in exchange for helping Brazil investigate American spying programs:

Edward Snowden asks Brazil for asylum
Edward Snowden writes open letter to Brazil saying he can help investigate spying claims – but for something in return

In an “open letter to the Brazilian people”, Snowden said he was willing to help the Brazilian government “where appropriate and legal” but said the US government would prevent him from acting unless he was granted asylum.

After making stops in China and Russia, and missing his flight to Cuba, Snowden’s Open Letter to the People of Brazil claims that

My act of conscience began with a statement: “I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded.

That’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under.”

Snowden may not be aware that Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff is proposing that the Brazilian government effectively control internet availability in the country.

Snowden’s asylum in Russia ends next summer. As “a condition of his stay there he cannot talk to the press or help journalists or activists better understand how the US global spying machine works,” according David Miranda, the partner of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Putin probably figured a 12-month stay was all he (Putin) needs.

“Where appropriate and legal”, indeed.

UPDATE:
Well, don’t pack your bags yet, Edward: Thanks but no thanks — Brazil uninterested in giving Edward Snowden asylum: report
An unnamed Brazilian government officials said the nation wasn’t keen on investigating NSA spying in the country, potentially endangering vital ties with the U.S.

The facts so far: Snowden has not submitted an official request for asylum. A Brazilian government spokesman said that without a formal request, asylum will not be considered.

It’s not exactly a hot news flash, but here goes.

With all of the media events of recent years that have been molded and shaped by reporters to fit a certain set of narratives, why would anyone not believe that the fix has been in for decades with respect to almost every topic and every persona? After CBS’s Rathergate and the MSNBC reporting shenanigans with respect to the George Zimmerman trial, does anyone really believe that we get the whole story on anything of political or social importance? After the establishment media’s failure to report anything of importance about the background of the man who is now the president of the United States, do we really know about anything which we haven’t observed with our own lying eyes?

When I first began to blog in 2003, I recall how people like former Vice President Al “30 degrees in LA” Gore and  Daily Beast/Newsweek editor Tina Brown reacted to being contradicted by normal people. Cries of “brownshirts” and “StaSi” filled the Internet air. All that specific sort of whining amused me because, as a normal person who has a decent handle on 20th century German history, I knew that both brownshirts and StaSi  were arms of consecutive tyrannical governments. To toss these epithets at private citizens with an opinion, a modem and a laptop (or whatever) was laughable and, it showed that having a degree from distinguished universities did not guarantee that the bearer was able to think at all, much less think anything through. Or so I thought. (For a proper deployment of the Stasi weapon, see one Angela Merkel.)

But now as I think things through once more, I’m not convinced that persons like Brown and Gore—persons of the Left–care that such epithets make no sense when used against their enemies. I forgot that almost all media sagas are carried on for the sake of the type of observer who does not want to find information independently or who cannot/won’t think topics through. Such a person—the low information voter (LIV)–will probably not understand the historical illiteracy of calling a private person ‘a brownshirt’ for mere disagreement. All that matters is that a person of trust calls out his/her enemies as an enemy–as someone to fight against–and that this call falls on as many ears as possible. Brown and Gore were merely painting their targets, just as their political fellows have done before and after them.

All I’m really saying: keep your third eye open.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel,Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2009; the second edition in 2012. Her new novel, Arlen’s Harem, is due in January 2014. Help her fund it and help keep her blog alive!

by Linda Szugyi

Last week, I mentioned how tough it is to opine on something that impacts me in a personal way.  In that post, the topic was the war in Afghanistan.

This week, it is the budget war on the Hill.

Sheesh.

How do I objectively assess the Ryan-Murray budget deal, when it stands to cost thousands of dollars a year for my husband and all others who plan to retire or have already retired from the military at a younger age than 62?

The cut sounds inconsequential at first blush:  a 1% cut in Cost of Living Adjustment (“COLA”) until you reach the age of 62.  But if you retire at age 42, then you have the cumulative effect of 20 years of inflation–dollar value shrinkage–before you get the 1% adjustment back.  In other words, that wee 1% cut ends up a 20% loss in value for the person who retires at age 42.

Let’s talk more about that young retiree, shall we?

First of all, retiring at a younger age isn’t just an employee perk.  It’s necessary for a functional military.  We all know that the military is in the business of fighting, and fighting is a young man’s job.  Still, it probably looks like a pretty sweet deal, getting this full military pension at such a young age, and getting to add it to whatever second career you choose post-military.

That’s because it is a pretty sweet deal.

That’s why people agree to it.  They agree to risk their lives.  They agree to uproot their family anywhere from 4 to 12 times (we are on our 7th move in 15 years).  They agree to lose the ability to invest in real estate with the sweat equity that requires years of living in the same four walls. They agree to be worn down by hard labor, dangerous work environments, regular sleep deprivation, and battle stress.

They agree to give up all the earning growth potential of entrepreneurship or corporate ladder-climbing.  (That goes for their spouses, too.  The spouse who can maintain a lucrative career while being dragged to the four corners of the world is a rare one indeed.)

There’s another important aspect to consider:  you can’t just put in two weeks notice and quit.  We call quitting an Unauthorized Absence (“UA”) in the Navy, and it’s a crime under the UCMJ.  In order to function successfully in a military career, you have to understand that you don’t own your own life.  You are the military’s indentured servant.

That’s why it takes a pretty sweet deal to lure enough motivated individuals into an all-volunteer military for twenty or more of their very best years.

It’s a major expense for the U.S. government.  Lifetime pensions that can start as young as age 38 will in most cases be paid out for a very long time.  With healthcare costs soaring, it’s no surprise that Tricare for Life is the most expensive part of all.

This ballooning cost of military personnel might be getting out of hand.  It may need reforming.  Congress already created a commission to study this very topic, and its recommendations are due this coming May.

Instead of waiting for the recommendations of their own commission and crafting non-retroactive reform, however, the House chose to renege on a promise.  The House chose to retroactively shrink the benefits that untold numbers of service members relied on when they weighed their options at re-enlistment and decided to continue their military career.

Paul Ryan can take his rugged, good-looking fiscal conservatism and stuff it in a sock.  The federal government spends $11 billion dollars a day, and I bet he can find his $7 billion of savings somewhere else.  As you might have noticed, I’ve thrown objectivity to the wind for this post.  I am emphatically stating that this budget deal blows monkey chunks.

At least you can use my subjective view in order to make an objective assessment of your own.  The fact is, moves like this will impact the career decisions of every service member.  And they won’t be holding their breath for an Armed Forces panel to review this retirement cut before it takes effect.

So Congress, do you want an all-volunteer military that is capable of the sustained action that your foreign policies have required?  Or are you going to reinstitute the draft?  Or what?

Update:  (DTG)  Usually the lead post of the day is reserved for me but Linda as a Military wife asked special permission for the blog to lead with it and given this deal directly impacts her I decided to go with it.

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Olimometer 2.52

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White Pine seedlingBy John Ruberry

During a run through Morton Grove, Illinois’ Linne Woods on Friday, I came across a white pine seedling. White pines are rare in northeastern Illinois, so perhaps this young tree is a good omen, along the lines of the blossoming of the White Tree of Gondor in Minas Tirith in the extended version of The Return of the King when the fall of Middle-Earth’s greatest city appeared imminent.

Clearly our nation is in desperate straits. We are suffering under the longest stretch of high unemployment since the Great Depression. Yet America survived the Depression and then defeated totalitarianism–and the post-war American expansion lasted into the early 1970s.

I remember the malaise of the Jimmy Carter presidency. High unemployment and high inflation–stagflation–were just a couple of the symptoms. We also weathered the decline of American influence and power in the world–the Iranian hostage crisis was just one instance–as well as a sense of helplessness that the problems our nation faced were insurmountable.

Would the American Century end prematurely?

American power is in decline again, and it very well could be that it is the way that Barack Obama–the most liberal president ever–wants it. Leftists have decried the AmeriKKKan Empire for decades. Yet it was that “empire” that won the Cold War and brought about the longest peacetime expansion of the American economy ever–a boom that reverberated throughout the world–and it was accomplished in little more than a decade after Carter returned to Georgia.

The United States will emerge from Barack Obama’s induced malaise. The American Spirit it too strong for one man–even a president–to smother. And the United States is still the country of choice for those people seeking freedom and the opportunity to utilize their talents and create wealth.  They don’t want to come here for ObamaCare or food stamps.

Yes, there is Hope after “hope and change.”

I have wrestled with the dichotomy of the distain at least some Republicans have for conservatives versus the need of an existing, viable politcal party vehicle for conservatism for longer than I’ve been blogging. Back in my days at Free Republic, there was a debate of whether conservatives still had a home in the GOP in the wake of No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D shepherded through a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican President. At the time, and since, I had always ultimately come back to the necessity of changing the GOP to become conservative versus trying to start anew.

In the wake of the entirety of the Washington Republican power base, from K Street to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to House Speaker John Boehner, turning against fiscal conservatives the way they turned against social conservatives last year, it is past time to revisit the question.

I’ll give away what I will close with next week – it is time for conservatives to find another national party. Lest one thinks I’m not going into that with my eyes wide open, I will first give the reasons why it shouldn’t be happening.

In practical terms, it is far harder to create a new second party when one already exists, even if only on paper, than when there is officially only one-party rule. The Whig Party came along only well after the Federalist Party allowed itself to be absorbed into the Democratic-Republican Party, and the Republican Party came along only after the Whig Party had for all intents and purposes ceased to exist. Meanwhile, the political landscape is filled with the wreckage of “alternate second” parties, from the Know-Nothings to the Bull Moose Party, from the Libertarians to the Reform Party.

There are still some decent, conservative people in the GOP, even in the federal branch, but mostly in the state-level and local-level part of the party. A full-on divorce will, depending on how far the two sides want to take it, have disastrous consequences at the state and local level. For instance, the only hope the Democrat Party of Wisconsin has of seizing control again is if the federal-level divorce between conservatives and the GOP unfairly extends to Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans in the Legislature. Unlike their federal counterparts in the same situation the prior decade, they governed in a consistently conservative manner.

Going back to the formation of the Whigs and the Republicans, that necessitated, respectively, 20 years and 8 years of unchallenged Democrat rule before the opposition party got power. As much as the national GOP has caved on social and fiscal issues, and is likely to cave on immigration, once the Democrats officially have no opposition, we won’t so much as hear about the details of the next Fast and Furious, or the next NSA and IRS scandals, though we will still feel the effects much as the citizens of the former Soviet Union did.

In the Holy Bible and in the New Testament, Jesus Christ made the following statement to his critics who leveled a charge against both His leadership and authority:  “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12.22-28).  Furthermore, President Abraham Lincoln quoted this same passage of Sacred Scripture during the height of the Civil War when he averred that “A house divided against itself cannot stand…”

There is no family, organization, nor any business or non-profit entity that can long exist if it is fractured from within.

As one observes the current affairs of the Republican Party, one could easily come to the conclusion that the Republican Party – the Grand Old Party (GOP) for short – is in a hopeless state of disarray.  Political pundits and scholars ask themselves the question:  Who speaks for the GOP?  Is it the business community? Is it the mainstream GOP leadership which is located in both the Senate and in the House of Representatives?   Could it be that the “Tea Party” and their proponents are the authentic voice of the Republican Party?

This writer heard Nicole Wallace – former Communications Chief for President George W. Bush – proclaim that whenever the GOP needs to rejuvenate itself, that it has historically looked to the ranks of their standing Republican Party Governors for future direction and growth (Bobby Jindal? Chris Christie?  Scott Walker?).   Perhaps in time Ms. Wallace’s observation will prove to be correct. Nevertheless, the question still remains:  Is there anyone who can give an accurate pulse on the current state and political future of the GOP?

While this writer does not claim to possess any clairvoyant powers, he does believe that perhaps a historical look at the Republican Party may shine some light on its current dilemma.

Let us go back in time roughly 100 years and then move forward.

First and foremost, the Republican Party – unlike its progressive  party counterpart – has always existed in a state of continual “flux” and “disunity.”  Most Conservatives of both the fiscal and libertarian garden variety types have generally identified with the GOP as opposed to the egalitarian / progressive vision of the Democratic Party.

Back in 1912, the Republican Party was fresh off having won 5 of the previous 6 Presidential elections since 1888.  The incumbent President in 1912 was Howard Taft (R) and he was immediately preceded by former President Theodore Roosevelt (R).  Unfortunately for President. Taft, Theodore Roosevelt missed the center stage of the Presidency and sought to wrestle the White House away from him.  Mr. Roosevelt’s coup attempt was rebuffed and with his failure to secure the Republican Party’s nomination in 1912 he sought desperate political measures.  He ran for President as a political independent of the newly formed “Bull Moose Party.”

Mr. Roosevelt won more votes than Mr. Taft, but the candidacies of both men enabled an obscure Democratic Governor from New Jersey named Woodrow Wilson to barely squeak by with enough electoral votes to win the Presidency in 1912.  (The Republican Party recovered and recaptured the Presidency in the ensuing elections of 1920 (Warren G. Harding); 1924 (Calvin Coolidge) and 1928 (Herbert Hoover).

Turn the page and fast forward to 1964.

The Republican Party found themselves embroiled in another state of disunity.  This time the two GOP factions at war were the Southwestern conservatives led by Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and the eastern establishment wing led by Governors Nelson Rockefeller of New York and William “Bill” Scranton of Pennsylvania.  The eastern establishment saw Senator Goldwater and his conservative insurgency as being political extremists (sound familiar?) and illegitimate; when Senator Goldwater won the party’s nomination, the “eastern establishment wing” refused to support him in the general election.

In retrospect, Senator Goldwater would most likely have lost anyway even if the GOP was totally united (it is a dubious proposition to believe that the American people would have elected three Presidents in less than 4 years).  The refusal of the mainstream wing of the Republican Party to endorse Senator Goldwater and his conservative mates set off a series of events from bad blood, unforgiveness and hard feelings between the two factions which exist to this very day.

Interesting enough, two years later in 1966, the conservatives saw one of their own heroes become Governor of California (Ronald Reagan) and the mainstream establishment arm of the Republican Party witnessed a young upcoming congressman win a house seat in Texas (George H. W. Bush).  These two men would battle it out for the Republican Party’s nomination 14 years later in 1980.

Today, there is much discussion regarding the “Tea Party Movement” and its rise and influence within the Republican Party.  Some have said that the “Tea Party Movement” is an extremist bloc and unyielding.  Others call the Tea Party exponents unreasonable and fear what their influence in the broader body politic might mean for those who do not share their vision of limited government.

However, if history is any indication, the Republican Party will survive the insurgent “Tea Party” as the movement itself will most likely morph into either a Libertarian  or Socially Conservative block within the GOP.

The Tea Party appears to be infusing the GOP with new life – in a similar vein that both the Bull Moose party and the Southwestern Goldwater insurgencies strengthened the Republican party in years past.

Republicans have always fought one another and there is no reason to see the “Tea Party Movement” as some strange or new phenomenon to this long-standing practice.

Update:   DTG:  Highlighted Biblical quote in Red because they were the direct words of Christ.

The Ukrainians are revolting, in a big way: After their president Viktor Yanukovych essentially sided with Putin and gave the European Union the raspberry by withdrawing from the EU association agreement just as it was due to be signed last month, hundreds of thousands of protestors gathered in Kiev, blocked and occupied government buildings, and took down a statue of Lenin.

While Yanukovych has said that government officials could visit Brussels this week to resume talks on the EU association agreement, the protestors are braving the snow and staying put.

Contrast that with Venezuela, with the government incarcerating small business owners in its latest move towards full Communism. Right now, in Venezuela, you will find:

Thousands of Venezuelans have fled the country (with some boosting Miami real estate prices). Following Sunday’s municipal election and its predictable results, a friend snarked, “What Venezuela needs is a few hundred thousand Ukranians.”

It’s unlikely that Venezuelans will rise en masse:

  • Chavismo is still popular among the larger number of uneducated, poor people who may actually believe that raiding electronics stores is a good idea. There’s no equivalent of Putin to hate or fear, in spite of the pervading Cuban presence.
  • Opposition leaders are demonized, de-humanized and physically attacked on the floor of the National Assembly.
  • There’s still a mindset of “every man for himself“.
  • The government controls all propaganda outlets – even using ambulances to post campaign materials.
  • Proceeds from oil still pay for a lot of “freebies”.
  • Venezuela is new to Communism.

And,

So don’t expect millions of Venezuelans to storm downtown Caracas anytime soon.

Last week, when President Obama reverted to the topic of “income inequality,” I was reminded of one of things I used to complain about to God. Why did people who were “worse” sinners than I get the things I’ve always wanted but didn’t have?

Christians are exhorted to keep their eyes on Jesus—the Way, the Truth and The Light–the dispenser of all good things. It is one of the good examples of tunnel vision. Conversely, when one’s eyes are not on the actual source of blessings, but, rather on the perceived blessings of one’s sibling or one’s neighbor, those eyes become blinded by false vision.

You begin to think that God likes others better than He likes you; or you think that God is unfair or that He is really the capricious, randomly-acting god described in other belief systems. Or, you decide that there is no god and that all is fair in “love” and, most especially, in war. You may even begin to believe that those who have been blessed more than you have, got that way by taking your blessings from you. From there, it’s a short road to doing the same– taking what you want by force. Or, perhaps, you will vote for those who promise to do it for you.

More false vision: allegedly, income inequality varies directly with poverty levels. However, no causal chain is ever described and no historical example is ever given for this “calculus” (algebra, actually).

Measuring self against others, whether you come out “better” or “worse,” always leads to folly. If you believe yourself to be better, you become prideful and arrogant—“high and lifted-up.” And if you believe you have come up short, you become angry, bitter, resentful, and, sometimes, violent.

And you become ungrateful.

The Left’s concern for income inequality was always meant to inflame covetousness and all the sins of commission that flow from that source.

Abel knew.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel,Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2009; the second edition in 2012. Her new novel, Arlen’s Harem, is due in January 2014. Help her fund it and help keep her blog alive!

Last week, my husband returned from a six month deployment in Afghanistan.  So politics haven’t been on my mind much.  Mostly, we’ve just enjoyed family time.  The separation is hard, but reunion is the reward.

With hubby still cleaning the moon dust off his boots, I got a little curious.  How is it going over there?  And are they talking about it much in the mainstream news outlets?

My husband and I have lived the military life since before 9/11.  Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have been a constant for us for a long time.  Also, we don’t have cable TV, and I don’t turn on the local news unless a hurricane is on the way.

It’s hard for me to get a feel for what is common knowledge and sentiment outside of the military community.  Now, President Obama has said for a long time that we were gonna be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.  So that is probably common knowledge.

But then recently I read that he wants Afghanistan’s President Karzai to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that keeps US troops there until 2024.

Well that’s confusing.  So I started googling.  Here’s what I found.

Apparently, personnel designated as “combat troops” would withdraw under the BSA, but Special Forces and other counterterrorism personnel could remain another ten years.  This semantic hair-splitting allows President Peace Prize to continue claiming that the war will end in 2014.

I also found out that President Karzai might not sign the BSA, and if he doesn’t, then Obama might be forced to withdraw all troopsJust like Iraq.

Here’s some more tidbits that I found:

Duh:  Iran opposes the foreign presence in Afghanistan.

Oh really?  Thomas Jefferson used the Quran to devise the legal, moral and ethical stipulations for the American Constitution.

Good grief:  The US considered spending $4 billion of foreign aid to get Afghan men married.

Oh dear:  Both sides of the Afghanistan conflict are using Syria as a training ground.

And here’s some things I didn’t find:

I didn’t find much in the way of antiwar protests against the potential extension of the Afghanistan War.  I googled various key phrases, and the best thing I found was a HuffPo article (Amusing sidenote: guess which president is featured in the photo of this 2013 article?)  It’s about a handful of diehards that hold weekly protests in Montpelier.  Good for them, at least they are consistent.

I also didn’t find many recent official statements about the Afghanistan War, beyond the claim that it is ending soon.  Mark Levin recently lamented the lack of a definitive mission in Afghanistan, so I wondered whether that was true.

Whitehouse.gov was my first stop.  If you hover the cursor over “Issues,” a list that includes Defense pops up.  Oddly, the only specific subtopic is End of Iraq War.

Clicking on the topic Defense gets you some Guiding Principles.  There, we learn that President Obama’s new comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan

“will ensure that all elements of national power are engaged . . .  in an
effort to defeat al Qaeda to prevent attacks on the homeland and on our Allies
and partners.”

You have to click on the link to the new comprehensive strategy for more information.  There, you will find statements like

“We will achieve these objectives [by] . . . targeting the insurgency, working to secure key population centers, and increasing efforts to train Afghan security forces.”

“we are focusing assistance on supporting the President of Afghanistan and those ministries, governors, and local leaders who combat corruption and deliver for the people.”

So there is a mission, and maybe it is comprehensive, but it’s awfully confusing.  We will defeat Al Qaeda by targeting them?  What does that mean?  As long as we are going after them, that is a victory?  I guess the assumption is that Al Qaeda will give up after we target them long enough.  I wonder how long that is.

I had a look over at the Department of Defense, too.  They included Afghanistan as a specific subtopic in “Top Issues,” but disappointingly it was just a link to a NATO homepage.

What’s my conclusion?  Oh, I don’t know.  I hate forming opinions on policies that place friends and loved ones in harm’s way.  Please do share yours in a comment.  And remember all the deployed personnel in your prayers tonight.  And maybe every night until 2024.

Tea Party Express rally,  Mishawaka, IN

By John Ruberry

A week ago my wife was admitted to the hospital because she was experiencing abdominal pains and a high fever. On Tuesday she had her gall bladder removed.

She’s covered on my employer-based health care plan.

December is that last month of the “good old days” for health care, particularly for married couples.

That’s because ObamaCare kicks in on New Year’s Day.

Next month some employers–fortunately not mine–are dropping spousal coverage on their health care plans–and some others will be charging a $125 monthly fee to cover spouses who can get insurance elsewhere. That’s over $1,000 a year.

If you like your plan–you can’t keep it.

We’ve learned that ObamaCare is part-government takeover of healthcare, and part wealth redistribution. As for the latter, in order to qualify O’care subsidies, it actually makes financial sense for some married couples to divorce.

But my wife and I aren’t even rich!

Now we know what then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi meant when she said, “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” 

I was thinking about what else lurks  in that bill as I sat in the surgery waiting room last week. Unless–or I’m being hopeful–until it’s appealed, our collective ObamaCare journey will resemble the trip upriver in Apocalypse Now.  We have plenty of surprises in store for us–none of them will be pleasant.

“The horror, the horror,” as Colonel Kurtz told Captain Williard in that film.

But I want to end this post on a happy note. My wife is resting and recovering at home.