Friday, November 12, 2010

Political Digest for November 12, 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. Help your friends and relatives stay informed by passing the digest on.
Short list today, probably nothing for a few days due to commitments.

Student tuition fee protest: police response to Millbank riots 'embarrassing', says Met chief
Good video of the student violence in Britain, demanding free education. Of course, the destruction they committed means there will be even less money—but they are too stupid to get that. Coming soon to California and points East. ~Bob. Excerpt: But around an hour after the protest started, violence flared at Millbank Tower, close to the Tate Britain art gallery where the march was due to end with a rally. Hundreds of workers were evacuated from the building, which also houses other organisations including Government agencies, as windows were smashed and a fire was lit. About 50 protesters got on to the roof, dropping a large metal fire extinguisher on to riot police. Water fire extinguishers were also let off from the roof and eggs were thrown.

American Health Care and American Productivity: An International Comparison
Excerpt: One of the great myths about American society is that our lack of a “universal” health plan harms our competitiveness. Even Lee Scott, former CEO of Wal-Mart, a company that has introduced some headline-making innovations in health benefits for its workforce and customers, bemoans the cost of U.S. health care as a burden on the economy: “The soaring cost of health care in America cannot be sustained over the long term by any business that offers health benefits to its employees. And every day that we do not work together to solve this challenge is a day our country becomes less competitive in the global economy,” according to Mr. Scott.1 Many other American business leaders and politicians have complained that U.S. health care puts this nation at a competitive disadvantage.2 The masters of this refrain, of course, are the American automakers. Years before driving themselves into bankruptcy and the unwelcoming arms of their new owners, the American taxpayers, they used to claim that they spent up to $1,600 per car on health care. This was more than they spent on steel, and a multiple of what they claimed their foreign competitors spent. According to professor Regina Herzlinger of Harvard Business School, these claims are inflated.3 Nevertheless, there’s little doubt that U.S. automakers fund significantly greater health benefits than their foreign competitors, putting them at a disadvantage. Case closed? Not at all. We don’t hear Mark Zuckerberg complaining that Facebook’s health care costs are preventing him from competing against foreign social-media businesses. Indeed, while all Americans complain about health costs, and fewer employers are offering health benefits, the argument that our health “system” reduces our competitiveness versus other countries with “universal” health care is actually quite weak.

What is Fed's QE2, and what will it do? Experts explain in everyday English
Excerpt: Three former high-ranking Fed insiders, two university business school deans and three investment fund managers answered the call. "The book has not been written whether QE2 is a good idea or a bad idea," said Sam Manning, general partner of the Blagden Fund in Dallas. "There are many highly educated, brilliant minds on both sides of the argument." But here are some basics about quantitative easing that just about everybody I talked with agreed on: Turning government bonds into circulating money is called monetizing the national debt. Quantitative easing is a euphemism for creating money out of thin air. In the vernacular, we call it "printing money," even though it really has nothing to do with the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The way it's supposed to work is that the Fed buys securities in the open market, paying with a government "check." (That's how the money is created.) The sellers deposit those checks into their banks. The banks redeploy those deposits as loans to consumers and business. The money supply expands and, in turn, so does the economy. Or so the theory goes. The money supply hasn't increased over the last two years from the first round of quantitative easing. The trillion-plus the Fed paid for mortgage-backed securities is still sitting in vaults as bank reserves. "The system is clogged" is how Bob McTeer, former president of Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, described it. Loan demand from creditworthy borrowers remains weak. Banks are still smarting from previous bad loans. And they are leery of lending money so cheaply when higher rates may be in the offing. Almost no one thinks QE2 will send folks scurrying to the banks to borrow.

More federal workers' pay tops $150,000
I can’t figure out why there is a huge deficit-help me out here. ~Bob. Excerpt: The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office, a USA TODAY analysis finds. The fast-growing pay of federal employees has captured the attention of fiscally conservative Republicans who won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in last week's elections. Already, some lawmakers are planning to use the lame-duck session that starts Monday to challenge the president's plan to give a 1.4% across-the-board pay raise to 2.1 million federal workers.

Federal workers earning double their private counterparts
Older story on this. ~Bob. Excerpt: At a time when workers' pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees' average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds. Federal workers have been awarded bigger average pay and benefit increases than private employees for nine years in a row. The compensation gap between federal and private workers has doubled in the past decade. Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data are the latest available. The federal compensation advantage has grown from $30,415 in 2000 to $61,998 last year.

Boehner: No private jet trips home
Smack down of Queen Nancy. ~Bob. Excerpt: Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), the presumptive Speaker-elect of the House, will not use a private jet as Speaker for trips back and forth to his home district, he said Wednesday. “Over the last 20 years, I have flown back and forth to my district on commercial aircraft, and I’m going to continue to do that,” Boehner told reporters at a press conference.

Bachmann drops bid for conference post, backs Hensarling
In leadership, you need to understand that not all your members represent districts like yours, but you need them in Congress to stay in the majority. ~Bob. Excerpt: Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) dropped her bid to become the House GOP conference chairwoman late Wednesday. Bachmann, a darling of the Tea Party movement, ended her weeklong run against fellow conservative Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) after it became apparent that Hensarling had the votes to win the leadership election. Bachmann was quick to endorse Hensarling, whom her supporters had painted as the "establishment" candidate in the race to be the fourth-ranking House Republican in the 112th Congress. “Jeb Hensarling has my enthusiastic support for his candidacy to become Republican House Conference chair. Jeb has demonstrated his commitment to limited government, reduced spending and lower taxes and he will be a strong voice for the Tea Party’s call for these values," Bachmann said in a statement released late Wednesday.

Gerrymandering 101
Excerpt: Gerrymander: It’s a dirty word. Everyone knows it’s a political insult, but not everyone understands exactly what it means. And even many of those who know what gerrymandering is don’t fully grasp how it completely dominates American politics. Welcome to Gerrymandering 101. Pundits across the political spectrum are now noting that the 2010 Republican tsunami was bigger and more significant than it might appear on the surface, because the Republicans not only won a record number of federal races, they also utterly crushed the Democrats in local races, winning at least 675 seats in state legislatures. This spells doom for the Democrats because next year the states will re-draw the congressional district lines to accommodate the results of the 2010 census.... (...) The reason even most liberals are keeping mute about the horrors of the upcoming Republican gerrymandering is that Democrats have been the most ardent practitioners of it whenever they’ve had the slightest chance. You may have wondered how America overall tends to prefer conservative policies (pollsters like to say “We’re a center/right country”) yet we often have a liberal or at least Democratic majority in the Congress. How can this be? Gerrymandering. It’s so powerful that it has at times fundamentally altered the political slant of our government. Many of the worst gerrymandered districts illustrated in tomorrow’s Part II of this essay (“The Top Ten Most Gerrymandered Congressional Districts in the United States” — don’t miss it!) are the handiwork of Democratic politicians, so the Democrats would have no leg to stand on if they were to now turn around and criticize the Republicans for doing what they’ve been doing for decades — centuries, even. The Republicans have done it too, of course, but in the majority of states in recent cycles, the Democrats have had the advantage, and they’ve not been ashamed to use it. (This is a great primer for anyone interested in how and why electoral districts look the way they do. Ron P.)

Pelosi, political left rip proposal from debt commission chairmen
What, fixing the deficit and the economy is going to be very painful? Let’s just kick the can down the road until the collapse comes, hopefully after we are gone. ~Bob. Excerpt: The chairmen of President Obama’s fiscal commission sparked a political firestorm Wednesday with the early release of a report proposing sweeping changes to Social Security, Medicare and the tax code. The plan would reduce the deficit by nearly $4 trillion over the next decade by making dramatic spending cuts and overhauling the tax code by wiping out deductions, such as the popular tax break on mortgage interest.

Bipartisan plan, partisan response
Excerpt: Two veterans of a bygone age of bipartisanship tried to break the budget gridlock in Washington Wednesday – and got just the furious, largely partisan reactions they expected. Erskine Bowles, chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton, and retired Sen. Alan Simpson, (R-Wyo.) gave up trying to get the 16 other members of the presidential commission on the deficit they co-chair to compromise and reach a consensus by a Dec. 1 deadline. So, without any warning, the two unveiled an ambitious plan of their own – one that would cut $200 billion in spending by 2015, raise taxes by $100 billion, and continue deficit cutting until 2020.

Israeli Professor Nails It: Obama was Right when he said America is not a Christian Country
Excerpt: Wake me up when Obama is bombing Israel. That’s what I told my husband the night Obama won the presidency. I essentially tuned out of politics that day, having little interest in charting every step along the path to the destruction that we non-Obama voters predicted. Of course, I thought I was yet engaging in hyperbole, but the conclusion to be drawn from this remarkable article by Middle East Studies professor Mordechai Nisan, of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, can be only that my hyperbole was hardly that. His commentary was published all too quietly by Newsmax a few weeks ago, and deserves a wider audience. In case any Americans out there still think it’s merely a coincidence that everything we touch turns to Islam, think again. Anyone who finds it strange that 9/11 led not to increased restrictions on people, money and influence flowing into America from the Middle East but to increased openness to these will be interested to know that in 9/11 our government saw not a formidable enemy to be dealt with, but a new market to be tapped. In fact, recall this paraphrase from a 1996 NY Times article by a Dr. Ron Hatchett, titled “The Third American Empire”:

Texas: Police Chief, Sergeant Fired For Attending Tea Party Rally…
Excerpt: The Tawakoni Area Tea Party is up in arms because the police chief and a sergeant at the West Tawakoni Police Department were fired after being involved in the Tea Party. Police Chief Jack Schultz and Sgt. Johnny Beckett were fired Oct. 20, according to internal documents obtained by NBCDFW using the Texas Open Records Act. Schultz and Beckett are both on paid administrative leave while they appeal their terminations. The termination notices obtained indicate the duo’s involvement in the Tea Party was considered “prohibited political activity” under the city’s employee personnel policies manual. The mayor said the men spoke and advocated against the city council and supported a petition against the mayor as part of their participating in the party.

Obama's G-20 Misfire$WMB8Vp4-VO
Excerpt: With the leaders of the world gathering for two days of economic points and counterpoints under the aegis of the G-20, Seoul has become the scene of a showdown between a testy set of European and Asian powers and a rather flummoxed and flat-footed America represented by President Obama in all his post-Nov. 2 glory and malaise. The agenda of the meeting has long been telegraphed by multiple mini-summits over the past few months, but with the announcement by the U.S. Federal Reserve this week of $600 billion in further “quantitative easing” (read: printing more money), the tenor has shifted. Two years after the uncorking of the global financial crisis, the United States faces a cohort of other wealthy nations that have had it with being told what to do by Americans, regardless of the merits. They are in a mood to lecture and berate, and recent statements by Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and Fed chief Ben Bernanke’s actions, have given them ample fodder. (...) But whatever Obama’s personal stature, this isn’t an argument that other countries are buying. The problem isn’t a looming currency war or any imminent backlash—global currencies are so linked that no one can retaliate without doing themselves great harm. The problem is that in the search for common frameworks to create a more stable future, the United States government is advocating policies that treat the world as a 20th-century collection of nations rather than a 21st-mishmash of competing and intertwined state and non-state actors.

In Iraq, Christians Fear They Could Be Wiped Out, Like The Jews Before Them
Tolerant Islam. ~Bob. Excerpt: In the flickering candlelight of Our Lady of Salvation Church, Nagam Riyadh sits against a pillar singing Ave Maria, her voice rising to the shrapnel-marked rafters. "We are singing the hymns we couldn't finish on Sunday," says Ms. Riyadh, who was in the choir on Oct. 31 when gunmen stormed the church in an attack that has traumatized the Christian community here and raised questions about its future. On the first Sunday mass after the attack, Nov. 7, she's one of hundred of survivors and mourners who have gathered here. They light candles in the shape of a cross on the marble floor next to the names of more than 50 dead. At the top are photographs of the two slain priests.

Broken Hips Should Be Operated On The Same Day: Nice
Coming soon to a healthcare system near you. ~Bob. Excerpt: All patients who break their hip should be offered surgery on the day they are admitted to hospital or the following day, new guidance has warned, in order to reduce complications. Currently around one in five patients who suffer a broken hip are not operated on within 48 hours of hospital admission despite research showing that the longer the surgery is left the worse their outcomes. However in some hospitals around half of patients wait longer than 48-hours for surgery even though evidence shows it doubles the risk of major complications and death. New draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has said all patients should be operated on sooner.

Tajikistan Security Sweeps and the Possible Return of the IMU
Excerpt: Tajikistan’s military continues to conduct security sweeps in the Rasht Valley in the eastern part of the country to catch roughly two dozen high-profile Islamist militants who escaped from a Dushanbe prison in August. The chairman of Tajikistan’s State National Security Committee announced Nov. 9 that these special operations have been successful and would soon be completed. However, the Tajik military has announced it will retain its presence there, and the Defense Ministry is setting up special training centers from which to base operations into the mountainous region surrounding the Rasht Valley. These security sweeps began just over two months ago, and there are conflicting accounts of how successful they have been in rounding up the militants. Tajik military and government spokesmen have said that most of the escapees have been either captured or killed and that roughly 80 Tajik soldiers have been killed hunting them down. However, Tajik media have given higher estimates of the number of military casualties, and STRATFOR sources in Central Asia have said the number of deaths and injuries in various firefights might actually be closer to a few hundred. The region’s remoteness and the sensitive nature of the security operations have made such reports difficult to verify. The very purpose of these security operations has also been called into question within the country and the wider region. The official reason for the sweeps is to round up the escaped militants, but according to STRATFOR sources, preparations for these special operations in the Rasht Valley were being made long before the jailbreak. There are also unconfirmed reports that none of the escapees were from the Rasht Valley, and while the valley’s mountainous terrain does make it a good location to seek refuge, it does not guarantee that locals there would willingly harbor the fugitives. The security forces’ ultimate goal could center on growing concerns that remnants of a previously key regional militant group — the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — could be regaining strength in the country.

Why We Continue the Fight
Excerpt: Since the towers fell in 2001, America’s newest warrior generation has liberated two countries, battled two insurgencies, surged to victory in Iraq, and begun working toward the same outcome in Afghanistan. In the face of multiple tours, strategic errors, unforeseen injuries, and political posturing, our troops have forged ahead. Having completed tours in Guantanamo Bay and pre-surge Iraq, I’ve seen the horrors of war and the virtues of valor, and I will soon spend a year fighting a battle many are calling “unwinnable” in Afghanistan. This decade and these experiences — on this Veterans Day — leave me reflecting on the legacy of our generation.

Why Hamas loves Bam
Excerpt: "Abu Hussain! Palestine loves you!!!" This slogan, in English, appears on a poster and other products produced by the Palestinian Hamas movement and put on sale in Gaza. Yesterday, it adorned the front pages of several leading Arab dailies. The "Abu Hussain" is President Obama. The poster pictures him wearing the signature Arab headgear, the kaffiyeh. That the most radical Palestinian faction has declared its love for the president may be bad news for the stalled Middle East peace talks, which Obama has promised to help restart before the end of the year. He's their hero: Mugs depicting Obama in an Arab kaffiyeh on sale right by similar Yasser Arafat curios in a Gaza shop Tuesday. According to its charter, Hamas wants to eliminate Israel and to replace it with a single Palestinian state covering the territory of the Jewish state and the territories it occupied in 1967. Iran, Libya and a range of radical Islamist movements, including al Qaeda, support Hamas' policy, sometimes known as the "one-state solution." But Obama has said he supports President George W. Bush's two-state policy. If Hamas' declaration of love for Obama is based on a misunderstanding, the problem may lie in Obama's ambiguous approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. When Bush said he wanted a two-state solution, he saw the realities on the ground as the starting point. Obama and his special emissary, George Mitchell, however, have talked about a return to the pre-1967 "borders" as demanded by several UN resolutions. But there were no borders in 1967 -- only cease-fire lines drawn at the end of the 1948 war. And there was no Palestine to have any borders -- the cease-fire lines separated Israel on the one hand from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria on the other. Indeed, a return to those cease-fire lines would be tantamount to recreating a situation that had already led to two wars. Obama also drops hints that he means to be tough with Israel. To advertise his toughness, he makes occasional statements about Jewish settlements. Yet this puts the whole exercise on a different trajectory, with talks focused on the settlements rather than the core issue -- the creation of a Palestinian state. Pressuring Israel may look good to "Abu Hussain" and his Hamas admirers. But it may reduce the chances of agreement on the creation of a Palestinian state.

Proposal to put yellow ribbon on Hollywood sign stirs up conflict
I can see the Hollywood sign from my street. I would have liked to have seen a big yellow ribbon up there today if only as an antidote to what we have to listen to in our classes at our community college. I have no right to speak for soldiers, but at least I've finally worked out for myself that they go to suffer and sometimes die over there so that we can have fatuous conversations about them over here. Posted by: Kate Powell 9One of my high school classmates. ~Bob.)

Jaffa imam arrested on terror claims,7340,L-3982473,00.html
Funny how many Islamic religious leaders haven’t gotten the “Islam is a religion of peace” memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: Police have arrested an additional imam for terror-related offenses, after Nazareth cleric was arrested this week on charges for inciting to terrorism. Jaffa's Muhammad Ayash, of the al-Bahr mosque, was arrested on suspicion of involvement in security offences. The Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court extended his remand by eight days and placed a gag order on most of the details of the case.

Malaysia: 10-year-old Christian student caned for bringing fried rice with pork to school
Excerpt: Islamic Tolerance Alert from modern, moderate Malaysia: "Jakim Asked To Investigate Beginda's Religious Status - Nazri," from Bernama, November 10 (thanks to Twostellas): KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 (Bernama) --The government has asked the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to investigate the religious status of Beginda Anak Minda also known as Noor Azman Abdullah, said Minister in the Orime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz. He said only after this was done, could investigations proceed into the caning of his son in a school in Kuching for bringing fried rice with pork sausages into the school's premises.

America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success. - Sigmund Freud

Happy 235th Birthday USMC and Happy Veterans Day
From Quang.

Schoolboys punished with detention for refusing to kneel in class and pray to Allah
Let’s force Muslim kids to pray to Jesus, see if that creates any pushback. ~Bob. Excerpt: Two schoolboys were given detention after refusing to kneel down and 'pray to Allah' during a religious education lesson. Parents were outraged that the two boys from year seven (11 to 12-year-olds) were punished for not wanting to take part in the practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped. They said forcing their children to take part in the exercise at Alsager High School, near Stoke-on-Trent - which included wearing Muslim headgear - was a breach of their human rights.

Yemen mail bomb 'could have detonated over eastern US'
Excerpt: The bomb was found in a printer cartridge on a plane in a UK airport, after being posted from Yemen. A second printer bomb, also sent from Yemen, was intercepted in Dubai. The bombs were both addressed to synagogues in the US city of Chicago, and were claimed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The UK bomb, intercepted at East Midlands airport, was discovered early on 29 October, following a tip-off from Saudi intelligence. It was removed and "disrupted" by explosives officers about three hours before it was timed to detonate, British police said in a statement. "If the device had activated it would have been at 1030hrs BST (0930 GMT) on Friday 29 October 2010," they said. "If the device had not been removed from the aircraft the activation could have occurred over the eastern seaboard of the US."

President Obama was in India yesterday visiting our jobs. Tomorrow he goes to China to visit our money.

Democrats pulled in different directions on taxes, deficits
Excerpt: Fissures within the Democratic Party that were kept at bay by the midterm elections have resurfaced this week thanks to emerging debates over taxes and deficits. Liberal and centrist Democrats are staking out disparate positions on fiscal issues in light of a draft report issued Wednesday by the chairmen of President Obama's fiscal commission.

1 comment:

  1. Want to put my 2 cents in about Walmart's medical coverage for their employees. My son has learning disabilities and he supports himself retrieving carts from Walmart's parking lot. When he gets sick (doesn't happen often thankfull) it cost him MORE to get a note from the doctor than taking an unpaid day off work! This is a young man trying to be independent and he does NOT rely on the "system" for anything. He takes home around $800 per month and he pays utilities, buys groceries and rents his own little place. Walmart does NOT have health care insurance worth writing home about.