Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Political Digest June 22, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

U.S. high court upholds anti-terror law
Excerpt: The Supreme Court has upheld a U.S. law that bars "material support" to foreign terrorist organizations, rejecting a free speech challenge from humanitarian aid groups. The court ruled 6-3 Monday that the government may prohibit all forms of aid to designated terrorist groups, even if the support consists of training and advice about entirely peaceful and legal activities. Material support intended even for benign purposes can help a terrorist group in other ways, Chief Justice John Roberts said in his majority opinion. "Such support frees up other resources within the organization that may be put to violent ends," Roberts said. Justice Stephen Breyer took the unusual step of reading his dissent aloud in the courtroom. Breyer said he rejects the majority's conclusion "that the (U.S.) Constitution permits the government to prosecute the plaintiffs criminally" for providing instruction and advice about the terror groups' lawful political objectives. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor joined the dissent.
U.S. eager to replicate Afghan villagers' successful revolt against Taliban
Free men rise. Excerpt: The revolt of the Gizab Good Guys began with a clandestine 2 a.m. meeting. By sunrise, 15 angry villagers had set up checkpoints on the main road and captured their first prisoners. In the following hours, their ranks swelled with dozens of rifle-toting neighbors eager to join. Gunfights erupted and a panicked request for help was sent to the nearest U.S. troops, but the residents of this mountain-ringed hamlet in southern Afghanistan held their ground. By sundown, they managed to pull off a most unusual feat: They kicked out the Taliban. "We had enough of their oppression," Lalay, the one-named shopkeeper who organized the uprising, said in recounting the late April battle. "So we decided to fight back." U.S. diplomats and military officials view the rebellion as a milestone in the nearly nine-year-long war. For the first time in this phase of the conflict, ordinary Afghans in the violence-racked south have risen on their own to reclaim territory under insurgent control.

Bingo is chief beneficiary of Michigan PAC
Excerpt: A little-noticed political action committee, tucked away on the shores of Lake St. Clair, Mich., and named for the lawmaker once known as the conscience of the U.S. Senate, has suddenly surged into the front ranks of national campaign fundraising after more than a decade in the minor leagues. And the reason is: bingo. Revenues of the Philip A. Hart Democratic Club this election cycle exceed $1.9 million, more than the combined political action committee receipts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). It is one of the top gainers among political action committees anywhere in the nation, last year boosting its revenue eightfold, compared with 2007. There is one small, perhaps significant, catch. The prodigious political fundraising machine turns out to have given away just $500 to a political candidate in the past 16 months, to Rep. Gary Peters, a first-term Michigan Democrat. That record demonstrates how loosely such federal PACs are regulated, because organizers are free to hold onto their funds or spend them on virtually anything unrelated to campaigns and elections, according to campaign finance experts. For example, most of the Hart club's wealth appears to have been paid to two local bingo-supply companies and to self-described local housewives and homemakers, in expenditures ranging from $50 to $1000. Each is listed on monthly reports to the Federal Election Commission as a "Bingo Prize."

Boater chases mysterious periscope off Hollywood beach
My paranoia says, maybe Chinese? Excerpt: Ryan Danoff was fishing with two friends about four miles off Hollywood beach Sunday when he spied what appeared to be a mast on the horizon. Funny thing: There was no boat underneath it. Danoff, a Fort Lauderdale fish farmer who's on the water at least three days a week, aimed his 31-foot center console Fishy Business at the mysterious upright and found himself eye to eye with a periscope.

Harrisburg, Pa., other cities overwhelmed by economic downturn and debt
Democrat-run cities become Greece. Excerpt: This city has a $68 million bill coming due before year's end, an impossible sum that is larger than its annual budget. It's a predicament caused by extravagant borrowing and spending, and now there are only unpleasant fixes: steep tax increases, severe layoffs and crippling service cuts, even bankruptcy. It's a story that could be repeated across the country as cities and towns deal with the lingering consequences of the economic downturn and mounting debt. The obligations of state and local governments have doubled in the past decade, to $2.4 trillion, according to a recent Federal Reserve report, a figure that excludes more than $1 trillion in unfunded pension and retiree health-care liabilities. Generally, economists are not alarmed by increasing government debt during recessions because it stokes much-needed economic activity. But this time, concerns are deepening that the debt burden is too large for some municipalities to handle, forcing them into draconian service cuts or large tax increases, both of which would be a drag on the sputtering recovery. Beyond Harrisburg, other cities might have to default on their loans because most states are too strapped to bail them out.

Republicans' enthusiasm about 2010 midterms at historic high
Excerpt: New data from Gallup on Monday suggests that Republican voters are significantly more enthusiastic about the 2010 midterm elections than in years past, further evidence of an energized GOP base heading into the fall campaign. Nearly six in 10 Republicans described themselves as "more enthusiastic" about 2010 than previous midterm elections, while 44 percent of Democrats said the same. The previous "enthusiasm high" in Gallup data was in 2006, when 50 percent of Democrats described themselves as more enthusiastic than in past, non-presidential election years (40 percent of Republicans said the same). Democrats picked up 30 seats and the House majority that year.

Iran bans 2 IAEA inspectors from entering Iran
Excerpt: A senior Iranian official said Monday that two U.N. nuclear inspectors have been banned from working in Iran after filing "untruthful" reports on the Islamic Republic's controversial nuclear program. The move signals a more confrontational Iranian stance over its nuclear program after the country was slapped with a fourth round of U.N. Security Council sanctions June 9. Iranian parliamentarians have been calling for a reduction in ties with the International Atomic Energy agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog. They also called for the banning of the two inspectors, who report to the IAEA.

6 NATO troops killed in Afghan helicopter crash, bombings
Excerpt: Six NATO troops were killed in a helicopter crash and two roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan on Monday, military officials said. The fatalities included three Australian special operations soldiers and one American service member who were aboard the helicopter, officials said. Two troops, including one American, were killed in separate roadside bombings, officials said. The nationality of the second service member killed in the roadside bombings was not immediately disclosed.

Emergency Room Visits Likely to Increase Under Obamacare
Excerpt: More people are likely to turn to the emergency room for their health care and they are likely to do so more frequently under the new health reform legislation. This finding is surprising because an oft repeated argument for insuring the uninsured is that it will allow people to seek less costly and more accessible care elsewhere, says John C. Goodman, President, CEO and Kellye Wright Fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Emergency room costs will increase for two reasons, says Goodman: About half the newly insured will enroll in Medicaid and Medicaid patients seek emergency room care more often than the uninsured. While the newly insured will try to increase their consumption of care, the absence of any program to create more providers will force patients to turn to emergency rooms as the outlet for increased demand.

End Them, Don’t Mend Them
Excerpt: The school year is drawing to a close. Time to balance the educational accounts and see what’s been learned. Though not by my kids. I don’t worry about them. They’re geniuses like your kids and soak up knowledge the way a sponge (or a SpongeBob) does. Muffin, in sixth grade, has learned that Justin Bieber is very talented and doesn’t—really, Dad—sing like a girl. Poppet, third grade, has learned how the Plains Indians made tepees. (They waited until after dinner to announce that their “Lifestyles of the Cheyenne” project was due tomorrow so that all the Cheyenne dads were up until one in the morning gluing dowels and brown wrapping paper to a piece of AstroTurf.) And Buster, kindergarten, has learned he can make himself giggle hysterically by adding “poop” to any phrase. The Little Engine That Could Poop.
No, the accounts that I’m balancing—and it’s quite educational—are bank accounts. What’s been learned is that it costs a fortune to send kids to school. Figures in the Statistical Abstract of the United States show that we are spending $11,749 per pupil per year in the U.S. public schools, grades pre-K through 12. That’s an average. And you, like me, don’t have average children. So we pay the $11,749 in school taxes for the children who are average and then we pay private school tuition for our own outstanding children or we move to a suburb we can’t afford and pay even more property taxes for schools in the belief that this makes every child outstanding.

NY Test Scores
Excerpt: "Consider that New York just raised its standard for passing sixth grade reading and math tests to the following: on the reading test, 20 correct answers out of 39 questions gets one a passing grade; on the sixth grade math test, 20 out of 49 does the trick. In other words, getting a grade of 51% on the reading test and 41% on the math test gets you promoted to the seventh grade. ... Public school education in New York -- and elsewhere -- has become an overt fraud. ... What are those in charge thinking? First and foremost, about themselves. They realize that their 'business model' -- a system which has made the genuine education of children and genuine accountability of teachers utterly meaningless -- is an ongoing failure. How do you fix failure? In the real world, failure is fixed by adopting no-nonsense standards -- and getting rid of employees incapable of meeting them. In the world of unionized pubic schools, failure is 'fixed' simply by changing the definition of the word. In other words, failure equals success because 'we say so.' And why do we say so? Because we are politicians beholden to the unions. ... And make no mistake: this is a fraud made possible because the Democrat Party is its chief enabler. Over the last twenty years, the National Education Association, the nation's largest teacher's union, has given ninety-seven percent of its campaign contributions to Democratic candidates. In return, Democrats have opposed everything which threatens the unions' status quo: school choice, ending tenure, instituting merit pay, charter schools, standardized tests and anything else which would allow Americans to clearly understand what a joke public school education has become." --columnist Arnold Ahlert. The Patriot Post www.patriotpost.us/subscribe/

The New New Deal
This is quite an essay, filled with interesting thoughts on the current crop of liberals. They ARE different from the liberals of our youth. Perhaps this is why. --Ron P. Excerpt: More importantly, Obama won election not as a status quo liberal, but as an ambitious reformer. Far from being content with incremental gains, he set his sights on major systemic change in health care, energy and environmental policy, taxation, financial regulation, education, and even immigration, all pursued as elements of a grand strategy to “remake America.” In other words, he longs to be another FDR, building a New New Deal for the 21st century, dictating the politics of his age, and enshrining the Democrats as the new majority party for several decades to come. Suddenly, the era of big government being over is over; and tax-and-spend liberalism is back with a vengeance. We face a $1.4 trillion federal deficit this fiscal year alone and $10-12 trillion in total debt over the coming decade. If the ongoing expansion of government succeeds, there will also be very real costs to American freedom and to the American character. The Reagan Revolution is in danger of being swamped by the Obama Revolution. To unsuspecting conservatives who had forgotten or never known what full-throated liberalism looked like before the Age of Reagan, Obama's eruption onto the scene came as a shock. And in some respects, obviously, he is a new political phenomenon. But in most respects, Obama does not represent something new under the sun. On the contrary, he embodies a rejuvenated and a repackaged version of something older than our grandmothers—namely the intellectual and social impulses behind modern liberalism. Yet even as President Obama stands victorious on health care and sets his sights on other issues, his popularity and that of his measures has tumbled. His legislative victories have been eked out on repeated party line votes of a sort never seen in the contests over Social Security, Medicare, and previous liberal policy successes, which were broadly popular and bipartisan. In short, a strange thing is happening on the way to liberal renewal. The closer liberalism comes to triumphing, the less popular it becomes. According to Gallup, 40 percent of Americans now describe themselves as conservative, 35 percent as moderates, and only 21 percent call themselves liberal. After one of its greatest triumphs in several generations, liberalism finds itself in an unexpected crisis—and a crisis that is not merely, as we shall see, a crisis of public confidence. To try to understand better the difficulties in which the New New Deal finds itself, it might be useful to compare it to the original. The term itself, New Deal, was an amalgam of Woodrow Wilson's New Freedom and Teddy Roosevelt's Square Deal, and was deliberately ambiguous as to its meaning. It could mean the same game but with a new deal of the cards; or it could mean a wholly new game with new rules, i.e., a new social contract for all of America. In effect, I think, the term's meaning was somewhere in between. But FDR liked to use the more conservative or modest sense of the term to disguise the more radical and ambitious ends that he was pursuing. In its own time, the New Deal was extremely popular. Among its novel elements was a new kind of economic rights. The Progressives at the turn of the century had grown nervous over the closing of the American frontier and the rise of large corporations—developments they thought threatened the common man's equality of opportunity.

Wash Post Columnist: Divorced Conservatives and Palin Hypocrites If They Criticize Obama
Excerpt: The Washington Post's Colbert I. King is a regular TV commentator and a Pulitzer prize winner, but the column he churned out for Saturday's paper amounted to little more than a lazy ad hominem attack on conservatives. Dressed up as a Father's Day column, King argued that Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh should not criticize President Obama on policy matters because Obama is a good family man and they are not.

A Visit Inside Turkey's Islamist IHH
The wave of the future. Excerpt: The street outside the IHH, the Turkish organization that recently dispatched the Mavi Marmara to its sanguinary fate in the eastern Mediterranean, suggests a hopeful world of multi-ethnic and religious harmony. Men and women in various forms of secular and religious dress—beards, clean-shaven, headscarves, burqas—walk in and out of the building in urgent conversation with Africans in dashikis, Swedes in stained proletarian-wear, anti-Zionist rabbis sweating nervously in black suits and payot. A gangly teenager strolls bin a T-shirt that reads, “Virgins required: No experience necessary.” It isn’t clear whether he’s off-message, highly ironic, or yet another Turkish kid who bought a T-shirt he didn’t quite understand. The flags of the world (not the Israeli one) are flapping gaily above the street. The sign above the door reads, “The Fondation (sic) for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief”—in English only. Very few Turks read English, so this sign is not for their benefit. Inside, everything is climate-controlled and glossy and modern, the décor corporate. If ever you’re in Istanbul and down on your luck, just head over to the IHH and announce you’re a Western journalist. You’ll find the standards of hospitality excellent. You won’t see anything that might make the folks back home uneasy—nothing hinting of grim caves in Waziristan filled with raving bearded warlords screaming unpleasantly about Jews and apes and infidels. The PR flacks express some anxiety when we begin filming in the cafeteria; they worry that if we shoot the Koranic verse near the steam tables, “people will know we’re Islamists.” Does it matter, my colleague asks? They consider it briefly, decide it doesn’t, and let us keep filming. The IHH is part of the Free Gaza movement, an international association dominated by Europeans and headquartered in Cyprus. Last week, I spoke to IHH officials and European passengers on the Free Gaza flotilla at length. My colleague and I videotaped the interviews and put the complete footage on line. Anyone who wishes may consider their comments in their full context.... After these conversations, I concluded that this debate misses the point, which is that whether or not the group has ties to known terrorists or known eye surgeons—I’ve seen no evidence of either first-hand—it is an important new species of a non-governmental political actor. Its rise to international prominence represents a regional tactical development on the order of the PLO’s pioneering and inventive use of terrorism. To call them terrorists is to muddy the water; if you focus on looking for evidence of this you might fail to recognize what’s truly worrying about them. Although clearly they are Islamists, their chief weapon is not terror, but blackmail. They are indeed a charity, but their charitable works serve as financial and moral cover for a political goal, and that goal is repeatedly to force Israel into a hideous checkmate wherein it must choose between endangering itself and killing the IHH’s human shields.

Our Caudillo President
Stein? That sounds Jewish? Do you support Israel? Here in ObamaReich we have a place for people like you…Excerpt: As I write this on Monday night, there are rumors around that BP will agree to President Barack Obama's demand that the oil giant "voluntarily" put about $30 billion into a fund to be administered by the government to compensate victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Now, no one disputes that this is a real disaster and that BP acted irresponsibly in commissioning Trans-Ocean and Halliburton to drill for oil in waters so deep that if a failure occurred there would be no way to fix it -- at least until major damage had been done. BP, Trans-Ocean, and Halliburton, as well as the individuals involved, have much to answer for. But the action of the President in demanding this immense transfer of the stockholders' wealth without any legislation or court decision is extremely worrisome. We live in a Constitutional Republic. The President's job under the Constitution is to enforce the laws made by the elected Congress. His job is not to create new laws and enforce them all by himself. His job is as magistrate under the Constitution, not as Caudillo. He is not the law. He is supposed to enforce what Congress decides. The BP behavior is reminiscent of how, immediately after assuming office, Mr. Obama, with no Congressional authority or administrative allowance, simply made a phone call to fire the head of GM. When I called the White House press office to ask under what law or regulation Mr. Obama was acting, I was told he did not need a law. If the government put a lot of money into GM, it could call the shots at GM, I was told. But under what authority, I asked. "None needed," was the final answer. Without any new legislation, President Obama has used returned TARP money as a political slush fund to prop up favorite industries. This is the same problem: serious executive action without legislative authority.

Random Musings to Ponder (Congress won’t change much!)
Excerpt: A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that only 29 percent of Americans are prepared to reelect their incumbent representative in the US House this fall, while 60 percent say they are “inclined to look around for someone else to vote for.’’ The Post concludes that “anti-incumbent sentiment [is] at an all-time high.’’ It’s a widespread view. “Anti-incumbent mood as US voters pick candidates’’ was how Reuters headlined one story last week. “Anti-incumbent wave has Washington on the ropes,’’ NBC’s David Gregory advised his Twitter followers. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi conceded at a press conference that “there’s no question’’ about the anti-incumbent resolve of American voters this year. Don’t bet on it. According to Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, no more than 100 of the 435 US House seats on the ballot this November can be remotely considered “competitive.’’ Of them, only 24 are rated genuine toss-ups, and only 16 more are held by one party in a district that leans to the other party. Assuming Sabato is right — and granted, anything can happen between now and November — only 40 House seats are truly in play. In other words, roughly 90 percent of US House seats are safe. Alas, roughly 90 percent of US House seats are always safe. In the 23 congressional elections since 1964, the reelection rate of US representatives dropped below 90 percent only five times — and only once in the last 30 years. In 2006, a Democratic surge swept Republicans from their House majority — yet 94 percent of the House was reelected. In 1994, an even larger Republican surge washed Democrats from control — but the overall reelection rate was still 90 percent. “Nothing is so essential to the preservation of a republican government as a periodical rotation,’’ declared Virginia statesman George Mason during the debate over the Constitution’s ratification. Voters routinely say they agree, but that isn’t how they vote. An “anti-incumbent wave?’’ Most congressmen won’t even get wet.

Our Empty-Suit-in-Chief
Toom Tabard, meaning empty cost, was the derisive Scottish term for John Balliol, the puppet king installed by Edward I. Excerpt: It is hard to know whether this president isn't exactly the intellectual giant his supporters claim him to be, or if progressive ideology requires a certain level of willful stupidity--or outright lying--in order to maintain philosophical consistency. Mr. Obama, whether you realize it or not, there is nothing remotely inconsistent in folks wanting the government to "do something" about a massive oil spill, even as they don't want that same government insinuating itself at an ever-increasing levels into their personal lives. Your comment indicates that, at least for you, government is an all or nothing affair, as in "don't expect us to clean up an oil spill, if we can't nationalize GM, health insurance or the nation's energy sector." No doubt such sophistry plays well with your fellow ideologues, but there are those of us who, despite progressives' insistence that anyone who disagrees with you/them is a moron, who can see through such nonsensical pronouncements.

What Obama Needs Is a Change of Job Description
Be funnier if it wasn’t too true. Excerpt: So people look at Obama and how he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing with the oil spill, is flailing around trying to stimulate the economy, and is forcing a poorly thought out and unread health care bill on America and say he’s doing a bad job as president. But as I said, we’re being unfair to him. What was Obama before all this? He was a community organizer — pretty much a made up job with unknown responsibilities, as far as I can tell. I doubt Obama even knew what he was supposed to do in that job. And after community organizer, he was a legislator who voted yes, no, and present on things — a pretty simple job at which he reportedly was average. So what in his resume gives anyone the idea he would know how to do anything about a huge environmental disaster? What in his previous experience gives us any inkling he knows the first thing about economics? Why are we angry at him for not knowing things there was no reason to ever think he would know? This problem goes back to why we elected Obama. We elected him because he was a good speaker and said nice, positive things. And I guess a lot of people thought that’s what he’d do as president: stand around and say positive stuff. But when Obama became president, he rightly realized he was actually supposed to do stuff. So he’s tried to do stuff to the best of his limited ability. The result is trillions more in debt, a still failing economy, and half the ocean covered in oil, but hey, he’s trying. And we’re going to yell at him for doing a bad job? It’s like we took a fry cook from McDonald’s and decided to make him a neurosurgeon because he looked good in a surgical mask and then got mad at him when he killed his first patient. Who is really to blame here? So basically we screwed up, and we’re taking it out on Obama. So what do we do now? Just complain and yell at Obama for two or so more years? That’s not right. Here’s an idea, though: why don’t we change the responsibilities of the president so it is a job he can do well? What can Obama do well? He can give speeches and say positive things. Can’t we make it so the presidency involves only doing that? We wouldn’t be the first country to do it; in Israel, the president is basically an apolitical, ceremonial figurehead. Now doesn’t that sound like something Obama can do? He could continue to go around saying, “Yes we can!” That made him popular in the first place, and there would be absolutely no expectation for him to back that up with any actual actions. It would be perfect for him; he’d be like our own Queen of England.

At Least 50 Weekend Shootings Across (Chicago)
As Harry Reid would say, the war is lost. Time for the US to pull out of Chicago. Excerpt: Eight people were killed in at least 44 others were shot across the city Friday night into early Monday, including a baby girl who suffered a graze wound to the neck when gunfire erupted at a Near West Side barbecue. Those killed included a 29-year-old man found shot in the chest about 3 a.m. Monday in the 7500 block of South Halsted Street near a South Side church, according to Gresham District police. A passing motorist found the man, who was dressed in women's clothing, lying dead on the sidewalk. He remained unidentified Monday morning, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

Can Obama’s Spine Be Stiffened?
I’m afraid if we stiffen it, he’ll bomb Israel and Columbia for his pal Hugo. As to 66% of Americans for military action, I’ll believe that if still 66% after the body bags come home and gas goes to $10 a gallon. Excerpt: Iran, moving steadily forward on its march toward nuclear status, has once again brazenly defied the International Atomic Energy Agency, barring two of its inspectors from touring its sites. How will the West respond? So many previous provocations—minor and major—by the ayatollahs have gone unanswered that it would be churlish to anticipate a firm answer. Indeed, with the latest round of UN sanctions now in place, any action in Washington beyond a State Department pronouncement would be a miracle. All signs show that American policy will inexorably continue to be one of wait-and-see. But all is not lost, at least not yet. Here in the United States, the latest polling by Pew poll reveals that a striking 66 percent of Americans are “willing to consider military action” to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. That is a number the White House should consider as its own standing plummets in so many policy realms.

Heartland Conference Establishes Post-Climategate Consensus
Excerpt: “New scientific discoveries are casting doubt on how much of the warming of the twentieth century was natural and how much was man-made, and governments around the world are beginning to confront the astronomical cost of reducing emissions. Economists, meanwhile, are calculating that the cost of slowing or stopping global warming exceeds the social benefits.” So spoke Senator James Inhofe on the Senate floor on May 17th, reading into the record the mission statement of the climate conference he was scheduled to be speaking at that very moment. Rather than addressing the Monday lunch session of Heartland’s Fourth International Conference on Climate Change, the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works remained in Washington, responding to the prior week’s Kerry-Lieberman “climate bill” proposal. (I think "establishes consensus" is overstating the facts, although the media--especially in Europe and Australia--do seem to be trending in a more sceptical direction (at least they are covering it, which US media are not). I think it would be fairer to say "the balance is slowly being restored to the debate." In October of last year, they were telling us "the facts were all in and the debate was over;" now, it is clear disagreements still exist and are still, at least potentially, valid. That may not sound like much of a difference--and it isn't, yet--but it's a big change from being shut out of the media and threatened with all but burning at the stake for heresy. Ron P., Heretic )

Abnormal Radiation Detected Near Korean Border
Not good. Excerpt: Abnormally high radiation levels were detected near the border between the two Koreas days after North Korea claimed to have mastered a complex technology key to manufacturing a hydrogen bomb, Seoul said Monday. The Science Ministry said its investigation ruled out a nuclear test by North Korea, but failed to determine the source of the radiation. It said there was no evidence of a strong earthquake, which follows an atomic explosion. On May 12, North Korea claimed its scientists succeeded in creating a nuclear fusion reaction - a technology necessary to manufacture a hydrogen bomb. In its announcement, the North did not say how it would use the technology, only calling it a "breakthrough toward the development of new energy." South Korean experts doubted the North actually made such a breakthrough. Scientists around the world have been experimenting with fusion for decades, but it has yet to be developed into a viable energy alternative. On May 15, however, the atmospheric concentration of xenon - an inert gas released after a nuclear explosion or and radioactive leakage from a nuclear power plant - on the South Korean side their shared border was found to be eight times higher than normal, according to South Korea's Science Ministry.

White House hits BP CEO for yacht trip while Obama golfs
Hypocrites. Excerpt: Even as his administration criticized BP CEO Tony Hayward for taking time off during the Gulf Coast oil spill crisis, President Obama spent some time golfing for several hours Saturday afternoon at Andrews Air Force Base. The night before that, the president attended a Washington Nationals baseball game and, according to pool reports, sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” before leaving early.

White House defends Obama's golf outings
I heard Obama was so pissed at BP’s Hayward taking time off to watch a sailing race during the oil spill crisis, that the President missed his next two putts. Actually, I don’t mind BO taking time off, but not if he’s going to demagogue others for doing so. Excerpt: The White House is dismissing criticism that President Barack Obama shouldn’t play golf during the Gulf oil spill. White House spokesman Bill Burton on Monday said the president deserves some time to relax, and he doesn't “think that there's a person in this country that doesn't think that their president ought to have a little time to clear his mind.” During the weekend, Obama played the 39th round of golf of his presidency, according to reports. White House reporters joke among themselves about who might get stuck with weekend pool duty, which seems more likely than not to include a few hours sitting at the food court near either Andrews Air Force Base or Ft. Belvoir while Obama hits the links.

Officers’ mess: military chiefs blamed for blundering into Helmand with ‘eyes shut and fingers crossed’
Excerpt: Military chiefs and civil servants ignored warnings that Britain was ill prepared to send troops to Helmand and signed off a deeply flawed plan, a succession of senior figures have told The Times. Even those in charge of the deployment admit that the decision to go to southern Afghanistan in 2006, which has cost the lives of nearly 300 servicemen and women, was a gamble and that mistakes were made because of poor intelligence. They insist, however, that the operation was justified to revitalise the Nato mission, combat the Taleban and reassert Britain’s military prowess after setbacks in Iraq. But a two-month investigation by The Times, which includes interviews with 32 senior military, political and Civil Service figures, reveals that there was deep disquiet over the handling of the mission from the start.

Anti-Semitism on the Docks
Got to help our Arab and Persian brothers kill all those dirty Joos in Israel. Excerpt: An Israeli cargo ship arriving in Oakland today was forced to sit idle and not offload its containers when longshoremen joined forces with a coalition of communist and Islamist groups who picketed the port in protest against the recent violent incident off the coast of Gaza. The ship, owned by Zim Lines, was not carrying any controversial cargo, nor is Zim involved in politics in any way; it was targeted simply because the shipping company is based in Israel.

Arizona law puts Democrats' seats in peril
I don’t think they can straddle the fence on this one. Trying may be worse politically than picking a side. Excerpt: Arizona’s controversial new immigration law is imperiling a trio of centrist Arizona Democrats who are caught in powerful crosscurrents in their Republican-leaning House districts. The leader of their party, President Barack Obama, has criticized the state law as “misguided,” and the Justice Department plans to challenge the law in court. On the other side are Republican challengers who are tapping into deep local frustration over the issue and portraying the junior Democrats as sympathetic to illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, liberal Democratic colleagues — including at least one in the Arizona congressional delegation — have called the law “racist” and urged economic boycotts of Arizona. For the three Democrats — Reps. Harry Mitchell, Ann Kirkpatrick and Gabrielle Giffords — the new law’s polarizing force is complicating their reelection campaigns in an already volatile year. And it’s leading them to pursue a simple strategy: avoid speaking at all about the specifics of SB 1070.

Israel and the Surrender of the West
Excerpt: "World opinion" labors mightily to make Israel look like South Africa looked in its apartheid era—a nation beyond the moral pale. And it projects onto Israel the same sin that made apartheid South Africa so untouchable: white supremacy. Somehow "world opinion" has moved away from the old 20th century view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a complicated territorial dispute between two long-suffering peoples. Today the world puts its thumb on the scale for the Palestinians by demonizing the stronger and whiter Israel as essentially a colonial power committed to the "occupation" of a beleaguered Third World people. This is now—figuratively in some quarters and literally in others—the moral template through which Israel is seen. It doesn't matter that much of the world may actually know better. This template has become propriety itself, a form of good manners, a political correctness. Thus it is good manners to be outraged at Israel's blockade of Gaza, and it is bad manners to be outraged at Hamas's recent attack on a school because it educated girls, or at the thousands of rockets Hamas has fired into Israeli towns—or even at the fact that Hamas is armed and funded by Iran. The world wants independent investigations of Israel, not of Hamas. One reason for this is that the entire Western world has suffered from a deficit of moral authority for decades now. Today we in the West are reluctant to use our full military might in war lest we seem imperialistic; we hesitate to enforce our borders lest we seem racist; we are reluctant to ask for assimilation from new immigrants lest we seem xenophobic; and we are pained to give Western Civilization primacy in our educational curricula lest we seem supremacist. Today the West lives on the defensive, the very legitimacy of our modern societies requiring constant dissociation from the sins of the Western past—racism, economic exploitation, imperialism and so on. When the Israeli commandos boarded that last boat in the flotilla and, after being attacked with metal rods, killed nine of their attackers, they were acting in a world without the moral authority to give them the benefit of the doubt. By appearances they were shock troopers from a largely white First World nation willing to slaughter even "peace activists" in order to enforce a blockade against the impoverished brown people of Gaza. Thus the irony: In the eyes of a morally compromised Western world, the Israelis looked like the Gestapo. This, of course, is not the reality of modern Israel. Israel does not seek to oppress or occupy—and certainly not to annihilate—the Palestinians in the pursuit of some atavistic Jewish supremacy. But the merest echo of the shameful Western past is enough to chill support for Israel in the West.

Rahm Emanuel expected to quit White House
Excerpt: Washington insiders say he will quit within six to eight months in frustration at their unwillingness to "bang heads together" to get policy pushed through. Mr Emanuel, 50, enjoys a good working relationship with Mr Obama but they are understood to have reached an understanding that differences over style mean he will serve only half the full four-year term. Friends say he is also worried about burnout and losing touch with his young family due to the pressure of one of most high profile jobs in US politics. "I would bet he will go after the midterms," said a leading Democratic consultant in Washington. "Nobody thinks it's working but they can't get rid of him – that would look awful. He needs the right sort of job to go to but the consensus is he'll go." An official from the Bill Clinton era said that "no one will be surprised" if Mr Emanuel left after the midterm elections in November, when the Democratic party will battle to save its majorities in the house of representatives and the senate. It is well known in Washington that arguments have developed between pragmatic Mr Emanuel, a veteran in Congress where he was known for driving through compromises, and the idealistic inner circle who followed Mr Obama to the White House.

Oil spill facts

America’s Road to Serfdom
Excerpt: a recent top seller on Amazon.com is Austria’s Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. The book was written in 1944 to fight the drift from individual freedom and free-market competition to a growing dependence on economies controlled by central planning authorities. To Hayek, Stalin’s Soviet Russia was no better than the Nazi “National Socialists.” In all its forms, the increasing spread of socialism has and would always be a threat to individual freedom and economic progress. Hayek’s book remains a wakeup call to apathetic citizens who take for granted that the improvements achieved through democracy, individual freedom and capitalism have been “acquired once and for all.” Hayek knew what history confirms; freedom must be earned and reearned in every generation. Hayek conceded that citizens never consciously choose socialism, but that often well-meaning politicians launch subsidies and promises that create dependence and destroy the individual spirit necessary for political and economic liberty. To Hayek, such “progress” is frightening: “Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one's government is not necessarily to secure freedom.”

Rep. Giffords to Petraeus: You’re Fighting Two Wars? But What About Windmills?
You can’t make stuff this stupid up. Excerpt: On Wednesday, General David Petraeus was on the Hill to brief Congress on Afghanistan. You know, that place where we are still fighting one of two wars, even though Democrats have stopped screeching that No War For Oil line ever since Obama became President. I suppose they figure that he has enough to worry about, what with busily trying to improve his golf handicap and perfecting the art of woeful incompetence and all. Two more American soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan today, which makes 33 killed in June so far. At the time of General Petraeus’ briefing on the Hill, the total was at 31. In addition, the Taliban is regaining strength. So, what did Congresswoman Giffords (D-AZ) ask about when she got her turn to question the General? Hey, man. What are you doing about, you know, super cool renewable energy and stuff at our bases in Afghanistan? No, really.

Republicans' internal poll strategy
Excerpt: House Republicans have unleashed a slew of internal polls in recent days, seeking to put the country but, more accurately, the media and the GOP donor base, on notice the playing field for the fall is rapidly expanding. From Ohio's 13th district, which was on nobody's map until very recently, to Oregon's 1st district, which went for President Obama by 25 points in 2008, these internal polls are aimed at making the case that Republicans have a plethora of targets heading into November. Internal party polls should always be taken with a grain of salt since they are, after all, polls bought and paid for by partisans and can be wrong. Case in point: a survey released by Republicans in the closing days of the Pennsylvania 12th district special election that showed businessman Tim Burns leading former congressional aide Mark Critz by two points. Critz won by eight on May 18. That said, the slew of data emerging from the Republican side stands in stark contrast to the absence of any similar polls emerging from the Democratic side. This dearth of Democratic data can be read in one of two ways: 1) Democrats' polls are showing basically the same thing as Republican internals and there's no reason to release data that suggests a large number of Democratic seats are endangered. 2) Democrats are simply biding their time and don't feel the need to engage in a battle of internal polls. Both arguments make some sense politically.

J.D. Hayworth, free-money-from-the-government pitchman
Excerpt: Dan Nowicki uncovers a 2007 infomercial that just-defeated former congressman J.D. Hayworth cut for the National Grants Conference, a flashy group that charges $1,000 or more to attend seminars on how to get your hands on government grants. It's... embarrassing.

Are liberals falling out of love with Obama?
Statists will support him—where are they going to go? But with how much enthusiasm? Excerpt: In the wake of President Barack Obama's Oval Office address to the country last Tuesday, a narrative has been on the march: liberals, the people who served as the electoral backbone for his candidacy in 2008, have fallen out of love with the chief executive. Jon Stewart took on the topic on his "Daily Show" -- detailing a series of campaign commitments from Obama on topics ranging from the closure of Guantanamo Bay to his attitude toward executive power and the comparing the actual policies' similarities to those policies put in place by former President George W. Bush. "What happened to Barry from the block," asked Stewart. Two of MSNBC's primetime hosts -- Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow -- also expressed displeasure with the address, an unhappiness captured by Maddow's long sigh when asked to assess the speech. And, even prior to Obama's speech last week, organized labor had tried to send a message to the Administration about the lack of movement for a progressive agenda by spending $10 million on an ultimately unsuccessful primary challenge to Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas. The bickering over the Arkansas race -- a White House aide said labor had flushed $10 million down the toilet -- led AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka to pronounce himself "very disappointed" with the back and forth. Ross Douthat, in a column that ran this morning in the New York Times, summed up the liberal agita thusly: "Many liberals look at this White House and see a presidency adrift -- unable to respond effectively to the crisis in the gulf, incapable of rallying the country to great tasks like the quest for clean energy, and unwilling to do what it takes to jump-start the economy." Open and shut case, right? Not so fast. A look at Obama's standing among both liberals and liberal Democrats in a series of national polls conducted by the Washington Post and ABC since the start of Obama's presidency shows little significant erosion in his numbers.

Iran hangs man accused as militant leader
Excerpt: Abdulmalik Rigi, leader of Jundallah (Arabic for Soldiers of God), was hanged after being convicted of charges of murder, terrorism, armed robbery, civilian attacks, and collaboration with the CIA, along with other charges of heresy and corruption, both capital offenses under Islamic law. Jundallah, Iran claims, is behind an insurgency that has destabilized the border region with Pakistan. The group also takes responsibility for recent bombings killing dozens, as well as abductions. The group carries out a violent campaign against the Shiite government's supposed discrimination against Sunni Muslims. Iran also accuses the United States and Britain of supporting and collaborating with Jundallah to weaken Iran, but the two countries deny the accusation.

Wilders: Jordan is Palestine
Excerpt: Wilders is right. There is no ethnic difference between Jordanians and Palestinians. In fact, there was no Palestinian nationality before the 1960s, when it was invented in order to reposition what was then universally known as the Arab/Israeli conflict. Up to the invention of "Palestinians," the Israelis were the tiny, besieged people amidst a huge number of hostile Arabs; after that invention, the "Palestinians" themselves became the tiny, besieged people against the big, bad Israelis. Don't believe me? Fine. Maybe you'll believe PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein, who said this in 1977: The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct "Palestinian people" to oppose Zionism. For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.

AIG bailout alleged to aid sharia-compliance
Excerpt: A law firm that defends and promotes Christian heritage and moral values has asked a federal judge to enter a judgment against U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and the Federal Reserve Board over the government's bailout of American International Group (AIG). The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) claims the basis of their motion is that over $1 billion of the AIG bailout went to fund Islamic religious activities, which is in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause.

A Turkey of a Policy
Excerpt: The Gaza flotilla incident is not over. American demands for some “international role” in investigating Israel’s conduct (but not, it seems, Turkey’s) and for a new system of getting humanitarian aid to Gaza will be imposed on Israel one way or another before the episode will be behind us. But however they play out, this incident clarified several major trends in the region—all of which are dangerous for the United States and for our allies in the Middle East. First, it’s obvious that our formerly reliable NATO ally Turkey has become a staunch supporter of the radical camp. In the flotilla incident, it not only sided with but also sought to strengthen the terrorist group Hamas—a group that is anathema not just to the United States and Israel, but to the governments of Jordan and Egypt. The recent photo of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Bashar Assad in Damascus is an emblem of this change, and Turkey’s work to undermine U.N. sanctions against Iran shows its substance. Turkey’s U.N. Security Council vote against the newest round of sanctions this past week put it in Iran’s camp against Europe, the United States, Russia, and China. That’s quite a realignment for a NATO ally.

Gates: U.S. Not Ready to Talk About Containing a Nuclear Iran
Excerpt: Though Iran could have enough nuclear bomb-making material as early as next year, the top U.S. defense official said Sunday that the Obama administration is not prepared “to even talk about containing a nuclear Iran.” “I don’t think we’re prepared to even talk about containing a nuclear Iran. I think we’re — we — our view still is we — we do not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons. And our policies and our efforts are all aimed at preventing that from happening,” he said. Gates said “targeted economic pressures” has “real potential” to add difficulties to the Islamic Republic, whose government is growing increasingly isolated. Sanctions, he said, along with helping U.S. allies in the Gulf area improve their defenses and improve their military capabilities could get the government in Tehran “finally to come to their senses and realize their security is probably more endangered by going forward than by stopping.” Earlier this month, Gates said that Iran could have enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb in the next one to three years, but may need a little more time to work up its weaponization and a delivery vehicle.

Rahm Traded Favors with Blago: Report
I’m shocked. Shocked. Excerpt: President Barack Obama's chief of staff, then a congressman in Illinois, apparently attempted to trade favors with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich while he was in office, according to newly disclosed e-mails obtained by The Associated Press. Emanuel agreed to sign a letter to the Chicago Tribune supporting Blagojevich in the face of a scathing editorial by the newspaper that ridiculed the governor for self-promotion. Within hours, Emanuel's own staff asked for a favor of its own: The release of a delayed $2 million grant to a school in his district.

Barack Obama's Square Box
Excerpt: When John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crashed into Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, in July 1999 some observers said he had gotten himself into a "square box," meaning that he had run into the limits of his experience and his imagination. Barack Obama is in a square box, and observers are now beginning to talk about his inevitable crash. There was some question about JFK Jr.'s flying experience. There's no dispute about Barack Obama's executive experience: he has none. In fact, he is the least qualified person ever to be elected president. Prior to being elected, he had done almost nothing. Certainly nothing requiring, or teaching, executive ability. He served in some capacity as a "community organizer," which Sarah Palin might say is like running a Sunday-school picnic, but without the kids. He worked as a civil-rights attorney, whatever that means. And he taught at a law school, which may be why he always sounds as if he's lecturing to twenty-somethings. He served in the Illinois legislature for a few yeas, but spent most of his time voting "present." Then he served in the U.S. Senate, but for only two years. Would the directors of any mid-sized company have asked him to be its CEO? He wouldn't even have qualified for -- in Ross Perot's memorable phrase -- middle management. He is a man without significant executive experience in life.

Bird-Like Microdrones Poised to Swoop Into Battle
Coming soon to a cave near you. Excerpt: When the jet-black Maveric flies over Florida skies, the local turkey vultures fly after it. That's because Maveric, one of a new generation of microdrones, has a profile remarkably similar to that of a bird in flight. Most people associate drones with the large unmanned aircraft carrying out airstrikes and surveillance missions over Afghanistan and Pakistan. But here at an industry conference for the U.S. military's "secret warriors" -- the special operations community -- the increasing focus is on small, stealthy drones that can swoop in and spy on potential enemies. And perhaps even kill them. These sorts of drones don't typically require specially trained operators or cumbersome ground control stations. Nor, as is often the case with larger surveillance drones, do they require troops to wait hours to receive critical information transmitted from faraway intelligence centers. Rather, these unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, provide immediate imagery and intelligence to the people who need them most: soldiers on the ground.

US takes “Cash for Gold”
Funny satire—after short commercial.

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