Friday, April 30, 2010

Another "victory" against terrorists

The chief of Pakistani Taliban Hakimullah Mehsud survived an American drone attack in the northwestern tribal region of the country in January, and is alive and well, intelligence sources said.

Last January, Pakistan’s state-run TV station reported that Mehsud, 32, was killed in a US drone strike in South Waziristan where Pakistan’s military launched an offensive last October.

Mehsud's apparent survival will be a major setback for the CIA, which intensified efforts to kill the dreaded young Taliban leader early this year after he appeared in a video alongside an al-Qaeda operative who killed seven CIA officials in Afghanistan in December late.

"The US government is under pressure because it is unable to achieve much in Afghanistan. This is one way of hitting their al-Qaeda enemies, as they define them," the official said.

How many times have we claimed to have killed a terrorist leader, only to subsequently retract the claim?

As in Viet Nam, this overestimation of enemy deaths indicates that we're losing. Winners don't need to spin.

Oprah doesn't text while driving

Drivers in at least 30 states plan to participate Friday in Oprah Winfrey's "No Phone Zone" campaign, when viewers pledge to refrain from using their cellphones while driving.

The Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices, sees Winfrey's campaign as a "potential tipping point" in the fight against texting while driving.

"There's no better or more powerful ally than Oprah," says GHSA spokesman Jonathan Adkins. "She has the potential to be the MADD (Mother Against Drunk Driving) for texting and distracted driving. When Oprah speaks, people listen. In this case, when Oprah speaks, we expect people to put down the phone while driving."

The effort is supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation, GHSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, FocusDriven, a non-profit group combating the problem, and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions).

You know that if Oprah wasn't always being driven around in a chauffeured limousine, she'd be one of those drivers texting with one hand while putting on eye makeup in the rear view mirror with the other.

Mine disaster + oil spill = evidence of same old story

Fish, birds and other sea life won't be the only victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill -- President Obama's plan to expand offshore oil drilling could also go down.

One thing for sure: There will be no new offshore drilling until the cause of this spill is determined, Obama political adviser David Axelrod said today on ABC's Good Morning America.

"All he (Obama) has said is that he is not going to continue the moratorium on drilling," Axelrod said, adding "no additional drilling has been authorized and none will until we find out what happened here and whether there was something unique and preventable here."

We knew that the Republican led congress and the Bush administration completely abdicated their oversight and regulatory enforcement obligations.

We hoped for better when Democrats took over Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008.

The recent mine disaster, and the recent devastating oil spill, conclusively demonstrate that the Pelosi led congress and the Obama led administration are doing no better.

Why? Because they're all on the same payrolls of the same corporate interests.

Charlie Crist, media hero?

Thursday was independence day for Charlie Crist.

But the governor of Florida, now an ex-Republican, may not be feeling quite like setting off fireworks. Governor Crist has taken the gamble of a lifetime, quitting the party that nurtured his rise to the top of Florida politics – and to national prominence – in the hopes of revitalizing his campaign for the US Senate.

Polls showed he was headed for near-certain defeat in the Aug. 24 Republican primary against former state House speaker Marco Rubio. For now, at least, he can point to polling that shows he has a shot at winning the seat in a three-way race against Mr. Rubio and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek. A Quinnipiac poll taken in mid-April has Crist winning 32 percent of the vote, Rubio with 30 percent, and Congressman Meek with 24. Private polls have shown similar results.

Two years ago, the media dismissed Crist as just another closeted gay Republican hypocrite. Crist was part of a trio of phonies, along with the toe tapping senator and page chasing congressman. The media laughed when the 50-ish "confirmed bachelor" married, just in time to be considered for the vice presidential slot on McCain's ticket.

Yesterday, Crist quit the Republican party.

So, today, Crist is a media darling.

Crist is still the same phony he always has been. The hypocrites are the former media critics who now applaud Crist, and any Democrat or teachers' union officials who now back him.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Be honest about the "homeless hero"

He stopped to help and died because others did not do the same.

Belatedly, Hugo Tale-Yax was honored as a hero for his actions, as family and friends gathered Wednesday to pay their respects to a Good Samaritan whose death was captured on video but ignored by those who saw it happening [to] . . . the 31-year-old homeless construction worker and Guatemalan immigrant.

He died April 18, fatally stabbed as he tried to rescue a woman from an attacker. A video surveillance camera on a Queens street captured Tale-Yax's collapse facedown on the sidewalk after he appeared to intervene in an altercation between a man and a woman.

As his life slipped away on the pavement, the camera captured two dozen people passing him by without stopping to help — indifference the nation has been able to watch since the video was revealed Monday by the New YorkPost.

When firefighters arrived more than an hour after the attack, they lifted his body to reveal a pool of blood. Tale-Yax was pronounced dead at the scene.

. . . Tale-Yax came to the U.S. six years ago from a town in rural Guatemala, had been unemployed for a year and was living in a shelter, said his cousin Edwin Tacam, 24, who went from his home in Jersey City, to Queens to identify his cousin when police called.

"He had some problems. He was trying to help himself get away from the alcohol," Tacam said.

If you didn't see the attack, and you didn't see the blood, and all you saw was a young homeless alcoholic passed out on the street, would you stop and nudge him, to see if he was okay?

In fact, wouldn't you be afraid to stop and nudge him, to see if he was okay?

In fact, wouldn't it be unwise and rather risky to your own personal safety to stop and nudge him, to see if he was okay?

The outrage regarding this story is phony.

The real outrage should be directed to family members and public safety departments and local government officials, who tolerate homeless alcoholics sleeping on the streets of our major cities.

Homelessness is yet another issue which is only an issue when our president is someone the media does not support.

Obama: No "appetite" for immigration bill

It doesn't sound like President Obama is confident that Congress will tackle immigration before the November elections.

"I know there may not be an appetite immediately to dive into another controversial issue," Obama told reporters about Air Force One last night. "There's still work that has to be done on energy. Midterms are coming up."

The mini-news conference last night also covered such topics as . . . the new Arizona law that requires all migrants to carry documentation.

Obama again criticized that law, and his Justice Department is studying whether to join lawsuits against it. The president also said he sympathizes with the frustrations over illegal immigration, because, "if you've got hundreds of thousands of people coming in, not playing by the rules, that's a problem."

Obama promised immigration reform as a top priority, to be addressed during the first few months of his administration.

In return, he was given the Hispanic vote.

Any Hispanic voter now angered about the Arizona immigration law should re-direct their anger at Obama, who appears to be trying to stall, delay and split the difference.

New law, no enforcement

The IRS processed more than 230 million tax returns last year, paid 127 million refunds and received about 68 million phone calls. The agency is responsible for enforcing a tax code that, at 71,000 pages, makes Anna Karenina look like a comic book.

Starting in 2014, the agency will have another task: making sure all Americans have health insurance. Under the law, Americans who can afford health insurance but refuse to buy it will face a fine of up to $695 or 2.5% of their income, whichever is higher. More than 4 million Americans could be subject to penalties of up to $1,000 by 2016 if they fail to obtain health insurance, the Congressional Budget Office said last week.

While the IRS can impose liens or levies, seize property or seek jail time against people who don't pay taxes, it's barred from taking such actions against taxpayers who ignore the insurance mandate. In the arsenal instead: the ability to withhold refunds from taxpayers who decline to pay the penalty, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said this month.

Still, compliance with the health reform law will be largely voluntary, says Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University. "By taking criminal sanctions and liens and levies off the table, the IRS' hands are tied, to a considerable extent."

Once more, the problem is not that we don't have enough laws.

The problem is that we don't enforce the laws we have.

Remember - - no one gets a campaign donation when the cops arrest a criminal. Politicians get campaign donations when they propose and debate new legislation, regardless of whether it will ever be enforced.

Coast Guard's new oil-leak estimate higher

The Coast Guard revised the amount of oil spewing from a damaged wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico to 5,000 barrels — or 210,000 gallons — a day, five times higher than earlier estimates.

Remember - - this is the new, safe, leak proof technology which justifies opening up our coastlines to offshore oil drilling.

Time to reconsider?

No help for the middle class

About 200,000 Americans whose illnesses have kept them from getting regular health insurance will not be allowed to enroll this summer in a new lower cost federal program for people like them because they already buy pricey state-run plans.

The nation's new health law creates a far cheaper insurance program opening July 1 for people with pre-existing medical conditions. To qualify, a person can't have had health coverage for six months.

If you're hard working and pay your bills, Obama's bailout schemes do nothing for you. You're out of luck if you worked a second job to pay for your over priced health insurance or keep current on your upside down mortgage.

But, if you stopped paying for health insurance, or went into default on your mortgage, you're eligible for federal assistance and federal renegotiation.

It's obvious which behavior the government is now encouraging.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Enforcing mine safety laws

The head of federal mine safety assailed the owner of a coal mine where an explosion killed 29 people this month and said Tuesday the government may crack down on "mine operators who are chronic lawbreakers."

Again, as in most other areas, we don't need new laws.

We need to enforce existing laws.

Now that there's been another big mine tragedy, the government is threatening "crack down" on "mine operators who are chronic lawbreakers". Of course, "chronic lawbreakers" should have been prosecuted all along in the usual course of things. Enforcement isn't something to be threatened by the head of federal mine safety. It's his job. If he's not doing it, he should be fired.

Mexico issues travel alert over new Arizona immigration law

Typically the subject of global travel warnings due to rampant, drug-fueled violence, Mexico issued an unusual alert Tuesday to Mexican citizens in Arizona. The country warned that the state's adoption of a strict immigration enforcement law has created "a negative political environment for migrant communities and for all Mexican visitors."

Mexico is telling its citizens to avoid Arizona.

Ironically, that was the whole idea behind the new Arizona immigration law.

Mexico unwittingly proved Arizona's point.

Offshore oil drilling

The Coast Guard is considering burning off some of the oil that has spewed from an underwater well once attached to an oil rig that exploded and sank into the Gulf of Mexico.

The well has been gushing oil at about 1,000 barrels — or 42,000 gallons — a day since the rig sank last week in what is now being considered a "significant" spill, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Prentice Danner, a Coast Guard spokesman.

. . . If the oil reached Louisiana, it could be devastating not just for the wildlife and coastal ecology of the state, but for fisheries, oyster beds and other livelihoods, said Mark Davis, director of the Institute on Water, Resources, Law and Policy at Tulane University. "There will be a chain reaction of impact," he said.

Wasn't it only weeks ago that most of our coasts were opened to offshore drilling, because it was allegedly now so safe?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Faith" in missile defenses

The Pentagon is "very confident" that it could defend the U.S. against the threat of an Iranian ballistic missile strike, the Defense Department's chief spokesman said Wednesday.

A recent Defense Department report to Congress concludes that Iran could develop a missile capable of striking the United States by 2015. Iran already has the largest deployed ballistic missile force in the Middle East, consisting of about 1,000 missiles capable of hitting targets up to 1,200 miles away, the report warns.

The U.S. has 25 long-range interceptor missiles based in Alaska and California, as part of a system designed to defend the nation against an attack from North Korea or Iran.

Eight of 14 tests of the interceptors have been successful, while the remaining tests suffered software glitches and other technical problems. But U.S. officials say the system should still work in the event of an attack.

We were going to install defensive missiles in Eastern Europe to protect us from Iranian missiles.

But, Obama cancelled that program as premature and unnecessary.

Instead, we rely on "25 long-range interceptor missiles based in Alaska and California". When this system was tested, only "8 of 14" worked.

And, we just found out Iran will have more missiles, and sooner, than we initially thought.

Heck of a job.

Stealing the Iraqi election

An Iraqi court disqualified 52 candidates Monday from the country's parliamentary elections, including two who won seats, and threw out their votes in a decision that could potentially change the outcome of the March 7 vote.

At least one of the winning candidates came from the coalition of secular challenger Ayad Allawi, which won 91 seats compared with 89 seats for a bloc led by incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said Saad al-Rawi, a member of the independent commission that oversees Iraq's elections.

. . . However, al-Rawi said it was still unclear how the decision would affect the outcome until the commission is able to recalculate the results once those votes have been removed.

Any armed insurgents who put down their guns in order to vote will pick up their arms again if their candidate is "disqualified" after the election and their votes "recalculated".

Is this really the democracy we fought and died for?

Financial system reform

Bank debate stalls in Senate as industry polishes image - As Wall Street braces for an epic political battle, it is difficult to exaggerate either what is at stake or how battered is the financial industry's public image. Almost three years after the first financial tremors, the strongest impetus behind reforming a crisis-prone system is public outrage about the behavior of the nation's largest financial institutions. More than two-thirds of the public last month held a somewhat or very unfavorable view of the nation's big banks, according to a Pew Financial Reform Project poll.

This is another case of Washington making things more complicated than they need to be, in order to pay back campaign donors and shake down prospective donors for more money.

Why not enact a short and simple law: (1) limiting the percentage of any one economic segment which any one company can have (if no one is too big, no one can be "too big to fail"); and (2) limiting the deductibility of executive compensation to a multiple of the lowest paid employee's salary (so that taxpayers no longer effectively subsidize hundred million dollar salaries)?

Of course, this would be too easy, and there would be no political theatre. Plus, threatening systemic reform and establishing a new bureaucracy makes you rich and creates jobs for your supporters.

Another example of government health care

Remember when the Veteran's Administration and the military health system were held up as examples of the viability of a government run national health care system?
The Pentagon effort to consolidate two premier hospitals for treating wounded troops has more than doubled in price and is so rudderless that an independent review and a bipartisan group of legislators say the care could suffer.

This "cost savings" measure will end up costing twice as much as planned, and will decrease the level of medical care.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Obama's National Security Adviser tells Jew joke

As first noted by the Jewish newspaper The Forward, at an event last week at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy – a pro-Israel think tank – National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones (Ret.) told a joke about a “Jewish merchant” that didn’t sit well with everyone.

While many in the largely Jewish audience laughed, others didn’t find it so funny, including Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

“It's inappropriate,” Foxman told ABC News. “it's stereotypic. Some people believe they need to start a speech with a joke; this was about the worst kind of joke the head of the National Security Council could have told.”

The Forward noted that the “joke drew a wave of laughs and applause from participant” but it went on to report that an anonymous “prominent think-tank source who attended the event said the joke was ‘wrong in so many levels’ and that it ‘demonstrated a lack of sensitivity.’ The source also asked: ‘Can you imagine him telling a black joke at an event of African Americans?’”

If this fellow thinks telling ethnic jokes is appropriate, he must live in an alternate reality. Clueless moron.

Poison or mass hysteria?

Dozens of Afghan schoolgirls have fallen ill in recent days after reporting a strange odor in their classrooms in northern Afghanistan, prompting an investigation into whether they were targeted by militants who oppose education for girls or victims of mass hysteria.

It's either poison or mass hysteria.

Either way, no rational person can believe the Afghan people are ready for the imposition of American-style 21st century democracy at the point of a gun.

Construction halted in disputed sector of Jerusalem?

The Israeli government has imposed a de facto freeze on new Jewish construction in the city's disputed eastern sector despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's public insistence it would not be stopped in the face of U.S. pressure, Jerusalem municipal officials said Monday.

The apparent freeze would likely reflect Netanyahu's need to mend a serious rift with the U.S. over Israeli construction on lands the Palestinians claim for a future state, and to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.

The "disputed" "eastern" sector of Jerusalem traditionally had another name - - the Jewish Quarter. Of course, that was before it was ethnically cleansed by Arab forces after Israeli independence. Today, the world says that Jews should not live in the traditional Jewish Quarter.

Why is America helping enforce the results of ethnic cleansing?

Our shifting Afghan mission

Air Force spy planes flying above Afghanistan have shifted their focus from solely tracking insurgents to monitoring developments in daily life for Afghan citizens, commanders say.

That's a reflection, they say, of top commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal's emphasis on improving the lives of Afghans and limiting civilian casualties.

"What he's looking at is, how well is this school being built?" said Col. Dan Johnson, the top commander for intelligence-gathering operations here. "What's the status of that? We're going into this next area, can we move our construction teams into this area? Is it safe? Those are the different things that he wanted to shift to and the thought process. That goes against the kind of traditional security that we provide our troops out there."

McChrystal has changed many elements of military policy since his arrival in Afghanistan last year. In January, his top intelligence aide, Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, issued a paper that criticized the military for gathering information almost exclusively on enemy activity. That focus, he wrote, failed to provide information that can help commanders understand Afghan culture and the everyday concerns of its people.

The new focus is to "understand Afghan culture and the everyday concerns of its people"?

That's the job of social workers, not soldiers.

With all our problems at home, that's nothing for which our children should fight and die abroad.

Again, what are we doing there?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who could have guessed that Syria can't be trusted?

U.S. President Barack Obama's outreach to Syria came under fire on Wednesday as a congressional panel questioned the rapprochement amid charges that Damascus has sought to arm Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas with Scud missiles.

Obama reaches out to Syria.

In response, Syria arms Lebanese terrorists with Scud missiles.

Who could have guessed that Syria can't be trusted? Anyone with any knowledge of the Middle East.

Majority opposed to Obama reelection

Only 46% of registered voters believe Obama deserves to be reelected.

50% say he does not deserve reelection.

And, most significantly, 54% of independents say Obama does not deserve reelection.

At what point do his supporters start to say, "It's us, not them"?

More anti Catholic bigots

Britain's Foreign Office issued a hasty apology Sunday to Pope Benedict XVI after publication of an internal memo in which officials joked he could open an abortion clinic, launch a range of condoms or sing a duet with Queen Elizabeth II during a four-day visit in September.

The document, sections of which were published in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, also proposed the pope could bless a gay marriage, and acknowledge the clerical sex abuse scandal by establishing a hot line for abused children, or honoring abuse whistle-blowers.

Junior officials wrote the memo following a brainstorming session intended to discuss ideas for the visit, the first to Britain by the head of the Roman Catholic Church since Pope John Paul II in 1982.

Though some included advice for Britain's government on how to approach the abuse scandal, the ministry condemned many of the proposals as "ill-judged, naive and disrespectful."

Britain's ambassador to the Vatican, Francis Campbell, met senior Vatican officials offer a formal apology and one individual involved in drafting the memo has been transferred to other duties, the ministry said.

It is truly amazing how those in certain quarters are taking so much pleasure in the problems of the Catholic Church.

And, how little concern they show for the victims when discussing it behind closed doors.

Never forget that it was government law enforcement - - in addition to the church hierarchy - - that should have stopped the pedophile priests.

More "threats of right wing violence"?

Opponents who fear that Arizona's tough new immigration law will lead to police harassment of legal immigrants and U.S. citizens who look Hispanic are set to demonstrate against the measure at the state Capitol Sunday afternoon.

The rally comes two days after Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill that requires police to question people about their immigration status including asking for identification if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. The law also toughens restrictions on hiring illegal immigrants for day labor and knowingly transporting them.

I watched the crowd on television, and saw young men throwing rocks and bottles.

I didn't notice one angry old white conservative among them.

Friday, April 23, 2010

You can mock Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Scientologists, etc.

. . . but you can't joke about Muslims.
After a warning from a Brooklyn-based Islamist group, Comedy Central decided to censor last night's episode of South Park over concerns about further offending Muslims by featuring a satirical representation of Mohammed.

Following last week's episode, the cartoon-rendering of the prophet appeared with his body obscured by a black box and the name Mohammed was bleeped out, the Associated Press reports. Muslims consider any representation of the founder of their religion to be blasphemous.

Last week's episode depicted the founders of various religions, including Moses, Jesus and Buddha, but did not show Mohammed outright.

Another example of those who complain about discrimination actually asking for special treatment.

By the way - - what is Brooklyn-based law enforcement doing regarding this Brooklyn-based Islamist group and its "warnings"?

Healthcare costs to go up under Obamacare

President Obama's health care overhaul law will increase the nation's health care tab instead of bringing costs down, government economic forecasters concluded Thursday in a sobering assessment of the sweeping legislation.

A report by economic experts at the Health and Human Services Department said the health care remake will achieve Obama's aim of expanding health insurance — adding 34 million Americans to the coverage rolls.

But the analysis also found that the law falls short of the president's twin goal of controlling runaway costs. It also warned that Medicare cuts may be unrealistic and unsustainable, driving about 15% of hospitals into the red and "possibly jeopardizing access" to care for seniors.

This is not a report from some crazy wackadoos.

This is a report by economic experts at the Health and Human Services Department.

Of course, they didn't release the report until well after the legislation was enacted.

Insane partisanship

Republicans are stepping up their criticism of the Securities and Exchange Commission following reports that senior agency staffers spent hours surfing pornographic websites on government-issued computers while they were supposed to be policing the nation's financial system.

California Rep. Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said it was "disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation's economy on the brink of collapse."

"Republicans are stepping up their criticism"?

Why is this a partisan issue?

Financial services reform

Financial services companies increased their spending to influence Congress during the first three months of the year, while also hiring well-connected lobbyists to press their case on new Wall Street regulations, federal records show.

Investment firm Goldman Sachs, charged with civil fraud last week, spent nearly $1.2 million on lobbying during 2010's first quarter, federal reports show — a nearly 72% increase from the same period in 2009.

Spending by Citigroup, meanwhile, topped $1.4 million, a 13.5% increase over the same period last year, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

They are not spending this money in support of legislation and legislators that will seriously restrict their money making activities.

Don't be fooled.

300,000 gallons per day

An oil rig that exploded in one of the worst offshore drilling disasters in recent U.S. history sank into the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday, with still no sign of 11 missing crewmembers.

The Deepwater Horizon sank about 10 a.m. after burning for roughly 36 hours. Survivors of Tuesday night's explosion told company officials that some of the missing crewmembers were around the area of the explosion when the rig unexpectedly went up in flames.

. . . The Coast Guard is also focused on minimizing any potential environmental impact. A 1-mile-by-5-mile sheen of crude oil and other substances has spread from the site of the rig's sinking, Landry said.

It's unclear how much crude will continue to flow from the wrecked rig. On Wednesday, Landry said the rig was spewing about 13,000 gallons of crude oil per hour.

This destroyed rig will leak 300,000 gallons of crude per day into the Gulf for the foreseeable future.

This is a completely foreseeable consequence of offshore drilling.

Remember that as the same people leading us in celebration of "Earth Day" also lead us in expanding off shore drilling.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Women's rights in Afghanistan

A gunman lying in wait shot and killed an 18-year-old woman as she left her job at a U.S.-based development company Tuesday, casting a spotlight on a stepped-up campaign of Taliban intimidation against women in this southern city where U.S. troops plan a major operation in the coming weeks.

Although there was no claim of responsibility and police said the motive for the attack was unclear, Taliban militants have been particularly harsh with women who work for foreign organizations or attend school. Bands of thugs are increasingly harassing women who want jobs, education and their own style of clothing, women and aid workers say.

In Tuesday's attack, the gunman emerged from a hiding place and shot the woman, whose first name was Hossai, after she stepped out of her office building, said deputy police chief Fazle Ahmed Shehzad. Hossai died at the hospital, and the assailant escaped.

Our problem is that an overwhelming majority of the Afghan public agrees with the Taliban on the issue of women's rights.

Saving the Amazon

A Brazilian rancher's conviction for the murder of a U.S. nun in the Amazon could help discourage attacks on rain forest activists that for decades have largely gone unpunished, environmentalists and legal officials said Tuesday.

Vitalmiro Moura was sentenced to 30 years for ordering the killing of 73-year-old Dorothy Stang in 2005 because she blocked him and another rancher from taking over land the government gave to farmers.

Hundreds of activists have been killed in Brazil in the last 20 years - but only about 80 triggermen, usually paid by powerful ranchers with land claims at stake, were behind bars before Tuesday. Moura is the only so-called mastermind of one of the killings to join them, raising hopes that the climate of impunity in the Amazon is finally nearing an end.

The only message sent by this belated, lone conviction of one of the masterminds and money men is that the "progressive" Brazilian government will take no significant steps to protect the Amazon.

We beat swine flu

A year ago today, Lyn Finelli, chief of flu surveillance at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gathered her team and advised them to prepare for the worst.

A flu epidemic was brewing, Finelli said, caused by a virus never before seen in humans. In Mexico, hospital workers were sick and dying. "That scared all of us," she says now, because "we all know from SARS and Ebola what a red flag it is" when health workers who guard against infection fall ill themselves. "It means the virus is very contagious and very virulent."

. . . This is the story of those early efforts. A year has passed since epidemic experts began tracking the birth of the 2009 H1N1 swine influenza pandemic. Now that swine flu has peaked and faded, postmortems are underway. The CDC and World Health Organization are dissecting their responses to a virus that in a matter of days leap-frogged via jumbo jet from Mexico to the rest of North America, Europe and beyond.

Prevention worked . . . because we acting quickly and intelligently and ignored the "vaccines are dangerous" crowd.

Extending TARP?

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday extended the government's $700 billion financial bailout fund to October 2010, saying it is still needed for "significant challenges" in the economy.

Geithner, in letters to congressional leaders, pledged to deploy no more than $550 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, allowing the remainder to reduce budget deficits.

The extension, opposed by many Republicans, will allow the Obama administration to tap the financial rescue program for further efforts to fight home foreclosures and to ease credit for small businesses in the hopes of spurring job growth.

TARP resulted in waste, fraud, abuse and the utter failure to achieve its main goals (avoiding foreclosures and spurring job growth).

Of course, that means the administration will continue a bad program with no effort at self correction, just more rhetoric.

Federally assisted banks reduced lending and gave bigger raises

Banks that received federal assistance during the financial crisis reduced lending more aggressively and gave bigger pay raises to employees than institutions that didn't get aid, a USA TODAY/American University review found.

The reduction of credit during the worst of the recession raises questions about whether the $247 billion assistance program achieved one of its primary goals: to stimulate the economy by reviving the flow of credit to businesses and individuals . .

- Lending fell. The amount of loans outstanding to businesses and individuals fell 9.1% for the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2009, at banks that participated in TARP compared with a 6.2% drop at banks that didn't.

- Employee pay rose. Average pay at banks getting aid rose 9.4% in the program's first year. By contrast, non-TARP banks increased salaries 1.8%.

- Cost-cutting limited. Banks in TARP cut costs less than those outside the program. Government-aided banks increased branches by 2.7% while non-TARP banks cut branches by 1.2%.

You can blame greedy irresponsible bankers for being greedy irresponsible bankers.

But, the lion's share of blame for the faults in the bail out program belongs to the stupid politicians in Washington who gave billions to greedy irresponsible bankers without sufficient conditions and controls.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No recovery for another year or two

The pillars of Americans' financial security — jobs and home values — will stay shaky well into 2011, according to an Associated Press survey of leading economists.

. . . The unemployment rate will stay stubbornly high the next two years. It will inch down to 9.3 percent by the end of this year and to 8.4 percent by the end of 2011. The rate has been 9.7 percent since January. When the recession started in December 2007, unemployment was 5 percent.

. . .Home prices will remain almost flat for the next two years, even after plunging an average 30 percent nationally since their peak in 2006. The economists forecast no rise this year and a 2.3 percent gain next year.

If unemployment stays high, and home prices stay low, all incumbents are in danger.

Census spin

The percentage of households that have mailed back their Census forms could top the 2000 response rate — a major accomplishment in the face of growing suspicion of government, swelling population and increased diversity.

The participation rate hit 71% Tuesday, just one point below the 2000 Census rate. The U.S. population has grown almost 10% since 2000, to an estimated 309 million.

"I think we'll match the performance of 2000, which is significant given the economic situation and the levels of mistrust about government in general that didn't exist in 2000," says Steven Jost, associate director for communications. A Pew Research Center survey out this week shows that only 22% of Americans said they can trust the government in Washington most of the time, among the lowest measures in half a century.
This administration spins everything.

The census participation rate of 71% so far is one point below the 2000 Census rate.

They "think" it will ultimately "match the performance of 2000".

Yet, their press release (repeated by the media as gospel), celebrates their "major accomplishment".


Cut in congressional salaries?

At a time when polls show Congress' standing at near-record lows, a group of retirees today is endorsing a move to cut lawmakers' pay.

. . . Kirkpatrick's bill would reduce congressional salaries by $8,700, from $174,000 a year to $165,300. In terms of buying power, that would still leave lawmakers ahead of what they were making in 1990. That year's House salary of $96,600 is equal to $160,850 in today's dollars, according to the Labor Department's consumer price index.

If this ever happens, you know they'll find a way to get around it with expense accounts and non cash benefits.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What happened to Congressional loyalty to country over party?

A U.S. Senate committee sent a subpoena to the Obama administration on Monday demanding secret documents and access to witnesses in last year's shooting that killed 13 people at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas.

The subpoena represents a rare public dispute between a Democratic-led Congress, which has been largely supportive of President Obama's policies, and the administration, which prides itself on increased government transparency.

From 2000 to 2006, Democrats legitimately complained that the Republican controlled Congress was abdicating its oversight duty regarding a Republican administration out of party loyalty.

From 2006 to 2008, a Democratic Congress abdicated its oversight duty regarding a Republican administration out of party loyalty because it didn't want to rock the boat in advance of the 2008 presidential election.

From 2008 to date, a Democratic Congress is abdicating its oversight duty regarding a Democratic administration out of party loyalty.

It's gotten to where it's now big news (and evidence of socially unacceptable disloyalty) when a congressional committee investigates executive action by a member of the same party.

It used to be the norm for Senators such as Fulbright and Baker to have more loyalty to country than party - - Democrat Fulbright vigorously opposed Johnson's Viet Nam mistakes, and Republican Baker neutrally participated in the investigation of Nixon's Watergate criminality. You would never see that in today's environment. Today, there would be no intra party challenge to Johnson, and Nixon would serve out his full two terms with united Republican support.

Pay day check cashing rip offs

Payday lenders have stepped up their federal lobbying as Congress works on sweeping legislation to regulate banks and protect consumers from the risky financial practices blamed for the economic crisis.

The Community Financial Services Association, which represents more than half of the storefront payday lenders, spent $2.6 million in lobbying last year — a 75% jump from 2008 — as it has battled to exempt itself from regulation by a proposed consumer protection agency President Obama wants to create.

The Online Lenders Alliance, the association for Internet-based payday lenders, has hosted dozens of fundraisers for lawmakers at a Capitol Hill townhouse.

A bill that recently passed the Senate banking committee could shield some of the industry from the new agency's enforcement powers, but a House-passed version would make the lenders subject to full enforcement by the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

Pay day advance companies are the 21st century version of the pawnshop and the loan shark. They feed off poverty and the desperation of the poor.

If this racket is exempted from proposed consumer financial protection legislation, don't ever believe anyone in the current Congress truly cares about the poor.

Hacking Palin's email account

A former college student charged with hacking Sarah Palin's e-mail account fears some jurors in heavily Republican East Tennessee could be dazzled when the conservative star testifies.

Jury selection begins Tuesday and Palin's testimony could soon follow in the case against 22-year-old David Kernell.

He was a University of Tennessee student majoring in economics when prosecutors say he hacked into the Yahoo! account Palin sometimes used for state business. At the time she was Alaska's governor and the GOP candidate for vice president.

Fair is fair - - if a Democratic national candidate's email account was hacked, it would be national news, all the First Amendment / ACLU people would be outraged, and NBC would running a special about "conservative e-terrorism".

Monday, April 19, 2010

Restoring confidence?

Remember Obama's promise to restore confidence in the competence of government?

For Americans, public confidence in government is at one of the lowest points in a half century, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Nearly 8 in 10 people in the country say they don't trust the federal government and have little faith it can solve America's ills, the survey found.

Fortunately, there's an election in less than 7 months.

Israel's nukes vs. Iran's nukes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to abruptly cancel a trip to a nuclear conference in Washington spotlighted a key sore point Friday in international nonproliferation efforts: Israel's own atomic weapons.

The Jewish state wants to help lead the charge against allowing nuclear weapons to end up in undesirable hands, even when nobody doubts that Israel itself possesses them.

For those who don't know the difference between an Israeli nuclear arsenal and an Iranian nuclear arsenal, the difference is that Israel would never bomb America.

Global cooling?

The only thing murkier than the plume of ash spewing from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano may be its long-term implications to the planet, its climate and public health.

. . . In one significant episode in Iceland, the Laki volcano erupted in 1783 . . . The ash and gases released caused extreme weather across Europe and contributed to a continent-wide rise in deaths from respiratory diseases. If this eruption lasts anywhere near that long, scientists say, there is a risk it could melt glaciers that now cap the nearby Katla volcano, allowing it to blow its top and potentially pump enough ash into the atmosphere to lower temperatures worldwide.

Those who blame earthquakes and volcanoes on global warming have no idea what they're talking about - - they are independent phenomena.

And, in fact, any increase in earthquakes and volcanic activity could actually lower worldwide temperatures, offsetting the impact of man made carbon gases.

Don't bet on the "recovery"

The Wall Street bull is buoyant again. The ka-ching sound coming from the stock market is growing louder as the Dow keeps levitating higher: 7000, 8000, 9000, 10,000, 11,000. Do I hear 12,000?

Investors are becoming more upbeat about the prospects for a sustainable economic recovery. Job offers are replacing pink slips. Shoppers are returning to the malls. Mortgage delinquencies appear to have peaked. CEOs at top companies that make computer chips, extend loans to borrowers and transport packages and other goods via trucks and railroads say business is better and profits are climbing.

. . . But the long-term outlook is cloudier. Indeed, it is what comes after the immediate burst of economic activity — driven largely by $787 billion in government stimulus money and short-term interest rates near 0% — that still worries . . . skeptical stock strategists and economists.

People who make their living selling things will always tell you now is the time to buy. But, what happens if China stops lending us money or we just can't print any more money?

Protecting troops from IEDs - - finally

The Pentagon is scrambling to provide the latest handheld mine sweepers and observation balloons to detect makeshift bombs for the thousands of additional troops President Obama has ordered to Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates assigned Under Secretary Ashton Carter, the Pentagon's top acquisition official, and Marine Lt. Gen. John "Jay" Paxton to identify what troops need and get it to them by the peak of the summer fighting season. By June, the last of the 30,000 new troops Obama ordered will arrive and are expected to be part of an offensive to secure Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city.

We've been there for almost eight years. What took so long to get our troops the technology?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Biden blunders again

On the campaign trail for Democrat John Callahan, [Vice President Joe] Biden said: "I can see exactly why John Callahan should be in United States Senate."

There's only one problem: Callahan is running for a House seat against Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.

Biden's constant flubs are really not funny.

Sooner or later, he could say something very stupid about something deadly serious, with terrible repercussions.

Ex-Congressman Massa

Former New York congressman Eric Massa wrote a $40,000 check to his chief of staff shortly before resigning his seat last month under a sexual harassment cloud.

Federal campaign finance records show the March 4 check to Joe Racalto from Massa's campaign account was a "campaign management fee."

Racalto's lawyer, Camilla McKinney, said Friday the check was a "deferred payment" for Racalto's work on Massa's 2010 re-election campaign and on Massa's transition after the 2008 election.

The payment came as allegations about his boss sexually harassing male staffers in his office were becoming public. Racalto has filed a sexual harassment complaint against Massa.

What did Nancy Pelosi (the head of the both House and House Democrats) and Rahm Emanuel (who recruited Massa to run for office) know, and when did they know it?

White supremacists in L.A.?

A white supremacist group rallied against illegal immigration in downtown Los Angeles Saturday as hundreds of counter-protesters gathered to shout them down in a tense standoff that included several arrests, thrown rocks and police in riot gear.

Our mainstream leaders need to realize that abdicating responsibility for legitimate concerns (such as enforcing the existing immigration laws currently on our books) leaves an opening for crazies and extremists to exploit.

Our "leaders" shouldn't cede any legitimate debate to white supremacists.

Southern heritage?

For many tourism marketers below the Mason-Dixon Line, old times are not forgotten — they're promoted.

But as Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell discovered when he proclaimed April as Confederate History Month without mentioning slavery (an omission he corrected after a volley of protests), pitching Dixie's past during the run-up to next year's 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War could be challenging.

"The Civil War sesquicentennial is going to be a minefield throughout the South. It's going to take a near miracle to tiptoe through it without serious injury, (and) this McDonnell incident has made things much worse," says Larry J. Sabato, a native Virginian and director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

Search "southern heritage" on line, and it will eventually lead you to racist and fascist sites and organizations. Therefore, our government should not be in the "southern heritage" business. Celebrations of southern heritage should be strictly privately funded.

In that most advocates of "southern heritage" seem to politically agree with conservative economic principals, why are they seeking government funds in the first place?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jenny McCarthy, Oprah Winfrey and more autism nonsense

A new autism disease identified in a flawed paper linking a common children's vaccine to autism may not exist, new research says.

A dozen years ago, British surgeon Andrew Wakefield and colleagues published a study in the journal Lancet on a new bowel disease and proposed a connection between autism and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella.

The study was widely discredited, 10 of Wakefield's co-authors renounced its conclusions and the Lancet retracted the paper in February. The research set off a health scare, and vaccination rates in Britain dropped so low measles outbreaks returned.

In research published Friday in the medical journal BMJ, reporter Brian Deer examines whether the illness described by Wakefield and colleagues — autistic enterocolitis, a bowel disease found in autistic people — actually exists.

Again, the studies linking vaccines and autism were faked.

Why? "In 1996, Wakefield was hired by a lawyer to find a new syndrome of bowel and brain disease to help launch a lawsuit against drug companies that made the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, according to BMJ article."

In other words, there was never a legitimate scientific study of the connection between vaccines and autism.

Rather, the study was faked after the fact to support a lawsuit with phony "expert testimony"!

And, thanks to idiots like Jenny McCarthy and Oprah Winfrey and other self designated but uneducated "experts" spreading this bogus science, thousands of children weren't inoculated for preventable diseases. How many will suffer or die?

Mercenaries in Afghanistan

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan said Friday that the coalition depends too much on private-sector contractors, and insisted his forces are keeping close watch on the flow of Taliban fighters who are training in Iran.

That's been the problem all along. Too many "private-sector contractors", i.e., mercenaries, were involved in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., creating a profit motive for campaign contributors to support continued war forever.

This is one of the factors that turned Obama, the insurgent anti-war candidate for election, into the pro war president seeking reelection.

Selective prosecution

A German court convicted ultraconservative British Bishop Richard Williamson on Friday of denying the Holocaust in a television interview.

A court in the Bavarian city of Regensburg found Williamson guilty of incitement for saying in a 2008 interview with Swedish television that he did not believe Jews were killed in gas chambers during World War II.

The court ordered Williamson to pay a fine of 10,000 euros ($13,544).

The Roman Catholic bishop was barred by his order from attending Friday's proceedings or making statements to the media.

Many are trying to blame the Pope and the Church exclusively for allegedly not punishing those involved in the ongoing, decades long molestation scandal.

But, the above story proves that governments can and do prosecute priests and bishops in their discretion.

Where was law enforcement during the alleged decades of sexual abuse?

After all, whose job was it to arrest and punish sex abusers - - an archbishop in Rome, or the cop down the block? Why is law enforcement being let off the hook for its part in this scandal?

Searching under the burqa

Two suicide bombers dressed in burqas blew themselves up Saturday in a camp for refugees fleeing military offensives in northwestern Pakistan, killing 41 people and wounding 62, officials said.

. . . The two suicide bombers struck six minutes apart at a camp in the Kacha Pukka area of Kohat, a tribally administered region close to the Afghan border. They were dressed in burqas, the all-encompassing veil worn by conservative Muslim women in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, local police official Abdullah Khan said.

Remember this story the next time someone accuses any government entity of "racism" for banning or reserving the right to search under someone's burqa.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Nuclear power: Not in my backyard

The pro-nuclear governor here has gotten a cream pie in the face. Compost has been thrown on a nuclear power plant manager. Protesters, including several grandmothers, have been arrested for trespassing at the plant gate.

This was not what President Obama, who hopes to spark a renaissance in nuclear power, had in mind this year when he urged an end to "the same old stale debates between the left and the right, between environmentalists and entrepreneurs." In Vermont, the same old debate rages on. As an embattled nuclear plant seeks to extend its operating life — and become a symbol of the conflict over whether to expand nuclear power — it's "no nukes" vs. "pro nukes," and not much in between.

Everyone is in favor of increased nuclear power . . . two states over from where they live.

Obamacare "savings"?

Congress is sending President Barack Obama an $18 billion bill to restore unemployment benefits for people who have been out of a job for months and resume full Medicare payments to doctors threatened by a 21% cut.

Everyone is focusing on the unemployment benefits.

But, the "resumed" medical reimbursements were part of the "savings" from Obamacare, and figured in the computation of the program's projected costs.

The militia "threat"

In the months before the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, a new kind of protest movement was just beginning to find its voice in America's heartland.

Militias and "patriot" groups burst into the vanguard of a seething anti-government campaign, fueled by anger over the Clinton administration's push for landmark gun-control legislation and federal officers' aggressive tactics in high-profile standoffs with groups such as the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

On April 19, 1995, that anger erupted: Militia sympathizer Timothy McVeigh detonated a 5,000-pound truck bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people. At that time, it was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

The controversial militia movement waned in the wake of the bombing, as groups sought to distance themselves from McVeigh. Fifteen years later, though, analysts say the militia movement is back, using some of the same, ominous anti-government rhetoric that preceded the Oklahoma City assault and first raised the specter of a larger domestic terror threat.

The same people who dismiss as "bed-wetters" anyone concerned over the real threat from Middle East terrorists are manufacturing a threat from domestic terrorists for political purposes.

Why don't we keep our eyes on all threats, regardless of who they may have supported in 2008?

Deaths of Afghan civilians

Deaths of Afghan civilians by NATO troops have more than doubled this year, NATO statistics show, jeopardizing a U.S. campaign to win over the local population by protecting them against insurgent attacks.

NATO troops accidentally killed 72 civilians in the first three months of 2010, up from 29 in the same period in 2009, according to figures the International Security Assistance Force gave USA TODAY. The numbers were released after Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, issued measures to protect ordinary Afghans.

Our troops are not as effective as they could be at beating the enemy, because of concern for possible civilian casualties, but civilian casualties are increasing anyway.

What are we doing there?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Losing Jews?

According to the 2008 exit polls, Barack Obama won 78% to 21% among Jewish voters. Now, in the second year of Obama’s presidency, only 42% of voters would re-elect him, while the plurality (46%) would consider voting for someone else.

After losing Cuban inroads and solid Jewish support, Obama is not going to win Florida again.

Supreme Court review of Obamacare

Justice Stephen Breyer is predicting the Supreme Court will one day pass judgment on this year's health care overhaul.

Breyer told a congressional panel Thursday that the massive health care law, like most major federal legislation, is a good candidate for high court review.

Isn't that funny? Hyper partisan supporters of Obamacare say the Constitutional objections are bogus, and the state appeals are a waste of money and time, but one of the more liberal, Democratic appointees on the Supreme Court acknowledges the existence of legitimate Constitutional questions.

Not just crazy conservatives anymore

According to the New York Times, by 52-38 percent, the general public thinks "Barack Obama's policies are moving the country more toward socialism."

Terror trials in NYC?

More than two months into a review of where to try the self-professed mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Attorney General Eric Holder said the decision still hasn't been made and described it as a "close call."

. . . Holder said that New York "is not off the table," although he acknowledged, "We have to take into consideration the concerns that have been raised by local officials and by the community."

. . . New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials, including Democrats, have said that the cost -- estimated at perhaps $1 billion -- and the disruption and gridlock that would be involved in providing a secure civilian trial for Mohammed in Manhattan are too burdensome and requested that he be tried elsewhere.

. . . Democrats accused Republicans of unfairly attacking Holder on all fronts.

It's not Republicans criticizing Holder. It's not conservatives.

It's pretty much everyone living or working in New York City, because they don't want to deal with the real danger, traffic hassles and taxpayer expense of terror trials in Manhattan.

By the way - - since when do Senate Democrats represent the "defer to authority" party? Up until Obama was sworn in, they told us "dissent is the highest form of patriotism".

Iraq's anti-American kingmaker

An influential Shiite movement did not back either front-runner in a poll on who to support for Iraq's next prime minister, further muddying on Wednesday the political situation in the aftermath of the inconclusive March elections.

In a survey, supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr voted 24 percent for him to support Shiite politician Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who was interim prime minister from 2005 to 2006, the movement's spokesman Salah al-Obeidi announced.

Iraq's incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his chief rival Ayad Allawi received only 10 percent and 9 percent of votes respectively.

Al-Obeidi left open whether al-Sadr would follow the guidance of his supporters in the course of future negotiations, saying that "each event has its own way," but the results seemed certain to at least add further complications to the already long drawn-out negotiating period that has followed the March 7 election.

Did hundreds of Americans die fighting the Sadrists in Sadr City in the early days of the war so that their leader could be Iraq's kingmaker?

Sadr's power - - and America's acquiescence in his power - - dishonors the sacrifice of our war dead.

If we're not there to win, we shouldn't be there.

The first election after Obamacare passed

Almost any politician in America would covet the 62 percent-plus victory Congressman-elect Ted Deutch racked up in Tuesday's special election in Broward and Palm Beach counties. And Democrats were crowing Wednesday.

. . . But in South Florida, Republicans saw glimmers of hope in the results -- at least in the Broward part of the district. That's because voters in central and southwestern Palm Beach County gave Deutch 64.2 percent of their votes Tuesday while Deutch won a comfortable, but much smaller, 53.8 percent of the vote in North and Central Broward over Republican Ed Lynch.

. . . Republican voters are outnumbered more than 2-1 in the 19th Congressional District.

The district is overwhelmingly composed of Jewish and Democratic retirees.

Republican voters are outnumbered more than 2-1 in the 19th Congressional District.

The Democrat won by less than 2-1.

If a Democrat running on Obama's record can't increase his totals in this district, Democrats are in trouble.

Cuban-Americans for Obama?

Another constituency group lost.

After a visit to Florida's Space Coast to talk about the future of NASA, President Barack Obama heads to Miami Thursday evening for two Democratic fundraisers -- including a cocktail reception at the home of Gloria and Emilio Estefan that has irked some in the Cuban-American community.

Bill Clinton made inroads into the Cuban-American community, and lost it over the Elian mess.

Barack Obama made the same inroads . . . and has also lost it.

Don't expect Obama to win Florida in 2012.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cuba: Another communist monarchy

Fariñas, a 48-year-old psychologist and independent journalist whose father fought beside Che Guevara, and who himself fought in Angola as a Cuban soldier, says he does not believe there will be any changes in Cuba while Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl are alive.

The changes will start when the next generation of Castro family members - - Fidel and Raúl's sons - - take over, he says.

. . . According to Fariñas, what's more likely to happen - - and what he said he hopes will happen - - is a process of change that will begin once Raúl and Fidel Castro die, and their respective sons take their places.

"This is a family dynasty. They are preparing [Raúl's son] Col. Alejandro Castro Espín and [Fidel's son] Dr. Antonio Castro Soto del Valle to take power," Fariñas said.

It's amazing how many communist dictatorships devolve into medieval monarchies.

Fight terrorists by cutting off their funding

The U.S. Treasury Department is sending more staff to Afghanistan to target the financial networks that provide money for the Taliban, a Treasury official said Wednesday.

The boost in personnel there, along with additional staff dedicated to that effort here in Washington, will coincide with the Pentagon's surge in military troops heading to the war over the next several months, said David Cohen, assistant treasury secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

While U.S. counterterrorism officials repeatedly point to al-Qaida's dwindling numbers and eroding financial support, they say the Taliban, which is putting up a fierce fight against U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, is still well funded. The insurgents finance their terror activities through the country's lucrative narcotics trade and donations from supporters in the Gulf who often route the money through Pakistan.
Instead of chasing terrorists through deserts and caves and mountain passes, we should cut off their funds, which should be traceable.

We could probably take out al Qaeda and the Taliban if we took out the few dozen bankers, billionaires and government finance ministers who support their operations. Without money, they can't buy weapons.

Are we still winning?

Militants launched a daring midday raid on the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar on Monday, killing at least four people in a coordinated attack that included suicide bomb blasts, barrages of rocket-propelled grenades and automatic gunfire.

Hours before the attack, a suicide bomber walked into a political rally in northwest Pakistan's restive Dir region and detonated his explosive-filled vest, killing 36 other people and injuring more than 50 others.

The violence appeared to be timed to coincide with President Asif Ali Zardari's address to a joint session of parliament in the capital, Islamabad. Zardari endorsed proposed changes to Pakistan's constitution that would shift most of his powers to the prime minister and relegate the president to a figurehead role.

When are we going to start getting honest and realistic assessments of the situation?

At least when Bush was president, the media was critical of useless foreign adventures.

Nuclear agreement fraud

Nearly four dozen nations signed a non-binding agreement Tuesday to secure vulnerable nuclear material by 2014, a goal President Obama said would make the world safer from a stockpile big enough to produce 120,000 nuclear bombs.

. . . Obama acknowledged there is no way to enforce the commitments made at the summit.

A non-binding agreement without an enforcement mechanism?

This does nothing to reverse the danger of "loose nukes" being turned into catastrophic weapons by terrorist groups or criminal gangs.

All it will take is one rogue or negligent country giving one cup of nuclear materials to one group of radical terrorists.

White House: Stimulus showered billions on taxpayers

Last winter's economic stimulus bill has put billions of dollars into taxpayers' pockets and the economy this spring, the White House plans to say in a report out today from the Council of Economic Advisers.

The report, coming a day before the April 15 tax deadline, says the law has delivered more than $200 billion in tax relief and other direct benefits, mostly to middle- and lower-income families. More than $70 billion was paid in the past three months.

Of course, they're not saying that the people who received the money will have to pay it back, in higher taxes, with interest, to our enemies abroad.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another mistake in Aghanistan

The strafing of a bus by NATO troops that killed four passengers Monday prompted protests and harsh words from Afghans whom the U.S. is courting for help in defeating the Taliban.

What are we doing?

Clueless economists

The Dow Jones industrial average on Monday closed above 11,000 for the first time since September 2008, when the financial crisis was just beginning. That's a bullish signal that reinforces the growing belief on Wall Street that the recovery in the economy and markets remains on track.

Even though the blue-chip index just got back to a level it first crossed in May 1999, analysts say topping the key psychological level could act as a "confidence booster," given that the Dow is up 68.1% from its March 2009 bear market low.

. . . "Clearly it is a vote of confidence in the economic outlook," says Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research, an investment strategy firm.

. . . However, economists say a sharp rise in stock prices and the resulting rise in the value of stock portfolios and 401(k)s held by Main Street investors could create a feeling of financial well-being. This "wealth effect" could spur more economic activity.
"The market is going up, and it is lifting the psychology, the financial wealth and the confidence needed to engender better times on Main Street," says Bob Barbera, chief economist at ITG.

Higher stock prices might also spur a positive "feedback loop" and give employers the confidence to add workers, adds Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank.

Real unemployment (those unsuccessfully looking for jobs plus those who gave up trying) still exceeds 17%. Until that number drops significantly, there will be no "wealth effect". Don't listen to brokers and bankers with a vested interest in getting us to jump back into the stock market, spend and borrow.

The next Obama appointee?

One of nation's most politically powerful — and polarizing — union leaders is preparing to step down from his post.

Andy Stern, president of the 2.2-million member Service Employees International Union, plans to resign, a senior union official told employees in an e-mail on Monday.

The message from the official, Diane Sosne, was obtained by The Associated Press. She is a member of the union's board and president of an SEIU local based in Seattle.

SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said only that Stern plans to address "speculation" that he would leave his post later this week, at the close of the union's executive committee meeting.

Stern, 59, is one of President Obama's closest political allies and a major force in Democratic politics. His union spent about $60 million to help Obama win the presidency and millions more on House and Senate races around the country.

News of his pending resignation surprised many SEIU officials reached late Monday, who had not yet officially been informed of the move. Stern's current term is scheduled to end in 2012.

Be surprised if Stern doesn't get a job in the Obama administration.

Health insurance scams?

Bogus health plans that advertise comprehensive coverage at bargain prices are on the rise, luring desperate consumers to pay for policies that won't cover their medical bills, state insurance commissioners say.

In recent weeks, Missouri regulators have cracked down on 13 companies. California has ordered firms to stop selling misleading and unlicensed health discount cards. Tennessee regulators have seized a company they allege has collected more than $14 million from people across the U.S. — then stranded them with unpaid bills.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, who said the bad economy has fueled the uptick in scams.

James Quiggle, spokesman for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, which represents consumers and insurance companies, said: "There's high unemployment, health premiums are expensive and tens of millions of people have no health coverage. This is an ideal breeding ground for scams."

Among 37 insurance bureaus responding to a coalition survey last fall, 57% reported increases in health plan scams.

Wait until Obamacare kicks in, with its mandatory membership, big deductibles, large co pays and limited coverages. Everyone who thinks they're going to get "free health insurance for all" will feel they were scammed.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The new spin: Unemployment isn't so bad

Now that they're no longer in denial as to Obama's failures, some of our more Obama-lovin' pundits are reduced to making lame excuses and justifications for continued near record unemployment:
"[W]ithout trivializing the psychic trauma involved, there's no getting around the fact that it is in many respects much easier to be unemployed now than it was in the Reagan-Volcker era . . . Is it the president's fault that Americans are better off than they were 30 years ago, and are thus not desperate to take whatever job that comes along?

In 2010, there are far more two-earner households than there were in 1981, which means that many households now have an added economic cushion to help withstand the impact of a job loss. . . An income shock that cuts that number in half or two-thirds would represent a significant blow to a family's economic prospects. But it's a far less serious blow than an income shock that cut the number down to zero.

. . . While it's certainly true that many workers have taken jobs that involve huge salary cuts, many others are holding out hope for a job that matches expectations in a sunnier labor market. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for society. One can imagine workers using an extended spell of unemployment as an opportunity to gain new skills and to spend time with loved ones.

The pro Obama opinion-shaper quoted above seems to think unemployment per se is better under Obama than Reagan, because now we get to be unemployed under an awesomely cool president.

I remember when unemployment was thought to be unacceptable, soul destroying and the source of all social ills (crime, broken families, illegitimacy, homelessness, spousal abuse, substance abuse, etc.) Now? According to this Obama apologist, it's an "opportunity to gain new skills and to spend time with loved ones".

I can't imagine any candidate being dumb enough to try to sell that spin in the upcoming November elections.

But what do you do about it?

On the eve of a major nuclear summit, President Barack Obama has warned that al-Qaida's continuing attempts to acquire atomic weapons pose a grave threat to international security, and called on world leaders to combat the danger.

. . . To eliminate that threat, Obama has set a goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide within four years, and tackling the black market trade in nuclear parts.

Unless we're willing to use force, these words are empty.

Remember, "After healthcare, we'll focus on jobs"?

In fact, after healthcare, it's been all about nuclear non proliferation.

Obviously, the administration has no clue what to do about unemployment, so they're trying to change the subject, hoping things improve in the usual course of events, and getting ready to claim as much credit as they can if unemployment starts to fall on its own.

Obama keeps sinking

Approve - 45%
Disapprove - 48%

Obama's no longer nibbling around 50%, some days above and some days below.

Follow the link and see the graph - - the trend is clear, and all Obama's frenetic activity is doing nothing to stop his loss of popularity.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Democrats' only hope in November . . .

is more stories like this.

For Florida House leaders, membership had its privileges: a Republican Party American Express card to charge jets to Manhattan and Disney World, chic hotels and five-star restaurants.

Flashing the party card opened limousine doors, bought gifts at Harrods in London, Toys R Us or Best Buy. It provided a seemingly bottomless coffee cup at Starbucks.

In all, about $458,000 in AmEx charges like these were racked up by former House Speaker Marco Rubio, his now-indicted successor, Ray Sansom, and the man set to lead the chamber in November, Dean Cannon, according to a Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times computer analysis of Republican Party of Florida credit card statements for a nearly two years ending in 2009.

The part-time lawmakers paid for little of it. Republican Party of Florida donors -- mostly corporate interest seeking favorable legislation from lawmakers -- picked up most of it. Though some of the records have been reported, the credit-card statements of the three party leaders viewed together offer a window into the world of public officials conducting private, partisan business.

Obama's secret weapon . . .

is Republican incompetence.

In damage control mode, GOP national chairman Michael Steele on Saturday sought to quell the furor over his management of the Republican National Committee by acknowledging errors and vowing to learn from them.

"I'm the first here to admit that I've made mistakes, and it's been incumbent on me to take responsibility to shoulder that burden, make the necessary changes and move on," Steele told GOP activists and party leaders, drawing a standing ovation.

"The one mistake we cannot make this November is to lose," he added, and the crowd cheered in agreement.

If Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid keep their jobs in 2010, it will be solely due to Republican stupidity, i.e., the "errors" and "mistakes" of Steele and others.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"Ratzinger" or "the Pope"?

Here's a quick and easy way to evaluate the stories regarding the Pope's pre papal involvement in monitoring the Catholic Church's pedophile scandals:

If the author or editor refers to "the Pope", they're either neutral or support him.

If the author or editor refers to "Ratzinger" (contrary to the usual religious, media and political practice of always referring to someone by the highest title or office ever held), they're against him.

Good example - - the Associated Press story is titled "Future pope stalled California pedophile case", but the USA Today web page links to the story under the headline "Ratzinger stalled California pedophile case". Obviously, they want to de-legitimize the Pope by stripping him of his title in public discussion (just like when generals call hostile women senators "ma'am" or "Mrs." rather than "Senator").

Palin 1, Obama 0

President Obama and potential 2012 opponent Sarah Palin are mixing it up over the new nuclear policy review.

Asked about Palin's criticism this morning on Good Morning America, Obama told ABC's George Stephanopoulos, "I really have no response, because last I checked, Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues."

Palin shot back later at a speech to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, further mocking Obama's earlier career and "all the vast nuclear experience that he acquired as a community organizer."

If Obama wants to get into it with Palin (which is beneath the dignity of an incumbent president), and dismiss her with snide remarks as a no nothing, he ought to make sure she doesn't get the last (and best) word.

(I'll say it again - - I'm not a supporter of Palin, and I don't agree with Palin on many issues. But, the sexist, hostile, condescending dismissal of Palin (like the earlier hostile, condescending dismissal of "tea party" deficit concerns) is unfair, ineffective, unpersuasive to those outside the media bubble, and could end up electing Palin president.)

What will Stupak get now?

Two of Washington's most influential political prognosticators today placed Rep. Bart Stupak's Michigan House district in the "toss-up" column for the November midterm election, giving the GOP one more pickoff possibility for a district long held by Democrats.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report and Rothenberg Political Report are both calling Michigan's 1st Congressional District a toss up race. The district includes all of Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula. Before Stupak announced his retirement today, Cook and Rothenberg hadn't listed the race as competitive.

Stupak, a moderate who is in his 9th term, won with 65% or more of the vote in 2008, 2006, 2004 and 2002. In 1996 he captured nearly 71% of the vote. But Stupak's abortion stance during the health care debate is no aberration -- his district also has leaned right, particularly on social issues.

In voting for the Obamacare bill, Stupak angered his most ardent supporters and energized his opponents.

You have to wonder which federal job Stupak was promised in return. We'll know soon.

This sounds suspicious

Polish President Lech Kaczynski and some of the country's highest military and civilian leaders died on Saturday when the presidential plane crashed as it came in for a landing in thick fog in western Russia, killing 96, officials said.

Russian and Polish officials said there were no survivors on the 26-year-old Tupolev, which was taking the president, his wife and staff to events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.

The crash devastated the upper echelons of Poland's political and military establishments. On board were the army chief of staff, national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers, the Polish foreign ministry said.

You don't have to be a paranoid conspiracy theorist to hope that our intelligence agencies determine what happened.

Friday, April 9, 2010

"US army chief begs Afghans to forgive"?

A top US special forces commander visited a family in rural Afghanistan yesterday to plead for forgiveness after finally admitting that his troops killed five innocent people in a botched raid, which, Afghan officials said, the soldiers then tried to cover up.

Vice-Admiral William H. McRaven went to Paktia in eastern Afghanistan to the home of family head, Haji Sharabuddin, whose two sons were among those shot dead, and offered to enact the tribal ritual nanawate, in which a sheep is sacrificed at the door.

I thought the idea was for us to drag them into the 21st century, where you don't sacrifice sheep.

I didn't know the idea was to teach our military to "beg" for forgiveness by sacrificing sheep.

P.S. - My kids had to say "happy holidays" during "spring" break and go trick or treating during the "harvest festival", but the military can sacrifice sheep?

More U.S. deaths in Afghanistan

A U.S. Air Force tilt-rotor aircraft crashed in southeastern Afghanistan, killing three service members and one government contractor, NATO said Friday.

They died for an "ally" who regularly threatens to join our enemies.


Another Mideast ally

The diplomatic status of a 27-year-old Qatari Embassy worker was being reviewed Thursday after he triggered a bomb scare aboard a United Airlines flight en route to Denver on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the embassy in Washington said.

. . . They were probing an incident aboard United Flight 663 that originated in Washington and forced fighter jets to scramble. Federal air marshals confronted al-Madadi on Wednesday evening after he left the jet's lavatory, where airline officials say the diplomat was smoking, according to two federal law enforcement officials who were briefed on the matter. The law enforcement officials, who are not authorized to comment publicly, said al-Madadi then made references to lighting his shoes.

. . . Bradley said al-Madadi, a junior diplomat in Washington, was "engaged in official embassy business" while traveling to Colorado, where he was scheduled to meet with Qatari college students and visit convicted al-Qaeda operative Ali al-Marri, a Qatari national imprisoned at the U.S. penitentiary in Florence, Colo.

. . . Al-Marri was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison last October after pleading guilty to a conspiracy charge. He acknowledged attending terrorist training camps from 1998 to 2001. Before his indictment, al-Marri had been held for nearly six years as an enemy combatant in a Navy brig in South Carolina.

The fellow our "ally" sends to see if a convicted terrorist needs any help in jail makes jokes about blowing up airplanes.

In response, the Obama administration will probably blame Israeli intransigence regarding settlements.

Secret air flights

A federal program designed to protect sensitive business deals and executives' safety is being used by politicians, business executives, university athletic recruiters and others to avoid publicity by hiding their flights on private aircraft from the public, a ProPublica review has found.

The aircraft owners don't have to demonstrate any need need to keep flights secret. They simply request secrecy from the National Business Aviation Association, which lobbied for the program and runs it for the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA removes flights from its database before giving the information to flight-tracking websites.

This week, after a 15-month effort, ProPublica obtained the current list of 1,100 aircraft whose flights had been removed from the database. The FAA released the list after a federal judge rejected the NBAA's argument that it should remain confidential for security and competitive reasons.

Generally, if you're keeping something secret, it's because it's either wrong or shameful. Why is the government enabling secrecy in business, politics and education?