Friday, December 31, 2010

Political Digest for December 31, 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.

Bliadhna mhath ur!
(Or, for the politically correct: عام سعيد)

New comment on “I’m Tired”
I saw this bit in the Military Press. Originally I thought another white man with issues in America. I finished your article with laughter and tears. Your article is beyond race, culture, and religion. You say you are tired. I say I give up. I have given up for all the reason you printed in your article and then some. I want to say citizens of the United States are supposed to be among the most educated in the world. Educated voices seem to just get lost in racism, hatred, and the ridiculous. I believe your article is one from an educated man. You know the world in which you live. I was a wife of a military man. I support my husband because I believed in the morality of our country. Then we come out of the service. All I could say was, "What The Heck! You kidding me right!" We need America to be America and not be dumbed on by lazy, rude, and uneducated American people that believe our hard work is suppose to pave the way for their crazy ideas, and give to me attitude. People who want good matter race, creed, color, national origin, religion, sexual identity or gender should decide to carry one self with respect. That is what I believe I heard you saying upon reading your article. Good job and great voice. Thank you. –Christian Mom.

GEICO's R. Lee Ermey, appearing on behalf of Toys 4 Tots & USO unloads on President Obama
Excerpt: Well, the old Gunny demonstrates clear and direct communication skills once more. He's got brass ones, because the Hollywood establishment will hold this against him, and that's where a lot of his work has come from in the past. But he IS an old Marine! Semper Fi, Gunny! –Del.

Liberals Give 'Til It Hurts (You)
Excerpt: This week, we'll take a peek at the charitable giving of these champions of the poor. In 2009, the Obamas gave 5.9 percent of their income to charity, about the same as they gave in 2006 and 2007. In the eight years before he became president, Obama gave an average of 3.5 percent of his income to charity, upping that to 6.5 percent in 2008. The Obamas' charitable giving is equally divided between "hope" and "change." George W. Bush gave away more than 10 percent of his income each year he was president, as he did before becoming president. Thus, in 2005, Obama gave about the same dollar amount to charity as President George Bush did, on an income of $1.7 million -- more than twice as much as President Bush's $735,180. Again in 2006, Bush gave more to charity than Obama on an income one-third smaller than Obama's. In the decade before Joe Biden became vice president, the Bidens gave a total -- all 10 years combined -- of $3,690 to charity, or 0.2 percent of their income. They gave in a decade what most Americans in their tax bracket give in an average year, or about one row of hair plugs. Of course, even in Biden's stingiest years, he gave more to charity than Sen. John Kerry did in 1995, which was a big fat goose egg. Kerry did, however, spend half a million dollars on a 17th-century Dutch seascape painting that year, as Peter Schweizer reports in his 2008 book, "Makers and Takers."

Excerpt: Most readers will be familiar with the spectacle of mass Muslim prayer on the streets of Paris’ 18th Arrondissement. The following video, however, shows the breathtaking scope of the Islamic occupation of certain districts of Paris.

Army edits its history of the deadly battle of Wanat
Excerpt: An initial draft of the Wanat history, which was obtained by The Washington Post and other media outlets in the summer of 2009, placed the preponderance of blame for the losses on the higher-level battalion and brigade commanders who oversaw the mission, saying they failed to provide the proper resources to the unit in Wanat. The final history, released in recent weeks, drops many of the earlier conclusions and instead focuses on failures of lower-level commanders. The battle of Wanat, which took place in a remote mountain village near the Pakistan border, produced four investigations and sidetracked the careers of several Army officers, whose promotions were either put on hold or canceled. The 230-page Army history is likely to be the military's last word on the episode, and reflects a growing consensus within the ranks that the Army should be cautious in blaming battlefield commanders for failures in demanding wars such as the conflict in Afghanistan. Family members of the deceased at Wanat reacted with anger and disappointment to the final version of the Army history.

Mumbai On The Oresund
Excerpt: According to various media reports, the intention of the would-be Copenhagen Motoon mujahideen was to stage a Mumbai-style attack. They planned storm the Jyllands-Posten building and kill as many people as possible before the police took them out. The latest reports say that only four were “Swedes”; the other was a “Dane”. The Swedish and Danish intelligence services had been following the plot for a long time, and allowed it to mature to the point where the evidence would be sufficient to guarantee convictions on terrorism charges.

Border Patrol’s Battle Against Illicit Activity On Federal Borderlands Suffers From Lack of Resources, Report Says
Excerpt: The U.S. Border Patrol is losing the battle over human and drug smuggling on lands owned and managed by the federal government in the south-west, where illegal entries have outpaced apprehensions, according to a government audit. The “logistical and operational challenges” facing Border Patrol agents responding to unauthorized crossings on federal lands include a lack of resources, rather than access to environmentally-sensitive areas on federal lands as some lawmakers had indicated, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit released last week. “Illegal cross-border activity remains a significant threat to federal lands,” said the report. “On the southwest border, the Tucson sector is the primary entry point for marijuana smugglers and illegal aliens, and over the last 3 years apprehensions on federal lands have not kept pace with Border Patrol estimates of the number of illegal entries, indicating that the threat to federal lands may be increasing.” (But Janet Napolitano told people at the funeral of the murdered BP agent that this Administration under Mr. Obama has done a great job in supporting the effort to control our southern border. Yeah, right. (The family of the dead agent felt she only mouthed empty words.) Clearly nothing will really make this Administration get deadly serious about the border. The BP should be equipped with heavier weapons, better body armor, and be able to call in some form of air support when needed. Maybe a bunch of Predators cruising over the popular smuggling routes would be a really nice idea, for spotting first, and support when needed. Now THAT would get the attention of the smugglers and criminals operating in these regions. –Del)

Owner kills 3 robbers in jewelry store shootout
Excerpt: In the back room of a humble jewelry store and pawn shop in Houston's East End Thursday afternoon, a gunman tied Eva Castillo's wrists tightly — too tightly. She complained of the pain, so he loosened the bindings. Then Castillo's husband was ordered at gunpoint to put his hands behind his back. But Ramon Castillo had a surprise for the gunman and two cohorts, who had announced they were robbing the business. Castillo pulled a pistol from his waistband and shot the gunman dead. Then he grabbed a shotgun from his office and engaged in a shootout with the other two armed robbers. When it was over, all three robbers were dead — and Castillo, though shot at least three times, was still standing, having successfully defended what was rightfully his. (OK Mr. Castillo! Here is someone who knows how to handle threats to his family and his property. This guy should be running for office. Oh, and about that debate on gun ownership.... enough said. --Del)

Prager University: The Middle East Problem
Worth viewing and sharing. ~Bob.

Still Arguing For Civil Trials for the Uncivilized!
Excerpt: Every once in a while, I am questioned about my stand on one element of this ongoing debate or another and the question is almost always couched in such a way as to bring discredit to this particular viewpoint. I find that interesting in general because I am not thin skinned and because this argument is not difficult to follow. Because it is not difficult to follow, it forces people to consider their true nature and their true allegiances. I have always maintained that my sole concern is for our Warriors. This is not some misguided plea to protect Warriors from the dangers of warfare, it is in fact an attempt to protect them from the negligence and agenda of those in our own government. So when I receive the occasional hand wringing diatribe that so often allies the hand wringer with the enemies of this nation and our Warriors, I feel compelled to 'chew butt'. What follows is an answer I gave to one such person who is morally conflicted about the handling of prisoners at Gitmo. Of course she has no particular moral conflict with the way our Warriors are treated by their own government, foreign prosecutors, the national media, the lies perpetrated by dirt bags hiding behind the doctrine of Taqiyya and left wing nut cases that are looking for any opportunity to help dismantle this country.

The People of Ascension Fight to Save Their Town
Pay attention—this is what societal collapse looks like. You will be able to recognize it when it starts here. ~Bob. Excerpt: The small town of Ascensión in the crime ridden state of Chihuahua was being terrorized by a gang of kidnappers who were abducting an average of three women per week. The town of 10,000 residents is situated less than fifty miles south of the U.S. border and in the crosshairs of the brutal gangs and cartels who seek to control the smuggling routes. Amid the violence and hopeless anguish, the citizens of Ascensión found the courage to fight back. According to the El Paso Times, on September 21, a 16 year-old local girl was kidnapped, but this time the people of Ascensión had finally had enough. Hundreds of local residents driven to action gave chase to the criminals and in a moment of vigilante justice they captured and beat two of the eight kidnapping suspects to death. In a country where violence and corruption are commonplace, the law abiding citizens felt they could no longer trust the government to fulfill its responsibility to protect their lives and property. The state of Chihuahua has not prosecuted anyone involved in the vigilante action. An estimated 2,000 people were present as either active participants or witnesses to the attack. Soldiers from the local barracks and police moved in to calm the crowd and restore order. Thelma Diaz Salazar, the 16 year-old who had been abducted was rescued and three more of the alleged kidnappers were arrested. The remaining three suspects are still at large. Today, residents say, they do not want to kill criminals, but they are not going to stand by as townspeople are victimized..

Manmade Famine in America
Statism in full cry. ~Bob. Excerpt: It seems inconceivable, but people in America are going hungry en masse due to a famine caused by political authorities. Fresno, California is not yet a sister city of Kiev, Ukraine, but the two cities, capitals of rich agricultural regions, share a history of mass hunger caused by central governments indifferent to the suffering of their people, in the pursuit of ideological goals. Investor's Business Daily explains: Fresno is the agricultural capital of America. More food per acre in more variety can be grown in the fertile Central Valley surrounding this community than on any other land in America - perhaps in the world. Yet far from being a paradise, Fresno is starting to resemble Zimbabwe or 1930s Ukraine, a victim of a famine machine that is entirely man-made, not by red communists this time, but by greens. State and federal officials, driven by the agenda of environmental extremists, have made it extremely difficult for the valley's farms, introducing costly environmental regulations and cutting off critical water supplies to save the Delta smelt, a bait fish. It's all driving the economy to collapse. In the southwest part of the Central Valley, water allotments as low as 10% of normal have created a visible dust bowl. The knock-on effect can be seen in cities like Fresno, where November's unemployment among the packers, cannery workers and professional fields that make agriculture productive stands at 16.9%.

The Chief of General Staff: “We did not lose the right to defend ourselves”
Excerpt: “We will not allow a situation in which our citizens and towns are being fired at from a safe area among citizens. We did not lose the right to defend ourselves. During the next war, we will do everything we can to minimize injuries amongst civilians as we have done in the past.” The Chief of General Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi said this on Sunday at a meeting with students from the High School for the Sciences and Arts in Jerusalem while addressing the recent tension in the Gaza Strip.

Is There a Cure for Liberalism?
At least partially satire, this piece still manages to make good points. Ron P. Excerpt: ...[T]here may well be a heightened tendency among conservatives to perceive and assess threats, whereas liberals just assume everybody’s just got the best of intentions at heart. Which, if it’s true, is among the many reasons liberals should never be elected president. A world full of Kim Jong Ils and Vlad Putins and Osama bin Ladens and ayatollahs, Hugo Chavez’s and Castros and other assorted evils in power and in waiting is no place for a smiley face whose natural tendency is to seek the approval of others. We have that now, and it’s not working out so well. A POTUS needs to be geared to defend to the homeland and citizens against threats, as a default response.

The Net Neutrality Coup
Excerpt: The campaign to regulate the Internet was funded by a who's who of left-liberal foundations. The Federal Communications Commission's new "net neutrality" rules, passed on a partisan 3-2 vote yesterday, represent a huge win for a slick lobbying campaign run by liberal activist groups and foundations. The losers are likely to be consumers who will see innovation and investment chilled by regulations that treat the Internet like a public utility. There's little evidence the public is demanding these rules, which purport to stop the non-problem of phone and cable companies blocking access to websites and interfering with Internet traffic. Over 300 House and Senate members have signed a letter opposing FCC Internet regulation, and there will undoubtedly be even less support in the next Congress.

Islamic Sect Claims Nigeria Attacks, Toll At 86
Didn’t get the “Islam is a Religion of Peace” memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: A radical Islamist sect said on Tuesday it was behind bombings in central Nigeria and attacks on churches in the northeast of the country that led to the deaths of at least 86 people. The police said on Tuesday that 80 people were killed in Christmas Eve bomb attacks and clashes two days later between Muslim and Christian youths in central Nigeria, while more than 100 are wounded in hospitals.

Gitmo Is Not Al Qaeda's 'Number One Recruitment Tool'
Excerpt: President Obama and his surrogates have made this argument before, but they have provided no real evidence that it is true. In fact, al Qaeda’s top leaders rarely mention Guantanamo in their messages to the West, Muslims and the world at large.

European Freedom Alliance - Interview Filip Dewinter
Filip Dewinter is the leader of Vlaams Belang, the party which resists Islam in Belgium.

China Preparing for War 'In Every Strategic Direction'
Excerpt: Peter Foster, a Beijing-based correspondent for the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper, has reported on an interview with Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie published by several state-run media outlets in China. The People's Liberation Army officer is quoted as declaring "In the coming five years, our military will push forward preparations for military conflict in every strategic direction. We may be living in peaceful times, but we can never forget war, never send the horses south or put the bayonets and guns away." A series of competing air and naval exercises in the summer and fall conducted by China, Russia, Japan, North and South Korea, and the United States have called into question the concept of "peaceful times" and of Beijing's "peaceful rise." Foster notes, China also announced this month that it was preparing to launch its own aircraft carrier next year in a signal that China is determined to punch its weight as a rising superpower. The news came a year earlier than many US defence analysts had predicted.

Jihad Against Australia - A Video For Australian Friends Who Don't 'Get It' Yet
Excerpt: This is what you might call a Counterjihad video for beginners. It’s a short introductory film about jihad, designed for an Australian audience, and does a good job of laying out the basics. The beginning of it is “old material” as far as regular Gates of Vienna readers are concerned. But watch it through to the grueling audio segment from a call-in radio show near the end — Australian readers may want to send this to their friends who don’t “get it” yet. WARNING: some of the images use in this video — particularly those from the Bali bombing — are graphic, and may be disturbing for sensitive people.

California Dispensary Sparks Food Drive w
ith Free Pot
Excerpt: A California medical marijuana dispensary has raked in food donations with a unique offer: free pot. The Granny Purps dispensary in Soquel (soh-KEL’), about 60 miles southeast of San Francisco, offered a complimentary marijuana cigarette for every four cans of food a patient brought in this holiday season. Each patient was limited to a maximum of three cigarettes a day. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that the dispensary took in 11,000 pounds of food and handed out 2,000 marijuana cigarettes between November and Christmas Eve, when the promotion ended. The food was donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank. Second Harvest spokesman Danny Keith says Granny Purps, which only has eight employees, contributed the amount of food that would normally come from a business with 30 to 40 workers. [It would not amaze me to learn that the food had come from a food bank in the first place. There are often cans of unwanted food left lying on the street around food pantries. I met a man once who told me he had an entire room full of shelves of tinned food he'd got from food banks, and that his neighbours came to his door whenever they needed this, that or the other. What goes around comes around.- Kate.]

Obama bypasses Senate to name new envoys
Didn’t Senator Obama complain about Bush doing this? ~Bob. Excerpt: President Barack Obama has bypassed the Senate and directly appointed four new U.S. ambassadors whose nominations had been stalled or blocked by lawmakers for months. The White House announced Wednesday that Obama would use his power to make recess appointments to fill envoy posts to Azerbaijan, Syria and NATO allies Turkey and the Czech Republic. Recess appointments are made when the Senate is not in session and last only until the end of the next session of Congress. They are frequently used when Senate confirmation is not possible. Specific senators had blocked or refused to consider the confirmations of the nominees for various reasons, including questions about their qualifications. But in the most high-profile case, that of the new envoy to Syria, Robert Ford, a number of senators objected because they believed sending an ambassador to the country would reward it for bad behavior.

'We the people' to open next Congress
Excerpt: The Constitution frequently gets lip service in Congress, but House Republicans next year will make sure it gets a lot more than that - the new rules the incoming majority party proposed this week call for a full reading of the country's founding document on the floor of the House on Jan. 6. The goal, backers said, is to underscore the limited-government rules the Founders imposed on Congress - and to try to bring some of those principles back into everyday legislating.

The R
ight Way t
o Balance the Budget
Excerpt: The federal debt is at its highest level since the aftermath of World War II—and it's projected to rise further. Simply stabilizing debt levels would require an immediate and permanent 23% increase in all federal tax revenues or equivalent cuts in government expenditures, according to Congressional Budget Office forecasts. What's clear is that to avoid a crisis, the federal government must undergo a significant retrenchment, or fiscal consolidation. The question is whether to do so by raising taxes or reducing government spending. Rumors have it that President Obama will propose steps to address growing deficits in his next State of the Union address. The natural impulse of a conciliator might be to split the difference: reduce the deficit with equal parts spending cuts and tax increases. But history suggests that such an approach would be a recipe for failure. In new research that builds on the pioneering work of Harvard economists Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna, we analyzed the history of fiscal consolidations in 21 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development over 37 years. Some of those nations repaired their fiscal problems; many did not. Our goal was to establish a detailed recipe for success. If the United States were to copy past consolidations that succeeded, what would it do?

Homicides fall in large American cities
Excerpt: When Washington debates whether America is safe, the focus now is usually on the increasing threat of terrorism — not violent crime. That has largely obscured some good news about violent crime: Across the nation, homicide rates have dropped to their lowest levels in nearly a generation. And overall violent crime has sunk to its lowest level since 1973, Justice Department statistics show. The reductions have continued despite a grinding recession, a slow economic recovery and spikes in gang membership, according to recently released FBI figures for the first half of 2010. The long-term trend is particularly striking in the nation's three largest cities —New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Homicides in New York have dropped 79% during the past two decades — from 2,245 in 1990 to 471 in 2009, the last full year measured. Chicago is down 46% during that period, from 850 to 458. Los Angeles is down 68%, from 983 to 312. The reductions, especially in New York, have been so dramatic that violent crime virtually has disappeared from the national political discourse.

The Fix's 11 big questions for 2011
Excerpt: The calendar is about to turn on a very active 2010 election cycle, but another one waits just around the corner, with the 2012 election expected to begin shortly after the calendar reads "January." To help you keep track of what's ahead, we came up with 11 key questions that are likely to be answered in 2011, and what they mean for the road ahead. Click through, and once you've had a look at our ideas, let us know what you're watching for. The comments section awaits. Can the tea party and the GOP coexist peacefully?

Dozens of incoming GOP freshmen represent districts carried by Obama
Excerpt: The 2010 election netted Republicans 63 House seats, which means there are plenty of targets for Democrats in 2012 — especially in districts that went for President Obama in the last presidential cycle. There are 31 newly elected Republican representatives who represent districts won by Obama. Add those to the current members and that makes 62 Republican-held House seats that Obama carried in 2008. Here are the 31 incoming GOP members who represent districts won by the president.

Boehner taps Alabama Republican to lead ethics committee in GOP House
Excerpt: Incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has tapped Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) to be chairman of the ethics committee in the GOP-led House. In his announcement, Boehner said Bonner is “widely respected” on both sides of the aisle and has a “deep appreciation for the importance of both ethics education and enforcement in the House.” “The American people have every right to expect the highest standards of ethical conduct from their elected leaders, and it is important for members of both the majority and the minority to work together to ensure that such standards are observed and respected at all times within the institution,” Boehner said in a written statement. “A functioning Ethics Committee will be central to that effort in the 112th Congress.” (Tough job. The Ethics chair needs to be above reproach in his/her own ethics, fair, have the courage to go after anyone regardless of politics, know the rules and law. ~Bob.)

Obama's carbon deals kill jobs, benefit Big Business
Excerpt: Democrats based much of their 2010 midterm congressional election campaign on the risible claim that Republican candidates wanted to "outsource jobs." Set aside the fact that this claim, repeated in literally hundreds of races, was as ineffective as it was ludicrous. More importantly, President Obama's new carbon control scheme, which begins next week, provides conclusive evidence that it was the Democrats who planned to do the outsourcing. Carbon limitation laws will send American manufacturing jobs overseas. Carbon emissions, unlike pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act, can only be reduced significantly through reductions in output, which necessarily means the loss of jobs, increases in prices, or both. As Obama's carbon limitation program begins next week, with new regulations coming into effect over the next two years, energy-intensive industries will begin weighing the costs and benefits of relocating manufacturing operations to countries -- think China and India -- whose governments do not significantly regulate carbon emissions. This is the last idea we should be raising in corporate boardrooms at a time of 9.8 percent unemployment, but it is apparently a higher priority for Obama than preserving American jobs.

China's navy gets bigger, but why?
Excerpt: Building a navy requires a particularly long lead time. The designing, financing and building of ships requires thinking in terms of at least two decades. Providing experienced commanders and trained crews takes longer. The Chinese Navy's expansion program began in the 1990s, as China's fleet began to venture away from China's coast and develop blue water (open ocean) capabilities. Now Chinese submarines encounter U.S. Navy task forces, and Chinese warships turn up in the Indian Ocean. China may launch its first aircraft carrier in 2011. It will take years to produce carrier pilots and crew comparable to those in the Navy, but acquiring the technology is a huge step. What does China intend to do with its carrier? The rest of Asia, from India to Japan, wants to know. For example, Chinese maritime claims in the South China Sea conflict sharply with those of Vietnam and the Philippines. A carrier extends China's offensive reach in this contested sea zone. The carrier is one piece of a complex puzzle that includes new surface ships, aircraft and missiles. This week, U.S. Pacific Command commander Adm. Robert Willard told a Japanese newspaper that China's Dongfeng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) had achieved "initial operational capability."

The high costs of 50 years of pesticide paranoia
Government overreach led to November's voter revolt and congressional shake-up, but one wonders if President Obama is listening and will rein in his own administration, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has been the progressive agenda's vehicle on climate change, pesticide regulation and other orders totaling 29 major regulations and 172 major policy rules, far outpacing previous presidential administrations. The more challenging legislative road ahead could lead the EPA to an even more strident path in its regulatory overreach. This could spell bad news in particular for American farmers, when you consider the shaky foundations on which the EPA builds its regulatory cases. Why does the government increasingly seek to quash the technologies that make the American farmer so phenomenally productive? Thank Rachel Carson. Children are still taught the environmentalist's 1962 book, "Silent Spring," showing DDT thinning out bird eggshells and leading to the American bald eagle's extinction. Despite thorough debunking of the "Silent Spring" morality tale, Carson's pioneering scare tactic has been endlessly replicated against one useful chemical after another. (Carson’s book killed millions of black, brown and yellow people in the third world through Malaria, but that’s a small price to pay if liberals can feel good about themselves for saving birds. ~Bob.)

Surprise! London arrests did have US connection after all
Excerpt: When Director of National Intelligence James Clapper got stumped on national TV by a Diane Sawyer question regarding the arrest of a dozen terrorist suspects in the UK, the Obama administration attempted damage control by claiming that the arrests had nothing to do with “the homeland.” Janet Napolitano made the same argument on Sunday, trying to downplay Clapper’s lack of data (via Weasel Zippers): NAPOLITANO: Well, let’s — let’s be fair. It — I knew. John Brennan knew. We also knew there was no connect that had been perceived to anything going on in the homeland and that we were in perfect connectivity with our — our colleagues in Britain. So one of the things I think that should be very clear to the American people is that those of us in homeland security who needed to know, we knew. There are two problems with that argument. First, the DNI’s scope is not just the “homeland” — it’s global. And the second problem is that the plot busted by the Brits included a threat against the American embassy in London: The U.S. State Department confirms that the 12 terrorism suspects arrested in the United Kingdom last week had targeted the American Embassy in London. …

California's Central Valley: Zimbabwe West?
Excerpt: It isn’t just Fresno, although it appears to have taken the worst of the crisis. Besides Fresno, four other Central Valley cities got listed in the bottom ten of MarketWatch’s 2010 survey on the worst places to do business in the US. Fresno came in dead last at 102 on the list. The collapse has another element to it for Californians as well. The state has a huge budget shortfall, currently estimated around $26 billion, and cannot afford to expand safety-net programs to help the Central Valley. One reason the budget hole is so large is because of the lack of revenue from normally-robust agricultural production in that region. Instead of being a net revenue producer, the Central Valley threatens to become a sinkhole of welfare spending that will hasten the bankruptcy of the nation’s largest state, and an economy that would normally rank among the top 10 in the world if considered as a nation unto itself. This is entirely the result of federal government intervention in agriculture, which might be understandable if it was intended to help agriculture. Instead, it comes as a hostile act to both the people of the region and Americans as a whole. Thanks to the collapse of the Central Valley, food prices will increase as we have to import more from countries with much less strict environmental controls, which is merely an inconvenience. The starvation that has begun is more than an inconvenience — it is a national embarrassment, and a moral outrage.

The American 21st Century
I’m on the doom and gloom side. ~Bob. Excerpt: Two symptoms of all this doom and gloom are constant over the decades. First, America typically goes through periodic bouts of neurotic self-doubt, only to wake up and snap out of it. Indeed, indebted Americans are already bracing for fiscal restraint and parsimony as an antidote to past profligacy. Second, decline is relative and does not occur in a vacuum. As Western economic and scientific values ripple out from Europe and the United States, it is understandable that developing countries like China, India or Brazil can catapult right into the 21st century. But that said, national strength is still found in the underlying hardiness of the patient -- its demography, culture and institutions -- rather than occasional symptoms of ill health. In that regard, America integrates immigrants and assimilates races and ethnicities in a way Europe cannot. Russia, China and Japan are simply not culturally equipped to deal with millions who do not look Slavic, Chinese or Japanese. The Islamic world cannot ensure religious parity to Christians, Jews or Hindus -- or political equality to women. The American Constitution has been tested over 223 years. In contrast, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea do not have constitutional pedigrees of much more than 60 years. The last time Americans killed each other in large numbers was nearly a century and a half ago; most of our rivals have seen millions of their own destroyed in civil strife and internecine warring just this century. In short, a nation's health is not gauged by bouts of recession and self-doubt, but by its time-honored political, economic, military and social foundations. A temporarily ill-seeming America is nevertheless still growing, stable, multiethnic, transparent, individualistic, self-critical and meritocratic; almost all of its apparently healthy rivals in fact are not.

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