Monday, April 18, 2011

ALG on S&P Downgrade of Outlook on U.S. Debt: Catastrophic Failure of Leadership in Washington


April 18th, 2011, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today issued the following statement on S&P’s decision to downgrade the outlook on U.S. debt to “negative”:

“Sovereign credit rating agencies have repeatedly warned the U.S. to get its fiscal house in order or else face a downgrade of its Triple-A credit rating. Now the agencies are preparing to do just that by taking the first step of downgrading the outlook on U.S. debt to negative. That means a full credit downgrade is now substantially more likely in the next year or two.

“The time for half-measures has long past. Credit rating agencies are through issuing warnings, and now are taking action. But elected leaders have not presented any budget to meet the challenge of an imminent credit downgrade. The Obama proposal will never balance the budget, and the House-passed budget will take 26 years to do so. We just don’t have that kind of time.

“With a $14.2 trillion gross national debt that will be larger than the entire economy by year’s end, growing to over $25 trillion by 2021, soon our obligations will become too large to refinance, let alone be repaid.

“S&P is explicitly telling us that ‘[b]ecause the U.S. has, relative to its ‘AAA’ peers, what we consider to be very large budget deficits and rising government indebtedness and the path to addressing these is not clear to us,’ that we do not match up to other Triple-A rated nations. They’re preparing to downgrade us, but we are not prepared to balance the budget any time soon. Today’s statement by S&P signifies a catastrophic failure of leadership in Washington that is risking the very solvency of the American people.”
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Obama’s Tax and Spend Irony

By Robert Romano
When he addressed students at George Washington University on the dire fiscal emergency facing the nation, Barack Obama attempted to lay blame for the $1.645 trillion budget deficit at the feet of tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003.

Obama said, “we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts — tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.”
There’s only one problem. It’s not true.

In 2007, with the current tax rates in place the budget deficit was $160.7 billion, but it is projected by the Office of Management and Budget to rise to $1.645 trillion this year. That’s a 923 percent increase, and it is adding velocity to the growth of the $14.2 trillion national debt.
Get full story here.

Sleepy Air Traffic Controllers Are In The Team Obama Spotlight

Video by Frank McCaffrey
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California Can Look Within its Borders for its Budget Answers

By Rebekah Rast
A state boasting the world’s eighth-largest economy now suffers from a 12.2 percent unemployment rate. What has happened to the once-booming state of California?

California Gov. Jerry Brown wants the answer to that question so he sent Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom to the state of Texas where 165,000 jobs have been created over the past three years.

Bloomberg quoted Gov. Brown saying, “Let’s get more jobs, more businesses. Some of our state legislators are going to Texas to find out how they’re doing. Gavin Newsom’s going with them. I’m waiting for his report, when he gets back, and if he has any good ideas, I’m going to share them with you.”

In a three-year time span, California has lost 1.15 million jobs. Bloomberg states, “While signature industries such as technology, trade and tourism have rebounded, construction and government employment are weak or falling” in the state.

But California didn’t need to go to Texas to get its answer. It only needed to look to another leader within its borders.
Get full story here.

Michael Moore Says We Need To Raise Taxes, Is The President Listening?

Video by Frank McCaffrey
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Will CNN Ever Choose a black Host for any of their Night time Slots?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

The New York Post has revealed that CNN is once again considering bringing in a person of color to one of their night time anchor spots. The move is long overdue, since black and brown people have been subject to the “All-white, all-night” phenomenon, where none of the major cable news networks have granted any of their nightly branded news spots to an African American host. This is nothing short of insulting, given that black people are very good at showing loyalty to those who don’t feel compelled to return the favor.
As John King is being taken to the carpet for his disappointing ratings in the 7 p.m. slot, CNN’s leadership is considering Soledad O’Brien as his replacement. Sure, Soledad isn’t everyone’s first pick, but she’s professional, talented and quite intelligent. She deserves to have a shot. All the while, I’d be remiss not to mention my respected friend Roland Martin, and other talented CNN personalities, like Richelle Carey, Don Lemmon, TJ Holmes, and Tony Harris (who just left for Al Jazeera English).
Click to read.

The Case of Rodney Stanberry: Incarcerated for a Crime He Did Not Commit

Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World
Rodney Stanberry was sent to prison for a murder that he didn’t commit.  There is currently an international campaign to secure Rodney’s freedom, as the Your Black World Coalition is joining forces with Rodney’s other supporters to convince the District Attorney to re-open Rodney’s case.  We’ll keep you updated on the situation as it evolves, but we encourage you to join the fight and find out the details for yourself.

Continue reading ‘The Case of Rodney Stanberry: Incarcerated for a Crime He Did Not Commit’

Video: Suicide bomber strikes Afghan ministry Al Jazeera

Mexico state police chief sacked

Mexican marines escort Martin Omar Estrada, alleged mastermind of 
the killings in San FernandoThe Mexican navy captured the alleged mastermind of the killings on Saturday
The Mexican state of Tamaulipas has dismissed its head of security following the discovery of 145 bodies in mass graves earlier this month. 

Former army Gen Ubaldo Ayala Tinoco has been replaced by another former soldier, Capt Rafael Lomeli Martinez.

The state governor said the new chief would improve coordination with the army and federal police in the fight against drugs gangs.

The killings have been blamed on the Zetas drug cartel.

More than 20 suspected cartel members have been arrested in connection with the killings, including the alleged mastermind of the massacre.

But 16 state policemen have also been arrested on suspicion of protecting the criminals.

Outgoing Tamaulipas security chief Gen Ayala said he was stepping down because the state government had failed to provide increased pay and better equipment for the state police.
Map of Tamaulipas, Mexico
His replacement, Capt Lomeli, was previously head of the Federal Police in Nuevo Leon, another northern border state where drug-related violence is rife.

He said he was committed to pacifying Tamaulipas, which is the scene of a bloody battle between the Zetas and the rival Gulf cartel, who are competing for control of drug smuggling routes into the US.

The mass graves containing 145 bodies were found in the municipality of San Fernando, near the US border.
Most of the victims are thought to have been abducted from long-distance buses travelling north to the US border.

The motive for the murders is unclear, but there is speculation the cartel gunmen may have killed men who refused to join their ranks.

The bodies of 72 Central and South American migrants were found in the same area last year.

On Saturday the Mexican navy captured Omar Martin Estrada – alias “El Kilo” – the suspected leader of the Zetas in San Fernando and alleged mastermind of the killings.

Forensic scientists have been working to identify the bodies, some of which have been taken to Mexico City.
Hundreds of people whose relatives have gone missing have gone to see if they can identify their family members among the dead.

The Mexican government says around 35,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon began deploying troops to fight the cartels in December 2006.

More than 5,000 people have been reported missing, according to Mexico’s human rights commission.

At Semi-Annual Meeting, World Bank/IMF Governors Focus on Food Prices

– News Desk : Rising food prices is a major challenge across the globe, which needs multilateral efforts to address it, World Bank President Robert Zoellick said.

“We may be coming out of one crisis – the financial and economic crisis – but we are facing new risks and wrenching challenges high and volatile food prices; high fuel prices with knock-on effects for food and, through food for stability; political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa; turmoil in Cote d’Ivoire; repeated natural disasters; rising inflation in emerging markets with some risks of overheating; sovereign debt issues in Europe,” Zoellick told reporters at a news conference in Washington on Thursday.

Noting that the high and volatile food price is the biggest threat to the poor around the world, he said the numbers tell a grim story of persistent grinding pressure on the world’s poor.

“Food prices were not the cause of the crises in the Middle East and North Africa, but they are an aggravating factor. Our latest Food Price Watch shows that there is double-digit food price inflation in Egypt and Syria. It shows that commodity price spikes particularly hurt poor countries,” he said.

Zoellick said data from 46 countries from 2007 to 2010 suggests that low and low-middle-income countries have experienced higher levels of food price inflation compared to upper-middle and high-income countries, particularly when international prices spike.

“With food prices, we are at a real tipping point. Food prices are 36 per cent above the levels of a year ago and remain close to the 2008 peak. Already 44 million people have fallen into poverty since June of last year,” he warned.

“If the Food Price Index rises by just another 10 per cent, we estimate another 10 million people will fall into extreme poverty that is where people live on less than USD 1.25 a day. A 30 per cent increase would add 34 million more people to the world’s poor, who number 1.2 billion,” he said.

Zoellick said the G20 can play a leading role in this.
“I believe multilateralism must be focused on doing real things in the short term while building toward mid and longer-term actions,” he said adding that France has made a top priority for its Presidency of the G20 the topic of food.

“We are working closely with the G20, and I believe we can take a number of important steps that will help in two key areas food price volatility and food security. We are going to be using these meetings with the G187 to help prepare the way,” he said.

Noting that more can be done on the production side, too, Zoellick said the World Bank is now investing about USD 7 billion a year in improving agricultural production, from seeds to irrigation to storage.
And we are investing all across the value chain.

“One area of focus is agricultural research helping to develop better seeds. We are discussing with France and the G20 about perhaps intersecting that with some of the anxieties about climate change and reviewing some of the research priorities as we boost support for the 15 key research centres in agricultural research around the globe,” he said.

Zoellick said these goals are achievable in coming months and he is looking for results at the meeting of G20 agriculture ministers in France in June.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the French and others to make this happen. One of the key areas related to the food situation is the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa. While there will be varying speed and scope to the initiatives in each country, the World Bank Group is focused on listening and helping countries move ahead,” he said.

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Term limits for Cuba

This is genuinely good news if it occurs. AP reports:
Raul Castro proposed term limits yesterday for Cuban politicians – including himself – a remarkable gesture on an island ruled for 52 years by him and his brother.
The 79-year-old President lamented the lack of young leaders in government, saying the country was paying the price for errors made in the past.
Castro told delegates to a crucial Communist Party summit he would launch a “systematic rejuvenation” of the Government.
He said politicians and other important officials should be restricted to two consecutive five-year terms, including “the current president of the Council of State and his ministers” – a reference to himself.
I think term limits are very valuable in stopping dictatorships. If someone is able to try and retain the top job forever, then they will try to – and the temptation to abuse the powers of the state to hang on is immense.
Think if there was no term limit for the US President. I hate to think what Presidents would do to try and win a third or fourth term.

Even in NZ, we saw the Electoral Finance Act as part of Clark’s strategy for a fourth term.
If NZ had a four year term, then I’d propose a maximum five terms for any MP, and a maximum two terms for the office of Prime Minister. If MPs knew there was a finite amount of time they could serve, I think it would encourage more focus on what they achieve during that time, rather than how long they can stay on for.

Egypt, predictably, begins to go the way of radical Islam

Author: Bruce McQuain
Damien McElroy in Cairo, reporting for the UK Telegraph, has the following observations:
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamic movement and the founder of Hamas, has set up a network of political parties around the country that eclipse the following of the middle class activists that overthrew the regime. On the extreme fringe of the Brotherhood, Islamic groups linked to al-Qeada are organising from the mosques to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the dictatorship.
The military-led government already faces accusations that it is bowing to the surge in support for the Muslim movements, something that David Cameron warned of in February when he said Egyptian democracy would be strongly Islamic.
{feigned surprise} Oh, my, who’d have thought that could happen?  Only the terminally naïve or those with no understanding of the area or human nature would have figured otherwise. 

Power vacuums produce opportunities for others to fill them.  The US helped create that vacuum by insisting Hosni Mubarak must step down. 

Usually, as we’ve mentioned here any number of times, the most organized and ruthless succeed in filling such power vacuums.  And that’s precisely the case in Egypt where Islam in general is as pervasive as the air breathed there and the Muslim Brotherhood, while never allowed to be in power previously, was the most organized of the groups with the potential to fill the power vacuum.

And that is coming to fruition.  Not just in an Islamic sense, but in an Islamist sense as well.  The Muslim factions are poised to take over and control any government voted in by the public and do it in a big way:
Mohammed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, last week predicted the group’s candidates would win 75 per cent of the seats it contested.
Fundamentalist factions have also emerged as parties. Gamaa al-Islamiya, an al-Qaeda linked group that promotes Salafist traditions has used its mosques as a political base for the first time since the 1970s.
Egypt attempted in the past – however oppressive that effort was – to keep a largely secular government, at least by Middle Eastern standards.  And that was to our benefit and certainly to the benefit of the region.  It produced the peace treaty with Israel and ushered in a few decades of relatively peaceful times in the Middle East.  That’s pretty much likely to go by the wayside soon.  This next government will be steeped in Islam if not a good measure of Islamism.  That has been ordained by the first “democratic” vote in Egypt:
A scare campaign that a No vote in last months referendum would eliminate Islamic law from the Egyptian constitution ensured a 77 per cent Yes result.
As for those who participated in the April 6th movement and want a more secular and democratic Egypt?  Well, again, the best organized is the most likely to succeed, right?  And they have little or no organization:
But the April 6th movement that spearheaded protests has no clear plan for party politics. Diplomats have warned the demonstrators are not well prepared for elections.
"The leadership of the protests was so focused on the street-by-street detail of the revolution, they have no clue what to do in a national election," said a US official involved in the demonstrations. "Now at dinner the protesters can tell me every Cairo street that was important in the revolution but not how they will take power in Egypt."
Entirely predictable and clearly not in the best interest of the US – which calls into question the administration’s decision not to back Mubarak but call for his ouster.  The result is an unintended consequence one assumes – we backed a faction that we knew little about, which has had little impact since and now we’re going to see results that we don’t want and are not in the best interests of the US or peace in the region.  The same could be said about Libya.

Finally, don’t be fooled by the “independent” status of Egyptian political candidates for the Presidency there.  Their independence is in name only as they must court the factions that are likely to hold power in any legislature that forms.
Although the leading contenders for Egypt’s presidency are independents, many have begun wooing the Muslim blocs. Front-runner Amr Moussa, the Arab League president, has conceded that its inevitable that Islamic factions will be the bedrock of the political system.
Of course they will and that means, inevitably, that Egypt will eventually revoke its treaty with Israel thereby setting the peace process back to square one.

Yes, this has been beautifully played by the President and the State Department.  If naiveté in foreign affairs was ever more  evident than now, I’m having difficulty remembering it (Jimmy Carter is as close as it comes, and they’re making even him look competent).

Staying human: The legacy of Vittorio Arrigoni

By Ramzy Baroud

"Dear Mary," wrote Italian justice activist Vittorio Arrigoni to a friend. "Do you [know who] will be on the boats?... I'm still in Gaza, waiting for you. I will be at the boat to greet you. Stay human. Vik."

"Mary" is Mary Hughes Thompson, a dedicated activist who braved the high seas to break the Israeli siege on Gaza in 2008.

Vittorio Arrigoni, or Vik, was reportedly murdered by a fundamentalist group in Gaza a few hours after he was kidnapped on Thursday, April 14. The killing was supposedly in retaliation for Hamas' crackdown on this group's members. All who knew Vik will attest to the fact that he was an extraordinary person, a model of compassion, solidarity and humanity.

Arrigoni's body was discovered in an abandoned house hours after he was kidnapped. His murderers didn't honor their own deadline of 30 hours. The group, known as the Tawhid and Jihad, is one of the fringe groups known in Gaza as the Salafis. They resurface under different names and manifestations, for specific - and often bloody - purposes.

"The killing prompted grief in Gaza, but also despair," read an op-ed in the UK Independent on April 16. "Not only was Arrigoni well known and well liked there, but it escaped no one that this kidnapping was the first since that of the BBC journalist Alan Johnson in 2007."

However, Johnson's kidnappers, the so-called Army of Islam (a small group of fanatics affiliated with a large Gaza clan) held their hostage for 114 days. There was plenty of time to organize and pressure the criminals to release him. In Arrigoni's case, merely a few hours stood between the release of a horrifying video showing a blindfolded and bruised activist and the finding of his motionless body. The forensic report said that he was strangled. His friends said that he was tortured.

Vittorio Arrigoni's murder was an opportunity for Israel's supporters. Daniel Pipes wrote, in a brief entry in the National Review Online: "Note the pattern of Palestinians who murder the groupies and apologists who join them to aid in their dream of eliminating Israel." Pipes named three individuals, including the Palestinian-Israeli filmmaker, Juliano Mer-Khamis, and Arrigoni himself, and then proceeded to invite readers to "send in further examples that I may have missed".

Pipes' list, however, will have no space for such names as Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and James Miller, for these individuals were all murdered by Israeli forces. Pipes will also fail to mention the nine Turkish activists murdered aboard the Mavi Marmara ship on its way to break the siege on Gaza in May 2010, and the nine activists abroad Irene (the Jewish Boat to Gaza) who were intercepted, kidnapped and humiliated by Israeli troops before being deported outside the country in September 2010. The 82-year-old Reuben Moscowitz, a Holocaust survivor, was one of the activists aboard the Irene, as was Lillian Rosengarten, an American "who fled the Nazis as a child in Frankfurt," according to a New York Times blog.

The people Pipes failed to mention truly represent a rainbow of humanity. Men and women of all ages, races and nationalities have stood and will continue to stand on the side of the Palestinians. But this story has selectively ignored pseudo-intellectuals intent on dismissing humanity to uphold Israel. They refuse to see the patterns in front of them, as they are too busy concocting their own.

Writing in the UK Guardian from Rome, on April 15, John Hooper said, "Arrigoni's life was anything but safe. In September 2008 he was injured (by Israeli troops) accompanying Palestinian fishermen at sea. Two years ago he received a death threat from a US far-right website that provided any would-be killers with a photo and details of distinguishing physical traits, such as a tattoo on his shoulder."

The group that murdered Arrigoni, like others of its kind, existed for one specific, violent episode before disappearing altogether. The mission in this case was to kill an International Solidarity Mission (ISM) activist who dedicated years of his life to Palestine. Shortly before he was kidnapped, he wrote in this website of the "criminal" Israeli siege on Gaza. He also mourned the four impoverished Palestinians who died in a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt boarder while hauling food and other goods.

Before his murder, Arrigoni was anticipating the arrival of another flotilla - carrying activists from 25 countries boarding 15 ships - that is scheduled to sail to Gaza in May. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adamantly called on European Union countries to prevent their nationals from jointing the boats. "I think it's in your and our common interest… that this flotilla must be stopped," he told European representatives in Jerusalem, according to an AFP report on April 11.

Israeli officials are angry at the internationals who are "de-legitimizing" the state of Israel by standing in solidarity with the Palestinians. Arrigoni has done so much to harm the carefully fabricated image of Israel as an island of democracy and progress. Along with other activists, he has shattered this myth through simple means of communication.

Vik signed his messages with "Stay human". His book, detailing his experiences in Gaza, was entitled Restiamo Umani (Let Us Remain Human). Mary Hughes Thompson shared with me some the emails Arrigoni sent her. "I can hardly bear to read them again," she wrote. This is an extract from one of them:

"No matter how (we) will finish the mission… it will be a victory. For human rights, for freedom. If the siege will not (be) physically broken, it will break the siege of the indifference, the abandonment. And you know very well what this gesture is important for the people of Gaza. That said, obviously we are waiting at the port! With hundreds of Palestinians and ISM comrades we will come to meet you sailing, as was the first time, remember? All available boats will sail to Gaza to greet you. Sorry for my bad English… big hug… Stay Human. Yours, Vik"

Vik's killers failed to see his humanity. But many of us will always remember, and we will continue trying to "stay human".

Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on

(Copyright Ramzy Baroud, 2011)

Super Head Karrine Steffans, Family Matters Problems Darius McCrary Is A Window Creeper

This woman goes from one bad relationship to another and problems seem to plague her.  Eddie Winslow's ex-wife just obtained ANOTHER restraining order against the ex-"Family Matters" star -- after the actor allegedly showed up to her house several times and harassed her through a window.

It's the latest TRO in a legal firestorm between Darius McCrary and his ex Karrine Steffans -- according to the docs filed recently in L.A. County Superior Court, the actor began showing up at Karrine's house unannounced in January ... and it freaked Karrine out.

According to the docs, Darius would regularly bypass security in her gated community by sneaking through a rear entrance -- and sit outside her home to wait for her to return. Karrine claims Darius would then call her and ask her to "look outside of [her] window" -- where Darius was peering inside.

According to the Karrine, the harassment even spilled over onto the Internet -- claiming Darius sent her an email, stating, "You should do the world a favor and kill yourself." Calls to Darius weren't returned.

Killer tornadoes claim 44 lives across southern US states

Killer tornadoes claim 44 lives across southern US states

Environment News Service: From Thursday through Saturday, tornadoes ripped across communities of the southern United States from Oklahoma to North Carolina leaving at least 44 people dead in their wake. A total of 241 tornadoes in 14 states were reported over the three-day period.

This tornado outbreak ranks "among the largest in history," said Accuweather meteorologist Meghan Evans. Late Saturday night, the storms moved offshore, and the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma is forecasting no organized areas of severe thunderstorms across the country today.

The deadly storms first struck Thursday in Oklahoma, where two people were killed. As they blew across the country seven people died in Alabama; seven people in Arkansas; seven in Virginia; and one in Mississippi, officials said.

In North Carolina, the state hardest hit, the estimated death toll has been revised down to 22 from 23, according to unconfirmed reports from communities across North Carolina. About 130 people are reported as injured, with most transported to hospitals for care.

A large tornado whirled through downtown Raleigh, North Carolina's capital city, on Saturday, cutting a wide swath of destruction. Governor Bev Perdue has declared a state of emergency for North Carolina, putting the state's emergency management plan into action and providing financial resources for communities affected by the storms….

Bill Reckert took this 1998 photo after the 1998 North Carolina tornado in Stoneville, NC

iPad News: Congressman Blames iPad for Unemployment

Nobody ever said our elected representatives were all brilliant, or even sane, but this statement by one Congressman just boggles the mind.
20110417 unemployed iPad News: Congressman Blames iPad for 

It’s pretty obvious from observing the actions of some members of Congress that they lack any sense of how the government operates, but one of them also seems to have slept through economics class in high school.
While speaking out on the nation’s unemployment crisis on Friday, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) stated that the iPad “was probably responsible for eliminating thousands of American jobs.” How did he come to this earth-shaking conclusion? In reference to the bankruptcy of Borders Books, Jackson said, “Why do you need to go to Borders anymore? Why do you need to go to Barnes and Noble? Just buy an iPad and download your book, download your newspaper, download your magazine.”

The Congressman also found fault with Chicago State University’s plan to replace textbooks with iPads to achieve a “textbookless campus within four years.” What’s his beef with this? “What becomes of publishing companies and publishing company jobs. What becomes of bookstores and librarians and all of the jobs associated with paper? Well, in the not-too-distant future, such jobs simply won’t exist.”

Jackson’s next complaint was that iPads are being produced outside the U.S. “The iPad is produced in China. It’s not produced here in the United States. [...] There is no protection for jobs here in America to ensure that the American people are being put to work.”

OK, there are several fallacies at work here, Congressman. The major one was addressed by Business Insider, which answered Jackson’s theories thusly: “Obviously he ignores all the wealth the iPad has created in America, and the fact that there are all kinds of other jobs that have been created around the iPad [...]”
He also failed to look very deeply into the reasons for Borders’ bankruptcy, like high prices and competition from Amazon. As for those publishing companies, aren’t they keeping pretty busy producing e-books for the Kindle, Nook and iPad?