Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Political Digest June 23, 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. Nor that I disagree with them, of course.

Obama says war general showed 'poor judgment'
Guess Patton and Puller wouldn’t have stood a chance. Excerpt: President Barack Obama says he wants to hear directly from Gen. Stanley McChrystal before deciding whether to fire the Afghanistan war commander over a disparaging magazine story that has enraged the White House and threatened to undermine the administration. Obama said McChrystal and his aides showed "poor judgment." In his first comments on the matter, Obama said Tuesday that he would meet with McChrystal at the White House on Wednesday and that Defense Secretary Robert Gates will be meeting with the commander as well. "I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed a poor - showed poor judgment," the president said, surrounded by members of his Cabinet at the close of their meeting. "But I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decisions."

McChrystal finds few defenders among senators supporting counterinsurgency
Excerpt: After spending months last year urging President Obama to heed the general's advice on the Afghanistan war, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Tuesday declined to defend Gen. Stanley McChrystal over his comments mocking Obama's national security team and opened the door to someone replacing the Pentagon's top soldier in Kabul. "It's the president's decision," McCain, Obama's presidential rival in 2008, told reporters. McCain said that the counterinsurgency policy that McChrystal is implementing in Afghanistan, which Obama approved last winter after the general's report warned of "mission failure" without a surge of more than 30,000 new troops, originated with Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, making him the most important figure in the growing ranks of Pentagon leaders who advocate the policy. Asked if the counterinsurgency movement was bigger than McChrystal, McCain said, "I would think so, sure, yeah, it was General Patraeus who wrote it." McCain's comments came as other prominent Republicans who urged Obama last year to adopt McChrystal's strategy withheld comment or openly criticized him for his statements in a Rolling Stone profile. McCain referred reporters to a statement issued Wednesday morning by his office along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) -- the Senate's three biggest backers of the McChrystal strategy in Afghanistan -- in which they called the general's actions "inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between Commander-in-Chief and the military." The senators paid respect to McChrystal for his "brave service and sacrifice to our nation," before adding, "The decision concerning General McChrystal's future is a decision to be made by the President of the United States."

Flashback: Media Promoted Military Criticism of President Bush
Excerpt: No general should criticize his or her commander, and Gen. Stanley McChrystal is no exception. But the mainstream media is primarily concerned with the political fallout of McChrystal's apparent insubordination as revealed by a piece in Rolling Stone. They are not concerned with whether his critiques are accurate, in stark contrast to other military officers' critiques of war policy under the Bush administration. During Bush's tenure, active duty generals that spoke out against administration policy were portrayed as courageous whistleblowers. Retired generals were treated as ever-wise sages of military policy. None were scrutinized as McChrystal, pictured right, has been in the hours since Rolling Stone released its article. The most prominent active duty general to earn the media's affection was Gen. Eric Shinseki, current Secretary of Veterans Affairs (to the media's delight). He insisted in 2003 that, contrary to Defense Department policy as iterated by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the United States would need to send "hundreds of thousands" of troops to Iraq during the initial invasion. The media ate it up.

Degeneration of Democracy by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: When Adolf Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920s, leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics. Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler's rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions. "Useful idiots" was the term supposedly coined by V.I. Lenin to describe similarly unthinking supporters of his dictatorship in the Soviet Union.
Put differently, a democracy needs informed citizens if it is to thrive, or ultimately even survive. In our times, American democracy is being dismantled, piece by piece, before our very eyes by the current administration in Washington, and few people seem to be concerned about it.
The president's poll numbers are going down because increasing numbers of people disagree with particular policies of his, but the damage being done to the fundamental structure of this nation goes far beyond particular counterproductive policies. Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.

Doctors limit new Medicare patients
If you can’t get a doctor to see you, being “covered” is meaningless. We can’t fund the program we have, so Congress passes a massive expansion, but drives doctors’ pay down so they quit. The genius of letting bureaucrats instead of the market make economic decisions. Excerpt: The number of doctors refusing new Medicare patients because of low government payment rates is setting a new high, just six months before millions of Baby Boomers begin enrolling in the government health care program. Recent surveys by national and state medical societies have found more doctors limiting Medicare patients, partly because Congress has failed to stop an automatic 21% cut in payments that doctors already regard as too low. The cut went into effect Friday, even as the Senate approved a six-month reprieve. The House has approved a different bill.

White House Won’t Back Hillary Clinton Comments on AZ Immigration Law Challenge
They are reading the polls. As the violence grows, so does support for the AZ law. Excerpt: Here is video of Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton refusing to back comments by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that a decision has been made to challenge the Arizona anti-Illegal Immigration Law. In fact, Burton said no decision has yet been made because the law is “still under review.” Don’t you love how they have repeatedly trashed the law they haven’t made a decision about as of yet?

Judge blocks Obama moratorium on deep-water drilling
Good news for Obama. He gets the political symbolism of being against drilling, while the workers keep their jobs and the economy keeps the oil. Don’t look for Obama to appeal too hard. I was at a seminar Tuesday where an economist said that “The market didn’t work in the BP oil spill.” I wanted to scream. It wasn’t the market that stopped BP from drilling in Alaska on dry land on in shallow water, it was the government. The government wouldn’t stop deep water drilling as every hit oil supplies take is a big hit on the economy.

Dems won’t pass budget in 2010
Unbelievable. Put us in charge. We’ll bust the budget—but not pass it. Excerpt: House Democrats will not pass a budget blueprint in 2010, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) will confirm in a speech on Tuesday. But Hoyer will vow to crack down on government spending, saying Democrats will enforce spending limits that are lower than what President Barack Obama has called for.

Middle Class--Not the Rich or the Poor--Pay Majority of Federal Taxes, Says CBO Data
Excerpt: Middle-class Americans--not the rich or the poor--pay the majority of annual tax revenues taken in by the federal government, according to data released in a new Congressional Budget Office study. Households earning less than $34,300 per year, meanwhile, actually pay a negative average federal income tax rate. Middle-class households that earned between $34,300 and $141,900 paid 50.5 percent of all federal tax revenues in 2007 (the most recent year analyzed), according to the CBO study released Thursday, and households that earned between $34,300 and $352,900 paid 66.7 percent of all federal taxes. Households in the top 1 percent for annual income (those earning more than $352,900) paid a healthy 28.1 percent of all federal taxes, but households in the lower income brackets paid relatively little. Those earning less than $34,300 paid only 5.2 percent of all federal taxes, and those earning less than $20,500 carried almost none of the federal tax burden (just 0.8 percent of the total) in 2007. The average overall federal tax rate (including income, Social Security, Medicare, excise and other taxes) for all American households was 20.4 percent in 2007. But the average rate rose dramatically as household income rose. Households earning less than $34,300 paid an average overall federal tax rate of 10.6 percent, while households earning more than $74,700 paid an average overall federal tax rate of almost two and half times that much--25.1 percent.

Dem Leader Hoyer: Middle Class Tax Cuts Aren't 'Sacrosanct'; WaPo Buries Story on Page A13
Brace yourself, Harry—here comes the bull! (Old joke.) Besides BO promised folks making under $250k wouldn’t pay a dime more in taxes. Excerpt: In a recent interview, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the Bush tax cuts that affect the middle class should not be considered "totally sacrosanct." The number two Democrat in the House of Representatives "acknowledg[ed] that it would be difficult to reduce long-term deficits without breaking President Obama's pledge to protect families earning less than $250,000 a year," reported Lori Montgomery in the June 22 Washington Post. That certainly sounds worthy of front-page placement, especially in the midst of a contentious midterm election year, but Post editors instead parked the 9-paragraph story below the fold on page A13 of the print edition and gave it a snoozer of a headline: "Hoyer: Tax cuts need to be examined." "Middle-class benefit may not be affordable long-term, he says," the subheader dryly noted.

Florida Senator: Obama Told Me We Can’t Take Oil Skimmers From Other Parts of the Country Because They Might Need Them
They are floundering.

‘Emergency’ spending does not mean ‘important’ spending
Excerpt: In the latest iteration of the Senate extenders bill, specifically in an amendment by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus, $58 billion of spending is designated as an emergency. This is for two types of spending: (1) unemployment benefits, and (2) aid to states, mostly through the federal government paying a higher share of Medicaid spending. Emergency spending is advantaged in the Congressional budget process: The total amount of discretionary spending, implemented through annual appropriations bills, is capped by the annual budget resolution. Discretionary spending designated as emergency spending does not count toward this cap. Mandatory spending, most of which is for entitlement programs, is on autopilot. Congressional budget rules require you to offset any legislative increase you propose in mandatory spending. An emergency designation waives this requirement. The same is true for tax cuts designated as emergencies. There are other technical aspects of the emergency designation, but these are the most important. This year it’s a little hinky because there is not and apparently will not be a budget resolution. The unemployment and Medicaid spending in the Baucus amendment are mandatory spending provisions. OK, now that we know how emergency spending is advantaged, what exactly is it?

Germany and Russia Move Closer
Wonder if they will divide Poland between them this time, as they did in 1939. Excerpt: German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will brief French and Polish officials on a joint proposal for Russian-European “cooperation on security,” according to a statement from Westerwelle’s spokesman on Monday. The proposal emerged out of talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev earlier in June and is based on a draft Russia drew up in 2008. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will be present at the meeting. Andreas Peschke said, “We want to further elaborate and discuss it within the triangle [i.e., France, Germany and Poland] in the presence of the Russian foreign minister.” On the surface, the proposal developed by Merkel and Medvedev appears primarily structural. It raises security discussions about specific trouble spots to the ministerial level rather than the ambassadorial level, with a committee being formed consisting of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Russia’s foreign minister. All of this seems rather mild until we consider three things. First, proposals for deepening the relationship between Russia and the European Union have been on the table for several years without much progress. Second, the Germans have taken this initiative at a time when German foreign policy is in a state of flux. And third, the decision to take this deal to France and Poland indicates that the Germans are extremely sensitive to the geopolitical issues involved, which are significant and complex.

Obama’s ‘Absolutism’ is a Sign of his Naïveté
Excerpt: In his reverence for certainty and belief that absolutes are capable of being summoned into existence – on countless subjects, with oil drilling, food safety, and war itself – the president is not actually particularly unusual; he is merely reflecting the prejudices of people who exaggerate the malleability of man, the importance of a Mandarin class of leadership, and the influence of government itself. Just as we could not end war by signing the Kellogg-Briand Pact, there is no regulatory apparatus, presidential directive, or treaty that will ever guarantee, with 100% certainty, that oil wells won’t blow, everything is safe to eat, and that the vagaries of Afghanistan will fall in a row on an agreed-upon date.

Gulf coast senators introduce bill to allow foreign ships to help with BP oil spill clean-up
The “Jones Act” is one of those union protectionist bills that hurt our economy. It was the Smoot-Hawley protection act, signed by Hoover, which collapsed world trade and turned a recession into the Great Depression. They never learn. Excerpt: Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison joined with Florida Senator George LeMieux and John Cornyn of Texas to draft a bill that would temporarily suspend the Jones Act in the Gulf region, which they say is keeping foreign ships from offering aid. The 90-year-old law, which already includes a provision that allows waivers for foreign ships on a case-by-case basis, mandates that vessels may only partake in coastwise transport between U.S. ports if they are “constructed in the United States, owned by United States citizens and crewed by United States citizens and/or permanent residents.” The bill’s sponsors say that given the emergency situation, the provisions currently in place do not go far enough. “With still only 20 skimmers off the coast of Florida, we need to expedite additional assistance,” LeMieux said. “Any vessels ready to help should be allowed into the Gulf.” Former President Bush temporarily suspended the law in the wake of hurricane disasters in 2005. According to Keith Hennessy, who served as Bush’s deputy at the White House National Economic Council at the time, the waiver’s actual impact was “small and diffuse … [but] every little bit helped.” The senators say they are taking action because President Obama has not issued an executive order to waive the protectionist law. “The administration has failed to issue a waiver on the Jones Act, which is blockading foreign vessels from working with their American counterparts to remove the oil from the waters of the Gulf,” said Hutchison. “The federal response to this spill has been unacceptable, and we cannot wait around until the disaster gets worse.”

Congress battles as Medicare burns
Excerpt: The worsening budget impasse over Medicare reimbursements is straining not just doctors but also House-Senate relations — with taxpayers facing millions of dollars in added costs for reprocessing claims. Having waited for weeks in hopes of a stay, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, is now enforcing a 21 percent cut in physician payments, and an estimated 50 million claims, held back since June 1, will be the first affected. Never before has Congress allowed such a deep Medicare cut to go into effect at this scale, and complicating matters further is a public rift between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over the best course forward. Pelosi remains committed to reversing the cut but was caught off guard last week when Reid suddenly opted to pull the Medicare issue out of a jobs and economic relief bill on which the two leaders have been working for months. Clearly annoyed, the speaker has not yet committed to taking up the Senate’s Medicare fix when the House returns Tuesday evening. And the whole episode illustrates the strain on the two leaders, who have had to endure not just stiff Republican resistance but splits in their caucuses and an often unhelpful White House. President Barack Obama has not been a major player to date, and his famous June 12 letter in support of new stimulus spending was greeted as more of a stunt than real muscle. Reid’s office was defensive about breaking out the Medicare piece, but it could also be a harbinger for a new strategy of trying to move the larger jobs package in pieces now — and not as a single entity. Medicare itself is a potential loser in the impasse, since the health care program is already troubled by the large number of medical practices that no longer take its elderly patients, given the government’s fee schedule.

Bonhoeffer: A True Believer
Excerpt: June 18, 2010 marked the 70th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle's historic call to arms for the French to resist the Nazis and also Winston Churchill's "finest hour" address.
Another anniversary might have gone unnoticed were it not for a brilliant new biography of a man who gave his life in a failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. "Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" by Eric Metaxas, is a major biography of this giant of faith published 65 years after his death.

Fallen WWI Marine to Get Stateside Burial 92 Years Later
Excerpt: More than 90 years after George Henry Humphrey was killed in northern France during World War I and quickly buried in an unmarked grave, the fallen but not forgotten Marine is getting a proper burial at Arlington National Cemetery. Humphrey, who was 29 at the time, was killed on Sept. 15, 1918, when a machine gun bullet pierced his helmet during the Battle of Saint-Mihiel. Under German fire, his fellow fighters buried him in the woods in a rural area, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His brother, Oliver, tried to find the remains, and the next year he made contact with a Marine who helped bury his brother.

Government Employee of the Year Award
Funny (After the Ad)

The Three Singing Terrorists
Humor. Jihad is sweet, jihad is fun!

1 comment:

  1. TartanMarine:
    Again you have provided some of the BEST news coverage I've found anywhere...

    Especially like the McChrystal-related stories.

    ROFL on the HULU link!
    Carry On.