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RAPID RESPONSE (Archives)...Daily Commentary on News of the Day
This is a new section.  It will offer fresh, quick reactions by myself to news and events of the day, day by day, in this rapid-fire world of ours.  Of course, as in military campaigns, a rapid response in one direction may occasionally have to be followed by a "strategic withdrawal" in another direction.  Charge that to "the fog of war", and to the necessary flexibility any mental or military campaign must maintain to be effective.  But the mission will always be the same: common sense, based upon facts and "real politick", supported by a visceral sense of Justice and a commitment to be pro-active.  That's all I promise.
GS

Click here to return to the current Rapid Response list

MONDAY, May 31, 2010

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS? The term "honest politician" has become an oxymoron.
Welcome to my current personal commitment:
THE ANTI-INCUMBENCY  "AIM", for short.  GS

Ill. Sen. hopeful questioned about military claim

 By CHRISTOPHER WILLS, Associated Press Writer Christopher Wills, Associated Press Writer   – Sun May 30, 9:33 pm ET

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – On a weekend dedicated to honoring military service, Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk found himself on the defensive over his past claims that he was named the U.S. Navy's intelligence officer of the year, an award he never won.

For years, Kirk and his staff have said he was officer of the year. Now, the Republican, who's in a tough race for President Barack Obama's old Senate seat, acknowledges that isn't true and says his official biography incorrectly described an award won by his unit, not Kirk personally.

Kirk's Democratic opponent called it proof that Kirk is a "typical Washington politician" who can't be trusted. Some veterans scolded Kirk on Sunday.

"It's not right, but I don't hold that in the disregard I would as someone claiming they served in Vietnam when they didn't or won the Purple Heart when they didn't," said Jules Spindler, commander of the Illinois chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Kirk's disclosure comes as politicians face heightened scrutiny of their military records, thanks to a Connecticut Senate candidate wrongly saying he had served in Vietnam.

The campaign for Kirk lashed out at his opponent, Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, calling him a "failed mob banker" — a reference to the Giannoulias family's now-shuttered bank, which made some loans to people with criminal backgrounds.

The Washington Post story that first revealed Kirk's inaccurate statements said the newspaper started asking questions after receiving complaints from a representative of the Giannoulias campaign. The Kirk campaign seized on that connection.

"I understand politics is a tough business, but this attack orchestrated by Alexi Giannoulias is a disgrace," Kirk said Sunday on a campaign blog. "If Alexi wants to make this race about my military record, I'm happy to have the debate."

Kirk has made his 21 years of service in the Navy Reserves a key part of his campaign. He mentions it in most speeches and news releases.

The claim that he was intelligence officer of the year has been repeated frequently.

Both his campaign website and his official congressional site included the claim, although it has now been removed. A spokesman said earlier this year that Kirk won the award, and news reports using the description date back at least to 2003.

C-SPAN footage shows Kirk referring to himself as intelligence officer of the year during a 2002 hearing.

Kirk now says the name of the award was simply reported incorrectly in his official biography.

Instead of stating he was named intelligence officer of the year, he said, the biography should have said the unit he led was given the Navy's Rufus Taylor Intelligence Unit of the Year award in 1999.

This is not the first time Kirk's military service has become an issue in the campaign.

Last year, Kirk noted on Twitter that he was working at the Pentagon's National Military Command Center. After critics questioned whether it was appropriate for the candidate to announce that, Kirk said he would no longer send Twitter messages while on active duty.

And more recently, video surfaced that showed Kirk saying he commands the Pentagon's war room, which isn't accurate. Instead, Kirk oversees intelligence activities there.

A Giannoulias aide suggested Kirk was intentionally inflating his credentials.

Kirk's responses "raise even more questions than they answer about a troubling pattern from a typical Washington politician," Giannoulias spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said Sunday.

Kirk's admission came just two weeks after a national furor over Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal incorrectly saying he had served in Vietnam. Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general, served in the Marine Reserves during the Vietnam War but never left the United States. He sometimes spoke as if he had been stationed in Vietnam.

Kirk is battling with Giannoulias over a seat now held by Sen. Roland Burris, who was appointed to the post after Obama won the White House. Burris decided not to seek a full term amid public anger that he accepted the appointment from scandal-plagued former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

With no incumbent in the race and a Democratic nominee weakened by his family bank's failure, Republicans think they have a strong shot at picking up the seat.

One Illinois veteran said he was disappointed by Kirk but probably would still vote for him.

"It seems to me like if you see a politician who is actually telling the truth these days, you wonder where he came from," Lyle Gaddis, a 76-year-old veteran of the Korean War, said from his home in Shelbyville.

___

Associated Press Writer Michael Tarm contributed to this report from Chicago.

(This version CORRECTS length of Kirk's military service to 21 years instead of 11 years.)


SUNDAY, May 30, 2010

Three more news reports, these in the NYTimes (Sunday, May 30, pA1 and Business p1) give further evidence that American Business cannot be trusted to consider anything but the bottom line if left to its own devices. And the public keeps getting seriously injured.  Who can forget Wall Street?  Then comes the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe, beginning to be seen more and more as the result of negligence...and even recklessness on the part of the involved oil industry players.  And now the giant Food Industry is plying us with the "benefits of salt", whose excess use is at the heart of the first two killers in this country. 

This is nothing new, going back to the founding of this country, initially in the form of slavery. We did something about it in the early 20th century, thanks to Theodore Roosevelt and his supporters and also to the aftermath of the Great Depression.  But something has happened to sensible and absolutely necessary government regulations, oversight and severe penalties.  They have effectively disappeared, through action (repeal of relevant laws), inaction on the part of the regulatory agencies, or outright corruption.  This came about as, more and more, our elections have become sold to the highest bidder.  Passage and implementation of necessary government oversight on Business should not be a Democratic or a Republican issue.  It is an issue of societal common sense and learning from sad experience. 

But at this juncture, the only way for the people to get the protection we need is to follow the advice I now repeat: at the next two elections, vote every incumbent out of office, regardless of "merit".  SEND A MESSAGE.

GS


SATURDAY, May 29, 2010

This must be read.  Ideologues on either side can understand this.  GS

>
> WHAT IF THEY WENT HOME?
> Written by Rita Lingwood
> Friday, 30 November 2007
>
> Recently, Tina Griego, journalist for the Denver Rocky Mountain News, 
> wrote a column titled, Mexican Visitor's Lament.
>
> She interviewed Mexican journalist Evangelina Hernandez while she was 
> visiting Denver. Hernandez said, "They (illegal aliens) pay rent, buy 
> groceries, buy clothes....what happens to your country's economy if 
> 20 million people go away?"
>
> That's a good question --- it deserves an answer. Over 80% of 
> Americans want secured borders and illegal migration stopped. But 
> what would happen if all 20 million vacated America?
>
> In California, if 3.5 million illegal aliens moved back to Mexico, it
> would leave an extra $10.2 billion to spend on overloaded school
> systems, bankrupted hospitals and overrun prisons.
> It would leave highways cleaner, safer and less congested. Everyone
> could understand one another as English became the dominant language 
> again.
>
> In Colorado, 500,000 illegal migrants, plus their 300,000 kids and
> grandkids would move back "home," mostly to Mexico.
>
> That would save Coloradans an estimated $2 billion annually in taxes
> that pay for schooling, medical, social-services and incarceration
> costs. It means 12,000 gang members would vanish out of Denver alone.
>
> Colorado would save more than $20 million in prison costs, and the
> terror that those 7,300 alien criminals set upon local citizens. Denver
> Officer Don Young and hundreds of Colorado victims would not have
> suffered death, accidents, rapes and other crimes by illegals.
> Denver Public Schools would not suffer a 67 percent drop out/flunk 
> out rate via thousands of illegal alien students speaking 41 different
> languages. At least 200,000 vehicles would vanish from our gridlocked 
> cities in Colorado.
> In Florida, 1.5 million illegals would return the Sunshine State back 
> to America, the rule of law and English.
>
> In Chicago, Illinois, 2.1 million illegals would free up hospitals,
> schools, prisons and highways for a safer, cleaner and more crime-
> free experience.
> If 20 million illegal aliens returned "home," the US economy would
> return to the rule of law. Employers would have to hire legal 
> American citizens at a living wage.
>
> Everyone would pay their fair share of taxes because they wouldn't be 
> working off the books. That would result in an additional $400 billion
> in IRS income taxes collected annually, and an equal amount for local 
> state and city coffers.
>
> No more push '1' for Spanish or '2' for English.
>
> No more confusion in American schools that now must content with over 
> 100 languages that degrade the educational system for American kids. 
> Our overcrowded schools would lose more than two million illegal 
> alien kids at a cost of billions in ESL and free breakfasts and lunches.
>
> We would lose 500,000 illegal criminal alien inmates at a cost of 
> more than $1.6 billion annually. That includes 15,000 MS-13 gang 
> members who distribute $130 billion in drugs annually would vacate 
> our country. In cities like L.A., 20,000 members of the "18th Street 
> Gang" would vanish from our nation.
>
> No more Mexican forgery gangs for ID theft from Americans. No more
> foreign rapists and child molesters. Losing more than 20 million 
> people would clear up our crowded highways and gridlock. Cleaner air 
> and less drinking and driving American deaths by illegal aliens.
> Over $80 billion annually wouldn't return to their home countries by
> cash transfers. Illegal migrants earned half that money untaxed, 
> which further drains America's economy.
>
> At least 400,000 anchor babies would not be born in our country, 
> which cost us $109 billion per year per cycle.
>
> At least 86 hospitals in California, Georgia and Florida would still be
> operating instead of being bankrupted out of existence because 
> illegals pay nothing via the EMTOLA Act. Americans wouldn't suffer 
> thousands of TB and hepatitis cases rampant in our country --- 
> brought in by illegals unscreened at our borders.
>
> Our cities would see 10 million less people driving, polluting and grid
> locking our cities. It would also put the "secular progressives" on the
> horns of a dilemma; illegal aliens and their families cause 11 percent
> of our greenhouse gases.
>
> Over one million of Mexico's poorest citizens now live inside and along
> our border from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California in what 
> the New York Times called, "colonias" or new neighborhoods.
>
> The trouble is, those living areas resemble Bombay and Calcutta where 
> grinding poverty, filth, diseases, drugs, crimes, no sanitation and 
> worse. They live without sewage, clean water, streets, electricity,
> roads or any kind of sanitation. The New York Times reported them to 
> be America's new "Third World" inside our own country.
>
> Within 20 years, at their current growth rate, they expect 50 million
> residents of those colonias. (I've seen them personally in Texas and
> Arizona; it's sickening beyond anything you can imagine.) By 
> enforcing our laws, we could repatriate them back to Mexico.
>
> We invite 20 million aliens to go home, fix their own countries and/or
> make a better life in Mexico.
>
> We invite a million people into our country legally, more than all other
> countries combined annually.
> We cannot and must not allow anarchy at our borders, more anarchy 
> within our borders and growing lawlessness at every level in our nation.
>
> It's time to stand up for our borders, our language and our culture, 
> and our way of life.
>
> Rita Lingwood is a practicing attorney in Citrus Heights, California.
> Sources for the data in this column can be found on the Center for
> Immigration Studies website
>


TUESDAY through FRIDAY, May 25 through 28, 2010

> "I'm 63 and Im Tired"
>
> by Robert A. Hall
>
>
> I'm 63. Except for one semester in college when jobs were scarce and a
six-month period when I was between jobs, but job-hunting every day,
I've worked, hard, since I was 18. Despite some health challenges, I
still put in 50-hour weeks, and haven't called in sick in seven or eight
years. I make a good salary, but I didn't inherit my job or my income,
and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, there's no retirement
in sight, and I'm tired. Very tired.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of being told that I have to "spread the wealth" to people who
don't have my work ethic. I'm tired of being told the government will
take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people
too lazy to earn it.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of being told that I have to pay more taxes to "keep people in
their homes."  Sure, if they lost their jobs or got sick, I'm willing to
help.
>
> But if they bought McMansions at three times the price of our paid-off
home, on one-third of my salary, then let the left-wing
Congress-critters who passed Fannie and Freddie and the Community
Reinvestment Act that created the bubble help them with their own money.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of being told how bad America is by left-wing millionaires
like Michael Moore, George Soros and Hollywood Entertainers who live in
luxury because of the opportunities America offers. In thirty years, if
they get their way, the United States will have the economy of Zimbabwe,
the freedom of the press of China, the crime and violence of Mexico, the
tolerance for Christian people of Iran, and the freedom of speech of
Venezuela.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of being told that Islam is a "Religion of Peace," when every
day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters,
wives and daughters for their family "honor"; of Muslims rioting over
some slight offense; of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because
they aren't "believers"; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of
Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for "adultery"; of Muslims
mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah,
because the Qur'an and Shari'a law tells them to.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of being told that "race doesn't matter" in the post-racial
world of Obama, when it's all that matters in affirmative action jobs,
lower college admission and graduation standards for minorities (harming
them the most), government contract set-asides, tolerance for the ghetto
culture of violence and fatherless children that hurts minorities more
than anyone, and in the appointment of U. S. Senators from Illinois.
>
>
>
> I think it's very cool that we have a black president and that a black
child is doing her homework at the desk where Lincoln wrote the
Emancipation Proclamation. I just wish the black president was Condi
Rice, or someone who believes more in freedom and the individual and
less arrogantly of an all-knowing government.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of a news media that thinks Bush's fundraising and inaugural
expenses were obscene, but that think Obama's, at triple the cost, were
wonderful; that thinks Bush exercising daily was a waste of presidential
time, but Obama exercising is a great example for the public to control
weight and stress; that picked over every line of Bush's military
records, but never demanded that Kerry release his; that slammed Palin,
with two years as governor, for being too inexperienced for VP, but
touted Obama with three years as senator as potentially the best
president ever. Wonder why people are dropping their subscriptions or
switching to Fox News? Get a clue. I didn't vote for Bush in 2000, but
the media and Kerry drove me to his camp in 2004.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of being told that out of "tolerance for other cultures" we
must let Saudi Arabia use our oil money to fund mosques and mandrassa
Islamic schools to preach hate in America, while no American group is
allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia
to teach love and tolerance.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global
warming, which no one is allowed to debate. My wife and I live in a
two-bedroom apartment and carpool together five miles to our jobs. We
also own a  three-bedroom condo where our daughter and granddaughter
live. Our carbon footprint is about 5% of Al Gore's, and if you're
greener than Gore, you're green enough.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must
help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant
germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up
their noses while they tried to fight it off? I don't think Gay people
choose to be Gay, but I damn sure think druggies chose to take drugs.
And I'm tired of harassment from cool people treating me like a freak
when I tell them I never tried marijuana.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of illegal aliens being called "undocumented workers,"
especially the ones who aren't working, but are living on welfare or
crime. What's next?  Calling drug dealers, "Undocumented Pharmacists"?
And, no,  I'm not against Hispanics. Most of them are Catholic, and it's
been a few hundred years since Catholics wanted to kill me for my
religion.  I'm willing to fast track for citizenship any Hispanic
person, who can speak English, doesn't have a criminal record and who is
self-supporting without family on welfare, or who serves honorably for
three years in our military.... Those are the citizens we need.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of latte liberals and journalists, who would never wear the
uniform of the Republic themselves, or let their entitlement-handicapped
kids near a recruiting station, trashing our military. They and their
kids can sit at home, never having to make split-second decisions under
life and death circumstances, and bad mouth better people than
themselves. Do bad things happen in war? You bet. Do our troops
sometimes misbehave?  Sure.Does this compare with the atrocities that
were the policy of our enemies for the last fifty years and still are?
Not even close.  So here's the deal. I'll let myself be subjected to all
the humiliation and abuse that was heaped on terrorists at Abu Ghraib or
Gitmo, and the critics can let themselves be subject to captivity by the
Muslims, who tortured and beheaded Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, or the
Muslims who tortured and murdered Marine Lt. Col. William Higgins in
Lebanon, or the Muslims who ran the blood-spattered Al Qaeda torture
rooms our troops found in Iraq, or the Muslims who cut off the heads of
schoolgirls in Indonesia, because the girls were Christian. Then we'll
compare notes. British and American soldiers are the only troops in
history that civilians came to for help and handouts, instead of hiding
from in fear.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of people telling me that their party has a corner on virtue
and the other party has a corner on corruption. Read the papers; bums
are bipartisan. And I'm tired of people telling me we need
bipartisanship. I live in  Illinois , where the "Illinois Combine" of
Democrats has worked to loot the public for years. Not to mention the
tax cheats in Obama's cabinet.
>
>
>
> I'm tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of
both parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or
youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was
getting caught. I'm tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or
poor.
>
>
>
> Speaking of poor, I'm tired of hearing people with air-conditioned
homes, color TVs and two cars called poor. The majority of Americans
didn't have that in 1970, but we didn't know we were "poor." The poverty
pimps have to keep changing the definition of poor to keep the dollars
flowing.
>
>
>
> I'm real tired of people who don't take responsibility for their lives
and actions. I'm tired of hearing them blame the government, or
discrimination or big-whatever for their problems.
>
>
>
> Yes, I'm damn tired. But I'm also glad to be 63. Because, mostly, I'm
not going to have to see the world these people are making. I'm just
sorry for my granddaughter.
>
>
>
> Robert  A. Hall is a Marine Vietnam veteran who served five terms in the
Massachusetts State Senate.


MONDAY, May 24, 2010

This offering might be called "Outrage".
Again, throw out all incumbents in the next two Federal elections.  And call a national Constitutional Convention.  As we learned in typing class: NOW IS THE TIME FOR ALL GOOD MEN TO COME TO THE AID OF THEIR COUNTRY.  GS

AP IMPACT: Bad cement jobs plague offshore rigs

  By MITCH WEISS and JEFF DONN, Associated Press Writers Mitch Weiss And Jeff Donn, Associated Press Writers   – Mon May 24, 8:11 am ET

The tricky process of sealing an offshore oil well with cement — suspected as a major contributor to the Gulf of Mexico disaster — has failed dozens of times in the past, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Yet federal regulators give drillers a free hand in this crucial safety step — another example of lax regulation regarding events leading up to the April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

Federal regulators don't regulate what type of cement is used, leaving it up to oil and gas companies. The drillers are urged to simply follow guidelines of the American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade group.

Far more stringent federal and state standards and controls exist on cement work for roads, bridges and buildings.

While the chain of failures on Deepwater Horizon is under investigation, rig owner Transocean has singled out cement work as one likely fundamental cause of the blowout.

Even before Transocean pointed to cementing, independent experts suspected it partly because faulty cement work — either badly mixed or poorly placed against well walls — is so prevalent at offshore wells.

An AP review of federal accident and incident reports on offshore wells shows that the cementing process has been implicated at least 34 times since 1978. Many of the reports, available from the U.S. Minerals Management Service that regulates offshore wells, identify the cause simply as "poor cement job."

• In a November 2005 accident where the Deepwater Horizon was positioned above another well in the Gulf, faulty cement work allowed wall-supporting steel casing to come apart. Almost 15,000 gallons of drilling fluid spilled into the Gulf.

• Just a week later in a nearby well at another platform, cement improperly seeped through drilling fluid. As a result of an additive meant to quicken setting time, the cement then failed to block a gas influx into the well. When the crew finally replaced heavy drilling fluid with lighter seawater, as they also did last month before the blowout at Deepwater Horizon, the well flowed out of control and much of the crew had to be evacuated.

• Cementing was identified by federal investigators as a glaring cause of an August 2007 blowout, also off Louisiana. They said, "The cement quality is very poor, showing what looks like large areas of no cement."

Reports by MMS, a branch of the Interior Department, also provide evidence of the role bad cement work has played in accidents. One study named cementing as a factor in 18 of 39 well blowouts at Gulf rigs from 1992 to 2006. Another attributed five of nine out-of-control wells in the year 2000 to cementing problems.

___

Cementing in the oil rig business is a sensitive, involved process. Well cement constitutes an essential barrier that is difficult to install and control, said Gene Beck, a petroleum engineer at Texas A&M at College Station, Texas.

Deepwater wells pose special challenges: severe pressures and temperatures, as well as the need for specialized equipment and lots of cement. The wellhead of the Deepwater Horizon operation sat on the ocean floor, nearly a mile from the surface. The drill hole itself went another 13,000 feet into rock.

All cement begins as a slurry with cement flakes and water. Contractors then add ingredients to make the cement set at the right time and to keep out gas and oil.

There are three major U.S. cementing companies: Halliburton, Schlumberger and BJ Services. Cementing is typically performed by such rig contractors as part of a broad range of drilling services that they supply.

Halliburton, which had the Deepwater Horizon job, mixes in nitrogen to make its slurry more elastic. The nitrogen also helps create a lightweight cement that resembles a gray foamy mousse and bonds better to the casing.

But the recipe also depends on the job, because cement must respond to varying pressures and temperatures. Cement contractors work closely with oil and gas companies on the formulas for individual wells. The oil and gas companies have the final say on what is used.

Once the consistency of the mix is decided on, it is pumped deep into the well, where it first sinks to the bottom and then oozes upward to fill the narrow spaces between the steel casing pipe and rock walls. When the cement sets, the casing and cement are supposed to form an impenetrable wall to keep gas or oil from pushing into the hole anywhere but the bottom, where its flow up the pipe can be controlled.

But if gas bubbles invade the setting cement, they can form a channel for pressurized gas and oil to surge uncontrollably up the well, usually around the casing. The cement must be strong enough to withstand up to 5,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, to keep the well walls from collapsing.

"Cement is cheap, and it fixes a lot of problems, but it's not a good place to cut corners," Beck said. Many oil and gas companies will scrimp, though, if they don't think they need all the ingredients in the cement, he said. Cement is often squeezed in later to try to fill gaps, but Beck said the success rate of this remedial work is low.

And if cement was part of the cause of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, it also could be part of the remedy. Two relief wells are being drilled to intersect the leaking well and plug it with cement.

___

Halliburton was completing the final cement work on the exploratory well beneath Deepwater Horizon in the wee hours of April 20. It added an initial cement plug to the well to act as a cap until a later production phase.

Workers started running a series of tests to check if the cement and casing could stand up to sufficient pressure. The first tests of outward, positive pressure showed no problems.

In the first sign of trouble, though, the well then failed a negative pressure test, where internal fluid pressure is reduced, according to congressional testimony from a BP PLC executive. It showed different pressures in two areas, indicating an unseen leak somewhere in the well.

Despite the test, managers eventually decided to replace drilling fluid with seawater and set a final cement plug so the well could be mothballed pending a decision to possibly begin production drilling.

And while it is not yet clear what sections of the casing or cement may have failed — or why — it is known that the blowout ignited and exploded before the last plug was set.

In the aftermath of the blowout, questions have been raised about the safety of nitrogen-laced cement foam. But several cementing experts told the AP it is a sound technique. Halliburton says it has used such a mix on scores of wells and told a congressional committee that the cementing on the Deepwater Horizon job was successful.

Halliburton did not respond to AP requests for comment.

In the wake of the accident, some experts support mandatory uniform cement standards for underwater wells. "When you change the composition, it should meet a certain standard. Such standards exist for the building construction industry," said Surendra Shah, Northwestern University engineering professor and director of the Center for Advanced Cement-Based Materials at Evanston, Ill.

Elmer Danenberger, a retired chief of offshore regulatory programs for MMS, told a congressional committee this month: "An industry standard should be developed to address cementing problems, how they can be prevented, and the actions that should be taken when they do occur."

Many construction projects use concrete hardened with sand and gravel aggregate, but cement is the glue that holds it together. On federal projects, "just about everything is regulated, from the thickness of the concrete, to the strength of the concrete, to the type of aggregate that's used," said Brian Turmail, spokesman for the Associated General Contractors of America.

Oil companies test the thickness and strength of cement in wells by shooting sound waves into the cement. This kind of test, called a sonic logging test, wasn't run on April 20 at Deepwater Horizon. A Halliburton manager said it's the most realistic way of testing the quality of the cement bond, but a BP manager said pressure tests are better and log tests are used only if there's already sign of a problem.

Either way, these tests are not 100 percent reliable. Sometimes, oil companies don't discover a bad cementing job until it fails.

___

There can be early warning signs, though. Federal regulators have known for years that a condition called sustained casing pressure — usually gas caught between the casing and well wall — is a major problem that typically signals bad cement work.

In the August 2007 blowout, investigators cited tests showing high casing pressures that could have indicated suspect cement work. The platform owner reported a problem to federal regulators, but nothing was done before the blowout, the report said.

More than 8,000 of the 22,000 offshore wells on federal leases, most of them in the Gulf, show sustained pressure, according to government reports.

This month, in a move in the works long before the Deepwater Horizon explosion, regulators wrote in the Federal Register that the oil and gas industry in the Gulf has "suffered serious accidents as a result of high sustained casing pressure, and the lack of proper control and monitoring of these pressures."

New rules take effect June 3. But they take a conservative watch-and-wait approach and demand only routines already carried out around the industry: a management program with monitoring and diagnostic testing. If operators discover sustained pressure, they must notify MMS of plans to fix it.

There are no new record-keeping or reporting requirements in the new rules, which are backed by industry. In the rule-making documents, regulators — long accused of being too cozy with the industry — said the regulations would cost the entire industry only $5 million, compared with the "impracticable and exceedingly costly" $2 billion alternative of fixing the wells outright.

"Unfortunately, this is yet another crisis in a long line of accidents caused by cementing problems in drilling," said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., a member of the Energy Committee looking into the cause of the blowout.

MMS refused to answer specific questions about its cementing policies, including why it took so long to craft the pressure regulations and whether MMS has issued any citations for cement problems.

"All of these questions are questions that we are reviewing," said Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff.

___

The Associated Press National Investigative Team can be reached at investigate(at)ap.org


SUNDAY, May 23, 2010

What al Qaeda's push to 'unify the jihad' means for the U.S.
Posted By Mary Habeck   Monday, May 17, 2010 - FOREIGN POLICY

Now that administration officials have announced that the Pakistani Taliban (the TTP) were behind the recent attempted bombing of Times Square, we can turn to the question of why there have been so many threatened and actual attacks on the United States inspired by, or actually emanating from, places where the United States is not involved in an active war. A look at arrests in the United States from May 2009 to the present shows dozens of such cases -- many involving multiple suspects -- linked to places like Somalia, Yemen, and of course Pakistan. Four of the plotters (Abulhakim Mujahid Muhammad (Yemen), Nidal Malik Hasan (Yemen), Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (Yemen), and Faisal Shahzad (Pakistan) managed to carry out attacks, although only two were "successful."

One can see how exceptional this is by looking at previous years. In 2008 there was only one such case -- Bryant Neal Vinas -- and he was caught before he could carry out his planned attack. The previous year saw about two dozen cases, but many can be traced back to Iraq or Afghanistan and, as in 2008, none led to actual attacks. The questions are: Why has there been such a spike in cases this past year, and why were four of them able to advance beyond planning to attacks? This second question might be beyond the scope of anyone outside the government, but it is worth asking, in any case. The first question, however, does have some public data points that might help to answer it.

The New York Times believes that targeting Taliban figures led directly to the attacks on the United States, as anger over the deaths of Pakistani jihadist leaders like Baytullah Mehsud have spilled over into the United States. While there seems to be something to this assertion, there must be other factors at play as well. This was, after all, the strategy followed by the Bush administration, but only now has it led to a spike in plots against the American homeland from not only the Pakistani Taliban, but other jihadist groups worldwide.

I would argue that there are two additional, interrelated, factors that have led to the escalation in attacks: al Qaeda's long-running push to "unify the jihad" and the resulting ideological evolution of jihadist groups worldwide. It has always been al Qaeda's strategy to bring all Muslims together into one global jihad. Al Qaeda does not, however, mean to compromise its ideological or strategic vision to win over Muslims, but rather to convert them to their views of Islam and the jihad. "Unifying the jihad" then is about reconstructing jihad and Islam on al Qaeda's terms alone, which means a fight that will first target the United States and Israel, then liberate occupied territory worldwide, create the caliphate, and eventually put the entire world under their version of shari'a.

Al Qaeda's drive to "unify the jihad" became especially urgent after its disastrous experience with Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, the sadistic leader of al Qaeda' in Iraq. Zarqawi's actions in Iraq seriously damaged the al Qaeda' brand, a fact recognized in two letters from al Qaeda''s leadership captured by American forces in Iraq. Since about 2005, al Qaeda has become more careful about allowing jihadist groups to use its name and has focused on religious purity and agreement on methodology as the main ways to ensure conformity with their vision of fighting the jihad.

The result of al Qaeda's persuasive arguments has been a slow but steady evolution of jihadist groups away from an array of ideological, religious, and strategic orientations toward al Qaeda''s views of a global jihad fought primarily against the United States and Israel. About two years ago, in places like North Africa, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, jihadist groups began to make public statements about attacking the United States and Israel in their homelands. Now al Qaeda is pushing for talk to become action. In a lengthy interview last June, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, the head of al Qaeda's administrative and financial commission (perhaps equivalent to al Qaeda's chief of staff), stated publicly that the group was urging its "branches" to follow through on their ideological commitments, and to carry out attacks on the U.S. and Israel.

Al Qaeda's push to "unify the jihad" is, in my opinion, at least partially responsible for the sudden spike in plots and attacks on the United States emanating from these parts of the world. I should also note that there are other arenas, like Chechnya and Indonesia, where jihadist groups have moved ideologically and methodologically in the direction of al Qaeda, but have not yet shifted to targeting the United States or Israel directly, suggesting that the threat from abroad has not yet reached its culmination.


SATURDAY, May 22, 2010

ON MY MIND. 
GS


THURSDAY and FRIDAY, May 20 and 21, 2010

In addition to what follows, we have  to be lectured by the President of Mexico on our State laws?  He may be a good man (I don't know), but his administration is infested with corruption and infiltration by the drug cartels.  The largest of these is that of "El Chiappo) (sp?), which President Calderon is studiously avoiding, despite receiving about $3 Billion from us each year to fight the drug trade.  What's wrong with this picture?  First, retake control of our borders.  Then we talk about comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Not until then.   GS

Three cheers for Arizona

The shoe is on the other foot and the Mexicans from the State of Sonora, Mexico do not like it.

Can you believe the nerve of these people?  It's almost funny.


The State of Sonora is angry at the influx of Mexicans into Mexico . Nine state legislators from the Mexican State of Sonora traveled to Tucson to complain about Arizona's new employer crackdown on illegal's from Mexico. It seems that many Mexican illegal's are returning to their hometowns and the officials in the Sonora state government are ticked off.

A delegation of nine state legislators from Sonora was in Tucson on Tuesday to state that Arizona 's new Employer Sanctions Law will have a devastating effect on the Mexican state.

At a news conference, the legislators said that Sonora, - Arizona's
southern neighbor, - made up of mostly small towns, - cannot handle the demand for housing, jobs and schools that it will face as Mexican workers return to their hometowns from the USA without jobs or money.


The Arizona law, which took effect Jan. 1, punishes Arizona employers who knowingly hire individuals without valid legal documents to work in the United States. Penalties include suspension of, or loss of, their business license.

The Mexican legislators are angry because their own citizens are returning to their hometowns, placing a burden on THEIR state government. 'How can Arizona pass a law like this?' asked Mexican Rep Leticia Amparano-Gamez, who represents Nogales .
'There is not one person living in Sonora who does not have a friend or relative working in Arizona ,' she said, speaking in Spanish. 'Mexico is not prepared for this, for the tremendous problems it will face as more and more Mexicans working in Arizona and who were sending money to their families return to their home-towns in Sonora without jobs,' she said. 'We are one family, socially and economically,' she said of the people of Sonora and Arizona.

Wrong!

The United States is a sovereign nation, not a subsidiary of Mexico, and its taxpayers are not responsible for the welfare of Mexico's citizens.

It's time for the Mexican government, and its citizens, to stop feeding parasitically off the United States and to start taking care of its/their own needs. Too bad that other states within the USA don't pass a law just like that passed by Arizona.

Maybe that's the answer, since our own Congress will do nothing!

New Immigration Laws: Read to the bottom or you will miss the message...

  1. There will be no special bilingual programs in the schools.
 
  2. All ballots will be in this nation's language.
 
  3.. All government business will be conducted in our language.
 
  4. Non-residents will NOT have the right to vote no matter how long they are here.
 
  5. Non-citizens will NEVER be able to hold political office
 
  6 Foreigners will not be a burden to the taxpayers. No welfare, no food stamps, no health care, or other government assistance programs. Any burden will be deported.
 
  7. Foreigners can invest in this country, but it must be an amount at least equal to 40,000 times the daily minimum wage.
 
8. If foreigners come here and buy land... options will be restricted.
Certain parcels including waterfront property are reserved for citizens naturally born into this country.
 
9. Foreigners may have no protests; no demonstrations, no waving of a foreign flag, no political organizing, no bad-mouthing our president or his policies. These will lead to deportation.
 
10. If you do come to this country illegally, you will be actively hunted &, when caught, sent to jail until your deportation can be arranged. All assets will be taken from you.

Too strict ?
The above laws are current immigration laws of MEXICO!


THURSDAY through WEDNESDAY, May 13 through 19, 2010

AS I WAS SAYING: VOTE ALL INCUMBENTS OUT OF OFFICE AT THE NEXT TWO ELECTIONS.  SEND A MESSAGE.  GS

Voters back anti-DC, anti-establishment candidates

 By LIZ SIDOTI, AP National Political Writer Liz Sidoti, Ap National Political Writer   – Wed May 19, 4:58 pm ET

WASHINGTON – With the electorate's intense anger reverberating across the country, this is all but certain: It's an anti-Washington, anti-establishment year. And candidates with ties to either better beware.

Any doubt about just how toxic the political environment is for congressional incumbents and candidates hand-picked by national Republican and Democratic leaders disappeared late Tuesday, when voters fired Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania, forced Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln into a run-off in Arkansas and chose tea party darling Rand Paul to be the GOP nominee in Kentucky's Senate race.

"People just aren't very happy," Ira Robbins, 61, said in Allentown, Pa.

With anyone linked to power, it seems.

Taken together, the outcomes of primaries in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Kentucky — following voter rejections of GOP Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah and Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan in West Virginia — provided further evidence that voters are in the mood to choose outsiders over insiders.

Future implications could be huge. Candidates like Paul and Rep. Joe Sestak, who defeated White House-backed Specter, owe little or nothing to their parties. Coalition building, already a lost art in Capitol Hill, could become tougher if more candidates come to Washington as insurgent free agents. Big-monied special interest groups could recruit and fund candidates, the domain of a strong Democratic and Republican parties.

"It's not healthy for democracy," said GOP consultant Ben Ginsberg, an attorney and leader of the Republican establishment in Washington. "But it is what it's becoming."

An exception to the anti-establishment trend was the race to fill a vacant House seat in a conservative-leaning Pennsylvania congressional district; voters elected the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha's one-time aide, Mark Critz, over Republican businessman Tim Burns. Oregon also held its primary; there were no surprises.

Perhaps indicating that voters were expressing their frustrations at the ballot box, turnout appeared to be up in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Kentucky from the most recent previous statewide primary elections.

The tone for the party-nominating season was set on the busiest primary night of the year and as more contests loomed large, particularly among Republicans. But it's difficult to say whether this early season trend will hold true during the general election; much could change between now and November, especially given the uncertainty of economic recovery after the worst recession in generations and an unemployment rate hovering at 10 percent.

Tuesday's primaries came a little less than five months before the midterm elections. President Barack Obama backed incumbents in his party's races, but despite the stakes for his legislative agenda the White House insisted he was not following the results very closely. He had worked to elect both Specter and Lincoln, and the outcomes stoked questions about the scope of his clout. In the past six months, Obama has watched candidates for whom he campaigned in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts lose.

In Pennsylvania, Specter, seeking his sixth term and first as a Democrat, lost to two-term Rep. Joe Sestak, who spent three decades in the Navy before entering politics. Having run as an outsider, Sestak told cheering supporters his triumph marked a "win for the people over the establishment, over the status quo, even over Washington, D.C."

"This particular race needed new blood," said Denise Lamar, 60. She voted against Specter and said, "It's time for him to retire."

Sestak will face former GOP Rep. Pat Toomey in the fall in what expected to be a hotly contested race.

In Arkansas, Lincoln, a moderate who was first elected in 1998 and is considered among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats this fall, failed to win the majority of votes. She now faces a run-off against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter — who was backed by unions and progressives — for the Democratic nomination.

"I'd like to see a change and let someone else have a try," Edith Cornelius, 69, said after voting for Halter near downtown Camden, Ark. But it was Lincoln's experience that drove W.J. Williams of Little Rock, 63, to support her, saying, "She has been in there a number of years and because of that, she is strong."

The winner of the June 8 run-off will face Republican Rep. John Boozman, who won the Republican nomination; the race is likely to be among the most competitive as Republicans try to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats.

Elsewhere, Kentucky Republicans chose Paul — the son of Texas Rep. Ron Paul, whose 2008 presidential candidacy sparked legions of followers — as their nominee for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jim Bunning. Tea party activists lifted Paul to victory over Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who was the favored candidate of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Celebrating his triumph, Paul — a 47-year-old eye surgeon making his first run for office — said, "I have a message, a message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our government back."

Among Paul's supporters was Bill Osburn, 79, from Murray, Ky., who said: "I'm against the establishment. They're all crooked, unreliable and selfish for power. ... We need citizen representatives, not political politicians."

In the fall, Paul will face Jack Conway, the Kentucky attorney general, winner over Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo in the Democratic primary.


MONDAY through WEDNESDAY, May 10 through 12, 2010

Arizona gov. signs bill targeting ethnic studies

By JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press Writer Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press Writer   – Wed May 12, 6:23 am ET

PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a bill targeting a school district's ethnic studies program, hours after a report by United Nations human rights experts condemned the measure.

State schools chief Tom Horne, who has pushed the bill for years, said he believes the Tucson school district's Mexican-American studies program teaches Latino students that they are oppressed by white people.

Public schools should not be encouraging students to resent a particular race, he said.

"It's just like the old South, and it's long past time that we prohibited it," Horne said.

Brewer's signature on the bill Tuesday comes less than a month after she signed the nation's toughest crackdown on illegal immigration — a move that ignited international backlash amid charges the measure would encourage racial profiling of Hispanics. The governor has said profiling will not be tolerated.

The measure signed Tuesday prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.

The Tucson Unified School District program offers specialized courses in African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that focus on history and literature and include information about the influence of a particular ethnic group.

For example, in the Mexican-American Studies program, an American history course explores the role of Hispanics in the Vietnam War, and a literature course emphasizes Latino authors.

Horne, a Republican running for attorney general, said the program promotes "ethnic chauvinism" and racial resentment toward whites while segregating students by race. He's been trying to restrict it ever since he learned that Hispanic civil rights activist Dolores Huerta told students in 2006 that "Republicans hate Latinos."

District officials said the program doesn't promote resentment, and they believe it would comply with the new law.

The measure doesn't prohibit classes that teach about the history of a particular ethnic group, as long as the course is open to all students and doesn't promote ethnic solidarity or resentment.

About 1,500 students at six high schools are enrolled in the Tucson district's program. Elementary and middle school students also are exposed to the ethnic studies curriculum. The district is 56 percent Hispanic, with nearly 31,000 Latino students.

Sean Arce, director of the district's Mexican-American Studies program, said last month that students perform better in school if they see in the curriculum people who look like them.

"It's a highly engaging program that we have, and it's unfortunate that the state Legislature would go so far as to censor these classes," he said.

Six UN human rights experts released a statement earlier Tuesday saying all people have the right to learn about their own cultural and linguistic heritage, they said.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman didn't directly address the UN criticism, but said Brewer supports the bill's goal.

"The governor believes ... public school students should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people," Senseman said.

Arce could not immediately be reached after Brewer signed the bill late Tuesday.

COMING  SOON!



No apology for sending this! ! After hearing they want to sing the National Anthem in Spanish - enough is enough. Nowhere did they sing it in Italian, Polish, Irish (Celtic), German or any other language because of immigration. It was written by Francis Scott Key and should be sung word for word the way it was written. The news broadcasts even gave the translation -- not even close. NOT sorry if this offends anyone because this is MY COUNTRY - IF IT IS YOUR COUNTRY SPEAK UP -- please pass this along.
I am not against immigration -- just come through like everyone else Get a sponsor; have a place to lay your head; have a job; pay your taxes, live by the rules AND LEARN THE LANGUAGE as all other immigrants have in the past -- and GOD BLESS AMERICA!



Calling an illegal alien an 'undocumented immigrant' is like calling a drug dealer an 'unlicensed pharmacist'.


SUNDAY, May 9, 2010

"EXCELLENCE IN OUR EDUCATION INDUSTRY".

Believe it or not, folks, that's the motto on which I ran successfully twice for the Board of Education in New London, Ct. in the later 1960's.  How Hopeful.  How Naive.  But I was educable.  In 1971, while President of the Board, I and my wife took our then four children out of the public school system and enrolled them in a private school, which education they continued until college.  And, having witnessed up close and personal the developments of the 1960's, I made a prediction which I shared liberally: we adults would have to live through two generations: Horse's Ass, and Son-of-Horse's Ass. 

And so it came to pass.  There were many factors involved: the welfare multi-generations; the collapse of Black family life, as predicted by then-Senator Moynahan; the drug craze; the free sex craze; the revolt against any authority; the collapse of moral guidelines and its conscious replacement by a "value-neutral" mantra in and out of schools; the loss of marriage commitments for many, resulting in a 50% divorce rate and 50% of children being raised in one parent households; the foisting by society on the public school systems of all of the resulting social problems and requiring "mainstreaming" of very troubled children with what was then passing for "normal" kids, and at that time without adequate resources; the distorted emphasis on  "self-image" which now could be imparted instead of being earned.  
But then came the rub.  The "educators" began doing raw research, instead of clinical educational studies, on human beings, trying this and trying that, failing time and again.  Meanwhile, the teaching profession - not subject to the Hippocratic Oath and the precept "First, Do No Harm" - decided with their powerful unions that personal survival and advancement were their highest goals.  And so they proceeded and continue  to block, through their wholly owned subsidiary (the Democratic Party) any and all efforts to improve educationally a progressively failing student body at all levels, mainly by blocking any efforts to inject parental choice  and teacher accountability into the system.  Their response to any suggestion of trouble in the system: ever more money into the sinkhole. If physicians practiced Medicine and got the results that teachers have gotten.  we would rightly be in jail.

Well, folks, the results are in, the votes have been tallied, and the fat lady has sung.  If you have the stomach for it, read the extensively researched and documented report by Mark Bauerlein, Professor of English at Emory University, entitled: "The Dumbest Generation" (The Penguin Group, 2009).  And where was - and is - the Teaching Profession?  No canary in this mine disaster.  What a legacy.

GS


TUESDAY through SATURDAY, May 4 through 8, 2010

As frequent visitors to this Rapid Response section will recall, I occasionally refer the reader to specific excellent and timely articles with little reaction of my own.  This is one of those times. 
  1. "Mr.Buffett Goes To Bat For Goldman, Moody's", by Scott Patterson, WSJ Monday, May 3, 2010, pC1.  Say it isn't so, Warren.
  2. "Get Ready For A Nuclear Iran", by John Bolton, WSJ Monday, May 3, 2010, pA21.  Always on the money...and the reason Obama can't stop smoking. 
  3. "What About Fan and Fred Reform", by Robert G. Wilmers, WSJ Tuesday, May 4, 2010, pA19.  But then Congress and the recent administrations would have to admit to their colossal errors in bringing about the Great Recession. 
  4. "Why The AMA Wants To Muzzle Your Doctor", by Hal Scherz, M.D., WSJ Friday, May 7, 2010, pA17.  Also why I quit the AMA in 1990, and why I have little respect for the group now. 
  5. "Opposition To Arizona Law Not Sensible, Original", by George Will, reprinted in a recent edition of the Norwich Bulletin.  Forget the demagogues and hypocrites in and out of government.  We're finally getting sensible...if not original. 
  6. "Cardinal Has A Mixed Record On Abuse Cases", by Michael Luo, NYTimes Thursday, May 6, 2010, pA1.  Notwithstanding the smokescreen offered by Kenneth L. Woodward in the May 7 publication of Commonweal ("Church of the 'Times'"), and the bloviating of Cardinal Lombardi - the Vatican spokesman - the New York Times hasn't made this stuff up.  The real shame has been the cover-up by sclerotic leaders of the Church.  Enough!  It's a good thing that the vast majority of the Laity (remember them, The Body of the Church?) are Christian and forgiving. 
GS

MONDAY, May 3, 2010

After all the hype, hypocrisy and official negligence, this is what it's all about.  As embedded in the Rule of Law: "HE WHO SEEKS EQUITY MUST DO EQUITY".

GS

> Dear Editor:
>
> So many letter writers have based their arguments on how this land is made up of immigrants. Ernie Lujan for one, suggests we should tear down the Statue of Liberty
> because the people now in question aren't being treated the same as those who passed through Ellis Island
> and other ports of entry.
>
> Maybe we should turn to our history books and point out to people
> like Mr. Lujan why today's American is not willing to accept
> this new kind of immigrant any longer. Back in 1900 when
> there was a rush from all areas of Europe to come to the
> United States, people had to get off a ship and stand in a
> long line in New York and be documented. Some would even get
> down on their hands and knees and kiss the ground. They made
> a pledge to uphold the laws and support their new country in
> good and bad times. They made learning English a primary
> rule in their new American households and some even changed
> their names to blend in with their new home.
>
> They had waved good bye to their birth place to give their
> children a new life and did everything in their power to
> help their children assimilate into one culture. Nothing was
> handed to them. No free lunches, no welfare, no labor laws
> to protect them. All they had were the skills and craftsmanship they had brought with them to trade for a future of prosperity.
>
> Most of their children came of age when World War II broke out.
> My father fought along side men whose parents had come
> straight over from Germany , Italy , France and Japan . None
> of these 1st generation Americans ever gave any thought
> about what country their parents had come from. They were
> Americans fighting Hitler, Mussolini and the Emperor of
> Japan . They were defending the United States of America as
> one people.
>
> When we liberated France , no one in those villages were looking
> for the French-American or the German American or the Irish
> American. The people of France saw only Americans. And we
> carried one flag that represented one country. Not one of
> those immigrant sons would have thought about picking up
> another country's flag and waving it to represent who they
> were. It would have been a disgrace to their parents who had
> sacrificed so much to be here. These immigrants truly knew
> what it meant to be an American. They stirred the melting
> pot into one red, white and blue bowl.
>
> And here we are with a new kind of immigrant who wants the same
> rights and privileges. Only they want to achieve it by
> playing with a different set of rules, one that includes the
> entitlement card and a guarantee of being faithful to their
> mother country. I'm sorry, that's not what being an American
> is all about. I believe that the immigrants who landed on
> Ellis Island in the early 1900's deserve better than that
> for all the toil, hard work and sacrifice in raising future
> generations to create a land that has become a beacon for
> those legally searching for a better life. I think they
> would be appalled that they are being used as an example by
> those waving foreign country flags.
>
> And for that suggestion about taking down the Statue of Liberty , it happens to mean a lot to the citizens who are voting on
> the immigration bill. I wouldn't start talking about
> dismantling the United States just yet.
>
> (signed)
> Rosemary LaBonte

SUNDAY, May 2, 2010

Obama takes direct aim at anti-government rhetoric

By PETE YOST and MARK S. SMITH, Associated Press Writers Pete Yost And Mark S. Smith, Associated Press Writers Sat May 1, 2:14 pm ET

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – In a blunt caution to political friend and foe, President Barack Obama said Saturday that partisan rants and name-calling under the guise of legitimate discourse pose a serious danger to America's democracy, and may incite "extreme elements" to violence.

The comments, in a graduation speech at the University of Michigan's huge football stadium, were Obama's most direct take about the angry politics that have engulfed his young presidency after long clashes over health care, taxes and the role of government.

Not 50 miles from where Obama spoke, the GOP's 2008 vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, denounced his policies as "big government" strategies being imposed on average Americans. "The fundamental transformation of America is not what we all bargained for," she told 2,000 activists at a forum in Clarkston, sponsored by the anti-tax Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

Obama drew repeated cheers in Michigan Stadium from a friendly crowd that aides called the biggest audience of his presidency since the inauguration. The venue has a capacity of 106,201, and university officials distributed 80,000 tickets — before they ran out.

In his 31-minute speech, Obama didn't mention either Palin or the tea party movement that's captured headlines with its fierce attacks on his policies. But he took direct aim at the anti-government language so prevalent today.

"What troubles me is when I hear people say that all of government is inherently bad," Obama said after receiving an honorary doctor of laws degree. "When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us."

Government, he said, is the roads we drive on and the speed limits that keep us safe. It's the men and women in the military, the inspectors in our mines, the pioneering researchers in public universities.

The financial meltdown dramatically showed the dangers of too little government, he said, "when a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly led to the collapse of our entire economy."

But Obama was direct in urging both sides in the political debate to tone it down. "Throwing around phrases like 'socialists' and 'Soviet-style takeover,' 'fascists' and 'right-wing nut' — that may grab headlines," he said. But it also "closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation," he said.

"At its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response."

Passionate rhetoric isn't new, he acknowledged. Politics in America, he said, "has never been for the thin-skinned or the faint of heart. ... If you enter the arena, you should expect to get roughed up."

Obama hoped the graduates hearing his words can avoid cynicism and brush off the overheated noise of politics. In fact, he said, they should seek out opposing views.

His advice: If you're a regular Glenn Beck listener, then check out the Huffington Post sometimes. If you read The New York Times editorial page the morning, then glance every now and then at The Wall Street Journal.

"It may make your blood boil. Your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship," he said.

Both the President and Sarah Palin make important points here.  "Compromise".  "Government is us".  We did not bargain for a fundamental transformation of America.  In reality, it's not the U.S. Constitution or our form of government that is wrong or has become bad. It's the people who make up the government - and those who send them there -  who have made it unworthy of the greatest democracy in the world.  It's the 40-50% of citizens who don't  in Presidential elections. It's the stupid and lazy citizens who don't take the time to learn about the issues and candidates. It's the main media who have given up their charge to inform and who instead constantly pursue  partisan stances.  It's the career politicians who will do anything to stay in office election after election.  It's the honest people who offer to serve - and who then are prostituted by the perpetual demands of fund-raising to get into or to stay in the running. It's the "value-neutral" mentality, even taught in our schools in the last 30 years, that enables otherwise honest people to become crooks. 
What to do?  Vote every incumbent out of office in the next two elections.  Send a message.  "We're in charge".  That's what our American democracy is supposed to be about. It has been said that "In a democracy, the people always get what they deserve".  Well, I for one don't deserve this crap. And there are a lot of others like me.

GS


SATURDAY, May 1, 2010

ANOTHER EPISODE OF "AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 OPINIONS". 

Pakistan. 
The most dangerous country in the world: nuclear, unstable, unpredictable.  I hope we know what we are doing there. 
India.  Democratic...and we know what a mess that can be.  We should insure that India becomes and remains our main ally in the Far East. 
Japan.  A strong ally...but not to be taken for granted.  And it should be allowed and urged to provide for its own defense at long last. 
China.  More oriental than Russia, but also more modern and predictable.  Don't trust...just verify. 
Russia.  Western in "look"; oriental in outlook.  No "quid" without a "quo". 
Afghanistan.  Here, we're screwing up again.  The current and coming "surge" will fail to change the national and regional dynamic because we have no leverage.  We should have gotten their attention with the stick of total and permanent destruction of the opium crop...and then with the carrot of providing viable and reliable alternative economic and humanitarian aid over the next ten years.  Another instance of historical amnesia and ignorance regarding that part of the world. 
Iran.  Prevent it from becoming a nuclear arms power...either by effective sanctions (unilateral if necessary), or by the inevitable Israeli attack. 
Israel.  What else can I say that I haven't already said?  Like a prickly marriage: can't live with her; can't live without her. 
Iraq.  We must apply whatever pressure necessary to guarantee that a fair and fully representative government exists there...or we'll have to go back sooner or later to maintain a stable Middle East. 
Turkey.  As valuable and critical as Israel in that part of the world.  Turkey must be allied with the West, and not with the Muslim mid-East or with the Oriental East.  Do we know what we are doing there??
The former Soviet Bloc Countries.  We must be a reliable ally to them over the long term.  This means that America must stop making its foreign policy potentially subject to change without notice every four years.  That does not work - either for us or for the rest of the world that depends for us for stability and safety. 
The EU.  As demonstrated by the current crises emanating from Greece and other members...What's That?  Remains to be seen.  Meanwhile, we must insure that NATO maintains its integrity and strength. 
The individual members of the EU.  Once again the truism: "A country does not have allies or friends...only interests". 
Latin America.  What a mess.  And it will remain so until Justice prevails, beginning with Land Reform.  Here, the Catholic Church could play a massive role, if it hadn't decided since the 1980's to play it safe.  Not nice, and not impressive. 
The United States.  We're in trouble, folks.  Not from any external threats, but from internal division.  It's as if the last two generations never learned that the American system is founded on Compromise.  Of course, that pre-supposes that people have at least a passing awareness of the arguments and merits of the other side.  Not so any more.  Large portions of the Media have abrogated their responsibility to inform our citizens.  Instead, they have embraced the role of partisans.  What a shame.  Meanwhile, those responsible for our Public Education system have abrogated their responsibility to teach.  Their interest, through their Teachers' Unions, is only self-protection.  Another shame.  The result, as articulated by a Professor of English at Emory University, is "The Dumbest Generation" (by Mark Bauerlein, Penguin Group, New York, 2008). 

"AND THAT'S ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT"...for now.

GS


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