Author Archives: Verne Thompson

John Bolton weighs in on Netanyahu’s Invitation

There has been much ado about the supposed audacious over-reach by House Speaker John Boehner in inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before a joint meeting of Congress.  My view is to favor the speech, because we will not hear the truth from President Obama on the full extent of the bind we have put Israel in.

However, here’s some thoughts from former UN Ambassador John Bolton as expressed in his recent op-ed published in the Pittsburh Tribune:

The stakes are as high as they come.  But Obama cannot be candid about the terms of the ongoing discussions, especially now.  The inevitable consequences of his dangerous position already are provoking widespread bipartisan disapproval in America.

The White House most fears the effect Netanyahu will have on congressional consideration of further Iran sanctions if no deal is reached.  Obama is worried with good reason.  Although Iran and the West have been negotiating since 2003, only Obama has made the massive concessions to Tehran that have brought a deal close at hand.  And it is not just what Netanyahu will say in Washington but also his timing that set off Obama and his acolytes.

In fact, Netanyahu previously addressed a joint session of Congress on May 24, 2011, demonstrating, among other things, his gaping differences with Obama regarding Israel’s ultimate borders, under negotiation with the Palestinians.  The New York Times reported that “Mr. Netanyahu received so many standing ovations that at times it appeared that the lawmakers were listening to his speech standing up.”  Even worse, from Obama’s perspective, The Times said Netanyahu’s “speech had many of the trappings of a presidential State of the Union address.”

Ironically, Obama touched off the current controversy when he persuaded or allowed British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby members of Congress against the pending Iran sanctions proposals.  At a joint Obama-Cameron news conference in Washington, the British leader answered forthrightly that he had spoken with senators and would likely speak to more, to convey “the opinion of the United Kingdom” that sanctions legislation would impair the ongoing negotiations.

Although publicly admitting Cameron’s lobbying effort was highly unusual, they [Senators] were hardly shocked in a day when foreign countries hire Washington lobbying firms to influence Congress, the executive branch and even U.S. public opinion.  And even less shockingly, we do the same to foreign governments.

What likely irritated Obama more was that Netanyahu’s star power will almost certainly eclipse Cameron’s and that the arguments in favor of sanctions legislation are more persuasive than the Obama-Cameron view has been thus far.  Moreover, British parliamentary elections are set for May 7, so Cameron’s timing obviously does not differ in principle from Netanyahu’s.

For the full article, click HERE.



Today in the U.S. Senate, the Democratic minority filibustered the House-approved DHS funding bill to keep it from even coming to the floor for a vote.  They did this to thwart the Republican-led attempt to remove from the bill any funding for President Obama’s illegal actions on immigration.  This sets up a new confrontation, and soon, because the appropriations to fund ongoing operations at DHS will run out at the end of February.


In a well-written piece at National Journal, reporter Daniel Newhauser is calling attention to the very public way in which House Speaker John Boehner is urging the Senate, and specifically Senators Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions, to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk”.

Here’s an excerpt from Newhauser’s article:

“It’s time for Senator Cruz and Senator Sessions, and Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats to stand together with the American people and block the president’s actions,” Boehner told reporters Tuesday morning.

The peculiarity of Boehner name-checking Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions cannot be overlooked.  Both have railed against Boehner and his team, particularly on immigration issues, calling on them to bring more conservative bills to the floor.  Sessions helped scuttle a border-security bill Boehner hoped to bring to the House floor last week, holding that it did not do enough to secure the border or deal with interior enforcement.  Cruz, meanwhile, was instrumental in pushing House Republicans to shut down the government in 2013 over demands that any funding legislation block implementation of Obama’s health care law.

But now the tables have been turned.  Boehner’s subtle jab at the two senators betrays an increasing frustration among House Republicans with GOP senators pushing the House to pass legislation they do not have the votes to pass in the Senate.  And if, as expected, the Senate cannot pass the House version of the DHS bill, expect House Republicans to blame Senate Republicans, now in the majority, as much as their Democratic counterparts.

“The fight is now in the Senate.  It will be won or lost there,” said a source familiar with Boehner’s thinking.  “Senators like Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions need to show the American people how we succeed in the Senate.  What’s their plan to get ‘yes’ votes from senators like [Claire] McCaskill and [Joe] Donnelly, who’ve expressed concerns, and ultimately what’s their plan to get this passed in the Senate?”

I agree with Boehner on this one.  Ted Cruz is sometimes long on talk and short on action.  Let’s see if he can gain passage in the Senate of this vital bill.

Newhauser’s complete article is HERE.

Obama: Oh, those “clawback” penalties? Just kidding!

Megan McArdle is writing at Bloomberg about yet another waiver from the ObamaCare Law, this one to the provision requiring penalties be paid to the IRS of any excess in federal tax credits that an insured person may have received as health insurance subsidies, if the taxpayer does not pay the excess back by April 15th.

McArdle says this about the waiver of the “clawback” penalties:

It’s not relieving you of the obligation to repay; it’s just saying that you won’t be liable for a penalty if you don’t repay by the deadline.  Interest will continue to accrue, but the interest rates that the IRS charges are actually pretty reasonable (and probably much better than what your credit card company charges).  It’s the failure-to-pay penalties it layers on top — half a percentage point a month, with even stiffer penalties for failing to file — that really make your tax bill add up fast.

The full article is HERE.

Is it too late for the Keystone XL Pipeline?

The stated purpose of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline is to transport crude oil taken from the oil sands in Canada’s Alberta province southward to the refining facilities located in the United States mid-South region of Oklahoma and along the Gulf Of Mexico coastline.  When those oil sands were viable as a source of crude oil, the project made infinite sense, but a major hitch has developed.

I wrote previously, HERE, about the jeopardy into which falling crude oil prices have put crude oil extracted in the US through the use of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.  Crude oil extracted from oil tar sands have in common with fracking the vulnerability of high extraction costs when compared with traditional methodologies used with traditional oil deposits.

Today, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil (the common U.S. standard) stands at less than $47 a 42-gallon barrel, and it will almost certainly go lower.  The Saudi’s have publicly stated that they will not curtail production in their Saudi Arabian oil fields, even if WTI crude goes down to $10 a barrel.  The death of King Abdullah may cause a twitch or two in the markets, but no long-term change in the trend.

Although the newly elected Congress seems bent on sending to the President’s desk a bill mandating the construction of the pipeline, it may be time to think about whether or not the project still makes economic sense, especially in light of President Obama’s vow to veto such a bill.

Maybe the best approach is to wait for a new occupant of the White House, one that will surely be more objective in evaluating the project on its merits.

Has Wayne Goodwin made a New Year’s Resolution?

If I had a “when pigs fly” posting category on this blog, this news might be allotted to it.  The Greensboro News-Record reported last month, HERE, that NC Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin had WayneGoodwindisapproved the insurance industry’s request for a 26% overall increase in the rates for homeowner’s insurance rates statewide, rates that were due to take effect in June.  In an even more surprising turn of events, Commissioner Goodwin ordered reductions in the rates for coastal counties, a reversal of the trend in recent decades.

Although the newspaper article makes no mention of it, I assume the insurance companies may have recourse to the courts.  No word so far, however, that they intend to sue, so like so many of you, I will hope for a lower homeowner’s insurance bill later this year.

Havana, a Potemkin Village in the Caribbean

Almost one year ago I wrote HERE about writer Michael J. Totten’s  ventures into Cuba, and to introduce readers to the two pieces he had written to date on the subject of what he found there.  This past spring, Totten published a third piece at City-Journal, this one entitled “The Last Communist City”.  As usual, his piece is well-written and immensely informative.  Here’s an enticing excerpt:

… In the United States, we have a minimum wage; Cuba has a maximum wage—$20 a month for almost every job in the country.  (Professionals such as doctors and lawyers can make a whopping $10 extra a month.)  Sure, Cubans get “free” health care and education, but as Cuban exile and Yale historian Carlos Eire says, “All slave owners need to keep their slaves healthy and ensure that they have the skills to perform their tasks.”

Even employees inside the quasi-capitalist bubble don’t get paid more.  The government contracts with Spanish companies such as Meliá International to manage Havana’s hotels. Before accepting its contract, Meliá said that it wanted to pay workers a decent wage.  The Cuban government said fine, so the company pays $8–$10 an hour.  But Meliá doesn’t pay its employees directly.  Instead, the firm gives the compensation to the government, which then pays the workers—but only after pocketing most of the money.  I asked several Cubans in my hotel if that arrangement is really true.  All confirmed that it is.  The workers don’t get $8–$10 an hour; they get 67 cents a day—a child’s allowance.

Read the whole thing, HERE.

The Vote for Speaker of the House

The tempest in the teapot has subsided, and the members of the U.S. House of Representatives have elected a speaker for the upcoming term.

HOR_SpeakerVoteAt right is a breakdown of the vote.  Although there were a few more than usual kicking out of the traces, the heavy favorite, Representative John Boehner of Ohio, was handily re-elected to serve his third term.

The vote total came to only 408, so not all members cast a vote.  And yes, some idiot did cast a write-in vote for former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

With that out of the way, and with Senator Mitch McConnell the winner in the Senate election, Congress is now set to accomplish great things, right?

Warthogs to the Rescue in the Caliphate

I’ve written twice before (HERE and HERE) about the misguided attempts by the military to retire the A-10 from their inventory of combat aircraft on the grounds that the Warthog is increasingly outmoded and obsolete.  But now, it appears that the military is having second thoughts, at least for the time being.  James Dunnigan is reporting at StrategyPage that:

Despite renewed U.S. Air Force efforts to retire the much loved (by their pilots and the ground troops who depend on it) A-10C ground attack aircraft, at least ten of them from a reserve unit have been quietly sent to the Middle East to join in the air operations against ISIL (Islamic State in A10_WarthogIraq and the Levant) in Iraq and Syria.  Many older ISIL members (who fought in Iraq before the A-10s were withdrawn) are not happy with this news while the soldiers and militiamen fighting ISIL are much encouraged.

This was kept quiet because earlier in 2014 the U.S. Air Force insisted it had to retire all of its A-10 ground support aircraft (to deal with a shrinking budget) and this time it was going to happen.  That statement had been heard several times before since the Cold War ended in 1991.  Many politicians do not agree with the generals and it appeared the air force would be forced to keep at least some of the A-10s.  There is little doubt that the A-10s will again make themselves useful.  That will slow down but not stop air force efforts to eliminate this popular (except among senior commanders) warplane.

A-10s were designed during the Cold War for combat against Russian ground forces in Europe.  That war never happened and the last American A-10 attack aircraft left Europe in mid-2013.  After that some politicians believed the A-10 might be needed back in Europe to help confront an increasingly aggressive Russia.  Meanwhile the A-10 proved to be a formidable combat aircraft in post-Cold War conflicts, first in the 1991 liberation of Kuwait and later in Afghanistan and Iraq.  During the last decade the most requested ground support aircraft in Afghanistan has been the A-10.  There was similar A-10 affection in Iraq.  Troops from all nations quickly came to appreciate the unique abilities of this 1970s era aircraft that the U.S. Air Force is constantly trying to get rid of.  In 2011 the air force did announce that it was retiring 102 A-10s, leaving 243 in service.  At the same time the air force accelerated the upgrading of the remaining A-10s to the A-10C standard.

Read the full article, HERE.

Hanoi Jane turns Seventy-Seven

In a post on December 21st at her vanity website, Jane Fonda declares that, to combat a recent episode of ennui, she has decided to build a shrine to herself.  The decision was made on her birthday, during her one-hour meditation period.

The shrine is to be nothing especially monumental she says, just “a small place where I can put things that remind me, conjure up in me, the qualities that represent my best self.  I will spend the new year collecting objects and symbols that will do that.  One will be from my 4th grade school report.  Things that remind me that I’m brave.  I’ve been forgetting that.  I will put a special candle on the shrine and burn sandalwood and put some special Native American artifacts that I’ve treasured over the years in honor of the Mohawk Nation where my Fonda ancestors built their homestead.”

Since Fonda now seems to have developed the patina of a national JaneFonda_Gunsighttreasure, with an impressive resume as an actress, political agitator, Black Panthers supporter, aerobics guru, broadcaster for Hanoi Radio, Palestinian supporter, and all-around American traitor, we should all help to restore her self-esteem if we can.  For my part, I have mailed her a memento from her past, something she may still believe is representative of her “best self”, and something which perfectly illustrates her bravery.  It is a 1972 photograph, above at right, of her sitting on and looking through the gunsight of a piece of North Vietnamese anti-aircraft artillery, the same type that mortally wounded so many U.S. aircraft over the North’s capital city.  If they survived the shootdown, of course, the pilots went into the North Vietnamese prisoner of war system, exemplified by the infamous Hanoi Hilton.

Happy birthday, Janey.

Denunciation then and now: Korematsu and CIA Torture

Just over a week ago the Pew Research Center published the results of their poll on the American public’s reaction to the content of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “CIA Torture Report”, the huge report released PewPoll_CIAtortureby outgoing Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein on the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” during the months immediately after the September 11, 2011 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

A table showing the detailed results is at right, but it can be summed up by saying that the public seems to be much more understanding of the exigencies of the time than the left wing media would prefer them to be.  While I don’t think that sleep deprivation and waterboarding can be appropriately defined as torture, they certainly are practices better left to the regimes of South American dictators than to the repertoire of the United States government.  Still, the judgment cannot be intelligently made without an understanding and consideration of the circumstances.

In considering this national guilt spasm initiated by Senator Feinstein’s questionable release of the report, I am reminded of the condemnations that took place in the decades after World War II over the U.S. government’s internment of the Japanese in the months after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.  Indeed, the condemnations are even now not so far removed, as conservative author Michelle Malkin found when she wrote a heavily criticized book just ten years ago entitled “In Defense of Internment”.  In her book, Malkin argues that, in hindsight, the internment may have been unwarranted, but at the time the fear of sabotage by the Japanese living along the west coast was plausible and very real, and that fear cannot simply be dismissed from the arguments.

Today, in the minds of many, the issues surrounding the Japanese internment are encapsulated in Korematsu versus United States, a landmark case in which SCOTUS upheld President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1942 Executive Order #9066, which directed all Japanese Americans to report for internment in a series of camps established at various points around the lower 48 states.  Here’s an excerpt from the WikiPedia page on the case:

In a 6–3 decision, the Court sided with the government, ruling that the exclusion order was constitutional.  Six of eight Roosevelt appointees sided with Roosevelt.  The lone Republican appointee, Owen Roberts, dissented.  The opinion, written by Supreme Court justice Hugo Black, held that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Fred Korematsu’s individual rights, and the rights of Americans of Japanese descent.  (The Court limited its decision to the validity of the exclusion orders, adding, “The provisions of other orders requiring persons of Japanese ancestry to report to assembly centers and providing for the detention of such persons in assembly and relocation centers were separate, and their validity is not in issue in this proceeding.”)  During the case, Solicitor General Charles Fahy is alleged to have suppressed evidence by keeping from the Court a report from the Office of Naval Intelligence indicating that there was no evidence that Japanese Americans were acting as spies or sending signals to enemy submarines.

The decision in Korematsu v. United States has been very controversial.  Korematsu’s conviction for evading internment was overturned on November 10, 1983, after Korematsu challenged the earlier decision by filing for a writ of coram nobis.  In a ruling by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted the writ (that is, it voided Korematsu’s original conviction) because in Korematsu’s original case, the government had knowingly submitted false information to the Supreme Court that had a material effect on the Supreme Court’s decision.

Even the Obama administration has gotten into the act.  Judge Patel’s ruling notwithstanding, SCOTUS has never explicitly overturned their decision in Korematsu v. United States.  However, in 2011 Eric Holder’s Department of Justice filed an official notice stipulating that the decision was in error, thus erasing the case’s value as precedent for interning citizens.

For more information on Fred Korematsu, who died in 1985, click his WikiPedia page, HERE.  Likewise, for more information on Korematsu versus United States, that WikiPedia page is HERE.

Animated Views of the Venerable Colt Army M1911

The word venerable seems made to order for the M1911, Colt’s 1911 model semi-automatic pistol originally designed in 1911 by John ColtArmy1911Browning as a 45-caliber sidearm for the U.S. military.  It remained so for seventy-four years, until 1985, when it was replaced as the official military sidearm by the Beretta M9, my personal preference for a large-frame pistol.  Counting the examples manufactured for civilian use, for law enforcement, and for foreign governments, there have been around three million M1911 models produced.

What better example is there, then, for a high-quality animation illustrating all the inner workings of a semi-automatic pistol in operation?  None, I think, and after viewing the animation, you’ll agree.  Check it out, HERE, and for more on the M1911, the WikiPedia page is HERE.

The Malmedy Massacre at Three Score & Ten

This month marks the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the last major combat encounter in the European theater of World War II, and today marks the seventieth anniversary of one of the more heinous acts of the war, the Malmedy Massacre.

During the Battle, on the second day of the breakout by German troops through the Ardennes Forest, American soldiers of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion were captured by the German First SS Panzer Division near the town of Malmedy in Belgium.  The German offensive was begun during a period of weather so bad that all Allied aircraft were grounded, and the Germans were desperate to move quickly toward, and to recapture, the Belgian port of Antwerp while the Americans were without the close air support that could quickly destroy the German tanks.  They could therefore afford no delays in their advance, and POW’s are a hindrance on the battlefield.

There are several excellent accounts of the Malmedy Massacre, and the following is taken from the one maintained HERE at the History Place:

On the second day of the ‘Battle of the Bulge,’ a truck convoy of Battery B of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion was intercepted southeast of Malmedy by a regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division of the Leibstandarte-SS, under the command of 29 year old SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper.  His troops had earned the nickname “Blowtorch Battalion” after burning their way across Russia and had also been responsible for slaughtering civilians in two separate villages.

Upon sighting the trucks, the Panzer tanks opened fire and destroyed the lead vehicles.  This brought the [American] convoy to a halt while the deadly accurate tank fire continued.  The outgunned Americans abandoned their vehicles and surrendered.

The captured U.S. soldiers were herded into a nearby field.  An SS tank commander then ordered an SS private to shoot into the prisoners, setting off a wild killing spree as the SS opened fire with machine guns and pistols on the unarmed, terrified POWs.

Survivors were killed by a pistol shot to the head, in some cases by English speaking SS who walked among the victims asking if anyone was injured or needed help.  Those who responded were shot.  A total of 81 Americans were killed in the single worst atrocity against U.S. troops during World War II in Europe.

After the SS troops moved on, three survivors encountered a U.S. Army Colonel stationed at Malmedy and reported the massacre.  News quickly spread among U.S. troops that “Germans are shooting POWs.”  As a result, the troops became determined to hold the lines against the German advance until reinforcements could arrive.  Gen. Eisenhower was informed of the massacre.  War correspondents in the area also spread the news.

And from the U.S. Army archives, HERE, this excerpt from the account of a survivor, Ted Paluch of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:

Having dismounted the vehicles and taking cover in ditches alongside the road, Paluch recognized the troops as members of the vaunted SS by the distinctive skull and crossbones and lightning insignia on their collars.  They represented the advance units of the 1st SS Panzer Division, known as Kampfgruppe (Attack Group) Peiper, after their leader, SS Lt. Col. Joachim Peiper, a highly decorated veteran of campaigns in France and Russia.

“There were three of them behind the tank; they came down, and we were in the ditch, a ditch that is up to my neck,” he related.  They pulled down the road here and lowered the tank gun on us, and what could you do?  We had carbines, so we just surrendered.”

Paluch related that the initial treatment at the hands of the SS gave no clues about what lay in store for the prisoners, and even offered an amusing recollection.  “They marched us up here to the crossroads, they searched us, they took anything of value, cigarettes, watches, and I had a pair of socks and they even took those,” he exclaimed incredulously.

Along with members of his unit and others caught off-guard at the crossroads, the group of prisoners was herded into a field at the crossroads to await their fate.  They had no warning of what would transpire next.

“Then one command car came up and took a couple shots, and every tank and halftrack that came around the corner shot into the group,” he said.  “I was real lucky, as I was in the front end and only got hit slightly, but I think when they came around they fired into the center of the group.”

Pausing to catch his breath, he glanced over his shoulder and hesitated, almost as if reliving the moment in slow motion, before beginning again.

“This was their front line over here at one of these houses, and then anyone that moaned, they came around and they shot.  I played dead and just lay there,” he said.

The Germans murdered eighty-one Americans that day.  After the war, the commander of the German First SS Panzer Division, SS Lieutenant Colonel Jochen Peiper, was caught along with most of his close subordinates.  They were tried and found guilty of war crimes by a military tribunal, but sadly, they were all released in the end. There was no justice for those eighty-one American soldiers, so the least we can do today is to remember.

CROmnibus Cliffnotes

With the 1,800 pages of the combination Continuing Resolution and Omnibus budget bill now passed by both houses of Congress and on President Obama’s desk for signing, it’s time to see what’s in it.  Conservative columnist Betsy McCaughey does an excellent job of boiling it down, HERE.  A taste:

Cromnibus is a monster to read.  Almost no one did.  They had no time.  Speaker Boehner broke his promise to give members at least 72 hours notice before voting, instead of ramming it down their throats, as he criticized his predecessor Nancy Pelosi for doing.  Taxpayers lost out in the rush.  It’s likely that the $1.1 trillion spending level negotiated last week is costlier than what the more conservative Congress taking charge in January would have agreed to.

Read the whole thing.

Will the V-280 be the V-22’s Little Brother?

Back in October, at the military blog DefenseTech, Kris Osborn reported that:

Bell Helicopter is beginning to manufacture parts for its new V-280 Valor tilt-rotor aircraft, a next-generation helicopter being developed as part of the Army’s Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, or JMR TD program.  The program is an Army-led joint program designed to replace the Army’s current fleet of helicopters.


Slated to fly by 2017, the V-280 is engineered to reach speed of 280 knots, achieve a combat range up to 800 nautical miles and perform in what’s called “high-hot” conditions — described as 95-degrees Fahrenheit and 6,000-feet.

The full article, HERE, includes much more information as well as an artist’s rendering of the aircraft.

The Consequences of Falling Oil Prices

The website that tracks the daily prices for the two main types of crude oil consumed in the United States is saying that the price of WTI is now at $59.95 per barrel.  As many readers will know, crude oil is priced in terms of 42-gallon barrels, and the main domestic price standard is for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), a type otherwise known as “light, sweet” crude oil.  An alternate standard is known as Brent Crude, which is the average price of oil pumped out of the fifteen oil fields in the North Sea.  The price of Brent Crude is typically a bit higher than WTI, as the price of extraction is higher for undersea deposits.

I posted before, HERE, about the problems that falling crude oil prices pose for fracking producers, and on the day of the post (October 10th) the WTI price was about $87/barrel.  At today’s $59.95/barrel, the per-gallon price of WTI crude is $1.43, and we’re now seeing $2.53 at the pump.  There are almost no fracking operations in the United States that can produce crude for $60/barrel, not even close.

The ramifications of this price drop will be many, and worldwide.  Some are writing that the implications for revenue to the Russian government may imperil the Putin regime.

Keith Naughton joins the fray with a piece at the Daily Caller about the effects on the already-wobbly Venezuelan government.  Writes Naughton:

For over 15 years Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro have pursued absurd socialist economic policies liberally mixed with heavy-handed repression, and an anti-American foreign policy.  Private property has been expropriated.  Political opponents have been harassed and jailed.  The crime rate is soared.  Essential items have disappeared from store shelves.  Maduro himself flat-out stole the last presidential election (of course the leftist leaders in Latin America just shrugged it off — showing yet again that the left only likes democracy when they win).

Now Venezuela is at the end of its financial rope.  Tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue have been wasted away and now that the price of oil has cratered, the country’s fiscal deficit is unsustainable.  Maduro is cutting spending, unloading debt at cut-rate prices, and arresting his political opponents.  Tension is rising between the armed forces and the Maduro’s Chavista paramilitary thugs.

The article goes on to list five ways in which a collapse of the Venezuelan economy and government would impact the United States and its allies.  Read the full article, HERE, to get the details of the five ways, and what the Obama administration is planning to do about the potential crisis.

Seattle Could Use A REALLY BIG Wrecker

The city of Seattle, Washington started a sixty-foot deep, two-mile long tunneling project one year ago as part of an effort to replace an aging TunnelMachineabove-ground roadway that runs through the heart of the city.  The machine purchased to do the job, built in Japan and nick-named Bertha, got about one thousand feet into the job before getting stuck.  And it is still stuck.  Engineers have not been able to extract or repair the 57-foot wide machine, and they recently realized that the earth above the tunnel is gradually settling.  There is, therefore, a very loud and collective “uh-oh” to be heard in the vicinity of Lake Union and the Space Needle.

The full article, from the online Popular Mechanics magazine, is HERE.

China’s New Boomers

Nope, not talking about “baby boomers”, I’m talking about nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.  David Tweed has a post up on Bloomberg News with the details.  A key excerpt:

“For the first time in history, China’s nuclear arsenal will be invulnerable to a first strike,” said independent strategist Nicolas Giacometti, who has written analysis for The Diplomat and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  “It’s the last leap toward China’s assured nuclear-retaliation capability.”

This new class of Chinese boomer will be equipped with twelve Chinese JL-2 missiles.  Tweed’s article continues:

The JL–2’s range of about 4,598 miles means China could conduct nuclear strikes against Alaska if it unleashed the missiles from waters near China; against Alaska and Hawaii if launched from waters south of Japan; against Alaska, Hawaii, and western continental U.S. if fired from waters west of Hawaii; and against all 50 U.S. states if launched from waters east of Hawaii, the report said.

The full article is HERE.


The X-37B

The U.S. Air Force has an un-manned mini-shuttle, and although no one admits to knowing what it is used for exactly, it apparently is very good at its mission.  From an article from earlier this week at the military blog Strategy Page:

A U.S. Air Force X-37B UOV (unmanned orbital vehicle) landed October 17th under software control after 675 days in orbit.  Previously an X-37B landed on June 16th 2012 after 469 days in orbit.  The first mission ended X37Bon December 3rd 2010 after 224 days in orbit.  The air force reports few details about the X-37B but has said it plans to launch another one in 2015.

The official endurance of the X-37B was originally about 280 days.  The real endurance appears to be nearly three times that.  The long endurance is largely because the X-37B carries a large solar panel, which is deployed from the cargo bay, unfolded and produces enough power to keep the X-37B up there for a long time.  The air force has not reported what the X-37B has been doing up there all this time.  The air force has revealed that it is designing an X-37C, which would be twice the size of the X-37B and able to carry up to six passengers.  Think of it as Space Shuttle Lite, but robotic and run by the military, not NASA.

The X-37B is a remotely controlled mini-Space Shuttle.  The space vehicle, according to amateur astronomers (who like to watch spy satellites as well), appears to be going through some tests.  The X-37B is believed to have a payload of about 227-300 kg (500-660 pounds).  The payload bay is 2.1×1.4 meters (7×4 feet).  As it returned to earth, it landed by itself (after being ordered to use a specific landing area.)  The X-37B weighs five tons, is nine meters (29 feet) long and has a wingspan of 4 meters (14 feet).  In contrast the Space Shuttle was 56 meters long, weighed 2,000 tons and had a payload of 24 tons.

The X-37B is a classified project, so not many additional details are available.  It’s been in development since 2000 but work was slowed down for a while because of lack of money.  Whatever the X-37B is now doing up there has been convincing enough to get Congress to spend over a billion dollars on it.  What makes the X-37B so useful is that it is very maneuverable, contains some internal sensors (as well as communications gear), and can carry mini-satellites, or additional sensors, in the payload bay.  Using a remotely controlled arm, the X-37B could refuel or repair other satellites.  But X-37B is a classified project, with little confirmed information about its payload or mission (other than testing the system on its first mission).  Future missions will involve intelligence work, and perhaps servicing existing spy satellites (which use up their fuel to change their orbits.)  The X-37B is believed capable of serving as a platform for attacks on enemy satellites in wartime.  It is believed that recent missions may have also involved testing new spy satellite components in space, where the harsh environment, especially the radiation, can have unpredictable effects on microelectronics.

The “blue yonder” gets wilder every year.

Boehner’s Strategy Between Now And Christmas

After achieving many big wins in the recent elections, Republicans are nevertheless having to make do with the forces they currently have in dealing with President Obama’s immigration transgressions before the new Congress takes office in January.  Their plan, explained succinctly by AP reporter David Espo at Yahoo News, is this:

The first is to approve symbolic legislation that declares Obama’s order to shield millions of immigrants from deportation to be “null and void and without legal effect.”  That was accomplished on Thursday on a vote of 219-197.

The second is to approve funding for the Department of Homeland Security through February or March without tying it to any immediate change in immigration policy, while also funding the rest of the government through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year.  Without action, most agencies will run out of money Thursday at midnight.

The third is to mount a fresh challenge to Obama’s immigration policy after the new, Republican-controlled Senate takes office in January.

The government will run out of funds on Thursday the 11th, and since the Congress, as usual, is scurrying to close out the lame duck session and get home for the holidays, part #2 may happen as soon as next week.  The text of the “cromnibus” budget bill (Part 2 in the sequence above) is expected to be made public today.  This bill combines eleven separate appropriations bills that will fund the bulk of the government through the end of the current Federal fiscal year (September 30, 2015), along with a continuing resolution that will provide funding to continue the operations of the Department of Homeland Security only until next spring, March or so.

Stay tuned.  And for the complete story written by Espo, click HERE.  For a more detailed perspective, also check out THIS article by Rebecca Shabad at TheHill.

I Liked Ike, Redux

Some time ago I posted THIS about the current attempts by Democrats to equate President Obama’s foreign policies to those of President Dwight Eisenhower.  Eisenhower is remembered more for his abilities as the commander of SHAFE (Supreme Headquarters of Allied Forces in Europe) during the latter part of World War II than for his abilities as President.  Nevertheless, he should be remembered for, as the current saying goes in Hollywood, “the totality of his achievements”.

Although the Congress has sought to honor Eisenhower with a memorial in Washington since 1999, the effort has faltered due to the several ghastly architectural designs submitted and the Eisenhower family’s understandable objections to them.  To read the sad, and VERY EXPENSIVE account of the effort to date, check out THIS article by reporter Bruce Cole in the New Criterion.

James O’Keefe, You May Now Dance One Jig

As of about twenty minutes ago, the Associated Press is calling the Louisiana run-off election for Bill Cassidy, so Mary Landrieu is legislating on borrowed time.  Her defeat is bound to be an occasion of great satisfaction to James O’Keefe, as Landrieu is strongly suspected of encouraging the prosecutorial misconduct that O’Keefe and Company suffered at the hands of the Louisiana State Attorney’s Office.

Here’s a video interview with O’Keefe on the subject, from earlier this week:

What the Numbers Say on Police Use of Force

It seems as if everyone from the excreable Al Sharpton to the President is inexhaustibly beating the drum of racial unrest in the wake of the events in Ferguson, Missouri and on Staten Island, NY.  So the article written by Steven Malanga, titled as above, and published earlier this week in City Journal, is timely.  From the article, these interesting excerpts:

What’s striking in the progression of these later studies is a steady decrease in the number of people having interactions with the police—from about 45 million in 2002 to 40 million in 2011—or from about 21 percent of the 16-and-older population to about 17 percent.  One clear reason for the decline has been the corresponding drop in crime: the number of people reporting crimes or other problems to the police fell by about 3.6 million from a peak in 2002.  More important, perhaps, was that reports of use of force by police also fell, from 664,000 in 2002 to 574,000 in a 2010 report.  Those declines occurred across all races.  The number of African-Americans reporting that police used force against them fell from 173,000 to 130,000.  Among whites, the number has dropped from a peak of 374,000 to 347,000.


… in the most recent survey, in 2011, 88.2 percent of those stopped by the police said they thought officers acted properly.  There were few significant distinctions by race.  Nearly 83 percent of African-Americans judged police behavior to be proper, for instance.  The study also asked citizens whether they thought the police had stopped them for a “legitimate” reason—and here the data on race is particularly interesting.  Some 80 percent of all drivers viewed their stops as legitimate, compared with 68 percent of African-Americans.  But the study also asked drivers to report the race of the officers who stopped them, and African-Americans were just as likely to say that stops initiated by white officers were legitimate as those initiated by black officers.  Similarly, white drivers saw no difference in how they were treated by white officers or black officers on this question.

I continue to believe that we must be ever vigilant against the abuse of police power, but the full article, HERE, contains a wealth of information, is enlightening, and is well worth reading.  Since it contains statistics drawn from Justice Department studies, you will realize that Eric Holder has no excuse for pretending that the police have a built-in antipathy toward black Americans.

Obama’s Turn

The current Drudge Report headline is that President Obama has been hospitalized for acid reflux.  As someone who suffered from the affliction for many years before the invention of stomach acid pump inhibiting drugs, I can emphasize and feel his pain.  On the other hand, since he has been the cause of so much heartburn for the American conservative citizenry for the past six-odd years, maybe the President is experiencing what some would call Karma.

The DoD 1033-Program Along the Crystal Coast

Back in November before the election, I attended a meeting of the Morehead-Beaufort NC Tea Party in order to hear the scheduled remarks of Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck.  In the Q-&-A session afterwards, as someone who has become increasingly concerned about the militarization of law enforcement in America, I asked Sheriff Buck to what degree his agency had become militarized, i.e., how much military style equipment had been acquired by the Sheriff’s Department during his tenure.  I was pleased to hear the Sheriff say that, beyond the standard firearms, bulletproof vests, and other essential equipment needed to protect the safety of his officers, he saw no reason to pursue any military-type equipment made available by the federal government.

Although my estimation of Sheriff Buck’s judgment went up a notch that evening, the same cannot be said for some of the other law enforcement agencies along the Crystal Coast.  After years of public clamor by folks who are as apprehensive as I about the aforementioned militarization, the Department of Defense has finally made public a detailed list of the military equipment given to law enforcement agencies all over America through the 1033 Program.  Below is a graphic depicting the goodies handed over to policing agencies along the Crystal Coast:

DoD-1033 Gifts on CC

Because of President Obama’s reaction to the events in Ferguson, Missouri and other similar events recently, I expect that he will soon direct the Pentagon to refuse equipment to law enforcement agencies that cannot show that their policing personnel are not racially representative in comparison to the surrounding community.  Congress has also become somewhat interested in the issue of police militarization.

To peruse the entire list, organized alphabetically by municipality within states, click HERE, and be prepared to wait awhile after you make your selection from the two state groupings.  And, if you are a Crystal Coast reader residing in one of the localities in the list above, you might want to ask why they need the firepower.

Louisiana State Senator Elbert L. Guillory


I have decided not to post the video depicting the 28-minute Q-&-A session, as I now think it would add little to the substance of Senator Guillory’s prepared remarks as shown in the video below.


Yesterday afternoon found me at Kings Restaurant in Kinston, NC.  I was there to see and hear Louisiana State Senator Elbert Lee Guillory, the man who’s television campaign ad (video HERE) on behalf of U.S. Senate candidate Bill Cassidy was considered one of the more effective ads of the recent campaign season.  Cassidy is now in a run-off election to unseat Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, the vote is tomorrow, and Cassidy is expected to win and therefore take the 54th Republican Senate seat in the new 144th Congress.  For his part, Senator Guillory joins a growing list of outstanding black conservative politicians like Tim Scott, Mia Love, Willie Talton, Wayne Shannon, Jennifer Carroll, Mike Hill, Allen West, Will Hurd, James White, and Boyd Rutherford, all of whom are serving, recently have served, or soon will serve in elective office at the state or federal level.

Guillory sports an impressive resume.  He is a graduate of J.S. Clark High School in Opelousas, Louisiana, where he still resides.  He received his B.A. from Virginia’s Norfolk State University, and his law degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey.  He has also attended New York Theological Seminary in New York City, although he did not graduate.  Something of a sportsman, he enjoys mountain climbing and scuba diving.

During the Vietnam War he served in the U.S. Navy, finishing his undergraduate degree before being honorably discharged.  He was then accepted into and graduated from Rutgers University School of Law.  He subsequently served on the faculty of Rutgers Law, and as the Executive Director of the Maryland Commission on Human Rights.  He has been a practicing attorney, General Counsel for Global Construction Co., and the Supervising Attorney for the Arcadiana Legal Service Project.  He was elected to the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame for his work in law and government.

Senator Guillory, now seventy years of age, has served in both the Louisiana House of Representatives and the Senate, and was twice named Legislator of the year during his first six years of service.  Although Guillory has two years remaining on his term in the Louisiana Senate, he has already announced his candidacy for Lieutenant Governor in the State’s 2016 election.  For much more on the Senator’s accomplishments, visit his website at

The Senator spoke for over one-half hour in total.  Although I videotaped all 39 minutes, in order to reduce the length of the video for this site I have broken it up into two parts.  The first segment, below, is for the Senator’s prepared remarks, and it runs about 11-minutes.

The second segment, consisting of the period devoted to questions and answers (Q-&-A), runs about 28 minutes and will appear in a separate post sometime in the next few days.

For much more information on Senator Guillory, I recommend his website and his WikiPedia page, HERE.  In addition, THIS is the link to the write-up of the event in the Kinston Free Press.

Of Filibusters and CBO Directors

This post concerns two of the many issues that will be before the new 114th Congress that takes office in January.  Both are, and should be, of considerable interest to conservatives, as the decisions made in connection with the issues will have a lasting impact.

First, there is the issue of the person who heads the Congressional Budget Office, the CBO Director.  The current Director is an Obama appointee who also served the Clinton administration.  His name is Doug Elmendorf, and he is apparently well thought of in economic academia.  However, the CBO is supposed to be a non-partisan servant of the Congress, and there are many Republicans who believe that the CBO’s failure to fully inform the Congress of the true costs attached to President Obama’s PPACA program is evidence of partisanship.  I would have to agree with them, and so I think a change is in order.  When the new Congress takes office, Elmendorf will have served six years.  The Republican majority should replace him with someone who can be relied upon to deliver accurate cost projections for the programs that Congress proposes in the future.  For a more informed perspective on this issue from National Review’s John Fund, click HERE.

Second, there is the issue of the filibuster.  As readers will remember, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid carried out an underhanded parlimentarian maneuver just over one year ago to change the Senate’s rules regarding the confirmation of any Presidential nominations other than nominees to the Supreme Court.  Instead of requiring confirmation by a 60-vote majority, Reid’s revision reduced the necessary vote to only 51 senators.  Traditionally, the Senate re-affirms or changes it’s rules at the beginning of a new Congress, so if the new Republican majority wants to reinstate the 60-vote threshold it now has the opportunity.  However, it appears that Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and others in the Senate no longer have the enthusiasm for the 60-vote rule that they had a year ago.  Here is an excerpt from THIS informative Politico article, written by Manu Raju and published on Wednesday of this week:

McConnell would have two options to change rules.  He would need 67 votes on the floor, meaning he’d need at least 13 Democrats to join his caucus, which is expected to have 54 members in the new Congress starting next month.  But Democrats have overwhelmingly supported weakening the filibuster rules, so it’s unlikely there are 13 Democrats who would be willing to raise the threshold back to 60.

McConnell could also attempt to move on a straight party-line vote by invoking the “nuclear option,” an arcane and rarely used procedure to change Senate rules by just a simple majority of senators, rather than 67 votes.  But McConnell has constantly berated Reid for using the nuclear option, contending Reid “broke” the Senate rules to weaken the filibuster.

Moreover, if McConnell were to employ the nuclear option, it could give future majorities even more incentive to use the tactic to further weaken the filibuster — potentially going to the most extreme step of allowing legislation to advance by simple majority support.  As a result, many Republicans are skittish about invoking the nuclear option to change the filibuster back to a 60-vote threshold.

For more on this issue, check out THIS article by PowerLine’s Paul Mirengoff, and for more on the history of Senator Harry Reid’s hypocracy, check out THIS article by Alexander Bolton, writing for the political blog The Hill.



Chinese Economy bigger than U.S.? Not so fast.

Earlier in the week a new assessment of international economies was released by the World Bank’s ICP, or International Comparison Program, and China was said to have come out on top.  But the people at MarketWatch are saying, HERE, that the ICP was doin’ it wrong, and that it will be a decade, more or less, for China to surpass the United States economy.  The article is brief, so read the whole thing.

Dorian Johnson’s tale of the Encounter in Ferguson

Although we are all hoping that the unrest revolving around the shooting in Ferguson will soon subside, some may still be interested in the details.  The following is an excerpt from an article posted today by Paul Cassell at the Volokh Conspiracy law blog, the most detailed article that I have seen on the subject.  It focuses on the testimony of Michael Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, who was the man walking with Brown when the encounter began, and the apparent source of the “Hands up, don’t shoot” meme:

In short, Dorian Johnson’s story is not only implausible on critical issues, but also fails to match the physical evidence.  In that respect, Johnson’s version clearly contrasts with Wilson’s testimony and, for example, Witness 10′s corroborating testimony.  A reader interested in all the facts can make up his own mind.  But to my mind, the evidence show that Johnson’s “hands up, don’t shoot” story is just that — a story made up by Dorian Johnson to obscure what really happened … and to transform his friend from a villain into a victim.

The full article can be read HERE.

Highlights of Tuesday’s CCTPP Meeting

At the meeting held last Tuesday, November 25th, the discussion was lively concerning the options that had been identified by Carteret County staff to implement the recommendations of the Springsted Corporation in their Compensation Study (earlier post HERE.)  Most of the attendees felt that the cost of even the least costly option was still too high considering the state of the economy in general, and the dismal prospects for County revenues in particular.  Since no consensus emerged from the discussions, members were left to their own devices for making their views known to the Commissioners.

After the discussions had concluded, a digital projector was set up and the 45-minute “Rocky Mountain Heist” video (below) was shown.  The video is narrated by Michelle Malkin, who previously lived in California before moving with her husband and kids to Colorado several years ago.  The video highlights the process by which four super-wealthy Colorado Democrats were able, by the end of the 2012 election cycle, to elect a Democratic Governor and a Democratic legislature (yes, both houses) in a state that just a few years ago was firmly red.

For those who were unable to attend the meeting, here’s the video:

The Plymouth Colony – Communism’s First Foothold in America

We are amidst the Thanksgiving holidays once again, and time for our annual object lesson in how the concept of private property rights, the linchpin of capitalism, acts to ensure the greatest degree of prosperity for all.  Tom Bethell explained it very well in his essay from early 1999 entitled “How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims”, an essay adapted from his book The Noblest Triumph.  To set the stage, here are a few paragraphs from his essay:

The Pilgrims knew about the early disasters at Jamestown, but the more adventurous among them were willing to hazard the Atlantic anyway.  First, however, they sent two emissaries, John Carver and Robert Cushman, from Leyden to London to seek permission to found a plantation.  This was granted, but finding investors was a problem.  Eventually Carver and Cushman found an investment syndicate headed by a London ironmonger named Thomas Weston.  Weston and his fifty-odd investors were taking a big risk in putting up the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s money.  The big losses in Jamestown had scared off most “venture capital” in London.


Eventually, however, Carver and Cushman did accept terms stipulating that at the end of seven years everything would be divided equally between investors and colonists …

The colonists hoped that the houses they built would be exempt from the division of wealth at the end of seven years; in addition, they sought two days a week in which to work on their own “particular” plots (much as collective farmers later had their own private plots in the Soviet Union).  The Pilgrims would thereby avoid servitude.  But the investors refused to allow these loopholes, undoubtedly worried that if the Pilgrims—three thousand miles away and beyond the reach of supervision—owned their own houses and plots, the investors would find it difficult to collect their due.  How could they be sure that the faraway colonists would spend their days working for the company if they were allowed to become private owners?  With such an arrangement, rational colonists would work little on “company time,” reserving their best efforts for their own gardens and houses.  Such private wealth would be exempt when the shareholders were paid off.  Only by insisting that all accumulated wealth was to be “common wealth,” or placed in a common pool, could the investors feel reassured that the colonists would be working to benefit everyone, including themselves.

Read the whole thing, HERE, and withhold the pumpkin pie from the kids until they read it as well.