Thursday, November 4, 2010

Political Digest for November 4, 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.

What does it all mean?
As a conservative Republican, with a somewhat libertarian bent, I suppose I should be pretty jubilant about the election. But I think it only slows the coming disaster, as it’s too late to fix it. Fixing the economy, government and the deficit is what the voters are demanding, and they will throw out the party that doesn’t do it. But the steps that would fix these problems are now very painful, and most of the public is ignorant of basis economics, so they will also throw out the party that really tries to fix things. So I look for continued electoral turmoil.

I suspect that California may be two years away from riots like Greece and France, as the money runs out, productive citizens and businesses vote with their feet if they can, and the entitlement population grows. Illinois could be in the queue right behind them. Both states controlled by the anti-business, pro-spending party.

Election 2010: Polls show that more voters consider themselves conservative
Ya think? ~Bob. Excerpt: As politicians and commentators debate the meaning of Tuesday's elections, one thing is clear: Conservatives are back. Exit polls showed a surge of voters identifying themselves as conservative. Nationally, the electorate was more conservative than in 2006 by nine percentage points and more so than in 2008 by seven points. Poll findings in swing states mirrored those numbers, with Ohio showing an 11-point rise in conservative voters and Wisconsin a 10-point increase. Pollsters had been predicting stronger enthusiasm on the right than on the left for much of the year, and the conservative base did not disappoint.

Fed to buy $600 billion in bonds to boost economy
We owe about $115 on the small condo we live in. Do you think they’d mind if I printed up that much to stimulate the economy by buying back my debt? I have read a lot in economics, and it’s hard for me to understand how this is good. ~Bob. Excerpt: The Federal Reserve announced plans Wednesday to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. financial system, an expansive and unconventional new effort to try to get the sputtering U.S. economy on track. The Fed will, in effect, print money to buy Treasury bonds - an extra $600 billion worth by June 2011 - in a bid to lower long-term interest rates. The action should make it cheaper for Americans to borrow money, take out a mortgage or refinance their house, and for businesses to borrow funds in order to expand. Although widely anticipated, the move was bolder than analysts had predicted. Still, some investors had expected the Fed might announce an even more aggressive package of bond purchases, and interest rates rose on financial markets Wednesday following the announcement. The yield on 30-year Treasury bonds jumped 0.17 percentage points to 4.04 percent as of 5 p.m. The rate on 10-year Treasury bonds initially rose 0.04 percentage points to 2.6 percent, but later slipped back to settle at 2.57 percent. The stock market advanced after the announcement. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index rose 0.4 percent to close at 1197.96.

The Morning After
Excerpt: Wow — what an election! What does it mean for health care? Almost every Republican and quite a few Democrats ran against ObamaCare in yesterday’s elections. Can it be repealed? Outright repeal and nothing else will probably be stopped in the Senate; and, barring that, will undoubtedly face President Obama’s veto pen. But that’s not what the public is ultimately asking for anyway. Polls show that voters want health reform. They just don’t like the reform they got last spring……What about pre-existing conditions? President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress have blurred the distinction between people who are uninsured through no fault of their own and people who are willfully uninsured. We can have a workable system in which people who are continuously insured do not lose access to the system merely because they retire or lose their jobs. (I have previously summarized one approach to workable insurance reform.) However, we cannot allow people to game the system by opting not to be insured while healthy (and thus consuming all their income) and then insuring at the rates everyone else pays after they get sick. Such gaming is already threatening the Massachusetts health plan. Here is what is most interesting about all of this. In solving the problems of ordinary Americans we can go a long way toward cleaning up and fixing the Rube Goldberg contraption commonly called ObamaCare. In helping middle-class voters we can, at the same time, also help everybody else. (To his list, I’d add tort reform, the one sure way to lower costs. But the lawyers who get those dollars contribute hugely to Democrat lawyers who infest Congress. ~Bob)

'British go to hell': Public gallery erupts as student inspired by Al Qaeda who tried to kill MP is jailed for life
Pure discrimination, putting a Muslim in jail just for knifing an MP. ~Bob. Excerpt: After the sentence was passed, a group of men began shouting in the public gallery 'Allahu akbar' ('God is great'), 'British go to hell' and 'Curse the judge'. A demonstration was also taking place outside the court. Choudhry knifed East Ham MP Mr Timms as he held a constituency surgery at the Beckton Globe community centre in east London on May 14 after watching online jihadi sermons by US-born extremist Anwar al-Awlaki. Mr Justice Cooke, sentencing Choudhry, said: 'You said you ruined the rest of your life. You said it was worth it. You said you wanted to be a martyr'. The judge said Choudhry would continue to be a danger to Members of Parliament for the foreseeable future. The judge said that if Choudhry had succeeded in killing Mr Timms he would have given her a whole-life sentence, meaning she would never be released.

Eric Cantor lays out 22-page game plan
Excerpt: Virginia Republican Eric Cantor’s official announcement of his run for House majority leader came with a twist: a 22-page game plan on how to change Congress. Cantor, currently the GOP whip, began calling colleagues to shore up his support and wrote a letter promising to change Congress – saying he wants to “drain the swamp rather than learning to swim with the alligators.” The document is entitled “Delivering on Our Commitment” and promises a broad range of sweeping initiatives ranging from spending cuts to bringing each item of the Pledge to America to the floor for a vote. It’s a bold plan that shows Cantor wants to be taken as a serious House reformer and policy leader as he ascends to the no. 2 slot in the new GOP hierarchy. Cantor is not expected to face serious challenge from fellow Republicans for majority leader. One major reform he’s facing is scheduling the House floor, which POLITICO reported last week. Cantor is proposing committee hearings be uninterrupted by votes, and is also urging committee reports to be brought to the floor for debate. Cantor says he wants to do away with legislation recognizing “individuals, groups, events and institutions.” In the past, Congresses in the past have passed legislation that honors entities such as baseball teams and universities. Republicans, the Virginian thinks, should only name post offices once a month.

The Midterms May Have Saved a Superpower: Americans Say No to US Decline
Excerpt: The overwhelming repudiation of the Obama administration’s failing policies sends a clear message to the world that the American people will not accept the decline of the world’s most powerful nation. Now the hard part begins, and a very top priority for the new Congress must be reigning in the ballooning national debt, which the Congressional Budget Office predicts could rise to 87 percent of GDP by 2020, 109 percent by 2025, and 185 percent of GDP by 2035. While the Conservative-led government in Great Britain has already embarked upon a $130 billion austerity cuts package, shedding nearly 500,000 public sector jobs, the US administration has defiantly remained with its head in the sand, while still talking in terms of further stimulus spending. That position is unsustainable. Dramatic spending cuts (with the exception of national defence) must also be coupled with a pro-growth agenda of lower taxes, private sector job creation, free trade and economic freedom. After the immense damage of the last two years, the midterms have offered the United States an opportunity to reverse course and get back on its feet. The world needs a powerful, successful, dynamic and prosperous America, where individual liberty and freedom are the driving forces, rather than the overbearing deadweight of federal government. The American people have spoken, and the White House must be held to account.

YouTube Begins Removing Al Qaeda Videos
Excerpt: A number of clips by Anwar al-Awlaki, believed to have been the mastermind of the cargo bomb plot, were deleted from the video sharing site last night. However scores more, including incendiary calls to wage war on non-Muslims, remain. A Google search for one of the most provocative videos - entitled 44 Ways to Support Jihad - on Google brings up more than a hundred results from YouTube. Two of the three top results have now been blocked although the bulk of the rest remain available.

It's morning in America
Excerpt: American voters reminded their politicians that they are servants, not rulers: that elected representatives are there to carry out the will of a people who, as the experience of many ages shows, are generally wiser than their leaders. Americans understand that governments, like individuals, must live within their means. The Founders knew what they were doing when they put Congress in Article One of the Constitution, before the Presidency. The House of Representatives is supposed to control spending: its failure to discharge that duty properly is what brought America to its present predicament. Two years ago, this blog predicted that voters would punish those Congressmen who backed the bail-out; and so they have. The US is at last returning to the sublime principles on which it was founded: principles, as I never tire of pointing out, inherited from this country. I leave the last word to Thomas Jefferson, whose bust stares at me from my desk as I type this blog: I place economy among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared.

California Dreaming
Excerpt: California voters appear to have migrated to Fantasyland, at least when they entered the voting booth yesterday. They even elected a dead candidate. But electing Jerry Brown, who more than anyone else, wrecked the state government by allowing unionized state employees to donate to politicians and strike -- thereby triggering the fiscal meltdown -- and who was an ineffectual mayor of Oakland, is insane. Inflicting the vile Barbara Boxer on the Senate and the nation ought to be grounds for litigation from the other 49 states. Voter initiatives were a mixed bag. Prop 19, legalizing marijuana was shot down by the voters, and a redistricting commission, supposedly intended to take gerrymandering out of the hands of politicians, passed. This covers both state and congressional districts, and could negatively impact the Democrats in the Congressional delegation. But two other propositions more or less sealed the economic doom of the Golden State -- which ought now to be called the Brown State. The state legislature will no longer require a 2/3 majority to pass a budget, thanks to Prop. 25. A simple majority will suffice, which could unleash a torrent of spending and taxation under the Democrats. Jerry Brown has promised to take any tax increases to the voters, but he also admitted that a previous campaign for governor was based on "lies." Even worse, in my eyes, Prop 23, which would have suspended that state's draconian carbon emissions regulations, was voted down by a large margin, based on a campaign slogan, "Say no to Texas oil." The coming regulations will strangle the local economy. Small businesses will face huge expenses, not to mention larger scale industrial facilities, which will simply have to downsize or close. This is economic suicide, imposed to fight an imaginary problem. The only beneficiary will be U-Haul, which will rent trailers to productive Californians fleeing the economic wasteland being imposed by state government.

Canary in the Coalmine: Europe’s “Decoy Jews”
Excerpt: “Decoy Jew” is a new phrase in the Netherlands. Jews are no longer safe in major Dutch cities such as Amsterdam. Since 1999, Jewish organizations in the Netherlands have been complaining that Jews who walk the Dutch streets wearing skullcaps risk verbal and physical attacks by young Muslims. Being insulted, spat at or attacked are some of the risks associated with being recognizable as a Jew in contemporary Western Europe. Last week, a television broadcast showed how three Jews with skullcaps, two adolescents and an adult, were harassed within thirty minutes of being out in the streets of Amsterdam. Young Muslims spat at them, mocked them, shouted insults and made Nazi salutes. “Dirty Jew, go back to your own country,” a group of Moroccan youths shouted at a young indigenous Dutch Jew. “It is rather ironic,” the young man commented, adding that if one goes out in a burka one encounters less hostility than if one wears a skullcap. In an effort to arrest the culprits who terrorize Jews, the Amsterdam authorities have ordered police officers to walk the streets disguised as Jews. The Dutch police already disguise officers as “decoy prostitutes, decoy gays and decoy grannies” to deter muggings and attacks on prostitutes, homosexuals and the elderly. Apparently sending out the decoys has helped reduce street crime. The “decoy Jew” has now been added to the police attributes. The deployment of “decoy Jews”, however, is being criticized by leftist parties such as the Dutch Greens. Evelien van Roemburg, an Amsterdam counselor of the Green Left Party, says* that using a decoy by the police amounts to provoking a crime, which is itself a criminal offence under Dutch law. Unfortunately, the situation in Amsterdam is not unique. Jews in other Dutch cities also regularly complain about harassment. So do Jews in neighboring countries. (This is really incredible, 70 years after the Holocaust, we again have gangs of young toughs harassing Jews in the streets of Europe. Last time it was only Germany, but now it is much more widespread, I have seen a documentary on one of the Swedish cities having also become very unfriendly to Jews because of a large Muslim population becoming very aggressive. The combination of increasingly dense Muslim neighborhoods and the aggressive teachings of many imams in the Saudi-funded mosques there makes for a definite tendency for young males to buy into the more militant version of Islam, which has deep hatred of Jews as a central aspect. Tolerance of such hateful attitudes and hateful actions is terribly foolish, but has been the policy for far too long already. Europe is steadily building towards some kind of real disaster, they were way too accepting of non-assimilating immigrants and radical Islamist preachers for a couple of decades. This has led to an increasingly unstable and dangerous situation in many cities. Where it's going to wind up, I don't know, but I am damn sure it won't work out well at all. --Del)

Lawyers and Efficiency
From Bloomberg: Irving Picard, the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of Bernard Madoff’s investment firm, spent $26.9 million in the six months ended Sept. 30 while recovering $849,000 for victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, according to a report filed in Manhattan federal court. In return on investment terms, Mr Picard has so far delivered a negative 97% return (a 97% loss ratio). True, he is not yet done, but the record to date is not too promising. (Sent to me by a correspondent, not verified. ~Bob.)

The GOP’s new identity politics
Excerpt: It’s one of the most remarkable and under-reported stories of the current campaign season. The Republican Party , the presumed bastion of insensitive white males, has managed to field one of the most impressive arrays of women and minority candidates in US history. And to the chagrin of Democrats, most of these die-hard conservative candidates are expected to win on November 2. Their victory could well turn liberal “identity politics” on its head. In New Mexico, Susana Martinez, a tough-talking district attorney and confirmed Palinista, is about to become the nation’s first Hispanic female governor. But you’d hardly know it from the dearth of media attention she’s received, compared, for example, to the extraordinary outpouring that accompanied President Obama’s appointment of Sonia Sotomayor as the nation’s first Hispanic female Supreme Court justice. (...) And Martinez is far from alone. Almost a dozen, little-known Republican Hispanic candidates are running for House seats — like plucky Jaime Herrera in Washington State, who’s way ahead in the polls. If they win, and most probably will, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, currently comprised of 24 members, nearly all Democrats, will have to find room for a large group of GOP dissenters. (Published on 1 Nov, the day before the election, this is a bit optimistic. However, the two folks mentioned in the excerpt were both elected. So were Gov-elect Haley (Asian-American) in SC, Allen West (black American) to Congress from Florida, and Scott (black American) to Congress from NC. Plus others. And, every one of them is a conservative. After the drubbing we took here in Massachusetts, it feels good to see encouraging signs like this. Ron P.)

State House Tsunami
Excerpt: The GOP had enormous success is taking control of state legislatures last night. This new power will have an impact in redistricting efforts for U.S House seats, and for state legislative districts. It also gives Republicans a bigger role in state fiscal issues- budgets, taxes, spending. It appears that at least 15 State House or Senate chambers had a change in control to the GOP last night, giving the Party control of more chambers than the Democrats now hold . (...) With all the national media attention focused on the U.S. Senate a big story was overlooked last night. The GOP may now have more power in the state legislatures than at any time since the 1920s. Going into the 2010 elections, Democrats held 60 partisan legislative chambers and Republicans held 36, with a couple of ties. It looks like the GOP has picked up an astounding 20 chambers, including both houses in Alabama, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin and additional chambers in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In total legislative seats, it is possible that after all the results are posted, Republicans will have won a nationwide majority.

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