Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Political Digest for July 27, 2011

For those who want further information about the topics covered in this blog, I recommend the following sites. I will add to this as I find additional good sources.

Obama has been claiming the public supports his approach on the debt ceiling. Does he support the public on the positions they take in the two articles below? ~Bob.

63% Oppose Giving Women, Minorities Special Treatment When It Comes to Hiring
Excerpt: Just over one-in-five Likely U.S. Voters (22%) now support government programs that give special treatment when hiring to women and minorities.

57% Favor Repeal of Health Care Law
Most voters continue to favor repeal of the national health care law, and fewer voters than ever believe the law will be good for the country.

Kerry spokesman stripped of Silver Star
Excerpt: John F. Kerry almost became president running on the basis of his alleged heroism in Vietnam. Thanks to the efforts of a group of truth-tellers, the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, the serious holes in the fantasy narrative propounded by the Kerry campaign came to the attention of enough Americans that John Kerry was not the first faux-Irish President of the United States. One of Kerry's enablers in propounding his imaginary heroism was a man named Wade Sanders, who himself held a Silver Star, and who introduced Kerry to the Democratic Convention. Scott Swett, who was central to the unraveling of the Kerry storyline, tells us that the Kerry enabler has been exposed for what he is. His Winter Soldier site has the details: John Kerry was introduced at the 2004 Democratic National Convention by Wade Sanders, a retired Navy Captain and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy who served as a Swift Boat officer in Vietnam. Like Kerry, Sanders was the recipient of a Silver Star for gallantry in action. During the 2004 campaign, Sanders functioned as Kerry lead attack dog against the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, repeatedly denouncing the veterans on the air as liars and comparing them to Nazi propagandists. Wade Sanders is currently in Federal prison, serving a 37-month sentence for possessing child pornography. Now the Navy Times reports that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has revoked Sanders' Silver Star. The highly unusual decision appears unrelated to Sanders' felony conviction. A Navy spokesman cited "subsequently determined facts and evidence surrounding both the incident for which the award was made and the processing of the award itself." John Kerry has to be hoping this doesn't become a trend.

Debt-Ceiling Chicken by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: The national debt-ceiling law should be judged by what it actually does, not by how good an idea it seems to be. The one thing that the national debt-ceiling has never done is to put a ceiling on the rising national debt. Time and time again, for years on end, the national debt-ceiling has been raised whenever the national debt gets near whatever the current ceiling might be. Regardless of what it is supposed to do, what the national debt-ceiling actually does is enable any administration to get all the political benefits of runaway spending for the benefit of their favorite constituencies -- and then invite the opposition party to share the blame, by either raising the national debt ceiling, or by voting for unpopular cutbacks in spending or increases in taxes. The Obama administration is a classic example.

Worth sharing: 7 Promises I Make To Liberals
Excerpt: It's no secret that liberals and conservatives don't get along. But, if there's any one thing that we've learned from the liberal love of sensitivity classes and situation comedies, it's that once people get to know each other and learn about each other's beliefs and concerns, all legitimate differences melt away. So, with that in mind, I'd like to relieve the concerns of our liberal pals by telling them what we conservatives are really like. Think of it as sensitivity class – for liberals.

Excerpt: I have been away from the Internet for the weekend, and return to find myself being fitted out for a supporting role in Friday’s evil slaughter in Norway. The mass murderer Breivik published a 1,500-page “manifesto.” It quotes me, as well as several friends of NR — Theodore Dalrymple, Daniel Pipes, Roger Scruton, Melanie Phillips, Daniel Hannan (plus various pieces from NR by Rod Dreher and others) — and many other people, including Churchill, Gandhi, Orwell, Jefferson, John Locke, Edmund Burke, Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, not to mention the U.S. Declaration of Independence.* Those new “hate speech” codes the Left is already clamoring for might find it easier just to list the authors Europeans will still be allowed to read. It is unclear how seriously this “manifesto” should be taken. Parts of it simply cut and paste chunks of the last big killer “manifesto” by Ted Kaczynski, with the occasional [insert-your-cause-here] word substitute replacing the Unabomber’s obsessions with Breivik’s. This would seem an odd technique to use for a sincerely meant political statement. The entire document is strangely anglocentric – in among the citations of NR and The Washington Times, there’s not a lot about Norway. Nevertheless, Breivik’s manifesto seems to be determining the narrative in the anglophone media.

Norway Now Feels Just Like Israel
Interesting. Don’t know how much to credit. ~Bob. Excerpt: Norway is a totally dysfunctional country. Last year there were almost 2700 rapes there and all the rapists were Muslim. So to get even, the country's 2000 Jews live in a terror state, told not to wear kippas or appear too Jewish outside, for their own safety. And Norway is Israel's number one enemy in the West, the premier organizer of Palestinian statehood today, and the promoters of the ghastly Oslo Accords of the '90s. The disdain of Jews towards Norway was nowhere clearer to be seen as in the reports of its recent terror attacks. The reports mourned Norway's victims as much as the Norwegians shed tears over the 1500+ dead Israelis since their Oslo Accords took effect. However, both the Jewish and Christian, as well as otherwise sources are painting a very different picture of terror than the lone gunman, closed trial, approach of the Norwegian authorities. … Now let's look at the suspect. We are told he is a fundamentalist Christian. If so, he must be a lone fundamentalist. No other fundamentalist seems to know him: If he is a "fundamentalist Christian" where did he attend church? Any truly fundamentalist Christian goes to church. … I'm saying that for every Norwegian eulogizing his child, for once, try to remember that 1500 Israelis felt the same pain as you since YOU foisted your peace on them.

U.S. Set to Resume ‘Exploratory’ Nuclear Talks With North Korea
Excerpt: A year and a half after an Obama administration envoy paid a trip to Pyongyang that brought no progress in the drawn-out nuclear standoff, U.S. officials are set to hold direct talks on the issue with a North Korean diplomat this week. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement the U.S. government has invited Kim Kye-gwan, the vice foreign minister who also serves as the regime’s nuclear negotiator, to New York for “exploratory” talks aimed at paving the way to a resumption of denuclearization negotiations. (Considering the track record of the NKs and what we’ve gotten for previous concessions, I doubt this attempt will fare any better, but it’s probably better than nothing, which is what we’ve been doing since Clinton’s disastrous deal in the 90s. Obama couldn’t do worse than that, could he? Oh, crap. What am I saying? Ron P.)

Terrorist proclaimed himself 'Darwinian,' not 'Christian'
Excerpt: A review of Anders Behring Breivik's 1,500-page manifesto shows the media's quick characterization of the Norwegian terrorist as a "Christian" may be as incorrect as it was to call Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh one. ... Yet, while McVeigh rejected God altogether, Breivik writes in his manifesto that he is not religious, has doubts about God's existence, does not pray, but does assert the primacy of Europe's "Christian culture" as well as his own pagan Nordic culture. Breivik instead hails Charles Darwin, whose evolutionary theories stand in contrast to the claims of the Bible, and affirms: "As for the Church and science, it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings. Europe has always been the cradle of science, and it must always continue to be that way.

Obama: Republicans’ Fault If Social Security Checks Don’t Go Out
Excerpt: At a hastily convened news conference Friday evening, President Obama offered his explanation of why debt negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner fizzled, and he once again raised the specter of entitlement checks not going out if the debt ceiling isn’t raised soon.  “Well, when it comes to all the checks, not just Social Security -- veterans, people with disabilities -- about 70 million checks are sent out each month -- if we default then we’re going to have to make adjustments. And I’m already consulting with (Treasury) Secretary (Tim) Geithner in terms of what the consequences would be,” Obama said. (I stand by my prediction of last week: the administration will withhold, reduce, or delay ALL transfer payments and claim it’s all the fault of the greedy Republicans who won’t approve borrowing more money to give away. Ron P.)

Our Ten-Trillion-Dollar Man
Excerpt: The Congressional Budget Office not long ago forecast that Barack Obama’s $1 trillion-plus annual deficits — scheduled over the next decade — would result in almost another $10 trillion in aggregate debt. Going back to the pre-Bush tax rates this time won’t balance the budget. Slashing discretionary spending will not. So large has the splurge become, and so hooked are the constituencies of federal money, that massive cuts to entitlements necessary to stave off financial implosion may well prompt Greek-like protests. That staggering sum was apparently conventional wisdom until the November 2010 election. But now there is fear that at some point in the future, Obama will not be known as the first African-American president. Nor will he be cited even as the hope-and-change phenomenon of 2008. Instead, posterity shall know him as the single greatest borrower in American presidential history, a novice who nearly wrecked the U.S. economy by borrowing over $4 billion a day without any feasible proposal how to pay back such a vast sum — taking a post-recession recovery and turning it into a stagflationary mess. In the third year of his tenure, Obama is still left only with “Bush did it” as an explanation of what went wrong.

Little Rock Jihadist Gets Life Sentence
Excerpt: Jihadist Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad received a life prison sentence Monday afternoon after pleading guilty to shooting two soldiers, one fatally, outside a Little Rock, Ark. Army recruiting center in June 2009. Muhammad never disputed killing Army Pvt. William Long as part of "a jihadi attack on infidel forces." But his lawyers took the case to trial and tried to argue that Muhammad was suffering from a delusional disorder. He could have received the death penalty. But his trial was recessed Monday morning and Muhammad changed his plea to guilty. Muhammad - formerly known as Carlos Bledsoe – converted from Baptism to Islam after enrolling at Tennessee State University in Nashville in the fall of 2003. He dropped out of school after three semesters and went to Yemen - ostensibly to teach English – in 2007. Muhammad became radicalized there and was deported back to the United States against his wishes in January 2009.

The First Battle of Manassas, 2011
If the battle happened today. Too funny. ~Bob.

Feds Silent on How Convicted Felons Bought Guns in 'Operation Fast and Furious'
Excerpt: In the latest chapter of the gunrunning scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious, federal officials won't say how two suspects obtained more than 360 weapons despite criminal records that should have prevented them from buying even one gun. Under current federal law, people with felony convictions are not permitted to buy weapons, and those with felony arrests are typically flagged while the FBI conducts a thorough background check. However, according to court records reviewed by Fox News, two of the 20 defendants indicted in the Fast and Furious investigation have felony convictions and criminal backgrounds that experts say, at the very least, should have delayed them buying a single firearm. Instead, the duo bought dozens of guns on multiple occasions while federal officials watched on closed-circuit cameras. Congressional and law-enforcement sources say the situation suggests the FBI, which operates the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, knowingly allowed the purchases to go forward after consulting with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which initiated Operation Fast and Furious.

More Americans unhappy with Obama on economy, jobs
Excerpt: More than a third of Americans now believe that President Obama’s policies are hurting the economy, and confidence in his ability to create jobs is sharply eroding among his base, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. But Americans’ discontent does not stop there. The survey also found that Americans harbor negative feelings toward congressional Republicans. Roughly as many people blame Republican policies for the poor economy as they do Obama. But 65 percent disapprove of the GOP’s handling of jobs, compared to 52 percent for the president. The dissatisfaction is fueled by the fact that many Americans continue to see little relief from the pain of a recession that technically ended two years ago.

Speeches by Obama, Boehner achieve political ends, but little else
Excerpt: The president and the House speaker couched their words Monday night in the language of compromise and reassurance. But at the start of a critical week of legislative maneuvering, each delivered a partisan message that cast blame on the other for a breakdown that threatens the nation’s credit rating, its financial markets and the fragile economy. By the time they finished, it was clear why Republicans and Democrats are no closer to agreement.

Canadian's Face Long Wait for New Medicines
The system the Obots want us to have. ~Bob. Excerpt: Federal and provincial government bureaucracies are taking more than two-and-a-half years on average to approve new prescription drugs, thereby depriving many Canadians of the latest in new medicines, finds a new report from the Fraser Institute. Canada's drug approval process involves two separate stages: First, Health Canada must certify a drug is safe and effective, then provincial governments decide if the drug will be reimbursed under their public drug programs. This combination of federal and provincial decision-making creates delays or, more often, deprives patients of access to new medicines. The study found that only 23 percent of new drugs approved as safe and effective by Health Canada in 2004 had been approved for either full or partial reimbursement under provincial drug plans as of June 9, 2011, compared to 98 percent that had been covered by at least one private insurer. In addition, the study shows that, compared to its international counterparts, Health Canada takes longer to certify new drugs. From 2006 to 2009, Health Canada's performance was worse than that of the EMEA, Health Canada's European equivalent. Similarly, Health Canada's performance was worse than that of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in five of the last six years studied (2004 to 2009). In the report, the authors suggest two specific policy changes to make new medicines more quickly available to Canadians: Mutual recognition of drug approvals and cooperation with other jurisdictions. Replace government drug programs with means-tested subsidized access to private insurance.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Unaccountable and Costly
Excerpt: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is an independent bureau within the Federal Reserve System that was designed by lawmakers to regulate a vast array of financial products and services. The bureau officially opened on July 21, but staff has already begun to craft new regulations, says the Heritage Foundation. The CFPB is prohibited from some regulatory activities until a director is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Absent a director, however, the CFPB can conduct investigations as a form of policymaking. Once confirmed, the CFPB director will exert unparalleled regulatory powers -- the consolidated and expanded authority over consumer financial products and services previously wielded by seven federal agencies. Is the CFPB accountable? No, says Heritage. Largely unaccountable to Congress and imbued with sweeping powers, the agency is the epitome of regulatory excess. Because the bureau is ensconced within the Federal Reserve, its budget is not subject to congressional control. This budgetary independence limits congressional oversight of the agency. The CFPB's accountability is further minimized by the vague language of its statutory mandate. It is empowered to punish "unfair, deceptive and abusive" business practices. While unfair and deceptive have been defined in other regulatory contexts, the term abusive is largely undefined, granting the CFPB officials inordinate discretion to define its own powers. The CFPB will make consumer loans, credit and debit cards, checking and savings accounts, and many other financial products and services harder to obtain and more expensive to use.

The Benevolent Dictator Myth: Strong Leaders versus Strong Institutions
Excerpt: Rapid economic growth in some authoritarian countries has led many to believe that democracy is not necessary for prosperity and economic development. Democratic governance, however, is essential for economic growth to be sustainable in the long term. Strong democratic institutions, not strong leaders, are necessary for continued growth and investment.

President Obama and the Debt Crisis: Detached, Alone, and Passive
Excerpt: [Obama’s] proposals have been handled as if they were some kind of state secret. No one, including most members of Congress listening to his speech on Monday night, knows his actual proposal. Certainly there are plenty of plans, including Senator McConnell’s plan, the famous “Gang of Six” plan, the “Cut, Cap and Balance” Act passed by the House, and even a joint Senator McConnell-Senator Reid plan. On Monday night, the president casually supported elements of Senator Reid’s plan, but he rejected its central feature that called for a waiver of new taxes. None of the plans being debated today have the imprimatur of the Oval Office. At a moment when presidential leadership is so vital, President Obama has been passive. Passivity also was the hallmark of his approach to his other signature blockbuster initiatives: the TARP bailout, ObamaCare, and the financial services initiatives. This of course makes perfect political sense for Obama.

The Hill Poll: Most voters see media as biased and unethical
Excerpt: Likely voters hold a dismal view of the news media, generally regarding reporters as biased, unethical and too close to the politicians they purport to cover, according to a new poll for The Hill. A full 68 percent of voters consider the news media biased, the poll found. Most, 46 percent, believe the media generally favor Democrats, while 22 percent said they believe Republicans are favored, with 28 percent saying the media is reasonably balanced. (What planet does the 22% live on? ~bob.)

Shocking news–public sees media as biased
Excerpt: The only thing the numbers in the cite make you wonder is where the 28% who think it is reasonably balanced get their news. … This comes from all sorts of things the media has done over the years. From fraudulent stories to flat ignoring them. Puff pieces and the refusal to hold different politicians to the same standard have taken their toll. For instance is there anything we don’t know about Sarah Palin v. asking what do we really know about the President of the US? Certainly not his college grades or much else about his academic accomplishments. Yet the press descended on Alaska like a swarm of locust when Palin’s emails as governor were released. Given the results of the poll it’s clear the public thinks the media has earned this reputation. 

America Needs a Better Solution
Excerpt: Americans tuning in last night to watch President Barack Obama's primetime address from the East Room of the White House might have thought they stumbled upon yet another re-run from the networks. Instead of hearing news that Washington finally broke the debt ceiling stalemate, viewers were treated to more of the same from their President. He still had no plan for dealing with government overspending and overborrowing, and he repeated his never-ending call for tax hikes. Unfortunately, the plans proposed by House Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) don't get the job done, either. The President's speech came as America stands at a fiscal precipice, with just a week to go before the August 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Though the credit rating agencies see America's risk of default as small (though increasing), there remains the other, more serious risk--the failure to do enough to bring down debt in order to avoid a downgraded credit rating.

A Leadership Default --The President blames House Republicans for everything.
Excerpt: The Obama Presidency has been unprecedented in many ways, and last night we saw another startling illustration: A President using a national TV address from the White House to call out his political opposition as unreasonable and radical and blame them as the sole reason for the "stalemate" over spending and the national debt. We've watched dozens of these speeches over the years, and this was more like a DNC fund-raiser than an Oval Office address. Though President Obama referred to the need to compromise, his idea of compromise was to call on the public to overwhelm Republicans with demands to raise taxes. He demeaned the GOP for protecting, in his poll-tested language, "millionaires and billionaires," for favoring "corporate jet owners and oil companies" over seniors on Medicare, and "hedge fund managers" over "their secretaries." While he invoked Ronald Reagan, the Gipper would never have used such rhetoric about his opposition on an issue of national moment.

Obama Shameless as Debt Crisis Looms
Excerpt: In a primetime address to the nation Monday, President Barack Obama reiterated his demands that any long-term solution to the looming debt crisis include what he termed sacrifices shared “by those who can best afford it.” Moving seamlessly between talk of “millionaires and billionaires” and those Americans “making more than $250,000 a year,” Obama tried to pin the blame for failing to pass the debt ceiling squarely at the feet of congressional conservatives. (I think we’re going to lose this issue, and lose badly. In the TOJ of 26 July 2011, there was a link to a poll to “assign blame” for the debt crisis (User poll: Which leader is most at fault for the latest breakdown in debt talks?). You might want to check the current results; I doubt you’ll like them. If you’re reading this, you’re someone who pays attention to politics beyond what shows up in the front-page headlines of the major media. Because you are more aware and better informed, you may hold opinions on issues others will disagree with. We need to keep reminding ourselves that most people DON’T pay attention to this stuff until the last few weeks before an election—and many, not even then because their minds are already made up from general impressions made since the previous election. Further, an astonishing number of folks buy into the whole “soak the rich” idea; they never seem to understand they ARE the rich to anyone with less than they have—and there is always someone with less. As conservatives or libertarians, we are generally trying to sell reliance on facts and/or logic; our opposition is selling reliance on emotions, feelings, and wishful thinking. Our world would be safer and richer for everyone, but theirs is prettier, especially if you envision yourself—as is always implied though seldom delivered—at or near the top of the pyramid. (If you think you’ll be the master, most people have no strong objection to slavery. That changes only with the realization that most of us would be the slaves.) More than any other single thing, we need someone who can sell our ideas on an emotional basis. Until we find that person, our road will be steeply uphill all the way. Ron P.)

Debt ceiling talks stay private
Excerpt: When the C-SPAN president met the “read the bill” speaker, it was in private, behind closed doors, without cameras and with no public record of the details. As members of Congress prepare to vote this week on dueling multitrillion-dollar House Republican and Senate Democratic deficit-reduction plans, they know they won’t see the details until the last minute and will be limited in their ability to debate and amend the bills. That is despite the popular rhetoric of openness, transparency and accessibility embraced by the modern political class. Meet the new Washington, which looks a heck of a lot like the old Washington.

Are the Bush Tax Cuts the Root of Our Fiscal Problem?
Raising taxes doesn’t always increase revenue, and cutting them doesn’t always decrease revenue, as people change their economic behavior based on these incentives. ~Bob. Excerpt: Bruce Bartlett held senior policy roles in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and served on the staffs of Representatives Jack Kemp and Ron Paul. Whether revenue should play any role in deficit reduction is at the root of the fiscal impasse between Congressional Republicans and President Obama. One factor underlying the hard-line Republican position that taxes must not be increased by even $1 is their assertion that the Bush tax cuts played no role in creating our deficit problem. In a previous post, I noted that federal taxes as a share of gross domestic product were at their lowest level in generations. The Congressional Budget Office expects revenue to be just 14.8 percent of G.D.P. this year; the last year it was lower was 1950, when revenue amounted to 14.4 percent of G.D.P. But revenue has been below 15 percent of G.D.P. since 2009, and the last time we had three years in a row when revenue as a share of G.D.P. was that low was 1941 to 1943. Revenue has averaged 18 percent of G.D.P. since 1970 and a little more than that in the postwar era. At a similar stage in previous business cycles, two years past the trough, revenue was considerably higher: 18 percent of G.D.P. in 1977 after the 1973-75 recession; 17.3 percent of G.D.P. in 1984 after the 1981-82 recession, and 17.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1993 after the 1990-91 recession. Revenue was markedly lower, however, at this point after the 2001 recession and was just 16.2 percent of G.D.P. in 2003. The reason, of course, is that taxes were cut in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.
Excerpt: Over the past several days there have been news stories here in Afghanistan about the Taliban strangling an 8-year-old boy.  The reports say that his father refused to turn over a police vehicle to the enemy, and so they murdered his son. Late last night, a courageous Afghan journalist named Mustafa Kazemi emailed an image of the boy that Mustafa said had been murdered. Afghans are enraged. They hate this behavior as much as we do. The boy appears to have had his eyes gouged out before being strangled to death. This image is graphic. (please scroll down) And so last night I walked to the Headquarters of 4-4CAV here in Zhari District, the most active district in Afghanistan at this time. I asked what was going on tonight. A noncommissioned officer filled me in on the day’s events. We had been in a minor ambush resulting in a slight injury and a damaged MRAP, so I knew about that one. But then he explained about a boy whom he said the Taliban forced to step on an IED just down the road from here. Apparently, according to Afghans, the Taliban may have been testing a new bomb made from a soda bottle. The boy’s name is Jalil, and our people estimate that Jalil is 6 to 8-years-old. Jalil was picking grapes with his brother when the Taliban, according to reporting, told the boy to step on the bomb. It blew off his right leg below the knee, leaving hamburger on the stump, and fractured his femur. Afghans brought Jalil to the nearby American base called COP Kolk, where 4-4CAV Soldiers treated him. A helicopter took Jalil and his father to Kandahar Airfield for advanced treatment.

Worth sharing: 7 Promises I Make To Liberals
Excerpt: It's no secret that liberals and conservatives don't get along. But, if there's any one thing that we've learned from the liberal love of sensitivity classes and situation comedies, it's that once people get to know each other and learn about each other's beliefs and concerns, all legitimate differences melt away. So, with that in mind, I'd like to relieve the concerns of our liberal pals by telling them what we conservatives are really like. Think of it as sensitivity class – for liberals.

And Now Norway
Excerpt: Police are calling the gunman, Anders Behring Breivik, a "Christian fundamentalist" because we must have labels (except when describing Muslim fundamentalists, which police, politicians and much of the media try to avoid for fear of angering Islamists). Breivik is as much a "Christian fundamentalist" as Judas Iscariot was and he deserves a similar fate. … Would Anders Behring Breivik have thought twice about his killing spree if he had known in advance that someone would shoot back? That is impossible to know. But if someone on Utoeya Island had returned fire, there's a possibility that far fewer would have been killed. This approach may not be pleasant for some to contemplate, but the alternative is more personal and national mourning, as is now being experienced in Norway.

UN urges "massive action" on famine Somali jihadists say doesn't exist
Excerpt: If Somalia is starving, al-Shabaab's opposition within the country is also starving or fleeing. That certainly appears to be a factor in their calculations, as they have dismissed the declaration of famine as "sheer propaganda." The article below focuses on the supply of aid. There is also the question of distribution. Al-Shabaab is undoubtedly attempting to blackmail aid agencies into allowing them a major (if not exclusive) role in distribution, giving the group the first choice of what they want from desperately needed food resources. What is curiously lacking is much outrage in the Muslim world at this deliberate and needless loss of life among their brethren, as well as large-scale offers of aid that al-Shabaab would not dismiss as being from "Christian" organizations. After all, Saudi Arabia could certainly afford it.

Marchers demand better protection for women in Turkey
Excerpt: The organizers of the protest, the Platform to End Women's Murders, say women are murdered every day in Turkey. According to a 2009 report released by the Turkish government, 42% of women surveyed said they had been physically or sexually abused by their husband or partner. (42% is pretty low for a Muslim majority country. And most wouldn’t allow a march at all—try this in Saudi Arabia! ~Bob.)

Jordan: Muslim man murders sister in honor killing
Excerpt: It is no accident or coincidence that Muslims commit 91 percent of honor killings worldwide. A manual of Islamic law certified as a reliable guide to Sunni orthodoxy by Al-Azhar University, the most respected authority in Sunni Islam, says that "retaliation is obligatory against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right." However, "not subject to retaliation" is "a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring." ('Umdat al-Salik o1.1-2). In other words, someone who kills his child incurs no legal penalty under Islamic law. In this case it was not a daughter but a sister who was the victim. Syria in 2009 scrapped a law limiting the length of sentences for honor killings, but "the new law says a man can still benefit from extenuating circumstances in crimes of passion or honour 'provided he serves a prison term of no less than two years in the case of killing.'" And in 2003 the Jordanian Parliament voted down on Islamic grounds a provision designed to stiffen penalties for honor killings. Al-Jazeera reported that "Islamists and conservatives said the laws violated religious traditions and would destroy families and values." Nonetheless, the media drumbeat is constant: honor killings have nothing to do with Islam. And as long as that continues, we will see more and more murders like this one.

In Malaysia, When in Doubt, Blame the Jews
Excerpt: Apparently, these measures didn't suffice for some of Malaysia's nervous ruling elite. The editors of Utusan Malaysia, owned by Prime Minister Najib Razak's United Malays National Organization ruling party (UMNO), defaulted to a time-tested maneuver: When in doubt, blame the Jews! The Jews? Most citizens of the overwhelmingly Asian economic giant have never and will likely never meet a Jew in their lifetime. And yet the folks at Utusan Malaysia, which is influential among Muslims in rural areas who rely on government-linked media to shape their worldview, are apparently confident warnings about a "Jewish plot" would resonate in a land without Jews. To understand why, you need only look at the track record of the man who dominated his nation for a quarter of a century, Malaysia's fourth prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad. (A century after they have murdered the last Jew on earth, Muslims will still be blaming all their problems on secret Jews. And killing people because of it. ~Bob.)

The risks of radiation
As I have mentioned in the past, some of the publications I get on line are prefaced with editor’s comments which appear nowhere in the article(s) being sent. This column is worth reading, but the editor’s comment (unfortunately, unsigned) is just as valuable. Therefore, I am copying some of it for you here: "Today we have a somewhat unusual article for you, about a scientific topic, namely radioactivity. It is an article written by a Dutch mathematician and science writer, Jan Willem Nienhuys, about the risks of radiation. It was first published in a Dutch magazine, but we thought it was so important that we asked the author to prepare an English version of it, especially for European Energy Review.  It is no news of course that the public in western countries has increasingly become risk averse, particularly in Europe. In France, the so-called "precautionary principle", under which activities may be banned if they merely threaten to damage the environment, has even been enshrined in the Constitution a few years ago. A kind of zero tolerance policy on environmental hazards.  Yet it should be clear that avoiding risks will not lead to a better life. On the contrary, risk aversion runs the risk of killing off progress. Would antibiotics have been allowed if they had been invented today? Or coal mining? Or aeroplanes?  When it comes to nuclear power, public fears tend to become even more irrational than they usually are. The Fukushima disaster is a case in point. A disaster it was, no doubt, but there can be no doubt either that in terms of environmental damage and loss of life, the effects of nuclear power production pale in comparison to coal mining and other forms of energy production - or to car driving for that matter.  (…) If hormesis is true, and there is a lot of reason to think it is, this has enormous implications for how nuclear radiation should - in a rational world - be regulated. (…) Surely the theory of hormesis is not an easy message to convey to the general public, but at EER we wanted to give the battered, beleaguered nuclear power sector at least a chance to pick up some good news before the summer holidays." Few things can kill us as quickly as electricity, but where would civilization be without it? The fire, soot, and safety issues from oil lamps actually kills more people than electricity. Rational balancing of risks is something adults do every day. --Ron P.
Excerpt: Too much of anything can be harmful. If you were to drink twenty litres of water at once, it would kill you. Carbon monoxide is poisonous above a certain level, but in the brain it performs a useful function as a signal transmitter. Many drugs work fine in the right dose, but are lethally poisonous in larger amounts. In pharmacology it used to be generally accepted that no substance has observable effects below a certain dose and that effects proportional to the size of the administered dose would only occur above a particular threshold. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the German pharmacologist Hugo Schulz (1853–1932) discovered that a particular disinfectant stimulated the growth of yeast if administered in small amounts, but destroyed the yeast cells when administered in larger quantities. This came to be known as the principle of hormesis. Hormesis is the idea that biological organisms generally react favourably to low exposures to toxins and other stressors. In other words, a limited dose of a pollutant or toxin that exhibits hormesis has the opposite effect of a large dose.

Peace Quotes
Peace, in international affairs, is a period of cheating between two periods of fighting. – Ambrose Bierce

Peace! That blessed period of quiet while everyone reloads. –Anon.

Shale Oil Works in Estonia...Yes, Estonia
Excerpt: When the discussion of energy options turns to shale oil, the Environmental Left predictably goes to “It uses too much precious water! It’s unproven technology!” And they invariably base that assumption on conclusions drawn by the Rand Corporation. In the 1980’s. And in the 1980’s, the conclusions drawn by the Rand Corporation regarding shale oil were fairly solid. However (and I do feel somewhat embarrassed in having to point this out) this is not the 1980’s, it is the 21st Century. And one does the community at large a disservice by using the Ghosts of Data Past to justify shoddy policy. If we accept that data from the 1980’s is automatically relevant to 2011, then it stands to reason that using data from the 1860’s; I and 10,000 of my closest friends should storm Atlanta to ensure that the Union remains intact and slavery is abolished.

‘The Elements of F—ing Style’: curse words ‘for a greater purpose’
Excerpt: Times have changed since William Strunk, Jr. published “The Elements of Style,” the ultimate writer’s bible, in 1919. Revised by “Charlotte’s Web” author E.B. White in 1959, “The Elements of Style” remains a trusted grammar and writing style guide for English nerds but can’t seem to prevent today’s decline in writing quality. While Strunk and White probably aimed to improve the overall state of writing, “The Elements of Fucking Style” writers Chris Baker and Jacob Hansen simply don’t want modern day writers to appear moronic. (On the lighter side, and perhaps useful, too. Strunk & White was like the bible when I was younger. Virtually anyone writing more than an occasional personal letter had a copy. I can’t find mine at the moment, but it was written with good sense and wry humor. I recall an entire section that consisted of only three words: “Omit needless words.” Ron P. )

Israel’s epic chess game
Excerpt: The Palestinians are about to make a fatal error. Israel must not hesitate to declare "checkmate." Israel is engaged in a war for survival that started even before its declaration of independence and continues to this very day. Its enemies have prosecuted this war militarily, economically, politically, diplomatically, legally and psychologically. Because of the length and complexity of this struggle, an appropriate metaphor is a game of chess – one in which the stakes for Israel are life and death. Winning a game of chess is no simple matter. It requires strategy, patience, steady nerves, the proper balance between aggression and caution, and the ruthlessness to checkmate one’s opponent when the opportunity presents itself. Impulsiveness and emotionalism usually lead to defeat. When a grandmaster makes a mistake, he must not panic; instead, he must extract himself from danger with care and determination. Israel’s leaders have not played like grandmasters. Instead, they have mixed brilliant moves with blunders.

Three dirty secrets of the debt-ceiling debate
Excerpt: Three dirty secrets underlie the debt-ceiling debate. First, the back-and-forth over competing proposals to cut $1.2 trillion, $2.7 trillion or $3.7 trillion misses the larger point. Depending on which baseline is used, the national debt is going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 trillion in 2020. Even cutting $3.7 trillion still means a national debt of at least $16 trillion a decade hence. So such half-measures won't actually solve the debt-ceiling problem. And that assumes that a future president or Congress doesn't disavow whatever deal is finally reached this week between President Obama, Senate Democrats led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Republicans headed by Speaker John Boehner. Which gets us to the second dirty secret: Only one long-term debt-ceiling plan has been approved by any of the three major players, the Cut, Cap and Balance Act of 2011 passed by the House in a bipartisan vote last week. The CCB raised the debt ceiling by $2.7 trillion, mandated $6 trillion worth of spending cuts and required submission of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution for consideration by the states.

Exiting the sinking ship? Ark. Dem. US Rep. Mike Ross won't run again
Excerpt: With somewhat curious timing, Arkansas Democratic Rep. Mike Ross has announced that he will not run for reelection in 2012. One year ago today, Ross was part of a congressional delegation that was 5-1 Democratic: both the state’s U.S. senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, and three out of its four congressmen—Ross of the 4th district, Marion Berry of the 1st district and Vic Snyder of the 2nd district—were all Democrats. But Berry and Snyder decided to retire rather than run for reelection in 2010, and both were replaced by Republicans. Lincoln was defeated by John Boozman, then the state’s only Republican in Congress, by a breathtaking 58%-37% margin.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: It’s Time for Obama to Face Primary Challenge
Run, Bernie, Run! ~Bob. Excerpt: After a nearly trillion-dollar federal stimulus, historic health care reform legislation and two confirmed liberal Supreme Court justices, one might think the American left would have to be somewhat satisfied with President Barack Obama, at least as a presidential nominee. But Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is not. In an interview with liberal talker Thom Hartmann on Friday, Sanders spoke out very aggressively about the possibility of Obama facing a challenge from his left for the Democratic nomination. “Well, at this point I have not,” Sanders said. “But I am now giving thought to doing it.

Rep. Wu to Resign From Congress
Gives new meaning to the antiquated term, “Pitching Woo.” ~Bob. Excerpt: Rep. David Wu plans to resign following allegations that he had a forced sexual encounter with a young woman last year. The Oregon Democrat said Tuesday that he would step down pending "resolution" of the debt-ceiling crisis. "The time has come to hand on the privilege of high office," he said in a statement. "I cannot care for my family the way I wish while serving in Congress and fighting these very serious allegations." Wu cited the "wellbeing of my children" in announcing his decision. He also said his resignation would "avoid any distraction from the important work at hand in Washington."

Bam's Desperation
Excerpt: President Obama likes to present himself as the only adult left in Washington, but last night's televised address to the nation had more than a whiff of childish desperation about it. It's clear: The only thing that matters to him right now is not the fate of the country but his re-election. Discussing the looming Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling -- the subject of fierce debate and negotiation for the past few weeks -- the president last night once again (a) blamed Bush, (b) demonized the successful, (c) denounced "tax breaks" for corporate jets and oil companies, (d) threatened the country's seniors, veterans and contractors with the chimera of "default" and (e) dredged up the ghost of Ronald Reagan to try and cast himself as the great compromiser. In short, he was hoping the country mistakes bluster for a negotiating position.

Long-term joblessness: thank O
Excerpt: The Department of Labor is about to release figures on long-term unemployment that suggest a major shift in US employment patterns. According to a Wall Street Journal report, about 26 percent of the unemployed haven't held a job in more than a year. Liberals point to these figures as proof that we need to extend unemployment benefits. In states with high unemployment rates, the unemployed are now entitled to up to 99 weeks of benefits through state and federal programs. But liberal policies may actually have created the problem rather than alleviated it. No question, many people who lost their jobs during the worst of the recession have been unable to find work that pays as well. Nearly one in 10 workers today is unemployed, and the economy is creating jobs at a painfully slow rate. But jobs are available -- and not just those offered at minimum wage -- that go unfilled every day.

Excerpt: The politicians most responsible for America's debt crisis are portrayed by the media as "grown-ups" while those least responsible for it are dubbed "intransigent." Veteran profligate spenders have been credited in recent days with a "balanced approach" to the crisis, even as Tea Partiers in Congress with no fingerprints on the debt have been cast as recklessly indifferent to it. The mainstream media exclusively defines "intransigence" as conservative opposition to non-negotiable liberal demands. Hence, President Obama's willingness to risk default rather than drop his insistence on tax increases isn't considered intransigent and reckless but principled and mature. Polls suggest that this media manipulation of the debate over the debt ceiling is paying off for the Democrats. One recent poll says that the American public views Republican leaders as more responsible for the stalemate than Obama. Perhaps a political version of the Stockholm Syndrome is at work here. Obama certainly likes to play the captor turned hostage negotiator, saving the people from a crisis into which he has thrown them.

Sunday At The South Central LA Black Tea Party
Excerpt: Ever since the inception of the Tea Party, those of us who reject Barack Obama’s failed policies, big government, reckless spending, outrageous unemployment, Obamacare, Marxism, etc. have been viciously attacked by the left and called “racists” for no reason other than that we disagree with our far left liberal friends. Of course, those of us actually in the Tea Party know that the “racist” meme is nothing but the pathetic shouts of those who can’t address our legitimate concerns with fact, logic or reason. But regardless of the Black Tea Party members even holding press conferences to stop the “racism” lies from the left, the left refuses to stop their assaults on those who are exercising their rights to believe as they choose. I have such admiration and respect for the Blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities who have faithfully attended the Tea Party Rallies and, despite harassment and abuse, support the conservative cause wholeheartedly. They take more grief than ANYONE, and I thought I had it bad being a conservative in Hollywood. It always amazes me that the so called “party of tolerance” doesn’t “tolerate” Blacks who have a mind of their own, calling them “Uncle Tom” or “Sellout” or “House Negro.” They have threatened to hang Clarence Thomas, and kill Rep. Allen West and his family, all because they are Blacks that didn’t get the message that they are to cooperate with Obama’s destructive agenda, or suffer vicious attacks. I am always stunned by the hypocrites on the left, who would light their hair on fire if we threatened Obama the way they threaten Black conservatives.

‘Right Out of Atlas Shrugged’: Hear an Exasperated Alabama Businessman Tell the Feds – ‘I’m Just Quitting’
Excerpt: Ronnie Bryant was vastly outnumbered. Leaning against a wall during a recent Birmingham, Alabama, public hearing, Bryant listened to an overflow crowd pepper federal officials with concerns about businesses polluting the drinking water and causing cases of cancer. After two hours, Bryant—a coal mine owner from Jasper—had heard enough and, in a moment being described as “right out of Atlas Shrugged,” took his turn at the microphone:

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