Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Political Digest for December 28, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article. Nor that I disagree with them, of course.

The problem is that it’s not just unions that want to use the government to give them a competitive advantage, but businessmen as well. They believe in the free market for everyone else, but are happy to use government to restrict competition. Since they care deeply, and the public who gets screwed cares little, probably doesn’t even notice, there are thousands of laws helping industries against the competition. For example, whiskey barrels, which get better with age, are used once in the US, then sold to Scotland, where they grow richer storing Scotch whisky (no “e”) for generations of aging. Did the public demand this law? It is to laugh. The barrel-makers and the coopers union did, using government to screw the rest of us with slightly worse bourbon and slightly higher prices. But no whiskey drinker writes angry letters to his Congress Critters. Free enterprise is a good idea—we should try it sometime! ~Bob. Excerpt: Every day, federal, state, and local governments stifle small businesses to privilege well-connected incumbent companies. It’s a system of protectionism for influential insiders who don’t want competition. Every locality has its share of business moguls who are cozy with politicians. Together, they use the power of government to keep competition down and prices high. The Institute for Justice (IJ), a libertarian public-interest law firm, works to free entrepreneurs from such opportunity-killing regulations. Here are four cases from IJ’s files.

The Man That Bankrupted Harrisburg
The public loves to elect liberal Democrats who promise them goodies paid for by someone else in the future. Then the future comes and they aren’t so happy. See, Obama, Barack, 2015. And shouldn’t it be “The Man Who…” A man is a “who” not a “that.” ~Bob. Excerpt: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has teetered on the edge of fiscal ruin for over a year. Officials have blamed the budget problems mostly on an incinerator-plant project that became a costly boondoggle. But when Harrisburg rocked the municipal-finance world in early September by warning that it could skip a payment on its general-obligation bonds—which weren’t tied to the incinerator debt—it sent a different message about the increasingly unwise ways that municipalities use borrowing these days (see “The Muni-Bond Debt Bomb,” Summer 2010). Harrisburg’s debt crisis stems from a long borrowing spree by its recently retired mayor, Stephen Reed, who governed the city for 28 years. Long before the incinerator debacle, Reed borrowed liberally to invest in projects that the private sector wouldn’t finance on its own: building parking garages downtown; constructing and later renovating a baseball stadium; and then buying the minor-league baseball team, the Harrisburg Senators, that played there after it threatened to bolt town. As the local newspaper, the Patriot-News, put it when Reed retired, he “never met a bond deal he didn’t like.”

Undercovering Radical Islam in America
Tiny minority of extremist who have hijacked the Religion of Peace update. ~Bob. Excerpt: “You didn’t worry about this [homegrown terrorism] even two years ago—about individuals, about Americans, to the extent that we now do,” Attorney General Eric Holder recently said. He added that over the past two years, 125 people in the U.S. have been indicted on terrorism-related charges, 50 of which are American citizens. On September 22, Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said the same thing. He said that terrorist plots against the U.S. “have surpassed the number and pace of attacks during any year since 9/11.” These facts underscore the need for a congressional investigation into how to adapt to this changing environment. [New York Rep. Peter] King is being criticized for saying in 2004 that “80-85 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists,” even though he emphasized that this does not mean that everyone attending these mosques were extremists. The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned him and the statement is being used as evidence of King’s anti-Muslim bias, but that figure originally came from a Sufi Muslim leader named Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, the chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America. Kabbani’s estimate has since been corroborated by an undercover investigation of 100 mosques and Islamic schools in the country that found that about 75 percent promote an anti-Western form of Islam. The congressman’s criticism of the Muslim community for not pulling its weight in the War on Terror is what really outraged his critics. However, his stance comes from interacting with Muslims in Long Island that he had a long relationship with. After 9/11, he was shocked at how many of them dismissed evidence that Al-Qaeda carried out the attacks, instead attributing it to a government conspiracy involving Zionists.

A Bailout for the U.S. Postal Service?
Warm up the money printing presses! ~Bob. Excerpt: Imagine a company that reported losses in 14 of the past 16 quarters, has too many retail outlets by its own admission, and relies heavily on work done for its two biggest competitors for revenue. Any management consultant would recommend the obvious: Close unnecessary offices, lay off workers, expand into new lines of business, and raise prices. But this is the U.S. Postal Service. It's expected to show a profit without a government subsidy, yet Congress, powerful labor unions, and even its own regulators are preventing it from making hard-nosed business decisions. The result could be a painful restructuring or a government bailout before the fiscal year ends next Sept. 30.

Colombia's new leader seen as good for U.S.
So how about telling the unions to shut up and approving the Free Trade agreement with Columbia, which will help our economy by increasing exports, before we drive this ally further away? ~Bob. Excerpt: The fiery socialist Hugo Chavez of Venezuela used to deride Juan Manuel Santos as the No. 1 "little Yankee.'' Now, as Colombia's new president, Santos calls Chavez "my new best friend.'' It has been an abrupt shift for Colombia, Washington's most stalwart ally in the hemisphere and the recipient of $9 billion in U.S. aid over the past three American administrations. But it has not been the only shift. In his four months in power, Santos has taken a series of stands strikingly at odds with those adopted by his predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, who was closely tied to the United States. In two recent interviews with The Washington Post, Santos, 59, said he realizes his moves have raised eyebrows, as much here as in Washington, which has been a steady partner in Colombia's fight against drug traffickers and a Marxist insurgency. Santos's landslide victory in a June election, after all, was seen as a message of support for the policies of Uribe. "They thought that I was going to be a surrogate of President Uribe and simply follow his policies. That was absurd from the beginning,'' Santos said. "Uribe is Uribe and Santos is Santos, and Santos has a different approach." But some current and former American officials say they think the change in power in Colombia has left the United States better off, because many South American leaders viewed Uribe as overly militaristic and had come to distrust him.

Coburn predicts 'apocalyptic pain' if spending isn't reined in now
I’m a Coburn fan, but I think this is too rosy. Every year, the politicians postpone the pain, because the pain for fixing the problems is greater every year. But eventually they won’t be able to postpone the disaster. ~Bob. Excerpt: Senate Republicans' "Dr. No" spending hawk warned Sunday that America would experience "apocalyptic pain" with 15-18 percent unemployment and the "middle class destroyed" if it didn't get its fiscal house in order. "If we don't fix the problems in front of us everybody's going to pay a significant price," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla) said on "Fox News Sunday. Coburn warned of the United States ending up like Greece or Ireland if proper austerity measures aren't taken, or like Spain, Italy or Japan, which are in danger of similar financial collapse. In May, the IMF and EU agreed to extend a $145 billion bailout package to Greece. In November, a $113 billion bailout package was extended to keep Ireland afloat.

The World from The Hill: Bipartisan effort pressures Obama to help Iraq's Christians
How is he going to stop the attacks? Talking? Good luck with that. Troops? And have the left desert him totally? The Christians will just have to die at the hands of members of “The Religion of Peace.” ~Bob. Excerpt: Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are fervently pressing the White House to stem mounting attacks on Christians in Iraq. Fearful of fresh violence in Iraq, many of the oldest sects of Christianity in the ancient biblical land are planning low-key Christmas celebrations this year.

Probably a good thing—a lot of folks old enough to remember hat America was are not going to want to live in the New America of ever larger and more powerful government. In my case, I become Medicare eligible in April. I think if they would buy me a couple of bottles of Laphroaig a month, it would significantly lower my life expectancy and save Medicare a lot of money. ~Bob. Excerpt: When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1. Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment. Congressional supporters of the new policy, though pleased, have kept quiet. They fear provoking another furor like the one in 2009 when Republicans seized on the idea of end-of-life counseling to argue that the Democrats’ bill would allow the government to cut off care for the critically ill. The final version of the health care legislation, signed into law by President Obama in March, authorized Medicare coverage of yearly physical examinations, or wellness visits. The new rule says Medicare will cover “voluntary advance care planning,” to discuss end-of-life treatment, as part of the annual visit.

Obama's regulators kowtow to Big Green, imperil economy
Excerpt: Who's doing the most to hobble the productive power of the U.S. economy, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson or Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar? President Obama's top two Cabinet appointees on environmental issues are running neck and neck in their race to see who can issue the most job-killing, growth-suffocating bureaucratic edicts. Regardless of who "wins" their contest, of course, the losers will be the rest of us. We will have to endure long-term double-digit unemployment, skyrocketing energy and utility costs, and the loss of individual freedom that inevitably accompanies the growth of government regulation.

Closing the books on the worst Congress
Excerpt: Americans can give thanks in this Christmas season for an end to the reckless and destructive 111th Congress. This is the Congress that passed Obamacare, against the wishes of a substantial majority of the public, on Christmas Eve of last year. In the dead of night, Democratic lawmakers stuffed the monstrous 2,700-page bill with special-interest goodies and political payoffs like the "Cornhusker Kickback" and the "Louisiana Purchase." As we have learned since, most members were still ignorant of the bill's contents three months later, when it gained final passage in the House. No surprise that its immediate results -- both intended and unintended -- have been almost uniformly bad. Similarly, odds are that not one member of the 111th Congress actually read the so-called "cap-and-trade" bill before it passed the House in June 2009. Even a speed-reader could not have digested House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman's last-second, 309-page amendment, which read as clear as mud: "Page 14, strike lines 1 through 3 and insert the following. ..." It was filed after 1:30 a.m. just before the vote on final passage. There is also serious doubt that any member of Congress understood the 2,000-page financial reform bill that Congress passed this summer. One of its two main sponsors, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., remarked, "No one will know until this is actually in place how it works. But we believe we've done something that has been needed for a long time. ..." And Democrats wonder why Gallup found this Congress to be the least popular in the history of its polls?

In praise of Daniel Patrick Moynihan 45 years later
Excerpt: In the November issue of Commentary magazine, author Mark Bauerlein reviewed Robert Weissberg's "Bad Students, Not Bad Schools," which proffered the theory that it's America's lazy, bored, unmotivated and, in some cases, downright dangerous pupils who are the source of our educational woes, not our institutions of learning. The editors of Commentary scored again in the December issue with an article co-authored by Fred Siegel and Peter Cove. Siegel is a scholar-in-residence at Brooklyn's St. Francis College; Cove is the founder of an organization called America Works, which has the goal of placing welfare recipients and former convicts in the work force. "Moynihan: The Moment Lost" is the title of their article. Part of "the moment lost" they speak of is the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's failure to back much-needed welfare reform. But the other part is that nasty business that happened 45 years ago. In 1965, Moynihan was an assistant secretary of labor in President Johnson's administration. In mid-August of that year, a document that would become known as the "Moynihan Report" was released. Officially entitled "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," the report noted that 25 percent of black households had no father. That, Moynihan erroneously noted, was a legacy of slavery. Moynihan was accused of "blaming the victim." His report was dismissed, and he was labeled a racist. But it wasn't what Moynihan got wrong in the report that was important; it was what he got right. Today nearly 70 percent of black households have no fathers. In 1965, Moynihan predicted with chilling accuracy what would happen if the trend of fatherless black homes continued. And, his critics failed to note, he quoted extensively from black sociologists to back up his claim.

Salaries of local government brass top Biden's, Cabinet secretaries'
The collapse is coming! ~Bob. Excerpt: Montgomery County's top administrator banks a higher salary than the vice president of the United States. Ditto for Fairfax County's executive. And the District's police chief is paid more than the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and speaker of the House. Dozens of local officials earn better wages than the nation's marquee power players under compensation packages that soar past those for comparable positions statewide, showing that smaller-scale, public-sector jobs don't always come with a pay cut.

French sale of anti-tank weapons to Lebanon concerns U.S. lawmakers
Arming Hezbollah indirectly to kill them damn Joos. ~Bob. Excerpt: Plans by France to sell anti-tank weapons to the Lebanese army have raised concern among congressional supporters of Israel, who are threatening to block funding by the United States for the fledgling Lebanese armed forces. Rep. Steven Rothman, D-N.J., sent a letter Wednesday to French President Nicolas Sarkozy asking him to reconsider the sale of 100 anti-tank missile systems to Lebanon, slated to be delivered by the end of February, suggesting the weapons could end up in the hands of Hezbollah.

You should subscribe to the RedState e-newsletter. ~Bob. Excerpt: …things I want for my country and for my children: I want my children to grow up knowing that America can once again be the land of the free; I want my children to know that, whether they live richly or poorly, they have a nation that lives by its founders’ principles; I want my children to have a government that fears its people, not the people fearing the government; I want my children to live a country that does not hate and punish success, nor reward mediocrity or failure; I want my children to grow up knowing that no matter how high or low they set their sights, they still live in the land of opportunity, that nothing (except themselves) can hold them back from achieving their dreams; I want my children to live in a country where wealth is created and produced and not stolen by some redistributive petty bureaucrat; I want my children to grow up without being saddled with the debt accumulated by whorish politicians and the masters they serve; I want my children to live in a country where politicians do not sell themselves to the highest bidder and whose sole responsibility is to respect the Constitution; I want my children to know that, win or lose, for all these things we fight for, we have not and will not give up, that we will continue the fight until the end; I want my children to know that, even if it means we tear it down and rebuild it with our own hands, that living free is far greater than living under the yoke of a tyrannical state; I want my children to know that, should we lose, there once stood the greatest country on this earth, a nation that was toppled only by the avarice of its politicians and the apathy of its citizenry; and,
I want my children to know that, should we lose, America was once the shining city on a hill for millions of people throughout the world, a land where Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are and always be inalienable rights and that these are self-evident truths

Turning America Around
Excerpt: There are many goals at the center of the new congressional thinking. One of them, averting a tax increase, has been achieved. But the need for reforming the tax code by making the current lower tax rates permanent, simpler and fairer, with fewer deductions and lower rates, would be an important next step. A flat tax is the best goal. Three more goals are important. Obviously getting government spending under control is the first. As I pointed out in my September column, since the end of World War II, average annual government spending was 19.6% of gross domestic product, but it is now 24% to 25%. Rolling it back to the 19% to 20% range should be the Republican goal. Nondefense discretionary spending has risen 88% in the past three years. Rolling its increase back to the rate of inflation--3% or 4% a year-- is another Republican goal. Second comes reducing the huge increases in government regulation. The election ensures that the Waxman-Markey "cap and trade" bill, which the House but not the Senate passed, won't become law. It would have regulated wages, corporations, states, cities, lights, houses, snowmobiles and on and on. Getting rid of government mandates and subsidies--minimum ethanol usage, prevailing wage requirements, the inability to purchase health insurance across state lines, farm subsidies, and green energy subsidies, for example--is the next step. America needs to return to the market choices that individuals should have. The third goal is amending ObamaCare to get the government out of health-care regulation.

Los Angeles City Council Passes 'Ceremonial' Sharia Law Resolution
Excerpt: WITHOUT serious debate or examination, the Los Angeles City Council recently passed a resolution that opposes "Islamophobia" and "repudiates" random acts of violence against Muslims. This admittedly ceremonial resolution apparently accepts the premise that residents of the city commit acts of hate against Muslims so often that it warrants an official resolution from city leaders condemning and repudiating these acts. Is this really the case? According to the latest hate crime report from the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, 88 percent of all religiously based hate crimes in 2009 were against Jews. Hate crimes that targeted Muslims (3 percent) ranked slightly above those directed at Scientologists (1 percent). In fact, the commission found that attacks against Christians (8 percent) outnumbered attacks against Muslims. In any case, the actual number of reported hate crimes based on religion is quite small. In a county that has more than 10 million highly diverse residents, only a total of 131 crimes based on religion took place in all of 2009. Of course, this in no way takes away from the emotional or physical harm that each and every one of these attacks causes. Since only 3 percent of 131 hate crimes during 2009 was directed against Muslims, it's difficult to understand why city leaders would pass a resolution that zeroes in on the category that has the next-to-lowest numbers recorded by the County's Human Relations Commission. (Not difficult to understand. Islamists are just the latest brutal tyranny to inflame the PC hearts of the left/ ~Bob.)

Big Government Strikes Back
Excerpt: The 111th Congress, the most unpopular Congress in the recorded history of the United States, ended last week with a flurry of legislative activity that set a record for a lame duck Congress. Some in the media are eager to make the case that last week’s events portend a new era of bipartisan accomplishment, led by the White House, that will extend into the 112th Congress. They are half right. Last week’s events in Washington were a preview of lawmaking in 2011, but Congress was not where the real action was. While the media was distracted by the last breaths of a defeated leftist majority in Congress, it was the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that gave true picture of how the Obama Administration will advance their agenda in 2011.

Muslims In Sweden: Gothenburg Coptic Church Closed Down Due To Internet Threats
Excerpt: The Coptic Christian church in Agnesberg (Gothenburg) was closed down after receiving an internet threat. The threat was vague, but the Swedish security service was called in. There are about 400 Coptic families in Sweden, most living in the Stockholm area. The community in Gothenburg has about 200 members. On Christmas Eve the community's pastor, Father Shenouda, was visited by four police officers who said that there were calls on the internet for what the police called 'activities' against certain Christian churches in Europe...

Muslims In Britain:
UK Court
Holds 9 On Terror Conspiracy Plot
Didn’t get the “Islam is a Religion of Peace” memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: Nine terror suspects were charged Monday with planning a series of bombings in Britain and ordered to remain in custody. Details about their alleged plot were not released, but security officials said they were planning substantial attacks on British cities and landmarks. It was described as an extensive plot that posed a real threat to public safety. The suspects were expected to be back in court Jan. 14 on a variety of terror-related charges including conspiracy to cause explosions. Chief magistrate Howard Riddle at the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court ordered the men be held until their next court date. The nine men, and three others who have since been released without charge, were taken into custody last week during dawn raids in London, Cardiff and Stoke-on-Trent in central England. The nine men ordered held are: Gurukanth Desai, 28, Omar Sharif Latif, 26, and Abdul Malik Miah, 24, from Cardiff, Mohammed Moksudur Rahman Chowdhury, 20, and Shah Mohammed Lutfar Rahman, 28, from London, and Nazam Hussain, 25, Usman Khan, 19, Mohibur Rahman, 26, and Abul Bosher Mohammed Shahjahan, 26, from Stoke-on-Trent.

Christmas Bomb Plot: Nine Men Remanded Over Plan To 'Blow Up Big Ben And Westminster Abbey'
Excerpt: They are alleged to have carried out reconnaissance missions before deciding on their possible targets. Police were said to have found a list of six sites, including the full postal address of the Stock Exchange, Boris Johnson’s London mayoral office and the US embassy. Defendants were seen studying the tower of Big Ben, before inspecting Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and the Church of Scientology. Al-Qaeda inspired books and leaflets, including instructions on making a pipe bomb, were also uncovered during the counter-terrorism operation. Details of the alleged plot were outlined at City of Westminster magistrates’ court...

Mohammed Coefficient of 33 1/3%
[The Mohammed Coefficient is the percentage of people called Mohammed who are involved in any terrorist attack.-Kate] Of the twelve “Britons” arrested in the Christmas Bomb Plot, three have now been released without charge, while the other nine are remanded in custody until they appear in court next month. This case has the relatively low Mohammed Coefficient of 33⅓%

Venezuelan Dictatorship for Dummies
Much admired by American leftists, Chavez is a guy who understands how to consolidate power. BO must be green with envy. ~Bob. Excerpt: Our South American correspondent BG suggested that we republish the following post by Miguel, the founder of the Venezuelan Resistance blog site The Devil’s Excrement. Slowly Hugo Chavez is building up his Dictatorship. He has been planning ahead all the time. Lost the Constitutional referendum? He quickly had himself an Enabling Law that allowed him to legislate in 2008 everything but his own reelection by decree, thus voiding what the “people” had voted for. He dealt with his reelection by holding an illegal referendum that would allow him to run in 2012 and forever if necessary, he had the Supreme Court ready to approve it in an another subtle but illegal decision that denies the very essence of our Constitution and democracy...

The Death-Throes Of A Failed Culture
A nice thought. But I think they know the only way Islamic repression can compete with the freedom, rights and material wealth of the west—all interconnected—is to destroy them. Or die trying. ~Bob. Excerpt: “The Decline of the Islamic World” by Wolfgang Günter Lerch. A startling analysis from the pen of a Muslim scholar: Where does the hate of the Islamic world for the West come from? Is it from the false policy of the Americans, the unfortunate Iraq war, the fighting in Afghanistan, or the unsolved Palestine problem? The German political scientist Hamed Abdel-Samad, himself a Muslim and from Egypt, has an answer which will not make most Muslims happy: In Islam, he sees a declining culture which is, so to speak, striking out blindly before it dies. But how can you say that? Is Islam not the only religion that is growing, and not just because of demographic developments? For instance, does it not attract many in Africa who do not (any longer) practice other religions? Isn’t it Islam that gives an impression of aggressive strength which makes many people afraid? In his book The Decline of the Islamic World: A Prognosis, the author comes to a completely different conclusion...

A Dangerous Lie
Excerpt: “The only problem with Islamic fundamentalism are the fundamentals of Islam.” In the video below, the prominent atheist activist Sam Harris points out that not all religions are the same. He explains exactly why Islamic fundamentalism is inherently dangerous, especially when compared with the forms of fundamentalism that emerge in other religions:

Muslims In Russia: The Unification Of Russian Islam
Excerpt: When discussing the Islamization of the West, France is usually cited as being the worst-off of the Western democracies. It has an estimated Muslim population of 10%, perhaps as high as 15%, and the demographics of the situation — a very low birthrate among the native French, and a baby boom among the Muslim immigrants — do not bode well for the future of France. If we expand the definition of “the West” a bit, it becomes necessary to add India and Russia to the list of Most Islamized Western Nations. India has the largest, oldest, and most intractable “Islam problem” of any Western democracy. The Muslim minority in India is over 150 million (13+% of the population) and is growing relative to the Hindu population. India lives under the constant threat of terror attack. Its citizens experience deadly bombings and other forms of violent jihad with mind-numbing regularity. Russia is a special case. Its Muslim population is estimated at 10% to 12%, and its demographic situation is worse than that of France, so that Russian Islam is expected to grow rapidly. If present trends continue, Muslims will comprise a majority of the Russian military within a couple of decades...

'Green' Scotland relying on French nuclear power
Up your kilts, ya silly buggers! You can’t be cold—the earth is over-heated, remember! ~Bob. Excerpt: SCOTLAND'S wind farms are unable to cope with the freezing weather conditions – grinding to a halt at a time when electricity demand is at a peak, forcing the country to rely on power generated by French nuclear plants. Output from major wind farms fell to as low as 2.5 per cent of their potential generation capacity during the cold snap as power demand rose to close to the highest level yet recorded, new figures have revealed. Meteorologists say extremely cold temperatures can occur only when there is little or no wind and icy pockets of air are trapped close to the ground, prompting accusations from anti- wind-farm campaigners that wind power cannot be relied on to meet Scotland's electricity needs in the depths of winter. The data, charted on the Balancing Mechanism Reporting System website, which the National Grid uses to monitor UK power generation, also revealed that at times when wind energy was at its lowest, back-up power had to be piped in from France, where the majority of electricity is nuclear-generated. The Scottish Government is opposed to nuclear power, insisting no nuclear plants will be built in Scotland once Hunterston B in Ayrshire and Torness in East Lothian are decommissioned, in 2016 and 2023 respectively.

Everyone Knows…
Excerpt: There is a decidedly arrogant claim engendered by the horde of progressives which starts with the words “everyone knows.” For example, everyone knows the Tea Partiers have a racist agenda. And everyone knows patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. Presumably if everyone knows, evidence to buttress one’s argument is unnecessary. Dissent is a function of those conservative know nothings, the grassroots mob wallowing in ignorance. If the Tea Partiers display none of the characteristics attributed to them, the labels still persist. After all, “everyone knows.” If demonstrators avow their loyalty to the nation, but disavow President Obama, they are ipso facto scoundrels. Who doesn’t know that? That there is a natural order to opinions is manifest in what elitist ideas embrace. Free speech is desirable until you say something elite opinion-makers disapprove of. (In 2005, 6, and 7, everyone knew real estate was going up and had no risk of coming down in our lifetimes. There’s an old saying among traders: when everyone knows “x” is a good investment that “can’t lose,” sell your position at once and watch the fireworks from the sidelines. While you may miss some of the profits, you’ll also avoid being trapped in the bloodbath. That couldn’t possibly apply to politics, could it? Ron P. If “everybody knows” such-and-such, then it ain’t so, by at least ten thousand to one. –Robert Heinlein.)

A Cuban Fairy Tale From PBS: What public television didn't tell you about health care in Castro's socialist state.
Excerpt: In his memoir covering four years in Cuba as a correspondent for Spanish Television, Vicente Botín tells about a Havana woman who was frustrated by the doctor shortage in the country. She hung a sheet on her balcony with the words "trade me to Venezuela." When the police arrived she told them: "Look, compañeros, I'm as revolutionary as the next guy, but if you want to see a Cuban doctor, you have to go to Venezuela." That story was not in the three-part report by Ray Suarez on Cuban health care that aired on PBS's "NewsHour" last week. Nor was the one about the Cuban whose notice of his glaucoma operation arrived in 2005, three years after he died and five years after he had requested it. Nor was there any coverage of the town Mr. Botín writes about close to the city of Holguín, that in 2006 had one doctor serving five clinics treating 600 families. In fact, it was hard to recognize the country that Mr. Suarez claimed to be describing. The series was taped in Cuba with government "cooperation" so there is no surprise that it went heavy on the party line. Still, there was something disturbing about how Mr. Suarez allowed himself to be used by the police state, dutifully reciting its dubious claims as if he were reporting great advances in medical science. Castro's military dictatorship marks 52 years in power next week. But the "revolution" is dead. A new generation of angry, young Cubans now vents on Internet blogs and through music, mocking the old man and his ruthless little brother.

Cables Portray Expanded Reach of Drug Agency
Excerpt: The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies, according to secret diplomatic cables. In far greater detail than previously seen, the cables, from the cache obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to some news organizations, offer glimpses of drug agents balancing diplomacy and law enforcement in places where it can be hard to tell the politicians from the traffickers, and where drug rings are themselves mini-states whose wealth and violence permit them to run roughshod over struggling governments. Diplomats recorded unforgettable vignettes from the largely unseen war on drugs:

UK court strikes down forced-marriage law
Excerpt: Campaigners against forced marriages were left worried after a British court, ruling on an immigration matter on Tuesday, struck down a law aimed at preventing such marriages. The High Court overturned a ban on married people from outside Europe joining their British spouses if they are below 21 years of age. The ban was thought to have been well-intentioned as it was aimed at curbing forced marriages in Britain, a practice that often leads to violence against young people and sometimes to honour killings and suicides. But the court struck down the two-year-old ban as a result of a human rights challenge brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), a nonprofit organisation. The JCWI argued that marriage is a fundamental right and that "legislation aimed at stopping forced marriages prevented young people obtaining visas to join spouses or partners in the UK." Married Britons have no such restrictions, even if they are below 21 years of age. In Britain, violence over forced marriages affects Sikhs, and Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslims among other communities.

Thaworn sees sharia law as way forward
Will they now hang Gays, stone teenage rape victims for adultery and allow wives to be beaten or married at age nine by force? And the courts, of course will hold that women can only inherit half what a man does, and a woman’s testimony is worthy half of a man’s. How lovely is appeasement. ~Bob. Excerpt: The introduction of sharia law to the southernmost provinces has taken another step forward, with Deputy Interior Minister Thaworn Senneam saying it could help quell the insurgent violence. He is also pledging to speed up work on a bill introducing a sharia court, which he hopes will help improve the security climate in the troubled region. The move is part of the government's strategy of "widening the sphere" for Muslim people in the lower South. A proposed sharia court will look into civil disputes, mostly related to family relationships and inheritance, when both plaintiffs and defendants are Muslims, and base its ruling on Islamic law, or sharia law, he said.

Walid Shoebat on being taught to hate the Jews
Excerpt: This is a very sobering speech by Walid Shoebat that gives us an inside look at his life growing up in Palestine. He gives detailed accounts of how he and others in his community were taught to hate the Jewish people and how they committed violence against Jewish people; how they even tried to kill an innocent Jewish man while he was trying to call for help to come save the girl he had just mistakenly hit with his vehicle. The overall theme to his speech is to describe what is really at the core of this conflict between the Palestinians and the Jewish people and he doesn’t pull any punches. It’s the cold hard truth that so many people want to ignore. I would definitely categorize this as a must listen. It runs about 40 minutes and is worth every minute.

Excerpt: At the close of the 111th Congress, America is deeply in the bog of Thomas Jefferson’s prophetic warning: “The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.” Unfortunately, the broken chains of the Constitution have failed to contain the federal government. By way of review, let’s take a stroll through the junkyard of constitutional violations that have been painted fresh by President Obama and the 111th Congress. Here’s my top-ten list, highly abbreviated for length. 9except, of course, the modern leftist approach to the Constitution is direct from Through the Looking Glass: "When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master— that's all." ~Bob.)

Disgraced Teacher Enjoys Well-Paid 13th Year in ‘Rubber Room’ After Sexually Molesting 6th Grade Student
Assuming this is remotely true, do you think a country that functions like this can be maintained? ~Bob. Excerpt: On June 26, 1997, New York teacher Roland Pierre was arrested on felony sex abuse charges after allegedly calling one of his PS 138 sixth-grade students into an empty classroom, closed the door and molested her. Pierre was permanently removed from the classroom, but like many tenured teachers accused of wrongdoing, he wasn’t fired. Instead, he joined other disgraced educators in the so-called “rubber room” — the “purgatory of teachers yanked for the classroom for alleged wrongdoing” — where he’d wait out the union-guided appeals process. But, as the NY Post notes, 13 years later, Pierre is still receiving full pay and fringe benefits from his old teaching job, including health benefits, pension and vacation time. In all, the 75-year-old continues to pull down $97,101 a year for a job he hasn’t done in 13 years.

As UN Prepare for 'Anti-Racism' Conference, US is Pressed to Say it will Stay Away
Excerpt: A provocative plan to hold a United Nations anti-racism conference in New York City days after the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is moving ahead, after more than 100 U.N. member-states gave their approval in a post-midnight General Assembly vote late last week. Earlier appeals for democracies to send a powerful message by voting against the measure – rather than abstaining as they had in a committee vote a month earlier – achieved limited success. Only two European countries, Slovakia and Macedonia, shifted their positions from abstaining to voting “no.” Two small Pacific nations that had been absent in the November committee vote, Micronesia and Palau, voted “no” in the early hours of December 24. The resolution passed in the General Assembly by 104-22, with 33 abstentions. The other countries voting against the resolution were the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, Marshall Islands and 13 European nations, including Britain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. 9the UN is no longer, if it ever was, an organization to keep peace. It is an organization intended to destroy the west, and enrich corrupt third world politicians all while being funded primarily by US Taxpayers. Why? ~Bob.)

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