Sat 28 Feb 2009 13:13
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By Mark Steyn
The superheroes I always found hard to keep track of were the ones who kept relaunching themselves. I mean, Batman’s been Batman for 70 years and Spider-Man’s been Spider-Man for the best part of 50. But I’m thinking of chaps like Ant-Man. Very small, as one might expect. Then he became Giant-Man. Then he became Yellowjacket (his girlfriend was the Wasp). Then he became Goliath. I’ve lost track of him since then. But, thanks to my usual 20-second exhaustive research, I see he was relaunched only a month ago, this time as the Wasp. Hang on, I thought the Wasp was his chick? Has he had a sex-change? Hey, why not? For a while he was both Giant-Man and Yellowjacket, playing a kind of schizoid double-hero with each superpower emphasizing a different side of his identity.
Anyway, that’s how I feel about the endlessly morphing supergovernment hero battling the planet-swallowing economic crisis. Back in September, we were told to put our faith in Bailoutman. Then in January, Bailoutman went to his tailor, had the long underwear redesigned, and relaunched himself as Mister Stimulus. A few weeks later the Obama crowd noticed that “stimulus,” like “bailout,” had become a cheap punch line, and decided the approved term was “recovery.” So Captain Recovery swung into action.
In fairness to Ant-Man, he got very small, and then he got big, and then he got small again, and then he got super-big, and for a while he was both small and big, in a superheroically bipartisan way. But Bailoutman started out as a huge staggering behemoth and has inflated from there. Once upon a time he was as a meek, mild-mannered trillionaire, but a mere five months later he was a meek, mild-mannered multi-trillionaire.
If you find it hard to keep track of these all these evolutions, the President in his address to Congress finally spilled the beans and unveiled our new hero in his final form: the Incredible Bulk, Statezilla, Governmentuan, a colossus bestriding the land like a, er, colossus. What superpowers does he have? All of them! He can save the economy, he can reform health care, he can prevent foreclosures, he can federalize daycare, he can cap the salary of his archenemies the sinister Fat Cats who “pad their pay checks and buy fancy drapes.” No longer will the citizenry cower in fear of fancy drapes: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! With one solar panel on the roof of his underground headquarters, Governmentuan can transform the American energy sector and power his amazing Governmentmobile, the new environmentally friendly supercar that soon we’ll all be driving because we’ll be given government car loans to buy the government cars! He’ll have hundreds of thousands of boy sidekicks, none of whom will ever be allowed to drop out of high school because (in the words of his famous catchphrase) “that’s no longer an option!” “Gee, thanks, Governmentuan!” says Diplomaboy the Boy Wonder, as he goes off to college to study Gender As A Social Construct until he’s 34.
And our hero can do this all without raising taxes on any family earning over $250,000!
Look — up in the sky: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a sudden eclipse plunging you and three adjoining states into total darkness? No, it’s the Incredible Bulk flailing through the air, fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. Well, actually, it’s more like the European way. But Americans will get used to it after a while.
Of course, when Barack Obama is accused of creating his Six-Trillion-Dollar Man “because I believe in bigger government” he denies it: “I don’t,” he says flatly. This is like Clark Kent telling Lois Lane he’s not Superman: They just look a bit similar when he removes his glasses. Likewise, any connection between Obama and a Big Government behemoth swallowing everything in sight is entirely coincidental.
Do you ever go back to the first issue of this comic book and try to figure out what the plot’s all about? Wasn’t it something to do with subprime mortgages and two strange creatures called Fannie and Freddie? And then it became something to do with saving banks, wasn’t that it? And somewhere along the way the Big Three auto makers got involved? And now it’s about everything. Obama is going to do everything. So he needs to be able to spend everything. Only we don’t call it “spending” anymore. Everything government “spends” is now deemed an “investment.” Government will “invest” in “more efficient cars,” it will “invest” in daycare, it will “invest” in a new Federal Regulatory Agency of Fancy Drapes and Window Treatments. It will “invest” in an impact study group that will study the impact of recalling every edition of Webster’s and pasting in it a little Post-It note on the page defining “spend” saying “obsolete — see ‘invest.’ ”
If you’re feeling a sudden urge to “invest” in a gallon of tequila and a couple of hookers and wake up with an almighty hangover and no pants in a rusting dumpster on a bit of abandoned scrub round the back of the freight yards, it may be because you’re one of that dwindling band of Americans foolish enough to pursue his living in what we used to call “the private sector.” You were never exactly Giant-Man, more like Average-Sized Man. But you have a vague sense that you’re gonna be a lot closer to Ant-Man by the time all this is through. Noting the president’s assurance that the 250-grand-and-under crowd won’t pay “a single dime” more in taxes, the Wall Street Journal calculated that if you took every single dime — that’s 100 per cent — of the over-250K crowd, it barely begins to pay for this program, even before half of them flee the the country. The $4 trillion Congress is planning on spending next year (2010) could just about be covered if you took every single dime of the taxable income of every American earning over $75,000.
But it doesn’t matter. Because Big Government is the ultimate hero, and the private sector is merely a supporting role. Last week, the president redefined the relationship between the citizen and the state, in ways that make America closer to Europe. If you’ve still got the Webster’s to hand, “closer to Europe” is a sociopolitical colloquialism meaning “much worse.”
Is the new all-powerful Statezilla vulnerable to anything? Unfortunately, yes. He loses all his superpowers when he comes into contact with something called Reality. But happily, Reality is nowhere in sight. There are believed to be some small surviving shards somewhere on the planet — maybe on an uninhabited atoll somewhere in the Pacific — but that’s just a rumor, and Barack Obama isn’t planning on running into Reality any time soon.
Sat 28 Feb 2009 12:50
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By Joe Guzzardi
Woodie Guthrie wrote about California in his 1937 song, Do Re Mi
“Lots of folks back East, they say, is leavin’ home every day,
Beatin’ the hot old dusty way to the California line.
‘Cross the desert sands they roll, gettin’ out of that old dust bowl,
They think they’re goin’ to a sugar bowl, but here’s what they find —
Now, the police at the port of entry say,
‘You’re number fourteen thousand for today.’
“You want to buy you a home or a farm, that can’t deal nobody harm,
Or take your vacation by the mountains or sea.
Don’t swap your old cow for a car, you better stay right where you are,
Better take this little tip from me.
‘Cause I look through the want ads every day
But the headlines on the papers always say:
“If you ain’t got the do re mi, boys, you ain’t got the do re mi,
Why, you better go back to beautiful Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee.
“California is a garden of Eden, a paradise to live in or see;
But believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot
If you ain’t got the do re mi.”
Guthrie experienced California’s false promise first hand when he left Pampa, Texas for Los Angeles to escape the Dust Bowl and start his life anew.
Things didn’t work out, however. What Guthrie found instead of a “sugar bowl” was landowners and powerful agricultural growers all too eager to exploit the downtrodden, transplanted Oakies.
As I look back at Guthrie’s song seventy years later, I find that it’s filled with irony.
California is still clicking along at 14,000 new residents per day. But many of them aren’t coming through a “port of entry,” or entering under the supervision of the “police.”
And the illegal alien influx has made things extremely “hot” for one particular Californian even though he has plenty of “do re mi.”
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, his political career in tatters, will not be remembered of as Hollywood’s greatest action hero. Instead, historians will look back at him as the governor who presided over California biggest financial crisis that may mark the Golden State’s official end.
As quickly as Schwarzenegger’s political star rose, it plunged just as fast.
In 2003, angry, disgusted Californians collected enough signatures to force a special election to recall then-governor Gray Davis. The election put the popular Schwarzenegger in Sacramento because movie fans loved him and disenchanted voters believed his empty promise to once and for all reform the state’s dysfunctional government.
Five years ago, I was one of 125 ballot recall candidates who opposed Davis and Schwarzenegger. As I look back on it, I can say without fear of contradiction that I could easily have managed the state more effectively than Schwarzenegger.
Stated more modestly, no one could have done worse.
I ran on a straightforward platform: end illegal immigration, reduce legal immigration significantly and thereby lessen California’s financial obligation to provide education, medical care and sundry other financial services to the world, especially Mexico.
Even though many considered my quixotic campaign controversial, I received a surprising amount of positive print media coverage, over Internet blogs as well as on talk radio and television. And in the end, I finished in the middle of the pack—not bad given my limited pocketbook. Most Californians spend more on their home entertainment system than I did running for governor.
Although Schwarzenegger comfortably won the election, patriots remained cautiously optimistic that the Austrian-born, legal immigrant would bring a common sense perspective about immigration with him to Sacramento. Sadly, our hopes were quickly dashed.
During the first years of his administration, Schwarzenegger proved an immigration waffler.
By endorsing the Minutemen, saying they did a “wonderful job,” Schwarzenegger started out well enough. And he vetoed Gil Cedillo’s omnipresent bill to provide illegal aliens driver’s licenses.
But ultimately, Schwarzenegger caved into California’s Hispanic Caucus and reverted to Davis’ immigrant pandering, insisting against all logic that illegal aliens who live in California don’t have a negative impact on the states’ financial condition.
Before long, Schwarzenegger presided over a $40 billion budget deficit, increased spending to levels 40 percent above the notorious spending- crazed Davis, watched California’s unemployment rate climb steadily to 9.3 percent to become the nation’s fourth-highest while watching the state’s bonds’ rating sink to an all-time low. [California Bond Rating Drops Lower Than Any Other State, by Jordan Rau and Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, February 9, 2008]
But on immigration, Schwarzenegger completely miscalculated the ultimate price tag. In 2004, I wrote here that California budget problems, many fueled by unchecked immigration, were a “smoldering volcano.” But the volcano’s force exceeded my wildest dreams.
According to the California’s non-partisan fiscal policy advisor, the Legislative Analyst’s Office, here’s a rough conservative hard dollar estimate of what Californians pay to foot Schwarzenegger’s passive attitude toward illegal immigration.
- Roughly 20,000 illegal immigrants are doing stretches in state prisons, representing 11 percent of all inmates. California absorbs about $1 billion in direct expenses while receiving about $120 million federal funds thus leaving an $880 million net cost to the state.
- Although Illegal immigrants aren’t entitled to welfare, called CalWORKs, their citizen children are. Roughly 190,000 kids receive welfare checks that pass through their parents. The Legislative Analyst’s Office put the tab conservatively at $500 million.
- California spends $775 million on Medi-Cal healthcare for illegal immigrants, according to the Legislative Analyst. Of that, $642 million goes into direct benefits. Practically all the rest is paid to counties to administer the program. The federal government generally matches the state dollar-for-dollar on mandatory programs.
- So-called emergency services are another huge cost: $536 million. Prenatal care alone is $59 million. Omitted from the overall total expense is baby delivery—well over $100 million—because the newborns are, technically, American citizens, not illegal immigrants.
- California also pays $47 million for programs not mandated by the federal government including non-emergency care (breast and cervical cancer treatment), $25 million; long-term nursing home care, $19 million; abortions, $3 million.
- Educating illegal aliens is the single biggest California taxpayer burden. Last week, I calculated that of California’s 1.5 million non-English speakers attending K-12 schools, about 500,000 are illegal aliens and another 500,000 anchor babies. Depending on how you interpret anchor babies, the state’s education tab for aliens is either $3.5 billion or $7 billion.
Of course, Californians underwrite scores of other alien-related expenses especially those paid out through local governments.
But you get the multi-billion- dollar picture, I’m sure, without my providing you with more details.
Some immigration enthusiasts argue that taxes paid by illegal aliens compensate for their costs. But this nonsensical claim is to laugh out loud.
Sure, when aliens work, they pay state taxes. Yet illegal aliens are, by virtue of their income, modest spenders. Their biggest contribution to the state’s revenue stream is sales tax. But food and prescription drugs—the two biggest ticket items—are tax-exempt.[Illegal Immigrants Are A Factor in California’s Budget Math, by George Skelton, Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2009]
If only Schwarzenegger could have summoned up the guts to tackle the illegal immigration crisis!
While it is true that for the most part, immigration is a federal issue, think of the impact Schwarzenegger could have had if he had taken a bold—and defensible— position on behalf of his constituents by calling for dramatically reduced immigration levels. A California governor, particularly a high visibility figure like Schwarzenegger, has political clout—doubly so within the celebrity-loving Capitol Hill crowd.
Imagine this could-have-been headline: “California’s Immigrant Governor Demands Less Immigration!”
Who knows? Maybe Schwarzenegger’s none-too-coy interest (with a little help from a Constitutional amendment) in becoming the first foreign-born president may have gathered momentum.
But now Schwarzenegger’s political career is dead as a doornail.
As for my own political aspirations, I’ve moved away from California to Pennsylvania and have no active plans to get back into the arena.
But I must note that Pennsylvania has inviting targets like Senators and Robert Casey and Arlen Specter, “D+” and “F” respectively, are up for re-election in 2010 and 2012.
With immigration much more prominent on the nation’s radar screen today than it was in 2003—even in Pennsylvania—it’s up to some courageous but as yet unidentified candidate to knock Casey and Specter out of office.
To him, I pass the baton!
Sat 28 Feb 2009 12:00
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By Windsor Mann
I don’t understand the point of exercising, which I’m told has something to do with health and wearing Umbros. Yet, as mystified as I am when watching Sweatin’ to the Oldies 3 on VHS, I am not as confused as Barack Obama is when talking about missile defense, a topic much easier to comprehend than Richard Simmons. It’s also more controversial.
President Obama knows that missile defense is a touchy subject internationally, as underscored by Russia’s protests against the planned deployment of anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. Within hours of Obama’s election, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened to deploy missiles of his own in Kaliningrad, which borders Poland, if America goes ahead with its plans.
The administration, wavering, says it needs time to think it over, which is consistent with the "wait and see" approach that Obama espoused during the campaign. He said he will deploy missile defense (a) "only when the system works" and (b) only if it’s "pragmatic and cost-effective." That sounds sensible enough.
Waiting and seeing are fine things to do, but a problem arises when the person doing the waiting keeps his eyes closed, as any restaurant manager will tell you. Obama is willing to wait on missile defense, but he refuses to look at the evidence in its favor. And so there is little reason to think he will backpedal on his campaign pledge to "cut investments in unproven missile defense systems."
Though far from flawless, missile defense is even further from "unproven." In December, the Missile Defense Agency successfully shot down a long-range ballistic missile that was launched in Alaska (roughly 3,000 kilometers away), in what was "the largest, most complex test we have ever done," according to Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, the director of MDA. It was the 37th successful "hit-to-kill" intercept out of 47 attempts since 2001, proving that the shield is mightier than the sword (four times out of five).
Lt. Gen. Trey Obering, MDA’s previous director, said, "Our testing has shown not only can we hit a bullet with a bullet, we can hit a spot on the bullet with a bullet."
Which is simply awesome. Even better, it’s affordable. The system proposed for Eastern Europe is expected to cost $4 billion over seven years, a sum the Congressional Research Service called "relatively small in U.S. defense budget terms." In terms of Obama’s domestic budget, it’s microscopic.
Obama, who promised to increase foreign aid and to "treat allies with respect," should be absolutely giddy about missile defense. Its purpose, after all, is to prevent Europeans from getting blown up by ballistic missiles. That certainly sounds like aiding foreigners.
At least it does to our NATO allies, the same ones Obama claims to care about. On December 3, every last one of them signed a statement saying that missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic would make a "substantial contribution" to keeping them alive, roughly speaking.
Why in the world is Obama dithering?
His queasiness stems from a simple fact: He really wants to be popular, a goal he openly admits. He aspires to be "respected and admired abroad," seeing himself as the successor to Bono rather than to Bush.
How inconvenient to face controversy so soon. Missile defense is an unequivocal symbol of American supremacy, something that former superpowers tend to resent. Installing it in Eastern Europe, as Obama knows, would infuriate an already irritable Russia, and making Russians mad doesn’t make them like you.
Obama, a sensitive guy by nature, is doing his best not to discomfit the Russians, whose inferiority complex is matched only by their paranoia. (A poll in 2007 found that 43% of Russians believe the U.S. seeks "the total destruction of Russia.") The essential point to keep in mind, however, is that this "controversial" weaponry — a radar in the Czech Republic and ten missile interceptors in Poland — is designed to hurt no one. The only thing it would hurt is Russia’s feelings.
What disturbs Russia is not the anti-missile missiles themselves — which everyone knows are no threat to its 850 ICBM’s — but the encroachment of American power into its former satellites. The Russians call it encirclement, but a better word is embarrassment.
Russia used to dominate Eastern Europe. Now, with NATO and American weapons systems moving eastward, the entire region (minus Belarus) has turned its back on Moscow, and Mother Russia is sick and tired of nobody looking at her.
Now, all of the sudden, here comes Obama, ready to stare and gaze indefinitely. It’s all part of his wait-and-see strategy. "Let’s talk it out" is his operating philosophy.
Like Obama, Vladimir and Dmitry want to talk until their mouths fall off, and why wouldn’t they? When everyone talks, no one decides. An international talkathon, precisely because it will resolve nothing, serves Russia’s interests as well as Obama’s, ridding him of an awkward decision: protect American interests or flatter foreigners?
It’s sweet that Obama wants to befriend nation-states, but geopolitics is not junior high, sadly, and chitchat isn’t always cheap. The more time we spend blabbering for its own sake, the more time Iran has to continue its nuclear "research," right before it starts studying for its AP Biology exam. According to an IAEA report released last week, Iran possesses 460 more pounds of uranium than previously thought, giving it "enough atoms," per a senior U.N. official, to build at least one nuclear bomb. How comforting, then, that we will continue assuming the best intentions and worst capabilities of trigger-happy psychopaths.
As long as Iran keeps researching its way into the nuclear club, shouldn’t America "research" its missile defenses over to Poland and the Czech Republic? Given who we’re dealing with, it only makes sense to plan ahead for worst-case scenarios. If you knew O.J. Simpson had it out for you and was on his way to the safe where he keeps his revolver, wouldn’t you take some precautions (such as running away or buying a bulletproof vest) rather than just trying to talk him out of owning a firearm?
To be sure, preemptive self-defense may offend the "international community," which raises an important question: So what? No one said being the world’s policeman meant keeping 6.7 billion people in a good mood. That’s what prescription drugs are for.
Prozac, however, is useless against ballistic missiles, and missile defense is quite naturally the best defense against them. The logistics are complex, but the issue isn’t. Instead of agonizing over the impact it will have on his global reputation, President Obama should approach missile defense with the same attitude I take to physical fitness: Don’t sweat it.
Sat 28 Feb 2009 11:35
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Re Charles Freeman, a truly dreadful appointment, I wrote seven years ago in the British Spectator, in a piece headlined "Down With Saudi Arabia: It’s time to destroy the Arab kingdom" (ah, happy days!):
By now, the ‘Saudis Are Our Friends’ op-ed may even have its own category in the Pulitzers. Usually this piece turns up after the Saudis have done something not terribly friendly – refused to let Washington use the US bases in Saudi Arabia, or even to meet with Tony Blair. Then the apparently vast phalanx of former US ambassadors to Saudi Arabia fans out across the New York Times, CNN, Nightline, etc., to insist that, au contraire, the Saudis have been ‘enormously helpful’. At what? Recommending a decent restaurant in Mayfair?
Charles Freeman, a former ambassador to the kingdom and now president of something called the Middle East Policy Council, offered a fine example of the genre the other day when he revealed that Crown Prince Abdullah, the head honcho since King Fahd had his stroke, was ‘personally anguished’ by developments in the Middle East and that that was why he had proposed his ‘peace plan’. If, indeed, he has proposed it – to anyone other than Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, that is. And, come to think of it, it was Friedman who proposed it to the Prince…
The advantage of this thesis to fellows like Charles Freeman is that it places a premium on their nuance-interpretation skills. Because everything the kingdom does seems to be self-evidently inimical to the West, any old four-year-old can point out that the King is in the altogether hostile mode. It takes an old Saudi hand like Mr Freeman to draw attention to the subtler shades of meaning, to explain the ancient ways of Araby, by which, say, an adamant refusal to arrest associates of the 11 September hijackers is, in fact, a clear sign of the Saudis’ remarkable support for Washington. If the Saudis nuked Delaware, the massed ranks of former ambassadors would be telling Larry King that, obviously, even the best allies have their difficulties from time to time, but this is essentially a little hiccup that can be smoothed over by closer consultation.
Being on the House of Saud’s payroll, directly or indirectly, should render one ineligible for subsequent government service. Matt Welch said it best a few years back: If you listen to former U.S. ambassadors to Saudi Arabia with your eyes closed, they sound like Saudis.
Sat 28 Feb 2009 07:42
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Rare 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence belongs to a Virginia technology entrepreneur, not the state of Maine, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Friday
RICHMOND, Va. — A rare 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence belongs to a Virginia technology entrepreneur, not the state of Maine, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Friday. Richard Adams Jr. of Fairfax County purchased the document from a London book dealer in 2001 for $475,000. But the state of Maine claimed it belongs to the town of Wiscasset, where it was kept by the town clerk in 1776.
Virginia’s high court said that a lower court did not err in its ruling in Adams’ favor because Maine didn’t prove the document was ever an official town record and that Adams had superior title to the print.
Adams’ attorney, Robert K. Richardson, has argued that Wiscasset’s town clerk copied the text of the Declaration of Independence into the town’s record books on Nov. 10, 1776. It’s that transcription, not the document upon which it was based, that is the official town record, Richardson said.
"The fact that the print was not made by an authorized public officer and was not intended to be the official memorial of the Declaration precluded the print from qualifying as a ‘public record’ under common law," the court said in its ruling.
Adams, who gained fame when he founded UUNet Technologies Inc., the first commercial Internet service provider, sued to establish title to the document after learning that Maine was trying to get it back. His attorney told the high court last month there’s no evidence the document was ever an official record kept by the town of Wiscasset and that Adams is the rightful owner.
Maine Assistant Attorney General Thomas Knowlton argued that Wiscasset never gave up ownership of the document, which is one of about 250 copies printed in 1776 and distributed to towns throughout Massachusetts to be read to residents. Maine was part of Massachusetts at the time.
Maine state archivist David Cheever said he found it "incredible" that the state’s rights were trumped by a private collector. Maine contended the document never should have been sold because of a state law which presumes that public documents remain public property unless ownership is expressly relinquished by the government.
"To us, it’s a public document. It was then. It is now," Cheever said.
Knowlton said the state strongly disagrees with the decision, but acknowledged that it is the end of the road. There are no federal issues that could be pursued to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The unfortunate result is a public record that we believe rightfully belongs to the people of Maine is now in the hands of a private collector in Virginia," Knowlton said.
Adams’ attorney was in court all day Friday and unavailable for comment.
Whether it was an official record or not, the document apparently was retained by Solomon Holbrook, Wiscasset’s town clerk from 1885 until his death in 1929. An estate auctioneer found it in a box of papers in the attic of Holbrook’s daughter’s home after she died in 1994.
Knowlton said town clerks in those days worked out of their homes – a likely explanation for why the document remained with the family instead of being passed along to the new clerk. Holbrook also was a jeweler.
The document changed hands a couple of times before Adams bought it. Cheever said officials became aware of the print’s existence after receiving an anonymous tip and decided to try to get it back because of its historical significance.
Cheever said only 11 of the approximately 250 copies printed by Ezekiel Russell in Salem, Mass., are known to still exist. One that originally belonged to the town of North Yarmouth also was obtained by a private collector but eventually was returned, Cheever said.
The opinion can be found at: http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opnscvwp/1080987.pdf
Sat 28 Feb 2009 07:10
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By Tom Donnelly
The era of big government is back. But conservatives ought not simply to worry about the size of government or the federal deficit–although a $1.7 trillion deficit is an eye-popper. They should worry, too, about the shape of American government. Barack Obama may be running up World War II levels of debt, but he’ll be running down the U.S. military.
Of course, that’s not what the headlines on administration press releases or in the actual newspapers say. Even the leading defense industry paper, Defense News, trumpeted "Obama Budget to Boost Spending" for 2010. But a closer reading of even the sketchy budget charts provided by the administration this week paints a very different picture.
Take first the question of the current budget, the fiscal year 2010 spending that Congress will approve this year. As during the Bush years, there are two critical accounts to track: the normal or "baseline" defense budget and the "emergency supplemental" appropriations to cover wartime costs. In order to understand what’s really happening, it’s crucial to try to keep these distinctions clear. To make an everyday analogy, it’s the difference between the sticker price of your car–what it costs to bring it home from the dealer–and the expenses of filling it with gasoline and keeping it running.
In 2009, the Bush administration’s baseline budget was $513 billion, and the plan was to spend $523 billion in 2010. The Obama administration announced this week that it would "boost" the 2010 figure to $533 billion. So the Obama budget is bigger than the Bush budget, right?
The reality, though, is something quite different. Here’s where the question of wartime supplementals comes into the picture. The Bush administration’s last supplemental requests were for $188 billion in 2008–at the height of the Iraq surge–and a $65 billion installment on the war costs of 2009. The Obama budget adds another $75 billion in war costs for 2009, for a yearly total of about $140 billion. What accounts for the whopping difference between the 2008 spending of $188 billion and the $140 billion to be spent in 2009? It’s not, unfortunately, that the success of the Iraq surge or the drawdown now beginning in Iraq are saving much money. Indeed the immediate costs of a safe withdrawal are no different from those of staying on. And, with a second surge–really, a long-term ramping up–of forces in Afghanistan about to begin, the supplemental cost of those operations is going way up.
What’s happening is probably that what previously has been counted as "war costs" is migrating from the supplemental appropriations to the baseline budget. This is what reformers, good-government types, and the folks in the Obama Pentagon mean when they talk about "honest budgeting."
Particularly in the 2007 and 2008 supplementals, tens of billions of dollars were spent to "reset" the Army, which has seen its equipment stocks decimated by the efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to buy needed gear like the heavy Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle–the Big Wheel-like carrier that is being used in convoys and for patrols instead of the thin-skinned Humvees. The Washington Post reported, too, that the costs of countering improvised explosive devices, the increasingly sophisticated "IEDs" that account for a disproportionate share of American casualties, are now to be paid for out of the baseline budget. The bottom line is this: The Obama defense budget isn’t "boosting" anything. As should become apparent over the next two months as the administration prepares detailed defense budget proposals, this actually is the beginning of significant cuts in defense programs. What the president really means when he talks about "hard choices" is a less capable U.S. military.
The Obama budget is an especially stark and in-your-face announcement of a new direction for the country. Indeed, budgets are the most concrete expression of a government’s prejudices and ambitions.
Consider how, per the budget, Obama imagines the America of 2016. The economy has recovered in fine style. The stimulus produced a spurt of growth and the economy is expanding permanently at about 2.5 percent per year. Inflation remains low, about 2 percent, the annual federal deficit is "only" $500 billion, and total GDP is a touch more than $20 trillion. These are the assumptions enshrined in the Obama budget.
But the government itself looks more like the government of France than what American governments have looked like in the past. We’ll be spending $4.5 trillion on social entitlements–Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid–debt servicing, and other mandatory programs. That’s about 22 percent of GDP. Discretionary domestic programs–the prime source of congressional pork–have grown to nearly $700 billion, another 3.5 percent of GDP. Defense spending will be smaller. The baseline defense budget will be $594 billion, less than 3 percent of GDP. That’s half the 50-year Cold War average.
The United States cannot remain the sole superpower, the guarantor of the international system, if it chooses to spend just 3 cents of every dollar on defense. The Obama administration loves to talk about "soft power" and "smart power," but the fact is that "hard power" is still real power. The Obama budget is a plan for steady American decline.
It also plans on a rapid retreat from current commitments. Announcing his Iraq withdrawal plan in a speech at the Marine base at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Friday, Obama said–"as plainly as I can"–that U.S. combat forces would be out of Iraq by August 31, 2010, and that the "residual" force of advisers and trainers would be gone by the end of 2011. The budget codifies this timetable in dollars: The projected wartime supplemental for 2010 drops to $130 billion. The largest slice of that pie will pay for the withdrawal of 12 combat brigades from Iraq, while it’s likely that the costs of fighting in Afghanistan–where commanders see 2009 as a holding of the line in preparation for more effective operations in 2010–will begin to equal Iraq costs. But the big drop is planned for 2011, the year that the Iraq status-of-forces agreement takes full effect. In that year, the Obama budget has a "placeholder" for wartime costs of just $50 billion. Based on the numbers, by 2011 Obama plans to be fighting the "Long War" at less than one-third the cost of the effort of 2008. He’s fulfilling his end-the-war campaign pledges, but almost certainly at the sacrifice of any lasting victory.
An American retreat that leads to a longer-term American decline will make for a very different world. Obama’s budget is a signal to friend and foe alike that the United States is turning inward, will be a less certain ally and a less powerful adversary. It’s there in the numbers. Indeed, these numbers almost perfectly reprise the Clinton "peace dividend" of the 1990s–minus the peace. How the world will respond to the combination of a deep and long-lasting economic contraction and a shrinking of American power is difficult to say. The historical precedents are not encouraging: These are the conditions that preceded World War II.
There is nothing inevitable in any of this. President Obama is presenting one path forward. Other political leaders–especially those who understand America’s role in the world–can present an alternative way forward.
Sat 28 Feb 2009 06:57
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By Will Stewart
As an illustration of luck, it doesn’t get much more explosive.
This remarkable picture shows how two bullets from opposing troops fused after striking each other in mid-air.
The odds of the clash are said to be a billion-to-one and it could well have saved the lives of two soldiers.
Billion to one chance: Two bullets (one French, one Russian) which fused in mid-air during the Crimea War. It is almost impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins
What makes the discovery more incredible is that the bullets are 150 years old and were found on the battlefields of the Crimean War, now in Ukraine. One has been identified as Russian, the other French.
The discovery is said to have been made close to Balaclava, site of the notorious Charge of the Light Brigade, one of the most notorious events in British military history.
The finder of the bullets – a walker whose name has not been disclosed – is said to be seeking to sell the unique war memorabilia to a military museum.
Conflict: French troops march on Russian lines in the Crimean War
The Ukrainian authorities were unable to throw any light on the exact circumstances of the find or who had validated the discovery as being genuine Russian and French bullets.
A spokesman for the local authority in the Crimea said: ‘We have no official information about this discovery.’
Nor has the exact site of the discovery been disclosed, though there has been a wide discussion of the bullets in blogs.
Warfare at its most courageous and tragic: The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854 during the Crimean War
The Crimean War, between 1853 and 1856, was fought between tsarist Russia and an alliance of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire.
More than 374,000 perished in the campaign, including 2,755 British killed in action, 2,019 from wounds and 16,323 from disease.
At issue was European influence over the territories controlled by the declining Ottoman Empire.
The bullets would originally have looked like this
The Crimea War also brought to public attention the pioneering nursing of Florence Nightingale – called ‘The lady with the lamp’ – who cared for soldiers killed in battle but also from diseases such as typhoid, cholera and dysentery.
The Charge of the Light Brigade was seen as highlighting the failings of aristocratic, self-centred generals who appeared to have little concern for casualties.
It is recalled in the poem by Allfred, Lord Tennyson, as showing war at its most courageous and horrific.
Sat 28 Feb 2009 06:55
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By Don Feder
In a war of ideas, words are weapons. The unwary often fall into the trap of unthinkingly accepting the terminology of the liberal/left, not understanding that happy euphemisms mask ugly agendas.
This lexicon is a map to guide you through the ideological land mines of Lib-Speak – George Orwell meets the CBS Evening News.
Economic Stimulus – Based on the bizarre assumptions that government can spend our way to prosperity and, when it comes to spending our money, the Great Mixed-Race Father in Washington knows best.
Economic stimulus subsidizes the feckless at the expense of the competent, the provident at the expense of the improvident (the poor schmucks who never miss a mortgage payment end up underwriting the deadbeats who took out mortgages they couldn’t afford), failed companies at the expense of thriving businesses, and the productive sector at the expense of the parasitical sector – while growing government.
It’s also a code word for pork, larded with bacon grease. Obama’s 1073-page, $1.14 trillion (interest included) extravaganza includes subsidies for projects crucial to an economic recovery, such as $ 2 billion for a high-speed passenger train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (greasing the tracks of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) and an additional $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (so it can dole out more to those who commit works of art ranging from the incomprehensible to the reprehensible).
There are also billions for the Democrats’ favored constituencies, which in turn will help the party of plunder to stay in power in 2010 and beyond. Stimulus spending is the fertile soil from which Democratic votes grow.
But I digress. When consumers buy products, it encourages manufacturers to produce goods people actually want. When government shovels billions at companies that produce stuff they can’t give away, it encourages them to produce even more stuff they can’t give away – further distorting the economy.
Stimulus spending also sucks up credit the private sector desperately needs, retarding a real recovery.
All of this works like a charm. BHO fancies himself FDR, a comparison that may not be as far-fetched as it seems at first. All of Roosevelt’s stimulus spending (which was a lot for the times) and alphabet agencies, resulted in higher unemployment in 1938 – five years into the New Deal – than in 1933, when he took office.
Community Organizer – Formerly known as an outside agitator – one who rallies a mendicant army to clamor for more welfare, government regulation, and handouts aimed at income redistribution.
Think of them as urban guerrillas with weapons far deadlier than guns.
The president himself made his bones as a community organizer in Chicago. During the campaign, Obama apologists painted a picture of community organizers involved in smiley-face projects like getting neighborhood residents together to clean up a park so kids will have a place to play.
Reality lies in the depredations of the Saul Alinsky storm troopers known as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) – stealth socialists who attack banks for “predatory lending practices,” campaign for “living wages” (paying workers more than their labor’s worth – increasing unemployment), disrupt city council meetings, occupy houses to prevent foreclosure, and attempt to physically intimidate municipal officials and employees of lending institutions.
Ironically, following their success at driving businesses out of cities, ACORN now wants them to pay for an “exit visa” to escape the economic conditions forced on them by ACORN. What’s next – Berlin Walls?
Obama’s recently passed stimulus package will stimulate the acorns from which mighty socialist programs grow. ACORN gets $4.2 billion in the guise of “neighborhood stabilization projects.”
Progressive – One of the many accolades the left awards itself.
In Lib-speak, a progressive favors progress toward a socialist state. A regressive (conservative) opposes a system that’s failed from 5-year plans to Midnight Basketball.
Support for ever higher taxes and more government expenditures is progressive. Support for tax cuts and spending limits is regressive. A hankering after more regulation of an already overburdened economy is progressive. Those who view the market as a self-regulating mechanism, as well as the great engine of prosperity, are clearly regressive.
Those who believe government should reward improvidence are progressive. Proponents of individual responsibility and merit are regressive.
Enough of such progress, and we’ll be back in caves, wearing animal skins and scratching at flea-bites.
Advocacy Journalism – Also known as indoctrination in the guise of information (news coverage).
Trying to locate a conservative in a newsroom is like trying to find a Perdue at a PETA rally.
In the past campaign, advocacy journalism consisted of describing, in minute detail, every age-spot on John McCain, whilst portraying the O-man as a god suffused in light descending from Mt. Olympus on clouds of glory bearing perpetual prosperity in one hand and peace everlasting in the other.
Advocacy journalism includes reporters quoting unnamed and probably nonexistent sources to make their point. Another favorite technique of partisan journalists is using loaded terms like “religious right” and “ultra-conservative,” but never “religious left,” when referring to the National Council of Churches or clerics who favor inter-species commitment ceremonies, or “ultra-left” when discussing politicians like Ted The Super-Sized Statist.
Advocacy journalism is why, in opinion polls, reporters and editors are ranked lower on integrity than lawyers but higher than former Illinois Governor Rod (“How much am I offered for this Senate seat?”) Blagojevich.
Unilateralism – The silly notion that the United States should act against clear and present dangers without the blessings of the UN, Euro surrender-monkeys, Code Pinko and Sean Penn.
Unilateralism is embraced by those with a healthy survival instinct. Imagine that unilateralist Franklin Roosevelt declaring war on Japan on December 8, 1941, without the consent of the League of Nations, Vichy France, Tokyo Rose and the German-American Bund.
The left is particularly keen on making no military moves without the approval of the French (who surrendered to the Nazis after 15 minutes of hard fighting in 1940 and spent the rest of the war collaborating), the Swedes (who sold iron ore to the Nazis throughout the war) and the Germans (who, come to think of it, were the Nazis).
The left believes it’s essential for Europeans, who wet their pants every time the Kremlin rattled its sabers during the Cold War, to now have a veto over American moves in the War on Terrorism.
Bringing Peace to the Middle East – Not content with bringing peace to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 1970s and Iran in 1979 (recall which president helped topple the Shah), the left is determined to bring peace to the Middle East, over Israel’s prostrate body.
Jimmy Carter – the mullah of Middle East peacemakers (he got a Nobel Prize for it, after all) – thinks calling the only democracy in the region an “apartheid state” advances the cause of peace.
Bringing peace to the Middle East requires a denial of empirical evidence and a suspension of reason – pretending that Islam is the religion of peace, that the Palestinians want peace, that Hamas and Hezbollah can be reconciled with the “Zionist entity,” that a nuclear-armed Iran poses no threat to Middle East peace (but that Jews living on the West Bank do) and that giving Israel indefensible borders and a neighbor committed to its destruction advances the cause of peace in the Middle East.
Israel Lobby – Reputed to be the most powerful force in American politics. Said to manipulate presidents and dictate U.S. foreign policy in a single bound. Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s Zionist-man.
In its most extreme variant (known as the Zionist Lobby), this invention of paranoid anti-Semites is charged with masterminding the 9/11 attacks, the Holocaust (to generate sympathy for a Jewish homeland) and the assassination of Garfield (the president, not the cat).
If there is an Israel Lobby, it must be the most incompetent interest group in history (the kosher equivalent of the Keystone Cops).
Notwithstanding that the Israelis actually like us (and vote with us at the United Nations), and the Palestinians hate our guts – they danced for joy when the Twin Towers collapsed and named a square in Ramallah for the first suicide bomber to kill a U.S soldier in Iraq – Washington insists on what it calls “evenhandedness” in our treatment of the victims and the jihadists.
For at least the last 20 years, a Palestinian State has been the guiding principle of U.S. Middle East policy. Were it not for the Palestinians penchant for self-defeating violence (sending suicide bombers to Tel Aviv, firing rockets into Be’er Sheva), this cherished State Department objective would have been achieved long ago – the omnipotent Israel Lobby notwithstanding.
Why is it no one speaks of the Saudi Lobby (an army of well-paid Washington lobbyists and publicists), the Arab Lobby (AKA, the U.S. State Department), the Muslim Lobby (including Saudi-subsidized front groups and Jimmy Carter – another Saudi-subsidized front group) or the Jihad Lobby (most American mosques)?
And now, less than a month into the job, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (who once embraced Suha Arafat, after the latter charged Israel was using poison gas to kill Palestinian women and children) wants U.S. taxpayers to shower Gazans with $900 million to help them rebuild after an Israeli operation they provoked. Some Israel Lobby.
Moderate Muslim – One who has yet to blow himself up, plan an attack on a U.S. military installation or behead his wife.
The knights of Arthurian legend quested for the Holy Grail. Spanish conquistadors sought El Dorado. Present day liberals are constantly on the lookout for a mythical creature like unto the unicorn and the mermaid –the moderate Muslim.
Moderate Muslims are like quicksilver, just when you think you have one in your grasp, he slips through your fingers.
Witness Muzzammil Hassan. In 2004, Hassan founded Bridges TV, a Buffalo-area cable station, to “fuse American culture with the values of Islam in a healthy, family-oriented way.”
An upstanding citizen and a credit to his faith, Hassan was upset about negative depictions of Muslims in the media. “The level of ignorance regarding Muslims and Islam is very high in the United States.” Hassan was wont to say.
Last week, the goodwill ambassador for a soft-and-cuddly Islam was arrested and charged with murder in the second degree, in the decapitation death of his wife, Aasiya. Mrs. Hassan had filed for divorced, charged her husband with “cruel and inhuman treatment,” and recently got a restraining order against him. The conflict reportedly came to a head when Aasiya lost her’s.
In a way, Hassan is right: In the U.S., the level of ignorance regarding Islam is very high indeed. Many American labor under the illusion that Islam is a religion of peace, that the vast majority of Muslims are Mr. Rogers with a prayer rug, and that the Koran is the Torah or New Testament set in the Arabian desert.
Church-State Separation – Based on a deliberate misreading of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
The words “church-state separation,” “wall of separation” and “intermingling of government and religion” appear nowhere in the Constitution, Articles of Confederation or Declaration of Independence, the latter with its multiple references to God.
At the time of the Constitution’s ratification, and for more than 150 years thereafter, “establishment of religion” was correctly understood to mean a national church, like the Church of England, as the Founding Fathers intended. It’s only in the past half-century that leftists, including leftists on the Supreme Court, have used this fiction to banish school prayer, God in the Pledge of Allegiance, and sectarian holiday decorations – theocratic trappings like creches and menorahs.
During the past presidential campaign, noted constitutional scholar Whoopi Goldberg articulated the left’s position on ABC’s “The View.” Regarding Sarah Palin’s alleged theocratic impulses (her tendency to see God’s hand in the affairs of men), Goldberg declared: “I believe that the separation of church and state is very necessary for this country because we’re a country that welcomes all religions, people of all kinds of backgrounds and the minute it becomes one kind of religious country I’m very concerned.” Get a celebrity away from a teleprompter and the babbling begins.
America has always welcomed people of diverse religions or none at all (like Unitarians). The question is: Shall the religion of the overwhelming majority (Christianity) receive no recognition – and shall an acknowledgement of the universal God in a public setting be treated as the moral equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition? To which the left resoundingly answers “you betcha.”
An Honest Dialogue On Race – For the left, this consists of Caucasians humbly bowing their heads and being lectured ad nauseam on the innate racism of the white race.
This perspective is epitomized by Attorney General Eric Holder.
Speaking to Justice Department employees at an event honoring Black History Month (since Caucasians made no contribution to American history, naturally, there’s no White History Month). Holder, a person of color, declared that we are “a nation of cowards” because Americans are afraid to talk about race, in that “certain subjects are off-limits and that to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one’s character.”
Wonder who he had in mind.
Certainly not the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., President Obama’s pastor for 19 years, whose anti-white ravings are legendary (“White people’s greed drives a world in need.”), or Obama’s buddy Father Michael Pfleger (who tells us, “white people believe they’re entitled”) or Louis Farrakhan (America’s #1 racist nut-case, who believes the white race was invented by an evil black scientist 10,000 years ago) or Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson or myriad race-hustlers purveying guilt for profit (monetary or political).
A real discussion of race might include a consideration of why Obama took 43% of the white vote (guess they temporarily managed to overcome their ingrained racism on Nov. 4, 2008) and 95% of the black vote. Did the latter all objectively determine that Barack was the best man for the job?
It might also include posing other uncomfortable questions, such as: Why among African-Americans the illegitimacy rate is over 70% (more than double that of whites) or why blacks – who, according to the last Census, were 12.7% of the U.S. population – account for 50% of all homicides (95% of victims are also black).
To ask such questions is to mark one as David Duke’s clone and the reincarnation of Bull Connor. By “an honest dialogue on race,” the left means a monologue – a recitation of the racial sins of white America with no mention of the social pathologies which plague black America.
Population Planning – People control, government action to eliminate “unwanted children,” abortion, contraceptives (to reduce procreation), and sex education, to persuade the youth of America that they can fornicate without consequences.
People have always been a problem for the left. With Marxism-Leninism and Maoism, they had an easy solution – starve the kulaks, put reactionary elements against the wall, send dissidents to gulags.
In democracies, it gets trickier. What can’t be done with bullets and naked force (China’s one-child-per-family policy), is accomplished with appropriations, abortion and indoctrination.
The perfect example of left-lunacy here is Nancy Pelosi’s attempts to justify hundreds of millions for population planning as an economic stimulus measure.
While she couldn’t come right out and say it, Pelosi believes children (especially those born into poor families) are a problem, resulting in government expenditures for at least the first 18 years of their lives – ergo, it would be better if they were never born. Who does the House Speaker think will pay taxes 18 years hence?
When it comes to demographics, liberals are Chicken Little playing hopscotch. Forty years ago, we were told that too many people would bring mass starvation. It didn’t.
Thirty years ago, they told us that we would soon exhaust the Earth’s resources. That didn’t happen either.
Now it’s all about the environment, Global Warming and reducing our carbon footprint. Unlike the left’s other scare tactics, population growth and CO2 emissions as a cause of global warming can’t be disproved, at least not in this century.
Most developed nations have below-replacement birthrates. Sometime in this century, the world’s population will begin declining. We could even reach the point where there aren’t enough people to maintain civilization in some places.
But the penguins and polar bears will be tickled pink, and that’s what really counts. Remember – People bad. Polar bears good. The left has gone from “Workers of the World Unite” to “Caribou of the World the Unite – You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Tundra.”
Sat 28 Feb 2009 06:51
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Via Daily Mail:
Martyn Compton, a headstrong young soldier, met Michelle Clifford in a Kent pub in January 2006, and at their very first meeting he knew she was ‘the one’.
From that day on, the couple were virtually inseparable and, in June, Martyn picked a gold and silver engagement ring and asked Michelle to marry him. She lost no time in saying ‘yes’.
The only cloud on their blissfully happy horizon was that Martyn – then aged just 22 – was about to be posted to Afghanistan for his first tour of duty with the Household Cavalry. Michelle, a teacher three years his senior, was characteristically practical. ‘Well, it’s your job,’ she told him.
Five weeks later, Martyn and his colleagues drove into a Taliban ambush. Three of his friends died instantly when a rocket propelled grenade slammed into the armoured vehicle that Martyn was driving.
Proud moment: Against all the odds, Martyn finally fulfilled his dream of walking down the aisle to marry Michelle
Martyn, however, survived both that and a second grenade attack, but was appallingly injured in the subsequent explosions and fighting. Hovering on the brink of death, he was flown back to Britain with 75 per cent burns to his body and a badly broken leg shattered by a Taliban bullet. No one knew whether he would live.
But equally, no one knew whether the couple’s still very new love would survive. The handsome young man Michelle had waved a tearful goodbye to only a few weeks earlier had gone for ever; no one would have blamed her if she’d walked away from the almost unrecognisable figure who, swathed in bandages and dressings, now lay in a coma in an Essex military hospital.
Told in their own words, Home From War is the truly inspiring story of what happened next – although their story begins with Martyn’s recollection of the day that was to change their lives utterly.
Martyn: Helmand Province Afghanistan August 1, 2006
The Taliban fighter peered over the wall. I recognised the unmistakable warhead of his rocket-propelled grenade. He was close and I was going nowhere. Stuck inside the ruined hulk of my wagon, I was a sitting duck.
Fire and smoke were pouring everywhere – the machine-gun turret had dropped into the tank. The roof was gone. The back door was gone. The floor was gone. And my crew was gone. All I could do was hope for the best. I’d survived the initial attack after we’d driven into this seemingly deserted village, so maybe my luck was in.
Love at first sight: Martyn, with Michelle, before the grenade attack in Afghanistan
The Taliban tilted his head, aimed his launcher right at me and fired.
The grenade hurtled towards me, trailing a plume of smoke. It shot past my shoulder and hit the Spartan’s engine. The engine exploded. The fireball swallowed me.
Michelle: Frittenden, Kent, August 1-2, 2006
I felt a buzzing in my handbag and signalled to Ella, the hairdresser, to switch the dryer off. I pulled the phone out of my pocket; it was Martyn’s dad.
‘Michelle there’s been an accident,’ Rob said. I caught my breath. In an instant, the world shrank to nothing apart from Rob’s voice. ‘Martyn’s seriously hurt.’
When I arrived at Rob’s, two officers were there – one in uniform, one in civvies. Rob, Martyn’s devoted dad, sat in his armchair.
Sarah, my best friend, was there and so was Tom, one of Martyn’s closest Army pals who was now married to his stepsister, Sophie. I sat next to them, silent, still, intent.
‘There was an ambush this morning,’ said the one in uniform. ‘Three soldiers were killed and Martyn suffered serious burns. He’s very seriously injured.’
‘When can I see him?’ That was the only thing that mattered: seeing my man.
‘Martyn will be flown into the UK as soon as he’s stable. We’ll keep in touch.’
When the officers had gone, Tom put his arm round me. ‘You can cry if you want to; no point bottling things up.’ I shed a few tears and then I thought of Martyn. What was he going through, while I was sitting there crying?
I made a decision there and then: I would be strong for Martyn. I wouldn’t cry again. I needed to hold things together, for Martyn’s sake.
On the evening of the next day, Martyn was flown home and Rob and I drove to Broomfield Hospital, near Chelmsford, to meet him.
What none of us knew was that Broomfield was to become the centre of our lives for the next four months.
Michelle: Broomfield Hospital, August 2, 2006
At 11.30pm, the moment came. Rob was taken in first. He was only in with his son for a few minutes, but it seemed like an hour.
He came out, looking as if someone had stolen his soul.
He struggled for the right words. ‘Michelle, prepare yourself. He looks awful. You won’t know it’s Martyn.’
‘I will,’ I said, ‘I will recognise Martyn.’
I was taken into a gowning room and given a blue plastic gown and mask.
My hands shook as I tied the mask. I could feel my heart banging against my ribcage and hear my blood throbbing in my ears.
The happiest moment: Martyn and Michelle struggled to hold back tears of joy on their wedding day
Everything went into slow motion as the door swung open and there, amid a macabre nest of ominous wires and machinery, was Martyn.
He was bandaged from head to toe. His body was abnormally huge and metal rods pierced his thigh.
All I could see was his face, which, although it was grotesquely swollen, I still recognised as Martyn’s.
There were two holes where his nose had been, with a tube disappearing into each one. A large black nozzle plugged his lips, which were enormous.
His eyebrows were black and singed; his cheeks were black and cracked. His eyes were slightly open, staring but vacant. I shuddered at the violence.
Then I looked at his neck, which was as wide as his head and had a large gash in it, several inches long. Deep and red, it was horrific. I wanted to scream.
In my head, I said: ‘I love you. Please live,’ and hoped he would somehow hear me.
The doctors kept Martyn heavily sedated for weeks, during which he underwent many operations and skin grafts.
Over that time, Michelle and Rob maintained an almost constant vigil by his bedside, with Michelle taking a growing interest in understanding Martyn’s medical condition and the future care he would require.
Eventually, however, his sedation was gradually decreased and, from the increased activity on his heart monitor, it was clear he was beginning to respond to outside stimuli around him and, in particular, to Michelle’s voice.
Michelle: Broomfield Hospital, August 29, 2006
It has been good talking to you for the last few days; I can’t wait for the day when you can talk to me again.
You had another nine-hour operation today, so Sarah took me shopping, which was nice of her.
By the way, I booked our wedding today. It will be at the Port Lympne Wild Animal Park on July 12, 2008. So you have something to aim for now. And I tried a wedding dress on; it was lovely.
Michelle was never in any doubt that she would not marry Martyn
This August has been the most dreadful month of my life and I’ve been willing it to end on a positive note. And tonight it did.
We were in intensive care after they’d closed your tracheotomy to see if you could breathe for yourself. As I watched your chest rise and fall, I knew it had been a success.
‘Do you love me?’ I asked. You slowly nodded your head. ‘Can’t you tell me?’ Then you said it; a tiny, imperceptible breath that sparked a bonfire in my heart: ‘I love you.’
Michelle: Broomfield Hospital, September, 2006
I dipped my little fingers in the orange juice, placed them into the corners of Martyn’s mouth and pulled his mouth open. I grimaced.
I knew it hurt him but that’s scar management: if it’s not hurting, it’s not working.
It also occurred to me that I was now doing for Martyn things I would expect to do at the end of his life, not in his 20s. But when you plan to take someone in sickness and health, there aren’t any regulations on timing.
But there were rewards, as an urgent call from Rob one day proved. ‘We’ve got some news,’ was all he said.
I rushed back to the hospital, holding my breath as I walked into Martyn’s room, not knowing what I would find. ‘Hello, babe,’ he said, ‘Are you all right?’
Elation washed over me in waves, tears threatened to gush down my face. I couldn’t believe the joy I was feeling. Martyn’s voice may have been quiet and weak but it was back and, this time, it was back to stay.
‘Yes, darling, I’m all right,’ I said. ‘You?’
Martyn: Broomfield Hospital, September 2006
I had an urgent question to ask someone but it couldn’t be just anybody. I waited until I was on my own with a male doctor.
‘How are you today, Martyn?’ he asked. ‘Fine,’ I replied. I always said I was fine. ‘Erm..?’
The doctor lifted his head, as I tried to look in the direction of what was concerning me.
‘Everything’s all right, is it – down there?’ I asked. ‘No bits missing?’ The doctor smiled. ‘Everything’s fine down there, Martyn. You’ve been lucky.’
‘Nice one,’ I said. I looked around my hospital room, at all the pictures Michelle had pinned up – family and friends, all grinning, all posing. And then I saw the pictures of Port Lympne and I felt something churn in my guts. We were getting married there in a couple of years. But would Michelle want to marry me now?
My fears were allayed when I heard her voice, when she told me she loved me. And I loved her so much.
I made a decision. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I’d die trying. I was going to walk Michelle down the aisle. I was going to be the best bridegroom I could be. And after that, I’d be the best husband.
Martyn: Broomfield Hospital, October 31, 2006
Joanna, my occupational therapist, entered the room, carrying a mirror. It was pressed against her, the glass turned away from me. Michelle gripped my hand.
‘I know you want to go outside, Martyn, and we’ve got a wheelchair ready. But before you do, you need to know what you look like. Are you ready?’ Michelle and I looked at one another and I turned towards Joanna and nodded.
It was three months since the incident. I knew that 75 per cent burns meant I couldn’t look good but I had no idea what to expect.
Martyn Compton thought Michelle would no longer want to marry him with his badly-scarred face
But Joanna gave me a pretty good idea, verbalising what I would see to lessen the shock: ‘You look very different but you are the same person underneath. Your mouth is tight and you’ve lost the tip of your nose and your ears.’
If this was lessening the shock, I wasn’t sure it was working.
‘Your eyelids are turned slightly inside out and the texture of your skin is red and wrinkled.’
She looked at me. ‘Call me if you need me,’ and then she left Michelle and me alone.
Slowly I brought the mirror up. I knew it was me but the Martyn I remembered had gone. My skin was red raw and scarred. The fire had sliced me open and given me a good kicking.
Shock washed over me. I began to cry and so did Michelle. Eventually, I spoke. ‘I look horrible.’
Could Michelle really imagine a life with me? With this face?
‘Are you sure you still want to be with me?’ I asked.
‘If the situation was reversed, would you still want to be with me?’
‘Of course,’ I replied. ‘There’s your answer. But I’m telling you straight, if you’re going to become a recluse and stay in the house and hide, then I’ll walk away because that’s not you. But if you stay the same Martyn I fell in love with, then I’ll always be with you – always.’
Martyn was eventually discharged from Broomfield on December 11, 2006, but he still faced many more operations and months, if not years, of physiotherapy and rehabilitation. As Peter Dziewulski, his consultant at Broomfield, had told him: ‘A burn is for life.’
He went to live with Michelle and her parents, who widened doorways to accommodate his wheelchair and converted a downstairs room into a bedroom for the couple.
Martyn: Frittenden, Kent, December 2006
I left Broomfield more grateful than I could ever express and on good terms with everyone, except, possibly, the nutritionist who didn’t think I was eating enough.
I just knew I needed to get back to some good old home cooking and that first night at Michelle’s parents, Rosie and Brian, was a great start to my new eating regime, which basically meant scoffing anything put in front of me.
I was tired. It had been a long day. It was time I was in bed. But I’d not slept in a normal bed for five months and I’d not shared a bed with Michelle in all that time, either. My heart thundered. I didn’t know what it would be like.
But lying next to her was wonderful. Feeling her body next to mine, for the first time since I’d left for Afghanistan, was a moment I treasure and keep in my heart. My skin was ravaged and I couldn’t move much or shift towards her but the sensation of Michelle snuggling up to me was magical. It was everything.
I closed my eyes and felt calmness wash over me. I was home. I was with Michelle. There was nothing else.
Friends and family were never far away, there were regular visits from mates from the Regiment, including one from Andrew Radford, the father of four who risked his life to rescue Martyn under heavy Taliban fire and was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for bravery.
There were also morale-boosting visits from Simon Weston, the Welsh Guardsman who was badly burned during the Falklands War and an introduction to the Household Cavalry’s best-known recruit, Prince William, who has taken a personal interest in Martyn and Michelle ever since.
But, best of all, in the complex trauma gym at Headley Court rehabilitation centre, between two hand height parallel bars, Martyn took his first faltering and excruciatingly painful, steps. His dream of walking Michelle down the aisle was very much alive.
Martyn: Headley Court, August, 2007
A year from the incident and six months into rehab, I was making incredible progress – eating with normal cutlery, building up my strength and even walking quite well. But now I faced a new challenge: stairs.
The Household Cavalry had been with me through all my highs and lows, so it was appropriate that Will, the commanding officer of D-Squadron, and Alistair, my brilliant liaison officer, were there for the occasion.
I made it up those seven steps but it was bloody hard work, with Will and Al there cheering me on.
I felt like Rocky when I got to the top. If we’d had a bottle of champagne, I’d have cracked it open there and then. But we didn’t, so we had a cuppa instead.
Martyn: Westfield, East Sussex, June, 2008
Suddenly, in our house there was blood everywhere. I’d cut my finger slicing some bread, so off I went to hospital to have it stitched. It felt ridiculous, really – me with all my injuries waiting to be treated for what I’d consider a scratch.
So, when I’d been waiting around for a while, my impatience got the better of me and I told the nurse I was going home, bleeding finger and all. ‘You can’t go home,’ she told me briskly, ‘you’ll need to have that stitched or you’ll have a nasty scar.’
She stopped dead and gawped at me, her mouth open. She realised what she’s said. Nasty scar. I didn’t have any ears, for God’s sake.
Embarrassment flushed her cheeks but I smiled and showed her that I didn’t mind. People have just got to get used to me. This is how I am. I’m a peace with it now.
Martyn: Blackpool, July 4/5, 2008. The Stag Night
What a night. I didn’t buy a beer all night. The club was packed and people kept coming up to me and asking if I’d like a beer. And I kept saying I would.
I think it was down to the T-shirt that my mates had made especially for the occasion. On the front was a picture of me and Michelle and the words: ‘Blown Up, Set Alight And Shot By The Taliban’, while on the back it read ‘I Survived Death To Walk My Fiancee Michelle Down The Aisle’. It was a brilliant night.
Michelle: Port Lympne, July 12, 2008. Wedding Day
‘Dad, slow down.’ I wanted to savour the moment. Two cavalrymen trumpeted their fanfare; it was amazing to have such a salute at my wedding. I couldn’t have dreamed of this. I was almost there.
It had been a long hard journey but I was about to stand beside the man I loved, the man I had seen lying torn and broken and burned in a hospital bed less than two years before.
The man who’d said he’d walk me down the aisle, despite some people doubting he’d ever stand again. And now, here he was waiting for me at the top of the steps lined by our guard of honour.
He looked so handsome in his morning suit and black headscarf. He smiled down at me and my heart leapt. I felt a tug on my dress. ‘Dad, don’t stand on my dress.’
And with that dad walked me up the steps, past the guard of honour, to Martyn, the man I was about to marry. When I got to his side, I held his hand and looked him in the eye. We smiled at each other and I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to be standing there.
Martyn: Port Lympne, July 12, 2008
I waited on the terrace with my two best men, nervous as hell. I heard the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ that signalled Michelle’s arrival. By this time, I could hardly stand. My stomach churned with anxiety. The wait seemed like for ever.
The Household Cavalry trumpeters started playing the Knightsbridge Fanfare I turned around and, suddenly, there she was, gliding round the corner, the girl who meant everything to me. My heart sang and the tears came easy.
And yes, later, after the ceremony, I did walk my bride ‘down the aisle’ as I’d promised myself, but when the big moment I was so overcome by the joy of the occasion that I’d forgotten all about my pledge.
You see at that moment, I wasn’t Martyn, the injured soldier, I was just Martyn. Martyn the husband who had just married Michelle, the most beautiful bride in the world.
• Extracted from HOME FROM WAR by Martyn and Michelle Compton, published by Mainstream on March 5 at £14.99. Martyn and Michelle Compton 2009. To order a copy (p&p free), call 0845 155 0720.
Sat 28 Feb 2009 06:43
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By JB Williams
The DOW Jones average closed at $8,281.22 on January 19, 2009, the night before the Obamanation became an historic reality. A little more than a month later, the DOW continues its free-fall approaching the $7000 mark and nobody knows where the bottom is. But so far, Obama-nomics have cost Americans trillions in new debt and 14% of their savings, in just a month…
Hope for economic recovery is fast flying right out the window as Obamanation change sends investors running for cover. Left-leaning news rag Newsweek, proclaimed that We Are All Socialists Now only days after Democratic Socialists claimed unchallenged control of the federal government and started ramming Marxism down the throats of every America.
It appears that the New Leftist regime in Washington DC just can’t figure out why private investors won’t invest in unbridled socialism. Or is it that they simply don’t care, while they are systematically destroying the entire free market?
They are selling socialism under every name they can think up and investors are still fleeing from the market. Clearly intent upon destroying free market capitalism at any cost, under one name or another, they are growing increasingly desperate to make certain that Bush gets the blame for their failed policy decisions.
They have no interest in saving free market capitalism, a uniquely American system which they have long claimed corrupt, mean-spirited and unfair. They only seek to hang its demise around George Bush’s neck. Are the people really that stupid?
Before the 2008 election, Democrats told the American people that times were bad due to Bush’s deficit spending. Since the election, they have driven the American economy right into the ditch with a level of deficit spending never before seen anywhere on earth.
A week ago today, the Obama White House rushed to settle shaken investor nerves by denying rumors that Obama was going to begin nationalizing the banking industry. The following Monday, they announced that nationalizing banking was indeed their plan, beginning with Citi Group.
Throughout their campaign for power they scoffed at accusations from across the aisle, which suggested they would socialize the health industry once in power. Now they have approved billions in new taxpayer debt earmarked specifically for preparing the nation for socialized medicine.
ACORN, LaRaza get double-dips of pork. Read it and oh, I don’t know, just sit and do nothing about it if you like.
They laughed at folks who accused them of stealing elections via their Black Nationalist movement spearheaded by Obama community organizing group ACORN. Since the election, they have given ACORN access to billions in taxpayer funds so that ACORN can guarantee future Democratic Socialist victories in every national election.
The average American voter may indeed be stupid enough to buy Marxist Obama-nomics, but clearly, investors aren’t.
Obama has taken to the air waves nearly every day since becoming Resident. He has contradicted himself, caught in his own web of silly lies on almost every occasion. Average American voters continue to place their faith in an empty suit with a blank résumé and a secret past, who is leading by committee, surrounded by well-known anti-American advisors who believe in Karl Marx, not Thomas Jefferson.
But investors have a very different opinion of the Obamanation. The Associated Press reports, Economists question budget’s economic assumptions. No, Duh!
What Happens When the People Just Say NO?
Investors are simply saying NO! If you want socialism, then you invest in it. And of course, that is exactly what Obama is doing with YOUR money.
But what happens if the taxpayers say NO too?
Obama says he will take care of 95% of Americans by attacking the top 5% of income earners. Talk about a defenseless minority…. Imagine a 95 to 5 battle of any kind. I’d hate to be the 5…
His administration has already sued Switzerland in an effort to force Swiss banks to give up private information on Americans that hold Swiss bank accounts. An unprecedented move aimed at seizing private holdings in foreign investments, protected by Swiss privacy laws for decades.
They will follow the same line of thinking concerning private holdings in places like Nevada and Delaware, long trusted as safe havens for private investors who do not want the federal government up their rear end with a microscope looking for ways to relieve citizens of their legal earnings.
Yet if America were still the land of the free and home of the brave, American citizens would not have to seek secure safe havens abroad just the keep what they rightfully earned from the greedy hands of Washington politicians who gain political power only on the promise of robbing a few so they buy the rest.
What if America’s most productive simply say NO?
Socialism Can’t Exist without YOUR Money
Your silence has been your consent up until now. Clearly, as long as you are not prepared to fight, they are not finished taking. They won’t be finished taking until there is nothing left to take, or until you decide to fight back, while you still have something left.
Which is it going to be? Will 95% of Americans stand in defense of the 5% currently under attack, or will they wait until the 5% are gone and the fed turns its sword on them, before they fight back?
What if the States simply say NO?
Thirty Two states have now filed state legislative resolutions reclaiming state sovereignty and states rights, in an effort to remind the fed that it exists only at the pleasure and benefit of the states and the people, not the other way around, as Obama seems to think…
In a recent column, I wrote Are the States About to Slap the Runaway Fed Down to Constitutional Size? Hundreds of Tea Party and Tax Revolt initiatives are underway across the country. The states and the people are beginning to say NO!
FDR’s New Deal turned out to be a Raw Deal and LBJ’s Great Society has officially become the most corrupt greed driven private property grabbing society on earth.
Obama’s New New Deal makes FDR and LBJ look like staunch capitalists.
Socialism has failed everywhere on earth it has been tried. But the facts seem to have no impact on people who think it will work here.
The American economy was driven into the ditch by Democratic Socialists running the US Congress; history is very clear on that. But how many Americans know history anymore? Most don’t even remember that capitalism is nothing more than economic freedom, or that Democrats are currently engaged in the very activities our founding fathers told us to never allow.
Voters are Stupid… But Investors Aren’t
Has the left made any contingencies just in case America’s productive class decides to say the hell with the nonproductive class anxious to rob them blind?
If taxpayers simply say NO, are they prepared to jail million of angry taxpayers in order to confiscate their property for the greater communal good? Are they prepared to order Martial Law and raid private citizens as the only means to grab what does not belong to them?
How far are they willing to go to take from some according to their ability; and buy those with a false sense of entitlement?
Both investors and taxpayers are CAPITALISTS. That’s why socialists need them. Nobody else can pick up the tab for socialism.
But what happens when they decide enough is enough? Or have they already decided?
Capitalists Don’t March in Parades
They vote with their wallet…. They stop investing in nonsense and they eventually, stop paying taxes, once they see that their taxes are buying them nothing but grief.
When you find yourself outgunned, your enemy with world class tanks, weaponry and technology, facing 5 to 95 odds… what do you do?
You cut off fuel and parts supply, and watch their weaponry rot and rust in the field, forcing them into hand to hand combat, where they never expected to find themselves.
Likewise, how is socialism advanced in a place where the productive members of society simply refuse to play along? When the means to advance socialism, your money, is simply cut off, like the fuel supply needed to keep tanks moving, then what?
We are talking about America’s most productive here. They actually hold all the cards. So far, they have quietly consented to the nonsense via their silence. That was before push came to shove…
Voters Buy the New Titles
Bank bailout = nationalizing banking
Energy investment = nationalizing the energy industry
Universal Health = socialized medicine
Immigration Reform = open borders and amnesty for millions of illegals
Infrastructure investment = creating “government” jobs (not private sector growth)
Gun Safety = second amendment infringement
Fairness Doctrine = silencing the voice of dissent
At least 66 million American voters are foolish enough to buy into the slick marketing terms used to sell America down the drain. Communism became socialism, then liberalism, followed by progressivism and eventually, democracy…
The principles and values are exactly the same as when it was called communism, but sold as some new insane form of democracy, those values are much more acceptable in a so-called “democratic” society.
But I wonder how long it will take them to figure out, that investors and taxpayers know better!
I suspect they won’t figure that out until investors and taxpayers have cut off their blood supply and left them to stew in their own soup, until they eventually realize that what their grandparents told them is true… There ain’t no free lunch!
At that moment, and not a second before, they will awake from their media induced trance and they will be really mad at those political messiahs who strapped them into bondage under a promise of free stuff at the expense of their fellow citizens.
But they will have only themselves to blame in the end. They all knew better at one time. They chose to believe in ideas they knew were not true. They chose to buy into a Marxist system that they knew had already failed all over the globe. They chose their own fate…
And that is freedom… the freedom to choose, no matter how obviously wrong the choice.
As average Americans lose their entire future through foolish redistribution spending and a falling market which will end with a dollar no longer worth a dime, investors are still jumping in and out of the market taking profits where they can. But make no mistake… They are taking the profits they can, on their way out. Once that game has run its course, investors and their profits will leave town and find a new capitalists market to invest in… It just won’t be here.
If Americans were smart, they would follow the lead of investors, not politicians. But then, if they were smart, Obama wouldn’t be Resident-in-Chief and we wouldn’t be in financial crisis to begin with.
His voters said “yes we can take what we want from those who earn it.” Now those voters will simply have to learn the hard way… No they can’t, if we don’t let them!
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