Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Political Digest for February 15, 2011

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article. Help your friends and relatives stay informed by passing the digest on.

Anti-government protests spread to Iran
Will BO speak out on this, this time? ~Bob. Excerpt: Crowds of demonstrators battled security forces armed with tear gas and batons during a surprisingly large anti-government protest in the Iranian capital Monday that drew inspiration from the recent popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. Dodging clouds of tear gas fired by police and pro-government militiamen, the protesters marched down a central boulevard and shouted slogans such as "Death to the dictator," "We are all together" and "Down with Taliban, in Cairo and Tehran." Witnesses at several positions along the route said vast throngs of people could be seen marching from Enghelab (Revolution) Square toward Azadi (Freedom) Square, overwhelming police efforts to stop them.

Police Disperse Iranian Protesters With Tear Gas
Excerpt: Police used tear gas against the protesters in central Tehran's Enghelab, or Revolution, square and in Imam Hossein square, as well as in other nearby main streets. Demonstrators responded by setting garbage bins on fire to protect themselves from the stinging white clouds. Eyewitnesses said at least three protesters injured by bullets were taken to a hospital in central Tehran while dozens of others were hospitalized because of severe wounds as a result of being beaten. "An Iranian dies but doesn't accept humiliation," demonstrators chanted. "Death to the dictator," they said, in a chant directed at hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (The fire spreads. Please, President Obama, can we get it right this time? Do WE "hear the people sing?" (short--2 minutes--video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgQgzKVX9jc) --Ron P.)

The Middle East Potato
Short, interesting piece from an old Middle East hand. ~Bob. Excerpt: The American mainstream media, intelligence organizations, and worse, the White House, are all ignorant of the true nature of countries in the Middle East—individually or collectively. President Obama underscored that ignorance when he said the CIA had failed to give him advance warning of regional street protests, and then capped that nonsense by saying Egypt’s government should create a “genuine democracy.” President Obama, it seems, believes that Middle East political and religious movements are actually interested in creating western-style democracies. Instead of basing his foreign policy on such politically-correct, multicultural, and relativistic notions, America’s president should listen to the Prime Minister of Turkey. In 1995 Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said, "Democracy is like a streetcar, when you come to your stop you get off." For Erdogan, democracy is a tool that is enabling him to systematically dismantle all opposition to the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic Turkey. When that is completed, he will get off the streetcar, just as Hamas did in Gaza after its “democratic elections.” This democracy-streetcar plan is surely what the Muslim Brotherhood will also attempt to follow in Egypt.

Excerpt: President Obama offers deficit reductions of a woefully inadequate $400 billion over ten years as he continues his”trillion-dollar deficits for years to come.” In this week’s edition of his, or rather “Your Weekly Address,” President Obama claims he is "proposing a new budget that will help us live within our means”: “My budget freezes annual domestic spending for the next five years – even on programs I care deeply about – which will reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade.” That’s right, a lousy $400 billion over 10 years. And that as Obama proposes another new budget that would spend more than $3.5 trillion and add another $1.5 trillion deficit to the national debt. The national debt was $10.6 trillion, when Obama became president. Today it is $14.1 trillion. The national debt has already increased 35.5 percent during the two years of the Obama presidency.

McConnell: Obama budget ‘unserious’ and ‘irresponsible’
Excerpt: Republicans in the Senate and House are ripping President Obama’s budget proposals, with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) calling them “unserious” and “irresponsible.” “This is not an ‘I got the message’ budget,” McConnell said in a floor speech. “It’s unserious and it’s irresponsible.” Earlier on Monday, House Republicans also gave Obama’s $3.7 trillion budget the thumbs down, with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) saying it would “destroy” jobs, not create them. “By continuing the spending binge and imposing massive tax hikes on families and small businesses, it will fuel more economic uncertainty and make it harder to create new job,” Boehner said.

Jihadi who helped train 7/7 bomber freed by US after just five years
Excerpt: An American jihadist who set up the terrorist training camp where the leader of the 2005 London suicide bombers learned how to manufacture explosives, has been quietly released after serving only four and a half years of a possible 70-year sentence, a Guardian investigation has learned. The unreported sentencing of Mohammed Junaid Babar to "time served" because of what a New York judge described as "exceptional co-operation" that began even before his arrest has raised questions over whether Babar was a US informer at the time he was helping to train the ringleader of the 7 July tube and bus bombings. Lawyers representing the families of victims and survivors of the attacks have compared the lenient treatment of Babar to the controversial release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Babar was imprisoned in 2004 – although final sentencing was deferred – after pleading guilty in a New York court to five counts of terrorism. He set up the training camp in Pakistan where Mohammad Sidique Khan and several other British terrorists learned about bomb-making and how to use combat weapons.

Algeria shuts down internet and Facebook as protest mounts
Excerpt: Plastic bullets and tear gas were used to try and disperse large crowds in major cities and towns, with 30,000 riot police taking to the streets in Algiers alone. There were also reports of journalists being targeted by state-sponsored thugs to stop reports of the disturbances being broadcast to the outside world. But it was the government attack on the internet which was of particular significance to those calling for an end to President Abdelaziz Boutifleka's repressive regime. (Huh. Where is the OAS when you need them? ~Bob.)

Shame of Britain's Muslim schools: Secret filming shows pupils being beaten and 'taught Hindus drink cow p***'
Excerpt: The film shows children as young as six sitting on the floor of a large room in the mosque, one of the biggest in the country. The boys are hunched over wooden benches, rocking backwards and forwards as they rote-learn the Koran in Arabic. A man with a long white beard dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez – tunic and trousers – sits at the head of the class. Periodically he gets up and walks behind the boys. As he passes, the children appear to cower and watch him nervously. It soon becomes clear why. He unexpectedly raises his hand and slaps a young boy hard on the head. Moments later he strikes another. And then he kicks a third child. In just two days of filming in December 2010, the camera recorded the teacher hitting children as young as six or seven at least ten times, in less than three hours of lessons. From what we could see, every ¬single blow was pretty much unprovoked. We soon realised that the beatings were routine. The behaviour of the boys, the way they flinched and backed away when he approached, indicated that they were long-accustomed to being hit and kicked as they studied.

NATO chief speaks out in support of Afghan facing death for apostasy from Islam
Excerpt: Rasmussen also said: "I would expect the Afghan government as well as all Afghan institutions to live up to the requirements as stated in the Afghan constitution including full respect for human rights." But that is precisely the problem. The Afghan constitution identifies the country as an Islamic republic, and says that "followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law, " but "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam" (Chapter 1, Articles 1-3). An amendment in the tenth chapter of the constitution adds: "The provisions of adherence to the fundamentals of the sacred religion of Islam and the regime of the Islamic Republic cannot be amended.” Therefore, despite lip service to abiding by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Chapter 1, Article 7), all talk of religious freedom and human rights in Afghanistan truly begins and ends within the boundaries of Sharia, which forbids apostasy from Islam. By Sharia's reckoning, leaving Islam simply does not fall under the umbrella of "human rights." So, where anyone claims that Sharia "respects human rights," it does so according to its own dismal standards. And, of course, Muhammad himself ordered apostates to be executed.

Weekly Climate and Energy News
Lots of interesting articles from the Science and Environmental Policy Project are listed this week. You can scroll through the menu at the bottom of the article at WUWT for the titles. --Ron P. Excerpt: Many newly seated members of the US House of Representatives seem singularly unimpressed by the physical evidence, or lack thereof, substantiating EPA’s claim that it has the authority and the justification to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. If continued, this would be a significant departure from the last time Republicans controlled the House when many embraced the orthodoxy. The US House is the only Federal government body empowered to originate spending and taxing programs. To briefly recap: in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that under the Clean Air Act’s vague language, human carbon dioxide emissions are a pollutant and EPA has the authority to regulate them. But, the court also ruled to justify such regulations, EPA had to make a scientific determination that such emissions threaten public health and welfare. On December 7, 2009, Lisa Jackson announced such a determination. The scientific justification, which flowed directly from the IPCC reports, is currently subject to litigation – which Ms. Jackson ignored during her testimony. Had the Clean Air Act carefully stated definitions of a pollutant, it is doubtful if the issue would have ever arisen.

You say you want a revolution?
Excerpt: Since the French Revolution in 1789, revolutions have shown common features that are directly relevant to what is happening in Egypt right now. Since the final outcome in Egypt after Mubarak's ouster -- a new regime -- may be weeks, even months or years, away, it is worth pausing to take the long view. In general, the initial reformist phase of such revolutions focusing on individual rights and opportunity is swept aside by radicals who want an egalitarian and collectivist political order. Thus, liberal reformers like Lafayette and Mirabeau inspired by the American Revolution with its emphasis on individual liberty were followed by true collectivists like Marat and Robespierre. In the same manner, Kerensky was followed by Lenin; BaniSadr (if not exactly a liberal, a technocrat bent on secular modernization) by Khomeini. The second, truly revolutionary phase is usually preceded by the delusion on the part of the liberal reformers that they can form a partnership with the radicals, harnessing their populist energy to help bring about the transition to free elections, economic modernization and individual rights. The radicals, for their part, always look on these alliances as purely tactical, to be overturned when the time was right to take over. We can predict a similar outcome for Mohommad El Baradei's and other reformers' opening to the Mulsim Brotherhood's leaders.

U.S. allies in Mideast worry over commitment of Obama administration
Nothing to worry about. We’ll stand by them as surely as we honored our pledges to our ally, the Republic of Vietnam. The “late” Republic of Vietnam, that is. ~Bob. Excerpt: Diplomats from some Middle East nations say the administration's response to the Egyptian uprising has made them question how much U.S. support they would receive in the face of their own anti-government demonstrations. Leaders in the region "didn't miss it when Obama came out to say was time for Mubarak to go," said one Arab diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity. U.S. officials also have been trying to reassure allies of Washington's continued backing. The State Department, in particular, has been sending out messages that it seeks regional stability and intends to stand by its friends. And Obama's calls have affirmed a "strong commitment to supporting a more peaceful and prosperous Middle East in close consultation with all our regional partners," the White House said. But the administration's tepid public backing for Mubarak and its backroom machinations to push him aside have provoked an alarmed reaction from officials in Saudi Arabia, other Persian Gulf states and Israel.

Atlas Shrugged—the Movie
I read Ayn Rand’s book in 1965, while a student in electronics school at MCRD San Diego, at the urging of my buddy Ron “Count” Pittenger. Even wrote a poem entitled, “You, Dagny Taggert,” if memory serves, but it is lost to American letters, alas! I’m looking forward to the movie. ~Bob.

'PA cabinet to resign; Fayyad to select new ministers'
Excerpt: Ministers within the Palestinian Authority cabinet will offer their resignation on Monday in order to allow PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to choose new ministers at the request of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a Reuters report citing political sources on Sunday.

This I Believe
My friend Kate had this nice post, playing off the title of one of my pieces. ~Bob

Who Keeps You Safe? You Do
Excerpt: Yet while we ought to fully support and honor our firemen, police officers, and military personnel in their service to our communities and this nation, we must be realistic enough to understand that they are called “first responders” for a reason: they show up after the accident, or incident, has taken place. In other words, they don’t prevent bad things from happening, they respond once bad things have happened. So who keeps us safe during the time in which an incident is actually taking place: the time before the police are alerted, when we find ourselves face to face with a criminal intent on carrying out his most devious desires? The answer is that we individual citizens are the only ones who can truly keep ourselves safe at that moment. Our Founders knew this, and described self-defense as a duty no less than a right. Said Samuel Adams: “The duty of self-preservation … [is] the first law of nature.” Such a worldview sheds light on the philosophy behind George Washington’s maxim: “Free men ought to be armed.” (“A man with a gun is a citizen—a man without a gun is a subject. - D. Michael Wiechman)

Two sites with quotes on the Right to Bear Arms

Cutting Spending to Revive Federalism
Excerpt: A key part of this strategy should be to revive a central theme of the 1981 and 1995 budget-cutting drives — getting the federal government out of what are properly state and local activities. Constitutional federalism has taken a beating as federal aid to the states has doubled over the last decade to $646 billion this year. This aid goes to public housing, community development, urban transit, and hundreds of other local activities. The cost of federal aid has soared, and so has the number of different aid programs. By my count, the number of federal aid programs for the states totaled 1,122 in 2010. That is up 72 percent from 2000, and it is more than triple the number of aid programs there were in the mid-1980s, after terminations by President Reagan. (States dependent on Federal handouts are no more independent than welfare slaves dependent on government handouts from “massa.” ~Bob.)

U.S. jobs program tab: $18B per year
Excerpt: The federal government spends $18 billion a year on 47 separate job training programs run by nine different agencies. All but three programs overlap with others to provide the same services to the same population, according to a government report to be released today. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that "little is known about the effectiveness" of the programs because half haven't had a performance review since 2004 and only five have ever had a study to determine whether job seekers in the program do better than those who don't participate. "Here's just one example of how we're spending $18 billion, and we don't have any idea of whether it's working or not," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla, who requested the report with Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. "This thing is so big and so out of control." (And everyone has a constituency that will fight like tigers to prevent “heartless cuts” in “essential services.” The rest of us won’t fight very hard to cut them. ~Bob.)

Health Law Provision Raises Antitrust Concerns
This is the future. There will be so many conflicting government agencies and conflicting laws and regulations, that nothing will happen but lawsuits, with lawyers for all sides being paid handsomely by the taxpayers. Under anti-trust law, for example, if you charge more than your competitor, you are guilty of price gouging, if you charge less, you are guilty of anti-competitive predatory pricing, and if you charge the same, you are guilty of price fixing. ~Bob. Excerpt: The new health care law encourages collaboration by doctors and hospitals for cost savings, but a split has developed here as to just how far they can go without running afoul of antitrust laws. An influential Republican member of the Federal Trade Commission, J. Thomas Rosch, said that without “vigorous antitrust enforcement,” the new alliances of health care providers could reduce competition and increase costs to consumers. Mr. Rosch set forth his concerns in private letters to the White House and the federal Medicare agency. The letters, obtained by The New York Times, reveal a struggle between the Justice Department and the commission over who should police the market.

The Contradictions of ObamaCare
Excerpt: The debate swirling around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), aka “healthcare reform” or “ObamaCare,” is mostly about whether and how to fundamentally change it. This has been highlighted by the recent decision of a Florida federal district judge that PPACA is unconstitutional. The judge, however, did not bar the administration from continuing to implement the law. PPACA is a moving target. It is an ongoing process, not simply a new system to set into place in January 2014 when the highly subsidized and regulated state-run insurance exchanges arrive. PPACA’s passage set in motion a vast regulation-writing enterprise. A large cache of regulations to implement PPACA was posted last June 22 on the Health and Human Services (HHS) healthcare reform website. Some of these regulations have already been put into effect, and others are on the verge of operation. PPACA requires insurance policies to meet federal standards. One of these requirements is that, starting in 2014, insurance plans must provide coverage without imposing any annual or lifetime limits on the amount paid to individual beneficiaries. During the transition years between now and 2014, however, insurance firms can impose annual limits, subject to HHS rules. The HHS regulations issued last June dictated how high these limits must be. In 2011, insurance companies can continue to impose an annual limit, but it must be at least $750,000 per enrollee. In 2012, the limit will have to be at least $1.25 million, and in 2013, $2 million. In 2014 there can be no limit on payouts for any individual’s care.

At watershed, Obama caught in the middle on depth of his budget cuts
Excerpt: President Obama’s budget will be dramatically different than his previous ones. Liberals are already wincing, and congressional Democrats will oppose many of the president’s demands. Obama’s presidency has reached a watershed. Despite administration denials, it is widely agreed that Republican triumph in November’s election have spurred Obama to march right into centrist territory, especially on fiscal issues. Today’s budget is intended to suggest a business-friendly executive attacking a crippling deficit. Most Democrats backed Obama’s previous budgets. This year, the left will rip him for excessive cuts, while the right will claim he hasn’t gone far enough.

The Federal Government’s Unspent Billions
Excerpt: Meanwhile, more than $700 billion gathers dust in accounts all around Washington. That’s right. An arcane budgetary category called “unobligated funds” includes money that Congress has appropriated for agencies and programs in every corner of the federal government. When that money goes unspent, it just sits there — like an ancient wooden chest on a Caribbean island, just waiting to be pried open. Senator Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) holds the treasure map. He and his team cite an Office of Management and Budget document with the riveting title “Balances of Budget Authority — Budget of the U.S. Government — Fiscal Year 2011.” (Killing them is a one-time savings, as you can bet agencies will spend every penny next time. Still worth doing. If Coburn would run for president, he’d be my candidate. But he wants to go back to practicing medicine after his second term ends in 2016. ~Bob.)

Who's Policing Amtrak Joe Biden's Rail Boondoggles?
Excerpt: At Philadelphia's
30th Street
Station on Tuesday, lifelong government rail promoter Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a $53 billion high-speed train initiative and half-joked: "I'm like the ombudsman for Amtrak." As with most gaffetastic Biden-isms, the remark should prompt more heartburn than hilarity. Just who exactly is looking out for taxpayers when it comes to federal rail spending? Vigorous independent oversight of public infrastructure binges is especially critical given the nation's long history of mass transit slush funds, cost overruns and union-monopolized construction projects to nowhere. Among the new projects championed by the Obama administration: a $10 billion New Jersey-to-New York commuter rail tunnel pushed by Senate Democrats that state officials won't pay for but believe everyone else in the nation should be forced to subsidize. When Biden talks about "seizing the future," he's talking about seizing your wallets for his party's electoral security. Alas, the White House hostility toward vigilant taxpayer watchdogs rivals Michael Vick's. And the Obama administration's political abuse of the Amtrak inspector general's office, still under congressional investigation, is a recipe for yet more porkulus-style waste. (I bought my granddaughter a train set—but I used my own money and paid cash! ~Bob.)

Beware What You Ask of the Genie
Excerpt: A lot of people in America are elated by the sight of mobs gathering in the streets of Egypt. They view it as an oppressed people longing for liberty. They rejoice at the prospect of a dictator being dumped in favor of democracy. That is because a lot of people who are forever quoting Santayana's quip, "Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it," have apparently remembered precious little themselves. It would seem that the extent of their historical knowledge begins and ends with the final score of the recent Super Bowl. The thing to keep in mind is that Cairo and Alexandria are not to be confused with Concord and Lexington, and nobody in the streets lobbing rocks and burning bottles is named Washington, Adams, Madison or Jefferson. Then there are those simpletons whose eyes begin to twinkle at the mere mention of the word "revolution." But comparing most revolutions to our own is sheer insanity. The French Revolution led to Robespierre and the Reign of Terror. The Russian Revolution led to Stalin and the gulags. China's Revolution brought us Mao and the slaughter of millions, Cuba's Revolution brought us Castro and the Iranian Revolution brought forth the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Clothing Prices to Rise 10% Starting in Spring
Excerpt: The era of falling clothing prices is ending. Clothing prices have dropped for a decade as tame inflation and cheap overseas labor helped hold down costs. Retailers and clothing makers cut frills and experimented with fabric blends to cut prices during the recession. But as the world economy recovers and demand for goods rises, a surge in labor and raw materials costs is squeezing retailers and manufacturers who have run out of ways to pare costs. Cotton has more than doubled in price over the past year, hitting all-time highs. The price of other synthetic fabrics has jumped roughly 50 percent as demand for alternatives and blends has risen. (I’m hoping Goodwill, where I shop, will hold the line. I used to say I was cheap—now I say I’m “green”! ~Bob.)

Gingrich to Decide This Month on Presidential Bid
Despite his pandering to Iowa on Ethanol, I like Newt. Very smart and understands the jihadist and deficit challenges. Wish I thought he could win. I’m pretty impressed with Mitch Daniels. ~Bob. Excerpt: Newt Gingrich, former Republican House Speaker, said he may decide this month whether he will set up a committee to explore running against President Barack Obama in 2012. Gingrich, a Georgian who led the “Republican Revolution” in 1994, when the party gained 52 House seats, spoke on ABC’s “This Week” program today. “I’ll probably make a decision by the end of this month about whether or not to set up an exploratory committee,” Gingrich said.

Excerpt: If you had to identify the single biggest problem with the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) what would it be? I’m not talking about what the critics don’t like. I’m considering the bill from a supporter’s point of view. If you really want the health reform bill to succeed, what’s the biggest obstacle to that success? Answer: The bill makes promises that are not paid for. My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that for every $2 of promised benefits, only $1 is paid for with tax increases or spending reductions. If the Medicare cuts turn out to be politically impossible, the ratio of benefits to “pay fors” is four to one. So how do you promise benefits you are unwilling to pay for? Answer: You set up institutional structures you hope will result in the shifting of costs from a group you want to reward to groups you hope will pay for those rewards. In the parlance of health policy, that’s called “cost shifting.” How do you explain this to the groups that will bear the burden? You deny it ever happened. More than one-third the cost of the legislation is said to be paid for by a reduction (against trend) in Medicare payments to providers. Yet the administration insists there will be no diminution in quality or access to care for the elderly and the disabled. How is that possible? It isn’t unless the real burden is shifted to other payers. Looking out to midcentury, the ACA envisions that Medicare will pay doctors and hospitals only half of what private payers pay. The bill also envisions a large expansion of Medicaid enrollees, getting a quality of service equal to what everyone else is getting. But Medicaid pays providers less than 60% of what private payers pay. How can the services provided to the elderly, the disabled and the poor be the same as services provided to people who pay as much as twice the fees their plans pay? They can’t — unless costs are shifted so that private-pay patients even higher fees in order to subsidize Medicare and Medicaid.

Egypt: The Distance Between Enthusiasm and Reality
Excerpt: On Feb. 11, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned. A military council was named to govern in his place. On Feb. 11-12, the crowds that had gathered in Tahrir Square celebrated Mubarak’s fall and the triumph of democracy in Egypt. On Feb. 13, the military council abolished the constitution and dissolved parliament, promising a new constitution to be ratified by a referendum and stating that the military would rule for six months, or until the military decides it’s ready to hold parliamentary and presidential elections. What we see is that while Mubarak is gone, the military regime in which he served has dramatically increased its power. This isn’t incompatible with democratic reform. Organizing elections, political parties and candidates is not something that can be done quickly. If the military is sincere in its intentions, it will have to do these things. The problem is that if the military is insincere it will do exactly the same things. Six months is a long time, passions can subside and promises can be forgotten.

Excerpt: There you go. And no ... that's not Obama's new budget. That's Obama's projection for the budget DEFICIT this year! That's money we don't have. That's money we're going to have to borrow. That's money our children and grandchildren are going to have to pay back. Or ... .that's debt our country will eventually try to discharge in bankruptcy. Let me try to put that $1.6 trillion in perspective. We're going on a spending spree. Let's see ..... how much do we want to spend an hour? Does $100,000 an hour work for you? $100,000 an hour 24 hours a day 365 days a year ... and we're going to keep on spending at $100K an hour until we've spent the entire $1.6 trillion.
The first day goes by. How much have we spent? That one's easy. We've spent $2,400,000. We now have the house of our dreams, a few tremendous cars and some nice bling. The first year goes by. How much have we spent? Try $876,000,000. That's $876 million dollars. Is there anything else you could possibly want? I'm thinking you're starting to give money away to complete strangers by now. You're well on your way to spending $1,600,000,000. But wait! Look at that figure above! There's some extra zeros there. That $1,600,000,000 you're edging up on is in billions, not trillions. You will reach that spending level in 564 days. That's 564 days of spending $100,000 an hour 24/7. So ... let's move in on that $1.6 trillion dollar figure. It took you 564 days to knock off your first $1.6 billion ... so how much to spend this year's deficit? How about 666,490? Yup ... that's the figure. That's how long it takes you to spend this year's deficit at $100,000 an hour. If you want that figure to sound a bit more reasonable ... try 1,826 years. 

Yesterday Tunis, Today Tahrir Square, Tomorrow Tehran?
Excerpt: Meanwhile, the regime’s enemies are active — pipelines continue to explode — and the Greens are circulating a lovely video that asks the armed forces to join with them on “liberation day.” And, happily and surprisingly, the White House has condemned the regime’s refusal to grant free expression to the Iranian people. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was quite explicit: “By announcing that they will not allow opposition protests, the Iranian government has declared illegal for Iranians what it claimed was noble for Egyptians. We call on the government of Iran to allow the Iranian people the universal right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate and communicate that’s being exercised in Cairo.” (Where was the White House two summers ago when the Iranian Green protests started? Must have been too busy bowing to dictators. Ron P.)

The Risk That 2/11/11 Will End up Like Iran's 2/11/79
Excerpt: Most Americans cannot help but rejoice to see a distasteful authoritarian regime toppled. The spectacle of masses of people rejoicing at the prospect of freedom and democracy can't help but be heartening. But on reflection most of us would probably prefer to have seen a victory of people power in Tehran or Pyongyang than in Cairo. Mubarak's Egypt was an ally of the United States, at least somewhat helpful in our own efforts in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, and a nation at peace, albeit a cold peace, with Israel. In contrast, the mullah regime in Iran is developing nuclear weapons to threaten Israel and other American allies within missile range. King Jong Il's criminal regime has nuclear weapons and has committed at least two acts of war in recent months against democratic South Korea. The people of Iran did take to the streets in opposition to the mullahs' election-rigging in June 2009. But Barack Obama and his administration gave a cold shoulder to this green movement, and there was no regime change.

The Pentagon Opts for Economy of Force
Excerpt: NMS 2011 doesn't really identify America's enemies, either, beyond al-Qaida militants and nods at North Korean and Iranian troublemaking. Identifying the enemy has been difficult since the George H.W. Bush administration. When Bush presented his Cold War defense budget, the hideous Helen Thomas badgered President Bush to name the enemy. He said insecurity and instability, a competent impromptu answer for which she ridiculed him. So what's the point of NMS 2011? The Joint Chiefs of Staff have seen the recession, know tight budgets are inevitable and are providing planning guidance for a decade of economic retrenchment in a dangerous world. Their guidance reflects a classic military principle, "economy of force," which means employing all available power in the most effective, practical way. To put it colloquially, if you can get there by walking, do it, and don't pay for the bus…. NMS 2011 is steeped in the language of fiscal constraint and DIME. "Our Nation's security and prosperity are inseparable." As budgets shrink, leaders "must ... make difficult choices between current and future challenges." DIME appears on page one: U.S. foreign policy must "employ an adaptive blend of diplomacy, development (i.e., economic assistance and investment) and defense." We "must continuously adapt our approaches to how we exercise power" and use "the full spectrum of power to defend our national interests and advance international security and stability." That's old wine served in a new skin, in an era when the old wallet is dangerously thin. Preaching it, however, is easy. Achieving it without loss of lives and treasure is all too rare. 

The gentleman from Florida brings the house down.
Excerpt: Before he gave the closing speech at CPAC, Allen West came up to the bloggers’ room, to spend a few minutes with the pixel-stained wretches. When someone wanted to know if he’d be a “target” after giving the final speech at CPAC, he answered with a hearty laugh and asked, “Man, where have you been?” “Target” might as well be the former lieutenant colonel’s middle name. He was elected from a blue district that voted for Barack Obama and John Kerry in the last two presidential races. Demoralized liberals make themselves feel better by declaring his seat one of the top Democrat pickup possibilities in the next election. When West suggested that President Obama should be visiting the troops in combat zones, liberals acted like he wanted the President to man the door gun on a helicopter. While serving in Iraq, the Colonel got in deep trouble for discharging his sidearm near the head of a prisoner during an interrogation. The prisoner was thought to be part of a cell that was planning an ambush against American troops. He cracked after West gave him an earful, and there weren’t any more ambushes for a couple of months. He later explained to a military court, “If it’s about the lives of my soldiers at stake, I’d go through hell with a gasoline can.” On Saturday night, if you were lucky enough to be in the audience for the grand finale to CPAC, you learned that Allen West still has his gasoline can.

AlMaghrib Institute: Sharia for Egypt and the West
Excerpt: With questions looming about Islamist influence in a transitional Egypt, an organization that calls itself "the leading Islamic Institute in the West" is teaching students to support Sharia law in Egypt and around the world. Teachers at Houston-based AlMaghrib Institute have advocated Sharia law to students, both in recent statements about events in Egypt and more generally in the past. The organization has also advocated violence in the cause of Islam. "When I look at what is happening in the world and you see that people are scared of Islam and Islamists, it makes me ask the question; was Mubarak ruling Egypt with Islam? They were ruling Egypt with secularism that came from the West," said Vice President and Professor Waleed Basyouni in a recent interview. "Isn't it the right of people that they live with Islam, their religion and allow it to guide them? The failure of these systems is an excellent example that these secular systems don't work. It created corrupt dictatorships in these regions."

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