Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Political Digest July 13, 2010

Borrowing a computer to catch up on a few posts while at the Jersey shore. Wasn’t able to get through half my incoming e-mail, despite fierce deletion of jokes, stuff I’d seen 30 times, etc.

Couple of delayed posts on my blog you may have missed:

Random Thoughts

Pulmonary Fibrosis
Good, short news video on the topic.

Notes on Europe’s Economic Decadence
Excerpt: In 2004, the year he won the Nobel Prize, Edward Prescott, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, published a paper titled “Why Do Americans Work So Much More than Europeans?” The data were stunning. Prescott found that the average output per adult between 1993 and 1996 in the United States was 75 percent greater than in Italy, 49 percent greater than in the United Kingdom, and 35 percent greater than in France and Germany. “Most of the differences in output,” he wrote, were “accounted for by differences in hours worked per person and not by differences in productivity.” In other words, Americans don’t work any more efficiently than Germans; we just work a lot more. Not only do we work longer hours each week and take fewer vacations; we also work more years of our lives, and a higher proportion of our adults are working. In 2007, for example, American men, on average, retired at age 64.6, while Frenchmen retired at just 58.7 and Austrians at 58.9. That same year, 72 percent of Americans, aged 15 to 64, were in the workforce, compared with 59 percent of Italians and 64 percent of French. Prescott showed that these differences are of fairly recent origin. During the period from 1970 to 1974, Europeans—including the French, Germans, and British—generally worked more than Americans. At that time, however, Europeans were less productive than Americans, so their overall output per person was about the same as it was in 1993-96: around one-third below the U.S. level. So, as Europeans became more efficient (producing more goods and services per hour of work), they cut back on their hours, choosing leisure over work. And the gap has widened. By the time Prescott won his Nobel Prize, Americans were working 50 percent more than the French. The result is that Americans produce and earn considerably more than Europeans. In the U.S. we make $47,000, compared with $36,000 in Germany and the UK, and $34,000 in France.1 In fact, as the Michigan State economist Mark Perry points out on his blog, Carpe Diem, citizens of America’s poorest state, Mississippi, have a higher GDP per capita than Italians, and Alabamans surpass Germans, French, and Belgians. In his paper, Prescott fingered the culprit: high taxes. “The surprising finding,” he wrote, “is that this marginal tax rate [difference between Europe and the U.S.] accounts for the predominance of differences at points in time and the large change in relative labor supply over time.” Taxation rates on the next euro of income became so high that people were discouraged from working—especially with the enticements of early retirement.

The Great Firewall of Australia
Excerpt: Given the importance and ubiquity of the internet in today’s world, any reduction in performance will come at great cost to businesses both large and small. Research published by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in 2008 highlights the potential costs associated with ISP-level filtering. 2 Five of the six products tested resulted in performance degradation of at least 22%. The results of the government’s 2009 ISP Filtering Live Pilot, conducted by Enex Testlab, found that filters had a ‘negligible impact’ on performance for ISPs in the test, meaning speeds could drop by 10%.3 However, this statistic refers to filtering of content on the ACMA blacklist. When filtering additional material, speeds for some ISPs dropped by more than 20%. Furthermore, these filtering tests were performed at a high-speed data centre in Melbourne, suggesting actual performance degradation for typical users may be even higher.

Why Cities Are Broke or, There is Something Tragic About a Train...
... or a light rail system or a streetcar boondoggle that just makes people (well, pols and their civilian enablers) wet their pants over the prospect of tossing 19th-century technology and 21st century debt obligations at cities and states and countries that are already dead broke.
And so witness the spectacle of Cincinnati, a city that is down on its luck and its population, faces a $50 million deficit next year, and is home to the worst mascot in the history of professional sports (see right), anxiously awaiting signs that the feds will shovel some money their way in a ridiculous plot to build a streetcar system in the Queen City:

Is a VAT the Answer? — The Commission, Part III
Anyone who believed BO wasn’t going to raise taxes on everyone was naive at best. Excerpt: All over the developed world, countries are facing an extremely unpleasant budgetary reality: Per capita health care spending is growing at twice the rate of growth of per capita income.
Couple the fact that government promises of health care for the elderly are almost everywhere unfunded with the fact that pension promises are mostly unfunded and that aging populations mean an ever-increasing number of retirees per worker, and just about every first world country is projecting a fiscal nightmare. So what’s the answer? The Obama administration has made it about as clear as it is going to get that after the fall election its solution to trillion dollar deficits is going to be a value-added tax (VAT). But is that a good idea?

Congress returns from recess to even more of the same
Excerpt: Congress will return this week from the July 4th recess to a pile of unfinished business. Yes, the same might be said of every Congress returning from every recess since lawmakers wore wigs and tights. But this time it could be a big problem, especially for the party in power. When Barack Obama took office and the Democrats took control of Washington, they made ambitious promises about how much they'd get done, with or without Republican help. Now, with relatively few working days left before the November midterm elections (in part because lawmakers granted themselves another long break beginning at the end of July), they might not be able to convince skeptical, frustrated voters that they delivered -- and that they deserve to stay in charge. Bills to extend unemployment benefits and impose new regulations on the financial industry have yet to be resolved. An emergency war funding bill, loaded up with unrelated spending, faces a White House veto threat. The Senate must still approve Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court.

AFL-CIO goes in the field in 23 states
Gotta keep the tax dollars flowing. Excerpt: The AFL-CIO is launching the first stage of its field operation for November's elections, dropping more than 300,000 flyers at worksites in 23 states over the next two weeks. The effort, which is set to be announced Monday morning, is the start of what the union says will be an unprecedented effort in the 2010 campaign.

Twin blasts kill scores of World Cup watchers in Uganda
Didn’t get the “Islam is a religion of peace” memo. Excerpt: Powerful explosions tore through two venues in the Ugandan capital where crowds were watching television broadcasts of the World Cup final late Sunday, killing at least 74 people and wounding scores of others, Ugandan police said. At least one American was killed and several were wounded, according to the U.S. Embassy here.

With debt, deficit come more red tape
Excerpt: But debt and deficits aren't the only monstrously growing manifestations of out-of-control government in the nation's capital. When government spends tax dollars, a flood of rules and regulations invariably follows. Some of the red tape is meant to prevent waste, fraud and abuse. But far more of it is a damaging burden on the individual liberty and free enterprise that have made this country the most prosperous in human history. The recently issued 2010 edition of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's "Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State" provides some chilling insights into just how burdensome federal bureaucracy has become. Regulatory compliance costs imposed on businesses last year exceeded $1.87 trillion, or an amount equal to 8.3 percent of the gross national product, according to the CEI report. Such costs are only going to grow. Washington issued 3,508 new regulations in 2009. More than one-tenth of the new regulations issued in 2007 each resulted in at least $100 million in compliance costs. All of us pay for these regulatory costs because businesses pass their costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices. But as CEI notes, there are other, more hidden costs of regulations: "Since disclosure and accountability for regulation are limited, policymakers have little incentive to care about the extent of regulatory costs or where those costs stand in relation to ordinary government spending." And since regulatory compliance costs appear nowhere as a line item in the federal budget, they escape the kind of public and media attention normally devoted to direct government spending. As CEI notes, the result is regulatory compliance costs become a form of "off-budget taxation."

Arthur Brooks: On the new culture war over free enterprise
Excerpt: First of a three-part series. Tuesday: American fairness means equality of opportunity, not income. Wednesday: Earned success is the secret to human happiness.
America faces a new culture war. This is not a fight over guns, abortions, religion or gays. Nor is it about Republicans versus Democrats. Rather, it is a struggle between two competing visions of America's future. In one, America will continue to be a unique and exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise. In the other, America will move toward European-style statism grounded in expanding bureaucracies, increasing income redistribution, and government-controlled corporations. "The Battle" presents the evidence that free enterprise is an expression of the core values of a large majority of Americans. It brings the most life satisfaction to the most people. Personal liberty, individual opportunity and entrepreneurship are the explanation for our nation's past success and the promise of greater things to come

Obama economy sends Americans to their mattresses
Home mortgage interest rates are the lowest in history, but house sales are plunging. Banks can make money easily because of the Federal Reserve's low interest rates, but they're not making many loans. Major corporations are sitting on something like $2 trillion in cash, but they're not investing. Unemployment is running at 10 percent, rounded off, for the 11th straight month, but few employers are hiring and a million people have stopped looking for work in the last year. Small-business hiring is at a nine-month low and retail sales are tailing off. Government policies designed to stimulate the economy seem to be having the opposite effect. Consumers aren't buying, businesses aren't hiring and those fortunate enough to have some cash on hand don't seem to be investing. I call it the mattress economy.

Obama touts $400M loan to solar company run by corrupt congressman’s nephew http://commonamericanjournal.com/?p=16648
You may call this corruption. We call it The Chicago Way. Excerpt: As Ed pointed out last week, President Obama announced in his July 3 weekly address that the federal government will back nearly $2 billion in loans to two solar power companies as part of its “green jobs” and stimulus programs. The $2 billion is supposed to produce 5,100 jobs–but most of them are only temporary construction jobs. A company called Abound Solar claims its $400 million loan will produce 1,500 permanent jobs in Colorado and Indiana, and–this is a fact Obama conveniently left out of his remarks–the $1.45 billion loan to the Spanish company Abengoa Solar will only produce 85 permanent jobs. That’s right: 85. I’m not cutting off any zeros. As crazy as it may be to invest millions of dollars per job, this story actually gets much worse. As Andrew B. Wilson writes in the latest issue of The Weekly Standard, there’s a culture of corruption angle: Russell Kanjorski, the vice president for marketing at Abound Solar, was one of the principals in another energy company in northeast Pennsylvania, called Cornerstone Technologies LLC, which attracted $9 million in federal grants before it halted operations in 2003 and later filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. As reported by the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, “Cornerstone reported $14,100 in assets compared with $1.34 million in debt” in its bankruptcy filing. The $9 million in federal grants to Cornerstone were earmarked by Kanjorski’s uncle, Representative Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania, chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises.

President of New Black Panther Party Admits Plan to Intimidate Voters
It’s The Chicago Way. Excerpt: In a newly discovered home video, Malik Zulu Shabazz states to a crowd of Panther members that the activities that occurred in Philadelphia in Nov ‘08 were indeed done to intimidate voters.

Dr. Fred Singer on the Muir-Russell report
Excerpt: In contrast to the Oxburgh report, the Muir-Russell (MR) report is quite substantive (160 pp, incl 8 appendices) and very professionally produced. MR members held some dozen meetings (presumably in Edinburgh), conducted many interviews at UAE, and accepted some 100 submissions (all unpublished). [A very few of these came from recognizable skeptics; none from Douglass, Christy or Singer, although our work is referred to on pp 148-149 -- as a threat to Jones?] I have several major criticisms, mostly connected to the fact that the MR team had no in-house competence in the relevant science (atmospheric physics and meteorology). Prof Geoffrey Boulton is a geologist, Prof Peter Clarke is a particle physicist, and Professor James Norton seems to be a general expert on engineering and business. Sir Muir Russell himself once got a degree in natural philosophy (physics). As far as one can tell, they consulted only supporters of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), i.e., supporters of the IPCC. As a result, they could not really judge whether Phil Jones (head of the Climate Research Unit at UEA) manipulated the post-1980 temperature data, both by selection of weather stations and by applying certain corrections to individual records. Had they spoken to Joe D’Aleo or to Anthony Watts, they might have gotten a different slant on the CRU’s handling of station data.

Scientists expected Obama administration to be friendlier
Excerpt: When he ran for president, Barack Obama attacked the George W. Bush administration for putting political concerns ahead of science on such issues as climate change and public health. And during his first weeks in the White House, President Obama ordered his advisors to develop rules to "guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch." Many government scientists hailed the president's pronouncement. But a year and a half later, no such rules have been issued. Now scientists charge that the Obama administration is not doing enough to reverse a culture that they contend allowed officials to interfere with their work and limit their ability to speak out. "We are getting complaints from government scientists now at the same rate we were during the Bush administration," said Jeffrey Ruch, an activist lawyer who heads an organization representing scientific whistle-blowers.... "It is important to appreciate that this administration has made scientific integrity a priority from Day One — in the people we've appointed, the policies we've adopted, the budgets we've proposed, and the processes we follow," says Rick Weiss, an analyst and spokesman for the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Obama Finalizes Plans For 3rd Vacation Since Gulf Oil Spill Crisis Began
Excerpt: “I’m not going to rest or be satisfied until the leak is stopped at the source, the oil in the Gulf is contained and cleaned up, and the people in the Gulf are able to go back to their lives and their livelihoods.”

The Reindustrialization of America
Notice we are not losing jobs to socialized Europe. Excerpt: Consumer spending drives 70 percent of the American economy. In such an economy, the individual must spend continually and lustily lest the economy fall into recession. But what's good for the economy isn't necessarily good for the individual. Right now the individual sees a 10 percent unemployment rate and fears he may be the next to be laid off. So he begins to save his money, reining in his spending. And as consumption ebbs, businesses fail, unemployment rises. The conflict between the interests of the individual and the interests of the economy is not an indication of some fundamental flaw in capitalism, but of a need for rebalance: Things have gotten out of whack. Too much of the economy is made up of products and services that simply aren't essential. When hard times come, such enterprises are especially vulnerable to going out of business. Folks discover that their town, like mine, really doesn't need stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Gucci, and The Sharper Image. In a recession, the individual learns that there are countless ways to economize. One can "brown bag" lunch, cut out the premium movie channels on cable/satellite TV, and on and on. Why buy books when they're available for free at public libraries? Such cutbacks in spending create a downward spiral that feeds on itself, weeding out non-essential enterprises. Since the 1950s, the character of the American economy has changed dramatically. We used to make what we consumed; now we import it. We made our own electronics, and our own apparel, and in the Fifties we manufactured nearly all of our cars. But now instead of making cars, we make lattes. And, irony of ironies, if one is in the market for a wallet in which to put one's American dollar bills, one will discover that the wallets carried at the department stores are all made in India and China.

Hindus hounded into cattle pen in Karachi
Didn’t get the memo. Excerpt: In an incident which showcases the brutal hatred with which Hindus are seen in Pakistan, at least 60 members of the minority community, including women and children, were forced to abandon their house in Karachi's Memon Goth area just because a Hindu boy drank water from a cooler outside a mosque. Local tribesman, who hold a good clout in the area, thrashed several Hindus forcing them to run away and take shelter in a near by cattle pen, The News reports. "All hell broke loose when my son, Dinesh, who looked after chickens in a farm, drank water from a cooler outside a mosque. Upon seeing him do that, the people of the area started beating him up," said Meerumal, a resident of the area. "Later, around 150 tribesmen attacked us, injuring seven of our people, who were taken to the Jinnah Hospital," he added.

WAF outraged at jirga’s judgment of stoning to death
Didn’t get the memo. Excerpt: Women's Action Forum (WAF) is outraged at reports of yet another "judgement of stoning to death due to illicit relations", pronounced by a self-styled jirga convened in Kala Dhaka, wherein it was alleged that a man and a woman were seen walking together in a field in Madakhail. WAF noted that Kala Dhaka was a Provincially Administered Tribal Area (PATA) until it was converted into a settled area and renamed 'Torghar' last week, after which it might be excused for demanding the writ of the state, the pronouncements of the judiciary, and the provincial law enforcement system to be de jure and de facto functional.

Clouds Of Doubt Still Hang Over Climate Scientists
Excerpt: During my graduate studies, I witnessed a bitter feud between two supposedly reasonable adults who lived on different continents and worked in the same field of research. But there was no supportive collaboration in their work; only a personal vindictiveness and antipathy that led each of them to automatically discredit the other's work . . . just for the sake of discrediting the other's work. These are the kind of games that now seem to exist in climate change research. Last November, over 1,000 e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were leaked to the media. The damage was immense. They raised questions about the reliability of climate science, suggested that data had been manipulated and that the peer review process was biased to reject alternate research or criticism. The charges are particularly significant as the CRU is a major data contributor to the UN reports on climate change that are used to create government policies. These claims were supposedly put to rest this week by the release of the Independent Climate Change Emails Review. But after six months and $350,000, the resulting report only found that e-mails tend to be "informal," "less inhibited" and use more extreme language than normal conversations. In addition, "it is possible to place different interpretations on the same phrase" and, "In such circumstances, only the original author can really know what their intentions were." In other words, the report is willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the e-mail authors. Frankly, any longtime e-mail user could have come up with those same conclusions in about 10 minutes and for about five dollars.

A Green Retreat
Excerpt: Just three years ago the politics of global warming was enjoying its golden moment. The release in 2006 of Al Gore’s Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, had riveted global audiences with its predictions of New York and Miami under 20 feet of water. Within 12 months, leading politicians with real power were on board. Germany’s Angela Merkel, dubbed the “climate chancellor” by her country’s press, arranged a Greenland photo op with a melting iceberg and promised to cut Europe’s emissions by 20 percent by 2020. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who called climate change a scourge equal to fascism, offered 60 percent by 2050. In December 2007, the world got its very first green leader. Harnessing the issue of climate change, Kevin Rudd became prime minister of Australia, ready to take on what he called “the biggest political, economic, and moral challenge of our times.” Now, almost everywhere, green politics has fallen from its lofty heights. Following two of the harshest winters on record in the Northern Hemisphere—not to mention an epic economic crisis—voters no longer consider global warming a priority. Just 42 percent of Germans now worry about climate change, down from 62 percent in 2006. In Australia, only 53 percent still consider it a pressing issue, down from 75 percent in 2007. Americans rank climate change dead last of 21 problems that concern them most, according to a January Pew poll. Last month Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, blasting climate change as a “sideshow” to global economic issues, canceled the meeting of environment ministers that has preceded the G8 or G20 summit every year but one since 1994. Merkel has slashed green-development aid in the latest round of budget cuts, while in Washington, Barack Obama seems to have cooled on his plan to cap emissions. In perhaps the most striking momentum reversal for environmental politicians, last month Rudd became the first leader to be destroyed by his green policies. Flip-flopping over planned emissions cuts as the opposition exploited Australian voters’ flagging support for climate measures, he was finally ousted by party rebels.

Obama's Politics of Fear
Excerpt: "It is a little odd getting lectures on sobriety from folks that spent like drunken sailors," President Barack Obama said of Republicans Thursday while campaigning for Senate candidate Robin Carnahan (D-MO). An interesting choice of words for a president whose current budget is expected to add an astounding $10 trillion to the national debt in the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. "These folks drove the economy into a ditch," Obama continued. "And they want the keys back and you gotta say the same thing to them you say to a teenager, 'you can't have the keys back because you don't know how to drive'."This from the campaigner who said: "Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long." So much for his 2008 promises to bridge the partisan divide. Is all hope gone? “This is not a hope election, it’s a fear election,” said Democratic strategist Paul Begala to a roomful of young liberal activists earlier in the week. “Since you don’t have your hero [Obama] on the ballot, make sure you have a villain.” A “fear election?” Begala recognizes there ain't much water left in the "hope" well, so the plan is to poison what's left. ‘Cause the numbers don’t look so good.... Boomers who voted for Obama in 2008 are also defecting and moving into the Republican column, according to Pew Research. Even Barbra Streisand is no longer a fan. And when you lose Babs, you know you’re in trouble.... With the unemployment rate at a record high and the president’s approval at a record low, Democratic candidates have no coattails to ride, no good news to share. So time to engage in character assassination, with a bit of mudslinging thrown in.

What Will the Fallout Be for Obama?
Excerpt: After five weeks, the trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich hasn't been able to outdo the oil spill, Elena Kagan, General McChrystal, and the World Cup in terms of getting the public's attention. Nevertheless, it continues to smolder away in Chicago, posing a potential threat to the Obama administration. So far, evidence and testimony about deal-making around his vacated Illinois senate seat has revealed nothing that incriminates President Obama, but it could still cause problems for him. On Tuesday, the prosecution announced it will rest its case early, surprising the defense, who asked for extra time to prepare. Observers predict two possible strategies they'll use to keep Blagojevich out of jail. They could argue that he didn't know he was doing anything wrong. Or, they could bring in a full-blown parade of political figures, illuminating the state's quid pro quo political culture. The latter is what the White House is afraid of. "People may be breathing easier, 'cause there's been no major revelations really connecting Obama or Rahm to this guy," said an Illinois political aide. "But you never know what the long-term damage will be. The Obama people may be playing it cool, but trust me, they're plenty worried." Here a few of the potential pitfalls that await the White House.

Tax report rehashes debate over cost effectiveness of healthcare reform law
Excerpt: A warning that federal tax officials will need more congressional funding to administer the Democrats’ health reform law has rekindled the partisan debate over its cost effectiveness. Senior Republicans have said for months that the new responsibilities required of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under the legislation would saddle the agency with billions of dollars in additional costs — expenses not accounted for in the bill. A Wednesday report from the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), an independent watchdog within the IRS, backed those claims, finding that the agency currently lacks the resources to take on the new duties. "I have no doubt the IRS is capable of administering social programs, including healthcare," Nina Olson, head of the NTA, said in a statement. “But Congress must provide sufficient funding.” Republicans quickly offered up a message to Democrats that boiled down to this: We told you so.

The Selective Modesty of Barack Obama
Excerpt: Remember NASA? It once represented to the world the apogee of American scientific and technological achievement. Here is President Obama's vision of NASA's mission, as explained by administrator Charles Bolden: "One was he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math; he wanted me to expand our international relationships; and third and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science and math and engineering." Apart from the psychobabble -- farcically turning a space-faring enterprise into a self-esteem enhancer -- what's the sentiment behind this charge? Sure America has put a man on the moon, led the information revolution, won more Nobel Prizes than any other nation by far -- but, on the other hand, a thousand years ago al-Khwarizmi gave us algebra. Bolden seems quite intent on driving home this message of achievement equivalence -- lauding, for example, Russia's contribution to the space station. Russia? In the 1990s, the Russian space program fell apart, leaving the United States to pick up the slack and the tab for the missing Russian contributions to get the space station built. For good measure, Bolden added that the U.S. cannot get to Mars without international assistance. Beside the fact that this is not true, contrast this with the elan and self-confidence of President Kennedy's pledge that America would land on the moon within the decade.

Cleric Anwar al-Awlaki puts 'Everybody Draw Mohammed' cartoonist Molly Norris on execution hitlist
Didn’t get the memo. The effort to destroy freedom of speech in the world through Muslim intimidation. It’s working. Excerpt: A CHARISMATIC terror leader linked to the botched Times Square car bomb has placed the Seattle cartoonist who launched "Everybody Draw Muhammed Day" on an execution hit list. Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki - the radical who has also been cited as inspiring the Fort Hood, Tex., massacre and the plot by two New Jersey men to kill U.S. soldiers - singled out artist Molly Norris as a "prime target," saying her "proper abode is hellfire." FBI officials have notified Norris and warned her they consider it a "very serious threat." In an English-language Al Qaeda magazine that calls itself "Inspire," Awlaki damns Norris and eight others for "blasphemous caricatures" of the Prophet Muhammed. The other cartoonists, authors and journalists in Awlaki's cross hairs are Swedish, Dutch and British citizens.

Eric Holder Raises Question on Death Penalty for Sept. 11 Mastermind
Excerpt: Holder proposed last year trying Mohammed and four alleged accomplices in civilian courts in New York City. But that idea generated so much controversy that it's all but been abandoned. He told CBS' "Face the Nation" that it's possible to impose the death penalty in a civilian setting for someone who pleads guilty. But he says there's far less legal certainty about that possibility in a military setting. Since January, Holder has said that all options are on the table about where to try Mohammed and the four other terrorist suspects. That includes the possibility of having them go before a military commission in Guantanamo Bay, where they are now held. Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan in 2003, has proclaimed his involvement in the Sept. 11 plot and has said he wants to plead guilty and be executed, achieving what he views as martyrdom.

Felons Voting Illegally May Have Put Franken Over the Top in Minnesota, Study Finds
Conservative study, no way to prove, but likely. We simply have to work hard enough with decent voters that felons, ACORN thieves and BP intimidators can’t swing elections. Excerpt: The six-month election recount that turned former "Saturday Night Live" comedian Al Franken into a U.S. senator may have been decided by convicted felons who voted illegally in Minnesota's Twin Cities. That's the finding of an 18-month study conducted by Minnesota Majority, a conservative watchdog group, which found that at least 341 convicted felons in largely Democratic Minneapolis-St. Paul voted illegally in the 2008 Senate race between Franken, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, then-incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman.
The final recount vote in the race, determined six months after Election Day, showed Franken beat Coleman by 312 votes -- fewer votes than the number of felons whose illegal ballots were counted, according to Minnesota Majority's newly released study, which matched publicly available conviction lists with voting records.

U.S. Should Better Define Islamic Extremism in Order to Fight It
Excerpt: Militant Islamic propaganda has reportedly been a factor in a spate of recent terror attacks and foiled attempts within the U.S. Maj. Nidal Hasan, the suspect in the Fort Hood, Texas, mass shootings last year, is believed to have been inspired by the Internet postings of violent Islamic extremists, as was Faisal Shahzad, who tried to detonate a powerful car bomb last May in New York's Times Square. The report acknowledges that the Obama administration has beefed up efforts to work with the Muslim community in the U.S. and abroad and has also expanded counterterrorism operations and tried to erode and divide al-Qaida and its affiliated groups. As it unveiled its new National Security Strategy last May, administration officials said the shift in emphasis was critical in undercutting al-Qaida's efforts to portray its attacks on the U.S. and the west as a justified holy war. Terror leaders "play into the false perception that they are religious leaders defending a holy cause, when in fact they are nothing more than murderers, including the murder of thousands upon thousands of Muslims," said top administration counterterror deputy John Brennan during a May 24 speech explaining the shift. He added that "describing our enemy in religious terms would lend credence to the lie -- propagated by al-Qaida and its affiliates to justify terrorism -- that the United States is somehow at war against Islam."

Financial Reform Bill Passed by House Would Create 'Office of Minority and Women Inclusion' in Every U.S. Financial Regulatory Agency
Excerpt: This means that in addition to monitoring every bank in the country, checking every financial institution in America to make sure they are not doing anything systemically risky, and trying to prevent another financial collapse, every federal financial regulator will also be counting the number of minority and female employees at banks and investment firms, big and small. The proposed law would also mandate that federal financial regulators hire from certain types of minority- or women-only colleges and universities, advertise in minority- and women-focused publications, and partner with inner-city schools and other minority-focused organizations to hire or mentor more minorities and women. The diversity offices will also be charged with enforcing the newly written diversity guidelines for each private sector company the regulator contracts with, meaning that they will be checking to ensure that each of the agency’s private contractors is following the agency’s diversity guidelines. (Now, the bean-counters can count the Human Beans, I guess. Maybe we'll get lucky and the Senate will dump the provision--but don't bet on it. Ron P.)

Texas Revokes Late Senator’s Hero Status
Excerpt: Charles Ferguson Herring, a former state senator and U.S. attorney, no longer will be proclaimed a war hero by the state of Texas. All references to combat valor were stripped Thursday from Herring's online biography at the Texas State Cemetery. The action came after its officials received military records contradicting Herring's claims of heroism during World War II. Herring said he received the Navy Cross, a decoration for valor second only to the Medal of Honor; three Purple Hearts, each indicating combat injuries; and a Bronze Star, although not for valor. The biography also stated Herring left the Navy as a lieutenant commander. The record shows that Herring received no awards for combat valor or for being wounded. It makes no mention of a Bronze Star for service in a war zone. And it shows he left the Navy Reserve as a lieutenant junior grade, two ranks below lieutenant commander, after 10 years of service.

Behind US v. Arizona: pure politics
Excerpt: The Obama administration's lawsuit against the state of Arizona offers a revealing window into the Holder Justice Department. And the picture isn't pretty. Consider what we learned when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first let the cat out of the bag and told us about it during an interview in Ecuador. Clinton showed who was sitting in the driver's seat when it came to the Justice Department's decision: "President Obama has spoken out against the law because he thinks that the federal government should be determining immigration policy. And the Justice Department, under his direction, will be bringing a lawsuit against the act." The key words here are "under his direction." In other words, the White House is calling the shots. The same political calculations that drove Obama to criticize the Arizona law in April also drove the filing of the suit. While that is fine for policy decisions in other executive departments, the litigation decisions of the Justice Department are different. Past administrations -- both Republican and Democratic -- have taken care to insulate these decisions from political forces.
The reasons for doing so are obvious.

Mexican Arrest Indicates Hizballah Seeking Foothold
Excerpt: Hizballah is setting up shop along the American border with Mexico, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Seyassah reports. In an exclusive story, the Kuwaiti daily revealed that Mexican officials have arrested a Mexican national with ties to the Shiite terrorist group. The militant, Jameel Nasr, was reportedly under police surveillance for a while, with authorities explaining he had traveled from Lebanon to countries throughout South and Central America, eventually gaining citizenship and a job as a graphic engineer in Mexico. While in Mexico, Nasr reportedly traveled frequently to Lebanon to receive information and instructions from Hizballah commanders. The issue of border security for the United States, both to the North and the South, is not new. We recently reported on an investigation by the House Committee on Homeland Security that confirmed the threat is only increasing. In June, Congresswoman Sue Myrick wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano about this issue, asking that a task force be dedicated to the issue because, in the words of former Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Michael Braun: "Hezballah relies on the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartel…They work together; they rely on the same shadow facilitators. One way or another they are all connected."

26 Year Old Woman Raped and Murdered by Basij Members for “Bad Hijab”
Doubtless with the cheers of leftist multiculturalists ringing in their ears.

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