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Production

Production

Seated in a beer garden sipping a brew that was made on-site, Sam and Nancy Goodman tap their feet to the beat of music emanating from a band on the stage. Art is the focus of attention for Paul and Elizabeth Cantor as they stroll past a collection that could be on display at a museum -- but isn't. Roger Hockman is equally focused as he fine-tunes his putting stroke on a compact practice green.

There's nothing unusual about these activities except where they're taking place. They are helping passengers to pass time at airports in Munich, Denver and Palm Beach, Florida.

Some airports around the world have evolved into more than just places where people gather to board a plane or exit after a flight. Seeking to make the flying experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, airports are offering a growing array of entertainment, dining and other facilities and services.

Take that beer garden at the airport in Munich, Germany. The aptly named Airbrau produces three kinds of beer, plus seasonal types, and diners have a good view of the process. The art scene at Denver International Airport includes works displayed outdoors, inside the terminal and even in tunnels through which trains pass carrying passengers to departure gates.

Hockman, an avid golfer, was pleased to find a putting green at the Palm Beach International Airport when he had time to kill between flights.

These welcome surprises are for starters. From animals to art, books to baking and much more, airports are offering things to do, see, eat and otherwise fill what could be dreary downtime with an imaginative array of choices.

Airports as museums is one growing trend. Not surprisingly, some collections focus on aircraft and flying. For example, historic planes and a rescue helicopter are parked outside the Munich Airport. A 1914 Curtiss Pusher Biplane is located in the Albuquerque International Airport. It has that name because the propeller is mounted in back of the aircraft and pushes itthrough the air.

Displays at Hong Kong International Airport appeal to a variety of interests. Recent exhibits highlighted popular architecture in Hong Kong and included a large paiper-mache dragon that was created for the 2016 Chinese New Year celebration.

If you've ever seen a fluffy white dog playing with a toy duck or a pig playing a toy piano, you've probably been in the San Francisco International Airport. They're members of the Wag Brigade, trained animals that roam the terminals doing what they can to make passengers' travel more enjoyable. The animals and their handlers are certified therapy teams. Wearing vests that say "Pet Me," the canines -- and a pig named LiLou -- usually don't have to walk far before someone pauses to make friends. One goal of the Wag Brigade is to keep children entertained. Other facilities and services also are aimed at youthful flyers.

The Kids' Spots at the San Francisco airport allow young travelers to gain knowledge while they use up excess energy prior to their flight. Interactive art and displays of weather elements provide interesting learning experiences.

The trend for airports to double as art galleries is increasing around the world. The collection in San Francisco contains more than 80 works that reflect the area's diverse cultures.

Art is interactive at Singapore's Changi Airport. People there may use provided paper and crayons to make rubbings of icons that were installed for that purpose.

Mother Nature's handiworks also are on view at airports. Also at Changi four themed gardens provide respite from the hustle and bustle of travel. A Sunflower Garden occupies a flat rooftop while an Orchid Garden displays more than 700 plants.

As people stroll through the Enchanted Garden, motion sensors trigger sounds of nature. Some 1,000 residents of the Butterfly Garden share their space with flowering plants, lush greenery and a 20-foot waterfall.

Attractions at airports also appeal to the taste buds. Ethnic and local specialties are among dining choices available at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. During the annual "Ticket to Taste" event chefs prepare meals, present cooking demonstrations and offer free samples.

Passengers in Copenhagen Airport have a choice of "Nordic food." The Beer Garden menu at Munich Airport includes Bavarian favorites such as pork sausage, roast pork in beer sauce and, for those with a sweet tooth, apple strudel.

Eateries at Baltimore-Washington International Airport include an offshoot of the local favorite O'Brycki's, which touts "Crab cakes and more since 1944." The restaurant lives up to that claim, offering crab soup, crab salad, crab cakes, crab melt -- well you get the picture.

Even passengers who forgot to bring a book for their flight are in luck. They can borrow one at facilities in Seattle-Tacoma and Walla-Walla, Washington, and at Amsterdam Schipol Airport, among others.

Victor Block

Saturday, 15 April 2017 17:03

the Best Tie Ever!

A fleeing Taliban, desperate for water, was trudging through the Afghanistan desert when he saw something far off in the distance. Hoping to find water, he hurried towards it, only to find a little old Jewish man at a small stand selling ties.

The Taliban asked, “Do you have water?”

The Jewish man replied, “I have no water. Would you like to buy a tie? They are only $5.”

The Taliban shouted, “Infidel! I do not need an over-priced tie! I need water! I should kill you, but I must find water first!”

“OK, OK” said the old Jewish man, “It does not matter that you do not want to buy a tie and that you hate me. I will show you that I am bigger than that. If you continue over that hill to the east for about two miles, you will find a lovely restaurant. It has all the ice cold water you need. Shalom.”

Muttering, the Taliban staggered away over the hill. Several hours later he staggered back, almost dead… “One tie Please....Your brother won’t let me in the restaurant without one!”

It's time to roll my shoulders, press through the balls of my feet and take a strong stand on proper posture. It's super-important to your health and wellness -- right up there with eating real food and getting enough sleep -- but it's just not top of mind when we think of ways to boost our energy and prevent pain. When it comes to awareness of the awesomeness of body alignment, the country is in a slump.

So let's look at a few things everyone with a spine ought to know about posture and why it matters, inspired by a recent article in IDEA Fitness Journal by personal-training specialist Ryan Halvorson.

"Improved posture can have a significant and instant impact on quality of life," writes Halvorson. "(Would people) pay more attention to good posture if they realized it could improve their jobs, verbal communication, self confidence, mood or even bedroom relations?" he asks.

"Bedroom relations"? I salute you, Ryan Halvorson. It's so hard to make posture talk sexy.

IT'S ALL ABOUT ALIGNMENT.

Many people want strong hearts, toned bellies and buns of steel, but almost no one goes to the gym because they're looking to improve their structural alignment.

And yet, it's one of the most essential elements of your well-being. Bad posture is what poor structural alignment looks like. Chest collapsed, head drooping forward, shoulders hunched. (Exactly the posture we assume when we text! Oy.) It sets you up for injuries of all sorts, including low back pain and a frozen neck.

Poor posture puts extra stress on your tendons, joints and ligaments. It messes with your spine, and the free flow of energy throughout your body is blocked.

Proper alignment -- a learned skill, the reason yoga was invented -- opens you up physically, mentally and energetically. When that happens, you'll save so much in medical bills you'll be able to take yearly vacations to Hawaii with enough left over for a new truck.

STAND UP TO LOWER FEAR.

The research is fascinating and made Amy Cuddy's power-pose talk go viral (the video has 38.5 million views to date): Your body alignment can dictate your mood. And your mood can dictate your body alignment. Think about it... and notice if you're hunched over your screen right now.

People who slouch when they do a task "are more prone to feelings of helplessness compared with their non-slouched peers," Halvorson reports. In another study pitting hunched people versus upright people, "the upright individuals reported better moods, higher self-esteem, greater arousal and less fear than the slumped group."

POSTURE BOOSTS BREATH.

You know how important breathing is, right? So try this exercise: "Maintain an upright posture and inhale as fully as possible," says Halvorson. Then go into a hunched-over position and inhale again. 'Big difference' "I almost always see epiphanies when clients experience how poor alignment influences their oxygen uptake." "Epiphany" is not overstating the case.

EXERCISE BRINGS INSTANT RESULTS.

There are many simple exercises you can do on your own to improve your posture: Chin tucks, shoulder external rotations and kneeling hip-flexor stretches are just three that Halvorson details. Uh-oh. I can feel your eyes glazing over. Who wants to do chin tucks and shoulder rotations?

You do, dear reader. Attaining and maintaining proper alignment when you move through your day is crucial to your personal well-being. It's not going to make you sweat, and mostly when you're doing it you look like you're doing nothing.

Looks are deceiving. You " are" doing something, something essential, but you're doing it inside your body: finding your neutral pelvis, spreading your collarbone and leveling your sacrum.

DEVELOP BODY AWARENESS.

If you're getting interested in this, there are several terrific practices to investigate, including yoga, qi gong, tai chi, the Alexander technique and Pilates.

And now, Halvorson reports, there are a variety of high-tech tools on the market to help you develop posture awareness. Lumo Lift is a small wearable device that vibrates gently when you slouch. The Upright Posture Trainer attaches to the small of the back and helps you train the back muscles to hold proper alignment. The Alex Posture Tracker is a product that hooksonto the ears, rests on the neck and vibrates if your head droops. (I'm not making this up.)

"Every time I drive away from a Pilates session I have to tip the rearview mirror an inch higher." -- Jennifer Priestley

Marilynn Preston

Saturday, 15 April 2017 15:59

Is Trump Enlisting in the War Party?

By firing off five dozen Tomahawk missiles at a military airfield, our "America First" president may have plunged us into another Middle East war that his countrymen do not want to fight.

Thus far Bashar Assad seems unintimidated. Brushing off the strikes, he has defiantly gone back to bombing the rebels from the same Shayrat air base that the U.S. missiles hit.

Trump "will not stop here," warned U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday. "If he needs to do more, he will."

If Trump fails to back up Haley's threat, the hawks now cheering him on will begin deriding him as "Donald Obama."

But if he throbs to the war drums of John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio and orders Syria's air force destroyed, we could be at war not only with ISIS and al-Qaida, but with Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

A Syrian war would consume Trump's presidency. Are we ready for that? How would we win such a war without raising a large army and sending it back into the Middle East?

Another problem: Trump's missile attack was unconstitutional. Assad had not attacked or threatened us, and Congress, which alone has the power to authorize war on Syria, has never done so.

Indeed, Congress denied President Obama that specific authority in 2013.

What was Trump thinking?

Here was his strategic rational:

"When you kill innocent children, innocent babies -- babies, little babies -- with a chemical gas ... that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. ... And I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me ... my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much."

Two days later, Trump was still emoting: "Beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror."

Now, that gas attack was an atrocity, a war crime, and pictures of its tiny victims are heart-rending. But 400,000 people have died in Syria's civil war, among them thousands of children and infants.

Have they been killed by Assad's forces? Surely, but also by U.S., Russian, Israeli and Turkish planes and drones -- and by Kurds, Iranians, Hezbollah, al-Qaida, ISIS, U.S.-backed rebels and Shiite militia.

Assad is battling insurgents and jihadists who would slaughter his Alawite brethren and the Christians in Syria just as those Copts were massacred in Egypt on Palm Sunday. Why is Assad more responsible for all the deaths in Syria than those fighting to overthrow and kill him?

Are we certain Assad personally ordered a gas attack on civilians?

For it makes no sense. Why would Assad, who is winning the war and had been told America was no longer demanding his removal, order a nerve gas attack on children, certain to ignite America's rage, for no military gain?

Like the gas attack in 2013, this has the marks of a false flag operation to stampede America into Syria's civil war.

And as in most wars, the first shots fired receive the loudest cheers. But if the president has thrown in with the neocons and War Party, and we are plunging back into the Mideast maelstrom, Trump should know that many of those who helped to nominate and elect him -- to keep us out of unnecessary wars -- may not be standing by him.

We have no vital national interest in Syria's civil war. It is those doing the fighting who have causes they deem worth dying for.

For ISIS, it is the dream of a caliphate. For al-Qaida, it is about driving the Crusaders out of the Dar al Islam. For the Turks, it is, as always, about the Kurds.

For Assad, this war is about his survival and that of his regime. For Putin, it is about Russia remaining a great power and not losing its last naval base in the Med. For Iran, this is about preserving a land bridge to its Shiite ally Hezbollah. For Hezbollah it is about not being cut off from the Shiite world and isolated in Lebanon.

Because all have vital interests in Syria, all have invested more blood in this conflict than have we. And they are not going to give up their gains or goals in Syria and yield to the Americans without a fight.

And if we go to war in Syria, what would we be fighting for? A New World Order?

Democracy? Separation of mosque and state? Diversity? Free speech for Muslim heretics? LGBT rights?

In 2013, a great national coalition came together to compel Congress to deny Barack Obama authority to take us to war in Syria.

We are back at that barricade. An after-Easter battle is shaping up in Congress on the same issue: Is the president authorized to take us into war against Assad and his allies inside Syria?

If, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, we do not want America in yet another Mideast war, the time to stop it is before the War Party has us already in it. That time is now.

Patrick J. Buchanan

Friday, 14 April 2017 22:53

The Ideological Divide

Judge Neil Gorsuch would never have been appointed to the Supreme Court by Hillary Clinton. He's way too conservative.

But unfortunately for those of us who would prefer a more liberal choice -- such as Merrick Garland, who never got a confirmation vote -- Hillary Clinton didn't win the election. Donald Trump did. And that means he gets to appoint someone who agrees with him to the Supreme Court, not someone who agrees with me and my Democratic friends.

And from that standpoint, you could do a whole lot worse than Neil Gorsuch.

For starters, Gorsuch is very, very smart. Very smart people who make it to the high court often develop into justices who are willing to take on the president and Congress in order to enforce the Constitution. Earl Warren, the most liberal chief justice in recent history, was appointed by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower. Justice William Brennan, the most liberal

justice on the court in the 1970s, was also an Eisenhower appointee. So was my old boss, Justice John Paul Stevens, whose nomination was opposed by the National Organization for Women, then the most powerful women's group in the country. By the time he retired at the age of 90, he was also considered the most liberal justice on the court. And don't forget Hugo

Black, who was confirmed despite alleged ties to the Klan, and went on to be a respected, and very liberal, member of the court.

Moreover, while I did not have Gorsuch as a student, my former colleagues who did describe a young man who was a conservative, not an ideological hard-liner like the man he will replace, Justice Antonin Scalia. One of his former professors told me that Gorsuch is more like Chief Justice John Roberts, who voted to uphold Obamacare. Gorsuch was conservative as a student, but not an angry conservative. He listened; he was thoughtful and respected others' points of view.

Indeed, though he was appointed by President Trump, that did not stop Judge Gorsuch from defending judiciary independence even as Trump was attacking the federal judiciary for finding his executive order on immigration to be unconstitutional.

In short, in Gorsuch, you have a very smart conservative who is willing to stand up to the president who appointed him.

So, why were the Democrats in the Senate so determined to filibuster his nomination? That's easy. The ideological divide has hardened under President Trump. Democrats are the opposition party. In that context, trying to block a nominee appointed by the administration makes sense -- unless you actually consider the consequences.

Having resorted to the "nuclear option" (i.e., requiring a simple majority to confirm most nominees by the president) when they controlled the Senate and the Republicans were the opposition party, Senate Democrats must surely have recognized the most likely result of a filibuster: Republicans eliminate the exception the Democrats left in place for Supreme Court nominees. The Republicans needed 60 votes to stop a filibuster, but they only needed 51 votes to eliminate the right to filibuster Supreme Court nominees.

Susan Estrich

Russia is a threat to the US if we have a weak, ineffective President who has demonstrated his “decisive” ability to be indecisive, un-reactive, and weak to serious threats! We had a President like that for 8 years and, in my opinion, he put us on the verge of destruction by his intent to destroy our Republic and because of his Treasonous actions and absolute stupidity that almost got us all killed!

Russia is the only Nation on Earth that has an indefensible EMP device capable of crippling our electric grid. North Korea is working to that end, has smaller EMP devices now, and may believe that it can cripple our grid when it has a delivery system capable of delivering 3 or 4 EMP devises at the same time. I don’t believe Russia would sell/give their device to N Korea as N

Korea is totally nuts and would drag Russia into a war, Russia knows it CANNOT win, against the US!

Our REAL defense is our Nuclear Submarine Fleet! One US sub carries enough Nuclear firepower to completely destroy Russia… JUST ONE! We have many Nuclear subs that carry a mind boggling number of VERY powerful Nuclear devises!!!Understand that our sub fleet is so superior to anything the rest of the world has that no one can detect or locate our subs! We dive deeper and faster, are more stealthy and are UNBELIEABLY more deadly than you can imagine!!! Russia understands that, as long as we can contact ONE sub, just ONE, no matter what they do, they will be reduced to glowing powder, PERIOD! That is IF we have a President who would push the button and we DO!!!

Russia could launch a devastating and indefensible, EMP attack on the US but we have several EMP (direct hit protected), installations in and out of the US, as well as an EMP protected Navy, that could contact the fleet and order an attack on Russia, China, Iran, N Korea, individually or all at once that could wipe out all or…just one. Russia, China, probably Iran are NOT suicidal…the N. Korean mental midget IS!

If Russia believed, for an instant, they could attack the US AND survive, I believe, they would have done it decades ago! Our unbelievable, retaliatory ability is what has kept us safe, however, Obama did all he could to change that. Obama reduced our Nuclear war heads from 5,000 in 2008 to less than 1,000 now and reduced our Military to “danger status”! WHY? To bring peace? Get real! Obama WAS and IS intent on destroying our Rule of Law and with it, whatever it takes to make his promises to Allah come true!

Our current President believes in God, Guts, Guns, our Military, our Constitution and not Allah!

Do we need to worry about Russia? The answer is, yes, but our imminent threat is N. Korea and NEXT Iran. These people are fanatics. Putin has power aspirations, for sure, but he is NOT a fanatic with suicide tendencies trying to satisfy some radical fantasy!

We cannot allow N. Korea to develop a Nuclear, intercontinental ballistic missile capability nor allow Iran to get the “bomb”! It’s that simple. We MUST start shooting down N. Korea launched missiles and start hitting their command and control centers! Congress must be consulted to develop a pre-eminent strike plan to deal with N. Korea AND Iran, NOW!

Diplomatically, talking, even 1.7 billion dollars didn’t work, now it’s time to act!

So…Congress, get your act together and prepare to defend yourselves, because N. Korea and Iran ARE coming!!

By J Gary DiLaura

Some interesting news recently landed in Jeff Stier’s inbox.

“Today’s a good day to quit smoking!” proclaimed an email from NYC Quits, part of a statewide tobacco control program that gives away free nicotine patches and gum every year.

Stier, a risk analyst with the National Center for Public Policy Analysis, signed up for the program, not because he’s a smoker (other than the occasional cigar) but for research.

“I got a few free nicotine patches. I was interested in seeing if I could feel the nicotine,’ he told Watchdog.org. “But the next morning in the shower, I felt something strange on my skin and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I forgot!’ It was imperceptible.”

Stier said the fact that the patch has government backing as a smoking cessation product is more alarming.

“If you’re a smoker and you want nicotine, this product is going to do nothing for most people,” he said.

The patch is one of four nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) approved by the FDA to help people quit smoking. Three others are prescription-only. Nicotrol NS is a nicotine nasal spray, while Chantix and Zyban are non-nicotine medications.

The FDA, however, does not report success rates for these products. And the best Smokefree.gov can do is say they “increase your chances of quitting successfully.”

Research varies, but one study found 9.2 percent of people who used the patch were still smoke-free after six months, versus 8.4 percent for Nicotine gum. According to WebMD, quit rates for all five NRTs range from 19 percent to 26 percent, while Chantix and Zyban are 33 percent and 24 percent effective, respectively.

Studies also show, however, that e-cigarettes might belong on the FDA’s list.

Researchers have found that e-cigarettes are not only 95 percent less harmful than the combustible version, but they have helped 6.1 million people in Europe quit smoking and another nine million have cut back on their habit.

In other words, 15.1 million smokers in the EU have either quit or curtailed an activity that kills 400,000 Americans per year, using a product that’s 95 percent less harmful.

But rather than add e-cigs to its nice list, the FDA — whose stated mission is “protecting the public health” — the agency warns against them for smoking cessation based on “potential health risks.”

Instead, the FDA is regulating vape products, possibly out of existence with the 2016 “deeming” rule that treats tobacco-less liquid nicotine products as tobacco products.

“So people who have tried to quit and failed, and tried to quit and failed, don’t have other choices that the public health establishment supports,” said Stier.

And that establishment is getting help from Big Pharma-funded medical research.

The prestigious Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic and its Nicotine Dependence Center, for one, has followed the FDA’s lead in calling e-cigarettes a method to avoid due to lack of risk data and “mixed results” of studies so far.

And Mayo Clinic addiction expert and researcher Dr. Jon Ebbert has been an outspoken critic for several years. The star of Mayo Clinic in-house podcasts and videos, Ebbert has repeatedly advised against e-cigs.

“I think we need to be very clear as clinicians that these electronic cigarettes have an unknown safety profile,” Ebbert said in Mayo Clinic videos in both 2015 and 2016,

And in a widely circulated 2013 column and a 2015 research paper, Ebbert advised clinicians to be “justifiably circumspect in recommending e-cigarettes” for smokers until there is more data.

But the fine print at the end of both lists the following “potential” conflicts of interest:

“Joe (sic) O. Ebbert, MD, MSc, reports receiving grants from JHP Pharmaceuticals, Orexigen, and Pfizer outside the submitted work; he also reports receiving personal fees from GlaxoSmithKline.”Pfizer makes Nicotrol NS, a nicotine nasal spray, and Chantix. The company’s website and a ProPublica database show Ebbert racked up $646,584 between 2010 and 2014 in research grants.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which is responsible for Zyban and Nicorette gum and lozenges, paid Ebbert $7,129 in consulting fees in 2010 and 2011.

The Mayo clinic, Ebbert, and GSK did not respond to our requests for comment. Pfizer sent a statement saying physicians offer companies vital feedback and advice grounded in their expertise and clinical practice experience, and there’s nothing wrong with paying for it:
“Pfizer believes it is appropriate and ethical to fairly compensate healthcare professionals for the work they do with us. Pfizer does not pay healthcare professionals for prescribing our medicines or using our medical devices, or as an inducement for promoting our products.”

Appearance of bias

Boston University public health professor and tobacco control expert Dr. Michael Siegel agrees, drug company money doesn’t mean a researcher is going to consciously bias the results. But as the full-court press on e-cigarettes demonstrates, bias can still exist.

“Conflict of interest refers to a subconscious bias that the researcher isn’t aware of,” he said. “A conflict of interest creates the appearance of bias, whether it’s present or not”

Siegel spent two years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and testified in the $145 billion lawsuit against the tobacco companies. He has long criticized conflicts of interest in tobacco research, documenting them on his blog, “The Rest of the Story.”

Siegel points out the Mayo Clinic website has made a number of misleading statements about e-cigarettes, as has Dr. Richard Hurt, the director of Mayo’s Nicotine Dependence Center. He says Hurt, who received nearly $65,000 in Pfizer and GSK money between 2009 and 2014, questioned the sanity of e-cigarette users.

“One of the solutions that the nicotine and the e-cigarette is dissolved into is called propylene glycol which is a cousin of antifreeze and why anybody would want to puff on something and put that in their mouth is amazing,” Hurt said in a 2013 video for the hospital.

But it’s not just Mayo and the FDA. Siegel says the vaping industry is getting hit by the CDC as well as many health organizations and departments.

“It’s a phenomenon in the entire e-cigarette industry,” he said, “Nowhere do [researchers] actually come out and say, ‘e-cigarettes are a lot safer than cigarettes and that there’s a huge relative risk difference between the two.’ They’re really using scare tactics to demonize e-cigarettes.”

And smokers will suffer.

“It’s going to convince many smokers who might otherwise have quit by switching to e-cigs, to not quit,” Siegel said.

In the meantime, facing a regulation that could cost $77 million in compliance costs each year, the vaping industry sees Big Pharma’s huge research footprint as more firepower to squeeze out competition.

Lou Ritter is the president emeritus of the American E-Liquid Manufacturers Association (AEMSA), a volunteer trade organization that creates safe manufacturing standards for the liquids used in vape products.

In 2014 he started the E-Research Foundation as a way for the industry to collectively fund science.

“Every other industry funds its own science. They’re just big corporations that are out there competing and they have a lot more money,” Ritter said on a conference call hosted by the E-Vaping Coalition of America. “This is the first industry that has really come up through consumer incentivization and consumer motivation, so there isn’t a lot of money in one place.”

Ritter was invited to a workshop in February held by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine as part of an FDA directive to review existing research on the health effects from using electronic nicotine delivery systems and identify future federally funded research needs.

The report is due for release at the end of this year or early 2018. And while Ritter is pleased the FDA has taken this step, he hopes it’s not too little, too late.

“I think this should have happened a year ago, before the regulatory time-clock started,” he said. “This is probably the last chance for this industry.”

Kathy Hoekstra
watchdog.org

Thursday, 13 April 2017 06:49

THE DEADLY LIBERAL DELUSION

Does anybody here remember Blanche Lincoln? She was a two-term senator from Arkansas, a moderate Democrat who prospered in a red state by defying liberal power brokers like big labor.

The unions and ultra-left pressure groups went after her big-time in 2010, backing a primary challenge by Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter. She survived the primary -- barely -- but suffered mortal wounds in the process, and lost badly in the fall to Republican John Boozman.

We thought of Lincoln as the purist wing of the Democratic Party re-emerged this spring and threatened to run primary opponents next year against senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. Their sin: daring to support President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Neil Gorsuch.

As one of those purist pressure groups, We Will Replace You, said in their manifesto: "The next crucial step is escalating our demands, and demonstrating that we won't accept anything less than full opposition -- by showing Democrats just how many people are willing to back primary challenges to Democratic collaborators and enablers of Trump."

This harassment is beyond stupid. It's suicidal.

Democrats are struggling to win elections and have lost control of both Congress and the White House. Trump won West Virginia by 67 percent, North Dakota by 62 percent and Indiana by 56 percent.

The only Democrats who could possibly hold Senate seats in those states are ones like Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly: moderates who separate themselves from the rigid tenets of liberal theology. Lincolnizing them, purging them as heretics, would have only one result: making it easier for Trump and his congressional allies to retain power.

Look at the facts. Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million, but that's a highly misleading figure, based entirely on huge Democratic margins in a few coastal and urban enclaves. In California alone, Clinton rolled up a lead of 4.3 million; in New York, it was 1.7 million. Take away those two states and Trump's national margin was above 3 million.

Trump won about 84 percent of the counties in America; Clinton, 16 percent. Only 26 percent of voters identified as liberals in Election Day exit polls, with 39 percent calling themselves moderates and 35 percent conservatives.

Add the nature of the American system: House members represent individual districts that are often gerrymandered to protect the party in power; each state gets two senators, no matter its size; and the Electoral College determines the president, not the popular vote.

The math is undeniable and unrelenting: Democrats cannot take back the White House or Congress simply by building up large majorities in Brooklyn and Boston. Politics is always about addition, not subtraction. Condemning moderates as "collaborators" and "enablers" will condemn the party to permanent minority status.

Groups like We Will Replace You are directly connected to Bernism, the mass mania that infected liberals during the Democratic primaries. They deluded themselves into believing that a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist, mouthing totally unrealistic slogans like "free college tuition," could actually win.

Sure, Sanders backed Clinton after the conventions, but he stayed in the primaries far too long and convinced far too many of his followers that she was a flawed candidate not worth voting for. Yes, Clinton was a poor candidate, but without a doubt, Sanders helped elect Trump. He Lincolnized Clinton.

The fallout from Bernism is not just bad for the Democrats; it's bad for the country. Moderates like Manchin, Heitkamp and Donnelly are an essential part of a functioning Senate. They are the dealmakers, the conciliators, the lubricators who make the legislative machinery run. Their shrinking numbers help explain why the Senate is imploding over Gorsuch's nomination to the high court.

In 2005, a group called the Gang of 14 -- seven Democrats, seven Republicans -- brokered a pact over judicial nominations that avoided a partisan showdown. Only three of those 14 Senators, all Republicans, remain in office. All the Democrats are gone, including four moderates from red states: Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

There was no deal this year, comparable to the one forged 12 years ago, because there are so few dealmakers left.

If the Democrats forget Blanche Lincoln, if they insist on purging anyone who strays from liberal orthodoxy, they will misread -- once again -- the nature of the American electorate. And in doing so, they weaken, not strengthen, their ability to resist Trump.

Steve and
Cokie Roberts

The Obama administration claimed that it negotiated with Syria and Russia to eliminate "100 percent" of Syria's chemical weapons. After President Barack Obama's 2012 "red line" warning to Syria about using chemical weapons, Syria launched a chemical attack in August 2013. But U.S. military action was avoided by the alleged Russian/American/Syrian diplomatic accomplishment, achieved without "firing a shot." Here's what we were told:

President Obama, on April 28, 2014: "We're getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike."

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., crowed on June 1, 2014: "We're getting the chemical weapons out of Syria." And Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., chimed in July 6: "We should commend the administration for the result that they got."

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry, on July 20, 2014: "We got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out (of Syria)."

President Obama, on Aug. 18, 2014: "Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria's declared chemical weapons stockpile."

Kerry on Oct. 31, 2014: "We ... cut the deal that got 100 percent of the declared chemical weapons out of Syria, and people nevertheless have been critical -- of one day of bombing versus the virtue of getting 100 percent of the chemical weapons out of Syria."

Kerry reiterated the accomplishment on Feb. 24, 2015, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "We got, as you know, last year, all the chemical weapons out of Syria."

True, Bloomberg reported on May 13, 2015: "The U.S. government was informed months ago that an international monitoring body found traces of chemical weapons that President Bashar al-Assad had promised to turn over, including sarin gas -- a clear violation of the deal he struck with President Obama after crossing the administration's 'red line' two years ago.

"Officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the Obama administration early this year that its inspectors had found traces of two banned chemical weapons during an inspection of the Syrian government's Scientific Studies and Research Center in the district of Barzeh near Damascus, two administration officials told us. A report by

Reuters May 8 said that OPCW inspectors had found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at the site in separate inspections in December and January."

After the Bloomberg story, then-White House press secretary John Earnest initially admitted: "We're aware that the OPCW continues to receive credible allegations that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is still taking place." But a month later, on June 17, 2015, Earnest responded: "(Syria's) declared chemical weapons stockpile that Assad previously denied existed has now been acknowledged, rounded up, removed from the country and destroyed precisely because of the work of this administration and our successful efforts to work with the Russians to accomplish that goal."

But Susan Rice, then Obama's national security adviser, on Jan. 16, 2017, said, "We were able to find a solution that didn't necessitate the use of force that actually removed the chemical weapons that were known from Syria, in a way that the use of force would never have accomplished. ... We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile."

After last week's chemical weapons attack that left nearly 100 Syrians dead, former Obama advisers now say they always knew that not all of chemical weapons were eliminated -- and that turning over all their weapons is not exactly what tyrants tend to do.

Antony J. Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state, recently said, "We always knew we had not gotten everything, that the Syrians had not been fully forthcoming in their declaration."

Michael McFaul, Obama's former ambassador to Russia, said, "For me, this tragedy underscores the dangers of trying to do deals with dictators without a comprehensive, invasive and permanent inspection regime."

Tom Malinowski, an assistant secretary of state for human rights under Obama, laments: "The difficult and debatable choice the Obama administration ... made not to use military force when Assad last used nerve gas against his people (in 2013) will shape our thinking about this and similar crises for a long time to come. The lesson I would draw from that experience is that when dealing with mass killing by unconventional or conventional means, deterrence is more effective than disarmament."

This brings us the Obama's Iran deal that allegedly prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Why should we believe that Obama was any less duped here than when he claimed the elimination of "all" of Syria's chemical weapons?

We shouldn't.

Larry Elder

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