Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Political Digest for the Ides of March, 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.

For those who want further information about the topics covered in this blog, I recommend the following sites. I will add to this as I find additional good sources.

Saudi Intervention in Bahrain
Excerpt: Forces from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will enter Bahrain to help the Bahraini regime quell unrest, according to a number of media reports, including by Bahrain’s Alyam newspaper, known for its close links with the ruling al-Khalifa family. The reports come one day after clashes occurred between Shiite protesters and police in the capital, Manama. Meanwhile, Bahraini state media reported that the Independent Bloc (a parliamentary bloc of the Bahraini parliament) asked Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa to enforce martial law to contain the unrest. These reports suggest that foreign intervention in Bahrain, or at least the possibility that the Bahraini military is taking over the security reins, is imminent. Such a move would mean the regime is getting increasingly concerned with Shiite unrest, which does not appear to be subsiding despite calls for dialogue from Bahraini Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.

Oil Price Shocks and the Recession of 2011?: Ten of the last 11 recessions were preceded by oil price hikes.
The disaster in Japan—clearly caused by that cowboy Bush—will further escalate world energy prices. Brace yourself. ~Bob. Excerpt: Of course, the global oil market is pricing in worries that production could be disrupted if protesters in other major OPEC producers such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran began to demand greater freedom. What would happen to the U.S. economy if petroleum prices continue their rapid rise? University of California, San Diego, economist James Hamilton noted in a recent study that 10 out of 11 post-World War II recessions [PDF] in the United States were preceded by a sharp increase in the price of crude petroleum. The only exception was the mild recession of 1960-61 for which there was no preceding rise in oil prices. Hamilton has also written a fascinating short history [PDF] of U.S. and global oil price shocks. Until 1974 the United States was both the world’s biggest consumer and producer of crude oil. Although domestic oil production has recently upticked, the U.S. today produces about half the oil it did in 1971. It still is the biggest consumer. It turns out that boom/bust price shocks have been a feature of oil production ever since Edwin Drake drilled his first well in Pennsylvania in 1859.

Excerpt: In 2006, the last full year in which the U.S. federal minimum wage was a constant value throughout the whole year, at least before 2010, approximately 6,595,383 individuals in the United States earned $7.25 per hour1 or less. For 2010, the first full year in which the U.S. federal minimum wage was a constant value through the year since 2006, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that an average of just 4,361,000 individuals in the United States earned the same equivalent of the current prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 or less throughout the year.

Excerpt: Fortunately, the US minimum wage is still low enough that it only affects about 5% of the workforce. But South Africa is an example of what would happen if it were increased: If the more than 300 factories violating minimum wages ultimately close down, 20,000 more jobs could vanish…While officials wrangle, the unemployment crisis festers in places like Newcastle. During the rowdy protests at the factory last month, the police warned that the situation could turn violent... The factory closed.

Williams with Sowell - Minimum Wage
A discussion of why minimum wage law hurt poor black folks most, by two black economists. ~Bob.
Excerpt: President Obama has repeatedly given us his vision of how to lower the cost of health care and raise its quality: Find out what works; then get everyone else to copy it. Toward that end, the administration is making millions of dollars available for pilot programs and demonstration projects. Will any of this work? Ask yourself this question: Can you think of any other industry where low-cost, high-quality production has been achieved by the government running pilot programs? No? Well, if that approach doesn’t work anywhere else, why would you expect health care to be different? As I have previously noted, President Obama’s approach to health care is exactly the same as his approach to education. The only difference is that in education we have been trying to find out what works and then copy it with no success for decades. Here’s the problem. Both in health care and in education we have lots of examples of low-cost, high quality service. As in other bureaucratic systems around the world, excellence exists, and it’s often known about, acknowledged and even studied. It also tends to have three characteristics: (1) islands of excellence spring up in a sea of mediocrity and they tend to be distributed randomly—they’re not correlated with anything; (2) they almost always exist because of the effort, ingenuity, enthusiasm, energy, and vision of a few people involved in actual production, and almost never are the result of anything that’s happening on the demand side of the market; and (3) (most importantly) they tend not to have any objective characteristics that anyone else can copy. A study of high-performing hospital regions (by researchers connected to the Brookings Institution) was unable to find any characteristics that could be replicated in a straightforward manner. Some had doctors on staff and paid them a salary. Some paid fee-for-service. Some had electronic medical records. Some did not.

The Role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the Subprime Mortgage Market
Excerpt: The recent financial crisis was characterized by losses in nearly every type of investment vehicle. Yet no product has attracted as much attention as the subprime mortgage. What is generally agreed is that subprime mortgages disproportionately contributed both to the severity of the crisis and to the size of losses imposed upon the taxpayer. What remains in dispute is the role of government -- specifically, that of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- in expanding the availability of subprime mortgage credit, says Mark Calabria, the director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute. Changes in the mortgage market, resulting largely from misguided monetary policy, drove a frenzy of refinancing activity in 2003. When that origination boom died out, mortgage industry participants looked elsewhere for profits. Fannie and Freddie, among others, found those illusionary profits in lowering credit quality. Foremost among the government-sponsored enterprises' deleterious activities was their vast direct purchases of loans that can only be characterized as subprime. Under reasonable definitions of subprime, almost 30 percent of Fannie and Freddie direct purchases could be considered subprime. In order to protect both the taxpayer and our broader economy, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be abolished, along with other policies that transfer the risk of mortgage default from the lender to the taxpayer, says Calabria.

The Role of Culture in State Failure
And we are busy importing failure-oriented cultures into the United States. Economic collapse will be another benefit of the leftist chimera of “multiculturalism.” I recommend everyone subscribe to the e-newsletter from the National Center on Policy Analysis, listed in my resource section. ~Bob. Excerpt: There are many studies on the relationship between economic development and institutions. This research emphasizes the importance of the relationship between culture (informal institutions) and the quality of public goods supplied by the government, using a measure of state failure: the Failed States Index. The results suggest that culture is more important than formal institutions in explaining differences in the degree to which states fail, according to Claudio D. Shikida and Ari Francisco de Araujo Jr., of Ibmec Minas Gerais, Brazil, and Pedro H. C. Sant'Anna, of Universidad Carlos III, Madrid. In other words, a more promarket culture is one of the determinants of better governance. That fact can be regarded as evidence that more open societies tend to produce governments that are more efficient in the provision of public goods. There are many aspects to be explored in the analysis of the role of institutions in human actions, as well as in how such actions are reflected in economic outcomes. In this sense, the evidence presented shows that policymakers should pay attention to the impact of different institutions (mostly to those of informal ones) on state quality.

The “Other” Pension Crisis: Options for Avoiding a Taxpayer Bailout of the PBGC
Excerpt: In recent months, there has appropriately been substantial and growing attention to underfunding in state and local government pension plans. Best available estimates are that such underfunding equals roughly $3 trillion dollars in present value, creating an unsustainable situation that must compel corrective action by elected officials. At the state and local levels of government, those in office will need to effect measures to bridge the significant gap between these plans’ projected assets and benefits. Adequate legislative reforms are, however, unlikely to occur at the state and local levels unless federal officials convincingly clarify that no federal taxpayer bailout will be forthcoming. This predicament is the basis for pending federal legislation such as the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act, 2 which requires fuller disclosure of state/local pension-plan obligations and would withhold certain federal tax benefits from states that fail to comply. Closing off the avenue of a federal bailout will not by itself force states and localities to eliminate unfunded pension liabilities. Yet at the same time, the existence of these liabilities is already creating pressure for direct federal support to states. In any event, the current policy focus with respect to these public plans is on ameliorating their underfunding, as well as on limiting momentum for a general taxpayer-financed bailout. At the same time, there exists a similar (though smaller) set of financing risks in the employer sponsored pension plans covered by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), the federally chartered corporation established to insure employer-provided pension benefits.

Parting ways: President’s path is diverging from Senate Dems
Excerpt: The political fortunes of Senate Democrats and President Obama are moving in opposite directions, complicating their efforts to win a titanic battle against Republicans over federal spending. Obama’s reelection forecast has improved since the midterms, when he looked like a one-term president. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, must defend 23 seats next year, handing Republicans a strong chance to win back the upper chamber even if Obama cruises to a second term. The dynamic opens the door to intra-party tension that has already broken through the surface unity. What’s political hay for the president and White House, after all, isn’t necessarily good for his party’s majority in the Senate. That’s one reason Obama has left much of the work of dealing with Republicans on spending cuts to party leaders in the House and Senate.

Should the US ‘put the brakes’ on nuclear? Some Dems think so
It wouldn’t be a real crisis without members following the old USMC adage, “When in fear, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” (There’s a bit about “Green Side Out” that only Old Corps Marines will get.) But most of our electricity is coal generated. Coals kills a lot of folks through mining accidents and repertory diseases, but they are spread around the globe and the calendar, so don’t make headlines like what is happening in Japan. ~Bob. Excerpt: Some U.S. lawmakers are looking to “put the brakes” on building new nuclear power plants after witnessing the crisis at several Japanese reactors that were rocked by Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) called for a temporary moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants in the United States following the Japanese quake, which damaged two reactors at a nuclear facility in the country's northeast. "The reality is that we're watching something unfold," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I think it calls on us here in the U.S. naturally – not to stop building nuclear power plants – but to put the brakes on right now until we understand the ramifications of what's happened in Japan."

Nuclear Power in Perspective
There is no question that the events in Japan are ongoing and serious. That said, I believe a lot of people are being misled by much of the news coverage. Take a look at these headlines from the Christian Science Monitor and from Channel News Asia, respectively, (…) Let me ask a couple of questions? How many were killed by the Three Mile Island incident? 100? 10,000? 100,000? Answer? None. None of the plant workers were killed and no one in the surrounding area. But, Chernobyl? We all saw the photos of the burning nuclear plant and the open reactor and the workers in radiation suits. "Experts" predicted numerous cancer deaths from "fallout." Lots of people were killed in that, right? OK, let me ask again, how many do you think? 100? 10,000? 100,000? The answer, after 20 years, (i.e., time for cancers to develop) the total number of people killed is 56. To put that twenty-year death toll in perspective, it was less than half of the number of people killed by tornadoes in the United States in 2008. (My brother David was then on active duty in the US Army. He was one of those lucky enough to be sent to Three Mile Island to deliver lead and protective equipment during the 1979 incident, and made several trips. Although scary at the time, not only is he alive and in good health, so are all three of his daughters. And, since all of them at least lean conservative, their brains are still functioning, too. Ron P.)

Nuclear Facts to Remember While Following Japan
Excerpt: The true scope of the devastation in Japan caused by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami are still unknown. While the official death toll has surpassed 1,000, the police chief of the Miyagi Prefecture said Sunday there is “no question” that at least 10,000 people have died in just his region alone. Japan has mobilized 100,000 troops for rescue missions, and at least three U.S. Navy ships of the USS Ronald Reagan strike group are assisting in relief efforts. Yet, despite the gravity of the situation, some on the left in this country are already politicizing the disaster to score points against the nuclear power industry. Representative Edward Markey (D–MA) released a statement Saturday comparing the current situation in Japan to Chernobyl and called on the Obama Administration to impose a moratorium on all new nuclear reactors. What is happening in Japan right now is nothing like Chernobyl, and imposing a moratorium on the nuclear industry would be as big a policy blunder as the Obama Administration’s offshore drilling moratorium after the Deepwater Horizon explosion. The cable news networks and newspapers are filled with frightening headlines like “Radioactive Releases in Japan Could Last Months” that will aid Markey’s anti-nuclear crusade. But the reality is far removed from the hype. Here are some cold hard facts to keep in mind as news continues to come in from Japan:

Excerpt: I am writing this text (Mar 12) to give you some peace of mind regarding some of the troubles in Japan, that is the safety of Japan’s nuclear reactors. Up front, the situation is serious, but under control. And this text is long! But you will know more about nuclear power plants after reading it than all journalists on this planet put together. There was and will *not* be any significant release of radioactivity. By “significant” I mean a level of radiation of more than what you would receive on – say – a long distance flight, or drinking a glass of beer that comes from certain areas with high levels of natural background radiation. I have been reading every news release on the incident since the earthquake. There has not been one single (!) report that was accurate and free of errors (and part of that problem is also a weakness in the Japanese crisis communication). By “not free of errors” I do not refer to tendentious anti-nuclear journalism – that is quite normal these days. By “not free of errors” I mean blatant errors regarding physics and natural law, as well as gross misinterpretation of facts, due to an obvious lack of fundamental and basic understanding of the way nuclear reactors are build and operated. I have read a 3 page report on CNN where every single paragraph contained an error.

Stalled U.S. energy projects hurting job growth
Excerpt: If 351 stalled U.S. energy projects were given the green light, they would create as many as 1.9 million jobs and increase the nation's gross domestic product by $1.1 trillion, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The business lobby said on Thursday the report analyzed proposed gas, nuclear, transmission, coal and renewable energy projects that were delayed or canceled due to drawn-out permitting processes, lawsuits, or threats of legal action.

Luxury ruins republics; poverty, monarchies. -- Charles De Montesquieu

The Put-Off, Postpone and Procrastinate Generation
Excerpt: The Obama administration figures that it has read the national mood well. This therapeutic generation of Americans loves to talk and worry about problems and then assumes that either someone else will solve them or they will go away on their own. And why not, since we have had periodic "energy crises" since 1974, have run budget deficits in most years since World War II, and have been warned about a looming Social Security meltdown for the last decade -- and yet remain wealthy and affluent. But now gasoline costs more than $4 a gallon in many places in California, and averages more than $3.50 nationwide. In response, the Obama administration is reportedly considering tapping into the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to increase supplies and drive down high prices brought on by a recovering world economy and unrest in the oil-rich Middle East. Yet the reserve depot was not designed to alleviate periodic gas-price spikes, but to ensure our very survival during a global catastrophe that might result in a cutoff of most petroleum imports from overseas. There are now more than 700 million barrels of stored oil in the reserve. In times of near-Armageddon, even that huge supply would provide for all of the nation's oil needs for only a single month. It would make up for all imported oil cutoffs for only two months.

Worth Reading: Confiscate Americans' Wealth to Pay Government Workers?
Excerpt: Assuming Michael Moore & Company decide that $200,000.00 per year is sufficient for any household, then in 2008 (the latest IRS statistics) the 6.9 million filers that had adjusted gross income above $200,000.00 would have forfeited all their income above that ceiling to the government. The one-time gain to Washington D.C.: $221.0 Billion; but in the future no one would work long enough to earn more than $200,000.00 per year. Tax revenues in subsequent years would never increase unless tax rates are raised which are self-defeating and historically results in even lower tax receipts. The long-term impact on the economy and the country would mirror that of the failed socialist nations throughout history. Thus class warfare rhetoric is just that, rhetoric. It is meant for the consumption of those gullible enough to support the ascendancy of the Socialist/Marxists into positions of power. The fact that it is used in conjunction with the so-called plight of the highly paid unionized government worker reveals: 1) a dearth of viable arguments to justify public sector unions; and 2) most importantly, the loss of a major source of funding for the Left and their organizations.

Handouts, Morality and Common Sense by Dr. Walter Williams
Excerpt: There is a distinct group of Americans who bear a large burden for today's runaway government. You ask, "Who are they?" It's the so-called "greatest generation." When those Americans were born, federal spending as a percentage of GDP was about 3 percent, as it was from 1787 to 1920 except during war. No one denies the sacrifices made and the true greatness of a generation of Americans who suffered through our worst depression, conquered the meanest tyrants during World War II and later managed to produce a level of wealth and prosperity heretofore unknown to mankind. But this generation of Americans also laid the political foundation for the greatest betrayal of our nation's core founding principle: limited federal government exercising only constitutionally enumerated powers. It was on their watch that the foundation was laid for today's massive federal spending that tops 25 percent of GDP.

The Mandate Muddle
If the mandate is constitutional, then a conservative majority can mandate all adult citizens who are not felons to buy a firearm and ammo for it, to protect public safety. ~Bob. Excerpt: When the Supreme Court considers whether Congress has the constitutional power to compel individuals to buy health insurance, the argument supporting Congress may rest on a non sequitur and a semantic fiat. A judge's recent ruling argues that the insurance mandate must be constitutional because Obamacare would collapse without it. A forthcoming law review article agrees with this and with the judge's idea that, regarding commerce, being inactive is an activity. Obamacare does indeed require the mandate: Because the law requires insurance companies to sell coverage to people regardless of their pre-existing conditions, many people might delay buying insurance until they become sick. But is the fact that the mandate is crucial to the law's functioning dispositive? U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler's ruling that the mandate is constitutional conflates moral, policy and constitutional considerations. She says people who choose "not to purchase health insurance will benefit greatly when they become ill, as they surely will, from the free health care which must be provided by emergency rooms and hospitals to the sick and dying who show up on their doorstep." So "those who choose not to purchase health insurance will ultimately get a 'free ride' on the backs of those Americans who have made responsible choices to provide for the illness we all must face."

Global warming down under: 10 little facts
Excerpt: …[M]ost of the statements below, self-evidently, were crafted as slogans, and all conform with the obnoxious and dishonest practice of political spin – in which, of course, the citizens of Australia have been awash for many years. The statements also depend heavily upon corrupt wordsmithing with propaganda intent, a technique that international Green lobbyists are both brilliant at and relentless in practising. The ten statements below comprise the main arguments that are made in public in justification for the government’s intended new tax on carbon dioxide. Individually and severally these arguments are without merit. (Although written for and about Australia, this applies here, too. --Ron P.)

Women's Online Jihad magazine martyr bomb tips: Glossy 'Jihad Cosmo' combines beauty tips with suicide bombing advice
Affirmative Action among folks who didn’t get the memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: Al-Qaeda has launched a women's magazine that mixes beauty and fashion tips with advice on suicide bombings. Dubbed 'Jihad Cosmo', the glossy magazine's front cover features the barrel of a sub-machine gun next to a picture a woman in a veil. There are exclusive interviews with martyrs' wives, who praise their husbands' decisions to die in suicide attacks.

“Homeless” Man Hussain Hashem al-Hussaini is “John Doe #2 in Oklahoma bombing
Excerpt: On Wednesday, a “homeless man” was arrested in the Boston suburb of Quincy, Massachusetts, on a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after allegedly striking another man with a beer bottle. His name is Hussain Hashem al-HUSSAINI, although has several other aliases and a previous arrest record. His arrest would have likely gone unnoticed except for the tenacious investigative journalism conducted in the months and years following the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by author and investigative journalist Jayna Davis. Ms. Davis, a former reporter for KFOR-TV at the time of the bombing, identified al HUSSAINI as the “John Doe #2” in the April 19, 1995 bombing that claimed the lives of 168 people, including 22 children, three who were unborn. Her investigation is chronicled in her book, The Third Terrorist, and is an important investigative report into the actual events that took place in the months, days and weeks leading to the bombing, and perhaps even more importantly, in the years afterward. The disheveled homeless man arrested this week is at the epicenter of a plot that involves not only domestic terrorism, but the inexcusable failures and activities of the FBI that led directly to the events of September 2001. Ms. Davis documented the direct involvement of a Muslim terrorist operation involved in the 1995 bombing, and attempted to warn the FBI of additional attacks being planned. Despite impeccable documentation compiled by Ms. Davis that I personally reviewed in my capacity as an investigator, her warnings went unheeded. Six years later, the worst attack on American soil killed another 3,000 people. It is my belief that the attacks of 9/11 could have been stopped had the FBI acted upon the evidence she submitted to the FBI. (In 1982 I had a fellow Marine and friend, Sgt Maj Fred Douglas USMC killed in the Beirut bombing. I began to take an active interest in all things R/T to Middle Eastern & terrorists re if they can bomb us like they did Beirut they can certainly do the same here. On or about summer 1985 the BBC made a documentary: The Sword of Islam. I was on days off and happened to catch the movie on WGBH. The hair on the back of my neck stood up---I knew they were coming. I wrote a To: From letter to the powers that be re we should buy this movie and show it to all police organizations and MASSPORT personnel. Incidentally---I was stationed at Troop F, Logan International Airport, Boston, MA from 1978 to 1988 as a Massachusetts State Police Officer. I submitted that letter to my captain and he pursued the matter but stated that MASSPORT didn’t want to spend several thousand dollars on a documentary. Later I wrote a lengthy To: From re the likely attack plan on a terminal by terrorists and a response plan. I submitted this via a CPL in the detective section . Unfortunately I was a “uniformed” officer and uniformed officers are well known to be not as smart and capable as “detectives” consequently it went nowhere. From this point on I made it a practice to “profile” middle easterners. I stopped and interrogated many middle easterners throughout the airport on a continuous basis until I transferred out of Troop F in 1988. I had remarkable success in stalking suspect people and on one occasion then and to this day I know this man was a terrorist. I contacted the FBI and Immigration and no one was interested. To this day---I have that man’s identification in my wallet. I have kept in on my person since 1986. After 9/11 I re submitted my interaction with this man to FBI and CIA—I didn’t even receive a call back. The entire narrative remains in my personal files. --Tom C.)

Important: The Real Battle: Makers v. Takers
Excerpt: The recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report citing systemic high unemployment for the past two years shows that of the approximately 300 million Americans, only 47% of adults have full-time jobs. It's a mind-boggling statistic: 53%-- or a majority -- of American adults do not work. The repercussions for our country are dire, despite the White House proclaiming the recent Labor report as good news. Meanwhile Dems in Congress are relying on an elaborate Ponzi-scheme of increased taxes and hide-the-budget-pickle to justify spending increases on a bevy of social re-engineering programs while the White House continues to champion an expansion of the regulatory straight jacket hobbling entrepreneurs. (…) GOP mostly represents the "makers"--the entrepreneurs who create the pies that the White House wants to tax and regulate to death. Increasingly, the Dems represent the "takers"--the folks on the dole, receiving entitlement support, government subsidies and those deriving power from government protectionism. The battle lines between these two groups, the Makers and the Takers, has never been more apparent. Takers, dependent upon government and their union allies, argue that in these rough economic times, they need to preserve or increase their slice of the pie. Makers are worried whether, given the increase in government regulatory handcuffs and increased tax knee-capping, they can even make a pie.

Buoyed by Recovery, Migrants Send Home More Money
Excerpt: Immigrants from most Latin American countries sent home substantially more money at the beginning of 2011 than they did a year earlier, signaling the economic recovery in the U.S. and other developed countries has improved prospects for foreign workers. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico received between 6% and 16% more revenue from remittances in January than in the same month last year, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The exception was Brazil, which experienced a 3% decline, said the U.N. agency.

U.S. Pulls Back from Push for Women’s Rights in Afghanistan
No way to help women in traditional Muslim societies, under Shari’a Law. The beauty of multiculturalism some want to allow here. ~Bob. Excerpt: Saying it’s time to be realistic about foreign policy goals, U.S. officials are downgrading the importance of achieving certain benchmarks for women’s rights in Afghanistan, as President Hamid Karzai’s government courts peace with insurgents. J. Alexander Their, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s office in Afghanistan, told The Washington Post: “The women’s issue is one where we need hardheaded realism. There are things we can do, and do well. But if we become unrealistic and overfocused . . . we get ourselves in trouble.” Another U.S. official was more blunt, saying: “Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities.”

Islamic radicalism: The questions that Rep. Peter King is right to ask
Excerpt: One of the odder exchanges I've ever seen during a congressional hearing involved Attorney General Eric Holder, Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith and the phrase "radical Islam." Smith, at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee last May, cited three recent terrorist incidents: the Fort Hood shooting rampage, the underwear bomber and the Times Square bomber. "Do you feel that these individuals might have been incited to take the actions that they did because of radical Islam?" he asked Holder. The attorney general did his best not to go there. "There are a variety of reasons why I think people have taken these actions," he said. "I think you have to look at each individual case." Smith tried again - and again. Holder repeatedly resisted, before grudgingly acknowledging the obvious. "I certainly think that it's possible that people who espouse a radical version of Islam have had an ability to have an impact on people like" the accused Times Square bomber, he said.

Senator Rubio Comments On Senate's Failure To Rein In Spending "I Did Not Come To The U.S. Senate To Be Part Of Some Absurd Political Theatre"
Excerpt: U.S. Senator Marco Rubio today commented after his vote in favor of H.R. 1, the continuing resolution to finance the government, which failed in the Senate. The House-passed measure would have made $57 billion in spending reductions for the remaining fiscal year ending on September 30, while also defunding the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) enforcement of job-destroying numeric nutrient regulations for Florida.

Col. West forms federal 'leadership PAC'
Excerpt: He's already a platinum YouTube star, Internet traffic generator and cable TV mainstay. Now freshman U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, has formed a federal "leadership PAC" that could come in handy if he wants to lift his national profile any higher. Leadership PACs allow members of Congress - including the three other members of Palm Beach County's congressional delegation - to raise money at up to $5,000 a pop and distribute contributions to other candidates. The committees are often used by those with leadership ambitions to curry favor with colleagues. On his way to becoming House speaker, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, used his PAC to hand out $4 million to GOP candidates over the last four election cycles.

Libyan rebels' ragtag army left in disarray
If we don’t help them, they will hate us. Of course, if we do help them, they will still hate us. ~Bob. Excerpt: The idealistic protesters-turned-soldiers grew overconfident and inattentive after two swift triumphs. Then they retreated in chaos when Gadhafi unleashed his professional army and its punishing heavy weapons and warplanes. That resurgent army is now pushing eastward relentlessly, scattering the outgunned rebels. All that stands between Gadhafi and rebel headquarters in Benghazi are disorganized volunteers and army defectors spread thinly along the coastal highway. Not a single heavy-gun emplacement is dug in along the 140-mile desert highway from the rebels' new defensive line in Port Brega to Benghazi. And all that protects Port Brega, a strategic oil hub, are the same outdated weapons that proved so ineffective in Ras Lanuf. At a rebel checkpoint about 25 miles east of Ras Lanuf late Saturday, fighters flung themselves into the desert each time a government warplane passed overhead. Gun trucks ferrying rebel reinforcements — many unarmed — sped west to the front, passing ambulances with blue lights flashing headed in the opposite direction. It is an asymmetrical fight. The rebels can muster only ancient hand-cranked antiaircraft guns, heavy machine-guns, recoilless rifles, rockets, grenade launchers and assault rifles.

Al Qaeda commander calls for Islamic rule in Libya
Excerpt: A top Libyan al Qaeda commander has urged his countrymen to overthrow Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime and establish Islamic rule, expanding the terror network’s attempts to capitalize on the wave of unrest sweeping the region. Abu Yahia al-Libi, al Qaeda’s Afghanistan commander, said in a video posted on a militant website that after the fall of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, it is now Col. Gadhafi’s turn, as rebel fighters there press a nearly monthlong campaign to oust him. Those nation’s autocratic governments — enemies of Islamic militants — practiced “the worst kind of oppression” with the backing of the West and failed to heed the lessons of history, he said. “Now it is the turn of Gadhafi after he made the people of Libya suffer for more than 40 years,” he said, adding that it would bring shame to the Libyan people if the strongman were allowed to die a peaceful death.

Opposition rallies against Hezbollah
Brave people. Hezbollah has never shown any humanitarian restraint. They will slaughter anyone opposed to them, in the name of Allah. ~Bob. Excerpt: Tens of thousands of Lebanese opposition supporters on Sunday demanded Hezbollah be disarmed as they rallied to mark the sixth anniversary of a popular uprising against Syrian troops in the country. "It is impossible that any of us here accept tutelage over Lebanon again, whether foreign domination or the domination of arms within Lebanon working for foreign interests," said outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri, in reference to the arsenal of the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group. "It is impossible to accept that these weapons ... continue to be turned against the democratic will of the people," said Western-backed Hariri, son of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri whose 2005 assassination sparked the uprising that led to the departure of the Syrians. A massive crowd thronged Martyrs' Square in central Beirut, focal point of the protests six years ago, waving the national flag and the banners of pro-Western political parties. "The people want the fall of arms," the demonstrators chanted amid tight security.

Clueless Clapper
Excerpt: Nothing epitomizes more perfectly the Obama Administration’s abject failure to come to grips with the reality of the global jihad and a rapidly shifting international situation than the embarrassing tenure of James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence. Last week, Clapper again demonstrated how wholly unequipped he is for the job he holds, telling Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) that Russia and China represented the greatest “mortal threat” to the United States. Russia and China? Not North Korea and Iran? In an age when North Korea is testing to see how much bullying of South Korea it can get away with, and is aggressively pursuing a nuclear program, and while Iran’s leaders repeatedly make genocidal statements regarding Israel and triumphalist predictions that America and Israel will soon be destroyed, and is pursuing a nuclear program of its own, Clapper’s statement sounded like that of a Rip Van Winkle who had been asleep for twenty years, or maybe twenty-five, and hadn’t yet been clued in that the Cold War was over.

Just 17% Believe American Muslims Are Treated Unfairly
Excerpt: Most voters don’t believe their fellow citizens are unfair to Muslim Americans. They also think Muslims in this country should be louder in their criticism of potential domestic terrorist attacks. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 17% of Likely U.S. Voters believe that most Muslims in America are treated unfairly because of their religion and ethnicity. Sixty-three percent (63%) disagree and say they are not treated unfairly while 20% are not sure. … A plurality (49%) of liberal voters, however, says there is bias against Muslim Americans. Eighty-one percent (81%) of conservatives and 57% of moderates disagree. But only 10% of all voters think American Muslims are speaking out enough against potential terrorist attacks in the United States. Fifty-seven percent (57%) disagree and say they are not speaking out enough. One-in-three voters (34%) are not sure.

Egypt unsure what to do about trove of security documents
Excerpt: Perhaps the most controversial document to surface was one that purports to lay out State Security's involvement in a church bombing on New Year's Day in Alexandria. The bombing killed 21 people and wounded 80, the worst violence against Egypt's Coptic Christian minority in more than a decade. The legitimacy of the document hasn't been determined, but its distribution touched off protests Sunday in Cairo by hundreds of Coptic Christians. Copts, especially those in Alexandria, had suspected state involvement in the bombing, noting that a stepped-up security force that was supposed to have protected the church had vanished before the bomb exploded.

Fixing Our Education Problem
Excerpt: The message starts by listing America’s ten poorest cities, based on the percentage of people living below the poverty line. It then identifies what all ten cities have in common: They have all been run by Democrats for at least 25 years. (Is anyone surprised?) Some of these cities have never once elected a Republican Mayor in over a century! What it doesn’t say is that the school systems in these cities have been run by the Democrats for the same period – in most cases much longer. The lesson here is that you cannot fix a problem until you come to grips with its source. Most of America has lived in denial about our public education system for at least 30 years. After all, every poll says that the public believes that Democrats are better at handling the issue of education. How can this delusion persist, when the school system in every major American city is a disaster, and every single one of them is run exclusively by a Democrat machine in cahoots with their union partners?

Pirate threatens India after capture of 61 pirates
Captured pirates should be tried and executed at sea. Immediately. ~Bob. Excerpt: Five dozen pirates living on a hijacked ship serving as a roving pirate base jumped into the Arabian Sea on Monday after the Indian navy fired on the vessel in self-defense, the navy said Monday. The navy captured 61 pirates fleeing the battle and the fire that broke out aboard the hijacked vessel. The battle is the latest example of the piracy trade's turn toward increased violence. A pirate in Somalia threatened Indian sailors and the government with targeted attacks in retaliation for the arrests. The Indian navy said a patrol aircraft spotted the mothership Friday while responding to another vessel reporting a pirate attack. The pirates aborted the hijacking attempt and tried to escape on the mothership. When the Indian ships closed in Sunday night, the pirates fired on them. The hijacked vessel caught fire when the Indian navy returned fire, the navy said.

Hispanics Are A Prime Demographic For Conservatives
Excerpt: New Census data show that Hispanics in California, our most populous state, are now a minority in name only. Of California’s 37 million residents, 38% are Hispanic and 40% are white. Nationwide, the median Hispanic age is 27 compared to a national median of 36 and a median white age of 41. So Hispanics are not just our most rapidly growing demographic, they are our youngest. Projections show Hispanics reaching 30% of our population by 2050 from about 15% today. The absence of real reforms coming out of Washington should be of particular concern to these youthful Hispanic Americans. All our growing big government failures, now being institutionalized instead of being reformed, will be dumped disproportionately into their laps.

Republicans push English-only bill, requires language tests
This would benefit Hispanics the most, as learning English would help them integrate into the culture and economy, earning better livings, and thus be less dependent on government. Which is why Democrats, who reply on the government-dependent for votes, will fight it tooth and nail. ~Bob. Excerpt: Republicans introduce legislation in the House and Senate to make English the official language of the U.S. Republicans in both the House and Senate have introduced legislation that would declare English the official language of the United States and require the development of English language testing guidelines for those applying for U.S. citizenship. The English Language Unity Act would set out a new chapter in U.S. code that imposes an obligation on U.S. officials to "preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language of the Federal Government."

Freudian Slip: Chris Matthews Calls Obama 'President Carter'
I was saying on my blog in November, 2008, that Obama would be the next Carter. But I now think I was naively optimistic. ~Bob. Excerpt: With civil unrest breaking out all over the Middle East and Africa sending oil and gas prices through the roof, one could make the case that Barack Obama more and more is looking like Jimmy Carter. On this weekend's "Chris Matthews Show," the liberal host made it seem that this is even on his mind as he made a rather telling slip of the tongue (video follows with transcript and commentary): CHRIS MATTHEWS: If the Republicans get a real opportunity next year because President Carter, President - there's a mistake - President uh, uh, Obama doesn't seem to have a grip on it, he doesn’t seem to be able to pull the economy back. He’s not, it’s not working. Who would be the best to exploit that situation? Because that’s the person who would win.

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