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NEWS -- 2010.02.06.Saturday

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  • James Martin
    1) Tea Party Launches a Counter-Revolution 2) www.democracynow.org/ 3) SF Gay chorus hits hinterlands to open hearts 4) Pope condemns gay-friendly
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2010
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      1) Tea Party Launches a 'Counter-Revolution'
      2) www.democracynow.org/
      3) SF Gay chorus hits hinterlands to open hearts
      4) Pope condemns gay-friendly British laws ahead of visit
      5) Anne Hathaway left Catholicism after brother came out
      6) The Saints Linebacker Who Speaks His Mind -- and supports gay marriage
      7) from the "Family Research Council" -- Tim Tebow
      8) An Urgent Open Letter from Mel White
      9) Is It A Choice?
      10) Obama denounces Ugandan anti-gay law at prayer breakfast
      11) Obama Calls Out Republicans, But Nobody's Home
      12) Sovereign Risk Meets Sovereign Reality -- Money
      13) Toyota recall: Did rapid growth hurt the carmaker's quality?
      14) To fight deadliest Taliban threat in Afghanistan, US troops go low-tech

      Tea Party Launches a 'Counter-Revolution'
      Fri Feb 5, 1:30AM PT - ABC News 1:43 | 159 views

      The first National Tea Party Convention rallies many activists. This weekend in Nashville. Sarah Palin is keynote speaker Saturday night.

      I bet they don't like queers.

      --- click on URL to view video ---


      My comment --
      Why do so many of the "delegates" look like white arrogant self-righteous southern baptist bigots?


      See also http://www.nationalteapartyconvention.com/about-sarah.aspx



      A daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 800 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the U.S.


      San Francisco Chronicle, front page with picture
      SF Gay chorus hits hinterlands to open hearts
      C.W. Nevius

      Monday, February 1, 2010


      Redding, California
      They came. They sang. They wore pink cowboy hats.

      When the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus embarked on its Freedom Tour into the heart of Proposition 8 territory over the weekend, there were concerns. Would red-state towns like Redding and Chico turn out to see gay men in tuxedos singing "Over the Rainbow"? Would there be protests, threats or fear-mongering from Shasta County's fundamentalist community?

      But chorus artistic director and conductor Kathleen McGuire asked: "Who is afraid of a choir?"

      Make no mistake, this isn't a tour. It's a groundbreaking political action. In the upcoming months, they'll visit Bakersfield, Fresno and Tracy, all strongholds for Prop. 8, the measure that banned same-sex marriage. They hope their music will help personalize the fight for gays to marry.

      It is more than a small gamble. They could face protests, fights or even worse - complete indifference.

      "When the tickets didn't sell at first, I thought, 'Oh God, no one is going to show up,' " said Amy Andrews, a welfare worker in Redding, who helped arrange the show at the 1,000-plus-seat Cascade Theatre. "And then tickets just took off. I have never been prouder of my hometown."

      Saturday's show was a sellout. So was Sunday's 450-seat event in Chico, where they received a standing ovation.

      Looking for answers
      Rednecks in those towns can sneer - singers said they experienced a few catcalls - but the 90 unapologetic gay men, many sporting wedding rings, came to town asking tough questions. They performed "William's Song," the true story of a high school boy who was beat up because of his sexuality. And when they sing the chorus - "Why does it take five great big guys to beat up one little queer?" - they expect some answers.

      This weekend, they proved harder to ignore than the local cowboys may have expected.

      There were several conservative Christians in the audience. They said they were there supporting a friend or family member, but I defy them to say they weren't moved.

      Because once it was established that the chorus wasn't decked out in feather boas or leather chaps, it was impossible not to notice that they looked like our sons, our brothers and our fathers. And that is the real message of this tour. At some point, every man onstage sat down with his family to tell them he was gay.

      That moment still moves many of the men. Marc Savitt says he was 40 when he told his mother. He told her it wasn't anything he chose, or anything she did, but he hoped she would love him for what he is, rather than what she wishes he was.

      There's a song in the program that says that. Savitt cries every time - and keeps singing.

      The Rev. Jeff Frost from All Saints Episcopal attended Saturday. He's adamant that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

      "But," he said Saturday, "I struggle with it a little bit."

      The chorus didn't expect a total transformation.

      As for the area's small, quiet gay community, they seemed blown away. Bill McPhetridge, a gay man in his late 60s, moved to the area in 1988. Was he surprised at the turnout?

      Try "astounded."

      "Redding really does have a lot of rednecks," he said.

      When the guys put on their glitter-trimmed pink Stetsons and hoedowned to "If You Were Gay," let's just say the Redding Rodeo may never again have quite the same vibe.

      The night brought political statements, dead-perfect harmonies, standout soloists and a rip-roaring gospel version of "Oh Happy Day" - featuring choir-robed Sanford Smith - that lifted the crowd right out of their seats.

      The performance also brought a sucker punch of emotion for just about everyone.

      A stranger threw her arms around baritone Brian Jung.

      "Until now," she said, "we felt like the only parents in Shasta County with a gay child."

      Standing at the bar across the street from the theater, Denise Wallace was knocking back vodka with friends. When I asked the short, feisty 60-year-old with a voice with the timbre of a chain saw if she was going to the concert, she initially replied with an answer unfit for print. And then elaborated.

      "I grew up a lesbian in Shasta County," she said. "When I was 26, I got a job at the paper company. And every day when I went to work, 'Denise is a queer' was written everywhere. It was awful. First I was hurt, but now I'm pissed."

      Emotional night
      An hour later during the concert, Wallace's tough talk gave way to unapologetic tears.

      Launching the tour in Redding was no mistake. In 1999, the town was the site of an infamous hate crime when brothers Matthew and Tyler Williams murdered a well-known gay couple, Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder. Mathew committed suicide in prison. Tyler is serving a 60-year prison term.

      But it was also a homecoming for choir member Bud Dillon. Dillon admitted he had a spell Saturday night when he mouthed the words, too choked up to sing.

      "I didn't know what gay was when I was in high school," Dillon said. "I had a horse, a western saddle and cowboy boots. I just knew I was different. I didn't come out until I was 30."

      Nearly 100 people came to support him. He admits many don't support his lifestyle. His grandfather was a Seventh-day Adventist minister, and he says "90 percent of my relatives are Christians ... right-wing Christians. But they are still good people."

      Among those at the Redding show was Patrick Henry Jones, the mayor and a gun shop owner. Jones admitted, "If you'd asked me a couple of months ago if I would be here, I would have said probably not."

      But prodded by Frank Treadway, cultural coordinator of the Shasta Arts Council, Jones attended and presented the chorus with a proclamation. Treadway said that after convincing the mayor to come, he suggested he bring his wife.

      "I'm not married," Jones said. "Never have been."

      "So," Treadway asked, "does that mean you're available?"

      C. W. Nevius' column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. E-mail him at cwnevius@....


      This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle (front page with picture)


      There continues to be hundreds of homophobic happenings around the planet, including this one from the Bigot of Rome --->

      Pope condemns gay-friendly British laws ahead of visit

      By Agence France-Presse
      Monday, February 1st, 2010 -- 4:36 pm

      VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Benedict XVI chided Britain for its gay-friendly laws on Monday as he confirmed plans to visit the country for the first time as head of the Roman Catholic Church.
      "Your country is well known for its firm commitment to equality of opportunity," the pope said in a letter to the bishops of England and Wales.

      However, "the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs," he wrote.

      Observers said the pontiff was referring to legislation that took effect on January 1, 2009, preventing adoption agencies -- including Catholic ones -- from discriminating against gay couples.

      A British Catholic official confirmed on Monday that the 82-year-old pontiff is to visit Britain later this year.

      Alexander Desforges, director of the Catholic Communications Network, said no dates had yet been set for the visit, but it is believed the pontiff will come to Britain in September and will likely stay for several days.

      Last year, Britain's Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy was quoted as saying ministers had drawn up a programme for a papal visit from September 16 to 19.

      In an address to Catholic bishops from England and Wales on a pilgrimage to Rome, the pope spoke of the "living faith and devotion" of Britain's Catholics.

      Pope Benedict said he hoped to help "strengthen and confirm" that faith during his trip, Desforges told AFP.

      Pope John Paul II was the last pontiff to visit Britain, in 1982, and was received at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth II, who is the titular head of the Church of England. He was the first pope to make the trip for 450 years.

      Cardinal Sean Brady, the primate of all Ireland and archbishop of Armagh, welcomed the "wonderful news" of the visit.

      "I wish to convey my best wishes to the bishops, priests and lay faithful of England and Wales on the wonderful news announced today concerning the forthcoming visit of Pope Benedict to our nearest neighbours," he said.

      "I offer my blessings and good wishes to the Catholic community in their preparations for the pope's visit and for the beatification of the Venerable John Henry Newman."

      Reports suggest the pope will preside over the beatification of Newman, the 19th-century theologian and former Anglican who converted to Catholicism, during his visit.


      Anne Hathaway left Catholicism after brother came out
      By Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk • February 5, 2010 - 16:59

      Hollywood actress Anne Hathaway has revealed her family became Episcopalians after her brother came out.

      The Devil Wears Prada star grew up as a Catholic in New Jersey but when Hathaway's brother Michael told the family he was gay, they decided to leave their faith.

      Hathaway told GQ magazine: "The whole family converted to Episcopalianism after my elder brother came out. Why should I support an organisation that has a limited view of my beloved brother?"

      The actress said she was currently unsure about her own faith, saying: "So I'm… nothing [no denomination]. F**k it, I'm forming. I'm a work in progress."

      She also discussed screen kisses in the interview, naming Angelina Jolie for having the best movie embraces.

      Hathaway said: "Full-on movie kissing … it’s a totally different experience. But really you have to be Angelina Jolie to pull that off and still look good. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I ain’t no Angie.”


      Here's a great one for tomorrow's Super Bowl --->

      New York Times
      http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/03/sports/football/03fujita.html (picture at URL)

      February 3, 2010
      The Saints Linebacker Who Speaks His Mind
      MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita addresses hot-button issues the way he might meet an opposing running back: directly.

      So Fujita was not shy Tuesday about entering two Super Bowl debates that have little to do with his team’s game Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

      At issue are two Super Bowl television commercials, one about abortion, the other about gay rights.

      The first ad — which will be shown on CBS — is an antiabortion message from Focus on the Family that includes Tim Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Florida.

      The other ad — which was rejected by CBS — is for ManCrunch, a gay dating service. Fujita has spoken out before in favor of abortion rights and gay rights.

      “It’s just me standing up for equal rights,” Fujita said. “It’s not that courageous to have an opinion if you think it’s the right thing and you believe it wholeheartedly.”

      The Tebow ad suggests that Tebow’s mother was advised about having an abortion when she was pregnant with him, but chose instead to give birth.

      The issue resonates with Fujita because he was adopted, and Fujita said he respected Tebow for standing up for what he believed in.

      “The idea of focusing on the family — who wouldn’t agree with that?” Fujita said. “But the means of doing so, he and I might not see eye to eye all the way.”

      When Fujita was born in 1979, his biological mother, he said, was in her teens and she gave him up for adoption because she did not have the means to raise a child.

      “I’m just so thankful she had the courage and the support system to be able to carry out the pregnancy,” Fujita said. “I wouldn’t expect that of everybody.”

      As for the rejected ad about gay dating, Fujita said he had no objection to the topic being aired, but understood why some people might complain.

      “The idea of doing it at the Super Bowl is going to raise some eyebrows,” Fujita said. “Do they have the right? Absolutely. Is it going to offend some people? Absolutely.”

      Last fall, in an interview on the Sirius XM Satellite Radio show “Edge of Sports,” Fujita bluntly supported a march for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

      “Just because I’m in favor of gay rights doesn’t mean I’m gay,” Fujita told the host, Dave Zirin. “I know who I am. My wife knows who I am.”

      Fujita, who played in college at California, and his wife, Jaclyn, have twin daughters who are 2 years old.

      In Tuesday’s Super Bowl session with members of the news media, Fujita, who said his teammates give him some gentle teasing in the language of the locker room for his public opinions, reflected on how the campus he attended is known for progressive attitudes.

      “There is a certain stigma that comes with being from Berkeley,” he said. “And I’m proud of that stigma.”

      He also discussed the attitudes of other athletes toward gay rights.

      “By and large, the players are more tolerant than they get credit for,” he said. “It’s not a big issue. Some guys will think you are crazy for believing one way, but they’ll still accept you.”

      Acceptance and tolerance are important to Fujita. His adopted father is a Japanese-American who was born during World War II in an internment camp in Arizona.

      Fujita said that at the time, his grandfather was fighting in the United States Army in Italy. He said he takes strength from his grandmother Lillie.

      “I don’t hear any sense of resentment in her voice,” Fujita said. “She grew stronger from it. I just always say, ‘What do I have to complain about?’ ”

      Fujita, who said that his family observes Japanese holidays and that he knows a few words of Japanese, is often interviewed by Japanese television reporters.

      “They always want to talk to me, the big white guy with the Japanese name,” Fujita said. “I have no Japanese blood in my body. But I’m Japanese at heart.”

      Fujita joined the Saints in 2006, the year they returned to New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. He was named the team’s man of the year this season for his charitable works. Among Fujita’s causes is a New Orleans Catholic adoption agency.

      He played for Kansas City and Dallas, but has come to love New Orleans.

      Fujita said that when he chose to leave the Cowboys as a free agent in 2006, people asked why he was abandoning what some call America’s Team.

      “Well, they were the self-proclaimed America’s Team a couple decades ago,” he said. “They have really, really good, loyal fans. But the rest of the country hates them. Let’s be honest.

      “The Saints are America’s adopted team.”

      Fujita often uses words like love, hate and heart. He did not “stand up on a pedestal” to campaign for Barack Obama for president, to get American troops out of Iraq, in opposition to bigotry against Muslims, for gay rights or abortion rights.

      And yet, he said he knows his visibility helps advance his viewpoints. “People ask me a question, I’ll give them my opinion,” Fujita said. “I never claimed to have all the answers.”


      See also http://www.advocate.com/Sports/New_Orleans_Saints_Linebacker_Scott_Fujita_Talks_Gay_Rights/
      pictures included


      from the "Family Research Council"
      February 5, 2010

      As a football player, Tim Tebow is as talented as they come, but it's his ability to tackle issues off the field that's most impressive. On Super Bowl Sunday, Tebow, whose mother refused (against her doctors' advice) to abort Tim during a high-risk pregnancy, will join Focus on the Family in an ad called "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life." CBS took plenty of heat for airing the spot from national abortion groups, but dozens of athletes and self-described pro-choicers took Tebow's side. A proud believer in Jesus Christ, abstinence until marriage, and charitable work, Tim is the kind of athlete America could use more of. To see the ad, tune in to the Super Bowl on Sunday during the first quarter breaks.


      My comment ---
      Rightwingers -- christian bigots -- in their self-righteous arrogance refuse to listen.


      February 5, 2010
      Open Letter from Soulforce to Jan and Paul Crouch, founders of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the Evangelical Christian broadcasters who are featured on Lighthouse Television, TBN’s affiliate in Uganda, including: Matthew Crouch, Joyce Meyer, Andrew Wommack, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Franklin Graham:

      By now you are well aware of the anti-homosexual bill pending before the Parliament of Uganda. We urge you to denounce this bill. Use your personal friendships with President and Mrs. Museveni, with MP David Bahati (your Christian colleague who proposed this bill) and with Stephen Langa, (the Ugandan Christian organizer behind the bill) to take a public and passionate stand against it.

      The media are blaming the visit to Uganda by three of your colleagues for this despicable and truly un-Christian law. In fact, for years you have used your Lighthouse Television programs, your radio broadcasts and your massive public meetings to warn Ugandans of the so called “threat homosexuals pose to Bible-based values and the traditional African Family.”

      In no small part, you are already responsible for the current call by Ugandan leaders to enforce the old law condemning lesbian and gay Ugandans to up to 14 years in prison. This new law increases that sentence to life imprisonment and even death by hanging. Denounce this new bill or the blood of lesbian and gay Ugandans will be on your hands.

      It isn’t just the “liberal media” who are condemning the bill. In mid-November, Exodus International, the ministry that promises to assist homosexuals in overcoming homosexuality, warned, "If homosexual behavior and knowledge of such behavior is criminalized and prosecuted, as proposed in this bill, church and ministry leaders will be unable to assist hurting men, women and youth who might otherwise seek help in addressing this personal issue.” While Soulforce does not agree with Exodus that lesbian and gay people need to be "cured," we wholeheartedly agree with their position on this hateful bill.

      Warren Throckmorton, a member of the Clinical Advisory Board of the American Association of Christian Counselors warned that this legislation would make their mission “to extend the love and compassion of Christ to all” a difficult if not impossible task.

      Your colleague, mega-church pastor Rick Warren, in a very public video appeal to his fellow clergy in Uganda, gives five reasons why Ugandan Christians should not support the bill: (1) it is “unjust, extreme and un-Christian; (2) it would “force pastors to report their pastoral conversations with homosexuals to authorities; (3) “…it would have a chilling effect on your ministry to the hurting… homosexuals who are HIV positive will be reluctant to seek or receive care, comfort and compassion from our churches out of fear of being reported; (4) “All life, no matter how humble or broken, whether unborn or dying, is precious to God… It would be inconsistent to save some lives and wish death on others…” And (5) “the freedom to make moral choices, and our right to free expression, are gifts endowed by God.” Warren reminds the clergy that Uganda is a democratic country “…and in a democracy everyone has a right to speak up.” Warren concludes by urging them “to speak out against the proposed law.” *

      The People of Soulforce urge you to take these warnings seriously. It is very possible that your silence on this matter will convince the people of Uganda that it is God’s will to condemn homosexuals to life imprisonment or even death by hanging. Your powerful media voices have made you superstars to Ugandans. We implore you to use your power to denounce this bill. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this time you and the Christian community behaved in the manner of love and justice rather than fulfilling the stereotype of the “liberal media” as ‘hate-filled bigots?

      You often ask others, “What would Jesus do?” This is the perfect time to ask yourselves that question.

      The People of Soulforce

      Mel White, Founder | Bill Carpenter, Interim Executive Director | Chuck Phelan, Board Chair


      * We wish to express our thanks to the Rev. Rick Warren for taking this rather courageous step on behalf of the lesbian and gay people of Uganda. Pastor Warren did everything in his power to avoid meeting with our gay and lesbian parents and their families in 2009 during the Soulforce American Family Outing. We have tried on many occasions to help him understand the tragic consequences of his own teachings about homosexuality and homosexuals. And though we continue hoping that he will meet with a Soulforce delegation to hear the scientific, historic, psychological and personal evidence that homosexuality is one of God’s gifts, we pause in our pursuit just long enough to give him thanks for reaching out to save the lives of our lesbian sisters and gay brothers in Uganda. Thank you, Pastor Warren. We are grateful!


      This bill has been condemned by leaders of Western nations including the Prime Ministers of Canada, Australia, and Great Britain and the President of the United States. The European Parliament passed a resolution against the bill and threatened to cut financial aid to Uganda if it is enacted. They described the bill as “state-legislated genocide.”

      The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urge Uganda to shelve the bill and decriminalize homosexuality.

      The 16,000 members of the HIV Clinicians Society of South Africa and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS warned that excluding marginalized groups would compromise efforts to stop the spread of AIDS in Uganda where 5.4% of the adult population is infected with HIV.

      The Sunday Times in South Africa warned Uganda that it is in danger of being "dragged back to the dark and evil days of Idi Amin.”
      The New York Times stated unequivocally “that such barbarism (in the bill) is intolerable and will make Uganda an international pariah.”
      The Washington Post labeled the bill "ugly and ignorant", "barbaric", and "that it is even being considered puts Uganda beyond the pale of civilized nations.”
      The Los Angeles Times warned that the bill would cause gay Ugandans to face an "impossible, insulting, historical, cruel and utterly false choice of having to choose between being gay and being African.”

      The Anglican Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha said that the Bill "would become state-legislated genocide.”

      The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has said in a public interview that he did not see how any Anglican could support it: "Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades. Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers."

      The Vatican legal attaché to the United Nations stated that "Pope Benedict is opposed to 'unjust discrimination' against gay men and lesbians.”


      Stephen Langa, the March 2009 workshop organizer, specifically cited an unlicensed conversion therapist named Richard A. Cohen who states in a book that was given to Langa and other prominent Ugandans,

      “Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals; homosexual teachers are at least 7 times more likely to molest a pupil; homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality.”

      These statements were based on faulty studies performed by Paul Cameron who has been expelled from the American Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. Cohen, himself, confirmed the weaknesses of these studies, stating that when the book will be reprinted, these statistics will be removed.


      Jeffrey Gettleman, writing for the New York Times, January 4, 2010, reported on “Americans’ Role in Uganda Anti-Gay Push.”

      Erin Roach, posted on Baptist News, November 18, 2009, the news that “Exodus Opposes Uganda’s Proposed Anti-Gay Law.”

      Baptist Press, December 13, 2009, announced that “Mega-Church Pastor Rick Warren Condemns Uganda Anti-Gay Bill.

      The editors of Wikipedia have assembled the best history of this bill and the world’s response:

      YouTube carries the complete video of Rick Warren’s Open Letter to the Clergy of Uganda*


      Is It A Choice?


      Obama denounces Ugandan anti-gay law at prayer breakfast
      By Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk • February 4, 2010 - 16:11

      US President Barack Obama described a proposed Ugandan law against homosexuality as "odious" at the National Prayer Breakfast today.

      The annual breakfast, which every US president attends, is sponsored by secretive Christian association The Fellowship.

      Some of its members have allegedly supported the Ugandan bill, which would execute gays if passed into law in its current form.

      AFP reports that Obama acknowledged that some at the event held differing views on gay rights, but said: "Surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it is here in the United States or… more extremely, in odious laws that are being proposed most recently in Uganda."

      The breakfast was attended by a number of high-profile lawmakers and religious leaders.

      David Bahati, the Ugandan MP who introduced the bill, claimed to have been asked to attend. Last month, he was disinvited.

      Gay rights leaders close to the White House, including the gay Bishop of New Hampshire Gene Robinson, had lobbied Obama to mention the law today.

      Liberal religious leaders in the US responded to the president's appearance at the event by hosting their own version, called the American Prayer Hour.

      The liberal event was described by organisers as "a multi-city affirmation of inclusive values and a celebration of diversity".

      A press release said: "It is also an action to protest the sponsors of The National Prayer Breakfast. . . [who are] directly tied to the draconian 'kill the gays' bill in Uganda."

      The Fellowship, also known as The Family, is an intensely private Christian conservative organisation. It has no website, contact details or published member list.

      Members, who are thought to include politicians, business leaders and religious figures, are reportedly asked not to speak about it publicly.


      Lots of other news links at http://www.pinknews.co.uk/


      Obama Calls Out Republicans, But Nobody's Home
      By Joe Klein
      Thu Feb 4, 4:05 am ET
      "I am not an ideologue," the President said to the House Republicans, cocooned in their annual policy caucus in Baltimore - and the ideologues among them laughed. The President was explaining, in the midst of an unprecedented, televised "Question Time" session, that he was open to any good ideas they might have. "It doesn't make sense," he continued, that if they told him," 'You could do this cheaper and get increased results,' that I wouldn't say, 'Great.'" But the logic of this seemed to slip past the assembled legislators - and the "I am not an ideologue" bite became a derisive staple on Fox News. And therein lies the crisis of democracy that our country faces: a moderate-liberal President, willing to make judicious compromises, confronted by a Republican Party paralyzed by cynicism and hypocrisy, undergirded by inchoate ideological fervor.

      The President's hour in the lion's den was part of an aggressive week of politics - his first in many moons - that began with his well-received State of the Union address and proceeded through town meetings in Florida and New Hampshire. It was marked by a new willingness to engage the opposition party with cutting humor and offers of compromise. In the State of the Union, he had offered an olive branch to the Republicans - a new commitment to budget balancing (including a bipartisan commission to reduce the deficit that Republicans had been clamoring for), a new emphasis on free trade, a total reversal of his party's traditional positions on nuclear power and offshore drilling. In Baltimore, Obama reminded the Republicans that his $787 billion stimulus package had comprised elements they'd normally support - a $288 billion middle-class tax cut, $275 billion to bail out financially strapped states and an extensive infrastructure plan. "A lot of you," he noted, dryly, "have gone to appear at ribbon cuttings for the same projects you voted against." (See the 10 greatest speeches of all time.)

      The Republican response to this barrage was, well, incoherent. But in most cases the need to demonize Obama trumped the party's ideological beliefs. The budget commission - to take one flagrant example - was blocked by a group of Republican Senators who had supported or sponsored it. These included the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and the formerly virtuous John McCain, a sore loser who has reversed his position on practically everything lately. The Senate Republicans then proceeded to vote unanimously against a provision, attached to a necessary increase in the debt limit, that would force Congress to pay for every new initiative it enacts. This "paygo" provision was the law of the land when Bill Clinton was building budget surpluses (in fairness, he inherited it from the equally responsible George H.W. Bush) - and was abandoned when George W. Bush started building the alpine deficits that plague us today. The hypocrisy of all this was staggering, even for politicians.

      In Baltimore, the House Republicans seemed hurt that the President wasn't listening to their "new" ideas. Unfortunately, most of these have the sophistication of policy seminars run by high school Libertarian clubs. One of their leading intellectual lights, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has offered a Medicare reform proposal that should kill any chance he has of winning higher office: he would privatize Medicare and deliver unto the elderly vouchers that would gradually lose much of their value. This would save a boatload of money, of course ... but one wonders whether the party that gave the world "death panels" would stand behind such an all-out assault on the financial security of the nation's most devout voters.

      This is quite sad. I've been a fan of a great many Republican policy initiatives in the past. I supported the Republican universal health care plan in 1993 (which Obama's current proposal resembles). I've supported lots of Republican urban-policy ideas, especially when it comes to education. I think the realism deployed overseas by Presidents like Eisenhower, Nixon (except for Vietnam) and Bush the Elder is the wisest foreign policy on offer. But the current Republican Party is about none of these. It is about tactical political gain to the exclusion of all else.

      At the end of the Baltimore session, Congressman Jeb Hensarling of Texas launched a diatribe on the budget, including the fabulous claim that the Obama Administration was now running monthly deficits the size of annual Republican deficits in the past. For once, the President flashed anger in response - he interrupted Hensarling and said, "I'm sure there's a question in there somewhere." And then, calmly, he proceeded to take apart Hensarling's nonsense.

      The sophistication of Obama's politics has finally caught up to the opposition: he will offer them compromise and lacerate them when they refuse to play. I suspect he'll be successful at this. But absent a responsible opposition party, we'll still be left with a crippled democracy, lacking all ability to address our most serious problems. That is not a recipe for continued success in a competitive world.

      See pictures of how Presidents age in office.

      View this article on Time.com

      Related articles on Time.com:

      a.. Can Republicans Win Big as the Party of No?
      b.. The Floundering GOP Looks for a Turnaround
      c.. GOP Gloves Off for Budget Brawl
      d.. Republicans in Distress: Is the Party Over?
      e.. Democrats Hope to Spend Now to Save (Their Seats) Later

      Sovereign Risk Meets Sovereign Reality
      by Ian Bremmer and Nouriel Roubini
      Friday, February 5, 2010
      provided by The Wall Street Journal

      After months of shrugging off debt problems in Dubai, Greece and other smaller economies, markets yesterday seemed suddenly aware of the risks of sovereign default.

      Back in November, when the question of Dubai's solvency came to a head, it was ultimately bailed out by its rich older brother, Abu Dhabi. Now, the European Union is doing its best to avoid promising a similar bailout to Greece, though in the end few believe Brussels will allow Athens to go under.

      The current crisis in Greece is only the worst example inside the EU. The PIGS—Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain—all boast public debt above or headed for 100% of GDP. Though the PIGS acronym was apparently coined by British bankers, Britain, Ireland and Iceland also smell distinctly of bacon.

      The problem isn't confined to Europe. Japan and the United States, by most reckonings the world's largest economies, also face pressing questions about their sovereign debt levels. To be sure, the U.S. and Japan can sustain such deficits more comfortably than small countries like Greece or Portugal where the government's ability to curb public-sector spending is rightly suspect. Yet even in economic giants, bad policy could cause investors to move out of debt they have long considered a safe haven. The moment is approaching when the artificial line separating the wealthy from emerging markets will lose much of its relevance.

      Countries like Germany, whose fiscal balances have deteriorated largely due to the economic downturn, might have a greater capacity to stabilize their debt ratio. The U.S. and Japan will also be among the last countries to face investor aversion. This is because the dollar is the global reserve currency, and the U.S. has the deepest and most liquid debt markets. Japan is a net creditor and largely finances its debt domestically. But over the next few years, investors will become increasingly cautious about even the U.S. and Japan if the necessary fiscal reforms are delayed.

      Investor perceptions about how Brussels handles the current crisis will be a key factor going forward. European countries such as Spain and Greece have delayed reforms and face a severe competitiveness problem. Japan's aging population and economic stagnation is reducing domestic savings. The U.S. is a net debtor with an aging population and slower growth.

      For the U.S., the implications are clear. The annual fiscal deficit in the U.S. will remain close to $1 trillion over the next decade. Ultimately, concerns among foreign investors about a weak dollar will force Washington to put its house in order. The U.S. will have to raise taxes on most income groups and investors, close tax exemptions and loopholes, and reduce entitlement benefits.

      Foreign creditors won't suddenly move away from U.S. Treasurys—the trend will play out gradually. The same holds true for domestic investors who consider U.S. Treasurys a safe haven and remain confident about the country's debt-servicing ability relative to other developed economies.

      But as the Federal Reserve begins to raise interest rates to head off inflation—something likely to begin only in 2011—foreign investors and central banks will be willing to finance the U.S. only at higher yields. Rising interest costs will be one of the factors constraining U.S. policy. That's where sovereign risk meets sovereign reality.

      Mr. Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, is author of the forthcoming book "The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?" (Portfolio). Mr. Roubini is a professor of economics at New York University's Stern School of Business and chairman of Roubini Global Economics.


      My comment --
      The United States, in typical white arrogant style, should declare that all Treasures Bonds owned by China are now null and void, and will not be paid until China gets out of Tibet.


      Christian Science Monitor

      Toyota recall: Did rapid growth hurt the carmaker's quality?
      By Husna Haq
      Thu Jan 28, 6:23 pm ET
      In 2002, Fujio Cho, then president of Toyota, announced Global Vision 2010 – Toyota’s ambitious goal to capture 15 percent of the global auto market and become the No. 1 carmaker in the world by this year.

      The company has achieved part of that goal. Although it hasn’t captured 15 percent of global market share, Toyota surpassed General Motors two years ago to become the world’s largest carmaker.

      But, as Toyota's recalls and sales suspensions spread across the globe, some consumers are asking, at what cost? Did Toyota's drive for rapid expansion cost the carmaker its reputation for quality?

      "It’s obvious that they were looking at incredible expansion," says Aaron Bragman, research analyst at IHS Global Insight. "They were pursuing growth at the expense of quality. And now Toyota is paying a price for it."

      Another former Toyota president, Katsuaki Watanabe (who is now vice chairman), acknowledged these issues well before now. In a 2008 speech to Japan’s National Press Club, he said that Toyota was falling victim to “big company disease” – arrogance and complacency brought on by the car company’s rise to the top.

      "The fact that Toyota is growing globally suddenly shouldn't be used as an excuse [for problems]," Mr. Watanabe said, according to the Associated Press.

      Toyota’s very success contributed to some of its failures, some say.

      “They probably rested on their laurels,” says Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds.com. “Toyota has been the favored child for a long time. Now, all of a sudden, they’re just like the rest of the auto companies: They make mistakes.”

      Toyota’s global growth – its worldwide sales went from 6.17 million units in 2002 to an expected 8.27 million this year – pressured the automaker’s resources, Ms. Krebs says.

      “We’ve always wondered if they’ve stretched their resources too thin,” she says. “Engineering, marketing, manufacturing – they’re doing a lot more with the same amount of people.”

      That drive for efficiency may have led Toyota to cut corners, she says.

      “They’re just like everybody else, finding ways to trim costs. Perhaps something gets overlooked, or they’re not testing completely. We don’t know yet.”

      Outsourcing may have also played a part in the carmaker’s problems.

      Toyota used to buy parts from a small group of Japanese suppliers that were longtime partners. But, like almost all automakers, Toyota more recently has outsourced much of its manufacturing and production.

      The recalled accelerator pedals were produced in a firm based in Elkhart, Ind. – CTS Corp. So far, pedals made by Toyota’s original manufacturer, Japanese firm Denso Corp., have not had problems.

      As part of it drive for growth, Toyota also began putting common components in multiple vehicle models. Component sharing is a common practice in the competitive, cost-conscious auto industry.

      “They’re doing a lot of economizing by sharing architecture across the globe,” Krebs says. “When something goes wrong, it can be huge, which we’re seeing now.”


      My comment --
      Not surprising at all. Seems to be typical of big business nowadays.
      Caution -- do not buy a Dell computer nowadays.
      Do not sign up for that AT&T U-verse crap. They have a software problem in the telephone service that the top bosses do not seem to be interested in fixing. In all these cases, the worker bees at the bottom are not the problem. They are good, dedicated workers. The problem is at the top -- in the highly paid executive offices -- those same highly paid officers who can buy the laws they want.

      I bet Toyota's accelerator problem was noticed long ago by someone at the bottom of the totum pole, but she/he was told to shut up. I bet that that is what happened. That is the way big business and government seem to function.


      To fight deadliest Taliban threat in Afghanistan, US troops go low-tech
      To thwart militants in Afghanistan from planting roadside bombs, or IEDs, US soldiers are pleading with locals to alert them to threats. Air surveillance can be too imprecise and approval for airstrikes too slow in coming.


      posted January 29, 2010 at 9:16 am EST

      Combat Outpost JFM, Afghanistan —
      The metal detector was almost off the scale.

      In front of a dusty track lay a five-foot-wide crater where an Afghan farmer had been killed by a roadside bomb. Scrap metal used for shrapnel was buried everywhere.

      For the United States and coalition soldiers fighting the Taliban, every civilian the insurgents kill adds weight to the argument they repeat over and over: "The solution is to make the Taliban go away," Lt. Mark Morrison, a US platoon leader from Albany, N.Y., deployed in southern Afghanistan, told villagers. "That way you won't be in danger, and I won't be in danger."

      Homemade bombs were the biggest source of coalition casualties last year, killing 275 out of 520 troops, and almost four times as many civilians.

      But with the emphasis of the NATO campaign more firmly fixed than ever on avoiding civilian casualties, insurgents laying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are usually long gone before confirmation of all the criteria needed to order an attack comes through.

      Instead, foreign soldiers focus on cultivating relationships with villagers, trying to persuade them that homemade bombs are just as much a threat to farmers in their fields as they are to NATO soldiers on patrol, and that handing up the insurgents is the only solution. The idea is to beat the IED menace by winning hearts and minds.

      "We need your help," Morrison (2nd platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battlion, 12th Infantry Regiment) told a group of Afghan farmers on a recent patrol. "I know how to kill the Taliban – we are very, very good at that. What I need your help with is finding where they come from and where they go to. You need to tell me who doesn't belong with you."

      It was phrase he repeated to anyone he stopped to talk to. Making a common cause with the civilians whose support is crucial to the counterinsurgency campaign is an obvious ploy. Only by squeezing the Taliban out of the civilian populations where they hide will NATO be able to push them to the negotiating table, as the architects of US and coalition strategy envision. At a conference in London this week, talk also focused on reaching out to rank-and-file Taliban fighters who might not be ideologically committed to the fight.

      But persuading Afghans whose only priority is survival to take a stand is also time-consuming and relentlessly frustrating. Although several civilians had been killed by homemade bombs in Morrison's operations area in Zhari, a volatile district in southern Kandahar Province, few seem ready to risk standing up to the Taliban. Some villagers do oblige; far more profess ignorance of the insurgents' doings or blatantly lie.

      Using “night letters,” the insurgents threaten to behead anyone who talks to foreign soldiers. According to locals, they have spies in each village keeping vigil. Laborers in the fields neither want to be seen talking to NATO patrols alone nor questioned in a large group when one of their number may be a Taliban informant. "I have no problem with you guys," one villager says. "But we are scared of the bad guys. They kill innocent people if they see them giving information."

      For soldiers engaged in gun battles with the insurgents almost every day, this equivocation is understandable but exasperating.

      Says Morrison: "I think more people need to be killed by IEDs before they'll believe ... that the threat is really to everyone.”


      My comment --
      We need to learn how to kill the enemy faster. That is what war is all about. Immoral as it is.


      Immoral? Not really -- The Taliban, as most religious fanatics, must be stopped (killed). They destroyed hundreds of historical statues and art objects thousands of years old that had been in the museum in Kabul. Not to mention all the humans they have killed.


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