Thursday, November 18, 2010

Political Digest for November 18, 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.

House Dems elect Pelosi as leader
Three cheers! ~Bob. Excerpt: Despite the party's drubbing in the midterm elections, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will remain the Democratic leader in the next Congress. Members of the caucus voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to make Pelosi minority leader, brushing aside a challenge by Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.), a Blue Dog Democrat who says Pelosi's controversial public image and low approval ratings are a liability to Democrats looking ahead to 2012. The tally was 150-43.

Stimulus Plan Hits Risk-Wary Seniors: CDs, bonds, saving accounts are paying diddly squat, analyst says to know what to do with my fairly modest IRA. The market seems vulnerable to the administration’s anti-business attitude and actions. But fixed things like cash, CDs and low-risk bonds are vulnerable to inflation, which with the fed printing money to pay off the debt seems inevitable. Ammo and canned goods are probably safest. Excerpt: While American seniors try to live off their interest-bearing savings in uncertain times, they may well find themselves unintended victims of the Federal Reserve System as it moves aggressively to push interest rates lower. The Fed hopes that by buying an additional $600 billion in bonds it will inject the economy with a huge supply of cheap money that will spark stronger economic and job growth. This second round of monetary stimulus, known as "quantitative easing," or QE2, is designed to force long-term interest rates lower, making companies more likely to expand their business. But there is another side to the equation: Risk-averse seniors who rely on the interest from CDs, money market funds or long-term bonds to supplement their Social Security income will likely find it more difficult to get a decent rate of return. "If there is a rate of return called 'diddly squat,' that is about what these investments are paying," says Pamela Villarreal, senior policy analyst for the National Center for Policy Analysis, an independent research organization based in Dallas.

High-speed train wreck
Good website to follow. ~Bob. Excerpt: When is high-speed rail not high-speed rail? When it rolls on U.S. rail tracks. On Oct. 28, the Department of Transportation gave out $2.4 billion in grants to high-speed rail projects. This is on top of the $8 billion that was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the "stimulus" package. If you think this money will usher in a new era of European-style trains, think again. Most of these projects are simply for slight upgrades to the network. The Obama administration has been pushing hard for a revamped passenger rail network. Backers like to tout the supposed success of high-speed rail in Europe and Asia, conjuring up images of sleek bullet trains zipping past mphcars stuck on congested roadways. They claim opponents are living in the past or, worse, are in bed with a host of villains ranging from automakers to multinational petroleum companies…. In Western Europe, for instance, high-speed rail lines must reach a minimum of 125 mph on upgraded track and 160 mph for new track. China has trains that can reach speeds in excess of 260 mph for limited stretches. In contrast, only three of the United States' eight new high-speed rail corridors that received funding will feature trains capable of reaching speeds in excess of 110 mph. Embarrassingly, passenger trains in the 1940s regularly met or exceeded these speeds. Only California's proposed high-speed rail corridor would resemble anything close to a "modern" European or Asian passenger rail line.

How Obamacare Burdens Already Strained State Budgets
Another good site. ~Bob. Abstract: A growing number of state budgets are in danger of collapsing under multibillion-dollar deficits—and are about to be burdened with billions more in costs imposed by the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Huge numbers of additional Medicaid enrollees and associated administrative costs will force states to raise taxes, go into even deeper debt, or most likely, to cut spending in crucial areas like public safety or education. While PPACA’s costliest provisions do not go into effect until 2014, state policymakers have no time to lose. They must use this three-year window to lay the groundwork for sound policies that will protect taxpayers, control health care costs, and expand choices for consumers. This Heritage Foundation Backgrounder details just what is at stake, and why state policymakers must act now.

Washington's Equal Pay Obsession
Because it’s good politics to play to victims, especially female victims because women are a majority of voters. Dr. Sowell points out in his books that never-married women make slightly more than men on average, but that over-all, men tend to put more hours per week and more years in their careers, because of out culture. How about “Equal pay for equal experience and accomplishment!” ~Bob. Excerpt: Why do we need still more legislation? The reason, say the bill's sponsors, is that women earn 77% as much as men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But this figure refers to the annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers. It doesn't compare comparable men and women, and it also doesn't reflect what research of mine and others have shown: Men typically accumulate more continuous work experience and therefore acquire higher productivity in the labor market. In fact, the gender gap shrinks to between 8% and 0% when the study incorporates measures such as work experience, career breaks and part-time work.

The Disability Insurance Monster
Excerpt: The fastest rising cost for Social Security isn’t retiring baby boomers, but skyrocketing Disability Insurance benefits. Disability benefits now make up 18 percent of all Social Security costs, up from only 10 percent in 1990. This year, the federal government will spend $125 billion for disability benefits. Including the Medicare benefits that are paid to D.I. recipients, total expenditures approach $200 billion. Tighten the loose eligibility standards, which have made it easier for the non-disabled to qualify for benefits. Why have disability costs risen so fast? The main reason is looser eligibility standards passed by Congress in the 1980s that expanded the criteria for disability and put greater emphasis on evidence presented by applicants own doctors rather than the Social Security Administration's experts. Likewise, increasing numbers of D.I. applicants are represented by lawyers, with the result that S.S.A. loses two-thirds of appeals against denied benefits. The economists David Autor of M.I.T. and Mark Duggan of the University of Maryland conclude, “The rapid growth of Disability Insurance does not appear to be explained by a true rise in the incidence of disabling illness, but rather by policies that increased the subjectivity and permeability of the disability screening process.” Four steps would help screen out non-disabled applicants while ensuring the disabled continue to receive benefits.

Senate Dems defend earmarks as GOP votes to ban practice
Good for the Demo-corrupts. Hope they stick with this position. It will be a real vote-getter in 2012. For the GOP. ~Bob. Excerpt: Senate Democrats on Tuesday defended the congressional system of earmarking even as their GOP colleagues approved a voluntary two-year ban on the practice. There was scant support among the chamber’s majority party to follow the lead of Republicans who voted in a closed-door conference meeting to ban the practice of tucking home-state pork into appropriations bills. The vote was almost unanimous.

Sen. Manchin: Reid promised me that cap-and-trade is dead
He got elected as a Democrat by running against the Obama agenda. ~Bob. Excerpt: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has personally promised him that Senate Democrats would not pursue a cap-and-trade bill during the next Congress. On a conference call with West Virginia reporters, Manchin said, "I got his commitment that cap-and-trade will definitely not be on the agenda and won't be on the agenda during the next Congress," according to the Associated Press. 

Worth reading: The West and the Guest
Excerpt: What we call “multiculturalism” is not to be construed as identical to “diversity.” The former allows the ethnocratic retention of the in-group’s language, justice system, customs, and politics in semi-autonomous enclaves, as, for example, the 751 zones urbaines sensibles in France, Tower Hamlets in London and Bury Park in Luton, so-called “no drive areas” like Kreuzberg in Berlin, off-limit areas in Brussels, Amsterdam’s Slotervaart district, the Rosengard quarter in Malmo, and many other high-risk neighborhoods in cities across the face of Europe, most virtual Islamic republics and many prone to communal violence; the latter assumes the orderly and beneficial mingling of different peoples in the public agora, which is the case with most immigrant communities. When we say “multiculturalism,” we mean primarily a social project which approves of the voluntary segregation of many Muslim communities to pursue a life apart from, and all too often hostile to or in actual conflict with, the heritage lifestyle that has welcomed them. The original theory was that something like a social paradise could be created by good will and horticultural sentiment alone. The garden metaphor became extremely popular. Liberals were convinced that their vision of society as a sort of trellised garden, sheltering a great variety of exotic plants all jumbled together and left uncultivated, would enable its inhabitants to flourish without root competition. But this was a merely emotional construct that would lead in practice to rampant parasitism and the degradation of the spirit of cultural autonomy and integrity.

GOP senator deals setback to nuclear treaty
Excerpt: An agreement between the United States and Russia to slash their nuclear arsenals was in danger of collapse Tuesday after an influential Republican senator said it should not be voted on this year. With a terse statement, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., dealt a major setback to President Barack Obama's efforts to improve ties with Russia and to his broader strategy for reducing nuclear arms worldwide. The treaty, known as New START, had been seen as one of Obama's top foreign policy accomplishments.

Congressman-elect Alan West on the war
I think this guy make shake up DC.

Internet Traffic from U.S. Government Websites Was Redirected Via Chinese Servers
Excerpt: Nearly 15 percent of the world's Internet traffic -- including data from the Pentagon, the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other U.S. government websites -- was briefly redirected through computer networks in China last April, according to a congressional commission report obtained by It was not immediately clear whether the incident was deliberate, but the April 18 redirection could have enabled malicious activities and potentially caused an unintended "diversion of data" from many U.S. government, military and commercial websites, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission states in a 316-page report to Congress. A draft copy of the report was obtained on Tuesday by The final 2010 annual report to Congress will be released during a press conference in Washington on Wednesday. (Has anyone else noticed that suddenly, the Chinese are “accidentally” everywhere? Ron P.)

The 'Israelification' of airports: High security, little bother
Excerpt: While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.
That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threat with far less inconvenience. "It is mindboggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He's worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.
Obama's hand in your crotch
Boy, there’s a visual I didn’t need! ~Bob. Excerpt: The Transportation Security Administration's demeaning new "enhanced pat-down" procedures are a direct result of the Obama administration's willful blindness to the threat from Islamic radicals. While better tools are available to keep air travelers safe, they would involve recognizing the threat for what it is, which is something the White House will never do. El Al, Israel's national airline, employs a smarter approach.

Has Airport Security Gone Too Far?
Excerpt: In May, Transportation Security Administration screener Rolando Negrin pummeled a co-worker with his government-issued baton. The feud began, according to a Miami-Dade Police Department report, after Mr. Negrin's training session with one of the agency's whole-body imagers. The scan "revealed [Mr. Negrin] had a small penis," the disgruntled co-worker told police. After a few months, he "could not take the jokes any more and lost his mind." Now the TSA is rolling out these ultra-revealing imagers across the country in an attempt to uncover hidden threats like the so-called underwear bomb found on a Detroit-bound flight last Christmas. The agency and the scanners' manufacturers insist they've installed features and instituted procedures that will make passenger embarrassments impossible. (No sweat. Marines will still be able to fly joke-free. ~Bob.)

Rep. Duncan Blasts TSA "Pat Downs," Scanners on House Floor
Sweetheart deal on scanners?

Excerpt: He used his Jakarta platform to complain about Israel building apartments for her growing population. Where? In Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. To make matters even worse, Jakarta is a city no Israeli is allowed to enter! The symbolism of saying what he said in the country and city where he said it is simply atrocious.

Funny quote
"Obama's overseas trip has been such a disaster that people in Kenya now claim that he has an American birth certificate." --comedian Jay Leno. The Patriot Post

DOJ’s Military Voting Mess Continues Post-Election, but Congress Now Paying Attention
Expect nothing but foot-dragging from a Demo-corrupt administration that is fine with the troops dying, but not voting. ~Bob. Excerpt: The military voting mess of 2010 isn’t over. In some states, ballots continue to roll in. Whether or not these late ballots will be counted remains to be seen. I have learned that voters deployed across Iraq and Afghanistan received ballots far too late to be effective. The MOVE Act of 2009 was designed to fix this problem, but may have failed. One reason for the failure: open contempt inside the Department of Justice to the mandates of the new law. It will be up to the new Congress to examine what happened in 2010 and to implement a remedy that prevents the same mess in 2012, and ending the DOJ monopoly on enforcing the law should top the list. Congress should give soldiers and sailors the right to sue when ballots don’t mail on time. DOJ bureaucrats can no longer be trusted as exclusive stewards of military voting rights.

Four Loko to remove caffeine amid reports of ban
Excerpt: The manufacturer of popular caffeinated alcohol drink Four Loko said Tuesday that it will remove the caffeine from its products, pulling the blend off the market just as the Food and Drug Administration is poised to ban it. Phusion Projects said in a statement posted on its website that the company will remove caffeine and two other ingredients from its products going forward. The announcement came as the FDA is expected to find as early as Wednesday that caffeine is an unsafe food additive to alcoholic drinks. That finding essentially would ban Four Loko and other drinks like it.

Slaughter of commanders drives Taliban to the table, suggests NATO strategy working
Gee, who thought of a surge strategy? Probable that great commander, Harry Reid. ~Bob. Excerpt: The average age of Taliban commanders in Afghanistan has fallen from 35 to 25 because NATO forces have been killing so many of them. About 339 mid-level Taliban commanders and 949 foot soldiers have been killed in the past three months, according to US officials, who claim the so-called “counter-network strategy” is driving militants towards the negotiating table. The figures will be used to claim that the US surge in Afghanistan is starting to succeed, as President Barack Obama flies to Lisbon this week for a NATO summit where he will try to convince allies to keep their troops in the country for four more years. They will also form a key part of a review of Mr Obama's Afghan policy due next month. (Very interesting, and encouraging. I only hope it's really an accurate story, and we are really doing that well cutting the heads off the Taliban Hydra. --Del)

Another Deficit Plan Targets Taxes
Excerpt: A panel of Democrats, Republicans, economists and other experts is set to say Wednesday that a complete overhaul of the U.S. tax code is the best way to address the nation's fiscal problems—a new and likely controversial idea aimed at tackling the growing deficit. The report, co-authored by Democratic budget veteran Alice Rivlin and former Sen. Pete Domenici (R., N.M.), follows a separate proposal last week by the two chairmen of President Barack Obama's deficit commission. The many similarities between the two offer a window into the types of proposals that might win backing as Washington launches into what is likely to be a protracted debate on deficit cutting. The most recent report, put together by a group called the Bipartisan Policy Center, will call for a one-year payroll-tax holiday in 2011 that it says will create between 2.5 million and 7 million jobs. The plan would lower income and corporate tax rates and offset them with a 6.5% national sales or "consumption" tax as well as an excise tax on sugar drinks like soda. (The most feared sentence in English: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." This "cure" sounds worse than the disease. Just leave us alone, you idiots! Ron P. Yes, they are unlikely to support the “Fair Tax” or a flat tax that would make American private employment boom. They want government employment, union jobs and union contributions. ~Bob.)

Democrats in chaos over Nancy Pelosi's power
I love the smell of Demo-corrupt chaos in the morning! ~Bob. Excerpt: The Democratic old guard will try to hold the line Wednesday against a rank-and-file rebellion intent on winning some concession — no matter how small — from a leadership team seeking reelection despite having presided over the loss of at least 60 Democratic seats earlier this month. The leadership election follows on the heels of a brutally long, contentious and divisive leadership meeting Tuesday, and it will determine not only whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains the head of the House Democratic contingent but just how much authority she will wield in the new Congress come January.

GOP gains upper hand on spending
Excerpt: With a bipartisan compromise fading, Democrats appear resigned to another short-term, year-end spending bill that sets up an early fight in the new Congress between the White House and newly empowered Republicans demanding deep cuts in domestic appropriations. “It’s touch and go, at the best,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) told POLITICO on Tuesday of his efforts to strike some accord by cutting close to $26 billion from President Barack Obama’s 2011 budget. Instead, Republicans want no increase above 2010 funding and are maneuvering to buy enough time so the incoming GOP majority in the House can instigate tens of billions in additional rescissions, rolling back many programs to 2008 levels.

Matricula Consular Identity Games
Excerpt: I was sent a news report that was posted online earlier by the ABC-affiliated station in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, WTVD. This news report discusses the debate now being conducted by the Durham City Council as to whether or not to allow the Matricula Consular cards issued by the government of Mexico to be used as an acceptable form of identification by apparent illegal aliens in that city.

How To Control Congress
Excerpt: Tax revenue is not the problem. The federal government has collected just about 20 percent of the nation's GDP almost every year since 1960. Federal spending has exceeded revenue for most of that period and has taken an unprecedented leap since 2008 to produce today's massive deficit. Since federal spending is the problem, that's where our focus should be. Cutting spending is politically challenging. Every spending constituency sees its handout as vital, whether it's Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid recipients or farmers, poor people, educators or the military. It's easy for congressmen to say yes to these spending constituencies because whether it's Democrats or Republicans in control, they face no hard and fast bottom line. The bottom line that Americans need is a constitutional amendment limiting congressional spending to some fraction, say 20 percent, of the GDP. That limit could be exceeded only if the president declared a state of emergency along with a two-thirds vote of approval in both houses of Congress. Each year of a declared state of emergency would require another two-thirds vote in each house.

'Unlawful sex': lovers sentenced to 100 lashes
Boy, they were very lucky they were in a moderate Muslim country! ~Bob. Excerpt: A Filipina maid and her Bangladeshi lover will each receive 100 lashes and be deported for having sex out of wedlock in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, a newspaper said on Monday. The Sharjah Sharia Court ordered the woman to be lashed and deported for "unlawful sex", the Gulf News reported.

U.K.: Toy pig pulled from farm set "to avoid the risk of causing offense on religious grounds"
Excerpt: What about the fact that the toys are also graven images? While we're tiptoeing around certain unnamed "religious sensibilities," can we expect an animal-free farm set, too? Of course, this decision defies logic on so many levels, but it is part of a broader pattern of illogical assumptions and expectations. There is the unnecessary, self-inflicted burden taken on by non-Muslims to assume all responsibility for not offending Muslims -- in other words, pre-emptive dhimmitude. There is the self-inflicted sense of helplessness and bewilderment in the face of threats of "radicalization" brought about by an unwillingness to address the supremacist impulse and sense of entitlement to rule that is inherent in Islamic teachings. There is the hope against hope that if one is just "nice," and gives people everything they demand, that will solve the problem and there can be peace once everyone's "hearts and minds" are set aright. (What about the Border Collie, dogs being considered equally unclean and offensive by Muslims? ~Bob.)

Mossa’s day in court (Christian convert tortured, faces death)
These are our moderate Muslim allies. ~Bob. Excerpt: According to Westerners closely following his case in Kabul, Mossa is likely to be charged with espionage and with conversion to Christianity, or apostasy—crimes that may be punishable by death under Islamic law. The court session may be televised, officials have said, and it is likely that Mossa will be asked to renounce his faith. Mossa was arrested in late May as part of a crackdown against Afghan converts to Christianity that followed a television broadcast of several baptisms. He has been held in a prison in Kabul under worsening conditions and has been subjected to daily beatings, torture, and sexual abuse. Court-appointed legal counsel, all Muslims, have refused to take his case because he is considered an apostate. Officials from the International Committee on the Red Cross, where Mossa worked for 15 years, visited him twice, and he has received other Western visitors, including representatives from the U.S. embassy. They confirmed that Mossa had been tortured and successfully pressured the Afghan government to move him to another prison, away from other prisoners.

The New Republicans in the US House
Interesting mix. ~Bob.

Murkowski emerges as winner in Alaska Senate race
Excerpt: Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday became the first Senate candidate in more than 50 years to win a write-in campaign, emerging victorious over her tea party rival following a painstaking, week-long count of hand-written votes. The victory completes a remarkable comeback for the Republican after her humiliating loss in the GOP primary to Joe Miller. (Miller joins Angle, Buck and O’Donnell as Palin/TP favorites to take the pipe. But she has no future in AK outside the GOP. Be interesting to see if she got the message of Miller’s primary win. ~Bob.)

If printing and circulating new money is good for the economy, counterfeiters do it at zero cost to the taxpayers! ~Bob. Excerpt: I don't claim to be an expert on monetary policy or international finance, but I've been astonished by the degree of disrespect expressed here and abroad to the latest economic policies of President Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. The policies in question are the Obama administration's attempts to convince other countries (especially China) to strengthen their currencies and the Fed's renewed bout of quantitative easing (generally referred to as QE2), which involves buying $600 billion in Treasury bonds by next June. Both are widely interpreted as attempts to lower the value of the dollar to make American exports cheaper and to reduce the huge export earnings of countries as varied as China, Germany and Brazil.

Excerpt: The 20-term congressman, caught with all eight of his arms in different cookie jars, was found guilty by a House ethics panel Tuesday of 11 violations of House rules., which describes itself as "an unofficial blog of the Congressional Black Caucus," reported hours before the verdict that Rangel was still plotting to reclaim his position as the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. If true, this is conclusive proof that the man cannot conceive of life without the power he has wielded for some 40 years in Congress. So is Rangel's failure, despite being given sufficient time and notice, to establish a legal defense fund to battle the charges against him, which included the following:

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