Thursday, February 28, 2013

Adieu, Pope Benedict, Our Holy Father

Adieu, Holy Father. Godspeed as you enter your new life of prayer for the Church, for the world, for all of us. You have marked the seasons of our lives...Advent and our winter watch to Christmas...Lent and our spring watch to Easter...Pentecost and our summer happiness. You have spoken to us in times of sorrow, joy, anguish. Your soft voice has reassured us that you, our loving grandfather and Vicar of Christ, would not leave us alone in this difficult world. We are grateful that you have during these past few days allowed us to tell you how much we have come to love and depend on you and your presence in our lives. Tonight we would be orphans except that we know you are with us today and forever. Please be well and happy...and at peace. Pax tecum.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Has John Boehner Been Called to Be a Hero?

Recently, instead of trying to come to terms with the looming sequester, Washington has been pointing fingers at either President Obama or the Republican House as its author. Famed Washington Post journalist and associate editor Bob Woodward seems to have put the argument to rest. Woodward says that despite President Obama’s insistence that Republicans are to blame for the sequester, it is the President and his White House that are to blame. “The president and (Treasury Secretary Jack) Lew had this wrong,” Woodward wrote last Friday. “My extensive reporting for my book 'The Price of Politics' shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors, probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government....Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,” according to Woodward. “They did so at 2:30 p.m. July 27, 2011, according to interviews with two senior White House aides who were directly involved.” Woodward also cited comments attributed to Nabors. “Nabors has told others that they checked with the president before going to see Reid,” Woodward said. The President and the House have been battling over budget spending and the national debt ever since the GOP took control of the House in 2010, with help from tea party activists who champion lower taxes and an end to deficit budgets. House Republicans refused to raise the nation's borrowing limit in 2011 without major deficit cuts. To resolve the stalemate, Congress passed and Obama signed the Budget Control Act, which temporarily allowed borrowing to resume, set new spending limits and created a bipartisan "supercommittee" to recommend at least $1.2 trillion more in deficit reduction over 10 years. When Republicans and Democrats on the supercommittee failed to compromise, it led to the package of across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts called the sequester. This week the argument has shifted to how to stop the sequester from kicking in or to at least how to re-organize where the $85 billion in annual budget cuts will occur. And, of course, the finger pointing goes on - but now it is in an effort to show just how deep the pain will be because "the other side" won't compromise. The truth is that the effects will not be as bad or immediate as some members of the Obama administration suggest. But the cuts have the potential to be significant if the standoff drags on. The immediate effect will be that 2 million long-term unemployed people could see a $30 cut in benefit checks now averaging $300 a week. Federal subsidies for school construction, clean energy and state and local public works projects could be reduced. Low-income pregnant women and new mothers may have more difficulty signing up for food aid. Much depends on how states and municipalities prioritize the budget cuts. Furloughs of federal employees are a month or more away, when they might have to take up to a day off per week without pay. That's when airport delays, meat inspection, fewer services at national parks and similar cutbacks would kick in. If the sequester continues into autumn, cutbacks will reach farther, probably reducing Head Start slots. But much of the federal budget is off-limits to the automatic cuts : Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, Pell Grants and veterans' programs. The Defense Department warns of a hollowed-out military capability, compromised border security and spreading deterioration of public services if the sequester continues. It's "like a rolling ball," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. "It keeps growing." And, dear readers, Napolitano ought to know because her department has just authorized the release of 300 criminal illegal immigrant detainees in Arizona, in order to stay within the budget. Homeland Security says they are low risk detainees who will be monitored. Arizona law enforcement officials say the whole affair is a bad joke because those released have spent years avoiding detection as illegal immigrants and because the sequester hasn't even kicked in yet. For the most part, Americans are taking the sequester in stride. A poll last week by the Washington Post found that less than a third think the budget cuts would deeply affect their own financial situation. Sixty percent, however, believe the cuts would have a major effect on the US economy. Perhaps the major worry among Americans is that uncertainty about future government spending is causing businesses to hold back on investment and hiring, and so consumers are less confident about their own spending. And as the sequester inches closer, becoming effective at midnight on Friday, there's still no deal. Neither side shows signs of blinking - or even negotiating. President Obama has scheduled a meeting of key congressional leaders for Friday afternoon, but that is within hours of the sequester becoming effective -- and far too late to stop it. The President seems to be staging his latest political theatre piece. It is GOP House Speaker John Boehner's steely refusal to be bullied that is most telling. It may be that the world is about to see the final act of America's fiscal crisis. Boehner and the House GOP may now be ready to stand firm against the continuation of the Obama $1 trillion annual budget deficits. There have been times in American history when ordinary politicians have been called to heroic action. It may now be John Boehner's time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Creating a Powerful GOP

A group of well-known evangelical leaders is launching a new voter initiative to increase turnout among Christian voters in next year’s mid-term elections. The American Renewal Project, an arm of the conservative American Family Association, is creating “Pastors and Pews,” to offer policy briefings to church leaders and their congregations in the hope of encouraging Christians to become more politically active, following years of declining turnout among voters of faith. The group told the Christian Broadcasting Network that the first event will be in May in Des Moines, Iowa. As an indication of their serious intent, they've invited three possible Republican 2016 presidential contenders to address them : Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio confirmed that the Florida Senator received the invitation, but said he “will not be able to attend.” Spokesmen for Paul and Jindal have not commented. The new initiative hopes to unite pastors over crucial issues facing the church and society, according to a spokesman who said, “If the key to maintaining sustainable freedom is righteousness—the same virtue that produced freedom—what is the greatest threat to freedom? Unrighteousness....America has left God.” The group’s efforts come after former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed led an effort to increase voter turnout among faith voters during the 2012 election. His group, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said evangelical voters made up 27% of the voting electorate, much better than the 2008 election turnout, but still not enough to help Republican Mitt Romney win the White House. ~~~~~ Dear readers, this announcement us just the beginning of a larger relational confrontation between the Republican Party and voters of faith, as well as other groups, who tend to support the GOP. Religious groups ought to actively support their principles and candidates who agree with them, just as other groups of GOP voters should be active in their support of candidates who espouse their principles. But no group inside the GOP, or any other political party, should expect 100% adherence to all their principles from any candidate or party. If for example, this new group wants to play a part in the Republican Party, and agrees to support GOP political principles -- personal liberty, political and religious freedom, small government, free markets -- the group would be warmly received. But every voter group, whether based upon faith or upon other guiding principles, should understand that political parties are not monolithic structures, but rather coalitions of varied groups holding many different sets of principles. It is the duty and the goal of every successful political party to forge from these multiple principles an over-arching set of political principles that welcomes and upholds all the sub-sets. No group is the sole constitutuency in the GOP. This truth applies to every group that wants to be an active part of the Party. It is the duty of the Republican Party to have this discussion with all its constituent groups and then find ways to agree and assimilate as much of each group's principles as possible. It is the duty of each constituent group to engage in this discussion with the GOP and help forge the great coalition. Because when we consider the fundamental bases upon which the Republican Party was founded by Abraham Lincoln and his colleagues, we must come to the conclusion that no other party has ever so fully met the political, social and religious aspirations of the American people. The GOP represents the best, the only, chance to put these ideals and principles back into our nation's agenda. Individual liberty, political and religious freedom, small government and free markets are not dead and beyond reach, but their recovery will require the best of each of us - individually and as groups. It is these cherished political principles put into practice through GOP officeholders that will guarantee the continued existence of the highest human principles ever put into a political framework...America.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Politicising the Oscars - What's Next for the Obamas

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy Awards that officially changed its name to The Oscars this year, has been honoring film makers and performers since 1929. Even World War II didn't halt the annual Hollywood ceremony to recognize the best of its own. In the 85 years that Oscars have been awarded, there has never been a political component to the evening -- until last night. The big surprise of the evening came when Jack Nicholson, on stage to award the Best Picture Oscar, turned to the huge screen behind him and called on Michelle Obama, who announced the winner - Argo - by remote video from Washington. Backstage, winner Affleck described how surreal it was when he heard her say the word: "Argo." While Ben Affleck and his co-producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney may be very happy to insert Mrs. Obama into the Oscar ceremony as part of their own political planning, I found it jarring and completely inappropriate. There are not many facets of our lives that the President and his wife have not invaded - gardening, sports teams, eating, exercising, weight control, children's education - the Obamas are there. But the one evening when we were always able to forget the outside world and settle happily into the lap of our favorite Hollywood actors, actresses and films was changed, probably forever, last night. Barack does sports and leaves our eating habits and daily routines to the Missus. Apparently, she has now added the film arts and Oscars to her chores. Was it a repayment thank-you for the large total contribution amount provided to the Obama re-election campaign by Hollywood? Who knows. Who cares. But,Washington has been deeply involved in the best picture race this year. President Obama held a screening of Lincoln at the White House in November. Vice President Joe Biden and several senators met with Silver Linings Playbook's David O. Russell and Bradley Cooper to discuss mental health. Argo held a screening at the CIA, while Zero Dark Thirty came under scrutiny for its producers' relationship with certain members of the clandestine service. Either Hollywood is going bigtime 'political' or the Obama political machine has snared the residents of Hollywood, all of them gullible artists who have no idea what Barack Obama's real goals may be. It could be that Michelle was using the Oscars as a dress rehearsal for what's to come. Will she be told to announce the collapse of America's fiscal house after her husband's refusal to talk to Congress about the budget and debt ceiling leads to an international refusal to buy US bonds? That would be likely because Barack would probably be too busy watching March Madness to take time to talk to America. But the real breakthrough coup could come when Michelle is on video receiving a note from a red-hatted fellow and she announces the name of the new Pope. Hey, with these two, anything is possible.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Thought and Prayer for Pope Benedict XVI

As I watched his last angeles, my eyes filled with tears for Benedict XVI. He is a man alone before God...with unachieved goals, unanswered charges, and his force fading with age. Yet, his face and eyes glow with love and kindness. Instead of thinking of the pomp to come or the heavy charges already posed, think of his burden - shared only with God - his sense of inadequacy, but above all, his conviction that he could not do everything and that it is now time for someone else to try. Try to lead this oldest of all human institutions...2000 years of being the face of God among men. Pray for Benedict. Pray for the Church. Pray for Benedict surely will continue to do.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Argo, George Clooney and Revisionist History

Former Canadian Ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor says it will reflect poorly on Ben Affleck if he doesn't say a few words about Canada's role if the director's film "Argo" wins the Oscar for best picture Sunday. But Ken Taylor - who said he feels slighted by the movie because it makes Canada look like an observer to CIA heroics in the rescue of six US citizens caught in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis - is not expecting it. Can we, dear readers, shed any light on this quasi-political disagreement? (1). TAYLOR'S COMMENTS ON THE 2012 AFFLECK ARGO FILM : It was John Sheardown and Ken Taylor and their wives who took in and hid the six Americans in the Canadian Embassy immmediately when they received their call asking for help. Canada provided false passports and plane tickets for them to escape Iran. Taylor became a hero in Canada and the US for his effort. The role he played in helping the Americans to freedom was minimized in the Affleck film, Argo. Former US President Carter, after seeing the film, said in a speech in Canada last November that everything that happened happened because of the Canadians. "Almost everything that was heroic, or courageous or innovative was done by Canada and not the United States," he said. Former Ambassador Taylor said, "Jimmy Carter has it about right, it was 90 percent Canada, 10 percent the CIA." He said CIA agent Tony Mendez, who wrote his recollections in a book called "Argo" that appeared in conjunction with the film and who was played by Affleck, was only in Iran for a day and a half. Sheardown recently died and his wife, Zena, called the movie disappointing. Friends of Taylor were outraged last September when Argo debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The original postscript of the movie said that Taylor received 112 citations and awards for his work in freeing the hostages and suggested Taylor didn't deserve them because the movie ends with the CIA deciding to let Canada have the credit for helping the Americans escape. Affleck invited him to go to Los Angeles to correct the postscript, which Taylor did, giving Canada some credit, but he said the film is far from accurate.There's nothing much right from Day One I could do about the movie. I changed a line at the end because the caption at the end was disgraceful. It's like Tiananmen Square, you are sitting in front of a big tank," he said. (2) THE MEDIA'S AND PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN'S 1981 ACCOUNT OF THE RESCUE : At the time the Canadian sheltering and rescue occurred from November 8, 1979 to January 28, 1980, the world was in the dark. President Carter pretended in public that all the Americans were being held. The US media was also fooled. But, a journalist who had uncovered some of the facts of the Canada sheltering situation before January 28, 1980, did not publish the story in order to preserve the safety of those involved, despite the considerable news value to the paper and writer. The article ran on January 29 as soon as the hostages had left Iran, but the CIA role was kept secret by both the US and Canadian governments at the time for the safety of the remaining hostages. In June, 1981, President Ronald Reagan awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to Ambassador Ken Taylor. His address is too long to repeat in full, but here are the important excerpts (please Google "Thank you Canada" for more details and a 1980 documentary film) -- President Reagan : "We're today honoring another act of courage, this one with a happier ending in which the courage and ingenuity were rewarded by success after 79 days. I'd like to sketch briefly the events of those 79 days, to describe not only Ambassador Taylor's courage but also the contribution of all the Canadian Embassy personnel in Tehran and the Canadian Government in Ottawa. Four days after the storming of the American Embassy, Ambassador Taylor received a call from five Americans who had escaped from the Embassy when it was overrun. They were hiding, but they were afraid that they'd soon be discovered and captured. Ambassador Taylor immediately recommended to his government in Ottawa that the Americans be given shelter. Without any hesitation, the Canadian Government granted the permission. Two days later, the Americans were taken to Ambassador Taylor's residence and that of another Canadian Embassy family, the John Sheardowns. Two weeks later, another American joined his five compatriots. For 79 days, they lived there pretending to be visitors. I understand they're the best-read and the most skilled Scrabble players in all of North Ametica. There were several tense moments in the weeks that followed. At one point, an article was imminent in a Montreal paper which would have disclosed the story of the sheltered Americans. In an admirable display of responsibility, the journalist who had written the article agreed to withdraw it from publication. However, from this article, and more immediately from an anonymous phone call to the Taylor's residence asking to speak to two of the escapees, Ambassador Taylor knew that the chances of his guests being discovered were high. At this point, the Canadian Government in Ottawa and the Embassy began the ingenious preparations for an escape. The Canadian Government agreed to issue fictitious passports to the Americans. The Canadian Embassy staff began making flights in and out of Tehran to establish a travel pattern and to learn airport procedures. Finally, on January 28th, 1980, the Americans packed the bags that were given them by their Canadian hosts with the clothes also given to them. Using their Canadian passports, they flew out of the country. Ambassador Taylor and three others of his staff saw them off and then left themselves. Even this brief outline of those 79 days highlights what a team effort it was. The Canadian Department of External Affairs in Ottawa and the Canadian Cabinet responded with speed and decisiveness to help an ally. Ambassador Towe is here today representing the Canadian Government. The U.S. State Department is represented today by Ambassador Stoessel, and there were others who were working at the State Department during the crisis who played a part with discretion and skill. And here today also is Representative Daniel Akaka, the sponsor, and several of his co-sponsors, of the legislation which resulted in the gold medal which I am going to present today. Also present today is Lee Schatz, one of the six whom the Taylors rescued,...Mrs. Taylor is here with her husband and was directly involved with him in this deed. She shared the risks. She did much of the work. It was at her residence that several of the Americans were actually staying. And, finally, it's my great honor to present the medal to Kenneth Taylor whose valor, ingenuity, and steady nerves made possible this one happy chapter in the agony of those 444 days of hostage crisis. Major Kline..." [the Major read the medal inscription] : "The medal is inscribed 'By an Act of Congress, March 6, 1980. Entre amis, appreciation for the noble and heroic effort in the harboring of six United States diplomats and safe return to America. Thank you, Canada.'" Then, President Reagan spoke again. "Ambassador Taylor, it's a great pleasure to present this medal to you on behalf of the American people who are grateful to you and grateful to our neighbor, Canada." ~~~~~ It is clear that the Affleck film distorted the weight of the roles played by Canada and the CIA. We might ask why, since the story is exciting and inspiring as it unfolded in reality. I hesitate to suggest that box office receipts were the reason for making the CIA the mega good guys. And I doubt that Affleck was the guiding light in the story transformation. My guess is that Argo producer George Clooney is the brain behind the re-created tale. Clooney is very active politically on the Democrat side of the ledger. His support for President Obama and his own political actions in Darfur, Haiti and the Sudan are well-known. And he is entitled to tell any story he wants to, even for his own political aggrandisement - but rewriting history - revisionist history as it is known - can be dangerous because it causes people who rely on others for their political and social views to mis-read history and draw erroneous conclusions. Similar criticisms are being made about what seem like deliberate historical distortions in "Lincoln" and "Zero Dark Thirty" about the ben Laden capture. But, when a Clooney film is revisionist, it misleads millions of people all over the world who like and admire George Clooney and take him at his word. A simple note at the beginning or end of Argo could have made clear that the film is a fictional account. Clooney and Affleck chose not to do that. For their own political purposes? Hard to say. But many think George Clooney wants to be President. Continuing to rewrite history could come back to hit him hard with voters if he runs.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Danica Patrick and the Daytona 500

The whole world has come to "know" Danica Patrick in the past week. Her pole position at the 2013 Daytona 500 has propelled her from the sporting world of auto racing into the world of newsmakers and trailblazers. Danica Sue Patrick (born March 25, 1982) is an American auto racing driver. Some refer to her as a model and advertising spokeswoman, but Danica lives for auto racing. The rest is the glitz. Even though we have all seen and heard Danica Patrick on TV this week, do most of us know that she is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing - that she is the only woman to win a race in the IndyCar Series - that she holds the highest finish (third place) by a woman at the Indianapolis 500. Patrick's racing passion and prowess began in kart racing. She later raced Formula Ford in England before moving back to the United States and moving up to IndyCars, where she raced 115 times in 7 years for both Rahal Letterman Racing and Andretti Autosport, with a record of 1 Wins 7 Podiums and 3 Poles. Along the way, Patrick was named the Rookie of the Year for both the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and the 2005 IndyCar Series season. With her win in the 2008 Indy Japan 300, Patrick became the first woman to win an Indy car race. She placed third in the 2009 Indianapolis 500, which was both a personal best for her at the track, and the highest finish by a woman in the event's history. Patrick holds the IRL record for most consecutive races running at the finish. As of October 2, 2011, she had completed 50 consecutive races in the running (the next highest total in the record book is 32). During her time in IndyCar, Patrick drove for Rahal Letterman Racing from 2005 to 2006, and Andretti Autosport from 2007 to 2011. In 2010, Patrick began racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, driving the #7 Chevrolet Impala for JR Motorsports part-time. She also has an equity stake in her #7 team. She had her best career finish of 4th in series on March 5, 2011, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the best finish by a woman in a NASCAR top-circuit. In the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Patrick has 7 Top tens and 1Pole. In 2012 she moved into the NASCAR Nationwide Series and occasionally in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. For the 2013 season. Danica is driving the #10 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Sprint Cup Series, and a limited Nationwide Series schedule for Turner Motorsports. On February 17, 2013, Patrick became the first woman to win a pole position in Sprint Cup history, doing so for the 2013 Daytona 500. Will Danica Parick win the Daytona 500 on Sunday? Nobody can say. The pole position driver has not won a Daytona 500 since 2000. And only one rookie has ever won at Daytona - 20-year-old Trevor Bayne in 2011, breaking Jeff Gordon's mark as the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history. Gordon was 25 when he won the 500 in 1997. Some have claimed that Patrick's comparatively low body weight constitutes unfair competition due to the inverse proportionality of the combined mass of a car and its driver, and its maximum velocity. However, the body weight of male drivers have the higher muscle mass, which is a key component in distance and endurance. After Patrick's IRL win, she was praised by many drivers, including Tony Stewart, who said "I think obviously she's got talent; she's been successful in every form of racing she's been in so far and I don't see why she wouldn't be successful here [in NASCAR]." Besides her racing, and following in an important NASCAR tradition, Danica Patrick is the celebrity spokesperson for Drive4COPD, an awareness campaign for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, of which her grandmother died. Patrick's presence as a key spokesperson for the COPD Foundation's DRIVE4COPD screening and education campaign in conjunction with NASCAR has greatly raised awareness about a disease that has been relatively anonymous despite being the third-deadliest killer in the United States. It's greater than diabetes and breast cancer combined, and the only major killer of Americans on the rise. In addition, Patrick works for the National Breast Cancer Foundation and with GoDaddy has helped elevate the profile of the campaign even further, according to the NBFC. "They have given NBCF the ability to reach a new audience to let them know about how we provide free mammograms to women in need and encourage women to create their early detection plan," according to a NBCF spokesperson. High-profile personalities such as Patrick "allow us to reach a captive audience" to increase awareness. So, dear readers, tune in Sunday to see if Danica Patrick etches her name in Daytona history. ~~~~~ Many thanks to Wikipedia for the statistics...and a thank-you to my sister for opening for me the exciting world of racing beyond Formula 1. Her passion for auto racing is exceeded only by her encyclopedic knowledge of all things NASCAR.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Candidates, not Tactics, Will Save the GOP

Any Republican with enough strength to make his or her way to a TV camera, talk show, news service reporter or computer keyboard has been bewailing...yes, bewailing...the imminent death of the GOP following Barack Obama's presidential victory last November. The first was Newt Gingrich, who in November called on the Party to radically revamp itself or lose relevancy and die. Newt was followed by everyone from Jindal to Trump to Christie. Well, Newt has decided his first warning was insufficient. So, Tuesday he admonished us again, this time slamming - and he is not the only one to do so - former presidential adviser Karl Rove's new super PAC, Conservative Victory Project, saying it is “repugnant” for Rove to use the PAC against conservative Republican candidates he doesn't think are fit to run. “I am unalterably opposed to a bunch of billionaires financing a boss to pick candidates in 50 states,” the former House speaker wrote in an op-ed piece published Tuesday in the weekly conservative newspaper Human Events.“This is the opposite of the Republican tradition of freedom and grassroots, small- town conservatism. No one person is smart enough, nor do they have the moral right, to buy nominations across the country.“ Rove's PAC has been criticized by other conservatives and tea party activists who say he should not determine who runs for office. Rove, however, asks what is the difference between what he's doing and what other groups are doing who have put millions of dollars behind tea party candidates including Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida. Gingrich's answer? "Our problems are deeper and more complex than candidates....” Tuesday's comments were out in an op-ed piece because Newt wanted to get his criticism down in words “in a very direct, no baloney effort to get across how much trouble we Republicans are in and how real the internal party fight is going to be.” He said he strongly supported Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus’s efforts to learn from the mistakes of 2012. He had strong words for party consultants — particularly Mitt Romney’s senior strategist Stuart Stevens.“These consultants have made an amazing amount of money asserting an expertise they clearly don't have,” Gingrich wrote. “They have existed in a system in which the candidate was supposed to focus on raising money and the smart consultant would design the strategy, spend the money and do the thinking....Republicans need to drop the consultant-centric model and go back to a system in which candidates have to think and consultants are adviser and implementers but understand that the elected official is the one who has to represent the voters and make the key decisions.” Gingrich also said the GOP has failed to grasp technological improvements or adapt to an altered demographic.“ Gingrich even took his criticism to TV, telling “CBS This Morning” that the main reason the GOP lost was because it failed to respond to the changing demographic landscape, noting that Obama's campaign was “eight, maybe 10 years ahead” of the Republican Party in understanding how the American electorate was changing. “You can't just be an opposition party,” he said. “You have to be a party that has a better alternative.” Democrats, Gingrich said, have accepted and adapted to voters who are “in many ways younger, more Latino and more African American than Republican strategists are capable of dealing with." ~~~~~ Let's consider these charges, dear readers. They are undoubtedly correct in a "Campaign Tactics 101" sense, but they are incorrect in two very important ways. First, the criticisms of Gingrich and most others address how to find and talk to voters...usually computer-savvy younger voters. They are all about how to deliver the message and are reminiscent of the period between 1964's catastrophically one-sided victory of Johnson over Goldwater and 1976 when Reagan addressed the GOP convention that nominated Ford. In those 12 years the GOP was demoralized and uncertain that it would survive, despite the election of Nixon, who was a practical politician par excellence. He was also an excellent President until he decided to cover up the stupid mistakes of campaign operatives and dealt an almost fatal body blow to the GOP. But Richard Nixon lacked one thing, the same thing missing in Newt Gingrich's and Karl Rove's approaches. Everyone is incorrect in believing that techniques and tactics can win elections or save the GOP. Ronald Reagan didn't capture the heart and soul of the GOP because he tweeted or understood how to identify and talk to various voter blocks. Reagan won the Party and the nation because he had a message that touched the very core of every American -- it was wrapped in 1980s technology and tactics was the message, Stupid! Instead of wiring up and tweeting out, the Republican Party needs to find the person who understands what Americans and the Republican Party have in common. The Constitution. Patriotism. Free Markets. Small Government. Personal Liberties. And then find the person who not only understands but who can deliver the message simply and with love and conviction in the future of America. There is no computer, social issues strategist, or campaign manager who can beat that. And no Democrat candidate. Not Obama or Hillary or Biden or whoever the Democrats throw at us. No, Newt...the GOP problems are not deeper and more complex than candidates. Candidates are the GOP problem right now...and candidates will be the GOP's salvation.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Is the EU the Pig in the Greek Animal Farm Tragedy?

During a visit of French President Hollande to Athens, Greek President Karolos Papoulias gave a stark warning about the state of the country after three grinding years of government spending cuts, joblessness and tax hikes. He warned that Greece will explode if any more pressure is put on society. Not only are Greece's 1.35 million unemployed unable to make ends meet, but a growing number of those still employed are struggling to feed, heat and clothe themselves - and pay the increasingly hefty taxes the government is relying on to turn the economy around. And GSEE, Greece's largest labor union, warns that the labor force - which includes a large public sector - has been too badly weakened to help the battered country recover. Since 2010, when Greece ceased to be able to borrow funds needed to operate, it has been receiving handouts from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. But to receive these loans, Athens has had to agree to harsh spending cuts and tax hikes to try to lower public debt. These measures, however, have also torpedoed Greece's economy, now trapped in a five-year recession. Greece now has the highest unemployment rate in the 17-country Eurozone, with 27% out of work - 60% of those aged under 24. The EU has also insisted on a strict one-year limit on unemployment benefits. Compounding the problem is the fact that more than half of Greeks who actually have jobs in the private sector no longer receive regular pay. Adding to these problems are the large increases in taxes that Greeks have to pay. Large tax increases are common, but the rapidly shrinking tax base, i.e., the Greeks who still have jobs, means that the government is collecting fewer and fewer taxes, making it impossible to repay the EU and the IMF, and now threatening to make it impossible to pay those Greeks still working in the public sector or to pay pensioners. According to the GSEE, 3.6 million people out of a population of 11 million are working, with 1.6 million employed by private-sector companies - that's down from around 2.5 million before the 2010 crisis. A million workers have had their hours cut or are getting paid as much as four or five months late. "They are in a state of desperation," says the GSEE, reporting that unemployed people may soon not have enough money left to pay taxes while covering their basic needs. That would be the worst possible outcome for the Greek economy and Greek society. Early signs from 2013, suggest high taxes may be backfiring: January revenues sank by €572 million ($765 million) from last year's figure to €4.42 billion ($5.91 billion), despite a raft of additional demands on tax payers. ~~~~~ What is most depressing about the desperate Greek situation, dear readers, is that the European media and EU leadership don't mention it. It is as if Greece had disappeared from the world map. When we remember that it was the EU and the Euro that have caused Greece's near-death -- first, by accepting an unqualified country into the Eurozone to boost Eurozone size; second, by not monitoring Greece more closely to reveal its real fiscal status; third, by forcing Greece down a debtor path that makes no sense even to non-professionals because it curtailed economic activity at the very moment when Greece needed that activity most; and finally, by ignoring the Greek people's current urgent cries for relief from the EU's austerity program. But, it may be too late to save Greece in the mid- or even longer term. Her economy is tattered. Her people are in despair. Her young are fleeing to any country where they can go to university or get a job. It reminds me of the final scene in George Orwell's "Animal Farm" - the starving and overworked little farm animals are staring into the dining room where their leaders, who had promised freedom and plenty but instead destroyed their lives, are enjoying a banquet. The leaders, all pigs, are fat and happy while their people starve. In the distance a beloved horse is being carted off to the glue factory because he is too old to work. European leaders should be ashamed. They are not. And why am I not surprised? Because in the final analysis, the vast majority of socialist/leftist political leaders, and even some conservatives, look out only for themselves. They do not care what havoc they leave behind them. Greece is the perfect contemporary example.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Obama and His Generals

The United States has lost another General. President Barack Obama said Tuesday he accepted Marine General John Allen's request to retire rather than proceed with the White House's previous plan to make him commander of NATO forces in Europe. General Allen requested retirement "so that he can address health issues within his family," Obama said. The President did not elaborate but the Washington Post quoted Allen on Monday as saying that his wife suffers from a combination of chronic health issues that include an autoimmune disorder. General Allen's distinguished career includes a tour of duty in Iraq that is credited with helping turn the tide of that war in 2007, took a surprise turn last fall when the Pentagon announced that he was being investigated for potentially inappropriate email exchanges with a civilian woman in Florida who was a secondary player in the General Petraeus affair. Last month the Pentagon announced that he had been cleared of any wrongdoing and President Obama said he was prepared to go forward with the NATO confirmation. At that point Allen asked for time to reconsider. It is not clear whom President Obama will name to replace Allen as NATO Commander. Unfortunately, General Allen is just tbe latest in the growing list of American Generals to retire or be fired by President Obama. Last October, U.S. military officials denied claims that General Carter Ham, former head of US Africa command, may have been fired due to an intent to disobey Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's order to "stand down" while the September 11 attacks in Benghazi were underway. Rumors circling the internet claimed that General Ham wanted to send special forces units to help Americans under siege in Libya despite orders from Secretary Panetta to stand down. Ham was supposedly relieved of his command by a junior officer just before Ham was to order the rescue mission. None of this information has been confirmed. Last October 18, Defense Secretary Panetta and the Army announced that President Obama "had nominated Genera David M. Rodriguez to succeed General Carter F. Ham as the commander of US Africa Command." General Ham retired after almost 40 years of distinguished military service. He was a few years short of the mandatory retirement age of 64, fueling speculations that the general was fired. Other Generals have been relieved - mostly while serving in Afghanistan - General David McKiernan, was ousted on May 11, 2009, a year before his Afghanistan term as commander was set to end. Then serving Defense Secretary Robert Gates wanted McKiernan's resignation as newly elected President Barack Obama launched a counter-insurgency strategy of working to undermine the Taliban's pull on the population. It was the first presidential dismissal of a wartime general since President Harry Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War. Obama replaced McKiernan with General Stanley A. McChrystal, who had a background in special operations and came in with a mandate to remake the war effort with the help of "surge" troops. But he lasted only 13 months. In June 2010, Rolling Stone published an article that quoted scathing remarks McChrystal and his aides made about their civilian bosses, including Vice President Joseph Biden, as fools who were ignorant of the complexities of war. Obama summoned McChrystal to Washington to explain and forced him to resign. General David Petraeus took over the Afghan command in July 2010 to fill the void left by McChrystal's abrupt departure and agreed to serve for one year. He completed that term and then retired from the military to become CIA director in September 2011. Petraeus resigned as CIA director last November 9 after he had an extramarital affair with his biographer. The affair came out as part of an unusual FBI investigation into suspicious emails between the biographer and another woman. General Allen was appointed by Obama to oversee the drawdown of U.S. and international forces ahead of the planned transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan government in 2014. Allen retired this week. ~~~~~ Dear readers, US law explicitly limits the total number of four-star officers that may be on active duty at any given time. The total number of active duty general officers is capped at 230 for the Army 208 for the Air Force, 60 for the Marine Corps. For the Army, Navy, and Air Force, no more than 25% of the service's active duty general or flag officers may have more than two stars, and a statute sets the total number of four-star generals allowed in each service - 7 four-star Army generals, 9 four-star Air Force generals and 2 four-star Marine generals. So, in firing five four-star generals, President Obama has eliminated almost 1/3 of America's most senior military commanders. It is, to be clear, the President's right to do this. But, the President's wisdom in firing 1/3 of his general officer group should at least be scrutinized. The military are enormously more respected and admired than any politician, political party, or President now serving in Washington. And perhaps this is how it should be if we consider the dismal state of affairs now gripping the federal government. So, we might ask if these very popular, highly respected and conservative generals were seen as competition. Did they need to be tarnished to prevent their becoming political rivals? The only exception to this is General Petraeus, who brought about his own downfall. We cannot know the President's motives. But what we do know is that America has been weakened in the military world because of the loss of these leaders. We also know that their replacements are not well-known and pose no political threat. Americans will not cease to admire their military leaders because of firings. The real question is how long the military will submit to civilian commanders who treat their general military officers as political pawns, as subordinates whose expertise can be cancelled at will by the President. Not forever. As Shakespeare put into words in Henry V's immortal St. Crispin Day speech at the battle of Agincourt : "But we in it shall be remembered- We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition And gentlemen in England now-a-bed Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day."

Monday, February 18, 2013

Obama's Benghazi Defense - Silence

Controversy continues to boil about President Obama and the September 11 attack and destruction of the American consular compound at Benghazi that resulted in the assassination of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomats. State Department officials have acknowledged turning down requests for more security in Libya in the months prior to the attack, although when asked whether he knew Americans in Libya had asked for more security, Obama replied shortly after the attack, "I was not personally aware of any request. Obviously we have an infrastructure that's set up to manage requests like that," referring to the State Department. Republicans question the President's truthfulness, after the administration spent days, they say, blaming the assault on reaction to an Internet film that ridicules Islam, and then changing their account of the attack time after time. So, dear readers, let's analyze the continuing battle between Republicans and the White House to make public all the information about what the President knew, when he knew it, and what he did with what he knew. Let's construct a theory of the President's position based what is now available publicly. The FIRST real chink in the fuzzy wall of multiple Obama administration accounts - the Defense Department doesn't agree with the CIA that doesn't agree with the State Department that doesn't agree with anyone but the President - the first breakthrough came when Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testified before the Senate Armed Forces Committee. Here is the relevant part of their confrontation : SEN. GRAHAM: Mr. Secretary, you didn’t know how long the attack would last. Did you ever call him and say, Mr. President, it looks like we don’t have anything to get there anytime soon? SEC. PANETTA: The event was over before we could move any assets. SEN. GRAHAM: It lasted almost eight hours. And my question to you is during that eight-hour period, did the president show any curiosity about how’s this going, what kind of assets do you have helping these people? Did he ever make that phone call? SEC. PANETTA: Look, there is no question in my mind that the president of the United States was concerned about American lives and, frankly, all of us were concerned about American lives SEN. GRAHAM: With all due respect, I don’t believe that’s a credible statement if he never called and asked you, are we helping these people; what’s happening to them? We have a second round, and we’ll take it up then. SEC. PANETTA: As a former chief of staff to the president of the United States, the purpose of staff is to be able to get that kind of information, and those staff were working with us. those staff were working with us. SEN. GRAHAM: So you think it’s a typical response of the president. Finally, Panetta admitted that he had no idea why the President was absent during the Benghazi atrack. The SECOND breakthrough came when, as reported by Fox News, Senator Graham was told by James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, that the President was informed of attacks in April and June. The June attack blew a hole in the perimeter wall of the Benghazi compound, and the two strikes were reportedly part of dozens of incidents in the region considered to be warning signs of the deadly September attack. According to Graham, President Obama was aware of two IED attacks on the Benghazi consulate in Libya in the months leading up to the September 11 attack. Graham criticized Obama for a White House statement saying the President did not talk to Libya's leader until the evening of September 12, a day after the embassy was attacked. “(He talked) after everybody was dead,” said Graham, suggesting Obama could have made a difference if he'd been involved earlier, but “you got a commander in chief who is absolutely disengaged. You got the Secretary of State never talking to the Secretary of Defense." Graham's disclosure came after congressional hearings in which top administration officials, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, claimed they were not aware of the security problems at the Libyan compound. Clinton said she never saw an August 16 State Department cable warning that the consulate could not sustain a coordinated attack, but outgoing Defense Secretary Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dempsey said they knew about the warning. A DNI spokesman said the Obama administration has been cooperative with Congress over the Libya questions. However, White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, during his confirmation hearings for CIA director, said much of the information about what Obama knew falls under the category of “executive privilege,” a status often used to avoid disclosing information.“ Armed with the increasingly negative picture of Obama and his senior Secretaries, last Thursday Republicans united to stall Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to succeed Panetta, citing outstanding questions on the Benghazi attack. Then came the THIRD breakthrough - Responding to a letter from Republican senators who asked whether President Obama spoke with Libyan officials on the night of the Benghazi attack, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler confirmed in a letter Thursday that Obama called Libyan President Magariaf on the following day. "As to the specific question in your February 12 letter, Secretary Clinton called Libyan President Magariaf on behalf of the President on the evening of September 11, 2012, to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya and access to Libyan territory. At that time, President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government's full cooperation. The President spoke to President Magariaf on the evening of September 12." ~~~~~ So, what do we know and what can we reasonably assume? First, that President Obama had confirmed information as early as April 2012 from his director of National Intelligence that the Benghazi consular compound was being attacked and that it was not sufficiently secured. Second, we know that the President did nothing to secure the Benghazi compound because it was still vulnerable when attacked on September 11. We also know that the President knew as early as 5-5:30pm on September 11 that Benghazi was under attack...and vulnerable. Panetta sent word to the White House later in the evening that Ambassador Stevens was dead. And we know that the President made no public statement, and did not call Panetta or the Stevens' family. Finally, we know that the President did not try to secure access to the Benghazi compound to aid Americans under attack. Hillary Clinton made the call. Did she speak with the President before calling? We don't know. Did Obama call her? Probably not or she would have spoken up in his defense. We all have the same question -- where was the President and why would he hide and/or be so coldly indifferent to these almost unprecedented events. Does his inaction rise to derelection of duty? Does it rise to the level of an impeachable act? And why would he prefer to be silent instead of facing his accusers? I can only think that he knows there are other hidden facts that would condemn him even more fundamentally. So he believes his silence is his best defense. President Nixon tried that...and we know the end. I hope President Obama comes to his senses and saves himself and his presidency while he can.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Norquist on the Obama Tax-and-Spend Agenda

Most of us are used to seeing Grover Norquist on TV, often depicted as a meddling tax miser who has a Svengali-like grip on the GOP. A few facts about Norquist. He is 57, the son of a Polaroid Corporation VP and the husband of a Palestinian Muslim who worked for USAID. They have two adopted children. He graduated from Harvard College and also has a Harvard MBA. He sits on the boards of the NRA and the American Conservative Union and is a member of the 6-person panel that selects the Time Magazine person of the year. He founded Americans for Tax Reform, whose primary policy goal is to reduce government revenues as a percentage of the GDP. ATR states that it "opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle." ATR supports the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) and transparency legislation, while opposing cap-and-trade legislation and efforts to regulate health care. Norquist gave a far-ranging interview to Newsmax this week, expressing his views about President Obama's State of the Union wish list. As part of our discussions about the new Obama agenda, with its proposed new spending and additional tax revenues, while claiming it can all be done without adding a dime to the deficit, I want to summarize Norquist's comments, because his views will be influential as debate heats up in Congress about how to deal with the expensive Obama agenda. (1). Norquist opposes the President's call to raise the minimum wage by 24 percent, saying it will not help 15 million low-wage workers. Norquist believes the GOP House is acting wisely in opposing it. "We know from history that when the minimum wage was first put in, hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs. It was particularly devastating to African-Americans. The minimum wage has a very sad history in terms of stopping people from getting their first jobs, stopping people who are untrained from getting trained at work. So the minimum wage is a very bad piece of legislation. It’s hurt people in the past and until we come to grips with the damaging history of it, why would anybody think of doing again something that’s already failed?” (2) Norquist is confident that most of Obama's other spending plans will be defeated by the Republican House. (3) He supports the GOP's opposition to the Senate Democrat $110 billion plan to delay sequestration, a plan that includes tax increases. “Sequestration will take effect,” Norquist told Newsmax. “Interestingly, it was Obama’s idea. He put it forward, thinking it would pressure the Republicans to raise taxes. It failed to do that and now Obama has to live with a law that he supported, he wrote, he signed. Sequestration is a good thing. It saves about $100 billion a year for 10 years into the future. Are there ways to alter it by keeping the same dollars in savings but giving different departments more flexibility? That’s an option. Republicans are open to that.“ But, Norquist said the dollar amount of the savings cannot be changed. "There will be no tax increases to replace savings to taxpayers with tax increases ripping off taxpayers. Republicans wanted something that hit defense a little less hard and shifted the reduction elsewhere. Democrats don’t want to do that. So there’s no place for a compromise. Raising taxes instead of cutting spending is not a compromise -- that’s called losing,” he told Newsmax. (4). Norquist opposes the president's desire for a national cap-and-trade energy tax. Obama says he’s not afraid to use executive orders to push his agenda, but Norquist said: “He will try to do things through executive order because he’s not going to be able to raise taxes or spend additional money or change laws in a dramatically stupid way as long as the Republicans have the House of Representatives and as long as the Democrats are scared about getting re-elected in the Senate. There are some things he can do by executive order, but raising taxes is not part of that." (5). Norquist described the congressional stand-off relating to tax reform: “no pro-growth tax reform could pass the Senate; no pro-growth tax reform would be signed by the president,” Norquist says. “But it’s a good idea for the Republicans in the House to design tax reform and come up with some alternatives, because it says here’s what we would do if there was a Republican Senate and a Republican president.” (6). Norquist has called Obamacare a half-trillion-dollar tax increase on the American people. “There are over 20 taxes in Obamacare, and at least eight of them directly hit middle-class Americans,” he said. “They all hit middle-class Americans indirectly by hitting doctors and insurance companies and hospitals. So this is a very bad bill with a lot of damaging taxes and regulations. But we may have to wait until people see the damage before you can fix it. The three networks, even though the 3,000-page Obamacare legislation passed two years ago, haven’t covered what’s in there. Have you learned on network television about the 21 tax increases? The establishment press, which has been cheerleading for Obama, has not done its job informing the American people.” (7). Norquist told Newsmax that the immigration plan put forth by Florida Senator Marco Rubio has “some very good ideas. The outline he’s got is a fine starting place. We need to have border security. We need to have a path to legal status for people so that people in this country for years and their children don’t hide when the police come by, that they are secure in the jobs and their positions. But we need to defeat the labor unions which are the guys who sculpted the present nonworking immigration laws we have. The center-right needs to get together and come up with a good immigration law recognizing that the labor unions are going to fight anything reasonable and we need a united conservative movement to beat the unions. ~~~~ In addition to evaluating the Obama-congressional battle over the President's agenda, Norquist also commented on Karl Rove’s American Crossroads launch of an effort to weed out GOP primary candidates it deems unacceptable, a move criticized by members of the tea party. Norquist offered his opinion on the Republican in-fighting: “We need to look back at some of those races where people the tea party nominated were the wrong guy and realize that Harry Reid spent millions of dollars to interfere in the Republican primary to choose the candidate who couldn’t beat the Democrat and to stop the candidates who would have beat the Democrat. That wasn’t a tea party problem. That was the Democrats playing the Republican primary. Todd Akin in Missouri was not supported by the tea party groups. He was supported by the Democrat candidate, the incumbent, who ran ads pretending to attack him but really praising him for a solid conservative voting record. Karl Rove and others have correctly pointed out: How did we end up with idiot candidates? Well, you end up with idiot candidates when the Democrats choose your candidate for you." ~~~~ Dear readers, Norquist explained what's going to be happening in Washington for the next two years. The debate will twist and turn but it will do so around the issues and positions spelled out by Grover Norquist -- not because he controls the GOP but because he and the GOP agree. And they agree because they both believe in the fiscal responsibility of Congress to balance the budget and reduce the national debt. And to keep taxes as low as possible to prevent the government from taking so much of the nation's wealth for public programs that it chokes off the private sector expenditures that generate jobs and drive forward productivity and technical development. These axions did not originate with Grover Norquist. They come from the great 18th century political enlightenment philosophers, led by Locke and Burke and they are the engines of all validly Republican programs and principles.

Friday, February 15, 2013

My Deletion

I removed one comment to the Egyptian Police blog because it was a duplicate. Casey Pops

Meteorites, Asteroids, Vatican Lightning...and President Obama

Mother Nature has been flexing her muscles this week. A 7,000 ton meteor streaked across the Russian sky and exploded over the Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb Friday, its sonic blasts shattering 100,000 sq. m. (1 million sq. ft.) of glass, mostly windows, and injuring nearly 1,000 people, many cut by flying glass as they ran to windows to see the intense flash of light. The meteor weighing about 10 tons after atmosphere entry burnoff, with a diameter of 49 ft., streaked across the sky just after sunrise, leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash. It entered the atmosphere at 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered while 30-50 km (18-32 miles) above the earth in a region 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow. Just hours afterward, a 150-foot asteroid visible with telescopes in Asia, Australia and Eastern Europe hurtled through Earth's near space at 17,400 mph, coming within 17,150 miles of the Earth's surface, the closest known flyby for an asteroid of its size. It was a disconcerting coincidence, coming so close upon the heels of the Russian meteor. NASA insisted the meteor had nothing to do with the asteroid since they appeared to be traveling in opposite directions. But, even though small as asteroids go, Asteroid 2012 DA14 could have done immense damage if it had struck, given its 143,000-ton weight and energy equivalent of 2.4 million tons of TNT. It would have wiped out 750 square miles. By comparison, NASA estimated that the meteor that exploded over Russia was one-third the size of the passing asteroid. BUT, perhaps the week's most startling act of nature came at the Vatican. On February 11th, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, effective February 28. It was the first time in more than 700 years that a Pope willingly chose to step down, and even the heavens seemed to react with shock. A photographer captured a lightning strike on the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican hours after the pope’s announcement. Some faithful were asking whether the lightning was coincidental or a sign from God, although no one has explained what such a sign would have meant. ~~~~ But, dear readers, we can be almost certain of one thing -- in a week in which President Obama and the Republican House of Representatives clashed over every point of the wish list that the President laid out in his State of the Union Address, even President Obama has not been able to find a way to blame the Republican Party for the meteorite, the asteroid or the Vatican lightning strike. Is this progress toward the bipartisanship sorely needed in Washington? Probably not. But it might mean that Obama is running out of ways to foist everything that happens anywhere in the world onto the weary shoulders of House Speaker John Boehner and his beleaguered but unbowed House majority - which, after all is said and done, is the only thing standing between fiscal sanity and Obama's wildly dangerous spend-and-tax policies.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Egyptian Police Assert their Rights

There are times, dear readers, when the tiniest of news articles can bring a smile to my lips and lift my heart. Such an article appeared today in a free Swiss daily newspaper. Under a photo of uniformed police was the following report, that I'm translating from the French original. ~~~~ Thousands of police went on strike yesterday, demanding that the Minister of the Interior resign. The police think he is the jack-boot of Egyptian President Morsi. They were angered at being called to secure and defend the Moslem Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo without being paid extra for the heightened risk. They noted that 59 Egyptians have been killed in the past several weeks in the often violent street demonstrations. ~~~~ So, dear readers, we can rejoice a little. The Cairo police are defending their individual and workers' rights. It may not be a giant step, but it shows how far the Egyptian people have come from their fear of public resistance to the autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak. It also shows their lack of concern about expressing their grievances under the new government. Step by step, Egyptians are taking control of their lives and their country. Let us hope that Morsi recognizes their determination and makes the necessary adjustments in his government and in the new constitution. If he doesn't, he will find more and more Egyptian citizens in the streets "on strike" for liberty and their rights. Bravo!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Casey Pops Error on Comments

Apologies to 1776Forever and De Oprresso Liber. I accidentally deleted his comments. So sorry.

Can Obama Be Quiet and Let Congress Deal with Immigration

Dear readers, in the next several weeks, we will examine the major pieces of the program set out by President Obama in his February 12th State of the Union Address. Today, let's consider one item that seems to the only piece of the President's agenda that almost everyone in Washington agrees on - America's immigration policy needs to be changed. The lone President Obama, who does not want to wait until the borders are secure and the United States is in control of immigration to grant a citizenship path to illegal immigrants. This may be the sole time when Barack Obama's penchant for non-leadership on important issues could actually be helpful. As the President mentioned in his State of the Union Address last night, a bipartisan group of senators has announced a "Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform." They propose a "tough but fair path" to citizenship for illegal immigrants that would begin only after the federal government has secured the borders and put in place systems to prevent visa violations, as well as helping employers verify that new employees are legal. This "border-security first" solution would require those now in America illegally to register with immigration officials and pass a background check. Those with a serious criminal record or who pose a national security threat would be deported. The rest would pay fines and back taxes to earn "probationary legal status." Then, they would have to wait to begin the process of applying for a green card and citizenship until after a commission of border state governors, attorneys general and community leaders declare that the border is under operational control. This process of regularization could take years, perhaps a decade. Meanwhile, these "probationary legal residents" would not be eligible for welfare, ObamaCare or other public assistance. The framework also calls for a market-driven guest worker program. Supporters say this is important not only for agriculture. It is also critical for reducing pressure at borders and making operational control easier. The bipartisan plan would also increase US competitiveness by giving a green card to foreign students graduating from American universities with a Ph.D. or master's degree in science, technology, engineering and math. The ideas behind the bipartisan plan are popular. In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 83% of those surveyed support stricter border control while 55% favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Bipartisan agreement on the proposed reforms also shows how important Senator Marco Rubio can be, helping convince Senate Democrats that "border-security first" and a difficult but attainable path to citizenship are essential to achieving reform. A bipartisan House group is also at work on immigration. The presence of Democrat congressmen in the group suggests that House Democrats realize that border security is a necessary precondition for getting a bipartisan deal. But President Obama disagrees with the secure-border solution. An unnamed administration official recently told the Washington Post that Obama would not endorse a security-first proposal. The White House also says that the President favors a fast, easy path to citizenship. The President could sabotage a deal by insisting on provisions such as automatic citizenship or protections for same-sex couples that appeal to his base but make it impossible to get a bill through the Republican-controlled House. If he does this, dear readers, he would be sending the message that he is more interested in immigration as a political weapon than in solving the festering immigration problem. If President Obama would simply take a low-key position, supporting the bipartisan solution and not insisting on his own version, it could be decisive for Democrats still uneasy with the secure-border approach. He should also avoid the partisan comments he seems to enjoy making, something not easy for the fundamentally partisan President. But, if he could bring himself to put bipartisanship and compromise ahead of his naturally devisive leadership style, Congress just might prove that both parties can work together for good.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Abraham Lincoln - Whig Politician, Republican President

Today is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. We always honor Mr. Lincoln as the leader destined by his unique gifts of eloquence and political courage to save the Union - The United States of America - from collapse under the extreme, partisan debate over slavery. America's attachment to Lincoln, the savior sent by God, makes it difficult to accept the fact that he was a hard-fighting, accomplished party organizer and politician. But, this was also Lincoln and it lent much to his extraordinary presidency. In 1986, the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association published a monograph by Joel Silbey, "Always a Whig in Politics," in which Silbey tries to reconcile the hero we know as President Lincoln with the man who practiced Illinois and national Whig practical party politics for almost 30 years before lending his Whig weight to the founding of the Republican Party. The Whigs were a Henry Clay party, composed of a variety of leaders and followers. Silbey writes about three groups of Whigs in the 1840s : (1) the pre-party, conservative statesmen group, rooted in an earlier political culture, unwilling to change gears in a new age of partisan party politics, suspicious of mass politics and its simplifying of difficult issues. (2) the second group was also hostile to the demands of party organization and discipline. They were moral crusading, reformist, purifying Whigs, men such as the anti-slavery spokesman, John Quincy Adams. Resolutely committed to a single priority, passionately wanting their desired policies enacted and refusing to defer to political realities or the need to compromise, they were constantly frustrated by the demands of party discipline and the need to maintain more broadly based coalitions than would support very specific, contentious, reform proposals. And (3) there was, finally and critically, a third type of Whig, including Lincoln, and William H. Seward, who were realists-pragmatists, shrewd political operators, at home with the new system, or at least willing to play by its rules in the absence of any other possibilities. The pluralism of American life and the requirement to mobilize broadly based electoral coalitions, all led Lincoln and many others to develop both the skills of political party organizers and leaders, as well as being public political figures in the greater national debate over the role of business, land policy, and slavery. Why, dear readers, do I talk of a political party that died in 1856 in the birthing pains of the Republican Party? Because it was Lincoln's leaving the Whigs in 1856 to seek the presidential nomination of the Republican Party he helped found (he finally was nominated in 1860) that killed the Whig Party. Lincoln continued all his life to say that he felt he was a Whig, but that the Republican Party was needed. And today, 150 years after Abraham Lincoln created the Republican Party, his creation is in the throes of a fundamental identity crisis, much like the Whigs of the 1850s who could not survive in the changed world in which they found themselves -- a world no longer managed by the Founders' intellectual dialogue in the face of fundamental political questions. Today's GOP finds itself in a multi-cultural political world which has broken the mold in which the Republican Party flourished. The GOP is not dead...but it must adapt or perish. Instead of adapting earlier, starting in the aftermath of 1964, the moderate GOP wing has been forced to take "social issue litmus tests" to be considered as Republican candidates. The most galling was to force George Bush pere to support right to life with no abortion when everyone knew he didn't believe what he said. Take. No give. Reagan finessed because he was at heart a very conservative person who kept social issues out of GOP politics. Hats off to him. Post Reagan, the issues were economic and the entire GOP rallied to bring Clinton to the center on budget matters. But since the 2000 election, the reality is that no moderate has been listened to...either as potential candidates or as elected officials. The fear that paralyzes the GOP in Washington has nothing to do with the ripe-for-picking Democrats dissatisfied with Obama. It has to do with the fear that if they, as GOP politicians, don't toe the litmus test line on social issues, they will be opposed by candidates who do. I repeat what I have said before - that approach works at the more local levels because the local majority gets the candidate it prefers. But, if a moderate district elects a moderate candidate to Congress, his voice is immediately silenced by fear of defeat at the hands of a tea party supported candidate who does not reflect the GOP majority in his district, and who in 2012 occasionally lost the general election. Why? Because the tea party is forcing a very conservative platform on districts that are moderate. So...surprise! The Democrat wins. If this is not political suicide, I have never seen it. Where is the political leadership and discipline that makes compromise a reality when dealing with the tea party? It doesn't exist. I am in favor of GOP victories...not because of social issues...but because the GOP still is the party of fiscal responsibility, individual liberties and constitutional government. But the tea party is pushing the GOP to an artificial right. And, when the reckoning comes, the GOP will be re-centered by the pragmatists, as Lincoln re-centered the Whigs by making Republicans out of them...because that is where the GOP belongs and where the history of this great country has been written. If you don't believe me, ask Abraham Lincoln.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Congressional Dilemma - Drones vs the Constitution

Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and former head of the CIA, has announced his support for a congressional proposal to create a special court to review President Obama's use of unmanned drone strikes against Americans linked to al-Qaida. Gates said Obama's use of the unmanned drones follows tight rules. But he shares lawmakers' concerns about the uncontrolled use of unmanned aircraft to target al-Qaida operatives, including US citizens. Gates warned on a Sunday political TV program that while Obama may be following strict rules, it is not possible to say what a future president might do. The use of drones made page one news last week as lawmakers considered how much freedom an American president should have in going after the nation's enemies, including its own citizens. The controversy became unavoidable when the President nominated John Brennan, Obama's former counter-terrorism chief who oversaw drone strikes, to head the CIA. During Senate hearings, Brennan defended drone strikes only as a "last resort," but he said he had no qualms about targeting and killing Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both US citzens, in Yemen in September 2011. Another drone strike two weeks later killed al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, a Denver native. Intelligence concluded that the elder al-Awlaki was the senior operational leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, planning attacks in the US, including the failed Christmas Day bombing of an airplane as it landed in Detroit in 2009. There was quick and often partisan reaction to Brennan's testimony. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Commitee, said on another Sunday TV program, "We're not sending manned bombers. We're dealing with the enemy where we find them to keep America safe. We have to strike a new constitutional balance with the challenges we face today." Kentucky's Republican Senator Rand Paul said, "I find it unseemly that a politician gets to decide the death of an American citizen,...They should answer about the 16-year-old boy, al-Awlaki's son who was killed not as collateral damage, but in a separate strike." There is widespread congressional uneasiness about the unfettered program. "It just makes me uncomfortable that the President - or whoever it is - acts as the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner, all rolled into one," said independent Maine Senator Angus King. Lawmakers are considering overseeing such drone attacks by means of a secret court of federal judges that now reviews requests for government surveillance in espionage and terrorism cases. The court of 11 federal judges reviews wiretap applications that allow the FBI and other agencies to gather evidence to build cases. Unlike normal US trial procedure, suspects have no lawyers present, and the proceedings are secret. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, says his committee members review all CIA and Pentagon drone strikes on a monthly basis. Rogers feels that there is already enough oversight. On yet another Sunday TV political program, Republican Senator John McCain, influential in all matters concerning the military, took another view of the drone question, saying an overview court for the drone program would unconstitutionally impinge on the President's powers. McCain contends that the solution is to move drone oversight out of the CIA and into the Department of Defense, "where you have adequate oversight," he said. "Since when is the intelligence agency supposed to be an air force of drones that goes around killing people? I believe that it's a job for the Department of Defense." So, dear readers, the political battle lines are drawn, as they so often are in Washington. What makes the drone question different is its proximity to the constitutional question of the rights of an accused person to procedural fair play - the right to counsel, to a fair trial, to present evidence on his own behalf, to confront hostile witnesses, to a jury decision. When a President, using the vague commander-in-chief in time of war prerogatives and claiming national security as his basis for acting secretly, orders the drone killing of US citizens, he has effectively ignored the Constitution's protection for accused individuals. Their constitutional rights have been sacrificed for the President's uncorroborated declaration that national security requires the killing. This is the congressional dilemma. They are duty bound to follow and protect the Constitution - to serve as a check and balance against a President's taking on more power than granted by the Constitution. The drone policy being articulated and followed by President Obama places Congress squarely in front of its constitutional duties. This is why Congress is turning to the courts, which are the third equal constitutional check-and-balance. Congress is essentially saying,'this is too much for us; you take on the burden, judges.' Now, consider John McCain's position -- he leaves the presidential wartime power intact, he moves the drone program to the Defense Department that, unlike the CIA, has clearly established reporting links to Congress and would merely add drone reporting as agreed with the congressional oversight committees, and he saves court decision-making for real fact sets, not just presidential assertions. John McCain may have the best drone program solution.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Arab Spring Continues in Tunisia and Egypt

The Arab Spring continues to struggle as marchers refuse to give up in their attempts to wrest power from various political coalitions that have risen to control governments. (1). In Tunisia, an iconic opposition leader was killed in the street. His followers said he was assassinated by the governing islamist coalition because he refused to be quiet. Marchers took to the streets of Tunis and are still there in protest. Today, Tunisians who support the islamists organized their own march in support of the government, telling reporters that the government is competent and should be permitted to continue its work. The islamist prime minister has dismissed his government and is trying to form a new, more acceptable one. He says if he cannot form a new government in one week, he will resign. Tunisia, where the Arab Spring started, is still trying to get it right. (2). Egyptians continue to protest against President Morsi and almost everything he does or says. The beleaguered president says he wants a dialogue. Egyptians say they want a new president and a new "real" constitution, not the islamist-rigged one produced by Morsi and his Moslem Brotherhood cronies. The editor of the independent Daily News Egypt was interviewed on CNN and said that Morsi is incapable of governing Egypt and should do as the Tunisian prime minister - form a more acceptable government and write an acceptable constitution with input from all factions. She also said that Egyptians will not leave the streets until they succeed, adding that the world should understand that they are marching every day and all weekend not because they enjoy it, and the danger of death it presents, but because it is their duty to create a new Egypt where everyone is safe and welcome. ~~~~~ We tend to forget, dear readers, that those of us who live in democratic countries where the political system actually works for the benefit of all enjoy a luxury. We often decry street protests and ask why they don't resolve issues by democratic means. The simple answer is that they are using the only "democratic means" available to them - the streets. Egyptians and Tunisians and Libyans and Syrians will one day have "real" constitutions and presidents and legislatures and courts. They will have democracies because they have tasted freedom and are determined to hold on to it. But, for now, as the plaques we often buy for children say, "Be patient. God isn't through with me yet."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Obama...AWOL from America in Benghazi

Various media outlets, including The Weekly Standard and Newsmax, reported last night that when retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was interviewed by US Senators at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, he told them that that President Barack Obama was absent the night US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya, last September 11. It was questions from Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire that led Panetta to explain the following time line : (1) Panetta met with Obama at a pre-scheduled 30-minute meeting at 5 pm. He and Obama spent about 20 minutes discussing the American Embassy that was surrounded in Cairo, Egypt, as well as discussing the situation that was just unfolding in Benghazi. (2) President Obama left operational details, including knowledge of what resources were available to help the Americans under attack in Benghazi, “up to us” - meaning Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (3) President Obama did not call Panetta or Dempsey after the 5 pm meeting to check on the status of events in Benghazi. And Panetta said, “no, but we got information that the ambassador, his life had been lost, it went to the White House.” (4) The Defense Secretary said that he did not communicate with anyone at the White House on the night of September 11. When an incredulous Senator Ayotte asked, “There was no follow-up from the White House?” Panetta answered, “No.” Obama had never called to check in, Panetta testified. When Ayotte asked whether the President had checked on what resources were available and how fast they could have been sent to the consulate, Panetta said, “The biggest problem that night was that nobody knew what was going on there.” Last September, after the assassination of Ambassador Stevens, Governor Romney commented that it seemed the administration was soft on the attackers. President Obama, while in Richmond, Virginia, harshly criticized Romney for his response to the crisis. "He [Romney] certainly understood that...if you aspire to be commander in chief you don't release a political press release.," Obama said. Obama should have criticized himself -- for being "Absent Without Leave" during the distruction of a US diplomatic compound and the assassination of the US Ambassador and three other diplomats in a mob-attack situation on the anniversary of 9/11. I cannot remember when I have been so shaken by a Washington revelation. Indeed, I thought myself long since immune from anything that might come out of Washington. But, Obama's indifference to his own diplomats in harm's way, his nonchalance in turning his duties over to others, however competent, his lack of interest or even curiosity to know what was happening or what his subordinates were doing or planning to save the situation and the Americans caught up in it, his lack of acknowledgement that his Anbassador had been killed -- has made me realize just how weak and venal a president America has in Barak Obama. He should, instead of touting his commander-in-chief successes, ask for forgiveness -- from the US diplomatic corps, from the families of those slain, and from the American people whom he so badly serves and so often treats with utter contempt.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Doping...The European Union...Silvio Berlusconi

Today, dear readers, I would like to ask...and answer...three completely unconnected questions that come to mind as the news streams toward us day after week after year. (1). When does doping cease to be "doping"? When it is so widespread that it has become the norm. Because if taking "performance enhancers" is common practice in cycling, baseball and athletics - and as of today in all Australian sports - as well as sporadic cases in American and European football, it seems impossible that there is no doping in tennis, skiing, golf, ice hockey and every other sport where winning depends at least in part on physical superiority. Indeed, in the case of Australia, organized crime is suggested to be intermingled with the doping, making it sound somewhat like horse racing where horses are supposedly doped and pay off for pre-informed bettors. And can all amateur sports - Olympic competitors already having been caught doping - be far behind? I have no solution, except perhaps to split all sports into two for affirmed dopers and the other for 'clean' athletes. The problem here is that I have the sinking feeling in my stomach that comes from believing that the doped - faster, stronger, higher - athletes would still be the favorites of the fans. (2). When do European Union non-solutions for bailout problems become solutions? When the meetings - today in Berlin - but usually in Brussels, become the flavor of the month, each with its own set of ideas, press releases, photo ops with bailout candidates and soon-to-be bailout candidates, and non-solutions that Britain rightly refuses to participate in. Non-solutions that go nowhere because their creators don't want them to, or because they are ridiculed by the financial industry, or are refused as unworkable by the candidate countries themselves, or are not affordable for the states paying the bailout bills. So we have the moveable feast of non-solution after non-solution that give hope for a few hours, then fade into the EU wastebasket of history. But, these non-solutions are holding off the wolf at the door for the time being. In this EU Newspeak game, in reality, non- solutions have become "solutions." (3). And finally, when does a politician become an ex-politician? When his name is Silvio Berlusconi - whose personal and political antics have become so outlandish that even his tolerant Italian co-citizens have asked him to retire for good. Berlusconi's manipulation of Italian law to keep him from being pursued for allegations of tax fraud while he was prime minister, questionable legal tactics, including allegations of witness payoffs, when he was accused of having sex with a minor party girl. All that was classic Berlusconi. But, this past week, Silvio's younger brother may have put the nail in Berlusconi's political coffin - the nail that has eluded his enemies for years. A famous young Black Italian-nationality soccer player who has just transferred from the English Premier League to the Berlusconi-owned Milan football club was called - on a live microphone to an inner group of Milan supporters "the little black boy who has joined the family." There is already a firestorm sweeping Europe about overt fan racism. Young brother Berlusconi may well have jettisoned his older brother...but if anyone can survive such a stupidity, it is perhaps it is too early to call him an ex-politician. Italian voters will have the last word because Silvio Berlusconi is again running for the Italian parliament. ~~~~ Now, dear readers, if you have a favorite question, just post it as a comment. I'll be happy to hear from you.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happy Birthday, President Reagan...First Inaugural Address, Part 2

Today it's "Happy Birthday, President Reagan." Ronald Reagan was one of the most influential presidents in America's history. He brought the US our of an inflation spiralling close to 20%. He brought down the Soviet Union but remained on good enough terms with Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, to negotiate a post-era treaty. He led the world in peace and he pulled the United States back from the debilitating welfarism that had begun with Franklin Roosevelt's presidency in the 1930s. And he did it without alienating the Democrats in Congress or preachibg extreme social conservatism to attract the far right wing of the GOP. A President for our times. Can we find another to lead us out of the down spiral America is now in? We must. Here is the last part of President Reagan's First Inaugural Address.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope. We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we are in a time when there are no heroes just don't know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter--and they are on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They are individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism s quiet but deep. Their values sustain our national life. I have used the words "they" and "their" in speaking of these heroes. I could say"you" and "your" because I am addressing the heroes of whom I speak--you, the citizens of this blessed land. Your dreams, your hopes, your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes, and the goals of this administration, so help me God. We shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup. How can we love our country and not love our countrymen, and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they are sick, and provide opportunities to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory? Can we solve the problems confronting us? Well, the answer is an unequivocal and emphatic "yes." To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I did not take the oath I have just taken with the intention of presiding over the dissolution of the world's strongest economy. In the days ahead I will propose removing the roadblocks that have slowed our economy and reduced productivity. Steps will be taken aimed at restoring the balance between the various levels of government. Progress may be slow--measured in inches and feet, not miles--but we will progress. It is time to reawaken this industrial giant, to get government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax burden. And these will be our first priorities, and on these principles, there will be no compromise. On the eve of our struggle for independence a man who might have been one of the greatest among the Founding Fathers, Dr. Joseph Warren, President of the Massachusetts Congress, said to his fellow Americans, "Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of.... On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves." Well, I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children and our children's children And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom. To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale. As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it--now or ever. Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength. Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors. I am told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and for that I am deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inauguration Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer This is the first time in history that this ceremony has been held, as you have been told, on this West Front of the Capitol. Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista opening up on this city's special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man: George Washington, father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led America out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence And then beyond the Reflecting Pool the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln. Beyond those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery with its row on row of simple white markers bearing crosses or Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom. Each one of those markers is a monument to the kinds of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, The Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam. Under one such marker lies a young man--Martin Treptow--who left his job in a small town barbershop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire. We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading "My Pledge," he had written these words: "America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone." The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God's help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And, after all, why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans. God bless you, and thank you."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

President Ronald Reagan's First Inaugural Address

Dear readers, tomorrow, February 6th, is Ronald Reagan's birthday. He was born in 1911, so he would have been 102. President Reagan is rightly considered to be the Father of Modern Conservatism and I want to offer you his First Inaugural Address delivered on 20 January 1981. President Reagan wrote the Address himself and it is his finest explanation of what it means to be be American. Today I give you the first half...tomorrow will be the second half of the speech. Enjoy it and save it to read and consider when you feel stressed about where the world seems to be headed...this Reagan declaration will restore your faith. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "My fellow citizens: To a few of us here today, this is a solemn and most momentous occasion; and yet, in the history of our nation, it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle....These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, causing human misery and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals....We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no misunderstanding--we are going to begin to act, beginning today. The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we, as Americans, have the capacity now, as we have had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom. In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. From time to time, we have been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. But if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price. We hear much of special interest groups. Our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and our factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we are sick--professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truck drivers. They are, in short, "We the people," this breed called Americans. Well, this administration's objective will be a healthy, vigorous, growing economy that provides equal opportunity for all Americans, with no barriers born of bigotry or discrimination. Putting America back to work means putting all Americans back to work. Ending inflation means freeing all Americans from the terror of runaway living costs. All must share in the productive work of this "new beginning" and all must share in the bounty of a revived economy. With the idealism and fair play which are the core of our system and our strength, we can have a strong and prosperous America at peace with itself and the world. So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government--not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States, the States created the Federal Government. Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work--work with us, not over us; to stand by our side not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it. If we look to the answer as to why, for so many years, we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here, in this land, we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price." (the final part will be presented tomorrow)