Archive for February, 2011

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he will form an exploratory committee for a potential 2012 bid and could make his intentions known in as little as two weeks, according to reports.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Saturday that Randy Evans, the lawyer in charge of Gingrich’s business interests, said Gingrich would announce the formation of a presidential exploratory committee within “the next 10 days.” Evans was Gingrich’s lawyer during his divorce proceedings in 1999.

Gingrich also told an audience in Florida on Friday that he was within two weeks of making a decision as to whether he would run for president, according to The Palm Beach Post.

In a statement to the Post, Gingrich’s press secretary Rick Tyler wrote, “We have said for weeks now that Newt will decide whether or not to move to an explore phase by late February/early March. We are sticking to that schedule. In response to what has been said: Newt will make up his mind in his time.”

Gingrich has been openly mulling a presidential bid for months, and his fundraising acumen, combined with is relatively favorable standing among early polls could make him a formidable candidate. In October, the Post’s Karen Tumulty reported that Gingrich had begun “transitioning” his four businesses so that they would not become political impediments. And the Post’s Dan Eggen outlined in January that much of Gingrich’s financial status remains unknown – something that could complicate matters for a candidate Gingrich under the presidential klieg lights.

The Post’s Chris Cillizza reported in early February that Gingrich could be among the most underrated candidates in the field of potential 2012 candidates.


UN Security Council Chamber in New York.

Image via Wikipedia

Critics howled with derision at the UN Security Council‘s response to the bloodshed in Libya this week.

An emergency session produced no action, not even a legally binding resolution: only the Council’s weakest form of expression, a press statement.

Here at the UN, however, Western diplomats were flush with the triumph of finally getting the Council to address at least one of the revolts in the Middle East. One called it the “strongest statement in years”.

‘Protecting peace’

That difference reflects the enormous gap in perception between the public and the diplomats over how the UN works and what it can do.

The Security Council was set up in 1945 to “protect international peace and security,” which at the time essentially meant preventing another world war.

Some Council members – China and Russia in particular – still hold to a narrow definition of what threats deserve UN attention.

In the case of Libya, they see a tyrant accused of killing his people as a domestic, if bloody, affair.

Others, like the European states, see the prospect of refugees flooding across borders as an international threat.

They also argue the Security Council’s role has evolved to include a “responsibility to protect” civilians from murderous governments.

But Council diplomats put great stock in sending a “unified message”.

They strive to achieve consensus among all 15 members, and they have to avoid a veto by one of the five permanent members – Britain, France, Russia, China and America.

So the Security Council tends to settle on the lowest common denominator.

That is why its responses are often bemoaned as inadequate by the world, but hailed by insiders as hard-fought achievements.

Still, we haven’t heard the last word from the Council on Libya yet. Western nations are pushing for action, not just statements.

That could include mandating safe passages for humanitarian goods, an arms embargo, sanctions, an investigation into alleged atrocities, the deployment of peacekeepers, a no-fly zone to protect civilians from regime air strikes, and/or military intervention.

Western intervention

But which of the steps listed above is likely to happen?

Military intervention can be safely ruled out: It is so complex and controversial that the Council has only twice taken that route – Korea in 1950 and Iraq in 1991.

Sending in peacekeepers, too, is a non-starter – typically, they are deployed to fortify existing truces or borders (not to fight) at the request of the government of a strife-torn country.

Instituting a “no-fly zone” over Libya enforced by fighter jets is also most unlikely. Council members are wary of such Western-led military measures after their experience in Iraq.

Authorising an investigation into Col Gaddafi’s violent crackdown is more feasible, but New York will almost certainly wait to see what comes out of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which is currently debating such a measure.

Such a probe could prompt the Security Council to refer Libya to the International Criminal Court for a war crimes investigation, but that is not an easy step: Only Sudan has received such treatment, and some Council diplomats believe that was counter productive.

The concept of a humanitarian corridor has been tossed around, but no one’s very clear on what that would entail.

Some talk about asking neighbouring countries to ease border restrictions to facilitate convoys, although that seems to be happening already.

Perhaps the Security Council would formally endorse that step. UN humanitarian agencies are already poised to take their own action.

That leaves us with an arms embargo and sanctions targeting Col Gaddafi’s entourage and key members of the military and elite.

These might send a “political signal” that would encourage defection from the Colonel’s ranks, says a UN diplomat.

If the Security Council does authorise action, these last are the most likely options.

But before that, we may very well get more words – a more authoritative, tougher statement.

The Libyan revolt has put the UN under the spotlight, partly because the collapse of the state threatens a fallout more dangerous than that from the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, but also because European nations on the Security Council are under public pressure to be seen as doing something.

The trick is to win agreement from all Council members on something that is not dismissed as meaningless by people in the West, the region, and above all in Libya.

Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama spoke Thursday with the leaders of France, Italy and the United Kingdom on coordinating an international response to the crisis in Libya, the White House said.

In separate phone conversations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and British Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama “expressed his deep concern with the Libyan government‘s use of violence which violates international norms and every standard of human decency, and discussed appropriate and effective ways for the international community to immediately respond,” the White House statement said.

While some critics say the Obama administration has been slow to react to the deteriorating situation in Libya, the statement said Thursday’s discussions were to “coordinate our urgent efforts to respond to developments and ensure that there is appropriate accountability.”

“The leaders discussed the range of options that both the United States and European countries are preparing to hold the Libyan government accountable for its actions, as well as planning for humanitarian assistance,” the White House statement said.

U.S. officials have said all options were under consideration, including sanctions and enforcement of a no-fly zone, to try to stop the Libyan government from attacking protesters.

A statement by the French Embassy said Obama discussed steps the United States plans to take regarding Libya in his phone call with Sarkozy.

“President Sarkozy presented the measures currently being examined by the European Union at his behest, and which he hopes will be swiftly adopted,” the statement said. “President Obama presented the measures that the United States plans on taking.”

Earlier Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that a range of options were being discussed, but he refused to provide details or specify those receiving the most consideration.

Carney said the goals of any U.S. response were to protect American citizens in Libya and compel the Libyan government to stop attacking its own people.

“What we have said is we’re not going to specify which options are on or off the table. We’re discussing a full range of options,” Carney told reporters, adding that it was likely any action would be in concert with the international community.

“We’re interested in outcomes,” Carney said. “We’re interested in taking measures that will actually have the desired effect, which is getting the Libyan government to stop” killing its own people.

On Wednesday, Obama strongly condemned the use of violence on protesters in Libya and said a unified international response was forming.

“The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable,” Obama said in his strongest and most direct statements to date on the unrest in Libya. “So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.”

Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama said Libya’s government “must be held accountable” for its failure to meet its responsibilities, and he emphasized a growing international chorus of condemnation against the situation.

Clinton will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday to join a Human Rights Council meeting. The group, part of the United Nations, is negotiating a resolution on Libya, according to European diplomats who spoke to CNN.

Among the elements under consideration for the resolution are a call on Libya to protect its citizens, condemnation of the violence and a demand for an international inquiry and access for humanitarian groups.

The president’s public statement before television cameras Wednesday was considered part of an administration effort to counter impressions of inaction and presidential silence involving Libya, with U.S. officials saying the government is considering a range of options to pressure Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Meanwhile, the United States has been struggling to evacuate its own citizens from the country. On Tuesday, the Libyan government refused permission for a U.S. charter to land in Tripoli.

A chartered ferry with 285 people aboard, including 40 nonessential U.S. Embassy employees and family members, 127 American citizens and 118 citizens of other countries, was docked in Tripoli awaiting a break in the weather to travel to Malta, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday.

A small earthquake off East Oahu shook residents around the island this afternoon but did not cause a tsunami.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported the 3.6-magnitude quake hit at 2:12 p.m. After initial confusion over the exact location, the USGS said it was centered 11.8 miles deep, 22 miles east-southeast of Honolulu and 34 miles west of Kaunakakai.

It was originally reported by the USGS as a 3.3 magnitude quake centered about 80 miles southeast of Honolulu at a depth of 4.2 miles at 2:12 p.m., but the USGS later revised its report.

Victor Sardina, a geophysicist with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, said the initial report was inaccurate, possibly because of the scarcity of seismic recording instruments on Oahu.

Scientists don’t know what caused the quake, but say it may have been set off by the ocean floor flexing under the island’s weight.

The warning center reported receiving calls from people in Hawaii Kai, Kailua, and Honolulu. Residents from East Oahu to Manoa reported their homes rattling for several seconds.

People reported feeling the shaking 40 miles away at Schofield Barracks, and 161 miles away in Kula, Maui, according to the USGS.

In his latest remarks, embattled Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi blamed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for the uprising in his country, hours after pro-government forces attacked a mosque in the city of Zawiya, killing at least 15 people and wounding 150 others.

During his comments, which were made to state television over the phone on Thursday, Gadhafi said the protesters are “loyal to bin Laden.”

He claimed the terrorist group was placing “hallucinogenic pills” to teenagers in their morning coffee and besieged parents to keep better control of their teenage children.

“This is al Qaeda and the whole world is fighting,” Gadhafi said. “You have no reason not to enjoy a peaceful life, get control of your children, keep them at home. Those young teenagers, they are carrying machine guns and they feel trigger happy.”

The autocratic, 68-year-old Libyan ruler is facing a massive popular uprising of opponents calling for his departure. So far he has steadfastly vowed not to leave and said he will die a martyr on Libyan soil rather than flee his country.

But he appears to have lost control of the eastern half of Libya. Several diplomats, ministers and military officers have turned on their leader — including a high-ranking cousin. Gadhafi’s authority may now extend only as far as the capital of Tripoli and its surrounding towns, to the southern desert and to some less populated central areas of the country.

In his televised comments, Gadhafi also expressed condolences for those killed in Zawiya hours earlier, when his supporters attacked opponents at a mosque in the city east of the capital.

But he also chided residents for getting involved in the rebellion.

Jeffrey Kofman, an ABC reporter reached in Ben Gardane, Tunisia, said Tripoli and the western parts of the country, where Gadhafi is struggling to maintain control, are experiencing a “campaign of ruthless intimidation” from Gadhafi’s supporters.

He said many of the mercenaries are from other countries, have no connection to Libya, and have been brought in to serve as a brutal militia. Vehicles full of armed men are roaming the streets shooting at random.

“It could be just a matter of days before Gadhafi falls. On the other hand he’s a determined guy with a lot of guns and he could hang on for a long time. A lot of people could die before this is resolved,” Kofman told CTV news Channel.

The situation in Tripoli is becoming desperate, Kofman said. While foreigners have been told to travel to the airport to depart the country, getting there could be fatal.

On the other hand, those who are holed up indoors are beginning to run out of food. Kofman said there are reports that the capital is out of baby formula, and mothers are feeding their children watered-down cow’s milk as an alternative.

Libya’s economy — almost entirely based on its oil reserves — is largely dependent on the estimated one million foreigners who live there, Kofman said. But many have been fleeing the unrest.

According to medical officials, at least15 people were killed in Thursday’s clashes, with at least another 150 wounded. But it is difficult to accurately gauge the number of dead due to government-imposed media restrictions and communication black-outs.

The attack in Zawiya prompted thousands of protesters to flood into the town’s central Martyrs Square, shouting for Gadhafi to leave.

“People came to send a clear message: We are not afraid of death or your bullets,” one witness told The Associated Press.

Paul Heinbecker, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations and a distinguished fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, said the only thing that will save lives in the North African country is military intervention.

One option would be to impose a no-fly zone on Libyan airspace to prevent the country’s air force from strafing or bombing protesters on the streets.

Heinbecker said there appear to be NATO airbases “within striking distance” of Libya, which would make enforcing a no-fly zone possible.

The United Nations Security Council has issued a statement on the situation. But Heinbecker described its wording as “not very strong,” raising doubts about whether the decision-making body would authorize military intervention to prevent further bloodshed.

“It may not be possible to get the UN to approve military intervention,” he told CTV News Channel, because member countries such as Russia and China — which enjoy veto privileges on the Security Council — “always worry about the precedent it might set for themselves.”

Hmmmmmm saw this story on the Washington post and part of me agrees and part of me does not..Gusse that is the hardships of being an independent..


Vice President Biden, an avowed friend of good government, is giving it a bad name. With great fanfare, he went to Philadelphia last week to announce that the Obama administration proposes spending $53 billion over six years to construct a “national high-speed rail system.” Translation: The administration would pay states $53 billion to build rail networks that would then lose money – lots – thereby aggravating the budget squeezes of the states or federal government, depending on which covered the deficits.

There’s something wildly irresponsible about the national government undermining states’ already poor long-term budget prospects by plying them with grants that provide short-term jobs. Worse, the rail proposal casts doubt on the administration’s commitment to reducing huge budget deficits. The president’s 2012 budget is due Monday. How can it subdue deficits if it keeps proposing big spending programs?

High-speed rail would definitely be big. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has estimated the administration’s ultimate goal – bringing high-speed rail to 80 percent of the population – could cost $500 billion over 25 years. For this stupendous sum, there would be scant public benefits. Precisely the opposite. Rail subsidies would threaten funding for more pressing public needs: schools, police, defense.

How can we know this? History, for starters.

Passenger rail service inspires wishful thinking. In 1970, when Congress created Amtrak to preserve intercity passenger trains, the idea was that the system would become profitable and self-sustaining after an initial infusion of federal money. This never happened. Amtrak has swallowed $35 billion in subsidies, and they’re increasing by more than $1 billion annually.

Despite the subsidies, Amtrak does not provide low-cost transportation. Longtime critic Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute recently planned a trip from Washington to New York. Noting that fares on Amtrak’s high-speed Acela start at $139 one-way, he decided to take a private bus service. The roundtrip fare: $21.50. Nor does Amtrak do much to relieve congestion, cut oil use, reduce pollution or eliminate greenhouse gases. Its traffic volumes are simply too small to matter.

In 2010, Amtrak carried 29.1 million passengers for the entire year. That’s about 4 percent of annual air travel (2010 estimate: 725 million passengers). It’s also roughly a quarter of daily automobile commuters (124 million in 2008). Measured by passenger-miles traveled, Amtrak represents one-tenth of 1 percent of the national total.

Rail buffs argue that subsidies for passenger service simply offset the huge government support of highways and airways. The subsidies “level the playing field.” Wrong. In 2004, the Transportation Department evaluated federal transportation subsidies from 1990 to 2002. It found passenger rail service had the highest subsidy ($186.35 per thousand passenger-miles) followed by mass transit ($118.26 per thousand miles). By contrast, drivers received no net subsidy; their fuel taxes more than covered federal spending. Subsidies for airline passengers were about $5 per thousand miles traveled. (All figures are in inflation-adjusted year 2000 dollars.)

High-speed rail would transform Amtrak’s small drain into a much larger drain. Once built, high-speed rail systems would face a dilemma. To recoup initial capital costs – construction and train purchases – ticket prices would have to be set so high that few people would choose rail. But lower prices, even with favorable passenger loads, might not cover costs. Government would be stuck with huge subsidies. Even without recovering capital costs, high-speed rail systems would probably run in the red. Most mass-transit systems, despite high ridership, routinely have deficits.

The reasons passenger rail service doesn’t work in America are well-known: Interstate highways shorten many trip times; suburbanization has fragmented destination points; air travel is quicker and more flexible for long distances (if fewer people fly from Denver to Los Angeles and more go to Houston, flight schedules simply adjust). Against history and logic is the imagery of high-speed rail as “green” and a cutting-edge technology.

It’s a triumph of fancy over fact. Even if ridership increased fifteenfold over Amtrak levels, the effects on congestion, national fuel consumption and emissions would still be trivial. Land-use patterns would change modestly, if at all; cutting 20 minutes off travel times between New York and Philadelphia wouldn’t much alter real estate development in either. Nor is high-speed rail a technology where the United States would likely lead; European and Asian firms already dominate the market.

Governing ought to be about making wise choices. What’s disheartening about the Obama administration’s embrace of high-speed rail is that it ignores history, evidence and logic. The case against it is overwhelming. The case in favor rests on fashionable platitudes. High-speed rail is not an “investment in the future”; it’s mostly a waste of money. Good government can’t solve all our problems, but it can at least not make them worse.


The mainstream media does not cover the full extent of the damage the Obama Administration has inflicted on this country. Even FOX News often doesn’t have the time to go into sufficient depth to explain what is happening.

From our friend Ruth S. King comes a chart which all of us should read and absorb, sobering though it may be:

  January 2009 Today % chg Source
Avg. retail price/gallon gas in U.S. $1.83 $3.104 69.6% 1
Crude oil, European Brent (barrel) $43.48 $99.02 127.7% 2
Crude oil, West TX Inter. (barrel) $38.74 $91.38 135.9% 2
Gold: London (per troy oz.) $853.25 $1,369.50 60.5% 2
Corn, No.2 yellow, Central IL $3.56 $6.33 78.1% 2
Soybeans, No. 1 yellow, IL $9.66 $13.75 42.3% 2
Sugar, cane, raw, world, lb. fob $13.37 $35.39 164.7% 2
Unemployment rate, non-farm, overall 7.6% 9.4% 23.7% 3
Unemployment rate, blacks 12.6% 15.8% 25.4% 3
Number of unemployed 11,616,000 14,485,000 24.7% 3
Number of fed. employees, ex. military (curr = 12/10 prelim) 2,779,000 2,840,000 2.2% 3
Real median household income (2008 v 2009) $50,112 $49,777 -0.7% 4
Number of food stamp recipients (curr = 10/10) 31,983,716 43,200,878 35.1% 5
Number of unemployment benefit recipients (curr = 12/10) 7,526,598 9,193,838 22.2% 6
Number of long-term unemployed 2,600,000 6,400,000 146.2% 3
Poverty rate, individuals (2008 v 2009) 13.2% 14.3% 8.3% 4
People in poverty in U.S. (2008 v 2009) 39,800,000 43,600,000 9.5% 4
U.S. rank in Economic Freedom World Rankings 5 9 n/a 10
Present Situation Index (curr = 12/10) 29.9 23.5 -21.4% 11
Failed banks (curr = 2010 + 2011 to date) 140 164 17.1% 12
U.S. dollar versus Japanese yen exchange rate 89.76 82.03 -8.6% 2
U.S. money supply, M1, in billions (curr = 12/10 prelim) 1,575.1 1,865.7 18.4% 13
U.S. money supply, M2, in billions (curr = 12/10 prelim) 8,310.9 8,852.3 6.5% 13
National debt, in trillions $10.627 $14.052 32.2% 14

Just take this last item: In the last two years we have accumulated national debt at a rate more than 27 times as fast as during the rest of our entire nation’s history. Over 27 times as fast! Metaphorically, speaking, if you are driving in the right lane doing 65 MPH and a car rockets past you in the left lane 27 times faster . . . it would be doing 1,755 MPH!

(1) U.S. Energy Information Administration; (2) Wall Street Journal; (3) Bureau of Labor Statistics; (4) Census Bureau; (5) USDA; (6) U.S. Dept. of Labor; (7) FHFA; (8) Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller; (9) RealtyTrac; (10) Heritage Foundation and WSJ; (11) The Conference Board; (12) FDIC; (13) Federal Reserve; (14) U.S. Treasury

In our new book, Revolt! (Due out March 1 – you can pre-order autographed copies now at we explain how Obama has wrecked our economy and chart a path to reverse the damage and defeat him in 2012.