Political Digest for October 29, 2009
I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.
Advertising on this blog?
I got an e-mail from someone with a “client” wanting to advertise on my blog. Perhaps a scam, as my readership isn’t exactly that of the NYT or National Review, perhaps not. In any case, I produce a blog to support things I value: a strong, free America, limited government, individual rights and responsibilities, and economic and political freedom. So I said no thanks. Don’t want my readers to have to sort through advertising—I assume you get a enough of it already.
Fools for Communism—A long “Must read”
Excerpt: In 1983 the Indiana University historian Robert F. Byrnes collected essays from 35 experts on the Soviet Union -- the cream of American academia -- in a book titled After Brezhnev. Their conclusion: Any U.S. thought of winning the Cold War was a pipe dream. "The Soviet Union is going to remain a stable state, with a very stable, conservative, immobile government," Byrnes said in an interview, summing up the book. "We don't see any collapse or weakening of the Soviet system." Barely six years later, the Soviet empire began falling apart. By 1991 it had vanished from the face of the earth. Did Professor Byrnes call a press conference to offer an apology for the collective stupidity of his colleagues, or for his part in recording it? Did he edit a new work titled Gosh, We Didn't Know Our Ass From Our Elbow? Hardly. Being part of the American chattering class means never having to say you're sorry…. Sometimes the refusal to confront errors is simple hubris. But often it masks a queasy reluctance to start down a path of self-examination, for fear of where it will lead. During the final days of the 1990 election in Nicaragua, ABC News released the results of a poll showing the ruling Sandinista Party ahead by 16 percentage points. "For the Bush Administration and the Reagan Administration before it, the poll hints at a simple truth: After years of trying to get rid of the Sandinistas, there is not much to show for their efforts," Peter Jennings gravely informed his viewers. But a few days later, the Sandinistas lost -- by 14 percentage points. The "simple truth" was really that the poll, like so much of what ABC and other American news media outlets had been reporting from Nicaragua for the previous decade, was utterly, dumbfoundingly, whoppingly wrong. But if you think that triggered a frenzy of soul searching at ABC -- about how the poll could have been so mistaken, about how none of the network's reporters sensed anything askew -- then guess again. Instead, Jennings dismissed the subject the next day with a single smirking reference to the inscrutability of Nicaraguans....A team of French historians calculated the worldwide death toll of communism during the 20th century at more than 93 million.
Don’t forget to vote daily
Write in Barack Obama for the Heisman. He deserves it every bit as much as the Noble PC Prize!
Some current victims of Communism. Excerpt: On a Sunday morning at the First Montagnard Church of Raleigh, some 250 people from the Central Highlands of Vietnam read in unison a New Testament passage translated into Jarai, their native tongue: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going." It's a passage that resonates with this group. Over the last 23 years, thousands of Montagnards—an ethnic minority from Vietnam's Central Highlands—have fled their homeland, usually not knowing where they were going. Most have ended up in North Carolina with the help of refugee resettlement groups, struggling to adjust to a new way of life and worrying about those they left behind. They've come here because life in the Central Highlands can be brutal, particularly for the mostly Protestant and Catholic Montagnards living under Communist rule. Adding to the severe mix: Montagnards allied with the United States and fought North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Their Christian faith and their U.S. loyalty have left Montagnards a target for oppression and persecution in a land where they were already alienated from the Vietnamese. But the Montagnards' plight is just one part of religious persecution unfolding in Vietnam. The Communist government oppresses other Christian groups in some parts of the country, and also targets Buddhists and other religious groups. Authorities recently shut down the famous Bat Nha Buddhist monastery in the Central Highlands, smashing windows, damaging buildings, and ordering the 379 monks to leave. Another target: activists and attorneys who speak out for greater religious freedoms and human rights in the country. All of this leads to an important moment for the U.S. State Department. The department's Office of International Religious Freedom is scheduled to release its annual International Religious Freedom Report this month—the first such report from the Obama administration. Officials will reveal whether they will add or remove any nations on the department's list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom. A growing chorus of religious freedom advocates and members of Congress say Vietnam should be on that list. But the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam doesn't seem so sure.
Making the Grade Isn't About Race. It's About Parents.
Excerpt: "Why don't you guys study like the kids from Africa?" In a moment of exasperation last spring, I asked that question to a virtually all-black class of 12th-graders who had done horribly on a test I had just given. A kid who seldom came to class -- and was constantly distracting other students when he did -- shot back: "It's because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study." Another student angrily challenged me: "You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us." When I did, not one hand went up. I was stunned. These were good kids; I had grown attached to them over the school year. It hit me that these students, at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, understood what I knew too well: The lack of a father in their lives had undermined their education. The young man who spoke up knew that with a father in his house he probably wouldn't be ending 12 years of school in the bottom 10 percent of his class with a D average. His classmate, normally a sweet young woman with a great sense of humor, must have long harbored resentment at her father's absence to speak out as she did. Both had hit upon an essential difference between the kids who make it in school and those who don't: parents. (Until we can break the ghetto culture of black fathers abandoning their kids, break of the mentality that education is "acting white" and remove the thugs so the decent black kids can get an education, black kids in the cities have little hope. Democrats like it that way because it keeps them depended on government handouts, thus voting Democrat--and if a few black kids get murdered every day, no sweat as long as it isn't in their neighborhoods.)
This is Your Brain without Dad
Excerpt: Conventional wisdom holds that two parents are better than one. Scientists are now finding that growing up without a father actually changes the way your brain develops.
AARP: Reform advocate and insurance salesman
Excerpt: The nation's preeminent seniors group, AARP, has put the weight of its 40 million members behind health-care reform, saying many of the proposals will lower costs and increase the quality of care for older Americans. But not advertised in this lobbying campaign have been the group's substantial earnings from insurance royalties and the potential benefits that could come its way from many of the reform proposals. The group and its subsidiaries collected more than $650 million in royalties and other fees last year from the sale of insurance policies, credit cards and other products that carry the AARP name, accounting for the majority of its $1.14 billion in revenue, according to federal tax records. It does not directly sell insurance policies but lends its name to plans in exchange for a tax-exempt cut of the premiums. (They should form a new group: Whores for Health Reform.)
Changes in sight for federal employees
Rewarding the faithful. Once you have 51% of voters on the government payroll or government handouts, you can’t lose. Until, of course, the country collapses in fiscal ruin.
A lesson for Afghanistan?
Excerpt: Pakistan's military offensive in Waziristan, and the negotiations that preceded it, may be a paradigm for the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan as well as for the fight against al-Qaeda and other extreme Islamist groups in the Afghan-Pakistani border area. That view emerged from a presentation on the fighting in Waziristan last Tuesday by Frederick Kagan and colleagues Reza Jan and Charlie Szrom at the American Enterprise Institute. Kagan was among those who promoted the idea of "surging" troops into Iraq, and in July he was one of the civilian experts who put together recommendations for Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan.
Kerry says McChrystal's troop request 'reaches too far, too fast'
Excerpt: In his address, Kerry seemed to search for a middle ground between some on the right who have called for a troop buildup and others on the left who have advocated a military drawdown and a tight focus on counterterrorism. (Ah, the middle ground, trying to placate both sides, which I predicted yesterday. Kerry’s probably floating trial balloons for President Wobbly.)
Good enough, isn’t
Excerpt: Sen. John Kerry, who was so wrong about Iraq, now says our commander in Afghanistan is "reaching too far, too fast" and that a "good enough" policy should suffice. It won't. Offering his advice on how to micromanage the war against the Taliban, Kerry said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, President Obama's hand-picked general to fight what he called a "war of necessity," is wrong in saying he needs 40,000 more troops to fight and win it.
When it comes to Iran, the U.S. may be facing a cataclysm.
Excerpt (after the commercial): "We see Iran as the power in the region," Hanson said. "But when Iran looks at the region, it sees danger everywhere." In Iraq, a democratic government has achieved stability, which can only incite the dissident movement in Iran. In Lebanon, Hezbollah, Iran's client, has failed in its attempt to capture control of the country, finding itself contained and marginalized instead. The Sunni states of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and the emirates look upon Iran, a Shia state, with sectarian hostility. "The Iranians, think, 'My gosh, we are in an unstable position,' " Hanson said. "'Maybe a bomb or two will allow us to do what Pakistan has done. Maybe it will allow us to achieve some autonomy.'" The third observation: As the Iranians scramble to produce nuclear weapons, the Obama administration appears too feckless, inexperienced or deluded to stop them.
Der Spigel interviews Charles Krauthammer about Obama
Long but worth reading. Excerpt: He is a man of perpetual promise. There used to be a cruel joke that said Brazil is the country of the future, and always will be; Obama is the Brazil of today's politicians. He has obviously achieved nothing. And in the American context, to be the hero of five Norwegian leftists, is not exactly politically positive.
Centrists unsure about Reid's public option
Excerpt: Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid's risky decision to bring to the chamber's floor a health-care bill containing a government insurance plan was met with skepticism by moderate Democrats, who said they still do not know whether they could support a public option on a final vote. The latest challenge to the Nevada Democrat's move came from Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who told reporters that he was "inclined to support" a procedural motion to bring the measure to the floor. But he remains opposed to a government-run insurance plan in any form -- even with an "opt-out" provision for states that Reid said Monday he will include in the legislation. "I really want to get to yes," said Lieberman, who caucuses with the Democrats. Unless the public-option language is dropped, however, he said, he probably will align with Republicans to block the measure.
The most important number in politics today
Excerpt: 53. That's the percentage of likely Virginia voters who oppose the proposed changes to the health care system, according to new data in a Washington Post poll on the Commonwealth's governor's race. Of that 53 percent, 44 percent strongly oppose the changes. There is significantly less intensity among the 43 percent of likely voters who support the changes with just 29 percent supporting them strongly. Given Virginia's primacy in the electoral math of President Barack Obama -- he was the first Democrat to carry the Commonwealth since Lyndon Johnson -- and its status as an emerging swing state, these numbers should give Democrats some pause about the potential political effects of the legislation. As we have written before in this space, it's unlikely that any of the major changes in the bill currently being pushed by the White House will be implemented before next fall. That means that perceptions regarding the bill may well matter more than reality when it comes to the midterms.
Exclusive: Robust Public Option Lacks Votes To Pass House, Internal Whip Count Document Shows
Excerpt: The House Dem leadership has conducted its preliminary whip count and has tallied up less than 200 likely Yes votes in support of a health care reform bill with a robust public option, well short of the 218 needed for passage, according to an internal whip count document I’ve obtained. The document — compiled by the office of House leader James Clyburn — was distributed privately at a meeting between Clyburn and House progressives today where the fate of the public option was the subject of some contentious debate, with liberals demanding that House leaders push harder to win over votes. Clyburn spokesperson Kristie Greco would only say: “We currently do not have the votes for a robust public option.” Health care reformers are eagerly awaiting the House vote count numbers on the robust public option — which would reimburse providers at Medicare rates plus five percent — because a House bill with a strong public option would increase the of leverage House leaders in upcoming conference negotiations with Senate leaders over the final bill. The exact count has been hotly debated in political circles since last week.
The Malpractice Problem
We can't have health care reform without tort reform.
Excerpt: The extra imaging study, the extra day in hospital at the end of an admission, the repetitive laboratory testing, the admission to the hospital to be "sure" about the diagnosis are all inherent in the culture of American medical care. The avoidance of litigation has become ingrained into all aspects of medical care. Since physicians are not liable for the increased costs of care but are liable for any error or missed diagnosis, it would be foolish for them to act in any other fashion. The costs of this mindset cannot be easily assessed by surveys. No one can identify how the current health care bills being debated and apparently continuously modified in Congress will reduce the cost of health care. They may produce a reduction in insurance premiums for some, but just paying less for health care does not magically produce a diminution in the actual cost of health care. The latter would only occur if there were large profits in the overall health care enterprise that could be trimmed without changing the basic character of the system. But no one has identified such profits. The president points to for-profit insurance companies, but for-profit insurance companies only make up 25 percent of the system and they are not that profitable, ranking 85th among all U.S. industries. "Reform" will redistribute the money, not reduce the overall cost. This is pretty much what the American Health Insurance Plans study, so denigrated by the president, concluded. Unless the costs of health care fall, lowering insurance payments in one segment of the populace will inevitably cause an increase for some other group.
Scituate, Rhode Island, Can Save America
Excerpt: And so, in its way, the Scituate Health Alliance laid the groundwork for health care reform in the United States. We recognized, painfully, that we can’t do everything for everyone. We understood that we can do a lot for most people, and we can do that by working together, thinking together, understanding what really matters and what people really need, and sometimes, by saying no to what we just don’t have the resources for. That’s what Congress needs to do. We need to give primary health and dental care to all Americans. We probably don’t need to --- or just can’t-- give insurance that pays for everything anybody wants or thinks they need, to all Americans. Sometimes, we need to just say "No." That’s how the little country town of Scituate, Rhode Island, saved America. We showed that health care isn’t some big complex behemoth, only understood by the sanctified few. We showed that a couple of dedicated people, in a community of people who know and care about each other, can make sense of this expensive, dangerous mess. Now all we need is for Congress of the United States of America to follow Scituate’s lead. (Congress say “no”? With an election always coming up?)
Escape From New York
People move to escapes higher taxes. Who would have predicted that? Okay, economists, but what politician? Excerpt: An old saying goes that the time to live in New York is when you're young and poor, or old and rich—otherwise, you're better off somewhere else. That wisdom is getting an update this week from a study by the Empire Center for New York State Policy that shows middle-class people leaving the state in droves. Between 2000 and 2008, the Empire State had a net domestic outflow of more than 1.5 million, the biggest exodus of any state, with most hailing from New York City. The departures also have perilous budget consequences, since they tend to include residents who are better off than those arriving. Statewide, departing families have income levels 13% higher than those moving in, while in New York County (home of Manhattan) the differential was even more severe. Those moving elsewhere had an average income of $93,264, some 28% higher than the $72,726 earned by those coming in. In 2006 alone, that swap meant the state lost $4.3 billion in taxpayer income. Add that up from 2001 through 2008, and it translates into annual net income losses somewhere near $30 billion. That trend is part of a larger march for New York: In 1950 the state accounted for 19% of all Americans, but by 2000 that number had fallen to 7%. The city's main saving grace has been its welcome mat for foreign immigrants, who have helped to replace some of those who flee.
Why (California) is in fast lane to insolvency
June 30, 2009, was fiscal meltdown day for the state of California. The Legislature had not passed a budget, tax revenues were plummeting, the state controller was paying bills with IOUs and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was poised to announce a third furlough day each month for state workers. That very day the state Department of Transportation signed off on purchasing $1.7 million worth of new trucks and truck bodies. That spending came on top of $2.6 million on truck expenditures by Caltrans during the previous five months, even as the state's fiscal crisis deepened. In February, the Department of General Services, state government's primary purchasing agent, spent another $1.2 million on 50 new hybrid Toyota Priuses. A Bee investigation has found that most of those new vehicles – as well as scores more purchased in recent years – sit unused for months and even years.
Democratic donors rewarded with White House perks
The Clinton Gambit. Excerpt: During his first nine months in office, President Obama has quietly rewarded scores of top Democratic donors with VIP access to the White House, private briefings with administration advisers and invitations to important speeches and town-hall meetings. High-dollar fundraisers have been promised access to senior White House officials in exchange for pledges to donate $30,400 personally or to bundle $300,000 in contributions ahead of the 2010 midterm elections, according to internal Democratic National Committee documents obtained by The Washington Times. One top donor described in an interview with The Times being given a birthday visit to the Oval Office. Another was allowed use of a White House-complex bowling alley for his family. Bundlers closest to the president were invited to watch a movie in the red-walled theater in the basement of the presidential mansion. Mr. Obama invited his top New York bundler, UBS Americas CEO Robert Wolf, to golf with him during the president's Martha's Vineyard vacation in August. At least 39 donors and fundraisers also were treated to a lavish White House reception on St. Patrick's Day, where the fountains on the North and South Lawns were dyed green, photos and video reviewed by The Times and CBS News also show.
Virginia's crackdown on illegals pays big dividends
Excerpt: In 2003, several counties in Northern Virginia banded together to form a joint task force to crack down on illegals and gangs. Then in March of last year, Prince William County made national headlines by upping the ante even further. They passed an ordinance that required County police to verify the immigration status of any criminal or traffic suspects when there was probable cause to think they were in the country illegally. The suspects were held and transferred to ICE, irrespective of the disposition of the underlying charge. Almost immediately, the Washington Post started whining about the unfairness of Prince William County's program. First of all these racist county officials, were wreaking havoc on Latino soccer leagues, some of which had to cancel games or even disband teams (the horror!) because of the exodus of players to liberal sanctuary states like Maryland across the Potomac. Even the Latina hookers were having a rough go of it. The effort was so successful, the County developed a nickname in the Latino community; Condado del Diablo, The Devil's County. Within weeks of the new law going into effect, the illegals were leaving for Maryland in droves. Marylanders didn't want to be Virginia's dustpan for illegals, but because it is one of the bluest states in the country, the Maryland politicians ignored the public clamor and refused to beef up their own immigration laws. Fast forward to today, when we learned the results of 6 years of local, focused, diligent police work enforcing the immigration laws. Crackdowns on illegal immigrants and other law enforcement efforts are driving gangs out of Northern Virginia and into Maryland and the District, a report released Monday concluded.
Never Trust a Used Carrier Salesman
Excerpt: Indian officers have admitted that they were partially at fault in the billion dollar aircraft carrier Gorshkov fiasco. It seems it was not all the fault of the Russians that the refurbishment of the decommissioned Russian carrier Gorshkov cost a billion dollars more, and took several years longer. The Indians admit that, when they signed the deal in 2004, they had not had engineers go over the Gorshkov, and agreed, after a cursory inspection, that many electrical and mechanical components, buried within the ships hull, were serviceable. It turned out that many of those components were not good-to-go, and had to be replaced, at great expense. Shortly after the contract was signed, the Russians discovered that the shipyard had misplaced the blueprints for the Gorshkov, and things went downhill from there.
France/Civil unrest: clashes erupted in Fréjus after a young man killed himself.
Excerpt: Violent clashes erupted late on Sunday in the town of Fréjus (south of France) after Mohamed El Matari, a 21 years-old Moroccan national, living in the city killed himself while he was trying to steer clear of a roadblock. According to Simon Babri, the chief of staff of the Prefect, "initially, at 17h30, the young man turned back to avoid a roadblock at the entrance of Fréjus and he fled. He tried to bypass a second roadblock and by driving on the bottom side of the road it hit a tree". After his death, at least 50 youths took to the streets and started to break windows at the entrance of Gabelle, an outskirt of the city. The youths also burned garbage, tires, a motorcycle and five vehicles in a shipyard, said the police. When the Police and the fire-fighters arrived on the scène, protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails against them. Then, the police retaliate by firing tear gas but it was unable to enter into Gabelle. No wounded have been reported during the incidents. According to a statement published by the prefecture of the Var region, “at midnight the police were able to take position inside the area and to restore calm." However, police stay in the area during the night to prevent any other incidents.
UN report demands repeal of counterterror laws to promote "gender equality"
Excerpt: In case you weren't sure, human gender is "changeable over time and contexts," sex slaves must not be "stigmatized" for their work, and it's important to recognize the role of "transgender and intersex individuals as stakeholders" in counterterrorism policy. Those are some of the conclusions of a United Nations report on counterterrorism that is intended to promote human rights -- but that critics say is designed to redefine gender and hamstring actual counterterror efforts.
Al-Qaeda Targets Iran
Excerpt: The Islamic world’s Sunni-Shiite conflict took an ominous turn this month when Shiite Iran experienced the worst suicide bombing in its history. Forty-nine people, including seven senior Revolutionary Guard commanders, died in the explosion in the south-eastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan. Several of the province’s tribal leaders were also killed in the attack. The group claiming responsibility for the carnage, Jundullah (“Soldiers of Allah”), is an Iranian Sunni extremist group, based in Pakistan, whose members are ethnic Baluchis. Mostly unknown in the West, Jundullah actually poses a serious security threat to Iran. Over the past five years, it has allegedly killed several hundred Iranian government and security personnel, sadistically filming 16 captives’ executions last year, some by beheading.
Fideo, a.k.a. the Climate Criminal
Excerpt: The government cannot have my dog. Don't tell that to the authors of the new book "Time to Eat the Dog?: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living." They calculate that dog owning is much worse than SUV driving for the planet. So when you see a car heading to the dog park with some happy labs drooling out the window, you should think "climate criminals." Meanwhile, in less surprising news, cats (long known as the handmaidens of Satan) have roughly the ecological paw print of a Volkswagen Golf. Authors Robert and Brenda Vale don't actually suggest you eat your dog. But they do say we'd be better off if we weaned ourselves from pets that treat Gaia like a fire hydrant. Better to play fetch with our pet chickens and then eat them.
China, India Cancel out Copenhagen
Excerpt: With less than two months to go before the big Copenhagen Conference on global warming, two major nations have said "no thanks" to the no-growth agenda. For that reason alone, so should we. Following a deal signed late Thursday between China and India, anything we might agree to do in Copenhagen is likely moot anyway. The two mega-nations — which together account for nearly a third of the world's population — said they won't go along with a new climate treaty being drafted in Copenhagen to replace the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012. They're basically saying no to anything that forces them to impose mandatory limits on their output of greenhouse gas emissions. Other developing nations, including Mexico, Brazil and South Africa, will likely reject any proposals as well. The deal was already in trouble. Three weeks ago, the Group of 77 developing nations met in Thailand to discuss what they wanted to do about global warming. Their answer: nothing. (If they get lucky, BO and the Dems will ruin our economy with cap and trade, with no impact on the climate.)
Excerpt: Two U.S. residents, one an American citizen, one a Canadian citizen, educated and assimilated, and enjoying a nice enough living to be able to afford to fly to Denmark to kill a couple of guys over a cartoon. In the long run, Afghan cave-dwellers and Waziristani goatherds are less of a threat than fellows like Messrs Headley and Rana.
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