HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- For reasons not altogether clear to me, only brief snippets of Fox News Channel's broadcasts are carried on the satellite signals available on U.S. military installations here in Afghanistan. That means that if I want to watch the news over here, it has to be one of the "major network" shows carried on the American Forces Network -- or the 24/7 broadcasts of CNN International and Al-Jazeera.
That's how thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines assigned to these bases learned that their commander in chief was holding "backyard conversations" in lieu of campaign rallies this election season. And that's where they heard him talk about how "difficult" the war in Afghanistan has become, how "challenging" and "uncertain" it is, and how the outcome cannot be "a sure thing."
Here's some news, Mr. Obama: All wars are "difficult" and "challenging." Most armed engagements are "uncertain" while they are happening. And few are ever "a sure thing" between start and finish. No one I have met here on this visit to these battlefields is prepared to hoist a "Mission Accomplished" banner. But the U.S., allied and Afghan National Security Forces personnel we have talked to on this "embed" overwhelmingly believe we are winning. Perhaps more importantly, it doesn't help the morale or motivation of our troops, our allies or the Afghan populace -- but it does encourage our adversaries -- when the president of the United States is consistently ambivalent about the prospects for victory in this war.
It should be expected in this day and age that the so-called "mainstream media" will prognosticate disaster at every turn. That's what happened during the campaign in Mesopotamia. The potentates of the press told us Iraq was on the brink of civil war and forecast an irreparable sectarian upheaval. They were blind to the Sunni "Awakening" in Anbar province during 2006. Then they ignored the spreading nationalist movement when it was embraced by the Shiite tribes along the Tigris River basin. And now they are wrong about prospects in Afghanistan. All the more reason for our nation's leader to sing a different tune and use his bully pulpit to extol what is being accomplished here in the shadow of the Hindu Kush.
Our Fox News' "War Stories" team once again has traveled the length and breadth of this country -- accompanying U.S., coalition and ANSF troops and police on operations in some of the most inhospitable, difficult and dangerous terrain on the planet. We have met, interviewed and gone on lengthy missions with them. We have seen them bloodied, bandaged and evacuated to hospitals -- and we have seen and documented the successes being won daily by Americans, Afghans and the troops and trainers from nearly four dozen allied nations. They are all volunteers to this fight. None of them would be in it -- not even the much-maligned Afghan soldiers and police -- if they didn't think they could win.
In the week since our second report, we have been in the field with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment and 1st Battalion, 8th Marines in Helmand province. In places such as Now Zad and Marjah, where Marines once encountered only Taliban insurgents and hostility, they patrol the streets alongside Afghan police and soldiers -- and scores of children. We spent the better part of a day at the Afghan army and police noncommissioned officer academy, documenting how U.S. and International Security Assistance Force "mentoring" and "partnering" programs with Afghan units are paying off.
Little to none of this ever gets reported in the U.S. media. But the video of fuel trucks burning in Pakistan and allegations of U.S. military misfeasance or even malfeasance in an engagement gets replayed countless times on U.S. television broadcasts. Not even Al-Jazeera beats this drum harder or more often.
Thursday morning, we observed the ninth anniversary of the start of this war by accompanying a combined American, Afghan and ISAF special operations task force on a raid to take down a major opium transshipment point within sight of the Pakistani border. The operation netted more than 275 pounds of processed heroin, more than 150 pounds of morphine base, about 35 gallons of opium processing chemicals, about 45 pounds of hashish, weapons, ammunition and hand grenades. Taliban thugs relying on cash from this contraband were surely disappointed by the deafening explosion that destroyed the haul.
And here's the kicker: Two members of the raid force were women -- a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent partnered with an Afghan National Interdiction Unit female officer. That's a sign of progress in this war that couldn't be found just six months ago.
We shouldn't expect our media elites to mention such "trivial details." But it would be nice if our commander in chief would occasionally take note of these positive changes instead of constantly bemoaning how "difficult" this fight is for him.
Nobel literature prize goes to a conservative!
Peruvian writer and one-time presidential candidate Mario Vargas Llosa, a chronicler of human struggles against authoritarian power in Latin America, won the 2010 Nobel prize for literature on Thursday.
An outstanding member of the a generation of writers that led a resurgence in Latin American literature in the 1960s, Vargas Llosa was a champion of the left in his youth and later evolved into an outspoken conservative, a shift that infuriated much of Latin America's leftist intelligentsia.
"I hope they gave it to me more for my literary work and not my political opinions," the 74-year-old author said at a news conference in New York.
"I think Latin American literature deals with power and politics and this was inevitable. We in Latin America have not solved basic problems such as freedom," Vargas Llosa said.
"Literature is an expression of life and you can't eradicate politics from life," he added.
The Swedish Academy awarding the 10 million crown ($1.5 million) prize said Vargas Llosa had been chosen "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt and defeat."
The author of more than 30 novels, plays and essays, Vargas Llosa made his international breakthrough in the 1960s with "The Time of the Hero", a novel about cadets at a military academy. Many of his works are built on his experiences of life in Peru in the late 1940s and the 1950s.
In the 1970s, Vargas Llosa, a one-time supporter of the Cuban revolution, denounced Fidel Castro's communism, maddening many of his leftist literary colleagues like Garcia Marquez.
The Fabled Recovery
When the housing bubble popped in 2007 and financial mayhem ensued over the next two years, revenues to the federal and state governments dried up. This has produced untenable budget situations as states struggle to keep spending at pre-financial crisis levels. “Stimulus” has been justified in part to give the economy the juice it needs to restore growth, which in turn would promote higher revenues.
“We need a big stimulus package that will jolt the economy back into shape,” said Barack Obama on January 2th, 2009.
The trouble is that it just has not happened.
The American people are still waiting for this fabled recovery. With growth slowing to 1.7 percent in the second quarter and unemployment remaining unacceptably high, the long-awaited recovery has now become an article of faith on the Left. It has become akin to the belief that the end times will come in our lifetimes.
A key indicator to look at over the past few years has been state budget deficits. In Illinois, reports Bloomberg News, the state faces yet another $15 billion deficit for fiscal year 2012. “The state’s financial condition ‘continues to deteriorate,’ [state comptroller Dan] Hynes said, citing 36 percent surge in fiscal 2010 bills to be paid from current-year revenue,” according to the report.
Despite the terrible numbers, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn “is committed to paying all” the bills from 2010. Cutting spending is apparently not on the menu.
In New York, next year’s deficit could be another $8.2 billion. California’s shortfall remains at $19 billion. Despite Governor Chris Christie’s herculean efforts in New Jersey to eliminate an $11 billion deficit and balance the budget, the state “is expected to face a similar gap next year,” according to the Daily Record.
So, nobody is expecting an immediate rebound, despite all of the Keynesian deficit-spending that was promised to turn the economy around. The first $150 billion “stimulus” in 2008, the $700 billion TARP, the failed foreclosure “prevention” and mortgage modification programs, and the second $816 billion “stimulus” in 2009 did not work.
The near-zero interest rates, and the Federal Reserve more than doubling the money supply and purchasing $1.25 trillion of mortgage-backed securities, the government seizures of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, GM, and Chrysler, the $26.1 billion states bailout passed this year, and then the government takeovers of the health care and financial sectors have not worked either.
None of it has produced the fabled recovery.
All told, the federal government has contracted more than $4.6 trillion in new debt since 2007 under the congressional leadership of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi — all to no avail. Housing prices are still slowly declining. New jobs are only being created at a snail’s pace and well below the rate of new entrants into the workforce. Exports and wages remain flat.
Meanwhile, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are set to expire at year’s end, which will result in automatic tax increases across the board on all Americans, including critical job creators. Gold has spiraled up to $1,341 an ounce, signaling future inflation. Already food and other commodities are inching upward in prices. Medical costs are still on the way up.
Together with the new regulations from ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank financial takeover, higher prices and tax hikes will impose new, dramatic costs on American businesses, hamper economic growth, and leave Americans out of work.
The United States cannot compete in the global marketplace with these sorts of costs being imposed on jobs and wealth creation. With over 14.8 million Americans unemployed, virtually unchanged from a year ago, now is the time to begin rolling back these disastrous government policies that have critically damaged the economy.
Nobody believes the propaganda anymore. The American people are not holding out for the government “stimulus” to kick in. They’ve seen what it does and does not do, and they want a change. It didn’t work. The fabled recovery is nowhere to be found.
Obama as Roman emperor: Rise & fall of the propaganda master: "Two years ago, Democrats were clamoring to ride in on Barack Obama’s coattails. Proximity to the Obama persona was a prized political asset. Today, amid dim presidential polling numbers, anxious Democrats are keeping their distance. … To understand Obama’s fall, we must understand his rise; and to do that, we must look to ancient history. It was neither for his resume nor his policies that America fell in love with him. In fact, Obama’s policy priorities have turned out to be quite unpopular. It was instead by following the lead of Rome’s greatest emperors that Obama won (temporarily) America’s awe and devotion. This sort of ruler cult begins to crumble, of course, when the ruler is required to make decisions and take positions under unprecedented media scrutiny."
SCOTUS hears scientists’ challenge to background checks: "The Supreme Court confronted the range of personal questions a government employer may ask during a background check, in a case Tuesday raising individual privacy interests and national security concerns. Several justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, suggested by their questions that the federal government should be given wide latitude, particularly in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”
Even Cuba finally gets it: Capitalism works: "It follows the eclipse of similarly stultified economies in three other lands of lingering communist persuasion — China, Vietnam, and North Korea. All have either moved, or appear to be moving, to free, market-based economies while retaining a communist structure to continue harsh political control. Cuba may be no exception. It recently announced plans to dump hundreds of thousands of government workers into a suddenly authorized private sector. That doesn’t mean democracy is right around the corner. Though the brothers Castro, Fidel and Raul, may soon be passe, some Cuba-watchers expect their successor may be a tough, but as yet unidentified, general from the powerful military who will use the Communist Party structure to maintain authoritarian rule.”
Europe’s broken economies: "During September this year, much of Europe descended into mild chaos. Millions of Spaniards and French went on strike (following, of course, their return from six weeks vacation) against austerity measures introduced by their governments. Across the continent, there are deepening concerns about possible sovereign-debt defaults, stubbornly-high unemployment, Ireland’s renewed banking woes, and the resurgence of right-wing populist parties (often peddling left-wing economic ideas).”
Thousands of “stimulus” payments went to dead people, prisoners: "More than 89,000 stimulus payments of $250 each went to people who were either dead or in prison, a government investigator says in a new report. The payments, which were part of last year’s massive economic recovery package, were meant to increase consumer spending to help stimulate the economy.”
The economics of fire protection: "The cost structure implies natural monopoly. A two-part tariff is probably optimal. You charge a ‘membership fee’ to cover the $1 million in fixed costs and then charge a fire-fighting fee of $10,000 to put out each fire, paid by the owner who has the fire. Some customers might want insurance against having to pay the fire-fighting fee, in which case they would prefer to pay a higher ‘membership fee’ and a lower fire-fighting fee. Depending on the degree of moral hazard, the fire company might provide this insurance, perhaps even charging nothing for fighting the actual fire. The more members a fire company has, the lower the membership fee. Hence the tendency toward natural monopoly.”
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)