Monday, April 26, 2010

General James Jones likes Jew Jokes

Obama's weakness and partiality to anti-Semitism is well documented. His campaign website and its successor, the recruiting arm, OFA, is rife with it. Disgustingly so. Just go there and scroll: Obama's Website: Hub for hate, terror and anti-Semitism.

So it comes as no surprise that this NSA adviser is cracking jokes that echo back to back slapping goose stepping Nazis imbibing cocktails, at Oskar Schindler's dinner parties.

We are in hell folks.

Obama's National Security Adviser Jones: Jews Are Greedy Merchants Hat tip Lid)

As the National Security Adviser, General James Jones is not known as a friend of the Jewish State. It was Jones who put together the team of Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski to meet with the President and advise him to impose a solution on Israel.

Earlier this week we may have gotten some insight into why Jones is not a fan of the Jewish Homeland. He was giving the key note speech at a Washington Institute For Near East Policy and started it out with a "Joke" that borders on anti-Semitic, teaching the crowd that Jews are just greedy merchants in the same vein as Shakespeare's Shylock:

Says Jones:

I'd like to begin with a story that I think is true. A Taliban militant gets lost and is wandering around the desert looking for water. He finally arrives at a store run by a Jew and asks for water. The Jewish vendor tells him he doesn’t have any water but can gladly sell him a tie. The Taliban militant, joker Jones says, begins to curse and yell at the Jewish storeowner. The Jew, unmoved, offers the rude militant an idea: Beyond the hill, there is a restaurant; the restaurant can sell you water. The Taliban militant keeps cursing and finally leaves toward the hill. An hour later he’s back at the tie store. He walks in and tells the merchant: “Your brother tells me I need a tie to get into the restaurant.”

According to the Jewish Forward

After the speech, two participants suggested, in private conversations with the Forward, that Jones’ joke might have been inappropriate. After all, making jokes about greedy Jewish merchants can be seen at times as insensitive.

A prominent think-tank source who attended the event said the joke was “wrong in so many levels” and that it “demonstrated a lack of sensitivity.” The source also asked: “Can you imagine him telling a black joke at an event of African Americans?”

Was the Joke Anti-Semitic? Well, the White House must have thought so. The White House transcriptvideo of the event posted on the Washington Institute Web site started right after the Joke, you can even hear the end of the laughter.

At the very least it was an idiotic time and place to make the joke. Many of the attendees of The Washington Institute dinner were in fact Jewish. And the Jewish community is very nervous about the recent anti-Israel leanings of the Obama administration.

Its interesting that the same President that sees racism in the legitimate actions of the Cambridge Police and the State of Arizona, hides the possible anti-Semitic prose of its National Security Adviser.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Cartoons Mocking Muhammad

This might become a national movement. Cartoon drawings that mock Muhammad. That will show them.

Seattle cartoonist launches "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day"

'South Park' producers say network cut fear speech

Everybody Draw Mohammed Facebook page

After Comedy Central cut a portion of a South Park episode following a death threat from a radical Muslim group, Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris wanted to counter the fear. She has declared May 20th "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."

Norris told KIRO Radio's Dave Ross that cartoonists are meant to challenge the lines of political correctness. "That's a cartoonist's job, to be non-PC."

Producers of South Park said Thursday that Comedy Central removed a speech about intimidation and fear from their show after a radical Muslim group warned that they could be killed for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

The group said it wasn't threatening South Park producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, but it included a gruesome picture of Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker killed by a Muslim extremist in 2004, and said the producers could meet the same fate. The website posted the addresses of Comedy Central's New York office and the California production studio where South Park is made.

"As a cartoonist I just felt so much passion about what had happened I wanted to kind of counter Comedy Central's message they sent about feeling afraid," Norris said.

Norris has asked other artists to submit drawings of any religious figure to be posted as part of Citizens Against Citizens Against Humor (CACAH) on May 20th.

On her website Norris explains this is not meant to disrespect any religion, but rather meant to protect people's right to express themselves.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

It's good to see American engineers at work on exciting new military/commercial ventures.

Star Wars 2010? U.S. military launch space plane on maiden voyage... but its mission is top secret

A top secret space plane developed by the US military has blasted off from Cape Canaveral on its maiden voyage.

Billed as a small shuttle, the unmanned X-37B heralds the next generation of space exploration. It will be the first craft to carry out an autonomous re-entry in the history of the US programme.

But its mission - and its cost - remain shrouded in secrecy. The Air Force said the launch was a success but would give no further details.

However, experts have said the spacecraft was intended to speed up development of combat-support systems and weapons systems. There have already been accusations that the programme could lead to the 'weaponisation' of space.

Speaking after the launch, Air Force deputy under-secretary for space systems Gary Payton, admitted it was impossible to hid a space launch - but was cagey about the what exactly the X-37B would do.

'On this flight the main thing we want to emphasise is the vehicle itself, not really, what's going on in the on-orbit phase because the vehicle itself is the piece of news here,' he said.

He refuted claims that the craft was a step towards military dominance in space.

'I don't know how this could be called weaponisation of space,' he said. 'It's just an updated version of the space shuttle type of activities in space.

'We, the Air Force, have a suite of military missions in space and this new vehicle could potentially help us do those missions better.'

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle took a decade to develop and will spend up to nine months in orbit. It will re-enter Earth on autopilot and land like an ordinary plane at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. When exactly that will happen, however, even the Air Force can't predict.

'In all honesty, we don't know when it's coming back for sure,' Payton said. 'It depends on the progress we make with the on-orbit experiments and the on-orbit demonstrations.'

When it is time for the plane to come back down, commanders will send a control from the ground ordering it to re-enter orbit. It will then navigate its way back to the air force base.

The spacecraft will conduct classified experiments while in orbit. The military has not revealed what those experiments will entail but the results will be brought back to earth for analysis.

Payton said the Air Force's main interest is to test the craft's automated flight control system and learn about the cost of turning it around for launch again.
The X-37B is 9m long (29ft) and has a wingspan of 4.5m (15ft), making it a quarter of the size of a normal shuttle.

It is powered by a solar array and lithium-ion batteries, unlike a traditional craft which is powered by a fuel cell system. It has a large engine at the rear for orbit changing. The spaceplane is also reusable.

Built by Boeing's Phantom Works division, the X-37 program was originally headed by NASA. It was later turned over to the Pentagon's research and development arm and then to a secretive Air Force unit.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the project, but the current total has not been released.

The Air Force has given a very general description of the mission objectives: testing of guidance, navigation, control, thermal protection and autonomous operation in orbit, re-entry and landing.

While the massive space shuttles have been likened to cargo-hauling trucks, the X-37B is more like a sports car, with the equivalent trunk capacity.

Dr Joan Johnson-Freese, chair of national security and decision making at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, told the BBC the launch was something of an experiment for the military.

'It might be at this point in time that (the US Air Force is) going to roll the dice and see if something good happens,' she said.

'If it does, they'll continue with it. Otherwise, this will be another one of those projects that goes into a bin somewhere.'

She claimed the US military had wanted a craft with the ability to loiter in space for some time.

'If it lives up to its speculated hype, it could be a maneuverable satellite,' she said.

'You could move it to, for example, hover over the straits of Taiwan and it could evade attempts to shoot it down. It could do a lot of things that up until this point have been mostly fiction.'

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You say Mow-hammed, I say Moo-hammed, A Terrorist Either Way

Any way you pronounce the name of the schizophrenic nut who founded Islam, he perpetrated a hoax upon billions of gullible followers that has done more to retard human development than any disease or war.

'Muhammad' now a dirty word on 'South Park'
Now "South Park" can't even say the words "Prophet Muhammad."

After last week's episode of the Comedy Central series sparked a threat (and yes, it was certainly a threat) from a radical Islamic website, the network has cracked-down-for-their-own-good on creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone during last night's continuation of the show's storyline.

For those who missed the drama, the show's 200th episode last week mocked the one "celebrity" that the series has been largely unable to depict, the Prophet Muhammad, who was hidden from view in a bear costume. A U.S.-based website then warned Parker and Stone they could end up like Theo Van Gogh (the Dutch filmmaker who was murdered by Muslim extremists after depicting Muhammad on his show) and even posted the address of the show's production office. The site has since been shut down.

Last night, "South Park" continued the controversial Muhammad storyline, but with a key difference: every instance of the words "Prophet Muhammad" was bleeped out, making the episode practically incomprehensible, especially to anybody who missed the previous week.

The character of Muhammad was once again also hidden from view, covered by a large block labeled "censored."

A Comedy Central spokesperson confirmed it was the network's decision to bleep the words.

The Muhammad content is also not available on the South Park Studios website.

A message on the site states: "We do not have network approval to stream our original version of the show. We will bring you a version of [episode] 201 as soon as we can."

Ironically, "South Park" apparently shows an image of the Prophet Muhammad briefly in its opening credits that has gone largely unnoticed.

UPDATE: Parker and Stone comment on "South Park" censorship:

In the 14 years we've been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn't stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn't some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle's customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn't mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We'll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we'll see what happens to it.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Buffett -- The Future is East

As if we did not know. As great as Buffett believes America to be, he also knows there is much greatness to tap in China. However, his excursion through the industrial world of China is to be guided by his Israeli ally, Eitan Wertheimer. Undoubtedly there is more prosperity ahead for those two and those who follow them.

Buffett’s Iscar Lured to China in Bid to Take Sandvik’s Lead

April 22 (Bloomberg) -- Iscar Metalworking Cos., the Israeli machinery maker owned by Warren Buffett, said it wants to make acquisitions abroad, with China the most likely market because of a lack of antitrust issues.

Iscar, the world’s second-biggest maker of metal-cutting tools, has ambitions to overtake global market leader Sandvik AB, Chairman Eitan Wertheimer said in an interview. A purchase “above a certain size” may prompt regulatory challenges in much of the world, though “China might be open,” and the takeover candidate would have to fit into strategy, he said.

Buffett’s self-described “travel agent,” Wertheimer, 58, plans a trip to the Far East with the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman later this year to visit Japanese unit Tungaloy, a manufacturer of automotive and aerospace tools that Iscar bought in 2008 and is reorganizing. The purchase added capacity in Asia, where Iscar also has Chinese and South Korean plants.

“We are dying to buy, but there is very little variety around, and it has to be the right price,” Wertheimer said at his office in Herzliya, just north of Tel Aviv. An acquisition’s match with the company is important because “I don’t want to be big and stupid. I enjoy a lot to be the number two and be the smart guy. I want to be the Einstein of the field.”

Iscar, which has its headquarters in the northern Israeli town of Tefen, was founded by Eitan’s father Stef Wertheimer in 1952. It makes machine tools for the car-manufacturing and planemaking industries, and customers include Toyota Motor Corp. Berkshire paid $4 billion in 2006 for an 80 percent stake in Iscar, with Wertheimer’s family owning the remaining 20 percent.

Sales Recovering

The Israeli company’s sales are recovering, approaching the level of before the global recession started, with China, India and Korea leading the way and Europe lagging behind, Wertheimer said in the April 18 interview, declining to disclose details.

Gross domestic product in China rose 11.9 percent from a year earlier in the first quarter, according to the country’s statistics bureau. India’s economy in the year through March probably expanded 7.2 percent, the country’s Finance Ministry estimates. That compares with a 5 percent GDP contraction in 2009 for Germany, Europe’s biggest economy.

The recession led Iscar to shift to a four-day workweek for four or five months last year, allowing it to avoid firing any of its 10,000 employees, Wertheimer said. “We had to play for time to keep the people,” he said.

Wertheimer said he’s looking forward to “schmoozing” with Buffett about the planned visit to the revamped Tungaloy while attending Berkshire’s annual meeting on May 1 in Omaha, Nebraska. The Japanese trip would be the third that Wertheimer has helped arrange for Buffett, following a visits to China and South Korea in October 2007 and to Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Italy in May 2008.

Iscar is in a good position to expand through acquisitions, with the “combination of Eitan Wertheimer’s skill with Warren Buffett’s checkbook,” while industry earnings are below average levels, says Shai Dardashti, managing partner of New York-based Dardashti Capital Management, a Berkshire Hathaway investor.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mocking Muhammad -- Good for Ratings

Is there any person or group that South Park has spared? Tom Cruise and the Scientologists went ballistic over their treatment by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The Pope? And now the wackos and screwballs who call themselves muslims claim they are on a bloody rampage to relieve the world of the South Park creators. Or maybe those two funny guys created the Revolution Muslim website menace for their own publicity purposes. Probably not. I hope South Park skewers Islam again, and gets enough of a rise out of Islamic fundamentalists that Obama feels compelled to speak out. To, you know, save someone from having his head cut off.

'South Park' Creators Could Face Retribution for Depicting Muhammad, Website Warns


A radical Islamic website is warning the creators of "South Park" that they could face violent retribution for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode broadcast on Comedy Central last week. posted a warning following the 200th episode of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "South Park," which included a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad disguised in a bear suit.

A radical Islamic website is warning the creators of "South Park" that they could face violent retribution for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode broadcast on Comedy Central last week. posted the warning following the 200th episode of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "South Park," which included a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad disguised in a bear suit. The Web posting also included a graphic photo of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 after making a documentary on violence against Muslim women.

"We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show," the posting reads. "This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."

Reaching by phone early Tuesday, Abu Talhah al Amrikee, the author of the post, said he wrote the entry to "raise awareness." He said the grisly photograph of van Gogh was meant to "explain the severity" of what Parker and Stone did by mocking Muhammad.

"It's not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome," al Amrikee said, referring to the possibility that Parker and Stone could be murdered for mocking Muhammad. "They're going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It's just the reality."

Al Amrikee said the website is considering a protest against the "disgusting" show, which also depicted the Prophet Muhammad in an episode on July 4, 2001.

"This is not a small thing," he said. "We should do whatever we can to make sure it does not happen again."

The posting on also includes audio of a sermon by Anwar al-Awlaki -- a radical U.S.-born preacher now believed to be hiding in Yemen -- who discusses assassinating individuals who defame the Prophet Muhammad. It also included a link to a 2009 story in the Huffington Post that gave details of Stone and Parker's mansion in Colorado.

A Comedy Central spokesman told that the network has no comment on the posting.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pope (Fox) promises to protect (put in charge) the Young (of Henhouse)

Okay. According to the Pope, the best way to keep pedophiles from abusing young boys is to put them in the hands of an institution known worldwide for hiring and protecting pedophiles. Yes. It's all very clear. Exactly the right way to go.

Pope: church will protect young from abuse

VALLETTA, Malta (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI met with a group of clerical abuse victims Sunday and promised them the Catholic Church would implement "effective measures" to protect young people in the future.

The Vatican said Benedict expressed his "shame and sorrow" at the pain the men and their families suffered and prayed with them during the meeting at the Vatican's embassy in Malta.

It was the first time Benedict had met with abuse victims since the worldwide clerical abuse scandal engulfed the Vatican earlier this year.

"He prayed with them and assured them that the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future," a Vatican statement said.

Victims' advocacy groups have demanded that the Vatican take concrete steps to protect children and remove abusive priests, saying the pope's expressions to date of solidarity and shame are meaningless unless actual action is taken.

Benedict's overnight trip to Malta - scheduled to commemorate the 1,950th anniversary of St. Paul's shipwreck - has been overshadowed by expectations that the pope would make a strong gesture to repair the damage of the scandal.

Benedict has been accused by victims' groups and their lawyers of being part of systematic practice of cover-up by church hierarchy for pedophile priests, in his earlier roles as an archbishop in Germany and later at the helm of the Vatican morals office.

Ten Maltese men came forward earlier this month saying they wanted to meet with the pope to tell him their stories and to request an apology. They say they were abused by four priests at a Catholic orphanage.

Benedict made no direct reference to the scandals during a Mass Sunday morning. He told Maltese to cling to their faith despite the temptations of modern society.

"Many voices try to persuade us to put aside our faith in God and his church," he warned.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Your Money -- Gone With the Wind

What is it about solar power and wind power that gets people excited about how to spend Other People's Money? Why do these flying carpets continue to thrill investors?

Investing in solar and wind would make sense if the technologies offered an advantage in price or performance. But they offer neither. Solar power and wind power cost more than power derived from convention sources and this unfortunate financial reality will not change anytime soon.

Technical advances can change the picture for solar power. If conversion efficiency improves enough, it is possible for the cost of electricity from solar power to match the price of electricity from our coal-fired plants.

But no technology can turn night into day.

Supporters of solar power love to yammer about the vast untapped quantities of sunlight that bathe the Earth every day. However, Earth already depends on that sunlight to maintain natural processes.

The Greenists claim that humans are causing catastrophic damage to the atmosphere through burning oil, gas and coal. Clearly if we capture large amounts of sunlight and convert it into electricity we will upset Nature's balance in even more profound ways.

The wind may blow everywhere and may blow with considerable power, but the machinery that converts wind energy into electricity is plagued by limitations that are the realities of physics. No human design can improve wind turbines enough to capture more than a small amount of the energy in wind. The amount of energy is too small to give wind turbines a competitive edge over reliable conventional plants except in remote regions where conventional power sources are unavailable. Moreover, even though wind turbines work, sometimes the air is still.

On those steaming hot summer nights when the air does not move, the only relief is from air conditioning. When the sun is down and the wind speed is zero, the only place to get power for air conditioners is the nearest coal-fired plant.

Renewed Appetite’ for IPOs Set to Boost Solar and Wind Power

April 15 (Bloomberg) -- The biggest revival in stock prices since the Great Depression is reigniting interest in initial public offerings by environmental companies, spurring businesses from China to California to issue new shares.

Electric automaker Tesla Motors Inc., U.S. green energy producer Ameresco Inc. and Spain’s T-Solar Global SA have filed to go public, and more companies are set to follow.

“There’s renewed appetite for green IPOs,” says Luigi Ferraris, chief financial officer of Italian utility Enel SpA, which plans to sell a minority stake of its renewable energy unit Enel Green Power for $5.4 billion by the end of 2010.

The initial offering would be Europe’s largest since 2007, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports in its April 26 issue. Green companies plan to raise $9.6 billion worldwide, more than triple the total value of IPOs for the industry in 2009, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

IPOs have increased as the MSCI World Index of stocks in developed nations surged 80 percent since March 2009, recovering from a 42 percent slump in 2008 that was the biggest on record.

Renewable energy projects such as wind farms and solar parks are drawing the most interest, according to Alex Klein, research director at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Emerging Energy Research. Energy conservation and water management are also gaining financial backers.

Share Offerings

Of the 19 green companies that have announced IPOs since September, 12 are from wind or solar businesses, according to New Energy Finance. None have sold their shares yet.

Nigel Meir of Ludgate Environmental Fund said two companies in his clean technology fund may seek to offer shares in the next 1 1/2 years. He wouldn’t name them.

“Investment bankers are out there soliciting business,” said Meir of the London-based fund. “The green sector has a lot of forward propulsion.”

His fund has stakes in 10 companies including, a Germany developer of biomass plants; New Earth Solutions of Verwood, England, which turns waste into energy; and the Dutch wind turbine maker Emergya Wind Technologies BV.

Chinese wind turbine producer Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology Co. is aiming to raise $1.5 billion in Hong Kong. The company already has a listing in Shenzhen.

British solar energy producer Engyco wants to secure $1.4 billion, while its Madrid-based rival Renovalia Energy SA may raise more than $300 million.

Tapping Markets

San Diego-based Fallbrook Technologies Inc., a maker of efficient transmissions for vehicles, is seeking $50 million. Tesla of Palo Alto, California, plans to raise $100 million.

After more than a year of “weak” equity markets, “now there appears to be a window of opportunity,” Robert Mansley, head of Credit Suisse Group AG’s European renewable energy investment banking unit, said in an interview. The industry “requires substantial amounts of capital.”

Environmental companies have one advantage over many non- green rivals: state support. Countries around the world have earmarked $184 billion to fund renewable energy installations and projects such as modernizing the electricity network, New Energy Finance estimates.

The U.S., Japan and European countries are tightening regulations to force companies to improve energy efficiency and cut carbon-dioxide emissions.

Government Funds

“A big part of the renewables market is the stimulus provided by governments,” said Chris Thiele, head of European utilities investment banking at Morgan Stanley in London.

State funding may ease as governments, particularly in cash-strapped European countries, work to curb growing deficits and subsides that were too generous.

Germany and Spain have cut support for solar power after together capturing about 75 percent of worldwide installations for photovoltaic panels in 2008. Czech Prime Minster Jan Fischer told the E15 newspaper in an interview published on March 8 he’d reduce rates paid to clean power producers.

U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Conservative opposition both plan to reduce the deficit, which at more than 12 percent of gross domestic product is the most in the Group of Seven nations.

Green initiatives such as loans for homeowners who install solar panels may be trimmed by politicians under pressure to curb deficits, said Walter Nasdeo of Ardour Capital, a New York bank specializing in clean technology.

Subsidies “are at the whim of whichever party is sitting in power,” he said.

Solar Stocks

Solar stocks have also underperformed the broader equity markets in the past year. The Bloomberg Global Leaders Solar Index, a measure of 38 companies that generate more than half of the solar industry’s revenue, has gained 6.5 percent in the past 12 months, lagging behind the 44 percent rallies for the MSCI World Index and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Three Chinese solar-related companies, JinkoSolar Holding Co., Daqo New Energy Corp. and Trony Solar Holdings Co., have shelved U.S. IPOs since December, Bloomberg data show.

That hasn’t stopped Enel Green Power. The electricity generator has secured $61 million in U.S. stimulus money for two geothermal power plants in Nevada. It aims to land more federal support for American wind, solar, and geothermal projects.

“The U.S. offers a huge opportunity for growth,” said Ferraris, Enel’s finance director.

‘Once Backed Hope’

In its home market, the Rome-based utility benefits from rules that let it charge customers above-market prices for clean energy.

Enel Green Power plans to invest $6.9 billion in renewables by 2014. All of the IPO money will help pay down its parent company’s $69 billion in debt.

Before the financial crisis, even companies with few customers and unproven equipment could get funding. Steady sales from proven technology are a must, something virtually all the companies looking to list now have, said Stephen Mahon, chief investment officer at Low Carbon Investors.

“People once backed hope,” Mahon said in London. “Now they back revenues.”

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Obama -- The Wrong Stuff

Where's Tom Wolfe when we need him? Obama wants to dilute the extraordinary work of the people who made NASA and give away our dominance in space to any nation that wants it. Most likely Russia. Is there any aspect of America Obama believes in?

Armstrong: Obama hurting space effort

Former astronaut Neil Armstrong has issued a strongly worded rebuke of President Barack Obama, criticizing the president for proposed revisions to the U.S.' space program.

Armstrong, along with astronauts James Lovell and Eugene Cernan, called the proposal “devastating” in a letter obtained by NBC News. Read below for the full text:

"The United States entered into the challenge of space exploration under President Eisenhower’s first term, however, it was the Soviet Union who excelled in those early years," the letter begins."Under the bold vision of Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and with the overwhelming approval of the American people, we rapidly closed the gap in the final third of the 20th century, and became the world leader in space exploration. ...

"When President Obama recently released his budget for NASA, he proposed a slight increase in total funding, substantial research and technology development, an extension of the International Space Station operation until 2020, long range planning for a new but undefined heavy lift rocket and significant funding for the development of commercial access to low earth orbit.

"Although some of these proposals have merit, the accompanying decision to cancel the Constellation program, its Ares 1 and Ares V rockets, and the Orion spacecraft, is devastating.

"America’s only path to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station will now be subject to an agreement with Russia to purchase space on their Soyuz (at a price of over 50 million dollars per seat with significant increases expected in the near future) until we have the capacity to provide transportation for ourselves. The availability of a commercial transport to orbit as envisioned in the President’s proposal cannot be predicted with any certainty, but is likely to take substantially longer and be more expensive than we would hope.

"It appears that we will have wasted our current ten plus billion dollar investment in Constellation and, equally importantly, we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded.

For The United States, the leading space faring nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit for an indeterminate time into the future, destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature. While the President's plan envisages humans traveling away from Earth and perhaps toward Mars at some time in the future, the lack of developed rockets and spacecraft will assure that ability will not be available for many years.

Without the skill and experience that actual spacecraft operation provides, the USA is far too likely to be on a long downhill slide to mediocrity. America must decide if it wishes to remain a leader in space. If it does, we should institute a program which will give us the very best chance of achieving that goal.

Neil Armstrong
Commander, Apollo 11

James Lovell
Commander, Apollo 13

Eugene Cernan
Commander, Apollo 17

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

En-Dow-ed with Dividends

6 Dow Dividend Stocks That Are Thriving in 2010

Investors looking for dividend stocks among the Dow Jones components should consider Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T). After all, these two telecom giants offer the highest yields of the 30 Dow stocks. However, despite their near 7% dividend yields, both stocks have been disappointments for income investors this year. Sure, their quarterly dividend payments have been generous, but this year Verizon’s stock has fallen over 9% and AT&T isn’t far behind with a drop of nearly a 6%. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones index has gained over 5% in 2010.

However, as Bernard Baruch said, "I buy my straw hats in winter." Thus, patient investors might enjoy substantial gains if they acquire these shares while it appears they are on sale.

Even though investing in the highest yielding Dow dividend stocks has led to subpar returns in 2010, that alone is no reason for investors to avoid stocks with high yields altogether. In fact, 9 out of the 12 highest yielding dividend stocks in the Dow have posted gains this year. Six Dow dividend stocks have already posted gains of over 10% from share-price appreciation this year. Their hefty dividen yields push their total-return figures even higher.

DuPont (DD)

DuPont investors have seen its seen stock price climb over about 15% since the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, the stock currently pays a quarterly dividend of 41 cents, which gives Dupont shares a current yield of 4.2%.

Home Depot (HD)

Home Depot’s stock price has been climbing steadily higher since reporting earnings in February. The stock has gained 15% since the beginning of 2010, but still yields 2.8%.

Caterpillar (CAT)

Even with a 15% gain in its stock price this year, Caterpillar still offers a 2.6% dividend yield. Growth prospects at this industrial firm appear bright as well, with analysts expecting earnings to grow by 22% this year and 49% in 2011.

Kraft Foods (KFT)

Kraft is the 4th highest yielding stock in the Dow index with a 3.8% dividend yield. In 2010, investors have not only enjoyed this stock's hefty yield, but also the 11% gain in the stock price.

Intel (INTC)

Intel increased its quarterly dividend by 12.5% in January and currently offers investors a 2.8% yield. Dividend-growth investors are not only happy with the dividend increase, but also the 11% jump in Intel’s share price this year.

McDonald’s (MCD)

Since 2006, McDonald’s has been the top performing stock in the Dow Jones index. The stock gained 86% during that period. Meanwhile the stock has risen 10% in 2010, which means the fast food chain is offering investors a 3.2% dividend yield. Moreover, the company has increased its dividend every year since 1976.

Don’t be fooled by AT&T and Verizon’s subpar performances this year -- high yielding Dow dividend stocks are thriving in 2010.

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ObamaCare -- How to Create a Labor Shortage

The latest estimates say ObamaCare will increase the number of insured people by 32 million. How many doctors does it take to care for 32 million people? Answer: A lot more doctors than our medical society employs. And more doctors than our schools can graduate. We face a doctor shortage.

What does America do when domestic production is not enough? We import. In the years ahead, look for a soaring number of foreign-trained doctors to enter the US medical system.

Meanwhile, ObamaCare supporters say ObamaCare will operate more efficiently than our medical community does today. Translation: each doctor must see more patients and receive smaller compensation from each. However, the cost of a medical education will continue to rise while earning potential is likely to plateau. Hence, more and more American students will choose other careers, thereby increasing the need for imported doctors.

With demand for doctors surging and the supply limited, it is certain that standards for medical competence will drop. Putting less competent doctors into the system will lead to higher malpractice awards and higher malpractice insurance premiums, which will lead to higher overall medical expenses for the US.

Meanwhile, if the US hopes to maintain its pace of advancement in medicine, the price will remain high, and ObamaCare will make it even higher.

Medical Schools Can't Keep Up

As Ranks of Insured Expand, Nation Faces Shortage of 150,000 Doctors in 15 Years

The new federal health-care law has raised the stakes for hospitals and schools already scrambling to train more doctors.

Experts warn there won't be enough doctors to treat the millions of people newly insured under the law. At current graduation and training rates, the nation could face a shortage of as many as 150,000 doctors in the next 15 years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

That shortfall is predicted despite a push by teaching hospitals and medical schools to boost the number of U.S. doctors, which now totals about 954,000.

The greatest demand will be for primary-care physicians. These general practitioners, internists, family physicians and pediatricians will have a larger role under the new law, coordinating care for each patient.

The U.S. has 352,908 primary-care doctors now, and the college association estimates that 45,000 more will be needed by 2020. But the number of medical-school students entering family medicine fell more than a quarter between 2002 and 2007.

A shortage of primary-care and other physicians could mean more-limited access to health care and longer wait times for patients.

Proponents of the new health-care law say it does attempt to address the physician shortage. The law offers sweeteners to encourage more people to enter medical professions, and a 10% Medicare pay boost for primary-care doctors.

Meanwhile, a number of new medical schools have opened around the country recently. As of last October, four new medical schools enrolled a total of about 190 students, and 12 medical schools raised the enrollment of first-year students by a total of 150 slots, according to the AAMC. Some 18,000 students entered U.S. medical schools in the fall of 2009, the AAMC says.

But medical colleges and hospitals warn that these efforts will hit a big bottleneck: There is a shortage of medical resident positions. The residency is the minimum three-year period when medical-school graduates train in hospitals and clinics.

There are about 110,000 resident positions in the U.S., according to the AAMC. Teaching hospitals rely heavily on Medicare funding to pay for these slots. In 1997, Congress imposed a cap on funding for medical residencies, which hospitals say has increasingly hurt their ability to expand the number of positions.

Medicare pays $9.1 billion a year to teaching hospitals, which goes toward resident salaries and direct teaching costs, as well as the higher operating costs associated with teaching hospitals, which tend to see the sickest and most costly patients.

Doctors' groups and medical schools had hoped that the new health-care law, passed in March, would increase the number of funded residency slots, but such a provision didn't make it into the final bill.

"It will probably take 10 years to even make a dent into the number of doctors that we need out there," said Atul Grover, the AAMC's chief advocacy officer.

While doctors trained in other countries could theoretically help the primary-care shortage, they hit the same bottleneck with resident slots, because they must still complete a U.S. residency in order to get a license to practice medicine independently in the U.S. In the 2010 class of residents, some 13% of slots are filled by non-U.S. citizens who completed medical school outside the U.S.

One provision in the law attempts to address residencies. Since some residency slots go unfilled each year, the law will pool the funding for unused slots and redistribute it to other institutions, with the majority of these slots going to primary-care or general-surgery residencies. The slot redistribution, in effect, will create additional residencies, because previously unfilled positions will now be used, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Some efforts by educators are focused on boosting the number of primary-care doctors. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences anticipates the state will need 350 more primary-care doctors in the next five years. So it raised its class size by 24 students last year, beyond the 150 previous annual admissions.

In addition, the university opened a satellite medical campus in Fayetteville to give six third-year students additional clinical-training opportunities, said Richard Wheeler, executive associate dean for academic affairs. The school asks students to commit to entering rural medicine, and the school has 73 people in the program.

"We've tried to make sure the attitude of students going into primary care has changed," said Dr. Wheeler. "To make sure primary care is a respected specialty to go into."

Montefiore Medical Center, the university hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, has 1,220 residency slots. Since the 1970s, Montefiore has encouraged residents to work a few days a week in community clinics in New York's Bronx borough, where about 64 Montefiore residents a year care for pregnant women, deliver children and provide vaccines. There has been a slight increase in the number of residents who ask to join the program, said Peter Selwyn, chairman of Montefiore's department of family and social medicine.

One is Justin Sanders, a 2007 graduate of the University of Vermont College of Medicine who is a second-year resident at Montefiore. In recent weeks, he has been caring for children he helped deliver. He said more doctors are needed in his area, but acknowledged that "primary-care residencies are not in the sexier end. A lot of these [specialty] fields are a lot sexier to students with high debt burdens."

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Monday, April 12, 2010

As the Post Office goes, so will go ObamaCare

The government runs the mail business in ways similar to the ways it will run more and more of the healthcare business. We can see where the encroaching government management will take us. The future of healthcare is unaffordable if we follow the path set by Obama and his spendthrift idealists. However, the news about the Post Office is good news for those who own stock in Pitney Bowes.

GAO: Postal Service business 'not viable'

Happy Monday! The U.S. Postal Service's current business model "is not viable" and the mail agency should make deeper job and wage cuts, hire more part-time staff and consider outsourcing operations, according to a draft of a government audit acquired by The Federal Eye.

Auditors also urge Congress to remove restrictions on the Postal Service's ability to cut Saturday mail delivery and close post offices, according to the report, which offers recommendations similar to the USPS's own proposed 10-year business plan.

Lawmakers requested the Government Accountability Office report, set for a Monday release, as they prepare to consider the USPS plan, which was introduced last month. The proposals call for an end to six-day delivery and ask Congress to give the mail agency the ability to raise prices beyond the rate of inflation and close post offices if necessary.

The report's conclusions pleased top postal officials who are gathered this week in Nashville for the annual National Postal Forum, a convention for the mail agency's largest customers.

Postmaster General John E. Potter said Sunday he was pleased with the GAO's general conclusions, but concerned with suggestions in the report that further study of the issue is required.

"We've studied this significantly, the time for study is over, now's the time for action," he said.

Potter and his colleagues estimate the Postal Service will lose a record $7 billion in the fiscal year that ends in September and could lose at least $238 billion in the next decade if Congress fails to act.

Auditors appeared to push beyond the USPS proposal. "If no action is taken, risks of larger USPS losses, rate increases and taxpayer subsides will increase," GAO said.

The Postal Service should provide more lucrative incentive packages to potential retirees to try to accelerate attrition, auditors said. They also recommended USPS consider outsourcing more delivery routes and mail services to contractors and seek concessions on wage and benefits from its labor unions during negotiations later this year.

Lawmakers also should consider establishing a panel similar to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to independently recommend changes, the report said. Auditors suggested that more details are needed about potential delivery cuts and post office closures.

Most lawmakers and regulators have reacted tepidly to proposed changes. Potter's meetings in Nashville will be mostly with customers who could suffer from proposed cuts and price increases.

GAO concluded that the recession served as the "tipping point" that accelerated a shift away from traditional snail mail for most of the Postal Service's biggest customers, including insurance and banking companies.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who will lead postal reform efforts in the Senate, said that if GAO's conclusions are correct, "it is imperative that Congress, postal management, postal employees, customers and other stakeholders give up on old fights and biases and work together to cut the Postal Service's costs and adjust its operations to meet a changing environment."

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bring on the anti-islamic Hooligans

How do you stop muslim terrorists from disrupting the World Cup? Send in the soccer hooligans and set them loose.

Meanwhile, early warnings about terrorist attacks, especially early warnings from the terrorist group itself, are odd. If the US had had a similar warning about the events scheduled for 9/11, our security forces would have stopped the terrorists. By appearing to telegraph their plans, al-Qaeda shows it has learned a valuable lesson: It's possible to create massive turmoil among non-muslims simply by issuing threats through the media. The islamic terrorists have learned they can scramble entire cities with a few brief words about terror attacks that most likely are nothing but talk.

Seems like a Red Herring Alert to me. As a result of al-Qaeda's Public Service Announcement, security agents in South Africa, itself a relatively lawless place, will work fulltime from now till the World Cup competition is over. In other words, if planning for actual attacks is underway, then those attacks will occur in countries other than South Africa. If one were tossing out a guess about the site of the actual attacks the US -- NY City -- should probably appear on the list. Maybe London.

A good bet is any sub-Sahara African nation with a muslim population that is growing in number and power. Perhaps Nigeria, which, due to Nigeria's importance to global oil supplies, offers terrorists a bonus tied to oil prices.

AL-QAEDA have vowed to bomb the World Cup - with England players top of their hitlist.

The terror group pledged to target the match between England and the USA in South Africa in June, warning "hundreds" of fans could die.

A branch of al-Qaeda which last year killed British hostage Edwin Dyer, 61, in Mali made the threats.

Security ... England ace Lampard

They also vowed to target resorts, hotels and car parks used by supporters during the tournament. And they claimed explosive devices which cannot be detected by security scans would be used.

The threats appear on al-Qaeda-linked websites. A statement said: "How beautiful would the game between England and the USA be when broadcast live from a stadium full of spectators - when the sound of an explosion rumbles through the stands. The resulting death toll is in the dozens and hundreds - Allah willing."

Security around England stars such as Frank Lampard is likely to be stepped up as they play in Cape Town and other cities.

The threats from al-Qaeda's North African network were last night being taken seriously by terror experts.

Neil Doyle said: "They have a track record for violence."

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

America -- Safe Haven for Muslims

What's Not Happening to American Muslims

To hear Hollywood and the media tell it, American Muslims were the ultimate victims of 9/11. What nonsense.

It can't have come as a surprise that one of the now entrenched myths about America—namely, its ongoing victimization of Muslims—should have been voiced again by a leading citizen of our myth-producing capital, Hollywood. The citizen was Tom Hanks, and the occasion his March interview in Time Magazine in which he declared that our battle with Japan in World War II was one of "racism and terror." And that, he noted, should remind us of our current wars.

The comments caused a furor. But Mr. Hanks, who had made them during a publicity tour—he's the producer of the HBO series, "The Pacific"—saw the issue in perfectly clear terms, which he went on to explain several times more in subsequent media appearances. We can only ponder the joy this must have brought to the hearts of HBO executives.

The Hanks mini-seminar was only one of the many distortions of our still unbearably raw recent history—never mind World War II—encouraging Americans to view themselves as oppressors and racists. The latest reflection of this trend, grown steadily since the attacks of Sept. 11, came with a three-page spread in the Washington Post on March 24 about the tribulations of a Muslim soldier who reported being subjected to slurs, various other insults, and also a threatening note.

His commander suggested he might do well to move to housing off base. The base in question was Fort Hood, where, last November, army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan murdered 13 fellow American soldiers.

The pain of these confrontations was undoubtedly great, as such treatment always is. Ask the members of religious and racial minorities who served, say, in World War II, when it wasn't unusual to hear slurs like "kike" and such hurled at them.

Ask black Americans who had the incomparably worse experience of serving in a racially segregated military, where they were relegated to the worst duties. Not to mention being made witness—in parts of the country—to the sight of German POWs held in the U.S. eating in restaurants barred to black Americans in uniform, and otherwise being accorded respect that those Americans could not hope to receive.

Still, there were no instances of those enduring this treatment undertaking mass murder of other American servicemen. There was rage, and there were some riots, but no cases of U.S. soldiers enlisting in the service of the enemy as Maj. Hasan had. (Hasan, it was explained after he had cut down those unarmed servicemen and women packed into that room in Ft. Hood, had suffered prejudice-related pressures as a Muslim in the armed services.)

There were, in World War II, no watchdog groups like the ones cited in the Washington Post story, no agencies keeping lists of harassment complaints, or name-calling suffered by members of the U.S. military, or of the number of soldiers, like those mentioned in the story, who called crying on the phone. There were back then plenty of officers given to convenient cover-ups. But, it's a good bet, few like Maj. Hasan's superiors—so addled by raised consciousness and worries about appearing insensitive to Muslims in the service that they ignored even the most extreme expressions of his enmity to the United States and its military, his praise of suicide bombers, his jihadi contacts.

Since the events of Sept. 11, we've seen the growth of a view that American Muslims became prime victims of those terror attacks—isolated, fearful, targets of hostility. President George W. Bush, who went to Washington D.C's Islamic Center a few days after the terror assaults, told his audience that Islam was about peace and warned that the nation's Muslims must be free to go about without fear or intimidation by other Americans—remarks he doubtless thought were called for under the circumstances.

It had not, of course, been necessary to remind Americans of who they were and were not. No menacing hordes, then or later, ever threatened American Muslims—and it has been an insult to the nation to have been lectured to the same way after every attempted terror attack, as though wild mobs of citizens might actually run through the streets attacking Muslims.

Even as the ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon still smoldered, countless Americans had reached out to their Muslim neighbors to reassure them.

No matter. Every report of any activity bearing resemblance to anti-Muslim sentiment became, in short order, essential news. Every actual incident, every report of a nasty sign, fitted the all-consuming theme taken up by large sectors of mainstream media: that the country's Muslims were now hapless targets, not only of the national rage at the atrocities committed by Islamic fundamentalists, but also of racism.

It was a view especially well in accord with those of a generation schooled in colleges and universities where pathological extremes of sensitivity to claims of racial, religious or sexual insult or charges of gender bias are considered perfectly normal and right.

Reporters ran with the theme in part because the media's appetite for victim stories of any kind is inexhaustible. But this was, in addition, the kind journalists pride themselves on as socially responsible. It was also one that didn't lack for willing subjects. For American Muslims in considerable numbers apparently subscribed to the view that theirs was the abiding suffering that had been inflicted by the 9/11 attacks.

There was no missing the steady supply of Muslims available to tell inquiring reporters of their feelings of alienation and persecution.

Each FBI terrorist sting that went awry or seemed to, each wild goose chase of a home-grown jihadi threat, spurred a new portrait of besieged American Muslims. When such plots turned out to be true, and their threat enormous—most recently in the case of Najubullah Zazi, a jihadist who planned to set explosives off in the New York subway—the portrait and the theme remained the same. Since alienated American Muslims were forced to live in fear as second-class citizens, it was explained, more and more of them chose extremism and violence.

In short, whether the charges of terrorist activity were false or whether they were true, American society was to blame.

There are other faces of Muslim America. Five years or so after the terrorists drove their planes and passengers into the twin towers and the Pentagon, a cab driver from Pakistan remarked, as we drove past the rubble where the towers had stood, that he could never pass this place without trying to see them again in his mind. A painful effort, for all that it brought back. What was not painful, he added, was the memory of certain people in his neighborhood—a mixed but mostly white area of Queens, with many Italian-Americans, some Jews, and he thought some Irish. After the attacks, some of the men had come to him.

"My wife doesn't go out without a head cover," he explained. The men had come to tell him that if anyone bothered her, or his family, he must come to them.

"I must tell them and must not be afraid. Do you know," he said, in a voice suddenly sharp, "what would have happened if Americans had done this kind of attack in my country? Every American—every Christian, every non-Muslim—would have been slaughtered, blood would have run in the streets. I know the kind of country this is. Thanks be to God I can give this to my children."

Countless American Muslims would, like generations of immigrants of all kinds, say the same. Theirs, of course, is not the face of Muslim America suitable for the continuing chronicle of the victimized American Muslim.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Calling 411 on Vonage

Speculators: The Stock Price of Vonage Might Double

In the coming year there is the potential of a Vonage (VG) takeover. But over the last quarter many exciting developments have occurred at VG. It's the recent developments that might lead to the rising stock price.

For example:

Release of Apple iPad - On March 19, 2010, VG announced the grant of a virtual phone number patent. The patent - titled Method and Apparatus for Placing a Long Distance Call Based on a Virtual Phone Number - allows consumers to communicate with distant locations without incurring long distance or international calling charges. This is a second patent to a critical development that broadened VG’s customer base at the time of the release of the iPad.

Apple (APPL) and AT&T (T) agreed to ban apps that would let iPhone users make phone calls using the 3G data connection to prevent cutting into T’s profits. That agreement was revealed in summer of 2009 when the FCC asked AAPL and T to explain why Google’s (GOOG) Voice app was rejected from the iPhone store.

After the FCC announced it was planning to extend internet openness rules to mobile networks, T in October 2009 announced it would extend VOIP to 3G networks for the iPhone. It appears that T’s policy change is coming into effect. VG’s App Store was approved by Apple in September, 2009 and VG’s service is currently available on the iPhone. And, because the iPad has a microphone and runs iPhone Apps, VG will certainly be available on the iPad.

Success of Introductory $14.99 Promotion for 6 months

– Yesterday, a representative of Vonage indicated the promotion has “greatly exceeded expectations.” This is exciting news for VG, especially at a time when the landscape of cellular is changing to enable VOIP apps, signaling a new era for companies such as VG. As cellular networks are becoming faster, the quality and lure of VOIP is increasing as an alternative or supplement to cellular. Additionally, Intel (INTC) and other partners (Samsung, Nokia (NOK) etc.) have been developing WiMax, which would broaden the VOIP market even further. Some research reports estimate that VG will go to $4.00 in 2010.

Evidence that Vonage has a sustainable business model – As we have witnessed in VG’s earnings release, they beat analyst’s estimates for the second consecutive quarter. Not only has VG been luring customers from the traditional land line-based services, but now they are rapidly entering into the cellular market. This increases the likelihood of a takeover of VG. I would expect that cellular providers and traditional phone companies would be interested in VG.

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A New Sky Must Fall

Seems our Chicken Littles are running short on creativity. Where are all those inventive Crisis Mongers?

What's the Next 'Global Warming'?

Herewith I propose a contest to invent the next panic.

So global warming is dead, nailed into its coffin one devastating disclosure, defection and re-evaluation at a time. Which means that pretty soon we're going to need another apocalyptic scare to take its place.

As recently as October, the Guardian reported that scientists at Cambridge had "concluded that the Arctic is now melting at such a rate that it will be largely ice free within ten years." This was supposedly due to global warming. It brought with it the usual lamentations for the grandchildren.

But in March came another report in the Guardian, this time based on the research of Japanese scientists, that "much of the record breaking loss of ice in the Arctic ocean in recent years is [due] to the region's swirling winds and is not a direct result of global warming." It also turns out that the extent of Arctic sea ice in March was around the recorded average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The difference between the two stories has little to do with science: There were plenty of reasons back in October to suspect that the Arctic ice panic—based on data that only goes back to 1979—was as implausible as the now debunked claim about disappearing Himalayan glaciers. But thanks to Climategate and the Copenhagen fiasco, the media are now picking up the kinds of stories they previously thought it easier and wiser to ignore.

This is happening internationally. In France, a book titled "L'imposture climatique" is a runaway bestseller: Its author, Claude Allègre, is one of the country's most acclaimed scientists and a former minister of education in a Socialist government.

In Britain, environmentalist patron saint James Lovelock now tells the BBC he suspects climate scientists have "[fudged] the data" and that if the planet is going to be saved, "it will save itself, as it always has done."

In Germany, the leftish Der Spiegel devotes 15 pages to a deliciously detailed account of "scientists who want to be politicians," the "curious inconsistencies" in the temperature record, the "sloppy work" of the U.N.'s climate-change panel and sundry other sins of modern climatology.

As for the United States, Gallup reports that global warming now ranks sixth on the list of Americans' top 10 environmental concerns. My wager is that within a few years "climate change" will exercise global nerves about as much as overpopulation, toxic tampons, nuclear winters, ozone holes, killer bees, low sperm counts, genetically modified foods and mad cows do today.

Something is going to have to take its place.

The world is now several decades into the era of environmental panic. The subject of the panic changes every few years, but the basic ingredients tend to remain fairly constant. A trend, a hypothesis, an invention or a discovery disturbs the sense of global equilibrium. Often the agent of distress is undetectable to the senses, like a malign spirit. A villain—invariably corporate and right-wing—is identified.

Then money begins to flow toward grant-seeking institutions and bureaucracies, which have an interest in raising the level of alarm. Environmentalists counsel their version of virtue, typically some quasi-totalitarian demands on the pattern of human behavior. Politicians assemble expert panels and propose sweeping and expensive legislation. Eventually, the problem vanishes. Few people stop to consider that perhaps it wasn't such a crisis in the first place.

This is what's called eschatology—a belief, or psychology, that we are approaching the End Time. Religions have always found a way to take account of those beliefs, but today's secular panics are unmoored by spiritual consolations or valid moral injunctions. Instead, we have the modern-day equivalent of the old Catholic indulgence in the form of carbon credits. It's how Al Gore justifies his utility bills.

Given the inescapability of weather, it's no wonder global warming gripped the public mind as long as it did. And there's always some extreme-weather event happening somewhere to be offered as further evidence of impending catastrophe. But even weather gets boring, and so do the people who natter about it incessantly. What this decade requires is a new and better panic.

Herewith, then, I propose a readers' contest to invent the next panic. It must involve something ubiquitous, invisible to the naked eye, and preferably mass-produced. And the solution must require taxes, regulation, and other changes to civilization as we know it.

The winner gets a beer and a burger, on me, at the 47th street Pig N' Whistle in New York City. (Nachos for vegetarians.) Happy panicking!

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ObamaCare is Taxing

The White House and the Writedowns

The administration wants companies to ignore known costs and book speculative future savings. That's Enron accounting. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke had it backwards last week when he cited the "hype and overheated rhetoric" of U.S. corporations that have reported large writedowns in response to health-care reform.

In fact, the companies' accounting announcements were written in the most bland prose imaginable. It was the Obama administration that created the controversy by suggesting that these legally required filings were politically motivated. Mr. Locke himself publicly criticized the companies for being "premature" in making these disclosures, even though rules enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission require immediate disclosure.

The new health-care law contains two sentences that change the tax treatment of a subsidy originally crafted in 2003 when Congress established the Medicare prescription drug program.

As a result, companies must now impose on their financial statements the present value of their entire new future tax liability. The Obama administration's position is a) that the original tax provision was actually a "loophole," and b) that companies are acting irresponsibly by refusing to acknowledge the overall cost savings associated with the new law.

As to the first charge, some historical context is helpful. In 2003 Congress considered enacting either a larger, taxable subsidy or a smaller, nontaxable one. From both the perspective of the federal government and the companies receiving the subsidy, the real economic impact would have been identical either way. For reasons that entirely served the federal government's peculiar accounting methods, Democratic and Republican lawmakers agreed to the smaller non-taxable subsidy.

Notwithstanding the unusual tax treatment in the original provision, the bottom line is indisputable: The subsidy exists for the express purpose of saving the government money by keeping retirees on company prescription drug plans rather than having them enroll in the Medicare drug plan. Now that Congress has reversed the policy, corporations must report eye-popping charges on their financial statements.

As for the government's assertion that companies are failing to adequately account for all the savings they will enjoy from health-care reform, isn't that exactly the kind of "creative" accounting that got Enron in trouble? Even assuming the administration is right that the various features of the new law will reduce future health costs, it would be highly inappropriate for companies to try to book these speculative future savings.

And if companies did so, wouldn't accuracy dictate that they also take a charge for all of the new law's provisions that could add to health-care costs? Fortunately, accounting rules have meaning because they require reporting things that are known (like the new tax on the drug subsidy) rather than things that are either hoped for or feared but may never come to pass.

The real story here—and the one that is getting little attention—is that the new law will likely result in a change of drug coverage for 1.5 million to two million retirees as they are moved from their employer-sponsored plans, according to a study we commissioned by former Office of Management and Budget official Don Moran. Reasonable people can differ as to whether shifting retirees to the Medicare drug program is good or bad policy. But two things are certain. First, it will cost the federal government more money. Second, employers will be excoriated when it happens.

When an administration is unwilling to accept criticism of two sentences in a 2,700-page law there is a problem. The White House needs to stop being so defensive. Here's a new talking point for Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to try: "Overall, we are very proud of the sweeping legislation we have enacted. But we acknowledge that the drug-subsidy provision is having unintended, negative consequences for companies, and potentially also for retirees and government costs."

Short of admitting that they were repeatedly warned this would happen, the administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress might at least stop accusing companies of hype and inflated rhetoric.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

A Sexual Revolution will Reform Muslims

What scares them so? Muslim men are petrified by female sexuality. It drives them crazy, the idea that women want orgasmic satisfaction. Too bad. The fear of these men adds up to a big loss for everyone, the men and the women, and then of course, the whole world. Clearly the anger of muslim men is tied to their attitudes and experience with sex and female sexuality, and their views are a result of believing in Islam. Suckers.

About That Playboy in My Drawer . . .

If America wants to tilt the balance of Muslim sentiment in its favor, it needs to stand up for its principles, its liberties and its friends—Israel, Playboy and Lady Gaga included.

It's time to make a personal and professional admission: I keep a copy of the Feb. 2007 issue of Playboy in a desk drawer in my Wall Street Journal office.

This is not the sort of thing I ever thought I'd publicly confess. But I'm prompted to do so now in response to a string of online rebuttals to my Tuesday column, "Lady Gaga Versus Mideast Peace," in which I argue that Western liberalism (in its old-fashioned sense) has done far more than Israel's settlements to provoke violent Muslim anti-Americanism.

In particular, I was taken to task by Andrew Exum—the "Abu Muqawama" blogger at the Center for a New American Security—for allegedly failing to watch my share of racy Arabic-language music videos, such as those by Lebanese beauty queen and pop star Haifa Wehbe. "With music videos like this one," writes Mr. Exum, "Stephens can hardly argue that Lady Gaga is the one importing sexual provocation into the Arabic-speaking world and stirring things up, can he?"

So let me tell you about that Playboy, and how I came to purchase it.

In the spring of 2007 I wrote a series of columns from Indonesia about the battle lines then emerging between religious radicals and moderates in the world's largest Muslim-majority country. I profiled Abdurrahman Wahid, then the former (now late) president of Indonesia and a champion of his country's tolerant religious traditions. I visited a remote Sumatran village that had expelled an itinerant Islamic preacher for his militant Wahhabi teachings. I interviewed Habib Rizieq, head of the Front for the Defense of Islam, a vigilante group known for violently suppressing "un-Islamic" behavior.

I also spent a delightful evening in the company of Inul Daratista, the Indonesian equivalent of Shakira, who had been accused by a council of Muslim clerics of committing pornoaksi—or "porno action"—for gyrating a little excessively in one of her music videos. A million Indonesians had taken to the streets to denounce the video, and legislation was introduced in Indonesia's parliament to ban pornoaksi, which could be defined as any female behavior that could arouse a sexual response in a man, such as the sight of a couple kissing in public or a woman wearing a backless dress.

One person I didn't manage to interview was Erwin Arnada, the editor of the Indonesian edition of Playboy. I did, however, get hold of a copy of the magazine (the one now in my office): It contains not a single picture of a naked woman. The Playmate in the centerfold is clad in the kind of lingerie that would seem a bit old-fashioned in a Victoria's Secret catalogue; a second photo essay in my magazine looks as if it belongs in a J. Crew ad.

Nevertheless, upon beginning publication in 2006 Mr. Arnada was almost immediately charged with violating Indonesia's indecency laws. (He was ultimately acquitted.) His Jakarta offices were violently attacked by Mr. Rizieq's goons, forcing the magazine to move to the predominantly Hindu island of Bali. "For Arnada," wrote New York Times reporter Jane Perlez, "all the fuss represents fears about the intrusion of Western culture. 'Why else do they keep shouting about Playboy?' he asked."

Mr. Arnada's comment gets at the crux of the argument I made in my column, which is that it is liberalism itself—liberalism as democracy, as human rights, as freedom of conscience and expression, as artistic license, as social tolerance, as a philosophy with universal application—to which the radical Muslim mind chiefly objects, and to which it so often violently reacts. Are Israeli settlements also a provocation? Of course they are, as is Israel itself. Should Israel dismantle most or even all of its settlements? Sure, if in exchange it gets a genuine peace.

But the West will win no reprieve from the furies of the Muslim world by seeking to appease it in the coin of this or that Israeli withdrawal or concession. To do so would be as fruitless and wrong-headed as cancelling a performance of Mozart's Idomeneo because it might offend radical Islamic sensibilities—though that's precisely what a Berlin opera house did in September 2006 for fear of sparking a violent outburst of Muslim rage.

Fortunately, the West has better options for dealing with that rage than pressuring Israel. Though he doesn't seem to realize it, Mr. Exum makes my point very nicely by noting the inroads that artists like Ms. Wehbe have made in much of her region. Liberalism, not least of the sexual kind, sells in the Muslim world: The first issue of Playboy Indonesia, tame as it was, sold out its entire print run of 100,000 copies. In Bahrain, efforts by Islamists in parliament to ban a performance by Wehbe failed on account of popular demand: As one Bahraini fan told the Lebanese Web site YaLibnan, "If certain people find it offensive, they shouldn't go to the concert." It's hard to imagine a more liberal outlook than that.

There was a time when liberals believed that rock'n'roll would change the world. They were right, though not in the way most of them imagined. Instead, in places like communist Czechoslovakia—where Vaclav Havel took inspiration from the likes of Lou Reed—and today in the repressive lands of Islam, the sensual currents of Western life exert a constant and ineradicable attraction, even as they also provoke censorious and violent reactions.

If America wants to tilt the balance of Muslim sentiment in its favor, it needs to stand up for its principles, its liberties and its friends—Israel, Playboy and Lady Gaga included.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

We Need More Guys Like Roberts

There are never enough visionaries in the world. And you never know where or when they will appear. Or from where they will emerge. So we must always keep the door open and the light on because when one of them drops by, he can change everything.

H. Edward Roberts, PC Pioneer, Dies at 68

Not many people in the computer world remembered H. Edward Roberts, not after he walked away from the industry more than three decades ago to become a country doctor in Georgia. Bill Gates remembered him, though.

As Dr. Roberts lay dying last week in a hospital in Macon, Ga., suffering from pneumonia, Mr. Gates flew down to be at his bedside.

Mr. Gates knew what many had forgotten: that Dr. Roberts had made an early and enduring contribution to modern computing. He created the MITS Altair, the first inexpensive general-purpose microcomputer, a device that could be programmed to do all manner of tasks. For that achievement, some historians say Dr. Roberts deserves to be recognized as the inventor of the personal computer.

For Mr. Gates, the connection to Dr. Roberts was also personal. It was writing software for the MITS Altair that gave Mr. Gates, a student at Harvard at the time, and his Microsoft partner, Paul G. Allen, their start. Later, they moved to Albuquerque, where Dr. Roberts had set up shop.

Dr. Roberts died Thursday at the Medical Center of Middle Georgia, his son Martin said. He was 68.

When the Altair was introduced in the mid-1970s, personal computers — then called microcomputers — were mainly intriguing electronic gadgets for hobbyists, the sort of people who tinkered with ham radio kits.

Dr. Roberts, it seems, was a classic hobbyist entrepreneur. He left his mark on computing, built a nice little business, sold it and moved on — well before personal computers moved into the mainstream of business and society.

Mr. Gates, as history proved, had far larger ambitions.

Over the years, there was some lingering animosity between the two men, and Dr. Roberts pointedly kept his distance from industry events — like the 20th anniversary celebration in Silicon Valley of the introduction of the I.B.M. PC in 1981, which signaled the corporate endorsement of PCs.

But in recent months, after learning that Dr. Roberts was ill, Mr. Gates made a point of reaching out to his former boss and customer. Mr. Gates sent Dr. Roberts a letter last December and followed up with phone calls, another son, Dr. John David Roberts, said. Eight days ago, Mr. Gates visited the elder Dr. Roberts at his bedside in Macon.

“Any past problems between those two were long since forgotten,” said Dr. John David Roberts, who had accompanied Mr. Gates to the hospital. He added that Mr. Allen, the other Microsoft founder, had also called the elder Dr. Roberts frequently in recent months.

On his Web site, Mr. Gates and Mr. Allen posted a joint statement, saying they were saddened by the death of “our friend and early mentor.”

“Ed was willing to take a chance on us — two young guys interested in computers long before they were commonplace — and we have always been grateful to him,” the statement said.

When the small MITS Altair appeared on the January 1975 cover of Popular Electronics, Mr. Gates and Mr. Allen plunged into writing a version of the Basic programming language that could run on the machine.

Mr. Gates dropped out of Harvard, and Mr. Allen left his job at Honeywell in Boston. The product they created for Dr. Roberts’s machine, Microsoft Basic, was the beginning of what would become the world’s largest software company and would make its founders billionaires many times over.

MITS was the kingpin of the fledgling personal computer business only briefly. In 1977, Mr. Roberts sold his company. He walked away a millionaire. But as a part of the sale, he agreed not to design computers for five years, an eternity in computing. It was a condition that Mr. Roberts, looking for a change, accepted.

He first invested in farmland in Georgia. After a few years, he switched course and decided to revive a childhood dream of becoming a physician, earning his medical degree in 1986 from Mercer University in Macon. He became a general practitioner in Cochran, 35 miles northwest of the university.

In Albuquerque, Dr. Roberts, a burly, 6-foot-4 former Air Force officer, often clashed with Mr. Gates, the skinny college dropout. Mr. Gates was “a very bright kid, but he was a constant headache at MITS,” Dr. Roberts said in an interview with The New York Times at his office in 2001.

“You couldn’t reason with him,” he added. “He did things his way or not at all.”

His former MITS colleagues recalled that Dr. Roberts could be hardheaded as well. “Unlike the rest of us, Bill never backed down from Ed Roberts face to face,” David Bunnell, a former MITS employee, said in 2001. “When they disagreed, sparks flew.”

Over the years, people have credited others with inventing the personal computer, including the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, Apple and I.B.M. But Paul E. Ceruzzi, a technology historian at the Smithsonian Institution, wrote in “ History of Modern Computing” (MIT Press, 1998) that “H. Edward Roberts, the Altair’s designer, deserves credit as the inventor of the personal computer.”

Mr. Ceruzzi noted the “utter improbability and unpredictability” of having one of the most significant inventions of the 20th century come to life from such a seemingly obscure origin. “But Albuquerque it was,” Mr. Ceruzzi wrote, “for it was only at MITS that the technical and social components of personal computing converged.”

H. Edward Roberts was born in Miami on Sept. 13, 1941. His father, Henry Melvin Roberts, ran a household appliance repair service, and his mother, Edna Wilcher Roberts, was a nurse. As a young man, he wanted to be a doctor and, in fact, became intrigued by electronics working with doctors at the University of Miami who were doing experimental heart surgery. He built the electronics for a heart-lung machine. “That’s how I got into it,” Dr. Roberts recalled in 2001.

So he abandoned his intended field and majored in electrical engineering at Oklahoma State University. Then, he worked on a room-size I.B.M. computer. But the power of computing, Dr. Roberts recalled, “opened up a whole new world. And I began thinking, What if you gave everyone a computer?”

In addition to his sons Martin, of Glenwood, Ga., and John David, of Eastman, Ga., Dr. Roberts is survived by his mother, Edna Wilcher Roberts, of Dublin, Ga., his wife, Rosa Roberts of Cochran; his sons Edward, of Atlanta, and Melvin and Clark, both of Athens, Ga.; his daughter, Dawn Roberts, of Warner Robins, Ga.; three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

His previous two marriages, to Donna Mauldin Roberts and Joan C. Roberts, ended in divorce.

His sons said Dr. Roberts never gave up his love for making things, for tinkering and invention. He was an accomplished woodworker, making furniture for his household, family and friends. He made a Star Wars-style light saber for a neighbor’s son, using light-emitting diodes. And several years ago he designed his own electronic medical records software, though he never tried to market it, his son Dr. Roberts said.

“Once he figured something out,” he added, “he was on to the next thing.”

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Don't Try This at Home

Oops. How surprised were the pirates when their bullets bounced harmlessly off the hull of the USS Nicholas? The price of ignorance can be high, especially when it involves the counterpunching force a US naval vessel can throw at a hapless attacker, like these pirates.

US Navy Captures Suspected Pirates Off African

AP NAIROBI, Kenya (April 1) -- The small gang of Somali pirates fired on an approaching ship, hoping their midnight attack would bring them millions in ransom. The ragtag bandits, though, had taken on far more than they could handle: a U.S. warship.

The USS Nicholas, a guided missile frigate, was tracking the pirates when they opened fire early Thursday in Indian Ocean waters, the U.S. military said. The Nicholas, which saw combat in the first Gulf War, returned fire and disabled the skiff.

Navy personnel later boarded and detained three suspects. The Americans found two more bandits on a nearby mothership and later sank the skiff.

The USS Nicholas came under fire from pirates Thursday in the Indian Ocean. The frigate disabled the pirates' boat and captured them. It was not the first attack against a Navy ship, but it underscored the fact that most pirates aren't terribly sophisticated, said Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the British think tank Chatham House.

"If you think of the kind of young men who are doing this, they go out into the middle of the ocean in a tiny boat. They might not always make rational decisions, and they often attack things that are bigger than they should (attack)," said Middleton.

"It's also quite possible that they don't have a full understanding of the targets they are attacking. Perhaps they just see a big ship they think is a worth a lot of money," he said.

International naval forces have stepped up their enforcement of the waters off East Africa in an effort to thwart a growing pirate trade. Thursday's attack took place between the coast of Kenya and the island nation of Seychelles, said Navy Lt. Patrick Foughty, a spokesman.

Last May, pirates chased a U.S. Navy warship and fired small arms at it. The ship, which had recently served as a prison for captured pirates, increased speed and evaded the attack. French and Dutch naval ships also have been attacked by pirates.

Thursday's attack came just shy of a year since pirates attacked the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama and took American Richard Phillips hostage. Phillips was rescued five days later when Navy SEAL snipers shot three pirates in a lifeboat.

The U.S. Africa Command said the five pirates seized Thursday would remain in U.S. custody on board the frigate for now. The Nicholas is home-ported in Norfolk, Va.

Foughty, the Navy spokesman, said it wasn't yet clear what would be done with the pirate suspects. Doug Burnett, a maritime expert in the global law firm Squire, Sanders and Dempsey, said the five should be charged with piracy and tried in the United States.

"After all, attacking a Navy warship is a pretty obvious pirate cause of action. But the U.S. has not been consistent in trying pirates," he said. "The one for the Maersk Alabama is on trial in New York. But others have been let off or sent to Kenya for trial."

Experts say piracy will continue to be a problem until an effective government is established on Somalia's lawless shores. The country has not had a functioning government for 19 years.

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