Monday, January 23, 2012

Quick Hits - January 23, 2012

Tensions are rising in the Persian Gulf / Straits of Hormuz.  Several weeks ago, during military exercises in and around the Straits of Hormuz, Iranian officials threatened the US that it would prevent any reentry of a US aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf. 

The US carrier battle group centered around the USS Abraham Lincoln entered the Persian Gulf this weekend without incident despite Iranian threats to take action to prevent such a passage.  The mission of the Lincoln was termed to be 'regular and routine' - ensuring the free passage of trade through international waters.

In addition to the US Navy Task Force transiting the Straits, both Britain and France are also sending warships through the Straits despite new threats from Iran.  As the European Union issues sanctions against Iranian oil which affects all EU members, a senior member of Iran's parliament says Iran will close the Straits to all traffic if the EU sanctions block its oil exports.  Oil sanctions are being placed on Iran in response to the efforts by Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

If Iran takes steps to attempt to close or interdict the Straits, we can expect oil prices to skyrocket.

Italian search and rescue personnel found 2 more bodies in the wreck of the luxury liner Costa Concordia, bringing the confirmed death toll to 15.  17 passengers and crew remain on the official list as missing and unaccounted for - 10 days after the liner ran aground.  Fears remain that the death toll could be higher because of 'unregistered' passengers who might have been aboard the ship.

In breaking news this morning, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, the son of GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul, is being detained by TSA agents in Nashville, Tennessee for refusing to agree to a full body pat-down by agents as he was being screened prior to boarding a commercial airliner.

Representative Gabrielle Giffords has announced that she will resign her House seat later this week to focus on her recovery from the grievous injuries she suffered when she was shot in the head at a Town Hall Meeting she was hosting in Tuscon last January.  6 were killed and 13 were wounded during the shooting.  Representative Giffords' decision will let the resident's of her congressional district select another to represent their interests in the House.

The GOP Presidential Primary race shifts to Florida - which holds it's winner-take-all primary on January 31st.  NBC / MSNBC will be hosting the first of two GOP Presidential Primary debates in Florida this evening.

Newt Gingrich's strong win in South Carolina over the weekend, fueled by his combative and strong debate performances, has turned the Florida race on its ear.  In the first Rasmussen Poll in Florida since the SC win, Newt Gingrich has shot to a 9 point lead over Mitt Romney, 41% to 32%.  The expectations is that this will be a very hard fought campaign - with Gingrich, Romney, and third place candidate, Rick Santorum focusing on trying to inflict as much damage as possible on the other candidates.  Reports are that Ron Paul, a distant fourth in Florida polls, will be concentrating on caucus states coming up where he stands a better chance to gain delegates than actively campaigning in Florida.

Tomorrow evening, President Barack Obama will make a major televised campaign speech to the American people while addressing a joint session of Congress in what normally is termed the State of the Union speech.

One of the President's press sycophants, The Hill's Amie Parnes, tees up a lead-in article on the homepage of The Hill that could have been written by David Axelrod himself - Obama Looks to Bait GOP which defines the theme and approach for the State of the Union address...
President Obama will use this year’s State of the Union Address to draw a clear line between himself and congressional Republicans. He’s looking forward to a slew of television shots showing grim-faced GOP lawmakers reacting with stony silence to policy pitches he hopes will resonate with middle-class voters in an election year.
Among the policy pitches that he is looking to deliver as part of his campaign / SOTU speech will be renewed claims for 'fairness', 'social justice', income / class inequalities, the need for more wealth redistribution, the need for more 'fundamental change',  and touting (misrepresenting) his record of achievement over the last three years.

We can be quite confident that the 'facts' that the President will present as he recaps the State of the Union as he starts his 4th year in office will have about as much of a relationship to reality as an acid trip.  We can also be quite certain that these facts will not be represented by the President as he ignores the truly dismal state of the union:

  • If the same number of people were seeking work today as there were in 2007, the unemployment rate would be 11%.
  • Today we have fewer payroll jobs in the United States than we did in the year 2000.  40% of the payroll jobs today are those classified as 'low paying'.  This is 10% higher than when Ronald Reagan became President.
  • The number of self-employed is down 2 million in the last 6 years.
  • Gasoline was $1.68 per gallon (national average) in January 2009.  Today it's $3.39 per gallon -a 102% increase.  Prices are estimated to increase to $5 per gallon this summer.
  • The average US family pays $1.420 annually for their electricity bill.  This is $300 more than the average cost in January 2009.
  • Since December 2008, Food stamp use increased 46%.  It now costs the Federal Government $75 billion to fund the Food stamp program - an all time high.  14 million more people are on Food stamps today than in January 2009.  This is the 'Food Stamp' President.
  • The Federal Government is spending $3.8 trillion this year.  Revenues to the government are estimated to be $2.1 - $2.4 trillion.  President Obama's ran the country's first trillion dollar deficit in his first year in office.  He will be the first President to have 4 consecutive years of annual deficits greater than $1.2 trillion.  By January 2013, he will add $6.2 trillion to the national debt - more than the first 42 Presidents combined.  The current daily deficit, $4.2 billion, is the same as buying a Nimitz class nuclear powered aircraft carrier every day.  (We have 12 carriers in the US Navy today.)
  • The annual trade deficit is $558 billion.
When one looks at the policies and the agenda of the President towards 'fairness', 'social justice', wealth redistribution, class warfare, and a bigger, more powerful centralized government control on the marketplace, a frequent question is asked if President Obama is really a socialist who is looking to end capitalism and the traditional American values which were central in this country's growth to be an economic powerhouse.

This is becoming particularly important as the nation has to consider the actions and direction that the President and his ideological allies have taken and will take the country in the Presidential election this November.  Even the President admits that the contrast between visions - that of the socialist / progressive and those of the conservatives - has never been clearer or more pronounced.

Is President Obama truly a socialist?
By “socialist,” I do not mean a Lenin, Castro, or Mao, but whether Obama falls within the mainstream of contemporary socialism as represented, for example, by Germany’s Social Democrats, French Socialists, or Spain’s socialist-workers party?

By this criterion, yes, Obama is a socialist.
Over at one of the best blogs, Powerline, they take a hard look at this same question using information and presentations from David Horowitz and Stanley Kurtz to address the question...and come to the same conclusion that President Obama and his ideological supporters are socialists who are looking to fundamentally remake the United States into a Euro-style welfare state - to achieve 'social justice' by any means possible.

At the link for David Horowitz and Stanley Kurtz, Horowitz has 2 videos, one of his intro for Stanley Kurtz, and the second the presentation / case made by Kurtz that Obama is a radical socialist.  The above video is an interview of Stanley Kurtz presented by the Heritage Foundation where Kurtz, across the 5 parts, makes a compelling and cogent case about Obama.

The core of the argument towards embracing Obama's fundamental change or the concept of 'social justice' is that one has to sacrifice the application of logic in favor of the application of decision making based on emotion- choosing to ignore the historical failures of socialism, particularly economic and social failures, and deciding to focus on 'fairness' and equality of results.

With the 'elites' of the West set to meet once again at Davos to discuss the future direction of the West, we're seeing a renewed effort from the hard left to try to ignore reality and embrace / create a world devoid of reality.  In this report, Davos elites to seek reforms of ‘outdated’ capitalism….viewing things through the ideological (and arrogant) lenses
Economic and political elites meeting this week at the Swiss resort of Davos will be asked to urgently find ways to reform a capitalist system that has been described as "outdated and crumbling."

"We have a general morality gap, we are over-leveraged, we have neglected to invest in the future, we have undermined social coherence, and we are in danger of completely losing the confidence of future generations," said Klaus Schwab, host and founder of the annual World Economic Forum.

"Solving problems in the context of outdated and crumbling models will only dig us deeper into the hole.

"We are in an era of profound change that urgently requires new ways of thinking instead of more business-as-usual," the 73-year-old said, adding that "capitalism in its current form, has no place in the world around us."

The stupid is strong in this one...

They are part and parcel of the Eurozone crisis where half a dozen nations teeter on economic default and bankruptcy stemming directly from their embracing of socialism and the welfare state.  But even as these countries fall into a moral, ethical, and fiscal bankruptcy directly attributed to the policies created by these leftist elites - they deny they are the cause and instead blame 'capitalism'.  This is as vapid as their other argument to justify the failures of socialism saying that those failures are the result of 'failed implementations' and not the fundamental architectural failures of socialism on a human and fiscal basis.

California, also known as America's Greece, has it's leadership elites wearing the red-tinted lenses as it looks at the world...
The state's persistent double-digit unemployment rate is not just the result of a housing bust, but of a toxic business climate that regulates the heck out of everyone and everything. It's a result of a tax climate that sends people to other, less-attractive states, such as Texas. Those who point to Texas generally don't do so out of a particular love of that place, but because it is the nation's other megastate, and its officials take a more business-friendly approach, which has created a more dynamic and growing economy.

The state's ruling Democrats respond to such comparisons by making fun of Texas culture and pointing to the many reasons no self-respecting Californian would move there. They are purposefully avoiding the point.

Of course, California remains the land of dreams. Of course, most of us would never want to live anywhere else. But when people can't earn a living here, they move to where they can, even if the new place is less appealing.

California is suffering from the same problems found in any number of advanced social-welfare states, where wealth creation is punished and getting a job in the government is rewarded. California's officials don't believe in the private sector. They are representatives of the government class, and Brown is that group's highest-ranking member, which explains why government officials and government retirees don't want any change. They are doing quite well under the current system, thank you very much.
The Private sector, capitalism, individual rights and liberties, personal accountability and responsibility, and the equality of opportunity are all words that today's progressive elites fear like no other fear.  They stand against the power that these progressive elites crave and revel in.

In California, Governor Moonbeam continues to press for higher taxes (on the 'wealthy') and greater government controls.  He says these anti-business and anti-individual steps are needed to address the fiscal disaster that is the California budget.  To get this, he sees nothing wrong with not only lying about the revenues that will be gained by the higher taxes - but to use blackmail against the citizens (and students) of California to get his way.  Because if the voters of California decide to not support his massive tax increases - the education budget will be cut. 

Of course, blackmail is standard operating procedure for these progressives.  Greece, in their negotiations with bond holders to try to stave off its national bankruptcy, is not above using blackmail and extortion to get what they want...
This is a pretty clear message: if the bondholders don’t agree to Greece’s terms, then Greece can simply force them to join the exchange. Greece’s bonds are issued under Greek law, and Greece can change its own domestic law any time it wants.

Act like this to another private citizen, and you're arrested. For the progressives, it's 'how things get done'.

Big Government at Work - 

On This Day in History

1556 - An earthquake in Shaanxi, China kills an estimated 830,000. This is considered the deadliest disaster of all time - and the quake is believed to have been 8.0 to 8.3. The 2004 earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia and the Indian Ocean is considered the second deadliest disaster.

1941 - Charles Lindbergh, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, suggests that the US should negotiate a neutrality pact with Hitler.

1968 - North Korea attacks and seizes the USS Pueblo in international waters. They would hold / torture the crew for nearly a year.

1973 - President Nixon announces a peace settlement has been reached in Paris with North Vietnam. Two years later, after breaking the settlement, North Vietnam invades South Vietnam and captures it after Congress prevents any action to honor the US commitment to support South Vietnam.

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