Thursday, December 30, 2010

Political Digest for December 30, 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.

Greenbacks and Ham
A Parody of Pork if you passed this post!

'Free' Lunches Are Killing Us with the Cost by Thomas Sowell
Excerpt: Economists are the real "Party of No." They keep saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch — and politicians keep on getting elected by promising free lunches. Such promises may seem to be kept, for a while. There are ways the government can juggle money around to make everything look OK, but it is only a matter of time before that money runs out and the ultimate reality hits, that there is no free lunch. We are currently seeing what happens, in fierce riots raging in various countries in Europe, when the money runs out and the brutal truth is finally revealed, that there is no free lunch. You cannot have generous welfare state laws that let people retire on government pensions while they are in their 50s, in an era when most people live decades longer. In the U.S., that kind of generosity exists mostly for members of state government employees' unions — which is why some states are running out of money, and why the Obama administration is bailing them out, in the name of "stimulus."

Tie Debt Ceiling Vote to Balanced Budget Amendment
Excerpt: Next spring, Republicans will be faced with a serious decision over whether to vote to raise the debt ceiling. Failing to do so could signal foreign countries that the U.S. plans to default on our debt--an act that would surely have dire economic repercussions. On the other hand, Tea Party activists -- and other conservatives -- might understandably view such a vote as evidence that Republicans still don’t “get it” -- and that the politicians didn't hear them in November. So what’s the realistic solution to this conundrum? In all likelihood, Republicans will have to reluctantly vote to extend the debt ceiling -- but they should not do so without extracting some serious concessions in return.

Key healthcare provisions take effect as GOP moves into House
Excerpt: Key parts of the new healthcare law will go into effect on Jan. 1, just before a Republican-controlled House returns to Washington. The massive overhaul of healthcare approved by Congress earlier this year will begin to take effect in 2011, though some of the biggest changes prompted by the law — including the mandate that everyone buy insurance, the state insurance exchanges and subsidies to help most Americans buy insurance — don't kick in until 2014. Still, more than 20 provisions of the reform law go into effect in 2011, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation timeline. Republicans taking over the House have vowed to repeal the healthcare law, though that will be difficult with President Obama still in the White House for at least two more years. Democrats also still hold a slim majority in the Senate. As a result, Republicans under Speaker-designate John Boehner (Ohio) are expected to try to withhold funding for the new law, which could impede its implementations. Democrats, however, will fight any efforts at defunding the law aggressively. 

Gangster government, FCC edition
Excerpt: Earlier this year the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its long-awaited decision in Comcast Corporation v. FCC. "In this case," the Court said, "we must decide whether the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to regulate an Internet service provider's network management practices." It was an important question and the Court scrupulously addressed it in a detailed legal analysis. The Court noted that the FCC did not itself claim express statutory authority for such regulation and rejected the FCC's argument that it possessed ancillary authority. The Court thus held that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate the network management practices of Internet service providers. (Yep, now the Dems are after the Internet and restrictions of freedom there. What a great idea! That's what we need, another expansion of a federal agency that will end up with a bunch of anonymous bureaucrats limiting what people can do in what was founded to be an open system. –Del)

Top-10 reasons why businesses are leaving California

Fifteen Coptic Christians in Austria on Al Qaeda death list
Didn’t get the memo: Excerpt: Today the Austrian tabloid ÖSTERREICH reports that a new Al Qaeda spin-off, Al Daula Al Iraqiyah Al Islamiyah (Islamic State of Iraq), has released a list of death threats against more than a hundred Coptic Christian human rights activists worldwide, including fifteen Copts living in Austria, five of whom are Austrian citizens.

Mexico drug cartels increasingly turn to youths to do bloody work
Excerpt: Cartels are increasingly relying on youths to do their dirty work – trafficking, kidnapping and killing – particularly in regions of the country where the battle for territory has grown fierce, such as Ciudad Juárez and the Texas border region, or where hard economic times have broken down social or family networks. Earlier this month, Mexican authorities caught a 14-year-old suspected of working as an assassin for what remains of the Beltrán Leyva cartel south of Mexico City. The boy, a U.S. citizen, told reporters that he had been working for the cartel since he was 12 and that he had participated in at least four beheadings. His 19-year-old sister is accused of helping him dump the bodies.

India issues nationwide terror alert
Didn’t get the memo. ~bob. Excerpt: Excerpt: Indian authorities have deployed thousands of security personnel following warnings that Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group, is planning an attack over the New Year weekend. Police officers and paramilitaries were on high alert across the country, including in India's financial capital, Mumbai, Indian officials said. House-to-house searches were under way in some areas of the city, which was attacked by Lashkar-e-Taiba in November 2008. Airports and railway stations, the city of Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat and the popular beach resort state of Goa were also on high alert following the warning, said to be based on "human" intelligence and received in recent days.

Dems say new GOP plan to repeal healthcare would increase deficit
Of course, the “savings” in Obamacare are things like cutting doctors’ reimbursement under Medicare by 30% which isn’t going to happen, and if it did would mean doctors would flee Medicare, thus eliminating the access of seniors to care. And they might complain to their Congress Critters. ~Bob. Excerpt: Democrats are pouncing on a Republican plan to repeal the healthcare reform law, accusing Republicans of breaking their campaign promise to reduce the deficit. Under new budget rules released by Republicans, the House could repeal the healthcare reform law without offsetting the $143 billion that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates it will shave from the deficit over 10 years. The new rules allow the Budget Committee to “make appropriate budget adjustments” to account for the repeal of the reform law before adopting a fiscal 2012 budget plan, House aides explained.

Rep. Kucinich mulls Census options
How sweet it is. Move to a warmer climate and help get a Commie out of Congress. ~Bob. Excerpt: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) suggested Tuesday that he would fight to remain in Congress even if the 2010 Census leads to the elimination of his district. “It really comes down to a pretty hard and fast political equation,” Kucinich told Fox News. “My district could be absorbed into many other districts. It could literally disappear or I could end up with a new district with a core of my district intact. “When I see the map,” he said, “I'll be able to tell you exactly what my next move is and where I'll be running.” Ohio is poised to lose two of its 18 congressional districts based on the Census figures — part of a larger trend in which blue-ish states in the Northeast lost seats to redder states in the South and the West.

Health Care Choice and Competition
Excerpt: Most Americans are in government-subsidized insurance arrangements that largely insulate them from the cost of insurance and care. Open-ended federal support for health insurance coverage through Medicare, Medicaid and the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) plans is the major reason the federal budget today is in deep deficit, and why the long-term outlook is even more daunting. The recently enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does little, if anything, to break these longstanding policy problems, according to James C. Capretta, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Thomas P. Miller, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Ducking Higher Taxes
The leftists never learn that taxes are not a zero-sum game. A similar tax on “millionaires” in Maryland found the following year a lot fewer millionaires in Maryland. When they left, they took a lot of spending on other goods and taxes with them, resulting in fewer jobs and less tax revenue at the local level. ~Bob. Excerpt: Oregon raised its income tax on the richest 2% of its residents last year to fix its budget hole, but now the state treasury admits it collected nearly one-third less revenue than the bean counters projected. The sun also rose in the east, and the Cubs didn't win the World Series. In 2009 the state legislature raised the tax rate to 10.8% on joint-filer income of between $250,000 and $500,000, and to 11% on income above $500,000. Only New York City's rate is higher. Oregon's liberal voters ratified the tax increase on individuals and another on businesses in January of this year, no doubt feeling good about their "shared sacrifice." Congratulations. Instead of $180 million collected last year from the new tax, the state received $130 million. The Eugene Register-Guard newspaper reports that after the tax was raised "income tax and other revenue collections began plunging so steeply that any gains from the two measures seemed trivial." One reason revenues are so low is that about one-quarter of the rich tax filers seem to have gone missing. The state expected 38,000 Oregonians to pay the higher tax, but only 28,000 did. Funny how that always happens. These numbers are in line with a Cascade Policy Institute study, based on interstate migration patterns, predicting that the tax surcharge would lead to 80,000 fewer wealthy tax filers in Oregon over the next decade.

Three Solutions Where Republicans Can Lead America
Excerpt: Next week when House Republicans are sworn in as a new majority, they will have a greater opportunity to enact real change than any House majority since the Democrats took over in 1930. The American people know we are at both a values and performance crossroads. We know that President Obama is radically out of step with the American people. For instance, a recent USAToday/Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans believe in American Exceptionalism, and yet nearly 40% are convinced President Obama does not.

Baby look at me, and tell me what you see
Excerpt: He [Assange—RP] wasn’t averse, for example, to taking credit for Climategate. That may yet turn out to be the wrong move. One of the people who isn’t afraid to go intellectually up against Assange is Steve McIntyre, one of the pioneering climate skeptics, who rebuts the Wikileak’s founder’s claim that he broke “Climategate”, the release of the East Anglia emails which showed its scientists conspiring to “hide the decline”. McIntyre wrote, “Assange falsely claimed that the Climategate emails were broken by WikiLeaks” and goes on to prove it by showing the first Wikileaks citation on it came four days after a number of sites had downloaded it from a Russian server. McIntyre had it before Wikileaks “leaked” it. This is obviously untrue as CA [Climate Audit, McIntyre's blog—RP] readers know. I can date WikiLeaks’ entry by contemporary comments. The first notice of the emails at WikiLeaks was 2009/11/21 at 2.50 AM Eastern (12:50 AM blog time). The emails had been downloaded by many people (including me) from a Russian server on Nov 19 and had been downloaded by WUWT moderators on Nov 17. A contemporary comment in a CA thread says that WikiLeaks was down and refers people to megauploads. WikiLeaks has not even been a major reference for Climategate – that belongs to (originally which was up on Nov 20 and provided a searchable database. (If anyone has any doubts about just how self-serving Assange is, please re-read Part 1 of How the climategate emails escaped in The Old Jarhead of 13 Jan 2010. Also, while the materials appeared on-line on 19 Nov 2010, they had been in the hands of several major media outlets—that all refused to use them—as much as four weeks earlier. Ron P.)

Lone Female Police Officer in Mexican Village Still Missing After Being Abducted at Gunpoint
Mexico—where the women have the cojones. ~Bob. Excerpt: The last remaining police officer in a Mexican village plagued by drug-related violence has been kidnapped and is presumed dead. Erika Gandara, 28, a female officer in the village of Guadalupe, was left as the lone lawmaker after her colleagues resigned. She was abducted five days ago when masked gunmen stormed into her home. Gandara was the Mexican border village's entire police force, taking a job no one else wanted in the farming communities in the violent Valley of Juarez. The rural valley is across the border from the Fabens area east of El Paso. It is a busy smuggling corridor. A spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general's office said that authorities were aware of the incident but there was still no official report of the kidnapping.

Obama Will Make You Pay More at the Pump
Excerpt: “What do you say to people who are losing patience with gas prices at $3 a gallon? And how much of a political price do you think you’re paying for that, right now?” This was a question asked of the president at a press conference in August…of 2006. The president was George W. Bush. In fact, it was a question that was asked in one way or another regularly during the entire eight years of the Bush presidency, regardless of where energy prices stood at that moment. In May 2004, The New York Times reported that congressional Democrats “were stepping up pressure on the Bush Administration to ease gasoline prices,” when prices were still under $2/gallon. In April 2005, at another press conference, a journalist stated: “Mr. President a majority of Americans disapprove of your handling of social security, gas prices…” In 2006, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) exclaimed: “Since George Bush and Dick Cheney took over as president and vice president, gas prices have doubled…They are too cozy with the oil industry” after she drove one less-than-energy-efficient block to a press conference at a local Exxon station.

Excerpt: No Dead Presidents were harmed during the creation of this study. Colorado State University recently completed a study on the economic feasibility of increasing the usage of renewable energy. The results of this study were published in the world-renowned science periodical, The Coloradoan. Another stimulus-funded study of the obvious? No, what we have here is simply a heavy dose of reality for academicians who aren’t willing to match their rhetoric with their pocketbook. Some of the quotes in this article are quite humorous. Fort Collins campus President Tony Frank acknowledges that the 2008 plan to “rapidly” become carbon-neutral won’t be a reality for decades because the university can’t afford to make major changes right now. It took them two years to figure this out? Business owners have been saying for much longer that forcing draconian cuts in emissions would harm their bottom line. Apparently it’s acceptable for businesses to absorb the increased costs, but not a university.

Free or Fair?
Excerpt: At first blush, the mercantilists' call for "free trade but fair trade" sounds reasonable. After all, who can be against fairness? Giving the idea just a bit of thought suggests that fairness as a guide for public policy lays the groundwork for tyranny. You say, "Williams, I've never heard anything so farfetched! Explain yourself." Think about the First Amendment to our Constitution that reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." How many of us would prefer that the Founders had written the First Amendment so as to focus on fairness rather than freedom and instead wrote: Congress shall make no unfair laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the fair exercise thereof; or abridging the fairness of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble in a fair fashion, and to fairly petition the Government for a redress of grievances"?

Government Killed California
Excerpt: Over the past decade, it turns out, next-door Nevada enjoyed the largest percentage population gain of any state, growing by 35 percent -- perhaps because it is the nearest place Californians can flee. Who killed the California dream? Politicians did -- specifically, politicians who pushed a vision of big government that called for redistributing wealth and rewarding indigence while penalizing the hard work and calculated risk-taking that marked Californians of generations past. In October, the Tax Foundation rated all 50 states by how their tax climate treated business. California ranked 49th. Only New York rated worst. The foundation also judged that California had the 48th worst individual income tax system and the 49th worst sales tax system. With established businesses fleeing and new entrepreneurs choosing to go elsewhere, unemployment has been trending up in California for four straight years. It is now at 12.4 percent -- tied with Rust Belt Michigan for the second highest unemployment rate of any state.

Indiana Grandmother, a Muslim Convert, Being Investigated for Possible Terror Link
You’d think when they converted, someone would give them the “Islam is a Religion of peace” memo. ~Bob. Excerpt: A 46-year-old Indiana grandmother is under investigation for her possible ties to suspected and convicted international terrorists, has learned. Muslim-convert Kathie Smith, 46, a U.S. citizen living in Indianapolis who has blogged about her granddaughter, last year married a suspected German jihadist, and has been flying back and forth between the U.S. and Germany as recently as two weeks ago. A pro-jihadist video featuring Smith and her husband – alongside photos of members of the Islamic Jihad Union charged with plotting failed terror attacks against U.S. targets in Germany -- is being investigated by the Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center.

Syria helped orchestrate 2006 Mohammed cartoon riots, WikiLeaks cables reveal
Excerpt: The government of Syria was active in organizing the 2006 riots that erupted across the Arab world following the publication of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Oslo daily Aftenposten reported Monday, quoting US diplomatic cables released by website WikiLeaks. The cartoons were originally published in neighboring Denmark in 2005. Their publication resulted in violent protests, including attacks on several embassies in Damascus in early February 2006. Embassies targeted included those of Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Venezuela's Chavez dares US to cut diplomatic ties
The classic tyrant’s ploy—take the people’s mind off their suffering by whipping up fear and hate of an external enemy. ~bob. Excerpt: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dared the United States to expel his ambassador or cut off diplomatic ties in retaliation for his rejection of Washington's choice for ambassador to Caracas. Tensions have been growing over Chavez's refusal to accept American diplomat Larry Palmer and also over U.S. criticisms of a legislative offensive by the president's congressional allies. Lawmakers have granted Chavez expanded powers to enact laws by decree for the next year and a half, a change that opponents condemn as antidemocratic.

Semper Phi
Excerpt: For the past four decades, ROTC has been barred from some of the nation’s most prestigious schools, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Stanford. The program was first pushed off campus in the 1960s and ’70s in protest of the Vietnam war, and has been kept off campuses in protest of government policy excluding men and women who are openly homosexual from serving in the military. With Congress having now overturned that policy, ROTC’s return to these campuses has become a real possibility. “I look forward to pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard’s full and formal recognition of ROTC,” Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust said in a statement. Columbia’s Lee Bollinger likewise celebrated the legislation: “We now have the opportunity for a new era in the relationship between universities and our military services.” Achieving formal recognition for ROTC on elite campuses will be an important victory. Not only will it reduce many of the administrative hurdles that cadets on these campuses currently have to navigate, it will also eliminate some of the more backhanded arrangements the various universities created to justify their acceptance of ROTC dollars. For example, Harvard’s practice has been to “allow” patriotic alumni to pay cadets’ ROTC fees through a private trust fund—a fund established in good measure to give the university “plausible deniability” that it was endorsing ROTC.

A truce in culture wars as voters focus on economy
Excerpt: Back in June, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, whom many think would be an attractive 2012 presidential candidate, was quoted by Andrew Ferguson in the Weekly Standard for saying the next president "would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues." That quickly attracted some harsh criticism from opponents of abortion and same-sex marriage. But Daniels has declined to back down, telling the Indianapolis Star the other day that such issues are secondary to the economy and foreign policy. I think both Daniels and his critics have missed the point. The fact is that there is an ongoing truce on the social issues, because for most Americans they have been overshadowed by concerns raised by the weak economy and the Obama Democrats' vast increase in the size and scope of government.

As governments go broke, public employee unions must share the pain
Excerpt: Michigan authorities aren't alone in facing years of collective bargaining agreements that promised public workers far more pay and benefits than taxpayers could afford. The Heritage Foundation's David John observes that "Chicago has only about $22 billion in pension assets to pay for $66 billion in pension promises to its city workers, while New York City has $93 billion available to pay $215 billion in city pension promises, and Boston has only $3.5 billion available to pay $11 billion in promises." The Pew Center for the States estimates total state obligations at $2.8 trillion, with only $2.3 trillion available to cover them. It is no coincidence that President Obama and congressional Democrats want federal taxpayers to bail out state and local governments in order to save municipal jobs and services. The real beneficiaries of the bailouts would be the very public employee unions whose excessively generous pay and benefits caused the fiscal crises. Sooner or later, union leaders must realize the only alternative to major concessions today is facing the reality of no benefits being paid at all tomorrow. And voters should reject politicians who lack the will to confront unions on this issue.
Excerpt: Anthony O’Brien, 69, was head-butted and punched to the ground by the men. The pair then fled. Grandad Mr O’Brien – who had been wearing his RAF blazer and a Remembrance poppy – was treated in hospital for bruising to his face and an injured nose. He said: “The yobs who did this to me are nothing but cowardly scum.” Father-of-two Mr O’Brien, who served in the Sixties, was attacked walking home from the pub in Fallowfield, Manchester, where he and pals had discussed arrangements for an old colleague’s funeral. He said: “I saw these two lads and, as I got near, they started shouting and swearing…. The attack has left him in a wheelchair with heart trouble and breathing problems. PC Michael Seddon, of Greater Manchester Police, described the attack as “brutal” and appealed for information. The suspects were described as Asian or mixed race. (“Asian” is British media PC-speak for “Muslim.” ~Bob.)

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