts to utilize media in Israel again the prime minister has backfired: The hope was that the public would get angry about European distress with Israel and that Netanyahu would then back down because an election is coming.

What the Europeans didn’t count on is that the majority of the electorate totally supports the prime minister on this. He has probably garnered additional mandates by standing strong.

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And there’s even more indicating strength from Netanyahu. Has he turned a corner now?

This is from Der Speigel:

“The chancellor was particularly annoyed because Netanyahu had shown himself completely unwilling to make concessions. On several occasions, Merkel had urged him to at least make a gesture on the issue of settlement construction in order to send out a signal to the Palestinians. Doing so would have made it easier for Merkel to campaign for the Israeli position. But Netanyahu stubbornly ignored her wish.

“…Chancellery officials hope that the shock of Germany’s abstention in the UN vote will prompt Netanyahu to think things over. ‘Perhaps now he will find himself more willing to give a signal to the Palestinians,’ says one member of Merkel’s administration, though he admitted that the chances weren’t all that great. ‘There are few signs of a change of heart.’” (Emphasis added)

http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=59292

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My friends, let’s give Prime Minister Netanyahu a word of encouragement:

Send him an e-mail or fax. In the subject line, put “please carry this message to the prime minister,” or “please let the prime minister know,” or something similar.

A very short message would be most effective here. No speeches, no history lessons. In your words, tell him that he’s doing great/ or that his standing up for Israel is absolutely essential / or that you’re proud of his strength. Encourage him to sustain that strength no matter what the pressure. Remind him that making concessions to unfair demands simply weakens Israel and encourages further demands.

E-mail: Memshala@pmo.gov.il and also pm_eng2@it.pmo.gov.il (underscore after pm) use both addresses

Fax: 02-670-5369 (From the US: 011-972-2-670-5369)

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See, and utilize, Jonathan Tobin’s excellent article in Commentary, “Israel’s Building No Obstacle to Peace” (emphasis added):

“Even those who disapproved of the vote by the General Assembly of the United Nations to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to a pseudo-state at the world body damned the housing…The argument is that by allowing building in the E1 development area…Israel will be foreclosing the possibility of a two-state solution since this would effectively cut the West Bank in half and forestall its viability as an independent Palestinian state.

“It sounds logical but it’s absolute nonsense. If the Palestinians did want a two-state solution, the new project as well as the other ones announced yesterday for more houses to be built in 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem wouldn’t stop it…But the operative phrase here is ‘if’ the Palestinians wanted such a solution. They have refused every offer of a state they’ve gotten and refused even to negotiate for four years, not to mention employing the UN gambit specifically in order to avoid talks. The notion that Israeli building in areas that everyone knows they would keep if there was a deal in place is stopping peace from breaking out is ludicrous.

“Nor should the Israeli gesture be viewed as petulant. To the contrary, it is exactly what is needed to start changing the one-sided nature of the argument in international forums about the dispute over territory.

“Though you wouldn’t know if from listening to the UN debate or even to most spokespersons for the Jewish state over the last forty years, the argument about the West Bank is not solely about pitting rights of Palestinians against Israel’s security needs. The West Bank is, after all, part of the area designated by the League of Nations for Jewish settlement under the Mandate of Palestine. It is also the heart of the ancient Jewish homeland to which Jews have historical, legal and religious ties that cannot be erased by a century of Arab hatred.

“…For its pains, Israel has been subjected to even greater vituperation and delegitimization during this period than before. So long as it does not speak of its rights, it will always be treated as a thief who must return stolen property rather than as a party to a conflict with its own justified claims.

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2012/12/02/israels-building-no-obstacle-to-peace-e1-area-jerusalem-settlements/

~~~~~~~~~~

I shared a JPost article on the ICC the other day, that had been written by a legal correspondent who cited other experts. The opinions quoted therein were seen by a lawyer acquaintance of mine who “deals quite a lot with issues emanating from the ICC.”

His take was a bit different from that of the article, and he has now given me permission to share, anonymously, what he said to me. I appreciate this opportunity to provide a different, informed opinion with my readers.

“They can ‘investigate’ it all they want, but in the end, the ICC does not have jurisdiction over Israel or its leaders, as Israel is not a party to the ICC (much in the same manner that the US is not a party to the ICC for the same reason). Also, the ICC does not come after ‘Israel’ but rather against its individuals because it only has the mandate for prosecution of individuals. Then you have an issue with the act of state doctrine, head-of-state immunity, etc. This will be a difficult proposition.

“On the other side, I looked at the comments which were intimating that Israel could then pursue similar claims against Hamas and the PA before the ICC. Here’s the problem with that approach: Israel is not a member of the ICC, and therefore, as it does not recognize the ICC’s right to adjudicate international crimes, it cannot come in and try to seek justice against the PA/Hamas on its own behalf without being willing to accede to the power of the ICC over it.”

~~~~~~~~~~

So, we cannot go after Hamas or the PA at the ICC (my contact calls this a “catch 22″), but it looks like we don’t have a great deal to worry about, hysterical PA threats notwithstanding.

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Members of Fatah who had fled Gaza during the Hamas coup in 2007 are beginning to return in a spirit of enhanced good will between the two factions.

One reason for that good will:

“The Gaza-based chief of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Hanan al-Qassas said Monday that goodwill had been built between Hamas and Fatah after their military wings fought side-by-side during the assault.”

http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=59288

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Before closing, I want to share information about Obama’s position on Iran (with thanks to Bernard F.):

“The White House announced its opposition to a new round of Iran sanctions that the Senate unanimously approved Friday, in the latest instance of Congress pushing for more aggressive punitive measures on Iran than the administration deems prudent.

“…National Security Spokesman Tommy Vietor sent The Cable the administration’s official position, explaining the White House’s view the sanctions aren’t needed and aren’t helpful at this time.

“…An e-mail from the NSC’s legislative affairs office to some Senate Democrats late Thursday evening, obtained by The Cable, went into extensive detail about the administration’s concerns about the new sanctions legislation, including that it might get in the way of the administration’s efforts to implement the last round of Iran sanctions, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (TRA), to which it flatly objected at the time. (Emphasis in the original.)

“…One of the White House’s chief concerns is that Congress is not providing the administration enough waivers, which would give the United States the option of negating or postponing applications of the sanctions on a case-by-case basis. (Emphasis added)

“The Obama administration often touts the Iran sanctions it once opposed. In the final presidential debate Oct. 22, President Barack Obama said his administration had ‘organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy.'”

http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/11/30/white_house_opposed_new_iran_sanctions#

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Could the administration’s desire for additional “negotiations” with Iran be playing into its position on sanctions. You know the routine: Don’t be nasty, act nice, so they’ll talk with us.

As recently as a month ago, Secretary of State Clinton put out a call to Iran to engage in negotiations. In fact, she expressed the hope that Iran would begin “serious, good faith negotiations.”

http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=55202

This of course leads to speculation that she, as well, is smoking something.

Maybe Obama thinks Israel is required to deal with the PA the same way.