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Heavy-Handed Politics

"€œGod willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world
without the United States and Zionism."€ -- Iran President Ahmadi-Nejad

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The War Bush is Losing is Not in the Middle East
George W. Bush unwittingly highlighted one of the greatest failures of his presidency last week in an interview with the Dallas Morning News, and then did it again Tuesday when he met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

The United States, Bush rightly told the Morning News, shares responsibility with Mexico for the incredible level of violence in that country.

Congress' Financial Mess
News media people, often plagued with little understanding, fail miserably in their duty to inform the public. This is particularly evident in their reporting on the current financial meltdown, suggesting it was caused by deregulation and free markets.

Professor David Henderson, research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, writes about regulation in.....

Only 17% of 8th Graders in Schools Overseen by Obama Education Secretary-Designee Can Read at Grade Level
In 2007, only 17 percent of eighth graders tested at or above grade level in reading in Chicago Public Schools – the school system administered by Arne Duncan since 2001.

President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday tapped Duncan to become secretary of education in the upcoming administration.

House Approves SCHIP Expansion Bill That Bush Vetoed Twice

House Votes to Expand Health Care for Children

Washington (AP) - The House voted Wednesday to expand government-sponsored health care to 4 million more children of working families, making a down payment on President-elect Barack Obama's promise to provide universal health care to all Americans who want it.

Innocent Mistake? Heh.

CNSNews.com - Obama Calls Treasury Secretary’s Failure to Pay Taxes an ‘Innocent Mistake’
Obama: Geithner Will Be Confirmed Despite Mistake

Washington (AP) - President-elect Barack Obama called disclosures about Treasury choice Timothy Geithner's tax problems an embarrassment Wednesday but said Geithner's "innocent mistake" shouldn't keep him from confirmation as the new administration's top official in urgent efforts to revive the economy.

The "Republocrats" would never get away with this.

Hell. Look at how an ordinary citizen, "Joe the Plumber," was trampled upon for having a tax lien on his property.

Republicans Go Easy on Hillary in First Day of Confirmation Hearings
Republicans did not engage in any tough, sustained attacks against President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of the state, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), during the first day of her confirmation hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

Tennessee Sludge Spill: Government Disaster 30 Times Worse than Exxon-Valdez

Media ignore fact that New Deal utility is run by the government.
By Julia A. Seymour
Business & Media Institute

Federally-owned TVA, the nation’s largest utility, recently made headlines for spilling more than a billion gallons of “thick black” coal sludge that literally “swallowed” up homes as it spread out over hundreds of acres in eastern Tennessee. It destroyed three homes and damaged dozens, forcing evacuations just days before Christmas 2008.

NBC “Nightly News” called the “toxic mess” “30 times larger than the 1989 Exxon-Valdez disaster,” on Dec. 24.

But news coverage on the three broadcast networks and three major newspapers barely mentioned that the TVA is under federal ownership – making this environmental tragedy the government’s fault and the taxpayers’ liability."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Put Your Bet on Stupidity
By Alan Caruba

We are well into a major recession, and I think most people are betting on the stupidity and cupidity of our nation’s leaders, elected and appointed, to ensure that it happens.

Idiots and liars running our government have managed to plunge Americans into the onset of a Recession that could turn into a full-fledged Depression. And it just gets worse because all the failed policies of the Roosevelt era are being touted as the answer to our present debacle. [More]

Obama climate czar has socialist ties

Washington Times:
Group sees 'global governance' as solution

Government Continued to Add Jobs in ‘08, Defying Recent Trend
– Despite the highest unemployment rate in 15 years, government grew at all levels in 2008, continuing a seemingly unstoppable trend that has withstood recessions, wars, and record budget deficits. Health care and education also added jobs in 2008, continuing their iron-clad growth trends as well.

Real Tax Cuts, Not an Obama ‘New Deal,’ Will Lift Economy, Say Experts
- America does not need a new New Deal or a stimulus package to rescue its foundering economy, Dr. Burt Folsom, a professor of history at Hillsdale College, and Steven Moore, a columnist with The Wall Street Journal, argued at the Metropolitan Club in Washington, D.C., on Friday. President-elect Barack Obama, however, says government spending is the "only" solution to the country’s economic woes, and he has advocated a stimulus package expected to cost taxpayers between $700 billion and $1.3 trillion.

The Answer’s in the Index
By Ed Feulner

A nation’s economic situation can turn on a dime. For example, in November 2007 the Federal Reserve expected the American economy to grow as much as 2.5 percent in 2008. In January the Fed revised that forecast downward, a step it would take repeatedly throughout the year as gasoline prices soared and the housing market plunged. By fall, it was clear our economy was in trouble. That motivated members of both political parties to urge Washington to “do something.” But this is no time to throw good (borrowed) money after bad. If all this spending was going to get the economy growing, it would be working. Yet nobody expects things to improve soon. There’s a lesson there, if we care to learn it. [Continue]

Pakistanis stock up on guns

Washington Times:
20 million carry firearms

Searching for more new tax revenue

Houston Chronicle/AP:
States set sights on sales taxes for online retailing

Bush stakes U.S. claim in Arctic

Washington Times:
Seeks rights to waterways and resources

Pull out of Irag ASAP? Well, just hold on there a second.

CNSNews.com - Iraq Official: Biden Affirms 'Responsible' Pullout
Baghdad (AP) - Vice President-elect Joe Biden told Iraqi leaders Tuesday that the incoming U.S. administration is committed to a responsible troop withdrawal that does not endanger improvements in security, an Iraqi spokesman said.

Henry, There is no Global Warming

Treasury Department Can Help Fight Global Warming, Says Paulson
– The U.S. Treasury and other finance ministries around the world should play a major role in fixing climate change, outgoing Bush administration Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said at a discussion sponsored by an environmental group on Monday. Paulson, who once served as chairman of the Nature Conservancy and co-chair of the environmental group Asia-Pacific Council, has long been involved in fighting global warming.

Tobacco Foes See ‘Tremendous Opportunities’ for Tobacco Control in 2009
- The American Lung Association says political leaders “have a duty to reduce death and disease caused by tobacco use.” And the group is optimistic that the Obama administration will be more sympathetic to its demands than the Bush administration was.


Bush Admits, ‘I Chucked Aside My Free Market Principles’
– President Bush on Monday defended his economic record, noting that he’s taken “extraordinary measures” to deal with the frozen credit markets. “And I readily concede that I chucked aside some of my free market principles when I was told by chief economic advisers that the situation we were facing could be worse than the Great Depression,” Bush said at a White House news conference.

Free-Marketeers: Bush Economic Legacy ‘Could Have Been Different’
– A majority of free-market economists and advocates agree with President Bush’s self-assessment Monday that he “chucked aside” his “free-market principles” by backing the $700-billion Wall Street bailout advocated by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. In fact, they told CNSNews.com that Bush's abandonment of free-market principles happened much earlier than the bailout.

Israelis: Combat-avoiding Hamas battalions 'have simply disappeared'
TEL AVIV — Israel's military has determined that Hamas combatants were starting to desert their units in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli military sources reported a significant drop in Hamas's military presence in the northern and central Gaza Strip. The sources said the Hamas military has abandoned its conventional tactics and were fighting largely as individuals or in pairs.

"Their operatives evade engagement with our forces and prefer remote-controlled operations from a distance," Israeli military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin said on Jan. 11. "Their leadership in Gaza is paralyzed. Their military wing is evasive." [Continue]

Hamas rockets achieve 45 km. range, strike Israeli air bases

TEL AVIV — Military sources said Hamas struck at least two air force bases within a 50-kilometer vicinity of the Gaza Strip.

The sources cited Hamas rocket attacks on Tel Nof and Hatzerim but did not disclose the time of the attacks. [Continue]



By Ralph Peters
New York Post
Israel hasn't killed a single civilian in the Gaza Strip. Over a hundred civilians have died, and Israeli bombs or shells may have ended their lives. But Israel didn't kill them.

Hamas did.

It's time to smash the lies. The lies of Hamas. The UN lies. And the save-the-terrorists lies of the global media.

There is no moral equivalence between Hamas terrorists and Israeli soldiers. There is no gray area. There is no point in negotiations.

Hamas is a Jew-killing machine. It exists to destroy Israel. What is there to negotiate? Read more.


Written by Alex Alexiev
To The Point News

To little notice in America, a drama is being played out in Eastern Europe that future historians may mark as the beginning of the end of Russia's neo-imperialist ambitions under Vladimir Putin. The economic house of cards he has built is collapsing as the tyrant himself heads for the dustbin of history.

Turning off the natural gas spigot in the middle of a harsh winter to much of Eastern Europe that is completely dependent on it and has few alternative sources to heat its schools and hospitals is the kind of imperial hubris that often drives dictators past the tipping point and ultimately to their downfall.

This, as Moscow's army of European lobbyists led by paid Gazprom lapdog and former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, sing the praises of ever greater European dependence on Russian energy.

Yet, Europe's cowardice notwithstanding, it is difficult for anybody with even a basic knowledge of the facts not to see that this time Putin has miscalculated badly and is playing a losing hand from an increasingly untenable position.

Netanyahu: Destroy Hamas, Stop Nuclear Iran
JERUSALEM -- Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel must remove Gaza's Hamas rulers from power to ensure victory over "terror."

The Russian Gas Trap

Geopolitical Weekly

The Russian Gas Trap
By Peter Zeihan

"At the time of this writing, the natural gas crisis in Europe is entering its 13th day.

While the topic has only penetrated the Western mind as an issue in recent years, Russia and Ukraine have been spatting about the details of natural gas deliveries, volumes, prices and transit terms since the Soviet breakup in 1992. In the end, a deal is always struck, because Russia needs the hard currency that exports to Europe (via Ukraine) bring, and Ukraine needs natural gas to fuel its economy. But in recent years, two things have changed.

First, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004 brought to power a government hostile to Russian goals. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko would like to see his country integrated into the European Union and NATO; for Russia, such an evolution would be the kiss of death.

Ukraine is home to most of the infrastructure that links Russia to Europe, including everything from pipelines to roads and railways to power lines. The Ukrainian and Russian heartlands are deeply intertwined; the two states’ industrial and agricultural belts fold into each other almost seamlessly. Eastern Ukraine is home to the largest concentration of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers anywhere in the world outside Russia. The home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is at Sevastopol on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, a reminder that the Soviet Union’s port options were awful — and that Russia’s remaining port options are even more so.

Ukraine hems in the south of European Russia so thoroughly that any hostile power controlling Kiev could easily threaten a variety of core Russian interests, including Moscow itself. Ukraine also pushes far enough east that a hostile Kiev would sever most existing infrastructure connections to the Caucasus. Simply put, a Ukraine outside the Russian sphere of influence transforms Russia into a purely defensive power, one with little hope of resisting pressure from anywhere. But a Russified Ukraine makes it possible for Russia to project power outward, and to become a major regional — and potentially global — player.

The second change in recent years is that Russia now has an economic buffer, meaning it can tolerate a temporary loss in natural gas income. Since Vladimir Putin first came to power as prime minister in 1999, every government under his command has run a hefty surplus. By mid-2008, Russian officials were regularly boasting of their $750 billion in excess funds, and of how Moscow inevitably would soon become a global financial hub. Not surprisingly, the 2008-2009 recession has deflated this optimism to some extent. The contents of Moscow’s piggy bank already have dropped by approximately $200 billion. Efforts to insulate Russian firms and protect the ruble have taken their financial toll, Russia’s 2009 bu dget is firmly in deficit, and all talk of a Russian New York is on ice.

But Russia’s financial troubles pale in comparison to its neighbors’ problems — not in severity, but in impact. Russia is not a developed country, or even one that, like the states of Central Europe, is seriously trying to develop. A capital shortage simply does not damage Russia as it does, say, Slovakia. And while Russia has not yet returned to central planning, rising government control over all sources of capital means the Russia of today has far more in common economically with the Soviet Union than with even the Russia of the 1990s, much less the free-market West. In relative terms, the recession actually has increased relative Russian economic power — and that says nothing about other tools of Russian power. Moscow’s energy, political and military levers are as powerful now as they were during the August 2008 war with Georgia.

This is a very long-winded way of saying that before 2004, the Russian-Ukrainian natural gas spat was simply part of business as usual. But now, Russia feels that its life is on the line, and that it has the financial room to maneuver to push hard — and so, the annual ritual of natural gas renegotiations has become a key Russian tool in bringing Kiev to heel.

And a powerful tool it is. Fully two-thirds of Ukraine’s natural gas demand is sourced from Russia, and the income from Russian natural gas transiting to Europe forms the backbone of the Ukrainian budget. Ukraine is a bit of an economic basket case in the best of times, but the global recession has essentially shut down the country’s steel industry, Ukraine’s largest sector. Russian allies in Ukraine, which for the time being include Yushchenko’s one-time Orange ally Yulia Timoshenko, have done a thorough job of ensuring that the blame for the mass power cuts falls to Yushchenko. Facing enervated income, an economy in the doldrums and a hostile Russia, along with all blame being directed at him, Yushchenko’s days appear to be numbered. The most recent poll taken to gauge public sentiment ahead of presidential elections, which are anticipated later this year, put Yushchenko’s support level below the survey’s margin of error.

Even if Yushchenko’s future were bright, Russia has no problem maintaining or even upping the pressure. The Kremlin would much rather see Ukraine destroyed than see it as a member of the Western clubs, and Moscow is willing to inflict a great deal of collateral damage on a variety of players to preserve what it sees as an interest central to Russian survival.

Europe has been prominent among these casualties. As a whole, Europe imports one-quarter of the natural gas it uses from Russia, and approximately 80 percent of that transits Ukraine. All of those deliveries now have been suspended, resulting in cutoffs of various degrees to France, Turkey, Poland, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria — in rough order of increasing severity. Reports of both mass power outages and mass heating failures have been noted in the countries at the bottom half of this list.

A variety of diversification programs have put Europe well on its way to removing its need for Russian natural gas entirely, but these programs are still years from completion. Until then, not much can be done for states that use natural gas for a substantial portion of their energy needs.

Unlike coal, nuclear energy or oil, natural gas can be easily shipped only via pipeline to previously designated points of use. This means the decision to link to a supplier lasts for decades and is not easily adjusted should something go wrong. Importing natural gas in liquid form requires significant skill in cryogenics as well as specialized facilities that take a couple of years to build (not to mention a solid port). Alternate pipe supply networks, much less power facilities that use different fuels, are still more expensive and require even more time. All European countries can do in the immediate term is literally rely upon the kindness of strangers until the imbroglio is past or a particularly creative solution comes to mind. (Poland has offered several states some of its share of Russian natural gas that comes to it v ia a Belarusian line.) Some Central European states are taking the unorthodox step of recommissioning mothballed nuclear power plants.

Because Russia’s goal in all this is to crack Kiev, there is not much any European country can do. But one nation, Germany, is certainly trying. Of the major European states, Germany is the most dependent upon Russian resources in general, and energy in particular.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Putin spent three nights this past week on the phone with each other discussing the topic, and the pair has a two-day summit set for later this week. The Germans have three primary reasons for cozying up to the Russians at a time when it seems they should be as angry as anyone else in Europe.

First, because most of the natural gas Germany gets from Russia passes not through Ukraine, but through Belarus — and because the Russians have not interrupted these secondary flows — the Germans desperately want to avoid rocking the boat and politicizing the dispute any more than necessary. The Germans need to engage the Russians in discussion, but unlike most other players, they can afford not to be accusatory, because they have not been too deeply affected so far. (Like all the other Europeans, the Germans are working feverishly to diversify their energy supplies away from Russia, but while Berlin can keep the lights on, it doesn’t want to ruffle any more feathers than it needs to.)

Second, as any leader of Germany would, Merkel recognizes that if current Russian-Western tensions devolve into a more direct confrontation, the struggle would be fought disproportionately with German resources — and perhaps even on German soil. Germany is the closest major power to Russia and would therefore be the focus of any major action, Russian or Western, offensive or defensive. France, the United Kingdom and the United States enjoy the buffer of distance — and in the case of the last two, a water buffer to boot.

German national interest, therefore, is not to find a way to fight the Russians, but to find a way to live with them. Germany traditionally has been Russia’s largest trading partner. Every time the two have clashed, it has been ugly, to say the least. In the German mind, if Ukraine (or perhaps even adjusting the attitude of Poland) is what is necessary to make the Russians feel secure, so be it.

Third, Germany has a European angle to think about. To put it bluntly, Merkel is always on the lookout for any means of easing Germany back into the international community with a foreign policy somewhat more sophisticated than the “I’m sorry” that has reigned since the end of World War II. After the war, France successfully hijacked German submission and used German economic strength to achieve French political desires. Since the Cold War’s end, Germany has slowly wormed its way out of that policy straitjacket, and the natural gas crisis raises an interesting possibility. If Merkel’s discussions with Putin result in restored natural gas flows, then not only will Russia see Germany as a partner, but Germany might win goodwill from European states that no longer have to endure a winter without heat.

Still, it will be a tough sell: the European states between Germany and Russia have always lived in dread that one power or the other — or, God forbid, both — will take them over. But Germany is clearly at the center of Europe, and all of the states affected by the natural gas crisis count Germany as their largest trading partner. If Merkel can muster sufficient political muscle to complement Germany’s economic muscle, the resulting image of strength and capability would go a long way toward cementing Berlin’s re-emergence."

We Cannot Abandon Israel

By Hugh Hewitt

"As Israel's offensive in Gaza comes under increasing worldwide criticism, American support for our most reliable ally in the region must not falter. Israel, as the Atlantic's Robert Kaplan noted recently, is really battling Iran, and the mullahs must be opposed if their expansionism and nuclear dreams are to be thwarted. Civilian casualties are tragic, and would be much fewer if the Hamas terrorists would refuse to use human shields, but while Israel must continue its efforts to limit civilian casualties, it cannot allow the tactics of the terrorists to render Hamas invulnerable.

The bottom line is Israel wants peace and the rockets to stop. If Hamas and Fatah would just accept peace with Israel, the region could boom and the Palestinians thrive. We can pray for such a result--but we must also support our Democratic friends in their war with the terrorists."