Friday, February 18, 2011

Political Digest for February 18, 2011

I post articles I think may be of interest to my readers. Posting an article does not mean that I agree—or disagree—with all or any of the contents.

Obama budget plan shows interest owed on national debt quadrupling in next decade
Read my lips: THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN. The government will collapse in fiscal ruin first. ~Bob. Excerpt: Interest payments on the national debt will quadruple in the next decade and every man, woman and child in the United States will be paying more than $2,500 a year to cover for the nation's past profligacy, according to figures in President Obama's new budget plan. Starting in 2014, net interest payments will surpass the amount spent on education, transportation, energy and all other discretionary programs outside defense. In 2018, they will outstrip Medicare spending. Only the amounts spent on defense and Social Security would remain bigger under the president's plan.

House heads for another early-morning spending debate
Excerpt: With hundreds of amendments still on the docket, House GOP leaders have abandoned their initial goal of finishing the government funding bill by mid-afternoon Thursday. As House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) put it Thursday morning, the final vote on his bill slicing at least $61 billion from the budget would come "today, tonight, tomorrow morning, whenever it is." That's in large part by design, because Boehner has pledged to run a wide-open process on the House floor that allows many, many amendments to be offered, in sharp contrast to how Democrats and his fellow Republicans ran the floor the previous 16 years. One thing, however, is certain, Boehner said, echoing the words of the 41st president, Republican George H.W. Bush: "When we say we're going to cut spending, read my lips: We're going to cut spending."

Obama: Wisconsin budget fight seems like 'an assault on unions'
One would hope so. My granddaughter thinks it fun—her school is closed so teachers can demand more deficit spending—until the collapse. ~Bob. Excerpt: Tens of thousands of state workers and their supporters have turned out at the Wisconsin State Capitol since Tuesday to protest the governor's proposal. Walker wants to help shore up the state's projected two-year, $3.6 billion budget shortfall by increasing public employees' costs for pensions and health-care coverage. Firefighters and police are exempt from the measure. On Thursday, state Democratic senators left the Capitol to deny Republicans -- who control the state legislature -- a quorum to vote on the governor's bill. The bill is expected to pass.

Tribune Editorial: Lost: The common good
Excerpt: America's labor movement can claim historic victories that have served the common good. Safer workplaces. Laws to protect children from workplace exploitation. The eight-hour workday. Those who are in unions can justifiably be proud of those and other accomplishments. But how proud are they that the children of Madison, Wis., have missed school the last two days because so many of their teachers abandoned their classrooms and joined a mass demonstration? Joined a mass demonstration to intimidate the members of the Wisconsin Legislature, who are trying to close a $3 billion deficit they face over the next two years.

Issa's first subpoena targets Countrywide VIP mortgage program
“Countrywide—The Politician’s Friendly Mortgage Company!” ~Bob. Excerpt: The chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a wide-ranging subpoena Wednesday to Bank of America for documents, e-mails and names related to Countrywide Financial's VIP and Friends of Angelo Program. Issa's probe of the now-defunct lender's controversial home loan program is an attempt to expose all lawmakers or other government officials who might have received sweetheart deals from the firm. The subpoena to Bank of America, which now owns Countrywide, marks a significant expansion of an investigation into Countrywide launched in the preceding Democrat-controlled Congress.

Deadly crackdown in Bahrain prompts threats of opposition party pullout
Where Next? Dearborn? ~Bob. Excerpt: Riot police used tear gas, clubs and rubber bullets Thursday to break up a swelling anti-government demonstration in the heart of this country's financial district, and Bahrain's army deployed troops and tanks to control key parts of the capital.

Why Bahrain blew up
Bourguiba Square
in Tunis,
Tahrir Square
in Cairo,
Azadi Square
in Tehran -- and now
Pearl Square
in Manama, capital of Bahrain. For the last four days, thousands of protesters, encouraged by other popular uprisings in the Middle East, have been demonstrating against what they call "the despotic rule of minority over majority." On Monday, police killed two protesters and injured 11 others. At least 50 were arrested. The sudden explosion has surprised many observers. Bahrain, the smallest of the 21 Arab states, is often deemed a success story -- the only Persian Gulf Arab state to have made its fortune without oil, and a haven of moderation. Unlike their sisters in Iran and Arab countries, for example, Bahraini women enjoy full equality and aren't forced to wear the government-decreed hijab. Yet Bahrain suffers from a fundamental weakness: Its ruling family, the Al Khalifa tribe from eastern Arabia, is Sunni Muslims, while almost 70 percent of the population are Shiites.

Protests in Libya growing
Alert Lt. O’Bannon. ~Bob. Excerpt: Protesters clashed with police Wednesday in Libya as anti-government demonstrations spread onto the streets of Tripoli, news outlets in the region are reporting. Libyan opposition groups, inspired by events unfolding in throughout the region are calling for “A Day of Rage” scheduled for Thursday, in an effort to oust long time leader Moammar Qaddafi. Qaddafi came into power in 1969, after leading a coup against the previous monarchy. The opposition, mainly comprised of young people, "is not well organized," one local observer said, leading to concerns that the demonstration will be smashed by security forces.
Media reports out of Libya say police were firing rubber bullets into the crowd and protesters were fighting back with stones. According to local news agencies 38 people have been injured in the clashes and hospitalized.

Context Change
Excerpt: The Berkeley City Council, after passing a resolution calling for the resettlement of detainees released from Guantanamo in the United States, voted against inviting such persons to live in their fair city, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Carol Hanisch’s dictum that the “personal is political” got it wrong. In reality, when something becomes personal it stops being political. A Guantanamo detainee living in America is political. The same detainee living next door is personal. (Regardless, the actions of the Berkeley City Council are hypocritical. –MasterGuns. If all you look at is the "official vote," 4 - 1 against seems pretty impressive. But only until you find out all 4 abstentions were votes to invite that withheld their votes because the town lawyer told them it was against federal law. I also wonder if they suddenly realized they might actually get a prisoner or two and have to figure out how to deal with them on their own. While the rest of the country laughed. --Ron P.)

Trade Agreement Would Promote U.S. Exports and Colombian Civil Society
Yes, but they’d hurt Obama with his union base. Only that matters, not jobs or the economy. ~Bob. Excerpt: A free-trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia has been stalled in the U.S. Congress for more than four years since it was signed in November 2006. Proponents of the agreement argue that it will promote U.S. exports and deepen our ties with a key democratic ally in South America. Opponents in Congress and the U.S. labor movement contend that the Colombian government has not done enough to curb violence against trade unionists.

The Hill Exclusive: Debt leaders call for more cuts to avert fiscal 'disaster'
Excerpt: Neither the White House budget nor the congressional Republican spending plan are focused on the long-term drivers of the budget deficit, the co-chairmen of President Obama’s debt commission write in Thursday’s issue of The Hill. 

Excerpt: A short while ago I asked a Boston cab driver how she liked the health care system there. “It’s a hassle,” she said. “I had to go down a list of two dozen doctors before I could find one who would see me.” Turns out, she was on MassHealth (Medicaid). So I asked, “Did the list of doctors come from the Yellow Pages?” “No,” she said, “MassHealth gave it to me.” Why am I telling you this story? Partly because I live in two parallel universes. One is the universe of health policy conferences at the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute and articles published in such places as Health Affairs and the New England Journal of Medicine. In the other universe, I quiz taxi cab drivers and others about what their life is like. I would lose a lot of good friends if I told you which universe is more informative. Yet the more important reason for the story is that fully half of all the people who will be newly insured under ObamaCare are going to be in Medicaid. And if Massachusetts reform is the guide, most of the rest will be in highly subsidized plans that pay doctors little more than what Medicaid pays.

Crude reality
Excerpt: But a growing body of economic research suggests that this conventional view of oil shocks is wrong. The US economy is far less susceptible to interruptions in the oil supply than previously assumed, according to these studies. Scholars examining the recent history of oil disruptions have found the worldwide oil market to be remarkably adaptable and surprisingly quick at compensating for shortfalls. Economists have found that much of the damage once attributed to oil shocks can more persuasively be laid at the feet of bad government policies. The US economy, meanwhile, has become less dependent on Persian Gulf oil and less sensitive to changes in crude prices overall than it was in 1973. These findings have led a few bold political scientists and foreign policy experts to start asking an uncomfortable question: If the United States could withstand a disruption in Persian Gulf oil supplies, why does it need a permanent military presence in the region at all? There’s a lot riding on that question: America’s presence in the Middle East exacts a heavy toll in political capital, financial resources, and lives. Washington’s support for Middle East autocrats makes America appear hypocritical on issues of human rights and democracy. The United States spends billions of dollars every year to maintain troops in the Middle East, and the troops risk their lives simply by being there, since they make tempting targets for the region’s Islamic extremists. And arguably, because the presence of these forces inflames radicals and delegitimizes local rulers, they may actually be undermining the very stability they are ostensibly there to ensure.

Local Officials Eye Retiree Health Benefits
Excerpt: Governors and mayors facing large deficits have set their sights on the soaring expense of health benefits for millions of retired state and local workers. As they contend with growing budget deficits and higher pension costs, some mayors are complaining that their outlays for retiree health benefits are rising by 20 percent a year -- a result of the wave of retirements of baby boomers and longer life expectancies on top of the double-digit rate of health care inflation, says the New York Times. The nation's governors face a daunting $555 billion in unfunded liabilities to finance retiree health coverage. The Pew Center on the States calculated those long-term obligations last year, saying New Jersey had the largest amount, $68.9 billion, with California second, at $62.5 billion.

Maryland’s debt per resident twice Virginia’s
Let’s see, Virginia trends Republican, while Maryland is solidly Democrat—no, that couldn’t be it. Probably caused by…global warming! ~Bob. Excerpt: Maryland's soaring pension deficits are racking up $3,069 in debt for every taxpayer in the state, while their Virginia neighbors are paying only $1,362, according to a report from Moody's credit-rating agency. Maryland taxpayers also owe nearly twice as much as Virginians in state-issued bonds, or long-term debt, the report found. Maryland's total debt adds up to $4,677 per resident, while Virginia's is $2,257.

The first rule of the Obama administration's meeting with lobbyists: You don't talk about the Obama administration's meetings with lobbyists
Excerpt: The Obama administration has a reputation for "transparency," but that's almost entirely because Obama talks a lot about how transparent his administration is. When it comes to actually being transparent, it's a different story. The latest: lobbyists meeting with the Department of Housing and Urban Development are being required to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Unions' investment in Senate Democrats pays off in TSA vote
Excerpt: Senate Democrats turned back an attempt by Senate Republicans to bar federal employees at the Transportation Security Administration from becoming unionized as members of either the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) or the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). The 51-47 vote Tuesday came as no surprise because unions are the biggest contributors to Democrats and public sector unions like AFGE and NTEU are the big bosses in labor land. Neither should anybody be surprised by the cold, hard data on union campaign contributions in 2010 to senators. The 59 Democrats in the Senate during the 2010 campaign cycle received a total of more than $4.1 million in union contributions, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics on its web site. The average union total for the Democrats during 2010 came to more than $70,000.

Obama's budget assumptions only exist in fantasyland
Excerpt: Rosy scenario certainly applies to the Obama budget’s assumptions about economic growth, unemployment, and inflation between now and 2013. The president’s proposal assumes real Gross Domestic Product growth of 3.1 percent this year, four percent next year and 4.5 percent the year after. To grasp the unreality of that projection, recall that in only four years of the past 30 has the economy grown four percent or more. Two of those years, 1983 (4.52 percent) and 1984 (7.19 percent), were at the outset of the economic boom sparked by President Reagan’s tax cuts. The other two years, 1997 (4.46 percent) and 1999 (4.83 percent), both followed on compromises between President Clinton and Republican congressional majorities that restrained federal spending and debt, and cut taxes. White House assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, the proposed Obama budget raises taxes, adds more debt and hikes federal spending. In other words, the chief executive and his economic policymakers are assuming the most positive possible rate of economic growth for the next three years. Their optimism is also seen in their inflation projection of 1.3 percent this year, 1.8 percent in 2012 and 1.9 percent in 2013. Ditto on Obama’s assumption that unemployment will dip from 9.3 percent this year to 8.6 percent next year and 7.5 percent the following year.

FBI: 100 Percent Chance of WMD Attack
Excerpt: The probability that the U.S. will be hit with a weapons of mass destruction attack at some point is 100 percent, Dr. Vahid Majidi, the FBI’s assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate, tells Newsmax. Such an attack could be launched by foreign terrorists, lone wolves who are terrorists, or even by criminal elements, Majidi says. It would most likely employ chemical, biological, or radiological weapons rather than a nuclear device. As it is, Majidi says, American intelligence picks up hundreds of reports each year of foreign terrorists obtaining WMD. When American forces invaded Afghanistan, they found that al-Qaida was working on what Majidi calls a “nascent” weapons of mass destruction effort involving chemical and biological weapons. In every other case so far, the reports of foreign terrorists obtaining WMD have turned out to be unfounded. However, Majidi’s directorate within the FBI investigates more than a dozen cases in the U.S. each year where there was intent to use WMD.

The Nazi Origins of Apocalyptic Global Warming Theory
Maybe a stretch, but it would explain their behavior. ~Bob. Excerpt: One of the primary pioneering theorists on apocalyptic global warming is Guenther Schwab (1902-2006), an Austrian Nazi.[i] In 1958, Schwab wrote a fictional novel built off of Goethe's (1749-1832) Faustian religious play entitled "Dance with the Devil." While a few scientists since the late 1800's had contemplated the possibility of minor global warming coming from industrial pollution, Schwab used Goethe's dramatic approach to convert the theory into an apocalyptic crisis. The book outlines many looming environmental emergencies, including anthropogenic global warming. Guenther Schwab's very popular novel was an apocalyptic game changer. By the early 1970's, it had been translated into several languages and had sold over a million copies. At one point in his novel, Schwab opines on the fragile relationship between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Assuming the planet has only about 100 years remaining, Schwab frets over the continuing rise of carbon dioxide that "will absorb and hold fast the warmth given out by the earth. This will cause the climate to become milder and the Polar ice will begin to thaw. As a result, there will be a rise in the level of the ocean and whole continents will be flooded."

Los Zetas: Massacres, Assassinations and Infantry Tactics
Only a matter of time until our military has to deal with them. Local police won’t have the fire power or tactics. ~Bob. Excerpt: Los Zetas are arguably Mexico's most ruthless and tactically proficient criminal gang. Essentially enforcers turned multipurpose cartel, they are waging a brutal war against competing cartels and the Mexican state alike. The Zetas' current situation is one of flux. They are under immense pressure from both the state and criminal competitors. As a result, they are waging an increasingly brutal campaign to retain relevancy and expand their power base. They could emerge from their current situation stronger by consolidating power and expanding their reach, or, the backlash to their campaign could force them off the table. Either way, Los Zetas have changed the game forever in Mexico.

Wisconsin budget fight escalates as Dems flee Madison to avoid vote
Excerpt: A three-day-long stand-off at the Wisconsin state capitol between union supporters and those backing the Republican governor’s budget cuts just went to another level Thursday as Democratic senators apparently fled the state to prevent a vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill, which would cut public employee union collective bargaining rights and require them to contribute to pensions and health care. Law enforcement has been sent to find missing Democratic lawmakers, according to a Madison, Wis. ABC affiliate. State Sen. leader Scott Fitzgerald said only one Democrat is needed for quorum to vote on the controversial bill, which is expected to pass a Republican-majority Senate. The “Sergeant of Arms is going door to door to find Democratic senators.” (WTH? Do they think they live in Texas? At least they were civil about it. Ron P.)

Northern New Brunswick wind turbines frozen solid
Excerpt: A $200-million wind farm in northern New Brunswick is frozen solid, cutting off a potential supply of renewable energy for NB Power. The 25-kilometre stretch of wind turbines, located 70 kilometres northwest of Bathurst, N.B. has been completely shutdown for several weeks due to heavy ice covering the blades. GDF SUEZ Energy, the company that owns and operates the site, is working to return the windmills to working order, a spokeswoman says. "We can't control the weather," Julie Vitek said in an interview from company headquarters in Houston, Texas. "We're looking to see if we can cope with it more effectively, through the testing of a couple of techniques." She says the conditions in northern New Brunswick have wreaked havoc on the wind farm this winter. "For us, cold and dry weather is good and that's what's typical in the region. Cold and wet weather can be a problem without any warmer days to prompt thawing, which has been the case this year. (…) Vitek says workers are trying to find a way to prevent ice buildup from occurring again in the future. The shutdown has not had any effect on employment at the site, which provides 12 permanent jobs. (…) Suez's website states its wind farms on average produce about 35 per cent of their capacity on an annual basis, accounting for daily and seasonal fluctuations in wind patterns. (Gee, if I had $200M, would I want to invest in something that worked slightly more than one-third of the time and provided twelve whole jobs? And also needs an expensive backup system to cover the rest of the time? Fat chance. This is why only government subsidies can keep wind-power alive; it simply isn’t economically practical. Ron P. That’s the problem, Ron. They probably didn’t HAVE $200M. They likely borrowed $200M. ~Bob.)

Immigration authorities at odds on local participation in enforcement program
Even as federal immigration officials were telling Arlington County, San Francisco and other jurisdictions that they could not opt out of a controversial immigration enforcement program, they were telling other municipalities that they could, according to internal Department of Homeland Security documents. The documents, released as a result of a lawsuit against DHS by opponents of the program, reveal an agency at odds over how to handle criticism of Secure Communities, the Obama administration's signature immigration enforcement program, without running afoul of constitutional limits on what the federal government can demand of local jurisdictions. The program sends fingerprints gathered by local law enforcement agencies to the FBI and then through a federal immigration database to identify undocumented immigrants.

The Real Egyptian Revolution Will Not Be Brought to You by CNN
This is a very dark view of what has gone on in Egypt, and the mentality of many Egyptians. I would love to dismiss it all as too partisan and far too broad a brush with which to paint the revolt and its supporters; but unfortunately, there is enough partial evidence and logic to support it as a working hypothesis that it cannot be totally ignored. Time will tell. In the next few months we'll see the way things start to slide. Let's hope this writer has overstated things. --Del. Excerpt: "Do you know ALL English Speaking JOURNALISTS are YAHOOD?? (Jews)" Egyptian Anti-Mubarak YouTube commenter. There are two Egyptian revolutions. The one marketed for Western consumption by Egyptian bloggers and the American media-- and the real revolution. The rape of Lara Logan brought that second revolution out of the shadows for the first time. This was certainly not the first sexual assault arising out of the Jan 25 protests. It won't be the last either. The Western educated Egyptians promoting the protests have always managed to sell the press on the story that all the violence, from the looting of the Egyptian museum, the attacks on reporters, the prison breaks and the mass rapes and robberies were all the work of pro-Mubarak forces. But when Logan was attacked, she was among a crowd celebrating the fall of Mubarak. These were the very people that she and her colleagues had come to Egypt to support. The actual Jan 25 revolution was wildly different from the one depicted in news reports. Behind the veil of English speaking Twitter feeds by young activists, is an angry and bigoted population which hated Mubarak not because he is a tyrant, but because he maintained ties to America and Israel, and refused to aggressively persecute Egypt's Christians. Egypt is not looking for a Western style democracy. What the Arab street really wants is a tyranny that reflects its values. Few of the gullible Western supporters who follow the revolution by Twitter, understand just how much the ordinary Egyptian taking part in the protests hates them. Behind all the English language signs produced for the foreign press and the articulate bloggers cultivated by the US and EU governments, is the angry mob who believes that Mubarak was a puppet of the CIA and the Mossad.

Enzi introduces bill to repeal incandescent light bulb ban
Excerpt: The Better Use of Light Bulbs Act (BULB) is intended to repeal the amendment that was attached to a comprehensive energy bill signed by President George W. Bush in 2007. The ban on incandescent light bulbs was intended to save energy and limit pollution. Now, Enzi and other lawmakers are attacking the ban as a measure that limits choices for Americans. “I think it’s fine if someone wants to fill their home or business with the light from the new bulbs,” said Enzi in a statement. “I also think it is fine if someone wants to buy an old-fashioned bulb because it works better for them,” he added. “ If left alone, the best bulb will win its rightful standing in the marketplace. Government doesn’t need to be in the business of telling people what light bulb they have to use.”

Is this the will of the people that BO says must be respected? ~Bob. Excerpt: "60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted by thugs yelling, "Jew! Jew!" as she covered the chaotic fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo's main square Friday, CBS and sources said yesterday. The TV crew with Logan, who is also the network's chief foreign correspondent, had its cameras rolling moments before she was dragged off -- and caught her on tape looking tense and trying to head away from a crowd of men behind her in Tahrir Square.

Happy are all free peoples, too strong to be dispossessed.
But blessed are those among nations who dare to be strong for the rest!
--Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Newt at CPAP 2011

Borders Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection
Excerpt: Bookseller Borders, which helped pioneer superstores that put countless mom-and-pop bookshops out of business, filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday, sunk by crushing debt and sluggishness in adapting to a rapidly changing industry. The 40-year-old company plans to close about 200 of its 642 stores over the next few weeks. All of the stores closed will be superstores, (As warned in TOJ on 3 Feb 2011. A damned shame; this is my favorite bookstore--of the two or three left in town. Ron P.)

Former Marine Releases New Book On Business Strategy and Tactics
Excerpt: Maneuver Management also includes sections on leadership and installing a winning culture, two things the Marine Corps is known for. “The Marine Corps is arguably the world's finest fighting force,” said Ognek. “Adapting and using USMC principles for success in business makes perfect sense. These tools have been refined and perfected. They can be implemented quickly. Most importantly, they work.” (Most Marines use their Marine Corps training in their civilian life after the Corps. Looks like Captain Ognek took it to a new level. One small point - whoever wrote the article didn't get General Jones' memo that there are no "former Marines". S/F MasterGuns. This is not the first to apply USMC to business. Have been a couple of good books. ~Bob.)

Where's the Muscle?
At the New York Conservative Party conference in Albany the other week, I was asked about the party's role in state politics. I replied that in a multiparty system it's very important to have some sort of force to the right of the right-of-center party - to arrest the tendency of the "mainstream" right to drift across the spectrum and wind up taking the rest of us to the same destination as the lefties want to go but at a slightly slower speed. A useful illustration of that role can be seen in Europe's current debate. Asked on TV about David Cameron's recent attack on "multiculturalism", I said flippantly that it was heartening to hear the Prime Minister sounding like a six-year-old Steyn column. Of course, he didn't go quite that far. But, because I and Melanie Phillips and Henryk Broder and Thilo Sarrazin and Geert Wilders and a relatively small number of "extremists" did go so far, it's become possible for a lot of folks in the mushy middle to meet us halfway. Hence, the bizarre new phenomenon of European heads of governments stampeding to denounce multiculturalism: If it's Tuesday, it must be Angela Merkel. That multiculturalism is a failure is the new conventional wisdom, the centrist position.

Major Hasan, 'Star Officer'
Excerpt: Every branch of the military issued a final report on the Fort Hood massacre. Not a single one mentioned radical Islam. In a month of momentous change, it was easy to overlook the significance of another revolutionary event. Who would have believed that in the space of a few weeks the leaders of the three major European powers would publicly denounce multiculturalism and declare, in so many words, that it was a proven disaster and a threat to society? One after another they announced their findings—Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, Great Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy. Multicultural values had not only led to segregated communities: They had, Mr. Cameron noted, imposed policies of blind toleration that had helped nurture radical Islam's terrorist cells. (This story is pretty scary. It reveals what amounted to a silent conspiracy to keep this increasingly obvious nutcake and marginal performer to not only survive but even rise in the system, as superior after superior made special allowances for his behavior and even gushed in praise for his "potential". Every one of those superiors should be standing tall in front of a review board, with their career nosediving then and there. Nobody had the balls to say "this guy is a wacko, possibly dangerous, and definitely doesn't belong in the uniform". Instead, they handled him with kid gloves and passed him on to someone else. Now we have 13 dead people and 32 others recovering from wounds of varying severity because of the blatant incompetence of Hasan's superiors. If our officer corps is being morphed into a group of self-seeking politically correct hacks, the republic is in enormous danger. --Del)

Excerpt: On Feb. 13, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issued a statement demanding that the government of Pakistan execute U.S. government contractor Raymond Davis or turn him over to the TTP for judgment. Davis, a contract security officer for the CIA, has been in Pakistani custody since a Jan. 27 incident in which he shot two men who reportedly pointed a pistol at him in an apparent robbery attempt. Pakistani officials have corroborated Davis’ version of events and, according to their preliminary report, Davis appears to have acted in self-defense. From a tactical perspective, the incident appears to have been (in tactical security parlance) a “good shoot,” but the matter has been taken out of the tactical realm and has become mired in transnational politics and Pakistani public sentiment. Whether the shooting was justified or not, Davis has now become a pawn in a larger game being played out between the United States and Pakistan.

Solar Max Saves the Obama White House
Excerpt: There are many who believe the world ends next year because that is when the ancient Mayan calendar simply stops. Others read quatrains of the great seer, Nostradamus, and think he also predicts End Times in 2012. Religious zealots are again preaching the end is nigh. And then there is that multitude of Republicans absolutely certain the world will end if President Obama is reelected. If that gigantic atomic furnace we call our sun reenacts history, it will prove them all to be correct. On August 1st and 2nd of last year, an entire hemisphere of the solar disk erupted. The side of the sun facing the earth convulsed in flares, waves of plasma, radio storms and glowing magnetic arcs that blew billions of tons of the sun into space. Astronomers saw solar mayhem so unusual, so violent, that its significance to civilization and life on earth is now being debated by astrophysicists, chemists, engineers, and even clerics. Our alert media did not tell you about it? Then watch the recording of the event by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory at:
 Hold down the ‘Ctrl key’ and click on the link. If that does not work, you may have to ‘cut and paste’ the link into your browser. It is worth the effort.

Going bananas over radiation
Excerpt: Many people fear radiation, sometimes the fear is irrational, based on the erroneous concept that we live in a “radiation free lifestyle”. I’ll never forget one time when I showed my geiger counter to a neighbor who was shocked when it started clicking. She was horrified to learn that cosmic rays were in fact zipping right through her body right that very second. I didn’t have the heart to tell her about neutrinos. (...)  From Wikipedia: A banana equivalent dose is a concept occasionally used by nuclear power proponents[1][2] to place in scale the dangers of radiation by comparing exposures to the radiation generated by a common banana. Many foods are naturally radioactive, and bananas are particularly so, due to the radioactive potassium-40 they contain. (...) It has been suggested[11] that since the body homeostatically regulates the amount of potassium it contains, bananas do not cause a higher dose. However, the body takes time to remove excess potassium, time during which a dose is accumulating. In fact, the biological half-life of potassium is longer than it is for tritium,[12][13] a radioactive material sometimes leaked or intentionally vented in small quantities by nuclear plants. Also, bananas cause radiation exposure even when not ingested; for instance, standing next to a crate of bananas causes a measurable dose. Finally, the banana equivalent dose concept is about the prevalence of radiation sources in our food and environment, not about bananas specifically. Some foods (brazil nuts for example) are radioactive because of radium or other isotopes that the body does not keep under homeostatic regulation.[14] (What an interesting—and apt—way to compare radiation exposures! Ron P.)

Excerpt: If denying Air and Artillery support to our Forces as they are under fire is a reprehensible act, prosecuting those same Warriors for 'war crimes' against an incalcitrant and murderous band of thugs is the very definition of an evil and satanic act. Sgt Larry Hutchins and seven fellow Marines and Corpsman were convicted of plotting the murder of an Iraqi man in Hamandiya in 2006. Let us remember that our Warriors have been fighting an enemy that is hard to define, treacherous and motivated by an ideology that promotes, recommends and idealizes ritual murder. Let us also remember that this enemy does not wear a uniform and represents no flag, no nation, no people. They kill, maim and destroy to pacify their deity. What makes this case so astoundingly evil is that the upper echelon chain of command and in fact the entire federal government of this nation has placed the lives of this squad and by extension, the lives of every Warrior, beneath the lives of the very people they were sent there to confront. While the lives of these men were being judged by Courts Martial, other Officers, sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, had been ordered to review the cases of hundreds, if not thousands of civilian clad murderers and to consider whether their words of repentance are sincere enough to allow them to return to Afghan society. There were similar acts of insanity in Iraq where holding these ideological murderers accountable was and is still deemed unnecessary and even injurious to the overall mission.

States Shift to Deep Cuts for Workers to Balance Budgets
Excerpt: Dire. Drastic. Draconian. Call them what you will, but the measures being called for in state capitals to deal with record budget shortfalls are harsher than any in memory and have sparked angry protests from public employees most likely to feel the brunt of them. In Madison, Wis., police were dispatched today when every Democrat in the state Senate failed to show up for a vote on a bill to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights. Thousands of teachers and other state workers have rallied in and around the Capitol, some holding signs comparing the new governor, Republican Scott Walker, to a "Mini-Mubarak" and others chanting "Freedom! Democracy! Unions!" as they protested his anti-labor move and his call that they pay more for their health insurance and pensions. More than 1,000 Ohio state workers also jammed into the Statehouse in Columbus to protest a bill pushed by their new Republican governor, John Kasich, that would end collective bargaining rights for government employees. Teachers in Indiana angry over similar proposals have marched in Indianapolis, while public employees in Tennessee and Nevada face similar demands for concessions.

Self-Inflicted Poverty Why is it that Egyptians do well in the U.S. but not Egypt? We could make that same observation and pose that same question about Nigerians, Cambodians, Jamaicans and others of the underdeveloped world who migrate to the U.S. Until recently, we could make the same observation about Indians in India, and the Chinese citizens of the People's Republic of China, but not Chinese citizens of Hong Kong and Taiwan. … Much of Egypt's economic problems are directly related to government interference and control that have resulted in weak institutions vital to prosperity. Hernando De Soto, president of Peru's Institute for Liberty and Democracy (, laid out much of Egypt's problem in his Wall Street Journal article (Feb. 3, 2011), "Egypt's Economic Apartheid." More than 90 percent of Egyptians hold their property without legal title.  … Egypt's legal private sector employs 6.8 million people and the public sector 5.9 million. More than 9 million people work in the extralegal sector, making Egypt's underground economy the nation's biggest employer.  Why are so many Egyptians in the underground economy? De Soto, who's done extensive study of hampered entrepreneurship, gives a typical example: "To open a small bakery, our investigators found, would take more than 500 days. To get legal title to a vacant piece of land would take more than 10 years of dealing with red tape. To do business in Egypt, an aspiring poor entrepreneur would have to deal with 56 government agencies and repetitive government inspections." (As usual, Williams presents the facts statists don’t want to hear. Ron P.)

The National Anthem Symbolic Relevance
Excerpt: Blood was shed so that we might be free. When we say that soldiers "will never be forgotten," shouldn't we mean it? We honor and commemorate their lives and the sacrifices they made for us by remembering them. That's why we sing the National Anthem at sporting events. We don't do it because there's some underlying connection between the American Revolution and sports, but because sports bring us together to enjoy something as a group. It unites us beyond our cultural and political differences. The stockbroker sits next to the dockworker, and both are united by their devotion to the local team. Isn't that the perfect time to celebrate the nation that embodies that very idea?

Michelle Obama: First Lady of Junk Science
Excerpt: Just as the White House costumed Obamacare activists in white lab coats, the fashionable Mrs. O has cloaked her meddling anti-obesity crusade in medical fakery. Over the past year, the first lady has marshaled a taxpayer-subsidized army of government lawyers, bureaucrats and consultants against the "national security threat" of childhood obesity. She has transformed the East Wing of the White House into Big Nanny's new Central Command headquarters. The biggest threats to Mrs. Obama's 70-point plan for national fitness: parental authority and sound science. As part of her "Let's Move!" anniversary celebration this week, Mrs. Obama rolled out a new breastfeeding initiative because "kids who are breastfed longer have a lower tendency to be obese." She made her assertion to an invitation-only group of handpicked reporters who were barred from asking questions about her scientific conclusions. It's not healthy to challenge Super Nanny, you see.

The Limits of Obama’s Rhetoric
Excerpt: It takes but a moment’s comparison of this rhetoric with that which Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton are currently employing on Egypt to understand that it is virtually identical. Mr. Obama is forthright and mighty in “watching,” mourning the loss of innocent lives, decrying violence and injustice, and supporting the “universal rights to assembly and free speech.” He is even more intimidating in “bearing witness.” And bear witness he did, as many were imprisoned, tortured and murdered, and the uprising that might have transformed Iran in favor of greater liberty and democracy was crushed. There are, without question, differences in the Iranian and Egyptian uprisings. The Iranians are the youngest, most educated, and most pro-American people in the region. Overwhelmingly, they are anxious to depose the inhuman Muslim theocrats who have tortured and murdered them for decades. Almost certainly their success would have been America’s success, an enormous stride toward all of the high values touted in Mr. Obama’s rhetoric. It would have helped to establish real, as opposed to rhetorical, peace in the region. Mr. Obama, like the Palestinians he reflexively supports, seems to miss no opportunity to miss an opportunity — or to insult an ally, or support an enemy. Egypt, on the other hand, is far more complicated. … Because the CIA has never fully recovered from the Clintonian purge of human assets and capabilities, we were blindsided by the uprising and President Mubarak’s swift resignation. CIA Director Leon Panetta admitted that the information he provided at the House Intelligence Committee was not a product of professional skulduggery and analysis but of the lamestream media. Mr. Panetta served merely as a relay or conduit between the media and Congress. Is it any surprise that the CIA has no real idea who is behind the uprising or what their ultimate goals are?

Pa. teacher strikes nerve with 'lazy whiners' blog
Excerpt: A high school English teacher in suburban Philadelphia who was suspended for a profanity-laced blog in which she called her young charges "disengaged, lazy whiners" is driving a debate by daring to ask: Why are today's students unmotivated — and what's wrong with calling them out? As she fights to keep her job at Central Bucks East High School, 30-year-old Natalie Munroe says she had no interest in becoming any sort of educational icon. The blog has been taken down, but its contents can still be found easily online.

US Air Force C-17 seized over Argentine drug smuggling accusations
Excerpt: Argentina is accusing the US military of attempting to smuggle arms, drugs and spy equipment into the country under the pretext of a police training course. The US military disputed the claims, denying an attempt to smuggle equipment into Argentina. Argentine authorities claim to have seized nearly 1,000 cubic feet of undeclared items ranging from machine guns and ammunition to drugs and spy equipment. Argentine officials said the items were found on a US Air Force C-17 cargo plane along with material for a training course a US Special Forces team had been invited to give to the federal police. Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said his nation planned to file an official protest in Washington and seek a shared investigation into the matter, specifically why the US Air Force would violate Argentine laws.

Now they think civility's a must
Excerpt: The years 2004-07 -- between the failed campaign of John Kerry, the Democrats' control of Congress and the beginning of the successful Iraq surge -- should be known as "The Insane Years." In that era, Gitmo was a gulag, renditions were the stuff of Hollywood movies and President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were deemed veritable war criminals. I recall all that only because Oprah Winfrey just called for more civility to be shown President Obama. "Even if you're not in support of his policies, there needs to be a certain level of respect," she said. Bill Maher also recently expressed outrage over the uncivil tone Bill O'Reilly supposedly showed Obama in his Super Bowl Day interview. Such concern for deference and conciliation is fine and good, but do we recall the crazy years of not so long ago? Then, Michael Moore called for US defeat in Iraq and dubbed the Islamists who were killing our soldiers "Minutemen." In April 2004, he wrote on his Web site: "The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not 'insurgents' or 'terrorists' or 'The Enemy.' They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen . . . The majority of Americans supported this war once it began and, sadly, that majority must now sacrifice their children until enough blood has been let that maybe -- just maybe -- God and the Iraqi people will forgive us in the end." In the old days, calling for the deaths of one's countrymen was considered treasonous. (It would be illegal to shoot Mr. Moore. I says, show civility by buying him a double cheeseburger, supersize fries and extra large shake. ~Bob.)

What Early Presidential Polls Tell Us
Excerpt: Monday’s post on the strength of the Republican primary field has elicited a couple of critiques, such as this one from Brendan Nyhan. The article looked at favorability ratings for potential Republican candidates this year and found that the public’s view of them ranges from tepid, to uncertain, to fairly poor. In contrast, at a comparable point in elections dating back to 2000, at least a couple of candidates in each field were reasonably popular. Mr. Nyhan was able to retrieve some data on elections earlier than those contained in the database. He found that the 1996 Republican field contained a number of popular candidates. Bob Dole had exceptionally high favorability ratings in early 1995, and two other Republican candidates — Phil Gramm and Pete Wilson — had fairly strong ones. On the other hand, Mr. Nyhan reported, Bill Clinton was barely known at this point in 1991 — he had a favorability rating of 15 percent against 12 percent unfavorable.

Sudden Jihad: Muslim Cab Driver Plows Down Crowded Sidewalk In San Diego
Gee, nice to read while I’m in San Diego on business! ~Bob. Excerpt: Last Saturday, a Muslim taxi driver slowly plowed into a crowd of people on a busy sidewalk in San Diego. It sounded almost immediately like lone jihadi syndrome. And they would not release his name, which always makes me suspicious. They only do that when it's Islamic. Lone jihadi or sudden jihad. We see this repeatedly. One girl was pinned against a wall and had her leg severed. 35 people were injured and most were transported to hospitals. They had injuries such as broken bones, cuts and bruises, So incensed was the crowd that members of the crowd pulled him out of the cab and assaulted him. UPDATE: After the attack he jumped out of the taxi and started stabbing people with a pair of scissors. I did not post on it because the authorities refused to publish his name. It took a few days, but now we know that he was a 52-year-old Egyptian-born cab driver, Hasan Daly.

503 women publicly flogged in Bangladesh
Excerpt: A demand to prohibit the Muslim clergy from issuing fatwa is gathering momentum in Bangladesh as 503 women have been subjected to public flogging since the year 2000. The issuing of religious edicts has not yet been banned. The high court declared it illegal in 2001; speakers said at a roundtable titled "No more fatwa" here Sunday. Speakers urged the government to make issuance of fatwa a punishable offence since 503 women have fallen victim to it.

Utah lawmakers report threats over immigration law
The new civility! ~Bob. Excerpt: State law enforcement officials are investigating possible death threats against two Utah state lawmakers backing bills that would fight illegal immigration. The two-page letter, which also was sent to media outlets and Hispanic activists and first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, includes images of Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara and an AK-47. It opens by calling for a confrontation with the "racist state of Utah" that is based on a "dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine-gun."

Gates, Rumsfeld Sued Over U.S. Military's Rape Epidemic
Excerpt: Three months after returning to the States she was discharged, having been diagnosed with both combat PTSD and sexual assault PTSD. She’s now living in Missouri and is currently unemployed. She hopes that the lawsuit, and the attention it will receive, will compel the military to start outsourcing sexual assault training. “You’re not going to change hearts and minds overnight,” she says. “Someone who is a misogynistic asshole isn’t going to change their minds because of some PowerPoint presentation. But at that point, at least you can’t claim ignorance. There’s no wishy-washy ‘Oh, it’s just boys being boys.’ If you have a leadership that doesn’t give a shit, nothing’s going to change. It has to start from the top down.” (This takes me completely by surprise. I do like her presentation, though. When I was in uniform, there were only about 8,000 WMs in the whole Women Marines; I might’ve met two, total, and never had extended contact (more than five minutes conversation) with either of them. Some questions immediately jump to mind. Exactly how are we defining “sexual assault?” How many and over what time period constitutes an “epidemic?” How does that compare, on a percentage basis, to the general civilian population’s results? Is this percentage higher or lower than in the past? Military law may need to be modernized to take into account more women and open gays serving, but that shouldn’t be an impossible task. More information is needed. And why, if this isn't just political theater, are they including Donald Rumsfeld and not other past Secretaries like McNamara and Forestall?   Ron P. Well, Ron, after that night in TJ you’ll recall, when I was over-served and became a guest of the Navy, a Sgt. Bonnie chewed me out pretty good before I saw the captain. Great and inventive vocabulary. ~Bob.)

Gunmen who shot 2 ICE agents in Mexico knew they were attacking law officers, official says
Excerpt: Gunmen who shot up an SUV carrying two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, killing one, knew they were attacking law enforcement officers, according to U.S. officials. But details of the attack that emerged Wednesday indicate the two agents were not targeted ahead of time, rather stopped in the wrong place at the wrong time in a blue Suburban — a vehicle coveted by drug cartels. Special Agent Jaime Zapata, 32, died and a second agent, Victor Avila, was wounded Tuesday when they were attacked after being stopped on a four-lane federal highway in northern Mexico.

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