"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." -- Theodore Roosevelt


One of Salem Oregon's Unofficial Top 1000 Conservative Political Bloggers!!!

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year 2011!


Here's wishing everyone has a happy new year!

Both personally and professionally I'm looking forward to this year-- the first full year I've been completely healthy (I hope) for about eight years now.

Anyway, let's hope we all have much to look forward to this year...

All My Best,
Yukio Ngaby

Obama Sneaks in Envoy to Syria with Recess Appointment


Just to show that the Obama administration thinks murderous, saber-rattling regimes aren't so bad and can be reasoned with...


"Republicans lashed out at the White House for making a recess appointment of Robert Ford as US ambassador to Syria Wednesday after efforts to have him confirmed by the Senate stalled.

"Ford will be the first US ambassador to Syria since 2005, when the US ambassador then in place was recalled by the Bush administration following the assassination of the anti-Syrian Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri, widely suspected to have been done with the help of Damascus.

[...]

"'Congress is not typically happy or pleased about recess appointments. It makes it very difficult for these people to be reconfirmed, so it's a one-year appointment,' explained Syria expert David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"He said the decision to return an ambassador to Damascus showed that the Obama administration hadn't decided to change its engagement policy with Syria despite its role in transferring serious weaponry to Hizbullah and its unwillingness to comply with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency about its suspected nuclear site.

"He added that the Obama administration was also eager to have an emissary in place before the UN tribunal handed down indictments in Hariri's murder, which are expected to be issued in the coming weeks against members of Hizbullah and could implicate Syria as well.

"'They think this will help to calm or constrain Syrian behavior,' Schenker said.

"But he questioned how much the US had to gain from having an ambassador on the ground, given the intensive outreach from senior officials who have traveled to Damascus to communicate the American perspective.

"'I'm not optimistic it will have any type of positive impact,' Schenker said."

What's not to be optimistic about? Talking to our enemies gives them a whole new venue to spread misinformation and distraction. What could go wrong?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Brit Govt. Mandated Eco-Boilers Break in Cold Weather-- Leaving Many Without Heat

Yet another reason why you should not allow governments to control economies. They make a lot of mistakes, because they are not experts in the fields in which they meddle. Thus fragile machines replace hearty ones, and let them eat cake-- er, freeze for the good of the planet.

From American Thinker post by Phil Boehmke (h/t Anne Leary at Backyard Conservative):

"Five years ago the global warming crowd and their comrades in the Labour Party mandated the use of new green technology boilers in Great Britain. Government and environmental experts said that the ‘condensing boilers’ would not only greatly reduce the consumer’s carbon footprint, but would also lower their heating bills. Saving money and saving the planet, what could be better?

"The UK Daily Mail reports that during the recent record cold spell in Great Britain, tens of thousands of people were without heat due to a serious flaw in the new boiler’s design.

[...]

"To make matters worse, the new boilers typically last only 3-6 years and the costs of parts to repair the units are outrageously high. One of the bi-products of the condensation process is the creation of acidic water vapor from the dissolved nitrogen and sulfur oxides which corrode the delicate system components. Gee, the old boilers were very reliable and lasted 20 years on average."

And from the Daily Mail article by Michael Hanlon [emphasis mine throughout]:

"Five years ago, New Labour heralded them as the modern, clean and green way to heat your house. As a result, today there are already eight million 'condensing boilers' in homes across Britain. In fact, since 2005 it is illegal to fit any other kind.

"At the time, John Prescott claimed they would massively reduce your carbon footprint and slash your fuel bills. As a result, every year some 1.2 million old-style 'dirty' boilers are scrapped in Britain and replaced by this wondrous new variety.

"However, the recent cold snap has revealed a major problem with them. Tens of thousands of people found themselves shivering as their shiny new boilers cut out without warning.
British Gas is understood to have had 60,000 call-outs in Yorkshire alone. And the cost to call out a plumber? It can be between £200 to £300 [ about $309 to $463 USD] on a bank holiday. And don’t forget about VAT.

[...]

"It’s all the more infuriating because the problem causing these breakdowns is so simple. In cold weather, the pipe that takes waste water from the back of the condensing boiler - which isn’t there in a normal boiler - freezes solid, shutting down the system and in many cases causing permanent damage.

"But this problem is just one of many that have plagued this boiler design since they became popular in the Nineties. Many plumbers consider them to be little more than a multi-billion-pound con-trick.

"In a regular boiler, the hot gases produced when the ­methane fuel is burned heat water for your ­radiators, dishwasher, taps and so on. But about 25 per cent of the heat vents out of the exhaust pipe in the form of hot steam and CO2.

"In a condensing boiler, a condenser claws back much of the lost heat because as steam condenses into water, it feeds heat back into the system.

"This can increase overall efficiency from 75 per cent to as much as 93 per cent, and reduce CO2 emissions - and your bills - by a commensurate amount. That, anyway, is the theory boiler-makers and ­politicians want you to believe.

"In 2005, the then-deputy PM John Prescott drew up a masterplan to help Britain meet its CO2 emissions targets, as dictated by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This involved a new law ordering that all new and replacement boilers fitted to British homes - some 1.4m annually - must from that date be of the condensing type.

"A 'boiler scrappage' scheme followed in 2008, which offered people £400 [about $617 USD]towards the cost of a new condensing boiler if they replaced their old one - even if it was in perfect working order. [Does this remind anyone else of Cash for Clunkers?] Boiler manufacturers and plumbing and installation firms could hardly believe their luck.

"An estimated eight million homes in Britain made the switch, often encouraged by persistent salesmen who produced an impressive-looking audit offering a seductive assessment of how much money you could save by switching to a new, 'clean' boiler.

"But even ignoring the freezing pipe problem, it is clear that in most cases it makes no economic sense to scrap an old boiler that is still functioning.

"For an average home, replacing even a very inefficient old model with the best new boiler on the market will, at most, save a couple of hundred pounds a year in gas bills.

"That sounds good until you realise that at £2,000 [about $3085 USD] for one of the better condensing models, a new one will take at least ten years to pay for itself.

"And the problem is that these boilers simply do not last anything like ten years.

"'You might get 20 years out of one of the old ones,' Charlie Mullins says, 'but it is more like three to six years out of one of these new ones. In fact, if it goes wrong after four years, you are better off replacing a condensing boiler altogether because of the ­horrendous cost of the parts.

"'On the basis of efficiency, they certainly do not pay for themselves. It makes no sense to take out a working old boiler and replace it with a condensing one.'

"That’s not something the enthusiastic salesmen will tell you. They also won’t tell you that those touted increases in efficiency are theoretical, often not matched in reality. These boilers rarely operate at ­maximum efficiency anyway.

"Explained simply, the water returning from your radiators back to the boiler has to be below 55c for the condenser to condense the steam in the boiler into water. For most homes using standard radiators, this will probably not be the case - the returning water might be as hot as 65c, especially when the radiators are turned up in cold weather.

[...]

"The problems don’t stop there either. The condensed water vapour produced in the new boilers is slightly acidic (as it contains dissolved nitrogen and sulphur oxides), which inevitably causes corrosion of the delicate boiler components and also leads to breakdowns.

"So the message is clear: if you have an old boiler, provided it is working properly and is serviced regularly, you are almost certainly better off keeping it until it is beyond economic repair. Parts will be cheaper, it will be less likely to break down and there is no danger of it stalling on the coldest night of the year."

Of course the Obama administration and the Dems are dead-set on similar government mandated eco-policies here (Cap & Tax, Cash for Clunkers, "Green" Energy Subsidies, the VAT, etc.). And always they are based on the same nanny-state theory that the people are simply too stupid to know what's best for them, so they must be ruled through regulatory fiat.

As Lincoln once said: "They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of kingcraft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jordan Warming Relationship with Iran, After Warning of Iran's Growing Influence Ignored by US

I missed this story from December 12...

From the Associated Press:

"Jordan's King Abdullah II on Sunday said he is seeking 'practical steps' for improving his country's frosty relations with Iran.

"The monarch's appeal contrasted with his regime's frequent criticism of Iran's policies.

"Abdullah made the appeal for better ties during a meeting with Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, the director of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's office, according to an official Jordanian statement. It said Abdullah was invited to visit Teheran.

"As early as 2004, Abdullah warned of Iran's growing influence in Iraq and the rest of the region.

"In US cables released by WikiLeaks, US diplomats were quoted as saying Jordan warned that Iranian influence could undermine American interests and moderate nations like Jordan, an ally of the US."

That last paragraph is the especially annoying part for me. The US has been repeatedly warned of the growing threat of Iran and Islamic extremism. The response has been to either ignore the problem, or to bleat out that all Muslims are extremist. These absolutely ineffective responses have made the world in general, and the Middle East in particular, a far more unstable and dangerous place in the past six years or so.

Caroline Glick has an excellent analysis, and I highly recommend you read it in its entirety.

From Glick's op-ed "Slouching Toward Tehran":

"Abdullah was one of the first world leaders to sound the alarm on Iran. In 2004 Abdullah warned of a 'Shiite crescent' extending from Iran to Iraq, through Syria to Lebanon. His words were well reported at the time. But his warning went unheeded.

"In the intervening six years, reality has surpassed Abdullah's worst fears. Not only Lebanon and Syria have fallen under Iranian control. Iraq, Turkey, Qatar, Gaza and increasingly Oman, Yemen and Afghanistan are also either willing or unwilling members of the axis.

"In the face of Iran's expanding web of influence and the mullahs' steady progress towards nuclear capability, Washington behaves as though there is no cause for concern. And the likes of Jordan are beside themselves.

"In a WikiLeaks leaked cable from April 2009 written by US Ambassador to Jordan R. Stephen Beecroft, Jordan's frustration and concern over the Obama administration's incompetence in handling the Iranian threat was clear.

"Beecroft wrote, 'Jordan's leaders are careful not to be seen as dictating toward the US, but their comments betray a powerful undercurrent of doubt that the United States knows how to deal effectively with Iran.'

"On the one hand, Jordanian Senator Zaid Rifai beseeched US to bomb Iran's nuclear installations. Rifai said, 'Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won't matter.'

"But on the other hand, the Jordanians recognized that the Obama administration was committed to appeasing Iran and so tried to convince the Americans to ensure that their appeasement drive didn't come at the Arabs' expense.

"Beecroft reported a clear warning from Abdullah. Abdullah cautioned that if the Arabs believe that the US was appeasing Iran at their expense, 'that engagement will set off a stampede of Arab states looking to get ahead of the curve and reach their own separate peace with Teheran.'

[...]

"And since then, the Obama administration did nothing after Ahmadinejad and his henchmen stole the presidential election. It did nothing as they repressed the tens of millions of Iranians who demonstrated against the election fraud. The Obama administration did nothing as Iran conducted repeated war games along the Straits of Hormuz, progressed in its nuclear program, deepened its military alliances with Turkey and Venezuela and escalated its proxy war against the US and its allies in Afghanistan.

"The Americans said nothing as Iran prevented the pro-US faction that won the Iraqi election from forming a government. They did nothing as Iran forced the reinstallation of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki despite his electoral defeat.

"As Washington stood idly by in the face of Iran's aggression, Jordan and the other US-allied Arab states watched as Obama harassed Israel, announced his plan to withdraw all US forces from Iraq next year, appointed a new ambassador to Syria and approved more military aid to the Iranian-controlled Lebanese army. And Abdullah and the other Arabs watch now as the US is poised to begin yet a new round of appeasement talks with Iran next month.

"Unlike the previous failed rounds of talks, the next failed round of talks will take place in Turkey. Iranian officials are already exulting that Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan will act as Iran's protector in those talks, and so officially end any semblance of Iranian diplomatic isolation on the nuclear issue.

"And so, just as Abdullah warned would happen, today he is leading Jordan into the ranks of 'countries without a backbone,' and making a separate peace with Ahmadinejad.

"Jordan is a weak country. Its minority Hashemite regime has failed to dominate its Palestinian majority. And since its inception by the British in 1946, Jordan has depended on Western powers and Israel for its survival.

"In acting as he is, Abdullah is following in his father's footsteps. The late King Hussein survived by watching the prevailing winds closely and always siding with the side he believed was strongest at any given time."

So many Americans simply do not understand the intricacies of Middle East politics, writing off Muslims as a single monolithic group (often intent on the destruction of the Western world), and write off the Israelis as a single monolithic group from whom all American troubles in the Mid-East extend.

The world is filled of political pragmatists. That's one of the first bits of knowledge that needs to be understood in international relations. It's not a universal rule, but it should be the default until proven otherwise.

It was ridiculous to believe that Obama's incessant and inauthentic apologies, fawning bows, and promises that the US will not act unilaterally would result into anything but significant (and needless) pressure on American allies, or countries sympathetic to the West. It fixed nothing except for the American Left's fragile egos.

All this so Obama and the Left can feel better about themselves... American narcissism like that is expensive, and comes at far too high a price for the rest of the world.

98 American Banks About to Collapse-- After $4.2 Billion Bailout

And this is why you don't just throw money at a problem.

From the Business Insider piece by Katya Wachtel (via Instapundit):

"98 American banks that received $4.2 billion in bailout money are teetering on the edge of collapse, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"In Q2 the number of unsound banks numbered 86; the increase to almost 100 institutions - most of which are smallish banks with about $439 million in assets - comes as a result of decreasing capital and more bad loans.

"Also, unlike the big banks, which basically had access to liquidity from the federal government whenever they wanted during the crisis via various emergency lending facilities, these smaller banks received only TARP funds."

Great... decreasing capital and more bad loans. Does the US have to continue encouraging bad loans to prove ourselves?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bomb Found at Greek Embassy in Rome



"A package bomb has been found at the Greek Embassy in Rome, three days after mail bombs exploded at two other embassies injuring two people.

"Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregoris Delavekouras said from Athens that no one was harmed in the latest incident, in part because heightened security measures had already been put in place.

"'The embassy was evacuated and the staff assembled some distance away from the building, so that everyone could be accounted for,' he told media.

"Mail bombs exploded Friday at the Chilean and Swiss embassies, injuring two people who opened them. An anarchist group with reported ties to Greek anarchists claimed responsibility.

[...]

"An Italian group calling itself the Informal Anarchist Federation claimed responsibility for Friday's blasts.

"News reports said that a claim found at one of the embassies cited the name of Lambros Fountas, a Greek anarchist who was killed in a shootout with police in March.

"Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has said that investigators believe the anarchists who were responsible might have ties to Greek anarchists responsible for last month's letter bombings at Athens embassies.

"On Nov. 2, suspected Greek anarchists sent 14 mail bombs to foreign embassies in Athens, as well as to Berlusconi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Two of the devices exploded, causing no injuries."

Bad stuff right now. It'll get worse as many European governments are forced to cut services and pensions, and raise taxes and fees.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!



Do nor be afraid I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord This will be a sign to you: You wilt find a baby wrapped in strips of cloths and lying in a manger.

I wish that all of you have a Joyous and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

HHS Secretary Sebelius Seizes Power to Decree Cost of Health Care Insurance


Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has issued a 136 page "rule" granting herself the right to set prices for the cost of health insurance. Merry Christmas!

From The Weekly Standard piece by Jeffrey H. Anderson (h/t to Jacobson at Legal Insurrection who has much more):

"Not satisfied with the colossal amounts of power that she would acquire under Obamacare if it isn't repealed, Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Kathleen Sebelius has issued a 136-page 'rule' that will now give her (and her subordinates) largely unchecked power to pass judgment on the prices of health insurance throughout the United States. Notwithstanding the fact that 43 states already regulate and approve health insurance premiums, Sebelius claims that we need an additional, more centralized, protection against insurers' unseemly 'profit motive.' But a far greater threat to the future of American republicanism is posed by the impulse that animates Sebelius and the bulk of the Obama administration: the power motive."

From The Wall Street Journal (I highly recommend reading the whole piece at the link):

"And seasons greetings from the folks at Health and Human Services too. Yesterday the department dropped one of ObamaCare's more destructive regulations, which will further increase political control of health care and impose price controls on private insurance premiums.

"Under the 136-page rule, the federal government will now decide what counts as an 'unreasonable' rate increase, and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote to Governors yesterday urging them 'to prevent unjustified and excessive health insurance premium growth.' Apparently, 'unreasonable' means rate increases that exceed 10% next year, except when it doesn't. If an insurer crosses this arbitrary threshold, 'The review process would then determine if the increase is, in fact, unreasonable.' So that's cleared up.

"This discretion is typical of the vast ad hoc powers that ObamaCare handed to regulators, though Ms. Sebelius's true goal is to punish the insurance industry for rising health costs that the new entitlement is already turbocharging. Like so much else in U.S. health care, no one seems to find it odd that the government is decreeing how much businesses are allowed to charge for a product that consumers want to buy, regardless of the economic reality.

"ObamaCare mandates greater insurance benefits and other regulations that distort market pricing, while also accelerating the explosive costs of medical services. Premiums will naturally climb to cover those costs. It won't take much to hit 10% when the Standard & Poor's Healthcare Economic Commercial Index, which tracks private spending, increased 8.5% over the last year—and that's prior to the worst of ObamaCare kicking in.

"Contrary to the HHS caricature of a pitiless free market, 43 states already regulate and approve premiums in the individual or small-business markets, or both, based on actuarial and solvency data. HHS will allow state insurance commissioners to continue under the status quo, unless it decides that their reviews aren't 'effective,' whatever that means.

"This is all an effort to end-run Congress, which by some miracle declined to give HHS the formal legal authority to explicitly block premium increases, despite a direct appeal from President Obama. Instead, Ms. Sebelius is creating by regulatory fiat larger de facto powers to achieve the same end.

"Yesterday, HHS reiterated Ms. Sebelius's threat to exclude certain insurers from ObamaCare's insurance exchanges if they show 'a pattern' of unjustified rate increases. In practice, that would be a corporate death warrant. In September, after some carriers spoke honestly about rising costs, she warned that 'there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.'

[...]

"Politicized rate-setting is the new reality of the U.S. health insurance market, not that consumers will in any way benefit."

This sort of destructively, heavy-handed federal regulation is just one more reason why ObamaCare (which fits the economic definition of Fascism) must be repealed. No compromises.

In the short term, Jacobson has this point:

"The beauty from Obama's point of view of the regulatory state is that Congress does not vote on regulations.

"But there is a kink in the regulatory armor, and that is the budget. HHS must be funded, as must the army of people who will carry out the regulations.

"The incoming Republican House must be prepared to defund Kathleen Sebelius sufficiently that she cannot expand her authority or implement Obamacare. No capitulation this time, please."

Exactly. No compromise from the Republicans on this issue. None.

Bombs Explode at Embassies in Rome


More chaos in Italy...


"Parcel bombs exploded at the Swiss and Chilean Embassies in Italy's capital on Thursday, injuring two people and raising concerns of possible terrorist attacks in the country's shopper-packed streets ahead of the Christmas holidays.

"The police are investigating whether violent anarchist groups are behind the bombings, said Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, following similar attacks in Greece last month.

"'Various elements lead us to believe that this is the correct path,' he was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency, according to the Associated Press. 'These are very violent groups that are also present in Spain and Greece and are very well connected.'

"A spokesman for Italy's police department said law-enforcement officers were carrying out inspections at other embassies in Rome. There was a false alarm at the Ukrainian Embassy.

"The attacks highlight concerns that the threat of terrorist attacks in Europe is escalating. On Tuesday, British police arrested 12 men in a counterterrorism operation. Earlier this month, a suicide bomber blew himself up in Stockholm near streets frequented by Christmas shoppers, the first serious attempt by Islamic extremists targeting civilians in Sweden.

[...]

"The Rome prosecutor's office has launched a probe into the bombs, said a person close to the investigators.

"The bombs follow other unrest in Italy. On Wednesday, students protesting a bill aimed at overhauling the Italian university system filled the country's main streets, and scuffles broke out in the southern city of Palermo, in Sicily. Last week, a similar protest turned violent in Rome.
"On Tuesday, a fake bomb was found on an empty train carriage in Rome's subway, in what police said might also have been an effort to protest the university bill.

"'I don't think these have the same source as the one found on the Rome metro,' Gianni Alemanno, Rome's mayor, told reporters after speaking to the Swiss ambassador."

It is likely that violence will continue as the various European governments deal with their financial shortfalls by raising fees and taxes (although cheating on taxes is very common in Italy), and cutting back their government programs. It's sort of like super-violent lobbying. The real question is to what extent the violence will escalate.

I'm also curious as to why a bomb was sent to the Chilean embassy...

UPDATE: Anarchists of claimed responsibility for the embassy bombs.

"'We have decided to raise our voice again, with actions too; we'll destroy the system. Up with FAI, up with anarchy'. The parcel bomb sent to the Chilean embassy in Rome was claimed by the FAI anarchist group, according to the Police. The note with the message was contained in a small box, found near the clothes of the employee who opened the explosive parcel. FAI stands for Federazione Anarchica Informale, already familiar to the investigators. . ."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hundreds Abducted and Missing Following Ivory Coast Elections


Sad news, and all too common in West Africa...


"Hundreds of people in Ivory Coast are reported to have been abducted from their homes since last month's disputed election, the UN says.

"The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says some of the assailants wore military uniforms and there is evidence of 'massive' human rights violations.

"More than 50 people have died in violence in recent days, she adds.

"Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo says he won the poll, but his rival Alassane Ouattara has international backing.

"On Saturday Mr Gbagbo demanded that all 10,000 foreign peacekeepers leave the country, saying UN and French troops were colluding with former rebels.

[...]

"In a statement issued on Sunday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said UN officials in Ivory Coast had received hundreds of reports of people being abducted 'from their homes, especially at night, by armed individuals in military uniform'.

"She said the gunmen were 'accompanied by elements of the Defence and Security Forces or militia groups'. Some victims had later 'been found dead in questionable circumstances', she added.

"The 50 deaths, the statement said, had occurred in the past three days. More than 200 people had also been also injured.

"On Thursday, at least 20 people were killed as Mr Ouattara's backers tried to march on the headquarters of state TV and clashed with troops loyal to Mr Gbagbo.

[...]

"The UN, the US, former colonial power France, and the African Union have all called on Mr Gbagbo to stand down.

"French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday said he should quit by Sunday or face EU sanctions.

"But Mr Gbagbo says the 28 November election was rigged by rebels who still hold the north after the civil war in 2002-03.

"He was declared the winner by Ivory Coast's Constitutional Council after it annulled votes in parts of the north.

"Both Mr Gbagbo and Mr Ouattara have sworn themselves in as president. Mr Ouattara is currently under UN protection at a hotel in Abidjan."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Violence Erupts in Belarus Following Election and Alleged Voter Fraud


Presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyayev being carried away

"Thousands of opposition supporters in Belarus tried to storm the main government building to protest what they claim was large-scale vote-rigging in Sunday's presidential election, but they were driven back and beaten by riot police.

"Dozens of protesters were injured in clashes with the police, left bruised and bloody after being beaten with clubs. An Associated Press reporter at the scene also was struck on the head, back and arm.

"Up to 40,000 opposition activists rallied in central Minsk to call for longtime authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko to step down. It was the largest opposition rally since mass street protests against Lukashenko in 1996, but it was over within hours. By late Sunday, police had cleared Independence Square of all demonstrators.

"Protesters broke windows and glass doors of the government building, which also houses the Central Election Commission, but they were repelled by riot police waiting inside. Hundreds more riot police and Interior Ministry troops then arrived in trucks and sent most of the demonstrators fleeing. Some tried to hide in the courtyards of nearby apartment buildings, but were bludgeoned by troops waiting inside the courtyards.

[...]

"Leading opposition candidate Vladimir Neklyayev was beaten by riot police while leading a few hundred of his supporters to the demonstration and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, according to his wife. His left eye was bruised, his nose was bleeding and he was nauseous and unable to speak, Olga Neklyayeva told the Associated Press.

"Another opposition candidate, Vitaly Rymashevsky, was beaten in clashes with riot police by the government building. He claimed that the people who attempted to storm the building were police acting as demonstrators and that he was attacked when he tried to stop them.

"After the polls closed, thousands of opposition activists converged as planned on October Square, but most of the square had been flooded to make an ice skating rink and pop music boomed from loudspeakers.

"The protesters then set off along the main avenue toward Independence Square, where the main government building is located.

"The demonstrators shouted 'leave' to Lukashenko, who has led Belarus since 1994 in a heavy-handed regime that is often characterized as the last dictatorship in Europe.

[...]

"Russia and the European Union are closely monitoring the election, having offered major economic inducements to tilt Belarus in their direction.

"Signs that Lukashenko is leaning toward the West would be a moral victory for countries that have long criticized his harsh rule and worried about his connections with vehemently anti-West regimes. For Russia, a return to the fold would bolster Moscow's desire to remain the power-broker in former Soviet regions.

"In casting his ballot, Lukashenko expressed confidence that he would win a fourth term. He denounced the planned opposition rally as being led by 'bandits and saboteurs' and proclaimed that it would not take place.

[...]

"Nearly a quarter of the 7 million registered voters went to the polls in five days of early voting last week, according to the Central Election Commission. The opposition and election observers say early voting allows for ballot stuffing as boxes are poorly guarded and voting precincts are poorly monitored.

"Lukashenko, a 56-year-old former collective firm manager, maintains a quasi-Soviet state in the country of 10 million, allowing no independent broadcast media, stifling dissent and keeping about 80 percent of the industry under state control.

"Although once seen as almost a lapdog of Russia, Lukashenko in recent years has quarreled intensively with the Kremlin as Russia raised prices for the below-market gas and oil on which Belarus' economy depends.

"However, his tone changed this month after Russia agreed to drop tariffs for oil exported to Belarus — a concession worth an estimated $4 billion a year.

"But Lukashenko also is working to curry favor with the West, which has harshly criticized his years of human rights abuses and repressive politics. Last week, he called for improved ties with the U.S., which in previous years he had cast as an enemy.

[...]

"Lukashenko faced nine other candidates, who were uncharacteristically allotted time for debates on state TV and radio and whose campaign rallies have met less official obstruction than in previous elections.

"A candidate needs to get half the total votes in order to win in the first round; the large number of challengers appears to make that unachievable for any of them, but a combined strong performance could deny Lukashenko an outright victory. The opposition claims that a first-round victory for the president could only come through fraud."

I know very little about Belarusian politics, so I can't comment too much on this. It could be interesting to observe how this develops, though.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Venezuela Hands Chavez Power to Rule by Decree



"Venezuela's parliament gave President Hugo Chavez decree powers for 18 months on Friday, outraging opposition parties that accused him of turning South America's biggest oil producer into a dictatorship.

"The move consolidated the firebrand socialist leader's hold on power after nearly 12 years in office, and raised the prospect of a fresh wave of nationalizations as the former paratrooper seeks to entrench his self-styled 'revolution.'

"Chavez had asked for the fast-track powers for one year, saying he needed them to deal with a national emergency caused by floods that drove nearly 140,000 people from their homes.
But the Assembly, which is dominated by loyalists from his Socialist Party, decided to extend them for a year and a half.

"That means the president can rule by decree until mid-2012, and can keep opposition parties out of the legislative process until his re-election campaign is well under way for Venezuela's next presidential vote in December of that year.

[...]

"The 'Enabling Law,' which means the president can issue decrees across a wide range of areas including housing, land, finances and security, has been denounced as autocratic by his political rivals as well as by the U.S. State Department.

"A freshly united opposition coalition won about half the popular vote at a parliamentary election in September to take 40 percent of the seats in the next Assembly -- where they had hoped to put a check on the president's powers.

"Chavez's latest move raised concern about whether he would accept defeat if the 2012 election does not go his way. Polls show his traditionally high ratings have slipped, with the nation split down the middle in September elections."

Well, isn't that nice? The opposition had hoped to put a check on Chavez's power and he and his cronies responded by giving himself dictatorial powers for 18 months. Such nonsense. And oh, I'm sure if Chavez was defeated in an election he'd step right down. He wouldn't allege voter fraud interfering with the mandate of the people or anything...

Director Blake Edwards Passes Away at 88


Sad news. Film director Blake Edwards passed away at the age of 88.

Edwards was best known for his comedies directing Peter Sellers in the "Pink Panther" movies, as well as "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and the "The Great Race." He also directed the excellent Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick drama "Days of Wine and Roses."

His films will continue to be much-loved. R.I.P. Blake Edwards.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reid Pulling $1.2 Trillion Spending Bill

Reid is reportedly giving up on passage of the $1.2 trillion Omnibus Spending Bill.

From The New York Times article by David M. Herszenhorn (h/t Jacobson at Legal Insurrection):

"The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said Thursday night that he was abandoning efforts to pass a $1.2 trillion spending measure to finance the government through Sept. 30 because Republicans would not support it.

"Mr. Reid said he would work with the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, on a stop-gap spending bill instead. Senate Republicans also said they would not support a House-passed temporary spending measure running through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Instead, they want to develop a separate measure running only through the early part of next year.

"At that point, Republicans will control a majority in the House and six additional seats in the Senate, giving them greater leverage over any spending decisions."

While many people are doing happy dances, I'm waiting to see what's going to happen in the next few days. This does look promising, though...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Unrest in Itlay, Riots in the Streets of Rome


Confidence in the government seems to be waning...


"Italians voiced shock on Wednesday after violent protests set off by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's narrow victory in a vote in parliament that leaves his government hanging by a thread.

"Berlusconi survived a no-confidence vote in the lower house by just three votes, following the rebellion of speaker of parliament Gianfranco Fini who left the ruling coalition with his allies earlier this year.

"The victory ignited running street battles between hundreds of anti-Berlusconi protesters and riot police in which more than 100 people were injured in the tourist-heavy centre of the Italian capital.

"'What happened yesterday was not an expression of freedom. It was an attack by organised groups of hooligans,' Berlusconi said on a news show on Wednesday.

"Protesters set cars alight, hurled cobblestones and beat officers with metal bars. Police retaliated by firing tear gas and striking protesters.

"A total of 26 protesters have been charged, police said on Wednesday.

"One officer dragged to the ground was seen by an AFP photographer with his gun in hand, though he later said the weapon had dropped out of his holster and he had grabbed it to prevent it falling into the hands of protesters.

"'Rome was defiled like it hadn't been since 1977 during the terrible Years of Lead,' when Italy was rocked by violent political militancy including bombings, shootings and kidnappings, said the Corriere della Sera daily.

"Rome's mayor Gianni Alemanno said the clashes were 'shocking' and likened them to the 'gratuitous violence that was on the streets of Rome in the 1970s and that I hoped never to see again.'

"Alemanno estimated the damage at 20 million euros (27 million dollars)."

I know little about Italian politics, but I doubt that Italy is in for more Years of Lead. I do think the stability of the last few years will be gone for quite some time. Like a lot of the world in these uncertain times, Italy will be a place to keep an eye on in the near future.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dems Christmas Gift to America: A $1.1 TRILLION, 1,924 Page Bill

The Democrats just threw out a $1.1 trillion budget bill today. They're going to try to force it to a vote with neither a chance for review nor debate. Merry Christmas!

Fox News reports:

"Republicans poring over a 1,924-page overarching spending bill proposed by Democrats to cover the rest of the fiscal year are threatening to grind the legislation to a halt, citing massive earmark spending, which, if passed, would be enacted into law without debate in the full Senate.
Two sources who spoke to Fox News are describing the legislation as 'a total mess.'

"But the head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said he believes the legislation must pass.

"'The twelve bills included in this package fulfill the Congress' most basic responsibility, to exercise the power of the purse,' he said in a statement. 'This measure reflects a year's worth of work by members of both parties. Together, we have closely scrutinized the president's budget request, held hundreds of hearings, thousands of meetings, and asked literally tens of thousands of questions to each and every federal department and agency seeking justification for how taxpayer dollars are being spent.'

"Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, responded in a statement, saying that after neglecting to pass a budget, 'today we learn Senate Democrats now want to sandwich them together, totaling almost 2,000 pages, and jam them through in the waning moments of this lame duck session before anyone can read them. This political end-around reveals just how quickly my colleagues across the aisle have already forgotten the voters' message in November.'

[...]

"In total, thousands of earmark requests are listed. The financial services earmark chart, for instance, lists 220 earmark requests from dozens of lawmakers, mostly in the House, each worth anywhere from $50,000 to $2.4 million. The largest sum was requested by Inouye and his Hawaii colleague Sen. Daniel Akaka for 'Bank on USA' demonstration projects in their state. The projects are designed to give underserved communities greater access to financial institutions.

"Elsewhere, the Department of Defense earmark list, mostly requests by senators, is 29 pages long and individual requests more often are worth $2 million to $5 million each. In that list, Inouye's requests total more than $159 million, including $21 million for a Hawaii Federal Health Care Network. Cornyn's defense spending earmarks total nearly $16 million."

Yes, I am sure that it is very important to pass for Inouye to get $150 million dollars through. Otherwise, fiscal responsibility would take over.

Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has the story and these words of advice for Republican lawmakers: "Use every procedural device available to run out the clock on the monstrosity that is the current Congress. The voters who gave Republicans back the House and closed the gap in the Senate expect the current Republican leadership and Republicans in the Senate to do no less in the face of more Harry Reid cramdowns."

Pat at And So it Goes in Shreveport also has the story. She's taken on the challenge of reading through the bill's nearly 2,000 pages. And she is livid at what she's finding.

For those of you with the patience and constitution to try to wade through this mess, the bill is available to read here. Best of luck.

Polls Show Support for ObamaCare Still Meager, Support for Repeal High


A couple of recent polls have shown that the ObamaCare law passed through reconciliation is still hugely unpopular.

A Washington Post/ABC poll showed that 53% opposed ObamaCare while 43% supported.


"Support for the health care overhaul slipped lower in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday -- the same day a federal judge ruled that a key provision of the law was unconstitutional.

"Forty-three percent of respondents said they supported the health care legislation, compared to 53% who said they were opposed. Support is down from a high of 48%, recorded in November 2009. Those results are in line with most other polls taken in the last few months.

[...]

"More respondents were also 'strongly' opposed to the law as were strongly supportive by a 37% to 22% margin."

Interestingly, the Rasmussen Reports' poll show support for repeal of the bill at an all time high of 60%.


"Time doesn’t seem to be winning the new national health care law any more friends. Most voters have favored repeal of the law every week since it was passed and support for repeal has now inched up to its highest level since mid-September. Many Americans remain concerned that the law will force them to change their health insurance coverage.

"The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 60% of Likely U.S. Voters at least somewhat favor repeal of the health care law while 34% are opposed. As has been the case since the law was first passed, those who favor repeal feel more passionately than those who want to keep the law--46% Strongly Favor repeal while just 23% who are Strongly Opposed.

"Total support for repeal is up four points from a week ago but consistent with opposition to the law for months. Support for repeal has ranged from 50% to 63% in weekly tracking since Democrats in Congress passed the law in late March.

[...]

"Complicating things for supporters of the health care law is the finding that 75% of voters with insurance rate their current health insurance coverage as good or excellent, while only six percent (6%) regard it as poor. Scott Rasmussen noted this comfort with existing coverage in an August 2009 Wall Street Journal column and observed that 'the fundamentals are really what make health-care reform a hard sell to American voters.'

"Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters now say the health care plan will be bad for the country. Thirty-two percent (32%) think the plan will be good for the country, while three percent (3%) say it will have no impact. Eleven percent (11%) are undecided.

"These findings, too, have changed little in months."

So, remember when Obama dared Republicans wanting to repeal the law with the words "Bring it on?" Like so much coming from the Obama administration, those ill-chosen words stemmed from baseless arrogance, ideology, and a misreading of the American people.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kwanzaa: An Inauthentic Holiday Created by a Torturer of Women Pt. 2

Here's part two of my re-postings on Kwanzaa. Part one is here.

The socialist (actually Marxist) nature of the seven principles, the Nguzo Saba, of Kwanzaa is addressed, but once again dismissed by Riley. Of the seven principles of Kwanzaa (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith), Riley writes "The ujima [collective work and responsibility] and ujamaa [cooperative economics] principles certainly sounds socialist, but any of the Kwanzaa principles can be interpreted to mean that through private means we should help others. I do think that these principles - if the focus is on private efforts, and not Big Government - have merit year-round in building black communities."

True enough. Who would have problems with the incredibly general idea of "faith" or "creativity" etc.? I mean, how many anti-faith (not necessarily religious faith-- faith here is used too generally for that) people are out there? How many people are against creativity?

But the seven principles of the Nguzo Saba were not created from an ideological vacuum, nor have they evolved from centuries of social development, such as Christmas' general "peace on Earth and goodwill toward men"-- a process that defines the general principle with a cultural understanding and imbues it with a meaning beyond the mere vague words. When scrutinized beyond the thinnest of superficial gloss, it is evident (from Karenga's own words UPDATED 12/10/10: *sigh* Once again the link is down. You'd think that the works of Karenga would last longer on the web than my tiny blog-- but no. Once again a search for these quotes have come up empty.) that the seven principles, are, in fact, merely Marxist principles created by Karenga for the expressed purpose of promoting Marxist doctrine.

There is no question of Karenga's Marxism. He makes no effort to hide his Marxism and openly promotes it. From Scholer: "Eight years later [in 1989 according to the wikipedia entry on Karenga] California State University at Long Beach made Karenga the head of its Black Studies Department. Karenga had toned down his rhetoric and abandoned his cultural nationalism for straightforward Marxism." This "toned down" Marxism continued to be expressed in the seven principles as detailed in the Kawaida Theory: An African Communitarian Philosophy, his book from 1980.

Karenga expounds on the intended principles of the Nguzu Saba here 1965 (UPDATED 12/10/10: This link was to the same site as above and, as I said, it's down).

For Ujima (collective work and responsibility) he writes, "The third principle encourages self-criticism and personal evaluation, as it relates to the common good of the family/community. Without collective work and struggle, progress is impossible. The family and the community must accept the reality that we are collectively responsible for our failures, as well as our victories and achievements. Discussions concerning each family member's responsibility prove helpful in defining and achieving family goals."

For Ujamaa (cooperative economics) he writes, "Out of the fundamental concepts of 'African Communal Living' comes the fourth principle of Kwanzaa. In a community or family, wealth and resources should be shared. On the national level, cooperative economics can help African-Americans take physical control of their own destinies. On this day, ideas should be shared and discussed for cooperative economic efforts to provide for needs as related to housing, education, food, day care, health, transportation and other goods and services."

Let's see here... communal living, collective work, and a fading of the individual through "self-criticism and personal evaluation, as it relates to the common good of the family/community." I think it's perfectly reasonable to conclude that that an avowed Marxist (cultural nationalist at the time) talking in these terms is preaching to Marxist principles; therefore Ujima and Ujamaa do not just sound socialist, they are socialist.

When Karenga says Ujamaa he meant specifically the definitions I quoted above. As the originator of Kwanzaa, these are indisputably the specific meanings of Kwanzaa's founding, generalized principles. So while Riley maintains that "any of the Kwanzaa principles can be interpreted to mean that through private means we should help others," she is presenting a mis-reading that is obvious once Karenga's writings and theories are examined. If we are not a socialist or a Marxist, we should looks elsewhere for guiding principles to improve our communities.

Riley tacitly acknowledges Karenga's violent history by writing "And while Maulana Karenga’s history of abusing women is highly problematic, I believe that events can transcend problematic founders (look at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia back in 1787)." Again, an attempt to build an equivalency, in this case between Karenga and the attendees of the Constitutional Convention.

Rather than discuss in detail the myriad of differences between Karenga and various members of the Constitutional Convention (men whose births are separated by about two centuries), I will go into some detail about Karenga's acknowledged abuse as publicly reported by the Los Angeles Times and related by Scholer.

"On September 17, 1971, Karenga was sentenced to one to ten years in prison on counts of felonious assault and false imprisonment. The charges stemmed from a May 9, 1970 incident in which Karenga and two others tortured two women who Karenga believed had tried to kill him by placing 'crystals' in his food and water.

"A year later the Los Angeles Times described the events: 'Deborah Jones, who once was given the title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vice. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said.'"

I'm sorry, but I don't believe that the phrase "highly problematic" really does justice to the imprisonment, stripping, binding, beating, burning, and the mangling of a toe during the systematic torture of two women by Karenga and a pair of cohorts.

Karenga's sanity can also be fairly questioned. Scholer again writes: "The shooting at UCLA [the Jan. 17, 1969 killing of Black Panthers John Jerome Huggins and Alprentice Carter by US Organization members George and Larry Stiner immediately following Huggins' and Carter's verbal attack of Karenga during a public meeting] caused Karenga to become deeply paranoid and spurred his bizarre behavior. At his trial, the question of Karenga's sanity arose. The psychiatrist's report stated, 'This man now represents a picture which can be considered both paranoid and schizophrenic with hallucinations and elusions, inappropriate affect, disorganization, and impaired contact with the environment.' The psychiatrist observed that Karenga talked to his blanket and imaginary persons and believed that he had been attacked by dive-bombers."

While it is, perhaps, true that at times "events can transcend problematic founders," Karenga's problems, to me, are an awful lot to transcend.

And of course, this begs the question as to what an event will become once it transcends its founder. Would Kwanzaa become transformed into something more then a racially divisive, anti-religious, Marxist promoting event?

As I wrote in part 1 of this post, as Kwanzaa became more popular within mainstream Black American communities, Karenga backed down from his virulently anti-religious bent. As I stated before, Karenga's newer books like Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture (1997) tell lies (contradicted by Karenga's earlier works) about Kwanzaa not being intended as an alternative to Christian holidays.

But this inauthentic backing away from its anti-religious roots has not been coupled with Kwanzaa backing away from the radical black separatist movement. At least none is in evidence at the Official Kwanzaa Information Center as Scholer, once again, points out. "Still, some charge that the holiday and its official black, green, and red flag promotes racial separatism and violence. Says the official Kwanzaa Information Center: 'red, or the blood, stands as the top of all things. We lost our land through blood; and we cannot gain it except through blood. We must redeem our lives through the blood. Without the shedding of blood there can be no redemption of this race.' The Kwanzaa Information Center also notes that the flag 'has become the symbol of devotion for African people in America to establish an independent African nation on the North American Continent.'"

Okay... So the official Kwanzaa Information Center (UPDATED 12/10/10: The site this link is to is no longer the "official" Kwanzaa Information Center-- gosh, a lot changes in a year. It is now simply the Kwanzaa Information Center. The Official Kwanzaa Website [at least according to its web address] is here and gives pretty much the watered-down, family-friendly schtick-- among the ample links for making a donation.) is basically calling for a race war (the shedding of blood to redeem the race etc.), not unlike white supremacists. Great. Actually that quote is from the "Feel Good Information" section (I am not making this up) of the Kwanzaa Information Center's website. The quote regarding the Black Nationalist flag in full is:

"Origin of the Flag of Pan-Africanism and/or Black Nationalism Red is for the Blood. Black is the Black People. Green is for the Land.

"Red, Black and Green are the oldest national colors known to man. They are used as the flag of the Black Liberation Movement in America today, but actually go back to the Zinj Empires of ancient Africa, which existed thousands of years before Rome, Greece, France, England or America.

"The Red, or the blood, stands as the top of all things. We lost our land through blood; and we cannot gain it except through blood. We must redeem our lives through the blood. Without the shedding of blood there can be no redemption of this race. However, the bloodshed and sorrow will not last always. The Red significantly stands in our flag as a reminder of the truth of history, and that men must gain and keep their liberty, even at the risk of bloodshed.

"The Black is in the middle. The Black man in this hemisphere has yet to obtain land which is represented by the Green. The acquisition of land is the highest and noblest aspiration for the Black man on this continent, since without land there can be no freedom, justice, independence, or equality."

A little further down the page is the "devotion for African people in America to establish an independent African nation on the North American Continent" part as related by Scholer.

For an event to transcend the problematic founders, paraphrasing Riley, the event must move beyond both the faults and the intentions of the founder. If we were to peel away from Kwanzaa the racial exclusivity of the black separatism, the anti-religious ardor, the rituals designed to replace Christmas celebrations, the Marxist doctrines contained within the Nguzo Saba's seven principles, all of this imbued by its angry founder Karenga-- what's left?

I understand that Riley was somewhat ambivalent to Kwanzaa and that the very short blurb was not intended as an endorsement of the "holiday." I have nothing against Shay Riley. I have never met Riley, never (to my knowledge) have read anything else written by Riley, and this very long posting was not meant, in any way, to be an attack against Riley personally.

But Riley's ambivalence is something very common, and found both in my own and my wife's family. There's a real lack of understanding regarding the fringe origins of Kwanzaa. The idea seems to be that if Hallmark makes Kwanzaa cards, the holiday must be legitimate and not a bad thing. My family shies away from scrutinizing "black things" (best to leave it all alone) and my wife's family generally give black opinions, theories, and views (no matter how wild or fantastic) their quick approval and then an almost completely unearned pass. I don't think there's anyone in either branches of my family that would support Kwanzaa after learning the facts about its origins and creator.

Kwanzaa is founded on principles that are incompatible with today's mores and unacceptable by mainstream America's current values-- mores and values resulting from the many years of struggles for civil rights.

Kwanzaa champions racial separation, segregation, anger, and meaningless racial confrontation while rejecting racial integration and downplaying interracial understanding and tolerance.

It attacks religion rather than respects it-- uses outlandish language and concocted suppositions to coerce a needless and artificial racial confrontation.

Kwanzaa's seven principles sacrifice the rights of the individual upon a Marxist altar-- for the sake of communal work, collective economics, and sacrifice of self, all designed to help control Black American individuals and bring them into a black separatist fold-- making them think "correctly."

Kwanzaa was founded by a radical and violent black nationalist; a man who was convicted of personally participating in the atrocious tortures of two black women, as well being very closely (if not directly) linked to the1969 murders of two members of the Black Panthers.

Kwanzaa is a contrived, artificial, and inauthentic holiday championing anger and alienation. It is not something to celebrate.

Kwanzaa: An Inauthentic Holiday Created by a Torturer of Women Pt.1

Well , it's that time of the year again. December 10th already and you know what that means... only 16 more days until my favorite manufactured, socialist, racially divisive holiday Kwanzaa starts.

I thought I'd celebrate by re-posting my Kwanzaa pieces from January.

I read this little blurb "Reflection on Kwanzaa" by Shay Riley at Hip Hop Republican, and decided I couldn't just sit by and let this one pass without comment. Kwanzaa (wikipedia link for those unfamiliar with the holiday) and its creator Maulana Ron Karenga (originally named Ron Everett) is a bit of a raw nerve with me. I hope that if you read the whole entry here, you can, perhaps, see why.

From Riley (in its entirety):

"I have mixed opinion about Kwanzaa. I’d argue that it’s based on culture - however garbled - not race. I don’t buy many conservatives’ claims that Kwanzaa is a racially divisive holiday, unless one is prepared to argue the same for St. Patrick’s Day (which is practically its own very-secular holiday here in Chicago). Critics charge that Kwanzaa sets up Christmas as a 'white' holiday, and thus isolates blacks from others. One of my aunts calls Kwanzaa a 'devil’s' holiday, designed to undermine the gospel of Jesus Christ among blacks. Calling Kwanzaa an invented holiday - which it is - is meaningless, as invention is behind all holidays. And while Maulana Karenga’s history of abusing women is highly problematic, I believe that events can transcend problematic founders (look at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia back in 1787). I don’t see the holiday as anti-Christian, but I’m not religious.

"Many bookeristas have also taken Kwanzaa to task for promoting socialism, but I don’t have a problem with the Kwanzaa principles per se: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). The ujima and ujamaa principles certainly sounds socialist, but any of the Kwanzaa principles can be interpreted to mean that through private means we should help others. I do think that these principles - if the focus is on private efforts, and not Big Government - have merit year-round in building black communities.

"I don’t have a problem with a black American-specific holiday, but my main issue with Kwanzaa concerns authenticity. Kwanzaa isn’t rooted in black American culture and experience. While the official Kwanzaa website calls it a 'celebration of family, community, and culture', why is the holiday a mishmash of East African cultures when the overwhelming majority of black Americans are of West African origin? Nor is it even a holiday that resides with Africans. Kwanzaa thus contributes to the stereotype that Africa is just one big blob, with few if any inter-country differences. This viewpoint is ironically a strange bedfellow of many white attitudes towards Africa, as if one can switch African cultures in and out at will. Black Americans should certainly learn more about Africa. However, Kwanzaa - with its misinformation about our African heritage - falls short of this goal."

While Riley's conclusion is ultimately true-- that Kwanzaa is "a mishmash of East African cultures," that it "contributes to the stereotype that Africa is just one big blob, with few if any inter-country [and racial, and ethnic] differences," and that it lacks "authenticity,"-- she reaches this conclusion but denies pretty much all the factors that would create a common definition of authenticity.

Kwanzaa's purposefully invented nature, its racial divisiveness, Kwanzaa's direct attack on religion and attempt to replace it with socialist doctrines, and Karenga's own history of violence (including the imprisonment and torture of women) are all mentioned, but rather off-handedly dismissed by Riley. Frankly, I just can't abide that and I thought I might address each of these in my response.

"The Story of Kwanzaa" is an eye-opening short essay written by J. Lawrence Scholer and the editors of The Dartmouth Review. Click on the link for the entire piece. I won't reprint the whole thing here, although it is short, but will use selected quotes from it to cover some of the facts glossed over by Riley.

Riley denies that Kwanzaa's made-up nature is any problem for its authenticity. "Calling Kwanzaa an invented holiday - which it is - is meaningless, as invention is behind all holidays."

In a way this point is difficult to address, as the generality of this statement makes it almost meaningless. Exactly what form of culture, what item, trait, accomplishment, or artifact within a society is not a human invention? In the broadest possible strokes, Riley seeks to build some of sort of equivalency between all holidays by virtue of their common human origins, or at least a human recognition of a holiday as such. This is ludicrous and sloppy. With this same logic, why can I not draw the same level of equivalency between Thanksgiving and the hi-lighter sitting here on my desk based on this implied criteria-- I mean they're both human inventions, right?

Okay, but let's restrict this line of thought in ways that Riley does not do (it is a very short work and perhaps it is terribly nitpicking and unfair of me to criticize her logic in this way) and restrict the talk to holidays. Riley sees no difference between Kwanzaa and, let's say, Christmas. She doesn't acknowledge that there is a difference between a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of the Christian religion's namesake and a set of days made up by a man with an immediate and very contemporary political agenda (more on that in a second). Perhaps I should whip out some red, white, and blue candles, declare January 12th "TeaPartia" and insist that it's a holiday that is, in all intents and purposes, the equivalent of Christmas.

Even if one were to divorce Christmas from its religious nature, one is still left with centuries of tradition and various forms of celebration. Yes, the more readily identifiable traditions are not nearly as old as popularly thought to be. The Victorians were really the ones to turn what had become a drunken and oftentimes riotous holiday (sort of a winter Mardi Gras) into something more approximating the "peace and goodwill among men" that are at the holiday's Christian roots. And yes, the day itself was a Christian usurpation of a pagan holiday celebrating the winter's solstice. But all of this, a mere portion of Christmas' convoluted history, is part of the cultural complexity that makes a holiday what it is. It doesn't merely exist because some small group of people (I am talking here about Karenga and his handful of cronies at Kwanzaa's inception on Dec. 26th, 1966 and not about the Black American population-- don't even try to interpret my words that way) say that it did. To draw an equivalency by paralleling the contrived origin of Kwanzaa with the long and complex history (and the accompanying cultural resonance and feelings) of other more readily accepted holidays is nonsense.

Riley denies that Kwanzaa is an alienating holiday, designed to be segregationist. "I don’t buy many conservatives’ claims that Kwanzaa is a racially divisive holiday, unless one is prepared to argue the same for St. Patrick’s Day (which is practically its own very-secular holiday here in Chicago)."

Oh, I think I can claim Kwanzaa is divisive without arguing against St. Patrick's Day. Let's go ahead and use the words of Karenga while doing it. Let's briefly establish Karenga's mind-set with some quick facts about Karenga. To begin, he helped establish the United Slaves Organization (US) in 1965, a radical black nationalist-- or "cultural nationalist" as Karenga would describe it at the time-- group.

In the late 60s (the actual dates seems fuzzy and ranges from 1967 to '71-- the book is copyright itself is '67) Karenga wrote and published The Quotable Karenga edited by Clyde Halisi and James Mtume. Important research detail: To qualify all this I have to state that I have no idea as to the source of this PDF link in this entry-- the source blog does not allow uninvited visitors like myself to its homepage. I do believe this to be a genuine scan, while the book itself is hard to find (I'm not paying $300 for it on Alibris) and a bit mysterious (Karenga himself does not list the 30 page book on his own webpage), the cover scan of the PDF matches an actual first edition of the book and much of the material within the scan jibes with my own research on Karenga including the "Seven-fold Path of the Blackness" on page 5. So I want to be absolutely clear that I am arbitrarily accepting this PDF as genuine without knowing anything about the source. Important research detail UPDATED 12/10/10: The link to the PDF of The Quotable Karenga is down after less than a year. This is very unfortunate. I've run several web searches and have been unable to find another source without actually purchasing the booklet from Amazon for nearly $50. I can assure you that the quotes I relate are 100% accurate from the booklet.

Contained within the 30 pages of the book(let) are gems like these that attempt to both divide black from white and to unify black at the exclusion of white. *note all page references are the book pages and not the PDF file's pages.

"There is no such thing as individualism, we're all Black. The only thing that saved us from being lynched like Emmet Till or shot down like Medger Evers was not our economics or social status, but our absence." Page 1-- the first quote of the book.

"If we could get a nigger to see how worthless, unimportant, and weak he is by himself, then we will have made a contribution." page 2

"Black people aren't superior or inferior to one another, but complimentary. We are all on the same level but in different categories." page 3

"The sevenfold path of blackness is think black, talk black, act black, create black, buy black, vote black, and live black." page 5

"Thinking Black is thinking collective minded." page 5

"Individualism is a white desire; co-operation is a Black need." page 5

"Black values can only come through a black culture." page 6

"Man is only man in a philosophy class or a biology lab. In the world he is African, Asian, or South American. He is a Chinese making a cultural revolution, or an Afro-American with soul. He lives by bread and butter, enjoys red beans and rice or watermelon and ice cream." page 6

"To talk Black is to start talking 'we' instead of 'me.'" page 7.

"We want integration-- integration of dark and light Black people." page 16

"We should not be blamed for talking separation. Racism in America has already decided this. We just want to be separate and powerful, not segregated and powerless." page 18

"Brothers must watch out for whites who are rebelling against their own society and uses the wave of Black revolution to push their cause." page 29

"White people can't be Black peoples friend. A friend is your alter-ego and a reflection of yourself." page 30

"All whites are white. White doesn't represent a color it represents a mentality that is anti-black." page 30

"To say the white boy would wipe us out if we moved against him is to say he is bad. Why would he wipe us out if he were not bad?" page 30-- the last entry.

Beyond these examples, reading through this work cover to cover leaves little doubt as to where Karenga stands in terms of racial integration and makes clear his view of the both the established and desired relationship between blacks and whites. So now, I believe, we have a decent idea of Karenga's mind-set at the time of Kwanzaa's inception on Dec. 26, 1966 (remember The Quotable Karnega was copyrighted in 1967). Taking these quotes into account it's a bit hard to believe that when Karenga says "We must institute holidays which speak directly to the needs of Black people," (page 5) that he is suggesting that Kwanzaa is something that should, in any manner or way, be inclusive to whites or any other peoples. There is really is no way that Kwanzaa can be anything else but divisive.

Riley brings up St. Patrick's Day, again offering some sort of equivalency between this traditional Irish holiday and one that was contrived in 1966 by Karenga. Just to restate Riley writes: "I don’t buy many conservatives’ claims that Kwanzaa is a racially divisive holiday, unless one is prepared to argue the same for St. Patrick’s Day (which is practically its own very-secular holiday here in Chicago)."

Well, I can't make any claims to possessing intimate knowledge of Chicago's St. Patrick's Day celebrations. While I've been to Chicago several times in my life, I was never there on St. Patrick's Day. However, where I grew up (in Southern California) St. Patrick's day was basically wearing some article of green clothing to grade school so you didn't get pinched (do they still do that?), having Irish-themed meals, and stapling paper shamrocks to the classroom walls. When I got older, the St. Patrick's day celebrations pretty much became drinking green beer and spirits at the local "Irish pubs" dotting Los Angeles and San Diego. There was never any particular exclusivity (my wife was always served with the same courtesy as I was) and the make-up of the crowds were racially mixed-- no I wasn't keeping count, but I can assure you that it was never even close to all white. Any recent attempt by some bigot or white supremacist to make St. Patrick's Day a racially exclusive holiday a) has not been popular enough to make into my general knowledge (and I don't think I'm all Pollyanna on the subject), and b) is not the fault of the holiday itself.

Yes, you can argue that St. Patrick's Day is exclusive in the sense that it is an Irish holiday. That's right. It's origins are that of an Irish holiday. The same can be said of Hanukkah a Jewish holiday, or Ramadan a Muslim holiday, or Diwali an Indian holiday. Describing a holiday as "exclusive" simply because of its place of origin cannot be thought of as equivalent to describing Kwanzaa-- a holiday arbitrarily invented by a black separatist/nationalist that was intended, from its very inception, to be racially exclusive. I'm sorry, but they are just not equivalent in this manner.

Now, let me address Kwanzaa being an anti-religious holiday. Riley writes, "Critics charge that Kwanzaa sets up Christmas as a 'white' holiday, and thus isolates blacks from others. One of my aunts calls Kwanzaa a 'devil’s' holiday, designed to undermine the gospel of Jesus Christ among blacks. [...] I don’t see the holiday as anti-Christian, but I’m not religious."

Whether Riley is religious or not, I think that she should be comfortable coming to the conclusion that Kwanzaa is anti-Christian after we, once again, examine the nature of Karenga's beliefs as reflected in his own words, and what he writes about the purpose of Kwanzaa.

In The Quotable Karenga, Karenga's antipathy toward American mainstream religion is evident as these following excerpts (a mere sampling) demonstrate.

"Christianity is a white religion. It has a white God, and any 'Negro' who believes in it is a sick 'Negro.' How can you prey to a white man? If you believe in him, no wonder you catch so much hell." page 25

"Jesus was psychotic. He said if you didn't believe what he did you would burn forever." page 25

"We are Gods ourselves, therefore it is not good to be atheistic or agnostic. To be an atheist is to deny our existence and do be agnostic is to doubt it." page 26

"The time we spent learning about Jesus, we should have spent learning about Blacks. The money we spend on church should have been spent on our community and the respect we gave to the Lord should have been given to our parents." page 26

"If you realize how human Jesus was you'd see he was no God." page 26

"Next thing Christianity deal with is spookism which is a degeneration of spiritualism." page 26

"They taught us Christianity so we could be like Jesus-- crucified." page 27

"Jesus said, 'My blood will wash you white as snow'. Who wants to be white but sick 'Negroes', or worse yet-- washed that way by the blood of a dead Jew. You know if Nadinola bleaching cream couldn't do it, no dead Jew's blood is going to do it." page 28

This next quote probably best illustrates Karenga's contempt of Christianity:

"The Christian is our worse enemy. Quiet as it's kept it was a Christian who enslaved us. Quiet as it's kept it's the Christian that burns us. Quiet as it's kept it's a Christian that beats us down on the street; and quiet as it's kept, when the thing goes down it'll be a Christian that's shooting us down. You have to face the fact that if the Christian is doing all this there must be something wrong with Christianity." page 27.

Karenga has directly said that "Christianity is a white religion," so I think we can safely make the logical step forward that he would view Christmas as a white holiday. Given Karenga's penchant for separating black and white, again amply evidenced by (and directly stated within) his own words, we can therefore presume that his intention at setting up Christmas as a white holiday is indeed to" isolate blacks from others."

As Scholer points out in his essay, Karenga said as much himself. "Thus, Karenga explained in his 1977 Kwanzaa: Origin, Concepts, Practice, 'Kwanzaa is not an imitation, but an alternative, in fact, an oppositional alternative to the spookism, mysticism and non-earth based practices which plague us as a people and encourage our withdrawal from social life rather than our bold confrontation with it.' The holiday 'was chosen to give a Black alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.'"

No matter how not religious one may be, the fact that the creator of Kwanzaa is a black separatist with an obvious antipathy for Christianity and states that Kwanzaa is "a Black alternative to the existing holiday" gives ample evidence to the critics' "charge that Kwanzaa sets up Christmas as a 'white' holiday, and thus isolates blacks from others."

Yes, Karenga has backed away from this position more recently as Scholer notes. "Since then, the holiday has gained mainstream adherents, and Karenga has altered its justification so as not to alienate practicing Christians: 'Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday,' he writes in Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, published in 1997." This more recent statement is, as can be clearly seen, a lie. Karenaga has written publicly that Kwanzaa was an alternative to, in his directly stated view, "white" Christianity.

I'm not really going to address Riley's aunt's claim that "Kwanzaa [is] a 'devil’s' holiday," but perhaps you should keep this characterization in mind as I later write about some of the facts of Karenga's history of violence and mental illness.

Continued here in Part Two.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

German Daily Claims Iran Plans to Place Medium Range Missiles in Venezuela; Can Reach U.S.

According to Hudson New York (via Drudge) the German daily Die Welt (site is in German) Venezuela and Iran have cut a deal in which Iranian medium range, ground-to-ground missiles would be placed in Venezuela. The military base would be manned jointly by Iranian officers, members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and Venezuelan officers.


"Iran is planning to place medium-range missiles on Venezuelan soil, based on western information sources, according to an article in the German daily, Die Welt, of November 25, 2010. According to the article, an agreement between the two countries was signed during the last visit o Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Tehran on October19, 2010. The previously undisclosed contract provides for the establishment of a jointly operated military base in Venezuela, and the joint development of ground-to-ground missiles.

"At a moment when NATO members found an agreement, in the recent Lisbon summit (19-20 November 2010), to develop a Missile Defence capability to protect NATO's populations and territories in Europe against ballistic missile attacks from the East (namely, Iran), Iran's counter-move consists in establishing a strategic base in the South American continent - in the United States's soft underbelly.

"According to Die Welt, Venezuela has agreed to allow Iran to establish a military base manned by Iranian missile officers, soldiers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Venezuelan missile officers. In addition, Iran has given permission for the missiles to be used in case of an 'emergency'. In return, the agreement states that Venezuela can use these facilities for 'national needs' – radically increasing the threat to neighbors like Colombia. The German daily claims that according to the agreement, Iranian Shahab 3 (range 1300-1500 km), Scud-B (285-330 km) and Scud-C (300, 500 and 700 km) will be deployed in the proposed base. It says that Iran also pledged to help Venezuela in rocket technology expertise, including intensive training of officers

"Venezuela has also become the country through which Iran intends to bypass UN sanctions. Following a new round of UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic, for example, Russia decided not to sell five battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defence systems to Iran. These weapons, along with a number of other weapons, were part of a deal, signed in 2007, worth $800 million. Now that these weapons cannot be delivered to Iran, Russia is looking for new customers; according to the Russian press agency Novosti, it found one: Venezuela.

[...]

"If Iran, therefore, cannot get the S-300 missiles directly from Russia, it can still have them through its proxy, Venezuela, and deploy them against its staunchest enemy, the U.S..

"But that is not all. According to Reuters, Iran has developed a version of the Russian S-300 missile and will test-fire it soon, as declared by the official news agency IRNA, two months after Moscow cancelled the delivery to comply with United Nations sanctions. Iran, in fact, has its own capabilities for constructing missiles that could carry atomic warheads. According to a study recently released by the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, Iran is presently aiming to perfect the already existing solid-fuel, medium-range missile that can carry a nuke to hit regional targets, such as Israel. If a missile base can be opened in Venezuela, many US cities will be able to be reached from there even with short-medium range missiles."

Hey, but don't worry... Remember Obama declared (right here in Oregon) that Iran and Venezuela are tiny countries that could never harm us? (video here)

After all, Obama said "Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. [...] "Iran, they spend 1/100th of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn't stand a chance."

Well, I know I feel better knowing of Obama's assessment of the situation back in 2008. So hey, this isn't a serious threat to the US, because Obama said it wasn't.

Belligerent North Korea and China Reaffirm Ties



As the US, South Korea, and Japan unify over recent North Korean belligerence and attacks, senior Chinese foreign policymaker Dai Bingguo met with Pyongyang. Hard to say what actually was said, but the both the Chinese and North Korean governments touted "consensus" regarding the situation.


"North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and a top Chinese envoy Thursday touted 'consensus' between the communist allies regarding the region's worst crisis in years, official media reported.

"China's most senior foreign policymaker Dai Bingguo visited Pyongyang as pressure intensifies on Beijing to rein in its unruly ally, after North Korea's deadly shelling of a South Korean island inflamed tensions on the peninsula.

"'The two sides reached consensus on bilateral relations and the situation on the Korean peninsula after candid and in-depth talks,' said a brief report from China's Xinhua news agency, datelined Pyongyang.

"North Korea's official news agency said the delegations discussed 'issues of mutual concern' and efforts to improve friendly relations.

"It marked the first time that Kim has met a senior foreign official since the North's shock artillery attack on the South Korean island, and since his regime startled the world by showing off a sophisticated new nuclear programme.

"China is the isolated North's sole major ally and provides it with a crucial fuel and food lifeline.
But Beijing has come under increasing pressure from the United States and US allies to rein in North Korea following the incident, which was the first shelling of civilian areas in South Korea since the 1950-53 war.

"It has so far refused even to condemn the North for the November 23 artillery attack, which killed four people including two civilians.

"In Tokyo, the top US military officer Thursday accused China of aiding and abetting the hardline regime's 'reckless behaviour' as he touted a united defence front with South Korea and Japan against North Korea.

"'Northeast Asia is today more volatile than it has been in much of the last 50 years,' Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said.

"'Much of that volatility is owed to the reckless behaviour of the North Korean regime, enabled by their friends in China.'

"Mullen also said he felt a 'real sense of urgency' about building up three-way defence ties with Seoul and Tokyo. US forces have separately held major military drills with the two allies since North Korea's attack.

"The admiral has proposed three-way drills and said Thursday that any threat is 'much better addressed with all of us together, in terms of showing strength and getting to a point where we can deter North Korean behaviour'.

[...]

"The flare-up on the Korean peninsula has confronted Beijing with a wider diplomatic challenge, wrote Zhu Feng, deputy director of the Centre for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University.

"'Perceptions that China "protects" North Korea could lead to the emergence of a powerful Washington-Tokyo-Seoul axis directed not only against North Korea but also implicitly at China,' he said."

Oh to be a fly on the wall at that North Korea-China conference... China has so much to lose from North Korea and precious little to gain. China is absolutely reliant on continued good trade relations with the US, Japan, and Korea (all of whom have money), while North Korea costs them nothing but cash and resources. It'll be very interesting to see how relationships develop in the future. My bet is China will "strongly encourage" Kim Jong-un to modernize economically like China-- something that I think is fully beyond Kim Jong-un's capabilities. Following Kim Jong-il's stroke, it's hard to say who exactly is running North Korea, and I'm very skeptical that Kim Jong-un will be to rein in and unify North Korea's party factions.