"If at age 20 you are a conservative then you have no heart. If at age 30 you are a liberal then you have no brains."
Sir Winston Churchill

Obama obviously knows very little about economics, specifically that "Society stagnates when independent productive achievers begin to be socially demonized and even punished for their accomplishments." This dilemma fogs Obama's reality. To him, accepting this truth is a "false choice", his answer to things he doesn't understand. And by the way... where is John Galt?

Friday, February 24, 2012


IN HOMS, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM Homs has been under siege for 19 days. The tanks and artillery of Bashir al-Assad have formed a ring of steel around the city where the revolt against the regime first drew breath. For most of this period as well as for most of the last year, the world has depended on amateur videos over the Inter Net for information on a war by a Government against its own people that appeared so vicious as to be beyond belief. Foreign journalists and media have been banned by Assad and his Alawite henchmen to keep the world ignorant of the atrocities that have sparred no one.
In Homs in particular no one is immune from brutal extinction. Babies die as easily as adults and the old and the sick. There is no where to hide . No hospital…no mosque…no school. Sanctuary is a meaningless word as average people are exterminated as casually as ants at a picnic. The unthinkable had become the new normal and yet the world remained aloof and ignorant until Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik were deliberately targeted via their cell phones signal by Syrian artillery and murdered for bearing witness to the latest genocide of the new millennium. Thirty years ago Hafez al-Assad the father of Bashir, butchered the citizens of Hama in much the same way and for much the same reason. The rotten apple never falls far from the diseased tree. After at least 10,000 were slaughtered and the peace of the sword was imposed, this strategy for combating insurrection became known as “Hama Rules”. The people of Syria, tired of being an Arab vassal to the mad Persians of Iran were not immune from the passions of the “Arab Spring” as it swept through the Maghreb and then the Levant. They saw change and wanted it. For most it was a chance to escape the claws of history in return for a normal life for themselves and their children. It was the possibility of change that didn’t demand blind hatred of all thing un-Islamic as a prerequisite for “normalcy”. It was a light at the end of a very long and very dangerous tunnel that has lasted 42 years. But Assad supported by Iran, Russia, China and Hezbollah defied both his people the world and his fellow Arabs and “Hama Rules” have now become “Homs Rules” Into this cauldron came a small band of brave, intrepid journalists who used smuggler routes to enter and exit the city in order to report first hand what the citizen journalists with their cell phone cameras had been struggling to tell the world for months. French TV reporter, Gilles Jacquier was killed in January and two time Pulitzer winner Anthony Shadid of the New York Times died 10 days ago of natural causes brought on by the stress and lack of sanitation of a country ravaged by war. Marie Colvin, an American born in Long Island but who reported for the London Sunday Times was in Homs for the second time. She was there with her photographer partner Paul Conroy, who was wounded by the 11 rockets that killed her and Ochlik. Edith Bouvier of Le Figaro was also gravely wounded and still awaits evacuation along with Conroy and the remains of Colvin and Ochlik. Only Spanish journalist Javier Espinosa, photographer William Daniel and a Syrian journalist known only as Hussein managed to escape either death or injury. Colvin was a veteran war correspondent of thirty years. She had seen action in the Gulf War, Kosovo, Chechnya and Sri Lanka where she was wounded in an grenade attack and lost the sight of her left eye due to shrapnel which she still carried in her head and torso. From that time forward she was instantly recognizable by the black eye patch she wore that colleagues said gave her a “pirate” aura that belied a natural warmness that made the most vulnerable trust her and confide in her. Their make shift Press Center was located in the Baba Amr section of the city where the poorest of the poor lived and where the suffering and destruction was the worst. Colvin was supposed to have left Baba Amr the day before but she wanted to finish what was to be her final dispatch. As was usual with her work she highlighted the impact of the devastation upon the children, the women and the most vulnerable. It was going to become her masterpiece and was entitled ‘We live in fear of a massacre”. It began like this: “They call it the widows’ basement. Crammed amid makeshift beds and scattered belongings are frightened women and children trapped in the horror of Homs, the Syrian city shaken by two weeks of relentless bombardment. Among the 300 huddling in this wood factory cellar in the besieged district of Baba Amr is 20-year-old Noor, who lost her husband and her home to the shells and rockets. “Our house was hit by a rocket so 17 of us were staying in one room,” she recalls as Mimi, her three-year-old daughter, and Mohamed, her five-year-old son, cling to her abaya. “We had had nothing but sugar and water for two days and my husband went to try to find food.” It was the last time she saw Maziad, 30, who had worked in a mobile phone repair shop. “He was torn to pieces by a mortar shell.” For Noor, it was a double tragedy. Adnan, her 27-year-old brother, was killed at Maziad’s side.” She then went on to describe daily life in Baba Amr: “Everyone in the cellar has a similar story of hardship or death. The refuge was chosen because it is one of the few basements in Baba Amr. Foam mattresses are piled against the walls and the children have not seen the light of day since the siege began on February 4. Most families fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs. The city is running perilously short of supplies and the only food here is rice, tea and some tins of tuna delivered by a local sheikh who looted them from a bombed-out supermarket. A baby born in the basement last week looked as shell-shocked as her mother, Fatima, 19, who fled there when her family’s single-storey house was obliterated. “We survived by a miracle,” she whispers. Fatima is so traumatised that she cannot breastfeed, so the baby has been fed only sugar and water; there is no formula milk. Fatima may or may not be a widow. Her husband, a shepherd, was in the countryside when the siege started with a ferocious barrage and she has heard no word of him since. The widows’ basement reflects the ordeal of 28,000 men, women and children clinging to existence in Baba Amr, a district of low concrete-block homes surrounded on all sides by Syrian forces. The army is launching Katyusha rockets, mortar shells and tank rounds at random.” In Baba Amr and the rest of Homs death was a constant companion. Colvin went on describing it in graphic detail. Snipers on the rooftops of al-Ba’ath University and other high buildings surrounding Baba Amr shoot any civilian who comes into their sights. Residents were felled in droves in the first days of the siege but have now learnt where the snipers are and run across junctions where they know they can be seen. Few cars are left on the streets. Almost every building is pock-marked after tank rounds punched through concrete walls or rockets blasted gaping holes in upper floors. The building I was staying in lost its upper floor to a rocket last Wednesday. On some streets whole buildings have collapsed — all there is to see are shredded clothes, broken pots and the shattered furniture of families destroyed. It is a city of the cold and hungry, echoing to exploding shells and bursts of gunfire. There are no telephones and the electricity has been cut off. Few homes have diesel for the tin stoves they rely on for heat in the coldest winter that anyone can remember. Freezing rain fills potholes and snow drifts in through windows empty of glass. No shops are open, so families are sharing what they have with relatives and neighbours. Many of the dead and injured are those who risked foraging for food. Fearing the snipers’ merciless eyes, families resorted last week to throwing bread across rooftops, or breaking through communal walls to pass unseen. The Syrians have dug a huge trench around most of the district, and let virtually nobody in or out. The army is pursuing a brutal campaign to quell the resistance of Homs, Hama and other cities that have risen up against Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, whose family has been in power for 42 years. “ Colvin described the uneven nature of the battle and then most importantly became the voice for the average citizen of the abattoir that Homs had become “In Baba Amr, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the armed face of opposition to Assad, has virtually unanimous support from civilians who see them as their defenders. It is an unequal battle: the tanks and heavy weaponry of Assad’s troops against the Kalashnikovs of the FSA. About 5,000 Syrian soldiers are believed to be on the outskirts of Baba Amr, and the FSA received reports yesterday that they were preparing a ground assault. The residents dread the outcome. “We live in fear the FSA will leave the city,” said Hamida, 43, hiding with her children and her sister’s family in an empty ground-floor apartment after their house was bombed. “There will be a massacre.” On the lips of everyone was the question: “Why have we been abandoned by the world?” Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said last week: “We see neighbourhoods shelled indiscriminately, hospitals used as torture centres, children as young as 10 years old killed and abused. We see almost certainly crimes against humanity.” Yet the international community has not come to the aid of the innocent caught in this hell. Abdel Majid, 20, who was helping to rescue the wounded from bombed buildings, made a simple plea. “Please tell the world they must help us,” he said, shaking, with haunted eyes. “Just stop the bombing. Please, just stop the shelling.” …The scale of human tragedy in the city is immense. The inhabitants are living in terror. Almost every family seems to have suffered the death or injury of a loved one. Khaled Abu Salah, an activist who took part in the first demonstrations against Assad in Homs last March, sat on the floor of an office, his hand broken and bandages covering shrapnel wounds to his leg and shoulder. A 25-year-old university student, who risked his life filming videos of the slaughter of Baba Amr residents, he narrowly escaped when he tried to get two men wounded by mortar fire to a makeshift clinic. He and three friends had just taken the wounded to the clinic, which was staffed by a doctor and a dentist, and stepped away from the door when “a shell landed right at the entrance”, he recalled last week. “My three friends died immediately.” The two men they had helped were also killed. Abu Ammar, 48, a taxi driver, went out to look for bread at 8am one day last week. He, his wife and their adopted daughter had taken refuge with two elderly sisters after their home was hit by shells. “When I returned the house was obliterated,” he said, looking at all that remained of the one-storey building. Only a few pieces of wall still stood. In the ruins a woman’s red blouse was visible; bottles of home-made pickled vegetables were somehow unscathed. “Dr Ali”, a dentist working as a doctor, said one of the women from the house had arrived at the clinic alive, but both legs had been amputated and she died. “ Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik died to tell the world the graphic truth of the horror of Homs. If she and her colleagues had not put their lives on the line the world would still not clearly comprehend a human calamity that even Colvin who had been to some of the worst places on earth, said was the worst she had ever seen. While politicians dither and the diplomats clear their throats and soldiers who know better talk about “rational actors”… the people of Homs feel alone and abandoned …unloved by a world that have “more important things” to worry about than the massacre of their fellow men. To a very great extent the difficulty in telling the story up until now allowed the rest of the world to close their eyes and cover their ears. But because of the sacrifice of Marie Colvin, Remi Ochlik and their fellow journalists that luxury is no longer available. The ability to sweep the reality of Homs under the rug is no longer possible. If we turn away now it is a statement about us and not about the demonic Assads. Everyone should read Marie Colvins last dispatch and ask themselves what they can do to stop the cold blooded killing machine of the Ba’athist tyranny. And if that doesn’t move you to at least call your Congressman or your Senators, keep in mind that the removal of these murderers in Damascus will disrupt and perhaps stop Iran from pursuing their proxy wars in Lebanon and Gaza, thereby pulling the region back from the precipice of Armageddon . But there is also now one true certainty, because of their courage and sacrifice, the world is now forced to hear the screams of Homs. ERLANDSSON 02/24/2012

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