Thursday, January 31, 2013

Israel Reacts to Save Itself as Obama Continues to Do Nothing in the Middle East

The hands-off do-nothing Middle East policy of President Obama is coming home to roost. Obama has refused often to take a stand as the region has been assaulted by the Iranian regime's nuclear program, by the continued harassment of Israel by the Hamas-Hezbollah terrorist regime in the Gaza Strip, and by the Syrian al-Assad regime's genocidal war against its own people. Not a pretty record for a man who told a Cairo audience several years ago that America was with them in their fight for freedom and democracy. And Obama's indifference has eroded the US-Israeli level of mutual confidence to the point where, instead of supporting Israel's reasonable fears of nuclear attack by Iran or invasion from Hamas, President Obama has actually told Israel that its normal desire to defend itself is not in the best interests of America. So, it should not be surprising that yesterday Israel took its defense into its own hands. It seems that when Israel had credible intelligence that there was a convoy moving in an al-Assad area of Syria, carrying a shipment, including sophisticated Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, moving toward a Hezbollah area and which could be used to enhance its military capabilities by enabling the militants to shoot down Israeli jets, helicopters and surveillance drones, Israel struck, incapacitating the convoy. Today, Syria threatened to retaliate and its ally, Iran, said there will be repercussions for the Jewish state over the attack. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that Israel could carry out similar missions in the future. And so, dear readers, the tensions in this most unstable region have been notched up considerably. There are suggestions by regional security experts that al-Assad is losing his grip on Syria and its arsenal of conventional and nonconventional weapons. The al-Assad regime said Israel entered its territory to bomb a scientific research center near Damascus. Associated Press reports that Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, who in December became one of the most senior Syrian army officers to defect, said that the site the regime said was targeted is a "major and well-known" center to develop weapons and is known as the Scientific Research Center. Russian and Iranian experts are usually present at the site, he added, but said no nonconventional or chemical weapons are at the site. Hezbollah condemned the attack as "barbaric aggression" and said it "expresses full solidarity with Syria's command, army and people." Russia, Syria's most important ally, said this appeared to be an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation. Moscow said it was taking urgent measures to clarify the situation in all its details. "If this information is confirmed, we have a case of unprovoked attacks on targets in the territory of a sovereign state, which grossly violates the UN Charter and is unacceptable," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "Whatever the motives, this is not justified." The distressing truth is that as long as America refuses to take its leadership position in the Middle East seriously, Israel will have to go on defending itself against neighbors whose avowed intention is to "annihilate" her. It seems to me to be the grossest betrayal of a deep and abiding friendship for the US to turn its back, at least publicly at the White House level, on Israel. If the US military continues to maintain very close relations with Israel, the effort is being undercut by seeming indifference on the part of Obama - an indifference that makes al-Assad, Iran and Hamas-Hezbollah more bold. This in turn causes even more destabilizing confrontations with Israel. Earlier this week, Netanyahu warned of the dangers of Syria's "deadly weapons," saying the country is "increasingly coming apart." Israel deployed its new "Iron Dome" rocket defense system to the northern city of Haifa, which was battered by Hezbollah rocket fire in the 2006 war. The Israeli army called that move "routine." Ban Ki-moon expressed grave concern over reports of Israeli airstrikes on Syria but said the U.N. does not have details of the reported incident and cannot independently verify what happened. And so the Middle East lurches further toward a major war. One which President Obama would roundly condemn, without ever acknowledging that his do-nothing regional policy would have been a major contributor to such a war.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The World Economic Outlook Is not Good for 2013

The US economy unexpectedly shrank in the fourth quarter 2012 according to government statistics - for the first time since 2009, probably because of the biggest cut in defense spending in 40 years, fewer exports to Europe and China and sluggish growth in company stockpiles. The drop occurred despite stronger consumer spending and business investment. Economists said that things aren't as bad as it seems, because of the areas that caused the GDP drop. Government spending cuts and slower inventory growth, which can be volatile, subtracted a total of 2.6 percentage points from GDP. The Social Security increased withholding has also left consumers with less take-home pay. Exports fell by the most in four years, a result of Europe's recession and slower growth in China and some other large developing countries. But the fact that the economy shrank at all, combined with much lower consumer confidence reported Tuesday, may cause concerns about the economy's health in 2013. Dear readers, no matter how positive is the spin being put on the US GDP negative figure, the news cannot be taken lightly. First, the predicted result of failure to stop the across the board cuts in the US federal budget are real. Second, the drop in US exports to Europe and China are strong indications that these two regions are not doing well. In Europe's case, the recession and economic retraction continue. In China's case, despite the spin being used by the Chinese government, the Chinese economy and market are slowing down. That leaves only the American private sector and American consumers to pull the world out of the economic malaise that started in 2008. Even if they succeed, the rest of 2013 may be unpleasant.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Europe's Future in the Hands of Britain and France

Over the past two months, Europe's problems seem to have disappeared from the headlines - probably because of the Christmas-New Year holidays, the second inauguration of President Obama and the French incursion into Mali to drive out the jihadists threatening to overrun the country. But while these events have been occupying the front page, the new French Socialist government is pushing ahead with policies that will result in significantly higher government spending, greater business and commerce regulation and severely higher taxes on those with high incomes. The long-term effects of the Socialist policies are already being felt, with high-income entertainment and business personalities taking their fortunes out of France, as well as jobs being lost because of plant closings, partly because of higher taxes and partly because of slowing French economic activity. One thing is certain. The French Socialist policies will lead to further economic decline, which could be accelerated if France is drawn into a long conflict in West Africa as a result of its intervention in Mali. France's longer term strategic and financial commitment to West Africa will be unavoidable, given the historical importance of the French presence in the region, and this commitment may finally expose the decline and growing fragility of one of Europe's largest economies. France's problems are coming at the same time that British prime minister David Cameron has set Britain on a path to a popular vote referendum on British continued membership in the European Union. France is a partner with Germany in the two-nation Axis that runs the EU politically. But Britain is second only to Germany as a major provider of funding for the EU. If France should require an economic bailout or Britain votes to leave, the EU will probably begin to disintegrate. These issues should be a primary economic and political focus. Instead, international investors and the media are focused on beginning signs of economic recovery in the US - encouraged by the impact of the Federal Reserve's recent decision to continue pumping money into the US econony. This, combined with US government hyperbole and misleading inflation and unemployment statistics, has masqueraded as good news, allaying fears about the runaway US debt and dysfunctional Washington political scene. These concerns appear to outweigh ECB president Mario Draghi's promises to create as much 'fiat' Euro currency as required to support the sovereign debt obligations of all Eurozone member states. As a result, the Euro has staged a fake return-to-normal rally. But, worries about the economic health of France must be keeping German Chancellor Merkel awake at night. Suggesting that France is a potential death threat to the EU, the Economist's cover for the November 17-23, 2012, issue carried the headline, 'The time-bomb at the heart of Europe.' An open-ended commitment to defend France's former West African colonies against islamist incursions from the Sahara could provoke a fiscal crisis. Whereas the economies of most of the EU bailout nations - Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain - were small enough to be bailed out, France has the fifth largest economy in the world and would bankrupt even Mr. Draghi if it went under. So, dear readers, even though the EU has been out of the spotlight recently, do not be misled. Europe is hurting and the end is far from clear. Mr. Cameron has proposed the right approach -- renegotiate the social, political and fiscal relationships among EU member states so that each of them has a chance to save itself and thus participate in the salvation of the EU.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms

Dear readers, I have tried to avoid the current argument about the reach of the US Constitution's Second Amendment. The text of the Second Amendment is simple : "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." But, I have decided to wade in and share my views with you. Alexander Hamilton, head of the Federalists who favored a strong federal govennment and weak states rights, explained in 1788: "If circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable[i.e., dangerous] to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens." Those today who seek to suppress the meaning of the clear language of the Second Amendment argue that it is wrong to read a right of armed insurrection in the Second Amendment because clearly the founding fathers sought to place trust in the power of the ordered liberty of democratic government versus anarchy. Those who argue for taking the Second Amendment as the universal right of citizens to bear arms prefer the statements of Thomas Jefferson, head of the Anti-Federalists and the strongest supporter of a weak federal government controlled by the states, who wrote often in support of citizens' rights to bear arms : "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." and "The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it." BUT, the Constitution, The Juciciary Act of 1789, and case law has given to the US Supreme Court the responsibility of determining what the Constitution's words mean. AND in 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions officially establishing what the Second Amendment means. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, within many longstanding prohibitions and limitations on firearms possession listed by the Court as being consistent with the Second Amendment. Justice Scalia, writing the Majority Opinion, expressed the limitations to the right to bear arms already in place : "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms....the sorts of weapons protected are those "in common use at the time" [that] finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons." In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government. Prior to the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the courts had yet to definitively state what right the Second Amendment protected. The opposing theories, perhaps oversimplified, were (1) an "individual rights" approach, whereby the Amendment protected individuals rights to firearm ownership, possession, and transportation; and (2) a "states' rights" approach, under which the Amendment only protected the right to keep and bear arms in connection with organized state militia units. In addition, it was generally believed that the Amendment was only a bar to federal action, not to state or municipal restraints. But, the Supreme Court has now definitively held that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that weapon for traditionally awful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Moreover, this right applies not just to the federal government, but to states and municipalities as well. In Heller, the Court held that (1) the District of Columbia's total ban on handgun possession in the home amounted to a prohibition on an entire class of "arms" that Americans overwhelmingly chose for the lawful purpose of self-defense, and thus violated the Second Amendment; and (2) the District's requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock also violated the Second Amendment, because the law made it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self- defense. The Court reasoned that the Amendment's prefatory clause, i.e., "[a] well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State," announced the Amendment's purpose, but did not limit or expand the scope of the operative clause, i.e., "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Moreover, the prefatory clause's history agreed with the Court's interpretation, because the prefatory clause stemmed from the Anti-Federalists' concern that the federal government would disarm the people in order to disable the citizens' militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. Further, the Court distinguished United States v. Miller, in which the Court upheld a statute requiring registration under the National Firearms Act of sawed-off shotguns, on the ground that Miller limited the type of weapon to which the Second Amendment right applied to those in common use for lawful purposes. In McDonald v. Chicago, the Court struck down laws enacted by Chicago and the village of Oak Park effectively banning handgun possession by almost all private citizens, holding that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporated the Second Amendment right, recognized in Heller, to keep and bear arms for the purpose of self-defense. The Court reasoned that this right is fundamental to the nation's scheme of ordered liberty, given that self- defense was a basic right recognized by many legal systems from ancient times to the present, and Heller held that individual self-defense was "the central component" of the Second Amendment right. Moreover, a survey of the contemporaneous history also demonstrated clearly that the Fourteenth Amendment's Framers and ratifiers counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to the Nation's system of ordered liberty. So, dear readers, we can draw two conclusions about the current argument. First, no municipal, state or federal right to eliminate the basic right of citizens will be agreed to by the US Supreme Court - and if such a Supreme Court decision were to be handed down, that would call into question the good faith of the government, and citizens would be expected, at least by the Founders, to rebel in order to protect their Second Amendment right to bear arms. A Boston Globe editorial last week reminded its readers that without the right to bear arms, American citizens have no other rights because they could not defend them. But, on the other side, bazookas, rocket launchers, if indeed they are included in the Second Amendment as "arms" at all, and assault weapons and multi-bullet clips may also be outside the scope of the Second Amendment, at least as seen by the Court majority in Heller, which protects those arms " common use for lawful purposes." We don't yet know the Court's answer to that question. My guess is that they would be restrained as outside the scope of the Second Amendment. Thus, as in every fundamental issue found under the US Constitution, the preferred solution should be debate and legislation that takes into account every position on the issue. But, since the right to bear arms is the basic protection offered by the Constitution to citizens who face a very powerful federal government, the debate should favor rights as against restrictions concerning the Second Amendment. Liberties negotiated away are very difficult to recover.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Roman Empire's Lessons for America

I just read a Charles Krauthammer piece on Obama's socialist-leftist agenda and his bold descriptipn of it in his second inaugural address. And, rather than making me want to say 'Amen' for the hundredth time, Krauthammer's analysis made me think of the Roman Empire. Since its 'fall', we in the West have always used it to measure our own successes and failures - almost as a diagnostic tool to tell us where we are on the lifetime endgame of nations. That Obama is a socialist determined to expand ad infinitum the budget-destroying welfare handouts meant to buy the middle class can no longer be disputed. That his wife has ingratiated herself with military families by pretending to cater to their special needs is old news. But, we are slow to ask why. That's what turned my thoughts to Rome. Popular history has it that Rome was destroyed by barbarian invasions. That version skims over the real series of events. Rome became an Empire by crossing its southern borders into the eastern Mediterranean and its northern borders to 'pacify' what is today France, Germany and Britain. It was in search of territory to provide food and land for its growing non-Roman military population. Although officially forbidden, pillage and land grabs were expected of Rome's soldiers. They were meant to settle on the Empire's far borders to better protect the 'real' Romans. They were supported by barbarian mercenaries who soon co-opted and outnumbered them. And their pillage reduced the huge sums Rome paid to support her great armies. But the real price paid by Rome for its expansionist agenda - often justified as permitting the lex romana, the unequaled Roman law, to expand and take good government and administration to the 'barbarians' - was a weakening of the traditional ties of the enlisted military to their Rome-based generals and of these generals to their emperor. The chain of command was too extended to continue to engender the fierce loyalty of the Republic's military to their state because they were no longer trained in Rome nor did they directly swear loyalty to a Roman consul or general. The Empire was not the earlier Republic. It lacked the social cohesion because barbarians came to Rome to lobby, and they stayed, married, and changed the face of Rome itself. These same barbarians saw firsthand how over-extended Rome was weak her ties to her own military were...and the word went back to the north where barbarian tribal military units were still spartan. The rest we like to say...history. ~~~~~ Back to Obama. He is president of an expansionist republic teetering on the brink of becoming an Empire. All that is required is sufficient welfare to prevent Americans from defending their freedom to refuse handouts. The 'real' Americans of every background who understand and love America's legal system are being co-opted by newcomers, many illegal immigrants, who truly need the handouts. The national budget is largely expended for the handouts and for the military, which will one day take over political power by simply controlling the budget and with it the handouts and the soldiers on the fringes of the Pax Americana, whose loyalties will be to their commanders, not to the President.. The rest - infrastructure, education, technology - are already being ignored. The 'barbarians' recognize this weakening process for what it is - territorial expansion under the false name of spreading democracy. They are infiltrating at the edges of the Pax Americana in faraway places with strange names, waiting their time. But they will strike. And they will win. The victory will be incremental and largely unnoticed. And poor Barack Obama, trapped in his 1930s socialist time capsule, doesn't even realize what is happening.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Media Is Endangering the American Two-Party System

The media continues to massively and unashamedly publicly favor and support Obama and his policies. They are actively joining in the Obama tactic of trying to marginalize the Republican Party and its opposition to those Obama policies. The latest, and frankly shocking, example of this media position bias came a week ago, provided by CBS News Political Director John Dickerson on, in which he advised Mr. Obama to "declare war on the Republican Party" because he "can only cement his legacy if he destroys the GOP." According to Mr Dickerson, if the President "wants to transform American politics, he must go for the throat" and"pulverize" and "his goal should be to delegitimize his opponents." After an avalanche of conservative outrage, Mr. Dickerson tried to back-peddle, saying his piece was "analysis—not advice." Ludicrous. And media bias is not confined to CBS and its Political Director. Mr. Dickerson simply wrote what many of his colleagues are writing or saying on TV in less dramatic,but equally dangerous, terms every day. In the United States, a political action committee ( PAC) is a type of organization that campaigns for or against candidates, ballot initiatives or legislation. At the federal level, an organization becomes a PAC when it receives or spends more than $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election, according to the Federal Election Campaign Act. Clearly, American media are spending huge amounts of in-kind money, also covered by the Act, every day as they continue their unprecedented drumbeat for Obama and against the GOP. Of course, we could not demand that each media entity register as a PAC - that would violate their overriding constitutional right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. BUT - we can demand legislation that requires the media to publish or report on TV every day an accounting of the prior day's content pro or con any elected political official or political party. A simple percentage estimate, made by an independent ombudsman, would do. If we do nothing- if our response is simply to continue to complain about the growing media bias - then we are aiding in the elimination of the two-party system in America.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Three Agenda Items for Mr. Obama

Dear President Obama, on Tuesday, I suggested that your concern for civil rights and equality issues as a major agenda item of your second term is outmoded. But, this isn't too serious a setback because you have a lot of choices remaining for areas in which you could devote your time during the next four years. Republican strategist Karl Rove says you have "abandoned any thought of 'substantive achievements'" in your second term. Rove believes your real agenda is to make Republicans "look extreme" in order to help Democrats in the 2014 mid-term elections. "It's about positioning, about making the Democratic Party be more popular with his coalition, and try and win the 2014 elections by making the Republicans look extreme." Rove, who was a top political adviser to former President George W. Bush, called on Republicans to respond aggressively, "not simply by blocking the bad stuff, but by taking their strength in the House to pass positive items that pile up over in the Senate," he said, adding that it's likely none of the bills passed will ever be really considered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But Rove thinks such bills would provide "the outline of a GOP agenda that says to the American people that the president is more worried about gun control, gay marriage and other issues than tending to the nation's economic and debt problems....I think [the president's Inauguration Day speech] was completely political and not focused on the big challenge the country faces, which is getting our economy going," Rove said. ~~~~~ Mr. President, I really hope Karl Rove is wrong...but he is usually right. Nevertheless, just in case you have time for a few agenda items, I would like to direct your attention to the following areas that are crying out for you to take charge and push them forward for the benefit of America and the world. (1). The US unemloyment rate is 7.7%, down to be sure, but based in a 63% participation rate, one of the lowest in recent history. You never did much about jobs, even in your first term, but if your inaugural address is any indication, you seem to have completely forgotten that you ought to be working day and night to get Americans back to work. This is an 'imperative' and if you are looking for something to fill your days, since civil rights won't require much of your time, jobs should be your first priority. (2). There is a growing bi-partisan concensus that immigration reform is now possible because both Democrats and Republicans want to be seen as helping the Hispanic community end its residency limbo. Not only this, but solving the illegal immigrant problem is the right thing to do, as Bill Clinton would probably put it. And, this should not take much negotiation savvy or work on your part - just a few photo ops with GOP Senator Marco Rubio and the Hispanic leaders who are working with him should do a lot toward helping you begin creating your "legacy." (3). The Israel - Palestine peace negotiations have not even gotten around to talking about the venue or the shape of the table since you were elected in 2008. You need to devote yourself to this crisis while there is still time to put a deal together before Iran settles the question with a nuclear bomb. Here, you will actually have to do some work - mend the fences with Israeli prime minister Netanyahu as the first step before anything else can happen; then use your office to force both sides to stop posturing and bring their serious wish lists to a negotiation that must result in an accord. The recent Israeli elections that moved the Knesset slightly to the center, as well as the Abbas desire to re-establish his West Bank Palestinian Authority as the legitimate government, and not Hamas in Gaza, should make the negotiations at least somewhat easier. There you have it, Mr. President, three agenda items desperately needing to be accomplished. Give it a just might actually accomplish something...finally.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Britain Will Finally Have Its EU Referendum

The prospect of a British referendum on its European Union membership has loomed more or less large in the wings of British political program discussions ever since Britain joined the EU. But Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron put it on the front burner, pledging to offer citizens a vote on whether to leave the European Union if his party wins the next election in 2015, prompting rebukes from European leaders accusing the premier of putting the bloc's future at risk over domestic politics. Cameron used a long-awaited speech in central London to say that the terms of Britain's membership in the bloc should be revised and the country's voters should have a say. The Party will renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU if it wins the next general election. "Once that new settlement has been negotiated, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in-or-out choice to stay in the EU on these new terms. Or come out altogether," Cameron said. His proposal antagonize other countries focused on stemming the Eurozone debt crisis. Britain, historically immensely independent, has never been an enthusiastic member of the bloc, seeing itself as culturally different and balking at having policy dictated by Brussels. But the popular demand for a referendum has grown over fears that new EU regulations to address the debt crisis will further restrict the country's control over its own economic policies. Many EU member states, which had in the run-up to the speech stressed the importance of Britain's presence in the bloc (as well they might since Britain is second only to Germany in its financial contribution to the EU), took a sharper tone after Cameron spoke. Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said Cameron was playing "a dangerous game," and accused him of playing domestic politics. French President Hollande said the EU cannot be negotiated. Britain does not use the Euro currency, but membership of the EU has given the UK access to the massive joint European market as well as a say in how the region should govern itself and run its financial markets. The country has also benefited from EU funds to build infrastructure such as broadband networks. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Germany hopes Britain will remain an active member of the EU, saying "a policy of cherry-picking won't work." Cameron's position is that Britain is renegotiating the EU treaty - not leaving the bloc. He acknowledged that many other EU member states may be frustrated by Britain's attitude: "work with us on this," he said. Britain's goal is to reshape the bloc, protect and complete the single market, allow the transfer of powers on issues from crime to working hours back from Brussels to national governments, and make Europe's economy more competitive and its institutions more flexible and democratically accountable. He thinks it is misguided to require everything to be harmonized. "Countries are different. They make different choices. We cannot harmonize everything." Germany said it is "of course prepared to talk about British wishes, but we must always bear in mind that other countries have other wishes," a foreign ministry spokesman said. Even as he talked of a referendum, Cameron restated his view that Britain should stay in the EU. He said he wants a positive vision for the future of the European Union. "A future in which Britain wants, and should want, to play a committed and active part," Cameron said. "There is no doubt that we are more powerful in Washington, in Beijing, in Delhi because we are a powerful player in the European Union." Cameron's program of renegotiation and referendum hinges on a Conservative victory in the next general election in 2015. But he said legislation will be drafted before 2015 so that if his party wins, it can be introduced and passed quickly to ensure a vote "in the first half" of the next Parliament. Frans Timmermans said in a statement that The Netherlands agrees with many of Cameron's criticisms of the EU. But he added that he hopes Britain will remain in the EU because reform must come from within, not be "walking away.". Dear readers, David Cameron has finally voiced publicly what many other EU countries think but have been hesitant to express. The EU cannot and should not want to try to suppress the many cultures that exist inside the EU. Economic and trade rules should not take away each country's right to regulate its internal affairs. No one in the EU hierarchy seems to understand that the United States Constitution does not call for uniformity. It puts all powers at the state level except for those powers expressly given to the federal government. The EU has done just the opposite - putting all power in an unelected bureaucracy in Brussels that dictates to the member states. It cannot work, especially in a union as diverse culturally and economically as Europe. Let us hope that Mr. Cameron succeeds in devolving power back to the member states, for only then will the EU have a chance to survive and prosper.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

President Obama's 50-year-old Inaugural Address

Dear President Obama, you gave a stirring inaugural address. The only problem is that a lot of it should have been delivered 50 years ago...on the Mall with Martin Luther King. I don't know why you decided to talk about America's domestic inequality and pulling blacks, hispanics, women and gays onto a flat playing field. Those of us somewhat older than you - whites, blacks, women, Asiatics and hispanics - have already fought and won that fight. If you don't get this truth, take a walk...visit any office, school, sports club, restaurant, store...note the mix of faces of every hue. We did it...and Dr. King was were Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. So, unless all that elevated rhetoric was directed solely at gays who, it is true, still need to be fully accepted in all states and by all Americans -- if that's what has preoccupied you and prevented you from doing the work that really needs to be done in 2013 -- you can sleep easy at night. America has already done the hard work of integration. Of course, it left some messy spots to be cleaned up, but we're working on that, too, and we'll get there. And if you don't believe us old folks, ask your daughters, or any white, black, hispanic or Asiatic young person. They are color blind. Thank goodness. And maybe you should try to be color blind, too.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Inauguration - America's Special Day

The 44th elected President of the United States has been sworn in and has delivered his Inaugural Address. This democratic and peaceful transition of power has occurred every four yeas since March 4th,1789, when George Washington was sworn in and gave his First Inaugural Address. Nothing has ever prevented or delayed this uniquely American transfer of power. Not even the Civil War overrode the constitutional obligation to elect and swear in a President every four years. Americans are used to being told that they are a young people with a history much shorter than other nations. But, if we consider the status of some of these other countries in March, 1789, another picture develops. *George III was still King of England. *Germany was still a loose agglomeration of states being held togther as an Empire by Prussian power and the Hohenzollern dynasty. *Italy was under French occupation and otherwise a peninsula of independent states. *Canada would not become a united country for more than 50 years. *Mexico was still New Spain and because of its silver mines the richest country in the Americas. *China was a poor country led by emperors and warlords. *Japan was still closed to foreigners and would be for another 60 years. *Russia was ruled by Tsar Paul I, the son of Catherine the Great, who died just three years before Washington was elected. *Australia was still being used largely as a place to send British criminals. *Switzerland had been a Confederation for 500 years but was 60 years away from its modern system. *And even France was four months away from the Estates Generals that gave governing power to the National Assembly, which adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man in June, 1789. Dear readers, the American Declaratipn of Independence, the forerunner of the French Declaration, had already been adopted in 1776. The American Constitution was already adopted, in 1787, including the Bill of Rights. So, while America may be a young nation, it is an old constitutional republic. We could say that America is the oldest continuing constitutional republic in the world. And Americans have never deviated from the precious documenr that guides their political system. As a side note, the American Constitution is the most often copied governing document in the world. So, enjoy your special day, America.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

To Lance Armstrong...with Love

Dear Lance, we watched these last two nights as you began to make peace with yourself and asked for the chance to make peace with us. In other times, we watched as you turned your great athletic gift into a symphony of victories. We also watched and prayed that you were really cured of the cancer that menaced your life and we joined your crusade to find more cures for the deadly disease. We watched and hoped you were 'clean', knowing that no one in your sport was. And now, we grieve at your fall from grace, we are angry and detest the system that degraded you, and we are humiliated to learn that you, our icon, are human after all. But, we loved you in your golden years and we love you now...disgraced and contrite. We pray, we watch, we encourage you to win this last, greatest race you will ever run - the race back to our waiting hearts and to your own self-respect...back to grace. To those who now curse you, I offer the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Are we not all prodigals seeking forgiveness and our loved ones' welcoming arms. God bless you, Lance... our father, husband, brother, son. God bless.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Parable of the Prodigal Son. St. Luke 15:11-32.  Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: 'Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with love and threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and us found.' ~~~~~~ The Holy Bible. New International Version (NIV).

Friday, January 18, 2013

Brilliant : "No budget, no pay"

The total non-activity of the part of President Obama and the Democrat majority in the Senate in trying to resolve the current national debt ceiling limit has become almost a joke. And it has led Republican House Speaker John Boehner to organise his majority to make their own debt ceilng proposal. We already know, dear readers, that whatever the GOP presents will be ridiculed by the Democrats -- but finally the GOP has decided to confront head-on the political tricks being played by Obama, Harry Reid and his Senate Democrat majority. The Republican House will vote next week to permit the federal government to continue to borrow money to meet its obligations. If approved, the House will have enabled America to avoid an immediate market-destabilizing confrontation with President Obama over the debt limit. The measure would give the government three more months of borrowing authority beyond the ceiling expected to be reached in mid-February. The bill will not force immediate spending cuts. Instead, it proposes to force the Democratic-controlled Senate to join the House in debating the federal budget, something neither President Obama nor his Democrats in Congress have offered in the past four years, even when they controlled both houses of Congress, preferring to avoid budget debates by operating under continuing spending resolutions. The House idea is ingenious - it would condition the pay of members of Congress on passing a congressional budget measure. Boehner told GOP lawmakers at a retreat in Williamburg, Va. : "The principle is simple: 'no budget, no pay.'" True to form, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said : "If the House can pass a clean debt-ceiling increase to avoid default and allow the United States to meet its existing obligations, we will be happy to consider it." Boehner may have hit on the only tactic that can unite all Americans - punish Congress, already at the bottom of the political barrel in opinion polls, for ignoring the fact that they and Obama are obligated to present a budget. Boehner has already won $2 trillion in spending cuts as a condition of increasing the government's borrowing cap in 2011. His new idea is far better than Obama's and Reid's method of threatening the most vulnerable Americans with a cut-off in Social Security and Medicare payments. Boehner said : "The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to pass a budget for four years. That is a shameful run that needs to end, this year." Key GOP conservatives, including the current and former chairmen of the Republican Study Committee, a powerful group inside the House GOP, support Boehner : "This is a necessary first step as we work to halt the decline of America and puts the focus where it belongs: on the Senate who has failed to do their jobs to pass a budget for more than three years." The statement was issued by RSC Chairman Steve Scalise, and former chairmen, Jim Jordan, along with Tom Price and Jeb Hensarling. So, instead of presenting yet another GOP House budget that the Senate always refuses to consider, Speaker Boehner is hitting a do-nothing Congress where it will hurts most - in their own pocketbooks.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What Are America's Goals in Mali?

Based on statements being made by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and both authorized and unauthorized US Defense Department sources, we can reach several conclusions about the emerging American position concerning support for the French effort to rid Mali, and perhaps West Africa, of al-Qaida jihadists. (1). AMERICA WILL NOT LET AL-QAIDA TAKE ROOT IN AFRICA. The Obama administration last year declared it cannot accept new terrorist sanctuaries in Mali or anywhere else and has promised to support French and African efforts to restore security. (2). AMERICA DOES NOT WANT ANOTHER AFGHANISTAN. After almost a year of political disorder in Mali, Washington is still keeping the conflict at arm's length to avoid being dragged into yet another war in a remote Islamic country with little infrastructure or military expertize. (3). AMERICA WILL NOT FINANCE THE ENTIRE MALI EFFORT. Washington probably does not want to assume the financial burden of a potentially lengthy fight against extremists, and is wary of the Malian government dominated by military officials who've chased out a president and a prime minister over the last 10 months. (4). AMERICA WILL SUPPORT WHAT IT SEES PRIMARILY AS A EUROPEAN RESPONSIBILITY. The US believes France can do the job, if America provides intelligence, airlift capability among the African nations providing troops, unmanned drones and other tactical logistics support, but stopping short of offering to send American ground troops to keep terrorists from carving out a safe haven in Mali similar to that in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks. Defense Secretary Panetta said this week that the US must pursue the terrorist network "wherever they are," including Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa. It may be that the US role in Mali will be somewhat like its role in Somalia, where the US has paid the bill for Ethiopian efforts to root out al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked group. (5). AMERICA NEEDS A MORE DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT IN MALI. The US has cut most ties with Mali's government because it is a caretaker body influenced by the military's Captain Amadou Sanogo, who ousted the country's democratically elected president in March and helped oust its interim prime minister last month. By law, the US cannot provide military assistance to Mali's regime until democracy is re-established. Thus, it must work indirectly through its French and African partners to help fight extremists in Mali, making it difficult to sort out what the U.S. can provide, to whom and how. Secretary Panetta told reporters in Rome yesterday : "Lawyers basically have to review these issues to make sure that they feel comfortable that we have the legal basis for what we're being requested to do." (6). AMERICA EXPECTS A LONG FIGHT AGAINST AL-QAIDA AND NATION BUILDING IN AFRICA. President Francois Hollande says France won't leave until Mali is safe, which may turn out to be a mission with a difficult long-term goal. For example, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland has said that stabilizing Mali will require a government and a military that is strong enough to hold the territory and keep the peace after extremists are defeated. That is one of the reasons why America has demanded progress toward the restoration of democracy before intervention, a position that was recently softened as Touareg rebels in the Mali north and their jihadist allies rapidly advanced south. It may be that the US will leave the fighting to France and African allies and focus on "nation building" in Mali, a task that seems to have become, almost by default following President Bush's largely successful effort in Iraq, one of America's universal goals in fighting al-Qaida.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What Is Really Happening in Mali?

"When in doubt, we will not fire," the French defense minister said today, trying to reassure the civilian population in Mali that French air strikes will avoid them to the maximum extent possible. He added that the French continued their airstrikes overnight into Wednesday. Targets destroyed so far include training camps, logistical depots, command centers and armored vehicles that the jihadists had earlier seized from Mali's government forces. French President Francois Hollande authorized the airstrikes last Friday after the islamic jihadists began a push southward toward the capital from the northern half of Mali that they control since seizing it last April in the chaos following a coup in Mali's capital. The French bombardments began in the town of Konna, on the north-south demarcation line, which the rebels occupied last Thursday. After initially saying they had stopped the rebel advance, France's defense minister on Tuesday acknowledged that Konna was still in the hands of the rebels. The jihadists have since taken the garrison town of Diabaly, farther south and 400 kilometers (210 miles) from the capital, Bamako. The French army is now massing troops and armored vehicles 70 kiloneters (25 miles) south of Diabaly, and the defense minister has said that an advance will begin within 72 hours. The French ground troops are expecting the arrival of promised neighboring country troops, but they have yet to deploy. And in what could be the first regional spillover from France's intervention in Mali, islamist militants attacked and occupied a natural gas complex, partly operated by energy giant BP, in southern Algeria on Wednesday. Two foreigners were killed and dozens of others, including Americans, were taken hostage. The rebels say they are holding 41 foreigners, including seven Americans. Local authorities estimate that around 20 people are being held, including Americans, Britons, Norwegians, French and Japanese. Moulathamine, or the Masked Brigade, called a Mauritanian news outlet to say one of its affiliates had carried out the operation on the Ain Amenas gas field. Hamaha, a leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, one of the rebel groups controlling Mali's north, was in charge of the move against Diabaly. He is also a close associate of Moktar Belmokar, a leader of a local al-Qaida cell who claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the foreigners in Algeria. Hamaha said the kidnapping was retribution for the French-led attack on the Islamists in Mali. "We are now globalizing our conflict," he said. ~~~~~ Dear readers, we must consider several possibilities. First, and very likely, the al-Qaida headquarter groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan have concluded that with the coming withdrawal of American troops fom Afghaniztan, they can safely leave the region to the local Taliban, who will be able to subdue the population and co-opt the Afghan and Pakistani security forces. Second, this means that al-Qaida is now in a position to take its jihad against the West elsewhere. What are the al-Qaida targets and goals? To further infiltrate and frighten Europe by taking the battle into Europe and gaining footholds on the continent. They already have cells in France, Germany and Britain ready to act. But to do this on a meaningful scale requires a launching point closer than Afghanistan...enter Mali. Al-Qaida related groups have been forming and training cells in Mali, Libya, Sudan and Somalie for sometime. Mali would seem to be the focal point because its north is landlocked and thus unavailable to naval bombardments and blockades. Provisioning from Sudan and Somalie are possible. And the entire West Africa area is Moslem, although French culturally. Mali is now the jumping off point for many clandestines seeking entry into Europe - why not for jihadists, too. Third -- this is the least substantiated -- have Western armies and intelligence forces reached the same conclusion? Do they want to take the fight to al-Qaida in Mali because it is open terrain where they can wear down the jihadists, forcing al-Qaida to commit large amounts of money, men and munitions in a war of pride and survival. And did the French and other Western military and intelligence forces lead President Hollande down a garden path - knowing all along that his agreement to bomb the jihadists would not save Mali but lead to the all-out war to destroy al-Qaida that they have planned for since 9/11. Stay tuned, dear readers. We have a long road ahead of us.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Gun Control, Congress and the Second Amendment

Yesterday, dear readers, we talked about three items that will be prominent in this week's news. Today, we should discuss a fourth item that will be dominant for the next several months. It is the question of gun control under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. What would be a normal battle of wills between the President and Congress when they disagree about how to handle any specific issue becomes fundamental when it involves the Constitution - as gun control does because of the Second Amendment's proscription : "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." In the wake of the Newtown killing of 26 children between 6 and 7 years of age, and the renewal of the American debate on gun control as a preventive against mass murders, President Obama told the White House press corp yesterday that he is reviewing actions, including issuing executive orders, where he could take action without congressional approval to confront gun violence in the nation. Obama said he would present a plan within days. The options include stronger background checks, a meaningful ban on assault weapons, and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Obama said that he is unsure if such steps could pass Congress. Thus his reference to the use of executive orders : “I’m confident there are some steps we can take that don’t require legislation and that are within my authority as president,” Obama said.“ Such hints from the White House in the last two weeks has prompted a second discussion -- is it possible for a President to overide a constitutional provision by avoiding Congress and opting for presidential decrees called executve orders. Ronald Reagan's Attorney General, Ed Messe, has added his opinion to that of several law professors and the legal reporter for CNN : "It would not be legal. It would not be constitutional,” Meese told Newsmax. “And, indeed, if he tried to override the Second Amendment in any way, I believe it would be an impeachable offense.” So, Americans will be presented not only with questions about how and whether to control guns but also with how such controls, if any, would be enacted. The idea of tougher gun laws has brought fierce resistance from the National Rifle Association and other gun-control advocates, as well as from members of the House and Senate, both Democrat and Republican. The NRA contends that their meeting last week with Vice President Joseph Biden’s gun-violence task force became a strategy session on how to thwart the Second Amendment. “It should be remembered that the president cannot by executive order do things that affect the public at large unless there is some congressional basis for it,” Meese told Newsmax. “In other words, some Congressional authority he has been given. An executive order without specific congressional authority can only apply to those portions of the government that are under his control — in other words, the executive branch. Now there are some things he can probably do in regard to the actions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or some other governmental agency in its operations.“ But, explained Meese, if President Obama moves unilaterally on the gun issue, “Then, it would be up to the Congress to take action, such as looking in to it to see if, in fact, he has really tried to override the Constitution itself,...In which case, it would be up to them to determine what action they should take — and perhaps even to the point of impeachment.” Impeachment is controlled at the federal level by Article II, Section 4, of the US Constitution : "The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors." The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaching, that is of investigating and voting to impeach. The Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments. The removal of impeached officials is automatic upon conviction in the Senate. In Nixon v. United States (1993), the Supreme Court determined that the federal judiciary cannot review such proceedings because they are constitutionally under the sole control of Congress and, thus, political in nature. So, the problem for opponents of gun control by executive order becomes political, too. A 2/3 vote is required for the Senate to impeach and remove someone, here Obama, from office. But, the Democrats control the Senate and would block a vote for impeachment. The only solution is for the GOP to win a 2/3 Senate majority in the 2014 elections. An almost impossible task. This is why President Obama is so sure of his position.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mali - Gay Rights - the US Debt Ceiling

Dear readers, it has been an interesting weekend and Monday. Let's run through a few of the items that are sure to stay in the news during the rest of this, the last week before President Obama is inaugurated for his second term. ~~~~~~ (1). The French mission in Mali is still on target, literally, because their bombing sorties have destroyed ammunition and fuel depots in the al-Qaida held north. But Paris has acknowledged that the jihadists are better trained and armed than anticipated. The French media is already asking how long the "war" will last. The government's informal reply is "months." That's a political answer because -- within three days of a military action, the government must inform the National Assembly and if the action continues longer than four months, additional National Assembly approval is required. Stay tuned...and watch for increasing participation from Western allies as France tries to clear West Africa of al-Qaida related jihadists. ~~~~~ (2). In a second French story - but one that reverberates all over the West, some 400,000 French citizens staged a march in Paris on Sunday to express their opposition to President Hollande's plan to legalize same-sex marriages and adoptions. The marchers were polite and quiet, with no intervention by anarchists trashing store fronts. There were young couples with their toddlers, grandparents with children and grandchildren. Ordinary French families. And as they passed churches, often a priest was waiting to wave encouragement. And there were many signs saying that the marchers do not oppose equal civil rights for gays, only marriage, which they see as a quasi-religious engagement, and adoption, which they see as requiring a heterosexual couple for the best welfare of the child. The French Attorney General says she will pursue the president's plan, but there will be a debate and vote in the National Assembly. This is an issue that will continue to occupy people of faith as they see gay people exceeding the boundaries tbey would like to see their government's America as well as France. ~~~~~ (3). President Obama held a press conference today to call on the Congress - in particular, the GOP-controlled House - to pass a trillion dollar debt ceiling without making it a battle over the current budget, which he would like to negotiate separately. President Obama was at his best...outgoing, pleasant with the press, calmly presidential. But his words were iron-fisted. He will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. He will not agree to combine the raising of the debt ceiling with any budgetary discussions. He will not, in effect, do anything to make House Speaker John Boehner's job doable. Boehner responded with a written statement saying the House will pursue its job of budgeting both currently and by working on solving the galloping national debt problem...without directly saying that he will insist on tying the two together. The positions of Obama and Boehner reflect the political fiscal position chasm in the US today. Both Obama and Boehner know that compromise will finally be required. Will it be Vice President Biden, once more, who proves that Obama is not at home in Washington. Much more to follow. ~~~~~ Have a good week, dear readers, and keep these stories in mind as you follow the news.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

France Leads the UN into Mali, America Offers Support

Dear readers, here is a summary of what is happening in Mali...and why. It proves that a united front of nations and the UN Security Council can do real good. If the same international will existed about Syria, the massacre of civilians would end quickly. Mali may also finally prove that al-Qaida is beatable wherever they dig in - if only a united world has the courage to take the fight to them. ~~~~~~ French airstrikes Friday night drove back islamist rebels from Mopti, a key city and important Mali military base, and destroyed a militant command center, the French defense minister said Saturday, as West African nations authorized the immediate deployment of troops to the country. The lawless desert region of northern Mali has been under the control of al-Qaida in Magreb (AQIM) related jihadist groups for the past nine months. They recently advanced closer to the major base of the Malian army and revved up the battle for the vast West African nation, which is much larger than Afghanistan, according to French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. French military intervention came Friday in the former French colony, after the appeal for help from Mali's president. The initial fighting involved hundreds of French troops and airstrikes on three rebel targets, said Le Drian. He said a rebel command center outside the key city of Konna on the southern line of the northern area held by the jihadists was destroyed. A French helicopter was downed by the militants, armed with artillery weaponry taken from post-Qadhafi Libya, as well as the weapons abandoned by Mali's military when they fled their posts in the face of the rebel advance. The French pilot died of his wounds during evacuation. The French drove the militants out of Konna, but a Mali military official said that the city captured by the extremists earlier this week was not yet completely under government control. A jihadist spokesman said their fighters were still in Konna. The West African ECOWAS commission president Kadre Desire Ouedraogo said the bloc had authorized the immediate deployment of troops to Mali, " light of the urgency of the situation." The extremist Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, known as MUJAO, vowed their fighters would soon conquer the capital, Bamako, according to a transcript that the Associated Press said was provided by Washington-based SITE Intelligence. MUJAO called for fighters to attack French interests in retaliation for the air raids and mentioned possible targets, including the French embassy in Niger. The unsuccessful Friday night French commando attack near Mogadishu in Somalia that failed to rescue a French commando held hostage for several years may have been an attempt to get out in front of the jihadist threats against French interests, although Paris said the rescue mission had been authorized several days ago. France's sudden entry into Mali was unexpected after months of debate over whether Western powers should get involved in a military bid to oust the militants, who took advantage of a coup in Mali's capital in March 2012 to capture the north. As recently as December, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cautioned against a quick military operation, warning that it could open the door to human rights abuses. Diplomats had said that September 2013 would be the earliest a military intervention could take place. But that changed when jihadists were discovered preparing for a march south beyond their line of control, located 900 kilometers (540 miles) from the capital. By Thursday, they had succeeded in pushing another 120 kilometers (72 miles) south, bringing them very close to the ill-equipped and ill-trained Malian military in a showdown that couldn't be ignored by the international community. ECOWAS has been talking for months about a military operation to oust the Islamists from northern Mali. The UN Security Council late last year approved a regional force to aid Mail in its fight to drive out the militants, but its approval was, perhaps unnecessarily, hampered by its requirement that the weak Mali military be trained. These efforts have dragged on. The Security Council condemned the recent militant push south and urged UN member states to assist Mali " order to reduce the threat posed by terrorist organizations and associated groups." Mali is ill-prepared to defend itself. It is a very poor country where the daily fight is normally against hunger. But most Malians adhere to a moderate form of Islam that the jihadists are trying to eradicate. They are terrorizing the Malians who live in the north, carrying out amputations in public squares just as the Taliban did. And as in Afghanistan, they are flogging women for not beong completely covered. Since taking control of Timbuktu, they have destroyed seven of the 16 mausoleums listed as world heritage sites. French President Francois Hollande said the "terrorist groups, drug traffickers and extremists" in northern Mali " a brutality that threatens us all." He vowed that the operation would last "as long as necessary.". A spokesman for Mali's defense minister said on Saturday that he was at the Bamako airport to receive a contingent of French special forces from one of their tactical units who will protect the Bamako airport and provide back-up security in the capital. "The situation in Mali is serious," Defense Minister Le Drian said in Paris. "It has rapidly worsened in the last few days ... We had to react before it was too late..." because French intelligence services, he said, had confirmed the presence of militant forces moving against the towns of Mopti and Diabaly. Francois Hollande authorized use of French air power against the column of jihadist fighters who were heading down toward Mopti from Konna. He said that the helicopter raid led to the destruction of "several (jihadist) units and stopped their advance toward the city." French forces based in Chad and their scrambled Mirage 2000 and Mirage F1 fighter jets routed the jihadist fighters. It was in the course of this battle, that one helicopter was downed, and a French pilot fatally wounded. According to the AP, Rudolph Atallah, the former head of counter-terrorism for Africa in the Pentagon, said that officials in Washington were in all-day meetings on Friday, trying to chart a course of action. The United States has previously said it will provide logistical support to the military intervention, including drones, according to a US official not authorized to discuss the matter. In just 24 hours, French forces succeeded in dispersing the Islamists from Konna, the town the fighters had seized earlier in the week. Malian military officials said they were now conducting sweeps, looking for snipers. "Heavy losses have been inflicted on our adversaries, but our mission is not complete," French President Francois Hollande said after a three-hour meeting with his defense chiefs in Paris on Saturday. "I reiterate that it consists of preparing the deployment of an African intervention force to allow Mali to recover its territorial integrity."

Friday, January 11, 2013

France Orders Troops into Mali

BREAKING NEWS. Bravo France. This evening French President Francois Hollande announced that he is sending French troops into Mali, with the accord of the Malian president Troare, who declared a state of emergency as the jihadists who control northern Mali move south to engage Malian troops 700 miles from the capital, Bamako. Hollande said the French mission would last as long as it takes to drive the "terrorist and criminal" jihadists out of Mali. Hollande said their presence in the country represents a menace to Mali, all of Africa and Europe itself. Other West African countries, notably Senegal and Nigeria, immediately committed to send troops to fight alongside the French contingent. French hostages are being held by the jihadists and French special forces have been charged to rescue them. Hollande will seek approval of the French National Assembly on Monday. The French conservative Gaulllist party and the extreme right Front National have announced support for President Hollande's action. British Foreign Secretary William Hague announced British support for the French initiative. Mali has seen the northern half of its country cut off and terrorized by extremist jihadists who are particularly vicious toward women, and men who hold public or business posts. Hollande said that Mali's plea for aid could no longer be ignored. And so, dear readers, once more - as in Libya and Syria - it is France that takes the lead in supporting "peaceful and democratic" people, as Hollade said, and in Mali, he added the future existence of the nation is at risk. French Foreign Minister Fabius said that the jihadists have left their northern stronghold to move south and turn Mali into "a terrorist state." We are waiting for signs of life and recognition from the Obama administration in Washington.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Obama Foreign Policy Fails in Venezuela

Venezuela supporters of Hugo Chavez rallied outside his presidential palace today in an exuberant absentee inauguration for their leader, who is still sequestered in a Cuban hospital, fighting a severe respiratory infection after yet another cancer surgery, and too ill to return to Caracas and be sworn in. The speculation about Chavez' health ranges from positive to rumors that he is already dead or near death. What is obvious is that Hugo Chavez has become a symbol of what he called the "Bolivarian Revolution" and the Venezuelan Supreme Court has backed the symbolism in ruling valid the plan to postpone the inauguration indefinitely, saying the president could be sworn in before the court at a later date. The Venezuelan government said 19 leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean, including Daniel Ortega of Nicaraugua, added political weight to the inauguration without Chavez. Domestic opposition leaders demanded details about Chavez's state and called the delay of the formal swearing-in a violation of the constitution. The crowd chanted: "We are all Chavez!" This is the first time in history that a Venezuelan president has missed his inauguration, called by a historian the first chapter of 'Chavismo' - as it was called by Chavez - without Chavez. "Chavez has now become an ideology," said Elio Silva, a member of the radical Tupamaro grassroots group. He wore a black beret with a single star, a style once worn by Argentine-Cuban revolutionary "Che" Guevara, and said he is sure that whatever happens, "it will all be democratic." The people represent Chavez, said one Chavez supporter, "He is and always will be our leader." A deafening silence is the order of the day in Washington, dear readers. President Obama either does not know what is going on in Venezuela, or, more likely, the affair fits well with his bizarre idea of what America should stand for and support. Obama has tried to reach out to Chavez himself, with little success. Now he seems content to allow a seriously non-democratic regime that is fundamentally anti-American to take root for a second generation and probably a prolonged duration in Venezuela. A regime that many experts say is in reality controlled by the Castro brothers of Cuba, thus permitting Fidel and Raoul Castro to take over one of the largest petroleim reserves in the world. One could argue that this is an anomaly on Obama's part - except for the fact that the democratic governments in South America, Chile, Colombia and Bolivia, have been ignored by the Obama administration. Is South America yet another world region that Barak Obama is willing to let fall into the hands of authoritarian regimes - regimes that will surely harbor terrorists seeking entry into America to work their harm?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Naive Middle Class American Taxpayers

The Obama Tax Bill will arrive in your middle class mailbox soon. Economists are warning that Congress’s fix to prevent falling off the fiscal cliff could take much more cash from the taxpayers’ wallets than generally recognized – as much as $2.2 trillion over 10 years – and may significantly slow economic growth. The full effects of the new tax laws are emerging. Reflecting the progressive nature of the new tax structure, the Tax Policy Center estimates that workers earning between $50,000 and $75,000 will pay an about $822 more in taxes this year. A taxpayer with an income of $1 million will pay an additional $170,000. The biggest surprise for taxpayers? Despite both parties’ promises during the campaign that taxes would not go up for middle-income wage earners, The Tax Policy Center reports taxes will rise for over 77 percent of taxpayers, mostly because of the expiration of the payroll tax holiday. While the number crunching continues, the tax bite of the 157-page American Taxpayer Relief Tax Act of 2012. includes: About $160 billion of revenue this year due to the expiration of the payroll tax “holiday,” which increases the payroll tax that helps fund Social Security from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. According to the Tax Policy Center, this increase will actually hit lower- and middle-income taxpayers harder. Then there is the $62 billion annually due to hiking the top marginal income-tax rate paid by the wealthy from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. Add $15 billion a year from limiting, by a “personal exemption phase out,” or PEP, the exemptions and deductions that wealthier families can claim - the tax bill would rise by about $1,000 according to a Wall Street Journal calculation. Don't forget the $5.5 billion raised by increasing the tax rate for capital gains and dividends from 15 percent to 20 percent (in addition to the 3.8 percent surcharge on investment income for the wealthy, which will kick to help cover the cost of Obamacare). Another $2 billion annually will be collected by increasing the top rate for gift and estate taxes from 35 to 40 percent. The bottom line of the new taxation: less economic growth. “Compared to what the economy would have been had we extended all tax policies,” Heritage Foundation Senior Policy Analyst and tax expert Curtis S. Dubay told Newsmax, “we’re going to have a slower growing economy, we’re going to have fewer jobs, less opportunity for Americans of all income levels.” But Obamacare costs are kicking in this year as well. They include: a 0.9 percent increase in the hospital-insurance (Medicare) payroll tax paid by couples earning more than $250,000 a year (raising $21 billion in additional 2013 tax revenue); elimination of corporate deductions for retirees’ prescriptions, raising tax costs to employers ($4.5 billion); a 2.3 percent excise tax on manufacturers and importers of medical devices, which is expected to be passed along in higher costs to consumers ($2 billion); a reduction in the amount that middle-class families facing high medical expenses can deduct from their income taxes if they incur high medical expenses ($2 billion annually); a $2,500 limit on tax-free flexible spending accounts, which employees use to help defray medical expenses ($1.3 billion). Combine the tax hike stemming from health-care reform, the post-holiday increase in the payroll tax, and the tax increases stemming from the fiscal-cliff bill, and the drain on the economy could exceed $2.5 trillion over the next decade. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D- Calif., described this as “a happy start to a new year.” Good luck and happy paying, all you naive middle class Americans who voted for Obama and continue to believe that he is looking out for your best econonic interests.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hagel Nominated to Be US Defense Secretary

After a lot of speculation and negative commentary from American conservatives and some liberals, President Obama has nominated Chuck Hagel, former Republican Senator from Nebraska, to be the next US Secretary of Defense. Hagel's comments from tbe period when he was a Senator- referring to the "Jewish lobby" and suggesting he would not support its positions - has upset many Senators and ordinary Americans who feel a strong attachment to Israel. He also voted as a Senator against unilateral sanctions against Iran while supporting international penalties on the Iranian regime. He also criticised the open discussion of a military strike by either the US or Israel against Iran. In addition, he upset gay rights groups over comments, including his opposition in 1998 to President Clinton's choice of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. He referred to Hormel as "openly, aggressively gay." Hagel recently apologized, saying his comments were "insensitive." As one would expect, Democrats are flocking to Hagel's support, with the exception of several who are sitting on the Senate committee which will vett him. They point out that Hagel served in Vietnam as an enlisted soldier (eg, not an officer), was wounded, decorated with a Purple Heart as is every wounded combatant, and knows about war from the bottom of the hierarchy. The President even mentioned this as one of his goals in nominating Hagel. Numerous opponents say his expressed views are dangerous in someone who would head the US military, causing Israel further discomfort beyond that already existing because of President Obama's hostility toward Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. They also point out his "soft" attitude toward Iran and its posed nuclear threat. There is no doubt that Hagel is an extremely controversial choice to be Defense Secretary. That President Obama chose him seems to indicate that the President is willing to risk losing, or at least undergoing a bitter confirmation process. History suggests that Hagel will be confirmed after he is taken to task for his past and warned to be careful with his future. Be that as it may, what troubles me, dear readers, is the idea that somehow, in the new world Obama is trying to create, foot soldiers with no professional training in military affairs are to be considered qualified to lead the world's largest and most technically advanced military. I have great respect for ordinary soldiers. They are, in fact, in no way ordinary. Their trained discipline, bravery and devotion to duty keep America and the world safe. But, answer this question. If you needed open heart surgery, would you opt to let an operating room nurse perform the surgical procedure? I know your answer. So, if Hagel is to be confirmed, let it be because he has the required qualifications, not because of faulty logic that makes of honest soldiers what they do not pretend to be themselves.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Bizarre Tale of an Iowa Prison

Today, dear readers, I bring you a story that was carried on the Associated Press Newswire this morning. I apologize for some of the details, but they explain just how bizarre the whole thing was. AP describes how administrators of a prison in the state of Iowa in the United States let offenders in one of the most dangerous units of the prison watch violent and sexually explicit movies and TV shows for years, despite repeated complaints from a female officer who said it encouraged inmates to sexually harass her. Murderers, sexual predators and other men housed at a unit for mentally ill inmates at the maximum-security state prison in Fort Madison were allowed to watch movies such as "Deranged," a horror film that includes a scene in which a woman is beaten, raped, hung upside down and skinned. Among other movies inmates watched were "Delta of Venus," an erotic film, and "Coffey," which shows sadism and attempted rape. When correctional officer Kristine Sink complained, administrators told her not to turn off the movies or shows. When she did, they accused her of insubordination, according to department records that Sink provided to The Associated Press. One warden blamed Sink for causing problems by complaining, and another supervisor suggested her outfits - a standard-issue uniform - were enticing inmates. Her supervisor made her turn round and round so he could decide if her clothes were, indeed, too tight. Her unanswered requests continued for ten years under four wardens against movies that caused inmates to become sexually aggressive, as she described it: "...through 10 years of misery." She filed a lawsuit November 30 against prison officials alleging sexual harassment, discrimination and workplace retaliation, seeking an unspecified amount of damages. When she wrote to Warden John Ault, now retired, in 2010 that inmates were accusing her of trying to eliminate their movies and suggested a supervisor had let them know she complained, Ault said "you, and you alone, have put yourself out there" by turning off movies and complaining. He said it was she who got upset and filed the complaint, even though steps were being taken to select more appropriate movies. "We must remember, however, that we are an institution of adult males, and much of what we show can be seen on general television broadcasts." After asking to be transferred to a different unit for years, Sink was finally transferred after she filed her lawsuit. Dear readers, I leave the sexual harassment issue to the courts in Iowa because it seems hard to imagine how the woman can lose, unless Iowa judges have the same mentality as the wardens of Fort Madison prison. But I cannot begin to explain the logic behind permitting "...murderers, sexual predators and other men housed at a unit for mentally ill inmates at the maximum-security state prison..." to watch such sexually violent films. Did the attending doctors, sociologists and psychiatrists know about the practice? Did they authorize or approve it? Did anyone on the medical staff ever enter the unit to observe their inmate-patients? Did any warden ask for professional advice about the availability of such films to such inmates? In essence, were there any reasonably normal and reasonably intelligent adults in the prison administration that took ten years and a sexual harassment action to stop the films and get the female guard out of harm's way. This affair leaves me in despair.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Is President Obama a Champagne Socialist?

President Barack Obama talks a lot aboutdd wanting the "rich" to pay their fair share in taxes. Dear readers, we may now have a better idea why the President is so unwilling to compromise on this subject. He needs the extra tax dollars to pay for his Hawaiian vacations. His four vacations to Hawaii since becoming President may cost taxpayers “in excess of $20 million, and possibly much, much more,’’ the White House Dossier, a private White House tracker, reports. A breakdown by the Hawaii Reporter shows his trips in 2009, 2010, and 2011 cost about $4 million, much of it for Air Force One. To that must be added costs like flights for advance teams, as well as Michelle Obama's two separate flights to Hawaii. When Obama returned from Hawaii between Christmas and New Year to work on the fiscal cliff deal and then returned to Honolulu, the second Air Force One round trip added about $3.24 million to the presidential holiday travel tab, bringing the 2012-2013 vacation cost to over $7 million, the Reporter said. “If we assume the estimates are probably quite low, then it’s likely that the bill for the combined vacations is more than $20 million,’’ said the Dossier’s Keith Koffler. “Given that much of the cost involves transporting the First Family and its retinue, the Obamas could have saved taxpayers millions by doing what the vast majority of Americans do: taking either one trip a year, or none," Koffler said, while others argue that the President is justified in vacationing each year in Hawaii because that is where he was born and grew up. “How many of us get to go visit our roots for a two week vacation every year?“ Koffler asked. The sad reality is that the Obamas probably don't even consider that their lavish vacation trips cost middle class taxpayers more than they could ever afford for themselves, even for a once in a lifetime vacation. It's another example of what Europeans call "champagne socialists" - the rich leftist / socialists who take up political careers in the effort to tax everyone (but themselves) in order to flatten the income differences created by a market economy, by "robbing" the rich to "give" to the poor. But few are the champagne socialists who actually give up their lavish lifestyles by giving their money directly to the needy. They prefer to keep their own wealth and, instead, redistribute middle class tax payments and benefit concert proceeds. President Obama is no different. His favorite haunts, besides golf courses - it has been reported that he has played more rounds of golf than any other President, are New York City and Hollywood, where he mingles with other champagne socialists and touches them up for campaign contributions. The contributions roll in because his donors hope to keep their tax niches intact. Obama's Hawaii vacations are just the tip of the iceberg.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Peter Weir's Film..."The Way Back"

If you google SÅ‚awomir Rawicz (1915 – 2004), dear readers, you will learn that he was a Polish Army lieutenant who was imprisoned by the Soviets after the German-Soviet invasion of Poland during WWII. In a ghost-written book called Walk, he claimed that in 1941 he and six others escaped from a Siberian Gulag camp and walked over 6,500 km (4,000 mi) south, through the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and the Himalayas to finally reach British India in the winter of 1942. In 2006, a BBC report based on former Soviet records, including "statements" allegedly written by Rawicz himself, showed that Rawicz had been released as part of the 1942 general amnesty of Poles in the USSR and subsequently transported across the Caspian Sea to a refugee camp in Iran and that his escape to India never occurred. Whether the story is true or fiction is irrelevant. I read Rawicz' book in 2005, 50 years after its publication. It was so starkly horrifying in its detailed portrayal of the Soviet gulags and their effect on the human spirit that I had to get through it in small doses over long months. After the gulag, Rawicz recounts the escape and heroic march from Siberia to India, which has its separate horrors of physical and psychological suffering. This evening I stumbled on "The Way Back", a 2010 Peter Weir film about a group of prisoners who escape from a Siberian Gulag camp during World War II. The screenplay by Weir and Keith Clarke, is inspired by the Rawicz book. It stars Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Ed Harris. Peter Weir captures the tone and style of the book so well that 55 years after it appeared and 10 years after I read it, I still had to turn away from some of the scenes. The band of escapees embody a besieged and battered humanity that flee their tormenters rather than die in the gulag, even though the chance of survival is nil. “Nature is your jailer, and she is without mercy,” the guard tells a group arriving at the gulag. Wikipedia describes it : "...the unspeakable conditions, the grime, haunted faces, violent outbursts and eerie lighting — along with the startling contrast between the splendor of the natural surroundings and the ugliness of the camp — makes this place of death come alive..." Peter Weir has once again created a microcosm that reveals the vileness of debased human beings being ground into non-existence by the soaring indomitability of the human spirit. Weir is the master of the quiet human victory over the tragedy of evil. "The Way Back" is the latest example of his lifelong hymn to human dignity and invincibility. Read tbe book. Watch the film. You will be a more complete person for having done it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Nasir Dead; Depardieu Has too Many Passports

There are two stories today. One is about the death of a dissident leader in northern Pakistan, hit by a US drone. The other involves the ongoing fight between French actor Gerard Depardieu and France over his tax status. These two stories may seem unrelated in the extreme, but they show two similar faces of our world - where everyone is reachable, everyone can move out of government control at least temporarily - everyone is vulnerable because technology is all-invasive. AND where money is often both the problem and the solution. ~~~~~~~~(1). An unmanned American drone has killed Maulvi Nazir, an extremist, Taliban/al-Qaida related, leader based in northern Pakistan near rhe Afghan border. Nazir, who often moved around and was wounded at least once by his US pursuers, was killed when two missiles hit the house in a village in South Waziristan where he was meeting with supporters and fellow commanders. Eight other people were killed, according to Pakistani security officials, speaking to western media on condition of anonymity. Nasir's death will be seen in Washington as affirmation of the value of the controversial US drone program. The US Defense Department, which does not confirm drone hits, would not confirm Nazir's death, but a spokesman said that if true, it would be "a significant blow" to extremist groups in the region. Pakistani military and government officials may, however, see his death as a problem, because Nazir did not focus on Pakistani targets and he was said to be cooperating with Pakistan. Their fear could well be that his successor may turn more directly on Pakistan targets, even though Nasir did support others who attacked Pakistan. In addition, the drone strikes infuriate many Pakistanis who see them as a violation of their country's sovereignty. They say that innocent civilians have also been killed, something the US rejects. Nazir's killing could cause even more friction in the already-tense relationship between Washington and Islamabad. However, recently, intelligence cooperation between Pakistan and the US military and CIA has been improving, after December's high-level meeting of defense and intelligence officials in Peshawar cleared the way to release a long-delayed payment of $688 million in US funds to the Pakistan military. The money is part of a regular program to reimburse some of Pakistan's financial outlays in fighting militants and patrolling the Afghan border. The Pakistani high commissioner in London told BBC today that Pakistan has told the US that it would prefer that the drones be given to the Pakistani military so that they can control and target border extremist leaders themselves. ~~~~~~~~~ (2). Gerard Depardieu has moved from France to become just the latest "tax exile." The new French socialist prime minister called him "pathetic." Depardieu answered in a public letter that he had never harmed anyone, that in his 45-year career, he has paid €145 million ($190 million) in taxes to the French government, and so feels free to pursue his life. The glitch is that today Depardieu's good friend, Russian president Vladimir Putin, granted him Russian citizenship. Russia's income tax rate is 13%, a lot better than the French 75%. But, Depardieu has already asked for Belgian citizenship and if he accepts the Russian passport, Belgium may not look so favorably on his petition. Too many choices - at least when it comes to passports - may not be a good thing.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Democrats and Norquist Slaughter GOP Lambs

Macbeth called it "a sound and a fury signifying nothing." That, dear readers, just about sums up what happened in the US Congress on New Year's Day 2013. The preceding night the Senate passed a compromise bill negotiated by Senate GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden. The vote was 89-9. Eight Senators, including Republicans Marco Rubio and Charles Grassley, voted against the Biden-McConnell deal to avert the fiscal cliff. Senator Rubio tweeted: "How can Barack Obama call his proposal a deficit reduction package if it uses tax increase to fund more spending & it increases the debt....I just couldn't vote for 'the compromise.' I ran for office because I wanted to be a part of solving these big problems, and time and again we're faced with options here that don't really do that," he said. "The real fiscal cliff is the one that awaits us, and nothing happened tonight to avoid that,” Grassley said, adding that Obama had reneged on campaign promises. He tweeted that "cliff negotiation to now show Obama proposes $600 billion increased spending paid for by tax wealthy NOT to reduce deficit like election promise." Grover Norquist, the influential president of Americans for Tax Reform, supported the Biden-McConnell plan. “This is progress in terms of making most of the Bush tax cuts permanent,” Norquist told CNN. “Is it enough? No. Does it do anything on spending? No. But that’s what the next four years are going to be. The next four years will be about clawing back the overspending of the Obama years — and now we need to get the spending down,” he added. “This is the beginning of the game,” he told CNN. “Take the 84 percent of your winnings off the table — we spent 12 years getting the Democrats to cede those tax cuts to the American people — take them off the table. Then we go back and argue about making the tax cuts permanent for everyone, and we engage in a four-year, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust fight to cut spending every day....The GOP’s strongest tool in that effort is the debt-ceiling power, and the fact that the White House has to come and ask the House and the Senate for money every month or so because the President hasn’t done a budget. That’s where we’re going to have the continuing-resolution fight over and over again,” he said. “The spending fight’s going to last four years. This is not easy.” The House of Representatives passed the Senate bill on an up-and-down vote on Tuesday, unusual in that the vote was allowed by GOP Speaker John Boehner even though his GOP majority was not going to provide sufficient votes to pass it. The bill raises the income tax rate to 39.6% for incomes exceeding $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples, while making permanent the decade-old income tax cuts for everyone else, well above Obama's campaign vow to boost rates on earnings at lower levels - $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families. The House concession in allowing its Democrat minority to provide the needed votes to pass the bill reversed a quarter-century of Republican opposition to raising any tax rates at all. Besides raising taxes on millions of middle-income families, the bill will extend expiring jobless benefits to the end of 2013, prevent cuts in Medicare reimbursements to doctors, and delay for two months billions in budget-wide cuts in defense and domestic programs slated for this year. The Associated Press quotes Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo, as saying he expects budget policy, including the higher taxes, " shave 0.8% off economic growth in 2013." Vitner predicts it will grow just 1.5% in 2013, down from 2.2% in 2012. The compomise bill allows the Social Security tax to go back up to 6.2%, amounting to a $1,000 tax increase for someone earning $50,000 a year, reducing after-tax income for all workers and hitting lower to middle income families the hardest, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, who calculates that the higher payroll tax will reduce economic growth by 0.6% in 2013. The tax increases in the bill on household incomes above $450,000 a year will slice just 0.15% off annual growth, Zandi said. The measure approved Tuesday would also prevent a potential doubling of milk prices and prevent a $900 salary increase for members of Congress in March. Representative Mark Cantor, GOP Majority Leader from Virginia, voted against the bill, along with many Republicans. The House vote was yea 257 - nea167, with the GOP members voting yea 85 - nea151 and the Democrat members voting yea172 - nea16. ~~~~~~~ So, America has a new tax-and-spend law which spends $10 for every $1 saved. This will add an estimated $4 trillion to the national debt in the next 10 years, while there is nothing in the law about either reducing the national debt or establishing a budget. I believe the GOP was badly out-manoeuvered by Obama and the Democrats. They were cornered by their fear of allowing middle class taxes to rise if they refused the compromise - but middle class taxes are rising with the bill. They wanted budget savings and got a few crumbs from Obama's continuing spending spree. Perhaps the greatest treason of all came from Grover Norquist and his "no new taxes" pledge signed and adhered to by many Republicans. But, Norquist inconveniently told the GOP House to vote for the Biden-McConnell compromise and fight later on the budget issues still to come. Republicans followed Norquist like lambs to the slaughter and they were left savaged and bleeding on New Year's evening. Perhaps it will occur to the new GOP House being sworn in tomorrow that political leadership is not about signing pledges. It is about putting one's principles and vision and intelligence to work for American citizens.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Casey-pops 2013 Predictions

It's New Year's Day, dear readers, and time for Casey-pops predictions for 2013. You can check my 1st January 2012 blog to see how I did this year - let me just say that I had the right topics but was premature wth most of my predictions. The world moved slowly in 2012. ~~~~So here goes : Casey-pops predictions for 2013. (1). President Obama will see his 'higher taxes- more expenditures" program seriously curtailed, not only by the GOP-led House but by moderate Democrats who see his stance as a menace to their re-election. Look for the February debt ceiling negotiation to extend beyond the deadline and the federal bureaucracy grind down for a week or so before agreement is reached. (2). The US will be forced to bolster its troop presence in Iraq to prevent Iran from de facto annexing it in the Iranian effort to gain control of a Syria freed from the al-Assad regime but afloat in chaotic regional political and religious fighting. (3). Russia will salvage its mideast presence by appearing to be the broker of the deal the sees al-Assad exit Syria for exile, probably in the Urkaine, while Russia saves the leadership of the al-Assad military by incorporating them into the new Syrian army. (4). Greece will struggle on with its European Union lifeline, but a serious effort by Germany to solve the problem of the Euro currency strength will lead to the beginning of a plan for a two-level Euro meant to relieve the fiscal troubles in Spain and Italy. (5). Despite her current health problems, before year's end, Hillary Clinton will form an exploratory committee for the 2016 presidential race, and with that, she, and busband Bill, will retake the leadership of the Democrat Party, pushing Obama into an early lame duck role, which he will gladly embrace because he will finally realize that he has no idea about how to control, or even be part of, Washington politics. (6). Raphael Nadal will announce his withdrawal from the weekly grind of the pro tennis tour and will, like Roger Federer, choose his tourneys - because his knees will no longer support the week-after-week punishment that his game forces them to endure. (7). And speaking of sports, I predict that Tiger Woods will win a golf major this year, and my bet is it will be the Masters. ~~~~~~ That's it, dear readers. Happy 2013.