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Showing posts from 2013

Where the jobs are

Joel Kotkin:
...
Most of the strongest local economies combine the positive characteristics associated with blue states — educated people, tech-oriented industries, racial diversity — with largely red, pro-business administrations. This is epitomized by our top-ranked metro area, Austin, Texas, which has enjoyed double-digit growth in GDP, jobs, population and birthrate since 2007. The Texas capital has a very strong hipster reputation, attracting many of the same people who might otherwise end up in Silicon Valley or San Francisco, but it also boasts the low taxes, light regulation and reasonable housing prices that keep migrants there well past their 30s.  As has been the case for most of the past five years, Texas cities are clearly the place to be in terms of job creation, wealth formation and overall growth. All the other major Lone Star cities place highly on our list, including second-place San Antonio and Houston (fourth). Clearly many parts of the Sun Belt have not died off, a…

Obama approval falls below 40 percent

Conn Carroll:
Fewer than 40 percent of the American people now approve of the job President Obama is doing as president, according to the latest Gallup daily tracking poll. Meanwhile, the percentage of American's who disapprove of Obama's job as president has risen to 54 percent.

Obama's new 39 percent approval rating may be the lowest of his second-term, but it is not the lowest of his presidency. During the 2011 debt limit fight, Obama's approval rating slipped to 38 percent and his disapproval rose to 55 percent.

Since then, hundreds of millions of dollars in television and social advertising helped raise Obama's approval rating to a post-election high of 58 percent. But without constant campaign spending to bolster his image, Obama's job approval has fallen steadily since.
... The reality of liberalism is now being felt by voters who are rejecting it in large numbers.  It is about time.

Union re-certification elections needed

Washington Examiner Editorial:
Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch, of Utah, and Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, recently introduced the Employee Rights Act of 2013. Their proposal includes a provision requiring that unions undergo recertification elections at regular intervals. (The measures has 68 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 26 in the Senate). Some advocates will perhaps say every three years would be an appropriate interval, and others might say five years. In his landmark public employee union reforms for Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker made recertification an annual event.

Whatever the interval, the experience of Wisconsin teachers' union members points to the importance of recertification becoming a national norm. As the Weekly Standard's John McCormack recently reported, “Teachers unions in nineteen different Wisconsin school districts failed to achieve recertification during annual elections that ended Thursday. ... Under Act 10, the Wisconsin law signed by Gov…

China clones the Black Hawk chopper

The Diplomat:
China conducted the first flight test of a new helicopter that is widely seen as being modeled off the U.S.-made Sikorsky UH-60, which is usually called “Black Hawk.”

The Global Times, citing pictures from an online Chinese military forum, reported that the Z-20 medium-lift utility helicopter made its first flight in northeast China on Monday. The report said that the supposedly homemade design filled the People Liberation Army’s need for a medium utility helicopter. It added that the helicopter has a capacity of 10 tons and is similar in appearance to the U.S.-made Black Hawk helicopter.

In the 1980s, China purchased 24 S-70C-2s, a supposed civilian variant of the Black Hawk that had impressed Chinese leaders due to its ability to fly at high altitudes. However, it is widely believed that the 24 S-70 C-2s are operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Moreover, Pakistan’s intelligence service gave Chinese engineers access to one of the highly-modified Bla…

The high cost of Obamacare for Democrats in 2014

Byron York:
As Democrats survey a troubled 2014 political landscape, it's easy to forget how optimistic they seemed less than a year ago.

"I would expect that Nancy Pelosi is going to be speaker again pretty soon," President Obama told cheering House Democrats at a party retreat last February.

In the rosy scenario that took hold in some Democratic circles, the party was positioned to recapture the House in 2014 and maintain control of the Senate, allowing Obama to defy the history of second-term presidential decline. Great successes and good years lay ahead.

Had Democrats forgotten Obamacare, the law they passed in 2010 that was scheduled to take effect in 2014? It almost seemed as if they had.

Obama and his allies put off the arrival of Obamacare until after the president faced re-election in 2012. His administration also delayed releasing key rules regarding the law until after the election for fear of angering voters. But now they can't put it off any longer. 2014 wil…

Navy looks to replace Super Hornet and F-35C

USNI.org:
The U.S. Navy expects to undertake an analysis of alternatives (AoA) for its F/A-XX next-generation replacement for the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet starting in fiscal year 2015.

The new aircraft and its associated “family of systems” would be expected to become operational around 2035.
...

The Navy does not yet know what kind of aircraft the F/A-XX will be, but the service is working on defining exactly what capabilities it will need when the Super Hornet fleet starts to exhaust their 9,000-hour airframe lives around 2035.
...

Though the Navy does not yet have a concrete vision for what the F/A-XX might ultimately turn out to be, there are certain attributes the service must have.

“You have to have something that carries missiles, you have to have something that has enough power and cooling for directed energy weapons and you have to have something that has a weapons system that can sense the smallest radar cross-section targets,” Manazir said. The F/A-XX family of systems migh…

Platoon of Marines move from Djibouti to Uganda for operations in South Sudan

Stars & Stripes:
A platoon of U.S. Marines was moved from Djibouti to Uganda on Tuesday in the event the fighting in neighboring South Sudan deteriorates further.

“This forward posturing provides the Combatant Commander additional options and the ability to more quickly respond, if required, to help protect U.S. personnel and facilities,” U.S. Africa Command said in a statement.

AFRICOM said this contingent of some 40 Marines and a KC-130J aircraft are now in Entebbe, the capital of Uganda.

The KC-130J transport plane has airborne assault capabilities, and is also used for medevac, search and rescue, and aerial refueling.

“These movements were made with the full knowledge and cooperation of the Ugandan authorities,” AFRICOM said.

A Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response unit was moved Monday from Moron, Spain, to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, after an incident in which four Navy SEALs were wounded during an aborted rescue operation in South Sudan. The SEALs were tryin…

2013 oil boom biggest on record

Fuel Fix:
The United States’ average daily oil production is on track to surge by 1 million barrels per day this year, the biggest one-year jump in the nation’s history, according to federal data.

The country has pumped an average of 7.5 million barrels of crude per day in 2013, up from 6.5 million barrels per day in 2012. That breaks last year’s record, when oil production jumped by 837,000 barrels per day between 2011 and 2012.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that oil production will jump by another 1 million barrels per day in 2014, largely buoyed by drilling activity in Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale and Permian Basin regions, as well as North Dakota’s Bakken Shale.

The Gulf of Mexico also is seeing a boost, with oil production expected to grow to 1.4 million barrels per day in 2014, up by 100,000 barrels.
... And there is more to come.  There is a chart at the link above that demonstrates the growth in domestic production that Democrats asserted was impossible.  The grow…

Healthcare laws causes Dems to rebel

Washington Examiner:
Gallup: 25% of Dems call Obamacare president's 'biggest failure' With his base crumbling and Republicans still in opposition, it will be hard for Democrats to sustain this hated law.

Hockey stick Mann says Nobel claim not true

John O'Sullivan:
Michael Mann Retracts False Nobel Prize Claims in Humiliating Climbdown Mann sued National Review online for challenging his global warming theory.  In his suit he originally claimed to be a Nobel winner.

Obamacare cancellations star in early ad blitz against Democrats

Politico:
It was bound to happen: Canceled health plans are the new stars of anti-Obamacare ads.

Americans for Prosperity, one of the most powerful tea party groups in the country, is launching TV ads Thursday against two first-term House Democrats that blame the health care law for taking away health insurance people already had.

The group is spending more than $600,000 on the ads against Rick Nolan of Minnesota’s 8th District and Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire’s 2nd District. And it’s promising to spend a lot more on TV, radio and digital media in the coming months to highlight the disruption it says the law is causing in people’s lives.

Unlike other tea party groups, Americans for Prosperity stayed out of the push to defund Obamacare — the campaign that led to the government shutdown — arguing that the law won’t be repealed until opponents of the law have stronger numbers in Congress. The group says this will be part of a broader campaign that will target other vulnerable House De…

Terry Bradshaw and Phil Roberson of Duck Dynasty

He kept Bradshaw on the bench for a couple of years.

New poll shows GOP advantage in 2014

CNN:
Democrats have lost their advantage and Republicans now have a slight edge in the battle for control of Congress, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/ORC International survey released Thursday also indicates that President Barack Obama may be dragging down Democratic congressional candidates, and that the 2014 midterm elections are shaping up to be a low-turnout event, with only three in 10 registered voters extremely or very enthusiastic about voting next year.

Two months ago, Democrats held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. That result came after congressional Republicans appeared to overplay their hand in the bitter fight over the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling.

But the Democratic lead evaporated, and a CNN poll a month ago indicated the GOP holding a 49%-47% lead. The new survey, conducted in …

The high cost of the air sea battle plan in the pacific

The Diplomat:
The U.S. military is increasing its spending on capabilities to implement an Air-Sea Battle (ASB) concept to overcome adversaries’ anti-access area denial (A2/AD) strategies, according to a new industry report.

The report by G-2 Solutions, a market intelligence firm, analyzes the “Fiscal Year 2014 Navy and Air Force procurement and RDT&E budgets through the Air-Sea Battle (ASB) lens.” From these, G-2 Solutions deemed a total of 191 programs and program elements to be included in the report, based on the “increased importance their capabilities will bring to an aggregate Air-Sea Battle capability.”

In total, the U.S. military will spend $31 billion more in FY 2014 versus FY 2012 on ASB enabling capabilities. Altogether, G-2 Solutions predicts that the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and U.S. Navy (USN) will spend $524.5 billion on ASB capabilities through 2023.

The report—which is entitled, “Air-Sea Battle FY2014: Concepts, Key Programs and Forecast (AB098)”– breaks down the prog…

The Obamacare tax lies comes home to roost

NY Post:
Here comes the ObamaCare tax bill.

The cost of President Obama’s massive health-care law will hit Americans in 2014 as new taxes pile up on their insurance premiums and on their income-tax bills.

Most insurers aren’t advertising the ObamaCare taxes that are added on to premiums, opting instead to discretely pass them on to customers while quietly lobbying lawmakers for a break.

But one insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, laid bare the taxes on its bills with a separate line item for “Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes.”

The new taxes on one customer’s bill added up to $23.14 a month, or $277.68 annually, according to Kaiser Health News. It boosted the monthly premium from $322.26 to $345.40 for that individual.

The new taxes and fees include a 2 percent levy on every health plan, which is expected to net about $8 billion for the government in 2014 and increase to $14.3 billion in 2018.

There’s also a $2 fee per policy that goes into a new medical-research trust fu…

Corruption in Turkey exposes leadership

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NY Times:
Corruption Scandal in Turkey Edges Toward Its Premier
A corruption inquiry took an ominous step closer to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, as three cabinet ministers resigned, with one urging his resignation. I have long suspected that the Erdogen administration was rife with corruption.  His backing of the Palestinian death cult in Gaza was an early tip off.  Turkey and the Middle East will be better off with out him.

Al Qaeda forces Obama, Iraqis to work together

NY Times:
U.S. Sending Arms to Help Iraq Battle Qaeda Violence
After an appeal for help, the United States is rushing dozens of missiles and surveillance drones to help Iraqi forces combat violence by a Qaeda-backed insurgency. This looks like an attempt to make up for the failure to reach a status of forces agreement that led to a premature retreat of US troops from Iraq.  It was a blunder by both sides and was an early indication of Obama's poor negotiation skills.

See also Peter Wehner's thoughts on how this situation could have been avoided.

Muslim brotherhoods' strategic mistake leads to designation as terrorist group

AP/Guardian:
Egypt's military-backed interim government has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, criminalising all its activities, its financing and even membership to the group from which the country's ousted president hails.

The announcement on Wednesday is a dramatic escalation of the fight between the government and the Brotherhood, which has waged near-daily protests since the 3 July popularly backed military coup that toppled President Mohamed Morsi. An Egyptian court had banned the group in September.
... For decades the Brotherhood wore the mask of a peaceful philanthropic organization.  But, with the fall of the Morsi government its members began resorting to violence which gave the government a good excuse for outlawing them as a terrorist organization.  It was a classic strategic mistake, and they may pay for it for years if they survive that long.  The US should join the designation after flirting with the organization when it came to power.

A blow to liberal fascism in Nebraska

Omaha.com:
The state's lawyers association was reeling Friday over a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling that promises big changes in the scope of the Nebraska State Bar Association.

The high court ruled that while attorneys still will be required to join the bar to practice law, they will pay dues only for activities that regulate the legal profession — such as administering the bar exam, continuing education programs and disciplining unethical attorneys.

Lawyers, the court ruled, should not be required to pay for bar activities and programs that are not related to that mission — such as lobbying the Legislature, providing help to lawyers struggling with mental illness or substance abuse and financial reimbursement to people who lost money due to an unethical lawyer.

That means Nebraska attorneys, beginning in 2014, will be required to pay only $98 in yearly dues compared to the current $335 annual fee.

Bar President Mike Fenner, a Creighton University law professor, said the ruling direct…

Retaliation for complaint against Commandant?

Rowan Scarborough:
A Marine Corps whistleblower says the Pentagon is investigating whether higher-ups retaliated against him for filing complaints against the Marine commandant.

But Maj. James Weirick, a staff judge advocate at the Marine base at Quantico, Va., said the Pentagon inspector general reviewed his complaint that Gen. James Amos committed unlawful command influence and decided against a formal investigation. He said the inspector general decided that the military justice system should be the venue to settle such disputes.

The major said he spoke with the inspector general’s office this month and “they said they are reopening the case and it is a priority for them” on his retaliation complaint.

Rep. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican and member of the House Committee on Armed Services, said he urged the inspector general to pick up the case.

“What has happened to Maj. Weirick is absolutely unacceptable,” Mr. Jones said. “It is an example of a man of integrity, meaning Ma…

Fracking for gas actually saves water

Climate Central:
A new University of Texas-Austin study shows that producing electricity from natural gas saves much more water than producing power from coal, even accounting for water lost in fracking for shale gas.

In other words, fracking for natural gas used to produce electricity may make Texas more drought-resistant as the state shifts from coal power generation to natural gas power generation.
... There is much more.

The study devastates another one of the arguments against fracking, but don't expect the anti energy left to stop their attacks.

CIA decapitation strategy wiping out rebels leaders in Colombia

Miami Herald:
The 50-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), once considered the best-funded insurgency in the world, is at its smallest and most vulnerable state in decades, due in part to a CIA covert-action program that has helped Colombian forces kill at least two dozen rebel leaders, according to interviews with more than 30 former and current U.S. and Colombian officials.

The secret assistance, which also includes substantial eavesdropping help from the National Security Agency, is funded through a multibillion-dollar black budget. It is not a part of the public $9 billion package of mostly U.S. military aid called Plan Colombia, which began in 2000.

The previously undisclosed CIA program was authorized by President George W. Bush in the early 2000s, and has continued under President Barack Obama, according to U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic officials. Most of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program is classified and ong…

Pipeline giant buys US shipping fleet

Fuel Fix:
Pipeline giant Kinder Morgan Energy Partners will spend nearly $1 billion to move into the tanker business after agreeing to buy two companies that ship oil between U.S. ports, the companies said Monday.

Kinder Morgan said it will buy American Petroleum Tankers and State Class Tankers from affiliates of private equity firms The Blackstone Group and Cerberus Capital Management for $962 million in cash.

The tankers, which operate under the Jones Act to transport crude oil between U.S. ports, will expand Kinder Morgan’s ability to move oil throughout the country.

This will be a new area of business for the Houston-based company, which currently has a stake in or operates 54,000 miles of pipelines and 180 terminals.
...

The tankers each will have a capacity of 330,000 barrels, although some of the vessels are still under construction.

“We are purchasing tankers that provide stable fee-based cash flow through multiyear contracts with major credit worthy oil producers,” Schlosser said.

Another reason why the US Marines are a very special organization

This is a remarkably fast response to a crisis that overcomes the noarmal "friction" of combat operations.

Hagel says Chinese naval operations 'irresponsible'

Bill Gertz:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday criticized the Chinese navy for the near collision between the U.S. guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens and a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea.

“That action by the Chinese, cutting in front of their ship, 100 yards out in front of the Cowpens was not a responsible action,” Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon. “It was unhelpful; it was irresponsible.”

The comments were the first official reaction from the Pentagon to the Dec. 5 incident in the South China Sea. The Cowpens was shadowing China’s aircraft carrier the Liaoning at the time. It was hailed and ordered to stop by the Chinese navy.

The Cowpens continued on its path and a Chinese tank landing ship then sailed close to the front of the warship and stopped, forcing the Cowpens to abruptly change course.

The near collision was the most dangerous military incident between the United States and China since earlier harassment of Navy intelligence-gathering ships in the regio…

Can the F-35 handle a dog fight?

Image
Medium:
In order to maintain its fighter squadrons, the U.S. Air Force needs the entire planned buy of 1,763 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. That’s in part because the flying branch was allowed to buy fewer than planned F-22 Raptors from Lockheed.

The F-35 will have to complement the F-22. But can the smaller, slower, less nimble F-35 hack it as an air-to-air fighter?

The Air Force has just 186 F-22s, of which only 123 are “combat-coded” and immediately available for war, according to Air Combat Command. The service had originally wanted 750 of the stealthy air-superiority fighters, but eventually settled on a requirement for 381 Raptors before the program was further truncated by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the early 2000s.

But even 381 F-22s proved to be an unfulfilled dream. Ultimately, the Raptor program was terminated by Rumsfeld’s successor, Robert Gates. The last F-22 rolled off the assembly line in Georgia in 2011.

In the aftermath of the F-22's cance…

Merry Christmas

Have a great Christmas
It is great to be home working on my recovery.  I appreciate all the kind thoughts.  I expect to be back to somewhat regular posts soon.

Happy Holidays!

As I lay dying

My wife and my dog both sensed that something was wrong.  By the time the Prairie Wife got me to the emergency room my heart rate has slipped to 32.  The ER doc first concentrated on keeping me awake, then began a series of injections that moved the heart rate up, but the underlying problem was that my kidneys had nearly shutdown which was sending my potassium levels up.

With the heroic efforts of doctors and staff at the Methodist West hospital in Katy, Texas I am making a recovery and look forward to more blogging soo.  Please hang with me as I look for more interesting news.

Democrats block amendment to restore military retirement benefites

Sen. Cornyn tries to ,restore the benefits, but Democrats fear messing with the budget agreement at this time.

Japan wants F-35 and Osprey

DOD Buzz;
Japan adopted its first “National Security Strategy” Tuesday aimed at shaking off the restrictions of its pacifist Constitution to confront perceived threats from China by buying a vast arsenal of advanced U.S. weaponry to include MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and F-35 fighters.

The strategy approved by the Cabinet of nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that “Japan is vigilant against China’s activities in the East and South China Seas to change the status quo based on claims that are inconsistent with international law.”

Under the plan, Japan would spend $240 billion over the next five years on new equipment for the military to include 17 MV-22 Ospreys, 28 F-35 fighters, three unarmed Global Hawk drones and 52 amphibious troop carriers to shore up the offensive capability of its Self-Defense Forces.

If fully implemented, the Japanese strategy would provide a major boost for Bell Boeing, maker of the Ospreys, and Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program. Both firms have strugg…

Border Patrol aiding and abetting illegal immigration

Washington Times:
A federal judge in Texas late last week accused the Obama administration of aiding drug cartels, saying that instead of enforcing immigration laws, agents knowingly helped smuggle an illegal immigrant girl into the U.S. to live with her mother, also an illegal immigrant, in Virginia.

In a 10-page order, Judge Andrew S. Hanen said the case was the fourth such case he’s seen over the last month, and in each instance Customs and Border Protection agents have helped to locate and deliver the children to their illegal immigrant parents.

The judge said in each case, the taxpayers footed the bill for flights — including flights to multiple locations in different parts of the U.S. that it took to find one of the children’s parents.

“The DHS is rewarding criminal conduct instead of enforcing the current laws. More troubling, the DHS is encouraging parents to seriously jeopardize the safety of their children,” the judge said, adding that some of the children have been made to swi…

White House plan to respond to Obamacare problems

Three more years of Argy-Bargy and Finger Wagging appear to be Obama's response to the problems with healthcare.

Obamacare targets skeptical

NY Times:
Uninsured Are Skeptical of Health Care Law in Poll
Americans who lack coverage disapprove of the health law at roughly the same rate as the insured, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. This has to be disappointing to proponents of the healthcare law. It will be another reason for being against this law.

BP, ConocoPhillips make big find in Gulf

Fuel Fix:
BP and ConocoPhillips said Wednesday they have made a significant oil discovery at the jointly owned Gila prospect in the deep-water Gulf of Mexico.

The Gila exploration well, about 300 miles southwest of New Orleans, is in nearly 5,000 feet of water and has total depth of more than 29,000 feet, pushing the boundaries of the latest offshore drilling technology with its high pressure and high temperature conditions.

The reservoir is BP’s third in the Paleogene system, where the company made its Kaskida and Tiber discoveries in 2006 and 2009. The Keathley Canyon, the site of the Gila discovery, was acquired in 2003. BP is the 80 percent owner and ConocoPhillips owns the remaining 20 percent share.

It is the fourth Paleogene find for ConocoPhillips, which also owns an 18 percent working interest in the Tiber, as well as a minority share in the Coronado and Shenandoah in the Gulf of Mexico’s Walker Ridge.

The companies plan to begin appraisal drilling to determine the size and comme…

Oil trains impact small towns

AP/Fuel Fix:
It’s tough to miss the trains hauling crude oil out of the Northern Plains. They are growing more frequent by the day, mile-long processions of black tank cars that rumble through wheat fields and towns, along rivers and national parks.

As common as they have become across the U.S. and Canada, officials in dozens of towns and cities where the oil trains travel say they are concerned with the possibility of a major derailment, spill or explosion, while their level of preparation varies widely.

Stoking those fears was the July crash of a crude train from the Bakken oil patch in Lac Megantic, Quebec — not far from the Maine border — that killed 47 people. A Nov. 8 train derailment in rural Alabama where several oil cars exploded reinforced them.

“It’s a grave concern,” said Dan Sietsema, the emergency coordinator in northeastern Montana’s Roosevelt County, where oil trains now pass regularly through the county seat of Wolf Point. “It has the ability to wipe out a town like W…

This is a mistake

Daily Mail:
U.S. Army considering removing portraits of Confederate Generals Lee and 'Stonewall' Jackson from school for army generals for 'supporting slavery' Stonewall Jackson was the smartest general on either side of the war. He was one of the few who understood how the weapons of war favored the defense and he constantly maneuvered his troop to take advantage of this.  While the South always suffered under the North's numerical superiority, it didn't really start losing the war until his death in an accidental shooting by his own troops.

67 % want Obamacare delayed, 53% want it repealed

Fox News:
Americans remain unhappy with the health care law: Majorities say they wish it had never passed, would vote to repeal it if they could, and think implementation should be delayed until the kinks are worked out. At the same time, a shrinking majority believes the law will survive.

That’s according to a year-end Fox News poll released Wednesday.

Click here for the poll results.

The number of voters who want implementation of the law delayed continues to grow. The new poll shows 67 percent think it should be postponed a year “until more details are ironed out.” That’s up four percentage points since last month -- and up 10 points since October.

Those favoring a delay also now include a majority of Democrats: 54 percent support delaying implementation. That’s up 10 points from 44 percent last month.

Overall, by a 54-38 percent margin, people wish the health care law had never passed and the 2009 system were still in place.

Similarly, 53 percent would vote to repeal the law if give…

Iraqis tell Karzai he is better off with US deal

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NY Times:
Top Iraqi Official’s Advice to Karzai? Take U.S. Deal
The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, urged President Hamid Karzai to get over his differences with the Americans and sign a security deal with the United States. It is a reminder that Iraq would also be better off if it had taken the US deal instead of pushing for a US withdrawal.  That certainly appears to be the case as the forces of chaos push thier strategy within Iraq.  Afghanistan can expect similar strikes as the US leaves.

Navy Cross for Marine that broke up Taliban ambush

Business Insider: ...
When their mounted patrol came under intense enemy fire, Corporal Wooldridge and his squad dismounted and maneuvered on the suspected enemy location. Spotting a group of fifteen enemy fighters preparing an ambush, Corporal Wooldridge led one of his fire teams across open ground to flank the enemy, killing or wounding at least eight and forcing the rest to scatter.  As he held security alone to cover his fire team's withdrawal, he heard voices from behind an adjacent wall. Boldly rushing around the corner, he came face-to-face with two enemy fighters at close range, killing both of them with his M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon. As he crouched back behind the wall to reload, he saw the barrel of an enemy machine gun appear from around the wall. Without hesitation, he dropped his empty weapon and seized the machine gun barrel.  He overwhelmed the enemy fighter in hand-to-hand combat, killing him with several blows to the head with the enemy's own machine gun. Hi…

Government healthcare horror stories

Mark Tapscott:
Want a preview of what Obamacare has in store for Americans? Check out the latest news on Britain's National Health Service.

In the words of the Daily Mail newspaper, the NHS is a "shambles." Here's how the Daily Mail described the findings of three recent official investigations:

"One investigation revealed that a quarter of new mothers were abandoned by their midwives during labour, with some left to give birth on the floor or in corridors.

"The second found that mistakes deemed so serious they should never happen are being made in hospitals five times a week.

"And the third survey said thousands of patients have all but given up trying to secure appointments with their family doctor.

"The reports come only a day after the NHS watchdog detailed a catalogue of failings at GP surgeries, including consulting rooms infested with maggots and patients being given dangerous, out-of-date drugs."

The popularity of Britain's NHS has long…

Terrorist group gets hit by car bomb

AP:
Car bomb hits Hezbollah stronghold in east Lebanon The irony of Hezballah being on the receiving end of a terrorist attack is hard to ignore.

Iran develops shoulder fired missiles that could be used in terror attacks

Bill Gertz:
Iran this month unveiled details on two shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles that are a major concern among U.S. and allied counterterrorism officials due to Tehran’s support for global terrorist groups.

Iran on Dec. 8 published a report outlining the specifications for what it calls the Misagh-1 and Misagh-2 shoulder-fired missile system.

The report in the state-run Islamist Tasnim news agency stated the missiles are superior to the U.S. Stinger anti-aircraft missile and Sweden’s RBS-70 missile system.

According to the news agency, both variants of the missile are 1.5 meters long and can hit targets at a maximum altitude of 4,000 meters.

The report said the Misagh-1 travels at a maximum speed of more than 600 meters per second, and have a total weight of 16.8 kilograms. The Misagh-2 travels at speeds of 850 meters per second.

The missile’s explosive warhead weighs 1.42 kilograms.

The guided missile uses “fire-and-forget” technology that allows the missile to home in on target…

Wind becoming more competitive?

Bloomberg/Fuel Fix:
The decision by Warren Buffett’s utility company to order about $1 billion of wind turbines for projects in Iowa shows how a drop in equipment costs is making renewable energy more competitive with power from fossil fuels.

Turbine prices have fallen 26 percent worldwide since the first half of 2009, bringing wind power within 5.5 percent of the cost of electricity from coal, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., a unit of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Monday announced an order for 1,050 megawatts of Siemens AG wind turbines in the industry’s largest order to date for land-based gear.

Wind is the cheapest source of power in Iowa, and the deal indicates that turbines are becoming profitable without subsidies, according to Tom Kiernan, chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association trade group. That’s a boost for suppliers including Siemens, General Electric Co. and Vestas Wind Systems A/S, and a threat to coal m…

Ad to put fear in the heart of Democrats everywhere

It is the healthcare horror story in a short ad.

Congress dings military retirees while continuing support tax payments to illegals

Fox News:
A final effort by Senate Republicans to halt cuts to pensions of military retirees failed late Tuesday, after Democrats blocked an amendment to the controversial budget bill.

The two-year budget agreement, which cleared a key test vote earlier in the day, was expected to get a final vote no later than Wednesday.

Ahead of the final vote, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., tried unsuccessfully to use a parliamentary tactic to force a vote on the amendment, which he wrote to undo the cuts for military retirees.

A provision in the already House-passed bill would cut retirement benefits for military retirees by $6 billion over 10 years.

Sessions wanted to instead eliminate an estimated $4.2 billion in spending by reining in an IRS credit that illegal immigrants have claimed.

He and fellow senators argued the bill unfairly sticks veterans and other military retirees with the cost of new spending.

“It’s not correct, and it should not happen,” Sessions said on the floor.

"By blocking my amen…

Marine gets support from Congress for sending warning on unsecured email

Fox News:
A Marine facing military discharge for mistakenly sending a threat warning from an unclassified email account garnered high-level support ahead of a military hearing that began Tuesday, with several members of Congress leaping to his defense.

Maj. Jason Brezler, a Marine Corps reservist and New York City fire fighter was facing a board of inquiry -- the equivalent of an administrative hearing in the military -- for warning his fellow Marines of an insider threat in August 2012.

He had tried to warn about an Afghan police chief -- known to be linked to the Taliban, and also a child predator. Brezler's warning was ultimately ignored, and three Marines were killed by one of the Afghan police chief's alleged child victims.

The Marine reservist, though, now stands accused of passing classified information through unclassified channels because he allegedly used an improper email account to pass on the warning.

"It really does seem to be a witch hunt," said Kevin …

Robots to join Marines in 2020?

National Defense Magazine:
Within five years, Marines could head into battle alongside autonomous robotic trucks carrying water, ammunition and other gear. By the end of the decade, troops could be fighting with unmanned ground systems that communicate, duck and fight like humans, according to scientists working with the military.

With fiscal upheaval in the Pentagon, it is uncertain how much funding will be available to purchase robotic systems, but industry and military laboratories are working on the Marine Corps’ behalf to develop technologies and drive costs down, said Roy Byrd, director of government relations and Marine Corps programs at ITT Exelis. Because of the budget crunch, labs like the Office of Naval Research are focused on retrofitting existing vehicles and systems with autonomy kits that will allow them to operate without a human in the driver seat.

“The science and technology focus is developing autonomy enablers, not platforms,” Byrd said. “The [science and technolog…

The Unaffordable Care Act leads to rate hikes for small business

Politico:
Think the canceled health policies hurt the Obamacare cause? There’s another political time bomb lurking that could explode not too long before next year’s elections: rate hikes for small businesses.

Like the canceled individual health plans, it’s another example of a tradeoff that health care experts have long known about, as the new rules for health insurance prices create winners and losers. But most Americans won’t become aware of it until some small business employees learn that their premiums are going up because of a law called — oops — the Affordable Care Act.

Some will learn the opposite, that their premiums are going down because of the law. But as we saw with the canceled individual health plans, it’s the losers who will get most of the attention.

And the timing will be terrible for Democrats: A lot of those small businesses will have to start dealing with their new prices in October — just in time for Republicans to make it an issue in their mid-term election campai…

Japan responds to Chinese attempt to claim islands

USA Today:
Japan unveiled a sweeping national security strategy Tuesday that will boost defense spending and see troops and equipment shifted to the nation's southwest islands — part of a move to develop the capability to wrest islands away from would-be attackers.  The plan is a reflection of Japan's growing concerns over China's increasing military assertiveness and territorial demands. And it marks another milestone in hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plans to strengthen Japan's defense establishment and ease postwar restrictions on the armed forces.  "The security situation around Japan has become even more severe and in order to maintain peace it is necessary to implement national security policies in a more strategic and structured manner," Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday. "This does not in any way change Japan's pacifist policies, which have been consistent throughout the postwar period," the ministry said.

The …

Hackers tap into Israel and Saudi computers looking for Hezballah killer clues

WFB:
An Arab hacking group with ties to the Iranian government claims to have seized classified information from servers belonging to the Israeli and Saudi governments, as well as the Saudi Binladen Group, a construction conglomerate run by the family of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The Islamic Cyber Resistance Group (ICRG) announced via several hacker websites on Monday that it had pulled off the large-scale cyber theft in retaliation for the recent assassination of Hezbollah commander Hassan Hawlo al-Lakkis.

Iran and Hezbollah have said that they believe the Saudis and Israelis worked together to pull off the assassination.

The ICRG published what it claims are the classified personnel records of some 2,000 Israeli military officers and 1,000 Saudi agents, according to hacker websites and reports in the Iranian press.

The hackers then turned their sights on the Binladen Group for its ties to the Saudi government.

The ICRG “extracted more than 7 [gigabytes] of its top secret informa…

Expanded Medicaid could mean Government coming after deceased's estate

Seattle Times:
It wasn’t the moonlight, holiday-season euphoria or family pressure that made Sofia Prins and Gary Balhorn, both 62, suddenly decide to get married.

It was the fine print.

As fine print is wont to do, it had buried itself in a long form — Balhorn’s application for free health insurance through the expanded state Medicaid program. As the paperwork lay on the dining-room table in Port Townsend, Prins began reading.

She was shocked: If you’re 55 or over, Medicaid can come back after you’re dead and bill your estate for ordinary health-care expenses.

The way Prins saw it, that meant health insurance via Medicaid is hardly “free” for Washington residents 55 or older. It’s a loan, one whose payback requirements aren’t well advertised. And it penalizes people who, despite having a low income, have managed to keep a home or some savings they hope to pass to heirs, Prins said.

With an estimated 223,000 adults seeking health insurance headed toward Washington’s expanded Medicaid progr…

What is the Air Force up to?

Washington Post:
Fighting for the military’s future
After spending almost $600 million on a tiny fleet of planes, the Air Force flew all of them to a junkyard. To Air Force brass, it was all about economics. To the National Guard, it was about politics.    What is the economics in buying a fleet you don't need?  Why not turn the planes over to the National Guard?

Obama's failed policies reflected in recent polling

Washington Post:
Poll: Obama suffers most in year of turmoil
The president lost significant ground in 2013 to GOP opponents as the midterm elections approach. His latest approval ratings are the lowest of his presidency. He deserves a low rating after being caught in the "lie of the year" and other failures of his healthcare fiasco.  His rating with me is pretty near zero at this point.

Can Democrats' healthcare mess be 'fixed'?

Byron York:
2014 will be the year Republicans are forced to deal with the Obamacare Trap, helpfully set for them by the Democratic authors of the Affordable Care Act.

In 2009 and 2010, President Obama and his party took a health care system in which 85 percent had insurance coverage, and blew it up. Now, with Obamacare causing misery right and left, those same Democrats are screaming, "You can't go back!"

The national health care scheme they designed is so complex and has already embedded itself so deeply in the health care system, they argue, that it can never be repealed. The only course now is for lawmakers of both parties to "fix" Obamacare's problems.

The argument will be heard more and more as the burdens imposed by Obamacare — cancelled policies, higher premiums, higher deductibles, narrower doctor networks, restricted choices of prescription drugs and more — become a reality for millions of Americans. The situation could become even more politically ch…

Navigators urging fraud on applicants

Fox News:
ObamaCare navigators have been giving Americans misinformation and encouraging enrollees to commit fraud This video discusses the blatant fraud being used by the Obamacare navigators.