Thursday, October 7, 2010

Political Digest for October 7, 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.

Taliban in high-level talks with Karzai government, sources say
Excerpt: Taliban representatives and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai have begun secret, high-level talks over a negotiated end to the war, according to Afghan and Arab sources. (Here’s the plan. Step One: Negotiate an end to the war with the Taliban returning as part of the government. Step Two: Obama declares “mission accomplished” and brings American and allied troops home from the “necessary war,” wins a second Nobel Peace Prize and gets re-elected in 2012. Step Three: The Taliban take control of the government, kill Karzai and all non-Taliban. Step Four: The Taliban reinstitute Shari’a law, with child marriages, stoning of rape victims for committing adultery and strict restrictions on women so they can’t hold jobs, or go out alone, and must wear the burka. School is forbidden for girls. Acid is thrown in the faces of girls and women who don’t comply. Step Five: Terrorist training camps are re-established. Step Six: September 11, 2013.)

Red Herring Politics: Part II by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: Some of the longest-serving members of Congress, whose party has overwhelming majorities in both houses, are having far closer election races than they are used to. These include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, not to mention 18-year veteran Senator Barbara Boxer. Despite their long records, they seem to want to talk about everything except their records. They could tell us why they voted for ObamaCare and huge stimulus bills, without time enough to read them. Instead, they have come up with enough red herrings to stock an aquarium. One of the big distracting talking points is that the Republicans in Congress have been "the party of No." Given the overwhelming majorities of the Democrats in both houses, in addition to their control of the White House, whether the Republicans said "yes," "no" or "maybe" could not stop the Democrats from doing anything they wanted to do. It should also be noted that the Democrats were in power in Congress before President Obama got to the White House. So "the mess" that he constantly reminds us he "inherited" includes runaway spending by Congressional Democrats, of whom Senator Barack Obama was one of the more prominent big spenders. Usually, the incumbents can talk about their "experience." But experience at what? Deception? Earmarks? Reckless spending?... In 1993, Senator Reid introduced a bill-- the Immigration Stabilization Act--to cut back on all immigration, both legal and illegal. Senator Reid said: "Our federal wallet is stretched to the limit by illegal aliens getting welfare, food stamps, medical care and other benefits, often without paying taxes." He said, "Safeguards like welfare and free medical care are in place to boost Americans in need of short-term assistance," and added: "These programs were not meant to entice freeloaders and scam artists from around the world." Today, of course, Senator Reid is singing an entirely different tune. He has what Thorstein Veblen once called a "versatility of convictions." So do a lot of "experienced" politicians.

Republicans aim to take out future Democratic stars
Excerpt: When the conservative-leaning American Future Fund reserved $800,000 worth of ads in Rep. Bruce Braley's (D-Iowa) district last week, heads -- or at least our collective head -- turned. Many pointed to the ad as evidence that independent spending is taking on a new life this cycle -- targeting heretofore impregnable incumbents. And, that's likely right. But, there may also be a bit of gamesmanship at work as it relates to Braley's political future. Ask strategists from both parties about the strategy behind the Braley buy, and the answer you get is close to unanimous: Republicans are trying to take him out before he has a chance to grow into the Democrats' next Senator-in-waiting. And, even if they can't beat him this year, they want to bloody him for future -- and bigger -- campaigns. It's little secret that Braley has his eyes on a statewide campaign -- preferably a run at Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-Iowa) seat if Harkin, 70, retires in four years. "That's why you're seeing outside groups target him," said one GOP operative in the state. "This guy's for real, and there's a real chance he could be the next senator from Iowa."

Obama adviser distributed Al Jazeera 'propaganda'
Excerpt: A technology advisor to President Obama founded a group has been helping the Arab TV network Al Jazeera disseminate news footage of Israeli attacks inside the Gaza Strip. Lawrence Lessig also works closely with a Marxist activist who has argued for the dismantling of the U.S. capitalist system and whose George Soros-funded group petitions for more government control of the media. Lessig has been mentioned as a future candidate to head the Federal Communications Commission, the FCC. He is an activist for reduced legal restrictions on copyright material and advised Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. He reportedly has known Obama since their days teaching law at the University of Chicago. Lessig now teaches at Harvard. In 2001, Lessig founded Creative Commons, a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. In January 2009, Creative Commons launched a massive repository of broadcast-quality video footage, working with Al Jazeera to make the Arab network's video footage available for free downloading. Lessig's group mass marketed Al Jazeera's footage of Israel's December 2008 war in Gaza targeting Hamas. (WND puts the worst spin on things from the left. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a LOT of statist rot in DC. ~Bob.)

Chinese Monopoly Wreaking Havoc
Excerpt: Sometimes a ripple in a pond can turn into a tidal wave that washes away hope and prosperity. What may have seemed like a small detail can blow up in your face at the slightest provocation, and that’s exactly what is happening now with China’s virtual monopoly on the “Rare Earth” elements market. Like Rome, this empire wasn’t built overnight… But over the past couple of decades – as more and more businesses deferred their production to the cheaper, overseas work-force – China has slowly gained more and more control over this market, till last year, they produced over 97% of the world’s supply or Rare Earth elements. Yes, you heard that right – 97%. Imagine if you controlled 97% of the world’s gold or oil… you’d be the most powerful person on the planet. And while Rare Earth elements aren’t seemingly as important to most of the world’s day-to-day activities, this complete control over the market still has plenty of repercussions. Why? Rare Earth metals are vital for many of our defensive entities, used in such things as the magnets that help direct the fins on our smart bombs to the silencing the whir of the blades on some of our combat helicopters. And as something so important to success for our military forces to be held by our biggest economic rival is not a good thing.

Brewer opposes Mexico's participation in appeal
Excerpt: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is opposing a court ruling that lets other countries file a friend-of-the-court brief in her appeal of a decision that put parts of the state's new immigration law on hold. Mexico and 10 other Latin American countries were granted permission by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to present their viewpoints. Brewer's lawyers told the appeals court that the opinions of foreign countries have no bearing on whether the law is constitutional. The governor says she was offended that foreign governments were meddling in a domestic legal dispute. Mexico was joined in its brief by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru. (Nuts. How do they have standing? Would they let us do the same in a court case in their countries? And if we did, it would likely kill the side we filed on. ~Bob.)

Malawi Muslims burn Bibles in protest
Will the president and the media speak out against this? Will there be riots by Christians, with people killed? No. ~Bob. Excerpt: Muslims in southern Malawi have been burning Bibles in protest against their distribution in Islamic schools by Gideon's International, a senior Muslim Association of Malawi official said on Tuesday. "That annoyed some parents and other leaders who have resorted to burning the holy books ... in protest," Sheikh Imran Sharif, the association's secretary general, told Reuters. He said the burning of Bibles was carried out by a few Muslim fanatics and the association has ordered them to stop. Malawi has 1.7 million Muslims, mostly living in the south of the country, that has a population of about 15 million. The Muslim protest has been widely criticised in secular Malawi, which has had little religious friction. Reverend McDonald Kadawati, a leading Christian clergyman asked Muslim leaders to ask followers to stop burning Bibles.

Even I couldn't impress Bob Dylan, Obama admits
Excerpt: Most of his contemporaries have mellowed with age, but as he approaches his 70th birthday, Bob Dylan remains splendidly reluctant to embrace efforts to turn him into part of the fusty establishment he once railed against. That, at least, is the experience of President Barack Obama, who has revealed that he was given what amounts to the bum's rush by the musician when he visited the White House to perform at a concert celebrating the leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Dylan, 69, was "sceptical" about performing his protest song "The Times They Are A-Changin" to the assembled dignitaries at February's event. And while most musicians who perform for the most powerful man in the world ask for a "meet and greet" during their visit, Mr Obama told Rolling Stone magazine that Dylan refused to even speak with him. "He wouldn't come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practising before the set in the evening. He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn't show up to that."

Strategy Memo: The Closing Argument
Excerpt: This week, I am sharing with you a memo I am sending Republican candidates around the country because it can be used by any citizen who wants to present the clear choice voters face this fall. I believe there is a devastating and accurate contrast between the Democratic Party of food stamps and the Republican Party of paychecks. There is also a clear case that the Democrats’ vote for adjournment guarantees a tax increase for virtually every working American, which means more food stamps and fewer paychecks.

After Dem leaders skip vote, Bush tax debate flares on campaign trail
Excerpt: The decision by Democratic leaders to skip a vote on extending the Bush tax cuts has led to intense campaign attacks on vulnerable House and Senate Democrats. Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are under pressure for opposing GOP amendments that would have extended tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush. Vulnerable House Democrats such as Reps. Suzanne Kosmas of Florida and Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota have also found themselves on the defensive.

Business groups want Cuba vote in the lame-duck
Excerpt: A number of business associations are planning a lobbying blitz during the lame-duck session to repeal the U.S. travel ban to Cuba. The bill ran into trouble last week when Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, postponed a markup of the legislation. An analysis by The Hill found Berman did not have the votes to move the bill through the panel and onto the House floor for a vote. Despite the setback, lobbyists for business and farm groups say that this Congress may be their best opportunity to see the bill passed and signed into law. Republicans are expected to make big gains in the midterm elections and are seen as less likely to vote for a bill that loosens restrictions on Cuba. (I propose a compromise. We remove the travel ban if Castro will allow any Cubans who want to come to the US. And if Michael Moore will be required to live in Cuba and enjoy the healthcare system he thinks is so much better than ours. ~Bob.)

Amid backlash and budget deficits, government workers' pensions are targets
Excerpt: Faced with deep budget deficits and overextended pension plans, state and local leaders are increasingly looking to trim the lucrative retirement benefits that have long been associated with government employment. Public employees are facing a backlash that has intensified with the nation's economic woes, union leaders say, because of their good job security, generous health-care and pension benefits, and right to retire long before most private-sector workers. In California, where an estimated 80 cents out of every government dollar goes to employee pay and benefits, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed a two-tier system of pensions that offers new state workers reduced benefits with tighter retirement formulas. He also wants state workers to kick in higher pension contributions to help deal with California's staggering deficit.

Has Rep. Jan Schakowsky Read the Twitter Feed of Her Political Director?
Excerpt: One of my readers, C. Johnson, notices the Twitter feed of Alex Armour, political director for Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois. He sometimes is mentioned in stories such as this: Rep Schakowsky is also known as a strong supporter of Jewish causes. According to her political director, Alex Armour, she has shown unwavering support for Jewish causes and for Israel. He also, apparently, is a vehement critic of opponents of the Ground Zero mosque. On his Twitter feed he declares, “impressed by Obama’s diplomacy this evening. What I wouldve said: Let me be clear: youre all f***ing dumba**es who havent read the 1st amndmt” Except he doesn’t use asterisks. He also Tweets, “Pat Quinn’s new TV spot. Highlighting how Republicans are total DBs.” I’m pretty sure he doesn’t mean defensive backs…. Class act you have there, Rep. Schakowsky.

Michele Bachmann’s Dem Opponent Reaches New Low: “Not Doing Shit For the People”…
Democrats lately must have gone to the Rahm Emanuel School of Public Speaking. ~Bob.

Obama-Clinton ticket in 2012 is 'on the table,' Woodward says
Do I miss George Bush? Hell, I even miss Bill Clinton, even knowing he blew chances to get OBL. I’d feel better about the future of the country if the ticket was Clinton-Obama. Boy, is that painful to say. ~Bob. Excerpt: The prospect of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton trading places with Vice President Biden is "on the table," Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward said Tuesday night. "Some of Hillary Clinton's advisers see it as a real possibility in 2012," Woodward said in an interview on CNN's "John King USA." "President Obama needs some of the women, Latinos, retirees that she did so well with during the 2008 primaries -- so they switch jobs ... not out of the question," Woodward added. "The other interesting question is Hillary Clinton could run in her own right in 2016 and be younger than Ronald Reagan when he was elected president," Woodward added, going on to say that Clinton political advisers, when asked, deny that she has any further political ambitions.

Major New Poll By The Hill/ANGA
A survey of 12 battleground House districts represented by freshman Democrats finds that Republicans are winning in 11. Only one Democrat makes it to dead even. The poll is the first in a groundbreaking four-week series by The Hill, sponsored by the American Natural Gas Alliance and conducted by Penn Schoen Berland. Read the poll results:
POLL: GOP leads widely, Dems in danger but race for House tight
POLL: Opinions of Obama will be on voters minds when they decide on Nov. 2
POLL: Independents prefer divided government and are leaning Republican
POLL: Dislike of healthcare law crosses party lines, 1 in 4 Dems want repeal
District by district — 12 freshman Democrats in danger

GE Closes Last Incandescent Light Bulb Plant, Jobs Sent to China
Excerpt: General Electric has closed its last major factory making incandescent light bulbs in the United States, a victim of a 2007 law banning sale of the light bulbs by 2014. Environmental activist groups promised the restrictions would create green jobs, but workers at GE’s Winchester, Virginia plant are finding the law is merely creating red jobs overseas in China.

Should U.S. Import U.K. Model For Medicare And Medicaid?
Excerpt: Critics of the Obama administration's recent health care reform rightly focus on the $1 trillion cost of the legislation and fears that it will add to already unsustainable federal health care commitments for Medicare and Medicaid. Defenders point to the legislation's cost-saving provisions, like the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) which, starting in 2014, will recommend automatic Medicare spending cuts if costs grow faster than an average of the consumer price index and health care inflation. For the fiscally minded, so-called "automatic" cuts may sound good, but in this case they're a mixed blessing. That's because their impact is likely to fall first on pharmaceutical or medical-device innovation (hospitals and physicians are exempted from IPAB's knife until 2020). In fact, one likely IPAB recommendation--embraced by Dr. Donald Berwick, the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services--would be for Medicare to create a new "cost effectiveness" standard for covering medical products. Technologies that didn't pass this test would receive less generous Medicare reimbursement. "Cost-effectiveness" is economic jargon for what appears to be the self-evident goal of trying to improve patient health at the lowest cost. The problem is our current approach to assessing health care benefits fails to capture the full value of innovation, both in the short and long term. If (as seems likely) we soon place cost- and price-controls on such innovation, we risk short-circuiting U.S. medical and technological progress that has improved the health of so many in the United States and around the world. In setting up IPAB, the U.S. may be borrowing an unfortunate model from overseas. Outside the U.S., valuing medical technologies is typically the responsibility of national health care systems that strive for fair and efficient access to new treatments under sharp fiscal constraints. In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is charged with the difficult task of assessing new and existing medical technologies, and making recommendations that guide the coverage decisions of the national health care service (NHS), which pays for almost all patient care in the U.K. Indeed, NICE is often held up as a model for IPAB to follow. How has NICE performed in practice? Its decisions are routinely mired in controversy. Take the case of Avastin, a powerful drug for metastatic colon cancer that NICE recently rejected, deeming it too expensive for the benefits it offers patients. The U.K. government quickly came under fire from patient groups and physicians for denying approval for a cancer drug widely available in the U.S. and elsewhere in Europe. Indeed, cancer survival rates in the U.K. lag well behind those of the U.S. and other wealthy European nations, and some research suggests that NICE's restrictions on access to new medicines is partly to blame for the disparity. (In July the U.K. government effectively revoked NICE's recommendations, announcing a new 50 million pound fund to buy "too expensive" cancer drugs for patients.)

The Bill Gates Income Tax
Excerpt: Mr. Gates Sr. has personally contributed $500,000 to promote a statewide proposition on Washington's November ballot that would impose a brand new 5% tax on individuals earning over $200,000 per year and couples earning over $400,000 per year. An additional 4% surcharge would be levied on individuals and couples earning more than $500,000 and $1 million, respectively. Along with creating a new income tax on high-income earners, Initiative 1098 would also reduce property, business and occupation taxes. But raising the income tax is the real issue. Doing so would put the state's economy at risk. To imagine what such a large soak-the-rich income tax would do to Washington, we need only examine how states with the highest income-tax rates perform relative to their zero-income tax counterparts. Comparing the nine states with the highest tax rates on earned income to the nine states with no income tax shows how high tax rates weaken economic performance. In the past decade, the nine states with the highest personal income tax rates have seen gross state product increase by 59.8%, personal income grow by 51%, and population increase by 6.1%. The nine states with no personal income tax have seen gross state product increase by 86.3%, personal income grow by 64.1%, and population increase by 15.5%.

3M Co. will drop retirees from health plans, steer to Medicare
Excerpt: 3M Co., citing new federal health laws, said Monday it won't cover retirees with its corporate health-insurance plan starting in 2013. Instead, the company will direct retirees to Medicare-backed insurance programs, and will provide reimbursement for that coverage. It'll also reimburse retirees who are too young for Medicare; the company didn't provide further details. The company made the changes known in a memo to employees Friday; news of the move was reported in The Wall Street Journal and confirmed Monday by 3M spokeswoman Jackie Berry. In its memo, the company said the new health-reform act would create new opportunities for people in their 50s and 60s to find affordable insurance. Maplewood-based 3M (NYSE: MMM) is one of the first large companies to indicate that it won't tap a large federal-government reimbursement program created by Congress as part of the health insurance reform package, The Wall Street Journal reported. The rebate program was meant to encourage employers to keep in place their health-insurance plans for retirees.

All Tax Hikes Eventually Hit Middle Class
Excerpt: One of President Obama's campaign promises was not to raise taxes on middle-class Americans. So here's my question: If there's a corporate tax increase either in the form of "cap and trade" or income tax, does it turn out to be a middle-class tax increase? Most people would say no, but let's look at it. There's a whole subject area in economics known as tax incidence — namely, who bears the burden of a tax? The first thing that should be recognized is that the burden of a tax is not necessarily borne by the party upon whom it is levied. That is, for example, if a sales tax is levied on gasoline retailers, they don't bear the full burden of the tax. Part of it is shifted to customers in the form of higher gasoline prices. Suppose your local politician tells you, as a homeowner, "I'm not going to raise taxes on you! I'm going to raise taxes on your land." You'd probably tell him that he's an idiot because land does not pay taxes; only people pay taxes. That means a tax on your land is a tax on you. You say, "Williams, that's pretty elementary, isn't it?" Not quite. What about the politician who tells us that he's not going to raise taxes on the middle class; instead, he's going to raise corporate income taxes as means to get rich corporations to pay their rightful share of government? If a tax is levied on a corporation, and if it is to survive, it will have one of three responses, or some combination thereof. One response is to raise the price of its product, so who bears the burden? Another response is to lower dividends; again, who bears the burden? Yet another response is to lay off workers. In each case, it is people, not some legal fiction called a corporation, who bear the burden of the tax. Because corporations have these responses to the imposition of a tax, they are merely government tax collectors. They collect money from people and send it to Washington. Therefore, you should tell that politician, who promises to tax corporations instead of you, that he's an idiot because corporations, like land, do not pay taxes. Only people pay taxes.

Congress Can't Repeal Economics
Excerpt: It's raining! I don't like it! Why hasn't Congress passed the Good Weather Act and the Everybody Happy Act? Sound dumb? Why is it any dumber than a law called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which promised to cover more for less money? When Obamacare was debated, we free-market advocates insisted that no matter what the president promised, the laws of economics cannot be repealed. Our opponents in effect answered, "Yes, we can." Well, Obamacare has barely started taking effect, and the evidence is already rolling in. I hate to say we told them so, but ... we told them so. The laws of economics have struck back. Health insurers Wellpoint, Cigna, Aetna, Humana and CoventryOne will stop writing policies for all children. Why? Because Obamacare requires that they insure already sick children for the same price as well children.

23 Million Americans Hit by a Tax Hike, But They May Not Know It Yet
Excerpt: Almost 23 million American households are about to have their federal taxes raised by an average of $3,900 this year, but they may not know it yet. They could get a big surprise when they prepare their tax returns next year. Among those subject to this already-in-place tax increase are some families making less than $50,000 per year, and virtually all married couples earning between $100,000 and $500,000 a year, according to data published by the Congressional Budget Office. The looming tax hike is contrary to President Barack Obama's repeated promise not to increase taxes on any individual earning less than $200,000 a year or on any household earning less than $250,000. This tax increase on almost 23 million people will happen if Congress does not quickly pass legislation that temporarily increases the amount of income exempt from the Alternative Minimum Tax. The temporary reprieve passed by Congress for each of the past nine years expired on Dec. 31, 2009, and so far, Congress has not extended the AMT "fix" for 2010. According to the CBO, an estimated 4.5 million American households were subject to the AMT in 2009, and 27.2 million are now liable to pay the AMT for the 2010 tax year unless Congress acts before Dec. 31. Under current law, at least 22.7 million American households that did not have to pay the AMT last year will have to pay it on the income they have been earning since Jan. 1 of this year.

Building a Better Mousetrap
Excerpt: The story was front page and above the fold in The New York Times. Six teachers in Newark are leaving the traditional school system to start a public school of their own. If the product was something other than education, this would have been no news at all. I would guess that the vast majority of businesses in this country were started by people who walked away from an employer, convinced that they could make a better product on their own. Teachers rarely have the opportunity to do the same, however. They are usually trapped in a system that does not allow innovation or experimentation and is ordinarily hostile to entrepreneurship. What does all this have to do with health care? A lot. As I explained at The Health Care Blog the other day, doctors are just as trapped as teachers. And that is the most important defect in the health care system. This, of course, is not the conventional view. The received wisdom in the health policy community is that doctors have too much freedom, not too little. Witness the wide variation in medical practice patterns — from city to city and region to region — all seemingly unrelated to medical outcomes. How can anyone defend that? Certainly not me. Where I part company with so many of my colleagues is that they blame the doctors for this problem — I blame the third-party payers. Were we to look into the matter, I’m sure we would find wide variations in the practice of teaching from school to school, district to district and state to state. Yet I still maintain the teachers are essentially trapped. This may appear to be an oxymoron, but it’s really not. Both in education and in health care, the practitioners have a great deal of freedom to waste resources. But they have virtually no freedom to profit by discovering innovative ways of lowering costs and raising quality. Practitioners in both these fields have no ability to do what Michael Porter and Elizabeth Teisberg in Redefining Health Care say is essential: to repackage and re-price their products in customer-pleasing ways — the way that producers in just about every other market can.

Don't Blow It, GOP!
Interesting analysis from left-leaning Daily Beast. –Ron. P. Excerpt: Well, it was inevitable and predictable. Political physics have kicked in: Some polls are tightening. Democrats, the press and some opinionators are doing cartwheels over headlines suggesting it may not be such a GOP rout in November. Like the witches in Macbeth, they stir the pot and conjure ruination. But have the fundamentals changed? No. We are easily distracted by shiny objects, like Democratic resurgence, the Tea Party or prospects of a red-tide tsunami in November. And pundits get carried away with wild predictions. While these passionate prophecies increase interview bookings, like most crazy conjectures they are instantly forgotten after the election hangovers fade. Everyone should take an aspirin, sober up and look at the stubborn data that hasn't changed substantially in the last few weeks. It’s easy to tweak poll numbers. In last month’s Washington Post/ABC poll, the selected representation of registered voters created a five-point advantage for Democrats over Republicans, though both Gallup and Rasmussen show the partisan gap at just a single point. Despite the blue-friendly weighting, the poll showed confidence in the Democratic Party had shrunk from a one-time 12-point advantage to just two points. And among likely voters, with no split shown, Republicans held a huge 13-point advantage on a generic congressional ballot. (...) The always-entertaining Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) accused his challenger, former Florida Republican House Leader Daniel Webster, of supporting a Taliban-like religious zealotry and degradation of women. The smear was so offensive, and the selective editing of Webster’s quoting from the Bible was so egregious, even MSNBC took Grayson to task. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), running against state Assemblyman Van Tran, resorted to race-baiting, warning Latino voters in a Spanish-language broadcast on Univision that Republicans – and the Vietnamese – were trying to take away their seat. She also accused Tran, whose family first came to America in 1975 when evacuated by the U.S. Army a week before the fall of Saigon, of being “very anti-immigrant.” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) arrogantly ridiculed members of the Tea Party movement for quoting “from the Constitution, the idea that free people can govern themselves, that the government’s powers are derived from the consent of the governed…They embrace the 10th Amendment. They’re tenthers!” Her challenger, legal researcher and author Joel Pollack, immigrated with his family to the U.S. from South Africa in 1977 and became a U.S. citizen in 1987. Pollack is the first Republican ever endorsed by the colossus of civil liberties law, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz. The more Democrats accuse Tea Party candidates of being extremists and witches, the more powerful the movement grows. Despite the millions of dollars spent by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), that “crazy” grandmother, former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, is now neck-and-neck in a race against the most powerful man in the Senate. In a state with the highest unemployment rate, more than half of registered Nevada voters agree with Angle that the best way to improve the economy is to "allow private business to create jobs by decreasing government regulation and reducing taxes." Though the red tide is rising, overconfidence can swamp even the best campaign strategists. Attorney General Martha Coakley lost the 47-year “Kennedy seat” to a little-known state senator, now U.S. Senator Scott Brown (R-MA). The one-time shoe-in Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, running as an independent after being rejected by Republican voters, now trails former state House Speaker Marco Rubio by double digits in the Senate race. And once untouchables, now trailing, have blown big leads, like Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).

Fighting Back Against Arbitrary Government Rule
Soon the only people not afraid of the government will be Illegal Immigrants. ~Bob. Excerpt: Abner Schoenwetter had been in the commercial seafood business since 1986. Over the years, Schoenwetter built a successful company distributing seafood across the country, including lobster tails imported from overseas. As far as Schoenwetter knew, all of his business transactions were perfectly legal and he had no reason to believe that he or any of his business partners were breaking any laws. But at 7 a.m. one morning in 1999, armed agents from the FBI, IRS and National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS) showed up at his south Florida home with search warrants. The federal agents herded him, his wife, his mother-in-law and his daughter (all still in their night clothes) into the living room where they were told to sit and be quiet. A year later, Schoenwetter was sentenced to eight years in prison, three years of supervised release and fined over $100,000. His crime? Schoenwetter testified to the House Judiciary Committee last week: “No matter how you frame it, the truth is that I am a convicted felon who has just spent the last six years of my life in federal prison for entering into a contract to buy lobsters.” Specifically, the NMFS charged Schoenwetter with violating the Lacey Act, a law that makes it a crime for an American to take wildlife in violation of domestic laws or regulations. The law was intended to punish, for example, an American who killed an elephant in Kenya in violation of Kenyan wildlife protections. So what foreign regulations had Schoenwetter violated? Well, the NMFS claimed that the lobsters he had contracted to buy were in violation of three Honduran regulations: 1) they were in plastic bags, not cardboard boxes; 2) they were undersized; 3) some of them were egg-bearing lobsters. Despite the fact that this specific shipment was no different than any of the hundreds of other deals Schoenwetter had done over the years, despite the fact that Schoenwetter had never seen the lobsters in question and knew nothing of the Honduran regulations, and despite the fact that the Honduran Attorney General confirmed that the size regulation had never actually been signed into law and the Honduran Minister of Justice testified that the egg-bearing regulation was directed at turtles, not lobsters, Schoenwetter’s conviction was upheld

Creeping Shari’a

Presidential seal falls off Obama’s podium mid-speech [VIDEO]
Excerpt: President Obama was left to ad-lib a rare blooper in presidential set design when the presidential seal fell from the front of the podium during his speech to the Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit on Tuesday night at Carnegie Mellon Auditorium. The president chuckled and admitted that there was “somebody back there really nervous right now.” (An omen? I hope. –Ron P. If Hilary was in the building, I’d check the pre-speech surveillance cameras. ~Bob.)

Lawsuits over health care law heat up
Excerpt: Matt Sissel of Iowa City proudly served in Iraq as a combat medic. But he objects to being "conscripted" into an overhauled federal health care system. The uninsured artist is riled about a provision in the new health law that would require him to purchase insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014. Last July, he filed a lawsuit to have the landmark act declared unconstitutional. "I don't want the federal government dictating my personal financial decisions," says Sissel, 29. "It can't even run its own budget." In attacking the law in the courts, Sissel has plenty of company. A number of interest groups, state officials and ordinary citizens are seeking to have the health care law struck down in federal court, and action is heating up: (From USAToday, this is a well-balanced overview of the current legal wrangling about Obamacare. Ron P.)

The world is ending in 2012 — really!
Wish I was sure the world was ending. I would give up my diet, but probably not my job. If it does end, the White House will blame Bush. ~Bob. Excerpt: Now we come to NASA and observations made by scientists who are not selling us carbon trades or caps. They tell us the earth’s magnetic field, our shield against radiation from the sun, has weakened dramatically and continues to weaken. That is bad enough, but then we are told the sun cycle that periodically produces giant solar flares is now beginning to peak. Those flares, sometimes called “sun storms,” wreak havoc on electrical and electronic systems. Storms in 1859 and 1921 caused worldwide chaos, wiping out telegraph wires on a massive scale. And since 1921 we have come to rely on electronic and electrical equipment that is far more delicate than telegraph wires — not to mention satellites. Solar Cycle 24 has begun, and NASA predicts it will be 50% stronger than Solar Cycle 23, which produced the largest solar flare ever recorded. The first sun storm of the current cycle slashed through our weakened magnetic field in August and lit up the planet with spectacular light shows. Astronomers reckon the sun storms will reach their maximum intensity, “Solar Max,” in late 2011 or 2012. Earth’s magnetic field will be even weaker by then. What will happen? The coming solar storm will hit Earth as fast as a bolt of lightning and have the effect of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) generated by the equivalent of millions of hydrogen bombs. The National Academy of Sciences says that if the coming Solar Max only equals the storm of 1859, it will cause $1-2 trillion in damage to the globe’s high-tech infrastructure; that damaged infrastructure will take four to ten years to repair. Unless precautions are taken, the storm will massively damage our communications systems, our electrical grid, our emergency services, and our national security.

Hispanics lose zeal to turn out vote for Democrats
Excerpt: Hispanic voters still like Democrats more than Republicans, but they are much less enthusiastic about heading to the polls in this year's elections, according to a broad survey released Tuesday. The lack of excitement compared with 2008 could potentially deprive Democrats of a major voting bloc they will need to maintain their majorities in Congress in November. The Pew Hispanic Center, after surveying Hispanic voters in August and September, said only about half of them are absolutely certain they will vote in November, compared with 70 percent of all registered voters. That enthusiasm gap is stark just two years after Hispanic groups made a major push to register and turn out voters, who overwhelmingly backed Barack Obama for president. A drop-off in support could imperil the president's party in the upcoming congressional elections. Hispanics overwhelmingly still favored Democrats over the GOP, 65 percent to 22 percent — a trend that, despite a dip in 2004, has generally persisted for years. But Republican Hispanics are more excited about voting this year than are Democratic Hispanics, also mirroring overall trends. (Viva Los Republicanos! Okay, that’s probably wrong. Two semesters in college, I had straight “As”, except for a “C” in Spanish. ~Bob.)

Health vote haunts anti-abortion Democrats
Excerpt: On a chilly January morning in Erie, Pa., members of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List stood outside Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper’s office to thank her for opposing a health care bill that didn’t include stringent abortion restrictions. Ten months later, Dahlkemper and other anti-abortion Democrats are at risk of becoming an endangered species in the House. She and others eventually signed on to the health reform law, endorsing an executive order that barred federal funding of abortions. But SBA List and other anti-abortion groups opposed the executive order, contending it was too weak. Now, SBA List is engaged in a multimillion-dollar attack on its former allies, replete with bus tours and billboards alleging that members “voted for taxpayer-funded abortion.” The group invested $1.5 million in its “Votes Have Consequences” bus tour in August, targeting anti-abortion Democrats who supported health reform. Just last week, SBA List spent $55,000 on 32 billboards dotting the districts of three vulnerable Democrats. On the other hand, Democrats for Life of America, the group most fiercely devoted to defending anti-abortion Democrats, has been essentially inactive this election cycle. Its political action committee brought in $2,431 and spent a paltry $308, according to Federal Election Commission filings. DFLA has made no contributions to federal candidates.

House chairmen in jeopardy
Excerpt: In congressional cloakrooms, an old joke is that everyone responds or salutes when someone asks for “Mr. Chairman.” But on the campaign trail these days, a similar call might cause a run for cover. Known for their seniority in Washington and their political security at home, several House committee chairmen are suddenly on the campaign firing line, a sign that the Republican playing field now extends well beyond the typically vulnerable freshman Democrats and into the most powerful committee offices of the House. At last count, at least six old bulls were facing a serious reelection challenge, with several polling below 50 percent. That means Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank is having to sweat it out in Massachusetts, and Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton is running his closest race in years in rural Missouri. Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt is in the race of his life in South Carolina, and the usually safe Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall of West Virginia is a new target for Republican attack ads. Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, dean of the House delegation and 54-year veteran of the chamber, had to put out a humble statement last month, asking Democrats to max out on donations — even though he leads by double digits. New targets seem to emerge weekly. The latest is Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar of Minnesota, who oversees billions in highway funding. The Duluth News Tribune on Monday reported on an internal Republican poll that gave Oberstar a 3-percentage-point lead at 45 percent to 42 percent — putting the Minnesota veteran below the critical 50 percent threshold. In many cases, these chairmen have become symbols of the unpopular House majority — even if they aren’t necessarily in tossup seats.

Health care past clings to Mitt Romney
Excerpt: Six months ago, as the Republican base lined up against the Democratic health care overhaul, Mitt Romney stood by his signature achievement as Massachusetts governor, a comprehensive health care law that served as a model for the national program. That was then. Now, stopping “Obamacare” cold has become an article of faith on the right, and Romney is facing the prospect that his health care plan could be his undoing as a presidential contender. Conservatives, in turn, are increasingly blunt in their advice to Romney: Say you’re sorry. “I guarantee that, at the top of everyone’s list on how to differentiate your guy from Mitt Romney, the top of the list is health care — until and unless he takes the opportunity to say, ‘We tried, and it didn’t work. The individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare and Romneycare was wrong,’” said Bill Pascoe, a Republican strategist who wrote a post on his blog earlier this year titled “Say Goodbye to Mitt.” So far, anyway, Romney is showing no signs of backing down. His message is the same today as it was in March, when there was still hope that voters would warm up to the Obama legislation once it passed. Romney blasts the federal law as a takeover of health care, while defending the 2005 Massachusetts version. He argues the two are as different as night and day, despite their common and most reviled feature, the mandate on individuals to purchase insurance. It’s a two-step that conservatives say they aren’t buying. (I can’t see Romney winning. I think the GOP needs a fresh face, not in today’s top tier. ~Bob.)

France: 12 arrested in counterterrorism cases;_ylt=ApQJtrWGkPUYl4dPUvu7qJus0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNzanZscDJsBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAxMDA1L2V1X2ZyYW5jZV90ZXJyb3JfYXJyZXN0cwRjY29kZQNtb3N0cG9wdWxhcgRjcG9zAzQEcG9zAzEEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl9oZWFkbGluZV9saXN0BHNsawNmcmFuY2UxMmFycmU
Didn’t get the memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: Police in southern France arrested 12 people in sweeps against suspected Islamic militant networks on Tuesday, including three men being checked for potential links to a network recruiting fighters for Afghanistan, officials said. The roundups were part of two entirely different counterterrorism cases under investigation by French judges, and fell on the same day only by coincidence, one police official in Paris said. Firearms were seized in one of the sweeps, another official said. The arrests came as France and many other European nations have stepped up terrorism alert vigilance amid what has been described as an abstract though heightened threat in recent weeks. The U.S. government warned Americans over the weekend to use caution when traveling in Europe. In one of the cases, nine suspected Islamic militants were detained in southeastern Marseille and its suburbs, and authorities turned up at least one automatic rifle and a pump gun, the officials said. In Tuesday's other roundup, two men were arrested in Marseille and another in southwestern Bordeaux on suspected ties to a Frenchman arrested in Naples, Italy, last month accused of links to an Afghan recruiting ring.

Pakistani woman killed in Italy over arranged marriage
Excerpt: A Pakistani woman has died in Italy after her husband beat her with a brick for opposing the arranged marriage of her daughter, triggering a wave of outrage among Italian politicians on Monday. The daughter, 20-year-old Nosheen Butt, was admitted to hospital with a cranial traumatism and a broken arm after her 19-year-old brother beat her with a stick in the courtyard of their building in Novi, near the north Italy city of Modena. According to Modena prosecutors' initial findings, the father Ahmad Khan Butt, a 53-year-old construction worker, threw his wife to the ground and beat her with a brick while the brother Umair attacked his sister. "The victim did not want her daughter to have an unhappy relationship like the one that had been forced on her," said deputy Modena prosecutor Lucia Musti, who is in charge of the investigation.

Defiant Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad sentenced to life in prison,0#ixzz11V9LZ2mo
He’ll be out in five, write a best-seller, and Keynote the 2020 Democrat Convention on the theme of how America drives minorities to violence! I’m kidding of course. He’ll probably serve at least eight. Note that false swearing to enemies is endorsed by the Qur’an. Also that he seems to think that Muslims are at war with us, contrary to what the President says. ~Bob. Excerpt: Failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was sentenced this morning to life behind bars for trying to set-off a parked car full of explosives. A defiant Shahzad said "Allahu Akbar" -- Arabic for "God is great" -- after the judge sentenced him to the mandatory life imprisonment. "Brace yourself because the war with the Muslims has only just begun," he told the judge before he was sentenced during the 30-minute hearing. "The defeat of the US is imminent and will happen in the near future." Shahzad, 31, a married father of two and naturalized American citizen who lived in Bridgeport, Conn., had pleaded guilty on June 21 in Manhattan federal court to 10 felonies, including international terrorism and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction. When Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum asked Shahzad, who was sporting a beard and white prayer cap, that he was an American citizen and that he had sworn an oath, he replied, "I did swear, but I didn't mean it."

America is a Dysfuntional Family
Excerpt: "Political correctness" has turned this country "upside down and inside out." The whole idea behind political correctness is to use it as a vehicle to achieve cultural change for the progressives who embrace alternative life styles verses the "truth." We can all thank the media for their part in assuring progressives received the attention and biased coverage to make sure America bent over backwards to accommodate the "distortion of the truth" that political correctness promotes, while others like the ACLU carries the rest of the water for progressives to assure this "distortion" is the "right" of every individual to pursue, and "everyone" else must except it as so.

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