Friday, July 22, 2011

Political Digest for July 22, 2011

Book Recommendation: Noble Warrior: The Life and Times of Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, USMC
Readers of my blog will know that I read a lot of books. Because I choose carefully, I recommend about half of them to other folks. This is the best book I have read in at least a year, probably longer. It’s an autobiography, but because the General wisely selected two competent co-authors/researchers to assist, it has a much wider perspective than usual, and is free of the self-aggrandizement too common in memoirs. Marines, Vietnam vets, and military history buffs will be enthralled by the account of Captain Livingston leading his beloved Echo Company of 2/4 (the Magnificent Bastards) in a bayonet charge at the battle of Dai Do, a fight that arguably saved the Dong Ha Combat Base from being overrun, thus giving a great strategic and political victory to the Communists. His was one of two Medals of Honor earned in the battle. Anyone who thinks the fighting in Vietnam was less intense than in other wars, or the troops less courageous, should read this book and be educated out of their error. For anyone interested in the dynamics of leadership, General Livingston could bottle and sell the stuff by the case.

Then-Captain Livingston was a self-admitted “hard ass,” insisting on physical training even in the field, and grooming standards and combat training when “resting” in “rear areas.” (Marines will understand why I put those things in quotes.) He is the kind of officer the troops grumble about until they have been in and survived combat. Then they respect and love him forever. The many interesting sidebars with comments from his troops, peers and commanding officers, which greatly add to the book, make it clear how respected and beloved General Livingston was and is by his brother Marines.

General Livingston gives full credit to his troops and superiors, a trait of modesty that seems to come with America’s highest decoration for valor. They all say they wear it for their comrades, and the General is no different. There is strikingly little of the “I-I-I-I” in this book you hear so often in the speeches of politicians safely in Washington, sending better men and women to war, and taking credit for their victories.

The book has several additional value-added bonuses. General Livingston played a major role in the final evacuation of Saigon, interesting and bitter reading for any vet. He was involved in fighting the Communist insurgency in the Philippines, and probably narrowly escaped assignation. He served as an officer and in a civilian capacity in New Orleans, and has important insights into the tragedy that befell that city during Katrina. Lastly, his comments on the current military and political situation, and concerns for the future, should be read by all serving officers, but more importantly by policy-makers in Washington.

Marines like me, who were fortunate enough not to be assigned to rifle companies in Vietnam, will always wonder if we could have measured up to be one of Jim Livingston’s Marines. Perhaps, if he “kicked us in the ass” (his phrase) enough, but we will never know. The phony veterans who keep popping up, and the many who never darkened a recruiting office door to try to serve, they do know, and must, as Shakespeare said, “hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with” Livingston at Dai Do. Every Marine who reads this book will be proud to have worn the same uniform as General Livingston.

Collapse now has 11 reviews on Amazon
All five stars. I guess the President hasn’t read it.

Obama OKs Medal of Honor for living Marine
Excerpt: A Marine who repeatedly braved enemy fire in eastern Afghanistan attempting to find and save fellow members of his embedded training team will receive the Medal of Honor, Marine Corps Times has confirmed.

Heroism in ambush may yield top valor awards
No air or arty. Bastards. ~Bob. Excerpt: With no air or artillery support, the Marines of Embedded Training Team 2-8 were trapped deep in a kill zone in eastern Afghanistan. Their radios worked only sporadically, and dozens of insurgents fired on them repeatedly from three sides. “We’re surrounded!” Gunnery Sgt. Edwin Johnson yelled into his radio in the early-morning hours of Sept. 8, 2009. “They’re moving in on us!” At least twice, a two-man team attempted to rescue their buddies, using an armored vehicle mounted with a .50-caliber machine gun to fight their way toward them. They were forced back each time by a hail of bullets, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. An enemy bullet hit the vehicle’s gun turret, piercing then-Cpl. Dakota Meyer’s elbow with shrapnel. He shook it off, refusing to tell the staff sergeant with him because he didn’t want to make the situation worse, according to U.S. Army documents outlining a military investigation of the ambush. What he did next will live on in Marine Corps lore — and, some say, should earn him consideration for the Medal of Honor. After helicopter pilots called on to respond said fighting was too fierce for them to land, Meyer, then 21, charged into the kill zone on foot to find his friends. Under heavy fire, he reached a trench where the pilots had spotted the Marines, by then considered missing. He found Johnson, 31; Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30; 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25; Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class James Layton, 22; and an Afghan soldier they were training — all dead and bloody from gunshot wounds. They were spread out in the ditch, their weapons and radios stolen. “I checked them all for a pulse. There [sic] bodies were already stiff,” Meyer said in a sworn statement he was asked to provide military investigators. “I found SSgt Kenefick facedown in the trench w/ his GPS in his hand. His face appeared as if he was screaming. He had been shot in the head.”

Break Glass In Case of War
Excerpt: Not being a combat arms Marine can make it a bit difficult to understand a 21 year old who conducts the hardest training, likes to sleep in the rain, copes with long separations from their family, doesn’t know the word fail, is dealt the toughest life but simply smiles back at it and continues to look shit hot in their dress blues without missing a beat. How I love them. (Me too Major Pain. Me too. MasterGuns)

'Anonymous' Hackers Claim to Breach NATO Security
Excerpt: A group of computer hackers claims to have breached NATO security and accessed hordes of restricted material. The group called Anonymous says it would be "irresponsible" to publish most of the material it stole from NATO but that it is sitting on about 1 gigabyte of data. Anonymous posted a PDF file Thursday, and broadcast a link to it from its Twitter page, showing what appeared to be a document headed "NATO Restricted."

Franco-German axis loses its wheels
The question is not if the EU will come apart. The question is when. ~Bob. Excerpt: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has swooped into Berlin to secure a “clear, clean and precise response” from Chancellor Angela Merkel to the dramatic crisis engulfing the eurozone. He is unlikely to get one. French and German leaders typically meet on the eve of crucial EU summits to reach a pact that can be imposed as a fait accompli on their peers. In doing so, they reinforce the Franco-German axis that has been the driving force of Europe’s Project, and leverage their combined power. But this time the chemistry is particularly sulphurous. The Chancellor has not disguised her irritation at being bounced into a summit that she never wanted, and which looks to many Germans like an attempt to ensnare the country in an EU fiscal union and limitless bail-outs. Germany is still transfering €60bn (£53bn) annually to East Germany 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. No German parliament can agree to any EU formula that might implicitly entail the same ruinous obligation towards non-German countries with eight times the population.

Anita Perry encourages husband to run for president
Excerpt: Gov. Rick Perry will need money, organization, staff and stamina if he runs for president. But he appears to already have the support that's most important for the race — his wife's. Following a brief meeting on state finances Tuesday, Perry talked expansively for the first time on what his wife, Anita, has been telling him about a White House run. “My wife was talking to me and saying: 'Listen... get out of your comfort zone. Yeah, being governor of Texas is a great job, but sometimes you're called to step into the fray,'” the governor said. As an experienced political wife, Anita Perry has been stepping into the fray with her husband since he ran for the Texas House in 1984. Holding a master's degree in nursing, she worked as a nurse for 17 years.

How Spending Cuts—Not Higher Taxes—Saved Canada
Excerpt: When Jean Chretien became prime minister in 1993, Canada faced a fiscal and economic breakdown. The government's share of the economy had climbed to 53% in 1992, from 28% in 1960. Deficits had tripled as a percentage of gross domestic product over the prior two decades. Government debt was nearly 70% of GDP and growing rapidly. Interest payments on the debt took up 35 cents of every tax dollar. Mr. Chretien and his finance minister, Paul Martin, took decisive action. "Canadians have told us that they want the deficit brought down by reducing government spending, not by raising taxes, and we agree," Mr. Martin said. The new administration slashed spending. Unemployment benefits were cut by nearly 40%. The ratio of spending cuts to tax increases was nearly 7-to-1. Federal employment was reduced by 14%. Canada's national railway and air-traffic-control system were privatized. The economy rebounded. Between 1995 and 1998, a $36.6 billion deficit turned into a $3 billion surplus. Canada's debt-to-GDP ratio was cut in half in a decade. Canada now has faster economic growth than America (3.3% in 2010, compared to 2.9% in the U.S.), a lower jobless rate (7.2% in June, when the U.S. rate was 9.2%), a deficit-to-GDP ratio that's a quarter of ours, and a stronger dollar.

MSNBC To GOP Congressman: "Do You Have A Degree In Economics?"
Excerpt: Today, Contessa "educated" a conservative Representative that without the bailout, the country would be in "a depression." Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) said he disagreed which prompted the MSNBC host to ask him if he had a degree in economics. "Yes ma'am, I do. Highest honors," Rep. Brooks responded. (why is a reporter “educating” a Congressman? She’s not the brightest bulb on the tree, even for MSNBC. ~Bob.)

Arizona College Student Killed & Tortured In Nogales, Mexico
Excerpt: A southern Arizona student and father expecting his first child has been found dead in Nogales, Mexico, with what authorities say are signs of torture. Sonora State Police say the body of 21-year-old Juan Carlos Navarro of Nogales, Ariz., was found wrapped in a blanket on a roadside in the upscale Colonia Kennedy neighborhood.

Shabaab Essay Boasts of Western Recruits
An al-Shabaab fighter has revealed new details about Americans and foreigners fighting for the Somali terrorist organization. A recently released essay shows that the group's idealistic self-image hasn't just attracted young Americans, but has crossed the boundaries of nationality and age. "Some of the members in our battalion migrated from as far as Australia, while others left the comfort lives of London and Minneapolis. Some were as old as sixty years, others barely reached eighteen," says al-Shabaab fighter Abu Yaser al-Maqdishy in "The Path of Departures – Reminiscing [about] the Martyrs of Somalia."

France: Gadhafi could possibly stay in Libya
Sounds like they are sounding retreat to me. ~Bob. Excerpt: France's foreign minister suggested Wednesday that a possible way out of Libya's civil war would be to allow Moammar Gadhafi to stay in the country if he relinquishes power. Gadhafi insists he will neither step down nor flee the country he has led for four decades. With the NATO-led air campaign against Gadhafi's forces entering its fifth month and the fighting in a stalemate, the international community is seeking exit strategies.

Reid slams House for taking weekend off
Excerpt: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) criticized the House of Representatives for taking the weekend off, saying it painted a "very bad picture" for debt negotiations. "Let me get this off my chest," he said on the Senate floor Thursday morning. "I just heard there is an announcement in the House of Representatives that they are taking the weekend off." "I think this is a very bad picture to have the House out this weekend when we have to likely wait for them to send us something, because as I understand the negotiations taking place deal with revenues which constitutionally have to start in the House,” said Reid. “I think it is just untoward,” continued Reid. “That’s the kindest work I can say… What a bad picture.” (Note to Harry Reid, who voted against raising the debt limit in 2006. The House has passed a budget. It has passed a debt limit increase with a balanced budget amendment and real cuts in spending. What the hell has the senate passed in the fiscal area under your leadership except more ruinous spending? ~Bob.

Election 2012: Romney 43% Obama 42%
Excerpt: In a very early look at Election 2012, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are essentially even. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows Romney attracting 43% of the vote while Obama earns support from 42%. In April, Obama held a five-point edge over Romney. (To see survey question wording, click here.) President Obama currently trails a Generic Republican by six points, 47% to 41%. In match-ups against individual Republicans, the president picks up between 41% and 49% of the vote no matter which Republican is presented as a potential opponent. (I would vote for him over Obama, of course, but based on past performance, I don’t see Romney having the spine to turn the country around. ~Bob.)

Poll: Romney still ahead, but with big vulnerabilities in quest for GOP nod
Excerpt: Mitt Romney leads the wide-open contest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. But a new Washington Post-ABC News poll underscores his vulnerabilities as a front-runner, as well as Sarah Palin’s lingering power to shake up the race if she decides to run. The former Massachusetts governor again tops the field, with Palin second and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) third. Without Palin, Bachmann moves to second, and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) runs third, the only other candidate to score in double digits.

The Future of Private Health Plans under Health Reform
Excerpt: The new health reform law creates incentives for state and federal politicians and bureaucrats to exert direct control over the premiums of health plans. However, because health plans largely pass through costs from medical providers, artificially limiting increases in premiums cannot actually result in lower health costs. Instead, it results in reduced access to care and threatens the solvency of health plans, says John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute. The health reform law also introduces at least five critical uncertainties that make it difficult to estimate future medical costs accurately, and suggest that the reform law will be much more disruptive to health insurance than the Obama administration has advertised: It encourages the establishment of so-called Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). ACOs will lead to consolidation and cartelization of medical providers, thereby increasing medical costs more than anticipated. Health plans must offer policies designed on a standard health plan that offers government-approved benefits. They can vary their offerings only by how much of the actuarial value of the policy is indemnified by the health plan. Even expert actuaries cannot yet agree on the actuarial value of the policy. The law anticipates that some Americans will receive coverage through Health Benefits Exchanges. Independent analyses, however, conclude that many millions more will be enrolled in exchanges than the federal government anticipates. The health reform law imposes federal control over an accounting calculation called the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR), which equals the proportion of premium that is spent on medical costs. However, there is no evidence that individuals or groups choosing health plans believe the MLR is important. The law, which purports to maintain a significant role for private health plans, is not the desired end-state of many of its proponents. Many proponents would prefer a so-called "single payer" government monopoly health system. It is reasonable to anticipate that as the reform law fails, these politicians will seek to shift blame and liability to the private health plans, in order to minimize their role and continue progress towards this final goal.

Healthcare law may leave families with high insurance costs
ObamaCare—the gift that goes on giving. ~Bob. Excerpt: A major provision of the healthcare reform law designed to prevent businesses from dropping coverage for their workers could inadvertently leave families without access to subsidized health insurance. The problem is a huge headache for the Obama administration and congressional Democrats, because it could leave families unable to buy affordable health insurance when the healthcare law requires that everyone be insured starting in 2014. Some of the administration’s closest allies on healthcare reform warn this could dramatically undercut support for the law, which already is unpopular with many voters and contributed to Democrats losing the House in the 2010 midterm elections. “It’s going to be a massive problem if it comes out that families have to buy really expensive employer-based coverage,” said Jocelyn Guyer, deputy executive director at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

Some federal workers more likely to die than lose jobs
Excerpt: Federal employees' job security is so great that workers in many agencies are more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off or fired, a USA TODAY analysis finds. Death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations. The federal government fired 0.55% of its workers in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 — 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million workforce. Research shows that the private sector fires about 3% of workers annually for poor performance, says John Palguta, former research chief at the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, which handles federal firing disputes. (And this is before Obamacare hits. Actually, the private sector would fire many more than 3% for poor performance, except federal laws, trial lawyers and unions all protect poor performance. ~Bob.)

The Costs and Benefits of U.S. Ethanol Subsidies
Doesn’t factor in the political benefit to politicians, especially with Iowa voting first in the presidential race. ~Bob. Excerpt: Policies to promote biofuels are extensive. The political rhetoric justifying them typically takes one of three forms. The first is to support farmer wealth. The second is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And the third is to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). To meet these objectives, policymakers have historically relied on biofuel subsidies. Indeed, the Government Accountability Office recently estimated that federal ethanol subsidies add up to roughly $6.7 billion per year, says Christopher R. Knittel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a research associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research. Knittel examines whether current policies are cost-effective at meeting any of the three goals. The author arrived at the following conclusions: It is not clear that biofuels have a lower social cost compared to petroleum-based fuels. Perhaps most importantly, there is no well-founded scientific research suggesting that subsidy programs, such as the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit (VEETC), and performance standards, such as the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), are cost-effective ways to reduce petroleum-based fuel consumption. Subsidies and performance standards carry a substantial increase in the risk associated with measuring the indirect land-use changes associated with biofuels. If the goal of the current biofuel policies is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil or reduce GHG emissions, tariffs on foreign low-GHG biofuels, such as Brazilian ethanol, should be abandoned. If the goal of the current biofuel policies is to increase farmer wealth, basic economics shows that subsidies are an inefficient way of funneling money to farmers. Given points one through five, the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the VEETC, RFS and import tariffs should be eliminated, and a national LCFS should not be adopted, says Knittel.

Pain at the Pump: How Illinois taxes drive up the cost of gas
democrats screwing the poor to buy union votes. What else is new? ~Bob. Excerpt: As families make their Fourth of July travel plans, motorists in Illinois are feeling the pinch especially hard. National surveys continually find that Chicago tops the list of highest average gas prices in the country.1 Latest numbers show that as of June 27, the average gasoline price in Chicago is $3.98, compared to a state average of $3.78 per gallon and a national average of $3.58 per gallon.2 Most consumers understand that the forces of supply and demand are largely responsible for setting gas prices. But carpooling moms and pizza delivery guys often are shocked to find that Illinois has the fifth highest gas taxes in the nation.3 Even worse, the state reaps “windfall profits” when gas prices rise. Specifically, the state applies a 6.25 percent sales tax on gasoline, in addition to a flat-rate excise tax. When gas prices go up, so does the state’s “take” from sales taxes.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee -- And the Race Card
Excerpt: For those who voted for President Barack Obama expecting him to bridge America's "racial divide," a question: "How's that working for you?"  Black U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, says "the minority community" blames racism for the Republican refusal to increase the debt limit without conditions. She did not, to be fair, flat-out call Republicans sheet-wearing, Ku Klux Klan-supporting, Jim Crow-loving, poll-tax-imposing, back-of-the-bus crackers. (It may be worth pointing out that the author of this column, Larry Elder—like Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, and others TOJ regularly refers readers to—is black, unless he has a fake picture beside his name on many year’s worth of columns. Ron P. You cant tell by the picture—I want to see the birth certificate. ~Bob.)

Iran: America Too Depleted to Attack Even if We Make the Bomb!
Excerpt: The Obama administration has criticized the Iranian regime and its policies while the United States and other countries have put tough sanctions on Iran. The question remains, however, how the Iranian rulers perceive the situation. In their speeches and writings, they argue that America is weak and crumbling. This is, in part, propaganda, but to a considerable degree it is also clear that they believe this to be true. An example of this is an article that has just appeared on Gerdab, a website run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which concludes that America is so tired from being involved in so many wars that even if Iran makes an atomic bomb it will not attack Iran, nor will it allow Israel to take such action. (We (the USA) used exactly this kind of pressure to cause the USSR to implode. How ironic it would be to see the same tactic used against us with the same result. Ron P. Yes, One of the reasons I wrote Collapse was to point out that the looming fiscal disaster makes it much harder to defend ourselves. ~Bob.)

Space shuttle on verge of final landing
Excerpt: Space shuttle Atlantis zoomed back toward Earth on Thursday to make the very last landing of the 30-year program. Atlantis' crew of four fired the braking rockets in the wee hours of the morning. That set them on a course toward an on-time touchdown just before dawn at 5:56 a.m., one last shuttle touchdown for the history books. (…) The space station's international partners — Russia, Europe and Japan — will continue to carry up cargo loads. (Thankfully, the final landing was successful. Other than from sales of oil, gas, and gold, the Russians have little foreign exchange to spend on anything. Europe is essentially broke from having to deal with the PIIGS problems. Japan is still trying to recover from the dotcom bubble-burst in the 90s. China, India, and Brazil are all pursuing manned space flight. Even the Iranians have launched a satellite within the past year. What is it they see in space that we don’t see? The future, friend, they see the future. Ron P.)

FEC rules that John Edwards presidential campaign must repay $2 million in matching funds
John Kerry’s choice for VP. And they complain about Palin. ~Bob. Excerpt: The Federal Election Commission says former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign should repay the treasury $2.3 million. The commission on Thursday decided to order the repayment. Federal auditors said all but about $200,000 of the total came from federal matching funds the Edwards campaign received. The campaign got nearly $13 million in matching funds. Edwards dropped out of the race Jan. 30, 2008.

Republicans feuding over spending cuts in $1.5 trillion stopgap debt-ceiling plan
Excerpt: A package of spending cuts totaling $1.5 trillion has become a political football in the battle between the House and Senate over raising the debt limit. 
The cuts have triggered something of a tug-of-war between Republicans on Capitol Hill, who still are not on the same page on the controversial issue.

Sides edging toward short-term debt deal
Kick the Can—Washington’s favorite game. ~Bob. Excerpt: Members of the Senate’s Gang of Six began on Wednesday to sell the group’s bipartisan deficit-reduction proposal to House Democrats as the likelihood grew that lawmakers would need to approve a short-term increase to the $14.3 trillion debt limit. The pressure of the ticking clock weighed on officials both in the White House and at the Capitol, who cheered the new Senate proposal but acknowledged there was not enough time to enact it before the Aug. 2 deadline to avoid an unprecedented default by the U.S. government.

Michele Bachmann releases physician’s note on migraines
Excerpt: Rep. Michele Bachmann moved quickly to address concerns about her health Wednesday, releasing a note from a physician declaring her in “overall good health” despite suffering from migraines that must be controlled with medication. Brian P. Monahan, the House’s attending physician, wrote that he and a neurologist had evaluated Bachmann (R-Minn.) and found that the headaches were “infrequent” and well controlled. (Yes, but the sexist leftist hit job will linger in some minds. ~Bob.)

Important: European leaders meet at Brussels summit to deal with debt crisis
Excerpt: Top European leaders convened crisis talks in Brussels on Thursday to try to put together a more durable financing plan for Greece and boost confidence about the stability and economic fortunes of the 17 nations that share the euro as a currency. (Currency unity without political unity was madness. Like you agreeing with your neighbors to share all bills equally, thus providing a huge incentive to spend and a disincentive to work. They know it now, but are stuck, swirling around the drain. Will the EU collapse before California, Illinois or Detroit? Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen. Of course, since the world’s economy is tied together, it doesn’t matter in the long run. ~Bob.)

Public input sought on healthcare reform law
Excerpt: A body of experts on Wednesday began seeking public input on the type of research that should be conducted under the auspices of the healthcare reform law. The law created an independent nonprofit — known as the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, or PCORI — tasked with conducting "patient-centered outcomes research." The institute is now asking the public to help determine what exactly that means. "There are different opinions about what patient-centered outcomes research includes," PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby said in a statement. "A work group within our Methodology Committee has created a working definition, so that we can have a shared understanding to guide our work. Now we’re seeking input from the public to make sure we have it right."

Excerpt: Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa  and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Sen. Chuck Grassley, both Republicans, On Monday pressed Attorney General Eric Holder about the Justice Department's unsatisfactory responses and lack of cooperation with an investigation into the highly controversial Operation Fast and Furious. A letter sent by the two lead investigators highlighted testimony indicating internal disputes within the Justice Department and a statement from the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) that the Justice Department is attempting to protect its political appointees. "It was very frustrating to all of us, and it appears thoroughly to us that the Department is really trying to figure out a way to push the information away from their political appointees at the Department," ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson said of his frustration with the Justice Department's response to the investigation in a transcribed interview.
Excerpt: I don’t usually post twice in one day, but there is a story which requires our immediate attention (hat tip, Mish). This post’s title is riff on Arthur Fullerton’s Only poor people can be allowed to fail. His story is short & sweet. I believe it speaks for itself. (If a bank or other business can’t fail, there is no disincentive to taking wild risks. If I couldn’t fail, I’d gather up every penny in my retirement fund, go over to the new casino across from our work, and put it all on red. If red came up, I’d spend the winnings, then do it again. Whenever black came up, the government would tax you to replace my losses. Oh, to be “too big to fail.” Maybe a few more beers will do it. ~Bob.)

Dodd-Frank Law Turns 1: An Albatross Of New Regs
Excerpt: One year ago, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, setting the U.S. on a collision course with economic mediocrity and a prolonged period of high unemployment. With all of their infinite wisdom of economics and the global financial markets, congressional Democrats insisted they knew what they were doing when they drafted Dodd-Frank. They told us they knew how to regulate one of the most complex industries on the planet. They told us that the U.S. needed to lead on financial reform and the rest of the world would follow. They told us it was necessary to get our economy moving again and to prevent future taxpayer bailouts.

Casual Hate: The Subtle Side of Christian Persecution
Excerpt: Thus one Coptic businessman complaining about how he lost a legal case in Egypt, though he was clearly in the right, was quickly interrupted by the grinning fellow across him, who asked whether his opponent was Muslim or Christian; when the businessman, rather coyly, said Muslim, everyone laughed knowingly, some even suggesting he was a fool for even going to court. A women discussing her baby's erratic sleeping habits revealed why: the mosque next door, which always blasts Koranic verses on the megaphone around 4 a.m., constantly wakes him up in terror and tears; and though the baby does not understand the words, the mother does, pointing out that most of the verses being blared are especially hostile to Christians, like 5: 17, 5:51, and 9:29. Any number of Copts looked at me incredulously when I inquired why a well qualified Copt did not bother applying to an important post in Egypt that seemed almost tailor-made for him: I was duly informed—that is, reminded—that best jobs are reserved for Muslims.

Upcoming Weather Underground Movie to Show ‘Real Americans Who Stood for Their Beliefs’
Let’s hope it flops. The 60s leftists and radicals put American culture on the path to destruction, leading to today’s ills. ~Bob. Excerpt: Deadline is reporting that Robert Redford and Shia LaBeouf have been cast to star in the political thriller, “The Company You Keep,” based on the Neil Gordon novel about the domestic terrorist group called the Weather Underground. “The Company You Keep” tells the story of a 30 year long FBI manhunt for a Weather Underground terrorist, to be played by Redford, who must evade law enforcement after his identity is outed by an ambitious reporter (LaBeouf). The producers may have already given a peek at the politics behind the film. Voltage producer Nicolas Chartier, who has teamed up with Redford’s Wildwood Enterprises production company for the project, said of the movie that: “This is an edge-of-your-seat thriller about real Americans who stood for their beliefs, thinking they were patriots and defending their country’s ideals against their government.” But does the Weather Underground really represent “real Americans” who thought they were patriots?

"Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself." --- Morris Mandel

Why Bashar al-Assad matters to the West--- and what the Obama administration still doesn't grasp
Excerpt: The Great Alawite Hope's ouster would be consequential. So, too, his survival. Syria does not sit atop an ocean of oil, as does Saudi Arabia. It does not have a huge population, as does Egypt. It does not wield economic and military clout like Turkey's. But under the oppressive rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria has been the primary agent of Iran's ruling jihadis within the Arab world. It has been the patron of Hezbollah, the militia that has been carrying out a slow-motion coup in Lebanon. And it has been a welcoming host to Hamas and other terrorist groups whose most immediate target is Israel.

Worth Reading: Nigeria Falling
Excerpt: Initially the government denied the role of Islam in the violence. Apologists said that the ranks of the BH were drawn largely from disaffected youth, drug addicts, hooligans, and common criminals who used Islamic extremism as a front for criminal activities. But the influence of jihadist Muslim ideology and Arab Islamic terror organizations is clear. The BH refer to themselves as the “Nigerian Taliban,” apparently inspired by the success of al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001. “Afghanistan” is the name of their base in northern Nigeria.  Some suggest that it was perhaps not coincidental that Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf took control of the group in late 2001, just a few months after 9/11, and at once escalated violence and began a terror war against the Nigerian government, in imitation of the Taliban. Moreover, it seems that at least some in Nigeria’s Department of State Security were unwilling to take seriously the threat that the BH pose. According to official reports, proper authorities were informed of BH plans to start a new cycle of violence, but nothing was done. (If Nigeria falls to the Islamists, we’ll no longer get e-mails offering to share TWENTY SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS IN TRAPPED FUNDS. (They always use ALL CAPS.) Instead I suppose they will offer to share 72 virgins in paradise. ~Bob.)

Excerpt: I have long considered Empower Texans to be the most important and effective state level conservative grassroots organization in the country. These people are not just respected in Texas; they are feared. It is an awesome thing to behold. Michael Quinn Sullivan and company do excellent work educating Texans on the men who go to Austin claiming to be conservatives only to turn left out of the eyes of their constituents. And they use Twitter as part of their communication strategy. In fact, twitter is a key component of their outreach. Or at least it was. Today, Twitter not only shut down the Empower Texans twitter feed, but it also shut down the twitter feeds of every individual who works for Empower Texans. Twitter is a private organization. It can do what it wants. But I am very troubled that it did so without explanation and without anyone for Empower Texans to contact. If this was an orchestrated effort on the part of others to flag Empower Texans as a spam account such that Twitter’s computer system would automatically can it, Twitter has a serious security problem.

Allen West on not apologizingg: Don’t poke me in the chest!
Excerpt: Allen West says that there is no way he is apologizing for the email he sent to DWS or for the language he used in the email. He said the reason for his email was to say “don’t poke me in the chest” and that message stands. This is exactly what I wanted to hear. When I heard the rumors yesterday that he had apologized, I was hoping it wasn’t true. Turns out he is standing by his words. Go West!

Excerpt: Here is where I salute Colonel West. It’s in his instinctual desire to push back when so few have pushed back before. And that is why he’s garnered the respect of so many in the Tea Party Movement.

Egyptian agriculture minister blamed Israel for contaminated fenugreek seeds from Egypt that killed dozens in Europe
Excerpt: You've got to hand it to them: those hidden Zionist conspirators are thorough. Not even the fenugreek is safe from their wiles. Somewhere in the Grand Conspiracy Headquarters is a Fenugreek File on someone's desk with all the nefarious plans. Once again, conspiracy theories are handy for Islamic governments and societies, where they tend to thrive, because they deflect responsibility, and they don't have to make sense as long as they pin the blame on one scapegoat or another and reinforce a sense of righteous victim-hood to at once distract and unite the populace. "In new Egypt, old conspiracies live on," by David E. Miller for The Media Line, July 20: When a European laboratory announced two weeks ago that an infected shipment of Egyptian fenugreek seeds was the source of an E. coli epidemic that killed 48 Germans and a Swede, the Egyptian agriculture minister didn’t apologize, nor did he call for an investigation into the matter. The problem had nothing to do with Egypt, the minister, Ayman Abu-Hadid, told Egyptian press. "Israel is waging a commercial war against Egyptian exports," he explained, and with that the case was closed. (Once the American left helps them kill all the Jews in Israel, who will they blame for everything? Oh, yeah, the Jews in America. ~Bob.)

Saudi Arabia's 'Anti-Witchcraft Unit' breaks another spell
Seem, while we are dealing with little stuff like the deficit and the debt, our Saudi allies are fighting real problems! (There are wolves in SA? Who knew.) ~Bob. Excerpt: When the severed head of a wolf wrapped in women's lingerie turned up near the city of Tabouk in northern Saudi Arabia this week, authorities knew they had another case of witchcraft on their hands, a capital offence in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom. Agents of the country’s Anti-Witchcraft Unit were quickly dispatched and set about trying to break the spell that used the beast’s head. Saudi Arabia takes witchcraft so seriously that it has banned the Harry Potter series by British writer J.K. Rowling, rife with tales of sorcery and magic. It set up the Anti-Witchcraft Unit in May 2009 and placed it under the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPV), Saudi Arabia's religious police. "In accordance with our Islamic tradition we believe that magic really exists," Abdullah Jaber, a political cartoonist at the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, told The Media Line. "The fact that an official body, subordinate to the Saudi Ministry of Interior, has a unit to combat sorcery proves that the government recognizes this, like Muslims worldwide."

Excerpt: Police found more than two dozen home-made bombs in eastern Indonesia following an explosion last week inside an Islamic boarding school suspected of being a bomb factory, a spokesman said on Tuesday. After the blast that killed a suspected terrorist, police raided the Umar bin Khatab school in West Nusa Tenggara province and ended a three-day standoff on Wednesday with students and teachers armed with swords, machetes and sticks. Police later found the home-made bombs, but did not say exactly when.

Al-Qaida plans cartoon recruiting film for kids
Kids—they blow up so soon. ~Bob. Excerpt: An al-Qaida affiliate says it plans to roll out what some have called a Disney-like animated cartoon aimed at recruiting children to the terror network. Scenes from the proposed short film show young boys dressed in battle fatigues and participating in raids, killings and terror plots. It is the latest attempt by the terror organization to use multimedia to draw in potential recruits. Recently, a Yemen-based extremist group released an online women's magazine with makeup and chastity tips.

Somali children recruited for combat by Islamists: Amnesty
Excerpt: Children in drought-struck Somalia are suffering from a range of war crimes including systematic recruitment by Islamist insurgents, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. The London-based rights group urged international action to protect the rights of children in war-torn Somalia, where tens of thousands are fleeing extreme drought. Children are being "recruited as child soldiers, denied access to education and killed or injured in indiscriminate attacks," Amnesty said in a report. Islamist extremists, including Shebab rebels who pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda last year, control swathes of southern Somalia and parts of its capital. "As a child in Somalia, you risk death all the time," said Michelle Kagari, Amnesty's deputy director for Africa. Children are punished by Shebab if they are caught listening to music or even for just wearing the "wrong clothes," Kagari added.

Exiled Islamists Watch Rebellion Unfold at Home
Excerpt: American, European and Arab intelligence services acknowledge that they are worried about the influence that the former group’s members might exert over Libya after Colonel Qaddafi is gone, and they are trying to assess their influence and any lingering links to Al Qaeda. The group, whose fighters number more than 500 men, including many with combat experience in Iraq or Afghanistan, was part of the social fabric of eastern Libya, its leaders say. Its members’ relatives are in Benghazi, the wellhead of opposition to the government in Tripoli. Its fighters opposed Colonel Qaddafi in the 1990s, were captured and died in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. They hid from Qaddafi security forces in the caves in Darnah until the Libyan revolution. In short, many Libyans say, the men are seen not as an alien, pernicious force but as patriots. Libyans have held positions in the Qaeda ranks in the past, with the most prominent men being Abu Laith al-Libi and Abu Yahya al-Libi. “It is easy to change a name and say, ‘We are not part of Al Qaeda,’ but the question is if they have changed their ideology and I doubt it,” said a senior Arab intelligence official. An American intelligence official who follows North Africa said that dozens of the former group’s members trained and fought alongside militants in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region. … The formal American recognition of the rebel leadership allows the rebel government access to $30 billion in Libyan assets held in the United States. Of that, however, only about $3.5 billion is in liquid funds, and the rest in real estate and other Libyan government investments, State Department officials say. It is unclear how and when the money will be distributed to the transitional government, and what oversight mechanism will be placed to monitor it. (Some of the $30B will be spent to kill Americans. Bet on it. ~Bob.)

How to handle Islamic supremacists with Western citizenship
Excerpt: It was without any doubt a catastrophic mistake to invite millions of followers of a religion that has a strong negative attitude towards us non-believers and our democratic values to the West. Now they are here; their many children and grandchildren are here, and they all have Western citizenship. When we ask them to integrate and change their views of us and our values, their answer is: "Why should we? We were born here; this is also our country." We can't send them home, and they refuse to integrate. So what to do? We make them an offer they can't refuse. (It’s going to take a lot more American blood before a sensible, no-PC plan like this could be adopted. ~Bob.)

Campus Ministry Drops 'Christ' From Name
One of the nation’s most prominent Christian Ministries has decided to take Christ out of its name – a move that has generated cries of political correctness from within the evangelical community. Campus Crusade for Christ International announced this week that it will change the name of its U.S. Operations to “Cru” in early 2012. (Campus Crusade for Barack? Still okay. ~Bob.)

Excerpt: That debt explosion—which will be at the heart of our politics in the coming years—is different and unprecedented, and we have seen in recent months that the Left is completely unprepared to understand it, and the Right (with much help from the indispensable Paul Ryan) is only starting to grasp it. Simply put, that debate is all about health-care entitlements. And I mean all. Last month, the Congressional Budget Office released its most recent long-term outlook document (from which the chart above is taken), and with it they released the underlying data tables they used to produce their projections (which you can find here). Here’s a quick chart based on those tables, showing the components of federal spending over the coming decades: The red line consists of the health-care entitlements: Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, and the new Obamacare entitlements. The blue line consists of everything else combined—including Social Security, defense, domestic discretionary spending; everything but interest on the debt.

Excerpt: Our politicians love soaring platitudes followed by little, if any, action. The more Americans are promised shovel-ready stimulus projects, new sources of power, and other fantasies, the more we accept that bureaucracy, regulations, lawsuits, and impact statements will prevent much from ever being done. The president himself, after demanding nearly a trillion dollars in borrowed money for his budget, confessed that his “shovel-ready” projects had proved not so shovel-ready after all. Much of the vast sum of borrowed money instead went to subsidize nearly insolvent pension funds, entitlements, and bloated state budgets. Unemployment is still at 9.2 percent, with nearly 50 million people on government-subsidized food stamps — even as American infrastructure is crumbling, the private sector is moribund, and national timidity prevents any new large, visionary construction. Prior generations gave us space projects; ours ends them. Boeing once ruled the skies; now the government sues to stop Boeing from opening a new plant.

A Pro-Growth Plan from the Gang of Six: It’s a stunning reversal of the Obama Democrats’ class-warfare campaign.
Excerpt: There are a lot of known unknowns about the new “Gang of Six” budget proposal. But conservatives should hold back from trashing it. Why? There’s a large, pro-growth tax-reform piece in the plan that would lower tax rates across-the-board. This is a stunning reversal of the Obama Democrats’ soak-the-rich, class-warfare campaign. The best part of the Gang of Six plan is a reduction in the top personal tax rate from 35 percent to a range of 23 to 29 percent. For businesses, the rate would drop in the same manner. And the corporate tax would be territorial rather than global, thereby avoiding the double tax on foreign earnings of U.S. companies. Finally, the plan would abolish the $1.7 trillion alternative minimum tax. That’s huge. It’s another pro-growth tax reform.

Excerpt: One of the depressing features of the Republican party is the way they get suckered time and again into playing on Democrats’ terms. The pathetic spectacle of grown men and women sitting around in meetings trying to agree on “grand bargains” to save $43.7 bazillion in federal spending by 2023 before an allegedly looming deadline of August 2nd is almost too perfect a snapshot of Washington stupidity. The rest of the world isn’t looking for a grand bargain by August 2nd. And it knows enough about the decadent state of U.S. law-making to know that any such bargain would be voted through unread and begin to unravel by sun up on the 3rd. And getting Republicans to explain that not to worry, they’re not pushing seniors off the cliff immediately – that existing grampas will be grandfathered in — is a way to make the whole debt debate toxic. If we have to pretend that August 2nd is any kind of deadline, why don’t we simplify matters? Here’s a newspaper headline from a yellowing cutting I found up in the attic: U.S. Budget Deficit Hits Record $438 Billion For Year Boy, those were the days! Flappers in rumble seats, wind-up victrolas, and deficits you could measure in billions. A more innocent age, lost in the mists of time. Gosh, you’d have to be pushing, oh, twelve even to remember it. $438 billion was the record-breaking federal deficit in 2008.

Former KGB Agent Explains the Brainwashing of America 1980's

A Sign of Sanity Amid the Budget Banter
Excerpt: Obama is pushing all the right constituent panic buttons: "I cannot guarantee that Social Security checks will go out" if the debt ceiling is not raised. But the fact is, 60 percent of government expenditures do not depend on borrowed funding (read: "borrowed time"), but are covered by tax revenues. The real problem for the Left is that if the debt ceiling is not raised, they will actually have to prioritize what bills will be paid. I can assure you Democrats will be sending Social Security checks and paying military salaries rather than funding Obama's boondoggle "stimulus" projects. (The Balanced Budget Amendment, like every other tool, will be no cure-all. Like all tools, it can be either a useful or destructive instrument depending on the goal of the user(s). I’m certain anyone really trying in the future will be able to find a way to pervert it far beyond whatever meaning we give it today. Although I like most of Mark Alexander’s essays, and often agree with them, I think he’s exactly 180 degrees wrong in believing the Administration will prioritize expenditures to fully fund transfer payments. I believe they will suspend, delay or reduce ALL transfer payments as a first step to maximize the public’s pain. They think the American public will blame it all on the evil Republicans, just like they did in the 90s. With the media helping them, why shouldn’t they believe it will work out to their advantage? They may well see this as a way to break the back of small government conservatism for all time. I’m now retired and “dependant” on Social Security for most of my income. I’ve prepared by putting aside several month’s worth, just in case it becomes necessary. Ron P. I was thinking of going into crime for my retirement, but I live in the Chicago area and between the ruling party and the mob (which may be redundant), there are few opportunities. ~Bob.)

Young Hispanics skeptical of big government
Excerpt: An outfit called Generation Opportunity (which boasts 842,000 friends on its “Being American” Facebook page) commissioned an online poll of adults age 18 to 29 in April from the Polling Company/Woman Trend Inc. The most interesting results are from young Hispanics. They preferred “reducing federal spending” to “raising taxes on individuals” in order to “balance the federal budget” by 1 69%-27% margin. Of these young Hispanics, 57% agreed that “if taxes on business profits were reduced, companies would be more likely to hire” and 56% agreed that “the economy grows best when individuals are allowed to create businesses without government interference.”

Obama's sleight of hand on lobbyist contributions
Excerpt: The Obama campaign is trying to portray its fundraising juggernaut as an expression of grass-roots enthusiasm, an effort that requires shameless sophistry about lobbyists and "special interests." "We did this from the bottom up," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said of the $86 million haul last quarter by the campaign and the Democratic National Committee. "We didn't accept one single dollar from Washington lobbyists. ..." This is true by some definitions, but basically misleading. Plenty of Obama's large donors are, by any reasonable definition, "Washington lobbyists" -- they are simply not registered as such with the congressional ethics and records offices. Take Google's Beltway operatives.

Obama’s Ministers of Culture and Agitprop
I wouldn’t spend one penny of taxpayer money on “the Arts.” One person’s art is another person’s crap. ~Bob. Excerpt: Immediately after President Obama took office, his Hollywood benefactors clamored for the creation of a "Secretary of Culture." Tinseltown was disappointed with the administration's crony arts czar choice (Chicago lawyer Kareem Dale), but left-wing artists and entertainers have now been mollified.
Instead of one government-supported arts czar, the White House has designated an entire herd of them. On Tuesday, as part of Obama's "Winning the Future" initiative, the president designated members of the liberal activist group Creative Coalition as official "America's Champions of Change for the Arts." This is the latest in a series of "public engagement" efforts overseen by Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and her high-paid, tax-funded staff of thinly veiled campaign workers operating out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Honored guests at the event included ardent Obama supporters and Hollywood stars such as Patricia Arquette, Omar Epps, Minnie Driver and Rachael Leigh Cook. Creative Coalition CEO Robin Bronk crowed in a p.r. release: "Rarely before in the history of our country has change been more important, so we are proud to be recognized as a 'Champion of Change.' By sharing our ideas on the arts and arts education with the Obama administration, we can ensure the next generation of Americans have the same opportunities to express their creativity."

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