Saturday, December 26, 2009

Political Digest, Boxing Day, December 26, 2009

I post articles because I believe they will be of interest, not because I agree with every—or even any—opinion in them.

Bring him home, Santa
Remembering the troops.

Merry Christmas from al Qaeda! Midair Bomb Attempt Fails
Excerpt: DETROIT--A passenger on a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight tried to detonate an explosive device that was strapped to his leg and later told investigators that he was trying to blow up the plane and had affiliations with al Qaeda, according to a senior U.S. official. The passenger was identified by authorities as Abdul Mudallad, a 23-year-old Nigerian national, according to Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican who is the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee. The device was technologically advanced and potentially devastating, Mr. King said. "This was not a firecracker," he said. (Nothing to do with Islam, of course. Hope there’s no backlash against Muslims. Presbyterians do this type of thing all the time.)
Merry Christmas to me! Yemen says Fort Hood-linked imam may be dead
Thank you, Santa! Excerpt: SANAA (Reuters) - A Yemeni air raid may have killed the top two leaders of al Qaeda's regional branch on Thursday, and an American Muslim preacher linked to the man who shot dead 13 people at a U.S. army base may also have died, a Yemeni security official said.

Merry Christmas to the guys who started the housing collapse! U.S. promises unlimited financial assistance to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
Excerpt: The Obama administration pledged Thursday to provide unlimited financial assistance to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an eleventh-hour move that allows the government to exceed the current $400 billion cap on emergency aid without seeking permission from a bailout-weary Congress. The Christmas Eve announcement by the Treasury Department means that it can continue to run the companies, which were seized last year, as arms of the government for the rest of President Obama's current term. But even as the administration was making this open-ended financial commitment, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac disclosed that they had received approval from their federal regulator to pay $42 million in Wall Street-style compensation packages to 12 top executives for 2009. The compensation packages, including up to $6 million each to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's chief executives, come amid an ongoing public debate about lavish payments to executives at banks and other financial firms that have received taxpayer aid. But while many firms on Wall Street have repaid the assistance, there is no prospect that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will do so. The administration faced a congressionally mandated deadline of Dec. 31 to increase the amount of aid it could provide to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which together have already received $111 billion in assistance.

2009: The Year of Living Fecklessly
Excerpt: On Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not just reject President Obama's latest feckless floating nuclear deadline. He spat on it, declaring that Iran "will continue resisting" until the U.S. has gotten rid of its 8,000 nuclear warheads. So ends 2009, the year of "engagement," of the extended hand, of the gratuitous apology -- and of spinning centrifuges, two-stage rockets and a secret enrichment facility that brought Iran materially closer to becoming a nuclear power. We lost a year. But it was not just any year. It was a year of spectacularly squandered opportunity. In Iran, it was a year of revolution, beginning with a contested election and culminating this week in huge demonstrations mourning the death of the dissident Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri -- and demanding no longer a recount of the stolen election but the overthrow of the clerical dictatorship.

Blockade Iran Now! No More Deadline Extensions
Excerpt: Well, Obama’s deadline is a week away. What will he do to back up his words with action against this Hitler-like dictator who will soon have the capability to build nuclear bombs unless we stop him? Obama is a caught between a rock and a hard place. Does he move ahead to organize tougher economic sanctions that are likely to be ineffective without the full cooperation of China and Russia? Or does he authorize aggressive air strikes to take out known nuclear enrichment facilities, or give Israel clear skies to do so?

As deadline looms, Iran nuclear program poses challenge to Obama, Congress
Excerpt: Iran's refusal to accept a nuclear deal by the end of the year is setting up a major foreign policy test for both President Barack Obama and Congress. Just after passing the historic healthcare reform legislation that has consumed the Senate's attention, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stressed Thursday that he wants to bring sanctions legislation to a vote when lawmakers return from the Christmas and New Year's break in January This important piece of legislation...would impose new sanctions on Iran's refined petroleum sector and tighten existing U.S. sanctions in an effort to create new pressure on the Iranian regime and help stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," Reid said in a colloquy with Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.). The House passed a sanctions measure 412-12 last week that would enable Obama to bar foreign companies that supply Iran with refined petroleum from doing business in the U.S.

Special interests offer mixed reactions to Senate healthcare vote
Excerpt: K Street’s powerhouses have weighed in on the Senate’s passage of a historic healthcare reform bill — and the verdict is decidedly mixed. Healthcare industry associations, many of which had already endorsed the legislation, offered cautious praise and conditional support; the health insurance industry expressed disappointed opposition; labor unions offered encouraging words but stopped short of endorsing the bill; and big-business groups slammed the bill. (While the AMA, representing 29% of the nation’s doctors, endorsed the bill, many doctors associations opposed it.)

Now They Tell Us: CBO Double Counted Medicare Savings
Excerpt: After allowing Democrats for weeks to argue that their Medicare cuts would both help finance the new health care legislation and extend the solvency of Medicare, the Congressional Budget Office explained today that the bill could do one or the other, but not both at the same time.

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo sentenced to 11 years on 'subversion' charges
Meanwhile Obama is speaking out against the danger to human rights in…Honduras! Their mistake for not buying up our debt.

Letter from a Marine Mom
Marine Lance Cpl. Josh Wege, 19, lost his feet to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Flown from Walter Reed Medical Center to Fond du Lac, Wis., to be with family, he first stopped at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he was awarded the Purple Heart. The nonprofit group Veterans Airlift Command flew Wege at no charge. Marines in Afghanistan are in unheated tents, on cots in sleeping bags, where temperatures are already in the 20s. They layer their clothes against the cold, without hot water, against the elements as Christmas approaches. Marines are defending our freedoms in a hostile war zone. Meanwhile, Sen. Claire McCaskill said she would not be home baking with her family due to her Senate duties. At least McCaskill still has her feet. She should be putting some extra pep in her step as she walks to and from Capitol Hill while working over Christmas. –Marijane Green

Blind to Bias
Excerpt: Some time ago I found myself explaining the value of a flat tax to a liberal. “You’d be able to fill out your return on a postcard. Put in the amount you earned for the year, write 10 percent of that in the next box, and you’re finished,” I explained. “That would never work,” he said smugly. “Where would you attach the check?”

The Fundamental Transformation of America
People said it didn’t matter.

Oz remake?
“The Wizard of Oz” is 70 years old. A remake would not be as good. If Dorothy were to encounter men with no brains, no hearts, and no courage today, she wouldn't be in Oz, she'd be in Congress.

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