Monday, January 31, 2011

What's The Matter With Egypt ?

This Is The Best Explanation I've Read So Far.  And For What It's Worth, I Lived Next Door In Lybia For A Year.

Victor Davis Hanson
By Victor Davis Hanson, a farmer who grows rasin grapes.  He's also an American military historian, colomnist, political essayist and former classics professor, notable as a scholar of ancient warfare.

In the Stars or in Them?

So what’s the matter with Egypt? The same thing that is the matter with most of the modern Middle East: in the post-industrial world, its hundreds of millions now are vicariously exposed to the affluence and freedom of the West via satellite television, cell phones, the Internet, DVDs, and social networks.

And they become angry that, in contrast to what they see and hear from abroad, their own lives are unusually miserable in the most elemental sense. Of course, there is no introspective Socrates on hand and walking about to remind the Cairo or Amman Street that their corrupt government is in some part a reification of themselves, who in their daily lives see the world in terms of gender apartheid, tribalism, religious intolerance, conspiracies, fundamentalism, and statism that are incompatible with a modern, successful, capitalist democracy.

That is, a century after the onset of modern waste treatment science, many of the cities in the Middle East smell of raw sewage. A century after we learned about microbes and disease, the water in places like Cairo is undrinkable from the tap. Six decades after the knowledge of treating infectious disease, millions in the Middle East suffer chronic pain and suffer from maladies that are easily addressed in the West. And they have about as much freedom as the Chinese, but without either the affluence or the confidence. That the Gulf and parts of North Africa are awash in oil and gas, at a time of both near record prices and indigenous control of national oil treasures, makes the ensuing poverty all the more insulting.

The Old Two-Step

All this has been true for forty years, but, again, instant global communications have brought the reality home to the miserable of the Middle East in a way state-run newspapers and state-censored television never could even had they wished.

In reaction, amid this volatile new communications revolution, the Saddams, the Mubaraks, the Saudi royals, the North African strongmen, and all the other “kings” and “fathers” and “leaders” found an effective enough antidote: The Jews were behind all sorts of plots to emasculate Arab Muslims. And the United States and, to a lesser extent, Great Britain were stealing precious resources that robbed proud Middle Easterners of their heritage and future. Better yet, there was always a Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone, or, for the more high-brow, a Jimmy Carter to offer a useful exegesis of American conspiracy, oil-mongery, or Zionist infiltration into the West Wing that “proved” Middle East misery was most certainly not self-induced.

We know the old Middle East two-step that then followed the party line. A Gaddafi or Saddam or a Saudi prince on the sly turned a blind eye to jihadists, or funded them, or in some ways subsidized them — on the condition that they embodied popular outrage but diverted it from Middle Eastern authoritarians to Americans and Israelis. The more “friendly” and “pro-Western” (and the Saudis and the Pakistanis were the past masters at this) would then come to us, deplore terrorism, promise to crack down on it, but also insist that their own thugocracies and kleptocracies were the only fingers in the dike that held back the flood of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Iranian-like theocracy, etc.. Ergo, we were to give money or support or both to those that two-timed us, on the premise that the alternative was surely worse.

And the Response is?

I think the American response was usually over the decades twofold: One, we were to sigh, “Well, Mubarak’s an SOB but he at least is ours and not sending out terrorists to blow up Americans in Lebanon or Saudi Arabia, and he keeps the peace with Israel.” Two, we were to talk grandly of a meaningless West Bank “peace process.” Since our friendly dictators were terrified of their own, they simultaneously winked at terrorists who went after us rather than them, and blamed Israel for the “tension” in the Middle East (yes, the Jews should be behind the corrupt officials who tried to shake down a poor Tunisian one too many times, driving him to self-conflagration — and the ensuing wildfire into the Middle East). The more we promised to pressure Israel, the more we could ignore the misery of Cairo, and the more a thieving Mubarak could perpetuate it.

Pre-Bush Republican realists usually allowed all this in service to “national security,” as in no repeat of the fall of the shah, or the 1970s oil embargoes, or the near disastrous Yom Kippur War and tardy American logistical effort. Democrats did the above as often, but more cleverly added a multicultural, relativist twist of “who are we to judge other systems and cultures when our own is at fault as well (fill in the race, class, gender blanks)?” No one seemed to wish an Eisenhower 1956 Suez solution of rebuking our allies, standing up for principle — and thereby aiding the likes of Nasser and the USSR, while alienating and humiliating our European friends (unforgotten to this day) and Israel.

The New Realities

So what is the matter with Egypt? Why cannot the above mess just keep on keeping on? A number of newer twists.

1) We are not so sure that Mubarak’s “it is us or the jihadists” is quite operative any more, given the defeat of jihadists in Iraq and the downward spiral in approval of bin Laden. In any case, there seems no Khomeini-like figure on the horizon in the radical Islamist Arab world. And to be one, there would have to be, as in Khomeini’s case in France, lots of Western appeasement and subsidies. After 9/11, not even a France wishes to embrace an Islamist and create another Khomeini. The result is that when Mubarak and Co. threaten us with the Muslim Brotherhood, we are not quite convinced, as in the past, that it will hijack the street as Khomeini once did. Thus in the last week we have gone from Biden’s Mubarak “not a dictator” to an “evolving,” finger-in-the-wind stance — in hopes that the Shah-Banisadr-Khomeini formula is not inevitable (yet in this regard, remember that 160,000 U.S. troops played quite a role in stopping the Iraq possible cycle of Saddam-Allawi-Zarqawi).

2) Iraq changed things, and in subtle and as of yet not easily fathomable fashion. When Reagan shouted at the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union most surely did not come down for four years. But when it did, in hindsight we can see that such symbolic confrontations, along with the military challenges, insidiously exposed and weakened the corrupt system. When Saddam was routed (had a Middle Eastern thug ever been put on trial?), and the insurrection mostly crushed, and a consensual government in power in Baghdad survived for seven years amid the most unlikely chances for survival, then the Middle East (as the Saudis rightly knew and double-dealed as a result) was not quite the same.
Iran is desperate to strangle a free Iraq, since its nearby free media has a tendency to encourage things like the 2009 uprising across the border. Yet to suggest that Bush unleashed in 2003 a revolutionary chain of events is heretical. In our twisted political calculus, Bush is demonic for speaking out for human rights and removing Saddam, Obama is progressive for ignoring human rights protestors in the streets of Khomeinist Iran.

3) I don’t particularly like Mubarak and will be glad to see him leave, but please spare us the condemnation that we “made” him. We did not. He is a reflection of the pathologies that were outlined above, and would have to be invented had he not existed. He could not have come to power without an underlining culture of tribalism, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, and statism. And he has less blood on his hands than did the once beloved “authentic” Nasser (whose use of poison gas in Yemen provided the revolutionary model for Saddam in Kurdistan and at the time bothered no one in Nasserite Egypt).

4) What’s next? “Finger-in-the-wind” diplomacy may work for a while, but it requires deftness that follows conditions on the street in a nanosecond to avoid appearing purely cynical (a skill beyond Hillary, Biden, and Obama). I think in this bad/worse choice scenario we might as well support supposedly democratic reformers, with the expectation that they could either fail in removing Mubarak or be nudged out by those far worse than Mubarak. Contrary to popular opinion, I think Bush was right to support elections in Gaza “one time” (only of course). The Gazans got what they wanted, we are done with them, and they have to live with the results, happy in their thuggish misery, with a prosperous Israel and better-off West Bank to remind them of their stupidity. All bad, but an honest bad and preferable to the lie that there were thousands of Jeffersonians in Gaza thwarted by the U.S.

So step back and watch it play out with encouragement for those who oppose both Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood— hoping for the best, expecting the worst.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Just Say "Yeah Right"

Hey Johnny!  I Have Eight Grandchildren And I'd Like To Believe You But...If Congress Can't Find The Political Backbone To "Just Say No" To Increased Federal Spending, Why Would I Believe They Would Have The Guts To Pass A Consitutional Ammendment To Balance The Federal Budget ?
With our national debt skyrocketing past an unprecedented $14 trillion and our deficit spending surging to $1.5 trillion this year, it is urgent that Washington get its fiscal house in order. These spending habits are unsustainable and jeopardize our credit rating and the very financial future of our country. That is why I am joining several of my colleagues in again calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget.

Americans are sitting at their kitchen tables every day scrutinizing their family budgets, prioritizing how they will spend their paychecks and finding savings where they can. They have had to make very tough choices in the past few years during this economic recession, but they have watched in dismay as the federal government has failed to make the same sacrifices. The American people sent a clear message in November’s election that they will no longer tolerate Washington’s endless spending spree, and a balanced budget requirement would demand from our government what every American has had to ask of themselves: to live within our means.

In my state, the Georgia constitution requires the Legislature to balance the state’s budget every year and spend only the amount it collects in revenues. That is not always easy and it forces Georgia’s elected officials to make tough choices, but it ensures that Georgia won’t face the problem of massive debt that other states are facing.

I spent 17 years in the Georgia Legislature, and for 12 of those 17 years I was an appropriator. When I was approached with appropriations requests, Georgia’s balanced budget requirement required me to justify every penny of spending. And more importantly, it allowed me to just say “no.”

With our federal budget in such disarray, the only way we can restore fiscal responsibility and sanity is to prohibit Congress from spending money it doesn’t have. A constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget would force Congress to finally just say “no.”

In addition to passing a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget, we must also reform our broken appropriations process and reduce wasteful spending. That is why I am also pushing the Biennial Budget Appropriations Act to switch Congress from an annual appropriations process to a two-year cycle, with a requirement that every other year be devoted to scrutinizing federal programs to determine if they should be continued, reduced or eliminated. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democratic senator who has firsthand experience with biennial budgeting from her tenure as governor of New Hampshire, is among those who have joined me in pushing this legislation.

Not only would biennial budgeting improve the efficiency of the budgeting process, but it would give Congress much needed time to devote to achieving a balanced budget. Congress has repeatedly failed to pass the 12 annual spending bills on time and frequently has resorted to passing omnibus bills at the last minute. Last year, Congress failed to complete work on a single one of the 12 appropriations bills before adjourning for the year. Clearly, what we are doing now is not working, and we must change the paradigm of how we budget and spend in Washington.

I have nine grandchildren. The rest of my life is about seeing to it that we leave them a country that is as free, as prosperous and as safe as the country our parents left to us. The challenge of our time is our debt and the deficit. It is time to take bold steps to reverse Washington’s unsustainable course.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is a Republican who represents Georgia in the U.S. Senate.

Back To The Basics

This Would Be Less Painful Than Many Politicians Would Have You Believe.

Want to save $500 billion this year? Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has a way to do it.
Is it realistic? Maybe not every part of it, but have a look below and judge for yourself. I don't think his total removal of rental subsidies is unreasonable -- the fact that Section 8 is a total failure doesn't justify dumping its beneficiaries  into oblivion. But there's also no reason every agency has to see its budget increase every year, and a lot of these cuts really do make sense. Most of them simply represent a return to 2008 levels of spending -- remember that a 30 percent cut is less than it seems when an agency's budget been increasing by 40 percent over the last few years.
Why fund NASA at traditional levels if President Obama has scaled back its mission? Why not let Indian tribes manage their own trust funds, especially considering the federal mismanagement? Why not realign our  military bases abroad, sell unused federal buildings (something Obama has already begun doing), transfer some national parks to the states, and end the wasteful corporate subsidies that come out of the Departments of Energy and Commerce?
Of course, even this bill would only cut this year's record deficit by one-third. But if you can bring discretionary spending down a notch with something like it, then cut Defense further as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wind down, you've gotten to the point where you can look Americans in the eye and tell them you've done everything you can, and it's time to do something about Social Security and Medicare to save the nation from long-term financial collapse.
I've copied down the short version of what gets cut from each agency or department, and the percentage cut.
LEGISLATIVE BRANCH...............................$1,283,000,000. (23%)
Notes: The Government Printing Office is abolished.

JUDICIAL BRANCH......................................$2,434,000,000. (32%)
AGRICULTURE............................................$42,542,000,000. (30%)
The Agriculture Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Resources Conservation Service, and Foreign Agricultural Service are abolished. The Forest Service gets a $1.2 billion haircut.

COMMERCE...................................................$5,322,000,000. (54%)
National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is cut by $857,000,000.

DEFENSE.......................................................$47,500,000,000. (6.5%)
EDUCATION..................................................$78,000,000,000 (83%)
Only the Pell grant program survives.

ENERGY............................................................$44,200,000,000 (100%)
The Defense Department takes over all of Energy's remaining functions (nuclear waste, for example) and about $18 billion of its budget.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES..............$26,510,000,000. (26%)
Notes: FDA is cut by $230,000,000; Indian Health Service is cut by $650 million; CDC is cut by $1.17 billion; NIH by $5.8 billion.

HOMELAND SECURITY.................................$23,765,000,000. (43%)
Notes: Coast Guard is shifted to Defense. TSA's funds are cut by $900 million.

HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT....$53,100,000,000. (100%)
Notes: Completely eliminated. Veterans' housing programs are transferred to the VA

INTERIOR........................................................$10,934,000,000. (78%)
Bureau of Reclamation and Bureau of Indian Affairs are abolished.

JUSTICE.............................................................$9,057,000,000. (28%)
Note: Office of Justice Programs is abolished.

LABOR....................................................$2,803,000,000. (2%)
OSHA, MSHA, and the The Employment and Training Administration are spared all cuts (no cuts to unemployment benefits)

STATE...................................................................$20,321,000,000. (71%)
Note: Massive foreign aid cuts. All international commissions and organizations are defunded.

TRANSPORTATION............................................$42,810,000,000. (49%)
Notes: Amtrak is completely de-funded.

VETERANS’ AFFAIRS..........................................No cuts
CORPS OF ENGINEERS......................................$1,854,000,000. (27%)
EPA..............................................................$3,238,000,000. (29%)
NASA.........................................................................$4,500,000,000 (25%)
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION...............$4,723,000,000. (62%)
FCC...........................................................$2,150,000,000. (22%)
ABOLISH...............................................................$2,050,000,000. (100%)
(1) Affordable Housing Program.
(2) Commission on Fine Arts.
(3) Consumer Product Safety Commission.
(4) Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
(5) National Endowment for the Arts.
(6) National Endowment for the Humanities.
(7) State Justice Institute.

Collect delinquent taxes from Federal Employees........$3,000,000,000.
Freeze Federal Government employee pay...................$2,000,000,000.
Reduce Federal Government travel..............................$7,500,000,000.
Repeal Davis-Bacon..................................................... $6,000,000,000.
Prohibit union project labor agreements......................$2,000,000,000.
TARP repeal.................................................................$4,481,000,000.
Sell Federal Buildings..................................................$19,000,000,000.
Reduce Federal vehicle budget..........................................$600,000,000.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

De CEO, De Mogul, and De Verst Bunker In De Verld

I Guess You Had To Be There For This To Be "Hilarious".

Last evening Henry Blodget, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Business Insider and a couple of business leaders where at a cocktail party prior to the beginning of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting. The WFE is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva, best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in the the eastern Alps region of Switzerland.  The meeting brings together top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world, including health and the environment.  Beside meetings, the foundation produces a series of research reports and engages its members in sector specific initiatives. 

Mr. Blodget posted the following on his business news website saaying it was a "Most Hilarious Moment".

"I was milling around in one of the many hang-out areas in the Davos Congress Center that are intermingled among the official session rooms.  It was cocktail hour, and it had been a long day, and I was talking to a couple of moguls who, for reasons that will become obvious, must remain nameless.  One of the moguls was holding forth on a variety of subjects in a thick European accent, which, for the same reasons, must remain unspecified.

Suddenly I noticed that the mogul wasn't looking at me anymore - he was looking past my shoulder.  "Dis guy is an abzolute idiot," he said.  "De verst bunker in de verld."

Excuse me?

I turned around and saw a short, gray-haired man whose face I recognized flowing toward us through the crowd, in the middle of an entourage.  I knew his face well, but for a moment I couldn't place it.  "An abzolute idiot," the mogul said, shaking his head and hissing in disgust.  "De verst bunker in de verld."  Then, suddenly, it clicked.  The gray-hairded man was Jean-Claude Trichet, the head of the European Central Bank, who is shorter than he looks on TV.  And the mogul had just dismissed him as "the worst banker in the world."

Trichet flowed toward us, smiling and nodding at all those who greeted him.  In a moment, he brushed past my shoulder and came face to face with the mogul, whose demeanor had suddenly transformed into a picture of welcome.  "Hi, Jean," my mogul said, with a friendly nod.  Jean-Claude Trichet nodded (and, perhaps, returned the greeting by name - he was beyond me by then), and then passed by us into the crowd.

When those in Trichet's wake had closed behind him, the mogul looked at me again and shook his head:  "De verst bunker in de verld."

Take Your Pick

State Of The Union 2011 Plus Two Responses

President Barak Obama

Paul Ryan

Michelle Bachmann

Friday, January 21, 2011

50% Plus Equals Minus 15 Million

15 Million Jobs Were Suppose To Have Been Created In The Past 10 Years But Weren't.  Why?  Because Greed Doesn't Work The Way It Used To.

National Journal:  "The Phantom 15 Million"

At the turn of the millennium, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that the U.S. economy would create nearly 22 million net jobs in the 2000s, only slightly fewer than the boom 1990s yielded. The economists predicted “good opportunities for jobs” and “an optimistic vision for the U.S. economy” through 2010.  At the decade’s economic peak, though, that number stood at only 7 million. Job growth in the 2000s was the lowest of any decade ever recorded by the federal government, stretching back to the 1940s.
U.S. payrolls, by their 2008 peak, had grown about 5 percent from the start of the decade. Ever since the Labor Department began tracking employment in the late 1930s, no previous decade produced less than 20 percent payroll growth.

Economists from top university research departments, regional Fed banks, think tanks, and the wonky economic blogosphere, who were asked why U.S. job creation had stalled so spectacularly in the past decade. Liberals and free-market purists alike all said, “Good question,” and almost to a person added some form of “I wish we knew the answer.”

Lawmakers have still barely touched the question—they are too focused on taxes, regulation, and government spending, policy areas that hardly any economist has suggested as explanations for our lost decade of job growth. Researchers are just starting to piece together the evidence, and no one can yet finger the culprit.

American companies have adopted a cold-blooded attitude toward recessions, one that fits the new model of globalization and automation. Technology makes it easy to lay off your 100 least-effective workers and ship their jobs to India or elsewhere. 

Here is how the evolving global economy is supposed to work: Mature economies with high living standards, such as the United States, ship some of their lower-skill jobs to developing countries where wages are lower. The costs of the outsourced goods and services go down, and the buying power of the developing countries goes up. American firms reap higher profits, which they invest in developing higher-value products that can’t be made elsewhere and sell them to increasingly flush consumers at home and abroad. Laid-off American workers find jobs in the innovative industries that result.

But here we are with all the economic indicators suggesting we are emerging from the "Great Recession" but unemployment is not declining.  How come?  Do me a favor and re-read the last sentence of the previous paragraph.  Notice where is says, "products that can't be made elsewhere"?  Now read the next paragraph.

A recent paper by researchers at the Asian Development Bank Institute concluded that the iPhone, one of the United States’ top innovations of the past decade, actually contributes nearly $2 billion to our trade deficit because it is almost entirely produced and assembled in Asia. The paper also raises a conundrum for lawmakers and business leaders alike: If Apple moved its assembly line to the United States and created domestic jobs but didn’t raise the cost of the iPhone, the company would still turn a 50 percent profit on every one it sold.

Old-fashioned greed doesn't work the way it used to because just about anything can be made just about anywhere.  Now, I'm no economist but it sounds like to me that's what happened to "the phantom 15 million".

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thank You Mr. Koch

Palin Holds High Ground Over Harsh and Unfair Critics

By Ed Koch

As I see it, in the current battle for public opinion Sarah Palin has defeated her harsh and unfair critics.

After the January 8 shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six others in Tucson, Arizona, some television talking heads and members of the blogosphere denounced her and held her in part responsible for creating a climate of hatred that resulted in the mass attacks.

An example is Joe Scarborough and his crew on the "Morning Joe" show, which I watch and generally enjoy every morning at 6:30 a.m. when I rise to start the day. Because Palin designated Congresswoman Giffords and others for defeat in the November elections by the use of crosshairs on website maps of the Congressional districts, they blamed Palin for creating an atmosphere that caused Jared Loughner (whom everyone now recognizes as being mentally disturbed) to embark on the shooting and killing spree.

Then reason set in, led by President Obama in his now famous and widely-lauded speech in Tucson bringing the country together. Most commentators did an about-face, recognizing that the lack of civility in both speech and actions by politicians, particularly in Washington, were not the cause of the shootings. A friend of the shooter said he had no interest in politics or talk radio. Insanity was the cause of his vicious acts, not political rhetoric.

While the charge of responsibility against Palin was dropped, the Scarborough crew continued to assail her for defending herself on her website where she stated that she had been the subject of a blood libel. Her critics were incensed that she should use the term "blood libel." That was the description given by Jews to the charge of Christian clergy who falsely accused Jews of killing Christian children in order to make matzos (unleavened bread) during the Passover holiday. That libelous accusation was intended by those using it to cause pogroms that killed and injured thousands of Jews. It started in the early centuries A.D. and continues to date, according to Wikipedia. That same charge - blood libel - is now repeated by the media in Arab countries to stir up the anger of the Arab street against the Jews in Israel.  The libel continues to do damage.

Today the phrase "blood libel" can be used to describe any monstrous defamation against any person, Jew or non-Jew. It was used by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when he was falsely accused of permitting the Lebanese Christian militia to kill hundreds of defenseless and innocent Muslim men, women and children in Lebanese refugee camps. The killings were monstrous and indefensible revenge for earlier killings by Muslims of innocent Christian civilians.  Time Magazine published a story implying that Sharon was directly responsible for the massacres. He sued the magazine. At trial it was determined that the magazine story included false allegations, but since Sharon was a public figure, he received no monetary damages.

How dare Sarah Palin, cried the commentators, use that phrase to describe the criticism of her by those who blamed her for creating the atmosphere that set Loughner off in his murderous madness. Some took the position that it proved their ongoing charges that she is not an intelligent person and probably did not know what the phrase meant historically. In my opinion, she was right to denounce her critics and use blood libel to describe the unfair criticism that she had been subject to.

Here are excerpts from her statement:

"Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims' families as we express our sympathy."
"Like many, I've spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event."
"Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don't like a person's vision for the country, you're free to debate that vision. If you don't like their ideas, you're free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible."
"As I said while campaigning for others last March in Arizona during a very heated primary race, ‘We know violence isn't the answer. When we take up our arms, we're talking about our vote.' Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box - as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That's who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn't a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional."

Why do I defend Palin in this case? I don't agree with her political philosophy: She is an arch conservative. I am a liberal with sanity. I know that I am setting myself up for attack when I ask, why did Emile Zola defend Dreyfus? Palin is no Dreyfus and I am certainly no Zola. But all of us have an obligation, particularly those in politics and public office, to denounce, when we can, the perpetrators of horrendous libels and stand up for those falsely charged. We should denounce unfair, false and wicked charges not only when they are made against ourselves, our friends or our political party but against those with whom we disagree. If we are to truly change the poisonous political atmosphere that we all complain of, including those who create it, we should speak up for fairness when we can.

In the 2008 presidential race when Sarah Palin's name was first offered to the public by John McCain as his running mate, I said at the time that she "scared the hell out of me." My reference was to the content of her remarks, not to her power to persuade voters.

It was McCain who lost the presidential election, not Palin. Since that time she has established that she has enormous power to persuade people. A self-made woman who rose from PTA mother to Governor of Alaska, she is one of the few speakers in public life who can fill a stadium. Her books are enormous successes. Her television program about Alaska has been a critical and economic success. When Sarah Palin addresses audiences, they rise to their feet in support and applause. She is without question a major leader of the far right faction in the Republican Party and its ally the Tea Party.

I repeat my earlier comment that she "scares the hell out of me." Nevertheless, she is entitled to fair and respectful treatment. The fools in politics today in both parties are those who think she is dumb. I've never met her, but I've always thought that she is highly intelligent but not knowledgeable in many areas and politically uninformed. I don't believe she will run for president in 2012 or that she would be elected if she did. But I do believe she is equal in ability to many of those in the Republican Party seeking that office.

Many women understand what she has done for their cause. She will not be silenced nor will she leave the heavy lifts to the men in her Party. She will not be falsely charged, remain silent, and look for others - men - to defend her. She is plucky and unafraid.

While I disagree with her and I am prepared to oppose her politically, in the spirit of longed-for civility I say, Ms. Palin you are in a certain sense an example of the American dream: You have the courage to stand up and present your vision of America to its people. Your strength and lack of fear make America stronger and are examples to be emulated by girls and boys, men and women who are themselves afraid to speak up. You provide the example that they need for self-assurance.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

Thin Ice

Suprised, Sad and Scared
(Don't miss any links.)
I had some spare time on my hands this morning and found an interesting post on “Politico”.
In the article Joe Scarborough suggested I check out the “Tides Foundation” to see just how thin a layer of ice Glenn Beck skates on every day.

I’m assuming Mr. Scarborough was alluding to the lead article, "Tides Supports a National Dialogue on Tolerance".

So, I read it.

At the bottom of the article was a list of credits for the photos in the header of the article.  "The Beatitudes Society" was listed as one of the credits.  I don't know why, but...

Suprise, Suprise, Suprise !!!

I went to the “Beatitudes Society” homepage and clicked on their blog.
Sad, Sad, Sad !!!
Again, I don't know why, but another posting caught my eye.
Scary, Scary, Scary !!!
Don’t let  Joe’s mom see this stuff.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why I Pray For America

"The Limbo Of Collective Ignorance"

Three weeks into Barak Obama's presidency, Newsweek magazine announced that "we are all socialists now" and that America "is moving toward a modern European state."

Now This...

If you think Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian denominations are lying about how Europe is secularizing, shunning specifically Christianity, this should be proof.
The three million copies of the 2011-2012 school calendar published by the European Union has omitted Christian holidays, while continuing to note important Jewish and Muslim celebrations.
While Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter are missing from the calendar’s pages, days commemorating “Sikh Baisakhi-Day, the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday, the Muslim holiday Aid-el-Kebir,” remain in place,” Boutin continued.
Christine Boutin, former French politician and government minister, is a consultant for the Pontifical Council for the Family, as well as president of the Christian Democratic Party in France. She went on to lament that Christianity has "fallen into the limbo of collective ignorance."

Friday, January 14, 2011

I Can't Take Any More Chances

A.  I am a card carrying Tea Party member.
B.  I am 65 years old.
C.  I am white.
D.  I am "economically comfortable".
E.  I am recovering from a heart attack and my cardiologist has advised me not to overexert myself or become unnecessarily excited.

Therefore, I am not taking any chances.  I have requested that my Tea Party membership be cancelled.   

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Very, Very Scary

There's No Room Left Under The Rug And The Can Has Been Kicked To A Dead End.

It was the most startling of warnings. If the US does not get its finances in order “we will have a European situation on our hands, and possibly worse”, claimed Paul Ryan, the new Republican chairman of the House of Representatives budget committee.
The consequences of not tackling the country’s mounting debt burden would be dire, he last week told an audience of leading budget experts and economists at a gathering in Washington. “We will have the riots in the streets, we will have the defaults, we will have all of those ugliness problems,” he said, referring to “French kids lobbing Molotov cocktails at cars, burning down schools because the retirement age will be moved from 60 to 62”.
As it stands today, the US borrows about 40 cents for every dollar it spends.  America’s budget deficit in the year to last September amounted to about $1,300bn – the second highest on record. Over the next several years, as the economic recovery advances and the impact of emergency spending measures taken during the recession start to wane, the country’s deficits are expected to shrink naturally.
But the relief will be temporary: because of the retirement of the baby-boomer generation, which starts in earnest this year, the cost of government healthcare and pension programmes is projected to soar. According to a report issued last month by an 18-member bipartisan commission on fiscal responsibility, by 2025 tax revenues will be sufficient to finance only interest payments – which are projected to soar from their current $200bn a year to more than $1,000bn – and entitlement programmes, with no room for anything else.
“Every other federal government activity – from national defence and homeland security to transportation and energy – will have to be paid for with borrowed money,” it warns. By 2035, rising debt could reduce gross domestic product per capita by as much as 15 per cent. That would imply a harsh reduction in Americans’ standard of living.
This gloomy picture is what could eventually cause a crisis in international capital markets. It is also what drove the commission, led by Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff under Mr Clinton, and Alan Simpson, former Republican senator from Wyoming, to attempt what had rarely been tried before in Washington: to craft a detailed template to solve the country’s budget woes, offering Americans and their lawmakers a concrete glimpse of what it would take to correct the problem.
The plan recommended a total of $3,900bn in deficit reduction by 2020, with a three-to-one ratio of spending cuts to tax increases. The commission proposed raising the state pension age, curbing government healthcare and limiting popular tax breaks such as the ability to deduct interest paid on mortgages.
Some potential options to cut the deficit – such as a consumption or value added tax, or a tax on carbon – were sidelined as politically infeasible. That contributed to a surprising level of agreement on the recommendations, with 11 panellists voting in favour of the package, including six sitting lawmakers. Still, this was not enough to force a vote in Congress on the measures, which would have required a 14-member majority.
The failure of the Simpson-Bowles commission to reach the required threshold is what left America’s fiscal fate in the hands of the ordinary political process, from the White House to congressional leaders such as Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate budget committee, as well as Mr Ryan. Turning back to Europe’s debt woes, Mr Ryan declares: “This is not who we are, and this is not the fate that we want to have.”

Give Credit When Credit Is Due

President Obama speaking at the Tucson, Arizona Memorial Services on January 12, 2011

When a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations -- to try and pose some order on the chaos and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health system. And much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.
But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized -- at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do -- it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.
Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "When I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.
For the truth is none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind. Yes, we have to examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.  But what we cannot do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on each other. That we cannot do.
The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better. To be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and coworkers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.

Unobjectionable, Unremarkable But Unnecessary

Charles Krauthammer's response to critics of Sarah Palin and her use of the term "Blood Libel".

“[T]he fact is that even the ADL, the Anti-Defamation League in expressing a mild rebuke to Palin for using this and then admitting itself in its statement that the term ‘blood libel’ has become part of English parlance to refer to someone falsely accused,” Krauthammer said. “Let’s step back for a second. Here we have a brilliant, intelligent, articulate, beautiful, wife, mother and congresswoman fighting for her life, in a hospital in Tucson, and we’re having a national debate over whether the term ‘blood libel’ can be used appropriately in a non-Jewish context?"
"Have we completely lost our minds?”
“I found her speech unobjectionable, unremarkable but unnecessary,” he said.  “Of course, anybody who is attacked as she was has the right to defend herself in public. However, it wasn’t as if others hadn’t counteracted the calumny about her and others being responsible in some way for the massacre in Tucson. By the time she had the video on her website, the debate was over. The left, which had launched the accusation, had been completely defeated, ‘refudiated’ if you like, and disgraced over this. There wasn’t a shred of evidence and the battle was over. I mean, it was a rout to make the Pickett’s Charge look like a draw.”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Me And My Neighbor

Golf:  Better For Your Health

Bill and I have been neighbors for thirty years. 
He’s a dyed in the wool Democrat.  I’m a dyed in the wool Republican.   
He thinks Barak Obama is the greatest president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  I think Ronald Reagan was the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln. 
He tells me a “good read” is Eugene Robinson.  I tell him to read George F. Will.
He says his favorite blog is the Daily Kos.  I tell him mine is Holy Coast.
He thinks Keith Olbermann deserves an Emmy Award.  I think Bill O’Reilly does. 
He tells me “tea parties” are for little girls.  I tell him The Tea Party is for true patriots.
He's an Atheist.  I'm a Christian. 
Bill owns a gun and knows how to use it.  So do I. 
We play golf together every chance we get.

The Gagging Of God

"We need a good old-fashioned prayer meeting."

Thank you Bill Murchison and

The gagging of God, so far as courts, professors and advanced theologians can accomplish it, gets slightly in the way of attempts to puzzle out the Tucson massacre.
God with a gag over His metaphorical mouth was a less usual concept back when people talked more routinely than now about evil, not to mention the devil and all his works. A particular word would come up regularly in those old conversations -- sin, defined as stubborn, self-focused detachment from God, accompanied by defiance of His purposes. Sin was supposed to be bad: the more so because all were involved in it. Because all were involved, no one could tell what would happen next. Some nut might sidle into a political gathering, pull out a gun, and ...
It was not that general acknowledgment of moral deficiency provided quick answers to the questions people asked about the awfulness they couldn't help noticing -- wars, murders, assassinations, massacres worse than anything that took place in Tucson last week. That was, for one thing, before TV and the Internet. No one needed a blogger to explain in outraged tones that loud mouths and gun imagery had precipitated this or that horror. There were fewer surprises back then. The nuttiness of the human species was a given.
The desacralization of American life -- achieved at a speed no one would have foretold even 50 years ago -- leaves the secular-minded to identify secular villains and secular ideas as the cause of life's disasters. There was a "climate of hate" in Arizona! Oh, the violent and military language of the tea partiers! The shouting, the screaming at public meetings! Only bad was certain to come of it.
Among the ironies of the post-massacre "climate" in the media and the Internet is the not-quite-spoken assumption that the war that took six lives in Tucson continues, with the side that was formerly down -- supportive of health care reform and "civility" -- poised now to beat the bloody hell out of the side that formerly was up. The shouting hasn't gone away; different people have gone to shouting -- that's all. There's a triumphalism in the attacks and self-righteous commentary marshaled by the anti-tea party, anti-Palin set in good, reliable we-told-you-so fashion. That's notwithstanding the absence of proof that Jared Loughner derived even a shred of an idea from the political debates of last year.
It is despite something else -- humanity's dismal experience at restraining mayhem apart from teaching conformity to the standards and designs of God. Not always succeeding even then, but all the same understanding human offenses as grounded less in outside excitation than in inner impulses toward gain, self-advertisement, and such like. That the recent past has produced awfulness -- Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley, Sirhan Sirhan, etc. -- unconnected to Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck is the point Americans don't get to notice because loud voices dismiss it.
Sin? Human evil? Bah. Don't go tangling God in human affairs; it might violate the "church-state separation" principle. That's the secularist principle. The guilty parties HAVE to be conservative. No other explanation works for these folk. The sweet goodness they see all around them has but a single enemy -- the malice of the right. There's no such thing as sin.
Ah, gentlemen, want to bet? As it happens, sin takes many forms, some deadlier to the soul than to the body. What about, say, announcing recklessly (Nobel economics laureate Paul Krugman, The New York Times, 1/10/11) that the "toxic rhetoric" of the right is the villain of the piece. Must be, what else?
But that's stupid and malicious. Not to mention modern, secular and ahistorical. The Krugmans of our time -- against the ancient understanding of the Christian West, whose influence needs rekindling and fast -- imply that evil descended upon us the day Sarah Palin first opened her mouth. Talk about painting "targets" on people's backs! The Krugmanite line is, oddly, the ideological flip side of the Obamacare-is-Socialism line. They poison the very well they claim to be unclogging.
Our national sorrow over the massacre doesn't need this salt-in-the-wound approach to understanding and appropriation. It needs -- well, what? A good old-fashioned prayer meeting?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Only Black And White

No Sunrise or Sunset

It is boring and dangerous not to have shades of gray.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Suprise, Surprise, Suprise

Sen. Obama, Congressional Record, S.2237-8, 3/16/06

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

Ooops !!!

I Don't Know What, But Something's Gonna Happen.

Some say our economy is heading for recovery while others say it is headed for a catastrophy.  Don't ask me because I don't know.  All I know is the chart on the left is telling me that something that hasn't happened in at least the last seventy years is going to happen in the very near future. 

Click on chart to enlarge

Clusterstock Chart of the Day from Business Insider