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Sunday, February 27, 2011

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5 Reasons the Muslim Brotherhood Won’t Destroy Israel – Debunked

Posted By Paul Cooper On February 27, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

The Muslim Brotherhood isn’t so bad, and couldn’t lead Egypt against Israel even if they wanted to.  Sound crazy?  I agree, but that is what the Left is trying to argue.  And their latest attempt comes from a Muslim teacher seen as a Middle East expert by our mainstream media.
We have to have the facts to debunk the pro-Brotherhood propaganda that grows each day.
Haroon Moghul recently wrote an article for Religion Dispatches Magazine called “5 Reasons the Muslim Brotherhood Won’t Turn on Israel”.  Moghul also writes for The Huffington Post and has been interviewed as a Middle East expert by CNN, NPR, the New Yorker, Time, and The History Channel.  The young Muslim professor is also known for his sermons held online by NYU’s Islamic center, and supposedly has a large international following.
I’m not sure if Moghul is merely a fool or attempting to push propaganda with his pro-Brotherhood article.  I sense it is some mixture of both.  He is highly educated, so he must know what is truly happening in the Middle East, but he ignores the truth either because he hopes for the best or supports the worst.
Regardless of Moghul’s real intentions, his five reasons the MB won’t turn against Israel are presented here.  Under each reason (which I have given my own titles), I provide a quote from Moghul’s short article.  After each quote I completely debunk his arguments.
First up: The Muslim Brotherhood loves a thriving tourism industry?
5. The Egyptian economy is too dependent on tourism.

“There’s a special on Egypt on the Discovery Channel every three or four days. Ancient Egypt is one of the few non-European societies we all seem to know about; in fact we often treat it as part of Western history. Countless tourists visit Egypt every year. The Egyptian economy is deeply dependent on tourism of the Pharaonic and Islamic varieties, and cannot long survive alienated from the world.” – Moghul
You read that right.  Moghul actually has the audacity to begin his argument by saying the Brotherhood won’t be able to attack Israel because of The Discovery Channel.  How nice that we can tell from the start how ridiculous these five ‘reasons’ are going to be.
Are we really supposed to believe the power of tourism will silence the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood?  Moghul makes that argument by pointing out that whenever terrorists attack tourists it gets bad press.  First off, I’m not sure the MB cares about international press.  Secondly, they don’t want to attack tourists in Egypt, they want to attack the hated Israel.
Young Egyptians have already claimed their support of Muslim Brotherhood because they provide people jobs.  So why in the world would Moghul argue that “aggressive national policy will accomplish nothing for Egypt and the many Egyptians whose jobs depend on the tourist sector”?  The zeal of Islamists will not be silenced by camera-toting tourists seeking pictures of pyramids.
The government uprising in Egypt has already stopped tourism in Egypt temporarily, and there’s been no massive counter-protest by tourism workers.  Tourism will suffer greatly if the MB takes power even if they don’t attack Israel.  As the Wall Street Journal pointed out before Mubarak lost power:
It is Europe that will suffer the greater consequences if the Mubarak regime is toppled and followed by the Muslim Brotherhood or anarchy. Aside from lost exports to Egypt, there will be lost domestic investments, not least in tourism (no more bikinis in Sharm El Sheikh with the Muslim Brotherhood in power).
The loss of tourism is a done deal, so how can it stop the Brotherhood agenda?  It won’t.
Next: The military to the rescue?
4. The military wouldn’t help.


“The same Egyptian military that gets $1.3 billion from the United States in aid every year doesn’t want to jeopardize that aid—for which reason it will look very suspiciously on any political agenda that wants to antagonize Israel and threaten a major source of its funding.” – Moghul
There are different ways to approach this one.  We do heavily fund the Egyptian military, and if Bush was still in power then Moghul might have a good argument.  But what has the USA said to make anyone think we won’t support the will of the Muslim Brotherhood?
The Obama administration has not shown any reason for the military to turn back the Brotherhood.  In fact, the administration has already said it would support a role for the MB in Egyptian government.  The group is not even listed on U.S. terrorism lists.  Obviously we would cut off funding the moment Egypt attacked Israel, but until that moment Egypt can build up their forces on our dime.
The Brotherhood shows no fear of the military so far.  On Saturday the MB has already issued a statement advising the military on who they should and should not talk to.  As Reuters reported:
“The statement was a sign that the group, kept on a tight leash under the rule of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak, is becoming more assertive in voicing its views on how Egypt should be run.”
So before the MB even takes power they are directing the military.  And maybe more disturbing, last Friday the military opened up Tahir Square to allow Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the radical Sunni preacher exiled by Hosni Mubarak, to return home and preach a message of jihad.  Qaradawi has supported the works of Hitler and suicide bombers.  And what did the military do with this hater of Israel?  They let him back in the country to lead a rally and preach on national television over their state run media.  Reports also say that anyone not in the MB attempting to gain the platform was literally pulled off stage while the military stood by.
Not only does the military not seem to be standing up against the Brotherhood, so far they seem to be walking lockstep with them.  Israel is very concerned and is right to be, so why aren’t we?
Next: Is the Brotherhood even influential?
3. At most, the Brotherhood probably commands only 20% of the vote.


“Here’s the key: At most, the Brotherhood probably commands about 20% of the vote, and even that’s an educated guess. That’s not enough to form or dominate a government…there’s not much reason to assume that the Brotherhood will somehow dominate Egypt in Mubarak’s absence.  The era of Islam as a national political project, seeking revolutionary expansion, was a brief blip in the political and intellectual history of the Muslim world.” – Moghul
Anyone who argues that the Brotherhood doesn’t have a lot of support simply isn’t paying attention, and/or is purposefully hiding the truth for propaganda purposes.  I think Moghul comes off as clueless because he is a propagandist, and much of our media does the same.  However, MB apologists tend to let the truth slip on how influential the MB  is in Egypt when they try to praise the MB at the same time.  An LA Times writer recently wrote:
The Muslim Brotherhood is the largest and best-organized Egyptian opposition group, with an estimated 600,000 members, many of them educated, middle-class men…In addition to its political efforts, the Muslim Brotherhood runs social and economic programs that help fill the gaps in Egypt’s public services.
The BBC also did a recent article praising all the aid that the MB gives Egypt.  The BBC wrote, in their clueless article, “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Promotes Moderate Path”, that the MB’s aid is some how proof that they aren’t so bad.  They don’t get the simple tactic of the MB when they write:
The popularity of the movement among the millions of Egyptians living in poverty is widely explained in terms of the efficiency of these services.
The Brotherhood is following the same tactics as terrorist organizations all over the Muslim world.  Organizations provide aid to the hurting, provide work, and help any way they can as a route to gain the unyielding support of the people.  It worked for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, and many other nations.  And now that plan appears to be working in Egypt.  I recently reported how some young Egyptian-American students were praising the MB on Geraldo for being the primary reason “why people in Egypt have jobs”.
The mainstream media wants to say that the Brotherhood is good now, and it’s proven by their support of the vast majority of the people.  And then the same people say elsewhere that we shouldn’t worry about the MB gaining power because they have very little influence.  Which is it?  Are they good so the majority of people love them or are they small and ignored by the Egyptian people?  You cannot have it both ways.
The truth is that the Brotherhood yields massive power because of all the so-called good they do.  Their services have been a quid pro quo and a new government offers them their first real chance to cash in on all their favors.  The MB is already flexing their muscle as just this past weekend they called for a purge of corrupt businessmen and media figures who backed the former government.
Millions gathered on Friday in Tahrir Square, Alexandria and governorate capitals and their chants reached the heavens demanding that the country be purified of former officials and corrupt businessmen.  This purification cannot be limited to a handful of former officials and corrupt businessmen, but it must extend to all of those who corrupted political and legislative life.
The MB is now boldly demanding the removal of all their enemies in politics and business.  In other words, their massive influence is about to grow even stronger.
Next: All bark, no bite?
2. The Brotherhood is all bark now, but would be no bite once they got power.


“I think that the Brotherhood’s position will probably be more in line with a hard bargain: “We’re not going to recognize Israel until we receive certain concessions for the Palestinian side.” But, if they are in power in any capacity, their ability to get any such concessions depends on their having a relationship with Israel—Iran has stood outside Israel for years, and has been unable to accomplish anything for the Palestinians.” – Moghul
This ‘reason’ to trust the Brotherhood is almost as foolish as the first one.  Moghul is asking us to ignore the long history of the MB and simply hope for the best. He thinks it’s wise to assume an organization of terror will give up their beliefs and become pragmatic.
The best measure of future actions is to look at past behavior.  But Moghul wrote, “rather than discuss where the Brotherhood has been in the past, I suggest looking to the future. “  So we should take fans of Hitler and just assume they now denounce him?
Okay, let’s ignore their long past and only look at recent statements of the Brotherhood:
“After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the [1979] peace treaty with Israel.” – MB deputy leader Rashad al-Bayoumi
In January 2010, Muhammad Badi [a.k.a. Muhammad Badie] was named as MB’s new Supreme Guide. Badi has described the U.S. as an infidel nation that “does not champion moral and human values and cannot lead humanity.” He has characterized America and Israel as “the Muslim’s real enemies,” asserting that “[w]aging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded.” And he maintains that the “change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life.” – Discoverthenetworks.org
Mohamed Ghanem, another leader of the MB, recently told Iranian television that Egypt needs to shut off gas to Israel and prepare the army for war with them.
Moghul has admitted that the MB is like most Muslims in the Middle East in that they don’t recognize Israel, but will simply not do anything against Israel so they can lead effectively.  Somehow, when I read the latest statements by the MB, I don’t have Moghul’s blind confidence.
And finally: Everyone changes — why not the Muslim Brotherhood?
1. The Brotherhood has changed and might change more – a kinder, gentler Brotherhood.


“In the last few decades, the Brotherhood has moved decisively away from violence, and toward a more social, albeit nonpolitical, religious role…It’s not far-fetched to imagine that the Brotherhood may calculate in the coming months and years that it is more productive for them to concentrate on serving as a minority in Parliament—not aiming to win power. The Brotherhood may want to become the moral consciousness of society (again, as they define moral consciousness): running institutions, clinics, social services and the like, preaching and spreading its idea of Islam, without getting too tangled up in politics.” – Moghul
I have actually already debunked this argument with number 3.  Allow me to quote myself and then say a little more:
The Brotherhood is following the same tactics as terrorist organizations all over the Muslim world.  Organizations provide aid to the hurting, provide work, and help anyway they can as a route to gain the unyielding support of the people.  It worked for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, and many other nations.  And now that plan appears to be working in Egypt.  I recently reported how some young Egyptian-American students were praising the MB on Geraldo for being the primary reason “why people in Egypt have jobs”.
The truth is that the Brotherhood yields massive power because of all the so-called good they do.  Their services have been a quid pro quo and a new government offers them their first real chance to cash in on all their favors.  The MB is already flexing their muscle as just this past weekend they called for a purge of corrupt businessmen and media figures who backed the former government.
Honestly, Moghul must be a fool or in on it with the MB if he thinks the MB does good works because they don’t want power but just want to help people.  What they are doing is nothing new in the Islamic world.
The MB is not about to refuse politics for charity as so many in the MSM seem to want to believe.  You want proof?  The organization applied to become a political party only 3 days after Mubarak stepped down.  They passionately want power.  They have given aid to get it, and now they are promoting democracy to get that power.  They have studied Hezbollah and Hamas well.

“The main demand of our revolution was for democracy, and this cannot be put this on hold across the region because of the fears of six million Israelis.” – Dr Issam al-Arian, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spokesman.
The goal of the MB is to claim they merely want democracy, which of course, is their pathway to an Islamic State.  They saw it work for Hamas in Palestine, and now they want to help Palestine get rid of Israel.  Dr. Arian tips his hand a bit when he basically says, ‘who cares what those Jews think?’
**************
Every reason Haroon Moghul offers to think the Brotherhood won’t turn on Israel has been clearly debunked.  The MB has learned to use social services and democracy to gain power and they have full resolve to accomplish the goals they’ve set out, which include the destruction of Israel.  The military will not stop them for tourism or for U.S. support; so far the military has stood with the MB.
Our press, our people, and our president need to wake up.  We must be clear that we will stand against the Muslim Brotherhood in every way.

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Article printed from NewsReal Blog: http://www.newsrealblog.com/
URL to article: http://www.newsrealblog.com/2011/02/27/5-reasons-the-muslim-brotherhood-wont-turn-on-israel-debunked/

10 Facts to Win Every Argument on … the Evils of Public Sector Unions

Posted By Diane Schrader On February 27, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

One might make a case that this article is unnecessary. After all, who could possibly be supporting public sector unions after the shenanigans we’ve seen in Wisconsin and elsewhere this past few weeks? Legislators fleeing across state lines to avoid doing the job taxpayers elected them – and are paying them – to do (and they’re not exactly sleeping in their cars during their illicit vacations). Public schoolteachers calling in sick and encouraging their students to picket on their behalf (instead of going to class). Taxpayer-funded doctors unethically and fraudulently writing notes to excuse public workers from their jobs. Union thugs whacking young women Tea Partiers (more on that ahead). What a sordid mess.

Nevertheless, many of our friends and acquaintances aren’t educating themselves on the true goings-on in Madison and other current hotspots around the country. Or worse yet, they’re getting their news on it from the MSM, or the likes of Jon Stewart.
So it’s our job, those of us who love liberty and the free market and the rule of law, to school ‘em. All we need is a little well-honed rhetorical ammunition to stock our intellectual arsenals (I just love to use that vitriolic weapon imagery, although I must defer to the unions on this one – they are the masters).
ANYWAY. Here are ten facts – facts that won’t change the minds of the leftist true believer who worships at the altar of Big Government and honestly thinks the state can run our lives better than we can. But these ten facts just might give the unaware and undecided some much-needed food for thought.
Starting with: History is fun!

10. History proves we don’t need public sector unions, and the folks in Wisconsin are lying about it
I hate it when kids say they hate history. To me, that’s a stinging indictment of whoever was teaching them history, because history should be fun. History is just stories, and what could be better than that?
Those stories are particularly compelling when they illuminate the present. The history of public sector unions is crystal clear, and the Left is being wildly dishonest in their approach to it. The president of Madison Teachers, one Mike Lipp, offered this “historical perspective”:
“(For Governor Walker) to include gutting law that was put into place in 1959, signed by the great Gaylord Nelson, granting public employees the right to collectively bargain, is ludicrous.”
Huh? As Rich Lowry points out at National Review Online, “why would anyone in 2011 think of changing a government practice put in place in 1959?” Especially when it was signed by the great … who was that again?
What a ridiculous argument. But at least Mike Lipp wasn’t hysterical, like this lady:

Okay, that part with Obama at the end was just a joke. But don’t you feel like yelling out an “Amen” to the crazy lady? IT’S FOR THE KIDS!! Because if she can’t suck quite as hard at the public teat, we won’t have weekends. Or something.
Now let’s talk reality and the truth (refreshing, I know!).
All the historical arguments we’re hearing in support of unions – every last one of them – are related to the relationship between labor and the private sector. Not the relationship between well-paid government workers and THEIR employer – which is YOU.
President Kennedy is the one to blame for lifting the federal ban on government unions back in 1962, but it wasn’t because government workers were poorly paid, or suffered in adverse working conditions. It was because the traditional labor unions were losing power, as Jonah Goldberg points out, and JFK saw how public unions in states like Wisconsin were putting Democrats in power.
“The plan worked. Public union membership skyrocketed and government union support for the party of government skyrocketed with it. From 1989 to 2004, AFSCME — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — gave nearly $40 million to candidates in federal elections, with 98.5% going to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.”
98.5 percent! (More on that ahead.) Anyway, THAT is the true history of why we have public sector unions. So if someone tries to tell you it’s because workers were dying in the mines, or we needed weekends – that’s a bald-faced lie.
Next: Why public employees should never be able to strike…
9. We are the employers
Government exists to provide a framework for free enterprise to flourish. Our government was never intended to be a producer of goods and services as much as it was intended to facilitate production in the private sector. Many conservatives believe that the services government does provide should be limited to those related to safety, like military and police functions. So when public sector unions infuse their self-centered collective bargaining demands, they jeopardize the safety of our society as a whole. This cannot be allowed, and it is why many government workers are forbidden, by law, from going on strike (which as we have seen does not stop them, when a militant union is involved).
What’s more, even when government workers are fulfilling a function that can (and maybe should) be privatized (education comes to mind), they still should have no right to withdraw that function from their employer, because their employer is all of us.
Ronald Reagan understood this quite clearly. Here he is ‘splainin the facts to a bunch of hardheaded (and soon to be ex-) air traffic controllers:

Ah, but our beloved President Reagan is not the only president to make a meaningful contribution to the issue of public sector unions. Consider what another president had to say – and this wasn’t an argument against strikes, but an argument against ANY collective bargaining in the public sector:
“All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public-personnel management. The very nature and purposes of government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with government-employee organizations. The employer is the whole people…”
That, my friends, was what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to say. Mr. New Deal himself. That’s a wee bit o’history that you probably won’t see quoted in the NYT.
We are the employer. You and me. So don’t let anyone try to frame the argument in terms of “corporate greed” (which is exactly what they’re deceitfully doing). The only greed evident in THIS debate is that of the money-grubbing unions. The real employer – the taxpayer – you, me – we are not being greedy. Is it greedy to tell the kids you can’t take them on a European vacation when Dad just lost his job? That’s not called greed. That’s called responsibility.
Next: The criminally-selfish circle of money and influence…

8. Public unions PLUS Democrats MINUS taxpayer interests = unending river of fun money for everyone (well, everyone except the taxpayers)
The formula mentioned above is one being applied in many states, municipalities and of course at the federal level. Public sector unions “bargain” with the government for wages and benefits, but the folks representing the government at the bargaining table end up being those representing primarily Democratic politicians (remember that 98.5% figure, above?) who give the unions everything they want in exchange for untold riches being funneled back to the Democrats in power at election time. By the way, there is no seat for the taxpayers at this bargaining table, even though it is their money that is at stake. So the unions ask for more and more lavish entitlements, which the Democrats are only too happy to provide from the public coffers, because they know the union will then line their pockets come campaign time.
The results of all this largesse back and forth between the public unions and the Democrats? The results are the jaw-dropping budget deficits in all those states, municipalities and counties (and countries) with public sector unions. The Democrats (primarily) have thrown taxpayer money at the unions in the form of outrageous wages and benefits (more on that, later), then benefit personally at election time (more on that, later, too).
The leftists clearly understand how this system works – why do you think there’s such an outcry? No less a liberal luminary than Watergate “uncoverer” Carl Bernstein is calling Governor Walker’s action a “very political, demagogic move by a governor who knows that the Democratic Party subsists to some extent on union contributions.” To which we would add – what does he mean “to some extent”? It’s their mother’s milk! This is why Walker is, as Carol Platt Liebau puts it, an anathema to both the unions and the liberal politicians.
Jonah Goldberg sums up the problem neatly:
“And this gets to the real insidiousness of government unions. Wisconsin labor officials fairly note that they’ve acceded to many of their governor’s specific demands… but they don’t want to lose the right to collective bargaining. But that is exactly what they need to lose. Private sector unions fight with management over an equitable distribution of profits. Government unions negotiate with politicians over taxpayer money, putting the public interest at odds with union interests and, as we’ve seen in states such as California and Wisconsin, exploding the cost of government. The labor-politician negotiations can’t be fair when the unions can put so much money into campaign spending. Victor Gotbaum, a leader in the New York City chapter of AFSCME, summed up the problem in 1975 when he boasted, ‘We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.’”
Indeed. And keep in mind – WE are the real boss that is being supplanted. This is positively criminal behavior. It’s corrupt. It’s a racket. And it’s why Scott Walker is a hero for trying to dismantle it in his state. It robs all taxpayers to benefit the few who happen to be employed by the government. And as much as the Left tries to cloak this in class warfare terms – Americans are not buying it.
Next: Another factor in this corrupt and evil formula…

7. Union members are given no choice
At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to quote New York Post columnist Michael Walsh, discussing the vast sums of money discussed in our previous point:
“Where does that money come from? From union members’ dues. In what is effectively a criminal enterprise were it not for the moment legal, public-union leaders negotiate ever-larger pay and benefits from the very politicians to whom they then kick back ‘campaign contributions.’ All at taxpayer expense.”
But Diane, you say. You already went over this. Yes, I did. I just wanted to reiterate the “criminal” aspect before making the next point, which is that THESE UNION DUES ARE COERCED BY FORCE FROM UNION MEMBERS. These aren’t voluntary donations from union members who are 99% Democrats themselves. These are union dues removed from public union members’ paychecks before they ever see the money. Mona Charen has a good description here:
“Through collective bargaining, unions negotiate with elected officials for wages and benefits. They then get the state to collect union dues for them by withholding the dues from public employees’ checks. With the accumulated cash, the union then makes campaign contributions to the favored public officials. Neat.”
She goes on to quote labor historian Fred Siegel:
“Ending dues deductions breaks the political cycle in which government collects dues, gives them to the unions, who then use the dues to back their favorite candidates and also lobby for bigger government and more pay and benefits.”
Do you think every one of those public sector employees wants to have dues taken out of his or her paycheck? Do you think if the dues weren’t removed from their paychecks automatically, that quite a few of them might fight for the right to opt out? Do you think every one of them agrees with the politicians their unions push? What about the teacher whose forced union dues paid for attack ads against her conservative politician husband – do you think she was on board with that?
You know the answers to all of these questions, and so do the Democrats. That’s why they’ll flee over state lines before acting on the clearly defined will of the people (as per the 2010 elections). Special interests don’t relinquish their privileges without a fight, as Carol Platt Liebau notes.
This is at the heart of the reason the union organizers are camping out at the Wisconsin Capitol. Linda Chavez spells it out:
“The unions are afraid that if the state doesn’t deduct the dues from members’ paychecks and turn them over to the union, the members won’t pay up. The National Education Association alone will receive $358 million in its share of union dues nationally this school year — virtually all of it taken automatically out of teachers’ paychecks and turned over to the union by their government employer… Walker also wants to give state employees the right to vote on whether they want to be represented by a union — and if so, which one. But the unions don’t like that either. They want workers to have the right to choose union representation, but they seem scared to death that the issue might actually be put to a vote every year.”
This is one thing that unions are not lying about – it really isn’t about this year’s budget. It’s about power and who’s going to control the purse strings. It’s really an issue of right vs. wrong. Is it right to force people to give their money to causes with which they disagree? To force a wife to give her income against her husband?
Clearly, this is a cycle that needs to be broken. It does not even represent the best interests of the union members, many of whom will have NO PENSIONS AT ALL if some type of Walker-ite reform is not implemented and soon. Union bosses have been in bed with Democratic politicians for far too long, and it’s time to break up this illicit romance. All politicians, of every political stripe, are supposed to serve we the people, we the taxpayers – not, as Liebau notes, their megalomaniacal fantasies of being some type of government overlords.
Next: And lest there be any confusion whatsoever about which politicians, of which stripe, are benefitting from this corrupt system…

6. This is a 100% Democrat, big money racket
Okay, not 100%. Like we said earlier, some figures put it at 98.5%. Whatever. Writer Michael Walsh says:
“Unions such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the National Education Association (NEA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) give hundreds of millions of dollars to Democrats — some $171 million in 2010 alone. They give almost nothing to Republicans.”
That’s a pretty accurate figure. Almost nothing. Keep that fact in mind the next time someone tries to tell you that one party is as bad as the other. Not on this point, my friend, and this is a pretty darned important point, as it cuts to the heart of the integrity of our entire system. You can blame the Republicans for one thing, however, and that’s for not making a huge stink about this corrupt cycle a long time ago. Why is it only the Tea Party that has emboldened action?
Anyway, the Wall Street Journal did “out” AFSCME last fall – AFSCME being the primary public employee union (outside of teacher unions). The very largest spender in the 2010 election – yes, Californians, bigger than Meg Whitman – was AFSCME. The number one spender in all state elections is public employee unions. And of course they are supporting the party of Yes-You-Can-Have-More (if not the party of Actually-You-Can-Have-Everything). The party that is cheating the American taxpayer while lying to the public sector union employees. No – we canNOT have it all. Nobody ever can. It’s one of those lessons we were supposed to learn in kindergarten.
Next: But aren’t our teachers worth it?

5. Public sector employees are making 45% more than you are. Is that right?
You may love your kid’s teacher. You may even have a favorite postal worker, or (although this is hard to believe) someone at the DMV you like. But do these people deserve to make an average of 45% more than people teaching private school, or delivering packages for UPS, or pushing paper inside some insurance company office? Well, are private school teachers doing a 45% worse job than public teachers? Does UPS do a 45% worse job than the Post Office? Is your insurance company receptionist 45% less surly than the lady at the DMV? I think we all know the answers to all of those questions, don’t we? So why do these public employees get the gold-plated treatment? Listen to Linda Chavez again:
“Public employees pay less for their health care and receive far more generous pensions, often without making contributions to them. Teachers, who are among the most heavily unionized public employees, also have tenure rights — which make it difficult, if not impossible, to remove incompetent or underperforming teachers.”
Ah, yes. Linda brings up an important point, which we will return to a little later. For now, let’s look at a few numbers in more detail, courtesy of the Department of Labor, via Carol Platt Leibau:
“…when it comes to hourly wages, the average in the private sector is $19.68 per hour; for workers in state and local government, it’s $26.25. While 74% of private-industry workers receive paid sick leave and 8 paid holidays per year, 98% of state and local government workers have paid sick leave, along with 11 paid holidays yearly. And 99% of government workers have retirement benefits (with the same percentage enjoying medical benefits), compared to 74% and 86% respectively of private sector employees. Finally, in the private sector, an average of 20% of medical premiums are paid by employees, while state and local government workers pay only 11% on average. By almost any measure, it pays to work for the government – subsidized by taxpayer money and unconstrained by the economic discipline imposed on the private sector by the need to compete — rather than as a taxpaying employee in a private enterprise.”
Working for the government used to be called public service. It can no longer be referred to as such, under these outrageous circumstances.
Side note: This undue burden on private business is a huge part of the reason are economy is in the tank. Why should business have to compete for workers with an indulgent Uncle Sam (or state or local governments)?
Next: But like I said, aren’t our teachers worth it?

4. The service we are getting from these top-paid government employees… sucks.
Unionized public employees provide crappy customer service. Like all blanket statements, that one has its exceptions. Rare as a coherent comment from Khadafi, but yeah, I’ll grant you, out there somewhere there might just be a unionized government worker who gives a damn.
However.
There is no incentive for excellence when, for all intents and purposes, you have unlimited job security. This is the reality of human nature, and it applies to every last one of us. When we think we can get away with something we shouldn’t do – we are more likely to do it. Period. End of discussion. There aren’t even any exceptions to that blanket statement. It is just, simply, Truth.
Unions violate the natural competitive individual spirit, providing disincentive to excel, produce and maximize potential, and instead incentivizing mediocrity. Why go the extra mile when we can get there off someone else’s effort? With public sector unions, since the workers indirectly command influence over the people who write their paychecks, supervisors have far less direct say or evaluative input into the performance or productivity of their employees.
We all almost intuitively understand this. And that’s because we’ve all been one of the 500 people in line at the DMV while workers chat with each other at the copy machine. We have seen firsthand what virtually iron-clad job security does to customer service and the work ethic.
You can’t fire a lazy, underperforming or incompetent unionized government worker without spending a considerably large amount of time, money and effort. Which is part of the reason going to the DMV is such a nightmarish experience. And part of the reason why the line at the post office is so long. And part of the reason why your kids can’t read.
That last one is particularly galling. You may have heard of the so-called rubber rooms, where teachers accused of wrongdoing or incompetence were sent to spend day after day knitting or playing cards while receiving full pay and benefits. Some of them lingered in the rubber room for YEARS. An appalling waste of taxpayer money, no doubt – but one could argue that the rubber rooms are a better location for incompetent teachers than the classroom.
Those teachers in Wisconsin who are so up in arms about having to contribute a bit toward their own health benefits (like the rest of us do)… the ones who called in sick and forced schools to close… well, the Department of Education says that 2/3 of their 8th grade students cannot read proficiently. TWO THIRDS. This is despite the fact that Wisconsin spend more per pupil than any other Midwest state. Well, it may be BECAUSE they spend more per pupil, because the spending isn’t going to help kids learn to read. It’s going to pay for those gold-plated benefits.
It’s not for the kids. It never has been, it isn’t now, and it never will be – as long as teachers are unionized.
Next: The unions show their true colors with outrageous thuggery…

3. Your arguments are suspect if you have to resort to goon behavior to make your points
Writing this article, and trying to include the latest examples of union thuggery out of Wisconsin (and other states) has been an exercise in working with moving targets. I would no sooner get the latest episode into my notes than another would be reported. And the hits – sometimes literally – keep comin’.
Like this goon, who hit a young woman who caught his classless comments on video as he demonstrated outside the offices of FreedomWorks.

Other union protesters made sexually degrading comments to female lawmakers at the Kansas statehouse. And if they’re not busy attacking women, union members also enjoy attacking minorities who aren’t marching in leftist lockstep. Like the black Tea Party member asked if he has any children that he claims. Or the man told he is a bad Jew for not supporting the unions.
In Idaho, where you’d think conservatives would be shown a little more respect, the school superintendent (who has proposed some truly courageous education reform) has had his car trashed and his mother harassed. His mother! And the union had the sheer effrontery to demand HIS apology, for calling them “thugs.”
They are really unhappy when Fox News shows up, because Fox News tells all the sides of the story, and they only want their side told. So Rupert Murdoch’s network must be shouted down at all costs.

It’s called projection. When party A accuses party B of something that party A is really guilty of. Insert “unions/Democrats” as party A and “Tea Party” as party B, and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. I’ve just posted, on one little webpage, more evidence of thug-like behavior than the Tea Party was ever accused of.
Astroturfing? It was not happening at the Tea Party rallies, but it’s happening here. 
Violent rhetoric and nasty signs? Ditto.
As Michelle Malkin masterfully demonstrates, these people did not read the president’s civility memo.
Note to union goons: The ends do not justify the means. Morality means something.
Side note to union goons: Some of your protesters are certifiable.
Next: Is there a connection between the unions and socialists or communists?

2. There is an absolutely indisputable link between public sector unions and socialism/communism
This isn’t really surprising. Public sector unions, in particular, represent a microcosm of socialism, in that wealth is redistributed. It is taken from producers (taxpayers) and given to deadwood (DMV workers). Another word for this is theft. Stealing productivity of one person or group actually serves as an incentive to underproduce for both groups. Again, that natural tendency to follow the path of least resistance.
That’s the philosophical proof. But let’s get down to reality.
Mike Imbrogno is an executive board member of AFSCME. At a recent meeting of the International Socialist Organization, he issued a veiled threat against Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Yeah, yeah, all kinds of leftists are threatening Scott Walker. The most important point is, he was at the INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST ORGANIZATION. He also writes for a fun little website called SocialistWorker.org, where he penned this:
“This battle won’t be won in the offices of these right-wing pigs. It will be won by framing these political questions in the streets.”
It’s not just one guy. Socialist groups have been marching in Madison since the protests started, and the unionists are being supported by groups like the Maoist Revolution Communist Party and the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. Read all about it here.
Of course, America’s own favorite socialist group, Obama’s Organizing for America group, was right there at the beginning, stoking the fires in Wisconsin… an effort reported in the Washington Post, which made it difficult for Obama & Co to deny when they tried to back away from their involvement as the rest of America indicated this wasn’t their definition of hope and change.
Next: NEWSFLASH! The media completely misses the point…

1. The taxpayers ARE the working people of America
I understand the Green Bay Packers are very popular in Wisconsin, so it’s really a slap in the face to hundreds of thousands of fans that team captain Charles Woodson issued a statement supporting the union protesters:
“I was proud when many of my current and former teammates announced their support for the working families fighting for their rights in Wisconsin…”
Newsflash, Charlie buddy. The working families of Wisconsin are the ones getting screwed by these unions. There are way more of us than there are of them. Why aren’t you supporting our rights?
I guess I can’t be too hard on a stupid football player. He has his own union, after all, because heaven knows his big kazillion dollar salary needs union protection. Or something.
But where is the media in all this? They are completely missing the reality that the people of Wisconsin – as well as most of the people in America – just voted for people who would take on the unions. In some cases, the candidates in question (like Scott Walker) were crystal clear about this during their campaigns. They were voted in to do this job for the taxpayers – but the media can’t wrap its pretty little head around that fact. George Stephanopoulos actually went to bat for the unions with Scott Walker. Meanwhile, celebrities spew on about saving the middle class, while ignoring the fact that (a) we are not a class system society and (b) even if we were, most of the middle class DOES NOT BELONG TO A UNION.
The mainstream media is not questioning this idiocy.
We also don’t see them reporting on the costs of these protests to the Wisconsin taxpayers (thanks to the right wing blogs, we at least have the information).
Journalists are supposed to act as the “fourth estate” – ferreting out and reporting on corruption and lies. But they are missing virtually every aspect of this union story: from their failure to draw parallels on the civility issue, to their failure to question union talking points, to their failure to tell the story, at least on occasion, from the taxpayer perspective.
But what else can we expect from the media but a giant FAIL. After all, they tried to keep Scott Walker from being elected in the first place, as a union spokesman revealed during the election.
———
This is an ugly story, bound to get uglier. Especially since the media (apart from Fox News, Rush, and the blogosphere) is not doing its job. It falls to us, as individuals, to insert some sanity into the arguments. These ten talking points deserve wide dissemination. Take them to Facebook, Twitter, and the office water cooler (but be extra careful at work). Let’s start winning hearts and minds with the truth.

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Article printed from NewsReal Blog: http://www.newsrealblog.com/
URL to article: http://www.newsrealblog.com/2011/02/27/10-facts-to-win-every-argument-on-the-evils-of-public-sector-unions/

Fox News correspondent on disruptive Wisconsin protesters: 'There is hat...

Big Dupes at Big Peace: Academy Awards – Big Oscars for Big Dupes

Posted Feb 26th 2011 at 5:45 am

This is the most recent installment of exclusive interviews with Dr. Paul Kengor, professor of political science at Grove City College, on his book revealing how communists, from Moscow to New York to Chicago, have long manipulated America’s liberals/progressives. Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century is based on an unprecedented volume of declassified materials from Soviet archives, FBI files, and more.
Big Peace: Professor Kengor, Hollywood is celebrating its Academy Awards, a look back at great actors and actresses and films.
Kengor: For me, it’s a moment to look back at Hollywood’s worst communists, communist sympathizers, Stalinists, and duped liberals and progressives—as well as the good guys (and gals) that fit none of those categories.
Big Peace: Fair enough. This should be fun. Let’s start with communists.
Charlie Chaplin comment, “Thank God for
communism!” will make you see (him) red.
Kengor: How about the Hollywood screenwriters who liberals still insist were innocent lambs? Dalton Trumbo, Communist Party code “Dalt T;” Albert Maltz, party no. 47196; Alvah Bessie, no. 46836; John Howard Lawson, no. 47275. Or, if you turn to page 191 of my book—if you don’t have a copy yet, shame on you—you can view Arthur Miller’s party application. Miller wrote The Crucible, about how Joe McCarthy pursued “liberals” unfairly suspected of being communists—“liberals” like Miller, Trumbo, Maltz, Bessie, Lawson.
Big Peace: As you say in Dupes, Hollywood produced “quite a cast.” Let’s narrow the focus to the Academy Awards.
Kengor: Among films that have canonized communists, Julia (1977) celebrated the scowling Lillian Hellman and her mystery lover/writer, Dashiell Hammett, who we now know was a CPUSA member. Hellman wrote a bitter play called Scoundrel Time, about Joe McCarthy. In Hellman’s universe, it was Joe McCarthy, not Joe Stalin, who was evil. Winning Oscars for Julia were Jason Robards and Vanessa Redgrave. Fittingly, Lillian Hellman was played by Jane Fonda, recently retired from her real-life role as Vietcong go-go girl. “If you would understand what communism was,” Fonda pleaded with a student audience, “you would pray on your knees that we would someday be communist.”
Big Peace: Another film from that period that celebrated American communists was Warren Beatty’s Reds (1981).
Kengor: That film lionized American Bolshevik John Reed. Reed today is buried in the wall of the Kremlin, a structure responsible for upwards of 60-70 million deaths. Maureen Stapleton won an Oscar for her role in that film as “Red” Emma Goldman, a woman so radical that Woodrow Wilson’s Justice Department deported her to Russia.
Big Peace: Which Academy Award winner made the worst statement about communism?
Kengor: I would roll out the red carpet for Charlie Chaplin. “Thank God for communism!” said the silent film star. “They say communism may spread all over the world. I say, so what?” The Daily Worker thrust that comment onto its front page. Communism, of course, did spread around the world, killing 100-140 million. How’s that for a “so what?”
Big Peace: You have several Oscar winners in Dupes whose names were raised as potential communists by a party organizer in Los Angeles who testified under oath to a grand jury and to Congress.
Kengor: The party organizer was John Leech. Most of those he named turned out to be proven party members. Among those who denied Leech’s charges were Jimmy Cagney, who won an Oscar for Yankee Doodle Dandy, Fredric March, who won it twice, and Humphrey Bogart, who won for The African Queen. I think Cagney was at least momentarily interested in the Communist Party.
Big Peace: We talked previously about your fascinating material on Humphrey Bogart, profiled in a feature by Big Hollywood (click here).
Kengor: In the Soviet Comintern Archives on CPUSA, I found a “Bogart” at the Workers School in New York in 1934. With great care, and with all the declassified documents, I consider whether this was Humphrey Bogart. I found no smoking gun, but it’s extremely intriguing.
Big Peace: We do know that Bogart was a dupe.
Kengor: He was a self-admitted dupe, ashamed at how the communist screenwriters lied to him and other celebrities that formed a group called the Committee for the First Amendment. They flew all the way to Washington to defend their “progressive” friends, only to learn that the screenwriters were closet Stalinists. Bogart was enraged, snapping, “You [expletives] sold me out!” Yes, they did. The Reds had no concern for the reputations of these actors.
Other duped liberals who threw their support behind these communists, and won Academy Awards, were Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, and Judy Garland.
Big Peace: Perhaps the biggest Oscar winner is also one of your biggest dupes: Katharine Hepburn.
Kengor: Yes. One of the sorriest episodes in Hepburn’s illustrious career came when she delivered, in flame red dress, a speech at a May 1947 Progressive Party Rally. The speech was unerringly close to the Soviet line. Why wouldn’t it be? It was written by one of those “liberal” screenwriters: Dalton Trumbo. People’s Daily World reprinted the entire text. Hepburn hit a home-run for the comrades.
Big Peace: Burl Ives won an Oscar for The Big Country (1958). Tell us about Ives.
Kengor: Burl Ives also sang some wonderful Christmas tunes. He was in a folk group called “The Almanacs,” which alternately included Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and (among others) Will Geer—“Grandpa Walton” on The Waltons, a wild left-winger, and Columbia University grad, naturally. Some of these guys joined the party. “The Almanacs” were exploited by the seditious communist front-group, American Peace Mobilization, which appeased Hitler because Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Stalin. They were the musical entertainment for the mobilization’s signature event in New York in April 1941. Go to pages 142-157 of Dupes, which presents materials from that rally—including Soviet orders to sucker “social justice” pastors, which occurred with tremendous success.
Big Peace: On the plus side, you highlight duped liberals who learned and changed, including in Hollywood. Sticking to Oscar winners, give some examples.
Kengor: If I were giving awards for best converted dupes, male and female—who also won Oscars—they would go to Melvyn Douglas and Olivia de Havilland. Douglas warned his fellow liberals about being duped. Ditto for de Havilland, who we discussed previously (click here). Unlike Katharine Hepburn, de Havilland, who played “Melanie” in Gone With the Wind, refused a pro-Soviet speech written by Trumbo.
Big Peace: Also on the plus side, list some Oscar winners who remained committed anti-communists throughout their career.
Kengor: Top billing goes to John Wayne, of course, who won for True Grit, and declared that Hollywood needed a good communist “de-lousing.” Others: Charlton Heston, Red Buttons, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Loretta Young, Bing Crosby, Ginger Rogers, Jimmy Stewart, Shirley Temple. William Holden, who, with Ronald Reagan (click here), crashed a meeting of Hollywood communists in 1946. Gary Cooper, who won two Oscars, testified before Congress as a friendly witness on communist infiltration in Hollywood. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert both won awards for It Happened One Night (1934). And then there was Mary Astor, who asked Stalin to his face, “How long are you going to go on killing people?”
Finally, I tip my hat to Haing Ngor, real-life survivor of Pol Pot’s Cambodian holocaust. Ngor won an Oscar for playing “Dith Pran” in The Killing Fields (1984). After all that, he was murdered in California in 1996.
Big Peace: Most of those we’ve noted are deceased. Give us some names of dupes or potential dupes among recent Oscar winners.
Kengor: George Clooney won for Syriana (2005). Mercifully, he didn’t win for Good Night, and Good Luck, another film where anti-communists are the demons.  Barbra Streisand won for Funny Girl (1968). Of course, Sean Penn won in 2003 and 2008. Penn fits the theme of my book well, as he’s somewhat of a bridge from Cold War dupes to War on Terror dupes.
Among the non-dupes who won recent Oscars, there’s Jon Voight (Coming Home, 1978). His role in a major film on Pope John Paul II was wonderful, and would never garner modern Hollywood’s approval.
Big Peace: Professor Kengor, thanks for a unique take on the Academy Awards.
Kengor: My pleasure.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Flashback: Louis Farrakhan, Jeremiah Wright Foster Gaddafi Alliance

Posted on February 24, 2011 at 8:04am

by  Meredith Jessup

During the 2008 presidential race, then-Sen. Barack Obama worked to distance himself from his old pastor, Chicago‘s Trinity United Church of Christ’s Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen wrote at the time how Wright had granted a lifetime achievement award to radical Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
…[Farrakhan] has vilified whites and singled out Jews to blame for crimes large and small, either committed by others as well or not at all. (A dominant role in the slave trade, for instance.) He has talked of Jewish conspiracies to set a media line for the whole nation. He has reviled Jews in a manner that brings Hitler to mind.
And yet, as Cohen noted at the time, Obama’s pastor and spiritual adviser “heaped praise” on Farrakhan in awarding him the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeteer Award, claiming Farrakhan had “truly epitomized greatness.”
In response, Obama was forced to release this statement:
I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree.
But Wright’s relationship with the controversial Farrakhan extended far beyond an award.  In 1984, Wright personally accompanied Farrakhan to Libya to meet with Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli. In 2008, Wright even predicted his association with Farrakhan and Gaddafi may cause political headaches for Obama’s presidential aspirations: “When [Obama's] enemies find out that in 1984 I went to Tripoli to visit [Gadhafi] with Farrakhan, a lot of his Jewish support will dry up quicker than a snowball in hell,” he said.

The Libyan dictator has been a strong supporter of Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam and heavily financed the controversial group.  In 1985, Gaddafi affirmed his solidarity with Farrakhan with a $5 million interest-free loan.
In 1996, officials in the Clinton administration worked to block Farrakhan from receiving more than $1 billion in donations from Gaddafi.
”We are not terrorists,” Farrakhan said at the time. ”We are not trying to do anything against the good of America. What we want to do is good for our people and ultimately good for our nation.”
That same year, Farrakhan traveled to Libya and received Gaddafi’s International Prize for Human Rights, a $250,000 “honor” also bestowed on the likes of Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and “the children of Palestine.”
According to reports from Libya’s news agency in 1996, the Farrakhan-Gaddafi alliance was aimed at mobilizing “oppressed blacks, Arabs, Muslims and Red Indians” in the United States to help reshape U.S. foreign policy.  Until he allied himself with Farrakhan, Gaddafi reportedly characterized Libyan foreign policy as a “confrontation with America” he likened to “a fight against a fortress from outside.”
But once he asserted his alliance with Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, Gaddafi claimed to have “a breach to enter into this fortress and confront it.”
Trinity United‘s Black Liberation Theology provides the basis on which Wright and Farrakhan’s cooperation rests.
During the 2008 election, many Obama critics pointed toward the then-Senator’s close relationship with Wright and criticized the second-degree association with Farrakhan.  Wright and Obama are also believed to have attended the Million Man March on Washington, led by Farrakhan and other black leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton.
“He has been a leader of liberation movements throughout the world, but our government has supported many puppet regimes in Africa and Central and South America,” Farrakhan said.
When Gaddafi traveled to address the United Nations in 2009, Farrakhan again praised him as a “leader of liberation movements throughout the world… I am sure that when people hear him on [U.S.] soil, most will admire him and will learn more about him and respect him,” he added.
“We are hoping that under President Barack Obama, Libya can come more into the sunlight,” Farrakhan added.  “The Obama administration can be a great help in this. ”
Now, with unrest in Libya dominating the world’s headlines and the ouster of the murderous Muammar Gaddafi seemingly imminent, many are wondering why the American president has been so silent, especially compared to the Obama administration‘s outspoken criticism of Egypt’s recently disposed President Hosni Mubarak.
While there is no evidence which directly ties Obama to Gaddafi, the president’s silence has emboldened many bloggers who have allowed speculation to run rampant.  If the president does not step up to publicly condemn Gaddafi’s reported violent attacks on Libyan citizens, rumors will continue to circulate and the Obama administration will face a PR crisis on top of the unfolding crises facing the country and the world.

Lobbyists: W.H. hides meetings off-site

By: Chris Frates
February 24, 2011 04:41 AM EST

Caught between their boss’ anti-lobbyist rhetoric and the reality of governing, President Barack Obama’s aides often steer meetings with lobbyists to a complex just off the White House grounds — and several of the lobbyists involved say they believe the choice of venue is no accident.
It allows the Obama administration to keep these lobbyist meetings shielded from public view — and out of Secret Service logs kept on visitors to the White House and later released to the public.
“They’re doing it on the side. It’s better than nothing,” said immigration reform lobbyist Tamar Jacoby, who has attended meetings at the nearby Jackson Place complex and believes the undisclosed gatherings are better than none.
The White House scoffs at the notion of an ulterior motive for scheduling meetings in what are, after all, meeting rooms. But at least four lobbyists who’ve been to the conference rooms just off Lafayette Square tell POLITICO they had the distinct impression they were being shunted off to Jackson Place — and off the books — so their visits wouldn’t later be made public.
Obama’s administration has touted its release of White House visitors logs as a breakthrough in transparency, as the first White House team to reveal the comings and goings around the West Wing and the Old Executive Office Building.
The Jackson Place townhouses are a different story.
There are no records of meetings at the row houses just off Lafayette Square that house the White House Conference Center and the Council on Environmental Quality, home to two of the busiest meeting spaces. The White House can’t say who attended meetings there, or how often. The Secret Service doesn’t log in visitors or require a background check the way it does at the main gates of the White House.
The White House says the additional meeting space is used when the White House is filled or when there’s no time to clear participants through the security screening. And to be sure, a few lobbyists contacted by POLITICO said they didn’t see any hidden motive for the White House staff’s decision to hold a meeting there.
“The White House conference facilities are just that: facilities for large meetings. They are also an option when rooms inside the complex don’t have the capacity for a given meeting or are booked,” said White House spokesman Reid Cherlin.
But that’s not how it feels to some of the lobbyists who’ve been there.
They say the White House is generally happy to meet with them and their clients once or twice but get leery when an issue requires multiple visits. These lobbyists say it is then that phone calls or meetings seem to be pushed outside the White House gates.
“Without question, I think that there’s a lot of concern about being seen meeting with the same lobbyists or particular lobbyists over and over again,” said one business lobbyist, who has been to Jackson Place meetings.
It’s not only Jackson Place. Another favorite off-campus meeting spot is a nearby Caribou Coffee, which, according to The New York Times, has hosted hundreds of meetings among lobbyists and White House staffers since Obama took office.

And administration officials recently asked some lobbyists and others who met with them to sign confidentiality agreements barring them from disclosing what was discussed at meetings with administration officials, in that case a rental policy working group.
The administration has defended the practice as a way to “maintain the integrity of our decision-making process.” But it has come under fire from lobbyists and a top House Republican, who have criticized the demand that participants sign a “gag order” before being allowed into meetings. The White House has not responded to repeated requests for comment on its nondisclosure agreement policy.
The process of disclosing the meetings can cut both ways.
During the health care reform debate, Democratic House and Senate leadership pushed for high-level negotiations to be held in the White House — specifically to create a record when the visitor logs were released, so administration officials couldn’t later distance themselves if the talks had failed, said a source familiar with the situation.
And in fact, a number of lobbyist contacts have been recorded in the visitor logs released by the White House.
Cherlin said the administration never claimed the visitor logs capture every meeting held with White House officials.
“Our driving principal here is that lobbyists should have the same access to the White House as non-lobbyists. We deal with important policy issues, and we want to get those policy issues right,” Cherlin said. “We’ve taken unprecedented steps to limit the influence of lobbyists inside the White House; we’ve closed the revolving door. But we just felt that access should be equal, which you know in the past it has not been. Lobbyists have had more.”
But lobbyists are particularly stung by what they see as a double standard, with Obama bashing their profession as part of what’s wrong with Washington while his staff routinely sits down with lobbyists to discuss key issues.
“When they need us, they call us. When they don’t, we’re evil,” said another lobbyist who has been to Jackson Place meetings.
Indeed, during the State of the Union address Obama derided the “parade of lobbyists [that] has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries.” And, because the public deserves to know when its elected officials are talking to lobbyists, he called on “Congress to do what the White House has already done — put that information online.”
Randy Johnson, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive who has been to White House and Jackson Place meetings, said the gatherings aren’t closely guarded secrets and insiders generally know who administration staffers are talking to. But, he said, there’s no way to know for certain without a record of all the meetings at Jackson Place.
“You can’t make the claim you’re holier than thou because sometimes a car looks shiny, but when you look below the hood, things may look a lot different,” he said. “You can’t measure the claim of transparency unless you have those numbers.”
Some lobbyists gripe about the hypocrisy of publicly bashing lobbyists while privately holding off-the-books meetings with them, but Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, an organization representing small businesses, supports the outreach, no matter the form.

“The most important thing, for all the prohibitions, is that they’re realizing that you can’t govern in America without a.), getting the input of experts and b.), getting in touch with the business community. No matter how they do that, whether it’s on the up-and-up or off-the-charts, so to speak, the important thing is that they know that they have to do it,” she said.
The administration really “boxed themselves in” with their anti-lobbyist policies, she said. But rather than emphasizing hypocrisy and playing gotcha, it’s important to recognize that “they’re on a better track and they see that they need to get out of the box,” said Jacoby, who has been to Jackson Place meetings.
Of course, meeting outside the limelight and limiting written correspondence is not unique to the Obama administration. For years, countless government staffers have been admonished not to write down something they wouldn’t want to read on the front page of The Washington Post. But the Obama administration, some lobbyists say, has taken that approach to new levels.
“I’ve not seen The Washington Post test enforced so ritualistically as this White House,” said one lobbyist, who regularly does business with the administration.
The veteran lobbyist said no other administration he’s worked with has so often responded to routine e-mail queries with the same three-word response, “Gimme a ring.”
White House officials are traditionally wary of disclosing their meetings. Vice President Dick Cheney, for instance, refused to name the energy company officials and lobbyists he met with while heading a task force that made pro-industry recommendations — a decision a federal appeals court ultimately upheld.
But unlike Obama, Bush and previous presidents didn’t pledge to make their administrations “the most open and transparent in history” — a fact not lost on Washington’s lobbying class.
During last year’s push to move comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) legislation on Capitol Hill, the White House invited business lobbyists and executives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Restaurant Association and others to a Jackson Place meeting with senior policy staffers.
“We would like to convene a small meeting with White House staff on Friday at 12 noon (736 Jackson Place — see attached map), to discuss the current progress of CIR legislation,” a White House invitation obtained by POLITICO said.
The email was sent on a Wednesday, two days before the meeting, which left time for background checks had staffers wanted to hold the meeting at the White House. Some lobbyists suspected they were being kept outside the gates for political, rather than logistical, reasons.
“My understanding was they were holding the meeting there because it included several high-level business and trade association lobbyists,” said a senior business lobbyist who attended the meeting. “This was an effort to not have to go through the security protocols at the White House which could lead to the visitor logs at some point being released to the public and embarrass the president.”


© 2011 Capitol News Company, LLC

Civil War 2.0 may turn governors into presidents

by James Pethokoukis
Feb 24, 2011 13:04 EST

Six men with the rank of general during the Civil War went on to become  president of the United States. But a new kind of union battle — one being fought in places like Trenton and Madison and Columbus and Indianapolis — may be forging the next generation of leaders who will ascend to the White House. How state governors fare as commanders in this escalating conflict with Big Government Labor may determine who makes it all the way and who falls short.
For the most part, the political backlash against public unions is happening in the states. That’s where employee benefits are creating long-term budget problems. Total unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities could be as much as $3.5 trillion.
Savvy governors can thrust an issue like public sector compensation into the national consciousness and create a political niche for themselves.  And American voters like to promote state bosses  to national CEO. President Barack Obama was never a governor, but two-term predecessors George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan all were. The last sitting U.S. senator before Obama to go directly to the White House was John Kennedy in 1961.
In New Jersey, Chris Christie’s efforts at austerity have made him a leading 2016 GOP contender with many Republican activists still hoping he’ll change his mind and make a run against Obama next year. Wisconsin Republican Scott Walker has burst into national prominence by trying to strip public unions of some bargaining rights. And in liberal New York, Democrat Andrew Cuomo’s adversarial approach to labor might help his centrist appeal should he cast an eye on the Oval Office.
Among Republican activists, it’s almost impossible to be too tough on unions. That’s where the risk of overreach starts cropping up. Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, a possible 2012 candidate, already has killed collective bargaining for state workers. Yet conservatives balk because he won’t prohibit making union membership a condition for employment. Daniels sees that as a needless fight with organized labor, whose influence is already waning. As Josh Barro of the Manhattan Institute notes on his blog:
As of 2010, only 8.2 percent of private-sector workers in Indiana were members of unions. That’s a bit above the national average of 6.9 percent, owing to the state’s industrial base, but it’s also falling faster than in most states: down 37 percent in the last decade, compared to 22 percent nationally. Private firms don’t appear to fear excessive union power in Indiana; indeed, the state has had significant success in drawing non-union Japanese auto factories.
The political subtleties sometimes get lost in the heat of battle. Some in the Tea Party are bashing Christie for increasing the state’s spending in his newly announced budget. But the governor is trying to negotiate a deal with Democrats to go easier in exchange for sweeping pension reform. And if Walker should settle for something less than total surrender or go too far by firing workers, his sudden ascent could come to a halt.
The fight against public unions and for fiscal responsibility may look like to create a clear path to the presidency for now. But governors going down that road will need to beware of the many political mines strewn along the way. Still, a future American president may have his or her mettle tested in this new civil war.

Africa File: Zimbabwean soldiers reportedly among Qaddafi's mercenary units, Libyan strongman's plane loaded with gold, money, may flee to Harare

Thursday, February 24, 2011
SW Africa Radio News reports that embattled Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi is preparing to flee to Zimbabwe. Ethiopia's deposed communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam has enjoyed President Robert Mugabe's "hospitality" since his ouster 20 years ago. What's one more nefarious leftist thug in Harare?
posted by Perilous Times at 11:53 AM

More Union Civility: Eyewitness to Boston thuggery; Plus: Die, elderly Tea Partiers, die!

By Michelle Malkin  •  February 24, 2011 01:08 PM
 
 

Tea Party senior citizens: Menaces to society!
A supporter of Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker in Boston wrote me last night to recount the violence that took place at the Tuesday union rally where Democrat Rep. Michael Capuano told his minions to “get a little bloody.” The tipster is remaining anonymous for now while police investigate the targeting of an elderly, flag-waving counter-protester.
As the witness told me, “It was worse than you and what the media portrayed it as…as usual!!”
The MSM may be AWOL. But the truth will out:
Hi Michelle,
After reading your column in the “Boston Herald” newspaper this morning and seeing you on Fox and Friends, I had to give you a little more inside information about that “solidarity protest” outside the Mass. Statehouse, Tuesday.
My girlfriend and I were there as supporters for Gov. Walker, I am 55 yrs. old and have been to many, many protests in the last 3 years from Washington, D,C. several times, to many town-halls all around my state, and I dare say that this was the scariest one I have ever been to. I also dare say for the first time in all my life, I was actually ashamed to be an Irish-American. Most of the thugs that were protesting against Walker were Irish-American thugs, it reminded me of the movies “The Departed” or right out of the pages of “The Godfather”, and “Hoffa.”
The men were huge and screaming into the faces of anyone, I mean anyone they thought were against the unions. Most of the Gov. Walker supporters were 45-65 yrs. old.
With all that being said, to the point now, I witnessed a man about 45-50 or so and an elderly man pushed against a granite-wall statue where all these thugs had climbed on to scream out of control words that would put your ears on fire. They pushed and shoved until he fell on the ice, screaming the whole time to get the “F**K”out of here, they took the elderly man, pushing and shoving him, taking his flag and breaking it up..I heard the younger man say he was reporting this to the police, so I followed with my eyes, and could see from body language it was not going well for him with the police officer, I was so mad, I walked over and over heard him say to the man, “well that is not the story we heard”, I walked over them and said to the policeman, my girlfriend and I witnessed the whole incident and those two thugs went after those men and hurt them. Needless to say I am now witness to this if it proceeds to court. I am scared of repercussions from these thugs, but I will do my part for those two men who were brutally accosted by those “union thugs”.
This protest was not just a “figurative…”get bloody” it was actually done. Again it was the scariest protest I have ever been to. It was worse than you know and what the media portrayed it as….as usual!!
Thank you for listening, Michelle.

Top 6 Socialist Battle Strategies

Posted By Susan L. M. Goldberg On February 24, 2011 @ 1:07 pm
 
Actions speak louder than words.  Just take one look at the protests in Wisconsin and you’ll see Socialism rearing its ugly head and leaving its trail of poisonous ideology in plain view.  Unfortunately for them, they’re also giving away their battle strategies in the ongoing War Against Individualism, aka Operation Eliminate Freedom.

6. Workers Unite …Against Republicans! This Marxist tactic of assigning your faults to your enemies is as old as the anti-Capitalist himself.  The cherry on the sundae is the claim that Republican-backed bills that seek to give workers (individuals) more power over their unions (collectives) are merely an attempt at “Union busting” by a “conservative junta.”  This argument is voiced by the same group that believes the Muslim Brotherhood is a “secular, non-violent” organization.  So, I suppose if “non-violent” involves the establishment “of an Islamic government on earth” through everything from propaganda to terrorism, then Tea Partiers peacefully protesting in the public square must represent a militarized dictatorship.
 
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5. Do NOT work in the name of The Worker. Whether you’re an educator responsible for failing the future of America (well, 2/3rds of them, anyway) or a legislator responsible for enacting the will of the people who put you into office, it’s perfectly okay to take a sick day (or ten) or suddenly go on an out-of-state vacation when there’s work to be done.  Educators, too sick to teach, yet healthy enough to stand, shout, and shake signs for days on end,  could cost Wisconsin taxpayers up to $9 million, and they’ll still get the summer off (it’s in the contract).  Meanwhile, Democrat reps, stuck between Union thuggery and the taxpayers who put them into office (the real thugs holding them hostage across state lines) have caused more serious havoc than Chris Christie heading to Disney World on a snow day.  And I thought it was only those evil corporate bosses who tossed aside work ethics to play hooky.
 
 
4. The government wants to “take away worker rights.” When those workers are also taxpayers, what trumps in the “War on Rights”—the rights granted via their Creator or their Union Boss?  This is not a war on rights—this is a war over whether or not we will continue to recognize as a nation that true, inalienable rights are granted by our Creator, not whoever is appointed to be the next Union Boss in a pay-to-play system.  P.S. “Liberty” isn’t being forced to allow someone else to do your negotiating and “the pursuit of happiness” isn’t an excuse to retire early and live on the taxpayer dime.
Next: My teacher gives me an ‘E’ for Effort…

3. This is a fight against quality education. Socialists love to make saints of themselves, usually by trumpeting a series of fictitious causes like “Global Warming.”  (Want to spare us your carbon footprint?  Talk less.)  Actually, for them, the more fabricated the cause the better; it gives them less need to show actual results.  When the cause is real, like educating the future “workers” of America, the results don’t back up their claims of righteousness.   Although, the best account of the abysmal facts regarding Wisconsin student achievement comes via the indignant “reporting” of Media Matters:  according to the National Assessment test, 32% of WI public school 8th graders were deemed Proficient in reading, and 39% were Proficient in math.  Compare these pathetic statistics to the embarrassing national averages of 30% for reading and 25% for math and—whoa—Wisconsin teachers are suddenly above-average!  According to Soros’s lackeys, the media only latched onto the wretched Wisconsin statistics in order to give those protesting teachers a bad reputation.  (Must be another tactic of that crazy conservative junta I’ve been hearing about.)
Along with being the nation’s largest union, the National Education Association was birthed to support government-run education that would educate American youth into “a new social order.”  As union membership increased, SAT scores decreased: the resulting argument from the NEA was for the abolishment of standardized testing altogether in favor of a “self-esteem” approach to education; kids don’t need to be smart, they need to be happy.  Perhaps that’s why Wisconsin students bussed to the protests by angry teachers were quick to say, “I don’t know why I’m here, but I’m having fun!”
 
 
2.  Republicans = Hitler. Those carrying the signs pictured above must have graduated from Wisconsin public schools.  Governor Scott Walker is only the latest in a series of Republicans to be illogically likened to the Nazi Dictator.  If the term “National Socialist” isn’t descriptive enough, try the fact that Hitler Unionized the Unions—he didn’t disband them; he simply made them “bigger and better” by nationalizing them under one umbrella, the German Labor Front.  Volkswagens—the car of the people—were literally a union creation.  Hitler even went one step further than the independent German unions ever could, allowing German workers to celebrate their first National Labor Day on May 1, 1933.  Too bad there isn’t a bill to legalize the implementation of Godwin’s Law in the presence of angry liberal activists.
Next: The “Workers and Bosses” Mentality–What side are YOU on…

1. “The world consists of workers and bosses.” This is the core mentality behind the Union Putsch.  It is also an idea completely foreign to most Americans, including the 88% of American workers who are not unionized.  Yes, we all complain about our bosses from time to time, but the socialist class (much like World of Warcraft fanatics and LARPers at large) literally believes that they are in a never-ending struggle for equality.  (And most union employees thought their dues went to pay for beer at the annual Christmas party.)
The actions of big union bosses like White House favorites Andy Stern and Richard Trumka illustrate the serious consequences of this belief as they manipulate Marx’s class struggle for their own nefarious purposes.  If Union Bosses weren’t so afraid of losing their jobs and political status, they’d give their members the right to choose to join and even to dissolve the union.  Instead, they’re “Organizing for America” to the point of bussing the unemployed across the country and feeding their own dues-paying members the line that they’ll “lose their rights” if the legislation is passed.   Oppressor versus oppressed is definitely going on here, but the game is not being played the way it was staged.  Union bosses like Stern and Trumka could care less since it is the union workers and the taxpayers who are footing their bills.  So, who’s more Hitleresque now, boys?

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Article printed from NewsReal Blog: http://www.newsrealblog.com/

How to Do More than Survive at the Different Stages of Societal Collapse, by Tamara W.

By James Wesley, Rawles on April 8, 2010 8:33 PM
Dmitry Orlov wrote about the five stages of social collapse. In descending order, these stages are: financial, commercial, political, social and – last and certainly worst – cultural. In the face of a collapsing society, what can be done to lessen the immediate and local impact at each of these stages? How can we lessen the personal impact of societal collapse? Preparedness is key in any disaster, and societal collapse is certainly a disaster on epic scale. The question then is what to do at each stage of societal collapse.
Here is how to do more than survive at each stage of societal collapse, and what one can do to prepare in advance of each stage.
1.In the financial collapse, currency hyper-inflates or becomes unavailable. If currency becomes unavailable, either due to hoarding or restrictions on allowed cash withdrawals, money becomes scarce. If currency hyper-inflates, the theoretical cost of paying off a loan frequently shrinks. However, in hyperinflation, wages rarely keep up with the devaluation of currency, leaving workers with a shrinking plate on which to pay their existing bills. It is preferable to pay off all debts before this stage, so that lack of money in either scenario does not make it impossible to pay payments and lead to your physical possessions being repossessed. When cash is scarce or worthless, crime frequently goes up. Don’t look like a target. Where possible, lower your profile now so that collective memory will also change; “he used to have all the flashy stuff that’s gone, probably trying to look poor.”
What to do before then: Own your home and property. If applicable, own your business location. If possible, own usable real estate that can be rented out to others in exchange for barter. For example, own outright a plot of land near high density homes that can be rented for gardening in exchange for produce. 
2.In commercial collapse, there is a business slow down. Lack of currency or lack of value of cash on hand causes business slow down. Inability to buy goods or pay for their transport creates shortages. To manage this stage, have your own supply source. For example, have a garden for food so that empty shelves at the grocery store do not leave your family hungry. Have a stand of trees that can be harvested for wood so that propane gas lines don’t leave you cold at night.
What to do before then: If possible, become a distributor or seller of these necessities, ensuring your own supply as well. However, this requires building up the business connections and likely getting into the business before a collapse so that you have an established customer base. This requires inventory, storage and protection for inventory, and the means to purchase these products now, but it can create a means of livelihood for the long term. 
3.In a political collapse, public order becomes chaos. Police don’t bother policing the streets unless it is their own. Judges don’t see many cases unless it is for the ruling elite or to silence an angry mob outside. In this situation, it is essential to have at least one means of personal protection. If calling 911 is jokingly called government sponsored dial a prayer when we have a functioning society, what will it be called when the police rarely bother to come at all? Own at least one gun, and know how to use it. Teach your neighbors how to use a gun properly, so that their response to a home invasion is less likely to result in stray bullets hitting your home or even yourself. Consider having a family member join private security services. Or set one up yourself.
What to do before then: Organize a local neighborhood watch that actually packs heat, so that violent crimes by armed criminals can be dealt with immediately. An existing organized group can easily ramp up its number of patrols and extend its range. An active group also benefits from knowing the people and the area, thus will not be mistaken for a new gang as it starts to patrol or make contact.
4.In social collapse, the national institutions start to fail. Colleges close. Landmarks shut down. Communication across even intermediate distances becomes difficult and unreliable. In this stage of collapse, local institutions are the only ones left standing – if they are helped to stand. Bolster local institutions like churches and temples by volunteering. Keep food banks open by donating food – thus preventing begging on the streets. When state schools close, support private schools to fill in the gap. At this stage of collapse, strong local social connections become even more important.
What to do before then: Know teachers, lawyers, and supportive personnel that are within a safe commuting distance and who can be there when you need them. If possible, organize home-schooling groups now that can evolve into private schools for children within walking distance. Set up mediation center now with trained mediators and retired judges that can evolve into a local community court when the municipality ceases doing its job or becomes too corrupt to be trusted.
5.In cultural collapse, local institutions fall. This is best described as total anarchy or social collapse. When the Maya abandoned their cities, they were in cultural collapse. When the local institutions fail, the only fall back is family and clan. There is no prospering at this stage, only survival and hope for more than survival later. If society is in a stage of collapse, it is essential to take the right actions long before it falls this far. Move close to family, such as within walking distance.
What do to now: Repair family ties. If the world falls apart and one can only rely upon family, have strong relationships so that they are willing to support you. Build up family members into those you can rely upon Encourage financial responsibility among family members, so that they do not need desperate help when money is in short supply. Encourage strong personal responsibility in the next generation, so that they can be there to rely upon instead of needing help. Help them break addictions now, because that will only be an even greater temptation when the world seems to be falling apart. If your younger family members are looking for mates, encourage them to select spouses who are compatible and in for the long haul.
You may want to consider networking now nationally or internationally with like minded individuals, so that you could join a rising culture that is still strong. Whether it immigrating abroad to another nation or building anew regionally will depend on circumstances of the time and place. However, having the social infrastructure and connections in place now are essential to avoiding becoming a refugee. Whether it is knowing someone you could move in with after your home is destroyed in a disaster or after forced relocation, having family or friends that are like family can give you a destination ready and able to take you in. Also have the means in your own home, such as space and supplies, to help incoming relatives and close friends, in case you are the refuge to which they flee.

Crude breaches $119 in frantic trading

By FT reporters

Published: February 21 2011 08:31 | Last updated: February 24 2011 15:59

Thursday 16:00 GMT. Oil’s grip on global investors gets ever tighter, earlier crushing risk appetite with another sharp move higher.
However, a Financial Times report that Saudi Arabia would try to make up the shortfall from any disruption to Libyan supplies has knocked crude off its highs and helped equities pare losses.
The S&P 500 on Wall Street, which had looked set to open down nearly 1 per cent, is off just 0.1 per cent, helped by an improved reading for US weekly initial jobless claims.
Brent crude had breached $119 a barrel during a period of frantic trading around 0745 GMT as industrial needs were hedged and traders exploited an explosion of upside momentum.
Worries that reduced supplies from Libya may be replicated in other regional producers facing potential political turmoil has led to the world’s oil benchmark jumping almost $17 this week. Brent is trading at $114.06, up 2.5 per cent, as fear delivers extreme volatility to dealing desks.
The scramble to secure output is shown by a steepening “backwardation” futures curve, where contracts for immediate delivery command higher prices than more distant ones.
The spike in crude increases costs for companies and consumers and threatens to dislocate the global economic recovery, pessimists reason.
Stocks and commodities, which have had a good run over recent months, are thus suffering as traders take profits.
The FTSE All World equity index is off session lows but still down 0.2 per cent, its fourth consecutive session of declines that leaves the gauge lower by 2.6 per cent from Friday’s two-and-a half year peak.

Trading Post
The Energy Information Administration released its weekly update on US gas inventories today.
Few traders expected news capable of igniting the natural gas futures market, where prices remain at depressed levels even while the world frets about energy supply dislocation as Libya burns. Not even last week’s news of a larger-than-expected 233bn cu ft stock drawdown could keep the front month NatGas contract above $4 a million British thermal units.
And on Thursday, a light inventory draw for this week saw the price slide to a 3-month low around $3.80/mBtu. The problem for frustrated NatGas bulls is that the US market appears chronically well-supplied. Production is running near record highs, with the number of drilling rigs – though declining – at more than 900, still well above the 800 at which the market will tighten, according to Reuters.
Exporting the excess in liquid form is difficult because of cost, logistics and consumer resistance. Dealers are also eyeing additional flows from developing shale fields.
Not even the harsh winter in the US north-east was sufficient to drain stockpiles.
Bloomberg notes that energy industry net short positions are at the highest since November 2008, and hedge funds have cut bullish bets sharply. On such pessimism can bounces be born.

European bourses are under the cosh, with the FTSE Eurofirst 300 down 0.5 per cent. The alternative energy sector is one of the gainers as investors reason that the second oil spike in the space of three years may encourage a switch to less volatile, and less politically and environmentally costly, sources of energy.
The Istanbul stock market is down 3.8 per cent on worries regional instability may spread. The cost of insuring Turkish and Israeli sovereign debt against default rose earlier to 7- and 19-month highs, respectively.
Perceived havens such as the yen and Swiss franc are seeing inflows, as traders put a higher premium on risk aversion than any classic understanding of forex fundamentals: both Japan and Switzerland need to import all their oil, so higher prices hurts their terms of trade and would normally hurt their currencies.
Gold sits less than $20 shy of December’s record high of $1,431 an ounce, boosted by a geopolitical, and fear-of-inflation, premium.

Commodities – The US-based Nymex oil contract is up 1 per cent to $99.11 a barrel – after earlier touching $103.41 – its underperformance reflecting high levels of inventories at the hub in Cushing, Oklahoma. The CBOE’s oil volatility index has jumped 42 per cent over the past three sessions as investors scramble to buy options on the oil price.
Agricultural products and industrial metals are mostly lower as traders look to raise cash and protect profits. Gold is up 0.1 per cent at $1,412 an ounce.

Forex – Demand can be seen for the yen and Swiss franc, up 0.9 per cent versus the dollar to Y81.74 and higher by 0.8 per cent to SFr0.9252, respectively. The Swissie earlier hit a record high of SFr0.9238.
The dollar index is down 0.2 per cent to 77.22, flirting with 3-month lows, as the buck’s haven cachet deserts it.

Rates – The slide in risk assets is providing a boost for core bonds. The US 10-year yield is down 5 basis points to 3.43 per cent, a near 4-week low,
A five-year auction of $35bn of notes on Wednesday was poorly received. The yield was the highest since July, at 2.19 per cent, with a bid-to-cover ratio below the past year’s average, but only slightly. Yields rose slightly after the auction as well, up 3 basis points to 2.16 per cent. The US will auction $29bn of seven-year notes later on Thursday.

Asia-Pacific – Shares were lower for a fourth consecutive day as the escalating crisis in Libya damped risk appetite amid growing concerns that higher oil prices could derail the global economic recovery.
The FTSE Asia Pacific index fell 0.9 per cent with Japan’s Nikkei 225 average losing 1.2 per cent as a stronger yen weighed on exporters. Asian oil producers were generally firmer but otherwise the mood was downbeat.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was off 0.8 per cent, as resource stocks lost ground on lower copper prices, pushing the benchmark stock index to a three-week low.
The Shanghai Composite was up 0.6 per cent, helped by energy stocks, but Hong Kong’s Hang Seng followed the broader trend, losing 1.3 per cent as airlines swooned on high fuel cost worries.

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New York City uses Recovery Act funds to poll residents on soda tax

By Amanda Carey - The Daily Caller   12:29 PM 02/24/2011
While the Big Apple is busy using Recovery Act money to urge its citizens to drink less soda and eat less salt, it is also using stimulus funds to survey New Yorkers on the possibility of a soda tax.
When reached by The Daily Caller, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Health confirmed the ongoing survey and the use of their $31.1 million in Recovery Act grants to fund it. The survey is in conjunction with a city-wide anti-obesity campaign, also funded with Recovery Act money through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program.
“The survey covers a wide range of topics including breastfeeding, water, and consumption of sugar sweetened beverages,” said the spokesperson.  “The Health Department uses surveys such as these to regulate and assess its ongoing efforts.”
The spokesperson, however, did not specify what, exactly, the survey asked regarding a soda tax.
For now, the ongoing survey is limited to New York City, despite claims of previous reports. When asked about the survey and the possibility of a soda tax for all of New York , Diane Mathis, spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health, told TheDC the department “is not, and has not, in 2011 conducted a survey in which recipients are asked their opinion of a tax on sugary beverages.”
Mathis did say there was a New York City survey that “included a question on a tax,” but emphatically denied the possibility of a future statewide tax.
But while the state of New York may not be using stimulus funds to poll state residents on a soda tax, the state government has received stimulus money for anti-obesity efforts. In February 2010, as part of the Recovery Act’s Prevention and Wellness Initiative, New York received $3 million to finance a requirement for restaurants to post calorie counts on menus, promote the implementation of the state’s ban on trans fats, and reduce consumption of sugary drinks.
Despite the millions of taxpayer dollars being funneled to New York to combat obesity and make soda a distant memory, there is no evidence that a decrease in consumption of sugary drinks will do anything to reduce obesity rates. Even Dr. Thomas Friedan, President Obama’s director of the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) and former commissioner of New York City’s Health Department, has admitted as such.
“It’s not known whether if people reduce their consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages they would offset that by consumption of other high caloric items,” Friedan said at a press briefing in July of 2009.
But the grants given to New York City ($31 million) and New York State ($3 million) to fund anti-obesity campaigns are the kind of federal government expenditures people like Alex Cortes want to prevent. Cortes is the coordinator of a campaign to defund the stimulus money that has yet to be spent and use it to pay down the federal deficit.
“It’s time to defund it,” said Cortes, who estimated the remaining funds are more than $45 billion. “It doesn’t make any fiscal sense. These are the types of funds we’re looking to bring back to the Treasury.”
On February 17, the two-year anniversary of the Recovery Act, freshman Republican Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, at the request of Cortes and other defund advocates, introduced a bill to do just that.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/02/24/new-york-city-uses-recovery-act-funds-to-poll-residents-on-soda-tax/#ixzz1EuLiTJOI