Monday, October 18, 2010

Political Digest for October 18, 2010

I post articles because I think they are of interest. Doing so doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with every—or any—opinion in the posted article. Nor that I disagree with them, of course.

Spain Presses Venezuela on Suspected ETA Training
Excerpt: Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero urged Venezuelan authorities Wednesday to respond to Spain's call for help in probing allegations that Basque terrorists are trained in the South American Country. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez earlier this week dismissed the allegations made by two suspected ETA members who were arrested in Spain last week. Mr. Zapatero said the statements which have caused such uproar are enough for his government to launch an inquiry and for the Venezuelan government to give a response to Spain. Later Wednesday Venezuela's Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said his country will investigate the allegations. The two suspects: Juan Carlos Besance and Xavier Atristain, told police that in Venezuela they met with ETA's alleged representative for the country, Arturo Cubillas, and received training from him in 2008. Cubillas is a senior official in Venezuela's agriculture ministry. A Spanish judge, Eloy Velasco, who is investigating alleged links between Spain's ETA and Colombia's FARC rebels, says Cubillas is responsible for coordinating relations between the two groups. He ordered Spanish police to interrogate nine former FARC members in Colombia as part of the probe into links between FARC, Venezuelan government and Spain's Basque separatists.

Obama may be on his own if he wants big changes
Excerpt: As the tumultuous first two years of Barack Obama's presidency draw to a close, the president and his advisers have begun to puzzle over a difficult question: Now what? There are many things Obama has said he would like to accomplish in the next two years of his term - overhauling the nation's immigration laws, passing energy and climate-change legislation, and shrinking the federal deficit, to name a few. Yet doing so may be exceptionally challenging, if even possible, given the skeptical mood of the public and the coming shake-up in Washington. Next month's midterm elections will leave the president with fewer friends in Congress, and possibly a Republican majority in one or both chambers emboldened to thwart his plans.

Republican congressional candidates race ahead in fundraising
Excerpt: Republican congressional candidates have sprinted ahead of Democrats in the race to raise money for the midterm elections, signaling a strong advantage for the GOP heading into the final two weeks of the campaign.

ObamaCare bending the cost curve upward 47% in CT
Caught in the tyranny of math. ~Bob. Excerpt: The state of Connecticut just approved a request by its largest private insurer for premium hikes of up to 47%. Wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to put an end to these kinds of price increases, with Barack Obama’s promise to “bend the cost curve downward”? Actually, as the Hartford Courant reports, the increases come as a direct result of the mandates included in ObamaCare: The state’s largest insurer has been approved to raise health premium rates by 41 percent to 47 percent for some of its policies sold to individual buyers, in the largest price hikes yet seen in Connecticut since the adoption of national health care reform. For all of its individual market plans, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has received approval to raise rates by at least 19 percent — including a range of 30 percent to 44 percent for the brand of plans in the individual market that was most popular in 2009, Century Preferred. The reason for the increases is the new federal health reform mandates, according to Anthem and the state Department of Insurance, which is defending its approval against charges by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Those reforms took effect Sept. 23.

Technology ties violent deportee to two deaths: Police arrest man in 1998 slayings of elderly residents
Shameful calling the poor fellow an “illegal immigrant.” Politically-correct term is “Undocumented Democrat.” ~Bob. Excerpt: Gustavo Ramos-Martinez is an illegal immigrant with a history of violent crime. For years, he sneaked in and out of the country, visiting family in Las Vegas even though he was caught and deported to Mexico multiple times. During much of that time, Las Vegas police were trying to find the killer of Wallace Siegel, 75, and Helen Sabraw, 86, who were brutally slain in May 1998 in their homes at the AmeriPark retirement community. Although Ramos-Martinez eluded federal immigration authorities, he wasn't able to escape modern forensic technology. On Wednesday, Las Vegas police arrested Ramos-Martinez, 31, in connection with the slayings. New tests revealed that his DNA was at both murder scenes.

Repeat cheats 'will lose benefits'
Excerpt: Repeat benefit cheats will have their welfare payments halted for up to three years as part of a tough new crackdown announced by Chancellor George Osborne. And the Chancellor said that every wrongful claim for benefits - including avoidable errors made when filling out forms - will in future be punished by a £50 fine. Comparing the cheats to muggers robbing taxpayers of their hard-earned money, Mr Osborne said Britain "can't afford to waste any more time" in reducing a £5 billion annual bill for fraud and error in the benefit and tax credit system.

Obama has no clue about entrepreneurship
Excerpt: "There is probably a perverse pride in my administration -- and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top -- that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular," he said. "And I think anybody who's occupied this office has to remember that success is determined by an intersection in policy and politics and that you can't be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion." The statements are both stunningly arrogant and misleading. The president of the United States is not a philosopher king. In a democracy, the president doesn't determine what "the right thing" is and let the people who put him in office be damned. Nor did the president and his team neglect the "marketing and P.R." of his policies. The "shovel-ready" comments were all salesmanship and no substance. In his first year in office, the president gave 411 speeches, sat for 158 press interviews, conducted 42 news conferences, and visited 30 states, according to a compilation by CBS News. Failing to communicate was not the issue. The president's problem is that he has neither experience in, nor understanding of, the private economy. He has worked exclusively in the nonprofit and government sector. He has an unlimited faith in government and limited trust in private industry. And the president surrounds himself with people who share his myopia

Obama using a 'back door' amnesty for illegals?
Excerpt: In a secretive process, immigration judges are dismissing large numbers of deportation complaints against illegal immigrants, lending credence to claims that the Obama administration is using immigration courts to achieve a "back door amnesty" for illegals. What's it take for an immigration judge to dismiss a deportation case against an illegal immigrant who has been in the country a few years? Apparently, only that the person has stayed out of trouble with the law (although being in the country illegally doesn't qualify as an offense.) News about the dismissals -- in Houston, Dallas, Miami and other major cities -- was reported by the Houston Chronicle yesterday. In its article, "Immigration cases tossed by the hundreds," the paper reported: In the month after Homeland Security officials started a review of Houston's immigration court docket, immigration judges dismissed more than 200 cases, an increase of more than 700 percent from the prior month, new data shows. The number of dismissals in Houston courts reached 217 in August - up from just 27 in July, according to data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which administers the nation's immigration court system. In September, judges dismissed 174 pending cases - the vast majority involving immigrants who already were out on bond and had cases pending on Houston's crowded downtown court docket, where hearings are now being scheduled into 2012. Roughly 45 percent of the 350 cases decided in that court in September resulted in dismissals, the records show.

Poll: Many Obama 2008 Supporters Defecting to GOP
Excerpt: It's a wide enthusiasm gap that's buoying Republicans, who are poised for big electoral gains, and worrying Democrats, who are seeking to hang onto majorities in Congress as well among governors. Obama's party hopes its superior get-out-the-vote operation, updated from his groundbreaking campaign, can overcome Republicans' energized supporters to mitigate expected losses across the board. While no president can be expected to fully rally his supporters when he's not on the ballot, the survey illustrates the wide scope of Obama voters' disappointment with the president and his policies almost halfway through his first term — and two years before he's likely to seek their backing again. "He's not listening to the majority of the people who elected him. It's like he's ignoring his base," said SaraSue Crawford of Jacksonville, Fla., who points to Obama's health care overhaul law. She's deciding whether to support Republicans in the hopes of "shaking up the status quo" and restoring a balance of power in Washington. She says she may back Obama in 2012 — if he changes course by listening more. (...) Like many others, Aaron Bonnaure doesn't blame Obama for the nation's woes. But he wants Congress to keep the president in check. That's why this 23-year-old moderate from Pittsburgh who voted for Obama now is looking at Republican candidates. "He ran as a centrist. I don't think he's a centrist at all. ... His whole economic platform is the more government spends, the better things are," Bonnaure said. "We have a far-left government. The answers are in the middle."

Denying the Catastrophe: The Science of the Climate Skeptic’s Position
Excerpt: In writing that column, it struck me that it was not surprising that many average folks may be unfamiliar with the science behind the climate skeptic’s position, since it almost never appears anywhere in the press. This week I want to give a necessarily brief summary of the skeptic’s case. There is not space here to include all the charts and numbers; for those interested, this video and slide presentation provides much of the analytical backup. It is important to begin by emphasizing that few skeptics doubt or deny that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas or that it and other greenhouse gasses (water vapor being the most important) help to warm the surface of the Earth. Further, few skeptics deny that man is probably contributing to higher CO2 levels through his burning of fossil fuels, though remember we are talking about a maximum total change in atmospheric CO2 concentration due to man of about 0.01% over the last 100 years. What skeptics deny is the catastrophe, the notion that man’s incremental contributions to CO2 levels will create catastrophic warming and wildly adverse climate changes. To understand the skeptic’s position requires understanding something about the alarmists’ case that is seldom discussed in the press: the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming is actually comprised of two separate, linked theories, of which only the first is frequently discussed in the media. The first theory is that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 levels (approximately what we might see under the more extreme emission assumptions for the next century) will lead to about a degree Celsius of warming. Though some quibble over the number – it might be a half degree, it might be a degree and a half – most skeptics, alarmists and even the UN’s IPCC are roughly in agreement on this fact. But one degree due to the all the CO2 emissions we might see over the next century is hardly a catastrophe. The catastrophe, then, comes from the second theory, that the climate is dominated by positive feedbacks (basically acceleration factors) that multiply the warming from CO2 many fold. Thus one degree of warming from the greenhouse gas effect of CO2 might be multiplied to five or eight or even more degrees. This second theory is the source of most of the predicted warming – not greenhouse gas theory per se but the notion that the Earth’s climate (unlike nearly every other natural system) is dominated by positive feedbacks. This is the main proposition that skeptics doubt, and it is by far the weakest part of the alarmist case. One can argue whether the one degree of warming from CO2 is “settled science” (I think that is a crazy term to apply to any science this young), but the three, five, eight degrees from feedback are not at all settled. In fact, they are not even very well supported. (This article from Forbes is a good primer for any who don't understand the science behind the climate debate. The article greatly simplifies the unknowns but gives a basic overview of the scientific questions. It also lumps all protagonists into two groups, pure warmists and pure skeptics when there are at least three "middle" positions on the science and dozens of positions on the politics of dealing with it. (This article doesn't get into the dealing-with-it part, which, ultimately, will be the part that will affect our lives the most.) Personally, I'm a heretic, believing some warming has occurred, but the measurements are inadequate and the mechanisms too poorly understood to justify disrupting all economic activity, and even if warming continues, it may not be all that bad a thing. Ron P. I’m skeptical about how much warming there has been or will be. I’m skeptical about the cause, think natural causes are more likely that AGM. And I’m skeptical we can do much about man made causes. We could beggar our people and China and India will go forward using oil, coal and gas. ~Bob.)

Congress briefed on rules of engagement
Politicians talk, troops fight and die. Nothing new there. ~Bob. Excerpt: The House Armed Services Committee has quietly received a confidential briefing about the rules of engagement used by the U.S. military in Afghanistan after numerous members expressed concern that they handcuff U.S. troops in combat. The briefing was held Sept. 22, said a source with knowledge of the committee’s schedule, speaking on background due to the sensitivity of the issue. A spokesperson for the committee confirmed it occurred but declined to say when or who testified, citing its classified nature. The briefing was held as a growing number of service members, veterans and military families express concern that the rules of engagement — guidelines for how and when U.S. forces can use force — handcuff service members in combat, putting them at unnecessary risk.

Crime Control vs. The Bill of Rights
Excerpt: The entire world, driven by news reports, has fixated on the enormous illegal-immigrant invasion Arizona has suffered under for years. The invasion had previously been ignored, a news-media black hole from which little information escaped. The catalyst for the attention is my bill SB1070, empowering our law-enforcement agencies to deal with the invasion. We passed it because the federal government is aiding and abetting the invaders, instead of stopping them and defending the nation against a flood of biblical proportions. But SB1070 is a simple criminal statute, enacted to treat symptoms of a harmful crime -- sneaking into our nation to commit felonies, leach off our successes, eat out our substance. A different law, SB1108, for which I am equally responsible, is the more important act. SB1108 is no simple crime-control law. It repeals outrageous infringements to the Bill of Rights, reinstating wholesome fullness to the right to keep and bear arms. The media however, driven by a nearly fanatical racist miasma, blindly focused on the immigration-crime law -- finding racism where none exists -- at the expense of even noting the strengthened Bill of Rights, despite a packed news conference for SB1108.

Did you get your ring yet?
Excerpt: “I promise 100% transparency in my administration. I promise NO NEW TAXES on a family making less than $250K a year. I will allow 5 days of public comment before I sign any bills. I will remove earmarks for PORK projects before I sign any bill. I will end Income Tax for seniors making less than $50K a year. I’ll put the Health Care negotiations on CSPAN so everyone can see who is at the table! I’ll have no lobbyists in my administration.”

A tree falls in Laos
Must be okay—the Communists are doing it. ~Bob. Excerpt: With Pakistan suffering from unprecedented deforestation-driven flooding, are once forested, now denuded Southeast Asian countries the next natural disasters in waiting? The collusion between government, military and illegal loggers largely responsible for Pakistan's humanitarian crisis has taken a similarly severe toll on Southeast Asia's crucial upland forests. The widespread destruction of the forests of Malaysia and Indonesia to make way for biofuel, palm-oil, rubber and paper-pulp plantations has been well-documented, and witnessed in the smog that frequently floats over the region from slash-and-burn deforestation. Now, the impact from years of unregulated logging in Laos, often presumed to be one of the last bastions of old forest in the region, is coming into sharper view. The fact that the Laotian military maintains both legal and illegal logging operations is an open secret here; what is less known are the details of the profit-sharing agreements the military has with neighboring Vietnam and how these deals have contributed to massive deforestation in recent years. The Vietnamese army is widely believed to be extracting payment in timber along the border for the costs it incurs to help defend Laotian territory. The state of Laos' forests is increasingly relevant to discussions on global climate change. Scientists now weigh the relative importance and efficiency of old and new forests for carbon sequestration, or the ability to absorb rising atmospheric carbon loads. Among the old forests of global significance are the stands of sequoias, redwoods and Douglas firs that extend from northern California to British Columbia, and the wet tropical forests of Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia, experts say. (The subject of massive deforestation in much of SE Asia receives amazingly little publicity, even though the consequences of clear cutting forests in countries that have a significant rainy season are very well known. (Not to mention what happens to all the local wildlife and how the entire ecological balance goes right to hell.) So why has it gone on so long (well over 20 years now) and why in the world would it continue still when so little of old growth forest remains in many areas? The answer is simple. Greed + Corruption = Ecological Disaster. Whether the corruption is pretty much official, as it is in Viet Nam and Laos, or just part of the way things go, as it was in Pakistan and elsewhere, the end result is the same. In a depressing number of countries the brutal rape of the environment gets little to no local or international publicity, since the government is either corrupt from a civil basis (tribalism, long tradition, etc) or from being totalitarian in the first place (as in Viet Nam) so there is no way for anything like the Sierra Club to even form, much less have any in BTW, one of the truly ludicrous aspects of this is that in Viet Nam, when deforestation has been recognized at all, it gets attributed to Agent Orange. Which no more kills off grown trees permanently than using weed killer on your lawn or garden kills off the dandelions, etc, permanently. The height of silliness has been pictures in articles from Viet Nam showing deforestation due to Agent Orange... when the picture is obviously of clear-cut forests with the sawn stumps of large trees stretching out of sight! Deforestation is a truly awful tragedy, because often it leads to flooding, which then removes much of the topsoil and makes the land much less suited to the re-growth of trees, even if there were agencies trying to replant them. (Which efforts occur seldom if at all in most of these countries.) Human activity can turn land into a desert, or at least, very poor land with nothing growing much other than scrub plants. When the growth of human population is considered at the same time the ecology of the country declines, it doesn't require brilliant intelligence to foresee looming disaster some time in the not too distant future. But as long as the governments of such countries remain corrupt and do not have to answer to anyone for what they do, there is no hope of any slowing of this terribly dangerous practice. --Del)

Lawfare in Austria
Excerpt: Although the trial of Dutch MP and critic of Islam, Geert Wilders, and its serious implications for free speech in Europe, is once again creating a furor in the press, another high-profile trial of a critic of Islam -- Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, in Austria -- is being overlooked. Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff now faces up to a three-year prison sentence if convicted of "inciting hatred against a religious group" and "defamation of religion" in a lecture in 2009 on the "Islamization of Europe." As allegedly criminal statements fill the indictments of "hate speech" prosecutions, as in the case with Mr. Wilders, the Dutch MP says that he spoken the truth, and the truth cannot be illegal. If the authorities in the states of the EU have taken note of this axiom, the Viennese state attorney has not. He has taken an even more sinister approach to prosecuting Mrs. Sabaditsch-Wolff: No statements are listed in the indictment. Instead, her entire three-part seminar has been designated as incriminating. (Notice that Muslims can say the vilest things about Christians and Jews without fear of “hate speech” prosecution. ~Bob.)

Psycho-Democrat Jerry Brown: ‘One of the First Bills I’ll Sign’ Is Special College Admission for Illegal Aliens…
Nice that California is flush enough with money to afford this. ~Bob.

The Borders Are More Secure. ... Where???
Excerpt: Harlingen, Texas, October 14, 2010: During this stupid season of electioneering the American public has been subjected to and endless litany of misquotes, misrepresentations, distortions lies and just plain old BS from those seeking either to hold on to their squishy government jobs or unseat incumbents. Nobody in America has been told the truth about anything, including the mess our national government has made of any attempt to secure the borders. The sad truth is, no one living any distance from the United States-Mexico border has the slightest idea about how bad things are relative to illegal immigration and the ongoing Mexican drug war. In fact, they treat the issues as if they were part of some scripted drama on evening television. Those who live in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas have a much different prospective when it comes to viewing this national issue. Their small collection of South Texas counties are not just nestled up next to the border. They have become an expressway for illegal activity moving into the United States. Sadly, with the exception of an under staffed Border Patrol and local law enforcement in the small towns and cities of this region, little is being done to ease the citizen’s plight or resolve the problem.

French MP says UK is 'losing fight against Islamic extremists'
Excerpt: Jacques Myard, a senior member of President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, said relaxed UK policies had "opened the door to terrorism". He added: "Allowing women to exclude themselves from society by wearing the full Islamic veil makes radicals extremely comfortable, and Britain should realise this." Mr Myard made his outspoken comments to British journalists in Qatar, where he was defending his country's recent banning of the veil at the Qatar Foundation Doha Debates, which are broadcast by the BBC this weekend. His words will inflame tensions between London and Paris on the fifth anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings, which the French have regularly blamed on lax policing. Referring to the 2005 atrocity in which 52 died and 107 were injured Mr Myard added: "Britain has suffered a number of high-profile failures in its fight against extremism in recent years. "These could have been prevented if all signs of extremism were curbed, as they are in France."

Iran Infuriated By Film of Woman's Stoning
Stoning is fine in Islam. Critical films about it, not so much/ ~Bob. Excerpt: A film portraying the real-life stoning of an Iranian woman is opening in London despite protests from the country's government. It depicts a brutal form of punishment still sanctioned by Iran's current hard-line regime. The film's director claims some European governments have been reluctant to support it - fearful of antagonising Iran's regime, already at loggerheads with the West. The film The Stoning Of Soraya M is based on the true story of a woman brutally killed after being falsely accused of adultery. Soraya is stoned to death in her Iranian village under Islamic Sharia law.

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