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Meanwhile, in Jesusland....

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« Reply #125 on: November 21, 2014, 03:18:59 pm »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Keystone XL pipeline pumps out political nonsense

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Thursday, November 20, 2014

LIKE most debates in Congress, the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline is driven by posturing and partisanship rather than common sense. On Tuesday, this phenomenon was on full view as the Senate took a vote that fell short of overriding environmental concerns and giving the pipeline the go-ahead.

The goofiness began with the reason the vote was taken at all. Louisiana’s Democratic Senator Mary L. Landrieu pleaded with her party's Senate leaders to bring up the measure on the theory that a public display of her strong support for the pipeline would help her prevail in the December runoff election in which Republican Representative Bill Cassidy is favored to oust Landrieu from her Senate seat.

What’s goofy about that? Well, for one thing, though Landrieu is a sponsor of the Senate pipeline bill, Cassidy is sponsor of the House version, and it is hard to see how passage of the legislation would give Landrieu any advantage over Cassidy.

For another thing, if this was meant to be a demonstration of Landrieu’s clout as chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, it did not work very well. The bill missed getting through by one vote, and, as the world knows, even if Landrieu defeats Cassidy, her influence will only shrink when Republicans take over the Senate in January.

And, for a third thing, what lame-brained political consultant is naive enough to think that Louisiana voters care that much about a pipeline that would not even run through their state? Elections do not turn on issues of limited interest like this, especially if competing candidates have exactly the same position.

Still, California Senator Barbara Boxer — one of the leading Democratic opponents of the pipeline — told the media she thought taking the vote was worth doing since it produced a good debate on the issue. Maybe, but one of the country’s most prominent liberal voices, Rachel Maddow, spent several minutes on her MSNBC show mocking the Democrats’ quixotic attempt to help Landrieu when they have so few days left to do anything useful with their disappearing Senate majority.

“What on Earth were they thinking?” an incredulous Maddow asked. “How is this even conceivably, by any stretch of the imagination, a constructive use of time by the Democrats?”

Republicans, even though they lost the vote, were perfectly happy that Democrats gave them the chance to grandstand on the issue and highlight how things will be different when they are in charge. The incoming Senate majority leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, said the pipeline bill would be revived and passed early next year — possibly with a veto-proof majority.

Significantly, McConnell referred to the measure as “the Keystone jobs bill”. Republicans think they are on to something by shifting the terms of debate toward the job-creation aspect of Keystone. If President Obama decides to exercise his veto, they will slam him for killing jobs — and, for good measure, they will also hammer him for undercutting American energy independence.

That is more misleading silliness. According to TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, the project is expected to create fewer than 2,000 temporary construction jobs for two years and just a handful of maintenance jobs after that. The exceptionally dirty oil that will be extracted from Alberta’s tar sands and pumped through the pipeline will bring a lot of money to Canada and to multinational energy companies, but the oil itself will go to foreign countries, not to Americans.

The benefits of this project for the United States are dubious, but the risks are real, from the potential for disastrous oil spills and pollution of groundwater to a major increase in carbon spewed into the atmosphere. The smart thing to do would be to proceed with extreme caution, but that is not what congressional politics dictate once the posturing and partisanship shifts into high gear.

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« Reply #126 on: November 22, 2014, 12:25:28 pm »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Best revenge for angry GOP: Pass an immigration bill

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Friday, November 21, 2014

I'VE got a great idea for congressional Republicans who are hopping mad about President Obama’s executive action suspending deportation for several million undocumented immigrants: If you want to undo what the president has done and improve your standing with the American people, turn off talk radio and pass an immigration reform bill.

Sure, that’s not as fun as going on Fox News to call Obama an emperor and to pose as valiant defenders of the imperiled Constitution. It’s not as exciting as shutting down the government or threatening to impeach the president. But it will be a far better use of your time, much better for your party and a whole lot better for the United States.

Yes, Rush Limbaugh has lectured you about how you were not elected to govern. He says your job is to spend the next two years doing nothing but stopping Obama from doing anything. It would be smart, though, if you put Rush on mute and began thinking about the people who elected you and, more crucially, the people you want to vote for you in the next election and the elections after that — Latinos, in particular.

Plenty of GOP voters are devoted fans of Rush and the other screamers who turn every political disagreement between Republicans and Democrats into a blood feud. Those riled-up folks turned out to vote and helped give you control of the Senate. Still, you need to face the fact that, down the line, you will need to expand your base beyond angry old white guys. The very best thing you could do to start building a bigger tent is to fix the immigration mess.

There are millions of immigrants who are cowering in the shadows because they fear their families will be divided by deportation. There are thousands of young Latinos who have grown up in the U.S. and who are going to college and trying to start productive lives who worry that they too could be forced to leave the only country they know. Barack Obama has earned their thanks by taking the limited steps he has available to make them feel more secure. So far, he’s gotten all the credit because you have failed to do anything.

One of these days, you will lose Texas and Arizona and other states to the Democrats because the rising numbers of Latinos who are citizens think you don’t give a damn about them. Pass a good bill that establishes fair rules for achieving legal status, for bringing in the guest workers needed by our agricultural industry, for welcoming those who have gone to college or done military service and you will suddenly have removed the single biggest handicap you have in attracting Latino voters.

Plenty of non-Latino voters would also be pleased and amazed that something finally got done in Washington and the credit will go to you guys, the new Republican-controlled Congress.

Rush will rant and the anti-immigrant fear mongers will be livid, but most of them will come around and vote for you anyway because they do not want commie-pinko-liberals running the show. And whatever votes you may lose on the right you will more than make up with swing voters and with many Latinos who, seeing the immigration crisis addressed, will start thinking about the business climate and taxation and family values — the things you may have in common with them.

You can spend the coming months distracted by a fight with Obama — which might be exactly what Democrats want you to do — or you can put your energy into showing you can do him one better on immigration. Maybe he’ll get some credit when a good immigration bill gets passed and maybe you hate that idea. But remember, he’s never running for office again. You are.

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« Reply #127 on: November 26, 2014, 10:41:32 am »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Chuck Hagel was never let into Obama's inner circle

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CHUCK HAGEL resigned his job as secretary of Defense on Monday. “Resigned” is, of course, a euphemism for being pushed out the door because his presence no longer pleases President Obama.

When a public official departs a job prematurely, it’s never easy to pin down the truth about why it is happening — although if the excuse is “wanting to spend more time with my family,” it is safe to assume the impetus for the departure involves a hooker, sex in a bathroom stall or a soon-to-be-revealed secret stash of money.

None of those embarrassing elements is the cause of Hagel being cast adrift. This looks like a fairly classic case of a Cabinet secretary being shut out of the inner circle and finally figuring out it is time to go.

Gleaning a probable scenario from the most informed first-day reporting, it appears that Hagel initiated a status-of-job discussion with the president several weeks ago. A mutual decision was reached that it would be best to part ways. Most observers are saying Hagel’s exit was a foregone conclusion because, as one Senate source told Politico, “he started to no longer be a yes-man.”

In his formal announcement of the news, with Hagel standing at his side, the president said he highly appreciated the Defense secretary’s willingness to give him straight talk. So, what was not appreciated? Apparently, several things.

Hagel got a bad start in his confirmation hearings two years ago, giving awkward testimony that allowed Republican opponents of the administration to drag out the process. Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, ended up winning approval with only four of his ex-GOP colleagues voting to confirm him.

Hagel’s lack of public eloquence continued as he underperformed as a spokesman for administration policies. Over time, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, eclipsed Hagel as the key spokesman on defense issues.

Obama brought Hagel in as his third Defense secretary to help cut the military budget and bring troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that there has been an about-face, with troops trickling back to Iraq to fight the Islamic State and a mini-troop-surge in the works for Afghanistan, Hagel no longer seems to be the right guy for the job.

Underlying all of this, though, seems to be the tendency of this administration to keep all the big decisions on foreign policy in the hands of a tiny circle inside the White House. That circle includes the president, national security advisor Susan Rice and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough who, before he took over running the White House in 2013, was deputy national security advisor. Beyond those three, not too many others are let into the cozy club of decision-makers and Hagel has not been one of them.

One foreign policy expert told NBC news that Hagel “had a crappy relationship with Susan Rice.” Hagel surely did not help that relationship by being a private critic of the administration’s internally dissonant strategy in Syria and Iraq (some of that straight talk the president claimed to value), because Rice is a key architect of that strategy.

Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona), incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters he was very aware of Hagel’s frustrations with White House micro-management. Neither McCain nor Hagel is the first to express concern about the president sharing so many important decisions with so few people. And Obama is not the first president to show this inclination. Presidents have grown ever more reluctant to dilute their immense power in foreign policy, at least since Richard Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, kept Secretary of State William Rogers out of the loop during Nixon’s first term.

Obama seems strongly inclined to rely on just a small group of advisors whom he knows well and can trust not to split off to write tell-all memoirs. That may be understandable, but it may not be wise. A president needs to hear dissent and consider alternative options. President George W. Bush cooked up a war with Iraq mostly on the advice of three men — Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — and his own national security advisor, another woman named Rice (Condoleezza). If ever there was need of a dissenting voice, it was then.

Questions about excessive White House micro-managing are sure to come up in the Senate hearings for Hagel’s successor. Republicans will undoubtedly grandstand on the issue, but that does not mean the questions won’t be worth asking.

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« Reply #128 on: December 17, 2014, 01:32:07 pm »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Congress gives bankers a sweet deal in funding bill, with more to come

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

THE omnibus funding bill that the lame-duck Congress passed in the darkness of Saturday night sheds light on what we can expect from the Republican-dominated Congress that will take over in January. Here’s a hint: The bankers are smiling.

In addition to providing money that will keep the government running until September, the bill included some extras that have nothing to do with the federal budget. Among these is a sweet deal for banks actually written by Citigroup lobbyists and tacked on to the omnibus legislation. It repeals a section of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law passed in the wake of the near collapse of the American economy.

The repeal will allow federally insured banks to get back into the business of gambling with depositors’ money by dealing in exotic and risky securities. As long as the banks win their bets, everything is cool. Should they lose, though, as they did in a big way during the 2008 financial crisis, American taxpayers will be on the hook for their losses.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and other liberal Democrats cried foul when this stinker of an amendment came to light last week, but to no avail. The funding bill had to be passed or the government would run out of money, so President Obama and the Democratic leadership in the Senate gave the Republicans and the bankers what they wanted. Obama said this was the best deal Democrats could get and that putting up a fight would only delay passage of a funding bill until January, giving Republicans the opportunity to come up with something even worse.

As a result, Democratic leaders backed off, not only from opposing the banking giveaway, but from trying to stop several other policy riders the Republicans slipped into the bill. Here’s what a few of those riders will do:

• Allow underfunded multi-employer pension plans to severely cut benefits for retirees;

• Halt IRS efforts to scrutinize the tax-exempt status of political organizations;

• Stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the amount of lead in ammunition and fishing gear;

• Keep the Fish and Wildlife Service from declaring the sage grouse an endangered species;

• Prohibit Guantanamo Bay terror detainees from being released or transferred;

• And block Transportation Department regulations that aim to make sure truckers get enough sleep before they hit the road after a long haul.

In addition, Republican add-ons struck a blow on behalf of incandescent light bulbs and more salt in school lunches.

It is easy to see where this is going in the next two years of GOP dominance of Congress. There will be more Republican legislation that frees Wall Street bankers to act like Las Vegas gamblers, more efforts to undermine environmental protections and more attacks on regulations that favor consumers over corporations. And, knowing that they need to find a way to keep the president from pulling out his veto pen, Republicans will pad must-pass government funding bills with conservative policies the president will hate but may have to swallow.

The bankers got an early Christmas present from Republicans, with more and bigger gifts to come in the new year. Ho, ho, ho!

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« Reply #129 on: December 17, 2014, 08:43:01 pm »

Russia, as economic woes squeeze Moscow
Published December 16, 2014FoxNews.com

Dec. 16, 2014: Signs advertising currencies are illuminated next to the exchange office in Moscow, Russia. (AP)
President Obama plans to sign new congressional legislation that heaps more sanctions on Russia -- another blow to a country whose economy and global dominance already is struggling from earlier sanctions and falling oil prices.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that Obama has misgivings about the legislation passed overwhelmingly last week in Congress, but still thinks it gives him the needed flexibility.

"The bite on the Russian economy is only becoming stronger," Earnest said.

The decision, coupled with economic developments in Russia, raise questions over whether Moscow is becoming more vulnerable.

Earnest's remarks came just hours after Russia’s central bank made a desperate attempt to prop up the country’s currency, the ruble, which has plummeted in value as the result of the lower oil prices in recent weeks and roughly eight months of Western sanctions imposed over Russia's involvement in Ukraine.

The ruble's collapse is expected to increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his foray into neighboring Ukraine.

Still, Putin maintains strong, widespread support among his people. So the new sanctions might not be the blow that forces him to pull back in Ukraine, Heritage Foundation scholar Luke Coffey said.

“We’re not at that point yet,” Coffey, the Margaret Thatcher fellow at the conservative think tank, said Tuesday. “We still have a long way to go before the population turns on Putin.”

Coffey argues in part that the sanctions largely target the Russian elite, so they will take some time to trickle down to the general population, and that a complete collapse of Russia is not in the West’s best interest.

“Who knows what sort of chaos will happen in that part of the world,” he told FoxNews.com. “The West has spent 30 years trying to integrate Russia into the global economy.”

In the aftermath of Ukraine residents ousting their pro-Moscow president in February and replacing him with more Western-friendly President Petro Poroshenko, the Russian Federation has annexed Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and backed armed, pro-Russian separatists elsewhere in the county’s eastern region.

The violent and often deadly clashes with pro-Ukraine government forces have resulted in the worst standoff between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry also said Putin has tried in recent days to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine and that Western nations are poised to ease existing sanctions.

Speaking in London, Kerry said the U.S.-European sanctions are intended to show Russia the price of its actions in Ukraine but argued the collapse of the ruble is the result “a lot of combined factors."

Still, Kerry, who met Monday with Russia's foreign minister in Rome, said the sanctions are designed to lead Putin into making different choices.

“These sanctions could be lifted in a matter of weeks or days, depending on the choices that President Putin takes,” said Kerry, who did not address the new congressional legislation.

Earnest said the White House has concerns about the legislation in part because it sends a confusing message to allies, considering some of the language “does not reflect the consultations that are ongoing."

Russia on Tuesday raised the ruble’s interest rate from 10.5 percent to 17 percent.

The falling price of oil hurts Russian economy because the country's precious natural gas supply is traded on the global market in the more valuable U.S. dollar. And Russia’s budget is based on oil selling for $100 a barrel, double the cost right now.

Republicans and Democrats, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have called on Obama to sign the sanction legislation immediately.

The bill would require the president to impose penalties on state-owned arms dealer Rosoboronexport and other Russian defense companies tied to unrest in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Syria. The sanctions would be extended to individuals and entities that help the companies.

The bill also will give the president the authority to provide lethal and nonlethal military assistance to Ukraine. This includes anti-tank weapons, counter-artillery radar and tactical surveillance drones. The bill authorizes $350 million over two years to cover the cost.

"The territorial integrity of Ukraine must be restored and President Putin must understand that his destabilizing actions have serious and profound consequences for his country,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

FoxNews.com's Joseph Weber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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« Reply #130 on: January 06, 2015, 08:45:31 am »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Signs of a changing nation amid Rose Parade floats and bands

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM - Monday, January 05, 2014

IN THE dark hours after the new year was rung in, hundreds of families had already staked out places along Colorado Avenue in Pasadena, camping out on the sidewalk through the chilly night. Some had propane heaters; some had barbecue grills fired up; some had set burn barrels aflame; most looked a bit daunted by the unusual Southern California cold.

Children were burrowed into blankets and sleeping bags. They huddled together along the curb or in the entryways of closed stores. Tipsy revelers rambled by, hooting and hollering, while the thump of music spilled out of neighborhood nightclubs. The kids looked more tired than happy, but their parents must have believed a little misery is a reasonable price for a front row seat at the annual Tournament of Roses Parade.

A couple hours after sunrise, my wife and I walked the four blocks from our warm apartment to the parade route and found a place to stand just behind the exhausted folks sitting on folding chairs and blankets who had lasted through the wee hours of the year’s first morning. Most of the people looked as if they might not have much money left for entertainment after monthly bills were paid; certainly not enough to buy tickets to the big game at the Rose Bowl. The parade — a decidedly antique form of fun in this digital age — had the virtue of being free.

The sun began to clear the tops of buildings, cutting the chill just as a police motorcycle unit weaved past to open the parade. Then came the mainstays: marching bands, floats, obscure dignitaries in vintage cars and people on horses, lots of horses.

Marching bands are venerable institutions that are wildly out of step with our hip-hop era. (By the way, I say this with great affection as a former high school horn player and son of a marching band director.) One after another, they blared their way down the street — from the imposing, solid ranks of a Marine band to the many rows of high school kids who pranced by in plumed hats and snazzy uniforms that could have been designed for Christmas nutcrackers.

Floats — those glorious anachronisms — were first invented for church processions in medieval times and are no less corny after a thousand years of artistic development. But there were surprises among the rolling flower arrangements. Along with the traditional sponsors of floats, such as the Lions Club, Kiwanis and the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, there was a float celebrating ancient Armenia. Another float ferried men in turbans and beards with their wives and children crammed aboard. They were Sikhs; not a group that would have been found in Rose Parades of more distant decades. American patriotic tunes played from hidden speakers on the Sikhs’ rose-decorated contraption, a pointed reminder that, though some fools mistake them for terrorists, these Sikhs are Americans too.

It is no surprise to see floats honoring veterans, of course, but one this year paid tribute to the Japanese American vets who fought for the United States in World War II, even as their families back home were held in internment camps by the U.S. government.

The crowd along the route saved the biggest cheers for a marching band from Mexico and for a group of Mexican caballeros riding magnificent strutting horses. Half the crowd along the route appeared to be Latino — a percentage that ran even higher among those who spent the night waiting for the parade. Affection for the old homeland has not died in the hearts of California’s new majority demographic.

Midway through the parade, a line of L.A. County sheriff’s deputies rushed up to form a line along the sidewalk. A few of them waded into the crowd to get closer to a small group of protesters who had been hanging at the back waving signs decrying the deaths of young black men at the hands of police. Apparently, the deputies thought they were up to something. A police tactical unit in riot gear stood watch a block away. A later report said arrests were made.

At the tail end of the parade — following all the bands and floats and horses and big trucks — a squad of self-styled revolutionaries marched the route calling out for an end to Wall Street greed and the inequities of capitalism. Right behind them were police in squad cars and an armored assault vehicle. It wasn't clear if the cops were monitoring the radicals or were just part of the show. In contrast, though, when several groups of evangelicals had walked the wrong way along the street just before the parade began, no one interfered as they hectored onlookers about their sins.

The Rose Parade may seem like a place to retreat to a prosaic American past, but not this year, at least. Race, religion, police tactics, the wealth gap, immigration — so many of the issues that dominate our current political debates found embodiment in the floats and faces of participants in the parade and among the people who camped out all night so they could watch it all roll by.

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« Reply #131 on: January 09, 2015, 08:19:07 am »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Mike Huckabee needs to look like a good bet for the billionaires

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Thursday, January 08, 2015

MIKE BUCKABNEE has quit his job as a Fox News host because he has an inkling that God wants him to run for president. But, just because the Supreme Being is giving him a thumbs-up, that does not mean the ex-Arkansas governor will get a green light from the demigods of American democracy: billionaires.

Unlike some conservative talkmeisters and would-be candidates, Huckabee does not come off as shrill or bombastic. He’s a likeable guy with a strongly positive image among Republicans. In particular, the former pastor is a hero to evangelical voters, the most dependable contingent in the Republican coalition. In early polls, Huckabee frequently comes in near the head of the large and growing pack of likely GOP presidential contenders. Add to that the years of free publicity from Fox, and it is not at all unreasonable for him to think he should make another run at the White House.

When he ran in 2008, he surprised everyone by winning the Iowa caucus. But ultimately, he did not have what every candidate needs to survive: Himalaya-size mountains of money. In 2012, President Obama and the GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, ended up spending about $1 billion each. The 2016 presidential race is expected to be even more expensive.

We are already in the opening stages of that campaign, and all the serious candidates — or at least the candidates who take themselves seriously — are on the hunt for major donors who will pay so they can play. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, surprised a lot of people in the last few weeks by getting serious about running. Right away, the vaults of the wealthy started clinking open with the prospect of investing in the son and brother of past presidents. The well-heeled establishment likes a safe bet, and Bush seems to be it, much to the chagrin of other establishment darlings.

Billionaires are generally not Tea Party zealots who feed on dreams of overturning big government and driving liberals, homosexuals and atheists into the sea. Billionaires do not want revolution, they just want to stay on top. For them, Texas Senator Ted Cruz is too hot-blooded, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is too exotic, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is too callow, and outgoing Texas Governor Rick Perry is too slow on the uptake. Chris Christie of New Jersey and a couple of other governors would be OK for the rich and their corporate PACs, but Bush seems just right.

And Huckabee? He is about as right wing and evangelical as they come, but his style is soothing, not alarming. He has run a state. He can put more than two sentences together. But the fans of unfettered capitalism at the Club for Growth say that, as governor, Huckabee had a disturbing affinity for raising taxes and increasing government spending. Plus, Huckabee takes his Bible seriously and has a soft spot for the poor and disadvantaged. Billionaires might not like that.

Here's the bottom line: Whether you like Huckabee or Hillary Clinton or any of the others, unless you happen to have a billion bucks, you will not have much say in whom the nominees for president will be. The billionaires will vet the choices over the coming months. The rest of us will only weigh in after the money has spoken.

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« Reply #132 on: January 16, 2015, 01:39:29 am »

2 US men reach top of Yosemite's El Capitan in free climb

3:30 AM Friday Jan 16, 2015

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California (AP) " Years of practice, failed attempts and 19 grueling days of scaling by their fingertips have culminated in success for two American rock climbers who completed the first free climb of the 3,000-foot (900-meter) vertical wall of El Capitan in Yosemite. National Park

Tommy Caldwell was first to pull himself atop the ledge, capping what has long been considered the world's most difficult rock climb. He was followed minutes later by Kevin Jorgeson.

The two longtime friends embraced, and then Jorgeson pumped his arm in the air and clapped his hands above his head.

"That's a deep, abiding, lifelong friendship, built over suffering on the wall together over six years," said Caldwell's mother, Terry, among some 200 people thousands of feet (meters) below in the valley floor who broke into cheers.

She said her son could have reached the top several days ago, but he waited for his friend to make sure they made it together.

The pair captivated Americans and world through social media, livestreamed video coverage while documentary filmmakers dangled from ropes capturing each move.

Caldwell, 36, and Jorgeson, 30, became the first to free-climb the rock formation's Dawn Wall, a feat that many had considered impossible. They used ropes and safety harnesses to catch themselves in case of a fall, but relied entirely on their own strength and dexterity to ascend by grasping cracks as thin as razor blades and as small as dimes.

The two dealt with constant falls and injuries. But their success completes a yearslong dream that bordered on obsession for the men.

At the top another crowd was waiting for them, including Caldwell's wife and Jorgeson's girlfriend, who welcomed them to the top with hugs and kisses. It will take the pair two to three hours to hike down the mountain.

President Barack Obama sent his congratulations from the White House Twitter account, saying the men "remind us that anything is possible."

The trek up the world's largest granite monolith began Dec. 27. Caldwell and Jorgeson lived on the wall itself, eating and sleeping in tents fastened to the rock thousands of feet above the ground and battling painful cuts to their fingertips much of the way.

Free-climbers do not pull themselves up with cables or use chisels to carve out handholds. Instead, they climb bit by bit, wedging their fingers and feet into tiny crevices or gripping sharp, thin projections of rock. In photographs, the two appeared at times like Spider-Man, with arms and legs splayed across the pale stone that has been described as smooth as a bedroom wall.

Both men needed to take rest days to heal. They used tape and even superglue to help protect their raw skin. At one point, Caldwell set an alarm to wake him every few hours to apply a special lotion to his throbbing hands.

They also endured physical punishment whenever their grip slipped, pitching them into long, swinging falls that left them bouncing off the rock face. The tumbles, which they called "taking a whipper," ended with startling jolts from their safety ropes.

Caldwell and Jorgeson had help from a team of supporters who brought food and supplies and shot video of the adventure.

The pair ate canned peaches and occasionally sipped whiskey. They watched their urine evaporate into the thin, dry air and handed toilet sacks, called "wag bags," to helpers who disposed of them.

There are about 100 routes up the rock known among climbers as "El Cap," and many have made it to the top, the first in 1958. Even the Dawn Wall had been scaled. Warren Harding and Dean Caldwell (no relation to Tommy) made it up in 1970, using climbing ropes and countless rivets over 27 days.

No one, however, had ever made it to the summit in one continuous free-climb " until now.

"He doesn't understand the magnitude of the accomplishment and the excitement generated," said Caldwell's father, Mike Caldwell.

The pioneering ascent comes after five years of training and failed attempts for both men. They only got about a third of the way up in 2010 when they were turned back by storms. A year later, Jorgeson fell and broke an ankle in another attempt. Since then, each has spent time on the rock practicing and mapping out strategy.

John Long, the first person to climb up El Capitan in one day in 1975, said it was almost inconceivable that anyone could do something as "continuously difficult" as Caldwell and Jorgeson's free-climb.
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« Reply #133 on: January 16, 2015, 07:13:05 am »

You'd be too much of a wimp to do something like that.

You're knees probably start knocking when you get three metres above the ground.
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« Reply #134 on: January 16, 2015, 08:54:16 am »

from the Los Angeles Times....

After attack, France needs solidarity from U.S., not Beltway politics

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

REPUBLICANS never miss a beat finding some new pretext for slamming President Obama. This week, he gave them an easy shot by failing to attend Sunday’s huge rally in Paris that attracted 1.5 million people, including a number of international leaders.

The gathering was a defiant affirmation of free speech after the murder of several French cartoonists in last week’s attack by Islamic terrorists at the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was there. British Prime Minister David Cameron was there. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was there. But not the president of the United States.

The White House responded to the criticism by noting how it is nearly impossible in this age of menace to make the necessary security arrangements for a traveling president on such short notice. But the president’s men also admitted they goofed up royally by not having the country represented by the vice president or some other official of higher rank than the U.S. ambassador.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry would have been a perfect person to send to the Paris rally, given the eloquence of the remarks he delivered to the French people in their own language after the attack. Unfortunately, Kerry stayed put in India. It must be said, though, it is ironic the Republicans are claiming to be so concerned about French sensitivities. These are the same folks who mocked Kerry for his French language skills and affinity for French wine when he ran for president in 2004 and who have slammed President Obama for being “too European” in his governing philosophy.

It was not that long ago that Republicans were insisting on being served “freedom fries” instead of French fries in the Senate and House dining rooms after France refused to join the ill-fated American invasion of Iraq in 2003. In those days, before Americans soured on the trumped-up Iraq adventure, the conservative view of France was summed up by a phrase first coined in an early episode of “The Simpsons.” The French, the saying went, were “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”

For their part, the French looked at the inarticulate, squinty-eyed, swaggering Texan in the White House and had all their biases against Americans confirmed. From the earliest days of the relationship between the two nations, many of the French elite have considered Americans to be crude, unsophisticated and a bit barbaric. George W. Bush was the living proof.

These antagonisms are enduring and immensely petty, given the history that the French and Americans share. France played a pivotal role in helping the United States become an independent nation. The U.S. returned the favor by twice saving France from German aggression in the world wars. America’s most revered icon, the Statue of Liberty, was a gift from the French people. This goddess of freedom that is so important to us is essentially a sister to Marianne, the symbol of liberty and reason that is the personification of the French nation.

As Americans were ratifying their constitution in 1789, the French Revolution had just begun. The road to liberty, equality and fraternity in France was a long one. The French people repeatedly rebelled against new authoritarian governments and recreated their republic several times before they got it close to right. Through that lengthy process, France became a beacon of freedom as bright as the torch in the hand of the big lady in New York harbor.

Liberty is as precious to the French as it is to any American, Republican or Democrat. Some American conservatives scoff at the intellectual and philosophical tradition that matters so much to the French, but it is that tradition that makes the French passion for freedom of thought and speech especially intense. The right of a caustic cartoonist to say whatever he believes truly matters to them.

The despicable attack on Charlie Hebdo makes clear that France is on the front line in the battle against the closed-minded, violent fanatics of extremist Islam who would stamp out any thought, word or image that varies from their oppressive ideology. The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, is openly calling it a war. “It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity,” he said.

Solidarity is what France needs now from the United States. It is too bad Obama could not get to Paris. It is a national embarrassment his administration did not send someone notable to stand in for him. But, at this important hour, sniping from Republicans just adds to the impression that politicians here can focus on nothing but partisan games. From the White House to Congress, our leaders need to raise their sights beyond the Beltway.

This is a serious moment; a time to forge a united front with our oldest ally in a new defense of liberty.

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« Reply #135 on: January 16, 2015, 12:29:11 pm »

Superglue, salmon: How climbers achieved 'impossible' feat

5:00 AM Friday Jan 16, 2015

Two Americans yesterday completed what has long been considered the world's most difficult rock climb, using only their hands and feet to conquer a 900m vertical wall on El Capitan, the forbidding granite face in Yosemite National Park that has beckoned adventurers for decades.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson became the first to "free-climb" the Dawn Wall, a feat that many had considered impossible. They used ropes and safety harnesses to catch them in case of a fall, but relied on their own strength and dexterity to ascend by grasping cracks as thin as razor blades and as small as coins.

The effort took weeks, and the two dealt with repeated falls and injuries. But their success completes a years-long dream that bordered on obsession.

Caldwell finished the climb first, and Jorgeson finished minutes later. The two embraced before Jorgeson pumped his arms in the air and clapped his hands above his head.

They then sat down for a few minutes, gathered their gear, changed their clothes and hiked to the summit.

The trek up the world's largest granite monolith began on December 27. Caldwell and Jorgeson ate and slept in tents fastened to the rock high above the ground and battled painful cuts to their fingertips much of the way.

Free-climbers do not pull themselves up with cables or use chisels to carve out handholds. Instead, they wedge their fingertips and feet into tiny crevices or grip sharp, thin projections of rock. In photographs, the two appeared at times like Spider-Man, splayed across the pale rock that has been described as being as smooth as a bedroom wall.

Both men needed to take rest days to wait for their skin to heal. They used tape and even superglue to help with the process. At one point, Caldwell set an alarm to wake him every few hours to apply a special lotion to his throbbing hands.

They also took physical punishment when their grip would slip, with long, swinging falls that left them bouncing off the rock face. The tumbles ended in startling jolts from their safety ropes.

Caldwell and Jorgeson had help from a team of supporters who brought food and supplies.

The 36-year-old Caldwell and 30-year-old Jorgeson ate canned peaches and occasionally sipped whisky. They watched their urine evaporate into thin, dry air and handed toilet sacks, called "wag bags", to helpers who disposed of them.

There are about 100 routes up the rock known among climbers as "El Cap", and many have made it to the top, the first in 1958. Even the Dawn Wall had been scaled.

No one, however, had made it to the summit in one continuous free-climb, until now.

"He doesn't understand the magnitude of the accomplishment and the excitement generated," said Mike Caldwell, Tommy's father, who along with 200 people gathered in a meadow below broke into cheers when the men reached the top.

The pioneering ascent follows five years of training and failed attempts for both Caldwell and Jorgeson. They got only about a third of the way up in 2010, when they were turned back by storms. A year later, Jorgeson fell and broke an ankle in another attempt.

Jorgeson has an impressive list of climbs in the United States, Europe and South Africa and works as a climbing instructor.

John Long, the first person to climb El Capitan in one day, in 1975, said recently of Caldwell and Jorgeson's free-climb that it was almost "inconceivable that anyone could do something that continuously difficult".

Family life in high places
Standing at the foot of a sheer cliff face as her husband clung on by his fingertips nearly 900m above, Becca Caldwell looked remarkably unperturbed.
"The fact he is up there is awesome for me," she said, squinting up at the small dot that was Tommy Caldwell.

"That's Tommy, he's kind of obsessed with mountains," said Mrs Caldwell, clutching their 21-month-old son Fitz. "I don't get worried or scared because I know he's safe on the wall - this is every day in our family life."

She said she would be at the summit to greet the two men.

It would be a special moment for the Caldwells because El Capitan is where their romance started.

"Tommy brought me here when we were friends, and we realised it was something special," said Mrs Caldwell, who is also a climber.

-AP / Telegraph Group Ltd
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« Reply #136 on: January 18, 2015, 10:42:45 am »

The pommy PM visits Jesusland....

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« Reply #137 on: February 19, 2015, 09:47:16 pm »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Willie Brown warns Villaraigosa: ‘Don't crowd Kamala!’

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Friday, January 30, 2015

WITH the possible exception of a Hollywood celebrity following in the footsteps of Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican candidate has as much chance getting elected to the U.S. Senate from California as a Southern Baptist has to become pope. The only way Democrats can lose any statewide race is if they somehow sabotage themselves, and that’s why Democratic leaders in San Francisco seem intent on picking the winner of the 2016 Senate race in 2015.

For years, aspiring Democratic candidates in the Golden State have been able to climb only so high. The three top elected offices have been held by popular Democratic incumbents who just kept getting re-elected. Dianne Feinstein first went to the Senate after winning a special election in 1992. Barbara Boxer joined her there in 1993. Jerry Brown won the governorship in 2010 and took an easy stroll to re-election last fall — this, of course, after having already served two earlier terms as governor from 1975 to 1983.

Finally, though, this triumvirate is giving way. Term limits will not allow Brown to run for a fifth term in 2018. Feinstein will be 85 that same year, and her Senate seat will be on the ballot. She has given hints that she will choose not to run again. Boxer has already made that choice, having announced in early January her intent to retire when her term ends in 2016.

As a result, the scramble of would-be candidates has begun. Arguably, this is a good thing that will bring new energy into the party and give younger talent a chance to grab the top rungs of the ladder. But some people in the party seem to prefer an anointing over a wide-open campaign.

A week ago, Willie Brown, the former California Assembly Speaker and ex-mayor of San Francisco, suggested that former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should sit out the race in deference to Brown’s favored candidate, state Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. This could be passed off as Willie Brown just being his old, flamboyant self, or it could be an indication that Bay Area Democratic leaders — a group not so affectionately described by Southern Californians as “the San Francisco Mafia” — want to hand the job to Harris right now.

That so-called Mafia dominates the state Democratic Party. Feinstein was mayor of the City by the Bay before she ascended to the Senate. Boxer was a member of Congress from Marin County. The minority leader of the House of Representatives is a San Franciscan, Nancy Pelosi. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who has been waiting for Jerry Brown to disappear and let him become governor was also mayor of San Francisco after being appointed to key city offices by Willie Brown early in his political career. John Burton, another veteran Bay Area politician, is chairman of the state party.

Perhaps most important, the Bay Area is as blue as Alabama is red and all those Democrats turn out to vote. Los Angeles County may have more people and potentially even more Democratic voters, but voter turnout in L.A. is dismal. That’s a problem for Villaraigosa. He may be a Latino in a state with a Latino majority and his base may be in the state’s biggest city, but it’s a flimsy base if he can’t get people to show up at the polls.

Harris, on the other hand, is another Bay Area protege of Willie Brown. Born in Oakland, she was San Francisco district attorney before heading to Sacramento to become attorney general. Harris was quick to announce her candidacy for the Senate after Boxer said she was not running again. She remains the only announced candidate.

Several other prospects for the job, including Newsom, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, state Treasurer John Chiang and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, have announced that they are staying out of the race. There might be others of less prominence who will give it a go, but Villaraigosa could be the only serious threat to Harris.

An editorial in the Sacrmento Bee chastised Willie Brown and “Bay Area politicos” for trying to “coronate” Harris. Telling Villaraigosa to step back and wait for another opportunity was a diss on Southern California Democrats and Latino voters, the editorial said.

Looked at as smart political calculation, though, it is entirely understandable that Democratic operatives might think an early winnowing to one candidate is a great idea. Harris is an appealing candidate who has won two statewide elections. In a presidential election year when Democratic voters will be out in full force, she would probably glide to victory over any Republican. Things could only get messed up if there are too many contenders on the primary ballot. This has become a new wild card in the political process now that the state has a top-two system where the pair of candidates receiving the most votes in the primary go on to face each other in the general election, without regard to which party they are from.

Why mess with a sure thing? That’s what the San Francisco Democrats seem to be asking.

The answer is that in a state already dominated by one party, if that one party offers only one choice then voters really have no choice at all.

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« Reply #138 on: February 19, 2015, 09:47:29 pm »

from the Los Angeles Times....

The race is on to milk Romney's big cash cows

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Wednesday, February 04, 2015

MITT ROMNEY's decision to forego a third campaign for president has set off a scramble for money among the remaining “establishment” Republicans who are considering a run for the White House. Like cash cows with full udders, wealthy Romney backers are suddenly being eyed by the likes of Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, each of whom would love to be the first in line with a milk bucket.

In 2012, the ultimately unsuccessful Romney effort may have lacked a smart strategy or a perfect candidate, but money was no problem. Romney’s network of donors helped finance a billion-dollar campaign. With Romney opting out of 2016’s political scrum, all those hedge-fund managers, corporate chieftans and bored billionaires now need to find a new place to invest their political play money.

There are about 300 mega-donors who pay the bills for Republicans. With as many as a dozen contenders trying to put themselves in a good position for a run at the GOP nomination, the question is whether donors will get behind just one or two of them or, instead, spread their money so widely that no one gains a substantial advantage. The people who have vast personal wealth or are experts at bundling the wealth of others tend to favor the candidates most likely to protect and defend the interests of the rich. They are wary of those who seem too eager to lead a social crusade, especially if one of the targets of such a crusade is Wall Street.

As a result, a Tea Party favorite such as Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a populist evangelical such as Mike Huckabee, or a libertarian with unorthodox economic ideas such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, all seem too risky for the big-money boys. Conventionally conservative governors and ex-governors like Christie, Walker and Bush are a safer bet.

Rubio, the freshman senator whose political career in Florida sprouted and grew as fast as a mangrove in the Everglades, is also acceptable because his robust right-wing views are balanced by a conventional personal style. Recently, Rubio proved his appeal at an economic forum in Rancho Mirage sponsored by the billionaire Koch Brothers. While Rand Paul turned off the mega-donors with his blue jeans, cowboy boots and suspicious economic ideas, Rubio was a big hit in his well-cut blue suit, starched white shirt and crimson tie. They also liked his pro-growth talking points. Rubio’s reward was to take first place in a straw poll of the donors.

Following the money will be an interesting game in the coming weeks. Romney started the primary season in 2012 way ahead in the race for dollars. Though he was tested along the way by Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, Romney was always able to dip into his huge hoard to buy the wall-to-wall attack ads that stunted every upward thrust of his opponents’ campaigns. They never had enough money to really fight back.

Christie and Bush would both love to be the new Romney in the eyes of top contributors, but they could face stiff competition for that designation from Rubio and Walker.

It may seem ridiculously early to be paying so much attention to a presidential election that is still nearly two years away, but the battle for money has already begun — perhaps the most important battle of the long campaign. After all, as the money goes, so goes the nation.

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« Reply #139 on: February 19, 2015, 09:47:44 pm »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Putin's Ukraine gambit leaves Obama with a hard choice

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

ASK Americans if they believe the people of Ukraine should be free to determine their own future and about 99% would probably answer with a resounding yes. But ask them if they think America should go to war with Russia to guarantee Ukrainians that freedom and the favorable percentage would drop precipitously.

Even the most saber-rattling neoconservative foreign policy wonks are not calling for war, though their demand that President Obama send arms to Ukraine to fight Russian-backed separatists is, arguably, a big stride in that direction. They skirt the war issue by advancing the dubious argument that Russian President Vladimir Putin will back down from his aggression in eastern Ukraine if the Ukrainians are given the means to strike back hard.

Obama is receiving a lot of advice right now about how to proceed — most of it leaning in favor of providing military aid to the government in Kiev. Typically — and I think wisely — he is balancing that advice against the dictum that has guided much of his foreign policy: “Don’t do stupid stuff”.

That dictum has been widely criticized, even by Hillary Rodham Clinton, as too simplistic, but it is hardly less simple-minded than the various macho credos that more often drive U.S. actions in the world, such as George W. Bush’s promise to hunt down “evildoers” and his challenge to those evildoers to “bring it on”. In old cowboy movies, tough talk and direct action always seemed to work out well. In the real world — with Iraq as a prime example — even high-minded intentions can lead to very bad results. Avoiding stupid stuff is not such a bad place to start designing a foreign policy.

I’ve been to Ukraine and, when I think of the young people I met there who simply want to live lives as free and full of possibility as their counterparts in Europe and North America, it is easy to make a case for the United States to go beyond the stiff economic sanctions now in place and do more to counter Russian aggression. Putin is a cynical authoritarian who rules over a kleptocracy that has snuffed out the flame of democracy and free expression that flickered briefly after the fall of the Soviet Union. When the people of Ukraine made their move to get out from under Russia’s gloomy shadow, Putin first stole Crimea and then sent secret agents, soldiers and heavy weapons to foment rebellion in the eastern half of Ukraine.

Given all that, the United States would be justified in trying to take him down a notch or two. Supplying more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine would seem like the most direct way to do that. As I noted, those who propose this step insist that such a show of American resolve would cause Putin to finally back down and reach a settlement that would give Ukraine the autonomy it desires and deserves.

That is certainly a rosy scenario, but does anyone honestly believe in it? It is not far more likely that Putin would seize on the introduction of American weapons as justification for even more aggressive action? He has already sold the lie that the West is responsible for all the trouble in Ukraine; U.S. military aid would give him the proof he needs to back his lie.

The proposed schedule for delivery of weapons to Ukraine stretches into 2016. In the meantime, Putin would feel free to be even more overt in his aid to the pro-Russian rebels. As in Crimea, Russian troops might be brought into the fight in numbers too large for the Ukrainians to resist.

All of this would boost Putin’s already high popularity in his own country and distract Russian citizens from the harsh effects of Western sanctions. In the eyes of many, if not most, Russians, Ukraine is not foreign soil. It is not Poland or Hungary, it is a sister land that is considered the birthplace of Russia itself. Deeper American involvement would spark a rise in Russian nationalism and Putin would be empowered.

Are Americans ready to deal with that far more likely scenario? Just how far will we go to defend Ukraine? The answer may be that we should go a very long way or it may be that we should accept the limits of our influence in a part of the world in which Russia has long-standing ties and interests. Only those who view the world in simplistic terms believe that this is an easy choice.

And that is why it is not a sign of weakness for Obama to pause and ponder the consequences. That’s not weak; it’s smart.

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« Reply #140 on: February 19, 2015, 09:48:01 pm »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Christian Grey and the Koch brothers share a similar desire for dominance

By DAVID HORSEY | 2:00PM PST - Friday, February 13, 2015

DOES “50 Shades of Grey” offer any insight into billionaires like the Koch Brothers?

The “mommy porn” book trilogy and the new movie upon which it is based tells the story of Christian Grey, a young, hunky member of the world’s top 1% who draws a callow college girl into his orbit and gets her to agree to be the submissive partner in a sadomasochistic bondage relationship. The books have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. With a fan base like that, the movie, which premieres today, is likely to be a monster hit.

Charles and David Koch, by comparison, are two not-so-hunky old industrialists who draw Republican candidates into their orbit and get them to agree to a submissive relationship in return for campaign contributions. Last month, it was announced that they plan to spend $889 million in the 2016 election cycle to expand their dominance in Republican Party politics.

Like winsome coeds hungering for a hot hookup, four GOP presidential candidates accepted invitations to the Kochs' annual January retreat for big donors in Rancho Mirage. The willing foursome included Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the junior senators from Florida, Texas and Kentucky; Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. They — and the many other president-wannabes in the party — have a deep desire for the Kochs' approval and a piece of the brothers’ engorged campaign fund.

“It’s no wonder the candidates show up when the Koch brothers call,” David Axelrod, President Obama’s former campaign guru, said in comments to the press. “That’s exponentially more money than any party organization will spend. In many ways, they have superseded the party.”

Living beyond the boundaries that confine normal mortals is what being a billionaire is all about. Christian Grey has a secret room where he hides his array of intimidating sex toys and bondage tools. The Koch brothers have their secret donations that are nearly impossible to track, thanks to flaccid campaign finance laws made even more limp by rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. Grey has his sleek top-end sports cars, his handy helicopter and his vast penthouse at the top of a Seattle high-rise. The Kochs have their family foundations, super PACs and think tanks in which they invest hundreds of millions of dollars with the aim of killing universal healthcare and environmental regulations and keeping the federal government from constricting their capitalist cravings.

Billionaires want what they want and believe they deserve to get it because they are rich. Grey wants a young woman to tie up and slap around in his secret room. The Kochs want to buy compliant politicians with their secret donations. Social critics slam “50 Shades of Grey” for encouraging abuse of women. Political observers criticize the Kochs for abusing the political system.

The big difference between Christian Grey and Charles and David Koch? Grey is a fictitious character; the Kochs are all too real.

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« Reply #141 on: February 19, 2015, 09:48:18 pm »

from the Los Angeles Times....

More than an act of Congress will be needed to stop Islamic State

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:15AM PST - Wednesday, February 18, 2015

MY friend Janet is a passionate West Coast tree-hugging antiwar lefty who still retains a soft spot in her heart for revolutionaries such as Fidel Castro. Yet, when I had a drink with her the other night and the conversation turned to the latest atrocities committed by the psychopaths who call themselves Islamic State, she was ready to go to war.

More precisely, she said she would be willing to shoot the marauding monsters herself. For once, it seems, most Americans from one end of the ideological spectrum to the other can agree on one thing: These guys are evil.

Given that, one would think the United States Congress would be able to concur on a bill to authorize the continued use of force against ISIS or ISIL or whichever acronym one cares to attach to these creeps. Such an assumption, though, fails to take into account both the ongoing dysfunction that has made it nearly impossible for our senators and representatives to agree on anything and the complexities of stamping out a peril that is less of an invasion than an infestation.

The U.S. began bombing Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq six months ago, but it was not until last week that the Obama administration sent a draft resolution to Congress that would authorize and set parameters for a continued war against Islamic State. Rather than a resounding huzzah, the reaction on Capitol Hill split in three directions. For some, the resolution goes too far, for others it does not go far enough, and for a third group, it simply puts them uncomfortably on the spot.

Liberal Democrats are the ones wary of giving the OK to deeper military involvement. They saw how the Bush-Cheney White House used a congressional authorization of force back in 2002 to justify wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that cost the nation trillions of dollars and dragged on for more than a decade. To them, the battle with Islamic State seems to be just a restart of hostilities in Iraq and the new resolution would open the door to a wider war that could spread to Libya and other outposts of anarchy where the black flag of Islamic State is being raised.

Republican hawks, such as Arizona Senator John McCain, are on the other end of the argument. Obama’s resolution is far too timid, in their view, and needs to be strengthened to allow the full military might of the United States to be brought to bear against the enemy. On Fox News Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner said, “We need a robust strategy to attack ISIL and no one has seen one yet.” The draft resolution certainly doesn’t do the trick, in Boehner’s opinion.

Oddly, the president argues that he can do whatever he wishes anyway, with or without a new resolution, because the authorizations given to his predecessor in the White House still apply. Apparently, what he really wants is for Congress to sign on to this fight so that he will not be stuck with all the blame should it go terribly awry.

That is exactly what a third faction of lawmakers is thinking about. They would prefer not to be forced to vote on anything so that, down the line, they can avoid sharing the inevitable blame when things get really messy.

And messiness is likely. The Islamic State horde is especially loathsome because they perpetrate their vile deeds in shockingly personal ways — beheadings, crucifixions, immolations, slaughter of children, rape and enslavement of women. All of this makes them a worthy target. But they are not ruled by a government in a particular capital or contained within the borders one country. They are not even a regular sort of army. They are more like a swarm of insects that, beaten down in one spot, regroups in greater numbers somewhere else.

Destroying Islamic State on the battlefield may be a Sisyphean task. Only when there are no more disaffected young men in the broad Islamic world rushing to reinforce the ranks of Islamic State will this fight be over. That will happen only through a difficult weave of economic, political and social developments in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Yes, most Americans from left to right would like to see Islamic State crushed. However, after the hard lessons learned in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya — as well as in Vietnam — the daunting challenge is figuring out exactly how that can be done.

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« Reply #142 on: February 20, 2015, 08:58:28 am »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Jeb Bush foreign policy: More stability and less ‘democracy’

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PST - Thursday, February 19, 2015

CO-OPERATIVE dictators can rest easier if Jeb Bush becomes president. Wednesday, in a speech delivered to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the latest Bush to set his sights on the White House implied that he wouldn’t be running around trying to spread democracy like his big brother, George W.

“New circumstances require new approaches,” Bush said in his remarks, while leaving it vague what those new approaches might be. In the question-and-answer session, though, he made it a little clearer. Asked about the balance between maintaining stability and pushing for democratic change, Bush said U.S. foreign policy, at least in the short term, needs to be practical.

“We have to balance our belief in liberty with a belief that security and engagement” will pay off down the line, Bush said. Just because a government holds an election does not mean American support should be automatic, he suggested.

Rather than sounding like a guy with new approaches, Bush seemed to be calling for a return to a more traditional foreign policy that depends on alliances with autocrats who keep the lid on chaos in regions such as the Middle East. In other words, a foreign policy more like his father’s than like his brother’s.

When George H.W. Bush went to war to push Iraq’s occupying army out of Kuwait, he famously stopped at the Iraqi border, not wanting to upset the Arab apple cart by driving on to Baghdad and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. When W. went to war, American tanks rolled all the way to the capital, toppled Saddam and stayed to fight for an additional 10 years.

Today, Iraq does have a shaky elected government, propped up by Iran and besieged by the invading terrorist army of Islamic State. That may or not be an improvement, but President Bush the younger can claim to have done what his father balked at doing; he replaced a dictatorship with a democracy.

That was the dream of Paul Wolfowitz and the other neoconservative theorists who handed the new president a ready-to-go foreign policy vision when he took office in 2001. They believed taking down Saddam and holding elections in one of the Middle East’s pivotal countries would set off a chain reaction. People would rise up, old regimes would fall and free elections would be held.

And their dream came true — sort of. After weeks of street protests and demands for democracy, Hosni Mubarak was expelled from power in Egypt. Elections quickly followed and, not surprisingly, an Islamist party won. The Islamists were not especially liberal in their governing style and, when they grabbed for too much power, the army stepped in. Now, Egypt is run by a general with a harder fist than Mubarak’s.

Libya’s nutty, ruthless ruler, Moammar Kadafi, was dumped by his people as well, with a forceful assist from European and American air power. Elections were held. Hope was high for a very brief time. Now, competing militias battle for pieces of the country and Libya’s democratic government has little control over the spreading anarchy.

In Syria, a push for democracy was met by a ruthless response from the government of Bashar Assad. The ensuing cruelties of the Syrian civil war provided fertile ground for the rise of the horrific Islamic State insurgency.

Only in Tunisia has democracy gained anything close to a solid foothold. The rest of the Arab world is more dangerous and chaotic than ever.

If Jeb Bush wants to return to a time when Americans were a little less picky about the libertarian credentials of their friends in power, who can blame him? Still, he can hardly claim that’s a new vision in American foreign policy.

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« Reply #143 on: March 18, 2015, 02:04:50 am »

from the Los Angeles Times....

Youngest senator, Tom Cotton, shows his immaturity with Iran letter

By DAVID HORSEY | 5:00AM PDT - Tuesday, March 17, 2015

ON MONDAY in Lausanne, Switzerland, Iranian negotiators demanded that their American counterparts explain to them the meaning of the open letter sent to Iranian leaders by 47 Republican U.S. senators. In the letter, the senators declared that any agreement with the current resident of the White House could be modified or nullified by a future president or by Congress. Apparently, their goal was to scuttle the Obama administration's effort to reach a deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry and the other U.S. officials in Switzerland who are trying to make that deal declined to characterize their response to the Iranians, but one might assume it was something like, “Hey, you’ve got your hardliners back home and we’ve got ours.”

The Republicans’ letter may not scare Iran’s rulers away from an agreement, but it contained a passage that ought to send a chill up American spines. Pointing out that a president is limited to two four-year terms, the letter noted that senators can keep adding six-year terms for as long as they keep getting re-elected.

“As applied today, for instance, President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then — perhaps decades,” the letter said.

Now that is a genuinely frightening thought. Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby, David Vitter, Joni Ernst, Jim Inhofe, Mike Crapo, Ted Cruz and the rest of the saber-rattling, climate change-denying, corporation-adoring, immigrant-fearing cranks might still be in the Senate for years and years to come. God save America.

The one who could be around the longest is the freshman senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton. At 37, he is the Senate’s youngest member; he's the precocious darling of the conservative establishment who came up with the idea for the letter to Iran. Cotton claims his mail to the ayatollahs was a necessary assertion of the Senate's constitutional role in reviewing and approving treaties, but by intruding on the negotiations he flouted another constitutional mandate — the one that makes it the president’s job to forge international agreements on behalf of the nation.

Republicans justify their unyielding belligerence by forever implying that only they speak for the people of the United States. However, while Cotton and his colleagues have won elections in most of the old Confederacy and several sparsely-populated states in the West and Midwest, the president and vice president are the only two governmental leaders elected by the entire country. Republicans have been in denial about it for six years, yet the fact remains that Barack Obama has twice been chosen by a solid majority of American voters to represent them in the world.

It is dangerous for any bunch of senators to insert themselves so directly into delicate diplomacy involving six other countries about an issue as serious as nuclear weapons, but Cotton is happy to court danger since his favored alternative to diplomacy is military action against Iran. One would think that the Senate’s elders might have stepped in to caution the brash upstart from Arkansas. Rather than doing doing that, though, old guys like Mitch McConnell and John McCain added their signatures to Cotton’s letter.

McCain claimed he really didn’t read what he was signing. The Arizonan was in a hurry to get out of Washington before a snowstorm hit. Besides, he said, he gets lots of letters placed on his desk that colleagues want him to sign. Apparently for McCain it was not notable that this particular letter was postmarked for Tehran.

Critics of the Republican senators’ missive have branded it everything from a breach in protocol to treason. Whatever one wants to call it, the letter surely is one more glaring example of what poisonous partisan politics has done to undermine the image and authority of the United States in the eyes of the world. When U.S. senators cannot resist acting like impulsive children spoiling for a fight, we should not be surprised if people in other countries begin to wonder if Americans still have the requisite maturity to be global leaders.

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« Reply #144 on: April 19, 2015, 12:51:14 am »

Mark Morford

Put a woman on the $20! (Down with Andrew Jackson)

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist | 2:24PM PDT - Friday, April 17, 2015

Eleanor. A leading contender, and an obvious (read: safe, least likely to freak out the white male status quo) choice.
Eleanor. A leading contender, and an obvious (read: safe, least likely to freak out the white male
status quo) choice.

WHAT EFFECT might it have, do you think? What might be the awesome psycho-cultural implications of stripping Andrew “I love slaves and the genocide of Indians” Jackson from his bland, 100-year stint on the $20, and replacing him with a notable American female — Harriet Tubman or Eleanor Roosevelt, say — just in time to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment and, let us merely offer a humble forecast, the first female U.S. president?

It’s an idea. It’s a thing. It’s a nicely empowering piece of legislation that’s actually being floated right this minute somewhere in the miasmatic halls of Congress (and on websites, and Twitter, where angry male trolls are all aflutter, so you know it must be a good idea), with who-the-hell-knows chances of success.

Margaret Sanger was in the running for a bit, thus causing mild panic among terrified extremist males (hi, Breitbart!), because, you know, fighting for a woman's right to basic contraception is FAR worse than the genocide of Native Americans, or owning slaves.
Margaret Sanger was in the running for a bit, thus causing mild panic among terrified extremist males (hi, Breitbart!),
because, you know, fighting for a woman's right to basic contraception is FAR worse than the genocide
of Native Americans, or owning slaves.

Could it work? Dump Andrew Jackson and put a woman on the $20 (here’s the final ballot) without much fuss or whiny political backlash? It’s possible. So far, aside from a few troglodytes on the far right wailing over the fact that one of the initial candidates was Planned Parenthood pioneer Margaret Sanger (Jackson owning hundreds of slaves is cool, but a woman advocating for a right to basic contraception? Horrible!), there doesn’t appear to be much resistance to Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s (Democrat-New Hampshire) proposal. Yet.

Which is a good thing. The bill’s low-key status might prove its biggest asset. Obama has shown tacit support. Women’s groups would be, naturally, delighted. But best of all, no one’s exactly defending the highly unpleasant Andrew Jackson. Besides owning all those slaves and having a vicious temper, Jackson is perhaps best known for signing the brutal Indian Removal Act and inducing the Trail of Tears, which killed Native Americans by the thousands. Also, he gave us Florida. I mean, good riddance.

Who cares about Andrew Jackson? Tough to defend all that slave owning and Indian decimating.
Who cares about Andrew Jackson? Tough to defend all that slave owning and Indian decimating.

It’s a fine idea, no? Overdue and worthwhile? Dovetails beautifully with the Rise of Women (more women than men graduating from college, more political muscle, more influence across the board), Hillary’s historic second run, the ongoing fight for equal pay, the aforementioned, upcoming 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which, after years of terrific struggle, finally gave women the right to vote and which, as Louis CK pointed out, means America has only really been a democracy for 95 years.

One thing we know: These things matter. There is, like the various shifts and lurches that led to women’s suffrage, gay marriage and two-term black president, a cumulative effect when long-fossilized American tropes get shattered, a vital tonal shift that gets passed down to future generations and infuses everything that comes after. In this case, it’s a powerful and (still) all-too-rare message that women are not merely essential, but equally — if not sometimes even more — essential to our national identity than assorted old white males.

Rosa Parks, with some guy named Martin behind her. The highest name recognition, the most recently alive. Does that matter? Harriet Tubman. Civil War Nurse, Suffragist, Civil Rights activist, Underground Railroad mover/shaker. General badass.
LEFT: Rosa Parks, with some guy named Martin behind her. The highest name
recognition, the most recently alive. Does that matter? | RIGHT: Harriet Tubman.
Civil War Nurse, Suffragist, Civil Rights activist, Underground Railroad
mover/shaker. General badass.

Every little bit helps. Particularly in a time when angry old-timer fundamentalists are panicking over all the changes, when conservative states are digging in their heels over both gay marriage and women’s rights, passing shockingly harsh anti-choice legislation and embracing bigotry and discrimination and calling it “religious freedom”. The fight for basic progress is far from over.

And besides, aside from Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea on old coins, women have never been represented on US currency. And that’s a shame. It’s well past time to flip it all around, shatter the gender-lopsided message. After all, women on currency sure as hell beats women as currency, you know?

Email: Mark Morford

Mark Morford on Twitter and Facebook.

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« Reply #145 on: April 19, 2015, 02:48:00 am »

..mmm... Muck morgfud..could you please translate no NZ English.... Thanks 😜
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« Reply #146 on: April 24, 2015, 09:48:30 pm »

U.S. Sec Of state John Kerry's tribute to ANZAC Spirit
24 April, 2015

The "Anzac spirit" was celebrated by US Secretary of State John Kerry in a tribute today.

Mr Kerry spoke on behalf of President Barack Obama and United States of America citizens when he said the Anzac spirit was defined by endurance, courage and "mateship".

"The United States is proud of our enduring cooperation with Australia and New Zealand in pursuit of these common ideals," he said.

"We will forever remember the heroic efforts of 1915 and the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defence of freedom."

Countering violent extremism, providing disaster relief, supporting good governance in the Pacific and promoting free trade through the Trans-Pacific Partnership were examples of the countries working together, Mr Kerry said.

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« Reply #147 on: April 27, 2015, 12:04:30 am »

Shale as world's swing producer signals 'jagged' oil future

2:00 PM Sunday Apr 26, 2015
Oil rigs in North Dakota. U.S. shale oil has been anointed the world's new "swing producer". Photo: AP.
With OPEC ceding control for the first time since the 1980s, U.S. shale oil has been anointed the world's new "swing producer" by everyone from ConocoPhillips and Goldman Sachs to former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan.

But can America's oil really swing it?

Producers cut billions in spending, idled half the country's rigs and kept more than 3,000 wells off the market, and it still took five months for U.S. production to start dropping.

Analysts and banks say a recovery in production will also prove slower and more difficult than it would be for a single producer like Saudi Arabia.

"When you think of a swing producer, you think of OPEC and you think of spare capacity that can be turned on and off," said Trisha Curtis, director of oil and gas research at Energy Policy Research Foundation Inc.

"U.S. oil can respond, but the response is going to be messy, it's going to be jagged and it's not going to happen overnight."

At the heart of all this is the fact that U.S. oil supply isn't controlled by a single Saudi Aramco-like entity with a lever on all 9.4 million barrels of daily oil output.

The recovery is going to be a lot more volatile
IHS vice chairman Daniel Yergin
"The traditional market balancer isn't there," Daniel Yergin, vice-chairman of energy analyst IHS Inc., said April 14.

"People have started to describe the United States as a swing producer. If it is the swing producer," the recovery is going to be a lot more volatile, he said.

Saudi Arabia boosted production by 658,800 barrels a day to 10.294 million in March, according to data the country submitted to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Once U.S. drillers decide to tackle the fracklog, or backlog of uncompleted wells, they have to wait for hydraulic fracturing fluids and completion rigs to arrive.

The largest challenge may be bringing back workers, tens of thousands of whom lost their jobs after prices collapsed.

"In reality, you can probably complete a well in between two and three months, but that's assuming you have all the frack crews available," Andrew Cosgrove, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said by phone April 15.

"It's going to be sticky in terms of getting everybody back to work."

U.S. producers will find it easier to locate equipment and supplies than they did last year, when delays in sand deliveries and labour shortages kept wells waiting for months to be tied in, Cosgrove said.

They may also find it cheaper as service costs have fallen along with demand for rigs, he said.

And while their response may be less consistent than that of Saudi Arabia, America's drillers are solely driven by market conditions and may actually decrease volatility by serving as a check on the rest of the world, said John Auers, executive vice president at Dallas-based energy consultant Turner Mason & Co.

Relying on flexible, low-cost opportunities that can stop and start on a dime will be critical as U.S. drillers become the world's swing suppliers, ConocoPhillips Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ryan Lance said April 8.

"We're going into a world that's going to be characterized by lower, gradually rising prices and a lot of volatility."

The retreat in U.S. oil drilling is a prime example of how the market will play out in the future, said Mike Wittner, head of oil research at Societe Generale in New York.

Oil prices began collapsing in September, and yet U.S. producers didn't really start pulling rigs out of fields until December.

When prices rebound, their return to shale fields will again take months, he said.

"The big dogs, the Saudis, could snap their fingers and make that happen by tomorrow," Wittner said.

"Here, you have a whole sector of a couple hundred companies doing what they do and looking out for their own self-interests, and the whole thing takes a long time."
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« Reply #148 on: April 27, 2015, 06:50:09 pm »

..if she doesn't make it i will really miss her Cool

Hillary on the brink of collapse
5 HOURS AGO APRIL 27, 2015 11:20AM
Gender and economic issues top agenda for Hillary Clinton at women's summit

A PASSAGE from Ernest  Hemingway fits the moment. In “The Sun Also  Rises,” one character asks,  “How did you go bankrupt?” and another responds: “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
The exchange captures Hillary Clinton’s red alert. She’s been going politically bankrupt for a long time, and now faces the prospect of sudden collapse.
If she’s got a winning defence, she better be quick about it. The ghosts of scandals past are gaining on her and time is not on her side.
The compelling claims that she and Bill Clinton sold favours while she was Secretary of State for tens of millions of dollars for themselves and their foundation don’t need to meet the legal standard for bribery. She’s on political trial in a country where Clinton Fatigue alone could be a fatal verdict.
After 25 years of corner-cutting and dishonest behaviour, accumulation is her enemy. Each day threatens to deliver the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It may already have happened and we’re just waiting for public opinion to catch up to the facts.
Meanwhile, her Houdini skills are being tested big time.
Hillary’s one big advantage is obvious — she’s the only serious contender for the Democratic nomination, and she beats most GOP opponents in head-to-head match-ups. But everything else weighs against her, including momentum.
Start with the fact that the sizzling reports of corrupt deals are coming from major news organisations that reliably tilt left. With supposed friends making the case against her, the tired Clinton defence that the ­attacks are partisan hit jobs has been demolished.
And after digging up so much dirt, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico, Reuters, Bloomberg News and others are not likely to be content with stonewalling and half-truths, especially given her recent lies about missing e-mails. No wonder the Times editorial page called on her to provide “straightforward answers” to the accusations.
I don’t see how she can meet that test. The outlines of cozy relationships and key transactions are not in dispute. The only issue is whether the millions the Clintons got amount to a quid pro quo.
On the face of it, that’s certainly what they look like. There are several deals we know of, and more could emerge, that put money in the Clintons’ pockets while helping businesses, including some loathsome international figures, make a killing. It is preposterous to argue that it’s all a coincidence.
Her position was further undercut when the family foundation announced it would refile five years of tax returns. In one three-year period, it omitted tens of millions in foreign contributions, reporting “zero” to the IRS. In another two-year period, it admitted to over­reporting government grants by more than $100 million.
A foundation aide described the errors as “typographical,” which is bizarre — and par for the Clinton course. To concede the errors during the firestorm must mean keeping them quiet was an even greater liability.
Sooner rather than later, Hillary will have to meet the press — but what can she possibly say to alter the storylines?
If history is a guide, she’ll insist she did nothing wrong, offer ambiguous answers to specific questions, take offence at persistent reporters and end by playing the victim. She’ll follow up with a fundraising pitch for money to keep “fighting for ­everyday Americans.”
To imagine that scenario is to realise it won’t fly, but I’m not sure what other options she has. She can’t tell the truth. It will sink her.
Nor can she credibly demand to be trusted, given her past. A recent Quinnipiac poll finds 54 per cent of Americans already say Clinton is not honest or trustworthy.
Swing-state surveys show similar lopsided findings and each new sordid revelation will deepen the trust deficit. At this point in her life, it would take a near-miracle to change people’s basic view of her.
Her best hope is that a missing ­ingredient remains missing — a Democrat who could take the nomination from her, the way Barack Obama did in 2008. None of those already in the race or committed to it — Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, even Joe Biden — comes close to measuring up.
The only possible rival who does is Elizabeth Warren, the fire-breathing senator from Massachusetts. Gender aside, she is everything Hillary isn’t — an anti-Wall Street conviction populist with a record to match her rhetoric.
A movement to draft her started before Hillary hit the fan, so Warren would begin with a built-in constituency. So far, though, she insists she’s not running.
Then again, that also could change suddenly.
This article originally appeared on New York Post.
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« Reply #149 on: August 01, 2015, 04:47:48 pm »

from The Washington Post....

The Marines say the controversial F-35 fighter
is now ready for combat. Now what?

By CHRISTIAN DAVENPORT | 1:53PM EDT - Friday, July 31, 2015

A Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighter lifts off during the first short takeoff and vertical landing mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in 2013. — Photo: Samuel King Jr./U.S. Air Force.
A Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighter lifts off during the first short takeoff and vertical landing mission at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in 2013.
 — Photo: Samuel King Jr./U.S. Air Force.

THE Marine Corps, the ascetic tribe of “Devil Dogs” that prides itself on being “the first to fight,” is getting a new weapon, announcing Friday that its version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is, at long last, ready to be unleashed in combat.

The announcement comes after years of testing and development, marking a significant milestone for the sometimes-beleaguered, often-criticized and always controversial $400 billion program, which is years behind its original schedule and billions of dollars over its original budget.

The declaration means that the squadron of 10 F-35Bs stationed with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 in Yuma, Arizona, are “ready for worldwide deployment,” the Marine Corps said in a statement. And in announcing the decision, Marine Corps Commandant Joseph Dunford said the stealthy fifth-generation fighter “will transform the way we fight and win.”

Officials at the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin, the Bethesda-based manufacturer of the plane, cheered the announcement, saying it was evidence that the program had turned the corner from its previous troubles, and that it was primped and primed for its operational debut.

Air Force Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the program's executive officer, said that the teams behind the plane “have worked through a number of challenges.” But he said they stayed focused on “delivering a stealth fighter that could fly faster than the speed of sound, carry its weapons internally, conduct short takeoffs and vertical landings, and be deployed from amphibious ships and austere bases.”

The F-35B Joint Strike Fighter will be integrated into the Marine Corps in coming years, and the service is preparing for it now. — Photo: Lockheed Martin.
The F-35B Joint Strike Fighter will be integrated into the Marine Corps in coming years, and the service is preparing for it now. — Photo: Lockheed Martin.

The fighter, the most expensive weapons system ever procured by the Pentagon, still faces questions from its legion of critics, however. Members of Congress recently asked Dunford, who is also President Obama's nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed questions about the program.

“Do you believe the nation can afford to procure these aircraft at a cost of $12 [billion] to $15 [billion] per year for nearly the next 20 years for an aircraft design that will be 30 years old at the completion of the program procurement phase?” they asked.

They also pointed out that the aircraft is still under development and that full production is not scheduled until 2019, 17 years after the program's inception. And they wondered whether the Pentagon really need 2,443 of the planes “in light of countervailing pressure to reduce force structure to conserve resources.”

Dunford replied that the F-35 “is a vital component of our effort to ensure the Joint Force maintains dominance in the air.” And he said that there will be updates to the plane over its life that will ensure it “maintains a tactical advantage.”

But he also said that the Pentagon is “analyzing” whether the 2,443 planes it plans to buy “is the correct number.”

That set off waves of concern, because the more planes the Pentagon buys, the less expensive they are. The Pentagon had dropped the number from its initial goal of 2,852. Another decrease could not only lead to an increase in price but spook allies, such as Canada, which are weighing whether to buy the aircraft, analysts said.

“Like all these major weapons systems sometimes, you just want to see them walk in a straight line and not fall off the curb,” said Byron Callan, a director of Capital Alpha Partners. “Hitting this milestone, which they've been talking about for months, if not years, is a positive step. But is it going to fundamentally alter the perceptions of the program? I’d say no.”

In a statement on Friday, Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona), one of the program’s leading critics, said he remains “concerned about the capability and reliability this aircraft,” and vowed to make sure the program continues to improve.

The F-35 comes in three variants, for the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. The Air Force variant is expected to be declared ready for combat sometime late next year, the Navy’s in late 2018 or early 2019.

The F-35B, the Marine Corps' version, is the most complicated. It has a giant fan in the middle of the plane that allows it to land vertically. Before declaring it combat-ready, the Corps recently showed off the plane’s abilities as a small fleet of the jets took off and landed from the deck of an amphibious assault ship.

While the F-35B has now reached what's called its “initial operational capability,” the plane’s development is not complete. There are still updates to the software that need to be implemented. But Dunford said Friday that he had full confidence in the plane, and that it was capable of an array of missions, including “close air support, offensive and defensive counter-air, air interdiction, assault support escort and armed reconnaissance.”

For weeks, the Marines put the plane through a series of tests aboard carriers at sea, live ordnance sorties and “large-force” exercises designed to gauge how the plane would perform in combat.

• Christian Davenport covers federal contracting for The Washington Post's Financial desk. He joined The Post in 2000 and has served as an editor on the Metro desk and as a reporter covering military affairs. He is the author of “As You Were: To War and Back with the Black Hawk Battalion of the Virginia National Guard”.


Read more on this topic:

 • Meet the most fascinating part of the F-35: The $400,000 helmet

 • Marines overhaul air-to-air combat tactics while integrating the F-35 fighter jet

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