Friday, April 30, 2010

GOP portrait of Charlie Crist to be auctioned on ebay?

As expected, Charlie Crist announced that he will abandon the GOP and run for the Senate as an independent.  Ralph Reed shares his insighful analysis at the NRO Corner:
So if Crist's public divorce from the Republican party does not signal a GOP crack-up, what exactly does it signify? First, it shows what a dead weight Obama is for politicians of both parties. The famous shot of Crist hugging Obama hurt him as much as Obama's low job approval numbers weighed down Creigh Deeds in Virginia and Martha Coakley in Massachusetts — a fate now threatening Democratic candidates from coast to coast. When Obama campaigned for Deeds and Coakley (and former governor Jon Corzine in New Jersey), no surge in support materialized. "Yes, we can!" became "wake me up when it's over."

Second, voters across the board — from tea-party activists to party rank-and-file to anxious independents — are hungering for authenticity. Crist's political calculation and chameleon-like shifts on the issues (and now party affiliation) repel far more voters than they attract. Voters would rather support a politician with convictions, like Marco Rubio, even as they may disagree with him on some issues, because they know where he stands and they trust him to tell them what he really believes. This is the essence of leadership, especially in a moment of crisis.

Finally, Crist still does not grasp that the country wants a check on Obama, not an enabler in Republican or independent skin. The backlash over spending, soaring debt, government take-over of major industries, and Obamacare calls for a new breed of GOP leaders who are unafraid to stand in the gap and stop the Obama agenda. Crist's failure to understand that is what sunk his candidacy in the GOP and will likely do so in the general election. It also explains why John McCain is moving to the right so swiftly in his primary with J.D. Hayworth in Arizona — causing whip-lash for his former base, the media.
I thought Stephen Hayes captured Crist's problem quite succinctly on Fox News:
So I think he knew at the time he wasn't telling the truth. The real difficulty that Charlie Crist faces now is what are his principles? What does he run on? You can't run on just being a politician, can't run on just being a guy. He hasn't done that much as governor. His approval rating plummeted over the past year.

He has made statements about what he was going to do, how he would run as a Republican, and he backed off of those. He used to oppose drilling offshore, and then when he was being considered as a potential vice presidential candidate, he was in favor of it, and now he's opposed to it again.

He couldn't say yesterday who he was going to caucus with, Republicans or Democrats. Voters are willing to forgive a lot. But they want somebody who actually believes something, in something other than himself.  (emphasis mine)
The Florida Republican Party seems to agree with Mr. Hayes:
It's one thing to call a guy the new Benedict Arnold. But things are really crossing the line when you try to sell them on eBay.

The state Republican Party, clearly still upset at Gov. Charlie Crist about the whole independent thinking decision, is reportedly ready to auction off anything related to Crist found in the state headquarters.

That includes a handsome oil painting of the once beloved governor that once greeted visitors when they walked in the door. The $7,500 portrait was paid for by party money and since Crist is a Republican no more, they figured they might as well get some of their money back.

“I don’t need the picture and it was paid for by party money," said Sen. John Thrasher, chairman o fthe state GOP. "He’s no longer a Republican, so it’s logical to me that we try to see if we can get some money for it.”

The day the Happy Meal died

The government of Santa Clara County, California has voted to ban toys in Happy Meals.  From the Foundry at the Heritage Foundation:
There might be 14,000 things to be happy about, but there is one less reason in Santa Clara County, California: the government there voted to ban toys in Happy Meals.

Toys that come in those delightfully colored boxes filled cheeseburgers and fries that have brought joy to millions of children will go the way of bottled water and salt, trans fat and soda pop, all of which have fallen victim to regulation-happy local governments.

The reason? No, it’s not because the toys are unsafe. It’s not because they’re filled with lead or cause choking. It’s because, well, they’re an effective way for businesses to legally market their products. The Los Angeles Times reports:

This ordinance prevents restaurants from preying on childrens’ love of toys” to sell high-calorie, unhealthful food, said [Santa Clara County] Supervisor Ken Yeager, who sponsored the measure. “This ordinance breaks the link between unhealthy food and prizes.”
The concepts of self-determination, liberty and personal responsibility are being cast into the dustbin of history before our very eyes.  Where will it end?  When the New York State Assembly and the federal government are considering prohibiting the use of salt by restaurants in the preparation of food, one has to wonder what is next?  Perhaps the government will issue a fraud-proof social security card which logs our food intake.

States divided on Obamacare high-risk insurance pools

The number of states declining to participate in the federally-funded Obamacare high-risk insurance pools increased to at least 11 states on Friday.  From the Wall Street Journal:
A temporary insurance program that is part of the national health overhaul is exposing one of the thorniest aspects of the new law—much of its success rides on how individual states implement it.

On Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services and individual states said 12 states chose not to administer a new high-risk pool program that begins in July, while 21 states and the District of Columbia will run their own. The pools are designed as a short-term way to provide insurance for people with pre-existing health conditions who have been turned down by insurers.

Consumers in those 12 states will still have access to the program, because the federal government will step in to run their pools. Information on the remaining states wasn't available as of late Friday.

Several of the states that declined to run the pools said they were concerned they would be forced to pay for the program if it exhausted its federal funding. Last week, an actuarial report from HHS found the program would burn through the $5 billion set aside for it as soon as next year, though the money is supposed to last until 2014.

"We cannot afford to expose Minnesota taxpayers to added potential costs and administrative burdens now," Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who opposed the health overhaul, wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that was released Friday.
This is clearly a vote of no confidence for the new health care reform law.  Stay tuned for the decisions of the remaining 17 states.

Update:  The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Texas governor Rick Perry has announced that his state will not participate in the Obamacare high-risk pools.  It also reported that the Department of Health and Human Services announced on Friday that 15, rather than 11 states have decided not to participate.  It was not immediately clear if Texas was included in the 15.  I will post a clarification when it becomes available.

Mississippi governor declares state of emergency

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has joined the governors of Louisiana, Alabama and Florida in declaring a state of emergency for the coastal areas of the state.  From WLOX:
Governor Haley Barbour issued a State of Emergency for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Friday in response to the oil spill moving toward the state's coastline. He also ordered the Mississippi National Guard to aid local officials with emergency response.

"I have issued a State of Emergency to help local governments and state agencies work together more efficiently as they respond to this massive oil spill," Governor Barbour said. "The Departments of Environmental Quality and Marine Resources continue to work with BP and the federal government to monitor our coastline."

Barbour was in Gulfport Friday night to update the media on the state's response to the growing area of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Just before the news conference, the governor flew over the Gulf and said he had a hard time spotting oil close to Mississippi's shoreline. He said most of what's headed in right now is an oily sheen.

Barbour said he is hopeful that the problem facing Mississippi is manageable, and stressed repeatedly that the "responsible parties" are complying with everything they've been asked to do to help in the oil containment and cleanup.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Iran elected to U.N. Commission on the Status of Women

From Fox News:
Without fanfare, the United Nations this week elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on the influential human rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged "immodest."

Just days after Iran abandoned a high-profile bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, it began a covert campaign to claim a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women, which is "dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women," according to its website.

Buried 2,000 words deep in a U.N. press release distributed Wednesday on the filling of "vacancies in subsidiary bodies," was the stark announcement: Iran, along with representatives from 10 other nations, was "elected by acclamation," meaning that no open vote was requested or required by any member states — including the United States.

The U.S. currently holds one of the 45 seats on the body, a position set to expire in 2012. The U.S. Mission to the U.N. did not return requests for comment on whether it actively opposed elevating Iran to the women's commission.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran sent a letter in advance of the election urging members of the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council to reject Iran's membership on the women's rights group.  The letter stated, in part:
We, a group of gender-equality activists, believe that for the sake of women’s rights globally, an empty seat for the Asia group on CSW is much preferable to Iran’s membership. We are writing to alert you to the highly negative ramifications of Iran’s membership in this international body.

In recent years, the Iranian government has not only refused to join the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), but has actively opposed it. The Iranian government has earned international condemnation as a gross violator of women’s rights. Discrimination against women is codified in its laws, as well as in executive and cultural institutions, and Iran has consistently sought to preserve gender inequality in all places, from the family unit to the highest governmental bodies.

Iran’s discriminatory laws demonstrate that the Islamic Republic does not believe in gender equality: women lack the ability to choose their husbands, have no independent right to education after marriage, no right to divorce, no right to child custody, have no protection from violent treatment in public spaces, are restricted by quotas for women’s admission at universities, and are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of such laws.

While the Iranian women’s rights movement has inspired equality activists around the world, the Iranian government has no basic belief in gender equality, and would bring those views to the leadership of CSW. How would that support CSW’s mission to remove gender inequalities and promote and protect the status of women?
In an op-ed piece entitled "Since When Is Iran a Champion For Women's Rights?" for Fox News, Anne Bayefsky concludes:

Iran’s election to the leading U.N women’s rights agency indicates two things. First is the low regard held for women’s rights on the U.N.’s list of priorities. Iran had originally wanted to become a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council but various players decided that Iranian membership might be even more embarrassing than current HRC members and U.N. human rights authority figures like Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba, Angola, Egypt, and Krygyzstan. Women’s rights were the consolation prize. Second is the continuing muscle of the Organization of the Islamic Conference at the U.N. Nobody challenged Iran’s entitlement to membership on at least one major rights body. Nobody dared to.

This is another example of just one more U.N. body created to do one thing and now doing the opposite, for which American taxpayers foot 22% of the bill. And it will continue unless those with their hands on the spigot in Congress finally decide to turn off the tap.
As the President's Debt Council convenes this week in Washington, maybe they will take a look at the billions we "voluntarily" contribute to fund the dysfunctional U.N.

But I sincerely doubt it.

Obamacare faces first big test Friday

Tomorrow is the deadline for states to inform the federal government whether they intend to participate in one of the first programs of Obamacare, federally-funded high risk pools for the uninsured.  In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal today, Grace-Marie Turner illuminates how the program will punish the states and the high risk patients that have acted responsibly in advance of the new law (via IBD):
But what's most disconcerting is that the program will likely disturb the careful balance that some 35 states have struck in setting up their own high-risk pools. The federal high-risk pools would operate alongside existing state pools. States will be required to maintain funding for their pools, even while the federal government signs up new uninsured people for its program. The federal program will have more generous benefits and lower premiums than most state-funded high-risk programs, even though state officials say people in the new federal program are likely to be less needy than those enrolled in existing state risk pools.
According to USA Today, about 200,000 people with pre-existing conditions will not be eligible for the federal high-risk insurance coverage because they already buy state-run plans:
The nation's new health law creates a far cheaper insurance program opening July 1 for people with pre-exisiting medical conditions. To qualify, a person can't have had health coverage for six months.

The result is it excludes people already enrolled in 35 state high risk pools offering insurance of last resort. The state pools charge high premiums — often double standard rates for healthier people in the individual market — to help cover costs.
Last week Richard Foster, chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, reported  that the high-risk program will run out of money next year or in 2012 even though it is mandated to bridge coverage for these high risk people until 2014.  This would almost certainly create unfunded mandates for states that are already facing daunting budget challenges.  Georgia, Nebraska, Nevada, and Louisiana have already said they are out.

Ms. Turner concludes:
If more states opt not to join the federal program, Congress will have to acknowledge that there has been a public repudiation of the federal program. That could create pressure to give states what they want—block grants to increase their existing high-risk pools or, for states that don't have them, money to set up new ones. Deciding whether to sign up for the high-risk program is an important early test for states to tell Washington who is in charge.

Reid-Schumer-Menendez conceptual proposal for immigration reform

Despite President Obama's admission yesterday that "there may not be an appetite" to overhaul the nation's immigration laws this year,  Senate Democrats released a 26-page framework for immigration reform legislation that ostensibly acknowledges the need to secure U.S. borders before taking action on the estimated 10.8 million people living in the country illegally.  From Fox News:
In the wake of a major crack down on illegal immigration in Arizona, Senate Democratic leaders released a 26-page framework for legislation on Wednesday that sets tough border security standards as a precursor to illegal immigrants finding a pathway to U.S. citizenship, something critics often label amnesty. This "border security first" approach was one advocated by Republicans in 2005 when major reform was last attempted.

"Proponents of immigration reform ackowledge that that we need to meet clear and concrete benchmarks before we can finally ensure that America's borders are secure and effectively deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.," the document states.

The outline, obtained by Fox, was written by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, with Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, number three in leadership, and Cuban-American Bob Menendez, D-NJ, responsible for his party's 2010 midterm election effort.

"Reid, Schumer and Menendez submitted an outline to pro-immigration groups this morning in advance of a meeting later today. The outline represents the framework for a potential bill that would be co-sponsored by senators like Durbin and Feinstein and advanced by Democratic leadership later this year," one senior Democratic official said.

Menendez tells Fox he hopes the measure "instigates the White House to have a summit to bring individuals from both houses and both parties together to see what is possible to move forward."
The conceptual proposal includes seventeen pages of initiatives designed to improve border security and eliminate future illegal employment through the use of a fraud-proof biometric social security card.  Employers will be required to use the "Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information, and Electronic Verification of Employment" (BELIEVE) system to verify that potential new employees are authorized to work in the U.S.  It strictly prohibits employers from using the system to verify the status of existing employees.  (The name reminds me of the "Think System" advocated by "Professor" Harold Hill in The Music Man, "you don't have to bother with the notes.")

The remainder of the document dallies with special immigration programs for high-skilled and lower-skilled immigrants, religious workers, doctors and nurses; and then in the final guessed it:  the registration and legalization of the people living in the U.S. illegally on the date the bill is enacted into law.  It has a tough sounding heading:


But the intent is clear.  In a two-phase process, "unauthorized aliens" who meet certain criteria will be given lawful permanent resident status.  You can decide for yourself whether or not to call this amnesty.  It is what it is.

John Hawkins at Town Hall presents five arguments the GOP should use to to oppose the Democrats immigration plan:
#1) We need "security first." Even John McCain, the man who led the fight for comprehensive immigration reform last time around, has since admitted that the American people don't believe we'll secure the border.

Incidentally, there's good reason for that. For example, the Obama Administration has announced that the border fence which was begun by the Bush Administration won't be "finished until at least 2016." So, if we're lucky, in 2016, 15 years after 9/11, we may for the first time have a secure border that terrorists can't just walk over with a nuclear bomb. That'll be great, won't it?

Tell you what: let's stop putting the cart before the horse. Let's finish the fence, adequately staff the border patrol, get a proven system in place to prevent illegal aliens from being able to get jobs with fake Social Security numbers and then and only then, we can come back and discuss the whole "path to citizenship" issue. If that's too long to wait for the illegal immigrants, then they can always just go home.

#2) Jobs, jobs, jobs. Amnesty for illegals: It's for those times when you have a 9.7% unemployment rate & want to take even more jobs from Americans. When so many people are out of work and having trouble taking care of their families, why in the world would anyone want to give away American jobs and drive down American wages? How out of touch with what's going on in this country do you have to be to want to hand American jobs to foreigners via amnesty when so many people are hurting?

#3) We're too broke for an amnesty. As is, 47 percent of Americans are paying no income taxes. Do we really need to add to their ranks -- and let's not kid ourselves because that's what we're talking about.

Point being, if 47 percent of Americans aren't paying income taxes, how many illegals, most of whom have low paying jobs, would be paying income taxes if they became citizens? 10%? 20%? In other words, when the country is broke, why do we want to bring in millions more people to collect food stamps, welfare, and earned income tax credits even though they don't pay income tax? Are we so short of Americans who do that sort of thing that we actually need to bring in poor people from other parts of the globe to take advantage of our social safety net?

#4) Amnesty is unfair to immigrants. Nobody has been treated worse in the whole amnesty debate than legal immigrants. They love and respect this country enough to obey the rules -- and what do they get in return? Oftentimes, they have to wait in their home country. They fill out reams of paperwork. They pay thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Then what happens? They're spoken of in the same breath as some guy who snuck into our country in the middle of the night and stole somebody's Social Security number. Furthermore, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, illegals are going to be rewarded for breaking American laws while legal immigrants have to put up with the same old hassles. What's the message to legal immigrants? The message is, "You're stupid for loving and respecting this country enough to obey our laws." Legal immigrants to this country deserve to be treated better than that.

#5) We've already tried this once before. It didn't work then and it won't work now. As former Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese has noted, we've already tried this once during the Reagan Administration.

They allowed roughly 2.7 million illegal aliens to become citizens and in exchange, we were supposed to implement security measures to fix the system. Guess what? We never fixed the security problem and today, we're talking about giving citizenship to roughly 4 times as many illegals.

So, why would anyone who actually wants to solve the problem suggest implementing a government policy that's already a proven failure? Of course, that's just it: What politicians want is more illegal workers to pad the bottom lines of businesses that give them campaign contributions and more potential voters for the Democratic Party. What they don't want is to fix the problem because they're worried about what's good for them personally, not what's good for the country.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

High Court rules that Mojave war memorial cross can stay

From the Associated Press (via Fox News):

The U.S. Supreme Court said Wednesday that a federal court went too far in ordering the removal of a congressionally endorsed war memorial cross from its longtime home in the state of California.

In ruling that the cross could stay, the justices said federal judges in California did not take sufficient notice of the government's decision to transfer the land in a remote area of California to private ownership. The move was designed to eliminate any U.S. constitutional concern about a religious symbol on public land.

The ruling was 5-4, with the court's conservatives in the majority.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars erected the cross more than 75 years ago atop an outcropping in the Mojave National Preserve.

It has been covered with plywood for the past several years following the court rulings. Court papers describe the cross as 5 feet to 8 feet tall.

"Here one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens agreed that soldiers who died in battle deserve a memorial to their service. But the government "cannot lawfully do so by continued endorsement of a starkly sectarian message," Stevens said.

Six justices wrote separate opinions and none spoke for a majority of the court. The holding itself was narrow, ordering lower courts to look again at the transfer of land from the government to private control.

Lower federal courts previously ruled that the cross' location on public land violated the U.S. Constitution and that the land transfer was, in effect, an end run around the constitutional problem.

Chris Dodd's carve-outs for cronies

The White House is almost giddy that the Republicans are blocking debate on the Dodd financial reform bill because the action plays into the narrative that the GOP is the party of obstructionism.  However, as Americans learn more and more about what is actually in the bill, Democrats may find that the label they have worked so hard to stick on the super-minority is an asset, not a liability.

Mark A. Calabria writes for the New York Post (via Big Government):
The financial-regulatory bill now before the Senate is so filled with special-interest loopholes and exclusions that it makes the health-care "reform" bill, with its "Cornhusker Kickback" and "Louisiana Purchase," look like a model of rectitude.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Democrat Chris Dodd, claims to subject all "too big to fail" institutions to greater federal supervision, but in fact it only mandates such regulation for bank-holding companies. Regulators would have to make a case-by-case decision on whether to apply it to other financial companies.

That's no minor oversight, because insurance companies, like AIG, tend to have thrift charters rather than bank charters. So, as the bill stands now, AIG and other insurers that accepted massive bailout funds, such as The Hartford, would not be automatically covered. That's a head-scratcher only if you forget that most insurance companies reside in Dodd's home state, Connecticut.

But the section of the bill most littered with exemptions is probably the proposed consumer-protection bureau. In some instances, these exclusions actually roll back existing consumer protections.

Remember the mortgage crisis? Well, the primary consumer-protection law for homebuyers is the 1974 Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. The law requires the timely, accurate disclosure of relevant closing costs and prohibits "kickbacks" for the steering of settlement services.

For example, your real-estate agent cannot, under RESPA, be paid a fee for steering you toward a certain home inspector, title company or other closing service. Yet, under the Dodd bill, real-estate agents would be exempted from RESPA. If that weren't bad enough, the Dodd bill exempts insurers and attorneys -- both now subject to RESPA -- from its consumer protections, too.
The drafters of this 1136-pager do not make it easy for the uninitiated to discern that it actually rolls back consumer protections.  But sure enough, if you look on page 903 the bill expressly excludes real estate agents from the authority of the CFPA, and on page 1098 it effectively transfers the powers of the Secretary of HUD under RESPA to the CFPA.

Read the rest of Mr. Calabria's article here.

James Gattuso at the Heritage Foundation has identified 14 fatal flaws in the Dodd financial reform bill.

Capitol Confidential at Big Government explains why "Obama-Dodd Financial Reform Helps Wall Street, Hurts Everyone Else."

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona: we're mad as hell and we're not going to take this any more

The City of San Francisco is indignant that the State of Arizona has passed a law to actually make it illegal to be in the state illegally, and its supervisors are calling for a sweeping boycott.  From the San Francisco Chronicle:
A resolution that will go before the board Tuesday will call for San Francisco to end any and all contracts with Arizona-based companies and to stop doing business with the state.

"We want to send a message," Supervisor David Campos told a rally on the steps of City Hall this morning. "There are consequences when you target a whole people."

Last Friday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law making it a crime for an immigrant to be in the state without proof of legal residency and requiring police to seek out and detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

The law, which will take effect this summer, is certain to face legal challenges. President Obama has called the bill "misguided" and ordered the Justice Department to determine whether it violates civil rights.

There's no way to tell yet how a boycott of Arizona would affect San Francisco.

"We're trying to figure that out now," Campos said. "We do know that we won't be sending any city employees to conferences in Arizona."
In a state with an unemployment rate of 13% and a city where 1 in 3 city workers earns $100,000 or more, it is doubtful that the State of Arizona will feel anything but validation from a San Francisco boycott.  Today on his show, Rush Limbaugh agreed:
San Francisco says that they are going to boycott Arizona, and I'm sure the people of Arizona are happy as hell about that. In fact, if I were the people in Arizona, I'd capture the illegals and send them to San Francisco. Sanctuary city, hey, you know, like 'em so much, here. Glad to send 'em your way. And, by the way, you don't want to come here to see Arizona, fine and dandy with us. Do you believe -- and I totally do -- the leader of this country, Barack Obama, is leading a charge by the Democrat Party against a state and a personal jihad against a governor. He is supposed to be president of all the people. But, boy, you go against the regime, and the regime will come after you. It's going to be interesting to see.
The elected representatives of Arizona only acted after repeated attempts to get the Obama administration to do its job and protect the borders of the United States of America.  From Fox News:
Brewer says she has sent 5 letters to President Obama, and spoken to him personally about the deteriorating border situation. She says her entreaties have “been met with complete, total disrespect to the people of Arizona. I mean, we don't even get an answer back in regards to securing our border. So, given that, i think that it was time that Arizonans did step up.”
If the President wants to talk about "audacity," I think here's a perfect example.  He has seen fit to call the people, legislature and governor of a sovereign state "irresponsible" for trying to protect our nation's border where the federal government has failed.

While the drug cartels of Mexico stack up body parts like firewood on the Mexican border with Texas and Arizona, the President pushes his agenda on national health care, cap and trade, and ,unbelievably, immigration reform and plays golf.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cruise missile four-pack on sale now

The Novator Design Bureau was was established in 1947 to design large-caliber anti-aircraft artillery systems for the Soviet Union.  Today they are actively marketing standard ISO container-based cruise missiles.  From the Telegraph (UK):
Defence experts say the system is designed to be concealed as a standard 40ft shipping container that cannot be identified until it is activated.

Priced at an estimated £10 million, each container is fitted with four cruise anti-ship or land attack missiles. The system represents an affordable "strategic level weapon".

Some experts believe that if Iraq had the Club-K system in 2003 it would have made it impossible for America to invade with any container ship in the Gulf a potential threat.

Club-K is being marketed at the Defence Services Asia exhibition in Malaysia this week.

Novator, the manufacturer, is an advanced missile specialist that would not have marketed the system without Moscow's approval. It has released an emotive marketing film complete with dramatic background music.
This containerized four tube weapons launcher was described in a disturbing blog post at the U.S. Naval Institute website last month which begins with a hypothetical and horrific account of cruise missile strikes on two Nimitz-class carriers at Naval Station Norfolk:
Fiction you say? Perhaps — for now. However, given long-running trends and recent events, the threat to deployed forces, afloat and ashore, has continued to grow in size and capabilities. And now, the nightmare of many a defense analyst is coming to the light of day — the ability to conduct an attack on the homeland in a manner that is directly unattributable to one or more nations . . . for you see, the Russian arms manufacturer, Novator, through a front company, is offering the Club-K system, a four-tube launcher, plus all support facilities, inside a standard ISO shipping container: [snip]

And customers? Yes — they’ve got a client list. Such is the post-Cold War world and the state of cruise missile proliferation that an ostensibly ‘private’ company can offer for sale the latest cruise missile packaged in a manner that enables state and non-state actors to carry out surreptitious campaigns that subvert the norms of international behavior and the laws of war.
Here's the slick video to market the weapon to our enemies.

The sacred and urgent mission of protecting our homeland has just become exponentially more difficult. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Happy birthday, Hubble!

Twenty years ago today, the space shuttle and crew of STS-31 were launched to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope into a low Earth orbit.  From the Hubble website:
NASA's best-recognized, longest-lived, and most prolific space observatory zooms past a threshold of 20 years of operation this month. On April 24, 1990, the space shuttle and crew of STS-31 were launched to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope into a low Earth orbit. What followed was one of the most remarkable sagas of the space age. Hubble's unprecedented capabilities made it one of the most powerful science instruments ever conceived by humans, and certainly the one most embraced by the public. Hubble discoveries revolutionized nearly all areas of current astronomical research, from planetary science to cosmology. And, its pictures were unmistakably out of this world.

At times Hubble's starry odyssey played out like a space soap opera, with broken equipment, a bleary-eyed primary mirror, and even a space shuttle rescue/repair mission cancellation. But the ingenuity and dedication of Hubble scientists, engineers, and NASA astronauts have allowed the observatory to rebound time and time again. Its crisp vision continues to challenge scientists with exciting new surprises and to enthrall the public with ever more evocative color images.

NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) are celebrating Hubble's journey of exploration with a stunning new picture, online educational activities, an opportunity for people to explore galaxies as armchair scientists, and an opportunity for astronomy enthusiasts to send in their own personal greetings to Hubble for posterity.
The stunning new picture is a photo of a small portion of one of the largest seen star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula.  You can view it in your choice of resolution here.

GM pays its government loan "in full" with TARP money

In a national television ad campaign launched this week, General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre looks right into the camera to tell the American people that the company has paid back its government loan "in full."  According to Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the claim is false and misleading. The Washington Examiner explains in an editorial today:
General Motors lost $3.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2009 and is still struggling to reorganize so the company can try to eke out a profit. This grim reality didn't stop GM from making hay last week for supposedly paying back a $6.7 billion government loan five years ahead of schedule. What was left unsaid was that the automaker used another kitty of taxpayer cash to pay off the earlier government loan. This is an accounting shell game, not progress.

Previously unreleased documents supplied to The Washington Times reveal that GM specifically used funds it received from the Troubled Asset Relief Program to pay off the government loan. According to Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for TARP, $4.7 billion of $6.7 billion - 70 percent - of what GM paid back came from TARP money the company received. "The one thing a lot of people overlook with this is where they got the money to pay the loan," Mr. Barofsky told Fox News' Neil Cavuto on Wednesday. "It isn't from earnings." The numbers are based on a quarterly report Mr. Barofsky's office provided to Congress last week.
Of course the Obama news media is completely ignoring the story, extending what Newsbusters calls its virually free press pass to Government Motors.  Fox News even speculates that the Federal Trade Commission may come after GM for violating its truth-in-advertising laws, which prohibit ads that are "likely to mislead consumers.  Yeah, like that's going to happen.

It's more likely that a coordinated attack will be launched against Mr. Barofsky.  Sound familiar?

The Heritage Foundation has more here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Second Navy SEAL cleared of abuse charges

From the Associated Press:
A U.S. military judge has cleared a Navy SEAL of wrongdoing in the alleged beating of a prisoner suspected of masterminding the grisly 2004 killings of four American contractors in Iraq.

The military says the judge found insufficient evidence to convict Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe on charges of dereliction of duty.

Keefe — one of three SEALS charged in the case — was not accused of assaulting Ahmed Hashim Abed but of failing to prevent the abuse.

The case has drawn fire from at least 20 members of Congress and other Americans who see it as coddling terrorists to overcompensate for the notorious Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
Two down, the most serious to go.  Pray for Navy Petty Officer Matthew McCabe who stands trial in Norfolk, Virginia on May 3.

Obamacare student loan reform: No you can't?

In the final hours of sausage-making that produced our nation's "health care reform," an unrelated provision called "Student Loan Reform" was inserted.  Most media coverage has been predictably glowing, if you ignore the fact that President Obama killed the private student loan sector with the stroke of his executive pen.  The nation's largest private student lender, Sallie Mae, has announced that it will cut 2500 jobs and close multiple offices.

This monstrous takeover of another private business sector absolutely screams the question:  how will the government perform as the new student loan volume serviced increases from around $30 billion to $100 billion per year?  The not-so-sensational "cash for clunkers" program (a tiny fraction of the student loan program) comes to mind.

This week, I was informed that a family friend who is in her second year of graduate school at an esteemed institution of higher learning in the Southeast was informed that she was no longer eligible in the 2010-2011 school year for federal student loans that had made her education possible heretofore.  Here is the online message she received this week:
Based on the income and asset information you provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, you are not eligible for federal student assistance during this academic year. If you have any questions about how this information was determined, please contact the Financial Aid Office using the E-Mail the Financial Aid Office link below.
She is a full-time honor student living on her own and working a part-time job with no substantive changes to her status since last year.  She also informs me that one of her friends from another local university was denied financial aid for summer school this week.

I realize that this does not constitute a statistically significant sample.  Hopefully it's just a mistake. But it does raise some serious concerns that another unintended consequence of Obamacare will be to disrupt the education of hard-working young American students just trying to get out there and make a difference.

Readers, please advise if you are aware of similar experiences.

(Freddie and Fannie #1 beneficiary Chris) Dodd bill silent on Freddie and Fannie

In a memo published by Human Events, New Jersey Representative Scott Garrett takes presidential advisor Valerie Jarrett to task for downplaying the importance of reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Fox News.  I agree with Connie Hair at Human Events that the memo is well worth publishing in full:

TO: Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement

FROM: Congressman Scott Garrett

SUBJECT: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

DATE: Thursday, April 22, 2010

I was a bit perplexed by your comments during your interview on Fox News this morning when you highlighted the importance of addressing excessive risk taking in our financial sector but discounted reforming the two biggest risk takers in our economy -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Based on your remarks, it appears to me that you might not be fully informed of the facts surrounding these two entities, their government bailout and their continued excessive risk taking. With leverage ratios reaching more than 100 to 1, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s risk taking far outstripped anything that the private sector was doing. Given the importance of this issue, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide you with some facts on what many respected economists have called the “ground zero” of the financial crisis. Of course, you don’t have to take just my word on this.

“Like a lot of my Democratic colleagues, I was too slow to appreciate the recklessness of Fannie and Freddie…Frankly, I wish my Democratic colleagues would admit, when it comes to Fannie and Freddie, we were wrong.” Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) (USA Today, October 14, 2008)

The government needs to look no further than itself to find the root cause of the financial crisis. In attempts to meet a dual public and private mission, Fannie and Freddie endorsed lower and lower underwriting standards which allowed significantly less credit-worthy borrowers to purchase homes. These new standards then paved the way for financial institutions to begin seeking new ways to underwrite and approve loans, degrading the overall creditworthiness of securitized products.

“From the current handwringing, you'd think that the banks came up with the idea of looser underwriting standards on their own, with regulators just asleep on the job. In fact, it was the regulators who relaxed these standards--at the behest of community groups and "progressive" political forces. . . . For years, rising house prices hid the default problems since quick refinances were possible. But now that house prices have stopped rising, we can clearly see the damage done by relaxed loan standards.” Stan Liebowitz, University of Texas at Dallas (New York Post, February 5, 2008)

During the interview you claim that the Obama Administration and the Democrats are trying to fix the problems that “actually led to the financial meltdown,” yet I don’t see how you can possibly exclude Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in your reform considerations. It is very easy to connect the dots on how the affordable housing goals of Fannie Mae and Freddie eventually led to the massive explosion of the subprime market and the housing collapse from which we are still recovering. Yet for some reason, both you and President Obama fail to see this as the underlying problem that needs to be promptly addressed. Instead, the Obama Administration is advancing legislation which is merely a band-aid treating a few of the symptoms of our recent economic crisis while failing to adequately address the underlying cause.

"It doesn't address GSE reform, which arguably is the most costly part of the entire bailout process…If you look at the money we've actually spent on the bailout … the GSEs are costing us billions. There is no solution to that. That fact is the biggest gap in the reform." Hal Scott, International Financial Systems, Harvard Law School (American Banker, April 12, 2010)

The fact that has been obscured by the Administration during this regulatory reform debate is that the largest recipients of government assistance since the economic crisis began are actually not Wall Street banks. The largest recipients of taxpayer dollars during this economic crisis are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are already expected to cost taxpayers at least $389 billion, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Rather than stem the tide of support for these entities, the Department of Treasury announced on Christmas Eve in 2009 that they would provide unlimited taxpayer-funded support for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through 2012. Unlimited. Today, more than $8.1 trillion in GSE securities is outstanding, and both Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner have stated that the U.S. government has an unwavering commitment to these obligations. Which brings up another point -- at the very least, it is inconceivable that the President has not come out in favor of being fully transparent about the costs of the bailout of Fannie and Freddie and putting those true costs on budget. Why is the Obama Administration unwilling to advance reforms to protect American taxpayers from this $8.1 trillion risk?

“The silence on Fannie and Freddie is deafening. How can they look at themselves in the mirror every morning thinking that they have a regulatory reform bill and they are totally silent on Fannie and Freddie? It just boggles my mind." Lawrence White, Economics Professor, NYU (American Banker, April 12, 2010)

As you can see, there is widespread agreement that these two entities were the root cause of the financial meltdown. Despite this, the Obama Administration has not proposed a single reform measure to address this issue in the 15 months since the President took office. Considering then-Senator Obama received the second most campaign contributions from Fannie and Freddie, behind only current Senate Banking Chairman, Chris Dodd, and that Senator Obama was one of the Senate Democrats that blocked GSE Reform legislation from getting to the Senate floor in 2005, I can see why you might be hesitant to discuss them and rightly recognize their role in the collapse of the housing market. Might I suggest that, for the good of the country, President Obama stand up and admit he was wrong in blocking Fannie and Freddie reform and now put forth a plan to reform them to make up for his past misdeeds.

With taxpayers on the hook for $8.1 trillion in obligations and quarterly bailouts to Fannie and Freddie, the failure of the Obama Administration to prioritize complete reform of Fannie and Freddie is irresponsible. Your failure to recognize the importance of this matter during your Fox News interview appears to be an explicit acknowledgement that the Obama Administration would rather use the financial crisis to play politics with our nation’s economy than offer legitimate solutions.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

George Soros: The man behind the financial reform curtain?

Andrew Mellon (a pseudonym to protect the identity of a brave, liberty-loving Columbia student) has written a blockbuster piece at Big Government that should give all thinking Americans serious pause as the Senate moves closer to passing its version of  "financial reform."  He carefully draws the lines linking George Soros, Charles Schumer, the leftist Center for Responsible Lending and hedge fund billionaire (central to the SEC fraud case against Goldman Sachs) John Paulson:
At the end of 2007, hedge fund billionaire John Paulson invested $15 million in the leftist non-profit, Center for Responsible Lending, their largest single donation ever. Around the same time, Paulson and his employees contributed over $100,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, headed, at the time, by Sen. Chuck Schumer. Roughly six months later, CRL and Sen. Schumer both launched a highly public attack on the California-based mortgage lender, Indymac. The lender failed, wiping out the investment of thousands of people. Roughly six months after that, John Paulson, in partnership with George Soros, bought up the remnants of Indymac for pennies on the dollar.

It is a drama that no longer surprises us, unfortunately. Wealthy investors use their access to elected officials and their checkbook to advocacy groups for private profit. But this story has a twist; a top executive of CRL when this deal went down, Eric Stein, is now working at the Treasury Department, heading up the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Mr. Stein will be the chief federal official designing regulations to protect consumers. Right.

This is that story.
Read the whole thing and ask yourself, why on earth would Republicans cave in to this corrupt, "bailouts in perpetuity" sham of a financial reform bill?

Reasonable answers lead to disturbing conclusions about our elected representatives.

Best earth day project ever.

Today is Earth Day.  The Daily Caller has come up with my favorite way to commemorate this day of liberal guilt:  The Daily Caller's Offset-Offset Program (click on graphics to enlarge):
For years, you’ve watched helplessly as your neighbors try to erase their eco-sins with something called “carbon offsets” – the modern-day indulgences that rich liberals buy to make themselves feel better about taking NetJets to Sundance every January, or living in an 11,000-square-foot house with nine bathrooms. They may be burning more fossil fuels in a year than Malawi, but by purchasing a certificate that says someone planted ferns on their behalf in the Amazon Basin, these confirmed despoilers of the environment can claim to be “carbon-neutral.” And they do claim it, self-righteously and at every opportunity. It’s infuriating, yet there’s nothing you can do about it.

Until now.

This Earth Day, we at the The Daily Caller are proud to introduce our exclusive Carbon Offset-Offset Program. For a small fee, you can do your part to stop environmental fraud. Here’s how it works:

Each time your neighbor buys a carbon offset, you offset it.

That’s the beauty of The Daily Caller Carbon Offset-Offset Program: There’s no fuss or hassle. We take care of the carbon emissions in a controlled environment, at no risk to you. Our trained pollution engineers neutralize the effects of your neighbors’ guilt while you remain in the comfort of your highly air-conditioned home, knowing you’ve done your part. And you can rest easy knowing that part of your purchase will go toward high-quality investigative reporting that will continue to expose fraud in the environmental movement. Act now and receive a handsome certificate suitable for framing that confirms your participation in this important project.
Here's the certificate:

US military jury clears SEAL in Iraq abuse case

From Fox News:
A U.S. military jury cleared a Navy SEAL Thursday of failing to prevent the beating of an Iraqi prisoner suspected of masterminding a 2004 attack that killed four American security contractors.

The contractors' burned bodies were dragged through the streets and two were hanged from a bridge over the Euphrates river in the former insurgent hotbed of Fallujah, in what became a turning point in the Iraq war.

The trial of three SEALs, the Navy's elite special forces unit, in the abuse case has outraged many Americans who see it as coddling terrorists.

A six-man jury found Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas, 29, of Blue Island, Illinois, not guilty of charges of dereliction of duty and attempting to influence the testimony of another service member. The jury spent two hours deliberating the verdict.

"It's a big weight off my shoulders," a smiling and composed Huertas said as he left the courthouse at the U.S. military's Camp Victory on Baghdad's western outskirts.

"Compared to all the physical activity we go through, this has been mentally more challenging."

Huertas said he plans now to continue with his military career and "to go home and kiss my wife."

Huertas was the first of three SEALS to face a court-martial for charges related to the abuse incident and the verdict was a major blow to the government's case. All three SEALs could have received only a disciplinary reprimand, but insisted on a military trial to clear their names and save their careers. [snip]

The court-martial of Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe, of Yorktown, Virginia, who is also charged with dereliction of duty on allegations he failed to safeguard the prisoner, is scheduled to begin Friday also at Camp Victory.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe, of Perrysburg, Ohio, the SEAL charged with assaulting Abed, is scheduled to be court-martialed May 3 in Virginia, where the three men are based.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

President Obama suggests VAT is an option

Charles Krauthammer has long predicted that the Obama administration would turn to the European-style value-added tax (VAT) to pay for his ever-growing wish list of entitlement spending.  Last week the Senate passed a non-binding resolution expressing opposition to the U.S. adopting a VAT. The White House, through press secretary Robert Gibbs, has denied that the VAT was under consideration.  Today, in an interview with CNBC, the President had an opportunity to personally disavow the VAT, and not surprisingly, he punted:
President Barack Obama suggested Wednesday that a new value-added tax on Americans is still on the table, seeming to show more openness to the idea than his aides have expressed in recent days.

Before deciding what revenue options are best for dealing with the deficit and the economy, Obama said in an interview with CNBC, "I want to get a better picture of what our options are."

After Obama adviser Paul Volcker recently raised the prospect of a value-added tax, or VAT, the Senate voted 85-13 last week for a nonbinding "sense of the Senate" resolution that calls the such a tax "a massive tax increase that will cripple families on fixed income and only further push back America's economic recovery."

For days, White House spokesmen have said the president has not proposed and is not considering a VAT.

"I think I directly answered this the other day by saying that it wasn't something that the president had under consideration," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters shortly before Obama spoke with CNBC.

After the interview, White House deputy communications director Jen Psaki said nothing has changed and the White House is "not considering" a VAT.
The President's Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is scheduled to report its recommendations on reducing the deficit by December 1, 2010, after the mid-term elections in November.  The White House will continue to dissemble about VAT until then, but my money is on a VAT recommendation from this blue ribbon commission.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The energy policy morass

Stephen Hayward has written an excellent cover story for the Weekly Standard on our nation's energy policy.  It is a long article, but chock full of interesting tidbits like this one:
One remarkable fact is that American oil consumption has remained virtually flat over the last 30 years. Today, we use only slightly more oil than we did in 1978, even though the economy has more than doubled in real terms. This is testimony to the steady improvement in energy efficiency over the last generation, including—yes—our cars and trucks. Since 1975, energy consumption per dollar of economic output has fallen 50 percent. Though efficiency and conservation measures are beloved of environmentalists, it is doubtful any of the government’s manifold mandates, tax incentives, or direct subsidies have made a significant difference in the overall trend of energy efficiency in the United States. The basic market drivers—higher energy prices and expanding profits through resource efficiency—account for most of the improvement. So when we hear the handwringing about our growing dependence on foreign oil, now over 60 percent of our total oil consumption, we should be clear that this trend is entirely the result of declining domestic production and not any soaring demand for oil. Domestic oil production has fallen by more than 1 million barrels a day over the last 10 years. The United States now produces less oil than it did in 1947. This is pathetic. And unnecessary.

Via Power Line.

Financial reform or sneaky Wall Street bailout?

When the government took over General Motors and Chrysler last year under a bastardized form of bankruptcy, the "secured" creditors were forced to accept pennies on the dollar in order to protect the unsecured interests of the United Auto Workers.  Michael Barone wrote about the travesty in The Washington Examiner:
Last Friday, the day after Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, I drove past the company’s headquarters on Interstate 75 in Auburn Hills, Mich.

As I glanced at the pentagram logo I felt myself tearing up a little bit. Anyone who grew up in the Detroit area, as I did, can’t help but be sad to see a once great company fail.

But my sadness turned to anger later when I heard what bankruptcy lawyer Tom Lauria said on a WJR talk show that morning. “One of my clients,” Lauria told host Frank Beckmann, “was directly threatened by the White House and in essence compelled to withdraw its opposition to the deal under threat that the full force of the White House press corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight.”

Lauria represented one of the bondholder firms, Perella Weinberg, which initially rejected the Obama deal that would give the bondholders about 33 cents on the dollar for their secured debts while giving the United Auto Workers retirees about 50 cents on the dollar for their unsecured debts.

This of course is a violation of one of the basic principles of bankruptcy law, which is that secured creditors — those who lended money only on the contractual promise that if the debt was unpaid they’d get specific property back — get paid off in full before unsecured creditors get anything. Perella Weinberg withdrew its objection to the settlement, but other bondholders did not, which triggered the bankruptcy filing.

After that came a denunciation of the objecting bondholders as “speculators” by Barack Obama in his news conference last Thursday. And then death threats to bondholders from parties unknown.

The White House denied that it strong-armed Perella Weinberg. The firm issued a statement saying it decided to accept the settlement, but it pointedly did not deny that it had been threatened by the White House. Which is to say, the threat worked.
Fast forward to the present and compare the treatment of the bondholders of GM and Chrysler with provisions in the financial reform legislation heading for a vote as early as next week in the Senate.  Brian Darling of the Heritage Foundation lays it out for Human Events:
There are two specific problems with the Senate approach to “reform.”

First, this legislation would create a new $50-billion bailout slush fund controlled by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Very big banks and other “eligible financial companies” would be taxed by the FDIC to build up this fund. As with any tax, though, it’s consumers--you and me–who would eventually pay this levy.

The Obama Administration this weekend requested that the $50 billion pre-funded bailout money be removed from the bill. But according to, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner advocated last year that any bailout funding should be addressed post bailout through a tax on big Wall Street firms. If Senate Democrats only take out the $50 billion slush fund and leave the bailout authority intact, then the taxpayers will still be on the hook for any future bailouts.

Another problem with this bill is that it would bail out the creditors of companies and wouldn’t require any creditor to take a loss after a company starts to fail. If the bailout slush fund is tapped, the FDIC would have the power to reimburse creditors. That could allow the FDIC to pay creditors more than they invested (pursuant to Section 210 of the Dodd bill).

Think about that. If creditors know they aren’t likely take a loss, and risk has been eliminated from an investment, its taxpayers who are assuming all the risk. Of course, taxpayers get none of the rewards if the investments pay off–we would simply be on the hook if they fail. Taxpayers could expect no reward for having insured transactions and protected wealthy investors from any risk. The AIG bailout is a great example of this model.
I'm sure the bondholders of GM and Chrysler who lost their life savings and retirement will be interested to know why President Obama didn't see fit to protect them, calling them "speculators", but is now prepared to legislate future creditor protection for failing financial institutions through the "full faith and credit of the U.S. government" FDIC.

If left unchecked, the Obama administration will continue to use its regulatory agencies and the Congress to protect its friends and destroy its enemies.  I hope the Republicans will find the courage to filibuster this disastrous financial reform bill.

Update:  The Heritage Foundation has more on why this bill will harm consumers if it becomes law.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Drudge: Will Obama return $1 million in Goldman Sachs contributions?

On Friday, the SEC filed fraud charges against Goldman Sachs, the most profitable investment firm on Wall Street, giving the Obama administration a much-needed prop in support of the Democrats controversial financial reform legislation.

Tonight the Drudge Report asks:


Inquiring minds want to know.

Al-Maliki: Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq killed in rocket strike

Iraqi officials said on Monday that an Iraqi intelligence team had found and killed al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.  Maliki said the team also killed Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. From Fox News:
Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday that two of the country's most wanted Al Qaeda terrorists were killed in a joint operation with the U.S.

Al-Maliki said that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri were killed over the weekend when a joint operation of U.S. and Iraqi forces rocketed a home where they were hiding.

He showed reporters at a news conference pictures of two dead bodies he identified as al-Baghdadi and al-Masri. But his claims could not immediately be verified.
Al-Masri was identified as the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after he was killed in an airstrike in 2006.  Al-Baghdadi is a nom de guerre for the shadowy leader of The Islamic State in Iraq, although some US commanders had cast doubt on whether he even existed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tea Party Express chairman Mark Williams "frightens" Geraldo

You just can't pass up an opportunity to expose Geraldo Rivera for the intellectually challenged, liberal narcissist that he is.  The Right Scoop does so beautifully:
Geraldo had just finished running a piece where the Southern Poverty Law Center was the sole voice, attacking all the so called militias as hate groups and lumping in the tea party sentiment into the mix. Of course the reason for all of this ‘hate’ is because we have a black president.

When he starts the interview with Mark Williams, chairman of the Tea Party Express, Williams quickly scolds him for his hit piece and explains that the tea parties are actually victims of ‘hate violence’, not the perpetrators.

And then it gets good:

Click on The Right Scoop link to see the offending SPLC hit piece.

Obama's schizophrenic Latin American foreign policy

Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Latin America and the Caribbean recently to strengthen allied relations in the region.  Investor's Business Daily has an excellent editorial on his trip and reveals the emerging specter of a foreign policy dichotomy within the Obama administration (via Scott Johnson at Powerline):
Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Latin America and the Caribbean last week, making stops to shore up allies Colombia, Peru and Barbados, on the heels of the signing of the first major U.S. defense pact with Brazil in 30 years.

He's doing his job, and not a moment too soon, given the den of dragons the region has become. Colombia's FARC terrorists have now made common cause with Mexico's drug traffickers, whose violence is spilling over the U.S. border.

Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has allied with Iran and Russia, touting nuclear cooperation with both. Chavez also is acquiring as much as $9.5 billion in Russian arms — bad news, given his history of supplying terrorists and threatening neighbors.

His ally, Bolivia, is setting up a de facto Russian air force base to check U.S. allies in Peru and Chile. And his other ally, Ecuador, is making a name for itself as a money laundry for pariahs like Iran.

So it says something that the one issue Gates came out strongly for was passage of the U.S.-Colombia free trade pact. "I would hope that we would be in a position to make a renewed effort to get ratification of the free-trade agreement. It's a good deal for Colombia. It's also a very good deal for the U.S.," said the defense chief.

The reasons are easy to understand. A stable, prosperous Colombia will serve as a beacon for others to imitate and contrast sharply with Chavez's failed economic model. It also will send a message to the region that the U.S. can be trusted as an ally.

The irony is that Gate's plea addresses not just Hugo Chavez, but also the failures of President Obama and congressional Democrats.

The president claims he wants free trade with Colombia, but has done nothing to rouse votes on Capitol Hill or to prod House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who personally iced the pact in 2008.

Mire [sic] in domestic politics, Congress remains in thrall to union cash, with Pelosi unwilling to move to a vote until Big Labor gives the nod, something the AFL-CIO says it will never do.

Even so, Obama's Cabinet officials are pushing forward.

Colombia's presidential palace told IBD that U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk called President Uribe's office Thursday to say he's expecting action soon. That's welcome news.

It'll be more than a bit strange if Obama's own Cabinet pleads for free trade with Colombia while Obama and Congress' Democrats continue to throw up obstacles. But that's how it looks. (emphasis added)
Luke 16:13 comes to mind:
"No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

Leaked Gates memo: U.S. lacks policy to deal with Iran

In what should be considered a news bombshell, The New York Times is reporting that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote a top secret memorandum to top White House officials warning that the U.S. lacks a long-range policy to deal with Iran's quest for nuclear capability:
Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obama’s national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.

Officials familiar with the memo’s contents would describe only portions dealing with strategy and policy, and not sections that apparently dealt with secret operations against Iran, or how to deal with Persian Gulf allies.

One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as “a wake-up call.” But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran’s nuclear program.
It should come as no surprise that the Times is willing to leak classified information, but he timing of the leak -the memo is three months old- to coincide with the gap between the Won's nuclear summit and the Sunday news shows is quite interesting.  Allahpundit muses:
Exit question: Why was this leaked now? The memo was written in January but only today are “government officials” finally whispering about it to the Times. Normally I’d assume that it was leaked by the White House itself in yet another naive attempt to pressure allied powers about the severity of the threat, but the story’s simply too embarrassing to Obama. Presumably the leakers are insiders who are worried that, three months later, we’re still not taking the prospect of an Iranian bomb seriously enough. We will be tomorrow.
Whatever the source and motivation for the leak, it sends a clear message to Israel (just in case Obama's arrogant  and dismissive treatment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn't do the trick) that any meaningful effort to stop Iran's nuclear march rests on the Jewish state alone.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Elie Wiesel: Jerusalem is the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul

Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel has taken out full page ads in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post in the form of an open letter objecting to the assault on Jerusalem.  Although Wiesel discreetly omits naming the addressee, Jennifer Rubin at Commentary Magazine knows exactly to whom he speaks (via Powerline):
At the time, many of us who have been highly critical of Obama’s Israel policy noted that it was a bad idea for him to make Jerusalem housing permits the focus of his ire (at least for now). There is no issue so emotional and no aspect of the conflict with the Palestinians that so unites Jews as the historic capital of the Jewish people. And today, the depth of his misjudgment is laid bare by Elie Wiesel, who takes out full page ads in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal to object to the assault on what he calls “the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul.”

He doesn’t mention Obama by name but his point could not be clearer: forget it, Mr. President. He writes, in part:

For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture — and not a single time in the Koran. Its presence in Jewish history is overwhelming. There is no more moving prayer in Jewish history than the one expressing our yearning to return to Jerusalem. To many theologians, is IS Jewish history, to many poets, a source of inspiration. It belongs to the Jewish people and is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that remains hard to explain. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it is not the first time; it is a homecoming. The first song I heard was my mother’s lullaby about and for Jerusalem. Its sadness and joy are part of our collective memory.
Rubin concludes:
It is significant that it is Wiesel – a Jewish figure without peer and the embodiment of Holocaust memory – who writes this. It is as powerful a rebuke to an American president as any he can receive. It is not simply a geopolitical critique; it is an indictment of Obama’s ignorance of and lack of sympathy with the Jewish people. It cannot be ignored.
You can read the full text of Wiesel's letter here.

Outrage of the week: USS John P. Murtha

In a departure from tradition, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has decided to name the Navy's 10th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock "John P. Murtha."  From Navy Times:
According to a Navy memorandum obtained by Navy Times, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus notified Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead that he had selected “John P. Murtha” for the previously unnamed LPD 26. It’s the latest example of the Navy breaking a convention for naming its warships; the previous ships in the San Antonio class have been named for American cities.

Capt. Beci Brenton, a spokeswoman for Mabus, who is traveling on the West Coast, said she had no comment on the memo.

The choice of Murtha as the namesake for an LPD appeared to reflect both his support in Congress for more of the gators and his service in the Marine Corps, which included time in Vietnam. San Antonio-class ships can carry about 700 Marines, their equipment and vehicles.

But Murtha might also prove to be a controversial pick: He was accused of ethics violations several times over the course of his career and he caused outrage among Marines in 2005 when he accused troops of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, of “killing innocent people” in a shooting in Haditha, Iraq.
In May of 2006, CNN reported:
Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, told reporters Wednesday that he got his information from U.S. commanders, who said the investigation will show that the Marines deliberately killed the civilians.

The U.S. Marine Corps has declined to comment on the report, which initially stated that 15 were killed.

"There was no firefight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood," Murtha said.
In an editorial piece on Thursday, The Washington Times condemned the Navy's decision to honor the late Congressman:
The late Rep. John Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, has achieved his highest undeserved honor. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has decided to name the Navy's newest San Antonio Class amphibious transport-dock LPD 26 the USS John P. Murtha. This is a slap in the face to every service member who bridled when Murtha publicly accused Marines in Iraq of intentionally killing women and children in cold blood.

Murtha made his views known after details emerged about a firefight in Haditha in November 2005 in which 24 Iraqis were killed. Murtha accused the Marines of engaging in premeditated murder and agreed with MSNBC's Chris Matthews that this was "exactly" like the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam. Charges later were brought against eight Marines but have since been dropped against all but one. However, Murtha's theatrical rush to judgment still rankles Americans in uniform, whose views on the congressman range from disappointment to the belief that he gave aid and comfort to the enemy.

"This dishonors every Marine who will serve aboard that ship," a Navy officer told The Washington Times. "And it sends a poor message to the acquisition community that politicians can have ships named after them just for sending pork back to their districts." Milblogger "CDR Salamander," who served in the Navy for 21 years, told us this was "a naked political move" and "nothing about this man will be inspiring to the crew assigned to the ship."

To his credit, Murtha was a combat-wounded veteran of Vietnam, but he is hardly unique in that respect. The USNS Benavidez is named for Army Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez, who, wounded and under heavy assault, saved the lives of eight men at Loc Ninh in South Vietnam in 1968. He was awarded the Medal of Honor. Likewise the USNS 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin, which is named for a Marine who was mortally wounded on Iwo Jima while leading his men in a counterattack against a massed Japanese suicide charge. The USNS Shughart is named after Sgt. 1st Class Randy Shughart, killed at the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. These are the types of veterans who should be given such an honor, not a political hack whose most successful defensive maneuver was saving his pork-laden earmarks from surprise attacks of fiscal responsibility.