Saturday, December 18, 2010

Political Digest for December 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.

Will be irregular from now through the Holidays. But not to worry. For every day you miss, we will extend your subscription two days, at no charge. What a deal.

Well worth reading: Our “Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain” Moment
Excerpt: The result has been a sort of political implosion, the proverbial “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” moment when the omnipotent wizard’s face projected on the screen becomes exposed as a rather frightened Frank Morgan, busy with levers and gears—or, in our morality play, a deer-in-the-headlights Barack Obama relieved to sub out his White House press room to a designated president Bill Clinton at last back on his home turf. In a number of ways, we can see how the Obama administration has been reduced to a sort of virtual administration. The messianic spell of 2008 ended with the largest midterm rebuke since 1938. Whereas in 2009 it was considered racist for a conservative to question the president’s wisdom at a Tea Party rally, by 2010 Democratic congressional representatives were vying with each other to find creative ways of using the F-word to belittle the president. Since his inauguration, the president has lost a point in the polls about every three weeks of his presidency, without much deviation. There is little presidential stature left. When Barack Obama addresses the Sen. minority leader as “Mike” McConnell or claims the U.S. motto is e pluribus unum rather than “In God We Trust,” this is by now a non-news story—not after “57 states” or “corpse-men” or Austrian-speaking Austrians….But I do feel that after only 23 months, the presidency is becoming a caricature of a presidency—and, scarier still, is being recognized as such abroad. Whereas Bill Clinton triangulated to save his administration from descending into Carteresque liberal irrelevancy, the choices of Obama seem much starker—perhaps understandable given the vast lacunae in his resume.

$1.1 trillion spending bill collapses as GOP senators yank support
Excerpt: Senate Democrats have given up on their plan to pass a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill in the face of unified Republican opposition. The bill’s collapse will take with it more than 6,000 earmarks as well as more than $1 billion in funding for implementation of healthcare reform.

The Tea Party is Back
Excerpt: Two hundred and thirty-seven years ago last night, a group of colonists disguised as Indians boarded British merchant ships and dumped an estimated £10,000 worth of tea into Boston Harbor. This Boston Tea Party, which John Adams described as the “grandest event which has ever yet happened since the controversy with Britain opened,” was not just a protest about taxation. Our forefathers did not destroy tea because of a simple tax dispute. The 1773 Tea Party were protesting the process by which the British government taxed them. They were fundamentally rejecting the way the British were governing them. Last night, the spirit of the Tea Party won another major victory when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) was forced to drop his $1.27 trillion, 1,924-page omnibus spending bill. The problem with Reid’s omnibus spending bill was not just its size—although our federal government does spend far too much of other people’s money—but the way it was drafted and forced on the American people. For far too long our Congress has amassed more and more spending power into fewer and fewer legislative acts while waiting until the last possible minute to consider them. Lobbyists have made an entire business model out of identifying must-pass appropriations and tax bills and then getting pliant Members of Congress to insert their special breaks, loopholes, and giveaways. The omnibus collapse was a complete rejection of that way of doing business in Washington. Senator John McCain (R–AZ) told National Review: “I know this is a seminal moment, because for the first time since I’ve been here, we stood up and said ‘enough.’” Last night’s victory could not have happened without the Tea Party.

Congress passes extension of Bush-era tax cuts
Excerpt: Congress approved the most significant tax bill in nearly a decade late Thursday, overcoming liberal resistance to continue for two more years tax breaks enacted under president George W. Bush and to provide a fresh boost of federal support to the tepid economic recovery.

UCLA Professor: DREAM Act Will Help Illegals Replace Old White Men in Congress
And just who are the racists in our society? ~Bob. Excerpt: UCLA Professor Kent Wong gave an impassioned speech at a rally held at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles with DREAM Act supporters in attendance.

The Red Cross bans Christmas
Excerpt: Christmas has been banned by the Red Cross from its 430 fund-raising shops.
Staff have been ordered to take down decorations and to remove any other signs of the Christian festival because they could offend Moslems. The charity's politically-correct move triggered an avalanche of criticism and mockery last night - from Christians and Moslems.

Ethics probe of Rep. Waters derailed by infighting, sources say
GOP will need to re-open in January under new direction. If this Demo-corrupt Congress Critter walks, it will be an issue in 2012. ~Bob. Excerpt: A lengthy House investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has been derailed by infighting within the politically charged ethics committee over errors in building a case against her, according to congressional sources with direct knowledge of the probe.

Important: No, You Can’t
Excerpt: For years now, climate activists from Al Gore to Leonardo DiCaprio have argued that individual actions like driving more economical cars and using more efficient light bulbs are a crucial element in the effort to address global warming. The United Nations’ climate panel and the International Energy Agency both echo this sentiment, insisting that higher energy efficiency could reduce energy consumption by up to 30% – making improved efficiency an effective remedy for climate change. But is this really true? Here’s something to think about. Back in the early 1970’s, the average American expended roughly 70 million British thermal units per year to heat, cool, and power his or her home. Since then, of course, we have made great strides in energy efficiency. As The Washington Post recently reported, dishwashers now use 45% less power than they did two decades ago, and refrigerators 51% less. So how much energy do Americans use in their homes today? On a per capita basis, the figure is roughly what it was 40 years ago: 70 million BTUs. This surprising lack of change is the result of something economists call the “rebound effect.” It’s a phenomenon familiar to urban planners, who long ago discovered that building more roads doesn’t ease traffic jams – it merely encourages more people to get in their cars and drive. The underlying principle is a decidedly counterintuitive fact of life. You might think that learning to use something more efficiently will result in your using less of it, but the opposite is true: the more efficient we get at using something, the more of it we are likely to use…..The conclusion that Saunders and his co-authors draw from this is both surprising and hard to dispute: rather than shrinking our electricity use, the introduction of ever more efficient lighting technologies is much more likely to lead to “massive…growth in the consumption of light.” It’s difficult to overstate what these findings mean for climate policy. In a nutshell, they tell us that, while increasing energy efficiency is undoubtedly a good thing, it is most assuredly not a remedy for global warming. Efficiency doesn’t reduce consumption; it increases it. (It occurs to me that Al Gore should be endorsing serial killers, because every death reduces the over-all human carbon foot print. ~Bob.)

From Wall Street To Wal-Mart: Why College Graduates Are Not Getting Good Jobs
Executive Summary: Colleges and universities are turning out graduates faster than America’s labor markets are creating jobs that traditionally have been reserved for those with degrees. More than one-third of current working graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree, and the proportion appears to be rising rapidly. Many of them are better described as “underemployed” rather than “gainfully employed.” Indeed, 60 percent of the increased college graduate population between 1992 and 2008 ended up in these lower skill jobs, raising real questions about the desirability of pushing to increase the proportion of Americans attending and graduating from four year colleges and universities. This, along with other evidence on the negative relationship between government higher education spending and economic growth, suggests we may have significantly “over invested” public funds in colleges and universities.

Obama's GM Numbers Are Not Adding Up
Figures don’t lie—but liars figure! ~Bob. Excerpt: Since mid-November debut of the IPO, prominent news outlets have erroneously reported that Chrysler and GM have added 75,000 jobs since the bailout. National Public Radio’s Mara Liasson reported that Obama “said that since GM and Chrysler have emerged from bankruptcy, they’ve created more than 75,000 new jobs.” A story on similarly states, “GM — with fellow Michigan-based auto giants Ford and Chrysler — have created more than 75,000 jobs in recent months.” But if you listen closely, this is not exactly what the president says, even though he probably doesn’t mind being misquoted in this instance. In fact, his statement almost lures readers into making this error. In one sentence he speaks of rescuing GM and Chrysler, yet in the same breath cites job growth figures for the entire automotive sector. Obama said Thursday, “Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy, the industry has created more than 75,000 new jobs.” Just what did the president mean by “the industry?” 

Snub For Obamas As Royal Sources Say They Will Not Be Invited To Prince William's Wedding
Don’t think this is really a snub for Obama, unless they invite other heads of state. I probably won’t even be invited, doubtless because of my well-known Jacobite sympathies. ~Bob. Excerpt: President Obama and his wife Michelle will not be invited to Prince William's wedding next year. Because Prince William is not yet heir to the throne, his wedding to Kate Middleton is not classed as a ‘state occasion’ – and the couple feel under no pressure to fill the 2,000-strong guest list with heads of state, the Mail understands. They are more eager to ask ordinary citizens and charity workers than foreign dignitaries and VIPs to what will be the first royal ‘people’s wedding’, courtiers suggested. A handful of heads of state are likely to be invited in line with previous royal weddings, possibly including France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni.

That Pesky Constitution
Excerpt: The original intent of the crafters of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause undoubtedly drew its original meaning from colonial mercantilist tradition, primarily restrictions on international trade, giving subsidy or protection to favored domestic merchants, or punishing imports or foreign producers. From that humble beginning the Commerce Clause has been inflated, expanded, and twisted like a pretzel to meet the desires of an ever-expanding federal government thirsty for control and power. It is far and away the most important tool used by judicial activists, and its interpretation was at the epicenter of Franklin Roosevelt’s socialist New Deal agenda. For many years this clause was conservatively and strictly interpreted. It served as the sentinel and guardian against the onslaught of Progressivism in the 1920s, allowing the Supreme Court to strike down one big government, socialist measure after another. In the 1930s the clause also held back government expansion and huge programs like the National Recovery Act which would have given the federal government massive control over the economy. Using the limiting nature of the commerce clause, the Supreme Court struck down big-government initiatives with machine-gun like efficiency. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis is said to have told a Roosevelt aide, “This is the end of this business of centralization, and I want you to go back and tell the president that we’re not going to let this government centralize everything.” (An excellent article that lays out the argument against use of the “Commerce Clause” to justify the forced purchase of healthcare insurance.  Well worth reading, though the Supreme Court may not rule on this for years—and who knows what its composition will look like by then. Ron P. If the Commerce Clause can be used to require citizens to purchase health insurance, could not a conservative Congress require them to purchase guns? Guns are regulated by interstate commerce. ~Bob.)

The Muslim Brotherhood
Long study.

It is easier to appear worthy of a position one does not hold, than of the office which one fills. -- Francois De La Rochefoucauld

New Theory: Stuxnet Was Created By China?
Excerpt: Darned compelling, and darned depressing. Not only because it snatches away our vicarious pride in U.S./Israeli ingenuity, but it feeds into western jitters about Chinese omnicompetence. Why, I’ll bet it was those Shanghai teens who cooked this thing up. During recess. The circumstantial evidence is impressive. Just one question: Why would China do it? China has an intimate knowledge of Iran’s centrifuges since, according to one source quoted above, they’re of Chinese design. China has better access than any other country to manufacturing plans for the Vacon frequency converter drive made by Vacon’s Suzhou facility and specifically targeted by the Stuxnet worm (along with an Iranian company’s drive). Furthermore, in March 2010, China’s Customs ministry started an audit at Vacon’s Suzhou facility and took two employees into custody thereby providing further access to Vacon’s manufacturing specifications under cover of an active investigation.

America, the Crab Bucket
Excerpt: No matter how soothing the White House overtures to business leaders sounded this week, an inconvenient fact remains: Washington is gripped by crab-in-the-bucket syndrome. And there's no cure in sight. Put a single crab in an uncovered bucket, and it will find a way to climb up and out on its own. Put a dozen crabs in a bucket, and 11 will fight with all their might to pull down the striver who attempts escape. President Obama sought to reassure 20 CEOs that he wasn't the king crab holding them down: "I want to dispel any notion we want to inhibit your success," he cooed. "We want to be boosters because when you do well, America does well." Take it all with a huge grain of sea salt. This is, after all, the same "booster" who in April mused openly about limits on profits, government determinations for what constitutes a "good" product or service, and the expectation that private businesses serve a collective need to goose Washington's jobs numbers. "I mean, I do think at a certain point you've made enough money," the president said.

Demo-corrupt. When women’s suffrage passed the US House by one vote, a Republican left his dying wife’s bedside to vote for it, returning after she died. This is rather different. ~Bob. Excerpt: Meet Jeff Wood, alleged serial drinker. He’s a Wisconsin “independent” lawmaker who (allegedly) has a drinking problem and, right now, he’s sitting in jail…Sort of. Being one vote short in their lame-duck session, Wisconsin Democrats were apparently so desperate to shove stalled union contracts down the throats of Wisconsin taxpayers before incoming-Governor Scott Walker can take office that they busted inmate Wood out of jail to vote with them.

Two Brit Muslim converts killed in drone attacks in Pakistan
Allah Akbar! ~Bob. Excerpt: Two British Muslim converts working for al Qaeda have been killed in a drone attack in Pakistan's mountainous region, according to reports. The militants, who were aged 48 and 25 and using the pseudonyms Abu Bakr and Mansoor Ahmed, were in a vehicle with two other fighters. The men, one of whom was apparently called Steve, died five days ago when a Hellfire missile was fired from a remote controlled American drone in the town of Datta Khel.

Video: World's Biggest Rock Star
Excerpt: He’s like Bono, Jesus, and that creepy guy in the computer room at the public library all rolled into one. The word today is that the DOJ is trying to indict him on a conspiracy charge rather than under the Espionage Act, which would be a lot safer from a First Amendment perspective insofar as it would target the initial act of stealing classified documents rather than the later publication. Wikileaks defenders will presumably howl about that, just as they howl about any attempt to prosecute Assange. One thing I don’t understand, though: Most of his supporters, I take it, would agree that there are some types of classified government information that shouldn’t be public knowledge. What falls into that category will vary according to one’s individual judgment — maybe it’s as exacting as the nuclear launch codes, maybe it’s as inexacting as “anything that harms the public interest” — but in theory there’s some class of documents that should be off-limits. At the same time, my sense is that Assange’s strongest supporters will defend anything he publishes on First Amendment grounds, reasoning that if harm comes from the revelation, it’s the government’s fault entirely for not protecting that information better. (On my “Would shoot him if I could list. It’s a long list. ~Bob.)

Bank Forced to Take Down Religious Signs, Symbols On Display
PERKINS, Ok. - Banking and Bible verses apparently don't go together. This after an Oklahoma bank says it had to take down religious signs and symbols. The crosses on the teller's counter, the button that said 'Merry Christmas, God With Us' and the Bible verse of the day apparently violated bank regulations. A Federal Reserve examiner was at the bank in Perkins, Oklahoma, north of Oklahoma City, last week and visits every four years to make sure the bank complies with federal regulations. The team deemed the religious symbols were inappropriate and might have "expressed, implied, or suggested a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion".

Happy Festivus
When Malcolm Alarmo King became a resident of the Theo Lacy jail in Orange County, California, in April, he soon found the prison's menu wasn't to his liking. King, who is suspected of coming to the country illegally from Liberia, didn't like salami and asked for kosher meals. He needed a religious reason, however, so he chose one -- "Festivus," the faux holiday made popular by the 1990s sitcom "Seinfeld." As The Orange County Register sums it up, "Seinfeld celebrated Festivus with an aluminum 'Festivus pole' instead of a tree and traditions such as the 'Airing of Grievances' and 'Feats of Strength.' Easily explainable events were 'Festivus miracles.'" Nevertheless, King was granted his request -- until he was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation, anyway. We in our humble shop have no beef with salami, but if you're going to celebrate a ridiculous holiday, it may as well include everyone. Like our own Christmahanakwamadan. The Patriot Post

The New Comeback Kid
Excerpt: If Barack Obama wins re-election in 2012, as is now more likely than not, historians will mark his comeback as beginning on Dec. 6, the day of the Great Tax Cut Deal of 2010. Obama had a bad November. Self-confessedly shellacked in the midterm election, he fled the scene to Asia and various unsuccessful meetings, only to return to a sad-sack lame-duck Congress with ghostly dozens of defeated Democrats wandering the halls. Now, with his stunning tax deal, Obama is back. Holding no high cards, he nonetheless managed to resurface suddenly not just as a player but as orchestrator, dealmaker and central actor in a high $1 trillion drama.

Common Ground With Progressives At Berkeley
Excerpt: Just recently, I had a couple of astonishing conversations with random strangers. And in Berkeley, no less...I was in downtown Berkeley when I saw this 60-something guy with a world-weary face. He was selling progressive bumper stickers while reading an anti-Israel book. I thought I would check out the stickers and see if he'd be willing to chat with me...I decided to pick the man's brain...: "What do you think about Obama?" The man answered, "I didn't vote for Obama. I voted for Nader. I saw through Obama right from the beginning. Every radical I know realized that Obama was just another corporate shill." I told him that I saw through the façade, too. But then I added, "Everyone I know considers themselves progressive. And yet they all voted for Obama and still believe in him. How did you and your friends see through the hype?" The man answered that any real progressive would have seen Obama's true colors from the get-go. He explained, "There are people who call themselves progressives, but they aren't. They're just naïve and want to believe."

Mexican unmanned drone crashes in backyard of El Paso home
WTF? ~bob. Excerpt: National Transportation Safety Board officials said that an unmanned drone similar to the one in the photo crash landed in the backyard of a home in the Lower Valley Tuesday. (Courtesy Aeronautics Defense System)The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating Tuesday's crash of a Mexican drone in El Paso's Lower Valley. "We are collecting data about the crash. We don't have the aircraft because it was returned to its owner," said Keith Holloway, spokesman for the NTSB, which investigates aircraft crashes in the United States and in other countries that requests its help. Holloway said the aircraft that crossed into the U.S. air space is a mini orbiter unmanned aerial vehicle developed by the Aeronautics Defense System. It is designed for use in military and homeland security missions, and is capable of conducting over-the-hill reconnaissance missions, low-intensity conflict and urban warfare operations, and any other related close range mission.

Gaping Holes in Airline Security: Loaded Gun Slips Past TSA Screeners
I’ve long suspected that what we have is the illusion of security. I had a folding knife go through undetected, that I forgot about. I’ve always thought I could figure out a way to get a gun on. I don’t care if they see my naked body—let them envy! But I don’t think the hassle’s do much good. Screening have never caught one terrorist. And having this stuff in the news doesn’t help, but ABC doesn’t care if your family dies if they get a story. ~Bob. Excerpt: Last fall, as he had done hundreds of times, Iranian-American businessman Farid Seif passed through security at a Houston airport and boarded an international flight. He didn't realize he had forgotten to remove the loaded snub nose "baby" Glock pistol from his computer bag. But TSA officers never noticed as his bag glided along the belt and was x-rayed. When he got to his hotel after the three-hour flight, he was shocked to discover the gun traveled unnoticed from Houston. "It's just impossible to miss it, you know. I mean, this is not a small gun," Seif told ABC News. "How can you miss it? You cannot miss it." But the TSA did miss it, and despite what most people believe about the painstaking effort to screen airline passengers and their luggage before they enter the terminal, it was not that unusual.

Latino museum panel shovels tax dollars to political patrons
Excerpt: When Congress established a "commission to study the potential creation of a national museum of the American Latino," it did so with an obscure provision tucked away in the Consolidated National Resources Act in 2008. The commission was given $3.2 million to consider creating a museum to showcase the way "Latinos have been an integral part of the history and culture of this country." The panel will submit its official report next year. It's budget may appear modest, but Washington politicians grow big scandals from small beginnings. In this case, the commission is equal parts political back scratching, defiant secrecy and apparent conflicts of interest -- topped off by questionable contracts to well-connected contractors. Take, for example, commission Chairman Henry Munoz III, appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. According to, Munoz has given more than $150,000 to Democratic candidates and causes. He maxed out to President Obama at $2,300, and he sent $2,000 to the re-election campaign of then-Sen Ken Salazar, D-Colo. Another commissioner, Abigail Pollack, has also given more than $150,000 to Democrats, including maxing out her contributions to the presidential campaigns of both Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Obamacare will hurt low-skill workers
I walked into my local CVS drugstore at
5550 Connecticut Avenue
in Washington last week to pick up some photos. Not a cashier in sight. The row of cash registers had suddenly vanished, replaced by self-scanning checkout machines. Come 2014, the health care law will make it more costly for employers to hire low-skill workers. And, as workplaces around the country prepare to implement the new law, employers are considering how best to comply. For some companies, such as CVS, that means that low-wage and part-time jobs will start to go, not in 2014, but now. It's not as though CVS could not find cashiers. A cashier is a low-skill job, and low-skilled workers have some of the highest unemployment rates in America.

The Congressional Research Service's dirty little Big Green secrets
Excerpt: The 900 CRS lawyers, economists, librarians, and scientists (2010 budget: $112 million) produce reports, memoranda, briefings, seminars and confidential consultations to all congressional members and committees that request them. CRS secretly helps lawmakers prepare for debate by providing data to support their positions. CRS is so secretive that one member of Congress can't find out what it told another. Conversely, if it suits a member's political agenda, he'll get the New York Times to plaster a "confidential" CRS report all over the front page, as Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden did in 2000 with a four-page memo by CRS analyst Ross W. Gorte to bolster his position in a logging controversy. Gorte, a respected CRS analyst since 1983, has become known in Congress as the "go-to guy" for Big Green's no-development brand of "objective, balanced, nonpartisan" reports. Critics even call Gorte "the Wilderness Society lobbyist" -- his wife Julie was the society's vice president in the 1990s. Gorte himself admitted, "We use the Wilderness Society's report on public funding and find it very informative." Gorte and his wife are also officers of the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, an anti-development advocate "for preservation of the natural resources."

A Democratic Congress that Even Obama Can't Trust
Excerpt: The most comical happening of the dizzying last few weeks was when Obama brought Bill Clinton into the White House press room with him and then exited to attend a White House Christmas party. For the next half-hour or so, Clinton made us remember what it was like to have a real president. The old master leaned on the podium as if it were a long-lost easy chair and took the press conference to a new level. He called on various reporters by name, and he covered subjects far beyond just the tax compromise. And yet again America witnessed an example of President Obama being upstaged by someone in his own party. It's never safe to predict presidential elections two years out. An economy that now looks dire could be blossoming into a time of brisk economic growth by then. Other issues could arise or disappear. But this much is clear: Obama needs to prompt all those left-wing ideologues in the White House to close their political science books long enough to get their man back into the real world.

Al-Jazeera's World Cup
Are they building stadiums…or targets and killing zones? Couldn’t pay me to go. ~Bob. Excerpt: Now that the 2022 World Cup has been given to Qatar, details of improprieties in the decision-making process of international soccer’s governing board, FIFA, are starting to trickle out. There are rumors that the small emirate in the Persian Gulf with the world’s third largest reserves of natural gas paid more than $6 billion just to win the bid, some of it over the table and much of it not. In any case, the Qataris will spend billions more in preparation for the event, building hotels and restaurants as well as soccer facilities, like nine new air-conditioned stadiums to accommodate the players and fans who will overwhelm a tiny peninsula of around 1.5 million people where the temperature regularly reaches 130 degrees in the summer months.

Should the Clowns at the United Nations be Given Power to Regulate the Internet?
Excerpt: Some ideas are so horrible that I’m almost at a loss for words. The United Nations is a grotesquely wasteful and corrupt international bureaucracy with a long track record of failure and incompetence. Yet some people think this collection of looters, moochers, and kleptocrats should have authority over the Internet. I’m not kidding. Here are some of the details from an Australian newspaper. The United Nations is considering whether to set up an inter-governmental working group to harmonise global efforts by policy makers to regulate the internet. Establishment of such a group has the backing of several countries, spearheaded by Brazil. At a meeting in New York on Wednesday, representatives from Brazil called for an international body made up of Government representatives that would to attempt to create global standards for policing the internet… India, South Africa, China and Saudi Arabia appeared to favour a new possible over-arching inter-government body. However, Australia, US, UK, Belgium and Canada and attending business and community representatives argued there were risks in forming yet another working group that might isolate itself from the industry, community users and the general public. For what it’s worth, this proposal is so crazy that it appears that even the Obama Administration is opposed. I certainly hope so, because this proposal inevitably would lead to many bad results, including restrictions on freedom of speech.

No comments:

Post a Comment