Friday, April 1, 2011

Political Digest for April 1, 2011

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.

April Fool
Obama pledged, “No boots on the ground” in Libya. April Fool—the CIA guys are wearing sandals.

Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret help for Libya rebels
If Bush had...oh, never mind. ~Bob. Excerpt: President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday. Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding", within the last two or three weeks, according to government sources familiar with the matter. Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. This is a necessary legal step before such action can take place but does not mean that it will.

In Libya, CIA is gathering intelligence on rebels
The Obama Doctrine: Bomb first, then find out who the people you are bombing for really are. How does it qualify as “clandestine” if the administration leaks it and the media—ever eager to report stories that put American lives at risk—reports it? ~Bob. Excerpt: The Obama administration has sent teams of CIA operatives into Libya in a rush to gather intelligence on the identities and capabilities of rebel forces opposed to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, according to U.S. officials. The information has become more crucial as the administration and its coalition partners move closer to providing direct military aid or guidance to the disorganized and beleaguered rebel army. Although the administration has pledged that no U.S. ground troops will be deployed to Libya, officials said Wednesday that President Obama has issued a secret finding that would authorize the CIA to carry out a clandestine effort to provide arms and other support to Libyan opposition groups.

Al Qaeda's Libya Pilgrimage
Excerpt: As debate rages in Washington over whether to arm anti-Gaddafi rebels, an exclusive report by The Daily Beast indicates al Qaeda forces are gearing up to join the rebels and seize power in Libya. As the battle for the future of Libya continues, the excitement is almost palpable among Libyan-born al Qaeda fighters and other Arabs hunkered down in Pakistan's remote and lawless tribal area. According to Afghan Taliban sources close to Osama bin Laden's terrorist group, some of the 200 or so Libyans operating near the Afghan border may be on their way home to steer the anti-Gaddafi revolution in a more Islamist direction.

Obama's opportunity in Libya
Excerpt: The first two weeks of U.S. involvement in Libya haven’t gone great for President Obama. And the news got worse Wednesday when it was reported that Moammar Gaddafi’s forces had beaten back the rebel forces in a key clash. And while early indications are that Obama is losing the American public on this issue, the good news for Obama is that not all that many people are paying attention. New Pew poll numbers show that just 15 percent of people said they followed the situation in Libya more closely than any other story last week. That’s in spite of the fact that 41 percent of the new coverage focused on the conflict there…. A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed the president’s approval rating dropping to 42 percent, with voters opposing U.S. involvement in Libya by a 47 percent-to-41 percent margin.

MAP: The Conservative States of America
Excerpt: America is an increasingly conservative nation, by ideology and by political affiliation, according to polling results from the Gallup Organization. While conservatives have long outnumbered liberals and moderates across the U.S., the study sheds new light on state-by-state patterns. The map below shows the pattern for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Westboro Baptist Church petition--please sign and forward
Within the past six weeks, I, along with twelve of my general officer colleagues, submitted a grievance to the Kansas State Board of Discipline for Attorneys seeking disciplinary action up to and preferably the disbarment of the 13 lawyers who are members of the Westboro Baptist ‘Church’ – see article at this link: In the grievance and the addendum submitted this week (which is approaching 1000 pages), my colleagues and I contend the uncivilized and unprofessional conduct displayed in decades-long protests and other conduct are in violation of their oath and responsibilities as lawyers in the State of Kansas. There is a petition to support this effort and it is our desire to obtain a minimum of 1,000,000 signatures. Please consider signing it and forwarding this email to all your family, friends and colleagues then ask them to forward to their family, friends and colleagues -
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Larry Twitchell, Maj Gen, USAF (Ret)

Libya and the Just Use of American Force
Excerpt: The seas of people who thronged Cairo's
Tahrir Square
are gone now. But walking across its now-celebrated ground this week, I couldn't help but remember the inspiring scenes of Egyptians from all walks of life peacefully demanding freedom and dignity. The world watched in awe as the protesters and their young leaders changed the direction of a country and, together with Tunisians, perhaps the whole Arab world. (Wow... this is fascinating, John Kerry is suddenly all about the "just use of force" in Libya. I note that he makes a big thing about our mandate from the Arab League and the Gulf States, for once the Arabs are totally in tune with us acting, putting our men and machines into combat in an Arab country. Sounds great, I only have one question: why aren't there any Saudi, Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian, etc, warplanes helping form a vast fleet of aircraft to do the job in Libya? This is a deal where the Arabs are saying "We're behind you on this, 100%". And they are in fact behind us, so far behind us we can't see even a dot on our rear view mirrors. In effect they're saying, "We're giving you a pass on that whole Infidel Crusader thing this time, go and bomb and blast and for all we care, turn Gadhafi into tiny pieces of scorched mincemeat, risk your men, spend your money, and you'll get our sincere applause.... but nothing else." Somehow this doesn't really leave me full of enthusiasm for doing the job on an Arab country that all the other Arab countries could and should be doing, or at the very least, contributing to in a meaningful way. We had a long string of UN resolutions on Iraq, where Saddam was killing his people in very large numbers on a regular basis, and ended up with a much larger group of nations supporting action there, but in the end Kerry was against that war as unjust. The Libyan oil goes almost entirely to Europe, to Spain, France, Germany, the UK, etc. And it's those nations that are hot on this action. Say, does that mean this war is really all about oil? That was supposed to be true in Iraq, but oddly enough, the Iraqi oil has always continued to go mostly to nations in Europe and Asia, and very little to the US. Nor did we even impose war reparations on Iraq in the form of free or even discounted oil, so I guess that wasn't really a war about imperialism and taking the oil. Kerry said in objection to the war in Iraq that they really had no WMD and weren't really any danger to us. I'm pretty sure Libya has no WMD and is no danger to us. Yeah, Gadhafi is one serious nasty nutcake, and I have no trouble with the morality of taking him out. I just keep wondering what part of our essential interests are deeply entangled there. And why Mr. Obama couldn't take the trouble to even talk to Congress before sending our guys into aggressive military action. (See, it's not a war, because, well, even the Prez can't take us to war without congressional approval.) --Del)

Canadian Charged With Plotting to Join al-Shabaab
Funny how many fellows name "Mohammad" don't understand that Islam is a Religion of Peace. ~Bob. Excerpt: Canadian authorities said they arrested a man Tuesday as he tried to leave for Somalia to join the al-Shabaab terrorist organization. Mohamed Hersi, 25, was arrested at Toronto Pearson International Airport as he was about to board a plane to Cairo through London. After arriving in Egypt, the former University of Toronto health sciences student planned to go to Somalia "to join Al-Shabaab and participate in their terrorist activities," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said. Hersi is charged with planning to participate in terrorist activities and counseling an unidentified person to do the same. Just over two years ago, the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service stepped up investigations of Somali jihadist recruitment in the wake of reports that Toronto men were traveling oversees to join al-Shabaab.

Excerpt: We have covered extensively how the liberals in Wisconsin are trying to overturn the results of last year’s elections by funding a massive campaign to oust conservative Justice David Prosser in favor of liberal assistant AG Joanne Kloppenburg (see here, here, and here). One of the things we have covered extensively is that Kloppenburg is the beneficiary of a massive $3 million advertising campaign sponsored by outside Democrat and union groups who hope that she will overturn the recent legislation on collective bargaining for public employees. These groups are running sleazy and malicious ads which Kloppenburg herself sees no problem with and feels for some reason that she cannot denounce, as seen here:.... Remember, if Kloppenburg is elected, there is a good chance that everything the Wisconsin GOP has fought for will be undone by a dishonest and partisan judiciary.

Excerpt: An 18-month congressional investigation into AARP reveals that the organization stands to make more than $1 billion over the next 10 years from Obamacare, a law the seniors lobby supported despite opposition among its core constituency. AARP, which operates as a tax-exempt organization in Washington, would profit from an increase in its insurance business, specifically from the sale of Medicare products to older Americans. The lucrative business has already transformed AARP into an insurance powerhouse. If it were a for-profit business, AARP would rank as the sixth-largest insurance company in America with profits of $427 million in 2009.

Excerpt: As the fiscal collapse worsens, they will move from boycotts to violence against anyone who won't support more debt to pay them off. You read it here first. ~Bob. Excerpt: Well, that didn’t take long. Union threats that were somewhat isolated a couple of weeks ago are now gaining in popularity among union bosses in Wisconsin. Business owners are now receiving threatening letters telling them that, if they don’t support government-sector unions, their businesses will be boycotted. Members of Wisconsin State Employees Union, AFSCME Council 24, have begun circulating letters to businesses in southeast Wisconsin, asking them to support workers’ rights by putting up a sign in their windows. If businesses fail to comply, the letter says, “Failure to do so will leave us no choice but (to) do a public boycott of your business. And sorry, neutral means ‘no’ to those who work for the largest employer in the area and are union members.”

Student pleads not guilty to bomb plot
Didn't get the memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: A Texas college student from Saudi Arabia accused of buying chemicals and equipment to build a weapon of mass destruction has pleaded not guilty.
Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari entered his plea at his arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koenig at the federal courthouse Monday in Lubbock. Koenig set a May 2 trial date.
If convicted of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, he faces up to life in prison.

Sharia, Canon Law, and Sovereignty
Interesting and worth reading. Hard to excerpt. ~Bob.

Woman jailed for being raped in Muslim country sues
She was lucky. Rape victims have been stoned to death if they admitted to the sex act (rape) without four witnesses that it was rape. ~Bob. Excerpt: This kind of thing arises from the Qur'an's requirement that four witnesses are required to establish a sexual crime, i.e., adultery, rape, etc. This is the Qur'an's chapter 24, where it unfolds this way: in verses 11-20 Allah furiously castigates a group that has “brought forward a lie” (v. 11) against a chaste woman, without producing four witnesses (v. 13). The deity scolds the believers as well, for crediting this obvious slander (vv. 12, 16). This is a most serious matter (v. 15), but the Qur’an doesn’t tell us what it’s all about. This hadith fills in the details.

No 'Revolution' for Egypt's Christians
ell, we can't have Christians practicing sorcery, of course. ~Bob. Excerpt: On March 5, Muslims attacked, plundered, and set ablaze an ancient Coptic church in Sool, a village near Cairo, Egypt. Afterwards, throngs of Muslims gathered around the scorched building and pounded its walls down with sledge hammers—to cries of "Allahu Akbar!" Adding insult to injury, the attackers played "soccer" with the relic-remains of the church's saints and martyrs and transformed the desecrated church into a mosque (a live example of history, which witnessed countless churches seized and transformed into mosques). As a result of Christian girls being abducted and raped and overall terrorization of the Coptic community, thousands fled the village. (See this letter to Egypt's military leadership signed by twenty congressmen discussing this and similar anecdotes.) This latest church rampage was initiated by Muslims killing each other over an affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman—and then transferring their violence onto the Copts of the region and their church. Radical sheikh Muhammad Hassan, who was commissioned to investigate the incident, recently shared his "findings" on Egyptian TV. After insisting to Coptic viewers that "Islam is a religion of peace, mercy, and justice," he said that the "Muslim youth" who attacked the church never intended to do so; rather, they went there searching for a Coptic man. After invading the church, they discovered ancient liturgical books in the Coptic script, and papers with the names of Muslims. These were interpreted as "sorcery"—hence, they destroyed the church. (The fact is, some Muslims venerate St. Mary and often submit their names at churches for intercession.) Not once did Hassan condemn the Muslim perpetrators. He even referred to the Copts as "dhimmis" and "pact-holders," prompting outrage among Egypt's indigenous Christian population, or as one Copt put it: "Hassan wants to make Dhimmis out of us… I thought we were living in [a] country with a constitution and a police force and not in Mecca or Medina, 14 centuries ago. Or maybe this is a first step to later subject Christians to Jizya for protection."

What if Qaddafi is actually telling the truth?
Excerpt: While most experts say Qaddafi is grossly exaggerating the influence of Al Qaeda, new questions are being raised about its true scope as Washington debates arming the opposition.

The West is now an open goal for its enemies
Excerpt: One can only gape in stunned amazement at the extent of the idiocy being displayed by the leaders of America, Britain and Europe over the ‘Arab Spring’ – which should surely be renamed ‘the Arab Boomerang’. First of all, their declared policy is utterly incoherent. They claim that their aim in Libya is not regime change. Yet bombing Gaddafy’s compound hardly signals their desire that he should stay alive, let alone in power. This week Obama said Gaddafy should leave power. Now he said overthrowing Gaddafy by force would be a mistake. In similar vein, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague says the UK wants Gaddafy to leave power -- but that’s not regime change, because apparently it’s up to him to decide to do so. Presumably, for both Hague and Obama, if Gaddafy did decide to give up power this would have nothing whatever to do with the fact that they are bombing Libyan forces fighting for him to retain power. And they would also have us believe that the fact that the western air strikes are enabling the Libyan rebels to advance does not mean that the west intends its air strikes to enable the rebels to advance. One is reminded of Humpty Dumpty, who told Alice in Through the Looking Glass: ‘When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less’.

Assad missing anti-Israel irony --- or is he?
Excerpt: Syria's strong man is claiming the Jewish state is secretly behind the revolutionary fervor sweeping his country. But in reality, and for many reasons, Israel finds itself quietly pulling for his political survival. As popular unrest threatens to topple another Arab neighbor, Israel finds itself again quietly rooting for the survival of an autocratic yet predictable regime, rather than face an untested new government in its place. Syrian President Bashar Assad's race to tamp down public unrest is stirring anxiety in Israel that is even higher than its hand-wringing over Egypt's recent regime change. Unlike Israel and Egypt, Israel and Syria have no peace agreement, and Syria, with a large arsenal of sophisticated arms, is one of Israel's strongest enemies. Though Israel has frequently criticized Assad for cozying up to Iran, arming Lebanon's Hezbollah and sheltering leaders of Hamas, many in Israel are calculating that the country might be better off if Assad keeps the reins of power.

President Obama's Most Amazing Libyan Achievements
Excerpt: Iraq was just a Libyan prequel. Conservatives have complained that past opposition -- especially in the cases of then-Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden -- to George W. Bush's antiterrorism policies and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was more partisan than principled. Obama ended that debate by showing that not only can he embrace -- or, on occasion, expand -- the Bush-Cheney tribunals, preventative detentions, renditions, Predator attacks, intercepts and wiretaps, and Guantanamo Bay, but now preemptively attack an Arab oil-exporting country without fear of Hollywood, congressional cutoffs, "General Betray Us"-type ads, Cindy Sheehan on the evening news, or "Checkpoint"-like novels. In short, Obama has ensured that the exasperated antiwar movement will never be quite the same.

President Obama Apologizes to President Bush
Huh. How do you say "fat chance" in "Austrian"? ~Bob. Excerpt: The morning starts, as you know, with an intelligence briefing. My goodness, does America have enemies -- hateful, violent, vicious enemies all over the world who are determined to destroy this nation! Our job is to prevent them from succeeding -- all of them, all of the time. I labeled you a cowboy, promised humility and offered enemy countries an "outstretched hand" for their "unclenched fist." But calling the Global War on Terror an "overseas contingency operation" not only failed to deter the Islamofascists from wanting to kill us, it suggested a weakness that only strengthened their resolve. Al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas and the mullahs who run Iran, I learned, couldn't care less that I'm a person of color, born to a Muslim father from Kenya, and who lived in Indonesia. They hate us still.

AQAP and the Vacuum of Authority in Yemen
Excerpt: While the world’s attention is focused on the combat transpiring in Libya and the events in Egypt and Bahrain, Yemen has also descended into crisis. The country is deeply split over its support for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and this profound divide has also extended to the most powerful institutions in the country — the military and the tribes — with some factions calling for Saleh to relinquish power and others supporting him. The tense standoff in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa has served to divert attention (and security forces) from other parts of the country. On March 28, an explosion at a munitions factory in southern Yemen killed at least 110 people. The factory, which reportedly produced AK rifles and ammunition, was located in the town of Jaar in Abyan province. Armed militants looted the factory March 27, and the explosion reportedly occurred the next day as local townspeople were rummaging through the factory. It is not known what sparked the explosion, but it is suspected to have been an accident, perhaps caused by careless smoking. The government has reported that the jihadist group Aden-Abyan Islamic Army worked with militant separatists from the south to conduct the raid on the factory. Other sources have indicated to STRATFOR that they believe the raid was conducted by tribesman from Loder. Given the history of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) activity in the Loder area, if the tribesmen were indeed from Loder, it is highly likely they were at least sympathetic to AQAP if not affiliated with the group.

Barack Obama's 'I am not a Crook' Moment
Excerpt: The Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Global Narcotics Affairs might get a little more heated than usual on March 31, 2011. Among the panel members is Kenneth Melson, Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). The hearing will be the first opportunity for senators to question the Acting Director of the ATF about events surrounding Customs Agent Brian Terry's death and the Gunwalker Scandal. Gunwalker, also called "Fast and Furious," was a deviation from Project Gunrunner that only tracked guns being purchased for use in the drug war raging in Mexico. Gunwalker/Fast and Furious actually allowed the guns to "walk" south of the Mexican border without the knowledge or permission of the Mexican government. Nearly a week after Sharyl Atkisson presented the first major network report of Project Gunwalker on CBS Evening News, all three major political parties in Mexico asked for a clarification of the events surrounding the project. On March 8th, the Associated Press reported that "Congressman Humberto Trevino estimated Tuesday that 150 shooting injuries or deaths have been linked to guns that were allowed to proceed into Mexico as part of a U.S. effort to build cases against traffickers."
Plutonium in the Environment
Excerpt: Whichever route led to the disposition of plutonium on the reactor site, it would be difficult for such plutonium to be transported over great distances. Its high mass means that it is not easily aerosolized, even by fire. Mention has been made of the fact that plutonium will, under the right conditions, burn. However, this burning occurs during plutonium metal’s conversion to plutonium oxide. As the plutonium within each reactor is already in an oxide form, it has no such tendency to burn. Finally, plutonium is not very water-soluble. Under optimal conditions, the solubility of plutonium metal in water is around 55 microgram/L. The solubility of plutonium oxide is even lower. Could plutonium be transported away from the reactor site, under the current conditions? Potentially, yes. However, it would likely be in minute quantities that have no impact on human health. (When I first heard of Plutonium being found in the soil, I was hoping it was old, left over from 1945. It seems it’s the wrong isotope to be that old. Current thinking seems to be that somehow the tsunami caused the Pu-238 and P-239 to be in the soil outside the reactor site. To me it seems the only possible source would be the spent fuel pool at Daichi #3, but this is just my speculation and could easily be wrong. While any isotope of Plutonium in the soil is bad news, because of Plutonium's weight, it would be very difficult for it to travel any significant distance without a nuclear explosion to throw it very high into the atmosphere. So, it’s bad news there, but probably not such bad news just a mile or two away. This article from the Nuclear Science and Engineering Department at MIT gives some context and discusses health impacts for those (if any) who are exposed. Ron P.)

Marine Corps Receiving Vs Army Reception
Any questions? ~Bob

White House, GOP edge closer to a deal
Talk about “too little, too late.” ~Bob. Excerpt: The White House and congressional Republicans edged closer to a budget deal Wednesday, as House and Senate Appropriations staff resumed negotiations at the direction of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). A source familiar with the talks said members of the Senate and House Appropriations panels are working toward a target of $33 billion in spending cuts. The $33 billion goal splits the difference between $30 billion in cuts Senate Democrats have proposed and $36 billion in cuts Boehner suggested in talks with White House officials, according to the source. The $33 billion would be close to the cuts first proposed by House GOP leaders, who moved to $61 billion in proposed cuts under pressure from freshmen in their conference.

Top Democrats caught discussing budget strategy and the deficit

Bankrupt: Entitlements and the Federal Budget
Not exactly a news flash, but both parties are working on it with a common goal—postpone any problems until after the next election. ~Bob. Excerpt: The U.S. government is about to exceed its statutory debt limit of $14.3 trillion. But that actually underestimates the size of the fiscal time bomb that this country is facing. If one considers the unfunded liabilities of programs such as Medicare and Social Security, the true national debt could run as high as $119.5 trillion. Moreover, to focus solely on debt is to treat a symptom rather than the underlying disease. We face a debt crisis not because taxes are too low but because government is too big. If there is no change to current policies, by 2050 federal government spending will exceed 42 percent of GDP. Adding in state and local spending, government at all levels will consume nearly 60 percent of everything produced in this country. Whether financed through debt or taxes, government that large would be a crushing burden to our economy and our liberties.

Vietnam steps up repression of Christian group
Excerpt: VIETNAM has stepped up its repression of an indigenous Christian minority, forcing hundreds to renounce their religion, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday. The watchdog called on the United States to put Vietnam back on a blacklist of nations violating religious freedom, after documenting forced renunciations and other abuses of the Montagnard people in Vietnam's Central Highlands.

A Punching Bag No More
Yeah, but does it make Progressives feel warm and fuzzy for “going green”? ~Bob. Excerpt: The traditional, thin plastic bag, though increasingly demonized and taxed, has better environmental performance and is likely to be considerably safer for human health than alternatives.

Overspending on Multi-Source Drugs in Medicaid
Excerpt: The results show that, in 2009, states' Medicaid programs engaged in a large amount of unnecessary drug spending by reimbursing pharmacies for relatively costly brand products when alternative products with identical active ingredients were available at a lower cost. Specifically, the analysis identifies $329 million of overspending as a result of underutilization of the less costly (generic) and overutilization of the more costly (brand) versions of these multi-source products. Because Medicaid is a joint federal-state program, savings from addressing this problem would accrue to both states and the federal government, although the federal share of total Medicaid spending is generally about 57 percent. The approach of a significant "patent cliff," when many blockbuster brand drugs will begin to face generic competition upon losing patent protection in 2011 and 2012, makes the likely future overspending in this program even greater if new policies are not promptly adopted. In addition to the 2009 data analysis, this paper analyzes ten brand drugs expected to go off patent in 2011 or 2012 and predicts total annual overspending of $289 million-$433 million.

Deal with the Dragon
Last fall, Democrats tried desperately to turn voters' anxieties about trade with China into a winning issue on Election Day. Yet while Americans tell pollsters they worry about losing jobs to China, a majority who voted in November failed to take the bait. Across the country, but especially in the industrial heartland, candidates who refused to make China a bogeyman were accused of shipping American jobs and industry to our Communist rival across the Pacific. In one TV ad in Pennsylvania, Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak said his pro-trade Republican opponent, Pat Toomey, "ought to run for Senate in China."….For American companies and their workers, China remains the fastest growing major market for U.S. exports. From somewhere back in the pack 20 years ago, China is now the number-three buyer of U.S. exports, behind only our NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico. Exports to China in 2010 jumped 30 percent from the year before, increasing far faster than exports to the rest of the world. Soybeans and copper are among the top U.S. exports, but most of the things we sell to China are high-end manufactured products, led by chemicals, plastics and other industrial supplies, industrial machinery, computers and semiconductors, and civilian aircraft.

Ethanol Policies Leading to Higher Food Prices
Subsidized by taxpayers, thanks to the Greenies. ~Bob. Excerpt: Whether shopping at big-box stores in the United States or haggling with vendors at marketplaces in rural Africa, consumers around the world are confronting noticeably higher prices for the food they need. Agricultural and economics experts report government policies encouraging or mandating ethanol production are largely to blame, says Bonner R. Cohen, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. Food prices globally have risen 29 percent during the past year, according to the World Bank Group, pushing tens of millions of people into poverty. Staple food crops show an even steeper rise, according to United Nations figures, with corn prices rising 53 percent and wheat prices rising 47 percent during 2010. Agricultural experts are increasingly identifying government policies aimed at promoting biofuels -- corn-based ethanol in the United States, sugar-based ethanol in Brazil and biodiesel in Europe -- as a factor in the sharp rise of the cost of grains and meat around the world. Figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture underscore how the diversion of farmland from food to fuels has changed land-use patterns in the Midwest's corn belt. In 2001 only 7 percent of U.S. corn went to ethanol, or about 707 million bushels. By 2010, ethanol's share was 39.4 percent, or nearly 5 billion bushels out of total U.S. production of 12.45 billion bushels. Because the United States provides more than half of global corn exports, the diversion from food to fuel inevitably makes its presence felt on global markets, says Cohen.

No Pay Raises for DoD Employees With Unsatisfactory Ratings Under Proposed Legislation
Excerpt: Legislation introduced by Allen West (R-FL) would eliminate annual pay increases for employees who do not perform well in the Department of Defense. The bill is HR 1248 and has been referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The bill would prohibit Defense civilian employees who receive unsatisfactory performance ratings from receiving annually awarded salary increases or locality pay. It is probably not coincidental that the Congressman's bill targets the Department of Defense: Allen West is the third of four generations of military servicemen in his family. He was a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and retired from the military in 2004 and received numerous military honors during his military service.

Excerpt: The polls are looking bad for President Obama these days. Today, Quinnipiac released a survey showing Obama at his lowest ebb yet among voters: “American voters disapprove 48 - 42 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing and say 50 - 41 percent he does not deserve to be re-elected in 2012, both all-time lows, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.” The survey covers Libya, but that isn't the big issue: “Some reasons for his overall numbers might be that Obama receives negative ratings on his handling of the budget deficit, the economy, foreign policy, health care and energy policy.” (Counteth not un-hatched foul. ~Bob.)

“Poll: Obama’s approval hits new low”
Excerpt: Of course, it’s easy to answer a poll question. Or to cast a vote. Standing up to the intimidation and smear tactics of the organized left and their rent-a-mobs, or supporting the policies of the governors you elected once they take office and begin making the necessary cost cuts? That takes actual balls. And I’m not sure Americans as a whole have those any more.

Not a Superior Type of Judge
Excerpt: Should a lawyer who has participated in unprofessional conduct be awarded with a judgeship? Consider the nomination of Donna Murphy to be a superior court judge in the District of Columbia. The president, of course, is responsible for nominating lawyers to be judges in our federal courts. But he is also responsible for picking the local judges with jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, which is a federal enclave. However, those superior court nominations are approved by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (chaired by Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn.), not the Senate Judiciary Committee that approves nominations to all other federal courts.

Fukushima Daiichi crisis – April 1 perspective
Excerpt: Disclaimer: What follows is my interpretation of the sparse and often confusing information being made available by TEPCO, NHK etc. Take or leave at your discretion. 1. Plutonium detected in the soil around the plant. A few isotopes of plutonium (Pu) have been found in soil at various test sites at the FD plant. This has sent some folks on Twitter apoplectic. So where does it come from? One theory, and quite a reasonable one, is that it is the global residual left over from the extensive atmospheric atomic weapons testing of the 1950s -- 1970s. That would help explain the presence of Pu-238, for instance -- an isotope not readily created in a power reactor. Another thought is that there was a local source, either from volatilisation of sloughed material in the drying spent fuel ponds, or perhaps from the reactor cores (that was then carried away in minute traces via the vented steam). Being a heavy metal, however, the Pu would not mobilize readily and would deposit very locally. (For any questioning the “impartiality” of Brave New Climate’s opinions, see section #8. Like The Old Jarhead, BNC doesn’t even accept donations. While I don’t agree with everything said here, there’s no question in my mind about the operator’s integrity or motives. --Ron P. Who said I don’t accept donations? I don’t ask for or get donations, but a nice bottle of Single Malt Scotch would be accepted! ~Bob.)

An Opportunity to Throw Kids A Lifeline
If you educate black kids, they might get a job and become Republicans. Besides, some black kids in DC get good educations—if their last name is Obama. ~Bob. Excerpt: In the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, children suffer in a public education system rife with violence and ranked among the worst in the nation. Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives took action to give those students some hope when it voted to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (D.C. OSP), which provides scholarships to low-income children, allowing them to attend their school of choice. It was one of the most consequential education votes that Congress will make this year. The program empowers parents, and it rejects the notion that a child should be relegated to a failing public school because they were born in the wrong zip code. Yet, remarkably, the program faces opposition from President Barack Obama and Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

D.C.’s leading export: Total partisan war
Excerpt: Camped-out protesters, an incendiary judicial battle, wall-to-wall attack ads: the scorched-earth politics that resulted from Gov. Scott Walker’s recent effort to limit collective bargaining rights have made it seem as if Washington had come to Wisconsin. It’s not an isolated incident. In capital after state capital, Washington’s toxic culture is seeping in, suffocating local tradition and replacing it with the Beltway’s unique contribution to American politics—the practice of permanent, total war. The shrill partisanship, hardball politics and legislative stalemate that marked Madison’s recent turn in the national spotlight are becoming an increasingly familiar presence, exported from the national parties and the campaign tradesmen and special interests who run and finance their campaigns. Washington’s fingerprints aren’t on all the state legislative races, secretary of state contests, state supreme court elections, recall or referendum campaigns that have gone nuclear in recent years. But they are on enough of them to suggest that D.C.’s values—marked by the professionalization of politics and demands for lockstep partisanship—are inexorably rolling over the nation’s political scene.

Can You Face the True Consequences of War? The Horrors of Bagging Soldiers' Bodies in Iraq
Excerpt: Jess Goodell enlisted in the Marines immediately after she graduated from high school in 2001. She volunteered three years later to serve in the Marine Corps’ first officially declared Mortuary Affairs unit, at Camp Al Taqaddum in Iraq. Her job, for eight months, was to collect and catalog the bodies and personal effects of dead Marines. She put the remains of young Marines in body bags and placed the bags in metal boxes. Before being shipped to Dover Air Force Base, the boxes were stored, often for days, in a refrigerated unit known as a “reefer.” The work she did was called “processing.” “We went through everything,” she said when I reached her by phone in Buffalo, N.Y., where she is about to become a student in a Ph.D. program in counseling at the University of Buffalo. “We would get everything that the body had on it when the Marine died. Everyone had a copy of The Rules of Engagement in their left breast pocket. You found notes that people had written to each other. You found lists. Lists were common, the things they wanted to do when they got home or food they wanted to eat. The most difficult was pictures. Everyone had a picture of their wife or their kids or their family. And then you had the younger kids who might be 18 years old and they had prom pictures or pictures next to what I imagine were their first cars. Everyone had a spoon in their flak jacket. There were pens and trash and wrappers and MRE food. All of it would get sent back [to the Marines’ homes]. “We all had the idea that at any point this could be us on the table,” she said. “I think Marines thought that we went over there to die. And so people wrote letters saying ‘If I die I want you to know I love you.’ ‘I want my car to go to my younger brother.’ Things like that. They carried those letters on their bodies. We had a Marine that we processed and going through his wallet he had a picture of a sonogram of a fetus his wife had sent him. And a lot of Marines had tattooed their vital information under an armpit. It was called a meat tag.” (Truthdig is a left-leaning progressive web-based news site operated out of California. My one suspicion about the validity of this article is that personal property is duly screened by fellow warriors to make sure potentially embarrassing material does not go to the next of kin. It serves no purpose. I can buy into a lot of the story above otherwise, realizing that there is some “agenda” in this article. But the bottom line is someone has to deal with the departed in all the ugly forms it comes in. Not something I’d like to do— let alone think about. –Greg.)

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