Thursday, June 24, 2010

Political Digest June 24, 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.

The June 22 blog entry didn't post due to a PICNIC error. Up now. Scroll back down if you want to review thiose stories. Sorry. ~Bob

My blog, The Old Jarhead, has just passed 800 followers, kind of a milestone. Not that I think 800 folks check it daily, but it’s a way to keep score, I guess. It was at 550 in February.

Obama relieves McChrystal of his duties
Not that I disagree with what McChrystal said, but I think Obama had no choice. You’d thing a General would have learned not to run his mouth like a Lance Corporal, at least in front of reporters. If he felt that strongly about Obama, would have been more honorable to resign. Obama has put Gen. Petraeus in command. That would be the fellow the Obama front group,, called “General Betray-us.” No word if Obama has rebuked them. Excerpt: President Obama on Wednesday removed Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan and replaced him with Gen. David H. Petraeus, saying he acted to maintain cohesion in the war effort and civilian control over the military after McChrystal and his top aides disparaged administration officials. "Today I accepted Gen. Stanley McChrystal's resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan," Obama said in an appearance in the White House Rose Garden. "I did so with considerable regret but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military and for the country."

President Obama took command
Excerpt: Barack Obama, as I wrote in my Examiner column today, faced a tough decision on what to do about General Stanley McChrystal and must take command. I think he just did that in his brief and graceful statement announcing that he had accepted McChrystal’s resignation and appointed General David Petraeus to take his place. Obama was on firm ground when he said that the statements of McChrystal and his staffers were improper and unacceptable conduct by military officers; the principle of civilian control of the military is hugely important, and Obama asserted it forcefully. Obama also sent a message to other appointees: no more public disagreements and leaked misgivings. There must be “unity of effort . . . across our national security team.” This was a message to, among others, one of the men standing behind him, Vice President Joe Biden. There is much that remains to be done to gain success—Obama still won’t use the word victory—in Afghanistan. But this was a strong performance, made by a president who was suddenly forced to make a binary choice under terrific pressure. Good for him

Nikki Haley, Tim Scott win Republican primaries in South Carolina
Minority woman wins GOP primary in south for Governor, Black man wins GOP primary for Congress. I’ll bet feminists and minorities are celebrating, huh. No???? Gee, why not? Are minorities all supposed to think as they are told? Are they too stupid to think for themselves? Apparently Democrats think so. Excerpt: The Republican Party stepped away from its long and uncomfortable history of racial and ethnic politics in South Carolina on Tuesday, nominating an Indian American woman for governor and an African American man for the House.

Nikki Haley's star rises
Excerpt: South Carolina state Rep. Nikki Haley's easy victory in the state's gubernatorial runoff Tuesday is sure to establish her as the newest rising star in the GOP ranks and a coveted 2012 endorser. Not only does Haley look different than the stereotypical Republican -- she is an Indian-American woman -- but she is also the favorite to be the next governor of a state that will play a very large role in selecting the 2012 presidential nominee. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a near-certain candidate for that office, was quick to praise Haley, who he had endorsed earlier this year and who has endorsed his 2008 presidential campaign as well. "Against the longest of odds, Nikki Haley took on the political establishment and won," said Romney.

Congress battles as Medicare burns
As we go down this road of high demands for entitlements and dwindling resources, with an aging population, this type of thing will only get worse. We are Greece. 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.

Woman's hip op cancelled four times
Bet she loves her government healthcare. Excerpt: An 82-year-old Durban woman who is living in pain and has been battling to get a hip replacement operation for several months has had her surgery appointment cancelled "because of the World Cup". She will now have to wait until September for the procedure - almost a year since her struggle to get a hip replacement began. Hendrina Swart said she was in pain daily, and all day.

New-home sales plunge 33 pct with tax credits gone
Government mucks with the economy, drives sales up, loses tax revenue, then the market adjusts, so no long term benefit except to those who bought early to get the tax break. Just like Cash for Clunkers. They do this to get votes, but are economic idiots. Excerpt: Sales of new homes collapsed in May, sinking 33 percent to the lowest level on record as potential buyers stopped shopping for homes once they could no longer receive government tax credits. The bleak report from the Commerce Department is the first sign of how the end of federal tax credits could weigh on the nation's housing market. The credits expired April 30. That's when a new-home buyer would have had to sign a contract to qualify.

It’s Not Just Debt, It’s Consumption
The Collapse is Coming. Excerpt: Lenin predicted that capitalists will sell the rope with which communists will hang them. At the moment, one must wonder if debt is not the rope with which the slave world will hang the free one. Alan Greenspan warns that we will soon begin to feel the noose. But Krugman worries that if we stop spending we will end up in a 1930s type depression. Reading a review of Raghuram Rajan book on Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy it struck me yet again that US problem lies not merely in borrowing too much but in borrowing too much to keep up consumption. Keeping up consumption leads to further deterioration of our comparative economic well being. In other words, the US gets sicker while the rest of the world in getting healthier or engages in beggar America policy (according to Martin Wolf of the FT). Rajan identifies three major reasons for the financial crash:

Green” BP Gulf Disaster Benefits China
“Greenwashing.” Thanks, Al Gore. Excerpt: FT reports that some investors were not surprised by the deadly Gulf disaster. They’ve expected it and stayed away from the stock: One UK investor said that he had already started building a holding - for the first time in years - “We have not held BP shares up to now because of its safety record and its business model. We worried that the capex and risks would go up and up as it tried to replace assets by finding wells in increasingly inaccessible spots round the world. That is what happened. But now the shares have fallen so far that the market cap has halved. If the escrow fund is adequate, $20bn against the value of BP assets is minimal.” So, how come a company so famous for its terrible safety record almost received a safety award? Because, argues James Ridgeway, it covered itself in GREEN and became the darling of the climate change crowd: For the last decade, BP has been busily engaged in a multi-million dollar greenwashing campaign. Changing its name from British Petroleum to just BP, the company adopted a new slogan, “Beyond Petroleum,” and began a “rebranding” effort to depict itself as a public-spirited, environmentally sensitive, green energy enterprise, the very model of 21st century corporate responsibility. . . .Even before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP’s green image was nothing more than a scam. While making miniscule investments in things like solar power, biofuels, and carbon fuel cells that backed its PR claims, BP continued to work relentlessly to expand its oil and gas operations. In the last decade, the world’s second largest producer of fossil fuels, the company drilled (and spilled) vast quantities of oil and gas on Alaska’s North Slope and in the North Sea. It positioned itself to rip up Canada’s tar sands to extract its dirty oil, and grabbed a 50 percent interest in Iraq’s rich Rumaila oil field. BP boasted the highest number of explosions and other accidents at its U.S. refineries (several of them deadly), and made the Multinational Monitor’s 10 Worst Companies lists in 2000 and 2005, based on its environmental and human rights record. But BP clearly believed that green was in the eye of the beholder. The company’s move toward green marketing began in 1997, when it quit the industry’s climate change denial group, the Global Climate Coalition, and acknowledged a possible link between global warming and the use of fossil fuels. By 2000, the vertically integrated multinational—which explores, extracts, transports, refines, and sell fuels through its myriad gas stations–had bought up Amoco, Arco, and Burmah Castrol. It united them under the BP brand with a feel-good flowering sun logo, and hired the advertising firm of Ogilvy & Mathers to launch a $200 million rebranding campaign.

Business Climate Lessons from Canada? Really. How to Do the Reset.
But is the American left educable? Excerpt: Those of us who remember a left-leaning Canada, with a European-style welfare state, bloated public sector and all the rest could hardly ever have expected a headline like this one from Sunday's Seattle Times: Canada's Economy the Envy of the World. And before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, Canada's success is not due to elevated public spending, but to a thoughtful and profound retrenchment.

Business leaders say Obama's economic policies stifle growth
Why would Obama care about private sector jobs? The SEIU can’t collect dues from them to support Democrats. Excerpt: The chairman of the Business Roundtable, an association of top corporate executives that has been President Obama's closest ally in the business community, accused the president and Democratic lawmakers Tuesday of creating an "increasingly hostile environment for investment and job creation." Ivan G. Seidenberg, chief executive of Verizon Communications, said that Democrats in Washington are pursuing tax increases, policy changes and regulatory actions that together threaten to dampen economic growth and "harm our ability . . . to grow private-sector jobs in the U.S."

Another rhetorical strikeout from Al Franken
Excerpt: One problem with a political landslide of the kind that Republicans now contemplate in November is that it may also sweep into office various ideologues who become embarrassments -- candidates such as J.D. Hayworth and Rand Paul. Democrats are familiar with this possibility, because they have Sen. Al Franken. In the months since his election, the author of "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot," who has referred to opponents as "human filth" and who once accused Ronald Reagan of supporting the torture and rape of nuns, has tried to control his bile addiction, at least in public. Speaking last week to the American Constitution Society, he relapsed. Most of the traditional elements of a Franken rant were employed against Chief Justice John Roberts and conservatives on the Supreme Court. The attack on motives: The "Roberts court has consistently and intentionally protected and promoted the interests of the powerful over those of individual Americans." The silly hyperbole: "What individual rights are so basic and so important that they should be protected above a corporation's right to profit? And their preferred answer is: None. Zero." The sloppy, malicious mixed metaphor: The Roberts court is putting not a "thumb" but "a fist with brass knuckles" on the "scale" of justice. Franken was clearly summoning all his remaining resources of senatorial dignity not to say something like Roberts is a "lying liar who lies along with his lying lackeys for his lying corporate lying masters." You would never suspect from Franken's speech that the Roberts court, in key cases, has sided with employees who allege discrimination and against corporations. It is never enough for Franken's opponents to be misguided or mistaken; they must want women to be sexually harassed in underpaid jobs while their children die of lead poisoning.

Jon Voight: Obama first American President that lied to the Jewish People
Excerpt: "You will be the first American president that lied to the Jewish people, and the American people as well, when you said that you would defend Israel, the only democratic state in the Middle East, against all their enemies. You have done just the opposite. You have propagandized Israel, until they look like they are everyone's enemy - and it has resonated throughout the world. You are putting Israel in harm's way, and you have promoted anti-Semitism throughout the world," Mr. Voight wrote to Mr. Obama. "You have brought this to a people who have given the world the Ten Commandments and most laws we live by today. The Jewish people have given the world our greatest scientists and philosophers, and the cures for many diseases, and now you play a very dangerous game so you can look like a true martyr to what you see and say are the underdogs. But the underdogs you defend are murderers and criminals and want Israel eradicated."

Federal Gov't Halts Sand Berm Dredging
I’m from the government and I’m here to help you. Excerpt: The federal government has down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico. The berms are meant to protect the Louisiana coastline from oil. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has concerns about where the dredging is being done. The department says one area where sand is being dredged is a sensitive section of the Chandeleur Islands, and the state failed to meet an extended deadline to install pipe that would draw sand from a less-endangered area. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who was one of the most vocal advocates of the dredging plan, has sent a letter to President Barack Obama, pleading for the work to continue. Nungesser said the government has asked crews to move the dredging site two more miles farther off the coastline. "Once again, our government resource agencies, which are intended to protect us, are now leaving us vulnerable to the destruction of our coastline and marshes by the impending oil," Nungesser wrote to Obama. "Furthermore, with the threat of hurricanes or tropical storms, we are being put at an increased risk for devastation to our area from the intrusion of oil.

Guns Save Lives
Excerpt: As usual, the Times editors seem unaware of how silly their argument is. To them, the choice is between "carefully controlling guns" and "arming everyone to the teeth." But no one favors "arming everyone to the teeth" (whatever that means). Instead, gun advocates favor freedom, choice and self-responsibility. If someone wishes to be prepared to defend himself, he should be free to do so. No one has the right to deprive others of the means of effective self-defense, like a handgun. As for the first option, "carefully controlling guns," how many shootings at schools or malls will it take before we understand that people who intend to kill are not deterred by gun laws? Last I checked, murder is against the law everywhere. No one intent on murder will be stopped by the prospect of committing a lesser crime like illegal possession of a firearm. The intellectuals and politicians who make pious declarations about controlling guns should explain how their gunless utopia is to be realized. While they search for -- excuse me -- their magic bullet, innocent people are dying defenseless. That's because laws that make it difficult or impossible to carry a concealed handgun do deter one group of people: law-abiding citizens who might have used a gun to stop crime. Gun laws are laws against self-defense. Criminals have the initiative. They choose the time, place and manner of their crimes, and they tend to make choices that maximize their own, not their victims', success. So criminals don't attack people they know are armed, and anyone thinking of committing mass murder is likely to be attracted to a gun-free zone, such as schools and malls. Government may promise to protect us from criminals, but it cannot deliver on that promise. This was neatly summed up in book title a few years ago: "Dial 911 and Die." If you are the target of a crime, only one other person besides the criminal is sure to be on the scene: you. There is no good substitute for self-responsibility.

Saudi court punishes group of men and women for mingling at a party with lashings, prison time
Let’s support multi-culturalism and bring Shari’a and lashings to America! Excerpt: In Saudi Arabia, fighting for your right to party could get you beaten and thrown in jail. A group of four men and 11 women were convicted Tuesday for socializing at a party, and sentenced to floggings and time in prison, judicial officials told The Associated Press. Saudi law adheres to a strict interpretation of Islam that prohibits unrelated men and women from mingling with each other.

Ukrainian Boy, 5, Slaughtered 'Like a Goat' by Religious Fanatic
Must have missed the memo. Excerpt: He allegedly confessed to the crime, telling police that he was ordered to kill the boy by spirits. “The man screamed Allahu Akbar (Arabic for 'God is great') when killing the boy, "said a shocked local. “The kid was slaughtered like a goat."

Pakistan detains German man near militant stronghold
Can’t ban the burqa, though, as terrorists have a human right to disguise themselves to get close enough to murder your family. Excerpt: Pakistani security forces have detained a German man clad in a head-to-toe veil in the northwest as he was being driven from the militant bastion of North Waziristan on the Afghan border, police said on Tuesday. The man, in his mid-20s, was caught at a security checkpost on the border between North Waziristan and Bannu city on Monday, Shafqat Khan, a senior police officer in Bannu, told Reuters. "He was in a car with two tribesmen, one of them was also wearing a burqa. They were carrying a girl in a bid to pretend they're a tribal family," he said.

"When we die as shaheeds we'll go to paradise"
Early childhood education, religion of peace version. Excerpt: Anti-Israel television for children: The Birds of Paradise band has released a new song in which children express their desire to be shaheeds (martyrs). The song, sung by young children on the Birds of Paradise television channel, includes the lyrics, "When we die as shaheeds we'll go to paradise. No, don't say we're young. This life has made us old. Without Palestine, what significance is there to our lives? Even if they give us the whole world, we'll never forget her (Palestine)."

Obama requests $600 million for border security,0,4691128.story?om_rid=Mqh-D0&om_mid=_BMIfMNB8MCUbHd&
As long as they don’t profile Hispanics. Excerpt: The Obama administration formally asked Congress on Tuesday for $600 million in emergency funds to hire another 1,000 Border Patrol agents, acquire two drones and enhance security along the Southwest border. The money would also pay for an additional 160 Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and extra Border Patrol canine teams, according to a senior White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D- San Francisco), President Obama said his request "responds to urgent and essential needs" and asked that it be considered an emergency. "These amendments would support efforts to secure the Southwest border and enhance federal border protection, law enforcement and counter-narcotics activities," Obama wrote.

Gunshot sensors missing in battle
Excerpt: The Army remains months away from giving most combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan sensors that locate enemy gunmen, seven years after troops first requested them and a year after Congress granted the service's request for $50 million to buy them, military records show. The Army spent $13 million in March for 2,050 of the iPod-size gunshot detectors, which use the sound of an attacker's bullet and muzzle blast to locate him. That's far short of the 15,000 to 38,000 that the service has estimated it needs for troops in the two wars.

In a race of Jewish candidates, the challenger targets Schakowsky on Israel
My district. Excerpt: Joel Pollak has traveled from liberal to conservative in his young lifetime, and now he hopes to take Chicago's storied Lakefront with him. The Harvard Law School graduate, 32, is running a quixotic campaign against U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who has held the seat since 1999, winning 75 percent majorities in elections along the way. Pollak's emphasis has been the economy, but Schakowsky's close ties to President Obama has made Israel an issue in this heavily Jewish district. Making it more interesting: Pollak and Schakowsky are Jewish. He’s Orthodox, she’s not. He has the support of Alan Dershowitz, she is backed by J Street and the Chicago-based pro-Israel, pro-abortion rights political action committee known as JACPAC. It’s a potent mix and potential proxy fight, reflecting at least on paper several Jewish demographic trends -- most notably the increasing willingness of Orthodox Jews and some pro-Israel Democrats to line up behind GOP candidates. Pollak has been quick to question Schakowsky’s bona fides on Israel.

UN Calls Censorship a “Human Right”
You have the right to remain silent. Excerpt: The United Nations believes that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has a “human right” to impose censorship on the media to “promote (Muslim) religious tolerance.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will even hand over funds for the OIC to ensure that strict censorship on the media will be enforced when reporters shed a negative light on radical Islamic militants that include, Osama bin-Laden, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, al-Shabaab (Somalia) and Abu Shayaff (the Philippines). According to Fox News, “concerns about censorship were raised after the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which has tremendous sway in the United Nations, successfully pushed through a resolution that creates a watchdog to monitor how religion is portrayed in the media.” The OIC claims it will enforce religious tolerance by ensuring that the (Muslim) religion is not mocked. An incident occurred when Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed instigated Islamic riots. Yet, the United States and the European Union members on the council voted against the resolution, worrying that it will censor the press and assault freedom of expression. As reported by Fox, “the resolution now opens the way for the Human Rights Council to select a special investigation on religious freedom to “work closely with mass media organizations to ensure that they create and promote an atmosphere of respect and tolerance for religious and cultural diversity.”

Let him that is without stone among you cast the first thing he can lay his hands on. – Robert Frost

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