Archive for January 5th, 2012|Daily archive page

Savage: Here’s what America will look like if Obama wins

WND

If Barack Obama wins in 2012, America is headed for something worse than a failing European-style socialist state, top-rated radio host Michael Savage said on his nationally syndicated show today.

“I have to tell you that if this man, God forbid, is the next president of the United States, we’re going to be living in something along the lines of – people say Europe. I don’t believe it’s going to be like Europe – I think it will be closer to Chavez’s South American dictatorship,” he told his “Savage Nation” audience.

Recalling his background as the son of an immigrant from Russia, who has been around awhile and seen a number of administrations, Savage said that if he had one message to leave, it would be a warning about what he fears is on the horizon.

“This is the most corrupt, incompetent, dangerous tyrannical administration in American history,” he declared.

“It’s not politics as usual. It’s not just Democrats versus Republicans,” Savage said.

Obama, he said, is “not a Democrat,” noting the president’s history of ties to Marxists and other radicals documented in his book “Trickle Up Poverty.”

 

“Obama has a long history of being at odds with American values and with America itself and the core principles of this country.” Savage said.

 

Savage pointed to media as one of the areas in which “step by step, degree by degree, we’re losing our freedom.”

He cited a WND story by Aaron Klein about a non-profit journalism group funded by supporters of MoveOn.org and the ACLU that will supply news to NBC television affiliates.

“They don’t want government-sponsored opinions,” he said, “They only want government-sponsored “Pravda.’”

“Pravda,” which ironically means “truth” in Russian, he noted, was the official Communist Party newspaper in the old Soviet Union.

“That’s exactly what the government-media complex tells you on a daily basis – nothing but the government-media complex party line,” he said.

“Pay attention,” Savage concluded. “Your freedom may be at stake.”

Everybody! Sing along! It’s beginning to look a lot like…

1984

Between SOPA, NDAA, telecommunications surveillance, and people’s willingness to share endlessly via social networking, will 2012 mark the year consumers irreversibly surrender their privacy and freedoms?

A mantra of the Internet age, articulated in 1984 by WELL founder Stewart Brand, is that “information wants to be free.” Back then — the days of 360K floppies and 1200 baud modems — Brand was referring to digital technology making information ever easier to distribute, copy, and remix than their old-school analog counterparts. The oft-forgotten corollary Brand offered at the same time was “Information also wants to be expensive,” because particular items, while perhaps of no interest to one person, can be “immeasurably valuable” to someone else.

As we head into 2012, the conflict Brand articulated between information’s “want” to be both free and expensive is taking on new dimensions. So-called “digital content” like books, music, and television is increasingly falling into the expensive category, thanks to online stores, digital distribution, copyright, and DRM. Meanwhile, information about ourselves — like our location, habits, activities, possessions, transactions, preferences, and personal information — is increasingly becoming “free,” often accessible to advertisers, corporations, and governments without our explicit consent. Or, in many cases, proffered up willingly in exchange for things like coupons.

As we enter 2012, the tension between “free” and “expensive” information is becoming more charged than ever. What could 2012 bring… and will it end up resembling Orwell’s 1984? Here are a few of the threats on the horizon.

SOPA-Internet-censorship-shutterstockStop Online Piracy Act

The Stop Online Piracy Act and its companion piece, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) are bills currently being crafted by U.S. Congress aiming to expand the capabilities of U.S. law enforcement agencies to combat copyright and intellectual property infringement — piracy. The proposed legislation is aimed at both the piracy of digital goods (books, movies, television shows, games, and things like live broadcasts), but also the use of the Internet and online marketplaces to traffic in physical counterfeit goods. That means pirated DVDs, Blu-rays, and CDs, but also fake drugs, fashion and accessories, electronics, antiques, collectibles, and many more items.

At a basic level, most people accept that piracy and counterfeiting are bad. It’s theft, and theft is rarely justifiable. So, on the surface, the notions behind SOPA don’t seem that onerous. The devil is, of course, in the details — or lack of details, given the very broad language in SOPA as it exists today. As originally proposed, SOPA would enable copyright holders to seek court orders against Web sites they believe are infringing on copyrights or either enabling or facilitating copyright infringement. Depending on one’s definitions, merely linking to a site that contained allegedly infringing content could be construed as “facilitating” infringement, so copyright holders could demand the site or account with that link be taken down.

In a worst-case scenario, Internet users who share a link to a cool video with their friends might find their social networking accounts suspended for “facilitating” alleged copyright infringement. Similarly, journalists writing about piracy could find their sites or publications suspended. And if a legitimate site or account were to get hijacked, transferred, or sold (because that never happens, right?) anyone who linked to or did business with once-legitimate content or sites might suddenly find themselves in violation of the law.

Under SOPA, a court could require ISPs to take down sites accused of infringement, order search engines to drop the sites from their listings, or bar online advertising and payment services (like AdSense or PayPal) from doing business with the site. The goal of those measures is ostensibly to shut down online marketplaces for pirated and counterfeit goods: Get them offline, and shut off access to their sources of online revenue. Although the bill provides for penalties against copyright holders who knowingly make false accusations of infringement (emphasis mine), the bill also grants immunity to ISPs who proactively take down accused sites. In other words, there’s no penalty to ISPs who take down sites because they’re accused of infringement, even if those claims are false. That’s a significant weakening of “safe harbor” provisions created by 1998′s still-controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA). Similarly, the process of requesting or obtaining a court order over alleged infringement would largely take place outside the public eye, likely with the owners of the accused site unaware action was being taken against it. If the order were granted, one morning a site or service operator could wake up and find their site gone. Site owners can file a counter-claim if they’re barred from ad or payment services, but the counter-claim would have no force.

That’s not the full course of SOPA. It also has broad implications for cybersecurity and DNSSEC, a new security layer for DNS. However, provisions like the ones outlined above obviously have tremendous implications for search engines and services that host user-generated content — think Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and the like, but also for personal sites, blogs, small businesses, and (really) any person, organization, or business with a website. Under SOPA, merely linking to other sites could become a dangerous proposition, lest the site at the other end of the link be accused of copyright infringement.

Opponents of SOPA argue these provisions would fundamentally break the Internet and stifle innovation, and could lead to many sites and services migrating their infrastructure out of the U.S. to escape potential liability. Further, it seems unlikely SOPA’s provisions would do much to combat online piracy and trafficking in counterfeit goods, since site operators are already adept at moving to new hosting services in the space of a few hours: Even SOPA’s proposed streamlining of takedowns would still move at glacial speeds compared to the Internet world.

Proponents of the legislation argue SOPA’s provisions would protect revenues of content creators that would otherwise be lost and, hence, preserve jobs — an important buzzword in today’s political and economic climate. Supporters also note SOPA is not intended to go after single instances of links on blogs, social networking feeds, or other sites; rather, the bill is meant to offer law enforcement and rights holders tools to go after bigger fish, like substantial piracy and counterfeiting operations. However, the language of the bill as it stands today contains no such limits, implicitly relying on barriers to entry (court costs, attorneys’ fees, documentation, etc.) to curb potential abuses.

godaddy-sopaSOPA (and PIPA) are not law. Both bills are proposed legislation that has yet to make it out of committee for votes before the House and Senate, let alone be signed by the president. Nonetheless, the proposed legislation has drawn a wealth of criticism, with domain registrar GoDaddy bearing the brunt of anti-SOPA sentiment by first endorsing the bill, then retracting its support. A handful of gaming companies have also apparently withdrawn their explicit support, although it’s not clear whether that’s a genuine reassessment of their stance or merely a PR move in the wake of the GoDaddy fracas. Many other top-line Internet companies—Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, eBay, Wikimedia Foundation — oppose SOPA, as do the EFF, Human Rights Watch, and the ACLU.

The bottom line is that if legislation like SOPA and PIPA become law, the way the Internet works for most Americans could change substantially. Much of the information we understand to be “free” today, even to the level of tweets and status updates, could suddenly come with enormous consequences. The weight of those consequences will tend to suppress Internet users’ willingness to speak, communicate, link, and share — and that’s why opponents say SOPA will “break” the Internet.

National Defense Authorization Act

SOPA is not yet law, but the most recent National Defense Authorization Act is. The NDAA is an annual bill passed by the U.S. Congress authorizing the budget of the U.S. Defense Department. It’s always a bit of a political hot potato because few presidents can justify failing authorizing revenue for the Defense Department, particularly when tens of thousands of U.S. troops are overseas serving in extended conflicts. Since the President does not have a line-item veto, lawmakers try to attach all sorts of things to the NDAA, knowing the President will almost certainly have to sign them all through into law.

This year, the NDAA contains a doozy: It enables the U.S. military to conduct anti-terrorist operations on U.S. soil, and authorizes indefinite detention of terror suspects, including U.S. citizens, without trial. The law is not entirely clear whether the military can indefinitely detain U.S. citizens domestically, but it can certainly do so overseas, and foreigners can be detained whether overseas or within U.S. borders.

In signing this year’s NDAA, President Obama included a signing statement attempting to clarify his position on the law. “The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”

In essence, this year’s NDAA expands on provisions granted into the Patriot Act and extends the military’s role in domestic law enforcement. Now, the U.S. military can detain anyone, anywhere in the world, without trial or process, simply because they’re suspected of terrorist activities.

lulzsec arrestedThis may not seem to have anything to do with the Internet — until you think about groups like Anonymous and Wikileaks. Could Anonymous (or groups within Anonymous) attacking credit card operators, the <a href="http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/anonymous-to-attack-us-chamber-of-commerce-website-today-over-protect-ip-bill/
“>U.S. Chamber of Commerce, threatening the NYSE, law enforcement organizations, or other organizations constitute terrorist activity? Similarly, would Wikileaks’ publication of classified U.S. diplomatic cables constitute terrorist activity? Suddenly, everyday Internet users speaking up in support of groups like Anonymous and Wikileaks might find themselves accused of aiding and facilitating terrorists. Similarly, if U.S. authorities decide these or similar groups’ activities constitute terrorism, members or alleged members might find themselves shipped to Guantanamo. No trial, no process, no appeal.

The Obama administration says it does not intend to exercise these powers. Even if that’s true, now that they’re law the only way they can be undone is with additional legislation that repeals the provisions, or through a court challenge, which would almost certainly ensure if the powers were ever utilized. But just because the Obama administration says it won’t use the powers doesn’t mean future administrations won’t. And let’s not forget that, at least in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Obama administration concluded it has the power to assassinate U.S. citizens without trail. (The American-born al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen by a targeted U.S. drone strike in September 2011.)

The bottom line here is that it doesn’t matter whether the U.S. government ever exercises the powers granted under this year’s NDAA: the very fact they exist suppresses American civil liberties by explicitly authorizing the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without trial, anywhere in the world. For folks who hold unpopular views, or merely know people who do, that’s a sobering thing to consider.

Telecom Immunity

Confused yet? Things get weirder. Late last month a U.S. Court of Appeals panel upheld the constitutionality of a law that makes telecommunications operators immune to lawsuits for assisting the federal government’s surveillance of American citizens. In other words, if your cell phone, telephone, or Internet provider turns over information about you, your activities, and use of their services over to the Federal government — even illegally — you’d have no grounds to sue. Communications companies face no sanctions for disclosing personal information to the federal government, including account information and even usage data like sites visited, account names, and location data.

When can the federal government require communications companies to hand over customer information? Essentially, anytime it likes: As part of anti-terrorist measures enacted by the Bush administration, the federal government has been engaging in warrantless wiretapping of individuals it has reason to believe may be connected to terrorist activities. Although originally revealed back in late 2005, the practice was sustained by the Bush administration and continues under the Obama administration. The activities include tapping phone calls, as well as intercepting Internet traffic (email, Web use, etc.) VoIP traffic, and text messages. The government is the sole arbiter of what individuals are surveilled, and is under no requirement to disclose its activities.

However, there is an upshot to the appeals court ruling. The court only finds the immunity granted to telecommunications operators to be legal; a case against the government challenging the legality of warrantless wiretapping practices can still proceed. That case, Jewel v. NSA, alleged that the National Security Agency set up secure facilities within AT&T facilities across the United States to engage in an “unprecedented suspicionless general search” of digital communications.

“The federal courts remain a forum to consider the constitutionality of the wiretapping scheme and other claims, including claims for injunctive relief,” wrote Judge Margaret McKeown of the 9th Circuit.

However, even if the Justice Department does not appeal the ruling that Jewel vs. NSA can proceed, it is likely to move the case be dismissed on state secrets grounds. Given the volume of information that has already been disclosed about the NSA’s domestic surveillance operations, the Justice Department may have a difficult time asserting a state secret privilege, but it does mean key proceedings of the case could take place outside public view.

The true value of privacy

Does any of this actually matter? Some might argue that talking about preserving privacy and civil liberties is pointless in an age when many everyday citizens regularly share intimate details of their daily lives with the entire world, including who they know, where they are, what they’re doing, what they like, what they’re looking for, and what they buy. Couple that with personal information about most people squirreled away in private and government databases (think health care providers, credit reporting agencies, banks, credit card companies, even grocery stores, not to mention the erstwhile efforts of online advertisers to track your every move across every site on the Internet) and it’s easy to see why former Sun head Scott McNealy said “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” And that was way back in 1999, before things like smartphones, Facebook, and Foursquare.

facebook-timeline

Fundamentally, the value of privacy comes down to whether individuals consider personal information to be free or expensive. It’s easy to consider information about other people “free,” after all, most of the time, it doesn’t matter to us. That leads to the comforting fallacy that individuals have nothing to worry about if they have nothing to hide. Perhaps, for a handful of people who have absolutely no qualms about living their entire lives in the public eye, that might be true.

However, there’s a distinct difference between having something to hide (like, say, terrorist connections), and not wanting every iota of personal information available to anyone, at any time. Few people would want their entire medical histories made public—which could lead to problems with insurance, health care, job prospects, and more. Similarly, few people would want their communications or financial records available to anyone, or consent to having their location monitored at all times. Is it acceptable to live our lives constantly wondering how our actions might be interpreted by the myriad of other people, organizations, and governments who might be watching?

Simply put, most people believe that information about themselves belongs to them, and ought to be under their control. We find information about ourselves to be “immeasurably valuable.” Sure, we’re free to share details if we like. But we should also be free not to share information, or to have information about ourselves collected and used with no right of recourse, appeal, deletion, or correction, because we recognize that information could be misused by others, to our detriment.

Unfortunately, in the world of 2012, it looks like Americans — and most other people — are finding themselves with less and less choice in the matter. And if you’re a marketer or a government, maybe that’s doubleplusgood.

Mitochondria Need Love, too…

Mitochondrial Aging Especially Important In Stem Cells?

Your Anatomy & Physiology class for the day. If I have to take it, YOU have to take it with me….

Mitochondria are sub-cellular organelles that break down sugar to make energy for the cell. Our mitochondrial DNA accumulate mutations and mitochondria become less functional as a result. Possibly other mechanisms are at working causing mitochondrial aging as well. A new report finds mitochondrial damage accumulation in stem cells has an especially large impact on overall aging.

Aging-related tissue degeneration can be caused by mitochondrial dysfunction in tissue stem cells. The research group of Professor Anu Suomalainen Wartiovaara in Helsinki University, with their collaborators in Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging, Karolinska Institutet and University of Wisconsin reported on the 3rd January in Cell Metabolism their results on mechanisms of aging-associated degeneration.

Stem cells are called the spare parts for tissues, as they maintain and repair tissues during life. They are multipotent and can produce a variety of different cell types, from blood cells to neurons and skin cells. Mitochondria are the cellular engine: they transform the energy of nutrients to a form that cells can use, and in this process they burn most of the inhaled oxygen. If this nutrient ‘burning’ is inefficient, the engine will produce exhaust fumes, oxygen radicals, which damage cellular structures, including the genome. Antioxidants target to scavenge these radicals.

Already in 2004 and 2005 a research model was created in Sweden and USA, which accumulated a heavy load of mitochondrial genome defects. This led to symptoms of premature aging: thin skin, graying of hair, baldness, osteoporosis and anemia.

In the current publication, scientist Kati Ahlqvist in Professor Suomalainen Wartiovaara’s group showed that these symptoms were partially explained by stem cell dysfunction. The number of stem cells did not reduce, but their function was modified: the progeny cells in blood and the nervous system were dysfunctional. The researchers also found out that these defects could be partially prevented by early antioxidant treatment.

Stem cells are needed to create replacements for damaged cells that die off or cease to do their jobs. Damaged stem cells are unable to perform their function. So less repair gets done as our stem cells accumulate damage and become dysfunctional with age. Biotechnology that would enable us to replace our old stem cells with younger ones would go far to slow and partially reverse aging.

Another research team found that in mice bred to age rapidly stem cell injections slowed aging and enabled the mice to live longer.

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 3 – Mice bred to age too quickly seemed to have sipped from the fountain of youth after scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine injected them with stem cell-like progenitor cells derived from the muscle of young, healthy animals. Instead of becoming infirm and dying early as untreated mice did, animals that got the stem/progenitor cells improved their health and lived two to three times longer than expected, according to findings published in the Jan. 3 edition of Nature Communications.

Previous research has revealed stem cell dysfunction, such as poor replication and differentiation, in a variety of tissues in old age, but it’s not been clear whether that loss of function contributed to the aging process or was a result of it, explained senior investigators Johnny Huard, Ph.D., and Laura Niedernhofer, M.D., Ph.D. Dr. Huard is professor in the Departments of Orthopaedic Surgery and of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Pitt School of Medicine, and director of the Stem Cell Research Center at Pitt and Children’s Hospital of PIttsburgh of UPMC. Dr. Niedernhofer is associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI).

“Our experiments showed that mice that have progeria, a disorder of premature aging, were healthier and lived longer after an injection of stem cells from young, healthy animals,” Dr. Niedernhofer said. “That tells us that stem cell dysfunction is a cause of the changes we see with aging.”

Stem cells from young healthy mice enabled progeria mice (i.e. mice selected for to age more rapidly) to live longer.

Their team examined a stem/progenitor cell population derived from the muscle of progeria mice and found that compared to those from normal rodents, the cells were fewer in number, did not replicate as often, didn’t differentiate as readily into specialized cells and were impaired in their ability to regenerate damaged muscle. The same defects were discovered in the stem/progenitor cells isolated from very old mice.

“We wanted to see if we could rescue these rapidly aging animals, so we injected stem/progenitor cells from young, healthy mice into the abdomens of 17-day-old progeria mice,” Dr. Huard said. “Typically the progeria mice die at around 21 to 28 days of age, but the treated animals lived far longer – some even lived beyond 66 days. They also were in better general health.”

The symptoms which old mice suffer from serve as a reminder of why we need rejuvenation therapies. Do you want to hunch over, tremble, or move slowly and awkwardly? I think not.

As the progeria mice age, they lose muscle mass in their hind limbs, hunch over, tremble, and move slowly and awkwardly. Affected mice that got a shot of stem cells just before showing the first signs of aging were more like normal mice, and they grew almost as large. Closer examination showed new blood vessel growth in the brain and muscle, even though the stem/progenitor cells weren’t detected in those tissues.

Once rejuvenating stem cell therapies become available I expect people will start using them while still at fairly young ages. Starting in one’s 20s doesn’t seem too soon.

What Ultrabooks Could Do To The Tablet Craze

Forbes

Asus makes something cool, about the size of an iPad, but with a keyboard and touchscreen. I wish Apple would make something similar (the MBAir won’t cut it and I will not use a Windows platform…yeah, call me crazy, but I just like my computers to function when I turn them on…).

Shock News: Arab League as Ineffective In Syria As It Is Everywhere Else

Are we really surprised?

Next time you want to stop a bloodbath, don’t send a war criminal to report on human rights abuses. In a bizarre turn of events, the head of the Sudanese military intelligence has been tasked with ending the crackdown on protesters in Syria as the leader of Arab League observers.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter; the Arab League has a long tradition of irrelevance and, so far, its observer mission in Syria is keeping tradition alive. The impact of the observers has been negligible. At least 49 people have been killed by the regime in the past 5 days, according to Bloomberg. The Arab Parliament, an advisory body to a talking shop, announced on January 1 that the “fact-finding” mission of Arab League monitors has failed.

Lieutenant General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the head of Sudan’s military intelligence since 1989, has for decades, it is widely believed, personally overseen what most now recognize as genocide in Darfur. And now he is expected to help end the bloodshed in Syria? Tellingly, he declared to Reuters after visiting Homs: “some places looked a bit of a mess but there was nothing frightening.”

Al-Dabi’s appointment was a mistake but it reflects the weaknesses that beset the Arab League as a whole. For most of its history, involvement in wholesale human rights abuses was more a badge of courage than a mark of shame in what was mostly a dictators’ club. Ignoring or even conniving at and enabling widespread, massive violations of human rights throughout the Arab world while screaming to high heaven about everything and anything Israel did has been standard operating procedure in the Arab League for decades.

The Arab League will change only after its member governments change. Even then, change won’t come quickly. It lacks the standing, the skills, the resources and the leadership to play the kind of role Syria needs. Naming a notorious genocidaire to a humanitarian mission is only one symptom of this much deeper disease. The Arab League can bless initiatives of the west (as in Libya) or perhaps of Turkey and others in Syria; it is a very long way from having the capacity to act on its own.

Obama Gets Engaged to the Brotherhood

Commentary

Like a child in the throes of a destructive tantrum, he attempts to reek as much havoc before his parents return to the room to witness the fruits of his infuriation…

You would think that after wasting the first year in office on a foolish attempt to “engage” Iran, Barack Obama would have had his fill of outreach to Islamists. After the Iranians treated his overtures with contempt, even Obama eventually got the picture and switched to an equally ineffective course of feckless diplomacy aimed at isolating Tehran. But apparently the president’s unfulfilled desire to make friends with Islamic extremists is still driving American foreign policy. As the New York Times reported yesterday, the administration has embarked on a full-scale effort to “engage” with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

This is, to say the least, a major reversal of a decades-long American policy to treat the Islamists as a threat to the stability of the region as well as to the U.S.-Egypt relationship. But like New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who embarrassed himself trying to portray the Brotherhood as moderates in a series of columns, the State Department is seemingly convinced it can establish a productive working relationship with it. This is a glaring mistake not just because it is based on a misperception of the Islamists’ goals regarding democracy and willingness to keep the peace with Israel. It is also a slap in the face of the country’s military government that remains the only obstacle between the Brotherhood and the creation of another Islamic republic.

The argument in favor of engagement is based on the notion that the Brotherhood is a fact of life and, as the parliamentary elections have shown, clearly the most popular political force in Egypt. However, that doesn’t mean its intentions are compatible with the creation of a freer and more democratic Egypt, let alone U.S. interests. The ideology of the Brotherhood, like that of the more radical Salafis who also came out ahead in the elections, is still geared toward the creation of an Islamic state and, notwithstanding the credulous reporting of writers like Kristof, the end of minority religious rights and any vestige of freedom in Egypt.

The administration’s anger with the Egyptian military is understandable as its ham-handed attempt to repress dissent and to retain its hold on power have undermined any pretense the Arab Spring will lead to genuine freedom there. But if the only choices available in Egypt are the Islamists and the military, you have to wonder about the judgment of a president who would choose the former. While administration sources say they want to keep communication open with both sides, any attempt to undermine the military at this point constitutes a clear intervention on behalf of the Brotherhood.

Comparisons of American policy toward Egypt with the Carter administration’s foolish support of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s push to oust the Shah from Iran have been largely unfair. The Mubarak government’s fall was inevitable, and nothing Obama did or didn’t do affected the outcome there. But engagement with the Brotherhood at this moment is a ghastly error on the scale of Carter’s Iran mistakes. Americans may well be looking back on this decision with regret for many years to come.

Obama to Share Missile Defense Secrets With Russia?

BigPeace

Let’s cut the military – Check, Go play 2089 rounds of gold – Check, Give over secrets to the Russians – Check, Bow in obeisance to Al Qaida – Check….

Bill Gertz of the Washington Times reports that President Barack Obama has indicated he is prepared to convey information about secret American missile defense technology to Russia:

In the president’s signing statement issued Saturday in passing into law the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill, Mr. Obama said restrictions aimed at protecting top-secret technical data on U.S. Standard Missile-3 velocity burnout parameters might impinge on his constitutional foreign policy authority.

As first disclosed in this space several weeks ago, U.S. officials are planning to provide Moscow with the SM-3 data, despite reservations from security officials who say that doing so could compromise the effectiveness of the system by allowing Russian weapons technicians to counter the missile. The weapons are considered some of the most effective high-speed interceptors in the U.S. missile defense arsenal.

There are also concerns that Russia could share the secret data with China and rogue states such as Iran and North Korea to help their missile programs defeat U.S. missile defenses.

Even before this latest revelation, the entire enterprise of President Obama’s disarmament policy–from “reset” with Russia to selling out our European allies–had been a colossal failure, an exercise in cowardice and appeasement that placed the security of the United States at risk.

In the pursuit of a thirty-year-old leftist grudge against President Ronald Reagan’s policy of “peace through strength,” Obama has now apparently suggested his willingness to give away a technological edge eagerly coveted by Russia and especially by China.

There can be no stronger case for replacing Barack Obama in November.

Not on the scroll down of the teleprompter screen…

IBD

President Obama, just back from another vacation. Needs something for the cameras. To show new year action. Something important. Decisive. A closed lunch with Biden doesn’t really work.

Why not fly Air Force One to Ohio to do something he could easily do in the White House, pick another fight with Congress by announcing a possibly illegal recess appointment?

Perfect!

Obama goes to Ohio a lot. One time he flew four hours roundtrip for a 12-minute event that shut down the jobs he was there to hail.

Crucial swing state. Republicans haven’t won the White House without Ohio in more than a century. McCain went to Ohio in 2008 to introduce Sarah. Didn’t work. Obama took Ohio. This year maybe not.

Dem gov tossed in 2010. Couple of Dem reps too. Dem senator in trouble this year. So, more POTUS attention could be good. Wednesday’s the day. And to guarantee a friendly reception, Obama aides send him to Ohio’s most Dem district up by Cleveland. Obama gets off his big plane.

Hello there. GOP Gov. John Kasich tweets: “Welcome back to OH, Mr. President. You’ll find our budget balanced, our taxes cut, and jobs coming back. Time to do it in DC.”

Obama goes to Shaker Heights High School. With Obama, these choreographed crowd events have a rigidity, a predictable faux friendliness. He’s been doing them so long, even before Oprah helped four years ago.

First time you see this presidential show: He’s fun. Pretty cool to see POTUS. He’s good with these people at a distance. Can work a crowd from the stage. Second time: Things feel a little familiar. But he looks comfortable. Says the right things. Pauses at the right times.

Third time: Geez, is this a tape? Or Wayne Newton’s Vegas show? Obama’s saying/doing the same old same old.

Bounce onto the stage. Usually remove coat. Sleeves up. Walking mic.

Hey, Hello, (Insert state here). It’s great to be back at (insert school name here), home of the (insert sports team name here).

Cue adoring shout. “Mr. President, We love you!”

Pause for surprise. “I love you back. and I’m glad to be back.” (Applause)

Then comes the first act, an endless series of thank you’s and acknowledgments and shout-outs to every conceivable elected or appointed official “in the house.” Mention the principal, maybe joke about dodging detention. Bring up the basketball team (if they’re good). Nominate yourself to play with them but claim your eligibility is up.

Before you get into the guts of the speech, the part about how much you care about the economy and creating jobs and protecting the middle class and how screwed up Washington is because of other people and their sadly chronic partisan ways, you set up the audience with some genuine sappiness.

It’s worked every time. Something seasonal that allows you to show, seemingly offhand, how regular you are and how dedicated to the job you are. And really caring.

“I want to wish everybody a happy New Year,” Obama told the Ohio crowd Wednesday afternoon. “2012 is going to be a good year. (Applause.) It’s going to be a good year.”

“And one of my New Year’s resolutions is to make sure that I get out of Washington and spend time with folks like you. (Applause.) Because folks here in Ohio and all across the country — I want you to know you’re the reason why I ran for this office in the first place. You remind me what we are still fighting for.”

Then, out of the blue Wednesday, came a tiny incident. A minute moment. There had been no signs of trouble, nothing to reveal that the Real Good Talker’s real good talking had lost his touch or control of his sitting subjects. The rest of the speech continued normally. Many there probably didn’t even notice.

The president of the United States has said the next line so many times over these 1,080 days of his reign. He says it as a kind of democratic gesture, a compliment to a crowd of American citizens, a public obeisance that the most powerful man in the world is profoundly connected to them.

Obama said, “You inspire me.”

And you know how the members of that crowd in the most Democratic district of Ohio responded to that campaigning Democratic president’s professed sincerity this time?

They laughed at him.

“Okay,” Obama insisted, “you do.”

And the president, like a pro pol, continued with his speech, as if nothing had happened.

This Alone would steer me clear of Ron Paul…

Ron Paul backed Cynthia McKinney in 2008

From the Boston Globe on September 10, 2008:

Former presidential candidate Ron Paul urged his supporters today to vote for a minor-party candidate, saying that he had rejected a last-minute appeal from Republican John McCain for his endorsement.

The Texas congressman cultivated a loyal following and raised sizable amounts of campaign cash online during the Republican primaries.

At a news conference in Washington he appeared with independent Ralph Nader, the consumer activist, and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, the former Georgia congresswoman.

Libertarian candidate Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman from Georgia, held his own news conference to announce he has asked Paul, the party’s nominee in 1988, to be his running mate.

In a letter sent to Paul, Barr called Paul one of the “few American patriots” who exist in today’s society, and asked him to “seriously consider this final offer as an opportunity to show true, lasting leadership beyond party politics.”

While many people assume he endorsed Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, he also endorsed Miss McKinney and the Constitution Party candidate in a vote-for-one-of-them proclamation.

How does one reconcile this: He ran for president as a Republican and when he lost, instead of congratulating the man who won and offering his support, Ron Paul not only did not campaign for John McCain, he campaigned against him.

If third parties are so great, why did he run for Congress as a Republican? This, along with his weird writings in the 1990s, reflects a man who only uses Republicans to advance an agenda that does not quite add up.

I pity his followers, who seem on the whole to be worthy of someone so much better.

Yard Signs Tell the Tale in New Hampshire

PJMedia

Drive through New Hampshire in the next week, and you will see a staggering number of Republican yard signs. They’re everywhere: It seems like every third house has a sign up. They’re on front yards and in the windows of businesses. They’re in every neighborhood representing every demographic. They’re in front of homes along rural roadways, in front of suburban homes in the big southern towns, and in the conservative blue-collar neighborhoods of Manchester.

And there are even Republican yard signs all over the capital city of Concord — a largely Democratic-leaning town in this swing state.

Barack Obama is in big trouble next November.

In elections, yard signs provide the essential “social proof” to back up the television ads, debate performances, and stump speeches — especially when it comes time to close the deal with relatively apolitical or undecided voters.

But this is a Republican primary. What do January yard signs have to do with Barack Obama?

Here is a secret: If you want to predict a general election, count the number of Republican yard signs in “purple” neighborhoods.

Take a drive through an upper-middle class community in a swing state. Find the subdivision where there’s a coffee shop on the corner and an organic grocery store not too far away, ideally where the Priuses outnumber the SUV’s… but not by much. Find the block where the adults are academics, professionals, or government employees and where every household has a couple of kids in the public schools. The voter breakdown in the ideal “purple” neighborhood is about a third Republican, a third Democrat, and a third independent.

Welcome to Concord, New Hampshire. Or Fort Collins, Colorado. Or northern Virginia. Or Raleigh, North Carolina. Or the suburbs and exurbs and small cities in swing states around the country.

Now count the Republican yard signs. Signs are not polling data, and they are certainly not election returns, but a yard sign is a definitive measure of three things: Support (obviously); intensity; and – most importantly — a voter’s willingness to make his political opinions known to his neighbors. A yard sign — especially in a “hostile” environment — is a symbol of political courage, a sign of an impending shift in public opinion.

The early returns from the yard sign tallies are in: Voters in New Hampshire want their neighbors to know that they are voting Republican this year.

That is a big deal. If you live in a conservative community in a Republican state, it is hard to understand the open hostility towards Republicans in “purple” neighborhoods. Put up a sign in your yard and prepare to have your neighbors approach (or accost) you at the grocery store. Prepare to have them bring your kids into the discussion. Prepare to have your business boycotted. There is no separation between the personal and the political on the left, so in a swing state a sign in your yard marks you as a target.

We saw this effect in 2006. My postmortem on the 2006 election debacle was titled “Cocktail Parties and Yard Signs.” It focused on the small city of Fort Collins, Colorado, a college town of about 130,000 people. The city leans Democrat, the county leans Republican. The state is a battleground. The thesis was simple: Republicans in Fort Collins were embarrassed — almost afraid — to put Republican signs up in their front yards.

The “cocktail parties” part of the title refers to how fast Republicans will disavow their own nominee in non-political settings. Go to a cocktail party and listen for the telltale phrase “I’m a registered Republican, but…” Even worse, listen to someone who you know to be a staunch conservative Republican describe themselves as an “independent who votes for the person more than the party.”

The “Cocktail Parties and Yard Signs” effect means that the pressure from the left has won. It means that a certain level it is no longer “socially acceptable” to be a Republican. Republican candidates do not have a chance in that climate.

Actually, we all experienced a similar form of pressure in 2008 on Facebook. When I describe Facebook to political clients, I describe it simply as a front porch in a tightly-knit neighborhood. Social media provides limitless opportunity for word-of-mouth campaigning, but like in the real world, when you put a sign out, you are going to hear from your neighbors. On Facebook, the only candidate on the ballot in 2008 was Barack Obama, and we all heard from our friends, relatives, and long-lost high-school buddies about Hope and Change. That’s the dynamic every cycle in “purple” neighborhoods.

Which brings us back to New Hampshire.

New Hampshire is a purple state. Twenty years ago it was one of the most Republican states in the country, but Bill Clinton (twice), John Kerry, and Obama all carried the state in general elections. The Republicans lost the governorship in 1996, and the Democrats made relatively consistent gains over the following decade. After the 2006 election, Democrats held both Congressional seats, the governorship, and both houses in the legislature (for the first time since 1911). The 2010 election saw the pendulum swing decisively back to the Republicans, but no one was sure if that would translate beyond 2010 and into the presidential race.

Today there are Republican signs up all over New Hampshire. Most tellingly, there are Republican signs up throughout the city of Concord — more than I have ever seen. It is “safe” to tell your neighbors that you are voting Republican.

Barack Obama is in big trouble.

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