Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Political Digest for February 1, 2011

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. Help your friends and relatives stay informed by passing the digest on.

Judge Rules Health Care Law Is Unconstitutional
Excerpt: A U.S. district judge ruled Monday that the health care law unconstitutional because it violates the Commerce Clause Judge Roger Vinson said as a result of the unconstitutionality of the "individual mandate" that requires people to buy insurance, the entire law must be thrown out. "I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system. The health care market is more than one sixth of the national economy, and without doubt Congress has the power to reform and regulate this market. That has not been disputed in this case. The principal dispute has been about how Congress chose to exercise that power here," Vinson wrote. "Because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire act must be declared void," he wrote. (Now it goes to the Supreme Court, where it’s likely to be decided either way 4-3. ~Bob.)

Clinton: 'We're not advocating any specific outcome' in Egypt crisis
Not counting Biden saying the guy who’s held absolute power for 30 years wasn’t a dictator and her saying we supported an orderly transition. Mixed messages from the teleprompter brigade. ~Bob. Excerpt: The Obama administration struggled to maintain a careful balance on its response to the crisis in Egypt on Sunday, which continued to spiral out of control as armed gangs broke hundreds of militants out of Egyptian jails and the U.S. Embassy warned citizens to consider leaving the country as soon as possible. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the rounds on all five Sunday shows, advocating that the people's voice be heard while taking care not to call for a departure of President Hosni Mubarak.

Obama administration aligns itself with protests in Egypt with call for 'orderly transition'
Excerpt: The Obama administration firmly aligned itself on Sunday with the protest movement that has overtaken Egypt, calling for an "orderly transition" to a more representative government amid rising U.S. concern that the demonstrations are turning violent and that unrest could spread across the Arab world. In telephone calls to Egyptian and regional leaders, President Obama and his top national security advisers tried to reassure them that their countries remain vital U.S. strategic partners, while warning that the political status quo is not sustainable. Senior administration officials said that the "transition" wording, used by both the White House and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was carefully chosen to indicate a desire for a representative, interim government to run Egypt until scheduled presidential elections are held in September.

Israel Shocked by Obama's Betrayal of Mubarak
Excerpt: If Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak is toppled, Israel will lose one of its very few friends in a hostile neighborhood and President Barack Obama will bear a large share of the blame, Israeli pundits said on Monday. Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers of the Jewish state to make no comment on the political cliffhanger in Cairo, to avoid inflaming an already explosive situation. But Israel's President Shimon Peres is not a minister. "We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak," he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. "I don't say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East."

Excerpt: Egypt has been different though. Egypt has been seen as an ally in a region of the world where the difference between your friends and your enemies can be defined by the bruise on your forehead - assuming you still have a head to bruise. Mubarak's government media made it clear the Muslim Brotherhood was behind this latest round of protests and within days, the Muslim Brotherhood made it clear that they were. During this same period, Iranian officials made it clear that they supported the protestors and their quest for 'democracy'. The Egyptian government outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954 just 26 years after they formed in that country largely due to their political opposition. Their efforts in Egypt since then can be defined as an underground movement and when these latest protests began in earnest last week, their effectiveness became readily apparent. The fact that Iran has come forward and made clear their support of the protestors who are being 'lead' or 'encouraged' by the Muslim Brotherhood should suggest they are in league with each other - at least ideologically. If our government has shown a complete lack of credible understanding of Islam they have never-the-less been more or less all in agreement that Iran is rogue in a part of the world they (the US government), see as otherwise peaceful. If Iran is rogue and their Clerics have in fact hi-jacked an otherwise peaceful religion, shouldn't we be concerned that they are apparently in league with the Muslim Brotherhood's efforts in Egypt? Is there any serious indication that elections in Iran have been conducted without coercion? If not; then what exactly is the definition of a democracy in Iran? Let's also recall that the Muslim Brotherhood is the principle advisory 'committee' for this sitting government and the Pentagon. Getting nervous yet? This sitting government's military decisions in that region of the world are based largely on advice from Muslim Brotherhood officials. If, then, the Muslim Brotherhood is behind a protest that is lauded by the Iranians who all agree are violent and 'extremist' in their ideological views, what confidence can anyone have for the future of Egypt? The protestors in Egypt may well achieve democracy but it will be short lived. In their first democratically cast ballot, they will likely vote themselves into another form of slavery taught by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian Clerics. The sad truth is all of the countries with predominantly Muslim populations in that area with autocratic regimes are likely to follow suit.

Egypt and the Failure of the Obama Doctrine
There’s an “Obama Doctrine”? Who knew? ~Bob. Excerpt: On Sunday, the military raised its presence, sending a column of tanks to enter Tahrir Square and buzzing the crowds with fighter jets. These actions came a day after the country’s most notorious prisons, Abu Zaabal and Wadi Natroun, were emptied of criminals and Islamic militants; uniformed police forces have all but disappeared (but appear to be trickling back to their posts today). Only the army and roving bands of armed vigilantes are in charge. With all but a few businesses closed and the economy at a complete standstill, it is unclear how long this standoff can last. One banner in
Tahrir Square
read: “The army has to choose between Egypt and Mubarak.” There is a danger that the protests could lead to less, not greater, liberty in Egypt. While many of the groups organizing the protests (such as the April 6 Movement) do use pro-democracy rhetoric, there are powerful forces in the country that harbor Islamist goals that are incompatible with genuine democracy, including the anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood. As Egypt’s biggest and best-organized political group, the Brotherhood will be well-positioned to hijack a revolt.

Egyptian protesters push back armed police
We definitely want these guys on our side—Kate.

Elation Tempered by Fear as Looters Threaten Egypt's Middle Class
Excerpt: Many middle-class Egyptians have greeted with elation the demonstrations that have leveled an unprecedented challenge to the ruling regime in the Arab world's most populous country. But what happened overnight Friday and Saturday also raised widespread alarm across the capital at what disorder might bring. At the checkpoint, some escaped prisoners told [Mohammed] Saher [resident of 'Beverly Hills', Cairo] they'd been left alone at the prison for two days with no food or water until men in traditional garments opened the doors and set them free, he said. "How in the hell did they get released? The ex-president wants to create chaos and show Egyptians as barbaric," Saher said, referring to President Hosni Mubarak as though he were already gone. "That's the card he's playing with now. But we're too smart for this."

U.S. Set to Fly Thousands of Americans from Egypt
Excerpt: The State Department is set to evacuate U.S. citizens from Egypt on chartered planes, but is relying largely on friends and families in the U.S. to relay that information to stranded Americans. The charters were flying out of Cairo and Assistant Secretary of State Janice Jacobs said the U.S. was looking at Athens, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; and Nicosia, Cyprus, as destinations. The U.S. Embassy in Cyprus said the first flights were expected to arrive there early Monday. Jacobs told reporters Sunday that she expects it will take several flights over the coming days to handle the number of Americans who want to leave Egypt, where rioters are threatening to overturn the ruling regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Jacobs acknowledged that Internet interruptions in Egypt are making it difficult for Americans there to get information about the evacuations. But she said they have been able to get information from people in the United States who do have access to State Department and embassy websites.

What’s the Matter with Egypt?
Excerpt: So what’s the matter with Egypt? The same thing that is the matter with most of the modern Middle East: in the post-industrial world, its hundreds of millions now are vicariously exposed to the affluence and freedom of the West via satellite television, cell phones, the Internet, DVDs, and social networks. And they become angry that, in contrast to what they see and hear from abroad, their own lives are unusually miserable in the most elemental sense. Of course, there is no introspective Socrates on hand and walking about to remind the Cairo or Amman Street that their corrupt government is in some part a reification of themselves, who in their daily lives see the world in terms of gender apartheid, tribalism, religious intolerance, conspiracies, fundamentalism, and statism that are incompatible with a modern, successful, capitalist democracy. That is, a century after the onset of modern waste treatment science, many of the cities in the Middle East smell of raw sewage. A century after we learned about microbes and disease, the water in places like Cairo is undrinkable from the tap. Six decades after the knowledge of treating infectious disease, millions in the Middle East suffer chronic pain and suffer from maladies that are easily addressed in the West. And they have about as much freedom as the Chinese, but without either the affluence or the confidence. That the Gulf and parts of North Africa are awash in oil and gas, at a time of both near record prices and indigenous control of national oil treasures, makes the ensuing poverty all the more insulting. (And a goodly number are determined to bring the blessings of an Islamist theocracy to the rest of us. ~Bob.)

Arab World Transfixed by Egyptian Protests
Excerpt: But this latest uprising is taking place in Cairo, the political, cultural and intellectual capital of the Arab world. This is the city that gave the region belly-dancing, soap operas, its most beloved singers, the Arab League and the most influential institute of Sunni Islamic learning in the world, the Al-Azhar University. It has also endowed the region with its most potent revolutions. The last time Egypt had a revolt was back in 1952 and it changed the course of history. The young army officer who led the coup that overthrew Egypt's monarchy was Gamal Abdel Nasser, whose pan-Arab nationalist ideals inspired a generation of revolutionary leaders from Moammar Gadhafi in Libya to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, along with a string of violently destabilizing coups and two Arab-Israeli wars. This Egyptian revolution, though dramatically different, has the potential to be just as transformational. Already, activists on Twitter are furiously tweeting the dates of the next putative uprisings: Sudan on Jan. 30, Yemen on Feb. 3, Syria on Feb. 5 and Algeria on Feb. 12. "Arab Revolution Timetable," say the tweets hurtling among the region's new generation of cyberspace revolutionaries.

Beyond Mubarak: 'Twere Well It Were Done Quickly
Excerpt: In a crisis like this, moving quickly is often more important than moving in an “orderly” way. After all, an “orderly” transition is far less important than a desirable and orderly outcome. Trying to ensure now that everything is “well thought-out” to the satisfaction of diplomats can easily become an excuse for a drawn-out transition. And that means trouble. The more drawn-out this transition is, the more likely it is to end badly. The best case—the least radicalizing one for the population, the least advantageous for the Muslim Brotherhood—would be a quick transition now to an interim government, with the prospect of elections not too far off, so people can rally to the prospect of a new liberal regime. Uncertainty and dithering is what helps the Lenins and Khomeinis in revolutionary situations. Acting boldly to prevent more disarray and more chaos offers the best chance for an orderly outcome. 9but who is there to act boldly who wouldn’t be worse? Maybe the army. ~Bob.)

CNBC Host and Crew Fired Upon by Egyptian Military
Excerpt: “It is something when you see your first tank in a situation like this that in what we’re seeing in Egypt we saw that within the mile of the airport with the military and then from then on, gangs of young men, young men, middle-aged men with knives, bats, golf clubs – pretty much anything and they were very careful to say, and by the way their English was great, willing to talk to us,” she continued. “They said, ‘Look, we’re not here looting. We’re protecting our property from looters, our family from looters. We can’t sleep at night because there’s no police, no rule of law and we have to protect our families.’ They had some very interesting things to say to us. One of them said, ‘Egypt is better than this.’ It’s amazing how many spoke English.”

Egypt Crisis: Will Barack Obama Trust 80 Million Egyptians?
Excerpt: What comes next? Ask the young men thronging the streets and squares of the capital, and nobody seems to have a clue. "We don't hate Americans," said Ali Abunil, 30, yesterday, a marketing executive for a pharmaceutical company who had defied the curfew to spend the night in Tahrir Square. And this was reflected in posters held up by marchers all week. "America, we don't want to hurt you," they said. Nearby, a middle-aged man screaming "America out" was hauled away by friends. "We are not Iran," said Mr Abunil. "We are not Afghanistan. Egypt is different." However, probe a little further and the picture becomes more problematic for President Obama, and the country the United States is sworn to protect, Israel. Khaled Awad, 38, an electrical engineer, was typical in his views. "Most people believe that as long as a country supports Israel that much, people cannot be happy with America," he said. What would he do with Israel? "It cannot survive. Sure, I don't want to terminate the Jews, but this is not their country."

Egypt Crisis: Looters Destroy Mummies in Cairo Museum
Excerpt: "But I would not be at all surprised if this was the work of a gang who were being directed by a dealer, from the Middle East or elsewhere. These artefacts are immensely valuable and can be sold for huge amounts of money. They have ways of smuggling them out of the country. "Dr Hawass has spent many years building up the collection and he will be absolutely devastated by this." The museum, which houses over 120,000 treasures, was on Sunday guarded by tanks rolled into posts around the museum, to protect its national treasures against new acts of vandalism. The museum opened in 1858 with a collection assembled by Auguste Mariette, the French archaeologist retained by Egypt's then ruler Isma'il Pasha, and moved to its present location in 1900. It contains the Tutankhamen exhibit, featuring the treasures unearthed by Howard Carter in 1922. It also holds an unusual collection of mummified animals.

Why they hate Mubarak: "He is supporting Israel. Israel is our enemy...If people are free in Egypt...they gonna destroy Israel"

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood eyes unity gov't without Mubarak
Excerpt: The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, is in talks with other anti-government figures to form a national unity government without President Hosni Mubarak, a group official told DPA on Sunday.
Although the Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned from running for elections for parliament, some movement members have presented candidacy for parliament as independents.

If Brotherhood takes over, IDF will face formidable enemy
Excerpt: The collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt is not yet about Israel but soon will be, depending on his successor. If the Muslim Brotherhood grabs the reins in the massive Arab country, Israel will face an enemy with one of the largest and strongest militaries around, built on some of the most advanced American-made platforms. The impact on Israel will be immediate – the IDF will need to undergo major structural changes, new units will need to be created and forces in the South will likely need to be beefed up. Since the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the IDF has not had to worry about two fronts at once. Until now. The appointment of Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman as the vice president in Egypt is a reassuring sign for Israel.

Excerpt: Tens of thousands of Yemeni citizens took to the streets Thursday demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh resign. Saleh, whose been in power for 32 years, was discussing a constitutional amendment that would make his presidency a life term. After the protests erupted, he made promises to slash income taxes in half and raised the pay of his military and security officials. Experts say he won't be able to sustain the changes or fulfill promises without help. Christopher Boucek, a Yemen specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the administration needs to look beyond the al Qaeda presence in Yemen and focus on the "bigger issues" of economic reform, corruption and malcontent among the civilian population in the Arab world. Boucek said if events proceed without change in Yemen the government will collapse. He said there are stark similarities between what happened in Tunisia and what could easily unfold in Yemen. Al Qaeda has waged a successful propaganda war in Yemen, experts said, using government corruption and Saleh's overtures to the United States to create unrest

Ship me somewhere east of Suez , where the best is like the worst,
Where there ain’t no Ten Commandments, and a man can raise a thirst. –Kipling.

The Economic Stimulus That Wasn't
Excerpt: Did the hundreds of billions spent to stimulate the economy do the job? And where did all that money go, anyway? A new report crunches the data and finds answers that are devastating for stimulus backers. Done by Stanford University economists John Cogan and John Taylor and published in Commentary Magazine, the report is blunt in its assessment of President Obama's Keynesian stimulus package: "There was little if any net stimulus." Worse, say the authors, the White House with its bevy of hip Keynesian-leaning economists should have known it wouldn't work. "The irony," they write, "is that basic economic theory and practical experience predicted this would happen." In other words, the Obama camp should have known better. (Facts or bad results never sway leftists. They believe in big government and government spending to cure all ills. They are encouraged by the ever-growing appetites of those groups who get the largess—and we all belong to one or more of those groups. It won’t stop until the collapse comes. ~Bob.)

The United Nations' Scientific Fraud against DDT
I rate Rachel Carson as the fourth leading mass murderer of the twentieth century, trailing, in order Mao, Stalin and Hitler. But she’s gaining, as her book, Silent Spring, continues to kill third world children through malaria and other diseases. ~Bob. Excerpt: Key points in this Outlook: UN agencies are misleading the public by claiming that malaria can be controlled without insecticides, notably DDT. The stated aim is to stop DDT use globally by 2020. UN agencies are committing scientific fraud by deliberately and incorrectly interpreting data on malaria control using noninsecticide methods. While DDT is no panacea, it is still a critical weapon in the battle against malaria and other insect-borne diseases.

Uncertainty Continues To Depress Jobs
Excerpt: Although the unemployment rate fell to 9.4% in December from 9.8% in November, some 14.5 million people are still classified as unemployed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 1.1 million fewer than in October 2009, when unemployment hit its peak. Put in perspective, the current number of unemployed is some 5.2 million, or 56%, greater than the number in June 2003, when unemployment hit its peak after the dot-com bust. Even if the recovery continues along its current track, some six more years will be needed to bring the job total back to where it was November 2007, when some 146.6 million people were employed in the U.S. In this event, the U.S. economy will have gone nine years without any net increase in jobs. Some economists are comparing this employment drought to the Great Depression, when employment remained below its 1929 level for 11 years in a row.

House Dem: Liberal groups need to back off for party to succeed in 2012
Just shut up and don’t antagonize the uninformed middle until after November 2012, then we can move left again. ~Bob. Excerpt: Liberal groups need to stay out of Democratic primaries if the party is going to retake the House majority, according to a conservative Massachusetts Democrat. Rep. Stephen Lynch was one of several Democrats who faced an aggressive primary challenge from the left in 2010. His challenger Mac D'Alessandro, a former top official with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), received almost $300,000 from labor groups for his campaign.

House GOP tries to find middle ground on budget-cutting plan
Excerpt: House Republicans are putting together a floor debate plan that tries to broker a divide over how deeply to cut spending. Under the two-step plan, Republicans are likely to bring a measure to the floor that would propose much more moderate cuts to the budget for 2011 than what many Republicans have sought. To mollify those who want deeper cuts, Republican leaders would allow the House to consider amendments offering more significant cuts to the budget, according to a House GOP aide. This process would allow House leaders to put forward a budget plan for FY 2011 that would not propose the kind of drastic cuts that would be opposed by the Democratic Senate and White House. At the same time, it would give Republicans who want more cuts a chance to make their case through the amendment process.

When Good Muslims Go Bad
Excerpt: Another example of hypocrisy appears to have been lost upon those Muslims who have surrendered their independent thought. While Islamist imams encourage them to become suicide bombers and target Allah’s enemies (the victims of which bombings often include more believers than non-believers), there is no recorded case of an imam ever practicing what he preaches by donning a suicide bomber’s vest himself—or, for that matter, of the children of an imam doing so. Radical imams “talk the talk” yet prove reluctant to “walk the walk”—a result apparently reached by their exercise of the independent thought they bar followers from using. Contrast this example set by Islamist clerics failing to practice what they preach to that set by “The Four Chaplains” of World War II fame. These four religious leaders—two Protestant pastors, a Catholic priest, and a Jewish rabbi—were onboard a US troop ship sunk by a German submarine. With insufficient lifejackets for all, the four chaplains surrendered theirs so others might live. As the ship went down, survivors recalled seeing the four men-of-the-cloth, standing arm-in-arm, each praying in his own way for the survival of the others onboard fighting for their lives. Having talked the talk about the value of human life, the four walked the walk as the final act of their lives played out. There is an ongoing debate over what causes good Muslims to go bad—i.e., whether a lack of education is a factor. Since the 9/11 terrorists were all educated, it is argued by some that lack of education is not a factor. But it is important to remember the 9/11 terrorists were educated within Arab educational systems. primarily focusing on rote memorization of the Koran and not on stimulating creative thought. This is underscored in a study done several years ago by China to identify the top 500 universities in the world. Not a single Arab university made the list. There are other indicators a lack of education—and thus the absence of the creativity to which it gives rise—is a factor.

Democrats launch campaign against 19 House Republican targets for 2012
Excerpt: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has started airing advertisements for the 2012 election cycle, targeting 19 House Republicans in typically left-leaning districts. The Democrats will need most, if not all, of those seats to reclaim a majority in the House in the next Congress. The DCCC’s most notable target is Tea Party favorite Allen West, Florida Republican, who won his election in a historically Democratic district.

Excerpt: Now (here’s the glitch) if you’re a health policy wonk living, say, in Princeton or New Haven you cannot in your wildest dreams imagine why anyone would ever voluntarily choose to live in Bandera County. Think how far away it is from the Met, from Broadway, from Avery Fisher Hall. Think how far away it is from decent Chinese or Italian cuisine. Think how far away it is from… from… well, from civilization. So to a great many of my colleagues, underdoctored areas are natural and inevitable. What graduate of Harvard Medical School is going to want to move to Bandera? It’s hard to even imagine being able to bribe them enough with hard currency. It may require handcuffs and cattle prods, whips and chains — or whatever our 21st century courts rule is constitutionally permissible. The problem with this kind of thinking is that it should apply to the other professions as well, if it were correct. After all, there’s nothing particularly special about medical students. So I did a quick check and found seven area listings under “lawyer,” seven under “accountant,” and seven under “engineer.” If Bandera attracted doctors at the same rate that it attracted other professionals, it would have a respectable 3,000 patient/doctor ratio! So what makes health care different? To begin with, one-third of the U.S. population is in Medicare or Medicaid — government health insurance programs that impose price controls at a much different level than would occur in a free marketplace. A private health insurance system dominated by only a few large sellers, such as we have, then piggybacks on top of the reimbursement formulas used by those programs. Bottom line: in health care, when government dictates prices, the supply of health care cannot be properly allocated…. Family practitioner Ken Jackson is known around Kingman, Ariz., as the “Cowboy Baby Doctor,” though he says the nickname is a bit misleading — he doesn’t always ride a horse or wear his cowboy hat, and he prefers alternative rock to country music. But for the past three years, Jackson has traveled by horseback once a month deep into the Grand Canyon to provide prenatal care for Supai, a remote Native American village of about 400 that is inaccessible by automobile. It is the last place in the USA to which the U.S. Postal Service makes deliveries by mule.

When Reagan battled the Soviets — and American journalists
This is actually a 3-page article, but readers need to click the red "next" line at the bottom of each of the first two pages to advance to the next page. Ron P. Excerpt: In the 1980s, liberals in the media viewed Reagan as a simpleton, even a Neanderthal, when it came to appraising the USSR and Marxist-Leninist ideology — and didn’t hesitate to say so. The Soviets recognized this and exploited it in ways that have never been acknowledged. There was, in effect, a sort of double-team against Reagan by liberals in our press and Soviet propagandists in Moscow. It wasn’t a conspiracy. The liberals were dupes, unwitting participants, as the Soviets constantly looked for ways to prod them and, more blatantly, pick up their anti-Reagan screeds as headlines in Soviet publications. Again, this is not to suggest the two sides coordinated. Both were merely moving along the same leftward track, looking to ridicule their common political adversary — Ronald Reagan, conservative, anti-communist, simpleton.

The Old Obama in New Clothing
Excerpt: The November election sent a clear message to Washington: less government, less debt, less spending. President Obama certainly heard it, but judging from his State of the Union address, he doesn't believe a word of it. The people say they want cuts? Sure they do -- in the abstract. But any party that actually dares carry them out will be punished severely. On that, Obama stakes his re-election. No other conclusion can be drawn from a speech that didn't even address the debt issue until 35 minutes in. And then what did he offer? A freeze on domestic discretionary spending that he himself admitted would affect a mere one-eighth of the budget. Obama seemed impressed, however, that it would produce $400 billion in savings over 10 years. That's an average of $40 billion a year. The deficit for last year alone was more than 30 times as much. And total federal spending was more than 85 times that amount. A $40 billion annual savings for a government that just racked up $3 trillion in new debt over the last two years is deeply unserious. It's spillage, a rounding error. As for entitlements, which are where the real money is, Obama said practically nothing. He is happy to discuss, but if Republicans dare take anything from granny, he shall be Horatius at the bridge.

The Corporatist Culture of Corruption
Excerpt: A big part of the problem lies with the Russian people, who have an overwhelming desire to work for the bureaucratic regime that is the Russian government. They are resistant to change. Many have accepted the fact that corruption is the way business and politics function. Just like in many countries with bloated public sectors, people are comfortable in their cozy government jobs, and those already in government jobs enjoy the benefits of a corrupt political system. This is typical of government intensive economies, as politics picks winners and losers rather than competitive behavior and natural market forces. A $500,000 company simply cannot compete with a $500 billion company that receives government subsidies and political favoritism. Corporate welfare and sleazy government relationships create unnatural monopolies, developed through a command economy market structure. The economy becomes not a free market, but a "corruption" market. The United States must be cautious about its own government spending, as the past decade we have seen increasing government expansion and regulation. [I volunteered at a local church food pantry in Los Angeles, and the insiders always grabbed all the best food for themselves. One day we had to work outside the building for some reason. As per normal, all the insiders grabbed all the best food for themselves, right in front of the people waiting in the line. No one in the line objected. It was as if they took this for granted, that of course the insiders took everything. Olga, who was in charge of this pantry, told me to grab my stuff. I said I'd wait until the people in line had chosen. At the end of the morning, Olga told me not to come back again. And on another note: When I was first stranded in LA and in a homeless shelter, I went to apply for Food Stamps. I was denied FS because I had $87 dollars in the bank. In order to receive FS, you are not allowed to have more than $50. So of course, people who genuinely need help have to lie if they really do need the FS. It's like a right of initiation into the corruption that you have to take the money out of the bank and produce a false document. They force people to behave the way they behave. - Kate]

China announces thorium reactor energy program, Obama still dwelling on “Sputnik moments”
Excerpt: Currently there is no US effort to develop a thorium MSR [Molten Salt Reactor—RGP]. Readers of this blog and Charles Barton’s Nuclear Green blog know that there has been a grass-roots effort underway for over five years to change this. The formation of the Thorium Energy Alliance and the International Thorium Energy Organization have been other attempted to convince governmental and industrial leaders to carefully consider the potential of thorium in a liquid-fluoride reactor. There have been many international participants in the TEA and IThEO conferences, but none from China. Will the US accept the challenge or allow the Chinese to dominate advanced nuclear technology too? Using a technology invented in the US 40 years ago no less! This isn’t a “Sputnik moment” Mr. President, it’s a “shit or get off the pot” moment for US energy policy. The US excelled at the space race, partly because of the swift kick in the pants that Sputnik provided. Perhaps this announcement will be the embarrassment like Sputnik for the US government that will compel them to finally do something about our energy future besides tilt at windmills.

After Tucson, Getting Involuntary Commitment Right
Excerpt: In the illuminating Do Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help (And The Rest of Us), Mona Charen speaks to the atmosphere of the time and some of its driving forces. Charen explains that Thomas Szasz, author of The Myth of Mental Illness, “popularized the idea that mental illness did not exist but was merely a label that a rigid and intolerant society placed upon those who were nonconformists of any stripe [...]. Mental illness was a social construct, a prejudice, not a diagnosis.” Charen notes that Erving Goffman wrote an influential book called Asylums, in which he argued that all mental treatment institutions were essentially alike, and not for the better. Goffman “insisted that that most of the symptoms of mental illness displayed by residents of mental hospitals — raving, hearing voices, paranoia — were responses to being locked up, not evidence of illness [...].” Also enormously influential was British psychoanalyst R. D. Laing. “Laing argued that modern society itself was twisted and unnatural [...]. Laing taught that society’s coercion alienated human beings from their instinctive, natural, and intuitive selves. The people society called mentally ill were merely attempting to recapture the ecstatic and intuitive parts of their souls. Who were we, he asked, to label them insane when society itself was so sick?” If this sounds familiar, that is because it is of a piece with the contemporary progressive meme expressed by Mr. Obama — who, on the 2008 campaign trail, often called America the greatest nation in the world and then exhorted crowds to help him fundamentally change it. (…) One must not underestimate the influence that people like Szasz, Goffman, and Laing had on society and those treating mental illness. Their ideas — however well-intentioned — essentially boiled down to an idea that, heard today, sounds utterly idiotic: the mentally ill aren’t really sick at all, but have a supernatural sense of perception, perhaps even a more evolved consciousness than the rest of the everyday dullards…. 9 If you've spent any time in the downtown area of the nearest city and think about the people you saw on the street—the ones that always seemed to be on the street, not merely walking to a destination—you’ll realize this author is exactly right. I watched downtown Fitchburg, MA deteriorate from being a vibrant shopping district in 1977 to being a near ghost-town in 1982, largely because of the sudden influx of “odd and unusual personalities.” Almost none of the businesses, most of them decades old, survived. Ron P. Huh. I thought Fitchburg suffered because the city’s brilliant State Senator retired in 1982 and moved to Florida. ~Bob.)

The case for Jon Huntsman
Excerpt: Talk of a 2012 presidential candidacy by Jon Huntsman, the Obama Administration's ambassador to China, is heating up. We reported last week that Huntsman was leaning toward a run for the Republican nod and had a group of advisers beginning the outreach effort in early states to ensure that he could hit the ground running if and when he returned from China. Politico reported today that the White House is expecting Huntsman to resign his post this spring, an obvious precursor to a presidential bid. Today we make the case for why Huntsman can win the Republican nomination in 2012. Tomorrow we will offer up the case against the former Utah governor.

Political Blogs are Ready to Flood Campaign Trail
Excerpt: The New Hampshire primary is over a year away, and the first major candidate has yet to formally declare. Just don’t tell that to outlets like Politico, Talking Points Memo and RealClearPolitics, which are already planning to smother the 2012 campaign trail in a way they could never have imagined four years ago when they had far smaller staffs of bloggers and shoestring budgets. With an eye toward earning greater respectability, this crop of political Web sites is hoping for more than just page views and traffic-driving links from the Drudge Report. They want to establish themselves as the Blogs on the Bus. “We were a garage band in 2008, riffing on the fly,” said Jim VandeHei, Politico’s executive editor and co-founder. “Now we’re a 200-person production, with a precise feel and plan.”

GOP brass owes us, West assures tea partyers
Excerpt: John Boehner came to West Palm Beach in October to provide a high-profile campaign boost for Allen West, but West says it's Boehner who is indebted to West and other House Republican freshmen. "You've got 87 new freshmen that are up there. And it's because of those 87 freshmen that John Boehner is the speaker of the House," West told a town hall meeting Thursday in Deerfield Beach. Tea party favorite West was responding to an audience member who wanted assurance that, after his first few weeks on Capitol Hill, he hadn't sold out to Republican establishmentarians. The candidate who runs against Washington, goes to Washington and gets co-opted by Washington is one of the oldest recurring characters in American political drama. But West told the town hall crowd that he and his fellow freshman firebrands will be different. After helping the GOP take control of the House from Democrats, West said, the rookies have "huge leverage" with Republican leaders.

Tawdry details of Obamacare: White House quietly exempts pampered politicos
Excerpt: If you would like to know what the White House really thinks of Obamacare, there’s an easy way. Look past its press releases. Ignore its promises. Forget its talking points. Instead, simply witness for yourself the outrageous way the White House protects its best friends from Obamacare. Last year, we learned that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had granted 111 waivers to protect a lucky few from the onerous regulations of the new national health care overhaul. That number quickly and quietly climbed to 222, and last week we learned that the number of Obamacare privileged escapes has skyrocketed to 733. Among the fortunate is a who’s who list of unions, businesses and even several cities and four states (Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee) but none of the friends of Barack feature as prominently as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). How can you get your own free pass from Obamacare? Maybe you can just donate $27 million to President Obama‘s campaign efforts. That’s what Andy Stern did as president of SEIU in 2008. He has been the most frequent guest at Mr. Obama‘s White House…. Dr. Milton R. Wolf is a board-certified diagnostic radiologist, medical director and cousin of President Obama. He blogs daily at miltonwolf.com.

Upcoming Pentagon cuts make for hard sell
Excerpt: The Obama administration looks to be in for a tough time in selling its proposed 2012 defense budget, with opposition rising against almost every reduction, cut and slice proposed in military programs. Fierce opposition to some of the cost-saving measures was evident during a House Armed Services Committee hearing last week in which the panel's new Republican chairman, Rep. Buck McKeon of California, said he "will not support any measures that stress our forces and jeopardize the lives of our men and women in uniform. I will also oppose any plans that have the potential to damage or jeopardize our national security." Proposals drawing the most fire include reductions in the size of the Army and Marine Corps, cancellation of the Corps' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and about $7 billion in health care savings that will include fee increases for some beneficiaries. The Obama plan would, over the next five years, shift about $100 billion within the defense budget to new priorities and reduce planned spending by another $78 billion. The plan remains, in large part, because while some complain it cuts too deeply, others say it doesn't cut deeply enough. For example, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the armed service committee, called the Pentagon plan "a good first step in the right direction."

The Netherlands Freezes Contacts With Iran After Execution
Excerpt: The Netherlands has formally frozen all contacts with Iran following the execution of a Dutch Iranian woman on drugs charges. In a statement, the ministry said the move is to show the Netherlands' disgust at the hanging of Zahra Bahrami on drugs charges. Other Iranian Dutch nationals are being advised not to travel to Iran. ‘The Netherlands is very shocked by this execution, this scandalous deed,’ foreign minister Uri Rosenthal said. ‘We had done all we could to prevent this barbarous act.’ On Friday, Iran’s ambassador to the Netherlands had told Rosenthal that not all avenues had been closed off, the minister said. ‘I really regret that Iran did not keep its word and we have to find out via the media.’ (If she was really a drug dealer, I have no sympathy. But I suspect she was a regime opponent, and they are using this the way the Soviets labeled any opponents “crazy” and locked them up. ~Bob.)

150th Anniversary of the Civil war is coming up
Two sites with info.

Dem Sen. Chucky Schumer: Three Branches of Government are House, Senate and White House…Wait, Which Ones?…
Excerpt: And he sits on the Senate Committee that oversees the third branch: The Judiciary. Imagine the MSM response if Palin made this mistake? (How about a Constitutional Amendment that you can’t hold Federal office unless you got a “C” in ninth grade civics? That is, where they still teach civics. ~Bob.)
Explosive New Book Charges Obama Invites Attack on U.S.
Courting Disaster book review. Excerpt: Despite his circumstances, KSM still refuses to talk. He spews contempt at his interrogators, telling them Americans are weak, lack resilience, and are unable to do what is necessary to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals. He has trained to resist interrogation.  When he is asked for information about future attacks, he tells his questioners scornfully: "Soon, you will know." It becomes clear he will not reveal the information using traditional interrogation techniques. So he undergoes a series of "enhanced interrogation techniques" approved for use only on the most high-value detainees. The techniques include waterboarding. His resistance is described by one senior American official as "superhuman." Eventually, however, the techniques work, and KSM becomes cooperative - for reasons that will be described later in this book. He begins telling his CIA de-briefers about active al Qaeda plots to launch attacks against the United States and other Western targets. He holds classes for CIA officials, using a chalkboard to draw a picture of al Qaeda's operating structure, financing, communications, and logistics. He identifies al Qaeda travel routes and safe havens, and helps intelligence officers make sense of documents and computer records seized in terroristraids. He identifies voices in intercepted telephone calls, and helps officials understand the meaning of coded terrorist communications. He provides information that helps our intelligence community capture other high-ranking terrorists, KSM's questioning, and that of other captured terrorists, produces more than 6,000 intelligence reports, which are shared across the intelligence community, as well as with our allies across the world. In one of these reports, KSM describes in detail the revisions he made to his failed 1994-1995 plan known as the "Bojinka plot" to blow up a dozen airplanes carrying some 4,000 passengers over the Pacific Ocean. (What few people understand, yet is so terribly important. --Del)

New estimates put Pakistan's nuclear arsenal at more than 100
They’re our ally—what could go wrong? ~Bob. Excerpt: Pakistan's nuclear arsenal now totals more than 100 deployed weapons, a doubling of its stockpile over the past several years in one of the world's most unstable regions, according to estimates by nongovernment analysts. The Pakistanis have significantly accelerated production of uranium and plutonium for bombs and developed new weapons to deliver them. After years of approximate weapons parity, experts said, Pakistan has now edged ahead of India, its nuclear-armed rival. An escalation of the arms race in South Asia poses a dilemma for the Obama administration, which has worked to improve its economic, political and defense ties with India while seeking to deepen its relationship with Pakistan as a crucial component of its Afghanistan war strategy. In politically fragile Pakistan, the administration is caught between fears of proliferation or possible terrorist attempts to seize nuclear materials and Pakistani suspicions that the United States aims to control or limit its weapons program and favors India.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy confession: 'I no longer feel left-wing.'
Excerpt: Only two years ago Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy [France's first lady] had claimed that she was "instinctively left-wing" after at one stage supporting her husband's Socialist rival in the 2007 presidential elections. She had also publicly opposed Mr Sarkozy's plan to conduct DNA tests on immigrants. In 2008, she told the Libération newspaper: "Nobody has to be joined at the hip in politics or with one's husband". A year earlier she told a British newspaper: "I would never vote on the Right." But in Monday's interview with Le Parisien newspaper, she said her previous political persuasion was only due to her belonging to a "community of artists." "We were bobo (bourgeois bohemians), we were left-wing but at that time I voted in Italy (her native country)." I have never voted for the Left in France and I can tell you, I'm not about to start now. I don't really feel left-wing anymore," she said.

Politics By the Numbers: Good Omens For the GOP in 2012
Excerpt: In the Senate, where Democrats have a 53-47 majority, but not iron control, the situation is different. In the 2012 cycle, 23 Democrats come up for re-election and only 10 Republicans. You can get a good idea of their political incentives by looking at the 2010 popular vote for the House in their states. Since the mid-1990s, when partisan percentages in presidential and House elections converged, the popular vote for the House has been a pretty good gauge of partisan balance.

Excerpt: Modeled after 2010’s Daily 10, POLITICO’s Monthly 10 is a list of the most competitive Senate races in the country — measuring candidate entries, polling, the latest developments on the trail and other intangibles. The higher the ranking, the closer the race, with 1 being the most competitive and 10 being the least competitive contest. Here’s our inaugural 2012 list, which will appear in this space towards the end of each month.

Silencing Those Who Say There Is A Problem
Excerpt: As most readers know, Lars Hedegaard, the Chairman of the Danish Free Speech Society, was tried last week on “hate speech” charges for discussing the disproportionate incidence of family rape among Muslim immigrants in Denmark. The verdict came in today, and Mr. Hedegaard has been acquitted of all charges. This is indeed an occasion for Counterjihad activists to pop the champagne corks. We should, however, retain a measure of our sobriety: this is a partial victory at best. The acquittal of Mr. Hedegaard was based on the fact that his words were not intended to be public, and were thus not covered by the law — the offense defined by the “racism” statute applies solely to public speech. This law remains on the books in Denmark. Anyone who publicly repeats what Lars Hedegaard said, or says something similar in public, is likely to face the same charges, and may well be convicted and fined. And this is in Denmark, mind you — a country we all associate with freedom of expression.

Excerpt: After the 2008 election, the right-leaning Washington Examiner learned through a records search that 88% of the campaign donations made by network news employees, including writers, producers, reporters, and executives, went to Democrats. Just 88%, huh? Not coincidentally, a Harvard study conducted during the 2008 election found that 47% of the print and broadcast stories about Barack Obama were overtly positive vs. only 12% positive for John McCain, while the Washington Post’s own ombudsman acknowledged that Obama received three times more front-page coverage than McCain, and that reporters went over the top in their scrutiny of Gov. Palin compared to then-Sen Biden. Fair and balanced, my friends! And file this under the obvious, but a Media Research Study further confirmed the bias, studying every mention of Barack Obama since his appearance on the national stage in 2004, concluding: The networks downplayed or ignored major Obama gaffes and scandals. Obama’s relationship with convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko was the subject of only two full reports (one each on ABC and NBC) and mentioned in just 15 other stories.

Professor Cornpone: Ethanol lobbyist Newt Gingrich and us—and the future of the GOP
I’ve been a Newt fan—but find this very troubling. ~Bob. Excerpt: The former Speaker blew through Des Moines last Tuesday for the Renewable Fuels Association summit, and his keynote speech to the ethanol lobby was as pious a tribute to the fuel made from corn and tax dollars as we've ever heard. Mr. Gingrich explained that "the big-city attacks" on ethanol subsidies are really attempts to deny prosperity to rural America, adding that "Obviously big urban newspapers want to kill it because it's working, and you wonder, 'What are their values?'" Mr. Gingrich traced the roots of these supposed antipathies to the 1880s, an observation that he repeatedly tendered "as an historian." The Ph.D. and star pupil of futurist Alvin Toffler then singled out the Journal's long-held anti-ethanol views as "just plain flat intellectually wrong." Mr. Gingrich is right that ethanol poses an intellectual problem, but it has nothing to do with a culture war between Des Moines and New York City. The real fight is between the House Republicans now trying to rationalize the federal fisc and the kind of corporate welfare that President Obama advanced in his State of the Union. We'll dwell on this problem not merely because Mr. Gingrich the historian brought it up, but because it and he illustrate so many of the snares facing the modern GOP.

Save the environment or save the economy? The brewing battle over bottled water could kill jobs
Excerpt: For more than a few years environmentalists have fueled a movement to ban or significantly reduce consumer use of bottled water. Dozens of universities and municipalities have already taken action to curb bottle water use. But the impact of such a ban on the U.S. economy, especially in the current economic climate, could be significant. “It could be massively destructive for the industry,” said Tom Lauria, spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association. More than 150,000 jobs in the water bottle industry could be at risk, and billions of dollars of exports of polyethylene terephthalate, a primary ingredient used to produce water bottles, could also be at risk. (...) “Unfortunately, even though tap water is more stringently regulated and monitored more than bottled water, we still have contamination problems in many U.S. cities,” Larsen said. “The ideal solution would be to have clean tap water, delivered through municipal systems delivered directly to people’s homes and places of work.” Nonetheless, in her most recent report, “Bottled Water Boycotts, 2007,” Larsen said bottled water is bad for the environment because it requires the crude oil equivalent to run three million U.S. cars for one year’s worth of bottle production. Eliminating the 12-ounce standard water bottle from the consumer market for one year would save about 17 million barrels of crude a year that the water bottle industry uses for pumping, processing, refrigeration and delivery, she said. (Having worked in the convenience retail industry for more than a decade (and now retired, thank god), I can state with absolute certainty that customers DO NOT BUY products they don’t value. Bottled water is one of the most important and useful categories in the cooler. That water door produces three to four times the profit generated by the “healthy” milk and dairy door, and double what would be expected from a good beer door—without the legal complications of the alcohol. It is perceived as quick, easy, and convenient to carry in pockets, backpacks, and lunchboxes. If you have good tap water and a convenient way to carry it around with you, you’re blessed; no one forces the purchase of these products. But, for those who need to purchase it, and the 150,000 folks making it, it is also a blessing.  And, let’s put the oil “savings” in perspective: 17 million barrels is about three quarters of one day’s consumption (21 million barrels daily per Google) in the USA, or a little less than 2 tenths of 1 percent of our yearly oil use; it wouldn’t make a measurable difference.  Ron P.)

Excerpt: At the front gates of the Rancho Las Palmas resort, a few hundred liberals rallied Sunday against "corporate greed" and polluters. They chanted for the arrest of billionaires Charles and David Koch, and their ire was also directed at the other free market-oriented businessmen invited here by the Koch brothers to discuss free markets and electoral strategies. Billionaires poisoning our politics was the central theme of the protests. But nothing is quite as it seems in modern politics: The protest's organizer, the nonprofit Common Cause, is funded by billionaire George Soros. Common Cause has received $2 million from Soros's Open Society Institute in the past eight years, according to grant data provided by Capital Research Center. Two panelists at Common Cause's rival conference nearby -- President Obama's former green jobs czar, Van Jones, and blogger Lee Fang -- work at the Center for American Progress, which was started and funded by Soros but, as a 501(c)4 nonprofit "think tank," legally conceals the names of its donors. In other words, money from billionaire George Soros and anonymous, well-heeled liberals was funding a protest against rich people's influence on politics.

Government 'investment' doesn't create jobs; the private sector does
Excerpt: With unemployment remaining above 9 percent and showing no signs of going down any time soon, there's lots of talk in Washington about job creation. For President Obama and congressional Democrats, unemployment is an opportunity for government "investment" in massive public works projects such as manufacturing solar shingles and building high-speed rail lines. At best, such big-spending projects by the federal government mainly create temporary jobs while building things of dubious consumer value. More often, these government spending projects funnel tax dollars to Democratic political allies like the unions that benefit from Project Labor Agreements. These PLAs bar nonunion workers, thereby driving up costs to taxpayers. The problem is that big-government public works projects allow Washington politicians in both political parties to claim to be "doing something" about high unemployment. But the reality is that every dollar spent by government is one less that is available for the private sector to invest in new businesses and technologies that spur the creation of permanent jobs.

'Green chemistry' is California's new job-killer
Excerpt: "Green chemistry" isn't just a slogan. It is a full employment concept for government regulators and private-sector lawyers that will have the effect of costing American business billions even as it produces minimal benefits for consumers. Just like "global warming" and "clean energy," "green chemistry" is a phrase containing worlds within it, almost all of them dangerous or downright deadly to market-driven innovation and productivity. We are entering the third decade of the "green chemistry" movement, and a handy guide to its history is in Katharine Sanderson's article in the Jan. 6 issue of Nature. The would-be regulators of all chemistry have not had an easy time of it these past 20 years. Anderson quotes a proponent of the movement as telling her that "a mention of green chemistry in a gathering of chemists can still provoke sighs and eye-rolling." Among government bureaucrats eager to expand their regulatory reach, however, that mention is likely to produce clasped and rubbing hands, while manufacturing executives reach for the aspirin and their lawyers reach for the time sheets. "Green chemistry" got a toehold in California and from there will climb its way on to the backs of the rest of America.

Ignoring China's military buildup at our own peril
Excerpt: It went from being just another country to a world power in just a few decades. The world's leading manufacturer, it was also one of the great traders. It boded well for peace and stability, some said. The extensive trade ties and business connections reduced the likelihood of future war to all but nil. Until the first shot was fired. In 1914, the German Empire declared war on two of its largest trading partners: France and Britain. The first modern age of globalization gave way to global war, followed by a global pandemic, a global depression and, finally, another world war. The lesson? It takes more than a robust economy to make a peaceful nation. Today, China's economic rise ought to be cold comfort for those laboring to keep Washington and Beijing off a collision course. A few weeks ago my fellow Examiner columnist, the Cato Institute's Gene Healy, highlighted the work of political scientist Erik Gartzke, the university professor who "found that the statistical correlation between economic freedom and peace is vastly greater than the relationship between representative government and peace."

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