Saturday, February 5, 2011

Political Digest for February 5, 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.

In deference to those who are “mummied out,” I moved today’s Egypt articles to the end, to give other issues a chance. Fair and Balanced, yes?

Property Taxes
People are being priced out of Crook Country, Illinois, as the union vote-buying bills come due. Our property taxes went up 33% in 2010 despite a lowered assessment of about 25%. Just got the first bill for this year and there’s another 55% increase. We will pay more in property taxes on a $160k condo here than on the $250k condo we own in Madison, WI where we have my stepdaughter and granddaughter living. And Madison isn’t known for low property taxes. This is on top of the 67% increase in the Illinois state income taxes and the huge increase of the corporate taxes, designed to attract business and jobs out of Illinois. Elections have consequences. Wish I owned a moving company—I think they will be busy. If people can sell their homes.

The Mindset of Supposed Entitlement
Excerpt: To what lengths will cash strapped Democrat controlled states, counties and municipalities go to fatten their coffers to pay for their inflated budgets? While law enforcement should be chasing “bad guys” – the crack dealer, the murderer, the thief – those types of law breakers only strain an already tight budget filled with this gimme program and that gimmie program. No, all you have to do is follow the money trail. One look at Rhode Island will illustrate just that. Truck drivers are prime targets for any number of traffic violations apart from speeding. The fact that they are “just passing through”, trying to earn a living in an increasingly difficult economy, makes the trucker nothing more than a check waiting to be cashed. Recently, while driving an 18-wheeler through Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in a major snowstorm, a trucker, who requested anonymity, had a chance meeting on the interstate with a state trooper. As a long-haul trucker, one must rely upon the directions from their company’s dispatcher, who in turn gets them from other drivers or the customer themselves, customers who are fully aware that it is an 18-wheeler, not a Prius, traveling the roadways to pick up or deliver their product. There was one way in, one way out of this particular company and armed with his directions and his focus on the increasingly dangerous Interstate 95, he approached Pawtucket. Somewhere along the way, buried under the piles of snow pushed to the side to make the interstate somewhat safe for drivers, was a detour sign that theoretically stated trucks were not allowed on that portion of a major interstate highway. Not far from the detour sign, sat a Rhode Island state trooper who had no problem – or regard for safety on the icy, snowy roads – of pulling him over. With the snow piled high on the shoulder, the driver maneuvered his truck to a stop, trying hard to keep out of the way of oncoming traffic. Disregarding weather conditions and other factors, the trooper wrote a ticket for $85 – one of many the two troopers assigned to the duty of writing tickets to truckers in snowstorms who don’t see the buried sign - and his department mailed the trucking company a citation for $3,000.

School choice is remedy for destitute states
But Democrats will always choose buying teacher union votes over what’s best for kids, even if the cost is bankruptcy. ~Bob. Excerpt: Empowering parents to choose the best school for their children - whether public or private, regardless of ZIP code - isn’t just the right thing to do. With states struggling to overcome yawning budget deficits, school choice makes good fiscal sense. Governors and state legislatures across the nation are facing a grim financial reality: More than $100 billion in federal education stimulus money is gone. Another bailout isn’t forthcoming, and voters have no great appetite for additional tax increases. After years of pumping up school spending, real cuts are coming. In fact, they’re overdue. With resources tight, the smarter lawmakers and governors are proposing some ambitious reforms. These include establishing new teacher-evaluation rules and ending the practice of “last hired, first fired” that punishes younger teachers and protects time-servers; removing expensive class-size mandates; and renegotiating “Cadillac” pension plans.

Is College a Bad Public Good?
Excerpt: As state legislatures around the country start cutting budgets, they face a puzzler—what is the proper subsidy (if any) for higher education? The answer to this question may hinge on another: whether higher education can be considered a “public good.” Two writers for the Chronicle of Higher Education recently weighed in on the issue. Sandy Baum, an economist, and Michael McPherson, a former college president, say that education is partly a route to a job and to personal satisfaction and therefore a private good, something that most individuals should pay for themselves. But they argue that it is also a public good—they do not want state legislatures to shirk their responsibility to support education. I have a rather iconoclastic take on this question, one that I shared recently in an article in Independent Review. Perhaps higher education, as currently provided, is indeed a public good—but a bad one. First, let’s look at what these terms from economics mean. Most goods and services traded in the marketplace are private goods. You pay the costs and you receive the benefits. With higher ed, you pay for training that (among other things) enables you to earn more money over your lifetime. You benefit personally and directly. But education may also make you a better citizen and enable you to work more cooperatively with other people and produce and even invent products that create opportunities for others. To the extent that it benefits the public in general, your education is a public good.

Unemployment rate drops to 9% but only 36k jobs added
Excerpt: The lower jobless rate requires some statistical parsing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, as it does every January, updated its estimate of the U.S. population. This year, the bureau estimated that the population fell by 347,000, which caused the proportion of people working to accelerate more than it would have if the population estimate had remained steady. (The news on the local TV station we watch in the morning also said that 300,000 of the unemployed gave up looking for work, thus no longer count as “unemployed.” That isn’t in this WaPo report. ~Bob.)

Government shutdown on the lips of Senate Democrats, not Republicans
Let’s see, if the House passes a budget and the Senate refuses to go along, or the President vetoes it because they want a higher budget, it will be the Republicans who shut down the government, despite the constitutional requirement that spending bills originate in the House. And the Leftstream media will aide them in selling this lie to the public about who “shut down the government.” Apparently, republicans must go along with all the spending Obama and the Democrats want, or be blamed for shutting down the government. ~Bob. Excerpt: Senate Democrats are talking about a possible government shutdown more than Republicans, a sign that Democrats are confident they have the political edge on the issue. Senate Democrats have met with senior White House officials in preparation for an intense clash with Republicans over government spending levels and a proposal to increase the national debt ceiling. The three highest-ranking Senate Democratic leaders warned on Thursday that a shutdown is a real possibility.

China's economic forward thinking
Excerpt: A closer look at China in the post-Cold War years reveals a much different picture: a country facing inward to develop the brains, heart and courage to make the most of the modern world. While China’s inexorable economic advance over the past two decades has made it now a force to be reckoned with, doubts about its true strength have remained prevalent. Despite evidence to the contrary, Westerners assumed that China’s economy would not really thrive unless it began to adopt Western-style democracy, observe international human-rights conventions and develop the technological proficiency to begin producing specialized, non-commodity goods. All of this has proven to be false. Not only has China built a world-leading economy on the back of steel, paper, textiles and lumber, it has been able to effectively manage an empire that contains almost a fifth of the entire world’s population. This feat has been largely underappreciated in the West; but its centralized government, draconian regulations on population growth, and state-managed economy were able to impose some degree of order and standardization in a relatively short period of time, on an absolutely astounding scale.

Dems dial up pressure on gun safety after inaction in 111th
Excerpt: House Democrats urging gun-safety hearings have swerved sharply from their actions last Congress, when they staged none despite their control of the chamber and pressure from some of their members. Judiciary Committee Democrats argued last month that it's "imperative" for the panel's Republican leaders to examine the nation's gun-safety laws in the wake of the Arizona shooting rampage that left a 9-year-old dead and a congresswoman seriously injured. (Just firing up the base, now that they are in the minority in the House and it doesn’t matter. ~Bob.)

Update on the big Storm from Houston
Too funny

'Progressives' Want Clarence Thomas Lynched . . . Media Silent
Glad it wasn’t Republicans saying this about a black judge—would have been racism and inciting violence. ~Bob. Excerpt: “String him up” “Put him back in the fields.”

At Many Big Banks, No More Free Checking
Excerpt: Saying new banking rules will cost them billions of dollars a year, the big banks plan to bring back maintenance fees on basic checking accounts. The poorest will be hit the hardest. Reversing a trend that began in the mid-1990s, big banks are imposing new fees on their least-profitable customers — those who want just a bare-bones checking account. Those who can't maintain fat balances, or who don't use other services that would make them more lucrative to a bank, probably will need to cough up about $100 a year if they want to stay put. (If your bank institutes fees on a checking account that has been free up to now, please feel free to send a thank you memo to Chris Dodd and Barney Frank. Thankfully, my credit union will continue to provide free checking. MasterGuns)

Private Citizens Fight Voter Fraud
Excerpt: True the Vote is also revolutionizing poll monitoring on Election Day. While political parties have deployed poll watcher programs, few can match the zeal and scope of True the Vote. In Harris County alone, almost 800 True the Vote trained poll watchers were deployed across Houston. Every election, the Department of Justice deploys poll observers all over the nation, usually between 500 and 1,000. True the Vote has copied the federal observer program in almost every respect — placing hundreds of highly trained eyes and ears inside the polls to carefully memorialize everything. These reports are then forwarded to law enforcement. It is obvious they are successful when their efforts anger both Representative Sheila Jackson Lee and the New Black Panther Party. For years, polling places in many parts of the nation were free-for-alls, plagued by forced assistance, poll officials voting for voters, and precinct bosses telling people how to vote. Lawlessness reigned. True the Vote shatters their stranglehold on electoral corruption. (You’d think protecting the validity of the electoral process would be an obviously non-partisan issue for everyone’s benefit. You’d be wrong. In a state dominated by one political party—and it doesn’t really matter which one—the entrenched party will fight tooth and nail to avoid upsetting the way things “have always been.” Here in Massachusetts, in the city of Worcester and others, conduct exactly like that described in this article was observed during the 2010 election and reported. Police were called at the time; some officers attempted to stop that conduct, but most were convinced they “lacked authority” to intervene. Complaints have been filed with the State Attorney General, the Mass. Secretary of State, the Electoral Commission, and local authorities. So far, the only result has been “we’ll investigate” and some minor hand-wringing. The struggle goes on.  Ron P.)

Death in the Desert: Project Gunwalker and the ATF Cover-Up
Not sure how to rate this. Seems incredible on the surface. I’ll let you make up your own mind. ~Bob. Excerpt: On December 14, 2010, a firefight erupted in the Arizona desert. When the smoke had cleared, Customs and Border Protection Agent Brian Terry was dead, and the seeds of a scandal had been sown. Some of the rank and file of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), often referred to as the ATF, began to grow concerned that a new development in Project Gunrunner probably had resulted in the death of Agent Terry. First word of the incident began to appear on, a whistle-blower website dedicated to "returning the integrity, accountability and decency to the ATF." Two Second Amendment advocates, Mike Vanderboegh of the blog Sipsey Street Irregulars and David Codrea, a writer at Gun Rights, became immediately aware of the posts, and their interest pushed them to collaborate and use their own sources within the ATF to confirm the allegations being made. The pair independently corroborated the existence of a deviation from Project Gunrunner which they began to sardonically refer to as Project Gunwalker. Sources told them of the unstated policy to provide assault weapons to straw buyers, who would walk the guns over the border and sell them to members of the Mexican drug cartels for the purpose of manufacturing evidence. (Looks pretty well documented. –TC)

Excerpt: It’s never the action, it’s the cover up. Yesterday RedState broke a significant story which points to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s premier public health organization, making a conscious decision to stop publishing the only federal report on abortion. To briefly recap, for 40 years the CDC has published the Abortion Surveillance Report. For 40 years that report has appeared in the last November or first December issue of CDC’s journal, the Morbidity and Mortality Report Weekly Report. This year it didn’t. A RedState tradition has been to use this report for our annual retrospective on abortion. When it didn’t appear in November… or December… or in January we decided to ask why.

On Energy, Obama’s Full of Hot Air
Excerpt: …[I]n calling for the “reinvention” of our domestic energy policy, the president issued a challenge rooted in ideology rather than grounded in a clear understanding of America’s current and future energy needs. This is especially troubling because his goal flies in the face of science and the free market. He called for voters to “join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.” He did hedge in that call by including both nuclear energy and natural gas in his list of “clean energy sources” — good, but not enough to satisfy the all-or-nothing adherents to the remainder of his list: wind, solar, and clean coal. (In fact, even the clean coal entry is dismaying to some.) So until our government officially opines as to what energy sources it deems “clean” and which it doesn’t, we can expect a lot of political wrangling and economic uncertainty when it comes to investing in new energy sources. (…) According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), overall energy demand worldwide will increase by 49 percent by 2035. Given this fact, renewable energies such as solar are far too expensive — and their technological applications still far too cumbersome — for them to even come close to meeting the president’s challenge. The EIA affirms that “most renewable generation technologies are not economically competitive with fossil fuels over the projection period” of 2007-2035. Plus, one of the only two renewable energy sources deemed viable up until then is hydropower. But the president didn’t even present it as an option, and many environmental hard-liners want us to dismantle hydropower dams, not build more of them. (This may be too simple for DC insiders and those driven by "other" considerations to understand, but for the average person, this lays out the author's case beautifully. Especially notice the short section about taxation and think about paying both state and federal income taxes, but on a much larger scale. Ron P.)

Take A Look In The Mirror
All Lt’s come out of training with the best book knowledge and training offered. However, what they lack is experience, thus the almighty Staff Sergeant comes into action. This is a major element that helps the Marine Corps be unique because we push so much responsibility to our lower ranks, equip them with solid skills which time and time again produce superior results because we gave them latitude to excel. 9Excellent article. ~Former Almighty SSgt Bob.)

Does Jimmy Carter Deserve To Be Sued?
They will lose. What jury would believe anyone would “trust carter.” ~Bob. Excerpt: In a suit filed in federal court in New York, former president Jimmy Carter, along with his publisher, Simon & Schuster, is being sued by five readers of his 2006 book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." The suit alleges that the defendants violated New York's consumer protection laws by committing "deceptive acts in the conduct of business, trade, or commerce." The plaintiffs, who hope to be considered a class, were "members of the reading public who thought they could trust a former president of the United States and a well-established book publisher to tell the truth..." Does Carter deserve this trouble? Oh, yes, he deeply, richly deserves it. Should the suit prevail? More on that in a moment. Carter has preened that "my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other presidents." Considering that he had four years as leader of the free world, the post-presidency claim sounds more like a bleat than a boast. And even still, it's false.

Anatomy of a Scandal
Excerpt: Digging in the garden of a health official in Mali, investigators discover more than 30 counterfeit "stamps" used to validate fraudulent invoices to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The inspector general of the fund reports serious corruption in the programs of four countries -- Mali, Mauritania, Zambia and Djibouti. A breathless Associated Press story concludes that "as much as two-thirds" of some Global Fund expenditures are being misspent. Germany and Sweden suspend their support. Some conservatives run with the story, which reinforces their preconceptions about foreign aid and fits the need for budget cuts. After all, in this view, two-thirds of Global Fund money is thrown down a rathole of corruption. 9i’m in the “down a rathole” camp. But not worried. In ten years, the only money we have to give them will be worthless fiat printed bills. ~Bob.)

Obama Will Continue to Spend America Into the Ground
Excerpt: Uncontrolled government spending is far worse than previously projected just a few months ago, driving the federal budget much more deeply into debt, which threatens our economy and our future standard of living. This fiscal year's budget deficit is expected to climb to nearly $1.5 trillion, which would be the biggest one-year deficit gap in American history, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It is the result of a still weakened economy, 9 to 10 percent unemployment that has sharply cut federal tax revenues, and a Democratic Congress that was on an irresponsible, nonstop spending binge for the last two years. The previous CBO projection for the 2011 fiscal year was $1.3 trillion, but its latest estimates show the government's fiscal position is worse than ever and could climb higher, according to independent analysts. The latest report will give further weight to Republican efforts to make deep spending cuts in the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends in September, and next year's budget as well. All revenue and spending measures must begin in the GOP-controlled House, and the Republicans will have the upper hand in driving budget policy for the next two years at least, if not beyond.

Chart of the Day
Excerpt: As today's chart illustrates, higher educational attainment has correlated with a lower unemployment rate. For example, the unemployment rate for those that have obtained a bachelor's degree or greater (blue line) currently stands at 4.2%. While this is much higher than the sub 2% unemployment rate seen as little as a few years ago, it is dramatically lower than the unemployment rate for those with less formal education. For example, the unemployment rate for those who have not completed high school (red line) currently stands at an extremely high 14.2% -- more than triple the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor's degree (or greater).

So much for respect: Two Muslim councillors refused to clap war hero
Excerpt: When a young Afghanistan war hero appeared before a city council, it seemed the right thing to give him a standing ovation. Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher, 26, had been awarded the George Cross for throwing himself on a Taliban hand grenade to save his comrades. He survived only because his backpack took the force of the blast. But to the horror of the rest of the council chamber, while most leapt to their feet to applaud him, two Muslim councillors remained firmly in their seats. alma Yaqoob and Mohammed Ishtiaq, from the Respect party, insist that their refusal to clap the Royal Marine was a point of principle. But following the meeting at Birmingham City Council on Tuesday night, fellow councillors said they had grossly disrespected the soldier.

See, they are even-handed. Don’t just hate Jews, Christians, women and Americans. ~Bob. Excerpt: Five people, identified as Buddhists, have been killed in a drive-by shooting as they were sitting at an open-air tea shop. Suspected Muslim separatists seeking autonomy from predominantly Buddhist Thailand are being blamed for the attack.

Synagogue torched in Tunisia: Jewish leader
Excerpt: Arsonists set fire to a synagogue in the southern Gabes region of Tunisia, a leader of the local Jewish community said Tuesday. "Someone set fire to the synagogue on Monday night and the Torah scrolls were burned," Trabelsi Perez told AFP, criticising the lack of action by the security services to stop the attack. "What astonished me was that there were police not far from the synagogue," added Perez, who is also head of the Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba, the oldest synagogue in Africa. (What astonishes me is that Jews would expect help from Muslim cops. ~Bob.)

Stuxnet hits Bushehr again. Russia warns of nuclear explosion
Excerpt: Iran's atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi said on Jan. 29 that the Bushehr nuclear power plant would be connected to the national grid on April 9. He "forgot" about Tehran's promise to fully activate its first nuclear reactor Tuesday, Jan. 25. debkafile's intelligence and Moscow sources reveal that on that day, Iran's hand on the switch was held back at the last minute by Sergei Kiriyenko, chief of Rosatom (the Russian national nuclear energy commission which oversaw the reactor's construction. He came hurrying over to warn Tehran that Stuxnet was back and switching the reactor on could trigger a calamitous nuclear explosion that could cost a million Iranian lives and devastate neighboring populations. He complained to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Iranian nuclear and engineering staff were ignoring the presence of the malworm and must be stopped.

Officer shoots defendant in rural Ala. courtroom
Excerpt: A judge pulled a gun on a crutch-swinging defendant who went wild in a crowded rural courtroom after being found guilty of harassment Thursday, a witness said. A police officer shot and wounded the man, who had a cast on his leg, after he lunged at the judge and tried to grab the weapon, authorities said. But some witnesses disputed the account, saying the man who was shot never threatened the judge. Stuck by at least one bullet, the man was taken by helicopter to the hospital at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where he was in good condition. "The guy came over the bench at him trying to get it," said attorney Keith Warren, who was in court representing another person. "He just literally got in the judge's face, then backed off and started swinging the crutch at the judge." Some of the 40 or so people who were in the courtroom disagreed, saying they did not see the man attack the judge, who was sitting behind a tall desk, or attempt to grab a gun.

Environmental regulation and death: It’s the correlation no one wants to acknowledge
Excerpt: Last week brought the latest installment in the environmentalists’ “how can we fool ‘em next” series of scares. You’ve heard them: global cooling, the population bomb, DDT, global warming, energy security, global weirding, ocean garbage patches, etc. Last week, Politico reported the latest environoia memo: death by greenhouse gases. “That’s what makes people sit up and pay attention,” said Frank O'Donnell, president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch. “If you’re talking about more environmental impacts broadly, it does not pack the same punch as saying, ‘This polluter might hurt your grandmother.’ ” It’s a unified effort, with eco-regulators trying to pre-empt House Republican scrutiny of their job-killing rules and policies. “These attacks are aimed at the EPA, but their impacts are felt by all Americans,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Pollutants like mercury, smog and soot are neurotoxins and killers that cause developmental problems and asthma in kids and heart attacks in adults.” Ms. Jackson ignored the fact that the current conflict is over the EPA‘s Clean Air Act regulations of invisible greenhouse gases (GHGs), a category in which none of her above-mentioned pollutants fits. Not surprisingly, she disregards the mortal risks posed by GHG regulations that dramatically raise the costs of doing business - risks her own agency has outlined in the past.

Biggs' bill would evict illegal immigrants from public housing
A Republican legislator is pushing for a state law cutting off public housing benefits for undocumented immigrants even though the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development already requires applicants to prove citizenship or legal residency. Sen. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, the sponsor of SB 1222, said Arizona has the right to enforce its own requirement. “We have to take back our state because our federal government is no longer the federal government, it is the national government,” he said Wednesday to fellow members of Senate Government Reform Committee. “And this bill is an assertion by the state to take back its rights.” While HUD allows households that include legal residents and undocumented immigrants, Biggs’ bill would require public housing authorities to evict all residents from a rental unit if any resident is in the U.S. illegally.

The Reagan Centennial
Excerpt: In his 1980 presidential campaign, Reagan famously asked the American people, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" He added, "A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his." (Substitute Obama for Carter and, in the inimitable words of Yogi Berra, "It's déjà vu all over again.") Reagan defeated Carter in the general election, carrying 44 states. He took his oath of office with his hand on his mother's Bible. It was open to a passage from which he read: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14) In the margin next to that verse, Nelle Reagan had written, "A most wonderful verse for the healing of the nations."

No more taxpayer subsidies for campaigns
Obama pretty much killed public financing when he promised to take it and abide by the limits, then broke the promise. ~Bob. Excerpt: "The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken," then-Sen Barack Obama said on June 19, 2008. He said this while telling the American public that he would be forgoing public financing for his presidential election. Had Obama not done so, his presidential campaign committee would have been subject to spending limits far below the $745 million it ultimately spent. Mostly forgotten today is the fact that before winning the Democratic nomination, Obama had made a big deal of his promise to take federal matching funds, and even challenged his potential Republican opponents to do the same. But once Obama became the Democratic nominee and realized that he could raise three-quarters of a billion dollars by forgoing public matching funds, he quickly changed his mind. And with his victory, Obama proved that government expenditures on election campaigns are an unnecessary burden on taxpayers that do nothing to reduce the influence of special interest money in politics. The solution is to end all tax-paid subsidies for the political class, including public funding for presidential campaigns and party conventions. The House of Representatives passed a bill that would do just that last week, and with a comfortable bipartisan majority. Not only would it save the Treasury $617 million over 10 years, but it would also put an end to the quadrennial porkfest that public financing creates for consultants and other professional election vendors who get involved in presidential primary campaigns. Taxpayers should also be spared from funding fringe and vanity candidates. Lyndon LaRouche received $839,000 in federal matching funds for his 2004 election bid, a clear sign that this program has outlived its usefulness.

Chinese are discovering virtues of SUVs
Excerpt: Uh oh, this isn't going to sit well with Big Green environmentalists in the U.S. who absolutely hate the trucks and Sport-Utility Vehicles (SUV) American buyers have loved for nearly two decades. Automotive News China reports that Chinese automakers are gearing up to introduce a whole new generation of SUVs in order to meet spiralling demand in the world's most populous country. And no wonder, what with SUV sales soaring 40 percent in 2009 and doubling again last year. ANC's Yang Jian characterizes the growing demand among Chinese buyers for SUVs as a "stampede," and reports that four of China's top domestic automakers are tooling up their first-ever SUV offerings.

Big Obama donor quits envoy job amid criticism
Obot makes poor diplomat—who would guess? ~Bob. Excerpt: As a supporter of presidential candidate Barack Obama, Cynthia Stroum was a superstar whose financial backing of the campaign landed her a plum diplomatic posting in Europe. As America's ambassador to Luxembourg, the wealthy Seattle-based businesswoman was a disaster. According to an internal State Department report released Thursday, less than a week after she quit, Stroum's management of the U.S. Embassy in the tiny country was abysmal. The report says her tenure of about one year was fraught with personality conflicts, verbal abuse and questionable expenditures on travel, wine and liquor. Stroum's case illustrates the pitfalls that presidents can face when they appoint non-career diplomats to ambassadorships as a reward for their political support. The Luxembourg embassy "has underperformed for the entirety of the current ambassador's tenure," said the report, which was prepared last fall before she resigned abruptly. "At present, due to internal problems, it plays no significant role in policy advocacy or reporting, though developments in Luxembourg are certainly of interest to Washington clients and other U.S. missions in the NATO and EU communities." Stroum resigned effective Jan. 31, just days before the scathing report from the State Department's inspector general was made public.

America's Naivete About Egypt
Excerpt: Americans are notoriously naïve. This is the message I am getting from people I know in Egypt today. When the protests first began in Egypt, I was in constant contact with an Egyptian relative who is a successful businessman, university professor and astute student of world politics. As my husband and I panicked for our family’s safety, this relative was calm, assuring me that Hosni Mubarak would appoint an interim government and that there would likely be an important role for Omar Suileman, who is a well respected leader in Egypt. Both these things quickly came true. Day after day he assured me that everything would be fine. He was sure that the Muslim Brotherhood—which he regards as a radical Islamist group – was not organized enough to gain any significant power. Today, he was not so calm. Our family in Egypt is shocked and alarmed by what they are hearing from Western voices and even the apparent leading opposition candidate Mohamed ElBaradei—who has partnered with the Muslim Brotherhood -- who claim that the Brotherhood is a moderate group that should not be feared. As Coptic Christians—native Egyptians who comprise the largest religious minority in the Middle East—they are especially attuned to the double-speak of Islamist groups trying to attain power.

Mubarak: Obama doesn't understand Egypt, culture
Excerpt: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday rejected calls for his immediate resignation and said President Obama doesn't understand the "chaos" that would result if he stepped aside now. Mubarak seemed to reject President Obama's demand that a transition in government in Egypt begin "now," as the past week's protests in that country turned violent in the last 48 hours, with pro-Mubarak forces clashing with anti-government activists. Several have been killed and hundreds wounded. (Begging the questions; Does Obama understand America and American culture? ~Bob.)

The Middle East and the Multicultural Nightmare
Excerpt: Obama is not a classical liberal, but rather an illiberal multicultural relativist. In his way of thinking, all cultures are equal, and so are not to be judged by transcendent, timeless abstract values like freedom and liberty. These proclamations instead are “constructed” narratives offered up by Western chauvinists and do not take into consideration past imperialism, colonialism, and racism. Instead, equality of result — an enforced egalitarianism in the Marxist sense — is the multiculturalist creed. In such a warped world view, a Chavez or Castro who stifles freedom is not per se anti-democratic, because he does so to redistribute income, his beneficiaries being the “people,” his prey “them.” The result is that we judge ourselves and our allies by standards that we simply do not apply to others…. (…) Worse still, the multiculturalist sees anti-Americanism and loud nationalism as “genuine” and “authentic.” Ahmadinejad represents the true Iranian patriot, who surely must be anti-American, not the dissidents in the street who share our love of freedom and are therefore somehow less authentically Iranian. (The leftist chimera that “all cultures are equal” is responsible for endless death and suffering. ~Bob.)

Obama, Code Pink and Egypt: ‘There Are No Coincidences in Politics’
Excerpt: As the cliche goes, there are no coincidences in politics. Obama fundraiser group Code Pink just happened to have arrived in Cairo last week for the group’s ninth visit there in two years as part of its campaign to undermine the Mubarak government and help Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza. Code Pink and the media are trying to portray the leftist group’s “sudden” appearance in Cairo Wednesday as an act of courageous support for a democratic revolution. Nothing could be further from the truth. (Yep, they are right there in Egypt stoking the fires. The article goes all the way into a detailed presentation of all their anti-US actions, which add up to a truly horrific picture of an organization dedicated to the detriment of this nation. And check the picture at the very end of one of the co-founder Leftist fanatics with a pal of theirs. –Del. The only consolation is that after the revolution, the useful idiots like Code Pink are the first ones taken to the guillotine or put against the wall, and die wondering why no one did anything to save them. ~Bob.)

Egypt's future: Transition to what?--Amir Taheri
Everyone in Egypt agrees on this much: The "transition" has already started. But they don't agree on what "transition" means -- or on whether it will be dictated by the "street" or choreographed by a nervous regime. Yesterday, new Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that transition talks had begun between the governing National Democratic Party and "the opposition." He also described the protesters' demands as legitimate and promised "much reform" and a referendum. The subtext: Suleiman is now in charge, and President Hosni Mubarak should be allowed to fade away "with dignity." Yet those who seek regime change won't be satisfied with a switch from President Mubarak to President Suleiman. They want to bring down the whole edifice built since the military seized power in 1952. They've promised a mass demonstration today with the aim of storming the presidential palace. That is one of two clear camps on "transition." The other wants change within the regime.

Obama disappointed with US National Intelligence for not predicting Egypt unrest
Excerpt: U.S. intelligence agencies are drawing criticism from the Oval Office and Capitol Hill that they failed to warn of revolts in Egypt and the downfall of an American ally in Tunisia. President Barack Obama sent word to National Intelligence Director James Clapper that he was "disappointed with the intelligence community" over its failure to predict the outbreak of demonstrations would lead to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, according to one U.S. official familiar with the exchanges, which were expressed to Clapper through White House staff. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence, said there was little warning before Egypt's riots as well. Top senators on the Intelligence Committee are asking when the president was briefed and what he was told before the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. (Even caught the teleprompter off guard. ~Bob.)

American Way
of Abandonment
Excerpt: Hosni Mubarak, it appears, is not going to go quietly, or quickly. He is not going to play the role assigned him in the White House script that has him resigning and fleeing Egypt in the face of mass demonstrations in Tahrir Square. After U.S. diplomat Frank Wisner came to give Mubarak his marching orders, the Egyptian apparently decided that, if the Americans, whose water he has carried for years, are going to abandon him, he will play out this hand himself. And the old fighter pilot is not without cards to play. While the army has said it will not fire on the demonstrators, the army also seems to want an end to the demonstrations -- and appears reluctant to dump over a president who has been a friend and patron for decades. And now that Mubarak has pledged on national television that he will not run again, and elections will be held in September, the cause that united the crowd -- Mubarak must go! -- appears victorious. Indeed, some demonstrators took Mubarak's announced departure as victory and went home. Why start an insurrection to deny the man his last six months?

As We Wait for the Tsar to Abdicate
Excerpt: The past week as I have watched events unfold in Egypt and other parts of the Islamic world, I have had the same overpowering, sick sense I used to have reading history books, when I got to the brink of appalling, catastrophic events--whose consequences few men of that time could even imagine. It's natural enough to expect a basic continuity in life, to think in times of prosperity and peace that these conditions are impregnable, the baseline "norm" of human life, to which wars, famines, tyrannies, fanatical persecutions and blood purges are brutal, eccentric interruptions. There is no other attitude to have, when you have grown up in a wealthy nation at peace--one that dominates world events (the U.S.) or lives largely disarmed as its friendly dependent (Western Europe). Apart from relatively minor conflicts like Vietnam, the West has enjoyed such a peace for almost 70 years: a lifetime, and time for two (nearly three) new generations to have been born. That isn't as long as the great "truce" that prevailed in Europe from the fall of Napoleon in 1815 till August 1914, but we have managed to become quite as complacent. I fear that what we are watching now occur throughout the Arab world is of the same order as the buildup to World War I. If you read history books, and scan the diplomatic correspondence that preceded the rush to war, or the comments by public figures, or the statements in the press of France, England, Germany, Austria, or Russia, you will see that almost no one imagined the apocalyptic violence that would overwhelm the continent. (Pope Pius X did--but no one listened to that old "fool.")

Poll shows Egyptians in favor of democracy and stoning for adultery
Excerpt: Discussions in the mainstream media about demands for democracy in Egypt have tended to treat such goals as mutually exclusive. But as we have seen in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, democracy and representative governments do not guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties. Once again, a democracy is only as good as the values that inform its participants. Case in point: Yesterday on Fox News, Zuhdi Jasser claimed that "The Egyptian people are no different from us as Americans." One could go on all day about that, citing the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Egypt among other things, but this poll amply proves that a desire for democracy does not guarantee a desire for human rights by standards Westerners would even recognize. Projecting a Western understanding of concepts like liberty, justice, and good government onto such terms as they are employed by those in favor of Sharia law (not to mention the Muslim Brotherhood) only sets up the naïve for profound disappointments and awful surprises.

Muslims Attack Two Christian Families in Egypt, 11 Killed
Don’t let a crisis go to waste—kill the infidels! ~Bob. Excerpt: News of a massacre of two Christian Coptic families by Islamists just emerged from Upper Egypt with the return of the Internet connections after a week of Internet blackout by the Egyptian regime. The massacre took place on Sunday, January 30 at 3 PM in the village of Sharona near Maghagha, Minya province. Two Islamists groups, aided by the Muslim neighbors, descended on the roof of houses owned by Copts, killing eleven Copts, including children, and seriously injuring four others. Anba Agathon, Bishop of Maghagha, told Coptic activist Dr. Mona Roman in a televised interview on Al-Karma TV that the killers are their neighbors, who seized the opportunity of the mayhem prevailing in Egypt and the absence of police protection to slaughter the Copts. He said that he visited today the four injured Copts, who escaped death despite being shot, at Maghagha General Hospital and they told him that they recognized the main attackers as they come from the same village of Sharona. They gave the Bishop details of what happened. "The two families were staying in their homes with their doors locked when suddenly the Islamists descended on them," said Bishop Agathon, "killing eleven and leaving for dead four other family members. In addition, they looted everything that was in the two Coptic houses, including money, furniture and electrical equipment. They also looted livestock and grain."

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