† SOTU = Stuff Our Taxes Underwrite: James Bacon makes the case in this Washington Times op-ed that instead of wasting “hundreds of billions of public dollars building a high-speed, intercity rail network,” President Barack Hussein Obama should get out of the way of entrepreneurs who are building a less glamorous – but more feasible – network of intercity buses without bleeding taxpayers dry (related article, seventh item on the page):
According to a study published by DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, intercity bus was the only major long-distance passenger mode to grow appreciably this year. Daily intercity bus operations expanded by 7.1 percent.
The most spectacular growth occurred among curbside operations, including BoltBus and Megabus, which eschew traditional bus stations in favor of curbside pickups. This category expanded operations by 32.1 percent. Compare that to the 5.2 percent growth for Amtrak, 1.8 percent growth for airlines and 1 percent decline for private automobiles.
What's going on? The higher cost of automobile ownership and gasoline is pushing people to consider alternatives to driving. But that's only half the story. The intercity bus industry is highly competitive and driven by innovation. …
Even stodgy old Greyhound, which operates out of traditional bus stations, is getting creative. The company has introduced Greyhound Express, a premium service that provides free Wi-Fi and power outlets at every seat, has upgraded waiting areas for its Express passengers and has entered into a partnership with 7-Eleven stores to sell tickets.
Unlike publicly owned mass-transit companies, which face political pressure to maintain money-losing routes, private intercity buses are free to shut down unprofitable routes and redeploy resources to achieve greater growth potential. Flexibility is the hallmark of the curbside bus operators, which aren't tied down by fixed investment in bus stations.
Bacon suggests that the federal government invest in public safety and better police the "Chinatown bus" services that have been involved in several deadly crashes recently.
† "Persistent Vegetative State" Diagnoses Too Often A Rush To Judgement (second item on the page): The Schmid family was blessed with its own Christmas miracle when 21-year-old University of Arizona student Sam Schmid, who was comatose after a car accident on October 19th, had done so well in rehab that within two months he was able to talk and move around with the aid of a walker, The Washington Times reports:
Doctors at Barrow Neurological Institute say Schmid has a long recovery ahead of him to regain full speech, balance and memory abilities. …
He underwent surgery performed by Dr. Robert Spetzler. With no responsive signs, staff discussed taking Schmid off life support. …
Spetzler said Schmid was never officially classified as a potential organ donor. And after an MRI scan showed he wasn't at a point of no hope of survival, Spetzler recommended keeping him alive for one more week.
Then on Oct. 24, Schmid shocked doctors by following commands to hold up two fingers.
"It may not seem like a lot to you," Spetzler said. "It's an incredible loop to show brain ability. That was like fireworks going off."
Neither Schmid’s family nor his doctors gave up on him. He is luckier than many patients in his situation.
† Is Hillary Clinton Campaigning For President?: Two weeks ago, an E-mail blast from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign asking supporters to donate money so she can retire her 2008 campaign debt that included this quote from her speech at the Democratic National Convention, “You never gave in. You never gave up. And together, we made history.” Just before Christmas, voters in AZ, FL, MD, PA, MI, NY and WI – primary states that Hillary Clinton won in 2008 – got a robo-call stating that “America would be better off today if Hillary Clinton was our president” (related article, tenth item on the page). The call ends by asking voters to sign a petition on RunHillary2012.net to persuade Hillary to make another run for the White House. The Washington Post reports that a spokesperson for the Secretary of State has disavowed Hillary’s connection to the effort. Dem pollsters Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell – who have written several op-eds urging President Barack Hussein Obama to step aside and allow Hillary to run as the party’s nominee – also swear they have nothing to do with it.
† Is Armenian Genocide Denial Good For The Jews?: In the latest fallout from Turkey’s increasing Islamization, Israel abruptly cancelled a $140 million contract for Israeli electronic defense firms Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries to provide its erstwhile Muslim ally with a sophisticated aerial surveillance system over concerns that the technology (related article, sixth item on the page). Israel's Defense Ministry, which must approve all defense-related contracts, is concerned that the technology could fall into the hands of Iran, its existential enemy, The Washington Times reports:
The cancellation comes a week after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told parliament in Ankara that Turkey's Middle East policies had "brought Israel to its knees" and had isolated the Jewish state.
The Israeli announcement made no reference to Mr. Davutoglu's remark; however, it appears relevant since Turkey's ties with Iran have long been known and the contract was signed three years ago.
Israel's once close defense and political relationship with Turkey began to unravel as the Turkish government sought to extend its influence in the Arab world during the past few years.
† 10 reasons Michelle Obama should be proud – really proud – of America: This latest installment in The Stiletto Blog’s ongoing series (previous article, last item on the page) meant to help instill the necessary pride of country in Michelle Obama’s consciousness to enable her to serve as an unofficial ambassador focuses on Bryan VandenBosch, who owns the at A-Z Outlet pawn shop in Holland, MI. In November, veteran hocked one of the two Purple Hearts he had earned in while serving in Afghanistan so he would have money to cover his Christmas bills. VandenBosch tells The Holland Sentinel that he will “never sell” the medal and “it will be here waiting for him” when he is ready to retrieve it. Stars and Stripes reports that “Veterans groups and other local charities have been flooding the store with donation requests in the days since the story broke, but the owner has been directing them to other military support programs.”