Thursday, June 17, 2010

Political Digest for June 17, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree (or disagree) with every—or any—opinion in the posted article.

Shorter digest today due to the ballet. Granddaughter dancing, not me.

'Touchdown Jesus' in Ohio Burns to Ground After Lightning Strike
I don’t care if it rains or freezes…. Excerpt: Maybe it was God's not-so-subtle warning to Notre Dame's Touchdown Jesus, or perhaps it was just a coincidence. Either way, 270 miles south of South Bend, Indiana, a 60-foot tall statue of Jesus Christ burned to the ground after being struck by lightning during a thunderstorm.

Obama’s Gulf ‘battle plan’
The oil spill is not just bad news for the Gulf States, Gulf businesses, wildlife and BP. It’s bad news for BP stockholders. That would include most people who have a variety of mutual funds in their IRAs, 401Ks or company/government pension plans, thus hitting taxpayers. It certainly includes old folks in the UK, where one out of six pension dollars is paid by BP, due to the size of the company. It includes a lot of small investors as well. So when they President said, “BP will pay,” he means “you all will pay.” But most people can’t take the second step in their thinking, so they are happy BP will pay. Excerpt: President Barack Obama sought to seize political control of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Tuesday by laying out plans to ensure BP makes coastal residents whole while offering a broader pledge to rebuild the region and curb U.S. oil reliance. Obama, speaking over seven weeks after the spill began, used his first Oval Office address to lay out his “battle plan” for the Gulf, defend the federal response to the disaster and vow to compel BP to create a damages fund that will be run independently. The president said “millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.” “But make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes,” Obama said. “We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.”

Study claims Gulf oil spill reimbursements could topple BP
Let’s think this through. IF BP goes belly up, we know it badly hurts everyone who holds BP in mutual funds or general stock, so it hurts investors, retirees and taxpayers on the hook for public pension plans, which are already in deep trouble. Other companies can no longer take the fiscal risk of deep water drilling, and stop. They lose value, hitting the market and pension funds further. Decreased drilling drives up the cost of gas and heating oil, further depressing the economy, as consumer spending is diverted to energy, and the cost of everything from food to electronics climbs. Reduced sales drive retailers down, forcing more layoffs in an economy with officially just under 10% unemployment already. The higher oil costs drive up alternative energy costs, as they are connected.

Few people are economically educated enough to realize that if the environmentalists had not blocked shallow water drilling, dry-land drilling in ANWAR and nukes, the economy would be a hell of a lot stronger, so the environazis get more support to push for things that will cost working folks income and jobs.

If anyone, Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals, environmentalists or business people, thinks there is any good news for them in this oil spill, it’s only because they are too dumb to think to Stage Two. Everyone in the world will pay in some way for this disaster, but some will pay with their jobs. ~Bob

Not Another Czar!
Excerpt: The president on Tuesday evening proved himself tone-deaf to this popular disenchantment, manifested in his sinking public approval ratings. He double-downed on his status as the federal government's expander in chief by announcing the establishment of an oil czar who will join the nearly 30 other czars running various sectors of the American Leviathan absent public accountability. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs described the newest czar as being "in charge of a recovery plan, putting a recovery plan together ... when we get past the cleanup and response phase of this disaster." It kind of begs the question: Why not a cleanup czar in the meantime? First things first. This is quintessential Rahm Think. Before the president was inaugurated, incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, cutthroat even by the Chicago machine standards that spawned him, infamously declared that you should "never let a serious crisis go to waste." The Democrats in power used a financial crisis — of their own making, being the culmination of years of politicized housing policy — to fulfill every taxpayer-funded fantasy on their wish list. Now the president is using the BP oil gusher crisis to justify yet another new taxpayer-funded agency.

Oil and Snake Oil by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: The big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is bad enough in itself. But politics can make anything worse. Let's stop and think. Either the government knows how to stop the oil spill or they don't. If they know how to stop it, then why have they let thousands of barrels of oil per day keep gushing out, for weeks on end? All they have to do is tell BP to step aside, while the government comes in to do it right. If they don't know, then what is all this political grandstanding about keeping their boot on the neck of BP, the Attorney General of the United States going down to the Gulf to threaten lawsuits-- on what charges was unspecified-- and President Obama showing up in his shirt sleeves? Just what is Obama going to do in his shirt sleeves, except impress the gullible? He might as well have shown up in a tuxedo with white tie, for all the difference it makes. This government is not about governing. It is about creating an impression. That worked on the campaign trail in 2008, but it is a disaster in the White House, where rhetoric is no substitute for reality. If the Obama administration was for real, and trying to help get the oil spill contained as soon as possible, the last thing its Attorney General would be doing is threatening a lawsuit. A lawsuit is not going to stop the oil, and creating a distraction can only make people at BP start directing their attention toward covering themselves, instead of covering the oil well.

British media fall out of love with Obama
Excerpt: The BBC reports of Barack Obama’s speech last night are about as derisive as it would be possible to be about someone you were describing only a few months ago as the incarnation of Hope and Optimism. Yes indeed, the romance is over. The British media have decided that it was all a cruel deception: Obama is just one more ranting populist president who will do anything to divert attention from his own failure to get a grip. And this is not just about BP and the fate of all those pension funds. Nor is it simply the demonising of Big Oil – which makes the US president sound as if he were recruiting his speech writers direct from the student union – that has evoked the UK media’s collective sneer. What has been much commented upon – especially by those fastidiously liberal BBC correspondents – is Obama’s pointedly bellicose language: the US is apparently engaged in a “battle” to be waged in very personal, anthropomorphic terms “against an oil spill that is assaulting” its coast. Considering how relentlessly the Bush “war on terror” was ridiculed, how long will it take before the Obama “war on an oil slick” is labelled as absurd? Given the tone of this morning’s coverage, perhaps not very long at all.

Breaking BP News
BP and the Obama administration have reached a preliminary agreement that the oil company will place $20 billion in an escrow account to be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, a White House official said. Feinberg also oversaw payments to families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. (Better get in line early. Wonder if you can claim a loss because your pension fund lost money on BP’s decline? I suggest that Obama contribute the amount of campaign contributions he took from BP executives to the fund.)

MSNBC Trashes Obama's Address: Compared To Carter, "I Don't Sense Executive Command"
From the Leftstream Media? Excerpt: Olbermann: "It was a great speech if you were on another planet for the last 57 days."

Economic Myths, Fallacies and Stupidity by Walter E. Williams,_fallacies_and_stupidity
Williams is a challenger to Sowell for my title of “smartest guy in the country.” Alas, I don’t get “honorable mention” on my own list. Excerpt: George Orwell admonished, "Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious." That's what I want to do -- talk about the obvious. Suppose that a person is faced with the choice of spending $50,000 on a brand-new car or paying two years worth of college tuition for his 18-year-old. What is the solution? That's a stupid question. In the world of economic decision making, there are no solutions -- only tradeoffs, where having more of one thing means having less of another. Having one desire fulfilled means having another unfulfilled. For example, there's no solution to our health care issues. Congress' health care law simply substitutes its judgment on the delivery of medical services in the name of helping the uninsured. The tradeoff is that Americans have less of something else such as fewer personal choices, less after-tax income and very likely a lower quality of medical services.

New York Teachers Union Has Branch in Florida?
Excerpt: The outrage of union activities never ceases to amaze. From the Education Week blog we find that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the teachers union of New York, spends almost $200,000 a year of its member's dues money on an office in Boca Raton, Florida! As Ed Week drolly says, "That's not peanuts for a union fretting about its financially strapped members." Turns out that the reason the office exists is because of a union perk to retired teachers: permanent summer jobs at nearly $50 and hour.

8 House members investigated over fundraisers held near financial reform vote
Excerpt: The probe is focused on whether the timing of accepting the campaign checks created an unacceptable appearance of a conflict, according to sources familiar with the investigation and letters sent by the OCE to lobbyists requesting information. The OCE's spokesman declined to comment for this article, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation. The office is scrutinizing five Republicans and three Democrats, a diverse group that includes a conservative, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), and a liberal member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.). Seven of the eight members held fundraisers for their reelection campaigns on Dec. 9 or Dec. 10 -- just before the House voted Dec. 11 in favor of a bill to make broad changes in how Wall Street and financial firms are regulated, according to a Washington Post analysis. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) held a "Finance Services luncheon" at the Capitol Hill Club on Dec. 10. On the same day, a lobby firm with financial clients, Davis & Harman, hosted a fundraising breakfast for Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) at its Pennsylvania Avenue offices.

Office of Congressional Ethics focuses on auto amendment offered by Rep. Watt
Excerpt: A House ethics office investigation involving a bipartisan group of lawmakers is focusing on an amendment to the financial regulatory reform bill that passed late last year. Some details of the probe emerged a day after The Hill reported that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) has asked lobbyists for detailed fundraising information on five House Republicans and three Democrats. The OCE is reviewing an amendment offered by Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), which was withdrawn within two days of a fundraiser held in his honor. Watt is among the eight lawmakers cited by the OCE. Two GOP members suggested on Monday that the office was homing in on the final House vote on reform, but the scrutiny of Watt’s amendment suggests the investigation is more nuanced. Most Democrats, including the three in the probe, voted for the bill, while all Republicans opposed it.

Hesitation by leaders drove cost of Europe's crisis higher
It is unfortunately human nature to put off actions that care costly or painful, hoping things will get better on their own, thus paying higher costs later. Examples vary from the West refusing to take action or even rearm in the face of Hitler in the 1930s to our kicking the Medicare/Social Security problem down the road now. Excerpt: The U.S. government and the International Monetary Fund warned European officials as early as February that escalating financial problems on their continent had to be addressed quickly to forestall a larger threat to the world economy, but those urgings were discounted, according to participants in the private discussions. By the time European officials acted several months later -- prompted by a near-meltdown in Greece and gathering chaos in other countries -- the price tag for stemming the financial contagion had soared.

Detained American was on hunt for bin Laden, Pakistan says
Okay, he’s a nut with a thin hold on reality, who had zero chance of success. But he’s my kind of nut. And the sword was a nice touch. Excerpt: Pakistani authorities said Tuesday that they have detained an American hunter in the lawless wilds along the Afghan border. His prey: Osama bin Laden. Police said they found Gary Faulkner, 51, of California in a remote forest Monday, after he went missing from his tourist hotel in a scenic valley just across the border from Afghanistan's eastern Nurestan province. He was equipped with a 40-inch sword, a Chinese-made pistol, a dagger and night-vision goggles, officials said, and he said he was on a mission to kill. "He told police that he came here for killing Osama and to encourage U.S.-led NATO forces in their fight against al-Qaeda fighters," said Malik Naveed, police chief of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where Faulkner was captured.

Taliban suspected in car-bomb death of Afghan district leader, two others
Why would they suspect the Taliban, followers of the Religion of Peace? Why not Baptists? Excerpt: The governor of a southern Afghanistan district that has become a key focus of U.S. military efforts to root out the Taliban was killed Tuesday in a bombing, Afghan and U.S. officials said.

The calm, cool portrait of the woman who broke ground
Trivia question. Without looking at the article, what is Rankin famous for? Answer at end of post. Excerpt: The portrait of the first female member of Congress, suffragist and peace activist Jeannette Rankin, appropriately captures her standing outside the House chamber before entering it for the first time. (She served only two terms, widely separated, but is the only member of congress to vote against the US declaring war in both WWI and WWII. Lost her seat in 1918 on the WWI vote, regained it in 1940, and lost a bid for the senate in 1942 on that vote. Yes, I knew it before I saw this article. History majors know lots of stuff only of value in trivia tests.)

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac to delist shares from NYSE
I don’t know what this means, except that it seems when anything happens with Fannie and Freddie, taxpayers take a hit. Excerpt: Government-sponsored mortgage purchasers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plan to delist their shares from the New York Stock Exchange. The companies' regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, said Wednesday that it expects Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shares to trade on the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board, an electronic quotation service. The move to delist the shares isn't a surprise. The crash in the housing market has pounded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with heavy loan losses since 2007. Fannie shares have been below the $1 average price level for 30 trading days. NYSE rules require a company to take action to boost its shares or delist. The government took over the pair in September 2008 under the authority of a law passed by Congress. So far, taxpayers have poured $145 billion into Fannie and Freddie to keep them afloat and to buoy the overall housing market. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA and the Veterans Administration backed nearly 97 percent of home mortgages in the first quarter of this year, according to trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance.

5 painful health-care lessons from Massachusetts
Excerpt: Instead of attacking the real causes of the explosion in costs -- the combination of overly generous state aid and a dearth of competition among hospitals and physician groups -- Massachusetts is vilifying prestigious, non-profit insurers, and punishing them, believe it nor not, with price controls. In April, Governor Deval Patrick refused the request of carriers such as Harvard Pilgrim, the top-rated plan in the country, for premium increases of 8% to 32%. Instead, his administration is refusing all rate hikes over 7.7%; any rate requests the administration rejects are automatically held at 2009 levels. In explosive emails released last week, Robert Dynan, chief of the financial analysis unit at the Division of Insurance, told Commissioner Joseph Murphy that the price caps would cause a "potential train wreck" and threatened "catastrophic consequences for the non-profit industry." Dynan warned that the non-profits, unlike national giants such as WellPoint (WLP, Fortune 500), operate on such slim margins that the controls could drive them into bankruptcy. Even now, four of the biggest insurers are threatening to stop taking new patients at rates so low they lose money on each new enrollee. The battle in Massachusetts may foreshadow the results of the new federal law. It threatens to mirror precisely the cycle we're witnessing in the Bay State: spiraling costs that make coverage unaffordable for both patients and businesses, followed by price controls that drive private providers from the market. "This could repeat itself on the national level, and become the beginning of government-run health care," says Lora Pellegrini, chief of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans. That disaster scenario may sound far-fetched. But an examination of the Massachusetts plan yields five important lessons that show the dangers ahead for the Obama health-care blueprint.

Study: In Conn., 40 percent using Medicaid smoke
Excerpt: A new study says nearly 40 percent of Connecticut's Medicaid recipients smoke, and urges the state to offer smoking cessation programs to those residents. The study by the Connecticut Public Health Policy Institute also estimates that the state pays about $507 million yearly for smoking-related health care for its Medicaid clients. It says Massachusetts has cut smoking among its Medicaid population by 10 percent yearly since it started offering smoking cessation help in 2006 to those recipients.

Violence prompts strong warning at Ariz. Monument
Danger! Americans Keep Out! Excerpt: An increase in smuggling violence at the Sonoran Desert National Monument about 80 miles south of Phoenix has prompted a stronger warning to visitors about drug and immigrant traffickers passing through the public lands, officials said Tuesday. The monument and three other federal lands in Arizona already have signs warning visitors that they may encounter smugglers. But 11 new signs have recently been erected and two more were planned at the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The new signs warn visitors about speeding smuggling vehicles and instruct them to walk away when seeing something suspicious and avoid abandoned vehicles and backpacks because they might contain drugs stashed there by smugglers.

It’s Official: 51% Won’t Be Able to Stay in Their Employer Health Plan
Want to bet they don’t get the notices out to seniors until, oh, mid-November? Excerpt: If you listened to the campaign rhetoric during the 2008 election you could be forgiven for thinking that health reform would mainly mean insuring people who cannot afford insurance on their own; in the process there would be no tax increases or benefit cuts for the middle class; and, “If you like the plan you are in, you can keep it!” Turns out, the reality is 180 degrees different. Things are likely to change least for low-income people. About 18 million of them will be herded into Medicaid. But with no new doctors or nurses, they will face greater access problems than ever before and they will show up at hospital emergency rooms in increasing numbers. It is for middle-class families who already have insurance that things will change the most: Within the next few months senior citizens will be getting notices that their Medicare Advantage plans are being cancelled, and for those who continue there will be premium increases and benefit cuts. Over the next decade, 7.4 million Medicare Advantage enrollees will lose coverage they otherwise would have had.

Important: The New Wannabe Ottomans: Turkey is not acting like a U.S. ally.
That’s because it is now Islamist. Excerpt: A Turkish Islamic group — the “Humanitarian Relief Foundation,” often associated by Western intelligence agencies with terrorist sponsorship — orchestrated the recent Gaza flotilla. It was hoping for the sort of violent, well-publicized confrontation with the Israeli navy that later followed. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately issued veiled threats to Israel. He then badgered the United States, Turkey’s NATO patron and ally, to condemn the Israeli interdiction. While the world piled on in its criticism of Israel, there was also a sort of stunned silence over the actions of Turkey, without whose help the blockade-running flotilla would never have left a Turkish port….Turkey's new ambitions and ethnic and religious chauvinism are antithetical to its NATO membership. The United States should not be treaty-bound to defend a de facto ally of Iran or Syria, which are both eager to obtain nuclear weapons. European countries foresaw the problem when they denied Turkey membership in the now fragile European Union, fearful that Anatolian Islamists would have unfettered transit across European borders. In response, the United States should make contingency plans to relocate from its huge Air Force base at Incirlik — a facility that Turkey has in the past threatened to close. We should brace for new troubles in the Aegean region and Cyprus, as a bankrupt and often anti-American Greece is now alienated from both the United States and northern Europe — and yet increasingly vulnerable to a return of Ottoman regional ambitions. Just as the Shah of Iran's pro-Western, secular transformation failed and led to the Ayatollah Khomeini's anti-Western Islamic revolution, we are seeing something similar in Erdogan's efforts to turn Ataturk's Turkey back into the theocratic sultanate that ran the Eastern Mediterranean for more than three centuries.

Obama vs. Freedom of the Press
A scary story not getting enough interest. As usual, if this was Bush trying to control the press, you’d be deaf from the howling. Excerpt: By now, the Obama M.O. should be clear to all. As he has done with the banks, AIG and the car companies, he extends his left hand offering subsidies and then proffers his right laden with regulations. Should the government follow through on Leibowitz' ideas and enact special subsidies and tax breaks for news organizations, it will induce a degree of journalistic dependence on the whims of government not seen since the days when the early presidents bestowed government advertising on favored periodicals. Is it too difficult to imagine that the Democrats might pass laws favoring news organizations, only to question -- as the former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn did -- whether or not FoxNews is a news organization or an "arm of the Republican Party"? We can see a future in which news media are reluctant to be too partisan or opinionated for fear that they would endanger their public subsidy. Once such a subsidy is extended to news organizations, every company in the business must have it. Otherwise, the competitive advantage for the subsidized companies would prove too steep an obstacle to overcome.

Cool picture on this blog
Big surprise for the Red Coats. Good posts, too.

A Manifesto of Lies
Excerpt: On July 3, 2010, the Presbyterian Church USA will hold its General Assembly (GA) in Minneapolis, MN. Once again, the pro-Palestinian elements within the church hierarchy are seeking to pass anti-Israel resolutions. This year’s GA will outdo itself with the inclusion of a viciously anti-Israel declaration called the “Kairos Palestine Document.” A bit of cultural and historical analysis is necessary to appreciate the insidious nature of the Kairos Palestine Document: The Christian minority in the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, and in the Palestinian Authority dominated West Bank, exemplify the state of dhimmitude. A dhimmi is a non-Muslim subject of a state governed by Islamic Sharia law. This individual must pay a poll tax known as jizya, live with severe restrictions on his or her freedom of religion, and is considered less than a second-class citizen. In an effort to be tolerated, Christian clergy members have had to demonstrate greater zeal than Muslims in vilifying Israel – a kind of loyalty test for Christians who, in order to hold any position of power, must ingratiate themselves with Muslim authorities. As a result of having become a conquered minority in historically Christian lands, Christians in the Arab world have sought shelter, tolerance, and acceptance under the wide ideological umbrellas of Arab nationalism, socialism, and communism, and in recent decades, under the Palestinian liberation movement. One can find leading Arab-Christians in the Arab fascist nationalist Baath Party founded by Michel Aflak, a Greek-Orthodox Christian from Syria; George Habash, a Greek-Orthodox Christian and founder of the Marxist terrorist group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); Wadie Haddad another Greek Orthodox Christian terrorist leader who is also aligned with Habash in the PFLP, as well as the Jordan born Neyef Hawatameh, founder and leader of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP), an offshoot of the PFLP. It was the PDFLP that perpetrated the Maalot massacre of Jewish-Israeli schoolchildren in 1974. The anti-Semitism that the Second Vatican Council and Nostra Aetate sought to eradicate in Western Christianity following the Holocaust never had an impact on the Arab Middle East. In this region, the Anglican/Episcopal Canon Rev. Naim Ateek, founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Palestinian Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, made his career as a propagandist on behalf of the Arab-Palestinian cause.

"I've become an enemy of the people for speaking the truth about Islam"
The Nazi’s executed college students for speech crimes. Speech critical of Islam is illegal in many places and can be punished by death in the Muslim world. When “Hate Speech” is illegal, anything the powers that be decide is hate speech is illegal. After all, criticizing politicians is hateful to them. Excerpt: When it comes to the right to speak one's mind about Islam, the record of the last few years makes it clear which direction the West is moving in. In France and Italy, Oriana Fallaci is put on trial for disparaging Islam. In Canada, Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant are hauled before "human rights commission" tribunals for criticizing Islam in print. In Australia, an Islamic organization sues two pastors for "vilification of Muslims." In Britain, a Daily Telegraph columnist is arrested on charges of hate speech for having written negatively about Islam, and the Archbishop of Canterbury proposes that Parliament pass stronger laws against such speech acts. And in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, the head of the Freedom Party, which performed so well in the June 9 general elections that Wilders may end up in the governing coalition, still faces trial for having made a film about the Koranic foundations of terrorism. Then there's Norway, where I live, and where the last few days have seen yet another dark development. By way of background, permit me to begin by quoting myself. On pages 230-31 of my book Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom I sum up the more alarming aspects of Norway's Discrimination Law, passed in 2005: It forbids "harassment on the grounds of ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin color, language, religion, or beliefs," and, in turn, defines harassment as "actions, omissions, or utterances [my emphasis] that have the effect or are intended to have the effect of being insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating." In other words, it's illegal just to say certain things

Mother stabbed daughter in 'honour crime': Police
Didn’t get the “Islam is a religion of peace” memo. Excerpt: Favouring her left forearm, on which spots of blood had soaked through the white bandage, the woman stood in the prisoner’s box looking crushed, accused of stabbing her own daughter in what police say was an “honour crime.” After her lawyer, Tom Pentefountas, asked to delay the formal laying of charges so his client’s psychological fitness for trial could be determined, the woman’s husband stood up in the back of the court and shouted to the judge: “Please sir, my wife is innocent!” He soon began to weep, completing the picture of a family utterly torn asunder by what transpired early Sunday morning. The 19-year-old daughter remains in hospital with knife wounds to the head, shoulders and arms.

Israeli Political Humor

"I noticed recently that Barack Obama was holding out an olive branch to the Taliban. He claimed to recognize that some of them were not as radical as others. I find it odd, though, that he can somehow spot nuances in terrorists 7,000 miles away, but every member of the Tea Party looks like a thug and a racist to him." --columnist Burt Prelutsky. The Patriot Post

No comments:

Post a Comment