Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quick Hits - December 28, 2011

Despite Arab League monitors entering Syrian cities, the violence in Syria continues as Syrian troops fire on thousands of anti-government protesters in Hama - killing at least 6.  International pressure is starting to impact Syrian government decisions as the state releases 755 political prisoners after a scathing report by the Human Rights Watch accusing Syrian authorities of hiding political prisoners from observers.

Violence continues to increase in Syria, however, beyond the observers and limited pressure being placed on the regime, little is being done particularly when one looks at the actions of the West vis a vis Egypt or Libya during their uprisings against authoritarian governments.  Why are the rules different with Syria and the Assad regime?  Is it because of the connections to Hezbollah?  Or the open support that Assad gets from the Iranian regime?

The Iranian military exercises in and around the Straits of Hormuz have just started, but the Iranians are wasting little time with the saber rattling - threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz if the West imposes sanctions on Iran's oil shipments or its central bank.  Oil prices are increasing just on the basis of the threats (now back over $100 / bbl), and if they manifest themselves, prices could surge to over $300 per barrel.  US Fifth Fleet officials replied that any actions to close the Straits will 'not be tolerated' - and a US carrier group centered around the USS John C. Stennis, entered the Persian Gulf yesterday.

In circumstances like these, one has to wonder if the Iranian forces have orders to escalate the situation or create a deeper crisis with aggressive actions around not only US naval forces, but civilian tanker traffic passing through the Straits.

A leading French newspaper, Le Monde, has a very interesting editorial on the subject of the US and Iraq...brought to us by the blog 'No Pasaran' excellent English language blog on France and French issues..
“Because of George W. Bush, editorializes a Le Monde editorial, Iraq has been deprived of the… "stability" that it apparently enjoyed under Saddam Hussein. And the country "has been deprived of part of its history" —whatever that means…

Specifically, writes Le Monde,
it will be years before Iraq rediscovers the path of stability.
Rediscovers (retrouve); doesn't that mean that Iraq enjoyed stability,i.e., a positive state, before the American invasion (called in Le Monde "Bush's war", as well as "a disaster"), i.e., during the murderous Saddam era?

To be sure, Le Monde goes out of its way to say that nobody will regret "one of the most bloodthirsty tyrants of the Middle East," a man "responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis." Needless to say, it ends all these "to be sures" with a "but" — and what a "but"! 
But the Iraqis did not liberate themselves from this tyranny. The United States did not associate them with their [the Americans'] intervention. There are no "Free Iraqi Forces" to accompany the American troops when they enter Baghdad in April 2003. “
Le Monde, during the 2002-2003 run up to the multilateral invasion of Iraq, was very much on the side of the French government - which is to say, on the side of Saddam Hussein, who was paying France and French institutions quite well for their support in the United Nations.  It's quite interesting that Saddam is still remembered as a person who delivered 'stability' to Iraq.  One would think, tyranny, torture, corruption, and brutality would be far more accurate words than 'stability'.

Looking domestically, we are seeing the press breathlessly prepare for next Tuesday's Iowa caucuses -- and the changes in the GOP Presidential Primary race - with Mitt Romney and Ron Paul being the current leaders as Newt Gingrich continues to fade.  Left leaning polls, like those from Public Policy Polling show Ron Paul holding a strong lead - but these seem to reflect more the support from the left / Democrats towards Paul than a real strong conservative base of support for Paul and his loony policy positions.

Blogger 'Tigerhawk' notes that John Hinderaker of Powerline has formally endorsed Mitt Romney as being the best of the field, while another prominent conservative blogger, John Hawkins, makes a strong case against Romney and in favor of Newt Gingrich - all seeing the race as really being between Romney and Gingrich.  The focus of this debate is around which candidate would be the best solution to lead from the WH - and win the WH from Barack Obama.

I remain on the fence - but am starting to trend towards one candidate...when ready, I'll do a post on my choice and why.

Zombie, however, looks at the GOP field and doesn't like what he sees.  He fears this field will give us a President Barack Obama until January 19, 2017.
“A lame-duck Obama will have four years of not worrying about re-election to complete his conscious destruction of American capitalism and constitutionalism. It’s too hideous to even contemplate. And, aside from a long-shot chance by the slightly-better-than-a-crash-test-dummy Romney, none of the current candidates has any chance whatsoever to defeat Obama.”
The electoral picture might not be quite this grim - and the evidence of this comes from some leading Democrats themselves. While the retirement of Democrat Senator Ben Nelson weakens the case that the Democrats can maintain their majority in the Senate, the retirement of 8 other senior Democrats in the House in addition to Barney Frank, shows little deep down hope that the effects of the 2010 election were an outlier - and that the trends for 2012 continue to look bad for the liberal Democrats.
“To Democratic Party faithful, the nine retiring congressmen present a dramatic picture of the hostile environment Democrats are facing as the 2012 election begins. Some of the retirees had easily won re-election with 60-70% majorities. Their stampede for the exit is yet another admission that the Democrats face a potential “wave” election, and of course, it portends considerable trouble for Barack Obama.”
One of the other major aspects effecting the 2012 election is the record of the Obama Administration. Michelle Malkin has a year-end summary of the 'Year in Obama Scandals' - which reflects far too many for an Administration that touted itself as the most transparent and ethical in the country's history. In addition to these, we also have information coming out today that one of the leading executive in the failed investment bank MF Global, which still cannot account for $1.2 billion in missing client funds, is also the chief financial advisor for the Administration's Environmental Protection Agency. Is he behind the asinine financial justifications of the EPA's regulatory actions?

The Heritage Foundation marks the end of the year with their review of the worst of the Federal Rules and Regulations issued by the Administration in 2011. Each of these represent a real expansion of executive power - with most in response to the Administration's inability to get similar policies enacted via legislation.

The Washington Post takes a look at the national debt - which is closing the year within $100 Billion of it's $15.2 trillion ceiling. Rather than focusing efforts on restraining spending that has now reached 26.5% of GDP (up from ~21% of GDP in 2008), the focus is on the GOP House and their leadership refusing to accept Administration demands for increased taxation intended to boost revenues (forgetting the effects of the Laffer Curve in that argument).

This same mentality is evident here in California as Governor Jerry Brown has decided to use his projected 2012-13 budget projection to help sell the massive tax increases he wants to put in front of California voters in November 2012.  He needs to go to the voters because he lacks 4 GOP votes in the State Legislature to approve the proposed tax increases.  Brown is promising in his 2012-13 spending plan that revenues he says the taxes will bring in will be used to increase education spending throughout California.  California is facing a $13 billion deficit before the fanciful projections on spending and revenues are considered (in reality, we are looking at another deficit in excess of $20 billion) - and the spending program does nothing to address California's fundamental fiscal irresponsibility. 

Following up on yesterday's post on OccupyWallStreet's plans to remake themselves for 2012, hundreds of Occupiers are starting to gather in Iowa and being to plan on how they enact 'anti-caucus' disruptions to next week's Iowa caucus.  I'm sure they're confident that such actions will only endear themselves even more with Middle America.

Newsbusters has a post that points out some of the obvious hypocrisy around the OWS movement - and lists the Top 25 Celebrity OWS supporters who are not only part of the 1%, but have a conservative net worth of more than $4B..
Here is a list of the 25 richest celebrities supporting the Occupy Movement (Source: Celebrity Net Worth)

1. Yoko Ono - $500 million
2. Jay-Z - $450 million
3. David Letterman - $400 million
(tie) Stephen King - $400 million
5. Russell Simmons - $325 million
6. Sean Lennon - $200 million
7. Mike Myers - $175 million
8. George Clooney - $160 million
9. Brad Pitt - $150 million
(tie) Don King - $150 million
11. Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) - $145 million
12. Jane Fonda - $120 million
(tie) Miley Cyrus - 120 million
14. Al Gore - $100 million
15. Roseanne Barr - $80 million
(tie) Deepak Chopra - $80 million
17. Kanye West - $70 million
(tie) Dan Rather - $70 million
19. Alec Baldwin - $65 million
(tie) Matt Damon - $65 million
21. Tom Morello - $60 million
(tie) Mia Farrow - $60 million
23. Katy Perry - $55 million
24. Michael Moore - $50 million
(tie) Susan Sarandon - $50 million
Total: $4.1 billion

I don't know about you, but that list also pretty much covers much of my 'do not watch / listen' list. I don't think I'm alone either as Hollywood's numbers are down considerably this year.

On this day in history....

12/28/1832 - John C. Calhoun becomes the first Vice President to resign from office as he prefers to become Senator from his home state of South Carolina. At this point, Calhoun also becomes one of the most outspoken defenders of the Southern slave / plantation system against the efforts of the anti-slavery North.

12/28/1895 - The first commercial movie was screened.

12/28/1908 - The worst European earthquake in recorded history strikes in Straits of Messina - between Sicily and the Italian mainland. An estimated 100,000 were killed.

12/28/1973 - Sozhenitsyn's 'The Gulag Archipelago' is published

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