Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Political Digest July 21, 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.

National Security Inc.
Every government program develops a political constituency which fights for it and cares about it. This means that, Republican or Democrat control, government grows until it is no longer sustainable. This has accelerated since the 1930s, when government came to be viewed as the first place to turn to solve every problem. The collapse is coming. Excerpt: To ensure that the country's most sensitive duties are carried out only by people loyal above all to the nation's interest, federal rules say contractors may not perform what are called "inherently government functions." But they do, all the time and in every intelligence and counterterrorism agency, according to a two-year investigation by The Washington Post. What started as a temporary fix in response to the terrorist attacks has turned into a dependency that calls into question whether the federal workforce includes too many people obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest -- and whether the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities. In interviews last week, both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta said they agreed with such concerns. The Post investigation uncovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America created since 9/11 that is hidden from public view, lacking in thorough oversight and so unwieldy that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

Republican immigration position likely to alienate Latinos, Obama officials say
Selling out America’s economic and security future to line up Hispanic votes. But how will the public react when the violence spills over from Mexico, not that dead Americans will matter to the politicians, except as to how it affects votes. Democrats can only hold on to minority voters by keeping them poor and dependent, thus the effort to prevent Hispanics from having to learn English, as those that do earn more money. Excerpt: President Obama and his political aides privately acknowledge that the government's decision to sue Arizona over its new immigration law is helping to fuel an anti-immigration fervor that could benefit some Republicans in elections this fall. White House officials have concluded that, over the long term, the Republicans' get-tough message is a major political miscalculation. They predict it will ultimately alienate millions of Latinos, the fastest-growing minority group in the nation. West Wing strategists argue that the president's call for legislation that acknowledges the role of immigrants and goes beyond punishing undocumented workers will help cement a permanent political relationship between Democrats and Hispanics -- much as civil rights and voting rights legislation did for the party and African Americans in the 1960s.

Guantanamo detainee Naji sent back to Algeria against his will
We will get you out of the evil Gitmo even if it kills you. Excerpt: The Obama administration has for the first time sent a detainee at Guantanamo Bay back home against his will. Aziz Abdul Naji, 35, an Algerian who had been held at Guantanamo for more than eight years, had appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to remain at the military detention center in Cuba. He argued that he would be tortured or killed in Algeria, either by the government or by terrorist groups that might try to recruit him. In a unanimous decision, the justices declined late Friday to hear Naji's appeal, and the Defense Department announced Monday that he had been repatriated. The court ruled 5 to 3 earlier Friday evening that the executive branch could also proceed with the transfer of another Algerian detainee, Fahri Saeed bin Mohammad.

Pelosi faces pressure to end standoff over intelligence bill
Excerpt: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is under increasing pressure to end her standoff with the White House on Congressional oversight of the intelligence community. The Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday formally filed a revised intelligence authorization bill after approving it last week in an impromptu meeting held off the Senate floor. That move demonstrates Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) resolve to deliver an intelligence authorization bill to the president’s desk for the first time in five years. Pelosi has been in talks with the Obama administration to allow Congress to have stronger oversight of the intelligence community, but has refused to name a conference committee for the authorization bill, a move that needs to take place so the measure can move to the House and Senate floors for final passage. Feinstein had stood firm with Pelosi for weeks and was refusing to schedule a nomination hearing for James Clapper, Obama’s nominee for national intelligence director. Last week, however, Feinstein shifted her stance and set a hearing on Tuesday for Clapper after deciding she could not risk delaying Clapper’s nomination any longer because the acting national intelligence director, David Gompert, will be leaving after August regardless of whether the Senate approves a new director by then.

Why are we talking about immigration reform for common criminals?
Excerpt: It seems to me that there is a simple solution to the problem of illegal immigration (and if you are waiting for me to use the politically correct term of “undocumented workers,” you will likely be seeing flying pigs first), and that is to enforce the laws that are already on the books. Aren’t you all tired of both major parties talking about ways to “fix the problem?” I know I am. There is no problem, other than a weak federal government that is unwilling to enforce the laws already in place. Let me make my point as clear as possible – if you are in this country illegally, you are, well, illegal. Get back to where you belong or go to jail so we can ship you back where you belong. We don’t want you and you are not welcome here. The simple fact that you choose to break the laws of our country in order to come here for a selfish and self-serving motive, speaks volumes about your character as an individual. It isn’t a trait we want, need, or should have to tolerate.

Andrew Breitbart Proves the NAACP Awards’ Racism…
She has apparently resigned over her racist comments. Excerpt: In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn’t do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from “one of his own kind”. She refers him to a white lawyer. Sherrod’s racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups’ racial tolerance.

National Democrats made no secret of their glee at the willingness of Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Pete Sessions -- the heads of the two Republican campaign committees -- to defend the economic policies of George W. Bush during an appearances on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. "The men in charge of Republican campaigns made it crystal clear what Republican candidates plan to do if elected -- take us backward," trumpeted Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine in a release this morning. Before the celebration gets under way in earnest, however, new data from a national poll commissioned by Third Way, a centrist Democratic group, shows that the public doesn't regard Republicans in Congress as synonymous with the former president. (The Benenson Strategy Group, a Democratic polling firm favored by the White House, conducted the survey.) Just one in four people said that if Republicans took back control of the House it would mark a "return to George W. Bush's economic policies," while 65 percent said that Republicans would pursue a "new economic agenda that is different from George W. Bush's policies." That data point suggests that Congressional Republicans have -- whether intentionally or accidentally -- decoupled themselves from the unpopular former president over the past 18 months or so. The work of the next four months (or so) for Democrats is to remind people of that link -- that the vast majority of Republicans in Congress were in office when Bush was president and played a not-insignificant role in passing his agenda. The data in the Third Way poll suggest that if Democrats can (re)hang Bush around the neck of Republicans, it could greatly improve their chances of minimizing losses this fall. Almost half (49 percent) of respondents said they would prefer a candidate who would "stick with" President Obama's economic policies, while 34 percent said they would opt for a candidate who aligned with Bush's economic policies. But, if Bush -- literally his name -- is taken out of the equation, the voting dynamic changes, as it becomes clear that there is not a large reservoir of support for Obama's approach to the economy. A majority -- 51 percent -- say they would prefer a candidate who believed Obama's economic plan is not working and "we need new economic policies that will shrink government, cut taxes on investment and support business growth," while 42 percent said they would rather support a candidate who believed Obama had a plan for the economy and that we need to give it time to work.

Obama's Health Care Reform Gives Consumers Fewer Choices
Excerpt: The growing number of private health plans that are giving consumers fewer choices among doctors surprises proponents of Mr. Obama's health care reform. The latest window into this growing phenomenon comes courtesy of a front page story by health care reporter Reed Abelson in the Sunday, July 17 edition of the New York Times, titled, "Insurers Push Plans Limiting Patient Choice of Doctors." But consumers should expect more health plans to offer increasingly slim rosters of "in network" doctors and hospitals to choose from, with large co-pays for going "outside" to doctors that don't contract with a plan. Some insurers will demand patients pick up the full cost for seeing doctor outside a health plan's network. If this sounds like a throwback to the managed care model of the late 1980s and early 1990s, it is. That was the approach to managing care that consumers despised and overturned. The revolt led, in part, to passage of the "Patients Bill of Rights." Today's reversion to that old HMO model is direct consequence of the peculiar economics set in motion by the Obama health care plan. The Obama law tightly regulates the health benefits that plans must offer, but also the premiums they can charge. At first premiums are fixed through political jawboning, but more direct controls are just around the legislative corner. In so doing, the Obama health plan creates a market where insurers will have both their costs and their revenues controlled by the federal government.

End the ‘Doc Fix’,0,6992923.story
Excerpt: If your boss threatened to slash your pay by 21 percent, then said 'never mind,' then threatened again, then changed his mind, then threatened again, and kept this up for eight years…You'd be ready to tell him to take this job and shove it. That's how Congress has been dealing with doctors who treat Medicare patients. And lo and behold, a lot of doctors are walking away from Medicare.

Cutting drug prices hampers new development: study
Liberals keep trying, but the laws of economics cannot be repealed. Excerpt: Cutting pharmaceutical prices in the way European governments are doing now will severely reduce the number of new drugs making it to market, according to a study by a Berlin-based business group. A report by the European School of Management and Technology Competition Analysis (EMST CA), and commissioned by the drugmaker Novartis said there was a direct link between strict regulation and low innovation in the sector. New medications likely to be hit hardest under tough pricing regulation include antibiotics, as well as treatments for heart disease and immune system disorders such as multiple sclerosis and chronic meningitis, it said. The report comes as governments across Europe are seeking to slash drugs prices as they reign in spending to try to tackle runaway budget deficits.

Bad Medicine: A Guide to the Real Costs and Consequences of the New Health Care Law
Excerpt: For better or worse, President Obama's health care reform bill is now law. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act represents the most significant transformation of the American health care system since Medicare and Medicaid. It will fundamentally change nearly every aspect of health care, from insurance to the final delivery of care. The length and complexity of the legislation, combined with a debate that often generated more heat than light, has led to massive confusion about the law's likely impact. But, it is now possible to analyze what is and is not in it, what it likely will and will not do. In particular, we now know that: While the new law will increase the number of Americans with insurance coverage, it falls significantly short of universal coverage. By 2019, roughly 21 million Americans will still be uninsured. The legislation will cost far more than advertised, more than $2.7 trillion over 10 years of full implementation, and will add $352 billion to the national debt over that period. Most American workers and businesses will see little or no change in their skyrocketing insurance costs, while millions of others, including younger and healthier workers and those who buy insurance on their own through the non-group market will actually see their premiums go up faster as a result of this legislation. The new law will increase taxes by more than $669 billion between now and 2019, and the burdens it places on business will significantly reduce economic growth and employment. While the law contains few direct provisions for rationing care, it nonetheless sets the stage for government rationing and interference with how doctors practice medicine. Millions of Americans who are happy with their current health insurance will not be able to keep it. In short, the more we learn about what is in this new law, the more it looks like bad news for American taxpayers, businesses, health-care providers, and patients.

Windfarms only giving half power
Excerpt: SCOTLAND'S wind farms have produced only around half the amount of power they were expected to this year, Scotland on Sunday has learned.
The government blamed the low generation levels on unusually calm weather, but critics said the figures showed the danger of becoming too dependent on renewable energy.

Guilt Trip
Excerpt: Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation by Stuart Buck, Yale University Press, 261 pp., $27.50. In 2000, in a book called Losing the Race, I argued that much of the reason for the gap between the grades and test scores of black students and white students was that black teens often equated doing well in school with “acting white.” I knew that a book which did not focus on racism’s role in this problem would attract bitter criticism. I was hardly surprised to be called a “sell-out” and “not really black” because I grew up middle class and thus had no understanding of black culture. But one of the few criticisms that I had not anticipated was that the “acting white” slam did not even exist. I was hardly the first to bring up the “acting white” problem. An early description of the phenomenon comes from a paper by John Ogbu and Signithia Fordham in 1986, and their work was less a revelation of the counterintuitive than an airing of dirty laundry. You cannot grow up black in America and avoid the “acting white” notion, unless you by chance grow up around only white kids. Yet in the wake of Losing the Race, a leading scholar/activist on minority education insisted that he had never encountered the “acting white” slander—while shortly thereafter describing his own son doing poorly in school because of precisely what Ogbu, Fordham, myself, and others had written about. Jack White, formerly of Time, roasted me in a review for making up the notion out of whole cloth. Ogbu (with Astrid Davis) published an ethnological survey of Shaker Heights, Ohio describing the “acting white” problem’s effects there in detail, while a documentary on race and education in that town explicitly showed black students attesting to it. Both book and documentary have largely been ignored by the usual suspects. Stuart Buck at last brings together all of the relevant evidence and puts paid to two myths. The first is that the “acting white” charge is a fiction or just pointless marginal static. The other slain myth, equally important, is that black kids reject school as alien out of some sort of ingrained stupidity; the fear of this conclusion lies at the root of the studious dismissal of the issue by so many black thinkers concerned about black children. Buck conclusively argues that the phenomenon is a recent and understandable outgrowth of a particular facet of black people’s unusual social history in America—and that facet is neither slavery nor Jim Crow. As Buck notes, anecdotal accounts from blacks attacked for thinking they are “white” now constitute a crushing volume of testimony in countless newspaper articles over decades (as well as in the hundreds of unsolicited attestations I have received since Losing the Race). As Buck acknowledges, the plural of anecdote is not data, and yet we can be assured that certain parties would consider much less than this volume of testimonies of racist “slights” as invaluable evidence that America remains a deeply racist country.

'Sanctuary' is lawless and deadly
Excerpt: Last week, the Justice Department made an astonishing statement about its unprecedented lawsuit to stop the Arizona illegal-immigration law. Attorney General Eric Holder's spokeswoman, Tracy Schmaler, claimed that it was appropriate to go after Arizona, but inappropriate to stop "sanctuary cities." Schmaler said: "There is a big difference between a state or locality saying they are not going to use their resources to enforce a federal law, as so-called sanctuary cities have done, and a state passing its own immigration policy that actively interferes with federal law. . . That's what Arizona has done in this case." There's a big difference, all right. Sanctuary cities are expressly forbidden by federal law, while Arizona's statute is in perfect compliance with federal law. Evidently, just as Holder didn't read the 10-page Arizona law before he criticized it on national TV, his staff couldn't be bothered to read the relevant federal immigration laws before issuing the statement. In 1996, Congress prohibited sanctuary cities in no uncertain terms: A "local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual" (8 USC Sec. 1373(a)). In direct contravention of that statute, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and dozens of other cities have adopted "sanctuary" policies that prevent their police from reporting illegal aliens. In direct contravention of that statute, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and dozens of other cities have adopted "sanctuary" policies that prevent their police from reporting illegal aliens. Yet the Holder Justice Department is giving a pass to these cities that brazenly defy federal law, while using our taxpayer dollars to sue Arizona -- though Arizona's immigration statute does little but echo federal law. The bottom line is that the politicized Holder Justice Department doesn't want federal immigration laws vigorously enforced. Sanctuary cities fit that agenda; Arizona's new law doesn't. The Justice Department's tolerance of sanctuary cities is not only lawless, it is dangerous. Cities that adopt sanctuary policies make themselves havens for alien crime networks. Thus, violent illegal-alien gangs like Mara Salvatrucha 13 prefer to operate in cities where the police can't report them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Sanctuary policies tie the hands of local police in a very real way. For example, a police officer may see a known violent gang member who is an illegal alien. In any other city, the cop can pick up the phone and call ICE to have the alien deported. But in a sanctuary city, no dice: The officer must let the gang member continue his activities unabated. The consequences can be deadly. The story of the Bologna family in San Francisco is a case in point. On June 22, 2008, illegal alien Edwin Ramos shot Anthony Bologna, and his two sons, Michael and Matthew, as they sat in their car coming home from a picnic after church. Ramos, a member of Mara Salvatrucha 13, had been arrested by the San Francisco Police three times before the murder.

The Arizona Smuggling Corridors A Profile of Government in Disarray
Excerpt: Perhaps the greatest threat to the security of the United States today is the 2045 miles of Mexican border. It is there that the drug war in Mexico can be heard at night. It is there that the politics of environmental RADICALISM has breached the independent thinking of conservation minded leaders. It is there that the very existence of the American experiment may face its toughest challenge. Prior to 1924, border conflicts were handled by the states or various military operations depending on actions from Washington. The most violent border conflict in the history of the United States occurred in Texas. That conflict was not a single event. Rather, it was a conflict that began before statehood and continued following the Mexican American War when the United States government largely removed its military presence from south Texas. Texas mounted its own protective service in what it called its Ranger force. Over time, the Texas Rangers evolved from a largely Indian fighting force to a special assignment and border protective service in the days and times up to 1904. During World War I, a United States contingent called “Mounted Inspectors” was put afield due to concerns of national security. Texas also responded to the war effort by beefing up its own security and sent additional Rangers to the border. The United States Border Patrol was established by Congress in 1924 in response to the demand by Border States to halt illegal immigration. The first offices were established in Detroit and El Paso. Subsequent offices were established on the basis of what is now called “corridor development”. That was also extended to maritime locations where illegal entry expansion was occurring. The early Border Patrol was an organization that hired its officer force largely from candidates that had roots in the border region. They were men with a common background to the American citizens whose security they pledged to protect. From the inception until the Bracero Program in the ‘50s, the Border Patrol did its work without a great deal of fanfare. If there was conflict it was largely with landowners who employed illegals. Thousands of miles of fence and other infrastructure were built by Mexican labor at that time. That conflict ultimately prompted the idea of the Bracero Program, whereby Mexican workers were allowed conditional entry into the United States in exchange for legal employment. The plan required the Border Patrol to enforce the conditions of the program as well as to oversee the return of the same workers following their temporary visits.

Excellent Column: Youth Has Outlived Its Usefulness
Excerpt: We start with the president's dreadful numbers. People in politics in America are too impressed by polls, of course, and talk about them too much. In this we're like a neurotic patient who constantly, compulsively takes his own temperature. We are political hypochondriacs. But polls offer the only hard quick data there is, and when the temperature-taking consistently shows a worsening condition—the fever is not breaking but rising—you have to admit a sickness. And so the polls, the most striking of which this week was CBS's, which says only 13% of Americans feel President Obama's economic plans have helped them. After all the money he and Congress have spent, you'd think it would be twice that. Oh, let's not do polls, they all say what they said months ago: Mr. Obama is down. Here I write not of something people dislike—the administration and, by the way, the Republicans—but of something I think they want, may even deep down long for. By they I mean me. But I don't think I'm alone. All right, you know what I think people miss when they look at Washington and our political leadership? They miss old and august. They miss wise and weathered. They miss the presence of bruised and battered veterans of life who've absorbed its facts and lived to tell the tale. This is a nation—a world—badly in need of adult supervision. In the 50th anniversary commentary this week of Harper Lee's masterpiece, "To Kill A Mockingbird," a book long derided as middlebrow by middlebrows, no one fully noted the centrality, the cosmic force, that propelled the book, and that is the idea of the father. Of the human longing to be safe and watched over by one stronger. And so we have the wise and grounded Atticus Finch, who understands the world and pursues justice anyway, and who can be relied upon. "He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning." That's the last sentence. Ms. Lee was some kind of genius to throw the ball that soft, and that hard. Mr. Obama is young, 48, as is British Prime Minister David Cameron (43), with whom he meets next week, and as were Bill Clinton (46 on Inauguration Day) and the somewhat older but still distressingly young George W. Bush, sworn in at 54. Mr. Cameron's partner in governance, Nicholas Clegg, is also 43. Stephen Harper of Canada is 51, Nicolas Sarkozy of France a youthful 55. Youth is supposed to bring vigor and vision. In general, however, I think we find in our modern political figures that what it really brings is need—for greatness, to be transformative, to leave a legacy. Such clamorous needs! How very boring they are, how puny and small, but how huge in their consequences….. You walk into the offices of a great corporation now, look around and think: Where are the grown-ups? The grown-ups took the buyout. The grown-ups were laid off. The grown-ups are not there. A few weeks ago in Connecticut there was a dinner to mark the retirement of the heads of a half dozen local hospitals. They did a video. It turned out most of them, unknown to their coworkers, were military veterans. This was the Vietnam generation leaving the room after effortful, successful careers. They were such smart guys! They knew so much. I wanted to say, Don't go! "Shane, come back, Shane." Stay by the bedside, Atticus. See us through this thing.

When Did the Rules Change?
Excerpt: When Rome was “falling,” did it feel like it? When all of the tasty, leafy fronds started vanishing, did the dinosaurs say, “So this is what extinction looks like”? When British troops signed up for a quick war in 1914, they expected to be “home by Christmas.” They certainly didn’t say “goodbye to all that” — in the words of Robert Graves — until long after they realized “all that” had in fact disappeared. I’m beginning to wonder if the current political moment is much, much, more significant than most of us realize. The rules may have changed in ways no one would have predicted two years ago. And perhaps 10 years from now we’ll look back on this moment and it will all seem so obvious. In 2008, American liberalism seemed poised for its comeback. The pendulum of Arthur Schlesinger’s “cycle of history” was swinging back toward a new progressive era. Obama would be the liberal Reagan. Now that all looks preposterous. Of course, considerable blame can be laid at a White House that seems confused about how to relate to the American people when the American people don’t share the White House’s ideological agenda. Indeed, the White House seems particularly gifted at generating issues that put it crosswise with the majority of voters — from the Arizona immigration lawsuit to the cotton-mouthed explanations about whether or not it considers NASA’s primary mission to be boosting the self-esteem of Muslim youth. But it would be foolish to over-read the importance of much of that. Politicians are sometimes dealt bad cards and play them well; sometimes they are dealt good cards and play them badly. But the basic political rules stay the same. But what about when the rules change? For nearly a century now, the rules have said that tough economic times make big government more popular. For more than 40 years it has been a rule that environmental disasters — and scares over alleged ones — help environmentalists push tighter regulations. According to the rules, Americans never want to let go of an entitlement once they have it. According to the rules, populism is a force for getting the government to do more, not less. According to the rules, Americans don’t care about the deficit during a recession. And yet none of these rules seem to be applying; at least not too strongly. Big government seems more unpopular today than ever. The Gulf oil spill should be a Gaia-send for environmentalists, and yet three-quarters of the American people oppose Obama’s drilling ban. Sixty percent of likely voters want their newly minted right to health care repealed. Unlike Europe, where protesters take to the streets to save their cushy perks and protect a large welfare state, the tea-party protesters have been taking to the streets to trim back government. But even on the Continent the rules are changing. European governments have turned into deficit hawks to the point where the American president feels the need to lecture them on their stinginess. Of course, he increasingly feels the same need here at home as our out-of-control debt is becoming a live issue, despite the fact that voters should be clamoring — according to the rules — for more taxpayer-funded jobs. Barack Obama recently recruited Bill Clinton to stump for the Democrats as a surrogate because the former president is more popular than the current one. It’s ironic because candidate Obama had once disparaged the Clinton presidency as not ambitious enough. Obama wanted to be a liberal Reagan who would reverse the rising conservative tide in American politics (just as he would reverse the rise of the oceans), not be the sort of president who accepted the tide and merely navigated its currents.

Excellent Column: Race Card Fraud by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: Credit card fraud is a serious problem. But race card fraud is an even bigger problem. Playing the race card takes many forms. Judge Charles Pickering, a federal judge in Mississippi who defended the civil rights of blacks for years and defied the Ku Klux Klan back when that was dangerous, was depicted as a racist when he was nominated for a federal appellate judgeship. No one even mistakenly thought he was a racist. The point was simply to discredit him for political reasons-- and it worked. This year's target is the Tea Party. When leading Democrats, led by a smirking Nancy Pelosi, made their triumphant walk on Capitol Hill, celebrating their passage of a bill in defiance of public opinion, Tea Party members on the scene protested. All this was captured on camera and the scene was played on television. What was not captured on any of the cameras and other recording devices on the scene was anybody using racist language, as has been charged by those playing the race card. When you realize how many media people were there, and how many ordinary citizens carry around recording devices of one sort or another, it is remarkable-- indeed, unbelievable-- that racist remarks were made and yet were not captured by anybody. The latest attack on the Tea Party movement, by Ben Jealous of the NAACP, has once again played the race card. Like the proverbial lawyer who knows his case is weak, he shouts louder.

Geopolitics, Nationalism and Dual Citizenship
Excerpt: Geopolitics is central to STRATFOR’s methodology, providing the framework upon which we study the world. The foundation of geopolitics in our time is the study of the nation-state, and fundamental to this is the question of the relationship of the individual to the nation-state. Changes in the relationship of the individual to the nation and to the state are fundamental issues in geopolitics, and thus worth discussing. Many issues affect this complex relationship, notable among them the increasing global trend of multiple citizenship. This is obviously linked to the question of immigration, but it also raises a deeper question, namely, what is the meaning of citizenship in the 21st century? It is difficult to make sense of the international system without making sense of the nation-state. The concept is complicated by a reality that includes multinational states like Belgium, where national identity plays a significant role, and Russia or China, where it can be both significant and at times violent. In looking at the nation-state, the idea of nation is more complex, and perhaps more interesting, than that of state. The idea of nation is not always clear. At root, a nation is a group of people who share a fate, and with that fate, an identity. Nations can be consciously created, as the United States was. Nations can exist for hundreds or thousands of years, as seen in parts of Europe or Asia. However long a nation exists and whatever its origins, a nation is founded on what I’ve called elsewhere “love of one’s own,” a unique relationship with the community in which an individual is born or to which he chose to come. That affinity is the foundation of a nation. If that dissolves, the nation dissolves, something that has happened on numerous occasions in history. If a nation disappears, the international system begins to behave differently. And if nations in general lose their identity and cohesion, massive shifts might take place. Some might say it would be for better and others for worse. It is sufficient to note here that either way would make a profound difference. The state is much clearer: It is the political directorate of the nation. How the leaders are selected and how they govern varies widely. The relationship of the state to the nation also varies widely. All nations do not have states. Some are occupied by other nation-states. Some are divided between multiple states. Some are part of an entity that governs many nations. And some are communities that have developed systems of government that do not involve states, although this is increasingly rare.

Indonesian Muslim murders, slices up wife with kitchen knife because of her nagging
Didn’t get the memo. Excerpt: "Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them." -- Qur'an 4:34. And what if the beating doesn't work? Yaya Sujana found a solution. People will say, of course, that this has nothing to do with Islam, and that men murder and dismember their wives in all cultures, and that is true. But a culture that considers that the supreme god has ordered men to beat disobedient women has created a culture of violence that can lead all too easily to this kind of thing.

Pat Condell on Ground Zero mosque: "Is it possible to be astonished, but not surprised?"
I’m surprised this Brit is still alive.

Who is Barack Obama?
Excerpt: The comparison to Reagan may give Obama cheer, but it is not really apt. For even in Reagan's darkest days when, according to Gallup, six out of 10 Americans reported that they did not like the job he was doing, an astounding six in 10 nevertheless said they liked the man himself. He was, of course, phenomenally charming, authentic and schooled at countless soundstages in appearing that way. Just as important, the public had faith in the consistency of his principles, agree or not. This was the Reagan Paradox and it helped lift his presidency. No one is accusing Obama of being likable. He is not unlikable, but he lacks Reagan's (or Bill Clinton's) warmth. What's more, his career has been brief. He led no movement, was spokesman for no ideology and campaigned like a Nike sneaker -- change instead of swoosh. He seems distant. No Irish jokes from him. For the average voter, he casts no shadow. Reagan, by contrast, had been around forever. He was not defined solely by gauzy campaign ads but by countless speeches, two contentious and highly controversial terms as California governor, and a previous race for the presidency. There was never a question about who Reagan was and what he stood for. Not so Obama. About all he shares with Reagan at this point are low ratings. What has come to be called the Obama Paradox is not a paradox at all. Voters lack faith in him making the right economic decisions because, as far as they're concerned, he hasn't. He went for health-care reform, not jobs. He supported the public option, then he didn't. He's been cold to Israel's Binyamin Netanyahu and then all over him like a cheap suit. Americans know Obama is smart. But we still don't know him. Before Americans can give him credit for what he's done, they have to know who he is. We're waiting.

Black Caucus lines up for white Steve Cohen over black rival
Excerpt: The caucus still has not opened its weekly meetings to Cohen, but he has found a different kind of welcome from the group: their endorsements. For the third straight election, Cohen is facing an African American opponent in the Democratic primary, and the race once again features a debate on whether the district should be represented by a black person, as it was from 1975 to 2007, first by Harold Ford Sr. and then by his son Harold Jr. But unlike in 2008, when some caucus members backed one of Cohen's black opponents, several African American members of Congress are supporting their colleague and none has yet endorsed his challenger, former Memphis mayor Willie Herenton.

The Wages of Collaboration
During the health care reform debate, while ignoring the throngs of angry Americans who took to the streets all across the country to protest the looming passage of ObamaCare, the White House and its congressional allies were very attentive to the constituents they valued. Mindful of the mistakes that had doomed Hillarycare in 1993, they worked assiduously to co-opt health care industry "stakeholders." The American Medical Association was by far the most important target of this strategy. Its shrinking membership notwithstanding, the AMA was still seen as a force to be reckoned with inside the Beltway and continued to enjoy considerable public esteem. Thus, Obama and the Democrats badly wanted their flagship social program to benefit from the political and PR advantages that come with the AMA's stamp of approval. This was fortuitous for the AMA. It had a big problem called the "sustainable growth rate formula" (SGR). Created by the "Balanced Budget Act of 1997," SGR was meant to slow the growth of Medicare spending by tying physician payment increases to the expansion of Gross Domestic Product. And, because the cost of providing medical care grows faster than GDP, this formula guaranteed annual payment cuts for doctors who treat Medicare patients. The AMA has pressured Congress to repeal SGR and replace it with a system that tracks medical cost inflation, but this "permanent fix" has never materialized. Congress has instead opted for a series of last-minute, short-term fixes. Meanwhile, the cumulative payment cuts mandated by SGR hang over the medical community like the Sword of Damocles. Thus, the AMA saw the push for ObamaCare as an opportunity to get SGR deep-sixed once and for all. Instead of fighting them, as it did during the 1990s, the venerable physician association decided to climb into bed with the Democrats. In exchange for an implicit promise to finally enact the long-sought permanent fix, the President of the AMA became a high-profile cheerleader for "reform." J. James Rohack, who has since been succeeded by Dr. Cecil Wilson, began promoting ObamaCare at press conferences and in effusive opinion pieces. Failing to notice the countless broken promises that lay strewn in Obama's path to the Presidency, Rohack wrote: "I saw firsthand at the White House this week that the physicians' perspective and commitment is valued as lawmakers work on reform."

Don’t Let BP Win…Seriously.
Excerpt: I just received an email from and the Alliance for Climate Protection, entitled “Don’t Let BP Win!” Ah good, I thought, the left has decided to campaign against the liability cap on offshore oil spills that almost certainly introduces moral hazard into decision-making on safety. But no, the email wasn’t about that. It was about “comprehensive climate and energy legislation,” alleging that “Stalling climate and energy legislation would be a big win for oil companies like BP, but a huge loss for the rest of us.” Unfortunately for and Al Gore’s Alliance, the exact opposite is true. BP and other big energy interests like Shell and Duke Energy have been campaigning *for* “comprehensive climate and energy legislation” for years. In this they were following Enron’s lead. That energy giant hailed the Kyoto Protocol as doing more to advance Enron’s interests than any other proposal. BP and its fellows therefore helped found the Climate Action Partnership in 2007, a lobbying organization aimed at passing “comprehensive climate and energy legislation.” How can this be? The explanation is simple enough – cap and trade, the central objective of comprehensive climate and energy legislation, helps create what is called a “carbon cartel,” which enriches energy providers and government at the expense of you and me. That’s why the Kerry-Lieberman Bill that the email is talking about would cost households each over $1000 a year. Passing this comprehensive legislation would actually be a big win for BP and a huge loss for the rest of us

Competition is in itself a basic good
Excerpt: Over the last forty years or so, competition has gone from being viewed as basically healthy and virtuous to being basically destructive and immoral in the public eye. Competition in sports is even considered so problematic that awards are given children for coming in second (when there are only two contestants), some sports are no longer allowed in some schools because they are too competitive, and the Ottawa Children's Soccer League has ruled that any team which scores more than five points than their opponent.... loses. It is this belief of competition as bad which drives the current legacy media narrative concerning business. Stories are starting to show up in the news about evil businessmen not hiring when they could, thus making everything bad for President Obama and the Democrats in congress.

Afghan war may be key to 2012 Clinton candidacy
Wishful thinking. Excerpt: What will it take to get Hillary Clinton into a 2012 run?
The answer can be found in the top item on the secretary of state's itinerary this week: Afghanistan. She is spending a few days in Afghanistan to get a sense of the mounting problems for the U.S. mission there. And according to some longtime Clinton backers, including one veteran of the Clinton Democratic National Committee, the Afghan war is the catalyst that could start Clinton toward a 2012 run. The war is going badly. The Taliban has borrowed the fighting tactics -- suicide and roadside bombings -- that have killed 4,400 Americans in Iraq. The NATO force in Afghanistan is on track to have its first consecutive 100-fatality months in June and July.

Dems sour on Obama's "good war" in Afghanistan
Excerpt: Over the last eight years, most Democratic politicians have made a distinction between the Good War (Afghanistan) and the Bad War (Iraq). That very much includes Barack Obama. As an Illinois state senator, he spoke out against military action in Iraq in 2002, and as a U.S. senator at a September 2007 hearing, he offered a blisteringly negative assessment of Iraq so lengthy that it left no time for Gen. David Petraeus to reply. But he has always said he supported military action in Afghanistan as a valid response to the Sept. 11 attacks, which were planned there. So it is a little surprising to see in the results of this month's ABC/Washington Post poll that most American voters are not making the Good War/Bad War distinction. Has the war in Afghanistan contributed to the long-term security of the United States? Some 53 percent say it has, while 44 percent say it hasn't. Has the war in Iraq contributed to the long-term security of the United States? About 50 percent say it has while 48 percent say it hasn't. Those are virtually identical numbers. It seems that about half of Americans think both were Good Wars and about half consider them both Bad Wars. Substantial majorities of Republican voters consider both to be wars worth fighting, while majorities of Democratic voters disagree.

IG report says Obama GM, Chrysler moves needlessly accelerated job losses
Excerpt: A report by the Treasury Department's Special Inspector General for the Toxic Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) contends that President Obama's push for General Motors and Chrysler to close thousands of dealerships across the country as part of their government bailouts "may have substantially contributed to the shuttering of thousands of small businesses and thereby potentially adding tens of thousands of workers to the already lengthy unemployment rolls, all based on a theory and without sufficient consideration of the decisions' broader economic impacts."

Anti-Electoral College Advocates: Pass Bill Now, Ask Questions Later
Excerpt: NPV has at least one fundamental flaw that should bother even those who are otherwise opposed to the Electoral College: It does nothing to address the 51 sets of currently existing state election codes (the states plus D.C.) on the books. These codes will remain in place and cause confusion and litigation after NPV is enacted. Today, each state conducts its own presidential election in partial reliance on its own set of local election laws. These laws may differ from those of sister states, but the differences are irrelevant at the national level. At the end of the day, a voter in Massachusetts does not care about the laws governing California’s election. He is voting with (or against) other Massachusetts voters in a contest for Massachusetts’s electors. Similarly, California will hold its own separate contest. NPV changes this practice. It continues to rely on 51 existing sets of local laws, but it pretends that it can cram all these differing processes into one coherent national outcome. It can’t. The result will be utter chaos.

Bill Thomas’s Revenge
Excerpt: Thomas understood Congress’s dark side. His lengthy House tenure—28 years—convinced him that there is a gene in congressional DNA that leads lawmakers to kick the can down the road rather than make tough choices. The behavior of the current Democratic majority is a testament to Thomas’s understanding. Fail to pass a federal budget? No problem: We’ll muddle through. Let unemployment benefits lapse? Blame the Republicans. Funding the war in Afghanistan? Hey, there’s always money somewhere. A growing list of federal agencies and programs crying out for reform and reauthorization? Aw, just extend current law for another few months. This list could go on. Thomas’s crowning achievements were the 2001 and 2003 tax cut bills, and both included a procedural tripwire that set in motion a ticking political time bomb. Republican leaders wanted the tax cuts to be permanent, but in order to get the votes for enactment of both bills, they used the budget process known as reconciliation. While this meant the legislation could pass the Senate with only 51 votes, it also limited the policy changes in the bill to a finite period. Hence the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of 2010—a long way off, many thought back then.... On January 1, 2011, the top individual tax rate jumps from 35 percent to 39.6 percent. The child tax credit gets slashed in half—from $1,000 to $500. Taxes on dividends snap back to 39.6 percent from their current 15 percent rate. Capital gains rates jump from 15 percent to 20 percent. The current lowest tax bracket increases by 50 percent—from 10 percent to 15 percent. The estate tax, which phased down to zero this year, surges to a whopping 55 percent. Taxes on married couples increase, and the dependent care and adoption tax credits get reduced. This is just a sampling. Normally modifying tax law requires major congressional action. But because of the way the 2001 and 2003 legislation was structured, if Congress does nothing, all these taxes increase automatically. Boom.

Surprise: JournoList Reveals Left Uses Race as a Political Football
Excerpt: If you ever had any doubt that the left's incessant cries of "racism" have become largely a cynical political ploy designed to marginalize and shut up political opponents, behold the birth of a racism accusation in all its naked glory as discussed on the infamous JournoList. In 2008, when the Rev. Jeremiah Wright had outlived his usefulness to Barack Obama as a political shepherd through the South Side of Chicago and was becoming a serious liability to his presidential aspirations, the JournoList got upset. So, the infamous listserv of 300-400 like-minded liberal activists, policy wonks, and mainstream journalists, created by the Washington Post's Ezra Klein (then at the American Prospect), took action: The crisis reached a howling pitch in mid-April, 2008, at an ABC News debate moderated by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. Gibson asked Obama why it had taken him so long – nearly a year since Wright’s remarks became public – to dissociate himself from them. Stephanopoulos asked, “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?” Watching this all at home were members of Journolist, a listserv comprised of several hundred liberal journalists, as well as like-minded professors and activists. The tough questioning from the ABC anchors left many of them outraged. “George [Stephanopoulos],” fumed Richard Kim of the Nation, is “being a disgusting little rat snake.” Others went further. According to records obtained by The Daily Caller, at several points during the 2008 presidential campaign a group of liberal journalists took radical steps to protect their favored candidate. Employees of news organizations including Time, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Guardian, Salon and the New Republic participated in outpourings of anger over how Obama had been treated in the media, and in some cases plotted to fix the damage. In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.” (...) Kevin Drum, then of Washington Monthly, also disagreed with Ackerman’s strategy. “I think it’s worth keeping in mind that Obama is trying (or says he’s trying) to run a campaign that avoids precisely the kind of thing Spencer is talking about, and turning this into a gutter brawl would probably hurt the Obama brand pretty strongly. After all, why vote for him if it turns out he’s not going change the way politics works?” But it was Ackerman who had the last word. “Kevin, I’m not saying OBAMA should do this. I’m saying WE should do this.” (This isn't exactly news. I suspect everyone except the most bigoted on the other side already thought this was the case. Still, it's sad--and oddly comforting to know we were right all along--to have the absolute proof. It'll be educational to see exactly how they deny it. Emphasis is in the original. Ron P.)

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