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Egypt's Islamist surge

"Egypt's Islamist surge" Continued...

Issue: "2011 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 17, 2011

Super failure

The blame game grew more popular on Capitol Hill minutes after the Nov. 21 formal announcement of the congressional supercommittee's super failure. Lawmakers from both parties raced to provide the most quotable epitaph to the unsurprising demise of a panel that had been given three months to agree on $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

But newcomer Sen. Marco Rubio, a freshman Republican from Florida with Tea Party ties, best summed up the panel's problem: "The Super Committee was a flawed idea from the start."

In reality, it never had a chance. What the panel most provided was cover for the rest of Congress while the media focused its attention on the 12 chosen to shoulder a budget deficit load that had proven to be too heavy for either Capitol Hill or the White House.

Now both sides can boast on the campaign trail: Democrats will be able to say they protected entitlements while Republican candidates will trumpet their stand against large tax increases.

But there may be one thing that will win bipartisan support in the aftermath of the panel's collapse. Lawmakers from both parties have already started to attack the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts triggered by the supercommittee's failure. Those automatic cuts, which would begin in January 2013, include about $600 billion in reduced Pentagon spending.

"I will not be the armed services chairman who presides over crippling our military," said House Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon, R-Calif. Meanwhile Rep. Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and a member of the supercommittee, also opposed across-the-board cuts: "If those triggers get pulled ... It is going to be nasty. It will be a meat ax approach, and I don't think that's the best way to do it."

That puts him at odds with Obama, who has pledged to veto any efforts to repeal the automatic spending cuts, which also include about $500 billion in reductions to domestic spending. As political will continues to falter, government debt now stands at $15 trillion-more than 12 times what the supercommittee could not cut.

Thug nations, unite!

A key UN committee voted overwhelmingly Nov. 22 to condemn human rights violations by President Bashar Assad's government in Syria and called for an immediate end to all violence. The resolution adopted by the General Assembly's human rights committee was nonbinding but significant for the lineup for and against it: Sponsored by Britain, France, and Germany, it was approved by a vote of 122-13 with 41 abstentions. Joining Syria in the "no" column were Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Iran, Myanmar (Burma), Nicaragua, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Notably absent in siding with the Assad regime were any Arab nations. Russia and China abstained. On Nov. 27, the Arab League approved economic sanctions against Syria, and Turkey-one of Syria's largest trading partners and its strategic neighbor-is set to tighten already existing sanctions. Government forces have killed at least 3,500 demonstrators, according to UN and human rights monitors, since the uprising began eight months ago.

Man knows not his time

Marion Montgomery was not a household name, but the novelist prompted one of Southern literature's most enduring sound bites. When Flannery O'Connor read his 1962 novel The Wandering of Desire, she wrote him a letter that became famous: "I think your book is wonderful. ... The Southern writer can outwrite anybody in the country because he has the Bible and a little history, but you've got more of both than most and a splendid gift besides."

Montgomery and O'Connor were the same age-both born in 1925-and had similar resumés. But O'Connor died in 1964, and Montgomery continued to write excellent fiction and poetry for another decade or more, then turned to social and literary criticism, championing in nearly 40 books the work of O'Connor, Walker Percy, T.S. Eliot, and others who cared about what Montgomery called "the permanent things." Montgomery, who died Nov. 23 at age 86, also played a less noted role in the development of conservative and Christian intellectual thought, coming alongside writers like National Review's Russell Kirk. According to Gregory Wolfe of IMAGE Journal, "He had the gift of relating the smallest literary details to the largest questions."

Faustian bargain

Congress has final say over the District of Columbia's budget, an arrangement the city has long resented. But the district's desire for budget autonomy is apparently weaker than its appetite to fund abortions. House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., whose committee oversees the D.C. budget, offered the district autonomy on the condition it ban public funding for abortions. The district's top elected officials refused. Congress has long imposed a ban on funding for abortions in the district, but Democrats lifted that ban in 2009 for about a year until Republicans took control of the House in 2011. The district estimates it paid for at least 300 abortions over that period.

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