Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Political Digest June 29, 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.

Gun rights extended by Supreme Court
Excerpt: The Supreme Court held Monday that the Constitution's Second Amendment restrains government's ability to significantly limit "the right to keep and bear arms," advancing a recent trend by the John Roberts-led bench to embrace gun rights. By a narrow, 5-4 vote, the justices also signaled, however, that some limitations on the right could survive legal challenges. Writing for the court in a case involving restrictive laws in Chicago and one of its suburbs, Justice Samuel Alito said that the Second Amendment right "applies equally to the federal government and the states." The court was split along familiar ideological lines, with five conservative-moderate justices in favor of gun rights and four liberals opposed. Chief Justice Roberts voted with the majority. Two years ago, the court declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess guns, at least for purposes of self-defense in the home.

Corruption Suspected In Airlift Of Billions In Cash From Kabul
Your tax dollars at work. Gee, who would have suspected? Excerpt: More than $3 billion in cash has been openly flown out of Kabul International Airport in the past three years, a sum so large that U.S. investigators believe top Afghan officials and their associates are sending billions of diverted U.S. aid and logistics dollars and drug money to financial safe havens abroad. The cash—packed into suitcases, piled onto pallets and loaded into airplanes—is declared and legal to move. But U.S. and Afghan officials say they are targeting the flows in major anticorruption and drug trafficking investigations because of their size relative to Afghanistan's small economy and the murkiness of their origins. Officials believe some of the cash, if not most, is siphoned from Western aid projects and U.S., European and NATO contracts to provide security, supplies and reconstruction work for coalition forces in Afghanistan. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization spent about $14 billion here last year alone. Profits reaped from the opium trade are also a part of the money flow, as is cash earned by the Taliban from drugs and extortion, officials say. The amount declared as it leaves the airport is vast in a nation where the gross domestic product last year totaled $13.5 billion. More declared cash flies out of Kabul each year than the Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue nationwide. "It's not like they grow money on trees here," said a U.S. official investigating corruption and Taliban financing. "A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen. And opium, of course."

Sen. Robert Byrd dead at 92; West Virginia lawmaker was the longest serving member of Congress in history
Democrats need to be careful praising him, though the media will give them a pass. Trent Lott lost his leadership position for throwing a small verbal bouquet to Strom Thurmond over his Dixeycrat past. Excerpt: A child of the West Virginia coal fields, Mr. Byrd rose from the grinding poverty that has plagued his state since before the Great Depression, overcame an early and ugly association with the Ku Klux Klan, worked his way through night school and by force of will, determination and iron discipline made himself a person of authority and influence in Washington. Although he mined extraordinary amounts of federal largesse for his perennially impoverished state, his reach extended beyond the bounds of the Mountain State. As chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee on the District from 1961 to 1969, he reveled in his role as scourge, grilling city officials at marathon hearings and railing against unemployed black men and unwed mothers on welfare. (If they have trouble filling the seat, Blago here in IL will be happy to give some advice for a price.)

Robert C. Byrd, Corrupter of American Politics, RIP
Not everyone was a fan. Excerpt: We are not supposed to speak ill of the dead and I do try to hold to that, but as I clicked on the news this morning and saw alleged Republican Orrin Hatch lauding Senator Byrd, I began to be outraged. It is not a heroic thing for Byrd to have served in the Senate since 6 years before I was born – it is absurd. In addition to that, what Byrd did while Senator was a criminal betrayal of the American ideal.

The unknown Elena Kagan
Excerpt: When Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee for her confirmation hearings Monday, she will be a tabula rasa for large swaths of the American public. While Kagan has spent the six weeks since she was nominated by President Obama to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the high court meeting with senators and preparing for this week's hearings, the American public's gaze has been elsewhere. The ongoing oil spill on the Gulf Coast has been the story of the past month and, even last week when the Kagan hearings were rapidly approaching, the resignation/firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal by Obama turned the Supreme Court nominee into a secondary story -- at best. National polling bears out the fact that Kagan is barely known. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week, nearly six in ten (57 percent) didn't know enough about Kagan to offer an opinion. (Among those who did know enough about her to form an opinion, 11 percent felt positively toward Kagan, 13 percent negatively and 19 percent were neutral.) Asked what they thought of Kagan joining the court, 47 percent said they didn't know enough to venture an opinion. That's nearly double the percentage of people who said the same of now-Justice Sonia Sotomayor in July 2009 in NBC/WSJ polling. Under different circumstances, Kagan's relative anonymity would set up the hearings as a genuine jump ball, with both parties trying to win the perception battle over the coming week.

How Health Reform Will Impact Existing Plans
After the fact, left-leaning Time admits the truth. Excerpt: "If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan." Throughout the long health care reform debate, that promise from President Obama was one of the few constants, made to reassure the bulk of Americans who already have insurance that the sweeping legislation would not have a downside. Just Tuesday, Obama tried to counter critics who say the new law contains a slew of unintended consequences. Announcing a fresh set of new insurance rules, he called the regulations "a true patients' bill of rights" and insisted that they are "not punitive." But now that regulations about existing employer-sponsored plans have been issued, it's becoming clear that many of the 160 million Americans with job-based coverage will not, in fact, be able to keep what they currently have. Republican critics of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act point to the Obama Administration's own estimates that by 2013, 39% to 69% of employer plans will be subject to new regulations and not grandfathered in, or exempted from the new rules. House minority leader John Boehner issued a press release about the new regulations with the headline "New ObamaCare Tagline Should Be 'If You Like Your Health Care Plan, Too Bad.' " That partisan rhetoric may be heated, but it's not entirely off base. The truth is that employer-based plans, which many assumed would easily be categorized as grandfathered, will be subject to the full regulatory thrust of the new law if they are altered in ways that are standard practice in the industry.

Energy Pipedreams
Excerpt: Just once, it would be nice if a president would level with Americans on energy. Barack Obama isn't that president. His speech the other night was about political damage control -- his own. It was full of misinformation and mythology. Obama held out a gleaming vision of an America that would convert to the "clean" energy of, presumably, wind, solar and biomass. It isn't going to happen for many, many decades, if ever. For starters, we won't soon end our "addiction to fossil fuels." Oil, coal and natural gas now supply about 85 percent of America's energy needs. The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects energy consumption to grow only an average of 0.5 percent annually from 2008 to 2035, but that's still a 14 percent cumulative increase. Fossil fuel usage would increase slightly in 2035 and its share would still account for 78 percent of the total. Unless we shut down the economy, we need fossil fuels. More efficient light bulbs, energy-saving appliances, cars with higher gas mileage may all dampen energy use. But offsetting these savings are more people (391 million vs. 305 million), more households (147 million vs. 113 million), more vehicles (297 million vs. 231 million) and a bigger economy (almost double in size). Although wind, solar and biomass are assumed to grow up to 10 times faster than overall energy use, they provide only 11 percent of supply in 2035, up from 5 percent in 2008. 9Doesn’t illegal immigration increase America’s “carbon footprint” and need for fossil fuels? )

Number of childless American women in their 40s has risen sharply since 1970s
When liberals were pushing birth control and abortion, I wonder if they realized that a lack of younger workers would eventually collapse the entitlement state? Nah, that requires thinking beyond the immediate.

Bam's Climate Rx: All Pain, No Gain
Excerpt: The cap-and-trade bill that the House passed last summer aims to force Americans to reduce those dreaded carbon emissions by 83 percent in less than four decades — to the same per-capita level as 1867. Yet, even under the Al Gore-approved climate-science models, the bill would do nothing to stop global warming. The bill is 1,000-plus pages of rules, regulations, handouts, subsidies and whatever else House leaders deemed necessary. Not one of the 435 members read the whole monstrosity — because the leadership dropped 300 new pages on their desks the night before they voted. Yet the central point is clear enough: The bill simply drives up the price of fossil-fuel based energy so high that the nation will have to somehow get along with only 17 percent of the gasoline and fossil-fuel-powered electricity that it uses today. Don't ask how much it will cost. No one really knows, since you can't put a price on something that has yet to be defined. Last Tuesday, President Obama cited the BP blowout as reason for the Senate to pass its version of the House bill. But senators know that expensive emission reductions are profoundly unpopular. Congress members found this out last summer when protests erupted nationwide within 24 hours of the bill's passage. Polls also suggest that a vote for the warming bill (especially on top of a vote for the health-care bill) is not a good way to keep a job in Congress this November.

Guns Save Lives
Excerpt: Now I know that more guns means -- hold onto your seat -- less crime. How can that be, when guns kill almost 30,000 Americans a year? Because while we hear about the murders and accidents, we don't often hear about the crimes stopped because would-be victims showed a gun and scared criminals away. Those thwarted crimes and lives saved usually aren't reported to police (sometimes for fear the gun will be confiscated), and when they are reported, the media tend to ignore them. No bang, no news. This state of affairs produces a distorted public impression of guns. If you only hear about the crimes and accidents, and never about lives saved, you might think gun ownership is folly. But, hey, if guns save lives, it logically follows that gun laws cost lives. Suzanna Hupp and her parents were having lunch at Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, when a man began shooting diners with his handgun, even stopping to reload. Suzanna's parents were two of the 23 people killed. (Twenty more were wounded.) Suzanna owned a handgun, but because Texas law at the time did not permit her to carry it with her, she left it in her car. She's confident that she could have stopped the shooting spree if she had her gun. (Texas has since changed its law.) Today, 40 states issue permits to competent, law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns (Vermont and Alaska have the most libertarian approach: no permit needed. Arizona is about to join that exclusive club.) Every time a carry law was debated, anti-gun activists predicted outbreaks of gun violence after fender-benders, card games and domestic quarrels. What happened? John Lott, in "More Guns, Less Crime," explains that crime fell by 10 percent in the year after the laws were passed. A reason for the drop in crime may have been that criminals suddenly worried that their next victim might be armed. Indeed, criminals in states with high civilian gun ownership were the most worried about encountering armed victims. In Canada and Britain, both with tough gun-control laws, almost half of all burglaries occur when residents are home. But in the United States, where many households contain guns, only 13 percent of burglaries happen when someone’s at home.

There Is No ‘Good’ Communist
Excerpt: The idea that good people can be devoted Communists is grotesque. The two categories are mutually exclusive. There was a time, perhaps, when dedication to Communism could be absolved as misplaced idealism or naiveté, but that day is long past. ... [T]here are no good and decent Communists -- not after the Gulag Archipelago and the Cambodian killing fields and Mao's 'Great Leap Forward.' Not after the testimonies of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Armando Valladares and Dith Pran. In the decades since 1917, Communism has led to more slaughter and suffering than any other cause in human history. Communist regimes on four continents sent an estimated 100 million men, women, and children to their deaths -- not out of misplaced zeal in pursuit of a fundamentally beautiful theory, but out of utopian fanaticism and an unquenchable lust for power. Mass murder and terror have always been intrinsic to Communism. ... Communism is not, as its champions like to claim, an appealing doctrine that has been perverted by monstrous regimes. It is a monstrous doctrine that hides behind appealing rhetoric. It is mass crime embodied in government. Nothing devised by human beings has caused more misery or proven more brutal. ... Good people do not embrace Communism, and Communists are not good. (Actually, I know a few good people who naively believe that communism is good, that it has just never been done right and all the murdering regimes are not really “communist.” That it always ends in tyranny escapes them, because next time angles will be in charge.)

Will Elena Kagan Defend the Rule of Law?
Excerpt: The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin its hearing today on the nomination of Elena Kagan to be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Kagan is no stranger to the confirmation process; in fact, she devoted one of her few academic writings entirely to the subject, writing: The Senate's consideration of a nominee, and particularly the Senate's confirmation hearings, ought to focus on substantive issues; the Senate ought to view the hearings as an opportunity to gain knowledge and promote public understanding of what the nominee believes the Court should do and how she would affect its conduct. Kagan's law review article specifically criticized recent confirmation hearings as "a vapid and hollow charade, in which repetition of platitudes has replaced discussion of viewpoints and personal anecdotes have supplanted legal analysis." Instead, Kagan advocated that senators insist "on seeing how theory works in practice by evoking a nominee's comments on particular issues - involving privacy rights, free speech, race and gender discrimination, and so forth - that the Court regularly faces." Kagan even suggested that nominees with thin records (and Kagan's record can definitely be considered "thin," since she has no judicial experience, few academic writings, and virtually no litigation experience prior to her current post as Solicitor General), should face a heavier burden when answering senators' questions. So what "substantive issues" should senators press Kagan on to see how her "theory works in practice"? The First Amendment: As Solicitor General, Kagan asserted before the Supreme Court that government could ban political pamphlets. The core of the First Amendment is the protection of political speech. So not only does such a position therefore violate common sense, but its logic could be used to ban Thomas Paine’s Common Sense or other landmark political treatises, particularly if their authors were so foolish as to publish them through a non-profit corporation. Does Kagan believe that the First Amendment permits the government to ban pamphlets and books?

Obama's Unbelievable Winning Streak
(Peter Beinart is a clear, unapologetic leftist writing for a left-of-center website. I seldom agree with anything he has to say, and this is no exception. Nevertheless, it is worth seeing how diametrically opposed are the views of Obama's presidency and accomplishments. I notice the G-20 rejected his urgings to spend, spend, spend. I notice the oil is still spilling, and that government above the level of the states has contributed nothing to the solution except confusion, chaos, and obstruction. The few accomplishments I see for Obama are uniformly negative for the future of the country. Maybe that makes me a bad person. But, I doubt it. Ron P.) Excerpt: I know this is supposed to be Barack Obama’s summer of discontent. The oil spill is still gushing; the economy is still floundering; the Afghan war is deteriorating; Americans don’t find him so charming anymore. But have you noticed that when it comes to actual policy, he keeps racking up the wins? This week it was financial-regulatory reform. One can argue about whether the bill the Senate passed will truly change the way Wall Street operates, but off the top of your head, can you name a more significant piece of progressive legislation signed by either of the last two Democratic presidents? Neither can I. And that goes for Obama’s stimulus package and his health-care reform as well. All of which means that, legislatively at least, Obama has exceeded in 18 months what Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter achieved in a combined 12 years. By summer’s end, he’ll also have shepherded two young liberal justices on to the Supreme Court. (....) The question is why we’re paying so little attention. The answer is that the media views policy through the lens of politics. Unless a policy victory brings political benefits—rising poll numbers, better prospects for the next elections—it is not treated as a big win. Thus, the Tea Party movement is considered an ominous sign for Obama, evidence that the country is turning against him. But the reason that the Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin crowd is so angry is that Obama has expanded the federal government’s relationship with the private sector in fundamental ways. In political terms, the Tea Party movement may be a sign of Obama’s weakened position, but in policy terms, it is a testament to his success. As shrewd conservatives like David Frum recognize, the current mood of Republican optimism is wildly misplaced. When Republicans refused to compromise with Obama on health care, they gambled that he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, push through reform with only Democratic support. Then, when he did, they insisted that he was destroying his chances of passing future legislation. Now he’s proved them wrong again. So what if Obama’s legislative success prompts a backlash that buys the GOP a few more seats this fall? As Frum has asked pointedly, was it a win for the Republicans because after Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare they picked up seats in the midterm elections of 1966? The larger truth is this: Even as Republicans claim political momentum, the country is in the midst of a major shift leftward when it comes to the role of government.

Colombia's Army Shows Its Stuff
Excerpt: Colombians were overjoyed last week with the news that the army had rescued four hostages—including a police brigadier general—held for almost 12 years in the jungle by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The triumph—just a week before yesterday's runoff presidential election—was fortuitous for U Party candidate Juan Manuel Santos, who is President Alvaro Uribe's former defense minister. During Mr. Santos's defense-ministry tenure from 2006-2009, the Colombian military scored several decisive victories against the FARC. Those events were crucial for a country that only a decade ago was considered nearly a failed state. And as expected, Mr. Santos defeated Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus in a landslide. Yet the success of Operation Chameleon, as the army's rescue was dubbed, carries profound significance that goes well beyond election results. It inflicts major damage on the FARC's global propaganda campaign against the Colombian military and provides new revelations about the rebels' ruthlessness. What was learned in this spectacular liberation also reflects badly on leading Democrats in Washington who've been sympathetic to the FARC line. (Leftists talk about civil liberties at home, but always support tyranny abroad.)

VP Biden to shopkeeper: Stop being a ’smartass’
But is that a BFD, Joe? Excerpt: Vice President Joe Biden was caught on camera calling a Glendale, Wisconsin custard shop manager a “smartass” after the man asked the White House lower his taxes.

Culture of exposure claims another victim
Excerpt: The most interesting part of my job is that I get to observe powerful people at close quarters. Most people in government, I find, are there because they sincerely want to do good. But they’re also exhausted and frustrated much of the time. And at these moments they can’t help letting you know that things would be much better if only there weren’t so many morons all around. So every few weeks I find myself on the receiving end of a little burst of off-the-record trash talk. Senators privately moan about other senators. Administration officials gripe about other administration officials. People in the White House complain about the idiots in Congress, and the idiots in Congress complain about the idiots in the White House — especially if they’re in the same party. Washington floats on a river of aspersion. The system is basically set up to maximize kvetching. Government is filled with superconfident, highly competitive people who are grouped into small bands. These bands usually have one queen bee at the center — a president, senator, Cabinet secretary or general — and a squad of advisers all around. These bands are perpetually jostling, elbowing and shoving each other to get control over policy. Amid all this friction, the members of each band develop their own private language. These people often spend 16 hours a day together, and they bond by moaning about the idiots on the outside. It feels good to vent in this way. You demonstrate your own importance by showing your buddies that you are un-awed by the majority leader, the vice president or some other big name. You get to take a break from the formal pressures of the job by playing the blasphemous bad-boy rebel over a beer at night. Military people are especially prone to these sorts of outbursts. In public, they pay lavish deference to civilian masters who issue orders from the comfort of home. Among themselves, they blow off steam, sometimes in the crudest possible terms. Those of us in the press corps have to figure out how to treat this torrent of private kvetching. During World War II and the years just after, a culture of reticence prevailed. The basic view was that human beings are sinful, flawed and fallen. What mattered most was whether people could overcome their flaws and do their duty as soldiers, politicians and public servants. Reporters suppressed private information and reported mostly — and maybe too gently — on public duties.

Muslim Groups Talk War Over ‘Christianization’
A large group of people who need to read the “Islam is a religion of peace” memo! Excerpt: In a move that could add to already simmering religious tensions in Bekasi, a new group calling itself the Bekasi Islamic Presidium is planning a roadshow aimed at persuading every mosque in the city to prepare for the possibility of “war” against “Christianization.” The group, consisting of nine members representing different Islamic organizations in the city, was formed on Sunday, the last day of the Bekasi Islamic Congress at Al Azhar Mosque that was convened to address the so-called Christianization problem. Among its recommendations is the formation of Islamic militant groups, or laskar, within each mosque and the drafting of Shariah-based policies by the Bekasi administration. “All Muslims should unite and be on guard because … the Christians are up to something,” Mur¬hali Barda, head of the Bekasi chapter of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), told the Jakarta Globe. “Apparently they want to test our patience. We are planning to invite them for a dialogue to determine what they really want. If talks fail, this might mean war,” he warned. Murhali claimed that a certain Christian foundation had been relentlessly baptizing groups of people in the city, which has seen a number of religious conflicts in recent months. “The last one was on Wednesday. A number of buses were seen dropping off people, some wearing jilbabs, at a house in Kemang Pratama district in Bekasi. When our people interrogated the security guard, he said they came from Jakarta and were there to be baptized,” he said. However, Bekasi Police Chief Sr. Comr Imam Sugianto denied there had been a mass baptism. “All of them were students and they were at that house for recreation. They all went there for a swim,” he said. Abdul Qadir Aka, secretary general of the proselytization board at FPI Bekasi, said the militant groups were important. “When the need arrives we will have units that can be mobilized,” he said. “We cannot just depend on the FPI. We have hundreds and even thousands of mosques in Bekasi. Imagine what we can do together.”

Police find 11 beheaded bodies in Afghan south
Didn’t get the memo. Excerpt: The bodies of 11 men, their heads cut off and placed next to them, have been found in a violent southern province of Afghanistan, a senior police official said on Friday. A police patrol discovered the bodies on Thursday in the Khas Uruzgan district of Uruzgan province, north of the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, said police official Mohammad Gulab Wardak. "This was the work of the Taliban. They beheaded these men because they were ethnic Hazaras and Shi'ite Muslims," he said. The Taliban were not immediately available for comment about the incident. The militants usually dispute claims by Afghan and foreign security forces. Hazaras, who make up roughly 15 percent of Afghanistan's population of around 30 million, largely follow the Shi'ite sect of Islam, a minority in Afghanistan, rather than the Sunni Muslim Taliban, who are also primarily ethnic Pashtuns. Hazaras faced widespread oppression from the Taliban when the Islamists ruled most of the country during the 1990s. Mass graves containing the bodies of Hazaras have been found since the militants were overthrown in late 2001.

'Turkish man plotted to kill rabbis'
Didn’t get the memo. Excerpt: The individual, Ismet Rencber, had been tracked after mailing a threatening anonymous letter to the main synagogue in Istanbul and was stopped by security forces upon his arrival at a relative's home in the city's suburbs. Rencber, a mason from the city of Kars in eastern Turkey, denied that he intended to kill any Jews, but told investigators that he "hated Jews."

How bad is our fiscal crisis?
The collapse is coming. No idea what I should be doing about it, even in my own finances. Excerpt: Economists on the left and right are expressing concern — in some cases alarm — over the fiscal health of the U.S. government. Currently, we are running a deficit equal to about 10% of GDP; but the government is still able to borrow at 3%. No other country in the world could do that. And we may not be able to do it much longer. We may be living in the calm before the storm. As in the case of Greece — and possibly all of southern Europe — international investors may decide that we have neither the will nor the ability to pay back our debtors. In that case, the government’s borrowing costs will soar. How bad are things? How much of the problem is health care? Can we tax our way out of it? My own view is that the crisis is going to begin at the bottom and rise to the top. Already we have seen some local governments declare bankruptcy. Expect more of that. In the next several years, I believe some very large cities are going to announce that they cannot pay their bills. State governments will be next. Whereas local governments can declare bankruptcy, state governments can only default. A default by the state of California seems almost inevitable. But is it conceivable that the U.S. government could default? Actually, yes. Every projection shows the gap between spending and tax revenues rising through time. And the problem at the federal level is basically the same as it is at the state and local levels: We made promises, mainly promises of benefits for retirees, that we were unwilling to fund. Two years ago the first of the baby boomers started claiming early retirement under Social Security. Next year, they will start signing up for Medicare. Before they are through, 78 million people will quit working, quit paying taxes, quit contributing to our retirement system and start drawing benefits instead. And we are not ready for them. Not in Social Security. Or Medicare. Or Medicaid. By not ready, I mean we have put no money aside to pay for the benefits the baby boomers think they have been promised. In terms of short-term cash flow, the Obama administration is forecasting that federal spending will be at 25% of GDP by 2020, while revenues will be less than 20%. To keep the deficit at no more than 3% of GDP (not zero, but 3%), an Urban Institute/Brookings tax analysis suggests that tax rates must rise by 40% beginning in 2015. That means the bottom 10% rate would have to climb to 14% and the top 35% rate would go from 35% to 48%. The problem is not just a federal problem. State and local governments have unfunded retiree obligations of $2 trillion or more.

Athens to Sacramento in Three Seconds
Excerpt: The self-imposed Greek financial tragedy has rocked the world economy and brought the European Union almost to its knees, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. The parallels between what has caused Greece to get to this point and the looming disaster in California go way beyond the surface. Whether California will have the same effect on America that Greece has had on Europe is yet to be determined. Governor Chris Christie makes an effective argument for New Jersey being America’s Greece. In fact, the New Jersey state deficit exceeds California’s as a percentage of its overall budget, and no one would argue that the public employee unions in New Jersey are less entrenched than in California or Greece. But at least New Jersey has the newly-elected Christie, who speaks with honesty and candor about the state’s challenges, and provides a slice of reality to its residents. California, in contrast, has the hapless Arnold, who has been in La-La land for six years with no end in sight.

Obama meets Ahmadinejad
Have to add to my reading list. Excerpt: Rave reviews greet Imani's latest parody. In this work of fiction, Amil probes the minds of Obama and Ahmadinejad with the skills of a brain surgeon, and shares their exchanges with the humor of a stand-up comedian. An amazing and astonishing engagement follows, in which the two presidential prizefighters hit each other with their best shots, in a meaty and oft-comical altercation that involves tossing out virtually every real or rumored misdeed of both men, with a number of stunning propositions and shocking developments along the way. This international sparring match runs the gamut of flashy moves and shady deals. Who will win this wild and brutal battle of wits between these two political heavyweights? The destiny of the world may depend on it. Author Amil Imani is an Iranian-American writer, poet, novelist, essayist, literary translator, public speaker and political analyst who has been writing and speaking out about the danger of radical Islam both in America and internationally. He has become a formidable voice for the struggling people of his native land of Iran. Born in Tehran, Imani moved to the United States during the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

N. Korea may formalize power transfer from Kim Jong Il to son
Excerpt: North Korea announced Saturday that it would hold a rare meeting that analysts predicted would herald the rise of Kim Jong Un, a son of ruler Kim Jong Il, as the new leader of the isolated Stalinist dictatorship. Official state news media reported that delegates from the ruling Korean Workers' Party would meet in September to select a new party leadership. Analysts said the gathering had all the hallmarks of a similar meeting in 1980 when Kim Jong Il was elevated to the Politburo to replace his father, Kim Il Sung. The planned handoff of power, a topic of speculation since Kim Jong Il, 68, suffered an apparent stroke in August 2008, comes as nuclear-armed North Korea must deal with a crumbling economy, famine and the international response to its recent deadly sinking of a South Korean warship.

Military Families Caution Senators on Kagan Nomination
As I keep pointing out, she was baring the recruiters for following the lawful orders of their Commander in Chief, Bill Clinton—but she didn’t bar Clinton, who gave the order. So the posture really was anti-military, not pro gay. Excerpt: As Supreme Court-nominee Elena Kagan undergoes her first day of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday a military families group is raising concerns about her fitness to serve on the high court. The group, Military Families United, sent a letter on Friday to Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) citing Kagan’s actions to block military recruiters from Harvard Law School – when she was the dean there (2003-09) – based on her opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars homosexuals from serving openly in the military. “We find Ms. Kagan’s failure to offer support to our military in a time of war, and her willingness to defy federal law as troubling and appalling,” said the letter signed by Robert Jackson, director of government relations for Military Families United.

Iran Postpones Any Nuclear Talks Until Late August
Reminds me of a guy in the Corps who owed me $5 after challenging me to a chess game. What he didn’t pay, I asked him for it. Twice. Then he said because I’d been bugging him, he wasn’t going to pay. Excerpt: Iran will not hold talks with the West over its nuclear program until late August to "punish" world powers for imposing tougher sanctions against the country, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday. He also vowed that Iran will retaliate should its ships be searched over suspicions that the cargo may violate the new sanctions, which were approved by the U.N. Security Council earlier this month. The European Union and U.S. Congress followed with new punishing measures in a bid to show the Iranian government that notions of becoming a nuclear power could be accompanied by a steep economic price. Tehran insists its nuclear ambitions are peaceful. Ahmadinejad accused the world powers of approving the sanctions to give them the upper hand in talks over the issue. "We call this bad temper," he said, adding talks on the issue would be postponed until the end of the Iranian month of Mordad, which would be about Aug. 20. "This is a fine to punish them a bit so that they learn the custom of dialogue with our nation." The Iranian leader also set three conditions for an eventual resumption of talks, saying countries who want to participate should make clear whether they oppose Israel's purported atomic arsenal, whether they support the Nonproliferation Treaty and whether they want friendship or hostility toward Iran.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul's health care
Excerpt: Democrats might not consider $109 billion in taxes over the program's first 10 years to be controversial. But taking $150 to $250 out of each monthly paycheck will cause problems for millions of Americans. This is yet another example of Mr. Obama breaking his promise not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000 per year. It's not what we consider a very classy act.

Blue Screen of Death
Having continued troubles, if I miss some days of the blog


  1. I received a forwarded e-mail for about the fifth time now, of your most excellent essay, "I'm Tired".
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    Happy 4th Mr. Hall,
    Keep up the great patriotism,

  2. Regarding the 2nd Amendment ruling, the Court has yet to address "reasonable restrictions" on firearms. The Founders intended that we be able to fend off both thugs AND tyrants. Thus "permitting" us to have target pistols and sporting shotguns misses the point. The Minute Men met the Brits at Lexington with comparable weapons; at King's Mountain the Over Mountain Men had superior arms. If the Swiss can keep assault rifles in their homes, why can't we?

    As for the Blue Screen of Death, Bob, what sort of Scot are you? ASSEMBLE your own machine! It's Cheap. Install Ubuntu. It's Free. Install Open Office. It's Free. Spend the money you save on a big monitor and ice cream for the grand daughter.