Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Political Digest January 19, 2010

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.

Showtime in Massachusetts
It blows my mind that a Republican is believed to have a shot at the US Senate from Massachusetts. If Brown is within 5 points of Coakley, almost no Obama Democrat in the country is safe.

538 Model Posits Brown as 3:1 Favorite
Silver is, as his columns show, a liberal Democrat, but he tries to get the polls right. Excerpt: The FiveThirtyEight Senate Forecasting Model, which correctly predicted the outcome of all 35 Senate races in 2008, now regards Republican Scott Brown as a 74 percent favorite to win the Senate seat in Massachusetts on the basis of new polling from ARG, Research 2000 and InsiderAdvantage which show worsening numbers for Brown's opponent, Martha Coakley. We have traditionally categorized races in which one side has between a 60 and 80 percent chance of winning as "leaning" toward that candidate, and so that is how we categorize this race now: Lean GOP. Nevertheless, there is a higher-than-usual chance of large, correlated errors in the polling, such as were observed in NY-23 and the New Hampshire Democratic primary; the model hedges against this risk partially, but not completely.

Plagiarist’s Day
As I write this on Monday, we are celebrating the birthday of America’s most famous plagiarist. Of course, repeating this truth, like many truths, is politically incorrect. Nor does it take away King’s great contribution to Civil rights, though it calls into question if “Doctor” is a proper title. One wonders if he had not been famous if the doctorate would have been revoked. It also points out the dangers of viewing any person as the perfect one. That includes me. I live in fear that someone will reveal my many affairs with Hollywood actresses and supermodels to my wife.

Brown is doing so well in Massachusetts that Obama went to church Sunday for a photo op with God.

Brown Rally Video

Pictures from Worcester Brown rally

Brown Rally at Northeastern University, Huntington Ave, Back Bay section of Boston.
Interview with a gay, union member for Brown! Unbelievable excitement. Think this was outside Obama’s speech.

Chris Matthews Worried There Aren't Any Votes for Democrats to Buy in Massachusetts Tuesday
Excerpt: Things are looking so bad for Democrats in Tuesday's special election for the Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy that MSNBC's Chris Matthews is concerned there aren't any left-leaning votes for his Party to buy. "You know in the old days...if the Democrats faced this kind of a disaster in the works, you`d go back to your ones, the people you were sure are going to vote Democrat, and you`d make sure they got to the polling place," Matthews told NBC's Chuck Todd on Friday's "Hardball." "You`d get them lunch, you`d get them a car. You`d make sure they got there, and in some cases you`d be buying people to get them," he continued.

Who's investing in Martha Coakley: AHIP, BIO, and the billion-dollar winner of Obamacare
They aren’t investing in Coakley because they want to help the little guy. Excerpt: Tuesday night in the back room of Capitol Hill's Sonoma wine bar, Coakley campaign staffers counted the checks they had reeled in at that night's fundraiser. This morning, at FEC.gov, we get a chance to see some of the big names who forked over $1,000 to $2,400 -- or, for political action committees, up to $5,000. [Click here, and then press the button to generate a pdf or the report.] Mary Beth Donohue is the executive vice president at America's Health Insurance Plans, the Washington-based lobby for the health insurance industry. She spent $1,000 Tuesday night to help elect Coakley. Also interesting: The Medicines Company, the drug maker that reportedly stands to profit $1 billion off the health-care reform bill, gave Coakley $2,400 through its PAC on Tuesday.

Last-minute TV ad buys raise the stakes in Massachusetts Senate race
Excerpt: Just how big are the stakes in the Massachusetts Senate race? Independent and party groups were set to spend nearly $5 million on television ads in the final weeks leading up to Tuesday's special election between state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) and state Sen. Scott Brown (R). According to ad-buy information provided to the Fix, there are 13 -- yes, 13 -- groups paying for ads in the race's final days, with Democratic groups outspending Republican-aligned by more than $1 million. Coakley's ad advantage comes from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is set to spend $1.4 million on ads in the final week of the race -- a staggering sum given the overwhelming Democratic tilt of the Bay State, and yet another sign of how worried the party is. (The National Republican Senatorial Committee is not running ads in the state.) The other major Democratic groups in the mix are labor-affiliated. The Service Employees International Union is up with $549,000 in ads, and Citizens for Strength and Security, which is funded by unions, is spending $425,000 on ads. On the Republican side, there are more groups airing television commercials -- including the Chamber of Commerce and a group affiliated with the conservative Tea Party movement -- but they are spending just about $1.6 million. Add those numbers to the $2.2 million Brown is spending on television and the $1.9 million by Coakley, and the total in the contest's final days is near $10 million.

CNN: Brown Looks to Pull Off Upset
Excerpt on CNN: Several Democratic sources say multiple Obama advisers have told the party they believe Coakley is going to lose. The sources said they still hoped Obama's weekend visit to the state, coupled with a late push by party activists, could tip the balance in her favor, but Obama aides have grown increasingly pessimistic since Friday. The race is so close that Democrats are trying to figure out if they can pass health care reform without that crucial 60th Senate vote. Top White House aides insist they are not engaging in any talk of contingency plans, because they believe Coakley will come out on top Tuesday.

If It’s Close In Massachusetts, Expect ACORN To Lead Vote Fraud Effort
Excerpt: Then there’s always the possibility of massive electoral fraud by ACORN. Note that ACORN national president Maude Hurd herself resides in Dorchester, Mass., and ACORN is actively involved in the get out the vote effort in the Bay State.

World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown
Gee, more junk science from the –science-is-settled crowd. What a shock. Excerpt: A WARNING that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it. Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world's glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035. In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC's 2007 report. It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was "speculation" and was not supported by any formal research. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

Ethics committee probing Visclosky, Tiahrt for ties to PMA lobbying firm
With a Republican in the net too, might get some fast action, not the extended foot-dragging of the Charlie Rangel tax investigation—and others. Excerpt: The House ethics committee is examining Reps. Peter Visclosky’s (D-Ind.) and Todd Tiahrt’s (R-Kansas) ties to PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm that was raided by the FBI last year. The ethics panel Friday announced that it has extended a review of Visclosky’s and Tiahrt’s activities for 45 more days after an initial probe that began Dec. 2. The committee said it will announce its “course of action” by March. 2.

Ford's willingness to defy Democratic establishment may be an asset in 2010
Excerpt: If Harold Ford Jr. defies the White House and launches a Senate bid in New York, it wouldn't be the first time that he has taken on powerful players in the Democratic Party. Ford's unsuccessful bid to challenge Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for minority leader in 2002 was a setback to his career, but one that he overcame. His looming decision of taking on President Barack Obama, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the rest of the Democratic establishment could be more costly. Should Ford run and defeat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), it would be an enormous accomplishment. If he runs and loses, Ford's bright political future would dim considerably. (Could help a Republican—if Massachusetts is in play, what isn’t?)

Thorny votes await lawmakers this week
Excerpt: The national debt, healthcare and the dispute over who can make airline travel safe from terrorists will dominate a contentious week in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will seek to cut off debate on the stalled nomination of Erroll Southers to head the Transportation Safety Adminstration (TSA). The week will also include votes to raise the federal debt ceiling and on a pay-as-you-go measure, while looming in the background will be what Democrats hope to be the final stages of the precarious healthcare negotiations. Reid has charged the GOP with “playing politics” with the Southers nomination and has used the Christmas Day bombing attempt of a Detroit-bound airliner to push his confirmation through.

The 'Responsibility' Tax
Fannie and Freddie are exempt from the White House banker 'fee.'
Excerpt: The White House has spent months imploring banks to lend more money, so will President Obama's new proposal to extract $117 billion from bank capital encourage new bank lending? Just asking. Welcome to one more installment in Washington's year-long crusade to revive private business by assailing and soaking it. Mr. Obama's new "Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee"—please don't call it a tax—is being sold as a way to cover expected losses in the Troubled Asset Relief Program. That sounds reasonable, except that the banks designated to pay the fee aren't those responsible for the losses. With the exception of Citigroup, those banks have repaid their TARP money with interest. The real TARP losers—General Motors, Chrysler and delinquent mortgage borrowers—are exempt from the new tax. Why the auto companies? An Administration official told the Journal that the banks caused the crisis that doomed the auto companies, which apparently were innocent bystanders to their own bankruptcy. The fact that the auto companies remain wards of Washington no doubt has nothing to do with their free tax pass. Also exempt are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which operate outside of TARP but also surely did more than any other company to cause the housing boom and bust. The key to understanding their free tax pass is that on Christmas Eve Treasury lifted the $400 billion cap on their potential taxpayer losses expressly so they can rewrite more underwater mortgages at a loss. In other words, the White House wants to tax more capital away from profit-making banks to offset the intentional losses that the politicians have ordered up at Fan and Fred. The bank tax revenue will flow directly into the Treasury to be spent on whatever immediate cause Congress favors. Come the next "systemic risk" bailout, taxpayers will still be on the hook. "Responsibility" is not the word that comes to mind here.

Eureka, I Am a Conservative!
Excerpt: Now that Barack Obama and the Democrats have taken over the presidency and both Houses, more and more Americans are starting to gag from the stench of unfettered liberalism. Horrified by out-of-control spending, a socialist agenda, and weak foreign policy, a growing number of outraged Americans have been doing some major political soul-searching. Intuitively, they sense America has dangerously changed course, and a growing sea of citizens are now on the same page and thinking the same thoughts:

Sweet Economy Alabama
Excerpt: Is the U.S. rich because it's rich because it's rich, thus obviating any worries that socialist-leaning policy change could make us poorer, as Matt Yglesias sort of argues here? The Super-Economy blog has some analysis about economic growth levels and rates worth contemplating on this point, accusing Paul Krugman of leading Yglesias astray on this point, and loaded with charts showing per capita GDP growth rates circa 1980-2008 for the U.S. and Europe, including U.S. broken down by state. Some of his conclusions: Theory and a mass of empirical evidence show that in general, richer countries grow slower and poorer countries grow faster....The fact that America has not only kept its advantage over Europe but also even expanded the gap is extraordinary. The US is the exception, the only country in the top five 100 years ago that is still in the GDP top five (and yes, the snide remark aside, the US in 1900 had far more pro-market institutions than Germany or France). And even the gap between the US and Western Europe has closed in the last 100 years, it only stopped converging in the 1980s. The pattern during the last 100 years has been for countries with functioning economies to grow faster the lower they start...I pointed out yesterday that the E.U 15 has the same per capita GDP as Alabama. Being a poor American state, Alabama grow faster than the US average between 1990-2008. In fact it grew by 1.75% per year. During the same period the EU.15 managed to grew at 1.64%. (in other words Alabama per capita earnings grew by 37%, the E.U 15 by 34%). In the same period rich Maryland grew by only 1.39%. By Krugmans "logic", Maryland should be learning from Alabama.

Head Start Basically Has No Effect
But a lot of people get Head Start dollars, they vote, so the program is safe. Excerpt: The Department of Health and Human Services has been sitting on an evaluation of the Head Start government run pre-school program. Well, the study was released. As the leaks suggested, the study found virtually no lasting effects to participation in Head Start. The study used a gold-standard, random assignment design and had a very large nationally representative sample. This was a well done study.

Fake Marine General pleads guilty
I suggest a year of community service…cleaning Marine gravestones with a toothbrush.

No comrade left behind?
Not true for the ARVN who fought at our side. One place to help those still in Vietnam is:

Vietnam's War on Religion
Excerpt: The United States’ decision not to put Vietnam back onto the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) regarding religion flies in the face of absurdity given that repressive country’s ongoing war on religion. Religious repression appears to have actually increased since Vietnam was taken off the CPC list. The Washington Times' August 7 article “Zen master at center of row” exposes but one more example of Vietnam’s war on religion, this time against the disciples of famous Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh: “The monks and nuns at Bat Nha monastery in Vietnam’s Central Highlands have been quietly meditating and studying the teachings of the 82-year-old Vietnamese sage who is perhaps the world's best-known living Buddhist after Tibet's Dalai Lama.” Rather than roll out mainline military units as in the past, the Vietnamese communists changed tactics and used gangs of plain clothes police and hired thugs - a parastatal army - armed with sledgehammers, axes, iron bars and other weapons to attack the monastery. They smashed windows, damaged buildings and threatened the monks and nuns. By using this mix of plain clothes police and hired thugs, Hanoi feels it has plausible deniability by claiming that the attack was caused by inter-factional fighting within the Buddhist Church, and in other cases “citizen anger toward inhabitants. Many believe that the real reason for the attack was because of Nhat Hanh's call on President Nguyen Minh Triet for Vietnam to abolish government control of religion. Others say that the attack may have been predicated on pressure from China on Hanoi for Nhat Hanh's praise for the Dalai Lama.

Defaulting the Hmong
4,000 Hmong, America's erstwhile allies, head off to persecution
Excerpt: SOME AMERICANS are alive today because of what the Hmong-- mountain-dwelling Laotians--did during the Vietnam War: harass North Vietnamese columns along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, gather intelligence on the enemy, and rescue downed airmen before they fell into communists' clutches. Those Americans must now be weeping. During the last week or so, Thailand, a fast American friend from which one expects better, has forcibly repatriated to communist Laos some 4,000 Hmong refugees, with whom that country's regime has scores to settle. Not only are the Hmong despised as illiterate barbarians by lowland Laos, but casting their lot with America during the Vietnam War makes them ripe for retribution in their home country. Moreover, the Thai boot given to the 158 Hmong (90 of them kids) who were officially designated by the United Nations as refugees "is a violation of international customary law," said one U.N. refugee specialist. "It's a departure from Thailand's longstanding humanitarian practice as a major country of asylum in the region." (The Misery created by the Democrat Congress in 1975 goes on.)

Syria allowing Hizballah to train with advanced anti-aircraft missiles on Syrian territory
Excerpt: And remember: Syria has a great friend in the Oval Office. JERUSALEM, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Syria has allowed Lebanese Hezbollah militants to train with advanced anti-aircraft missiles in its territory, a U.S. source says. The Kuwaiti daily al-Rai quoted an unnamed U.S. official Sunday as saying Hezbollah operatives trained in Syria on SA2 anti-aircraft missile batteries, and that Israel has warned Damascus that if such weapons are given to the Shiite Arab militants, Jerusalem would view it as crossing an undeclared "red line," the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported....

Saudi Arabia: 80-year-old man marries 11-year-old girl
Excerpt: "There is no law that prohibits the marriage of a girl under 18," says the randy old goat, and he's right. After all, Muhammad did it: "The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with 'Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death)." -- Bukhari 7.62.88

Navigating new naval threats
Excerpt: Terrorist's threats against the U.S. Navy are nothing new. The latest threat declared on Dec. 31 that al Qaeda plans to target areas of naval interests, including ship movements and logistic support services by other countries. Data on possible weapons aboard as well as information on crews and their families does add a new dimension. As a result, the U.S. Navy stated that the Naval Criminal Investigation Service is aware of the threat and has heightened its alert posture in the Middle East. However, let's be clear: This is not a law enforcement issue. It requires all the elements of our national intelligence agencies working with those of our allies to defeat the threats. With known al Qaeda "sleeper cells" here in the United States, we need to broaden our area of concern to include not only our domestic naval facilities but our broader maritime environment. This should include our liquified natural gas terminals, major commercial ports and facilities. The closure of a major seaport shipping channel such as at Long Beach due to a terrorist attack could have a devastating impact.

The Hurt Locker: Great Action Film or Anti-War Propaganda?
Could Hollywood have actually made a balanced film?

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